Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge come pre-installed with Milk Music and Milk Video

Samsung’s Milk Music and Milk Video services could soon see a lot more users: The handset maker is pre-installing both apps on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge handsets, both of which were introduced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Sunday. This is the first time that Milk Music and Milk Video are pre-loaded on a Samsung handset, signaling that the handset maker is doubling down on both services.

Milk Music was first launched a year ago as a Pandora competitor, offering owners of Samsung devices free and ad-free personalized radio streams. The company followed up in November with Milk Video as a free video aggregation app that also includes some exclusive content.

Both apps have been exclusive to Samsung handsets, and are part of a new media strategy that doesn’t focus on making money with paid content anymore. Samsung previously tried to compete with iTunes and Google Play by selling music downloads, movies and TV shows through its Media Hub apps, but the company shuttered all of those paid services last year.

Milk Music and Milk video could potentially make Samsung some money through ads, but the company seems to be more focused on using media to sell more phones — something Samsung desperately needs: Its profits declined 32 percent last year, largely due to slowing handset sales.

Rumor roundup: Galaxy S6, Samsung’s hottest phone in years

Samsung’s next flagship phone, the Galaxy S6, will be launched this Sunday, and it promises to represent a major break from the Galaxy S5.

Following a year in which Samsung’s smartphone profits suffered and its mobile management endured a shake-up, the company said it was working to differentiate its smartphones from the hordes of other Android options in the interest of keeping profit margins in the double digits.

It appears that Samsung is doing just that: The Galaxy S6 is shaping up to be one of the most interesting (and possibly expensive) Android phones in quite some time. Here’s what we’re expecting:

Two phones, one with edges

Based on leaks and available evidence, there will be two models of the Galaxy S6: One with a more conventional screen, and one with the far-out curved panel first seen on the Galaxy Note Edge. This backs up what Bloomberg said earlier this month.

Based on support pages spotted by SamMobile, it sounds as if the models will be called the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge.

Photos have popped up on xda-developers of a complete Galaxy S6 engineering prototype covered in bubble wrap:

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The Galaxy S6 Edge might end up being one of the most expensive mainstream smartphones  in years — Ars Technica thinks the entry-level cured model could be priced at 849 euros. The non-curved Galaxy S6 could be expensive, too, starting at 749 euros. Ars’ sources only had European pricing, and although it’s not a simple conversion to dollars, the euro prices are still significantly more expensive than what the entry-level Galaxy S5 cost, which was 650 euros (and $650.)

The Galaxy Note Edge only had its curved screen on one side, but the Galaxy S6 Edge will probably have it on both sides, according to reports and photos. Another photo leaked on xda-developers seems to confirm two edges:

Galaxy-S6-edge

It’s tough to tell from a leaked, low-resolution photo, but it does look as if the Galaxy S6 Edge may not be sporting the exact same Edge software — complete with SDK — that Samsung announced with the Galaxy Note Edge.

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Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

If you want a Galaxy S6 Edge, you might need to line up for it. Ars Technica is reporting that supply will be constrained. That’s not much of a surprise: When the Galaxy Note Edge came out, Samsung execs warned about yield issues. It’s a new technology that’s likely to be more difficult to fabricate than a conventional screen. Both AT&T and T-Mobile have hinted they’ll be carrying the Galaxy S6 Edge.

For the rest of this post, I’m going to refer to both devices as the Galaxy S6.

Skinnier software

There’s a lot of evidence that Samsung is applying a lighter touch with its TouchWiz skin. The Galaxy S6 should ship with Android 5.0 installed, and Samsung has reportedly overhauled its software to run faster and better fit with Google’s design guidelines.

 

Lollipop on the right side

Lollipop screenshot on the right, Android 4.4  with TouchWiz on the left

SamMobile reported that only two Samsung apps will come preinstalled on the device — a drastic change from previous Samsung phones that came scores of Samsung apps. Many of those apps will still be available, SamMobile writes, but fans of, say, Milk Music should be able to download it from Samsung’s Galaxy app store.

