It happen every year and yet this time it feels different. Samsung’s much hyped and highly praised smartphone has made its way to South Africa and we’ve finally got our hands on one for more than a few minutes to see what its like.
The first thing you’ll notice when you take the Samsung Galaxy S6 out of the box is just how light it feels. Whilst it’s only 7g lighter than the Galaxy S5 that it replaces, the Galaxy S6 is 1.3mm thinner at 6.8mm which lends to a vastly improved feel in hand. There’s also the weight distribution of the phone which sits very nicely towards the bottom of the handset which seats it very nicely in your hands.
The build quality is the next thing you notice. Gone is the, much derided, plastic exterior replaces with an aluminium frame replete with front and rear Gorilla Glass 4 façades. It feels every bit as premium as the iPhone 6 that it aims to unseat at the top of the premium smartphone pile and kudos to Samsung for making a phone this desirable.
The front of the Galaxy S6 is decidedly Samsung looking with rounded corners and an oval home button that would be difficult to pick out from the last 3 phones the company offered before it. The back looks and feel very similar to Sony’s current top tier Xperia smartphones or Apple’s older generations of iPhone with the large slab of glass broken only by logos and such. The iPhone likeness definitely doesn’t stop there with the aluminium frame almost identically recreating the iPhone 6’s down to the placement of the headphone jack, charging port and drilled speaker grill. You can almost hear Apple’s lawyers drafting a patent lawsuit when you see the two smartphones side-by-side for the first time.
The one thing that many will be upset about is the protruding camera module which sticks out rather bulbously from the rear of the Galaxy S6. It will no doubt melt away into any cover that you snap onto the back of the phone but will incense those who enjoy their phones in the nude.
Turning on the Galaxy S6 reveals the third triumph of Samsung’s new flagship, the display. The 5.1 inch QHD Super AMOLED display has a 1 440×2 560 resolution, which amounts to 577 pixels per inch. Those numbers may sound like a wash of geek speak but are the reason that the Galaxy S6 possess what may be the finest display in a smartphone currently on the market. Colours are rich and vibrant while blacks are deep and empty the way that only an OLED display can make them. And there is not a pixel that can be be singled out of the rest making text, images and video appear like they were painted on the screen an instant before your eyes saw them.
Setting up a new Galaxy S6 is a breeze with the ability to migrate Google accounts using NFC and Bluetooth if you’re leaving a phone with Android 5 or later or, the more likely scenario, you’ll find yourself prompted immediately into downloading Samsung’s new Smart Switch app. If will allow you to transition from any Android phone by downloading the same app onto the old phone as well or from an iPhone using a USB OTG adapter to plug in to the iPhone or by sucking the information straight out of iCloud.
The initial set up process will also take you through scanning a digit into the new fingerprint sensor which, once again, feels very Apple-like in the graphics and the sensor’s function itself. Gone is the unruly swiping of your thumb down past an optical reader, as was the case with the S5, replaced instead with the glory of holding your paw in place to be read by a camera beneath the home button. It’s as good as the iPhone 5ses fingerprint sensor was when it first hit the scene and will only feel a shade slow to those who have had the please of using the sensor in iPhones since.
By far and away our favourite feature of the new Galaxy S6 is the quick launch of the camera. Simply double-tapping the home button will launch the camera with a further tap on the on-screen shutter button enough to capture an image in a flash. It’s the best Android camera experience around by miles and rivals the instantaneous nature of Apple’s cameras which have set them apart from the competition for years. In fact with the camera software having made such a vast improvement Apple’s engineers may well be looking over their shoulders’ wondering if it’s time to increase the 8 megapixel sensor size on the iPhones to close the gap on Samsung’s 16 megapixel behemoth.
If you’ve been on the fence about buying another Samsung phone or have been mulling a move away from Apple’s walled garden, our first impressions of the Galaxy S6 are that it’s probably the phone for you. The hardware is top notch, the software isn’t as intrusive as Samsung’s past and the build quality is of the highest standards we have to compare to today.
Well done Samsung.
A full review will follow over the weekend.