The S6 Edge borrows the curved screen from the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge and takes it to its logical conclusion: it wraps around both edges of the phone, instead of just one.
It’s a first for smartphone design, and certainly makes the handset stand out. But is it a pointless novelty? Or a genuinely useful feature?
It’s one of the few points of difference between this and the standard S6, which we also took for a spin recently.
Samsung needs a hit right now. The firm is under attack from both the high and low-end of the market.
It was recently overtaken by Apple as the world’s biggest maker of smartphones.
In China, native upstarts like Xiaomi are eating into Samsung’s market share – according to market research firm IDC, Xiaomi’s share was up 186 per cent compared to two years ago, while Samsung’s was down 22 per cent.
Is the S6 Edge the game changer Samsung hopes? We’re on the edge of our seats.
Looking for a review of the standard Galaxy S6? You'll find our take on Samsung's more conventional new handset here: Samsung Galaxy S6 review
First impressions and design
Fire up the S6 Edge, and the screen is the first thing you’ll notice. It’s a beaut.
At 5.1 inches, and with a resolution of 2,560x1,440 pixels (that’s QHD, or four times as sharp as the Samsung Galaxy S5’s), it really jumps out at you.
Especially if you’re in a dim room, as the default brightness setting is the highest possible.
A bit of advice: set it to auto brightness, unless you want to be dazzled in the dark.
The curved edges really make a difference too.
They make it look as if the handset has no bezels whatsoever (something phone makers in the Far East are doing their best to achieve).
The result is the screen just goes on and on. It looks properly futuristic, like nothing we’ve seen before.
Once you’ve stopped cooing over the screen, you’ll realise the phone is metal and glass like the Sony Xperia Z3, not plastic like the Galaxy S5 and its predecessors.
It might not sound a huge change, but it makes a real difference to how the handset feels.
For the first time, a Samsung Galaxy phone feels really premium, and like it can challenge the iPhone 6 and HTC One M9 in terms of build quality.
One downside is that, like the Xperia Z3, it’s a magnet for fingerprints.
The edges also tend to be a little sharp on the underside. But that’s no big deal.
Samsung has made another couple of changes, design-wise. The back of the S6 Edge isn’t removable, unlike the flimsy back of the S5. It makes it feel more solid.
Samsung has also dropped the microSD card slot in order to make the device slimmer.
To make up for this, the cheapest model comes with 64GB of storage instead of 16GB (though the standard S6 starts at 32GB). But it’s still sure to anger some who demand more storage.
Android 5.0 Lollipop is on board, as expected. This is the latest version of Android, and can be found on all manner of new phones, from high-end handsets like this, to the £110 Motorola Moto E.
Though at last count, it’s only on 3.3 per cent of all active Android devices. That’s very low for an operating system that’s been out for four months.
Lollipop isn’t the only treat, software-wise. Samsung has added the latest version of its TouchWiz user interface.
This has a couple of improvements over previous versions.
There’s less bloatware – Samsung claims to have pre-loaded 40 per cent fewer apps than on the Galaxy S5. And what there is can be removed. Not going to use Microsoft OneDrive? Delete it and free up some space.
TouchWiz is a bit cleaner than the previous version, but it still looks like it was designed in Microsoft Paint.
It’s still inconsistent too – some icons are square, some are round. Samsung needs to give it a thorough going over if it wants to create a world-class interface. Or drop it altogether.
What’s wrong with standard Android?
Though S Health is a big step on – excuse the pun – from before. It’s a lot less busy visually. The more streamlined approach really works.
Gosh, the features. What don’t you get?
As well as the wraparound screen, the device has pretty much all the bells and whistles of the S5.
The IR transmitter turns it into a universal remote control, there’s a heart-rate sensor, an improved fingerprint scanner, Samsung’s usual suite of homegrown apps (S Health, S Planner, S Voice etc), and better speakers to boot.
The edges of the screen also have some tricks up their sleeves.
You can assign each coloured tile down the side to a different person. Purple for mum, say.
Swipe across from that tile on the homescreen, and you’ll see missed calls and texts from your dear old mother.
When your mum calls, the whole edge will glow purple too – place the phone face down on a desk, and you’ll see who’s calling without having to pick it up.
If you’re too busy to talk – perish the thought – you can send a message saying so: hold down the heart-rate sensor for a couple of seconds and it’ll send an automated message. Easy.
You can also see notifications – emails, texts, missed calls – down the edge of the screen, as well as the Information Stream, which shows a glance at what’s going on on Twitter or a trending news story.
The screen edges can also show the time, and, with a quick swipe, how long before your alarm goes off.
As mentioned, the microSD card slot and removable back are gone. But there’s still plenty to enjoy.
The S6 Edge is a joy to use. The octa-core chipset has it flying around menus and apps (of course, the 3GB of RAM does its bit too), and the edge-to-edge screen makes the whole experience more immersive.
The 16-megapixel camera is also a delight. Noise is practically non-existent, as is shutter lag. Even in low light, the results are impressive, with bags of detail.
In fact, we’d say it’s up there with the iPhone 6 Plus and Nokia Lumia 1020 as one of the best smartphone shooters around.
Battery life is impressive. It was lunchtime on the second day before it conked out. That’ll be the Exynos processors flexing their efficiency muscles.
Downsides? It’s not cheap. In fact, the fancy screen gives it a price tag of £720 SIM-free, which is £120 more than the standard S6. Ouch.
Though let’s remember the entry-level S6 Edge does have twice the storage of the cheapest S6.
The S6 Edge is a great phone, no doubt about it. It certainly isn’t cheap, and maybe you’ll question if the cool screen is worth the extra cash.
But if money is no object, it’s one of the best smartphones you can buy right now. It could just be the lifeline Samsung needs.
- Screen: 5.1–inch, Super AMOLED, 2560 x 1440 pixels
- Camera: 16 megapixel rear facing with optical image stabilisation, auto HDR and 4K video - Recording. 5 megapixels front–facing camera.
- Storage: 32, 64 and 128GB variants, no microSD slot
- Weight: 132g
- Dimensions: 142.1 x 70.1 x 7 mm
- Software: Android 5.0 Lollipop, Samsung TouchWiz UI
The Samsung Galaxy S6 handset we reviewed was supplied by Tesco Mobile