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Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge review

The quick take

The Galaxy S6 finally offers the hardware that we've long desired, and it's included a wonderful camera. But not everything is perfect — the software experience and battery life just aren't up to speed.

The Good

  • Beautiful new hardware design
  • Industry-leading camera quality
  • A great screen in any situation

The Bad

  • Battery won't hold up to intense use
  • Software still doesn't live up to expectations
  • Inexplicable performance hiccups
CategorySpec
Display5.1-inch QHD Super AMOLED 2560x1440 resolution (577ppi)
ProcessorOcta-core Samsung Exynos processor
4x2.1GHz cores + 4x1.5GHz cores
RAM3GB RAM
Internal Storage32/64/128GB
Rear Camera16MP, ƒ/1.9 lens
Auto real-time HDR, IR detect white balance, high clear zoom
Front Camera5MP ƒ/1.9 front-facing camera
Battery2550mAh battery
ChargingSamsung Adaptive fast charging, Qi wireless charging, Powermat wireless charging
DimensionsGalaxy S6: 5.65 x 2.76 x 0.27 inches
Galaxy S6 Edge: 5.59 x 2.76 x 0.28 inches

The best that Samsung's ever done.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Full Review

When a company is the leader in a given market, it's easy to become complacent, or at least appear so. When sales numbers are several times the second-place player in the market and revenues are off the charts, it's easy to maintain the status quo.

Watching the progression of Samsung's mobile device lineup the past couple of years, you got the feeling that the Korean manufacturer of everything from toaster ovens to Howitzers was content to maintain its course. Last year Samsung's complacency caught up with it, and while the Galaxy S5 was far from a flop — any company would be happy to sell half as many phones as Samsung did — it didn't exactly live up to the company's lofty expectations (or ours, frankly), all while competition in the high-end space continued to grow.

It became clear with the launch of the Galaxy Note 4 that Samsung was attempting to turn around its smartphone strategy — and that's a big ship to turn. The Galaxy S6 gets it one step closer to a complete rethinking of its device strategy, with a new hardware approach, top-notch camera experience and steps in the right direction on the software front. But as we all know, the competition hasn't been sitting still — do the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge have what it takes to keep Samsung in the lead?

We'll answer that question in our complete review. Read on.

About this review

We're writing this review after about a week using the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, both 32GB models and running on T-Mobile in areas with good network coverage. Three days into our evaluation the phones received an software update to version UVU1AOCG. For the majority of our review period we had a Moto 360 connected to the phones over Bluetooth.

Throughout this review you'll notice we refer to the Galaxy S6 as a single device. Everything we say here can be attributed to both the S6 and S6 edge, aside from particular points where differences between the two models are pointed out.

For a good primer on these two phones, we also encourage you to read our in-depth hands-on preview where we cover many aspects of the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge in detail.

Say goodbye to plastic — and a couple creature comforts

Samsung Galaxy S6 Hardware

Say goodbye to cheap, flimsy plastic Samsung phones — the Galaxy S6 is here. It's no secret that the Galaxy S5 — and many earlier models — felt like a child's toy, despite costing north of $600 unlocked. Samsung has finally addressed these build quality criticisms in its 2015 flagship, and the result is something special — metal, glass, appealing colors and tight tolerances add up to a very impressive piece of technology.

Metal, glass, appealing colors and tight tolerances add up to a very impressive piece of technology.

Of course the S6 still has the general shape of most other Samsung phones — rounded corners, home button below the screen, Samsung logo below a speaker grille up top. But the shape was never the problem, it was all about the build quality and materials — and both have dramatically improved here.

While we've all seen plenty of glass-backed phones before, that doesn't make this kind of design any less impressive when it's properly executed. Samsung has used a familiar "2.5D" technique for both the front and back glass so it flows elegantly into the metal frame. Importantly, the same super-tough Gorilla Glass 4 is used on both sides, while some other manufacturers may cheap out on the back panel.

The metal frame is also masterfully done, as it flows straight through the middle of the phone in one piece, providing extra strength. Rather than opting for perfectly round and slippery edge — like another well-known metal smartphone — flattened portions along the sides give a little extra grip. That's important, because this phone is a tad slick — the "glass and metal sandwich" design certainly looks nice, but it comes at a cost in terms of both ergonomics and durability.

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Samsung Galaxy S6 front

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Samsung Galaxy S6 top

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Samsung Galaxy S6 back

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Samsung Galaxy S6 back

Human hands are not flat. They're flexible and made up of rounded fingers of varying sizes. That's not some huge revelation, but it's something to consider when you look at a phone that is perfectly flat on the back. A flat phone with barely-rounded edges just isn't the best shape to nestle into your hand comfortably, as anyone who's used a Nexus 4 or Xperia Z3 will quickly tell you. The Galaxy S6 hasn't cracked this particular problem — it's fairly large, flat and slick. And that means the phone just isn't as grippy or easy to hold onto as the mostly-flat but plastic Galaxy S5, or a curved metal phone like the HTC One M9 (to say nothing of the latter's anti-slip coating), or the Moto X with its curved, leather (or wood or plastic)-covered back.

I can't really say the Galaxy S6 is "comfortable" to use; instead it feels a cold piece of technology in the hand. There's nothing comforting or natural about trying to hold onto something flat and angular and just a little bit slippery — that's something you may or may not get used to with time. If you opt for the "edge" model you'll have thinner sides to hold onto. That actually helps a bit, but it doesn't change the fact that the entirety of the back of the phone is flat.

Of course if your brand new Galaxy S6 happens to jettison itself onto a hard surface, it now has twice the available glass to be broken as well. And no matter how tough Gorilla Glass 4 is, it's sure to crack given enough force — or sufficient bad luck.

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Samsung Galaxy S6 back

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Samsung Galaxy S6 back

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Samsung Galaxy S6 side

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Samsung Galaxy S6 volume buttons

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Samsung Galaxy S6

Thankfully, the protruding camera bump on the back (which isn't a big deal, or a deal of any size, really) keeps the phone from sliding off of flat surfaces like a hockey puck on a freshly Zamboni'd ice rink — something other glass-backed phones have to deal with. But there's still plenty of glass to help it slide off of many popular Qi chargers — even Samsung's own charger doesn't hold the GS6 securely for long periods of time unless you place it just right.

