The Galaxy S6 edge+ is neat to look at, but doesn't quite present a complete experience like the Note 5.
The quick take
The Galaxy S6 edge+ is doing its best to break the idea of a smartphone being a flat black rectangle, and in that area succeeds. It's awesome to look at, and even novel to use at first, but the ergonomics just don't play out well for long-term use. The curved screen makes the phone tough to hold onto while offering minimal extra value, but is worth dealing with to have access to a great-looking display, high-end internals and a wonderful camera. Thing is, you don't have to make the compromise — you can just buy a Galaxy Note 5.
- Beautiful screen
- Fantastic camera
- Some edge screen improvements
- Curves make it tough to hold
- Edge screen software questionably useful
- Seriously expensive
Same phone, bigger size
Galaxy S6 edge+ Full review
All accounts seem to indicate that Samsung rather surprisingly stumbled upon a hit when it made the Galaxy S6 edge. When announced alongside the standard Galaxy S6 Samsung was expecting the flat version to be the big winner — and while its sales have surely been good, supply shortages of the GS6 edge indicate that model instead was selling beyond expectations. Not only was it surprising on its own, but more so because of the relative failure of the original Galaxy Note Edge.
So why not try and double up on that success with the launch of a larger version by the same name? Well, we got the Galaxy S6 edge+ right alongside the launch of the Galaxy Note 5. With a 5.7-inch display the GS6 edge+ scales up to a Note size, but you trade in a stylus to get the curved screen.
The Galaxy S6 edge+ definitely has the ability to turn heads, just like its smaller sibling, and with internal specs that are a carbon copy of the Note 5 you aren't giving up brawn to get beauty. The only question is how the edge screen hurts your ability to use the phone when you're done looking at those great curves. We're going to answer that question with our complete Galaxy S6 edge+ review.
About this review
I (Andrew Martonik) am writing this review after two weeks using the Galaxy S6 edge+, following a full period (and review) using the Galaxy Note 5, which shares its architecture. Just like the Note 5, this is an international version of the Galaxy S6 edge+, running on T-Mobile in the greater Seattle, WA area.
The phone received a small software update when it was first turned on to software version G928FXXU1AOGJ, and wasn't updated again during the evaluation period.
Galaxy S6 edge+ and Galaxy Note 5 Similarities
Being that the Note 5 and S6 edge+ were announced together, it isn't surprising that they share internal components, designs and features. Because I completely reviewed the full experience using the Galaxy Note 5 already, I'm going to simply highlight the differences between the phones in this review rather than repeat myself covering the exact same points.
I strongly suggest first reading my full Galaxy Note 5 review, then clicking back over to this review to see where the Galaxy S6 edge+ differs. Of particular importance is how software performance, battery life, audio quality, data speeds and camera quality are all identical between the Note 5 and S6 edge+ — and that's a good thing, because as you'll see in my review the Note 5 is doing a lot right.
New curves, much like the old curves
Galaxy S6 edge+ Hardware
The curved screen is a design spectacle, pure and simple.
The design spectacle on show with the Galaxy S6 edge+ is far less interesting if you've already been exposed to the original S6 edge in the past six months, but if you haven't it's certainly something to get your eyes and hands on. The way the screen and glass curve off to the edges of the phone plays a bit of a trick on your mind at first, and watching the software on the screen smoothly shift around the left and right edges as you use it is pretty neat. The panel itself is still amazingly crisp, clear, bright and vibrant as you'll find in any recent Samsung phone, and it's quite a marvel that the curves don't hamper the other standard aspects of the screen.
Of course those curves introduce usability issues, as was the case on the original model — and when you scale up that design to 5.7-inches things get both better and worse. The curved screen requires that there be less metal on the sides of the phone when compared to the Note 5, but on the S6 edge+ the increase in overall scale means there's just a bit more to hold there than the smaller version of the phone. That gives you a little more to grip onto, which is great, but that small bump in usability is quickly eroded by trying to manage the sheer size of the phone, particularly when you only have one hand available.
The curves aren't the friendliest for your hands, but they sure look nice.
While the curves on the backside of the Note 5 offer improved ergonomics, the curved glass on the front of the GS6 edge+ does the opposite. I found myself regularly grasping the phone harder because it so easily slipped around in my hand, particularly when trying to reach up to the notification bar or select items across the screen from whatever edge I was holding the phone in. I was able to manage the size of the Note 5 and that phone actually felt more like a "normal" sized phone than any previous Note, but when you add together the screen size and shape of the GS6 edge+, it just doesn't work as well.
