The Samsung Galaxy S6 is a real game-changer for the Korean firm. While it has been creating premium-cost smartphones for years, it has always tended to cut back on materials; last year's flagship Galaxy S5 was fashioned almost entirely from plastic, as were all of the Galaxy S devices before it.
Following its experiment with the Galaxy Alpha, which used a metal frame to good effect, Samsung has committed to the same kind of materials with the S6, and the results are simply awe-inspiring. This is arguably the most attractive phone the company has ever made, and easily one of the best-looking mobiles yet seen in 2015.
So everything's great, right? Not quite. While Samsung has made massive strides in terms of physical design and construction, it still lags behind its rivals when it comes to an arguably more important aspect: the software which runs on the handset itself.
There's also this issue which is a bit of a BIGGY; Galaxy S6 Handsets Vulnerable To Attack
Samsung is in the news again, only this time the coverage isn’t good. Nope. This time it is very bad news for Samsung, its customers and potentially the Galaxy S6 / Galaxy S6 EDGE line of smartphones. According to reports, the keyboard on the Galaxy S6, as well as other Android-powered Samsung phones, is vulnerable to attack from hackers. Initial estimates reckon around 600 million handsets could be affected. As we said: BAD NEWS.
“A vulnerability in Samsung’s Android keyboard installed on over 600m devices worldwide could allow hackers to take full control of the smartphone or tablet,” reports The Guardian. “The security bug revolves around the update mechanism of the built-in keyboard, which looks for language updates for trending phrases either daily or weekly.”
“The keyboard was signed with Samsung’s private signing key and runs in one of the most privileged contexts on the device, system user, which is a notch short of being root,” said researcher Ryan Welton from security company NowSecure who discovered the hole.
Browse the web for opinions on Samsung's TouchWiz user interface and you'll find a flood of negative comments. Ever since its inception the custom UI has been criticised for its garish design and bloatware features. Granted, Samsung has done a lot in recent years to make it look less like a UI aimed at children, but it's still not as visually appealing as stock Android, or rivals like HTC's understated Sense UI overlay.
TouchWiz uses a very bold colour scheme which just doesn't sit well with modern UI design. Google's own work with Android shows the direction that the company wants the mobile OS to head; plain colours and restrained design are the cornerstones of Android's "Material" concept, and the latest version of TouchWiz, while based on Android Lollipop, flies in the face of that. Even very simple aspects of the UI, the pull-down notification pane, for instance, are covered in bright colours which look disappointingly tacky.
Being able to apply custom themes does get around this to a certain degree, although a lot of them are even uglier - but we'd still like to see Samsung adopt a more neutral approach to its core UI. After all, that's the one that most people will use.
Another problem we've noticed with TouchWiz is that Samsung has removed features which are selling points for Android Lollipop. The most noticeable is the multi-user account system or "Guest Mode", which allows you to sign into the same device with different Google profiles. This is a godsend for those who have home and work accounts and is also useful when you have kids who want to mess about on your phone, and you don't want them accidentally emailing your boss with offensive content. This feature is notably absent from Galaxy S6, much to the annoyance of many owners. It is thought that it will be introduced in a future update, but it really should have been there on day one.
Of course, there are things that Samsung does get right when it comes to software, namely the stuff which drives the superb camera on the S6. The amount of shooting options available is incredible, and the camera itself boots up fast and captures images with practically no delay, something which cannot be said for the snapper on the Nexus 6, which often misses shots because it's still trying to focus. Google struggles to get this aspect of Android right, so thank goodness companies like Samsung are on the ball.
Samsung has come a long way with the Galaxy S6, of that there is no doubt. The phone looks positively fantastic; at long last the company has created a handset which can challenge Apple's iPhone when it comes to build quality and premium feel. Put it alongside last year's Galaxy S and the difference is striking - Samsung's designers can feel very, very pleased with themselves.
It's just a shame then that TouchWiz continues to drag down all of this amazing work; Android is a wonderful operating system - arguably the best out there right now - but so much of that brilliance is covered up by Samsung's clumsy and obnoxious interface changes. TouchWiz is better than it once was, there's no doubt about that, but the competition has improved drastically at the same time. HTC, Sony and even LG are crafting custom UI skins which perform well, reduce bloatware and generally look as good, if not better than stock, Vanilla Android.
For next year's Galaxy S effort, Samsung needs to drastically rethink its approach to software and deliver something that matches the hardware for pure desirability and visual brilliance. If it can manage that, then it will have produced a handset which is sure to be critical as well as commercial triumph.