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These Are Samsung’s New Phones: The Galaxy S6 and the Curved Galaxy S6 Edge

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor
Yahoo Tech

These Are Samsung’s New Phones: The Galaxy S6 and the Curved Galaxy S6 Edge

After months of rumors, Samsung has finally unveiled its new Galaxy phones. Here they are: the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge.

They look like great smartphones, the best Samsung has ever made, and possibly the best Android phones, too. The S6 and S6 Edge are complete redesigns. They use premium materials that make Samsung’s previous phones look cheap.

The company has even pared down its notoriously confusing TouchWiz user interface, making the phones easier for first-time users to get into.

Ahead of the curve

The star of this release is the Galaxy S6 Edge’s curved display, which cascades off of both the phone’s left and right edges.

The design is similar to that of Samsung’s Galaxy Note Edge, but that handset only had the waterfall screen off the right side. The Note Edge’s curved screen was also a separate display. The S6 Edge, on the other hand, uses a single panel.

What does the fall-away screen get you? In addition to looking cool, there are some functional advantages. The curved parts of the screen allow you to check notifications by quickly swiping on the curved part of the display without having to completely unlock the phone.

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Samsung also lets you set up to five contacts as favorites and assign them each a specific color designation. If you receive a call from one of your favorites and your Edge is face down, the curved parts of the display will glow the color you assigned to them, so you’ll know who’s calling without having to look at your phone.

For now, the curved screen elements don’t do much more than show a few notifications. The curves do make the phone a little more comfortable to hold, though. And it sure looks cool.

Samsung goes upscale

Aside from the curved display, the S6 Edge and the standard S6 are essentially the same all-new smartphone.

Rather than the same boring plastic design Samsung has become known for, the company chose to wrap the front and back of both phones in Corning’s Gorilla Glass. Sandwiched between the back and front panels is a new metal frame that serves to enhance the premium look of the handsets. It almost looks like a cross between an iPhone 5 and an iPhone 6.

This is a big step forward in design for Samsung. Its previous efforts, including the Galaxy S5, were roundly criticized for being too similar to their predecessors and for being constructed using plastic rather than metal like Apple’s iPhone 6 line and the HTC One.

The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are still clearly Samsung devices. Their front panels have a similar look to the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 4, but when you actually hold the S6 and S6 Edge, you can both feel and see the difference.

Supersharp screens
Both the S6 and S6 Edge pack similar 5.1-inch, 2560 x 1440 Super AMOLED (active matrix of organic light-emitting diode) displays. The screens on both phones are the same size, but the S6 Edge’s curves make it look a bit thinner.

Samsung says the S6 and S6 Edge have the world’s sharpest smartphone screens, and while that’s a nice stat to pad its marketing materials, the truth is, most consumers won’t be able to tell the difference between a QHD screen and an HD screen.

Unless, that is, they’re using Samsung’s Gear VR headset, which requires an extremely high-resolution screen since it uses the phone as its display, putting it right in front of your face.

Cameras

The S6 and S6 Edge might challenge the iPhone 6 Plus in the camera department. Both handsets come with 16-megapixel cameras with optical image stabilization: They have lenses that move to compensate for your shaking hands while taking pictures. Only the iPhone 6 Plus has optical stabilization; the iPhone 6 does it in software.

A new auto-tracking and auto-focus feature lets you focus on a subject and automatically follow it, adjusting focus if it moves. If you take a lot of pictures of pets or active kids, you’ll want this feature.

Samsung says that the new cameras will offer better low-light image quality, something that the company’s smartphones have struggled with in the past.

But the best improvement in the S6 and S6 Edge cameras is how fast their apps open. With the Galaxy S5, opening the camera app took a good one to two seconds, which would often be the difference between catching a photo and missing it. The S6 and S6 Edge’s cameras open in less than a second.

Wireless payments

Samsung is getting in on the mobile payment movement with an offering of its own. It’s based on LoopPay, a mobile payment system that works with the plain old magnetic strip-style credit card terminals at your average checkout counter. Samsung’s offering will instantly have a greater reach than the iPhone’s Apple Pay, which is limited to retailers with compatible payment terminals.

Before your ask, no, you don’t actually swipe your phone through a credit card slot; instead, you put your handset close to the terminal, and the S6 will simulate the magnetic field produced by swiping your credit card.

So you’ll be able to load your credit card into your Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge and use your phone to pay for things at the corner store.

Samsung isn’t backing itself into a corner by relying on just the old-fashioned magnetic-strip technology, though. The company will also support NFC-based wireless payments.

Unfortunately, Samsung hasn’t quite worked out the look of its mobile payment app, so we weren’t able to take it for a test drive. We are eager to report on how well it works.

Wireless charging

Samsung isn’t just offering wireless payment options, it’s also giving the S6 and S6 Edge wireless charging capabilities right out of the box.

Previously, you had to buy a replacement back panel for your S5 in order to give it the ability to charge wirelessly.

The wireless charger itself will be an accessory, though. But we do hope that wireless charging pads become ubiquitous at places like Starbucks.

Performance

The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge both come with Samsung’s latest eight-core processor and 3 GB of RAM, which is serious horsepower. Storage options include 32 GB, 64 GB, and 128 GB of memory.

Now for the bad news. Unlike Samsung’s Galaxy S5, the S6 and S6 Edge won’t come with removable batteries. To offset that, Samsung says it has worked to improve overall battery life. There also won’t be any microSD card slot on either phone, which means you can’t increase storage space.

Samsung will, however, offer 65 GB of Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage for two years.

Your future phones?

The Galaxy S6 is absolutely better looking than the company’s Galaxy S5, but it’s the Galaxy S6 Edge, with its futuristic curved display, that has me looking forward to the day these smartphones hit the market.

So how do the S6 and S6 Edge stack up against Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus? To find out, check out our comparison piece.

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley or on Google+.