Samsung…the ultimate tease
[dropcaps]I recently dropped my Nexus 6 to give Samsung’s latest flagship a shot. Not only that, the S6 Edge happens to be my first Galaxy device. Hopefully that fact does not deter Samsung fans, I just have never been a fan of the Galaxy’s dated design. To me, the S6 is the first device Samsung has delivered that’s worth the price they’re charging. I value a hardware effort, and I now had no excuse to not jump in. Well…and those rad edges.[/dropcaps]
Therefore, I thought this would serve as a good opportunity to help out those who are pondering Samsung’s current offering and curious about the refined TouchWiz. Being that I’ve come from the latest stock Android build, I think I have a fresh perspective in touring the infamous UI, such as how it excels or falters in comparison.
But before I dive into my experience with switching from the Nexus ginormica to a modest 5.1″ Galaxy S6, I’m compelled to go over Samsung’s hardware undertaking.
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When I observed the press details and first impressions of the S6 back in March, I wasn’t sure how to feel. Everyone anticipated a major design overhaul, but we weren’t sure to what extent. Samsung ended up keeping the design layout familiar, but changing the entire build. Thus, my impression had to wait until I could get my hands on it.
But once I did, oh boy. The metal frame has this soft elegance to it. The glass back merges with the frame with a subtle 2.5D curvature, like the two materials are meant to be together. I have the Sapphire color, which sometimes looks black, sometimes looks navy blue. The base color works in unison with the glass to respond to bright light as gemstones do, shining mesmerizing bands of amplified color. I applaud Samsung for nailing the build at their first premium go around and for producing something exciting.
On the Edge model, the reflection of the glass stretches at the curvature. To me, it’s so visual appealing. You’re just not used to seeing this kind of thing. Viewing the curved material from different angles begs me to call the appearance of the device futuristic. The metal frame looks like a tub as the glass flows into it. There’s never been a design like this, and although subtle, it’s darn cool.
Not even accounting for attention-grabbing edges, the S6 filled the eye-candy void that my Nexus 6 left to be desired.
The buttons around the device are a mixed bag for me. While I appreciate that the power and volume buttons are on separate sides, the volume buttons are too high on the device. Not only are they an awkward reach to get to, the above-average force it takes to push them in often makes me need to resist the phone rotating out of my hand.
In contrast, the sensitivity of the Nexus 6 buttons caused frequent accidental presses, so I don’t know which I prefer.
The click of the physical home button is too loud, and sometimes it gets pressed when the phone is in my pocket and I lean on something. The bezel between the home button and the display is too small, causing me to accidentally touch something on the screen when I press the button. And I find the area of the home button too small to practically house the fingerprint scanner. While I can register many angles of my thumb, too many times do I manage to find a placement that it doesn’t like. But at least it has a fingerprint scanner, unlike the Nexus 6.
Moving from on-screen buttons to capacitive was a benefit to me, as I’m pro-capacitive. I won’t dwell on that, as we can debate it elsewhere. But as I’ve expressed, I just don’t like the physical home button.
Not to forget that I’m covering the Edge variant of the S6, what I imagine the first and foremost question being is: How is usability affected by those untraditional edges? Unfortunately, what you gain in aesthetics, you lose in ergonomics. Fashion over function, as it were. The glass on the edges falls down to the frame, reducing your grip to roughly half the thickness of the phone.
So you may then ask: How do you keep from making inputs on the screen when gripping the phone? Samsung apparently brought up the same concerns and they have a couple design cues to address it. First, the display does not extend the whole way down to the frame as the glass does, there actually is some bezel at the curve, between the display and frame.
Second, the frame has some width to push your fingers away from the screen, as you grip the phone. This creates a ledge that is not apparent with a picture/video overview of the device.
Regarding the move from a Nexus 6, going from 6″ down to 5.1″ is quite drastic. Predictably, my first reaction was “Wow, I can use it with one hand!”. But the smaller content soon began to take a tole on my satisfaction with the S6. Everyday I feel it getting worse.
As of late, Samsung’s Super-AMOLED panels have been a sight to behold. Seriously. It’s natural to think that the display you’re using on another phone is all you would need, but once you witness Samsung’s panel, it strikes you. The brightness, vibrancy, viewing angles…everything is so good about this display. With the S6, past criticism about over-saturated colors has faded. The colors are now tamed. Yes, they do retain some of that color pop that makes you know you’re using an AMOLED panel, but it’s not exaggerated anymore.
