Living with the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge

Review

This week, we asked one of The Lowdown’s trusted reviewers to put down their OnePlus One and see what it’s like to live with the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge. After seven days with the new Galaxy, here’s what they thought…
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Living with the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge

Day 1 – the S6 edge is really small

When I picked up the Galaxy S6 edge for the first time after spending almost a year using the OnePlus One, it was a real shock to the hand. The OnePlus has a 5.5-inch screen, which makes it feel massive compared to the 5.1-inch curved Galaxy. And the S6 is incredibly thin and light, which made me worried I’d drop it.

Once I got a little more used to the size I started to really appreciate how good the S6 edge felt. Those curved sides add to the slim feel in the hand, while the metal frame and glass back make the whole phone feel solid and really well built.

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge camera

The only thing I found a little annoying was the camera hump that stops the phone lying flat on a table. But at least the camera’s in the middle of the phone so it doesn’t rock too much when you touch it.

When I first turned on the S6 edge, I went through an easy setup process. With Android Lollipop, you can use NFC to transfer all your stuff from your old phone to your new one just by putting them back-to-back. That meant the phone was ready to use straight away.

When the phone was up and running, I quickly noticed how fast it was. Menus and apps opened instantly and everything felt really responsive. My OnePlus One uses an impressively powerful processor, but even it can’t keep up with the edge.

But what I was most pleased with on my first day with the edge was Samsung’s new fingerprint scanner. With the Galaxy S5 and Note 4, you had to carefully swipe over the home button to unlock the phone. But the S6 and S6 edge work more like Apple’s Touch ID (and every other fingerprint scanner ever made) so all you need to do now is touch the home button.

Day 2 – this could be the best camera phone ever

Today I was out and about with the phone and found that the camera is phenomenal. Every photo shows loads of detail in perfect colours. When Samsung’s created a camera this good, I can forgive them for not quite making it fit flush to the back of the phone.

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge camera sample
Samsung Galaxy S6 edge camera sampleEnlarge Enlarge

I also found the camera a lot easier to use than old Samsung ones. The settings are all easy to find and use, and there aren’t hundreds of different modes any more. You can download more, but to start with you get the key ones – auto, pro and panorama – and some unique ones – like virtual shot and selective focus.

The virtual shot mode was my favourite and actually had my non-techy friends gathered round the phone to check it out. It asks you to walk around your subject as the phone takes a series of photos, creating an amazing 360-degree view of whatever you’re photographing.

Virtual shot on the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge

The longer I spent with the S6 edge today, the more I began to appreciate the amazing screen quality. I’ve tested plenty of phones, but I’ve never seen a screen as good as this. Colours, contrast, detail – it’s all unbelievable. Sometimes colours might look a bit too bright, like when you want to get an accurate look at your photos, but you can adjust them in the settings and Samsung even has some pre-set display modes designed for viewing photos or watching videos.

I didn’t realise how much detail I’d been missing on my OnePlus One until I put it side-by-side with the S6 edge. I paused a Full HD trailer for Gravity on both phones and could see loads more stars on the edge.

It’s not all good news

I did find a couple of problems on my second day with the S6 edge. The notification light is incredibly bright. If you have the phone next to your bed, it actually makes it hard to sleep as the phone lights up the whole room every few seconds. You can fix the problem by either turning off the light altogether, or setting ‘Do not disturb’ hours so notifications don’t come through at night.

The other problem I found is that Facebook was using the most battery. I don’t really use Facebook and on my OnePlus One it’s always way down the list of apps in my battery usage. But for some reason the S6 edge kept it running in the background, even when I closed it.

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge battery

Day 3 – a few small cracks in the S6 edge’s perfect façade

Today I’ve found even more to love about the S6 edge, and a few new problems too.

First up, I set up ‘Do not disturb’ to avoid the annoyingly bright notification light tonight, but that’s given me a symbol in my notification bar that I can’t get rid of (or at least I couldn’t for the first day after I set it up. It vanished after that).

I also found today that the edge screen is quite slow to launch when you want to check notifications, news feeds or the time without switching on the rest of the screen. And you have to do an odd double swipe up and down the edge to wake it up, which feels a little awkward.

But as I said, these little imperfections were accompanied by more great stuff. Sound quality, for example, is great. The single speaker at the bottom of the edge might not match HTC’s BoomSound speakers for volume, but it’s perfect quality and ideal for listening to tunes while cooking. And you can add more depth to what you’re listening to with some handy pre-set effects – I found them great for watching movies.

