Aerosmith references aside, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is a rockstar. I haven’t gotten this much attention sporting a phone since I bought the Samsung Galaxy S II when it first hit the streets and all the iPhone wielders with their tiny screens stopped and stared at my smartphone’s majesty.
Unfortunately, like a rockstar, there’s a lot of glamour and glitz on the outside, but does it add value over the basic Galaxy S6?
In this review of the Galaxy S6 Edge, I’ll be walking you through the device and giving my thoughts on various things. And if you’re curious about the non-edged Galaxy S6, check out Rob’s review of it by clicking here. He goes into some fantastic detail about things I won’t cover, like the camera, processor, and overall software because the two devices are the same in that regard. For this review, I will be concentrating on the Edge display, the software regarding the Edge display, and the battery life.
Display and the Edge
Of course this would be the first item of business! We’ve seen curved displays in the past, like the LG G Flex and the Galaxy Note Edge, but the Galaxy S6 Edge is, without a doubt, the first real mainstream device featuring a curved display.
The display features a 5.1-inch dual-edge, QHD (2560 x 1440) display with 577ppi. And it’s Super AMOLED, my favorite! All of those fancy terms really just mean that this display will knock your socks off. And it will, so I suggest that you sit down and have your feet pointed in a safe direction for when you first power up your device and start using it.
One of the first things you’ll notice on the TouchWiz home launcher (the “launcher” being your first and only user interface that you have when you get the device) is that there’s a parallax effect on the wallpaper. That should be comforting to everyone coming from the iPhone. So tilt that phone around and see the ever-so-slight movement!
Secondly, the Edge. You immediately want to play with it and figure out all of the neat little things it can do. Unfortunately, because this device just came out and third-party app developers are only just now beginning to work on it, there’s not much it can do. In the upper-right edge of the screen, you’ll notice a grey, vertical bar. Swipe out with that and you can see your favorite contacts (up to five can be placed on this bar). Note the position and color because when you get a missed call/text/email from these contacts, a new color-coded vertical bar will appear on the edge of the display at the position that that particular contact was at. And it wouldn’t be Android if you couldn’t customize it, so check in your Settings menu for the Edge category, where you can change the contacts, their position, color, as well as other goodies like a scrolling RSS feed for when your screen is off.
Again, let me reiterate, the Edge’s edges will get better as developers begin working on apps taking advantage of this display. Could Samsung have gotten some more features ready before launch? Absolutely, and it’s for this same reason that the new TouchWiz Themes are pretty lackluster.
Which brings us to TouchWiz Themes, or lack thereof. If you go to Settings, you’ll notice that at the very top right of your Quick Settings menu, you’ll have an Edit button. If Themes isn’t already present in Quick Settings, feel free to add it there by going into the Edit options. Once there, you’ll see a couple of themes already downloaded onto your phone and you’ll see the button you can press in order to be taken to the Themes Store. If you’re a 12 year old girl, you’ll love all of the themes already present there for downloading. If you’re a grown man, prepare for disappointment.
If you activate a theme, you’ll notice that it only really changes the color aesthetics of TouchWiz along with Samsung’s default apps (like the Dialer and Messages apps). But if you’re not a big fan of that robin’s-egg blue that is now the TouchWiz default color, this is enough of a blessing.
Chassis and Cases
Without a doubt, Samsung’s “Project Zero” smartphone is gorgeous. It’s also extremely slippery, at least for me. Rob noted the same issue in his Galaxy S6 review, and the Edge version might be even more slippery since there isn’t as much to hold onto at the sides. I work at a hospital and the constant hand-washing I do there has taken its toll on my pads’ ability to create a lot of friction. I might not leave as many fingerprints, but it also makes this phone want to fly out of my hand. You need to get a case, but if you’re like me, you need to get a case immediately.
While still in the T-Mobile store when I was purchasing the device, I almost dropped it several times. The employees looked at me with fear and asked, “What’s wrong with you, why can’t you hold this thing?”
With tears in my eyes, I looked up at them and lamented, “I don’t know! Help me!” Unfortunately, they were fresh out of cases, so I had to overnight one to my house from Amazon because I took that puppy straight home and kept it flat on the desk until it arrived.
It’s a beautiful phone, but it now takes up permanent residence in a Spigen Neo Hybrid case. Unfortunately, and you might have guessed this from the start, there’s not much these cases can do to offer protection for the edge displays. So when you’re shopping for a case, keep that in mind, which is why I only bought a minimal case to serve as a way for me to get a better grip on my phone because there’s just not much a case is going to do if dropped on either of those edges. On that note, there’s not much on the market just yet for full screen protectors. Living on the edge indeed.
