The Samsung Galaxy S6 edge and the more conventionally shaped Galaxy S6 are Samsung’s most elegant phones yet, by a country mile. The high-end materials, shimmer-effect cases and smooth finishes all project a classiness the company has rarely had before.
Both phones have similar features and capabilities but here I’ll be looking at the S6 edge, with more stuff to come about the regular S6 presently.
Where the S5 had a plastic back, as did most Samsung phones until now, this phone has a metal chassis and a Gorilla Glass 4 back. While some phones like the HTC One M9 and iPhone 6 have metal backs, the advantage here is that you can plonk the S6 edge onto a wireless charging pad to let it replenish its energy. Plugging in isn’t exactly arduous but wireless charging is a surprisingly enjoyable benefit.
The glass back feels great and the S6 edge is a very tactile handset overall, though the projecting camera lens is rather noticeable – a drawback to slim phones in general.
Gorilla Glass 4 is also used on the front of the phone, aiming to reduce scratches or the chance of shattering when you drop it. I haven’t tried this, but Gorilla Glass and this latest version are well thought-of.
The Home button at the base of the screen is more noticeable than before, not least thanks to a silvery edge. The Home button is where the new fingerprint sensor is housed and it’s a marked improvement on last year’s which required a swipe rather than, as now, just resting your thumb on the button. This makes for a much more natural-feeling way to use the phone and it works reasonably well, rarely saying it doesn’t recognise your finger. This wakes the screen, which is glorious. It’s exceptionally high-resolution (577ppi) and looks beautiful. You may feel your eyes won’t benefit from this large a number of pixels, but there may yet be uses, such as the Virtual Reality headset attachment which may need those extra pixels for 3D and HD effects.
But just on its own the screen looks pretty smashing and if you choose not to set the fingerprint lock, the screen unlock animation, a puddle of water on top of the screen below, is attractive.
Incidentally, this doesn’t mean the phone is waterproof, like the last Samsung phone was, so don’t drop it in the bath. The reduction in water resistance is about the only feature that has been removed this time around, but it’s important to note if you’ve been lackadaisical near water with your S5, say.
The S6 edge is a real performer, with quick responses at all times and smooth video playback, for instance. This is partly down to the processor, a Samsung-built model unlike previous Galaxy handsets which have tended to rely on Qualcomm for their brains. The chip has two processors on it to offer greater versatility so it can rely on the less demanding processor for suitably less-demanding tasks.
This does mean that the battery, though carefully optimised, doesn’t last as long as on some rivals, such as the Sony
Xperia Z3. Even so, I found that I got through a regular day with no problems. And the S6 edge bounces back fast. Samsung claims that ten minutes’ recharging gives the phone enough oomph to play back a two-hour HD video. I didn’t test this specifically but certainly it did seem to recharge faster than I expected.
The distinctive sloping edges to the screen are there so you can utilise extra functionality. Chief among the features is the People Edge which means that if a call comes in from one of your five specified special contacts, the edge throbs in a particular colour. So even if the phone is face down you can see which of your friends is calling.
It’s cute, especially since you can end the call without turning the phone over just by resting your finger on the heart rate sensor on the phone’s back. Even so, I didn’t find I used it that often.
The edge can also be used to display notifications and other information. Twitter updates, missed calls and more can be displayed though not, sadly, the measuring tape found on the Galaxy Note 4. Other items for the edge screen can be downloaded, so with luck this will be one of them. Or you could buy a ruler, I suppose.
The camera on the S6 edge is a big improvement on last year’s model. First, it’s a 16-megapixel model and has optical image stabilisation so your images are steady even if you’re not. Second, you launch it by double-pressing on the Home button even if the fingerprint lock is active.
And third, it’s improved by simplifying the interface. Extra detail is available but it’s not in your way by default.
The front camera is a 5-megapixel sensor for wide-angle selfies and the like. Both cameras are quick and effective and the results were impressive.
Not long ago I said the HTC One M9 was the best-looking Android camera around. Sorry, HTC, but this one just pips it. Actually, I’d go further. This is the most stylish Android phone out there but it’s also the most effective thanks to its gorgeous screen, impossibly fast processor and excellent camera. Some will mourn the fact that the battery is not removable as previous Galaxy batteries were, and the price tag on this phone may put some off.
But overall, in my eyes this takes the crown as the best Android smartphone.