Like every smartphone line, the Galaxy S lineup has gotten better every year. However entering 2015, Samsung has had more work than ever to keep their spot on top. With competitors like HTC, LG, and Motorola stepping up their game and grabbing the attention of some customers, Samsung has slowly moved away of the spotlight. 2015 is a big year for the company and they’ve stepped up in a big way with their latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S6. With an all new design, improved software, and a long overdue departure from plastic, can the S6 help Samsung recover from it’s past? Let’s find out.
- 5.1” Inch 2560×1440 Super AMOLED Display 577ppi
- Octa-Core Exynos 7420 Processor (2.1GHz + 1.5GHz)
- 3GB RAM
- 32/64/128GB Internal Storage (non-expandable)
- 16MP Rear Camera with OIS
- 5MP Front Camera with Wide Angle Lens
- WiFi a/b/g/n/ac
- 2,550 mAh Battery (non-removable)
- Qi & PMA Wireless Charging
- Android 5.0 Lollipop
Hardware & Design
Easily the biggest change in the Galaxy S6 is the hardware. Long gone are the days of glossy plastic and fake chrome accents (I’m looking at you GS5). Instead Samsung has finally grown up and brought along an aluminum chassis with Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and back of the device. The aluminum gives the phone a sturdy, premium feel and the glass surrounding it adds to that. When it comes to build quality, Samsung skipped nothing as the S6 is easily one of the most well constructed devices I’ve ever had the pleasure of using.
For the most part, the S6 carries over the same basic design language we’ve seen on the past few Galaxy S devices, but it’s never looked anywhere near as good as this. In fact from the from, it would be more than forgivable to mistake the device for one of it’s predecessor and I’ll fully admit, I even did that to another person’s S6 (at least I think it was an S6). However it’s not until you pick the phone up or check out it’s sides or back that you know this is not the old Samsung, but the bright and shiny (really shiny) new Samsung.
Speaking of that, let’s talk about just how shiny the Galaxy S6 is. Regardless of the color you choose, you’re going to have a phone that has glass on the back with a super reflective panel underneath. That panel underneath gives the device an effect unlike what I’ve seen on other devices with glass backs, but if you reflect the wrong light, it can just about blind you. That glass back does have further disadvantages as well. It’s somewhat grippy in the hand, but odds are you will drop this phone at least once, if not multiple times during your use of the phone. To avoid that, you’ll definitely want to consider a case. I had to use one myself just to give me some level of peace of mind while using the phone.
When it comes down to it, the hardware on the Galaxy S6 is the biggest improvement to the phone. It’s a work of art in the form of a smartphone.
Software & Performance
Aside from their hardware, one place where Samsung has struggled in the past is in the software department. Many aren’t fans of the look and feel of the software, but many more do not like what that software does to the performance of the device. In previous versions of their software, Samsung has taken the approach of throwing every possible feature they could think of at you, and then hoping you actually enjoy some of them. While that easily makes their skin one of the best in terms of what it is capable of, it also makes it one of the easiest to slow down over time. In the Galaxy S6 Samsung has said that their have improved the software to the point that it is almost as smooth as a Nexus phone on stock Android. Do their claims live up? Sort of.
Without a doubt the software experience on the Galaxy S6 is the best they have ever offered. Out of the box it’s one of the most smooth and fluid skins I’ve tried. Over time however, things do tend to slow down just a bit. The Galaxy S6 however does have moments where it lags for no reason. Sometimes while typing quickly on the stock keyboard, the phone will pause and then rapidly catch up with my taps a few seconds later. The multi-tasking screen also tends to open and close slowly. Some users have even reported that after a month or so of usage, their devices became incredibly laggy just like older Samsung devices. Of course this is natural with every device as the storage and RAM are filled up with apps and processes, but I’m sad to see that everything Samsung changed (or tells us they changed) in the S6 went without paying off in the long run. That said, this is easily the best Samsung has ever done when it comes to the performance of the software, at least at the beginning, but TouchWiz still looks just about the same and eventually acts the same.
If you used it on the S5 or Note 4, it pretty much looks the same, just with some Android Lollipop enhancements. While many enjoy that, personally, I’ve not been a fan of it. However this year Samsung has included something that’s incredibly useful for people like me. A theming engine.
