As efforts like After The Buzz, the Pocketnow U-Review, and Empty Nest demonstrate, we’re constantly searching for fresh ways to review mobile technology. The newest product of those efforts is Pocketnow’s “Review Rebuttal” series, in which a member of our team is assigned to test a smartphone or tablet that’s already gone through our standard review process. While the resulting video or editorial doesn’t affect the “official” Pocketnow review score, we hope it provides added context by showcasing an editor’s personal opinion, rather than a team-wide consensus.
We call it the “rebuttal” because the new opinion sometimes differs significantly from the thrust of the original review. Rather than reject or bury that, we think the dissenting opinion is valuable – and we present it for your evaluation alongside select product reviews.
Weird phones. Man oh man, there are some weird phones out there. I love them. I love every dang one of them. I want to try everything in this mobile space. So far, I’ve had a pretty good go at it. One of my favorite weird phones is the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge. This phone got a bad rap from the start, so I had to stand up for it. I did and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. So, when the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge came out, I had to get it. Of course, Michael Fisher would handle the review of the phone, but the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge review rebuttal was all mine.
Mr. Fisher gives us a solid review of this device by reviewing its sibling, the Galaxy S6. Everything in that review applies to this review as well – they are basically the same phone. But the Galaxy S6 Edge adds a bit of flavor to the mix, which is what we’re going to talk about today.
I have been carrying the S6 Edge for two weeks, (minus three days over Father’s Day weekend) mostly in the downtown Chicago area and the western suburbs. The model I have is an AT&T branded device, which is my home network. AT&T generously provided the phone to us and I am thankful for the opportunity to give this a look with my own eyes.
Right off the bat, the Samsung hits a home run in the hardware department. This phone is gorgeous. The Galaxy S6 is gorgeous enough, but the S6 Edge, takes it to 11. The curves on both sides of the glass give this phone a distinct look that makes it stand out, not so much to be obnoxious. It is just distinct enough so that while walking down the aisle of a train, looking at the passengers hands (I can’t be the only one who does this), you say to yourself, “phone, phone, phone, wow…look at that.” The edges of the S6 Edge do say wow, but more in an understated, “Of course I look great, now let’s get down to business” kind of way.
The edge also adds that infinity pool effect to the phone. Your mind almost thinks it’s 3D, even though it’s a flat screen. That’s fun by itself, but add to that the scrolling effect you get when swiping left and right. The icons/text/whatever you’re looking at bend slightly as they leave the screen not unlike actual scrolls of old. It’s a cool effect that, like rounded corners in webOS apps, I wish more phones did by default. Seriously, try it. It’ll change your life.
Finally, we get to the fingerprint scanner. Unlike the disaster of previous generations of fingerprint swiping, Samsung got this one right too. Comparisons are going to be drawn to Apple’s TouchID because it’s basically the same process, and it works just as well as Apple’s implementation. It’s only worth mentioning here because the Note’s scanner was pretty bad.
The lighter and more nimble Samsung Touchwiz skin is back, as is the Samsung Touchwiz lag of old. Yes, it’s true that Samsung seems to have made its custom skin lighter, and the lag that Samsung has practically trademarked happens far less frequently that it has on older models, but it is there. And though it happens less frequently, when it does happen, it happens hard. Sometimes, I’ve been able to pull myself out of the software nose dive, and other times, I’ve had to pull the ejection handle and apologize to the taxpayers. This is not a daily occurrence, but it happens often enough that you notice it, nod to yourself, and clear your calendar for the next five minutes while you fight with your phone.
Getting back to the edge and its functionality, much of it is modified from the Note Edge. Returning is the night clock mode, which is still maddeningly limited to a 12-hour window. Also returning are news tickers and sports scores, but with limited functionality in that they only work when the rest of the screen is off and only when you tickle it. You think I’m kidding? You have to rub your finger back and forth over the edge to activate it.
Finally, we come to the focus of the edge, which is the People Edge, which was not endorsed by Dwayne Johnson. We’ll just file that under “missed opportunities”. The People Edge allows your phone to be a more efficient hub of communications for five of your closest friends, colleagues, and loved ones. When you find yourself on the home screen, you can activate it by swiping the top edge of the screen. From there you see your color coordinated contacts and a swipe to the left (or right depending on your handedness). This shows you recent activity – emails, missed calls and such. It makes contacting those 5 people pretty quick and easy to be sure, but I’m not on board with limiting the edge that much. More on that later.
