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Samsung nails it with Galaxy S6

Samsung’s Galaxy line has always been a standard-setting group, and that pattern continues with the Galaxy S6, Samsung’s latest and greatest smartphone.

Samsung didn’t just improve on last year’s Galaxy S5 — instead, the company adopted the kind of design and product philosophy found in companies like Apple, and applied that kind of thinking to the Galaxy line.

In many ways, the S6 represents a rebirth of Samsung’s finest offerings, and if this trend continues across other Samsung products, then we are in for a treat.

It’s not fair to say Samsung copied Apple as much as it is to say they were inspired by Apple. While the S6 sports an all-glass housing that is reminiscent of the iPhone 4, Samsung’s execution is the best example of the design choice. It’s cleaner, has more curve to it and it feels nicer than the iPhone 6.

Perhaps it was intentional, but the S6 feels like a departure from the Galaxy line, but in all of the best possible ways. It’s so unlike its older brothers that if the thing didn’t have a Samsung logo on it, most people wouldn’t think it to be a Sammy device.

Experience improves

It used to be Samsung would just update the newest Galaxy’s spec list, slap a new number on it and ship it out. But they realized that wasn’t enough, and that they needed to improve on the experience first and foremost.

Which they certainly did.

Of course, updated specs do help, and the Galaxy S6 has an impressive sheet: Dual quad-core Exynose 7420 processors, 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display, 16-megapixel camera, 3GB RAM and it comes in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB configurations.

The octa-core processor is a thing of beauty. Paired with the great Android 5 (which remains relatively unmolested by Samsung’s own software, especially compared to previous Galaxy devices), the phone handles everything with ease. I actually tried my best to get the phone to lag, but it just wouldn’t.

Incredible camera

One of, if not the best, features of the S6 is the camera — it’s absolutely incredible, and is the best camera I’ve used on any device, ever. It now sports an f/1.9 lens, and takes a page from the Note 4’s camera with included optical image stabilization.

The new lens is pretty great and delivers accurate colors, and detailed and crisp images. Auto-exposure settings can be a headache at times, but low-light and HDR performance is near perfect.

The updates (if you can call them that) to Samsung’s TouchWiz software are welcomed. I use the term “updates” cautiously because, really, Samsung restrained itself from muddying the phone with extras it doesn’t need, like all of the bloatware found on the S5. This time around, Samsung trimmed down and paid attention to the parts of TouchWiz that matter. Which is a great thing.

S Health has been given a face-lift, and incorporating the device’s fingerprint sensor worked well and easy enough.

One feature that I wasn’t able to test was Samsung Pay, which is Sammy’s version of Apple Pay. Samsung Pay basically promises users the ability to transmit payments through magnetic-stripe readers found on credit card machines. Sounds nice, but we’ll see if users adopt it and if it’ll work as it should.

Previewing images and enjoying other media such as apps and movies is a pleasure thanks to the S6’s beautiful (and I do mean beautiful) display.

It boasts 2,560-by-1,440 pixels and a density of 577 pixels per inch, which makes it one of the best displays currently available.

But our eyes have ways of playing tricks on us, because when I compared the S6 side-by-side with other devices (Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One M9 and iPhone 6), I could’ve sworn I could tell a difference in image quality. But, really, I’m not too sure. Not because my eyes are bad or because the S6 fails to deliver, but because that kind of pixel density is incredibly hard for human eyes to decipher.

A glass convert

Holding and using the Galaxy S6 is an enriching experience. I’m cool with plastic, but after spending a week with the S6 and loving how it feels, I’ve become a glass convert.

Gorilla Glass 4 and an alloy frame wrap the innards, and it still maintains that familiar Galaxy silhouette of rounded top and bottom and straight-as-an-arrow sides. While it does have the same feel of an iPhone 6, the Samsung’s balance is better (but that could be due to the severe differences between the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus devices I was comparing against).

I won’t make the switch just yet, however, considering the off-contract price of the Galaxy S6 at AT&T is a whopping $685 ($200 on contract). I’m not one to replace my phone every year (or even two or three), and part of that is because spending nearly a grand every other year on a new handheld is absurd to me. If it isn’t broke, why fix it?

Deal breakers

The biggest reason I won’t consider an S6 is because it lacks two hardware options I’ve grown accustomed to: the removable battery and, moreso, expandable memory via microSD. I understand it was a decision that needed to be weighed against the design choice, but both (mostly the latter) are deal breakers for me.

Another disappointing issue with this phone is its lackluster battery performance, especially compared to last year’s S5 and 2013’s S4. The S6’s 2550 mAh battery barely lasted a day’s worth of testing that included photo taking, browsing, callmaking, texting, social media-ing, video watching and music listening. Nothing out of the ordinary for my average day, yet the S6 lasted about 12 hours compared to my personal S4’s 16 hours.

That said, Samsung has delivered a brilliant device, by virtue of inspiration and listening to users. It’s a reboot in every sense of the word for the Galaxy series, and the S6 is a welcome addition to Samsung’s catalog. If the relatively small quibbles aren’t quibbles at all to you and you want the best smartphone money can buy, then the Galaxy S6 is the device to get.

Related Photos

The Samsung Galaxy S6 is shown. Photo provided

The Samsung Galaxy S6 is shown. Photo provided

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Richard Hall

Richard Hall is an award-winning newsroom developer, editor and blogger for NewsOK. He was born in Austin, Texas, spent his childhood in southern California and has lived in Norman since 1999. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2008. Read more ›