As recently as the Galaxy S5, Samsung had a fundamentally different strategy from companies like HTC and Apple. While design wasn’t ignored completely, Samsung Mobile had a different set of priorities. In general, it felt like Samsung wanted the phone to have every feature possible to please every possible potential customer. Features like a removable battery and microSD card slot seemed to be a crucial point of differentiation. TouchWiz focused on delivering a full suite of applications even if they were pretty much redundant when compared to Google’s applications. Samsung also seemed to cost-optimize their external shells, favoring polymer builds over glass or aluminum. Since the Galaxy S, this strategy paid off handsomely. With the help of strong marketing, Samsung proceeded to dominate the Android market from the days of the Galaxy S2, to the point that almost no other Android OEM was relevant in terms of market share.

However, Samsung’s tried and true strategy failed with the Galaxy S5. Fundamentally, Samsung had always been competing with Apple and their iPhone line-up at the high end, but Samsung consistently held a price advantage. The real problem was the rise of low-cost flagship phones, which squeezed Samsung significantly. Other OEMs were able to justify their high-end pricing by delivering a polished software experience and premium hardware design. In comparison to these relatively cheap phones which delivered largely the same experience and hardware, Samsung’s sales crumbled and the Galaxy S5 didn’t meet sales expectations.

This brings us to the Galaxy S6, which is supposed to be Samsung’s attempt at refocusing their product design and lineup. Design has become a major priority, and the Galaxy S6 is a radical departure from previous design in terms of almost every design choice. The Galaxy S6 represents the best that Samsung can make to some extent, as a great deal of the phone is composed of Samsung-made parts to achieve maximum vertical integration as seen in the specs below.

  Samsung Galaxy S5 Samsung Galaxy S6 Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
SoC MSM8974ACv3 2.45 GHz Snapdragon 801 Exynos 7420 2.1/1.5GHz A57/A53 Exynos 7420 2.1/1.5GHz A57/A53
RAM 2GB LPDDR3 3GB LPDDR4-1552 3GB LPDDR4-1552
NAND 16/32GB NAND + microSD 32/64/128GB NAND 32/64/128GB NAND
Display 5.1” 1080p
SAMOLED HD
5.1” 1440p
SAMOLED
5.1” 1440p
SAMOLED, Dual Edge
Network 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Qualcomm MDM9x25 UE Category 4 LTE) 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Category 6 LTE) 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Category 6 LTE)
Dimensions 142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm, 145 grams 143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8mm max, 138 grams 142.1 x 70.1 x 7.0mm max, 132 grams
Camera 16MP (5132 x 2988) Rear Facing with 1.12 µm pixels, 1/2.6" CMOS size, 31 mm (35mm effective), f/2.2 16MP (5132 x 2988) Rear Facing w/ OIS, f/1.9, object tracking AF 16MP (5132 x 2988) Rear Facing w/ OIS, f/1.9, object tracking AF
2MP Front Facing 5MP Front Facing, f/1.9 5MP Front Facing, f/1.9
Battery 2800 mAh (10.78 Whr) 2550 mAh (9.81 Whr) 2600 mAh (10.01 Whr)
OS Android 4.4
w/TouchWiz
Android 5 (64-bit) w/TouchWiz Android 5 (64-bit) w/TouchWiz
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 +
BT 4.0 (BCM4354),
USB3.0, GPS/GNSS, MHL, DLNA, NFC
2x2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac +
BT 4.1 (BCM4358),
USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, NFC
2x2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac +
BT 4.1 (BCM4358),
USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, NFC
Wireless Charging N/A WPC 1.1 (4.6W) &
PMA 1.0 (4.2W)
WPC 1.1 (4.6W) &
PMA 1.0 (4.2W)
Fingerprint Sensor Swipe Touch Touch
SIM Size MicroSIM NanoSIM

NanoSIM

Design

There’s a lot of ground to cover in the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, but probably the most immediate change is to the design. The Galaxy S6 is a unibody design, with no apparent screws. This does mean that there’s no removable battery or microSD slot, which shouldn’t be a problem for most people although this may be enough for some to write off this phone completely.

The back cover is now glass instead of plastic, and is attached to the phone with glue instead of plastic latches. Regardless of color or model, Samsung has placed an extremely fine pattern beneath the glass that manages to be subtle but also surprisingly brilliant under direct light. It’s tasteful in a way that the Galaxy S5 and Note 4 weren’t. The back of the phone also has a single LED flash, a heart rate monitor, and the camera which bulges out significantly. I personally don’t have a problem with camera humps, but the Galaxy S6’s camera hump is probably the biggest I’ve seen in recent memory.

The glass back cover meets the metal frame of the phone, which provides most of the structural rigidity and strength. On the normal Galaxy S6, this frame has a very slight curve and is almost cylindrical along the top and bottom of the phone, but flattens out along the sides for better grip. The bottom of this frame has the speaker, microUSB port, and 3.5mm headphone jack, which does make for some resemblance with Apple products launched within the last year. At any rate, the placement of the speaker, USB port, and 3.5mm jack are all appropriate for a phone.

The left side of the frame contains the volume buttons, which are clicky and solid, although pressing the buttons off-center does produce a noticeable flex. The right side of the frame has the power button and the nanoSIM slot on the normal version.

On the edge variant, the sides of the frame are dramatically thinner and appear to be angled out when compared to the Galaxy S6. In the hand, this makes it feel much thinner than the S6, but it really feels almost too thin to hold comfortably. Combined with the flat back, it’s really a bit of a struggle to pick up the edge off of a table, which compromises usability when compared to the normal S6.

