The Galaxy S6 is one of the best smartphones we’ve ever used. Period. But its fancy design and eye toward futurism didn’t come without sacrifices. Not only did the inclusion of a glass back make the device feel more fragile, but the device was no longer water resistant. These were key features Samsung touted with the Galaxy S5, and suddenly they were ditched as the company focused more on aesthetics.
It seems like the move ultimately paid off. Not only is the Galaxy S6 one of the most beautiful phones on the market, but its combination of speed, software improvements and wireless charging features make it a contender for phone of the year.
Luckily—as Samsung tends to do—it released an “active” version of its smartphone, a device that disregards design for functionality. Function over fashion, as we like to refer to it. It’s an approach that’s familiar to Samsung enthusiasts; the company released a Galaxy S5 Active last year, and a Galaxy S4 Active the year before that.
The Galaxy S6 Active is essentially the Galaxy S6 on steroids. Rather than a phone encased in glass and aluminum, Samsung’s more rugged alternative wears a thick armor with water resistant superpowers (IP68 rated; 5 feet for 30 minutes). And that’s the point. The premium looks are jettisoned in favor of more practical materials, built to last rather than built to be shown off. This is a device you won’t have to baby; it’s designed to withstand the perils of everyday smartphone ownership—and then some.
And it’s not just the materials that are different. In an effort to make the S6 Active more practical, Samsung ditched the single home button arrangement, and opted for three physical buttons on the front. That means capacitive buttons are gone, as is the fingerprint sensor. When you’re climbing a mountain with a waterfall at your back, I suppose you’re not really concerned with unlocking your phone with your fingerprint.
While the external differences are obvious, they’re more subtle internally. For the most part, the S6 Active has the same specs as its model brother, save for one important component: the battery. Whereas the S6 has a 2550mAh unit, capacity for the S6 Active has been bumped up to 3500mAh. You still can’t remove the battery, however, so you’re stuck with what you get.
Additionally, the device sports new software called “Activity Zone,” which comes with features ostensibly meant for outdoor enthusiasts. Other than that, the device sports the same 5.1-inch QuadHD screen, wireless charging capabilities, Samsung’s super quick Exynos processor, and the more manageable TouchWiz. The S6 Active is only offered with 32GB of storage and is an AT&T exclusive.
If a more rugged Galaxy S6 is what you’re after, this is a great solution. But wouldn’t throwing a case over Samsung’s premium device be the same thing? To a point. You still might not get the waterproof capabilities or the larger battery. So it really comes down to how you’ll actually use the device. If you’re constantly outdoors and need a device built to last, the S6 Active should be high atop your list. If not, the Galaxy S6 is among the best smartphones you can buy.