Today, Samsung officially announced its two latest smartphones, the Galaxy S 6 (GS6) and Galaxy S 6 edge, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. I couldn't make the trip to Spain for the company's big fête, but I did meet with Samsung last week in New York City, where it detailed both new devices and gave me hands-on time with them.
I do not yet have review devices, so this is not a full evaluation of either the GS6 or the GS6 edge. Instead, I'm sharing my thoughts on the two smartphones after spending an hour with them — and peppering various Samsung designers, product managers and PR people with questions.
All of the observations in this article apply to both the GS6 and the GS6 edge, unless otherwise noted, because curved display aside, both devices are "completely the same on the inside," according to Philip Berne, Samsung's marketing manager of technical media.
Hands On With the Galaxy S6, GS6 edge
One of the first things you notice when you pick up either the GS6 or the GS6 edge is the frame. Samsung caught a lot of heat for using mostly plastic to build the Galaxy S5, and the company responded to that criticism by building the next Galaxy S devices with higher-quality materials, including a new brushed-aluminum frame, what Berne referred to as an "aircraft chassis."
Both devices feel very solid in hand, and the frames have a lot to do with that. Unlike the Galaxy S5 frame, there are no ridges; the GS6 and GS6 edge frames are smooth and solid, and they look and feel much better than the ridged, plastic frame on the GS5.
The new Galaxy phones also have large Corning Gorilla Glass 4 panels on both the front displays and rear sides, which is a nice touch. Samsung used a reflective coating underneath the rear glass panel that catches light and creates a shiny, glimmer effect that's quite cool.
Both devices are available in what Samsung describes as "white pearl," "black sapphire" and "gold platinum" color options. Each model also comes in an exclusive color. The S6 is available in "blue topaz," while the S6 edge comes in "green emerald." The gold, blue and green versions are particularly good-looking, and the reflective coating on the rear side of these colorful devices will catch your eye.
The Galaxy S6 devices are Samsung's best-looking phones ever, in my opinion, and the green emerald GS6 edge is particularly attractive, if slightly feminine.
I also really like the size of the two devices. They're just slightly bigger overall than my iPhone 6, though the displays are notably larger at 5.1 inches, compared to the iPhone 6's 4.7-inch screen. The two devices are also more than a millimeter thinner than the GS5, which is not insignificant when you consider that's more than 12 percent thinner than the GS5's 8mm thickness. The new GS6 (138g) and GS6 edge (132g) are also significantly lighter than the GS5 (145g). In comparison, the iPhone 6 is just slightly thinner than the GS6 edge and a bit thicker than GS6, though the difference is negligible. It's also lighter at 129g.
Samsung says it put a lot of effort into improving the cameras on the Galaxy S 6 phones. They both have 16MP (f1.9) rear cameras, with "smart" optical image stabilization (OIS) and auto real-time HDR, which apparently helps you take better selfies, if that's your thing. The Galaxy S5 also has a 16MP camera, but Samsung says the cameras on the GS6s are much better at capturing quality images in low-light environments. I didn't get to test camera quality, so I can't confirm that. I did try out a new feature that lets you quickly tap the home button when the device is asleep to open the camera function in less than one second, and it works well.
The Galaxy S 6 displays are gorgeous, as expected — Samsung is using some of the highest quality displays on the market in its smartphones and tablets these days. Both devices have 5.1" quad HD 2560 x 1440 Super AMOLED displays, at 577 pixels per inch (ppi). For context, the Galaxy S5 has the same size display at 432 ppi, which means the GS6 phones have 33 percent more pixels per inch. The displays are crisp and bright, and they're one of the best GS6 features.
The Galaxy S 6 edge is unique because it has not just one curved edge, like its big brother the Galaxy Note Edge, but two curved edges, one on each side. The curves make the device look particularly sleek, and "fluid," but they also make it feel kind of slippery in your hand — though a case with some grip could resolve that issue.
The GS6 has a 2,550mAh battery, while the GS6 edge packs a slightly larger 2,600mAh battery, both of which are smaller than the 2,800mAh battery in the GS5. I wasn't able to test battery life in the limited time I spent with the phones, but Samsung says a more efficient processor and a number of software enhancements make up for the lost battery capacity.