Samsung is probably the biggest and best known Android smartphone manufacturer and their Galaxy line has been their flagship for the last 5 or 6 years. Traditionally they have been plastic phones with removable backs and batteries as well as lots of extra bloat software and a microSD card slot. This years S6 takes that and starts again with a handset that is glass on two sides and surrounded by a metal band. It is sealed and hence has no microSD card or changeable battery and has far less bloatware than previous Samsung Galaxy phones. It represents a large shift in Samsung’s design sense but is it a good shift?
A great camera
When talking about the S6 as soon as you get past the new look the biggest feature is the camera. I’m going to come out and just say this – its a great, great camera. It may or may not be the best camera you can get on a phone but its certainly in the top two or three contenders. The camera is high megapixel with rich colors, a very fast shutter speed and a quick autofocus. It also works surprisingly well in low light. Get a little further into the settings and the camera is surprisingly adjustable with everything from manual focus and exposure, HDR, Macro mode, fast and slow motion videos, 4k video and a plethora of downloadable filters and extra modes.
I’ve always found that one of the big selling points of Samsung phones is that they historically have had removable batteries. I had an original Galaxy Note and a stack of batteries that would get me through a couple of days away from the plugs with no problems at all. The S6 changes this trend but tries to make up for it with Fast Charging. That’s not just a description but the name of a particular technology. Plug in when the battery is very low and within a few minutes you can fill most of the battery (and then it slows down). In my unscientific testing I went from around 10% to around 75% charge in about 35 minutes. Getting to 100% took longer – about an hour and a bit – but it is much faster charging than I was used to.
There is one downside – the wall charger needs to be a “Quick Charge 2.0” compatible. One does come with the S6 but ideally you’d need to invest in another (around £10) for your bag and possibly your desk. There are also some battery packs with Fast Charge built in becoming available.
Finally the S6 also has dual wireless charging built in supporting the Qi and PIMA standards. It is rather slower than Fast Charge or even regular cable charging but offers a good way to top up at your desk or a bedside table.
Fingerprint sensors have been around for a number of years in Enterprise PC’s but have never really gone mass market and caught on. That changed last year when the S5 and the iPhone 5s both got them integrated. Unfortunately for Samsung the fingerprint sensor they were able to source for the S5 was of a markedly lower quality than the iPhones and needed you to swipe your finger across a sensor rather than just touching it.
This has changed this year with the S6 and now all you need to do is touch your finger to the sensor to unlock your phone. It doesn’t sound like a huge thing but added to Lastpass’s ability to log you in to any app or website with a tap of a fingerprint and you start to wonder what you did without it.
In practice I’ve not found it perfect and it occasionally seems to stop working for all my fingers for no obvious cause. That means I fall back on a pin which isn’t the end of the world but does mean I’ve just messed around for a few seconds tapping the same button over and over.
Samsung is a a huge South Korean conglomerate with arms in food processing, electronics, textiles, construction, theme parks, insurance, retail and shipbuilding. Most people will know them best for their consumer electronics and in they manufacture 21 percent of the worlds smart phones and are as such the worlds largest smart phone maker followed by Apple at 14 percent.
RRP £409.00 (32GB), £445 (64GB) and £588 (128GB)
Included in the box
Samsung Galaxy S6, Fast Charge wall adaptor, USB Cable, Quick Start Guide.
Processor: Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & Quad-core 2.1 GHz Cortex-A57
Operating System: Android 5.0.2
Size 14.3 x 7 x .6 cm
Weight 138g (without sim)
Screen 5.1 inches, 1330 x 2560
Battery: Lithium ion integrated 2550 mAh
Camera: 16MP front facing, 2998 x 5312 with OIS
Camera 5MP rear facing
Storage: 32/64/128GB, no microSD
Network: GSM / HSPA / LTE
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz) capable, wifi direct
Bluetooth: 4.1 A2DO, LE apt-X
NFC (Near Field Communication): Yes
IR Port: Yes
Colors: White, Black, Gold or Dark Blue
Warranty: 1 year device and battery worldwide warranty
Ease of use
The S6 was typical of an Android phone to set up. Charge, put in the sim and switch on. Log into the wifi network and then into your Google account. Select if this is a new phone or if you wish to copy an old phone and off you go.