Ergonomic quibbles aside, it's really hard to complain about any area of the Galaxy S6's hardware or design.

One of the most subtle changes to the design compared to previous Samsung devices is the slightly taller home button, which now houses a one-touch fingerprint sensor. No longer do you have to shift the phone awkwardly in your hand to swipe a digit across the home key. Like Apple's TouchID, just press the button to turn the screen on and leave it there a second more to unlock the device. While the software experience is still limited to phone unlocking and logging into a handful of apps and websites, it's a feature I left turned on — something I can't say about the previous swipe model.

Even with the ergonomic downside of a flat and angular phone, I find it hard to complain about any area of the Galaxy S6's hardware. It's refreshingly easy (though not entirely comfortable) to hold in the hand thanks to Samsung keeping the same 5.1-inch screen size and shaving down the bezels, uses premium materials all-round and is very well manufactured. While the Note 4 was a big step forward in hardware for Samsung, it feels like the Galaxy S6 is the final realization of that design.

A huge list of boxes to be checked

Samsung Galaxy S6 Specs

The Galaxy S6 ticks just about every box when it comes to high-end internal hardware in a 2015 smartphone. While much has be made of Samsung using its own processor rather than a Qualcomm chip, that's not something most users will (or should) care about. That high-end Exynos CPU is backed up with 3GB of very fast RAM and 32 to 128GB of storage. A brilliant 5.1-inch QHD AMOLED display is on the front as well, offering all of the features that made the Note 4's screen great — as I'll discuss in more detail later, it's every bit as bright and vivid.

The lone shortcoming here is the 2550mAh battery (or 2600 on the S6 edge), which definitely is on the small side for a flagship phone. It's about 10 percent larger than the cell on a similarly-sized Moto X (a phone not known for great battery life) and 13 percent smaller than an HTC One M9. Of course Samsung is doing its best to make up for that size by including its Adaptive Fast Charging, which works with Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0-compatible chargers, as well as both leading wireless charging standards — Qi and Powermat.

CategorySpecification
Operating SystemAndroid 5.0.2 Lollipop with TouchWiz
DisplayS6: 5.1-inch QHD (2560x1440) 577ppi Super AMOLED
S6 edge: 5.1-inch QHD (2560x1440) 577ppi Super AMOLED with dual curved edges
ProcessorOcta-core 4x2.1GHz + 4x1.5GHz 64-bit 14nm Samsung Exynos processor
Storage32GB, 64GB, 128GB (non-expandable)
RAM3GB LPDDR4
Rear Camera16MP, OIS, ƒ/1.9, auto real-time HDR, low-light video, high clear zoom, IR detect white balance, virtual shot, slow motion, fast motion, pro mode, selective focus
Front Camera5MP, ƒ/1.9, auto real-time HDR, low-light video
NetworkLTE Category 6 (300/50Mbps)
Connectivity802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), HT80 MIMO(2x2), 620Mbps, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, Mobile hotspot
Bluetooth 4.1 LE, A2DP, atp-X, ANT+
GPS, GLONASS, NFC, IR remote, USB 2.0
SensorsAccelerometer, ambient light, barometer, compass, fingerprint, gyroscope, hall, heart rate monitor, HRM, proximity
ChargingUSB 2.0, Powermat wireless (PMA 1.0, 4.2W output), Qi wireless (WPC 1.1, 4.6W output)
BatteryS6: 2550mAh (non-removable)
S6 edge: 2600mAh (non-removable)
DimensionsS6: 143.4mm x 70.5mm x 6.8mm / 5.65-inches x 2.78-inches x 0.27-inches
S6 Edge: 142.1mm x 70.1mm x 7.0mm / 5.59-inches x 2.76-inches x 0.28-inches
WeightS6:: 138g / 4.87oz
S6 edge: 132g / 4.66oz
VideoFormats: MP4, M4V, 3GP, 3G2, WMV, ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, WEBM, VP9
AudioCodecs: MP3, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, Vorbis, FLAC, OPUS
Formats: MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, MIDI, XMF, MXMF, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA
Samsung software featuresDownload Booster, OneDrive (115GB free storage for 2 years), OneNote, Private Mode, Quick Connect, S Health 4.0, S Finder, S Voice, Samsung Pay, Smart Manager, Sound Alive+, Themes
Samsung securityOne-touch fingerprint scanner, KNOX management software
Google Mobile ServicesChrome, Drive, Gmail, Google Settings, Google+, Hangouts, Maps, Photos, Play Books, Play Games, Play Movies and TV, Play Newsstand, Play Store, Voice Search, YouTube
ColorsS6: white, black, gold, blue
S6 edge: white, black, gold, dark green

Samsung still tops the market in displays; the same can't be said for the speaker

Samsung Galaxy S6 Display and Speakers

At this point I'm still waiting for any manufacturer to catch up with Samsung in smartphone display quality. I couldn't find a single flaw with the 5.7-inch QHD panel on the Note 4, and my feelings carry over point-for-point now that a very similar screen has landed on the GS6, albeit in a smaller physical size.

It goes without saying that pixel density isn't a problem here at 577 pixels packed in every square inch. But the fact that the display still excels in all other areas, even at that insane resolution, is seriously impressive. Viewing angles are great, while colors and extremely vibrant without blowing out whites. Being an AMOLED panel of course blacks are nice and inky, adding to the super-high contrast experience.

Brightness is also very impressive, and the automatic brightness control was perfectly suited for my use 99 percent of the time. And of course when outside, the GS6 can kick on a direct sunlight mode to hit 600 nits of brightness — at the expense of a little contrast — so you can clearly see the screen. The only downside to point out here is that the polarization on the screen isn't completely compatible with all sunglasses. That's not a huge ding — and it's not out of the ordinary for any smartphone, really. It's just something to know going in.

The Galaxy S6's speaker is as bad as its display is great.

Unfortunately for the audiophiles among us, the speaker is as bad as the display is great. Ten small holes drilled into the bottom of the phone provide the small speaker with little room to breathe. And while Samsung is correct in stating that it's much louder than the Galaxy S5, that doesn't mean the quality has made the same jump forward.

