Samsung Galaxy S6 EDGE Review: Android Nougat Update LANDS!

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Samsung CONFIRMS Android Nougat Update For Samsung Galaxy S6 EDGE

It might have been awhile in the pipeline, but Samsung has FINALLY pulled its finger out and updated the Galaxy S6 EDGE to Android Nougat.

I say, FINALLY, for a few reasons: 1) this is a flagship phone, 2) Android Nougat has been out for AGES and, 3) a company the size of Samsung should be A LOT better at this than it is.

T-Mobile’s Des Smith confirmed that the update should be available to both the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 EDGE this week.

And if you fancy picking yourself up a Galaxy S6, you can get them for next to nothing via Gazelle.com – and I really do mean NEXT TO NOTHING! 

Update: A new software patch has begun rolling out to the Galaxy S6, as of July 5. Firmware version G920FXXU5EQFC is currently landing on unlocked handsets in Europe. It includes security updates and Android fixes, as well as some improvements to performance. The same update should also be hitting the Galaxy S6 EDGE as build G925FXXU5EQFC.

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Samsung has now pretty firmly re-established itself at the top of the smartphone tree; since the Galaxy S6 series we’ve had the Galaxy S7 and now Galaxy S8 so that the firm’s new metal and glass aesthetic is…well, not so new anymore, but still, it’s entrenched. And this is a good thing.

IDC and Trendforce market analysis confirm that for Q1 of 2017 Samsung is indeed leading the pack in the number one spot for global sales ahead of Apple and Huawei in second and third place. Currently, Samsung is believed to have sold 5 million Galaxy S8 handsets in the month since the phone launched.

But the Galaxy S6, and indeed the Galaxy S6 EDGE specifically, is where Samsung’s fortunes really started to turn around. As well as the metal and glass design, the curved EDGE display is now not only a signature Samsung feature but also a standard one. EDGE variants are no longer part of Samsung’s portfolio, instead, all its flagships now have the curved screen tech installed and have abandoned the need of the EDGE moniker.

The Galaxy S6 series was the first of Samsung’s flagships to embrace premium metal design. So for that, it’s a landmark phone. It’s still plenty capable specs wise, as many one or two-year-old flagships usually are. You can pick up a refurbished model for around £250-£300.

If you wind the clock back a bit and look at older KYM reviews of Samsung devices, you might notice that we did a fair bit of grumbling aimed at Sammy back in the day. Up to and including the Galaxy S5, regardless of how much we liked the rest of the device, we always had a bit of a gripe with the firm’s insistence on using a fairly generic and somewhat uninspiring design for the flagship handsets.

Even worse, however, was the repeated use of plastic bodywork, and not just any plastic, particularly cheap-feeling plastic – yes the feel, not the durability, they were in fact quite rugged more often than not. It was galling because at the same time you had offerings from rival firms with more interesting shaped devices, but more importantly, the use of metal, glass and ceramics, and even at the very least, plastics with a better quality feel to them (HTC and Nokia, spring immediately to mind).

Despite all our protestations, we appeared to be in the minority, and in direct odds to what consumers actually wanted – or at least, that was how it seemed given that consumers vote with their wallets, and Samsung phones sold like hot cakes.

But here’s the kicker; popular opinion can be fickle – it can turn on a dime, in fact – and clearly, between the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S5 times changed, though, apparently, Samsung hadn’t noticed.

Apple had been producing metal and glass phones for years, followed by HTC and Sony, but then it was as if, with the launch of the once-again plastic Galaxy S5 consumers across the board had at long last agreed with us, and had pretty much-concluded plastic samey-ness wasn’t acceptable anymore. Samsung, unfortunately, hadn’t got the memo.

A turnaround was needed a new direction.

Samsung itself readily admitted to its failings, to be fair, and impressively the firm vowed to improve things. It went back to the drawing board with “Project Zero”, the device that turned into the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 EDGE. Samsung learned that the Galaxy S5 lacked the much-needed “wow” factor. The time for plasticky builds was over. Say hello to stylish, ultra-modern metal and glass.

The Galaxy S6 EDGE is the more expensive and more stylish of the two, but aside from some added aesthetic flair from the curved display design it is pretty much identical in specs and capabilities to its Galaxy 6 stable-mate. 

In our Samsung Galaxy S6 review we awarded the handset full marks, something that we have only ever done once before –– the iPad Air also got full marks. In this respect, we kind of knew what the EDGE would entail, so the purpose of this review was to ascertain whether or not the EDGE actually made a difference and, importantly, whether it was worth shelling out the additional monies to pick one up. 