I was also surprised to find S Health had been running quietly in the background since I first switched the phone on. Embarrassingly, my third day with the phone was the first I had hit the pre-set target for steps. It was nice to get a little notification telling me I’ve been active enough. And when I went in the app, I found it easier to use than ever. There’s a nice new tiled design and you can choose to track as much or as little as you want, all on one screen.

Day 4 – I never want to go without 4G+ again

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge playing a gameTowards the end of last year, EE launched the UK’s first 4G+ network – a mobile network that brings internet speeds up to double what 4G is capable of. And with the S6 edge today, I was able to get my first taste of its incredible speed.

EE’s advanced network only covers London at the moment, and you need a really high end phone to make use of it, but it’s well worth the investment. On the edge I found web pages would load as soon as I clicked on them. At one point, I didn’t want to wait to download Asphalt 8 (a massive 1.55GB app) over Wi-Fi as it estimated it’d take an hour, so I switched to 4G+ and it was done in about a minute.

The other thing I noticed today was that I haven’t really used the edge screen at all, other than to show people what it does. It might be that I’m always on the phone so don’t really get a build-up of notifications, or it could be that the edge is there for style rather than usefulness.

Day 5 – fingerprint scanners make things much easier?

Fingerprint scanners have come a long way since the Motorola Atrix got the first smartphone one back in 2011. The one on the S6 edge has been incredibly accurate all week and I’m already dreading going back to a pass code on my OnePlus One.

Over the whole week so far, I can only think of four times I needed to try again with my finger. And it’s frustrated my other half who can’t get into the phone to waste my battery on games.

Another thing I found today is that the edge can record video in Quad HD, which is perfect for its Quad HD screen. But you lose a lot of features – HDR, video stabilisation and tracking autofocus all disappear. The features stop working because you’re capturing so much extra information with the higher resolution recording, but with such a powerful phone it feels like Samsung could have given us those extras.

I also discovered that the edge does have a flaw in its elegant design. Because of the edge screen, the power and volume rockers are closer to the back of the phone than they are normally, which makes them a little hard to use if the phone’s on a table.

Day 6 – the fast charger is a real party piece

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge multitaskingIt’s coming towards the end of my week with the S6 edge, so it’s probably a good time to talk about the battery.

Battery life’s not been bad, but it’s not been anything remarkable either. Yesterday I gave it a full charge and used the S6 edge as normal - playing games, reading books, sending messages and emails etc. – and I waited for the phone to go completely dead, which it did today. The battery lasted around 28 hours, a little less than my OnePlus One, but a respectable time all the same.

Where the edge really stood out, though, was when I plugged it in again. In just 30 minutes the battery was 80% full, plenty to last the whole day. That explains why I’ve only had to charge the phone in the morning while getting ready for work, rather than the usual overnight charges I do.

I also spent today trying to find apps and games that would slow the edge down. But even with big games like Asphalt 8 running, I was still able to go to the open apps and check my emails without any lag. I must have had a dozen different apps running in the background, but the edge kept up with everything.

Day 7 – a tough goodbye

Today was my last day with the Galaxy S6 edge, so I best give some last thoughts on a few things.

First up, the phone in general has been much easier to use than any Samsung in a long time. Settings menus have been cut back so you can actually find what you’re looking for and everything’s clearly labelled so you don’t have to decipher any hieroglyphics (like the old three dots that were actually a menu - they’ve been replaced with the word ‘more’).

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge menus

On the downside, I haven’t been able to get used to Samsung’s stock keyboard. I thought I should give myself time to get learn how to use it before installing a new one from the Google Play Store, but I can’t get on with it. I’d definitely switch it out for something like SwiftKey.

It would also have been nice for Samsung to squeeze in a bigger battery. It’s good to know that I can easily get a full day from a single charge, but other top phones are now pushing for two days - although the fast charger is a big bonus.

After spending a week with the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge, I think it’s living up to its hype as the best smartphone around. Problems are few and far between, and the ones that are there are pretty small. The benefits of the stunning design, brilliant camera and incredible power, by comparison, are huge and easily outweigh those little issues.

I guess the one question now is whether I can convince Samsung that the edge was stolen so I don’t have to give it back.

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