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Hands on with the new Samsung Galaxy S6, GS6 edge

Al Sacco | March 3, 2015
Today, Samsung officially announced its two latest smartphones, the Galaxy S6 (GS6) and Galaxy S6 edge, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. I couldn't make the trip to Spain for the company's big fête, but I did meet with Samsung last week in New York City, where it detailed both new devices and gave me hands-on time with them.

Samsung also says it improved the fingerprint scanner that's built into the GS6's home button, which is definitely a good thing because its previous fingerprint reader was lackluster. Users now need only touch the scanner instead of having to swipe down on the button for authentication. I wasn't able to test the feature, so I can't say how well it works.

The speakers on both devices are notable, because they offer significantly higher volume and audio quality than the GS5.

Both devices run Android v5.0.2 "Lollipop," and both use the custom Samsung Android skin, "TouchWiz." I didn't spend too much time testing software features, but as soon as you start scrolling through menus, it's clear that Samsung did some much needed organizing. Past versions of TouchWiz were packed with extraneous features that were probably well-intentioned on Samsung's part but served only to clutter what is already a busy OS. The latest software doesn't feel as clunky, and according to Samsung Senior Designer, Hong Yeo, that's because the company reduced its feature set "by more than 40 percent." (Read more on Yeo and his design inspiration for the GS6 in "Galaxy S6 Designer Says Phones Are 'New Face of Samsung'.")

While my first impressions of both devices are positive, and the GS6 and GS6 edge seem like great phones, there are a few things I don't like.

For example, the GS6 devices both have fixed batteries, which are par for the course these days; fewer and fewer modern devices have removable batteries, but this is a trend that I do not favor.

The GS6s also don't support memory cards, so you're stuck with the 32GB, 64GB or 128GB of storage that's built into the phones. Combined with your cloud storage service of choice (both devices also come with 65GB of free Microsoft OneDrive storage), that's probably enough for most people, but I still like having the option to swap out memory cards.

I also can't help but worry about the rear glass panels on both devices. The more glass on a phone, the more potential for breaks, even if the glass is durable Gorilla Glass.

Again, this is not a review, and it takes time to really understand what works well and what doesn't with a new device; it's impossible to see a smartphone's real warts in just an hour.

That said, I'm very much intrigued by the GS6 and GS6 edge, and I'm looking forward to putting them through the paces in the not-too-distant future.

The GS6 and GS6 edge will be available in the United States starting in April, according to Samsung. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless are expected to carry both devices, and Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS plan to carry the GS6. Visit Samsung's website for more official details on both new devices.

 

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