Some people prefer practical tools. Others would gladly buy gadgets dipped in gold. In a nutshell, that's the choice between the new Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge+. They're two sides of the same coin. They're both cutting-edge phones. The question is whether you're willing to sacrifice comfort to make people's heads turn.
What Is It?
- Processor: Exynos 7420 octa-core (quad 2.1GHz + quad 1.5GHz)
- RAM: 4GB
- Screen: 5.7-inch SuperAMOLED 2560x1440 (518ppi)
- Memory: 32GB/64GB, not expandable
- Camera: 16-megapixel rear-facing, 5-megapixel front-facing
- Connectivity: Category 9 4G/LTE, Bluetooth 4.0LE, 802.11ac
The fourth version of Samsung's latest and greatest Android smartphone, the Galaxy S6. The S6 Edge+ is the version with a large 5.7-inch curved glass screen that positively seems to melt around the smartphone's edges.
You can think of it as a larger version of the Galaxy S6 Edge, which did the same exact thing with a smaller 5.1-inch screen. Or, like me, you can think of it as a Galaxy Note 5 without a stylus and a screen facing the wrong way.
Either way, we're talking about a smartphone with top-notch specs. Specs which the S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Note 5 all happen to share: a gorgeous 2560 x 1440 Super AMOLED display, a powerful 8-core Exynos processor, two forms of wireless charging and one of the best cameras you can get in a smartphone, all wrapped up in a stylish glass and aluminium body.
Premium. Eye-catching. Breathtaking, if you're the kind of person who easily runs out of breath. This is the most attention-grabbing phone you can buy. The metal and glass surfaces positively gleam. The screen is gorgeous, one of the best ever made, even before you consider its futuristic curve. The glass back even does a decent job of hiding my disgustingly greasy fingerprints at most view angles. Buttons feel precise and accurate. The fingerprint sensor works like a charm. I constantly feel like I'm going to drop this phone.
All of which could also describe the smaller Galaxy S6 Edge... but big makes a difference. Not only can you brag about how your phone looks, but also its raw size. Which, I've come to understand, is pretty important when you're buying a phone for the bragging rights.
You don't have sacrifice a single one of the Galaxy S6 / S6 Edge / Note 5's cutting edge specs to get the bragging rights you crave. This isn't like buying a Gucci or Prada phone where you know you're getting something flashy but technologically inferior. As far as I can tell, every single feature is intact, and a few are even improved: the S6 Edge+ charges even a little bit faster than the S6 and S6 Edge, and the camera app now supports RAW images and manual shutter speed adjustment too.
I'd easily call that camera the #1 reason to buy any one of Samsung's four new flagship phones. I can launch the camera and take a picture faster than practically any other smartphone on the market by just double-tapping the home button — whether the phone's locked or not — and thanks to optical image stabilisation, wicked fast autofocus and real-time HDR (high dynamic range) the pictures look great almost every time I hit the shutter button.
Last year, when I reviewed the iPhone 6 Plus, I was blown away by how consistently I could take great shots and clips due to the same tech. I can't say if the Galaxy S6 Edge+ does it better without a lot more testing, but it definitely launches faster and that means fewer missed photo opportunities.
Here are a few unedited sample pics:
This phone is SO DAMN AWKWARD to hold. When we reviewed the original Galaxy S6 Edge, we basically dismissed it right away because the regular flat S6 felt so much better in the hands. Well, making it bigger and heavier sure didn't make it any less awkward! I've never nearly dropped a phone so many times, or made so many mistakes while navigating a smartphone interface simply for lack of a good place to grip. Because there really isn't any good way to hold this blasted thing.
I tried using one hand. Nearly every time I reached across the screen, the fleshy part of the base of my thumb would hit the multitasking button and pull me out of what I was doing.
What about two hands? Well, just take a look at the bottom edge of the smartphone. You can't touch the glass for fear of accidentally activating something. But you also can't place a finger or thumb on the flat front surfaces there, because there's a nice big home button you don't want to accidentally press, and two invisible capacitive touch buttons flanking it. You also can't wrap a finger around the bottom of the phone, as I often found myself doing, without covering the speaker holes. So you've gotta grip the phone by those tiny metal edges.
Movies, games, and photo sessions aren't particularly comfortable with this handset.
- Battery life is pretty solid, but the S6 Edge+ can definitely die prematurely if you run it hard. I make it to bedtime most days with 15 per cent left, but I also had it die at 5PM when I used it with an Android Wear smartwatch and — for a couple hours — as a mobile hotspot. On another day, a couple quick 10-minute turn-by-turn GPS sessions ate up 30 per cent of the battery.
- The power saving mode is dumb. It makes the screen so dim I can't even read it.
- Samsung's autocorrect is pretty dumb too. Way worse than the stock Google keyboard. Also, the swipe keyboard is turned off by default. For faster typing, you'll probably want to turn it on.
- In general, though Samsung's TouchWiz skin is lighter than ever, there's still tons of unnecessary Samsung apps and tweaks I don't care for.
- One TouchWiz thing I enjoy: split-screen and picture-in-picture multitasking. I just wish it worked with all Android apps instead of a handful.
- Quick charging is so amazingly quick on this phone. If you forget to plug it in overnight, just charge it while you shower and you'll be good for most of the day. Then you can top it off with any normal microUSB charger or some wireless charging.
- There's still no good use for the curved screen. There's an alarm clock, stock and news tickers you can view when the screen is off, but why do those things need a curve? You can also quick-dial your favourite numbers and quick-launch your favourite apps by swiping in from the edge, but it's no quicker than a shortcut on a homescreen.
- Some things just look weird when they're a little bit curved by the screen. Like when I'm playing Hearthstone and my digital playing cards are clearly bent when they're supposed to be flat.
- Another thing that looks weird: the metal seam at the top and bottom of the device. The original S6 Edge didn't have that.
Should You Buy It?
That all depends on you, my friend. I couldn't possibly imagine purchasing a gigantic phone that's so difficult to hold — not when the Note 5, Galaxy S6 and even the Galaxy S6 Edge are practically identical and so much more comfortable to use. I'm also not sure I'm down with the S6 Edge+'s $1199 price tag.
But occasionally, I stare deep into that gorgeous curved screen and wonder what it might be like to be wealthy, and to care about showing off that wealth. To not worry about dropping phones. Because this phone is clearly destined to be a status symbol. The fact that it's so obviously the wrong choice compared to an S6 or a Note 5 will make it that much more exclusive. And that much more desirable to the right person.