Samsung announced its Galaxy S6 on March 1, as expected, and many of the rumors about its design have proven true, including the decision to build both an Edge and non-Edge configuration (the Galaxy S6 Edge and Galaxy S6 respectively), as well as the lack of a swappable battery or microSD card. Samsung has compensated for these removals with a bevy of new features meant to appeal to the broad market — whatever else one can say about the Galaxy S6, it’s definitely not a warmed-over retread.
The Galaxy S6 will use the same Exynos 7420 SoC as the Galaxy Note S4. But the chip in the S6 is built on Samsung’s 14nm process, not the 20nm technology that the Korean manufacturer used for the older phablet. The result is apparently a phone that’s 35 percent more energy efficient while being up to 20 percent faster (no benchmarks are yet available, so we’re taking Samsung’s word on this one).
Other improvements include a shift from DDR3 to DDR4, a bump to 3GB of RAM as standard (up from 2GB),and 32GB of minimum storage, up from 16GB. Samsung is also putting a heavy push behind wireless charging this time around, with support for both the WPC and PMA standards. There’s a new front-facing camera at 5MP as opposed to the previous 2MP (with an F1.9 lens), and an even higher-density AMOLED screen that Samsung says features 77 percent more pixels than the Galaxy S5. New fingerprint sensors, a louder speaker, and a set of application-level improvements round out the device. It’s also unclear how much those additional pixels boost the overall display quality — while I like high-resolution smartphones as much as anyone, we’ve long-since passed peak pixel density and are firmly in the territory of diminishing margial returns where simply adding pixels is concerned.
One new capability that takes advantage of the S6 Edge is the ability to assign colors to up to five specific contacts. Assign blue to your mother, for example, and the edge of the phone will glow blue when she calls. Samsung claims this allows you to know who’s calling before even picking up the phone to see, but whether or not this proves a practical innovation probably depends on how you store your phone. If you keep it in a pocket or purse, it’s of less value compared to leaving it face-down on your desk.
Samsung is also claiming that it can fast-charge the device, with a full charge in half the time of the iPhone 6 and with 10 minutes of charge time delivering enough power to use the device for four hours. Whether or not this requires special hardware is unknown and it presumably refers to wired charging not wireless.
Will consumers bite?
Unlike the Galaxy S5, which was generally seen as a rehash of the Galaxy S4 with incremental improvements (and whose sales suffered accordingly), the Galaxy S6 / S6 Edge are clearly a huge revamp of the entire product line. Samsung is attacking on multiple fronts — its new phone will have far more cores than the iPhone, it’s built on a more advanced process technology, the company claims its camera is better (as shown below), basic storage is higher, wireless charging is available, and there are even more payment systems in place. Even allowing for the fact that the Apple A8 SoC sets records as far as performance efficiency, Samsung’s quad-core Exynos should be quite competitive.
The one missing piece of the puzzle is price. Previous rumors indicated that the S6 would be priced well above Apple’s iPhone, and the features Samsung unveiled today seem to suggest that’ll be the case. This isn’t a cheap device by any stretch, but Samsung may well take a shot at the premium market as opposed to allowing Apple to dictate overall device pricing. That’s a risky strategy — consumers have historically seen Apple hardware as the market leader, and that company has a long history of capturing the top of its particular market segments.
The S6 has the hardware specs to be the next leading lady of the smartphone market. But price and overall device experience will determine whether the company can seize that crown.