Samsung's best phones

Samsung's best phones

Samsung Galaxy S6

To say that Samsung's new Galaxy S6 smartphone is its best phone ever is not to slight the previous five versions, but to recognise that after so many attempts, Samsung has finally figured out what is important to consumers.

There was never any doubt that the company could make great phones, as evidenced by its highly successful Galaxy line of devices. But over the years, some thought that Samsung never really did its best.

For example, there was its famous insistence on using plastic for the rear cover, a major bugbear. Then there was its over-reliance on the TouchWiz user interface and indulgent addition of phone and camera features that not many consumers found useful.

All these are now gone, replaced with far superior components and a streamlined user interface, in a major design overhaul.

Instead of plastic, the S6 uses an aluminium unibody frame around the 5.1-inch screen, and Gorilla Glass 4 panels on the front and the back.

The presence of glass reflects light off the metal frame. The shimmering white, black, gold and blue add a glossy sheen to the device.

Naturally, the gold version looks great, but I am a bigger fan of the blue, which will only be available here later on.

The phone is filled with small useful touches. Instead of fully rounded sides, there is a thin flat surface that covers a portion of the sides, making it easier to grip.

The volume buttons on the left side, and power button on the right, are tiny slivers of metal that are easily pressed when needed, and do not jut out conspicuously.

The 3.5mm jack, USB charging port and lone speaker at the base of the device sit just under the Home button, below the display.

The fingerprint sensor on the Home button has been upgraded. Instead of a swipe, users need only put a finger on the button to trigger the biometrics.

Of course, hardware sacrifices had to be made to accommodate the new design. The biggest is the use of a fixed battery, for which some users have blasted Samsung.

Remember when all laptops had removable batteries? The easy availability of battery packs now allows users to have slimmer, more portable devices, without having to worry about battery life.

To compensate for the removal of the microSD card slot, Samsung has bumped up the internal memory, so that even the basic unit offers 32GB of memory, instead of 16GB as in other flagship phones.

Waterproofing, which the S5 offers, has been sacrificed in the S6. But given Samsung's penchant for variants, a Galaxy S6 Active with waterproofing is likely on the way.

Still, if some of what I describe is reminiscent of Apple's iPhone 6, it is because there are similarities. But there are also enough differences that make the S6 stand on its own.

For one thing, it offers built-in wireless charging on both PMA and Qi standards, so users who have invested in wireless charging set-ups can use their existing charging cradles with the S6.

Software

Samsung has stripped away much of its TouchWiz UI, but did not remove it completely.

As a result of a new tie-up with Microsoft, the software giant's OneDrive and OneNote apps are pre-installed in the S6. But Samsung apps such as Kindle and Galaxy Life, as well as camera features such as Dual Camera and Beauty Face, do not come pre-loaded on the S6.

Samsung has also heeded the cries from consumers and removed some lesser-used menu options from the phone. To be honest, I cannot tell you what they are, because I do not miss them at all.

The only one I do miss is the option to categorise my app drawer alphabetically. This, sadly, has gone. As I have eight pages of apps on my previous Android device, I really need an option to keep them sorted.

Processor

Known for using a mix of its own Exynos and Qualcomm Snapdragon chips for flagship phones, Samsung has decided to use only its Exynos quad-core chips in the S6.

This is an interesting choice for two reasons. First, Samsung made chips for earlier iPhone models, so why did it never use its own processors exclusively before?

The other is that the 64-bit architecture for Android is new, so until developers create apps to make use of this architecture, there is no way to compare the performance of the Samsung and Qualcomm chips.

For that, we will have to wait until later in the year.

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