One factor I just couldn’t wait to discuss is outdoor visibility. Oh my goodness, I could praise this aspect of the S6’s display all day long. For the first time I’ve ever experience, the screen can get bright enough to counter sunlight. And I’m not just talking about good enough. I can completely see everything, clearly. This is truly a feat if you recall when OLED panels could not keep up with LCDs outdoors. Kudos to Samsung. If you’re out and about a lot, this screen is a must.
The Nexus 6 also uses an AMOLED panel, sans the ‘Super’ part. It pales in comparison outdoors with brightness set to max, I often struggled to see what was on my screen. And its lowest brightness setting, a pink tint would dominate the screen.
On the S6 Edge variant, observing content wrap around the curves is spectacular. But although I love the feature, I must admit that the excitement wears off after sometime. As we typically look at the screen straight-on, it’s easy to tune-out the effect. You then remember the curves are there when you look at the device from an angle.
Another well-deserved acknowledgement is the S6’s camera. Especially in light of the Nexus 6’s camera, which was not accepted as part of the greats. The upgrade from 13MP to 16MP on the rear camera doesn’t matter too much. But it is important to know that the S6 is 16MP at 16:9, while the Nexus 6 is 13MP at 4:3. The Nexus 6’s largest resolution at 16:9 is 9.7MP.
Samsung’s camera capability is leaps and bounds better than Motorola’s effort. I won’t get into how many more manual controls and features you get with Samsung, but rather, the efficiency of pointing and shooting. The S6 camera doesn’t require perfect lighting conditions for a good shot, HDR works automatically, low light performance is superb, and focus and capture speed can run circles around the Nexus 6’s camera.
Also, while the 5MP front camera of the S6 is nothing to write home about, selfies are much less noisy and grainy than with the Nexus 6.
It should be no surprise for me to say that the 3,220mAh battery in the Nexus 6 bests the 2,600mAh battery in the S6 Edge by a long-shot. We’ve all heard of the S6’s battery being average, I can contend that it is so. With the Nexus 6, I barely ever feared not getting through the day, but with the S6 I most certainly do. I would recommend always keeping a charger close by.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to give up wireless charging or fast charging. And from my experience, power saver on the S6 is more efficient, with the added option of an ultra power saving mode.
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This is the touchy part of the discussion (no pun intended). On the S6, TouchWiz is ever so present. The reduction of bloat that Samsung sold us on was primarily optimization of the UI. I can tell that it is quick and less laggy than previous TouchWiz iterations. But unfortunately, not everything is rainbows and unicorns in TouchWiz land, like Samsung would lead us to believe. My Nexus 6 also ran Android Lollipop 5.1.1, and after some quality time with Samsung’s implementation, it becomes apparent what should and what shouldn’t be.
First, app memory management on the S6 is…a mess. Our beloved Android multitasking is handicapped. Apps sometimes close mere seconds after switching out of them. I found that this problem got worse the longer I went without rebooting the phone. At my worst experience with it, the software would turn off Navigation on my road trip when I went to change the music. I never had this happen on my Nexus 6, nor need to reboot for it to work as it should.
Lag and slowness join into this issue the longer you go without flushing the UI. For instance, remember that quick camera shortcut that Samsung boasted about, by double clicking the home button? While a fantastic feature, if you let TouchWiz use up most of its memory bucket, you’ll be sitting there counting the seconds for the viewfinder to come around. I’ve also observed the camera app and Chrome browser freeze, leaving me with a paperweight until TouchWiz figured it out, closed, and restarted.
As a result, I’m rebooting the phone daily to avoid such annoyances. The fact that TouchWiz’s stability decays over each day is a failure of the UI and an ugly misrepresentation of Android.
But surely there must be some worthy benefits that TouchWiz brings to Lollipop? Yes, but not many such to justify a heavy UI. The multi-screen functionality is something that stock Android should have by now. Swiping down on one of the top corners will reduce an app into a floating window, so you can do other things while keeping that information in front of you. TouchWiz now has a theme engine and store offering lots of appearance options. Samsung has also developed some neat gestures and motions that are at your disposal, such as palm swiping the screen to capture a screenshot, automatically calling a contact on the screen when you bring the device to your ear, and face detection to keep the screen on while you’re looking at it.
