Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
The Samsung Galaxy Note Edge is one of the oddest phones I’ve had to review, so to see Samsung officially launch the Galaxy S6 Edge alongside the Galaxy S6 was a bit of surprise. I’m all for companies trying to experiment with smartphone design and while the curves are not as prominent on the S6 Edge, I’m struggling to see the appeal of it.
It’s more disappointing because before I picked up the S6 Edge, I was actually impressed with how it looks from afar. Its slim, 7mm thick frame is only slightly more portly than the Galaxy S6 (6.9mm) and it weighs 132g, so it’s significantly lighter than the S5. It’s more striking than the S6 to look at, which couldn’t look more like an iPhone 6 clone, though the S6 Edge doesn’t escape comparisons entirely.
I had the same slight pinching issue I had with the Note Edge when I picked up the S6 Edge. It’s not as bad as it is on the Note Edge, but it’s enough to make it feel a little different to grip than the Galaxy S6. Changing to Gorilla Glass 4 back is a radical move by Samsung. It’s something Sony has done with its Xperia phones but with not a great deal of success. It won’t slip off the armchair of your sofa, but with the white model especially, it can get grubby very quickly. I really liked the soft touch finish on the Galaxy Alpha so it’s disappointing not to see that. It looks like it’s a move taken to add wireless charging support.
What’s more interesting is Samsung’s decision to go with a non-removable back. That means no microSD card support or getting to that 2,600mAh battery, which is guaranteed to irk some loyal Samsung phone users. What the non-removable back means for storage is that Samsung is taking a leaf out of Apple’s book by offering 32GB, 64GB and 128GB models. Elsewhere, Samsung has tweaked the fingerprint technology baked into the home button to support Touch ID-style touches instead of swipes.
Related: Samsung Galaxy S6 vs S6 Edge: What’s different?
Like the S6, the S6 Edge has a 5.1-inch ‘2K’ QHD AMOLED screen moving to an impressive 1,440 x 2,560 resolution and an 577 ppi, which is exactly as sharp you’d expect. It’s an impressively sharp and vibrant screen and running a short trailer proves that Samsung is making some of the best 2K phone displays. The curved edges, however, don’t offer anything additional to the viewing experience except extending the black bars on the movie trailer.
Unlike the Note Edge, the curves on either side help create an almost bezel-less screen. The curves are less pronounced than they are on the Note Edge and that helps make the S6 Edge feel less of an oddity. The uses for those two curved edges are more limited than the Note Edge, but there’s a dedicated section to customise the Edge screen in the Settings menu.
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Modes include Edge lighting, which turns the curves essentially into a larger notification light when calls and messages through. The People edge can assign different colours to different contacts, and flash up when they get in contact. A stream of notifications can be displayed when the phone is standby and there’s a night clock mode, which is made better by the fact that you can use this on either side of the phone.
Away from the curve, Samsung has made some positive changes on the software front. The S6 Edge runs on the latest version of Android 5.0 Lollipop with TouchWiz on top and the bloatware has finally been stripped back. A quick look through the app drawer and I spotted S Health, S Voice, and S Voice. You can still swipe all the way to the left for the Magazine UX but that’s about it. Samsung is also adding its Samsung Pay platform powered by the acquisition of LoopPay. Most importantly, Samsung has listened and kept bloatware to a bare minimum. Finally.
Keeping things running smoothly is Samsung’s own custom built 64-bit Exynos chipset with 3GB of RAM. Like quad-core setups, the cores are not all utilized at the same time but dedicated to different tasks to offer a more power-efficient performance. The big difference here with the Snapdragon 810 is the 14nm manufacturing process, compared to 20nm for the 810. In theory this makes the chip more efficient, though it bears closer inspection in real world use.
The S5 has arguably one of the best all-round cameras out of the 2014 flagships and the same can similarly be said of the Note 4 Edge, which inherited the same optical image stabilization as the Note 4. The S6 Edge matches the S6 for camera features with a 16-megapixel main camera and five-megapixel front-facing camera both with f/1.9 lenses to improve low light shooting. That’s aided by the inclusion of optical image stabilization and a new real-time HDR mode. For video, you can shoot at a maximum 4K resolution, but like the HTC One M9 and the LG G Flex 2, you can only shoot for five minutes at a time.
I grabbed some sample images with the S6 Edge’s main camera to get an idea of how well it performs. It’s hard to draw any serious conclusions from these shots, but they give you an idea of how it deals with indoor lighting.
If you put the Galaxy S6 and the S6 Edge together side-by-side, one looks like an iPhone and the other looks like a clear attempt to do something truly different. The S6 Edge is a bold move from Samsung and massive departure from the S5, but I’m not entirely convinced by the benefits right now.
The S6 Edge goes on sale on April 10th, and Samsung has yet to talk pricing. If it’s more expensive than the S6, it’s going to be difficult to justify shelling out more for a special feature that’s largely decorative.