The way Samsung launches phones is easy to work out: the flagship 'S' model appears, and then a few months later the improved Note pops up. So now the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has arrived the path is clear for the Samsung Galaxy S6.
In fact, with the Sony Xperia Z4 failing to show up at CES, the Galaxy S6 is the next biggest phone launch, despite being a few months away.
Latest updates: TouchWiz could be undergoing some major changes and the Galaxy S6 could launch in South Korea as soon as February, that is, if problems with the processor don't delay it.
We're already seeing numerous rumors about this next model, and with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha trying to fix some of the design failings of the Galaxy S5 - plus the Galaxy A3, A5 and A7 options recently announced - there's definitely been a quick change at the South Korean brand to try and make its phones look much better.
Cut to the chase
What is it? The next flagship smartphone from Samsung
When is it out? Early 2015, probably March or April but maybe even earlier
What will it cost? A lot, at least as much as the pricey Galaxy S5
Samsung Galaxy S6 release date and price
There's no official word on when the Samsung Galaxy S6 might launch, but Samsung has a yearly product cycle which it rarely deviates far from.
In fact from the Samsung Galaxy S2 onwards the company has always announced its phones at or close to MWC, and we're almost certain the same will hold true for the Galaxy S6.
2015's MWC is set to take place between March 2 and March 5, so it's likely that we'll see the Samsung Galaxy S6 sometime around then. Possibly not at the show itself but perhaps at a press conference a day or two before it starts, much like Samsung did for the Galaxy Note 4 launch before IFA 2014 and indeed there are reports that the Galaxy S6 will arrive at MWC, in two flavours.
A group of analysts in South Korean reckoned Samsung would somewhat jump the gun with a Galaxy S6 launch at CES 2015. But CES has been and gone and the Galaxy S6 didn't make an appearance.
Having said that, it may have been there in secret, as it's rumored that Samsung was showing the phone off behind closed doors to "selected partners", but even if that was happening don't expect any of them to blab.
However, whenever it's announced that's not likely to be when it will actually go on sale. The Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5 both launched in April, of 2013 and 2014 respectively, so it's probable you'll be able to buy the Samsung Galaxy S6 from April 2015.
On the other hand there's a chance it could be delayed, as there have been numerous reports that there are issues with the Snapdragon 810 processor, which is likely to be powering it. Qualcomm claims the chip is on track, but that hasn't stopped reports of overheating issues from flooding in.
There's no real information on what the Samsung Galaxy S6 might cost either, but this is a flagship phone we're talking about.
This means it's not likely to be any cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy S5, which at launch sold for £579 (around $972 / AU$1048) SIM free.
Given that the specs will presumably be better and that it will likely have a more premium build it's possible that it could be even more expensive, but we'd be surprised if Samsung went much higher than £600 / $1000 / AU$1100.
Samsung Galaxy S6 design
Samsung needs to sort out the design of the Galaxy S6, and there are (happily) reasons to believe it's doing just that. There's every chance that Samsung will mould it on the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, which launched with a metal frame but still kept hold of the polycarbonate rear from the Galaxy S5.
At just 6.7mm the Galaxy Alpha is considerably thinner than the Galaxy S5, and we hope this is a positive sign for the Galaxy S6. In fact even more recently Samsung has shown off the 6.3mm thick Galaxy A7.
Sources in Samsung's supply chain have been talking fast and loose about the Galaxy S6, claiming the Galaxy Alpha and Note 4 will test the waters for Samsung's metal design ahead of an all-metal flagship in the form of the S6.
But what if Samsung's feeling that's not enough? Project Zero is coming, apparently, and not only do we love that name it also heralds Samsung starting again and completely retooling the S6 to be something that even iPhone and HTC lovers can't keep their paws off.
Given one of the design chiefs at the South Korean firm was shuffled sideways in the aftermath of less-than-expected Galaxy S5 sales, we can really believe this is happening.
Don't expect a fancy new name to go with it though, as according to SamMobile the new phone will simply be called the Samsung Galaxy S6.
The best look we've had so far at the possible design of the Samsung Galaxy S6 is from Dutch website Top Tien Mobiel, which has posted photos supposedly showing a Galaxy S6 prototype, which were sent in by an anonymous source.
The alleged image of the S6 shows a design with extremely thin edges along the left and right sides of the screen, with the front-facing camera now at the centre of the handset.
Before that leak we had to make do with this interesting concept from Josip Jakubiv - it's the same mottled back, but with a much larger screen and a refined design - perhaps even a spot of metal there?
