Samsung’s Galaxy S6 Edge+ is the ultimate Android phone, and it comes with an ultra-premium price tag.
Oil barons with billions to burn, forget those bonkers gold mobiles from Vertu. This is the status symbol you’re looking for. As for the rest of us, it’s the phablet interest-free overdrafts were made for.
The Edge+’s concept is nothing too bold. It’s a larger version of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge that wowed us earlier this year, with a screen that curves around at the edges. The sort of thing that would only have been a far-off concept design a couple of years ago. However, an extra chunk of screen gives the Edge+’s display that extra-impressive edge while it’s also technologically superior to almost everything out there.
There’s just one issue with Samsung’s sort of Note 4 successor though. At around £749 for the 'entry-level' 32GB version and up to £829 for the 64GB one, it’s expensive enough to make your debit card run for the hills.
Curved to perfection
As its name suggests, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ looks an awful lot like the original S6 Edge. It’s just bigger.
That means the front of the phone is all-glass and curves around at the edges, in a way that seemed to defy the limits of what was possible when it first arrived. It’s a stunning phone, but it’s not the curve itself that impresses most.
What really draws the eye is the way the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+’s curvy bits catch the light, distorting reflections like the mobile phone equivalent of camera lens flare in old movies. It just looks cool, even if it does amount to the fetishisation of a bit of glass.
Like other Samsung phones of 2015, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ is also about 46 times more impressive in the hand than the company’s pre-S6 phones. Glass on the front, glass on the back and aluminium on the sides add up to a phone that feels hard and expensive.
£829 expensive? I’m not even sure a phone can feel £829 expensive without being plastered with cringe-worthy gold and jewels. Especially when you’ve got handsets like the OnePlus 2 floating about.
Handful of jewels
Then there’s the size issue. By stretching out the Edge+’s design a bit, it’s actually a bit less accessible than the S6 Edge, size-wise. Have small hands? Definitely consider the original Edge or just the plain ole Galaxy S6 instead.
However, saying that I didn’t have any issues and, coming straight from using the OnePlus 2, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ feels only slightly bigger despite having 0.2 inches of bonus screen space. After all, this phone is only 6.9mm thick.
The only part that stays with me is how the combination of glass body and high price gives you a small heart attack every time the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ slips from your grip. Owning one of these feels like a responsibility as well as a joy.
Samsung has naturally packed just about everything from the S6 Edge/S6 into the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, although not absolutely everything. For example, there’s no IR blaster. This normally shows up as a tiny little black circle on the top of a phone, and lets it work like a universal remote.
Samsung probably thinks it can quietly snip this bit off without anyone realising, but I’ve actually been using this recently in the standard S6 to get an old PVR working. It’s perfect if you lose a remote, temporarily or otherwise. And leaving this Samsung flagship staple feature out in a phone this pricey seems a bit cheeky. Samsung has pulled the same trick with the UV sensor, something you get in the Note 4. It’s gone, although I can’t say I’ve missed it.
There’s also no microSD card slot, so make sure you choose carefully between the 32GB and 64GB versions. However, despite having just recommended the 64GB OnePlus 2 (£289) I’m not sure I can say the same here. The 64GB Edge comes with an £80 price hike at present.
All the other usual connectivity bits are bobs feature in the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, though. You get NFC, a heart rate and blood oxygen sensor on the back and a fingerprint scanner on the front.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+’s scanner seems to be pretty much exactly the same as the S6 one. It’s perhaps a tiny bit slower than the iPhone 6’s Touch ID button, but is otherwise fantastic. It’s fast, it’s accurate. Great stuff.
In chipping away some of the extras people rarely use, Samsung seems to be heading back to the shop with the bulk order of kitchen sinks it made a few years ago. It has realised maybe it doesn’t need all the extras. We just wish it wasn’t happening with a phone so conspicuously expensive.