Now let’s talk about the Achilles Heel of this device – the battery. Michael Fisher has already rightly harped on this, but I wanted to add a few of my own thoughts from a nine-to-fiver’s perspective. The battery will last you between 14-17 hours of light to moderate use, which includes a couple of hours on the train, tethering, reading, podcast playing, etc. and about 9 hours at an office on wifi. Of course during that time, the phone pretty much rests on a desk, and beeps every now and then. You’ll get home with some juice left in the tank, but chances are you’ll go to bed with this phone having already been tethered to a plug.
Then, there are days that you take a couple of hours off to walk down to a Stanley Cup championship parade – almost an annual tradition here in Chicago – and stand around and take a few dozen photos, upload to Facebook, text, tweet, etc. On those days, you’re plugged in by lunch. This is a problem. There are flagship phones out there that are more than ready to stand up to an endurance test like that. Also, consider the fact that Samsung execs stood up on stage and proudly declared that they wouldn’t have made the battery non-removable until they felt the battery technology met their expectation. That makes this move not only bad, but actually laughable.
But you won’t care, and here’s why.
In the past, my smartphone camera experience has been just okay. I had come to accept a few realities around the concept of the smartphone camera and my photographic ability in general. Action shots are going to be blurry. Low light shots are going to be a grainy mess. Never, ever zoom. Then I got my hands on the Galaxy S6 Edge and my world exploded.
All of my assumptions were blown completely out of the airlock. This thing was…amazing. Actually, I can’t use the word I normally use to describe the camera in this editorial. But it starts with “in” and ends with “credible”. There’s another word in there – use your imagination. Before I even knew what happened I was zooming in on my hat, photographing flowers at night, and even reading signs 15 floors down and across the river as if they were billboards on the highway.
Michael has rightly gone on and on about the camera, so I won’t reiterate his points here. But what I will say is that I have long been looking for a smartphone camera that could make up for a lot of photographic shortcomings I had. I thought the answer to that was the Samsung Galaxy Zoom. It was a bad answer, but it was still an answer. I see now that Samsung has found the answer and put it in its latest smartphone.
Conclusion – Worth the weird?
Samsung put together one hell of a smartphone. Yes, it’s true that some flaws remain – battery life and occasional nuclear lag among them, but the good of this phone far outdistances the bad. It’s not even close. This is a great smartphone. It is the best smartphone I have ever carried. I’m not even making that up.
But I didn’t come here to judge the camera, nor the battery. We’re here to talk about the weird. This is the GS6 Edge after all, so let’s talk about that edge. From an aesthetics standpoint, the edge adds a lot of “future” elegance to the Galaxy S6. This phone looks like you’re using the future. Little things like a curved screen can really make a smartphone shine, and Samsung nails it here.
But Samsung handcuffed the Edge functionality. On the Note Edge, it moved a lot of UI over to that edge. It moved your Home screen persistent icons to the edge. It moved notifications to the edge. Some of that is still here, but only in a hobbled way. The People Edge is a nice idea, but it’s a gimmick that is only useful to a few people. I filled up my 5 spots, but I really only used it for two of them. Phones are communication devices, but they’re rapidly becoming more consumption devices. Perhaps if the People Edge could include notifications for “Facebook” or “Twitter” I could see a lot more use there, but as it is right now, the Edge is a shadow of its former self, which is sad. So that takes us back to looks. Are looks and a little bit of “wow” factor worth an almost 20% increase in price? I’m not so sure.
If I were spending my own money on it, I would probably think to myself that an extra $130 isn’t so bad once you commit to spending over $650 (The S6 is currently at AT&T for $684.99, the Edge for $814.99). Are you the same way? I can’t say. The Edge certainly does not add $130 worth of extra function, so whether or not it’s worth the weird depends on how much you like flashing your phone around to your friends.
Regardless of which way you go, if you’re getting an S6 or an S6 Edge you are getting a great smartphone and this is one of the best smartphones, if not the best smartphone, available today. If Samsung can take what it learned from these devices and build on them (read: fix the battery) it might find itself with as close to a “perfect” smartphone that we have seen to date. For now it’s still in the no-compromise, upper echelon of smartphones. As for the competition these days, game over.
Once again, we want to thank our friends at AT&T for providing us with this review unit. If you want one of your own – and you should – you can get an S6 Edge, or even a Galaxy S6 over at att.com.