Speaking of metal, we've also seen images of what might be the phones shell, courtesy of Nowhereelse.fr. It's not clear how it obtained these images so take them with a pinch of salt, but we're expecting a metal frame so they could well be legitimate.
Since then we've got a closer look at what might be the frame, again courtesy of Nowhereelse.fr. It's still hard to tell from these how the final handset will look, but it's clear that metal could be a large component.
Samsung Galaxy S6 screen
There's no sign that Samsung is ditching Super AMOLED in its screens, so we expect that to make a return in the Galaxy S6.
The resolution will likely get a boost though, as Samsung has already launched the 2560 x 1440 Galaxy Note 4 and even among smaller screen sizes there's the equally QHD Galaxy S5 LTE-A in South Korea, so we expect the Galaxy S6 to have a resolution at least that high.
More likely Samsung will save that for the Galaxy Note 5... plus, surely, that's getting to the point of just too many pixels in a phone screen?
In any case, SamMobile claims it's likely to launch with a QHD screen, so with few other rumors around that's looking the most likely. A second report from Chinese site cnmo.com featured a supposed AnTuTu benchmarking result from the Galaxy S6 that confirmed the display was a 2,560 x 1,440 QHD affair.
Whether it's QHD or not the Samsung Galaxy S6 may have a slightly bigger screen than the Galaxy S5. The company has slowly been increasing the size of the screens on its flagships and we wouldn't be surprised if the Galaxy S6 were to push things up by another 0.1 or 0.2 inches to 5.2 or 5.3 inches. Samsung may decide to go all the way up to 5.5-inches, given the Google Nexus 6 has launched with a 6-inch screen.
If Samsung can shrink the bezel then it could probably even achieve that without increasing the phone's footprint. On the other hand the Note 4 is no bigger than the Galaxy Note 3 and Samsung's going to want to keep its two premium brands differentiated, so maybe it will decide that 5.1 inches is the sweet spot.
There's also a chance that the Galaxy S6 might have a flexible display. Samsung has been looking at this sort of technology for a while and has even recently launched the Galaxy Note Edge: a version of the Note 4 where the screen curves down one side, so it's possible.
GforGames also claims we'll see two versions of the handset, with the Galaxy S6 Edge being a limited edition, with an apparent sales forecast of 'just' 10 million units during 2015.
We can believe it would happen if it was just one variant and it would be cool if the S6 had a bendy screen - something different from the continuously-similar rectangular designs, right?
Recently we've heard from Samsung HD Blog that both edges of the Galaxy S6's display might be curved, though apparently not in the same way as the Galaxy Note Edge, which may mean more subtle curves.
Though there are now reports that while Samsung is apparently prototyping versions of the S6 with both one curved edge and even two curved edges the company hasn't decided which if either of them it will launch.
Power, OS, camera and more
Samsung Galaxy S6 power
With Android Lollipop here and bringing 64-bit support with it we fully expect the Galaxy S6 will have a 64-bit processor.
As for which processor specifically that's still rather up in the air, but traditionally it's been equipped with a Snapdragon chip of some variety and both the Snapdragon 808 and Snapdragon 810 are expected to start appearing in devices during the first half of 2015, so one of them seems likely.
The Snapdragon 808 is a six-core 64-bit processor with support for 2K screens, while the Snapdragon 810 is an octa-core 64-bit chip which can power screens of up to 4K resolution.
This includes an Adreno 430 GPU, which is said to be 30% faster than the Adreno 420, so either way it should be in for a boost in terms of gaming and general screen flutterings.
Though it's always possible that it will stick with the Snapdragon 805 that's found in the Galaxy Note 4 and now rumored for the HTC One M9 and Sony Xperia Z4 - but come on Samsung, surely you'll go harder than that?
After all, there's a strong Exynos chip in the Galaxy Alpha, so perhaps Samsung will go for its own chip design for the next flagship.
In fact that's exactly what SamMobile is reporting, claiming that the Galaxy S6 will launch with a 64-bit octa-core Exynos 7420, though apparently there'll also be a Snapdragon 810 variant, mirroring the same CPU variants for different markets seen on the Galaxy S4 and S5.
The report from SamMobile has been echoed by cnmo.com, which reports that the Galaxy S6 will use a 64-bit octa-core Exynos processor with an ARM Mali-T760 GPU.
There's no word on how much RAM it will have, but a 64-bit processor works well when imbued with north of 4GB, so Samsung should be looking to get the best out of its new devices' power range.
