Living with… the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

THE CAMERA: PICTURE PERFECT

I am, and always will be, a dreadful photographer. Yet I couldn’t take a bad picture with the Edge. I tried, believe me. But everything came out crisp and well balanced, even in low-ish light (thanks, I presume, to its ultra-wide f1.9 aperture).

Samsung’s camera hardware and software has always been at the head of the pack, but the Edge takes things to a new level. There’s even a Pro Mode, letting you fiddle with virtually every setting to your heart’s content.

But it is the simple speed at which the camera launches that’s proven the most consistently powerful S6 feature. Double-tap the home button, even from sleep, and the camera is ready to go in under a second. As a result, I've found myself taking more pictures than I have with any other previous handset. And getting better results when I do so.

BATTERY LIFE: EXPECT A DAY, NO MORE

The S6 Edge lasts a day. And since most modern smartphones last a day, that’s good enough for me.

You’ll find a stream of forum threads tearing the S6 and S6 Edge apart for their disappointing battery life. We’ll assume that either we were lucky, or that all of the complainants were previously owners of Sony Xperia Z3s.

I average 3-4 hours of Screen On Time (SOT) a day. I leave most Google services on, but usually turn off nonsense such as Location History. Bluetooth’s permanently on, as is Wi-Fi. The one habit that has served me well over the years with Android is to deactivate most notifications bar email and Twitter (Talon, in my case).

Leaving the house at 7.30am most days, I could expect my Edge to be at 25-30% by the time I plugged it in again at midnight. Sure, I’d get closer to 0% if I’d tethered my laptop to the Edge on the train during the day, or watched a ton of YouTube videos. But considering its slim body, a day of normal use from the S6 Edge’s 2600mAh battery is more than good enough.

There are those of you, I know, that will find that performance disappointing. I can only point you in the direction of the Edge’s fast charging feature, which works a treat. Samsung claims that you can go from red line to full in 1.5-2 hours. I have no reason to question that claim - you can literally watch the battery icon turning to white if you plug in using the supplied charger.

Wireless charging works just as well: this is one of the first smartphones I’ve used where a quick top-up is a realistic proposition - I’d pop it on to the wireless charger for 30 minutes before going out, and it would see me through the evening.

RELATED

SOFTWARE: THE DIET WORKED… NOW JUST FINISH THE JOB

I’ve already explained how TouchWiz has lost its lag in the S6. But some habits Samsung obviously finds harder to shake. I bought my 32GB Edge in Hong Kong (yes, it works perfectly in the UK - right down to the 3-pin charger) and it came with more than its fair share of bloatware.

There were the usual Samsung candidates (S-Health, S-Planner, S-Voice etc), plus a few additions from a recently struck deal with Microsoft (OneNote, Skype, OneDrive). Samsung will argue that these are all valuable additions to the S6, making it more capable straight out of the box. That’s true. Most of the additions are good. Even the likes of S-Planner now ranks as a competitive calendar app, especially now that its interface has been given the Lollipop treatment.

But if I’m paying the best part of £600 (RM3400) for my hardware (SIM free), I expect to be able to pick and choose my tools. And while I don’t disagree that the pre-installed software is mostly good and useful, I am not given the option to uninstall it.

Rather absurdly, Samsung now lets me disable the applications, but not actually uninstall them. The logic here is bewildering: you can kill an app, but not free the space that it occupies on the 32GB drive. If someone from Samsung is reading this, please change your minds. I understand commercial bundling deals. But at the point in the negotiations where the partner insists that their wares are locked into the device forever, can’t you just say no? It’s the one blot on an otherwise A+ copybook.

TouchWiz given the Android 5.0 treatment is now almost good. There, I said it. For the first time ever, I’ve not wanted to instantly switch launchers. In fact, I installed the Google Now Launcher and ran it for a day, only to switch back to TouchWiz. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d type. The Settings screen is now clean and reasonably well organised. The app drawer is simple and transparent. The pull-down quick settings panel could still do with losing the neon colour palette, but you soon forgive it once you realise how useful its flexibility becomes.

Don’t think that this job’s done yet, Samsung. But keep going, and you may even reach a point where you could release TouchWiz as a stand-alone launcher in the Play Store (again, another sentence I never thought I’d write).

Living with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge: the verdict

The S6 Edge is a fantastic smartphone. It’s beautiful to look at, and a delight to hold and use. It’s easily the measure of an iPhone 6, and better than an HTC One M9. Is it worth the extra money over the standard S6? I say yes. But then my priorities may be different to yours.

I’ve fallen in love with the curved screen. I get a kick out of watching Lollipop’s menus slide in from the left-hand curve, and the sight of a bezel on another handset, however thin, looks plain odd.

Will I stick with the S6 Edge? Probably. The only thing that may sway me away is the Note 5, due later this year. Although the Edge’s 5.1in screen will be plenty big enough for most of you, my dodgy eyesight will be happier with a bigger display. Until that new Note arrives, though, I’m happy to make a statement that I thought would never be true: I’m in love with a Samsung.

1
2