Playing music at about 70 percent volume invoked the response of "it sounds like it's under a blanket" from my girlfriend, and I have to agree. Turning up to anything above 50 percent volume the speaker starts to blow out and get considerably tinny, which isn't ideal if you're listening to music. Thankfully at least the speaker is on the bottom, which means it isn't easily muffled when the phone is on a table. You will, however, need to mind where your fingers are. If you cover the speaker even just a little, you'll immediately know it.

Of course I couldn't expect much out of such a small speaker, but seeing what Motorola and HTC have done with front-facing speakers in relatively small packages, I have to say this is an area where Samsung is lagging behind. Expect this speaker to be good for ringtones and podcasts, but never more than a short YouTube video or single song.

A lot of good, weighed down by a long history of bad

Samsung Galaxy S6 Software and Performance

At its global launch event for the Galaxy S6, Samsung executives stood on stage in Barcelona and told a story about how they realized that their software wasn't up to speed and how the Galaxy S6 was headed on a new path. Huge slides of side-by-side screenshots with new and old software showed a big visual change, and the claim of 40 percent fewer features was an appealing one.

Then you get the Galaxy S6 in your hand, and you realize that even with all of that being true, things are still very familiar if you've used a Samsung phone in the past couple of years. Particularly if you have a Galaxy S5 or Note 4 that's been updated to the latest Lollipop software, what you find on the Galaxy S6 won't seem like a radical departure.

For all the changes and improvements, a lot of the new TouchWiz still feels familiar.

In terms of aesthetics, Samsung has toned back the colors a bit, gotten rid of a few more drop shadows and further streamlined to remove useless animations. But you're still faced with lots of unnecessary ... stuff ... everywhere, including bright colors, weird shadows and both under- and over-designed interface elements.

Apps that have received the most attention, like Messages and S Health, look really good, but they don't fit in well with some of the other portions of the interface that haven't yet been updated — like many icons, widgets and older apps. Thankfully the "sounds of nature" are for the most part gone, but many old vestiges of yesteryear's TouchWiz still linger here.

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Samsung Galaxy S6 software

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Samsung Galaxy S6 software

If you're coming from an earlier Samsung phone to the Galaxy S6 then that familiarity may be beneficial — and sure, Samsung can only move so fast while keeping its current user base happy. But the interface still feels like it's lacking a bit of sophistication and cohesiveness. Personally, I would rather see Samsung chase after the more modern interfaces that HTC and Motorola have on their phones in an effort to attract new customers, but doesn't look like the goal here.

And of course that point could be completely moot if Samsung decides to leverage its built-in theme engine to let users choose the design of their software. Currently the theme engine on the Galaxy S6 is limited to about a dozen Samsung-approved themes that are generally awful, but simply opening up the store to third-party submissions would be a real game-changer — Samsung would get its default look, and restless users could pick something new altogether.

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Samsung Galaxy S6 quick toggles

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Samsung Galaxy S6 disabled apps

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Samsung Galaxy S6 search

Beyond just the interface design, I can thankfully say the sheer number of features on the Galaxy S6 has been reduced significantly, and many of the features that remain are turned off by default or unable to be tweaked past their default state. That keeps new users from being overwhelmed by a flood of bells, whistles and toggles when they first start up the phone, and removes plenty of cruft that nobody wanted anyway. One major addition is Pop-up (windowed) apps capability brought over from the Note 4, but beyond that the feature set is pleasantly simplified.

So how does the slimmed-down interface translate into performance? Well, it's a bit of a mixed bag.

So how does the slimmed-down interface translate into performance? Well, it's a bit of a mixed bag. Samsung seems to have addressed long-standing issues with performance around the interface, including speeding up the multitasking view and dramatically reducing the time it takes to launch and switch apps. Animations are also smooth for transitions and hopping between different parts of the interface, and the processor seems more than capable of handling multitasking, 3D games and high-resolution media playback. Unfortunately the speed isn't ubiquitous on the Galaxy S6 — there are some slowdowns still.

Samsung's new processor is designed to intelligently hand tasks between four high-powered and four lower-powered cores for the right balance of performance and efficiency. For the most part that seems to work just fine, but I still found the phone to inexplicably slow down on occasion with mundane tasks like typing a message or scrolling through my Twitter app. That's frustrating, but it's even more frustrating when the experience is usually fast and smooth throughout the phone.

I couldn't narrow down any root cause to the slowdowns, even through factory resets and troubleshooting — but I do have to say these are things that just shouldn't be happening at this point on a flagship phone that'll cost you $650 to $1,100 outright. Samsung may have smoothed out its interface and trimmed back on years of feature creep, but after spending time with the GS6 I can tell there's still some work to do.

But to say that the small performance hiccups make the Galaxy S6 much less desirable would be an overstatement. The improvements in Samsung's software interface and experience on the GS6 far outweigh the small shortcomings in performance, and this isn't the only Android phone out there today that stutters from time to time.

A battery meant for average days, with quick charging for the not-so-average ones

Samsung Galaxy S6 Battery life

Unfortunately for those of us who like thin-and-light phones that also last a long time, battery technology hasn't quite caught up with the power requirements of high-end smartphones. Creating a powerful device that can handle all the hard work you throw at it while also staying alive the entire day is a tough nut to crack, and it's an equation that's often solved by scaling back processor performance, toning down screen demands or simply throwing a huge cell into the phone.

With a 2550mAh battery in the Galaxy S6 Samsung certainly isn't brute-forcing it with a huge cell, and with some high-end internals and a brilliant screen it definitely isn't easing up on hardware. Samsung's solution to battery life is to make the phone easy to charge, while also including a couple software tweaks that can help you make the most out of that limited battery when you're away from precious power outlets.

Of course most of us are away from outlets, wireless charging pads and USB cables for a large portion of the day, and that's why actual battery longevity is important. I can say that the Galaxy S6 is far from a battery champion — a title often tagged on the Note 4 — but it will be serviceable for most people with average smartphone habits.

Grabbing the phone off of its charger at 8 a.m. and having it dead as a doornail at 10 p.m. — and that's on an easy day.

In my typical daily use, which includes hefty amounts of time on Wifi, lots of notifications coming in from multiple email accounts, updates from social networks, some podcast and music listening, all with automatic screen brightness turned on, I could get about 14 hours out of a charge.

