Samsung is set to unveil its latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S6, and the rumors are flying fast and furious. CIO.com's Al Sacco spotlights six believable rumors and ranks the likelihood that they'll become reality.
By Al Sacco
Managing Editor, CIO
Samsung’s Galaxy S smartphones are consistently some of the best Android phones, and indeed any smartphones, on the market. With the Korean company set to unveil the next generation Galaxy S 6 early next week in Barcelona at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) event, I started digging around to find the most intriguing, and, perhaps more importantly, believable, Galaxy S6 rumors. Here’s a list of the rumors worth paying attention to, and my (decidedly unscientific) estimates on the likelihood that they’re accurate.
1) Two (Maybe Three?) Different Samsung Galaxy S6 Models
The general consensus among rumor mongering tech sites is that the Galaxy S6 [ Find it on Amazon – *What’s this?* ] will come in two models, one with the traditional smartphone shape of previous Galaxy S phones and another with at least one curved side, à la Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 Edge, which was unveiled with its curve-less sibling, the plain ol’ Note 4, last September.
For context, the curved side on the Galaxy Note Edge, and possibly the Galaxy S6 Edge, is designed to provide quick access to frequently used apps, alerts and other device features, while bouncing around your device and using various apps. (It’s also a bit of a gimmick to draw attention away from the fact that Galaxy phones resemble their biggest rival, the iPhone, but we’ll pretend we don’t know that.)
Thanks to a press invite Samsung sent out for its MWC “Unpacked” shindig, and a new teaser image posted today by T-Mobile, it’s all but certain there will be variant of the Galaxy S6 with one curved side.
It’s largely been considered a given that Samsung will also release a traditionally shaped Galaxy S6 without a curved side, but the company has not teased any such device, and all of its teaser images and video seem to focus on curved lines. I don’t think it would be wise for Samsung to forgo the traditional smartphone shape in its Galaxy S6 lineup, because the curved side is honestly a bit challenging — I’ve had a Galaxy Note Edge for a couple of months, and I still haven’t really embraced the curve. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Samsung releases just one version of the Galaxy S6, and it has one curved side.
Finally, a few sites have speculated about the possibility of a third Galaxy S6 model with two, possibly even three, curved sides. This idea doesn’t make the least bit of sense from either the user standpoint or from Samsung’s perspective. The average smartphone user is probably a bit wary of the new, curved concept, so two or three curved side panels could be a major turnoff. It would also be expensive for Samsung to build three different form factors for what is essentially the same device, and three devices would make it confusing for users to decide on the appropriate device.
Likelihood of Galaxy S6 with one curved side: 99.934569 percent
Likelihood of Galaxy S6 with traditional shape: 90 percent
Likelihood of Galaxy S6 with multiple curved sides: 10 percent
2) ‘Metals Will Flow’ With Galaxy S6
One of the things reviewers, myself included, lauded about Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 was its premium look and feel. The Galaxy Note 4 has a shiny metal bezel, which makes it both stylish and sturdy. The Galaxy S5 is made of a plastic-y material that feels somewhat cheap, at least compared to iPhone and the Note 4.
Rumors suggest that Samsung learned its lesson, and the Galaxy S6 will be made of premium materials like its big bro. The company’s latest teaser video on YouTube features the voice of a throaty female, who somewhat seductively states that “metals will flow,” while showing imagery of what appears to be the Galaxy S6 curved bezel.
Likelihood of Galaxy S6 with metal bezel, other premium materials: 99.876966 percent
3) Galaxy S6 Beefed-Up Rear, Front-Facing Camera
What would a next-generation smartphone be without a better camera? A flaming failure, that’s what — at least in the eyes of the masses, many of who still think megapixels (MPs) are king. Samsung knows this and you can bet the Galaxy S6 will an have improved shooter, though it’s unclear whether the improvements will come in the form of more MPs, sharper sensors or a luxurious lens. A recent Samsung blog post, entitled, “The Future of Cameras is in a Samsung Galaxy Smartphone,” also seems to suggest the company is renewing its focus on smartphone shooters.
