Samsung Galaxy S6 hands-on and first impressions
Samsung is recovering from a difficult year in the mobile phone business, thanks to the seemingly poor sales of the company’s 2014 flagship, the Galaxy S5. While Samsung hinted the Galaxy S5 would be a dramatic departure from its predecessors in the S series, the final product came under sharp criticism largely due to the fact that its aesthetics weren’t the major change many had hoped for. Even worse, critics felt the phone’s dimpled back was actually a step back in design.
With all that said, Samsung has just announced the Galaxy S6 here at MWC 2015, and it seems that the Korean giant has finally brought a much needed update to Samsung’s design language. Is the latest member of the Galaxy S family what we’ve all been waiting for? Let’s jump in and take a look!
For those that have been waiting for Samsung to move beyond its typical plastic builds, the Galaxy Alpha and Note 4 were the firsts sign that Samsung was ready to make a change. With the Galaxy S6, this vision for change continues. This time around, the S6 has a glass back panel reinforced by Gorilla Glass 4 and an aluminum edge surrounding the entire phone. This makes the device feel all-around more premium than past Samsung devices. In combination with the glass back, the metal really gives the S6 that luxurious touch that Galaxy S phones have lacked so far.
Of course, just because the materials are clearly different from the company’s previous handsets doesn’t mean that the Galaxy’s traditional design elements don’t make an appearance. In terms of design, the S6 has a familiar home button — complete with upgraded touch-based fingerprint reader — that’s flanked by capacitive menu and recent apps buttons. You’ll also find staple features on the device like the a heart rate monitor. Looking at the front or even the back of the phone, there’s no mistaking this for anything other than a Galaxy.
For fans of waterproofing tech, it should be mentioned that this is one area that the Galaxy S6 doesn’t come through, though an “Active” model is rumored to be coming our way at some point in the future.
The audio jack, USB port, and speakers are all placed on the bottom edge of the Galaxy S6, which features plastic inserts to let radio waves through. Coming to the sides, you’ll find the traditional Samsung button layout, with the volume rocker on the left and a power button on the right.
On the back you’ll find that the most striking design feature, aside from the obvious addition of glass, is redesigned camera and flash modules. The metallic accents look nice, but unfortunately the camera protrudes quite a bit, so you may have a hard time using this device on a flat surface, especially without a case. That’s a sacrifice that Samsung needed to make in order make the Galaxy S6 just 7 millimeters thick.
It is worth noting that the Galaxy S6 does feel a lot more manageable in the hands from its predecessor, as the phone is both lighter and the bezels are now smaller when compared to the Galaxy S5.
Samsung has made huge strides with OLED technology, and the Galaxy S6 is truly the epitome of that. While the company has decided to keep the same 5.1-inch screen size, the device has received a nice upgrade to a Quad HD Super AMOLED display with an impressive pixel density of 577ppi. Like on all modern AMOLED devices, colors are extremely vivid, with deep blacks and best-in-class contrast levels, while viewing angles are just as good. And, if you prefer colors to be less “in your face” Samsung offers several display modes you can choose from.
The difference between QHD and Full HD at this screen size might be hard to detect with the naked eye, but it’s still nice to see Samsung raising the bar on just about every level.
Under the hood we have a 64-bit Samsung Exynos 7420 processor backed by 3GB of RAM. We’ve heard rumors of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 processor experiencing some overheating issues, so it’s no surprise to see Samsung’s in-house built processor in the new flagship.
The Galaxy S6 has a non-removable 2,550mAh battery this time around, which is 250mAh less that the Galaxy S5’s battery. However, the 14nm processor and other optimizations may keep battery life on par with the previous generation. We’ll need ample time to test out the S6’s battery before we make any assumptions, so you can look for full battery stats in our final review. However, a nice change that will be welcomed by most users is the addition of fast charging technology. Samsung quotes that the device will have up to two hours of video playback on just ten minutes of charge, with a full charge reached in around 80 minutes.
The Galaxy S6 also comes in 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB storage options. But there’s some bad news that comes with this. Due to the device’s all glass build, you won’t be able to pop out the back panel to change out the battery. Additionally, there is no microSD card slot on the device. These features have been staples of Galaxy devices so far, and it remains to be seen how users react to their removal. While the removal of the SD card slot will disappoint many users, it’s nice to see Samsung combat the change with a bump up in internal storage options. Additionally, wireless charging is finally built-in the Galaxy S6, and with a twist: the Galaxy S6 is the first phone to support the several standards on the market (WPC and PMA). This means the phone will work with just about any charging pad.
When it comes to the camera, the Galaxy S6 boasts a 16MP rear-facing camera with smart optical image stabilization (OIS), and a 5MP front-facing camera with a 90-degree wide-angle lens. Samsung has added a handful of nice camera features this time around, now allowing you to double tap on your home screen to launch the camera app in only .7 seconds. Also, the rear camera has a new feature called “tracking autofocus”, which tracks moving objects in the frame, such as moving cars or kids. The camera app comes with the same Samsung features we’ve grown to love, though the new HDR mode has been revamped with some nice changes as well. The new Auto HDR Mode now automatically turns itself on when the camera thinks it needs it.
It’s still too early to fully judge the shooter in the Galaxy S6, though we have to say we like what we see so far.
On the software front, the Galaxy S6 is running Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the box, with Touchwiz on top. Touchwiz looks just about the same on the Galaxy S6 as we’ve seen in the past, with only a few minor aesthetic changes found around the UI. Although the visual changes with the software aren’t in abundance, there are far fewer apps preinstalled on the device. We’re sure most Samsung fans will really enjoy the toned-down software Samsung is now offering on their new flagship, and the addition of themes makes for a nice added touch.
Samsung has also created a new mobile payment system called Samsung Pay. Thanks to the company’s recent purchase of mobile payment system LoopPay, Samsung Pay incorporates NFC, barcode, and MST (Magnetic Secure Transmission) technology that is slated to work with 90% of retailers’ POS systems. Samsung’s new payment system won’t be available until Q3 2015, and will release in the US and Korean markets first. While we will definitely have our full review up before then, we’ll be sure to test Samsung Pay in greater detail when it becomes available.
|Display||5.1-inch Super AMOLED|
2560 x 1440 resolution, 577 ppi
|Camera||16 MP rear camera with OIS|
5 MP front-facing camera with 90 degree wide angle lens
Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, GPS + GLONASS
|Networks||LTE cat 6 300/50|
WPC and PMA-compatible wireless charging
|Software||Android 5.0 Lollipop|
|Dimensions||143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm|
|Colors||Black, white, gold, blue|
So there you have it, a quick first look at the Samsung Galaxy S6! Samsung has definitely made some big changes this time around, both aesthetically and internally. Whether you’re excited about the changes or not, it will be interesting to see how this device stacks up in our full review. The Galaxy S6 will be available in Black, White, Gold or Blue. Samsung has yet to release pricing details and an exact launch date, but we’ll be sure to update you when we get more information. Be sure to stay tuned for our full review, and keep it locked at Android Authority for more great MWC 2015 coverage!