Samsung Galaxy S6 Review
Interface and Functionality
TouchWiz sheds many of the vast collection of features found in previous iterations, opting instead for a “less is more” approach.
Without question, the design is what’s most profound with the S6 – so one can only hope that there will be a dramatic shakeup with the software experience too. That’s made more poignant, especially when TouchWiz has always been about the features more than the visual presentation. Now, Samsung has talked loudly about how this latest iteration of TouchWiz — which is running on top of Android 5.0.2 Lollipop — has been toned down in terms of its feature-set and UI presentation.
True to Samsung's claim, this most up-to-date version of TouchWiz forgoes the exorbitant features set seen in TouchWiz past, focusing instead on features that are pertinent and meaningful to the experience. Things like Air Gestures, Air View, and a handful of others we’ve come to find in previous efforts have been pushed deeper into the settings, but can still be found, if needed. The result is a familiar TouchWiz experience, but one that's direct, without too many redundancies that previously came off as overwhelming to some people.
Without question, running on top of Android 5.0.2 Lollipop enhances the experience, not only for the fact that it’s greeted to all the new features that come in tow with Lollipop, like Pinning and Android Smart Lock, but it bears some of the visual design elements of stock Android. In fact, it’s evident in some of the gesture motions of the interface, as in the way the notifications panel springs down with a couple of flicks.
Jumping straight to the homescreen, it’s something that’s overlooked at first, but there’s a neat parallax-like effect with the wallpaper. Whether you like this or not, it’s a pleasant gesture that gives the interface a dynamic look – albeit, a subtle one at that. Come to think of it, Sammy promised that “more is less” approach with this TouchWiz, which definitely manifests in things like the simplification of its system menus, but it still can’t shed the undeniable fact that it still exudes the foundational qualities of TouchWiz past. It’s simply inescapable. However, Sammy has something up its sleeve that draws some attention.
What’s that you ask? Well, there’s now the ability to download new themes that changes the look of the interface. Going through the Galaxy Apps Store, there are various downloadable themes that not only change the wallpaper, but also other aspects of the interface – such as the color accents, icons, and layout of some core apps. In comparison to what HTC offers with its level of personalization with Sense 7.0, Sammy’s implementation is more superficial – whereas Sense goes the extra step by using stored images/photos for custom themes.
Enabling one-handed usage has been among the main priorities for Samsung while refining TouchWiz, and we can say that the Galaxy S6 is a top performer in that department. Its compact size, mixed with sizable icons and other user interface elements, make for an experience that facilitates easy and quick usage with just one thumb. Of course, more advanced tasks will still require you to use two hands, but when it comes to simple stuff like checking your email, checking the weather, or calling a contact, using one hand should be sufficient.
Power users will be pleased to know that TouchWiz’s staple feature of Multi Window is still present and enabled from the onset, which is accessed by simply long pressing the Recent Apps button. Alternatively, we can also go through the Recent Apps menu, now arranged in Lollipop’s rolodex style, to select what two apps we want to ride side-by-side.
So, what can be gather about the new TouchWiz? Basically, it’s more toned down with its approach, but still embodies the design language of the TouchWiz that we all know on the surface. Yeah, the new option to modify the look of the interface with downloadable themes is a logical step forward, but it still lags behind the modern attractiveness we see in other customized Android experiences.
Again, Google’s influence is evident when we look at the Phonebook, since the layout bears the distinctive qualities that encompass Material Design. So essentially, what we have here is dial pad that employs bright colors and a cleaner, overall presentation. Functionally, though, there’s nothing extraordinarily new that we haven’t seen elsewhere.
Diving deeper into the S6’s wealth of organizer apps, the “less is more” approach is undoubtedly consistent – both in the visual presentation of apps and their functionalities. For example, the calendar is by default set to a monthly view, but Material Design is once again made profound in the way it’s flaunting a cleaner look – one that isn’t cluttered with pull down menus.
By now, Google Now has become a key feature for Android, so it’s no surprise to us that Sammy’s S Voice service has taken a back seat – albeit, it’s still something we can tap into by enabling it in the settings. After some training, where it’s able to accurately recognize our voice, we can perform simple organizer functions, but it just doesn’t compare to the all-encompassing experience of Google Now.
Given the choice of using Samsung’s Email app or Gmail, we’d suggest going with the latter mainly because it does a phenomenal job or organizing emails. Not just that, but now that we can setup email accounts other than Gmail, it’s nice that it’s now a hub for all our emailing needs.
Taking a peak at the TouchWiz keyboard, there’s almost no change whatsoever with its layout, size, and function. Just as before, it’s great that there’s a dedicated row strictly for numbers from within the main layout, as opposed to accessing them from a secondary layout, but it would’ve been nice if buttons were a bit wider to fully make use of the space. Nevertheless, we can’t complain about its effectiveness, but other alternatives like SwiftKey are great options if you’re not a fan.
