The Galaxy S6 is unlike any smartphone that Samsung has ever made. How, you ask? Let me count the ways.
The most insane screen my eyes have ever seen
The Galaxy S6 has a Quad HD (2560 x 1440) Super AMOLED display, but on a 5.1-inch smartphone. That means you're looking at 577 pixels per inch. That's the smallest phone to come with a screen at such an eye-watering resolution. It's insanely crisp.
When the Samsung rep told me the screen resolution, I actually laughed out loud. It was completely involuntary, and Samsung was none too pleased. I just couldn't help but think the display was totally overkill, and would lead to needless battery drain. But if I'd just waited a few more seconds for Samsung to explain why such a display exists, I probably would've choked down my LOL.
Two words: virtual reality.
Like the Galaxy Note 4 before it, the S6 and the S6 Edge will also have an optional Gear VR headset. You strap it to your head, stick in your phone, and special magnifying lenses let you see into virtual worlds. It's essentially the same design as the current Gear VR, but smaller to accomodate the smaller phone. The biggest addition? You can now actually charge your phone with a USB connector while your using it, which was one of the biggest annoyances of the Note 4 Gear VR. Sure, 2560 x 1440 might be overkill for your naked eyes, but the extra resolution could come in handy when you magnify. Plus, Samsung's gotta sell screens somehow.
The design looks like the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 6 had a baby
I'm not saying Samsung completely ripped off Apple, because that's not true at all. But there are some similarities, let's say, between recent iPhones and the new Galaxy smartphone. First off, Samsung encases the new S6 in two panes of glass on the front and the back. Yes, you read that right—no more removable, plastic-y stuff with a Band-aid finish. Just straight Gorilla Glass 4.
That's pretty cool, and not too derivative all by itself. Sure, the iPhone 4 popularized the idea, but other phones (like Sony's Xperia Z) have had glass sandwiches as well.
But check out this curved aluminum frame. Just look at that speaker grill. It's hard to not see the iPhone 6 in Samsung's latest phone. Particularly combined with those similar plastic antenna cuts, although those are now used on many a metal smartphone.
But that doesn't mean the Galaxy S6 doesn't have its own charms. For one, the edges are radically different. On the S6 proper, the phone cuts in instead of holding a consistent round edge like the iPhone 6. It's easier to hold. It doesn't feel slippery at all. And despite being made of glass and metal, the S6 is actually a few millimeters slimmer and narrower and is even a few grams lighter than the Galaxy S5 that came before.
Here are some comparison photos:
It has a variant with a curved screen...on both edges?!
Remember the crazy Galaxy Note Edge with its slightly sloping screen? Not only is Samsung not abandoning that idea, the company's upping the ante. The Galaxy S6 Edge puts the curved edges on both sides of the screen.
Strangely enough, the phone isn't that weird to hold. I never accidentally pressed anything I didn't mean to during a quick hands-on with the S6 Edge. I'd say I still prefer the plain ol' S6 over the ambitious alternative, but it's definitely an intriguing device. I particularly like the new quick contacts feature that can tell you who's calling just by reflecting colors off a surface. Green means friend. Red means boss. (Note to boss: Please don't fire me.)
I won't spend too much time on the S6 Edge variant, but if you want to know more, I created its very own slice of Gizmodo for your reading pleasure.
The report of TouchWiz's death has been greatly exaggerated
You might have heard that Samsung would be ditching the horrendous bloatware synonymous with its TouchWiz user interface. That was just a rumor, mind you, but we were hoping it would come true.
Close, but not quite. It's true that Samsung cut back on the endless lists of options and software buttons and clutter. There are only two preloaded Samsung apps, S Voice and S Health. But saying it's basically stock Android is a bit of an exaggeration (for better or worse), as you can see in the video below.
There was also a nice little rumor that we'd see a huge adoption of Microsoft apps instead of Google ones. That's also a half-truth. Samsung will be offering two years of free OneDrive storage for all new S6 owners and will also pre-install OneNote and Skype, but its not like they're substitutes for Google standards—just extras.
