Samsung’s 2015 flagship is here, and the spec sheet reads like a real fighter, with an eight-core processor, Quad HD AMOLED screen, an improved fingerprint sensor, 16 megapixel camera, and a body that for once is made out of high grade materials, none of that plastic from before. Can Samsung’s Galaxy S6 best the competition finally, and can it take best phone of the year upon release in April?
If you can believe it, Samsung has been making iPhone competitors for around six years, and this year, it hopes to have something even more impressive than Apple’s own entity.
We’ve seen quite a few over the years, but in 2015, you can well and truly forget the Roman numerals that were used for the first few models, sticking only with digits, because this is the Galaxy S6.
The new handset takes an update to pretty much everything Samsung held near and dear last year and for the previous few incarnations, and beyond that of the branding, button placement, and screen dimensions, this is a totally new beast, starting with the inside, which features a Samsung-made eight-core processor made from two quad-core chips, one clocked at 1.5GHz and the other at 2.1GHz.
That’s the Exynos 7420, and this is paired with a Mali graphics chip (T760MP8), as well as 3GB RAM, which is above the 2GB sweet spot Android smartphones tend to prefer.
We just mentioned Android, and that’s here too, with Samsung releasing the Galaxy S6 with Android 5.0 “Lollipop” making it pretty much up to date out of the box, though Samsung’s latest version of its TouchWiz overlay is also here along for the ride.
Storage is a little different on this handset, with various storage sizes available at the point of purchase. You’ll have a choice of 32, 64 or 128GB, and you’ll have to decide the storage you want then and there, because for the first time ever on a Samsung phone, there is no way of upgrading via a microSD slot because there is no microSD slot.
Fortunately you can still use microUSB to USB thumb drives if needed, thanks to a microUSB port at the bottom of the phone, which is also used to charge the phone. Other connections are also here, though most of them wireless, with 802.11 a/b/g/n and 802.11ac WiFi, GPS, Near-Field Communication (NFC), infrared, and Bluetooth 4.1 with A2DP, Low Energy (LE), and apt-X. One other wired port can be found, the 3.5mm headset jack that is generally standard on smartphones for playback of audio to headphones and speakers.
Mobile broadband speeds are a little higher, too, with Category 6 4G LTE connectivity offered, meaning download speeds as high as 300Mbps and upload speeds as high as 50Mbps, though results are dependent on the network and where you are at the time of using the phone.
Cameras are also strong on this smartphone, with a 16 megapixel rear camera with autofocus and LED flash, and a front-facing shooter capable of grabbing stills at 5 megapixels. Video is supported by both, with 4K video capture possible on that rear camera, while the front-facing can grab 1440p. Full HD (1080p) video is possible from each, and the rear camera also capable off shooting slow-motion video, too.
Then there’s the screen, which sits atop this hardware, and while the dimensions of this part are similar to the one in last year’s Galaxy S5, it’s a totally different display.
While the S5 relied on a 5.1 inch Full HD 1080p (1920×1080) Super AMOLED screen, the Galaxy S6 instead opts for a 5.1 inch Quad HD 1440p (2560×1440) Super AMOLED screen, providing more clarity than ever before in a Samsung phone.
The screen protection has also changed, as Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 goes away in this phone, used in the S5 and replaced with the latest version, Corning’s even-more-scratch resistant Gorilla Glass 4 in the Galaxy S6 used on both the front and the back.
And there are even a few extras, with the heart rate sensor returning on the back from last year (though in a different place), cloud storage included (this time via Microsoft’s OneDrive), wireless charging built into the body, and the phone also supporting fast charging from select microUSB chargers while an ultra-low power saving mode can offer extra battery life if you need to make the battery last longer.
Finally, there are the buttons and ports, and these are also a little different this time around, but only marginally, with all ports moved to the bottom, showing the 3.5mm headset jack and microUSB jack found at the base of the unit without any covers.
Buttons are all pretty standard for a Samsung phone, with individual volume rocker buttons on the left edge of the phone, a power button along the right edge, and the standard Samsung home key under the screen on the front.
A fingerprint sensor can be found under this home screen button, different from the previous generation of the technology found in the S5 due to it no longer needing a swipe of the finger.
The phone is manufactured from glass and metal and takes a nanoSIM using a pin-ejectable tray found on the right edge.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 has a non-removable battery that is rated at 2550mAh.
Every year around this time, we see the first few flagship smartphones make their way out to consumers eager for the latest and greatest, keen to ditch their old phones for something new and sit on the cusp of technology for at least the next few minutes.
They’ve seen the releases at Mobile World Congress, read our initial hands-on pieces, and hopefully heard the good news because these products can make their way out from the factory lines into their hands.
This year is no different to previous years in that regard, and just like we’ve seen for the past couple of years, HTC and Samsung are there first, revealing their hands for the first major smartphone releases for the first half of the year, with the next major release likely happening in the second half of the year, or somewhere between August and September if you need a more confirmed date.
That time is normally reserved for the bigger screens, at least for Samsung, and if you like a smaller handset — one that’s pocketable — now is the time to take a look at what manufacturers are doing.
We checked out HTC’s new model recently, and we suspect the Taiwanese manufacturer had to move quickly to get in before the Korean giant Samsung, but it may have been for moot, and only to say “we got there first”.
Unfortunately, getting in first isn’t always such an important claim, and this year’s release for Samsung looks and feels a lot better from a technical point of view, with better specs, a better screen, and a design found in the Galaxy S6 that aims to be thinner than Samsung has previously offered and just as well made as other competitors.
Is this Samsung’s best phone yet?