So for me that's grabbing the phone off of its charger at 8 a.m. and having it dead as a doornail at 10 p.m. — enough for an average day, but of course not every day is average. If I needed to flip on a hotspot when out of the house or spend a little time watching some YouTube videos, I could easily drain the battery in 11 hours instead. That has my phone dying at 7 p.m., and that's not good.

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Samsung Galaxy S6 Qi charging

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Samsung Galaxy S6 quick charging

There are a few tools at your disposal for keeping the battery topped up throughout the day. Of course Samsung's built-in Adaptive Fast Charging — compatible with Quick Charge 2.0 chargers — will help, adding power at the rate of about one and a half percent per minute.

The other is either Qi or Powermat wireless charging, which is dramatically more convenient if you've invested in the up-front cost of some charging pads, but it isn't really an option when you're out of the house.

If you don't have a charger of any kind available, a quick toggle to Power Saving Mode will boost battery life about 10 percent by turning down your screen brightness, turning off vibration and scaling back processor performance. The "nuclear option" of Ultra Power Saving Mode is also available, which turns off everything but the absolute basics of the phone, including going to a greyscale display and disabling your mobile networks when not in use.

While most self-described "power users" will say that charging throughout the day is not an acceptable way to use your phone, the same isn't necessarily true of most smartphone owners. I'd say my usage is a bit heavier than the average person, and most days I could easily go to bed with battery left to spare. The other days I'd toss it on the wireless charger on my desk here and there, or if I need to know the phone is juiced up for a full night I'd plug it in for 30 minutes.

Should you have to do that on a regular basis? Probably not. Is it a big enough deal to keep you from using this otherwise good phone? That'll be up to you — everyone has a different tolerance for the annoyance caused by regular charging, and we all have different battery needs to begin with.

Your mileage may vary.

The very best all-round Android camera

Samsung Galaxy S6 Cameras

On the whole, last year's Galaxy S5 did not have a good camera. In order to make daytime photos look exceptional, Samsung threw out any hope of decent low-light photography on that device. Things got back on track with the Note 4 — a new sensor, optical image stabilization and some software processing that made that phone one of the leading mobile cameras of that year.

And in the Galaxy S6, we're looking at the same camera sensor as the Note 4 nestled behind an even faster f/1.9 lens with an overall improved camera interface — a seemingly perfect combination. The results are befitting of the hype — this is a really great camera experience.

The results are befitting of the hype — this is a really great camera experience.

The 16MP camera shoots pictures in 16:9 natively but can easily be turned "down" to a 12MP 4:3 crop (which I've done here) with no loss in quality. It can also handle video up to UHD (4K) resolution at 30 frames per second or 1080p with 60 fps, or you can go for slow-motion capture options.

For photos, the standard "Auto" mode handles everything for you nicely, including choosing HDR if the scene requires it. For more advanced users, a new "Pro" mode lets you take control with manual exposure, ISO, white balance, focal length and metering options, giving you every tweak you'd want aside from shutter speed. You can even create and save up to three custom shooting modes with the manual settings you choose.

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Samsung Galaxy S6 camera hump

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Samsung Galaxy S6 camera app

Samsung's camera interface is a lot easier to look at and use than previous iterations

The camera interface is a lot easier to look at and use than previous iterations, and very fast as well. Deeper settings for all of the modes are found in a single camera settings screen rather than in multi-layer menus in the viewfinder, and all of the most-used toggles are surfaced in appropriate locations.

While I like the bevy of options in the Pro mode, I actually shot most of my pictures in auto and got some really great photos. In good lighting the Galaxy S6 takes exceptional photos — they're crisp without being over-processed, natural with just the right amount of punch in colors, and usually close to reality with white balancing.

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Samsung Galaxy S6 photo sample

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When the lights dim down, the GS6 takes advantage of its f/1.9 lens and OIS to let in more light than any other smartphone camera out there, which means lower ISOs being used and less software processing needed to smooth out shots. In particularly tough situations, like indoors at night with low amounts of light available, the GS6 can take a crisp picture quickly without any blur or long shutter speeds, which is really important for a smartphone camera. When outdoors in the evening, pictures showed a little bit of grain — as you would expect with such a small sensor. But low-light photos looked really good when viewed up-close on anything below a 25-inch screen.

I got all this way through loving the camera without even mentioning an extremely important part of the experience: the new action for launching the camera with a double press of the home button. In any app, at any time, even when the phone is locked, you can double press the home button to launch directly into the camera and start taking photos. Samsung quotes launch times of about 0.7 seconds, and I found average launch times in the one second range personally — which is not only acceptable, it's much faster than any other phone out there today.

Samsung's camera experience offers the complete package, and one that I can't really find a flaw with. The Galaxy S6 can take brilliant pictures in most lighting conditions, and does so quickly and reliably. The ceiling of the photos it can take when you spend some time with it is astronomical, and the minimum photo quality you get from random snapshots is surprisingly high as well.

Get curvy

About the S6 edge

While the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge are almost identical, it's worth pointing out the additional hardware and software that sets S6 edge apart.

With its display sharply curved along the long edges of the phone, there's no mistaking a Galaxy S6 edge for its flatter sibling. But unlike the Galaxy Note Edge, this is the same screen size and resolution as the regular S6, simply curved on both sides. That means the phone is actually a tad narrower, even though the materials are the same.

There's a dramatic reduction in the amount of metal around the sides, and as a result is a device that's ultimately more awkward to hold.

Samsung managed to keep the power and volume buttons put on the sides, which is no small feat, but there's a dramatic reduction in the amount of metal available to wrap your hands around. The end result is a device that's ultimately more awkward to hold, and it just doesn't feel natural in your hand — even compared to the already angular Galaxy S6.

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Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge

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Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge

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Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge

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Samsung Galaxy S6 edge settings

Samsung showed restraint in the software on this latest curved display, paring things back to just a few neat extras on the S6 edge.

When on the home screen, you can swipe in from the top-right (or top-left, if you choose) edge to reveal a "People edge" experience. You can define up to five favorite contacts, each coordinating to a color, who show up after you swipe with quick options to call, SMS or email those people. You can define which app to use for the actions — like Hangouts for SMS or Gmail for email — which is nice, but you can't choose to add third-party apps like WhatsApp or Skype, for example.

