The wait is over for Samsung faithfuls with the unveiling of the latest Galaxy smartphone, the S6. This year’s version focuses on an improved design and materials, an advanced camera and better battery life. Also, this time there’s not one but two versions to choose between – the Galaxy S6, and the Galaxy S6 Edge. We’re here in Barcelona at Samsung’s Unpacked 2015 event to see the latest models first hand.

The Galaxy S6 Edge sports a world-first design that uses a curved screen to wrap around both its right and left-hand edges. The idea behind this feature is to display information during times when the screen is not visible, such as when it’s off, or facing screen-side down.

Introducing the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge.

Introducing the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge.

Samsung has introduced two key modes for the curved edges – ‘People Stream’ and ‘Information Stream.’ People Stream lets you assign specific colours to up to 5 people so when they call or text, the edge of the screen will pulse and glow in that particular colour. You can then reject the call by tapping on the heart rate sensor, or view a message by swiping from the edge inwards.

'People Stream' uses assigned colours to let you know who is getting in touch.

‘People Stream’ uses assigned colours to let you know who is getting in touch.

The Information Stream feature shows information such as the weather, time, battery level or other app notifications along the phone’s edge so you can read it without turning on the screen or opening a phone case front cover.

While there are some built-in features, we’re told that the system is open to developers who will undoubtedly come up with some innovative ways to make use of the side displays.

'Information Stream' keeps you in the know without turning your screen on.

‘Information Stream’ keeps you in the know without turning your screen on.

New look

The Galaxy S6 has clearly spent some time getting a makeover, with a new design created from the ground up that firmly lands it in iPhone 6 territory. Gone is the overly plastic feel of the GS5 edges and rear cover; the Galaxy S6 wears gorilla glass 4 on both its front and back, and is clad in aircraft-grade aluminium, which stretches around the edges.

Samsung has also followed Apple’s lead by positioning the headphone jack at the bottom edge, and the speaker grille is also quite similar in appearance to the iPhone 6.

Similar designs - iPhone 6 on the left, Galaxy S6 on the right.

Similar designs – iPhone 6 on the left, Galaxy S6 on the right.

Both phones come with translucent “jewel-like” colour choices including Topaz Blue, Back Sapphire, White Pearl, Gold Platinum, and the S6 Edge also gains an exclusive Emerald Green option.

Colour choices vary with Gold Platinum, Pearl White, Sapphire Black and S6 Edge exclusive Emerald Green shown here.

Colour choices vary with Pearl White, Sapphire Black, Gold Platinum and S6 Edge exclusive Emerald Green shown here.

While this can’t be said for some of Samsung’s previous phones, the colours are subtle and not too over the top, and even seem to change colour slightly in different lighting conditions.

Topaz blue and Gold Platinum front views.

Topaz Blue and Gold Platinum front views.

Compared to one another, the S6 is 0.2mm thinner than the S6 Edge, while the Edge is about half a millimetre narrower and just over a millimetre taller. Oddly, the S6 Edge is also lighter by 6 grams.

Amazing display

Both models of the S6 have a 5.1 inches screen, running at Quad HD resolution, and using Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology. The net result is an incredibly sharp and detailed picture, vibrant colours and high-visibility for outdoor conditions with a 600cd/m2 brighness rating. Considering its 577 pixels per inch (ppi) screen density, there’s really nothing else on the market that can best it.

The 5.1 inch screen is exceptionally good with a staggering 577 pixels per inch.

The 5.1 inch screen is exceptionally good with a staggering 577 pixels per inch.

Advanced camera

The S6 comes with advanced cameras, on both the front and back. The rear 16 megapixel camera can be brought to life in just 1.7 seconds from a double click of the home button, and has a new F1.9 aperture that is 34% larger than the F2.2 version on the S5, meaning greater light sensitivity and better pics taken in dark environments.

The rear camera also includes Tracking Auto-Focus and Real-time HDR (High Dynamic Range).

Tracking AF helps keep focus locked on moving targets.

Tracking AF helps keep focus locked on moving targets.

The front camera is also improved at 5 megapixels, and has the new F1.9 aperture, which is 60 precent larger than the F2.4 version in the S5, and gains HDR.

More life

Samsung has focused on better power management for the S6, which should result in reduced charge times and longer battery life. There’s a fast charge mode that, for just 10 minutes of plug-in charging time, should give you at least 2 hours of HD video watching, or about 4 hours of general use, and the entire battery can be charged from flat to full in 80 minutes.

Also new is a wireless charging station, so you can just drop your phone on it at the end of the day to get a recharge, without fumbling around with cables. Normally, a special case is required for phones with wireless charging capabilities, however the S6 is the first phone in the world to build this inside without adding to the phone’s bulk or thickness.

The S6 sitting on the new wireless charging station.

The S6 sitting on the new wireless charging station.

Also good is that S6 will work with any wireless charge pad that supports WPC and PMA standards, so you’re not locked into the Samsung version.

Digital payments

The S6 supports a number of different contactless payment technologies for ‘Samsung Pay,’ Samsung’s version of ‘Apple Pay’, allowing you to substitute your phone for your credit card.

This includes NFC, barcode and Magnetic Secure Transactions (MST), which covers all the bases to ensure that most kiosks will be compatible. On the Security side, tokenisation and fingerprint scanning are included. Thankfully, the fingerprint scanner now only requires that you press your finger on the ‘home’ button, rather than swiping it like on the S5, which often led to false readings and was difficult to do with one hand.

