Samsung has learnt some lessons from its previous Galaxy smartphones, and it has introduced them with its latest flagship, the Samsung Galaxy S6, featuring a ton of great specifications, the latest version of Android, and Samsung’s TouchWiz UI on top, but without all that bloatware that used to be conventional in Samsung Galaxy phones.
It has also stepped out of convention with the design of the S6 with a new metal frame that borders a Gorilla Glass topped front and back. The edge itself has also been elegantly ridged so that it feels great to hold, but also to blend in the design of the smartphone.
Despite that, it still has the same look of a typical Galaxy smartphone, so it’s still recognisable at first glance, whilst still borrowing some aspects from the iPhone, with a bottom-side speaker grille and set of connections that don’t look too far from the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.
Samsung does show some true originality in the design of the S6 however, just how the glass meets the metal edge is exquisite, beautifully combining the glass display with the metal edging, all in all the S6 is a device that truly feels premium, which is a strange thing to say about a galaxy device.
We do have two small problems with the back of the device however, the glass that wraps it is a little slippery and lacks any sculpting, that means it can be a little hard to hold so it might be worth grabbing a case, something that would also help with our second problem with the S6, and that is how far the camera sticks out the back, it’s tolerable but to those that are a little picky it could become a problem.
In terms of proportions the S6 is just 6.8mm thin, and measures 143.4 x 70.5mm front-on, which is good considering it has a 5.1 inch display. It also only weighs 138 grams so it’s pretty nice to carry in your pocket as well as being comfortable to hold.
With the addition of this new design you will find some disadvantages, there’s no removable battery, no slot for microSD storage, and no waterproofing, however we think that last one is more of a gimmick, and as such not really necessary.
On the front of the device you will find the S6’s centrepiece, its 5.1 inch display that has a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution and a fantastically clear 576ppi pixel density, which is one of the sharpest displays for its size.
You probably won’t notice the high pixel density or resolution too much however, as within most apps the content will be made specifically for Full HD displays, it does however mean that features like multi-window are a lot clearer when enabled, and you will definitely notice sharper text if you have a clear eye.
Samsung adds to this clarity with their Super AMOLED technology, which means that you get more striking and vibrant colours to make content pop out into reality. The high brightness level also makes images clear, and thanks to the AMOLED technology the display also features a crisp contrast level, the only downside with it is that whites do become a little tinted, however you will find that blacks are more striking.
To make up for that the viewing angles are really good, you can see the display clearly in both portrait and landscape orientations, and outside the display is not effected too much by sunlight on it.
Under the display you will also find a physical home button that doubles up as a fingerprint scanner, along with navigation controls for both back and multitasking.
One of the latest features in the S5 and the Alpha was the fingerprint scanner, it was heavily criticised by many (including ourselves) for being too difficult to use, featuring a fiddly swiping motion to unlock a device, thankfully like a lot of other things in the S6, Samsung has learnt from these mistakes to create a better version.
With the S6 the idea of swiping has been replaced with a simple touch, all you have to do is tap the home button with one of your registered fingerprints and you will unlock your smartphone.
In our tests we found it to be an awesome addition this time around, and we would even go as far to say that Samsung’s fingerprint sensor works better than Apple’s Touch ID, recognising fingerprints faster than what we normally experience when using Touch ID.
Samsung also expands upon this with the ability to verify passwords in apps with your fingerprint, and even sign-in to websites with that same fingerprint. It will also be added to Samsung Pay when it eventually makes its way to the smartphone.
One of the biggest changes with the S6 is that it uses Samsung’s own processor, the 64-bit octa-core Exynos chip, which has replaced the Qualcomm chip that was previously featured in the S5.
With that the S6 features 3G of RAM and a clock speed of 2.1 and 1.5Ghz, which is similar to a number of other high-end Android devices, despite actually feeling a lot faster than what we have previously experienced with these other devices.
In our tests we used the 3DMark, AnTuTu and Geekbench 3 benchmarking applications, here are the results:
|SlingShot using ES 3.1 test|
|Single-Core Score||Multi-Core Score|
When running the phone normally we found the phone really did perform to these results, opening apps is extremely quick, and navigating the Samsung interface is too, two things that previously weren’t present in a Samsung device.
Even the start-up of the smartphone is extremely quick.
if you do load a graphically intensive game the S6 will become quite warm around the back, but it’s not too excessive that it is noticeable.
You can get an S6 with either 32GB, 64GB or 128GB of storage, which certainly makes up for the lack of a microSD card, but if you do think that you will need more than the basic 32GB you will have to pay a little extra.
Inside there’s also a 2,550mAh battery, which is a rather small for a device of this kind, however we presume that it was unavoidable in order for Samsung to get the device so slim.
Thankfully the device is rather easy to charge, supporting fast charging with a compatible charger, and it also supports wireless charging in both the WPC and the PMA standard.
However you’re not likely to be close to a charging port a lot of the time, so that compatibility doesn’t really make up for the lack of battery capacity, which we found to be lacking quite heavily. Yes it will get you through a light day with little too no effort however it’s likely most of your use will be heavy.
In our tests we found that if you use the S6 to its full potential then you will find it will only last about half a day. which a tiny amount for this modern age.