Once you've defined your favorite contacts you'll also receive notifications on the edge when you have a missed call, SMS or email from that person, so long as you use the stock SMS and Email apps. Notifications show up when you swipe in lower on the edge — again, left or right side. When your phone is locked and upside down on the table (which also mutes the phone, if you choose) the edge will light up in the color of your favorite contact when they call you as well. Thankfully, these edge swipe gestures actually work no matter what launcher you choose, so you won't be tied down to Samsung's if you prefer something else.

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Samsung Galaxy S6 edge software

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Samsung Galaxy S6 edge software

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Samsung Galaxy S6 edge software

The final bit of edge-only software actually works when the screen is off, and harkens back to the Note Edge. When turned on, the "Information stream" lets you swipe between information panels on the edge to get quick updates on notifications, weather, news and tweets without turning on the full screen. It's no more useful than it was on the Note Edge, but it's definitely a cool way to show off the curved screen. Slightly more useful is the night clock mode, which will softly illuminate the edge with date, time and alarm information for up to 12 hours at a time, even when the phone isn't charging.

Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 edge: The Bottom Line

With the Galaxy S6, Samsung is for the first time in years making smartphone hardware that is on par with — or better than — what the rest of the industry is putting out. With a finely-crafted metal and glass body, the GS6 certainly looks worthy of the price tag Samsung has put on it, and that's before you get to the high-end internals and industry-leading display.

As much as Samsung nailed the hardware this year, it still feels like TouchWiz is a huge, rudderless ship.

Of course that new design means you can no longer remove the battery or expand the storage — two pain points that may turn away at least a few potential buyers. But with new fast and convenient charging options and 128GB storage capacity available, the losses aren't as large — or applicable to as many people — as they might seem.

As much as Samsung nailed the hardware this year, it still feels like TouchWiz is a huge, rudderless ship. Even with dramatic toning down of the interface, removal of superfluous features and Material-esque app redesigns, software on the GS6 still doesn't feel complete or modern. That's conveyed in the way the software looks and how it performs. And now that the hardware is up to speed it makes the software look even more lackluster by comparison.

Having both a standard Galaxy S6 and a head-turning S6 edge available at the same time with the same features is a neat idea (and gets Samsung additional floor space in stores), but most people should be defaulting to the flat version. While the S6 edge offers a few novel software experiences, it comes at the cost of usability for normal smartphone actions, to say nothing of the price premium put on the model.

Even with small shortcomings in software and battery life, the Galaxy S6 is still one hell of a smartphone. It checks most or all of the boxes for those who want a high-end phone today, and then checks a few more boxes they didn't think they had. Great hardware, a fantastic camera and improved software still add up to an awesome phone.

It's safe to say Samsung has outdone itself this year. And it's hard to argue it hasn't outdone its competition as well.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

