After the more or less disappointing sales of the Galaxy S5 (and several years of people constantly lambasting Samsung for making plastic phones), Samsung really had to do something different with the S6. And while they chose to again take a design from something that’s already been out on the market as opposed to something totally original, we’re to the point where we simply don’t care anymore. If it’s a good ph one through and through, then that’s that. And after 2 weeks with the Galaxy S6 Edge, we have to say we’re pretty sure it’s “that”.
With an in-house Exynos 7420 processor, 3 GB of RAM and 32/64/128 GB storage options (no more SD card!), the S6 is as formidable a foe in the flagship smartphone realm as ever. Speaking of which, there are a number of big changes this time around. For starters, the back of the S6 (both non-Edge and Edge) is sealed. Naturally, that instantly takes away the removable battery and SD card. Longtime Samsung fans who clung to the SD card and/or removable battery as key purchasing reasons now have to re-evaluate their lives moving forward. That said, at least on the storage front (more on battery in a bit), we’ve lived without expandable storage for a while now so it’s not really an issue. Still, we can see this being a big problem for some. While we’re on the subject of the backside of the phone, we’ll point out how much we dislike it. Don’t get us wrong, it “feels” nice. But there are two problems with the backside glass Samsung decided to use on the S6. First, it makes the phone super slippery. We were more often than not putting a lot more focus on how and where we were gripping the S6 Edge to ensure we didn’t drop it… which plays into our second big complaint. No matter how “nice” and “pretty” (or “high end” if you will) glass feels, it’s fragile. It breaks. And for something that is constantly battered around and subjected to all kinds of potential drop/smash/bend scenarios as a smartphone, putting more of it on a phone is a completely stupid idea. We hated the backside glass on the iPhone 4 and 4S and we hate it here too for durabilities sake. Many accuse Samsung of being unoriginal and borrowing ideas from Apple. Well, this time they chose the wrong thing to borrow from Apple – “form over function”. One, so far underrated feature we’ve come to really appreciate is the dual support for Qi and PMA wireless charging types. For those of you unfamiliar with the tech or rift in the industry, Qi is the more consumer popular option with a ton of 3rd party accessories supporting it, and most smartphone manufacturers that include the feature from the factory, choosing it. Meanwhile, PMA is backed by mainly carriers and other groups more focused one extracting money from people. Oh, Powermat also happens to be the one saving grace on a major level that is built off of PMA. The issue is pretty ridiculous to the point that carriers will purposely have manufacturers remove the built-in Qi wireless support for an external PMA solution such as a case – a solution no one uses because it’s 1) stupid 2) costs extra and 3) it’s stupid. However, Samsung choosing to support both natively is nice as it gives those of you who happen to stumble upon a PMA accessory in the wild an option to charge your device sans cables, and carriers a suitable alternative to the awful PMA accessory market that doesn’t require gutting Qi from devices. Hopefully more manufacturers follow Samsung’s route with wireless charging support. Gripes with the glass back and lack of removable storage/battery aside, the hardware on the S6 Edge is awesome overall and new level quality wise from Samsung.
The 1440 x 2560 (~577 ppi) screen is as beautiful, bright and crisp as ever. So how does it fair with twice the amount of edginess as the single-edged Galaxy Note Edge? Well, to be honest, it’s nothing special. The Galaxy Note Edge had a rather small amount of utility for the wrap around edge. You could choose between some ticker style feeds based on topics such as weather, messages, missed calls, etc. as well as an additional, swipe-able launcher strip of sorts. On the S6 Edge, a lot of this has been stripped out and simplified. You can still enable a ticker style feed for when the display is off, allowing you to swipe from the edge for some basic info/notifications as mentioned above. But the (already basic) level of customization that was present on the Note Edge is nowhere to be found on the Galaxy S6 Edge. The few other perks Samsung kept on the S6 Edge in regards to the edges is a desk clock mode that will simply show a simple clock/date on the edge when the screen is off and display different colors for calls as they come in, which is handy if the screen is face down. (But let’s be honest, who actively and purposely sets their phone down on any surface screen down?) All in all, the biggest enjoyment and utility from the S6 Edge’s dual edges is simply using the phone as normal. The bezels appear smaller because of how the screen curves and in hand, it simply feels and looks nice. It’s something you just have to experience. Either you’ll like the subtle difference vs. a non-Edge model/phone or you won’t. That said, we don’t think it’s worth the $100 premium at every storage tier just for the dual edge privilege.
