The redesigned, sixth-generation Galaxy S6 and the second-generation S6 Edge Samsung, which sports a curved screen, are very good smartphones. But are they good enough to give Samsung what it needs against an assortment of rivals?
After years of Galaxy models featuring small changes to the hardware and additions to Samsung's ever-expanding array of "bloatware" apps, the South Korean electronics manufacturer had to do something to offset Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) larger iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models as well as cheaper smartphones coming from the likes of Xiaomi, Lenovo, Huawei, ZTE, and OnePlus.
The Galaxy S6 and its slightly more curvy cousin are Samsung's current response. Both phones share the redesigned exterior and also the majority of hardware and software features inside.
The new phones have nearly identical specifications. Both measure 5.65 by 2.78 by 0.28 inches and weigh less than 5 ounces. Both have brand-new 5.1-inch Quad HD (2560 by 1440 pixels, 577 ppi) Super AMOLED displays. But, the screen of the S6 Edge has curved left and right edges that slightly wrap around the sides. It doesn't sound like it would be a very big deal, but you'll change your mind when you see it in person.
Samsung's last-generation Galaxy Note Edge was curved on only the right-hand side of the screen. In addition to making that phone stand out from the competition, the curve allowed Samsung to use the additional pixels to offer a new set of icons and features for that model. Even though the original Edge was more "proof of concept" design rather than mass market product, we thought it was one of the best smartphones Samsung had released upo to that point.
Both new designs feature Samsung's new premium design ethic: a super thin exterior that uses no plastic, a lightweight metal frame, tempered glass, front and back, protected with Corning (GLW - Get Report) Gorilla Glass 4 and a rechargeable battery that's sealed inside.
These are also the first premium Samsung smartphones to reach the U.S. market that don't depend on Qualcomm (QCOM - Get Report) processors. Both handsets use Samsung-manufactured octa-core chips mated to 3 GB of RAM. The new processors can handle 64-bit operating systems such as Google's (GOOG - Get Report) Android 5.0 (Lollipop).
Other features include a 16-megapixel camera on the back and 5-MP facing forward, wireless connectivity bands (802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, USB 2.0, NFC, GPS), super-fast LTE, a redesigned front "Home" button and fingerprint recognition device, optional wireless battery charging and lots more. Double click on that Home button and the camera is instantly ready to shoot.
In person, these two new phones are stunning: Both screens stand out as being special, although the double-curved design jumps out as being a little more special. Holding either design in your hand, you'll be amazed at how thin and lightweight it feels. We were especially impressed with both phones' speed. Actions such as navigating from screen to screen or opening and closing apps appeared to be faster than we've seen with many other premium smartphones.
The new Samsung models will come in a number of different memory configurations (32, 64 and 128 GB) as well as a number of color choices: Black Sapphire, White Pearl or Gold Platinum. AT&T (T - Get Report), Sprint (S - Get Report), T-Mobile (TMUS - Get Report) and Verizon (VZ - Get Report) have all announced plans to sell the new phones beginning in mid-April. In some cases preorders have already begun.
We're planning to perform extensive usage tests on both new smartphones before we pass final judgement. But, if first impressions are important then the new Samsung models have already left their mark.