I’ve been out of the game when it comes to theming my phone, but Samsung makes it incredibly easy in the S6 with the built in theming engine. With just a download and a click, you can theme over your home screen, icons, and the entire device’s software. It’s simple and works great and there are a lot of awesome themes to choose from. My personal favorites were the Avengers themes available through Samsung’s store (don’t judge, I’m a nerd).
Performance for the most part was as expected. The phone runs extremely smooth 99% of the time. It’s only once in a while you’ll see things stutter or slow down, and even then, it’s only momentary. What surprised me is how well most games ran considering the change in processor that Samsung made. For the most part Android phones run on Qualcomm processors and that’s what most game developers optimize for. However games on the S6 run just as well on it’s Exynos processor as they do on Snapdragon powered phones.
The Galaxy S6 packs the same size display as it’s predecessor, the Galaxy S5. A 5.1” inch, SuperAMOLED display. This time however we get far more pixels upping the resolution to 2560×1440 (QuadHD). This is definitely the best display Samsung has ever used in one of their smartphones, something that previously went to the Note 4. It’s a tough call to say this is the best display on any phone now that the LG G4 exists. That said, this is easily one of the best if not the best display on a smartphone right now. It’s very pixel dense and content looks absolutely great on it. Thanks to the display being AMOLED, colors are extremely rich and blacks are as deep as you could possibly get. The brightness range on the display is as impressive as ever with it getting very dim for use in dark settings, but while still being able to be visible in outdoor settings. It’s easy to say that you will not by any means be disappointed with the display on the Galaxy S6.
Samsung made two major changes to the hardware features on the Galaxy S6. They removed microSD card expansion, and also the ability to remove and swap out your battery. While not everyone did that, it was nice to know that a dead battery didn’t require the absolute need of a charger since you could simply throw in a spare if you owned one. Now though those days are over being replaced with sealed in 2,550 mAh battery.
If that capacity sounds small in 2015, it’s because it is. The battery on the S6 is small considering the power hungry display and specs. Adding 2 and 2 together, and it’s not hard to see that battery life on the S6 won’t be impressive, and it isn’t.
On a normal day, I can get through a day on the S6 with about 30% remaining when I go to bed. However on a heavier day when I’m reading on my phone, watching content, or going through social media, I might only have 30% left when I get home from the office. You’ll undoubtedly have to charge the phone overnight, but depending on your use, you might have to do it even sooner. Luckily, Samsung has added a couple workarounds to help you with that.
First is fast charging. With the included charger Samsung claims can get you up to four hours worth of power in just 10 minutes of charging. Personally I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but without a doubt, fast charging will get you a heck of a lot of power in just a little bit. Don’t expect any miracles, but it’s definitely one of the fastest charging experiences out there.
The second charging perk on the S6 is wireless charging. Slowly but surely wireless charging is coming to phones and I’m glad Samsung finally embraced it this year. They even sweetened the deal by included not one, but two wireless charging standards inside the phone. You’ll be able to use either Qi or PMA wireless charging on the S6 without the need for any cases or covers. Just throw the phone on a charging dock/pad and you’re good to go.
Last but not least, let’s talk about the Galaxy S6 camera. This time around Samsung included a 16MP sensor with OIS and simply put, it’s great. Before the S6 came out, it was no question that the best overall camera available came on the iPhone 6 Plus. At this point however, Samsung has given that title a serious run for it’s money.
Shots taken with the S6 are crisp, clear, and have accurate colors. The camera app itself has also (finally) been cleaned up. It offers less options, but at the same time, you no longer need a million settings to always get the shot you want. Below is a gallery of pictures taken with the Galaxy S6. Afterall, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Editors note: These images have been resized. To see the original images, click here.
Samsung was one of the first Android OEMs to bring a fingerprint sensor to their phones. It’s something we were glad to see, but the implementation Samsung chose was something that very, very few users truly enjoyed.
This time around Samsung has improved things by taking away the swipe gesture and allowing users to use the sensor by simply laying their finger down on the home button. It’s very reliable and very easy. Samsung really nailed this feature on the S6.
Samsung has never been my favorite smartphone brand for a lot of reasons. With the Galaxy S6 however, they’ve got a long long way. They’ve fixed almost every complaint I had and blew me away in other ways that I didn’t even expect. While it’s not perfect, this is not only the best Samsung smartphone to date, it’s the first one I’d actually consider buying as my own daily driver. With a great camera, gorgeous design, and solid software performance, I can say you will almost certainly be happy with the Galaxy S6.