Samsung Unpacked 2015-970-80

There are also murmurs that Samsung might replace its own apps with Microsoft’s. It’s possible that the Galaxy S6 will come with Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft OneNote, and Skype preinstalled — but probably not Office Mobile. One question is whether Samsung will throw in a subscription to Microsoft services like OneDrive as part of Galaxy Gifts. In the past, Samsung devices have come with a free 2-year subscription to Dropbox, for instance.

Samsung’s very own chip

Qualcomm chips have powered the United States version of the Galaxy S for the past few models, but it’s almost certain that Samsung will go with its own Exynos chip for the new S6. It’s already been spotted in benchmarks, and Qualcomm all but confirmed it when it said a major partner had passed on the flagship Snapdragon 810.

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Samsung’s going to be using its Exynos 7420, which is built on a 14nm manufacturing process. It looks as if Samsung will be using its own LTE radio as well. The Exynos 7420 is an octa-core chip with ARM cores, and according to a Geekbench benchmark that popped up earlier this month, it might even be faster than Qualcomm’s and Apple’s fastest.

A separate AnTuTu benchmark indicates some possible specs, including a 5.1-inch, 2560 x 1440 pixel screen, a 20-megapixel rear camera and 3GB of RAM. There could be a version of the Galaxy S6 with 4GB of RAM, though, given Samsung’s recent bragging about its new speedy mobile DRAM, which comes in a 4GB version.

LoopPay

LoopPay Card Case Transaction

It’s no secret that Samsung has ambitions in the mobile payments world, and it backed those up earlier this month when it purchased LoopPay for an undisclosed amount. LoopPay previously made a case for phones that imitates the magnetic strip of a standard credit or debit card — meaning that it could conceivably work with registers that don’t support NFC payments.

However, there are questions about LoopPay’s technology going forward. It doesn’t work with EMV payments yet, and it doesn’t yet support the secure tokenization approach that has gained Apple Pay fans in the federal government. There’s still a lot of work to be done with LoopPay before it becomes a cohesive feature for Samsung.

We’ll be watching closely about any clues Samsung might drop about its mobile payments plans when it launches the Galaxy S6 this weekend.

Extras and goodies

There are bound to be a couple of other tweaks, too, though they might not get the attention that the curved screen will.

Samsung could introduce wireless charging on the Galaxy S6 that works with all major standards. The company posted a lengthy piece on the history of dueling wireless charging standards earlier this month, which is a major hint. From the blog post:

Samsung will accelerate to democratize this wireless charging technology with compelling smartphones. With our upcoming Galaxy smartphones, users will be able to enter a new wireless world like never before.

To go along with Samsung’s new mobile payments strategy, it sound as if the fingerprint scanner on the Galaxy S6 is going to get a big upgrade as well. Current Samsung devices require you to swipe your finger over the scanner, as opposed to Apple’s Touch ID that just requires a tap, but that’s changing, according to a report from SamMobile. Take a look at the leaked shots at the top of this post: Doesn’t it look as if the home button has been slightly expanded?

Samsung will probably offer models of the Galaxy S6 sporting 128GB of storage, as per Ars Technica and a Samsung blog post about its 128GB flash storage module. But there’s a downside — the recent leaks seems to imply there’s no expandable storage on the Galaxy S6, which would mean the phone would be the first Galaxy S to lack a Micro SD card slot. The battery could also end up being non-removable.

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Could the Galaxy S6 come with an all-glass remote control? Unlikely — the render above is a practical joke from Samsung’s Norwegian team. But it’s a tongue-in-cheek example of how the company seems to have gone back to the drawing board for the Galaxy S6, which was codenamed Project Zero. We’ll have the official news straight from Samsung this Sunday.

Why Samsung is right to bypass Google Wallet for LoopPay

Don’t look now, but there may be discontent between Google and one of its key Android partners: again. On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported growing tensions between Samsung and Google.

It’s not the first time we’ve heard that the relationship is strained. So what’s the latest issue? