Hands On: Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge

These are the best phones Samsung has ever made

The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge are the two best-looking phones Samsung has ever created. When it comes to design, this sets a new bar for Android phones.

Do you recognize these phones? If you’re wondering what they are, I forgive you.

It’s a new year, and that means a new Galaxy S phone, but this year is different. This year, Samsung has given its flagship Android phone a design makeover — and a curvy sister that’s sure to catch your eye.

That’s right, there are two Galaxy S6 phones this year: the standard S6 and the sexy new Galaxy S6 Edge, which is identical in almost every way save its screen, which falls right down the sides of the phone like water running off a ledge. Which one fits your style best?

Updated by Trevor Mogg on 3-02-2015: Samsung says the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge will be available globally from April 10, 2015 with 32/64/128GB storage options available in White Pearl, Black Sapphire, Gold Platinum, Blue Topaz (Galaxy S6 only) and Green Emerald (Galaxy S6 Edge only).

Hands on video

Samsung steps up its style

The first thing I noticed about the Galaxy S6 phones is how much better they look than any previous Galaxy device. From the reflective Gorilla glass on the back to the finely brushed metal edges and flawlessly carved buttons, these are Galaxy phones to behold, and wonderfully comfortable phones to hold. Like the HTC One M8 and M9, the metal exteriors are so brushed, they’re almost soft to the touch.

The sexy new S6 Edge’s screen runs right down the sides of the phone like a waterfall.

There’s a good reason why I will really like the new Galaxy S6, and why you will too: It looks almost identical to the iPhone 6, which is a very beautiful phone as well. Apple upped its game with the 6, and Samsung has done so as well for its similarly numbered phone.

Samsung’s and Apple’s phone have more in common than that, however. Like the iPhone 6, the Galaxy S6 (both of them) now has two volume buttons, a pinhole-style speaker that faces out the bottom and is much clearer than the muffled mess from previous Samsung phones, an audio jack on the bottom, a non-removable battery, and no MicroSD card. Then there’s the Home button, with a fingerprint sensor you simply place your finger upon — you had to swipe across the button in Samsung’s last phone, which never worked properly.

This is the first Galaxy S phone to come without a SD card or removable battery. In Samsung’s defense, it does have some upgraded battery management software and comes with up to 128GB of memory.

Unfortunately, style does sometimes get in the way of function. One of the Galaxy S5’s best features, its waterproof body, is now absent. Like its competitors, the iPhone 6, LG G3, and HTC One M9, the Galaxy S6 is once again afraid of water.

A simpler Samsung

If you like the more beautiful, streamlined exterior of the Galaxy S6, you’re going to love what Samsung has done with the inside of the place. The GS6 and GS6 Edge run the latest and greatest Android operating system, Android 5.0 Lollipop, and for the first time, it isn’t overloaded with tons of features and doo-dads that you’re never going to use.

For the Galaxy S5 and every Galaxy before it, Samsung plowed dozens of crazy little features into the OS that almost nobody used. In recent years, things got so convoluted that you could hardly navigate your way around the Settings menu, and the phones came with so many Samsung apps that you’d be hard pressed to find the app you actually want to use. No more. Samsung has cleaned house with the Galaxy S6, and this time it didn’t do a half-assed job like Shary Bobbins.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
Jeffrey Van Camp/Digital Trends
Jeffrey Van Camp/Digital Trends

There really aren’t any new features in the Galaxy S6 models that I need to tell you about, and that’s a good thing; there’s an app for anything you need a click away in the Google Play Store. Samsung has done a great job remodeling and simplifying its Settings menu, S-Life fitness app, and menus to do all the things that matter better, and has flushed out some of the dumb apps you don’t want. Its new Smart Manager app is a standout new feature, letting you manage battery life, phone storage, RAM usage, and security all in one place. I loved the app. It even lets you easily remove apps you don’t want — something that’s always been tough on Android phones.

There is a Samsung Pay solution coming, but it won’t be available at launch.