The screen makes up for it, though. The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ has a 5.7-inch 2560 x 1440 pixel Super AMOLED display, similar to what the Note 5 offers, except apparently we’re not getting that phone in the UK. Boo, hiss, and so on.
As I’ve come to expect from a Samsung top-end phone, screen quality is just terrific. Contrast is incredible, sharpness is almost perfect at 518ppi, and with the right setting colour is beautiful.
In the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ settings menu you can pick between various screen modes that give you various degrees of colour intensity. By far the best, if you’re after a natural-looking image, is the dull-sounding ‘basic’. The rest are seriously oversaturated. But, hey, plenty of people love that turbo-charged look.
Take it outside and the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ copes with bright daylight better than just about any phone on the market right now too. This is simply an incredible screen. If anything it starts using its vibrancy-boosting mode a bit too readily (part of this involves blasting up colour saturation, which helps preserve clarity in bright conditions).
Most of what’s so incredible about it is the display quality, though, not anything to do with its curvy bits. As a fair chunk of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ curve is actually plain old display surround, only a few millimetres of display are actually curvy. And while Samsung has had a crack at making the curve useful, it's by no means essential.
What’s in a curve, anyway?
What the curve does is to allow gestures that offer shortcuts to your favourite apps and contacts. A flick along the right (or left if you tweak it) curve opens-up a side panel of pre-selected icons: there’s one for apps, one for contacts. The issue is that I find this gesture a bit flakey, and even when I do manage to get the drawer to open on first or second attempt, it just doesn’t feel like you’re saving much time.
After all, with a 5.7in screen to play with it’s not as though your home screen can’t help out. There’s room to spare. And you should really be customising the icon dock at the bottom of the display before using the Edge app tray every day. Or at all.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+’s edge notifications are at least a tiny bit more convincing. You can set the side of the phone to light-up when you get notifications for missed calls, messages and so on. The idea is this bit will be visible even if you’re looking at the phone from a funny angle. And as the phone uses a Super AMOLED screen, it hardly uses any power too.
Samsung actually tried a lot harder to justify the curve with its very first curvy phone, the Note Edge from 2014. You could even play games and run dedicated apps on it. Ultimately, it's little more than a cool gimmick.
TouchWiz is on a meditation break
Dialling back on the very obvious effort in the software is one of the best things Samsung has done in the last year. For example, the Samsung UI has gone from being one of the messiest, busiest custom versions of Android to one of the very best. These days it has much less ‘extra interface’ than what you get from LG, HTC or Sony. Who’d have thought that two years ago?
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ interface isn’t a carbon copy of the default Android Lollipop UI, which is the software that runs underneath, but it does have most of the same basic aims. As much as possible, it fills the screen with your apps and content rather than anything else. It feels like a blank canvas. The only part not in this style is Briefing.
This is an extra homescreen you get to by flicking left-to-right from the lead homescreen, and it’s a neat rolling newsfeed powered by Flipboard, one of the most popular mobile news apps. It’s Samsung’s take on what HTC does with BlinkFeed, basically. It looks great, feels great and is customisable.
As swish as I find it, I’ll admit I haven’t found myself using it day-to-day, but Samsung also makes it dead easy to remove too. As it stands the default Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ software is great to use. But you can muck it up with all sorts of themes if you want, too. Like the S6, you can download loads of them from the Settings menu. Some are great, lots are overly childish and cartoony.
S Health is good now, honest
S Health used to be terrible. All overblown visuals and show-off style, it had none of the quick simplicity I liked in rival third-party fitness/health trackers. That has all changed. S Health now has a great, fairly simple UI with modules you can add and remove for things like heart rate, run tracking, blood oxygen and even metrics the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ doesn’t measure itself, like blood glucose (for diabetes sufferers) and blood pressure.
S Health is strong these days, the only issue being there are also loads of other excellent choices out there that do similar things.
S Planner is pretty great too. It’s just a calendar app, but packs-in more detail per screen than Google Calendar, making terrific use of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+’s large, high-ppi display.