Samsung has outfitted the S6 and Edge with a 16 megapixel shooter with optical image stabilization and autofocus on the back and a 5 megapixel camera with dual HDR and support for up to 1440p @ 30fps video in front. A lot has been said about the Galaxy S6’s camera chops since it’s release, specifically that it is one of if not the best camera on an Android phone ever. In our couple of weeks with the phone, that claim seems to stand. In a variety of environments including harsh lighting, low light/no light and moving targets (and everything in between), the S6 Edge managed better than any other Android phone we’ve used to date. That said, some areas where it struggled are still par of the course for mobile cameras including shots with a lot of lighting variances/range and if not with a steady hand and/or high ISO settings, low/no light shots.
All in all, those of you wanting a top notch camera in a smartphone are going to want to check out the S6 or S6 Edge. That said, if you haven’t splurged just yet, you may want to hold off. LG just announced their LG G4 flagship device and it has some pretty impressive camera chops (at least on paper) of its own. It just may knock the S6 off its short lived #1 spot atop the mobile camera podium.
Battery Life & Performance
With a 2600 mAh battery inside, it’s not really an improvement in raw size over the S5 so all the improvements in longevity away from the outlet will be the result of either hardware efficiencies or software optimization. However, it doesn’t appear that all of that ended up working out how Samsung had hoped. In both our own experience as well as checking out many other Galaxy S6 Edge reviews (as well as sleuthing through Galaxy S6 Edge forums), the S6 actually took a step backwards in the battery life department. It’s another reason the “form over function” complaint we had earlier is such a big sticking point for us – it keeps coming back into focus. Had Samsung not chased the stupid race to be the thinnest phone (they’re not the only ones by any stretch) they could have squeezed in a little bit bigger battery that ultimately would have made the S6 at least as good as the S5 for battery’s sake. That said, while the first day to day and a half was downright awful on the battery life front, by day 3 things were starting to level out a bit. (Though, they still weren’t class leading.) Performance overall is as good as ever (for an Android phone). Slow downs are incredibly rare. It’s safe to say that just as the mobile world/smartphones increased exponentially faster and iterated at an equal pace compared to the desktop PC, it too has also flattened out. The difference between, say, this S6’s Exynos (analogous to the Snapdragon 810) CPU is not at all noticeable in 85% of daily use compared to the Snapdragon 801 in the LG G2 – a phone from ~2 years ago.
As has always been the case, optimization and software are what really drives the actual (or distorted) view of “performance”. While we’re on this subject of performance, we’ll note how the Exynos inside the S6 gets pretty damn hot. The Snapdragon 810 gets a lot of flack for running hot. But you know what? The Exynos is no different. The S6 Edge routinely got noticeably hot when holding and doing something as simple as browsing the internet for 30 minutes at a time. It’s not meant to deter you as many flagship phones tend to run warm at times. The S6’s warmth isn’t out of the ordinary per say. But it is hot enough to the point to begin to stand out.
Conclusion – Skip/Wait for the edge
Unless you must absolutely have the latest and greatest in terms of “different” phones, we’d recommend getting the normal S6 over the S6 Edge. The $100 premium for the Edge is simply not worth it for the little actual utility the Edge offers. It looks nice for sure. And for some, that is well worth $100 extra. But for us, it’s merely a reason to wait for the S7 when Samsung will probably make the curved screen the only option and therefore, more approachable in price.
Edge banter aside, the S6 is a great generation for Samsung and more than likely what a large swath of people were hoping to get from the S5 when it was the new kid on the block.
A powerful phone; one of the best.