Biased - The Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge
The third instalment of Biased is here, this time taking a look at the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. We have +Dan Kinem providing the positively biased article and once again, we have +Jazli Aziz providing the negatively biased article!
After using it as my daily driver for a couple of weeks, in my opinion, this is a phone that only two manufacturers on the planet could have produced and the other is in Cupertino.
Let’s get some facts out of the way first. It’s hard to argue with numbers.
- The screen has been rated the best on the planet.
- The camera has been rated the best on the planet.
- Its battery is highly rated and its speed is near or better than almost all other flagships depending on the test.
So, if it has the best camera, screen, battery, and speed of any phone on the planet, what weaknesses might this phone have?
Design? Definitely not a weakness with a brilliant design by anyone’s standards. The Edge is a little more dramatic at first viewing, but even the ‘plain’ S6 is a stunner. Samsung listened to its consumers and took a huge leap, and huge risk, in designing this phone. Sleek, unibody, with no plastic to be found. Gone are the days of only black or white, Samsung opted for bold and brilliant color choices on metal, covered with Gorilla glass. They realized that in this highly competitive market, it takes more than specs to excite the phone-buying public. People want something that looks and feels NEW. Not another S3, S4, S5 lookalike with more cores jammed into it.
Build quality? No. Not a weakness. Absolutely no creaks or cracks or gaps. Nothing, not one molecule, out of alignment. Meticulous build quality. Put one in your hand and you can feel the care that went into the phone’s build.
Software? No. TouchWiz is speedy and responsive. Read that last sentence again. This is only the second time I’ve owned a Samsung where I didn’t need or want to put another launcher on and the other was the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. I’m not sure if it is because of Samsung trimming down their skin, because the phones are now fast enough to handle what their software demands. In any case, TouchWiz is no longer a laggard.
Price? It is a flagship, so yes, it is flagship level pricing. That can put a hurt on anyone’s budget, but if you take care of it, it will give you years of faithful service and enjoyment with a high resale value at the end.
Gone are the stalwarts of removable battery and memory card. I’m sad to see those go, but modern designs sometimes demand sacrifices. Listen, unless you actually carried around a second charged battery, removable batteries are no longer needed with current phones. Also, non-removable does not mean non-replaceable. If the battery went bad, for some reason, you can get it replaced. And, the larger onboard memory capacities and cloud storage seem to have most manufacturers eliminating SD memory card storage options. People who are looking for SD storage are running out of options.
Best camera ever. Best screen ever. One of the longest lasting batteries. Arguably the best looking phone. Precision build. Blistering speed and responsiveness. This phone is a no-brainer and easily in my top 5 phones of all time.
For years the tech community has been calling on Samsung to dump their cheap plastic ways and make phones that actually look and feel like a flagship. While HTC was making elegantly designed full-metal phones, and Sony was making industrial glass-sandwich phones, Samsung was still making phones with flimsy and often tacky plastic backs. Samsung tested the waters last year by releasing the Galaxy Alpha, a pretty mid-range offering which was significant for another reason - build quality. All around people applauded Samsung for finally making a phone that felt “premium”. The quest for better build quality continued with the Galaxy Note 4 which like the Alpha, also came with a metal band around the sides of the phone. The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are the final results of that quest, maintaining that metal trim and finishing it off with a glass back replacing the much loathed flimsy plastic. And as far as Samsung goes, they’re two of the best phones the company has ever made. Aesthetically anyway. Despite the flashy new design, there’s still a lot that I find wrong with Samsung’s latest flagships.
For starters, let’s talk about the two hallmark features of past Samsung flagships - a removable battery and expandable storage. Both are now gone from the S6/Edge. For years Samsung fans have been touting these two features as reasons why Samsung phones are better than everything else. So you can understand my bemusement when they say the same thing about the S6/S6 Edge even though those two features have been removed. Now me personally, I’ve never used a phone with a removable battery or expandable storage. But for people who have for years (Samsung fans), this is a huge loss. When you continuously give your loyal fans features they love, features which until recently nobody else offered, then take those features away, you’re bound to make some people upset.
It’s not enough that the S6/S6 Edge don’t have removable batteries, the batteries they do have are relatively small by today’s flagship standards. They come with 2550/2600 mAh batteries, which are smaller than the M9’s 2840 mAh battery, the G4’s 3000 mAh battery, and even last year’s Galaxy S5 which had a 2800 mAh battery. Battery life has been average at best as most reviews have attested to, with the new 14nm Exynos chip countering the high power requirements of a 1440p display and that small-ish battery capacity. And wireless charging is a nice feature to have. But these are all solutions to a problem that Samsung could have easily avoided if it just used a bigger battery. And to rub salt into the wound, Samsung recently announced the Galaxy S6 Active, which comes with a whopping 3500 mAh battery. As one very disgruntled Samsung fan wrote, this just highlights how the S6/S6 Edge are “an extreme case of form over function”.
Let’s talk about the S6 Edge for a moment. It is after all according to many, one of the sexiest phones anyone has ever made. And I will admit, it is definitely a looker. But for $100 extra, what exactly do you get other than some extra curves? Well you can set it up so when the phone is face-down on a surface, the edge will glow a certain colour based on who is calling. Looks and sounds cool, but will you want to leave your phone face-down on a table just to use this feature? You can also get notifications on the edge and other tidbits of information like news, sports, and financial headlines, all from Yahoo. Also a Twitter feed. How useful all that information is will vary with each individual, but I doubt many people care about financial news from Yahoo. The only legit use case for the edge is the night clock, which makes even more sense with Samsung’s AMOLED display. But everything else? Solutions to problems that just don’t exist.
For years, Samsung’s flagships have always put functionality before design. They recycled the same design each year, added more and more features which made TouchWiz synonymous with the word “lag”, and frustrated users as their phones slowed down the longer they owned them. I give credit to Samsung for finally listening to criticism this year and trying to fix their problems, but it feels like they overcompensated. They removed two of their most beloved features in favour of a sleeker and slimmer design - which many people also criticised for looking too much like a competitor’s design. It’s definitely a step in the right direction in my opinion, but with Samsung looking to emulate the competition by sacrificing hallmark features rather than keeping them to keep fans happy, only time will tell if this new approach will ultimately payoff.
Jazli Aziz has three loves - Manchester United, Batman and Android. He is a strong proponent of stock Android and currently uses a Google Nexus 5. His blog, Triplicate Thoughts, is quite popular among tech enthusiasts. Check out Jazli’s profile here.