To make the software their own, there are of course unnecessary tweaks to the lock screen, notification panel, icons, and even emoji’s. Unfortunately, this results in repercussions to how Lollipop was made. Double-clicking on lock screen notifications doesn’t do anything, the notification panel gets crowded too quickly, and sound prioritization options are not present on the volume slider. I do however prefer the news panel on the most left. I have always felt that the Google Now panel was redundant since it could be accessed just as quickly via the home button. Samsung left the Recent Apps layout untouched, with the welcomed addition of a Close All button.
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So am I satisfied with my decision to leave my Nexus 6 for the new Galaxy? I think I’ve shown that it’s a loaded question. The chassis, screen, and camera quality are tremendous improvements from the Nexus 6. But TouchWiz is so unnecessary and does more bad to Lollipop than it does good. There is also that hit to battery life, but that’s expected from a smaller device. The battery of the upcoming S6 Plus will be more appropriate to compare.
The S6 Edge variant brings something different in a dulling arena of flagships, but the glamour is short-lived. Without impactful edge functionality (see the ZTE Nubia Z9), the feature becomes forgotten about and you start to question your decision to pay $100 more for it.
I’m left with the wish that Samsung would stop fiddling with being great and push through to being the best.
I was in the same boat but i went with the note 4. S6 edge felt like a female phone my hands just ate the phone. Nexus 6 had alot of little things i couldn’t deal with. Camera front and back was a mess. No notification light was something i thought wouldn’t bother me it did. No ir blaster which really come in handy. Battery life was less than what i got on note 3 or lg g3. Stock android is not for everyone and its not for me. Some people don’t like features or gimmicks i rather have them and not use them than to not have them at all.
All valid comments, I get ya. Stock Android isn’t for everyone. Be together, not the same.
While I don’t prefer TW, I don’t mind it either. I’m open minded and like to see what other manufacturers have to offer.
But with all that said, Samsung does have some serious issues to fix with TW.
I have notification lights on mine. And running android m which is even faster than stock lollipop and with longer battery standby time. I’ll never go back to a “never updated” phone again
I had multiple galaxies. Just them having touch wiz and tizen and never updating made me quit Sammy
I agree with you. Buying Sammy from a carrier (like I did) means your phone never gets updates, and WORSE, the phone is never truly yours. I have an unlocked Note 4 from ATT packed with ATT apps I can’t delete, it will never see updates again since they must come from ATT and I no longer have service with them, and nobody wants to buy it from me now unless I’m willing to sell for $300. I bought it 10 months ago for $830. I have never seen a phone depreciate so much so fast.
Great post Josh.
@joshnor:disqus How much would your perception change about S6 Edge, if it was running on Stock Android or CyanogenMod 12.1?
Good question! The biggest downer would be the loss of the camera software, but otherwise positive, because of the TW issues. Of course software can’t fix the small screen and small battery.
I agree, I am using GS4 with CM 12. It works great, the only downside is the Camera is not that good anymore. If Samsung could ditch or improve the TouchWiz, then it will be a win-win situation.
Tell me this, does S6 Edge also comes loaded with all those bloatware?
It does. I won’t knock the Samsung apps too much, some may like them. I don’t like that you have to create a Galaxy account to be able to use them. On the remote app, I can’t simply control my TV (I don’t have cable), like with the HTC devices.
What bugs me most is the third-party apps you can’t uninstall. There’s a slew of them: Lookout, Whatsapp, Messenger, Instagram, Skype, and Amazon. At least you can disable them.
I take you haven’t installed manual camera app on your Nexus 6 (aka Shamu) if you had you would absolutely love the Nexus 6 camera… It is a known fact that do to pure Android being open source camera manufacturers do not all Google install their firmware onto Nexus devices so Google has to design their own poor camera firmware. Give manual camera app a try and you will be blown away by the speed quality and functionality
I’m picking one of these two phones for myself in the near future. I absolutely hate TW but camera performance in GS6 is making me reconsider. I would go for a GS6 Google play edition in no time…Just point me in the right directon!!! CyanogenMos 12.1 could also work great but I believe the phone isn’t supported yet.
