The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge are here, and include some of the most advanced specifications on the market. But in Samsung's bid to reclaim its spot as the world's top smartphone maker, it's relying on evolutionary features designed to improve on the iPhone 6.
Samsung is hoping to duplicate what Gartner research director Werner Goertz calls the “iPhone 6 effect.” Apple’s 2014 smartphones are also quite unremarkable in terms of new technology, but a fresh design and increased display size sent consumers flocking to their nearest Apple Store to purchase the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus last September. “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.
Take a look at many of the new features on the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge and how they backtrack from old Galaxy models, are advances from old Galaxy models or match Apple features.
Micro SD Slot
While Samsung has made some improvements with the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, one area it has stepped backwards in is removable storage. The microSD slot was a key differentiator from the iPhone, and an attractive option for Android users looking to get more storage space without shelling out hundreds of dollars for a handset with more storage space. With the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, that has been done away with entirely; however, Samsung has increased internal storage capacities from 16GB and 32GB to 32GB, 64GB and 128GB.
To be fair, it’s not a trend that unique to Samsung, with some Android manufacturers opting for a similar design choice. But it was a change that upset many Galaxy owners, who flocked to Twitter to express their disapproval.
With the all-metal design, Samsung has also ditched the waterproofing which allowed the smartphone to be submerged under one meter of water for 30 minutes. It’s a feature that came out on top when put to the test by many blogs, in pools and even washing machines.
While there S6 and S6 edge aren’t water resistant, it’s possible that Samsung could release an “Active” version of the Galaxy smartphone in the future, similar to what it did with the Galaxy S4.
“Don’t be a wall hugger,” Samsung’s ad campaigns said, poking fun at the iPhone and its non-removable battery. Among the Galaxy’s numerous features, a powerful yet removable battery was among the biggest features touted by Samsung. But with the Galaxy S6, that’s no longer the case. With the shift to an all-metal design, the company eliminated its user-removable back panel, coinciding with a switch to lithium-polymer batteries, the same type used in the iPhone.
Another trade off with the battery on the Galaxy S6 can also be found in overall capacity, which comes in at 2,550 mAh. While it’s a slight decrease from the 2,800 mAh battery found in the Galaxy S5, it should be noted that battery capacity is only one of many factors that determine a device’s overall battery life. However, Samsung says the Exynos chip in the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge is optimized to be more power efficient and should address any issues that come with a smaller battery.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge are the first devices to 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.
Gorilla Glass 4
The Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge use Gorilla Glass 4 for their front panels, which maker Corning says is less likely to shatter upon a fall than the previous Gorilla Glass 3. But the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge are not the first devices to use the new component. That accolade goes to the Samsung Galaxy Alpha smartphone, which released in August 2014. The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge are the first high-end smartphones to use Gorilla Glass 4, however. Currently most smartphone manufacturers, including Apple, still use Gorilla Glass 3.
Dual Curve Display
Samsung introduced its first curved display smartphone with the Galaxy Note Edge last September, but the Galaxy S6 Edge takes the feature a step further. Its display wraps around both sides of the device, as opposed to just on the right side. The curves on the Galaxy S6 Edge appear to be more cosmetic than functional, as they are on the Galaxy Note Edge. However, the S6 Edge does maintain features like having the alarm clock and notifications appear on the side screens.
Samsung Matches Apple
Samsung introduced its Samsung Pay system on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge 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 also 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 Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge are outfitted with a metal and glass exterior, which is still a new feature of Samsung, but it’s something Apple has been doing for years. Meanwhile Samsung was known for its polycarbonate plastic casings.
Samsung says the metal on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge is 50 percent stronger than the metal on other high-end smartphones, noting that it won’t bend under pressure. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are infamous for the “bendgate” fiasco that occurred upon their release. Some users found that the devices would bend if they placed it in their back pockets and sat down.
Samsung Exynos Processing Chip
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. This compares to Apple’s use of its own A-series chips in its iPhones. Though the chips may be manufactured by third parties such as Samsung, Apple developed the chips on its own.
Until now, Samsung implemented Qualcomm Snapdragon chips in the majority of its devices and most consumers are unfamiliar with how an Exynos-powered device works. But Samsung could save a lot of money by no longer outsourcing its chips, and could earn a lot if their Exynos-powered devices are well received by consumers. “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’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.
This strategy is quite Apple like. The company has maintained an 8-megapixel density on its mobile cameras since the iPhone 4S in 2011, while incrementally improving the software features and other camera components.