The top of the frame contains the IR LED for TV capabilities and a hole for a microphone. On the edge variant, the nanoSIM slot is relocated to the top of the phone.

The front of the phone is probably the only aspect of the design that feels relatively similar to the Galaxy S5. However, the texture of the bezel beneath the glass is similar to the subtle finish of the back cover, which makes for a unique visual effect that manages to be tasteful and quite unique. Other than this, we see the same layout as most Galaxy phones, with two capacitive buttons (multitasking on the left, back button on the right) and a physical home button. In the case of the Galaxy S6, this home button has been turned into a fingerprint scanner that is touch-based rather than a swipe sensor. Along the top of the front face, we also see the ambient light sensor, a proximity sensor, the earpiece, and the 5MP front-facing camera. Directly below these items is the display driver beneath the bezel, which is similar to the “logo bar” of the One M7, M8, and every other phone on the market today. On the S6 edge, the sides of the display are curved to reduce the width of the phone, which does make it easier to hold in the hand, but there’s really no bezel reduction here as the side bezels seem to be larger than what we see on the S6.

Overall, the design of the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge is really unlike anything else they’ve produced in recent memory. The phone itself is well-sized and feels much more ergonomic than the Galaxy S5 due to the thinner build and mildly reduced bezel size. It really feels like Samsung cared about the design of the phone this generation, and the attention to detail here immediately puts Samsung near the top in this area. The front of the phone still feels a bit derivative, but I suspect that there isn’t much Samsung can do to change this when faced with design constraints like a physical home button. The S6 edge does look better in some ways, but ergonomically the sharper and thinner edge is a compromise compared to the normal S6. Either phone is still easily one of the best-designed phones I’ve seen this year.

Exynos 7420: First 14nm Silicon In A Smartphone
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  • Notmyusualid - Friday, April 17, 2015 - link

    Dead wrong pal - I'm keeping hold of my wireless charging GS5, which includes an SD slot. Reply
  • lilmoe - Friday, April 17, 2015 - link

    They will lose lots of "power users", but they'll conversely gain a couple of orders of magnitude more "casual consumers"...

    Sorry, we power users might have made a significant percentage 2-3 years ago, but now we're a very small minority in the smartphone market, and catering to us via mainstream devices is no longer an option for OEMs...

    The Galaxy Note might have been considered niche 2 years ago, but that's absolutely no longer the case. If a device market is no longer niche, then expect a similar streamlining makeover.
    Reply
  • FlushedBubblyJock - Friday, April 17, 2015 - link

    You have been catered to. Exactly catered to.
    Whining about the cheap plastic feel, endlessly.

    Now your solution has arrived. If it doesn't come screwed, it won'r feel flimsy and cheap.

    You literally begged for it, for years, as did all your fellow elite power users.
    Reply
  • Gigaplex - Friday, April 17, 2015 - link

    I use microSD and never whined about plastic. In fact, I would rather plastic than glass any day, regardless of microSD support. Glass just isn't durable. Reply
  • theduckofdeath - Saturday, April 18, 2015 - link

    There will never be a phone that pleases everybody. But the fact that this phone seems to outsell the GS5 by at least 100% is an indication that Samsung made the right choice, with a broader perspective than a single internet commenter's opinion. Reply
  • piiman - Saturday, April 18, 2015 - link

    " But the fact that this phone seems to outsell the GS5 by at least 100% is an indication that Samsung made the right choice, with a broader perspective than a single internet commenter's opinion."

    I doubt your 100% is correct but do you really believe people read that the battery isn't changeable and go "WOW that's the phone for me"? Or "look I can't add memory , whatever that is, so I'm buying it!" Its far more likely they are buying it for its looks and features not lack of.
    Reply
  • theduckofdeath - Saturday, April 18, 2015 - link

    Like I said, a few loud haters on the internet won't affect the bigger picture. And yes, all the reports are pointing at at least 100% better initial sales than the S5. It's actually "so bad" that Apple seems to be forced back to using the unreliable TSMC as their main supplier of processors, as Samsung can't keep up with the production for their own devices at the moment. Reply
  • FlushedBubblyJock - Friday, April 24, 2015 - link

    " leading at least one Samsung exec to boldly state that the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge could reach over 70 million units sold. Unfortunately, a new report from Korea indicates that out of the 300,000 pre-orders, only 200,000 units have been sold. This suggests early forecasts may have been inaccurate."

    Yes, 100% theduckofdeath ... totally..
    http://www.androidauthority.com/samsung-galaxy-s6-...
    Reply
  • FlushedBubblyJock - Friday, April 24, 2015 - link

    Congrats giga - though of course I didn't mean you nor anyone specifically.

    The metal industrial design meme aka apple clone mania is a thing - gotta have the overpriced mazerati right or you just ain't with it...

    One suspects there's a nationwide ban on belittling apple, since it had a massive #1 stock market spot that all the investment channels gloated and blabbed on about - so it's a national security imperative in economic collapse times to only praise apple and demand all others mimic.
    I'd bet the unspoken pressure is enormous.
    Reply
  • akdj - Sunday, May 31, 2015 - link

    Kinda funny though. Nearly 300 responses and you're the only one droning on and on about 'Apple'. Why? No one's even mentioned Apple -- nor has Apple made a glass phone nearly four years! Lol. Month later ...going through the responses as an owner of the S6, your contributions seems so out of place in this conversation. Kind of like the buddy that's drank a bit too much at the party and won't stop telling everyone how much he loves 'em... Reply

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