Ye Olde Rumor Mill says the Galaxy S6 could pack a 20MP camera, four MPs more than the 16MP cameras on both the Galaxy S5 and Note 4. However, MPs simply aren’t as important as they’re perceived to be, and if I had to guess, the Galaxy S6 will still have a 16MP camera, albeit an improved version.
The Galaxy S6 could also get a MP bump for its front-facer, up from 2.0MP on the S5 to 5MP, according to rumors, though that sounds a tad ambitious to me.
Likelihood of Galaxy S6 with improved rear camera: 99.963487 percent
Likelihood of Galaxy S6 with 20MP rear camera: 40 percent
Likelihood of Galaxy S6 with improved front camera: 90 percent
Likelihood of Galaxy S6 with 5.0MP front camera: 50 percent
4) Stunning Galaxy S6 Display Specs
Another place the Galaxy Note 4 really shines is in its beautiful quad HD Super AMOLED display. It’s without question one of the highest quality displays available on a smartphone, and it seems like a logical assumption that the company will follow up with a similarly stunning display for the Galaxy S6.
The speculation is that the Galaxy S6 will have a similarly sized, 5.1-inch screen, like its S5 predecessor. However, it will reportedly also feature a quad HD screen with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440, which works out to a pixel density of 576ppi, even more than the 515ppi of the Galaxy Note 4. For context, the Galaxy S5’s 5.1-inch display had a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080, at 432 ppi.
If this one pans out, the Galaxy S6’s screen should seriously shine. Even if those numbers aren’t exactly accurate, Samsung has earned a reputation as a leader in smartphone displays, and you can expect it to deliver on this front.
Likelihood of Galaxy S6 Improved Display: 99.335746 percent
Likelihood of Galaxy S6 2,560 x 1,440 Display at 576ppi: 80 percent
5) Samsung Galaxy S6 Battery and Wireless Charging
Battery life is one of the most important smartphone specs these days, and it’s one of the first things reviewers put through the paces when a new gadget becomes available.
In my experience, battery life is impressive for both the Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge — better than average compared to similarly sized phones — and though rumors suggest the Galaxy S6 will actually have a smaller battery than the previous generation Galaxy S device, fast-charging technology built into Android and other Samsung software improvements could compensate for the capacity cut.
More specifically, the Galaxy S5 has a 2,800mAh battery pack, while rumors peg the Galaxy S6 pack somewhere around 2,600mAh. Samsung might have decided to decrease that capacity in an effort to make the S6 as thin and as light as possible. I don’t think the company would have chopped battery capacity if it wasn’t able to make up for the loss, so while Galaxy S6 users might not see any battery life gains, I don’t expect life to decrease either.
If I had to name one feature on Samsung’s most recent smartphones that really, really needs an overhaul, I’d quickly identify the fingerprint reader. It’s clumsy, it only lets you record three prints, and you have to swipe your finger in a very specific way, which makes it frustrating and ineffective. It quite simply pales in comparison to Apple’s Touch ID reader, which can capture many different prints, works in any orientation and you need only touch the reader instead of swiping up or down.
In other words, there’s lots of room for improvement — rooms even, a house, a mansion — for Samsung’s fingerprint reader. Rumors suggest the Galaxy S6 will feature an enhanced fingerprint reader, which will be “touch-based,” like Touch ID. However, the S6 teaser image released today by T-Mobile seems to show a home button that looks nearly identical to the wide, skinny button that serves as a scanner on the Galaxy S5 and Note 4 devices, so it’s unclear how new touch functionality might work; the button looks too thin to capture a full fingerprint.
If I had to guess, you’ll still have to swipe a finger, and the Galaxy S6 readers still won’t work as well as Touch ID, but it will probably be more efficient than Samsung’s current sub-par scanners.
Likelihood of Entirely New, Touch-Based Finger Scanner: 20 percent
Likelihood of Improved and Enhanced Finger Scanner: 90 percent
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.