Power on this guy, and you'll be dealing with a pretty similar interface to prior phones, with a splash of Android Lollipop on top. With that being said, my brief hands-on time was actually pretty great. It's incredibly snappy, with seamless transitions, pretty impressive overall. Still very much TouchWiz, though.
The hardware specs are outta control
As to be expected of top-tier Samsung, this smartphone is the definition of hardware opulence. You already know about that ludicrous display, but the camera will also be a 16 megapixel shooter with a 5MP sensor for selfies. The camera also has auto HDR and infrared white balance, which uses the IR sensor in the heart rate monitor to test the infrared levels in the surrounding environment. Neat!
And yes, the S6 will be shipping with Samsung's in-house Exynos processor (with 3GB of RAM), an octo-core chip worthy of competing against Qualcomm's latest 64-bit Snapdragon 810, the chip which was originally rumored to feature in this phone. I doubt you'd notice a difference if it had, though. Preliminary benchmarks show them neck and neck. I just test-drove the LG G Flex 2, one of the first phones with the new 810 processor, and the S6 seems just as speedy.
Samsung's camera app is pretty fast, though: it now launches from with a double-press from the familiar oblong hardware home button in just 0.7 seconds and the shutter speed is also damn quick. Using the requisite "kid playing soccer" camera example, Samsung also created a tracking focus feature that keeps a subject in focus no matter where they move. We didn't have the opportunity to test that extensively, but here's a quick look:
Samsung will also be equipping the Galaxy S6 with two mobile payment options: NFC and Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST). Together, Samsung is calling this tag-team payment duo Samsung Pay. NFC you're familiar with, but MST is a completely different animal previously found in LoopPay, which Samsung recently acquired. Basically, how it works is when you open the Samsung Pay app, you select a card, and authenticate with Samsung's built-in fingerprint sensor. Then, in what I'm going to just describe as tech magic, the app generates a signal that even old card swipe terminals can recognize. This is awesome because now you can pay with your phone anywhere that isn't some cash-only establishment. How this will work with chip-and-PIN cards is uncertain, but the service won't be ready until the summer so we have some time to learn even more. One thing is certain though, the S6 will be outfitted to take advantage.
Finally, let's talk battery for a second. The S6 comes with a 2550 mAh battery, which definitely isn't the monstrous 3,900 mAh found in the Droid Turbo or even the 2800mAh pack in the Galaxy S5. Samsung hasn't said anything about expected battery life, but it could be a potential Achilles heel when we're talking about powering a 1.2GHz octo-core processor and a QHD display. You do get built-in wireless charging for both the Qi and PMA charging standards and the battery can also wire charge halfway in just 30 minutes. But with a somewhat mediocre battery, you might need to use those chargers fairly often.
Removable batteries and expandable storage are MIA
And when that battery runs down for good, you won't be replacing it easily. That glass panel on the back of the phone means you can't pop out the battery or add a microSD card. Hear that? That's the sound of devout Samsung fans cursing out loud.
Samsung says it will be offering free a OneDrive subscription for two years as a bit of a cloud-based mea culpa, but the company's also trying to downplay the expandable storage issue: a rep told me Samsung found most smartphone owners only use around 20GB of their storage, often don't know how to effectively use expandable memory, and that onboard memory is much quicker. Hence why they're offering bumped up storage options with 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB variants available.
As is true with most Galaxy launches we have no idea when or how much you'll be shelling out for one of these, but we've heard they may break the four digit barrier price-wise. The S6 will be available for purchase on April 10 on all four major US carriers.
Update: Looks like the S6 will start at $700 and go up $100 for every memory jump, reaching the $900 limit for 128GB. The S6 Edge will be $150 more at each tier, meaning the 128GB S6 Edge will go for a whopping $1,050 off-contract. On contract prices have yet to be announced. [Gizmodo Español]
There's no doubt that Samsung's stepped up its game with the Galaxy S6, but we can't say how much quite yet. But hey, we're pretty excited about this phone. That's a start, yes?