There is a certain amount of customisation on the S6 from stock Android and a small amount of bloatware but it is significantly backed off from how Samsung’s TouchWiz used to be. It is clearly skinned but most of the changes are at least arguably benefits and do not take up too much extra room.
It is accessible to anyone with a mild-moderate visual impairment, including the blind and those who experience visual symptoms, like photophobia (light sensitivity), eye strain or colour blindness. The S6’s screen is amazingly bright, bright and detailed and the phone has access to all of the typical Android accessibility features such as a dark theme, larger text, readback and magnifiers.
It is accessible to anyone with a mild – moderate hearing impairment, including the deaf and those who experience auditory symptoms, like tinnitus or hyperacusis (sound sensitivity). The speakers in the S6 produce good quality sound although I was surprised that the volume was not as loud as I had expected.
Input and touch
It is accessible to anyone with a mild – moderate upper body impairment and those who experience symptoms that affect their hands, wrists and shoulders, like a tremor, fatigue, reduced dexterity or precision. The phones two major surfaces are made of glass which does make them somewhat slippy but the metal band somewhat counteracts this by overhanging the glass slightly and giving a lip to grip around the edge. If you are unsure of your grip I would recommend a case!
The inclusion of wireless charging in the S6 makes it much easier to charge without having to plug in a cable.
There are four buttons on the S6 – a power button on the top right hand side and a volume up and down button on the left hand side. There is a single home button on the bottom front of the screen.
The S6 includes the ability to support OTG devices. This means that subject to power restrictions you can plug in USB devices like a keyboard or mouse using an OTG cable. With an external hub I was able to use the S6 with a standard mouse and keyboard. In addition it performed well with a bluetooth external mouse and keyboard although it should be noted the S6 does not include MHL so it’s not easily possible to plug it in directly to an external monitor.
Movement and mobility
It is accessible to anyone with a mild – moderate mobility impairment, including wheelchair users and those who experience physical symptoms, like severe fatigue or chronic pain. There is no mobility requirement to use.
Motion sickness and balance disorders
It is accessible to anyone who experiences a moderate motion sickness or dizzy spells.
It is accessible to anyone with a mild – moderate cognitive impairment, including those with a learning disability like dyslexia and those who experience cognitive symptoms, like problems with memory, concentration, planning and organization.
The S6 like all smart-phones in a mini-computer but especially if you can get someone else to do the maintenance is very accessible to those with cognitive symptoms.
Despite the fact that you might think that a phone requires a certain level of social interaction to get any use out of it it is entirely possible to use the S6 and never actually make a phone call or interact with another person. There is as much or as little interaction as you want.
This product contains no common allergens and is externally made from Gorilla Glass 4 and an aluminium band.
Trigger warnings and age ratings
As an internet connected device there is always the possibility of almost any trigger however the phone itself contains no triggers and the app store is clearly labelled and sorted by age.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 represents a huge change for Samsung away from its traditional modular design language towards a self contained glass and metal unit. I was initially sceptical if it would actually work out or if they had thrown away some of their advantages for a new look. After using the S6 for several weeks I’m pleasantly surprised. The quick charge does make up for the lack of changeable batteries and with a little forethought the lack of the microSD is not a problem. The phone looks great and feels far more solid than older Samsung’s. The fingerprint sensor paired with Lastpass is genuinely useful and becoming even more so as more apps are able to take advantage of it and the camera is almost worth buying the phone for on its own right.
If you value taking pictures on your phone or want a top spec and beautiful phone the S6 should be at the top of the list of candidates. Recommended.
The review is based on the Samsung Galaxy S6 UK version. This post contains affiliate links.