Having said that the Galaxy S5 only has 2GB of RAM and even the Galaxy Note 4 has stuck with 3GB, so we'd be surprised if the S6 had more than 4GB - and lest we forget, specs for the sake of specs is never a good thing.
Still, Samsung is reportedly now mass producing 4GB RAM modules for mobile devices, which are designed to be both faster and more power efficient than existing ones, so we wouldn't be surprised if they made their way in to the Galaxy S6.
Performance could be given an additional boost in the Samsung Galaxy S6 as reports from South Korea point towards a new type of flash memory which may find its way into the handset.
UFS (short for Universal Flash Storage) provides enhanced data speeds and power consumption savings of up to half compared to the previous generation of memory.
Speaking of storage, SamMobile reckons the Galaxy S6 will come in 32, 64 and 128GB variants, presumably with a microSD card slot.
Samsung Galaxy S6 operating system
While Samsung is cooking up its own Tizen operating system, the Galaxy S6 will almost certainly stick with Android, and probably Android Lollipop since that's the latest version.
It will also run Samsung's TouchWiz UI on top, albeit streamlined once more to make sure it doesn't annoy consumers who are becoming aware of the simplicity of raw Android, so given the Samsung Galaxy S5 was made sleeker, this could well happen again in the S6.
In fact there are now reports that Samsung might get rid of "unnecessary functions" and simplify the UI to the level of the Nexus 6. Making TouchWiz as slick and stripped down as stock Android would be a drastic change but a welcome one.
Even if it is that stripped down Samsung may still include some customisation features in TouchWiz, as AndroidPit reports that there will be a Theme Store allowing users to personalise their phone.
Samsung Galaxy S6 camera
One of the earliest Galaxy S6 rumors pointed to a 20MP camera, up from 16MP in the Galaxy S5. Samsung's always about more and bigger so this seems believable.
According to ETNews the Galaxy Note 4 was originally going to have a 20MP sensor but Samsung dropped it to 16MP (the report actually says 12MP, but we now know that's wrong) to keep it thin while still including OIS, however the company will instead use the 20MP sensor on the Galaxy S6 apparently.
What it doesn't say is whether the S6 therefore won't include OIS or won't be all that slim, since reading between the lines one or the other is likely to be the case. In fact at 8.5mm thick the Note 4 is already slightly fatter than the Galaxy S5, so if the Galaxy S6 does get OIS then it's likely to put some weight on too.
SamMobile doesn't entirely disagree with the above rumors, but reckons Samsung still hasn't decided between a 16 and 20MP snapper.
Samsung Galaxy S6 other features
There are a few things that we can be pretty confident that the Galaxy S6 will include. Samsung has been putting its fingerprint scanner on a number of phones and tablets so we're sure the S6 will get it too.
Likewise it will probably retain the heart rate monitor from the Galaxy S5, since that's also been included on the Galaxy Alpha and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.
We fully expect a microSD card slot too, since the Galaxy S range has always included one and we'd be very surprised if it wasn't water and dust resistant, since the Galaxy S5 is and removing a useful feature like that seems unlikely.
Though neither the Note 4 nor the Galaxy Alpha is, so it's possible that the Galaxy S6 won't be either.
We may also see the Samsung Galaxy S6 inherit some of the new features which have been added to the Galaxy Note 4, such as fast charging, a UV sensor and multi-directional microphones.
AndroidPit echoes much of this, claiming that the Galaxy S6 will have a microSD card slot, a fingerprint scanner, a UV sensor, fast-charging functionality and unidirectional microphones.
Something that is unlikely but has nonetheless been rumored is a retina scanner, as Samsung has claimed to be looking at iris detection. Of course such technology may still be quite a way off yet and we're not all that convinced we'll see one in the Galaxy S6.
Galaxy S6: what we want to see
Given we don't know a whole lot about the new Galaxy S6 at this point, here are the key things we think Samsung must chuck in there to make it a roaring success, rather than an unimpressive flop:
A better body
It would be fair to say that the dimpled back panel on the S5 wasn't universally well received. Everyone has been crying out for a new design in the Galaxy S series for a while now, but Samsung seemingly hasn't been listening.
An S6 with a metal unibody and a premium feel would be a potential crowd pleaser. If a redesign is on the cards, why not take it further and go for a new form factor? A new premium profile could refresh the range and make it feel special again.
