Who knew Samsung was capable of change? Better yet, who knew the Android kings were capable of so much change, so sudden and at a time they’re still on top of the world? Sure, Apple keeps making a lot more money per gadget sold, and strictly from a flagship standpoint, iPhones have no real threat.
Meanwhile, Android competition is unquestionably heating up, as rising Chinese stars shine brighter and brighter on the global sky. But all in all, Samsung rules, and everyone else drools. It’s the way things stand, and even if the Galaxy S6 rehashed S5’s design, build and specs, total domination was guaranteed at least another year.
Bottom line, the reinvention effort is more than commendable as it wasn’t necessarily coerced by a financial or identity crisis. If only Nokia, BlackBerry and HTC had employed a similar strategy back when they mattered.
Enough market outlook and history lessons, though. We’re here to discuss all the ways (good and bad) Sammy altered the GS5 to come up with this stunning S6/S6 Edge duo, and what, if anything, remains the same old, same old.
Price and availability – a striking resemblance
Usually, we’d leave this for last when contrasting two or more devices. But we know you’re dying to hear if you can squeeze an S6 purchase into your spring budgets without ending up in a box on the street.
The answer? Definitely, as long as you’ve been saving up for a few months. In fact, the best news we could bring you is the S6 will start around the same mark on April 10, 2015 as the S5 on April 11, 2014. Namely, $700 outright, compared to $650 a year ago. And $200 with 24-month Verizon, AT&T or Sprint pacts.
By the by, in case you’re pondering an S6 Edge “investment”, you may want to, well, eat less. The cheapest least expensive dual curved configuration should cost $850 off-contract, and $250 or even $300 with carrier agreements.
Design and build quality – the Beauties and the Beast
Remember when Jimmy Kimmel’s cronies tricked people on the street the “ancient” iPhone 4s was the sizzling hot unreleased iPhone 5? Remove the Samsung logo from the S6, re-do the experiment and watch how easy it is to pass the new Galaxy as an iPhone.
We’re not saying this to accuse Sammy of anything, far from it, it’s just that’s how different the S6 is from everything the Koreans ever made. And it’s not like the S6 resembles an iPhone per se. It simply sends the premium construction vibe previously associated with Cupertino designs. Which is good.
Back to our comparison, robust, shiny aluminum frames and a clean, simple, stylish glass rear replace ugly plastic and an even uglier perforated “polycarbonate” back cover. Then you have S6 Edge’s unique curves, far slimmer profiles (6.8 – 7 mm vs. 8.1), and slightly lighter bodies (132 – 138 grams vs. 145). So much win here!
Specifications – not all change is good
Let’s take the “upgrades” one by one.
The most thought-provoking, curious and, until a couple of months ago, unexpected is hands down Qualcomm’s Exynos stand-in. Sorry, Q, you botched the Snapdragon 810, and there are no do-overs and second chances when collaborating with this Seoul-based champion.
Now, early benchmarks show Samsung was right going with the Exynos 7420, no matter if S810’s overheating glitches are behind it. The 14 nm chip is both faster and more frugal than the 20 nm silicon… on paper. In real life, things could level out. Not counting the 3 GB RAM (up from 2), that is, which will no doubt ensure buttery smooth multitasking.
Rear camera megapixel count? It’s all the same across the board – 16. But the S6 and S6 Edge add optical image stabilization in the mix, and that may well be a bigger performance boost than, say, four extra, non-OIS MPs.
The front snappers are very obviously improved, from 2.1 to 5 megapixels, and so is the 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen, from Full to Quad HD. Only the jury is out on whether you’ll be able to tell the difference between 1,920 x 1,080 and 2,560 x 1,440 pixels.
It’s also unclear if battery shrinkage (from 2,800 to 2,600 mAh) will result in a palpable autonomy downgrade. After all, the Exynos 7420 is reportedly great for low power consumption. Finally, there’s no question about it – you’ll miss having the means for external storage expansion, and affording to drop your “precious” in the toilet bowl. The S6 Active can’t come soon enough.
Galaxy S6/S6 Edge vs Galaxy S5 – is anything really the same?
Sure it is. The software, while a bit less cluttered than before, follows the verified winning equation: Android (5.0 Lollipop) + TouchWiz. Besides, even if you’ll perceive clear-cut UI distinctions, odds are Sammy will bring the S5 in line with its successors eventually via an OTA update.
Connectivity isn’t vastly revised either, with Bluetooth up from standard 4.0 to 4.1, no Wi-Fi advancements whatsoever, and LTE… probably upgraded in theory, but unlikely to perform considerably better in reality.
As far as sensors and scanners go, there’s no word on any heart rate enhancement, whereas fingerprint recognition is now touch-reliant instead of swipe-based. Can you say useless gimmick uselessly overhauled to seem less useless when in fact no one cares about it or finds it half-beneficial?
Why couldn’t you have dropped this and kept the microSD slot? The water-resistant chassis? So close to perfection once again… Yet clearly, up a notch (or ten) compared to last year.