How much does Samsung give you for writing this article?
A very poor decision, I would say.
So are you keeping the Samsung or going back to the Nexus?
That’s a tough one. I prefer stock Android over TW, but the stellar Galaxy hardware is going to make it hard to let go. Even with the more premium Nexus last year, the camera was still lacking. The screen was terrible outdoors. I’m tired of hoping for a Nexus that can keep up hardware-wise with other flagships.
Regardless, I’m on Jump On Demand now, so I’m positive one of those upgrades later in the year will be a Nexus :)
Excellent article. I give you kudos for finally trying Sammy. I for one will not be buying one of their devices again for quite some time, if ever. Those little annoyances, delays, freezes, etc, truly detract from the experience of using a phone. I tried their Note 4 (which was supposed to END ONCE AND FOR ALL touchwiz’s slow downs), but it didn’t. The S6 is supposed to tame touchwiz, but it truly doesn’t either. I pointed to a friend that touchwiz is in fact slow, he argued, and I asked him to try his brand-new S6. I unlock, click on chrome and wait for a full 3 seconds for the app to launch. He then points out that “all phones are like that.” No, they aren’t. If all you’ve ever had is Sammy, as is his case, then you’ve been ingrained into the experience. I then pickup my iPhone 6 plus, which by all accounts is an inferior phone hardware-wise, and it launches safari within a half a second. My Note 4 had constant freezes opening the camera, shooting pictures, opening apps, loading webpages, unlocking, entering text into hangouts, scrolling through play music, etc. The multitasking button has a constant 2 second delay built into it. It drove me mad. There is nothing out there with a screen as gorgeous as the Note 4 or the new S6, but the experience is a mess. I rather stick with snappy and responsive devices like iPhones, HTC Ones, Nexus, etc.
That’s exactly my worry! I hate hate hate that people would think “That’s just how Android is”. That’s why I referred to TW as a misrepresentation of Android. People who aren’t tech savy think that’s just how it is and it hurts Android’s image.
Good read. I just switched from a rooted htc one m8 to gs6. Previous galaxy phone was a gs3. I miss xposed and the front facing speakers on the htc. But man was that phone laggy. I’m holding off rooting this phone in hopes of Sammy releasing a fix for the lag and battery issues. So far the phone has been stable. With a few tweaks here and there I’ve been able to get almost 13 hours between charges.
Maybe. 5.1. With the massive hardware on this phone, any lag is inexcusable. And yet it lags.
Agreed. I wish manufacturers actually test their products for real world usage before rushing them out the door. As for me I have no choice but to stick with this phone. Hopefully sammy will address these issues soon.
Exactly. My first thought when getting lags with it: How can this be, it has an octa-core processor!!
Or when you have an app running in the background and when switch back over it kicks you out which just happened to me with IG.
This a very great article, I have been wondering how dramatic the difference is between the real representation of android and a misrepresentation of android (Samsung). I have the galaxy s6 non edge variant and have all the problems you do, one bug that I cannot stand is when sending a message through the stock messages app, it lags when you’re typing and someone sends you a text at the same time, being a social guy I tend to text a lot and receive messages at the same time as typing them to others. The 2 plusses that have me keeping this phone is that the camera is outstansing, and I got the gold edition and this thing just looks pure sexy.
I had that issue with mms on my htc. So far no similar issues.
Once again the best galaxy phone is one that is rooted and rommed.
Yes, but the point is: You shouldn’t have to :)
Yup, rooted mine and got Titanium Backup and deleted all the verizon bloatware. Just gonna regret rooting when 5.1 comes out for the verizon variant , cause the only way to update it once you’re rooted on the s6 is to Odin reset it.
Why don’t you just download Google Now Launcher instead of using Touch Wiz?
The appearance isn’t the problem. Throwing a skin on top of TW won’t solve the system issues it has.
Great article. I’ve been using the S6 for about a month after selling my Nexus 6 a while back and using the iPhone 6 Plus as my daily driver. I decided I missed stock Android too much and just picked up the Nexus 6 again after the recent price drop. The S6 camera and screen are amazing but the Galaxy S6 user “experience” just sucks. So happy to be back with the Nexus.