One of the things I also immediately noticed before I got my case is that this sucker gets hot. Like really, really hot. The metal sides of the case will let you know when it’s time to take a break from your phone. The overheating happens really quickly too and it’s not just related to playing games for long stretches of time. I don’t know if that’s just my device or if others are reporting on this issue as well, but it’s there. Again, a case is a good solution as it let’s you hold your device without burning your fingers.
As far as buttons and ports go, it’s exactly the same as the Galaxy S6, except the SIM slot has been moved from the right side to the top of the device.
There’s no two ways about it, the battery is average at best. The Edge actually has a slightly, and I mean slightly larger battery than the Galaxy S6 (2600 mAh vs 2550 mAh), and you won’t notice too much of a difference. For all of those Samsung promotion videos making fun of iPhone users, calling them “wall-huggers”, the S6 Edge is no better.
The cause for the battery drain is straight-up weird, though. I had an interesting situation in that my results were far worse than anyone has reported. I am talking 6 to 8 hours at best. For whatever reason, Cell Standby was a big culprit (see screenshots below), but after a factory reset, things normalized.
Now after the factory reset, I am getting about 12 to 14 hours and that is with moderate use and an Android Wear watch connected full time. Much better than the 6 to 8 hours I was getting, but far from a work horse.
So, what can you do about it? Nothing much other than take advantage of Samsung’s Quick Charging capabilities. The phone does charge incredibly fast with that, but it still stinks that I have to utilize that as often as I do. Wireless charging is also nice, but it takes a lot longer. I find that it’s useful if you have a bunch of them laying around so you’re constantly charging.
This is the first Samsung app that I actual really covet. Simply put, it addresses a lot of concerns people have had about device storage. Even though most everything we do know has a cloud option, basically eliminating the need to store files on our smartphones’ local storage, people are still nervous about the new Galaxy phones not having the expandable storage ability.
If you’re a Windows user, you’re probably familiar with the process of scrubbing your hard drive and getting rid of a lot of crappy temporary files that are just soaking up space. Smart Manager will let you do the same thing, freeing up precious megabytes and even gigabytes worth of space.
This is also the app you’ll go to if you’re wanting to see battery and RAM stats, as well as enabling or disabling some functions of Samsung’s KNOX security.
To find this app, simply go to your app drawer. And when you’re in Settings, a few of those options will actually just link straight back to this Smart Manager app.
I know a lot of people who weren’t TouchWiz fans are now okay with it after spending time with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, but not me. It’s not so much the interface, it’s more about the performance. Although one of the fastest phones I have used, I did find it to lag at times. This is before and after my factory reset. Rob’s review unit is experiencing this as well, but the base Galaxy S6 didn’t have this issue. We’re not sure what the reason could be since there really isn’t a lot of extra software for the Edge display.
And it’s not just the S6 Edge. Even my Samsung Galaxy Tab S is laggy as well, and it’s sporting the best tablet hardware specs on the market.
Odds & Ends
The fingerprint scanner is much improved over the ones used by Samsung last year. It’s still laggy and I have to try several times to get it to work, but it’s better than last year by far, and I wouldn’t say that it’s worse than the iPhone’s. I’ve seen quite a few iPhone users constantly attempting to unlock their phone with their fingerprint just to give up and move on to the secondary password. I’ve yet to have to do this with the S6 Edge.
No Samsung Pay yet. I’ve set up my fingerprint to be used with PayPal, but I haven’t used PayPal since getting the phone, so that’s not really being utilized at all. I still use Google Wallet a lot, so it’d be nice if I could use my fingerprint on that instead of my PIN, but the PIN is probably faster anyway so I imagine I’d get tired of the fingerprint novelty and go back to punching in my PIN.
The exterior of the device is breathtaking, the SAMOLED display is beyond words, and I have a lot of confidence that once developers start releasing apps taking advantage of the screen’s edges, the feature could blossom. But it just doesn’t seem worth the extra $100 for just the appearance of the device.
The Galaxy S6 Edge is definitely a niche and a proof of concept if you will. I am sure it will evolve over the years, and who knows, maybe eventually the Galaxy S phone will only have the Edge option as it could be a standard. But right now, it’s for the person who has to have something different and unique. The average Joe will be more than happy with the basic Galaxy S6.