The more Samsung simplifies its software, the better is tends to get. However, it feels like we’re already there with the interface in general. It’s perhaps a little bit less attractive than vanilla Android Lollipop, but runs like a dream.
It’s almost totally lag-free, and many of its parts fling by with the sort of speed you don’t often see outside Windows Phone. I’ve had a lot of fun using the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ doesn’t get this by super-charging the CPU beyond what we got in the Galaxy S6. It doesn’t need to. The phone has an Exynos 7420 CPU, an octo-core processor with four 2.1GHz Cortex-A57 ‘meat’ cores and four easy-going 1.5GHz Cortex-A53 ‘potatoes’ ones. That’s the same CPU as the S6 Edge and S6.
Funnily enough, we actually squeezed slightly lower Geekbench 3 scores out of this than the Samsung Galaxy S6, with 4796 to just above 5000 from the S6 on certain runs. Was it a fluke? Was Samsung cheating with the Galaxy S6? Who knows. However, it’s not really worth worrying about. Nothing seems to challenge the phone much right now. I fired-up Riptide GP2 and cranked up all its settings to maximum (far more than the default) and it was super-smooth 99 per cent of the time.
One of the real triumphs of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+’s Exynos 7420 CPU is not its power, but its efficiency. It’s one of the first 14nm mobile processors, meaning its transistors measure just 14 nanometers across: really, really tiny. The rival Snapdragon 810, used in the HTC One M9 and others, is made using a 20nm processor. It’s a generation behind.
It’s no wonder, then, that despite being as skinny as it is, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ tends not to get quite as hot as most of the top-end Android competition. For a phone this slim, it stays fairly cool most of the time, at least when doing low-sweat tasks like browsing.
Battery on trial
This kind of efficiency has also meant Samsung has not had to cram in an insanely huge battery to match and beat the competition on stamina. The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ has a 3000mAh battery, which is almost 10 per cent smaller the Galaxy Note 4’s 3220mAh unit.
Battery stamina is kinda similar to the Galaxy S6. Use it a fair amount and you’ll definitely need to charge every day. However, just use it for WhatsApp/messaging and the odd photo and you should be able to get a solid day and a half off a charge. We’d love to see Samsung make an S6-a-like with a truly giant battery, but it seems pretty attached to slim body designs.
For a bit more anecdotal evidence, on one of the first days I used the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, I went out on a bit of a photo expedition. As well as taking just under 200 shots I listened to an hour or so of podcasts streamed over 4G and played Monument Valley for about 20 minutes. Plus there was the usual nattering over WhatsApp. The phone was just-about dead by 6pm. Push it hard and you’ll get to the end of the work day but not much further.
However, when given a specific task to do that doesn’t require lots of juggling between apps and a on-off access to the mobile internet signal, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ lasts for absolutely ages. Left to play a 720p MP4 video without hunting for emails in the background and so on, the phone hangs on for a remarkable 15 hours 45 minutes before conking out.
It even does amazingly well when streaming Netflix over your mobile internet. I watched just about 45 minutes of Netflix in the gym and it only ate away 10 per cent of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+’s juice.
This is definitely one of the longer-lasting phones, although the performance does vary quite a bit on what you’re doing, more so than with some other phones. Its stamina is down to efficiency savings in both the hardware and software, not because the battery is truly massive given the screen the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ uses.
Move over, Canon
Just like the Samsung Galaxy S6 and original S6 Edge, though, the camera is just fantastic. It’s among the best phone cameras ever. You’ll love this thing, we’re sure.
Specs-wise, it’s going to sound pretty familiar. The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ has a 16-megapixel main camera with optical image stabilisation, and a 5-megapixel camera on the front.
It’s a great setup, and as the sensor itself is 16:9 aspect just like the screen, you don’t have to crop into it to get shots the same shape as the phone’s display. The HTC One M9 doesn’t offer that, with (like most cameras) a non-widescreen sensor.