This is one fast camera

Keeping with Samsung’s focus on features that matter, the new camera app (and cameras) on the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are a solid step up from years past. To enter the camera app, just double tap the Home button. Samsung brags that its new app will always open in 0.7 seconds or less, and the speed is noticeable, as is the open appearance. The entire screen is almost unblocked by buttons and navigation. To enable new features, you swipe over from the left and a menu opens up. Swipe from the right and you can edit recent photos or videos and pull off some fun post-production tricks.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
Jeffrey Van Camp/Digital Trends
Jeffrey Van Camp/Digital Trends

The front camera on the S6 can now shoot 5-megapixel shots, and the rear camera is 16 megapixels with an F1.9 lens, which shoots as fast as anything on the market and comes with some unique features. The phone can actually get more accurate color by using the rear-mounted infrared heart-rate monitor to measure white balance, for example.

Auto real-time HDR is also a plus, allowing high dynamic range enhancement seamlessly as you take photos or video.

Finally — and this is pretty neat – the S6 does a good job tracking items you want to focus on as they move around the frame. Click on what you like and the GS6 will try to keep its eye on it. In my quick tests, it does a decent job, though I look forward to further testing.

Gorgeous screen, powerful, and can wirelessly charge

The new menus and designs look all the better because the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge have the best screen I’ve ever seen on a phone. Samsung claims its new 5-inch screen has a resolution of 566ppi (pixels per inch), which puts it at or around a 1,440 × 2,560 pixel resolution; this is amplified by the bright colors and deep blacks of its Super AMOLED display technology. Honestly, anything beyond a 1080p screen on a 5-inch (ish) phone is overkill, but it’s hard to complain about a gorgeous screen.

Samsung is still leading the pack when it comes to the nuts and bolts of a great phone.

The exterior of the new Galaxy S6 phones have their positives and negatives, but Samsung is still leading the pack when it comes to the nuts and bolts of a great phone. Both S6s ran like a dream in my time with them. The models I saw ran on a new 64-bit octa-core (eight core) processor made by Samsung, but U.S. models will probably run on the also very nice Snapdragon 810, I’m guessing. They will come in 32-, 64-, or 128GB models for storage and have 3GB of RAM.

There don’t appear to be any deficiencies in the specs of the phones — unless you’re mad about the non-removable 2,550mAh battery (2,600mAh in the Edge) or the lack of a MicroSD slot. Samsung is one of the last companies to abandon these older standards, but it didn’t believe enough people cared anymore to justify keeping them in.

Finally, if you’re into wireless charging, Samsung is building it right into the S6 phones, and supporting the two biggest wireless charging standards for a change, though you’ll have to pay extra to get a wireless charging pad from Samsung. In our quick tests, the pad began juicing the phone as soon as we set it down and appeared to work smoothly.

S6 vs the S6 Edge

Here’s the big question: If both the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge are almost identical, which one would you want to buy? It comes down to personal preference; I’m guessing both will cost the same.

After holding both devices, the standard S6 is a lot sturdier than the S6 Edge: It feels less likely to shatter immediately and disastrously after taking a fall. The screen on the Edge looks beautiful, but it doesn’t add much functionality. It will display a little low-light clock at night, but the screen doesn’t curve over nearly as much as it does on the Galaxy Note Edge, meaning most of the features that made that phone neat just aren’t here.

The only other feature of the Edge is a swipe-able menu that brings up a color-coded list of your top contacts. If one of them calls you, the phone’s bent edge will glow in a unique color. Potentially, this could help you know who’s calling. But honestly, who talks on the phone anymore anyway?

Only time will tell which of model becomes most popular, or if the Galaxy S6 is a better rival to the iPhone 6, but I like where Samsung is headed. It’s sad that waterproofing and the MicroSD slot are gone, and I hate that the battery is no longer removable, but everything else about the Galaxy S6 is phenomenal.

Some will accuse Samsung of copying the iPhone 6. You could easily argue that the iPhone 6 copied the size and design of Samsung phones as well. At this point, no one is innocent. But in the land of the guilty, the new Galaxy S6 is a more refined phone than most anything else I’ve seen this year.

Highs

  • Gorgeous metal, glass design
  • Wireless charging built in
  • Streamlined user interface looks fantastic
  • Internal memory up to 128GB
  • Super fast 64-bit processor
  • Working fingerprint sensor

Lows

  • No longer waterproof
  • New non-removable battery
  • No MicroSD anymore
  • S6 Edge isn’t as comfortable, seems fragile
  • Glass back vulnerable to scratches and cracking
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