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Galaxy S6 announced: Slick metal design comes at a sacrifice

by Brandon Russell | March 1, 2015March 1, 2015 9:30 am PDT

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 was a good phone—a great phone, even. But it wasn’t a memorable one. A year later, it’s often seen as one of the Korean company’s more forgettable releases, overshadowed at every turn by some of its biggest competition. So what does Samsung do when it knows it’s on the ropes? It creates the Galaxy S6.

Before we get started, yes, the Galaxy S6 is aluminum, and, no, it doesn’t offer expandable storage, nor can you swap out the battery. Two very big features sacrificed for a seemingly sleeker design; but at what cost? Power users are going to be sorely disappointed. Pretty much every rumor surrounding the device was spot on, including those leaked images we saw just a few days ago, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. But now the news has been confirmed.

Samsung’s emphasis this year is all about design, services and improved technology. The Galaxy S6 retains the spirit of old Samsung phones, but the device has been completely reimagined from the ground up, offering what the company believes is a new “standard for design, craftsmanship and performance.” That means a phone that’s crafted from metal and glass, with no signs of plastic anywhere, a criticism that’s been thrown Samsung’s way for years.

With no plastic in sight, Samsung is claiming the Galaxy S6 (and Galaxy S6 Edge) is its most durable device yet, with Gorilla Glass 4 complementing the metal frame. It looks strong, and more premium than any other Samsung device we’ve seen—and we loved the Note 4, Note Edge and Galaxy Alpha. What this does is elevate Samsung to a whole new plane, a level that puts it right on par with the likes of Apple and HTC in terms of design.

But it’s not just the design that’s changed; Samsung’s TouchWiz has been dialed back considerably—Samsung says up to 40-percent—making this latest skin the company’s lightest yet. Although it features some truly great functionality, TouchWiz has often been criticized as the worst in mobile, and Samsung finally took that to heart, cutting out bloatware and optimizing the software so it’s not faster than ever. That’s helped by the inclusion of Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the box, but Samsung has shown restraint, and that’s a very big deal.

Packed inside all that glass and aluminum, the Galaxy S6 comes stuffed with plenty of high-end technology, including wireless charging, an better camera and an improved fingerprint scanner. I guess you could call them trade-offs for losing expandable storage and swappable batteries, which have been marquee features of Samsung’s lineup for years now.

Samsung says the Galaxy S6 comes with fully embedded WPC and PMA certified wireless charging technology, with the ability to charge 1.5 times than the Galaxy S5. That means you can give the Galaxy S6 about 4 hours of life after about just 10 minutes of charging. A worthy tradeoff for not having a swappable battery? You be the judge. (The battery itself is 2550mAh, so it’s nice and hefty.)

As for the fingerprint scanner, users will no longer have to use a swipe gesture to unlock their phone; the new method is similar to Apple’s Touch ID, simply place your finger on the sensor, and your phone will unlock. This improved technology will also be used for Samsung Pay, the company’s new payment service that we’ve been hearing so much about. Basically you’ll be able to use Samsung’s newest devices as a digital wallet and a ton of spots worldwide, so Apple Pay will have some major competition in the form of Samsung’s excellent new service. Unfortunately, the service isn’t scheduled to launch until the second half of this year in the U.S.

The Galaxy S6 sports a 5.1-inch QHD (577ppi) Super AMOLED display, an Exynos 7 series processor, Android 5.0 Lollipop, 16-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization, Microsoft apps right out the box, 3GB of RAM and 32GB, 64GB and 128GB models. In addition, the device features Samsung’s typical Ultra Power Saving Mode, S Health 4.0, an array of Google services preloaded, and the ability to set themes, allowing users to easily tweak the look and feel of TouchWiz.

An expectedly beefy phone, one that’ll satiate the most fiendish spec hounds. And that’s good! We want our latest technology to be cutting edge. In the case of the Galaxy S6, that means a new design, and a bigger focus on the services behind the device (i.e. Samsung Pay). You don’t get the features that drew a lot of Samsung fans in in the first place, such as expandable memory and a swappable battery. But Samsung has refined its tastes, and is clearly heading in a new direction.

The Galaxy S6 will be offered in white, black, gold and blue, and is set to launch globally on April 10, which is just over a month from now. No pricing was announced, though Samsung’s carrier partners will likely step in soon with that information.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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