Processor and Memory
In keeping that momentum, this is the fastest phone yet in the series.
Keeping it in-house, Samsung has chosen instead to power the Galaxy S6 exclusively with its very own chip, an octa-core Exynos 7420 processor based on 64-bit architecture. Interestingly, it shares some commonalities with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 SoC, since the two consist of four Cortex-A57 cores running at 2.1GHz, while another four Cortex-A53 cores clock in at 1.5GHz. What’s most profoundly different between the two, is that the Exynos 7420 is manufactured using a 14nm process – whereas the Snapdragon 810 relies on a 20nm process.
The result, theoretically speaking, is that Sammy’s chip should be more power efficient. More on that one later! Complementing the processor is the Mali-T760 GPU and a generous 3GB of RAM. All this talk regarding its hardware is nothing if it can’t perform flawlessly with its operations, but we’re happy to report that the cutting-edge goodies in tow make the S6 the fastest Galaxy smartphone to date.
One would suspect that employing quad-HD resolution would stall its performance, but that’s hardly the case, seeing that operations are accompanied with buttery and fluid responses. For the hardcore gamer, the S6 is arguably a choice handset to go with, ensuring that it’s unequivocally powerful enough to handle the most demanding gaming titles out there. The Mali-T760 GPU does a commendable job, but in looking at some graphics benchmarks, namely the T-Rex and Manhattan tests of GFX Benchmark, the results lag behind those of the HTC One M9.
As much as we’d like to say that the S6 is universally flawless with its performance, there’s always that nagging feeling in the back of our mind in how it’ll maintain its smooth performance long-term – more so when additional apps are installed on the phone and new services are added to the background process. For what it is now, however, we can’t deny that it’s utterly unstoppable.
In the past, Samsung has focused on the fact that its Galaxy smartphones offered expandable storage via their microSD card slots – a point they’ve kept on harking in its commercials. Sadly, though, they’ve made a complete 180-degree change by choosing instead to strictly stick with internal storage. Some won’t have too much of an issue with this loss, but others will miss the added versatility that the slot offers. Therefore, you’ll need to choose wisely on which model to go with; 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB.
Internet and Connectivity
Running at full throttle, there’s no surprise that the Galaxy S6 is a perfect thing when it comes to surfing the web. Once again, there is choice in what browser to use – either Samsung’s very own Internet app or Google’s Chrome. Whichever one you decide to use, just know that you won’t be disappointed by their offerings and executions. For starters, the S6’s quad-HD Super AMOLED display brings an unreal level of detail to the tiniest of things. Overall, the experience is accentuated by its effortless handling of complex sites, instantaneous responses with navigational controls, and speedy page loads.
A new feature brought along with its new finger print sensor, we can now use it to allow us to automatically sign into certain sites Therefore, rather than having to input your user name and password, all that’s necessary now is to use the finger print sensor to sign in. Naturally, it’s there for the convenience, but it’s still nevertheless something we appreciate – though, it works for most web sites, but not all.
Sammy doesn’t disappoint, as the Galaxy S6, being a flagship thing and all, is geared with a healthy arsenal of connectivity features. Being a GSM-enabled smartphone, it benefits from having a high degree of compatibility with an abundance of networks around the world. Throw in its expansive LTE band support, in conjunction with category 6 downlink, this model will deliver theoretical download speeds of 300Mbps.
Beyond that, it shares all of the cutting-edge connectivity that’s the standard fanfare with most of today’s high-end phones – they include aGPS with Glonass, Bluetooth 4.1, dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, NFC, DLNA, MHL, and a microUSB 2.0 port.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 will be the first phone to feature Samsung's new Pay service, which, as you might guess, is an alternative to Apple Pay. Right now, Samsung has completed deals with Visa and MasterCard, but it's yet to expand that partnership to other major players, such as American Express, Bank of America, or Chase. However, the company reassures that it's working on it. Easily the most interesting thing about Samsung Pay is the new Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST) proprietary technology, which is said to widen Samsung Pay's compatibility with shopping terminals significantly. In addition to NFC for making contactless payments through terminals that support near field communications, Samsung Pay will also be able to communicate with traditional magnetic stripe terminal, thanks to MST.
Users will be able to use Samsung Pay to buy various goods in a quick and secure way, plus the whole process is promised to happen rather quickly. For example, should you wish to pay for something using Samsung Pay, you'd simply need to swipe of from the bottom bezel in order to bring up the Samsung Pay app (or just tap the icon, we guess), choose the desired card for the payment, authenticate using the fingerprint sensor, and from there, everything should be done in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, the bad news is that Samsung Pay will not be available to use with the Samsung Galaxy S6's launch, as the service will be enabled sometime during the summer, first in the Unites States and South Korea, followed by Europe and China a bit later.