Samsung is ready to play hardball. With two new devices and a ton of jabs at Apple during its launch event for the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge Sunday, it’s clear the Korean manufacturer isn’t happy with its slipping place in the market and plans to do everything in its power to turn the tide.
Samsung put a major effort into making the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge smartphones different not only from past Galaxy smartphones, but also different from many of the devices currently available. The company’s biggest challenge in 2015 will be standing out in an already saturated market, even with two attractive new offerings. Analysts say, with the host of upgrades on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, Samsung can anticipate an increase in shipments, similar to the increase Apple saw with its new iPhone designs.
“Samsung will hope to see a similar leap to the iPhone shipment's 46 percent year-on-year quarterly jump when Apple offered larger screen models,” said IHS analyst Ian Fogg in a research note. “But, whether Samsung can realize this sales improvement depends on its ability to manufacture the Edge model at scale and avoid teething problems with the Exynos chipset it is using in a global flagship for the first time.”
Despite Samsung's hopes for heavy demand and a big year of shipping, IHS expects competition between the manufacturer and its rivals to increase, with other companies shipping more handsets in 2015 and Samsung possibly shipping fewer. If the manufacturing process for the Galaxy S6 Edge is as difficult as Samsung says, consumers may see the device priced very high to limit demand and shift the focus to the Galaxy S6. Samsung has also said it plans to ship 30 percent fewer smartphones in 2015 than it did in 2014 to facilitate revenue growth.
The company has made some daring moves with its new devices, which include several firsts for Samsung and for the overall smartphone market. The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge are outfitted with a metal exterior, one especially new feature for Samsung. The manufacturer has been known for its polycarbonate plastic casings. Coupled with this feature is a nonremovable 2,550mAh battery for the Galaxy S6 and a 2,600mAh battery for the Galaxy S6 Edge. Again, this is a first for Galaxy devices, which have had removable back panels in the past, to allow for changing out batteries and increasing internal storage via a Micro SD card. To this end, Samsung has also increased its base internal storage capacity from 16GB to 32GB, also offering a 64GB option and an all-new 128GB option.
A standout feature on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge is Samsung’s singular use of its own Exynos brand processor, which features a 2.1GHz quad-core chip and a 1.5Ghz quad-core chip. Until now, Samsung has implemented Qualcomm Snapdragon chips in the majority of its devices. But as Samsung aims to consolidate its expenses, a lot hangs on the global response to how the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge function. Most consumers are unfamiliar with how an Exynos-powered device works. “This offers the promise of delivering better overall margins for Samsung and, in time, differentiated performance from rivals, as Apple has achieved with their A series app processor designs. But it's a high risk, high reward strategy,” Fogg said.
Samsung also is one of the first manufacturers to use the Gorilla Glass 4 as the casing for the 5.1-inch Quad HD (2560x1440 resolution) Super AMOLED displays on both devices. Currently, most smartphones still use Gorilla Glass 3.
While discussing the strength of the devices, Samsung made sure to rile up the competition by mentioning the metal on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge is 50 percent stronger than the metal on other high-end smartphones. “My first language may not be engineering, but I do know that this stuff will not bend,” Samsung marketing chief Younghee Lee said.
But those aren’t the only ways that Samsung plans to one-up rival Apple. The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge both feature a fast-charging technology that allows the devices to gain 4 hours of battery life in a 10-minute charge. The devices can also charge from 0-to-100 in half the time of an iPhone 6, Samsung claims.
While the time to charge an iPhone can depend on the handset, many users report charging times of two-to-three hours, meaning that the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge should be able to charge fully in about 1 1/2 hours.
The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge also include built-in wireless charging technology, meaning there is no need for extra accessories to enable wireless charging, like special cases or charging pads. The technology is compatible with the two top wireless charging standards -- Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) and Power Matters Alliance (PMA) -- so users will be able to charge their devices wherever a charging pad is available, such as cafes, restaurants and offices, Samsung’s head of sale operations Justin Dennison noted.
Samsung’s camera hardware remains mostly unchanged. The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge both feature a 16-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization and 5-megapixel front camera. The cameras both include f/1.9 lenses, which let in more light than the lenses on older Galaxy models, allowing for sharper photos. Real-time HDR and low-light shot features also enhance picture taking. In yet another jab at Apple, Samsung compares low light photos and videos taken with the Galaxy S6 to photos and videos taken with the iPhone 6.
The software revamps include a cleaner TouchWiz user interface, which features simple colors that are associated with different applications. Pages for the phone app are highlighted in green, pages for the video app are highlighted in purple and pages for the contacts app are highlighted in orange. Additionally, Samsung has switched from icons to text for better recognition on many applications.
Improving on its security software, Samsung has partnered with BlackBerry to integrate Samsung’s Knox software with BlackBerry’s WorkLife and SecuSUITE.
Samsung also introduced its Samsung Pay system to rival Apple Pay and other NFC-based payment systems. The system, developed by Samsung’s new subsidiary Loop Pay, is compatible with the magnetic strips on credit cards as well as with NFC-based payment systems, making it automatically accepted at most retailers. Apple Pay is accepted only at retailers that have NFC hardware, which is about 10 percent of all retailers.
Samsung updated its fingerprint sensor from a swipe-based sensor to a touch-based sensor, like Apple’s Touch ID, mostly to make authenticating Samsung Pay with a fingerprint a similar process.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge will be available April 11 in 20 countries, with availability to other markets coming later.