You must have heaps of disposable cash! I left behind a two year old Son xperia Z, 5 inch screen for the Nexus 6 a couple of months ago after a nice price drop and will never go back to a smaller screen than this, I had two big doubts before finally moving to the Nexus 6, the first was size and the second was it wasn’t 64bit. At 6 foot tall this phone fits perfectly in my hands with a cover and it has great simplicity and died away with the need for a tablet. I’ve never had a paid Apple product and would be very unlikely to return to non Nexus androids. I’m confident Motorola makes great phones and its just a shame the next Nexus doesn’t look like it will be a Moto.
Or I must have a disease…a tech purchasing disease…
Since 2009 – 2013 I used nothing but Galaxy device, and for all of 2013 I was constantly swapping phones with people to try every flagship imaginable. It wasn’t until the beginning of 2014 that my Tax return was bigger then expected and I decided to try my 1st Nexus devices and for the 1st time ever purchased my 1st ever full priced unlocked Nexus devices prior I always either swapped phones or used the contract upgrade pricing.
Initially i had some buyers remorse as Stock Android seemed rather boring and plain or Vanilla if you will. But after using it for a month or 2 I began to realize out of all the devices I used prior which boasted better hardware and features Stock Android gave me the most pleasant and consistently smooth experience I spent all of 2014 and the 1st 2 months of 2015 enjoying my Nexus 5 with little to no desire to switch phones. Now Here I am with the Nexus 6 and my only gripe is I sometime (keyword) I wish it was a little smaller around 5.5-5.7 I feel would be perfect me me, and even with all its short comings compared to other flagships that on paper should offer the better experience they simply pale in comparison.
This is why Experience is always greater than Specs.
Thanks for given use full information
Is it possible to put the Google experience launcher on it and disable touchwiz?
No. Not unless you root/unlock and throw on another ROM
That’s very interesting. I assume that you are able to add something like Nova Launcher? If that’s the case I wonder how they are able to block the installing of the google launcher.
Not what I meant. You can install the Google launcher, but you can’t get rid of TW without rooting/unlocking and installing another ROM
Nice reviews, as an answer for wondering about experience with s6, comparing with my choice over g4, this will justify my options over s6 becoz software things,
as previous owner nexus5 that bring to my wife,
more clean android, more give best experience.
Think nexus is the best but the camera is worst, moto and x and lg g4 give more balance.
Definitely, I’ll never change a Nexus for a Galaxy. I don’t care the materials, I don’t care the Touchwiz optimised, I don’t like the SGS6 and I don’t envy to the new SGS6. BTW I’m very happy with my Nexus 5 D820 32Gb. Best regards and sorry for my english!
No mention of Samsung’s lag on Android updates? Nexus 6 is on 5.1.1.and S6 is still stuck on 5.0. And M has some dynamite new features and better performance and Nexus 6 will get that very promptly. Anyone want to start a pool on when Samsung gets off its keister and delivers M to the S6?
Samsung thinks it’s has a sales problem now, wait until the masses finally understand that you can pickup a brilliant off plan Motorola for $200 USD, Samsung has fallen into the trap that Sony has taken over a decade to stumble its way out of. Namely, we are the market leader and can charge whatever we like for our latest products. The nonsense of seeing the price of the S6 at the same level or higher than the hyper inflated margins of Apple (a one truck pony that’s also about to have a spectacular crash in sales). The nonsense of preinstalled bloat with Microsoft apps and plenty of other crap preloaded and non removable by the average Joe. I see the same with the screaming high prices Samsung wants for their latest LCD televisions, still inferior to my 2014 65 inch plasma Panasonic picked up for $2400 in Oz but Samsung wants double that price for the same size set simply because they’ve added a dodgy user interface and 4k into the stale LCD tech. The Chinese manufacturers of Android are about to write the floor with Samsung, a year or so ago news articles were claiming Samsung was so powerful that they were going to move off Android and migrate the customer base to a new Tizen platform. The opposite is true, Samsung contrived to build phones for their shareholders, the Chinese raiders are building phones for consumers. I expect Motorola to be a big winner as well.
Nice information and great article. Thanks for sharing it…
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I am very like to use S6. It’s really more features mobi. My personal opinion is Samsang S6 is much better than iphone 6 and 6 plus. Happy to hear it back with reasonable price.
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