If you find the curves particularly appealing and are willing to deal with some of the ergonomic issues to get a nice-looking device, you won't be disappointed with the complete package. Just as is the case on the Note 5 the metal and glass construction of the Galaxy S6 edge+ is simply superb, and really the fact that it's a bit of a fingerprint magnet is the only downside. The buttons and ports are in the right places, and the fingerprint scanner in the home button is worth having a physical key and capacitive navigation buttons alongside it.
A few new bits of software
Galaxy S6 edge+ Edge screen software
The only software area where the Galaxy S6 edge+ differs from the Note 5 is the few bits that let you take advantage of the curved edges of the screen. It's simply called the "edge screen," and the whole of its functionality comes down to three areas — a slide-in edge that's accessible at any time to give you favorite contacts and apps, a desk clock and information ticker available on the edge when the screen is off, and small notification flourishes for when the phone is face-down on a surface.
A few neat features highlight use of the edges, but don't end up being used on a regular basis.
The biggest and most functional of the three features are the main "people edge" and "apps edge," which as I said are accessible at any time within any app by swiping in on a predetermined area of the screen. The people edge gives you access to up to five of your favorite contacts, with quick shortcuts to call, message or email them, while the apps edge simply lets you pin five favorite apps to the edge and launch them quickly. You can now select where along the edge you can swipe in on as well, which is a big plus for a larger phone that isn't very easy to reach to the top of with one hand. I could never get into the habit of using the people edge to start conversations, but the apps edge is definitely a quicker way to switch to frequently-used apps, saving you the time of jumping back to your home screen and finding them there.
Though I found a good bit of utility with the apps edge, I just couldn't ever find a use for the other edge screen features. The "information stream," which is triggered with a back-and-forth swipe on the edge while the phone's screen is off, brings up a list of customizable widgets and info. You can get news, Twitter updates, notifications, the weather and more, but I found myself accidentally activating it when i pulled the phone out of my pocket more often than I triggered it on purpose. Thankfully you can turn the feature off if you find yourself doing the same.
The same goes for the "edge lighting," which will light up the edges of the phone when a call, message or email arrives and the phone is face-down on a surface. It'll even light up with the color associated with your favorite contacts (defined by the people edge settings) if they're trying to contact you, but again it has limited usefulness since it's tied to the stock dialer, email and messaging apps — of which I only use the stock dialer. There is a neat feature that lets you reject an incoming call and reply with a canned text message by pressing your finger on the heart rate monitor, but honestly a much more useful feature would be simply 100 percent silencing my phone when it's face down.
Perhaps the biggest issue is how the curved screen causes issues when interacting with the rest of the interface.
Despite the improvements to the software on the edge screen when compared to the original GS6 edge, there are still two big hurdles I just can't get over when I use the Galaxy S6 edge+. Perhaps the biggest issue is that none of the special software tweaks on offer for the edge screen interaction actually require the screen to be curved. Every piece of software (beside the edge lighting, though I've addressed its questionable usefulness) could run the exact same on a small portion of a flat screen with no issues, and in many cases could offer more functionality if it took up a larger portion of a flat screen.
Perhaps more annoyingly, the curved edges of the screen also impact how well you can interact with standard parts of the software that aren't written specifically for the edge. Android relies heavily on swiping gestures from the edges of the screen, and they're tougher to do on the curved edges considering how far you have to reach to get the actual bezel of the phone. At the same time it's a bit easier to accidentally touch the screen with your palm because you're reaching further across the phone with the increased screen size.
Aside from the edge screen portions, I actually have very few qualms about Samsung's latest iteration of software as a whole. Aside from dropping the stock launcher and keyboard (which I'm bound to do on almost every phone) I know my way around the interface, it's pretty easy to understand and software performance is solid. I just feel like the edge screen portions need a bit more polish and real utility, because right now they feel like they're there just to provide a tech demo for the curved edges.
Galaxy S6 edge+ Bottom line
Just like the Galaxy Note 5, the Galaxy S6 edge+ is a pretty complete package offering most of what you'd want in a high-end phone today. There's a striking design on offer (in a variety of great colors), and it's backed up by high-end internals, a big and bright screen, an amazing camera and improved software compared to previous Samsung phones.
Should you buy the Galaxy S6 edge+? Consider a Note 5
Even with all of its great features, the biggest thing hurting the Galaxy S6 edge+ is the fact that the Note 5 was released right alongside it. While the Galaxy S6 edge+ is a nice phone on its own and has plenty of appeal, it's hard to say it's a better choice than the Note 5. With the Note 5 you get all of the same internal specs, design flourishes and big features — and the ergonomics are dramatically better than what you deal with on the GS6 edge+.
Add in the fact that the Note 5 is actually less expensive at retail, and you're going to really want to have a curved phone to show off in order to pick the Galaxy S6 edge+.