Following all the teasers and rumors, Samsung has unveiled the latest model in its Galaxy S flagship range at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The Galaxy S3 was a hugely popular device and the S4 and S5 continued that heritage, but somewhere along the way the Galaxy S range started to stumble, ever so slightly. Thankfully it seems that Samsung has gained its footing again and the S6 is looking like it is a true champion device. But what did Samsung change from the S5 to the S6? Well let’s take a quick look at how the Samsung Galaxy S6 compares to last year’s Galaxy S model.

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The design language between the two generations of Samsung’s flagship share a lot of common elements, especially on the front, with a tactile home button, flanked by capacitive back and recent apps keys. Coming to the sides, you’ll find the typical Samsung button layout as well, with the volume rocker on the left and a power button on the right. Things start to differ when you look at some of the ports. The Galaxy S5 has a microUSB charging port at the bottom with a plastic flap for water proofing and a headphone jack at the top, whereas the Galaxy S6 ditches waterproofing and places the audio jack at the bottom, to the left of the microUSB charging port.

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The most noticeable change from the Galaxy S5 is the build materials used on the latest flagship. The S6 has a much needed change in build material, with the plastic build and the dimpled back cover of the Galaxy S5 being replaced with a more premium build that has a metal frame sandwiched between a glass front and back.

Even with both devices featuring identical display sizes, the Galaxy S6 is the leaner and thinner of the two, allowing for an even better in-hand experience, helped along by the great feel the new materials provide.

There have been a lot of complaints about Samsung not doing much in terms of design and build quality between generations of its flagship S line, but finally, the S6 brings with it this much hoped for change. It’s not without its compromises though — the new unibody design means that the battery is no longer replaceable, a feature that was essential to many. Also, the thin design means Samsung had to sacrifice the microSD port.

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As mentioned above, the display size remains the same, with both smartphones featuring 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screens. But, Samsung has bumped up the resolution of the S6 from Full HD to Quad HD. As a result the pixel density has gone from 432 ppi to 577.

As always, Super AMOLED brings with it deep blacks, vibrant colors, and great viewing angles. This results in a fantastic experience on either display. Is QHD overkill on a 5.1-inch display? Some will say yes, some will say no, though most will admit there is at least some visible difference in clarity between the two displays.

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Samsung always packs its flagships with the latest and greatest processors. It was true of the S5 and it is true of the S6. The Galaxy S5 had a 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801, or an Exynos 5 Octa (depending on your region), backed by 2 GB of RAM.

For the Galaxy S6 Samsung has given Qualcomm a miss this time around, and instead is solely relying on its in-house octa-core Exynos 7420 chip, coupled with 3 GB of RAM. Once again, performance is fantastic, but credit also has to be given to Samsung’s more streamlined iteration of TouchWiz. Things remain the same in other hardware, with both offering 32/64 GB of space, though the Galaxy S6 offers an 128GB model and lacks microSD, something that has long been a staple of the Galaxy S line. A fingerprint scanner is also available, but with an improved version with the S6 that is touch-based, instead of swipe based like on the S5.

One advantage the S5 does have, outside of microSD and removable battery, is with regards to the overall protection from the elements it provides, with its IP67 rating for dust and water proofing. As previously mentioned, this isn’t available with the Galaxy S6, but may make its way to a future ruggedized version.

In terms of battery, the Galaxy S6 actually packs a smaller 2,600 mAh battery, compared to the 2,800 mAh unit of the S5, which could be a problem given the higher resolution display, and the fact that the battery is now non-removable. That said, the Exynos 7420 is said to be a lot more frugal with power consumption, so we’ll have to wait for real world testing to see exactly how the Galaxy S6 fares in terms of battery life.

 Samsung Galaxy S5Samsung Galaxy S6
Display5.1-inch Super AMOLED
1920 x 1080 resolution, 432 ppi
5.1-inch Super AMOLED
2560 x 1440 resolution, 577 ppi
Processor2.5 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
Adreno 330 GPU
Exynos 7420
Storage16/32 GB, expandable32/64/128 GB
Camera16 MP ISOCELL camera
2 MP front-facing camera
16 MP rear camera with OIS
5 MP front-facing camera with 90 degree wide angle lens
ConnectivityWiFi a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, GPS+GLONASS
WiFi a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, GPS+GLONASS
Networks3G/4G LTELTE cat 6 300/50
Battery2,800 mAh2,550 mAh
Fast charging
WPC and PMA-compatible wireless charging
SoftwareAndroid 4.4 Kitkat (upgradeable to Lollipop)Android 5.0 Lollipop
Dimensions142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm
145 grams
143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm
138 grams
ColorsBlack, white, gold, blueBlack, white, gold, blue
samsung galaxy s6 6

The 16 MP ISOCELL rear shooter of the Galaxy S5 offers some great detail, fantastic color reproduction, and clear and crisp images. The Galaxy S6 also packs a 16 MP rear camera, this time borrowed from the Note 4, as such it should provide the same great experience. Samsung always includes a ton of features in its camera apps. The camera app on the S5 was very comprehensive and the app on the S6 builds on that feature base. Both devices therefore give you a good selection of modes and features to help you get the most out of the smartphone’s camera.

The Galaxy S6 does offer a few new tricks, such as the ability to double tap on the home button to launch the camera app in only 0.7 seconds. The rear camera also has a new feature called “tracking autofocus”, which tracks moving objects in the frame, such as moving cars or kids. Additionally, the new Auto HDR Mode now automatically turns itself on when the camera thinks it needs it.

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The Galaxy S5 runs Android 4.4 Kitkat, with an upgrade to Lollipop already available for some, of course with TouchWiz on top. While this iteration is quite smooth and sleek, it’s really not toned down at all. Features such as multi-window, the new S Health app with heart rate monitoring, and MyMagazine are all available, along with a bunch of gesture controls. The S5’s version of Android 5.0 didn’t bring any major UI changes, except for those related to the Recent apps screen and the notifications drop down.

On the other hand, the Galaxy S6 runs Android 5.0 Lollipop along with the latest version of TouchWiz.  Finally it seems that Samsung has streamlined its software experience. While the UI looks about the same on the surface, the number of apps included out of the box have been slimmed down considerably. This should hopefully translate into a lighter, smoother experience. Of course it’s still a bit too early to judge how much better the GS6’s TouchWiz build fares, though we’ll be sure to put it through its paces in the days to come.

The story behind the S4 and S5 could be summed up as “more of the same,” but with the S6 the Korean electronics giant has finally broken free of its own self imposed design prison and brought us a device that is still a true Galaxy S phone, just better. Of course the S5 is still a great phone and with the unveiling of the S6 there could be Galaxy S5 handsets to be found at discounted prices.

What a difference a year can make.
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