Samsung has always favored function over fashion. Even as some of its closest competitors were churning out exciting new designs, the Korean company stubbornly remained unchanged, almost ignoring the evolving market around it.
Then the Galaxy S5 was released, and that's when people began to vocalize their frustrations with this approach. The device offered plenty of functionality, but it lacked imagination, and further highlighted Samsung's obvious design deficiencies. That's when things started to go downhill.
After some less than stellar sales, Samsung had a decision to make: continue to rest on its laurels, or take a risk and try something new. We all know what came next: the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, two of the best smartphones Samsung has ever made.
Only a few months later, and Samsung has followed that same formula with its Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge Plus. Elegant glass and metal designs, a lighter TouchWiz, and a bet on some new technologies, including the S6 Edge Plus' dual edged form factor.
What's surprising is how quickly Samsung has begun to favor curved screens. This fall, it won't be the productivity-focused Note 5 Samsung touts as its Next Big Thing. Rather, it will be the S6 Edge Plus, a device that, more than anything, mostly exists to look good.
Not that long ago, you could count on a Samsung phone to offer three things: lots of software, expandable memory, and a removable battery. The Edge Plus is about the farthest thing away from that, and highlights Samsung's commitment to a future of exciting possibilities.
The reaction to Samsung's Galaxy S6 Edge earlier this year was universal bemusement. There was no doubting its aesthetic appeal, but beyond that, the melted screen featured next to no utility. Samsung has thrown out a few neat ides, but nothing that sells the curved screen. Consumers were essentially buying the dual edge display for no other reason than it looked unlike anything we've seen.
That's pretty much the same idea with the Edge Plus, which features the most beautiful design of any phone on the market. Like the S6 Edge, the device sports a pronounced dual edge display, which is great to look at and even more enjoyable to use. When swiping and scrolling through content, the curved screen lends itself perfectly to a touch environment, and somehow creates a deeper immersion between user and what's onscreen.
Perhaps a serendipitous byproduct of the curved trend, but no less appreciated. Particularly in Android Lollipop, where menus and content can be interacted with by swiping in from the left or right, the cascading display is a fun and excellent way to journey through Google's OS.
But it's almost a double-edged sword. Like the S6 Edge, the Edge Plus features slimmer edges that make the phone a bit uncomfortable to hold. You're constantly aware of the slim aluminum bezels, and it always seemed like the phone might slip out of my hand. Exacerbating the issue is the device's larger footprint, which requires a firm one-handed grip, or, more often than not, two hands for comfortable operation. (The sweet spot for me is still the Nexus 5, which might tell you why I'm so clumsy with big phones.)
Content also looks a little strange when it bleeds over into the device's curved edges. While watching a YouTube video in landscape, for example, content can appear a little distorted at the top and bottom, melting over into the S6 Edge Plus's sloping screen. On websites, when text and pictures span the screen from left to right, it's very noticeable, and a little off-putting. Even worse is when there's a little button or icon you have to press that sits inside the edge display.
That being said, you can't help but forgive the device because it's just so nice to look at, even if it isn't the most practical design out there. The aluminum frame is a major improvement over anything Samsung put out in years past, and the glass back, while not ideal, adds an extra touch of elegance. And although the curved screen can be a little screwy, the OLED panel is still quite a sight, offering amazing clarity and performance.
I also wanted to highlight the device's gold color option, which turns the Edge Plus from an ordinary phone into a spectacular piece of jewelry. Samsung, like Apple, has begun to nod in the direct of the fashion industry, and the gold S6 Edge Plus perfectly exemplifies the excess and pageantry of that world.
It's a curious thing—but not at all surprising—that a specific shade can have such a profound effect on how components of metal and glass look. But the gold option cannot be understated. Call it gaudy. Call it unnecessarily ostentatious. It still looks great. Though, I will say, fingerprints are very noticeable
Buried beneath that attractive sheen are some of the best specs to ever appear in a mobile device: A 5.7-inch Quad HD screen, Exynos 7420 processor, Android 5.1.1, fingerprint sensor, 32GB/64GB, 4GB of RAM, 16-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization, and a 3000mAh battery. It also supports Qi/PMA wireless charging standards, which Samsung says is quicker this time around.
That fingerprint sensor, by the way, is pretty gosh dang accurate, and the device itself is blazing fast. (Here are some benchmarks: Geekbench, AnTuTu, and Quadrant.)
Over the week I've been using the S6 Edge Plus, I haven't run into any glaring performance issues. I am a normal human who uses normal human apps—Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, Spotify—and the S6 Edge Plus handled them with aplomb.