448 Comments
  • Waiting for the note 5. Love the new design and hopefully they push it onto the note 5. Posted via the Android Central App
  • As a Note 4 owner, I emphatically say NO! Instead keep the Note 4's metal edges with a more premium soft touch rubbery back while keeping the user-replaceable battery and SD card! I don't want form over function! Keep the Note series about functionality, in particular for us hardcore power users! :)
  • I have a feeling the battery for the Note 5 will be non-removable but with the larger device real estate they may have room for a microSD slot...
  • Maybe, but I just have a feeling that's the direction they're going...
  • You're right, that is the way they are going. I feel like companies do this because phones with removable batteries are used longer, thus people aren't buying new ones as often.
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 is definitely good. However there are some phone that can compete with it. /Teddy from http://www.consumerrunner.com/top-10-best-phones/
  • Disagree, SD card for me, for flashing and Nandroid backups. Battery's can be charge pretty quickly nowadays. And the note is capable of lasting the day,l. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I don't know if you really need swappable battery for note 4. I have no idea what the heck someone may be doing that they need another battery for it. I abuse my phone and I still have 30% left at the end of the day. I have absolutely no need for replaceable batttery. I would rather take a little nicer form factor over swappable batter. I have never run out of battery on the note 4.
  • You don't need a swappable battery, that doesn't mean no one does. As someone above said, I prefer function over form. I don't want options taken away so the phone "looks nicer".
  • The s6 loses 30% in 8 hours of standby over night. So i need atleast 2 swaps of battery on s6 if i want to last it 24 hours. Its insane. The battery sucks balls on the s6
  • My phone is on a case. Form factor is not number 1 to me. Removable battery and sd card or a big thumbs up for me. My next phone will be a Note 4 when the not 5 comes out. I'm always a generation behind because I always but and cell my phones on craigslist. Posted via Android Central App from Samsung Note 3 or Surface Pro 3
  • I have a Note 4 and it never lasts me through the day. I do use it quote a bit though. The Note Screen and spen functions ask for it to be used a lot. I usually need about 150% of what the phone gives me so I charge it throughout the day. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I barely use my note 4 somedaus and the battery is dead. Maybe I just need a new battery Posted via the Android Central App
  • "According to a Samsung spokesperson in touch with the company's support team, the Galaxy S6 battery has a one-year warranty. If its maximum capacity drops below 80 percent of its initial level during that year, your replacement is free (although you still have to pay for shipping.) At any other time, the replacement costs $45, plus shipping... That's less than the $79 Apple charges." I'm all for it with one condition. Non-removable potentially gives more space for a bigger battery. Grow thicker, not thinner. Give us thicker battery too making it even bigger capacity for us power users. Nobody wants thinner and thinner phones.
  • I have a note 4 as well and I really do like the design but i guess I should have emphasized making the build more premium without losing what makes a Samsung phone, a Samsung phone: removable battery and SD card. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I can live without the SD card and would gladly pay for 128 gbs. Of UFS 2.0. But instill completely agree with you and would certainly like to still have expandable storage !! I really hope they don't ditch the removable battery though. It's so useful to be able to swap out whenever you want. Bit here's an early prediction, the S6 is gonna be so successful that the note 5 will be very similar. That includes the glass back Posted via the Note 4 or Tab S 10.5
  • I've been reading comments for a while and you've been flip-flopping on your opinions trying to play both sides of the fence Posted via the Android Central App
  • Oh really? Okay. Care to elaborate? Because it sounds to me like your opinion is distorted. Posted via the Note 4 or Tab S 10.5
  • Whole reason I chose android was its modability and now the king has gone away from upgradable memory that made handed songs or paperwork off to ur buddies simple plus now incant just plop in another battery on along trips and that was handy. I so love the sgs6curve but I won't be getting the newest best thing this year
  • +1^ Posted via the Android Central App
  • The Note 4 should last for years to come, anyone with a Note 4 most likely will wait for the Note 6. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Very true Posted via the Note 4 or Tab S 10.5
  • Yup, that's what I'm thinking. I'm an even numbers kind of guy anyway (ex. started with a Note 2, now Note 4). ;)
  • Thought I was the only one... Posted via the Android Central App
  • Dude the note4 rocks, closest thing 2 a perfect phone so far Posted via the Android Central App
  • Honestly, all this talk about the note4 being the ultimate phone is completely crap. I actually have purchased one 2 weeks ago and it's far from being the ultimate phone. Its more then a decent phone but it has plenty of minuses.
    Honestly gents, it's not like Samsung cares about yr affection. This silly fan boyism needs to stop.
  • Not fanboyism, the note 4 is awesome, there's no competitor in the phablet line. I am Definently not a samsung fanboy, if I didn't want the size and pen I wouldn't be with Samsung...but credit where credit is due. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Unfortunately we can't avoid them! There are a handful of those extremely unpleasant Note people in these forums who have issues that infest articles about every handset that isn't a Note.
  • I am definitely not a fan boy of Samsung but I do like my note 4, is it perfect? No phone is but it is a great phone. I also want to pick up an HTC m9, sense 7 looks amazing with its new theme engine software wise I love HTC but hardware wise I love the note 4, great display, battery and camera with SD card slot. I don't get why some people stick with just one oem it seems like it would get really boring I have owned Sony, Motorola, Opo, LG, HTC, and Samsung each has their strong points and weaknesses I'm just happy I have so many choices these days all flagship phones are great. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Just try to ignore jimbo's remarks. He's one of the most unpleasant people on AC. He's also a straight up troll. Lol Posted via the Note 4 or Tab S 10.5
  • You misspelled idiot. Or were you going for jackass? Posted by my soon to be retired Note 3
  • Apparently you guys are still butthurt. Why don't you pull that S-Pen out of your ass and cheer up.
  • Cheer up?? Lmao you typically sound like you swim around in ghostbuster slime daily. You know, the evil pink slime from the sequel ? Lol. Posted via the Note 4 or Tab S 10.5
  • I have the best phone on the market, what is there to be hurt about? Posted by my soon to be retired Note 3
  • Where's Yarrell and his monkey balls?
  • Way to not give examples.
  • 'Dude the note4 rocks, closest thing 2 a perfect phone so far' Actually agree with you... I've been lusting after one every year since the Note 3 came out. The Note is for people that actually care about functionality, while the S6 is more for the 'Oooo, look how pretty it is!' crowd. Just wish I could get one in non-phablet size :(
  • If the Note 5 is basically a big s6, then yeah, definitely sticking with my Note 4. I refuse to get a phone with no SD card slot. I /can/ live without a swappable battery is a have no other choice, but I refuse to let the carriers and manufacturers dictate how much I have to pay for more space on my phone.
  • Well i start a Note quest that I don't think I can stop now, I started from the Note 2 then Note 3 and Now Note 4, so I guess you can tell what's next lol
  • Yes, I second this!!!
  • I hear the Note 5 is going to have a choice of leather, removable backs..... Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yes, I'm looking back on it and I should have bought something in the note series and not the Galaxy series because i have the edge and... yeah it kinda sucks compared to the note series
  • Me too. The note should solve the battery issues. Which just leaves touchwiz. I've been Nexus for a long time and never used touchwiz but some things I already know will annoy me. Like the ridiculous amount of space taken up by their notification shade mods. Hopefully this herculean effort to improve their products doesn't stop with the s6... Posted via Android Central App