The agenda here, then, is pretty clear. Right: let’s do this! 

Samsung Galaxy S6 EDGE Review: Design & Display

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A theme throughout this review is going to be something along the lines of “it’s like the Galaxy S6, but a bit different”, because that’s literally what the Galaxy S6 EDGE is, a Galaxy S6 with curved display edges. And this is a crucial point, those display edges are purely a stylistic choice, one that changes the whole look and feel of the phone of course, but it’s important to remember than on the whole you’re not getting a VERY different deal here. 

It’s a bit like choosing whether or not your new car is the plain old regular edition or going for the sport package with a spoiler, alloy wheels and a racing stripe. The Galaxy S6 EDGE still features all the great design cues we saw on the Galaxy 6, including a sleek metal casing with some nicely styled details (such as the punched speaker grille), and a glass panel on the rear. It’s smooth, elegant, distinctly premium to look at and feels great in the hand thanks to all that metal round the outside.

I can hardly believe I’m being presented with such an editorial opportunity for this pun, but the Galaxy S6 EDGE’s dual edge design really is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s fair to say that it looks a good deal more slick and refined than the regular Galaxy S6, and indeed, pretty much any other smartphone on the market. The curved sides make the display look expansive and give the illusion that the phone is thinner than it actually is, and it’s fair to say that curvy surfaces seem to have an innate aesthetic appeal to the human eye; just look at any sports car –– and just as with that example, it’s worth remembering that the Galaxy S6 EDGE costs extra. 

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On the other hand, however, the curved screen does create an extremely thin strip of bodywork along those two edges for the user to grip and access the physical power and volume keys. We’ve talked before on this site about how very thin phones can be awkward to handle in a way that feels secure, it can seem as if you’re always moments away from dropping it.

Ultimately though, it’s not enough of a problem to discourage from perseverance, and at the same time it makes for one fine looking phone. 

Is it worth it? On balance, I reckon yes.

Apple usually gets all the praise for its focus on design and the painstaking attention it pays to every aspect of its hardware. But these new devices from Samsung really are stunningly beautiful, more so than both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Nothing else has looked this exciting since, well, probably the iPhone 4 or HTC’s first One handset. The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 EDGE really are that good. Samsung should be very proud of its design team this time around. 

Of course I’m still not sold on the usefulness of the “EDGE” part of the display besides aesthetics. The only useful feature Samsung showed off was that it’s now easy to see who is calling you when your phone is face-down: you can pre-program up to five colours representing five different people in your contacts. The screen’s EDGEs will glow their colour when they call.

As for colour options, both the Galaxy S6 and S6 EDGE come in shimmering black, white, and gold. I say shimmering, because the S6 series features a finish where their colours reflect the light that hits the devices. Both the Galaxy S6 and S6 EDGE also come in a fourth colour option, with the Galaxy S6 coming in bright blue and the Galaxy S6 EDGE coming in a deep green.

What about the quality of the display panel itself? Well Samsung has been hitting gold on displays for a while now thanks to its continued commitment to improving Super AMOLED tech. Again, as with the regular Galaxy S6, the touchscreen on offer here really is incredibly impressive, and the curved edges do not detract from the visual quality in any way whatsoever. It measures 5.1in and the phone is mostly screen (over 70% of the frontage), with a QHD 1440 x 2560 pixel resolution at 577 pixels-per-inch (ppi). Needless to say, that is very sharp indeed, pinpoint, in fact, with no pixilation and crystal clear text display. 

But it’s not just about clarity, as important as it is, it’s also crucial to get the brightness, colour accuracy, contrast, and viewing fidelity in varied conditions for a truly high-end experience. And this handset certainly does; you can view it satisfactorily from virtually any angle, and it is bright, vibrant and colourful, with plenty of punch in the contrast that Samsung loves. Samsung hasn’t had much of an issue with colour accuracy for a little while now since it got hauled over the coals critically for previous-gen handsets, meanwhile the brightness is suitably robust enough to make reading this screen a pleasure even on sunny days spent outside.

In short, this display is a marvel. It’s got that neat little trick of bendy edges but this has not impacted on image quality one iota and you could sit there gazing into this colourful, vibrant glass panel happily for days watching all manner of videos, or browsing the web, or playing games – considering that’s what most of us do with our smartphones most of the time, that’s a very good thing!

Samsung Galaxy S6 EDGE Review: TouchWiz

Samsung appears to have really taken a lot of the criticism levelled at it to heart, but nowhere is this more evident than with TouchWiz. Once the most hated Android overlay of all, TouchWiz in recent times has developed into one of the least offensive Android skins around. It’s slicker, trimmed down and feels a lot less, well, Samsung. 