Nifty clear-rear case lets you enjoy the new look of the S6.

Nifty clear-rear case lets you enjoy the new look of the S6.

Whether Samsung Pay is due to appear in the USA and South Korea in the third quarter of 2015, however whether it will appear in Australia is questionable, however the hardware will undoubtedly work with contactless transfer features built into compatible Australian banking apps.

Other security enhancements see a new version of Samsung KNOX for the enterprise, as well as an enhanced ‘Find My Mobile’ feature that lets make it easier to track by switching on Ultra Low Power Saving mode remotely.

De-cluttered

The S6 runs Android 5.0 (Lollipop) as well as Samsung’s TouchWiz interface, however, this is a new version that has been designed to be easier to read and with less clutter. Also, much of the ‘bloatware’ created by preinstalling too many seldomly-used Samsung apps has been cut down dramatically, so the S6 comes with just a core set of apps, allowing its owner the option of adding more later.

The new TouchWiz interface is designed for easy viewing and less clutter.

The new TouchWiz interface is designed for easy viewing and less clutter.

There are a few different cases to choose from included a wallet case, S-View cover and a new ‘clear cover’ that uses a translucent material that lets you see the screen underneath.

More cases and colours to choose from.

More cases and colours to choose from.

Drawbacks

While the S6 is a very compelling proposition, there are a few compromises. One is that the S6 loses its IP67-rated dust and water resistance, which was a great feature on the GS5. This is likely because of the new aluminium and glass materials used to create a much more premium looking device, and may disappoint some. Fortunately, the GS5 will still be sold for those who need a more robust option.

Secondly, there’s no USB 3.0 cable interface, reverting back to a USB 2 micro-connector, meaning cable-based data transfers will be slower but for most, this isn’t such a big deal.

Next, also likely due to the new front and back glass construction, the battery is no longer removable, and, lastly, there is no longer an expandable Micro SD memory option, so now, like the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, customers will need to choose between 32, 64 and 128GB models.

Compared to the Galaxy S5 (white), the S6 Edge is a breath of fresh air.

Compared to the Galaxy S5 (white), the S6 Edge is a breath of fresh air.

Onsale

Samsung is planning to launch the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge on April 10 globally. Australian pricing details have not yet been revealed, but will probably be in line with other premium phones around the $900 mark.

The new aluminium edging is reminiscent of the iPhone 6.

The new aluminium edging is reminiscent of the iPhone 6.

Overall, Samsung’s has been under considerable pressure by Apple’s iPhone 6 for the lion’s share of the Australian premium mobile phone market, so its next move is a very important one. The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are definitely going to be contenders, and offer a great combination of powerful features, unique and beautiful design choices and a simplified, streamlined interface. However at the end of the day, like the iPhone 6, both models have that rare ‘x-factor’ that just makes you want one, which can only be a good thing for Samsung.

 

Specifications:

  Galaxy S6 Galaxy S6 edge
Network LTE Cat.6 (300/50Mbps)
Display 5.1’’ Quad HD(2560×1440) 577ppi, Super AMOLED 5.1’’ Quad HD(2560×1440) 577ppi, Super AMOLED, Dual edge
AP Quad 2.1GHz + Quad 1.5Ghz, Octacore application processor
OS Android 5.0 (Lollipop)
Camera 16MP OIS(rear), 5MP (front)
Video MP4,M4V,3GP,3G2,WMV,ASF,AVI,FLV,MKV,WEBM, VP9
Audio Audio Codec : MP3, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, Vorbis, FLAC, OPUS
Audio Format: MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, MIDI, XMF, MXMF, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA
Camera Features Quick Launch, Tracking AF, Auto Real-time HDR(Front & Rear) ,   F1.9, Low Light Video(Front & Rear), High Clear Zoom, IR Detect White Balance, Virtual Shot, Slow Motion, Fast Motion, Pro Mode, Selective Focus
Additional Features Ultra Power Saving Mode
Download Booster
S Health 4.0
Samsung Pay
Smart Manager
Microsoft Apps(OneDrive 115GB for 2 years, OneNote)
Sound Alive+
Themes
Quick Connect
Private Mode
S Finder, S Voice
Google Mobile Services Chrome, Drive, Photos, Gmail, Google, Google+, Google Settings, Hangouts, Maps, Play Books, Play Games, Play Newsstand, Play Movie & TV, Play Music, Play Store, Voice Search, YouTube
Connectivity WiFi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), HT80 MIMO(2×2) 620Mbps, Dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, Mobile hotspotBluetooth®: v4.1, A2DP, LE, apt-X, ANT+USB: USB 2.0NFCIR Remote
Sensor Accelerometer, Light, Gyroscope, Proximity, Compass, Barometer, Fingerprint, Hall, HRM
Memory RAM: 3GB, LPDDR4Internal Memory: 32/64/128GB, UFS 2.0
Wireless Charging WPC1.1(4.6W Output) & PMA 1.0(4.2W) compatible
Dimension 143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8mm, 138g 142.1 x 70.1 x 7.0mm, 132g
Battery 2,550mAh 2,600mAh

Valens Quinn attended the Samsung UnPacked event in Barcelona as a guest of Samsung Australia.