  • And hopefully the S6 gets any further improvements to TouchWiz they plan to make for the next couple years.
  • Have u gone mad?! I, for 1, would absolutely hate if Samsung implements any of these features on the note. I LOVE my note4 Posted via the Android Central App
  • Pretty much this.
  • Agree. They nailed the camera and pretty much everything else other than battery. Hopefully the note takes everything and improves it even further
  • If Samsung was dumb enough to make the Note into this monstrosity, my 2105 smartphone dollars will be spent someplace else. This phone is meant for iPhone lovers who want to use Android.
  • You're not going to spend money until 2105? Now that's what I call hardcore frugal.
  • Hello android central team, I must say you guys are really doing a great job. This was really an impressive and very informative + depth review about this excellent phone. I found this really article really interesting and worth sharing :) If you don't mind I also wanted to share one amazing article called - "how to hack wifi password in 2 minutes" with your readers. You can find the complete tutorial solvemyhowdotcom site or your can also google the about it. just copy and paste the above string in google search. I'm really happy by getting free wifi yepieeeee.... Thanks,
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  • May well be the best phone of 2015. Posted via the Android Central App
  • If you're referring to the s6 u couldn't b more off Posted via the Android Central App
  • He could be way more off. Posted via Android Central App
  • What phone is better so far in 2015? Certainly not the HTC! Posted via the Android Central App
  • As of this moment in time, and taking into account the g4 rumors, Samsung has the number 1 & 2 phones that have been released in the last year. Posted by my soon to be retired Note 3
  • How is he/she way off? It is a great phone. The hardware is exactly where it needs to be and I personally haven't experienced the hiccups that Andrew speaks of in thus review. But I am certain I will. Also, I think touchwiz looks pretty modern now. I don't know what Andrew means when he says HTC and Moto's software is "more modern." Posted via the Android Central App
  • How is he/she way off? It is a great phone. The hardware is exactly where it needs to be and I personally haven't experienced the hiccups that Andrew speaks of in thus review. But I am certain I will. Also, I think touchwiz looks pretty modern now. I don't know what Andrew means when he says HTC and Moto's software is "more modern." Posted via the Android Central App
  • Great review. Hoping I can pick one up once I sort out some issues I'm having with my current phone I disagree with this part though: "Unfortunately for the audiophiles among us, the speaker is as bad as the display is great" An audiophile wouldn't listen to music over the loudspeaker on the phone
  • But someone who appreciates high quality audio will be able to tell whether or not this speaker is worth using for anything.
  • just my opinion, but anybody that appreciates high quality audio wouldn't listen to music via a phone speaker. chances are they've invested in a decent pair of headphones and/or Bluetooth mini speaker Posted via the Android Central App
  • Exactly my stance. via the beastly note 4
  • Yeah, that's what I meant in my comment. There's a difference between an audiophile avoiding the speaker because they have better headphones anyway, and someone who listens to music on the speaker regularly not liking this particular speaker
  • The speaker is crap. Deal with it. You have an awesome screen instead. My God..
  • The speaker is LOUD! Thats it´s main funktion. LOUD. Do you know how many calls i missed when i had the M7 because the speakers had "great sound" but were not loud? Many! I want to HEAR my phone ring when i am in an loud environment. Screw "great but silent". If you want great sound - buy a pair of cheap in-ears and keep them at you all the time. The cheapest in-ears will sound MUCH better then the best phone via it´s speakers.
  • Turn by turn navigation and watching and showing others video clips. Try hearing turn by turn with a S6 in a car cup holder. Fagettaboutit
  • Well maybe a problem if your car doesn't have automatic Bluetooth connectivity wich is fairly common in cars 2012+. In my dad's ford and mom's honda the sound from the phone comes through the cars stereo system. And if it doesn't have Bluetooth it's not hard to hook it through the audio jack.
  • If only you could turn the phone upside-down or something so that the speaker wasn't muffled. We all know cup holders do not function that way of course. Wait, maybe someone could come up with... I don't know, a car dock that would leave the speakers uncovered. I know, crazy right? Posted by my soon to be retired Note 3
  • And an iPhone. Android is notorious for crappy playback quality.
  • The speaker point is valid, whether for You Tube or conferencing. I rarely listen to music on my phone, but the speaker has a large role.
    HTC's, that's just people deluding themselves. ;)
  • Exactly, no audiophiles will use a phone speaker to listen to music. You'll use headphones. Even HTC M8 speaker isn't good enough for audiophiles. “Be together, not the same”
  • Actually, a phone won't push decent headphones. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Not true. Headphones with high sensitivity (like IEMs) would be just fine being driven on your phone
  • The m8 and m7 had really good headphone amps, and presumably the m9 does as well. As good (or better) than some entry level to mid range stand alone ones.
  • True. The M series is favored by headphone audiophile groups. I have a few different headphones, and the M8 can push the volume past comfort levels on all of them. S/N ratio and crosstalk specs are better than some sound consoles ( I'm an audio engineer), so I can't complain at all. As far as BT speakers, I've demoed several and own about six of them (yeah, I'm a junkie), and found that the best sounding combo is with the ST-A100. This is a woofer that the phone sits on, and the speakers on the phone become the tweeters with a big boost in volume. I just picked up another BT speaker, but it's still charging for the first time and I have not tested it yet. But I will say that I do listen to music on just the phone at times, and it is enjoyable just by itself. I can't say the same for my previous LG or Sony devices. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Well scratch out the iHip sound prism: the phone by itself sounds better and is louder than this BT speaker, lol. Posted via the Android Central App
  • totally agree, I'd obviously prefer a front facing, high quality speaker, but anytime I listen to music, it's with my headphones or Bose SoundLink Mini speaker Posted via the Android Central App
  • The loudspeaker is only used in the kitchen... not even in the car now - everyone has bluetooth.
  • It only took samsung rejecting everything that differentiated them from the fruit company and launching an iphone clone to shipped their best hardware design device to date. I guess it's true afterall, when all else fails go back to your roots or in samsung case (go back to copying the competitor that helped you get to the top). Not sure it will have much of an impact, they have yet to address their biggest problem (Chinese Oem's). That's what's killing them, the mid to low end market. Those were samsung main source of market shares, not the note or galaxy s lines. If they can't solve that problem, then they market shares will continue to erode and that is the bad thing. Their business is predicated on volumes and large market shares. The exact opposite of fruit company.
  • You still playing that Samsung copy Apple record. That nonsense have been played for far too long, now it has lost its power. Even some Apple diehards can't take it anymore. Can you say something we haven't heard before so that we may know that sometimes you can think for yourself. “Be together, not the same”
  • Oh shut up!!! "The competitor that helped them get to the top"?? Lmao, Samsung's success the last few years had little to do with enormous marketing investments/spending or powerful logistics operations did it. /s. You're delusional. And saying that the S6 is an iPhone clone is an insult to Samsung seeing as how the S6's hardware (produced almost entirely in-house) DEMOLISHES the IPhone 6....14 nm. Exynos 7, UFS 2.0, DDR4 RAM, far superior display, superior camera.....game over!!! Now go have a good cry. Posted via the Note 4 or Tab S 10.5
