The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Is The New Hotness

31 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Living life on the S6 Edge.

The smartphone to beat this season is the Galaxy S6 Edge. The hotly contested title for Android’s best was more open than ever last year, with credible contenders from Sony, Motorola, and HTC, but 2015 is starting out with Samsung clearly in the ascendancy. It’s well-made and unique, a combination rarely found in cellphones these days and it is as far from the Galaxy S5 as the T-1000 was from the original Terminator. But that’s a distraction; the real story is that Samsung needed to learn that hardware prowess and software features are tools you use to build something great, not ends in themselves.

Out of the two phones released by Samsung at MWC the Edge most deserves to be called a flagship – a device that shows the best of what the company has to offer. The Edge’s screen wraps around its sides, giving it an instantly recognizable, futuristic look and the potential to do a few things that flat-screened phones just can’t match. Immediately following Samsung’s presentation, I took an S6 Edge into my hands and my first impression was unequivocally damning: the curve is on the wrong side! Every instinct I have tells me to turn the rounded front to my palm and the flat back to my face — because nearly every smartphone to date has been thus designed.

Both run a Exynos 14nm 64-bit Octa Core processor and both come in 64 and 128GB variants (you can get the S6 in 32GB.) Both have a built-in IR blaster for changing channels on your television, a usable heart rate monitor that doubles as a flash, acceptable front and back cameras, and a beautiful 5.1-inch 2560 x 1440 pixel Super AMOLED display that Samsung uses to excellent effect. This is a pure expression of form over function, which Samsung can get away with because it already offers the regular Galaxy S6 for the less adventurous among us. They won’t diminish the overall quality of what is quite a good smartphone, but it’s certain that users will sigh and grumble when they have to delete apps from their phone just so that they can add a few songs. I don’t have to explain the appeal of this thing to anyone: it’s obviously different and in a way that makes it alluring rather than merely alien.

Compare that to the typical experience of using the latest Android phone, which is usually characterized by subtle and incremental internal improvements. I’ll never forget trying to justify my excitement about the LG G3 to a friend who’d seen it all before: high-res screens, fast performance, good camera, etc. In my time using the handset, I’ve consistently pressed on-screen buttons with my holding hand — because the metal sides are so thin they are almost nonexistent — and found myself growing anxious about holding it just the right way.

Yes, it’s very much like the iPhone 4 Antennagate debacle, though unlike that hardware issue, there’s a software fix that Samsung could perform to rectify things: just make the side screens insensitive to touch input when the display is on. This comparison is the makings of an epic argument between partisans of both companies (and I’m sure you will get a taste of that if you read the comments below). Samsung has my eternal appreciation for following Google’s lead in moving to a cleaner, more minimalist interface, but Material Design emphasizes flatness and geometric regularity, which the Edge’s warping side screens disturb.

What I care about is that it really does seem like Samsung finally got around to copying the most important thing: a fully conceived, well-executed design. Material Design consistently places navigation buttons in the top left corner of the screen, which are actually harder to press on the Edge because they sit just on the brink of its curving left edge. It’s actually remarkable to see a Samsung device where design feels like it was a consideration from the start, not something applied only after the component list was compiled. While I’m honestly used to a bigger phone these days – the Note or the 6 Plus are my go-to devices – this is phone is a great size and, because it is amazingly slim, it fits the hand and pocket well. Go ahead and have your battles about which is better, who copied who, and even whether it’s worth losing that traditional Samsung removable battery.

While the enrollment process for the fingerprint sensor was surprisingly easy (and Apple-like with a little print that filled in as you put down your finger), using it was surprisingly hard. The above tradeoffs would be worth it if Samsung had lived up to its promise of unique functionality in the S6 Edge, but that’s the one part of the company’s 2015 overhaul that’s unfortunately close to its old gimmicky ways.

You can color-code your favorite contacts so that your sister can be orange, your best friend green, and your doctor red, which then illuminates the phone’s sides in the appropriate hue when you receive a call from them. This effect is best experienced when you have the phone lying upside down, which is ironically when you’re least likely to want to be disturbed, whether by color or noise. I would argue that the fast charging system, acceptable battery life, and usability should assuage your grief over a non-removable battery and I also suspect those who need more storage space will be happy just getting a phone with more memory rather than swapping in fingernail-sized SD cards.

Convex screens are harder to read than flat ones, which is why TV manufacturers went crazy with the Flatscreen branding as soon as they could move away from the traditional bulbous tube. Its downsides, while tangible, are not deal breakers, and even as a compromised version of the best Android phone, it’s still among the very best in its class. The camera, the performance, the ridiculously detailed display, and the perfectly rigid and solid construction of the regular S6 are all present and accounted for with the Edge variant. It’s the same impetus that drives companies like Nokia (now Microsoft’s mobile division) and HTC to issue multiple colors of each new smartphone and to always try to stand out with their looks. The pre-installed bloatware – mostly carrier specific software – is acceptable and easily removed and the UI shows just how polished Android can be.

They’re now expressions of style and personality, a chance to assert a little bit of uniqueness in a globalized world that’s growing increasingly homogenized. Designed to please all the people all of the time, Samsung poured everything they could into their previous model, resulting in something that, in the end, hit their profits.

Given that the edge costs $100 more both off-contract ($650 vs $750) and on-contract ($200 vs $300) you should probably let your wallet be your guide. I hesitate to say that Samsung “Finally Did It!” The fact that it took them this long to think carefully about design and not just paste a laundry list of features on the design lab wall is shameful.

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