First look: Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge

By David Flynn, April 10 2015
First look: Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge

TECH | In designing the latest edition of the world’s best-selling Android smartphone Samsung went back to the drawing board, plonked down a clean sheet of paper and created the Galaxy S6.

How fresh a start is the S6? Enough that its internal codename was ‘Zero’ (cue the inevitable but quite accurate ‘from zero to hero’ jokes). Enough that it’s the biggest leap in years for Samsung’s flagship smartphone.

This isn’t a Galaxy S5.x or even an S4.something. It’s a 2015 rethink of the Galaxy S geared to win over iPhone switchers – and yes, such creatures do exist – and woo the legion of S4 and S5 users into upgrade mode.

Gone is the much-criticised plastic chassis of previous models – Samsung’s sixth-gen smartphone is wrapped in aluminium alloy, with tough impact-resistant Gorilla Glass 4 panels on both front and back.

Those materials, paired with elegant lines and a slim 7mm profile, give the Galaxy S6 a premium feel which was conspicuously absent in previous models.

Samsung has arguably not only caught up but overtaken Apple in both material engineering and design elegance.

The 5.1 inch ‘Quad HD’ screen is bright and sharp, packing more pixels than the S5 and with colours that positively pop.

It’s also super-responsive, thanks in part to a Samsung powerplant with eight processing cores parked under the hood. Think of this as a high-performance V8 stacked against the more modest four-cylinder engine of most other Android smartphones.

However, to keep battery drain in check, the S6 sensibly throttles back to four cores in standby mode.

Speaking of battery life, Samsung claims that fast-charge technology in the Galaxy S6 can top up the tank sufficient for four hours of use after just 10 minutes of USB charging.

The S6 also contains the same battery-extending tricks as the S5, including low-battery modes to disable WiFi and Bluetooth, reduce screen brightness and even put the display into black-and-white mode in order to eke out extra hours on the go.

New to the Galaxy S6 is wireless charging: just park the phone onto a drink coaster-sized puck (plugged into a 240V socket) and it’ll juice up.

Pricing for Samsung’s own charging pucks hasn’t been revealed at the time of writing, but we’re tipping around the $200 mark.

However, as the S6 supports two wireless charging standards you’ll also have the choice of several non-Samsung solutions which will include new wireless-charging lamps, bedside tables and desks from Ikea.

But there’s one downside on the battery front: unlike its predecessors the S6’s case is fully sealed and the battery can’t be removed.

This will be a concern if the S6 shows the same tendencies as previous models to lose battery stamina as the phone ages not-so-gracefully.

Also missing from the S6 mix is a microSD memory card slot, with users now locked in to either 32GB, 64GB or 128GB of storage depending on which Galaxy S6 model they buy.

Both these design decisions help the S6 achieve its Twiggy-esque profile but will likely be cause for grumbles among owners of previous Galaxy S phones.

The preloaded software and associated menu maze has also been streamlined and slimmed-down, with an assist from the Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system – although it’s far from being the clean slate which many enthusiast would wish.

While the rear camera remains at a meaty 16 megapixels the front-facing lens has been upgraded from 2MP to 5MP (did somebody say #selfie?).

Samsung reckons the S6’s improved lens and enhanced software makes a meal of low-light snaps – something we’ll test in our forthcoming review of the phone.

All of this applies to the Galaxy S6, so what does the more expensive S6 Edge variant bring to the table?

As the name hints, and as we’ve seen in the S6’s Galaxy Note 4 sibling, you get a screen which curves around both sides of the phone like a digital version of those rooftop infinity pools.

One of the edge taps into your contacts list so you can see who’s calling even when the phone is sitting on its side; the other edge is dedicated to ticker-style notifications and other snippets.

Just how practical these are on a day-to-day basis is something we’ll also check out after we’ve spent a solid week living with the Galaxy S6.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 is on sale now at $999 for the 32GB model; $1149 for 64GB; and $1299 for 128GB.

The Galaxy S6 Edge starts at $1149 for 32GB, with $1299 for 64GB and $1449 for 128GB.

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David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 593

pffft they are becoming more like apple everyday now that they've sealed the back and removed the memory card slot...

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards Platinum

29 Aug 2014

Total posts 38

No mate you are wrong... Samsung and Motolora had sealed-backed unibody apple looking phone long time ago. You will have to note that Samsung Electronics and Motoloral have much longer history and experience with technologies than apple (Apple just design them not a manufacturer). As such Samsung has 1000 different types and designs of models since ages ago. Some of them are successful some of them were not. Unfortunately, there is nothing original with Apple's design cuz Apple's first iPhone was copy cat of Motolora's previous mobile phone too if that's the case

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2015

Total posts 3

I agree that by removing memory card slot is ridiculous. I will be unable to use phone and digital camera for downloading.. just lost me as a customer. S6 edge has taken step backwards by trying to outdo apple...

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 593

Lol I am by no means an apple fanboy (i despise them), I agree with Pauline that they've taken a step back to try and entice apple owners.  The phones that i've owned are:

Nokia 3330 (still works), Samsung D600 (still works), Samsung i8510 INNOV8 (died after 3 years), Sony Xperia Pro (died after 9 months) and my current phone is a Galaxy Note 2 which still works fine.

I intend to buy another Samsung when it dies or battery life becomes useless, but I'm just saying that by removing the ability to remove the battery and insert a micro sd has put me off of buying the galaxy S series in the future (assuming they keep it that way).

18 Jul 2013

Total posts 25

Thanks for this article David.  I'm mainly here as an av-geek but I really like that ABT includes some reviews of technology that most of us are likely to use.  There's only so many websites one can visit so it is nice to consolidate some relevant topics onto one!  I'm looking forward to your next review of the S6 once you've done the test drive.

Lufthansa - Miles & More

29 Jul 2014

Total posts 185

I love the phone but I do miss the SD slot have the edge and it is a gimick more than anything but it all works and the gorrila glass is good all ready dropped it 2 times and no problems worth the step up from the S4. The battery being non removable is annoying because I used to keep 2 fully charged batteries with me so it didnt die during the day.  

Mal
Mal

14 Jun 2013

Total posts 360

Not sure how I feel about this. I like the look of the phone and love that Samsung has finally swapped the cheap plastic for aluminium and glass. Don't mind the battery not being replaceable as long as it lasts for years, but my Galaxy S4 really has crap battery life now and that is just two years since it was launched. Losing the MicroSD card slot is a big drawback though, in my opinion.


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