Samsung has added a low power mode to the OS that will help a bit with this, it shuts off excessively power-hungry applications and changes the device to black and white, this helps keep the battery life lasting longer, but it does mean that you will not be able to access a lot of the devices features.
In terms of other features, the S6 features a speaker on its base which is decently loud, but can be a little hard to hear compared to the front-facing speakers of other smartphone, there’s also the addition of the SoundAlive+ settings in the sound app that is designed to recreate surround sound when you use headphones, with an ear speaker at the top of the phone for making calls and receiving them, as expected the call quality worked exactly as you want.
If it doesn’t there’s also a Wi-Fi calling, this allows the phone to hand-off cellular functions to Wi-Fi networks without the use of an additional app, meaning that calls should remain decent even with a good reception as long as you have a good Wi-Fi connection, and your network supports it.
On the back of the phone you will find a 16 megapixel sensor that has a f/1.9 lens and optical image stabilisation, and is joined by the 5 megapixel front facing camera.
The front-facing camera will offer you the ability to take sharable selfies that are perfect for your Facebook or other social media accounts, however you probably wouldn’t want to print any of them, this is due to the fact that the low-light performance of the front facing camera isn’t that great.
Thankfully the rear-facing camera is better, with fast focusing and capturing speeds. If your scene is in a normal light condition then the rear-facing camera will provide you with a great photo without having to mess around with different settings or modes, making it great for the quick point and shoot capture.
When you do get into situations where the light is a little heavy you might start to notice lens flares appearing on your image, with some image noise, however it’s mostly unnoticeable and only appears in the most light-filled situations. Most of the time the rear-facing camera will take good-looking snaps in pretty much any situation.
The rear-facing camera also offers up 4K UHD video capture, with the ability to record Full HD video at 30/ 60fps too.
There’s also a number of recording and capture modes that you can choose from.
All in all the camera is a good all-rounder.
All of this runs on Android 5.1.1 (currently) along with Samsung’s latest TouchWiz user interface, but in an introduction that’s definitely a lot less obnoxious but still providing some great features from Samsung.
There’s still a range of included apps with the interface however, with the inclusion of Microsoft’s OneNote, OneDrive and Skype by default as well as a number of Samsung applications like their own internet browser (which you shouldn’t use, Chrome is way better) and a number of “S” apps that includes S Voice, S Planner and S Health.
S Voice is basically Samsung’s version of Siri or Google Now, S Planner is a calendar app and S Health is an application for monitoring your health with metrics to track your steps, heart rate and exercise, it can also be expanded with a number of other trackers to monitor other aspects of your health.
The S Planner and S Voice is rather defunct due to Google including their own first-party applications.
To top that off Samsung has also included its multi-window and picture-in-picture features, this means that you can view two windows at the same time with the multi-windows setting, as well as being able to drop a small video player over the top of another full screen window, both of which are extremely handy features, if only there was an Android default.
We would have to say that the way that Samsung has done its TouchWiz UI this time around is utterly fantastic, you can tell that Samsung has tried very hard to improve the UI since its previous devices, with improved menus and a more refined look to the UI, with larger and flatter icons on the screen, reduced menus and a lot less clutter all around, however there are still a ton of pop ups and options floating around.
You can also expect to see the phone upgraded to Android M when it launches later this year.
Samsung has also updated the core applications, with a messaging app that will take advantage of the new keyboard that learns you typing habits, although as it does auto correct words and the buttons can be a little too close it might be better to download a third-party keyboard like SwiftKey.
On the homepage you will also find something called Flipboard Briefing when you swipe to the left, it is powered by the Flipboard application and will show a stream of news stories from around the web in a set of different topics, it looks good but in reality it is simply confusing to use and simply isn’t personal for the user, I can’t see many users using this feature too often, or even knowing why the feature is there in the first place, much like HTCs BlinkFeed, we don’t like the integration of it at all.
There are some cool things in the software however, with the ability to resize your app grid on the home screen to accommodate up to 20 shortcuts, sort the app list in a quick A-Z fashion, and even apply Samsung approved themes.
The notification also features a set of its own tweaks, not only allowing you to view notifications with a simple swipe, but also granting access to some quick toggles that will allow you to effortlessly turn off things like WiFi with a simple press of a toggle. These toggles can also be edited to allow for a range of different actions.
We have to say that we really enjoyed our time with the Samsung Galaxy S6, and despite our pre-conceptions that it would be too similar to the S5, Samsung has actually made the phone a lot better with a slew of improvements to many of the features that many previous critiqued the S5 for.
Combine this with an awesome display that is large, has amazing colour representation, sleek and clear blacks and a brightness level that makes it easy to see in most situations.
The S6 has also been fitted with a camera that is both impressive and easy to use, focusing is fast and once the photo is actually taken you end up with a clear and colourful representation of the original source.
If you are looking for a new Android phone then the Samsung Galaxy S6 certainly won’t disappoint you.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 is available from a number of retailers and carriers in the UK now, including Vodafone who are currently offering up the phone from £8 up-front with a £35 a month contract.
Disclosure: Vodafone sent us this phone for review purposes.