No one is impressed by 1080p any more, not when 4K TVs are in the shops. We wouldn't have been surprised to see a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution on the S5, but it seems QHD displays were not ready for prime time back at the beginning of 2014.
It's all change now though, with the Galaxy Note 4 and LG G3 both packing 2K screens, so anything less than a QHD display in the S6 will be a bit of a disappointment. Just make sure it doesn't hurt the battery while you're at it, Samsung.
Hey, we're not here to solve these issues - that's for your fancy R&D labs.
A 64-bit processor
Perhaps the lack of a 64-bit processor in the S5 was an acknowledgement that there aren't many advantages yet, or maybe it was a statement about not copying Apple.
In any case, regardless of benefits perceived and real, 64 is a bigger number than 32 so it must be better, and if our friend's iPhone has one, if you don't put one in the S6 we're not buying it. The good news is that with the upcoming Android L supporting 64-bit processors it's likely that the Galaxy S6 will take advantage.
While you're there, for heaven's sake add more RAM – 2GB is not enough to satisfy the modern day demands of multi-tasking, especially if you're going for a 64-bit chip.
A flexible design
Remember that advert where the guy folds his phone out to tablet size? That would be a real slice of fried gold and we've heard Samsung has a folding prototype already. Failing that, a squidgy, bendy phone that can take all sorts of damage and return to its original shape unblemished would be nice.
Squeezy controls could bring a fresh tactile element to smartphone ownership. At the very least we expect flexibility to deliver greater durability and new potential shapes, but it has got to be better than the Samsung Galaxy Round. Samsung's on the right track with the Galaxy Note Edge, so we're looking forward to the next step in curved and bendy screens.
We need bigger batteries, more efficient power management, and faster wireless charging. The 2,800mAh battery in the S5 might be a slight step up from its predecessor, but it has an extra 0.1 of an inch of screen to power. You're treading water, Samsung. Free us from the daily charge.
An end to bloatware
No-one wants a Samsung-branded app that does exactly the same thing as an existing Google app, only worse. We also expect a device listed as 16GB to have more than 10GB free. The days where Android was rough and ready and Touchwiz really added value are gone.
Stock Android is smooth and delicious, KitKat needs no embellishment and Android L already looks like a rich and creamy desert to our tech starved stomachs. It's time to tone it down a little.
By all means stick S Health on there as an optional extra, but please let us uninstall all the S apps we don't want and ditch the superfluous doubles.
There is some good news here, as a top Samsung exec has been quoted as saying the firm is looking to ditch the Samsung Hub suite, sparking talk of the end of bloatware heavy smartphones, and that change is already happening on the Tab S range. We can but hope.
A decent pair of stereo speakers
Sadly there's just one speaker on the S5. We don't want to have to wear headphones or hook up speakers all the time. It's a mobile device. The HTC One clearly demonstrated the benefits of dual front-facing speakers. Sony heard it, because the Z2 and Xperia Z3 have them too.
Screens are big enough to watch movies with friends now. How about bringing that sound quality up to scratch? A good set of stereo speakers in the S6 would be welcomed by everyone.
A DAB chip
Wi-Fi isn't always available and mobile data can be costly, so streaming tunes from the cloud or internet radio can be tricky and prohibitively expensive. FM radio seems to be rapidly disappearing from mobile devices and the quality is pretty patchy anyway.
Isn't it about time digital radio made it into smartphones? Access to high quality stations without the fiddling or the network connection would open up a world of music, sport, and talk. DAB chips are coming to smartphones and we'd love to see one in the Galaxy S6.
The Moto X was a mixed bag, but it's undeniably cool to be able to talk to your phone and have it blink to life. Google continues to improve Now and add more functionality. If the Galaxy S6 was always listening, we'd get more value out of it. Google Now has been updated to listen for commands from any screen, but on the S6 we want it to listen even when the screen is off.
Voice recognition is improving fast. Given that our smartphones are starting to connect to wearables, home electronics and cars, the ability to issue voice commands brings us a step closer to the futuristic utopia we've all been dreaming about.
A new UX
We already suggested that Touchwiz is no longer adding much value to stock Android, but that doesn't mean it couldn't. A radical rethink of the stagnant UX could wash away childish fonts and pointless features to deliver something fresh and stylish.
Samsung must have bags of data on how we interact with our smartphones and a cursory glance at popular launchers reveals a world of possibilities. Be bold Samsung, offer us something new and exciting! As long as it isn't a candy-fuelled, garish, neon nightmare, we'll give it a try.