On the topic of normal human usage, I did find the S6 Edge Plus to be lacking in the battery department. The 3000mAh unit is larger than what was offered in the smaller S6 Edge, but I'd say the two were about on a par with each other in terms of battery performance. Which is to say, not so great. I just got done reviewing the OnePlus 2 (3300mAh battery; 1080p screen), which I found to offer terrific battery life, even with heavy usage, so going from that to the S6 Edge Plus took some adjustment.
As part of Samsung's big design overhaul, users don't get the option to swap the battery at will, though they do get the benefit of the company's fast charge technology. In addition, Samsung also says its wireless charging is faster, too—about zero to full in 120 minutes. Granted, you'll need a special wall-wart and wireless charger to take advantage of the faster charging technology, but it's great that these options were even included in the first place.
If you're an obsessive who checks their phone every 10 minutes, only to mindlessly scroll through Twitter, Instagram and the like, then, yeah, your battery will take a hit, especially since the display is pushing so many pixels. But temper your usage, show some restraint, and you'll get to the end of the day with battery life to spare. The device features a few different battery saving modes—power saving and ultra power saving—which are designed to prolong your usage by limiting CPU performance, reducing brightness, and more.
For once, the software doesn't slow performance down. Like, at all. Samsung has been rapidly working toward a much more optimized version of TouchWiz over the past few months, and it shows. What that means for users is significantly less bloat, and a smoother experience overall. No more stuttering. No more unnecessary add-ons. Not more software suffocation.
If you've had the chance to use the S6 Edge—or even the Galaxy S6—the software is pretty much the same. You still get plenty of mostly useless Edge features, such as Edge Lighting, People Edge, Information Stream, and Night Clock, along with a new additions known as Apps Edge, which is just a quick way to access your favorite apps.
I didn't wind up using any of these features, but that doesn't mean you won't; it's just about finding yourself in situations where they offer convenience. The People Edge feature is probably the most useful of the bunch, though there are a multitude of ways to create people shortcuts on Android; this option is nice because it keeps things out of the way.
What's disappointing is that you don't actually need an Edge device for these features to be useful. If Samsung allowed it, Apps Edge and People Edge could just as easily be utilized on a smartphone with a flat display; though, if we're honest, the swiping motion probably wouldn't be quite as satisfying. But Samsung needed some way to differentiate the Edge design beyond mere looks, so I do understand the decision.
One last software touch is the ability to start a live broadcast on YouTube, which may or may not get more people in streaming their everyday lives. As it is, smartphone owners already have options like Periscope and Meerkat, which have become immensely popular over the past several months. Not sure how popular built-in live streaming to YouTube will be, but it's there.
Like the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, the S6 Edge Plus features a 16-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization, a combo that offers arguably the best camera experience in mobile. We were smitten with the quality Samsung's devices churned out earlier this year, and the same experience is achieved here. In outdoor conditions, photos are crisp and detailed, while indoor performance was pretty decent.
The thing that I find so impressive is just how quick the shutter is, both in good and bad lighting. It makes a huge difference when the shutter is quick, especially if you want to freeze the action going on in front of you. The camera overall is super fluid, while autofocus did a great job of finding my subject and keeping it in focus.
Samsung smartphones have always been above-average in the camera department, and the S6 Edge Plus further cements the company's growing stature as a photography wiz. The 16-megapixel sensor and f/1.9 aperture offer a good balance, and produce excellent quality. And, yeah, that 5-megapixel front-facing wide-angle selfie camera is pretty darn good as well.
As with other recent Samsung phone, the S6 Edge Plus feature plenty of camera features, too, including slow motion, selective focus, pro and more. You can also launch the camera by double pressing the home button, which is still about the most convenient way to launch a camera next to a dedicated shutter button.
Samsung's Galaxy S6 Edge Plus features the most beautiful design on the market. Too bad the curved screen is pretty much useless.
While Samsung's new weirdo phone is a sight to behold, we're still left waiting for that killer use-case. As of now, there's no real purpose to that curved screen, which means, as I said above, you're just buying the S6 Edge Plus because it looks cooler than any other phone on the market.
That might not be reason enough to pull the trigger on Samsung's dual-edge device, but the company still deserves credit for daring to try something new. Aside from the market's slow move to metal, we haven't seen all that much variety in smartphone design. A thin device here, a fingerprint sensor there. At least the S6 Edge Plus is different.
All told, even if you don't get much use out of the curved display, you still get a terrific camera, gorgeous screen, blazing fast performance, and faster wireless charging. And, let's not forget: access to Samsung Pay, which launches in the U.S. in September.
Samsung's Note 5 might seem like the more sensible purchase, what with its S Pen and more ergonomic design. But the S6 Edge Plus is an exciting proposition because it stretches the possibility of smartphone design, even if that risk doesn't come with a huge reward right now.
Disclaimer: Jon used the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus as his daily driver for four days; Brandon used the device for seven before writing his review.