Just about every element of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ camera experience is top-drawer. It’s fast to focus, incredibly fast to shoot even when using extra modes like HDR and image quality is superb in just about all conditions.
In daylight, use the Auto HDR mode (the default) and you’ll almost universally get clear, bright photos with virtually no major exposure issues. At night, the stabilisation system makes it easy to get detailed photos handheld, while noise is well-controlled and the camera brain brightens-up the scene while keeping everything looking natural. It doesn’t go low-light crazy like the Sony Xperia Z3+, but its images also look less processed.
Coming back to the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+’s camera app feels like returning home too. It’s not fancy like the Motorola one, but it’s totally practical and super-fast to use, especially now Samsung has stopped ramming extra modes down its neck. Those modes are still available to download, though.
While I haven’t felt the need to use it thanks to quite how smart the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ camera brain seems, there’s also now a Pro mode that lets you manually fiddle with things like focus and exposure time. Even when not using this, though, you can tweak the exposure level using it a little slider that appears by the focus point. This is fast becoming one of the commonest 2015 additions to phone cameras.
This extra creative control and the nice blurry background effect the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+’s f/1.9 lens provides means the camera offers loads of potential for arty-looking shots too. I’ve just noticed a couple of little niggles that mean it’s not quite perfect. There’s still room for the Galaxy S7 to improve.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ is a little prone to purple fringing. This is a kind of colour distortion that turns the outlines of objects purple when there’s a high level of light contrast. I saw it most when shooting trees against a bright sky: a classic fringe-baiting scene.
The lens isn’t immune to smearing of extreme light sources either, although this only really rears its head when you shoot directly into the sun. The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ is even more post-processing happy than most, though, with the option to shoot in RAW format when you use the Pro mode for extra fiddling. RAW files get you closer to what the sensor sees, cutting out the extra processing that does into making normal JPEG shots.
There’s plenty of fun to be had with video too. The stabilisation style can make your footage appear slightly unnatural at times, but it makes getting smoother video much easier, and resolution goes up to UHD (3840 x 2160), the same as today’s 4K TVs. Slo-mo video and fast motion video modes are packed-in, as is live broadcasting directly from the camera app to YouTube.
I may have banged-on about how Samsung has pared-back some of its extra fluff, but it’ll always try its best to be the first to implement things like this. The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+’s selfie camera is good too, with a very wide angle lens that makes fitting a bunch of people in the scene a cinch. It doesn’t half sharpen-up the preview image, though: be ready for a reminder of any lines developing on your brow.
The only part of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ camera we can imagine people complaining about is how the lens sticks out of the back. However, having spent a good while in the past shooting with the similar Galaxy S6, I’ve yet to cause any serious damage to it.
An awesome screen and camera combo is probably the best reason to buy the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, other than the bragging rights of having one of the most expensive ‘non-luxury’ phones in the world. A few little finishing elements are just good, rather than class-leading.
Take the speaker. It’s much the same as we saw in the Galaxy S6, a little dinky outlet that sits on the bottom edge of the phone. You don’t get stereo sound, or the right-in-your-ears delivery of the HTC One M9.
This year Samsung has clearly put some effort into improving sound quality a bit, as there’s more mid-range oomph than we heard in the Samsung Galaxy S5. It’s fairly loud too. However, when the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ home-runs so many of its key features, this one is really ‘just decent’, not quite class-leading.
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ Verdict
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ is a brilliant phone. It gives you that oversized Note 5 flavour while leaving out the pen part, which we imagine a lot of people wouldn’t use much anyway.
Two aspects of this phone that stick out further than Brighton pier: its screen and camera. Both are simply terrific. Combine these with the dazzling curvy design and the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ seems one of the most immediately impressive handsets of recent years.
In money-no-object terms, it’s a corker. If you want to pay your bills this month, the standard Galaxy S6 is still the best Android phone for normal folk and aspiring oligarchs.