The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge might not be the only phone unveiled at MWC 2015 but it’s the one that’s causing the most noise. Take one look at the crowd surrounding Samsung’s stand and it’s easy to gauge the significance of the Edge to Samsung’s future as a smartphone maker.
Thankfully we were one of the lucky few to get a less crowded hands-on with what will arguably be Samsung’s most important product of the last five years. Taking on the iPhone 6 and Samsung’s increasing size of Android rivals isn’t easy, in fact Samsung’s own financial figures show that the company is being hit hard by an increasingly cramped middle-market of affordable yet powerful handsets.
The S6 Edge rises above this battle not out of snobbery but simply because it’s probably one of the most advanced smartphones you can buy at the moment. That’s thanks to a state-of-the-art custom built processor, next-generation components and a screen that can quite comfortably be called the highest resolution display on a smartphone.
To try and wrap our heads around this tidal wave of sensory news we’re going to focus on two core areas: Design and power.
Samsung appears to have finally got this message. The S6 Edge’s design is intrinsically woven into the hardware decisions, one simply couldn’t function without the other. They didn’t call this ‘Project Zero’ for nothing. It’s a wiping of the slate and a rebirth for a range of phones that had become impressive in their iterations, but stale when it came to our expectations.
Picking up the Galaxy S6 Edge your hand actually overcompensates, expecting a weight that simply isn’t there. When the shock wears off a number of other things become apparent. Both the S6 and the S6 Edge feel seriously expensive. The glossy glass back might not be to everyone’s taste but the rest of the design is good enough that you might not even care.
The Edge is a good-looking phone, the lines flow really well around the screen and it’s alien enough that for the first time in a while, you’ll be owning something that’ll be sure to grab attention. We remember owning the HTC Legend and it producing a similar effect. The single cut block of aluminium was a first while the design was iconic. We’re not saying we think the Edge is iconic just yet, but it’s unique enough that it could fit in that same category.
The colours are — in our opinion — a considerable improvement with the dark emerald green remaining understated and yet unique. The Platinum Gold looks too ‘bling’ for our own taste but we also realise we’re hardly a bastion for good design so there’s bound to be some that love it.
Design also includes the display, a curved 5.1-inch window so tightly packed with pixels that it’s being heralded as the highest resolution screen on a phone. There are exactly 2560×1920 pixels, which is a ridiculous number to pack into something just slightly larger than a passport.
While we’re not sure the extra pixels can physically do much more, the Super AMOLED panel means that colours are vibrant while being able to shut off pixels allows for a much darker black. If we had one concern it’s that the curved edges themselves are potentially quite reflective. The main screen won’t be affected however there’s a possibility you could have a tough time viewing Edge notifications in direct sunlight. This is just a prediction, we’ll know for sure when we review it.
Samsung has so far found three uses for a curved display and one of them is a digital ruler. It’s clear the company is exploring new territory so over time we’re sure new uses will present themselves. For the moment though it’s not entirely clear what the practical uses of a curved screen are.
We like the edges though and we don’t particularly care that it only really does two things, it looks beautiful.
If there are any concerns about the edges then they arise when the screen meets the metal body, it’s not flush, instead there’s a metal lip which surrounds it. It looks good but it’s sharp, so it could present a problem for long-term use.
Design also covers the software, and here begins our only moan. TouchWiz in our opinion is old, it hasn’t been given a major overhaul for some time and while the internal apps have been updated with a simpler and better UI, the icons feel outdated.
The result is software that feels confused. It’s as if they’ve taken core TouchWiz and just started bolting new and better looking bits on it. People Edge looks fluid, new and very Google-friendly, it seems downright bizarre that it’s not reflected across the whole system.
What’s even more confusing is that they’re not doing anything about it, when we chatted to a spokesperson about why they didn’t overhaul the software we were told it was for continuity’s sake, people are used to the design, they can connect with it. Ironically that’s precisely what Samsung is trying to break with the Edge, it’s completely new, unlike anything you’ve seen and certainly unlike any Samsung phone you’ve seen before.
You’ll see from the rest of the article that design is clearly the focus of the Edge because while we could talk at extreme length about the ultra-complex manufacturing process that goes behind making a 14nm processor we won’t, instead we’ll just tell you what it means.
The S6 and S6 Edge are the first smartphones to come with 14nm 64-bit processors, this astronomically small manufacturing processor simply means there are more transistors over a panel of the same size. More transistors means faster power which will in turn result in better performance and ultimately better battery life.
Using it in the hand you’ll almost never notice the difference, in fact you’ll probably only start to notice it when combined with Samsung’s now faster memory and storage. Both have been drastically improved and it does show. The S6 Edge is blazingly quick to use.
Battery life ties into this discussion but as this is based on little more than an hours playing it’d be foolish to give a definitive answer now.
While the S6 Edge’s battery is smaller, Samsung has obviously done much to improve the efficiency of the components leaving the screen to be the biggest drain of battery life.
The Galaxy S6 Edge is a remarkable phone and if it were the only phone that Samsung announced at MWC we’d be applauding them until our hands ached. It is boldly different. Yet every time we think of it we see the S6 hiding in the background and we wonder whether it all just feels like Samsung wanted to just start afresh and then panicked at the last minute so didn’t touch the OS and then also made a flat one.
None of these points should detract from the S6 Edge however, in its own right it’s the most exciting phone to have been announced at MWC in years and it’s certainly the most forward-thinking. We certainly like it, but what remains to answered is whether the public will when it’s released in April.