The S6 is Samsung's Best Phone Yet, But Has it Lost What Made Galaxy Phones Special?

By Spencer Hart on at

After more leaks than the men's toilet at half-time the Samsung Galaxy S6 has finally broken cover. With an all-new premium build and running a slicker version of TouchWiz, this is one of the most substantial changes to the Galaxy S range in a long time.

And for all intents and purposes the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are amazing phones. We went hands-on with them in London and were impressed with what we saw – in fact, we have no-doubt that these are Samsung's best Galaxy phones yet.

But Samsung has left some feeling unhappy, because it has dropped features from the phone that originally defined and became archetypal of the Galaxy S range. Has the Korean company moved in the right direction? Or completely lost the plot?

The main point of criticism against the the past several incarnations of the Galaxy S range has been Samsung's build quality. While the company repeatedly tried to tell us that 'plastic equals durable' – we weren't having it. In comparison with the iPhone 6 and HTC One M8, the Galaxy S5 felt cheap, without actually costing less money.

Samsung has certainly quelled this criticism: the S6 is made from a metal unibody with Gorilla Glass covering the back – and it feels great. The phone is surprisingly light, the aluminium edges are smooth, well rounded and the buttons are nicely positioned. There isn't a hint of creek or flex anywhere to be found on the device.

The phone's specs are impressive, with 3GB of DDR4 RAM, and an octa-core processor running four cores at 2.1GHz and four at 1.5GHz, which Samsung reckons will give users a 80 per cent increase in performance. All sounding good so far.

It's also no exaggeration when we say that the S6's screen is the best we've ever seen on a mobile device. It's a quad-HD Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 1440x2560 on the S6 and 1440x2660 on the Edge. That means you're looking at 577 pixels per inch – perfect if you plan on popping the handset into Samsung's new Gear VR.

These powerful specs and the excellent build-quality are combined with an improved camera and slicker TouchWiz to create a really solid phone...

So Why are People Unhappy?

It comes down to a few omissions from the feature list of the Galaxy S6, specifically that Samsung has decided that the new flagship will not have a removable battery nor expandable microSD card slot.

For some, these were the Holy Grail of smartphone specifications, 'Does the iPhone have a removable battery? No? Well it's clearly inferior then,' is a common line of argument. And while other Android manufacturers began gluing their batteries in place, Samsung remained steadfast – until now.

Instead the battery will be a 2550mAh slab (down from the 2800mAh in the S5), and feature wireless charging for both Qi and PMA, as well as supporting quick charging, which gives 4 hours usage from a 10 minute charge. Blessing in disguise or a genuine downgrade?

Also gone is the microSD expansion slot, this time in the name of 'speed'. Sammy will offer the S6 with either 32GB, 64GB or 128GB of on-board storage, as well as offering a free OneDrive subscription for two years. Just how expensive a 128GB S6 Edge will be is anyone's guess, but rumours are floating around that it could break four digits.

Also missing is the water- and dust-proofing that was seen in the Galaxy S5. Not features that necessarily make or break a phone sale, but their omission could give a feeling of taking a step back for what should feel like a full leap forward.

But are Those Features Actually Necessary?

Probably not. The S6, if anything, is suffering through comparison to what has come before it, where as on its own merit is an excellent device. Samsung fans will surely learn to love the new beast with its fixed battery and susceptibility to dust.

On a personal note, until now I've never been tempted by Samsung's flagship smartphones: the design never inspired me and there's not enough tech in the world to make me want to spend £500 on a device that feels so unashamedly plastic.

However, after my brief hands-on with the S6 I am won over. So yes, while Samsung may have lost some die-hard Galaxy S fans yesterday evening, you can bet they've gained just as many followers by designing what could well be their best phone yet.

You can read our full hands-on with the Galaxy S6 here, and the S6 Edge here.

We'd love to know what you guys think, have Samsung cocked up, or have they saved the Galaxy S range? Let us know in the comments...

Welcome to Gizmodo UK's coverage of all things MWC 2015. For our comprehensive rundown of everything new and shiny at the year's biggest phone event, check here.