The design has been toned down in order to mimic Google’s Material Design and there’s no way near as much bloatware. There’s still a fair bit but it is nothing like it was before –– before it was just a mountain of useless, storage-clogging applications and bells and whistles which did nothing to aid the actual experience of using the handset. 

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I’m glad these days are now in the past. Using both the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 EDGE, as I have in the past few months, was a great experience. Never before have I felt so refreshed when coming back to a well known brand of phones, sort of like rekindling a relationship with an alcoholic that has now cleaned up once and for all –– all the bits you liked are there, intact, just minus the bad bits. 

Performance inside TouchWiz is, quite literally, off the charts. This is the smoothest experience I’ve ever had on Android –– and that applies to both the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 EDGE. A lot of this is down to optimisation but most of it is because of Samsung’s insanely powerful Exynos 7420 chipset, which provides more than enough grunt for pretty much anything you’ll want to do. It’s like driving a 2014 BMW M5 normally, you can do it, sure, but you know there’s a monster lurking inside, ready and raring to go anytime you feel like it. 

Update: Android 7.0 Nougat has started landing on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 EDGE, bringing them both bang up-to-date with all the latest features for Google’s platform. SamMobile reports having heard from users of Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 EDGE units in the UK, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy, amongst other places, where the update is reportedly rolling out to devices. On the UK Vodafone network one user posted a handset updating to build number G925FXXU5EQBG. It’s reportedly a 1.3GB download, so Wi-Fi is recommended, and includes a new interface dubbed Samsung Experience which is a much more streamlined and clean affair.

Samsung Galaxy S6 EDGE Review: Battery

OK, so first things first, the Galaxy S6 EDGE is just like the Galaxy S6 in being an awkward bugger. That is to say, unlike previous Samsung Galaxy handsets it won’t let you access the battery cell and swap it with another one, whether for repair purposes because said cell has breathed its last, or just to carry a spare on the go for quickly topping up. 

This is quite a bit less flexible, and understandably gets a few Samsung veterans grumbling. To be honest my view is that it’s less about the hot-swapping battery cells and more about the fact that batteries do gradually degrade over time and, when they do, if you want to replace it you’re going to need to visit a phone shop and have it fixed (likely for a fee) rather than simply being able to pop open the back. The alternative, of course, is to buy a new phone. For people who want the maximum longevity out of a device against money invested that’s a bit of a prickly pear.

The flipside of this is the sheer scope of the Galaxy S6 EDGE’s battery performance as is –– it’s literally a powerhouse. The cell is a 2,600mAh unit, just slightly juicier than the regular Galaxy S6’s 2,550mAh deal but that 50mAh difference doesn’t even register. The trick here seems to be hardware and software optimisation, we reckon that battery saving cleverness inside Android Lollipop and TouchWiz has coupled up with the fast and efficient Exynos 7420 64-bit octa-core processor running Samsung’s 14 nanometre architecture to offer some crazy battery life. 

During our video test, with Wi-Fi enabled and full-brightness, a downloaded two hour film brought the battery down from 100% charge to 84% –  that’s insane! You could watch a whole day’s worth of movies on this thing! Naturally this means with less battery-sapping activities than films and games, you can expect to get a LOT of time out of this phone on a single charge, at least a couple of days. 

And what’s more, it still comes loaded with Samsung’s innovative Ultra Power Saving mode, which limits the phone’s capabilities and turns the display black and white, but this allows you to keep it going for several weeks on a single charge, which is particularly useful if you’re travelling or at a festival and know you’re going to need it for calls and texts –– it pretty much turns it into a feature phone, which is a nice option to have.

Samsung Galaxy S6 EDGE Review: Camera

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Again, the camera tech on offer here is identical to that of the Samsung Galaxy S6, indeed once you turn the Galaxy S6 EDGE around to show its back there’s virtually nothing to distinguish it from its less edgy brethren, and so the sensor protruding slightly from the top of the glass rear is exactly the same.

And that means it’s a remarkable little 16MP sensor loaded with optical image stabilisation and a wide-angle f/1.9 aperture; these two features allow plenty of light in across a range of conditions, and it’s equally at home snapping shots in the day or in lower-light scenarios. It also has an LED flash for when you need it.

Images captured using this setup are beyond impressive. Samsung is hell bent on being the final word when it comes to mobile camera technology and both the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 EDGE prove the company certainly has the chops to be just this. I cannot think of another Android manufacturer who’s camera UX and features are as easy to use or, for that matter, can produce such good results from simply pointing and shooting. 