  • All that power under the hood and the software is still crap. Samsung needs to really focus on software. Fact.
  • 9nersfan. Really. Stop with the demolished comment. Go to anandtech and look at benchmarks. Iphone beats the S6 in about 50% of the tests.
    And kills it in the graphics department. Posted via the Android Central App
  • You actually take benchmarks seriously? I pity you. Posted via Android Central App
  • and 9ers using benchmarks to say it crushes the iphone ISNT using benchmarks? whatever dude...
    and you are correct, benchmarks don't mean anything because I have an iPhone 6+ and a Note 4.
    The Note 4 SHOULD in theory be WAY faster than the iPhone 6+ and yet is NOT.
    The camera and picture gallery on the Note 4 is about 10 x slower than the iPhone and and isn't faster than the iPhone 6+ at ANYTHING. i know, i OWN both. and I am not a IOS fanboy, I pre ordered the S6,
    I'm not going to be a fanboy that says because it has MOAR SPECS that its faster or better.
  • Benchmarks don't matter. Especially when it is cross platform. Software does a lot to a benchmark. The poster up there is right. The hardware in the s6 is more powerful. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Only because the iPhone has a 750P screen. It doesn't have anywhere near the pixels to push. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Thank you for mentioning that So I didn't have to Posted via the Note 4 or Tab S 10.5
  • the iPhone 6+ is 1080p and if you think the game developers are pushing Native 2560 x 1440 on android, think again. iPhone 6+ graphics are way higher than s6
  • Game developers do provide games with different resolutions, even Play Store detects phones with different types of resolutions, and even in games like Room Two, graphics can be different between phones. I have observed it and compared it between a Galaxy Nexus and a Xperia Z1. It is a bit more sharper on the Z1. A few games also allow different video quality settings. Resolutions also affects performance. The most obvious example is in playing PC games. You could experience a drop of 20FPS in heavy PC Games just by switching from Full HD to Quad HD. So if you want to compare performance, compare it with the same resolutions, because resolution do have huge impacts on benchmarks and performance. Gallery? If you haven't noticed, Note 4's picture gallery is slower because the pictures itself are stored on the SD card, and even if most of the pictures are stored on the phone, the Note 4 will still do a scan on the SD card to check every files if there are any pictures on the SD card. It's almost like opening a File Manager. The iPhone, however, opens the gallery app and shows the pictures fast because it doesn't have to scan for any files on the external storage, because it doesn't support one!
  • And that´s one of the reasons it´s good that samsung slowly in axing the sd card. An SD card in a superfast phone is like a data-HDD in a SSD-PC: it slows down the whole thing.
  • Way higher in what?? Onscreen graphics benchmarks that take display resolution into accout?? Lmao. Yes, most games are 1080p or less, making onscreen graphics benchmarks comparisons between the two irrelevant. FYI, the S6 smashes the IPhone 6 in GFXbench offscreen Posted via the Note 4 or Tab S 10.5
  • The iPhone 6 typically scores better in certain graphics benchmarks due to its far lower resolution. Though GFXbench Manhatten and T-rex show that the mali T760 and Power VR GPU's are pretty even. But when it comes to more popular, CPU intensive benchmarks such as Basemark OS 2 , Antutu, geekbench 3, Quadrant, etc. the Exynos 7420 is far superior. How about you compare the iPhone 6' scores on these particular benchmarks to how the S6 scores here in the video below. Yes I know the iPhone 6 isn't tested in this video but fyi, the S6 destroys it. ▶ Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge vs. HTC One M9 - Benchmark (English): https://youtu.be/5i_V_tzRxkk I'm glad I was able to give you some more info about just how powerful the device I assume you're buying soon really is (based on your profile pic) Posted via the Note 4 or Tab S 10.5
  • Benchmarks are only part of the story though cause obviously even with all the power the s6 has it still has hiccups and that just shouldn't be there touch wiz still needs improving in that aspect. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Indeed, they are only a part of the story. There's always room for improvement in all types of software, and all have studder/lag to different extents. But dont forget, this is one review by one reviewer. There are also many reasons things like this could happen on occasion that have nothing to do with Samsung's software. I assure you, most won't be mentioning lag on the galaxy S6. Actually of the 15 or so reviews I've glanced over thus far (most of which are a joke anyway) this is the first I've seen it mentioned Anyway, below is only one speed test of many to come (I think the S6 will probably smoke the iPhone 6 much more in most of those) but still, it wins out here with these specific apps. Certainly can't call a phone laggy that easily handles the iPhone 6 with an OS highly optimized for its hardware. Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge vs iPhone 6 Speed Test 4K: https://youtu.be/zHb6IlmmV2o Posted via the Note 4 or Tab S 10.5
  • I'll add this video to all the other videos I've seen of the S6 where there is no visible lag whatsoever.
  • Since most games render at 720p (or lower) and upscale, the gaming performance of the s6 will be far superior to the iphone 6. This is why offscreen benchmarks are important. Until you can find a game that natively runs at 1440p, onscreen benchmarks are irrelevant.
  • You should first understand how to interpret benchmarks before commenting. There is hardly any off-screen benchmark where iPhone wins against S6.
  • I would just like to point out Samsung didn't do well last year. In fact, they lost money because people got tired of the plastic crap and bloatware. Posted via the Android Central App
  • But then they still made more money than all of their competitors, besides Apple (& themselves).
  • You must have missed the paragraph about all those cores and it till stutters? WTF!
  • So - you are saying that a phone (not even released yet mind you) is not running 100 percent perfect out of the gate? STOP THE PRESS!!!
  • I do see your point about Samsung loosing it's command of the low to mid spec market, but the Galaxy line up has always brought the most revenue until the S5. Not because of Chinese OEMs so much as lack of innovation. Specs and software features aren't enough to drive Android sales anymore, even most low spec smartphones can handle email, web, video, multitasking, and most games. Of course may of the low spec phones out now can out perform or match performance of flagship phones 2 years old. With buttery smooth performance a standard now, people want flashy phones, that can do unique things. The S5 wasn't flashy or hardly unique so people went to HTC, Motorola, Sony among others. As for copying iPhone, the iPhone has been the one copying Samsungs Note series, HTC design, and implementing Android software into its code since 2011. Imho Samsung definitly made a good move with the S6/E Posted via Android Central App
  • That's what I've been saying. It's Apple that has been copying Android devices. iPhone copied large size, power button on the right side, protruding camera, antenna bands the list goes on.
  • Next year they will finally add a restart option for the power menu and talk for ten minutes about how revolutionary this is! lol Posted via the Android Central App
  • Troll
  • Struggling to hold out for the Blue/Green colors to come to USA :/
  • I just can't get over this rubbish battery. Like I said when this phone came out "2500mah battery in 2015 is a cruel joke" Epic fail! Google+ All Day Everyday
  • agreed, and so unfortunate. just keep a few mm on the thickness and have a 3200 mAh battery and this would've been perfect (for me). the non removable/small battery combo leaves me contemplating the competition. even if they did one of the two (removable or larger battery) I'd have preordered the 64 black edge yesterday. not the first or last time a phone fell short of my expectations, but a bit more disappointed this time around cause it came so close. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Basically how I felt about the moto x. Great phone terrible battery life.
  • so true, I remember the sealed battery crowd saying it'll come with a larger battery. seems like the same people are using the word "efficient" now. still a solid device, and quick charge makes it somewhat tolerable, but withou