After months and months of anticipation, leaks, teasers and more, we've finally had a chance to sit down and check out Samsung's brand new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S6. It's the best Galaxy S smartphone Samsung has ever created, at least as far as we can gather from our initial impressions.
There are a couple of elephants in the room. First, yes, Samsung finally ditched the plastic body pretty much entirely. You'll only find premium specs here, folks, including an aluminum unibody design and glass on the front and back panels. It feels premium the second you pick it up, and much sturdier than earlier Galaxy S devices. Is it better than the Note 4? It feels more sturdy, but we still dig that phone's design, too. Second: yes, TouchWiz is much, much lighter. But it's still there, and we'll discuss that more in a bit.
Samsung said that this was all part of an internal project called "Zero," that allowed designers to start from scratch and create a brand new smartphone without any obstacles. The result is a powerhouse of a product with a 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display with 557ppi. The screen is brilliant, maybe even overkill for the size of the display, and we're still wondering how it's going to affect battery life.
You'll also find a 64-bit octa-core processor, which is the first 14nm processor in a phone, Samsung's brand new UFS flash memory — another first — 3GB of RAM, and a new speaker at the bottom of the phone that's 1.5x louder than the speaker used on the Galaxy S5.
There will be a few SKUs available, including 32GB, 64GB and 128GB options. You'll need that storage, too, since Samsung actually opted to bail on a microSD card slot this time around. It's a bit of a bummer, but with 128GB of storage you should have plenty of space. Also gone is the removable battery, which Samsung fans usually really enjoy. Thankfully, however, the phone supports two wireless charging standards out of the box — without adding any thickness to the phone. Wireless charging is 20 percent faster than before, and if you plug the phone in you can expect 2 hours of video playback after just 10 minutes on the charger, or a 50 percent charge in just a half hour.
There are some other awesome improvements, too. Samsung ditched the swipe fingerprint reader for one that only requires a touch, similar to Touch ID on the iPhone 6 an iPhone 6 Plus. We didn't have a chance to test this just yet, but we hope it works better. That will come into play with a new mobile payment system Samsung is launching, which supports both NFC and, thanks to its recent LoopPay acquisition, magnetic card readers. Just hold your phone near a check-out terminal and you'll be prompted to pay. Again, we'll need to see how well this works when it launches after the phone hits the markets.
But wait, there's more. Samsung also added some solid new cameras. You can launch the camera by double tapping the home button at anytime — it will launch the last camera used, whether it's the primary one or the front-facing selfie shooter. The primary camera features a 16-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization, and Samsung promises it will snap "the best picture every time, no matter the lighting situation," thanks to a lot of effort made on the software. It also features auto-HDR and IR white balance detection, which Samsung says hasn't ever been done on a smartphone camera before. Finally, you'll also find auto-tracking auto-focus on the primary shooter, which is something that Samsung brought over from its NX1 cameras. The front-facing camera sports a 5-megapixel wide-angle lens, and it seems to take pretty decent shots.
Samsung said the Galaxy S6 will launch this spring alongside the Galaxy S6 Edge but did not discuss pricing details. Check out the gallery and video for a closer look.