The proof, however, is in the pudding and, as you can see below, images captured using the Galaxy S6 EDGE are BEYOND impressive. But this was always going to be the case because this is the exact same setup you’ll find inside the Galaxy S6, which was by far and away one of the best point and shoot setups in the business. 

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Samsung Galaxy S6 EDGE Review: Exynos 7 CPU

Samsung also took time to detail its new Exynos chipset and memory standard at MWC 2015 –– what it sees as the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 EDGE’s BIG USPs: ‘The world’s first 14nm mobile processor with 64-bit platform, new LPDDR4 memory system and UFS 2.0 flash memory provides higher performance and enhanced memory speed with lower power consumption. Moreover, the world’s first mobile 1440P/VP9 hardware based decoder enables users to enjoy high resolution streaming video while also using less power. In addition, the 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED screen offers users the highest pixel density of 577ppi. Enhanced outdoor visibility with a brighter display (600cd/mm) lets consumers experience content without compromise – anywhere, at any time.

“For the first time in a global flagship model, Samsung is switching to its own Exynos app processor. This offers the promise of delivering better overall margins for Samsung and, in time, differentiated performance from rivals, as Apple has achieved with their A series app processor designs. But it’s a high risk, high reward strategy,” said IDC in a note to KYM.

We knew Samsung’s new 64-bit 14nm Exynos chipset was going to be plenty powerful and deliver blistering, break-neck speeds. But now we have proof of the fact courtesy of a selection of graphs via AnTuTu, the popular benchmarking application. 

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“Samsung Galaxy s6/Edge, without doubt, would be the performance king of the past quarter,” noted the company on its official blog, “scoring over 60000, owe [sic] to the strong power of Exynos 7420. Exynos 7420 is manufactured on Samsung’s very own 14nm FinFET manufacturing process, giving it not only significant performance, but also power enhancements.”

Samsung Galaxy S6 AND Galaxy S6 EDGE Review Wireless Charging

One reason Samsung decided to ditch the removable battery in the Galaxy S6 and S6 EDGE is because the new battery features wireless charging. But rather than needing a specific wireless charging pad Samsung has opted to support both the WPC and PMA standards (including Qi). This means your Galaxy S6 and S6 EDGE can be charged from most of the wireless pads found in cafes and places like McDonalds.

Another thing Samsung did to improve the charging capabilities is engineering a 10-minute quick charge that juices up your Galaxy S6 and S6 EDGE to 4 hours of battery life in just 10 minutes.

Samsung Galaxy S6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 EDGE: Samsung Pay

Samsung Pay, like Apple Pay, is designed to tap into the now rapidly growing mobile payments market and, like Apple’s version, Samsung Pay runs via a fingerprint scanner embedded in the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 EDGE’s Home button. The service will go live in the US during the second half of the year and it works with both Near Field Communication (NFC) and Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST) technology to make it device, merchant and card issuer agnostic. 

“Samsung Pay will reinvent how people pay for goods and services and transform how they use their smartphones,” said JK Shin, CEO and Head of IT & Mobile Communications Division at Samsung Electronics. “The secure and simple payment process, coupled with our robust partner network, makes Samsung Pay a truly game-changing service that will bring value to consumers and our partners in the ecosystem.” 

“Mobile commerce just got a lot more interesting,” said Jim McCarthy, Executive Vice President, Visa Inc. “Combining Visa’s expertise in payment technology with Samsung’s leadership in creating innovative mobile experiences, gives more choice to financial institutions who want to enable their customers to pay by phone.”

“We are committed to making interactions easier in the financial lives of our customers”, said Brian Moynihan, CEO, Chairman and Director of Bank of America. “Samsung Pay is another significant move in that direction for our 17 million mobile customers.”

Samsung Galaxy S6 EDGE Review: Verdict

Design. Power. Performance. Imaging. Connectivity. Features –– the Galaxy S6 EDGE, like its EDGE-less brother, has them all to the max. No other handset we’ve tested this year feels quite so well realised as this pair from Samsung. 

The LG G4 was a fine setup and, to a certain extent certainly equal to the Galaxy S6 EDGE in some respects, but where the G4 loses some points for its rather clunky design, the Galaxy S6 EDGE rages on with its unique and HUGELY satisfying design, which not only sets it apart from every other phone on the market, but also brings with it a bunch of useful features that some people might really enjoy. 

If I had to choose between the two, I’d almost certainly go for the EDGE. I prefer the way it looks and when you’re talking about phones, when features and specs are the same, this is all that matters. 

EDGE all the way, for me! 

Fancy picking yourself up a bargain? Check out how much the Galaxy S6 EDGE is over at Amazon!

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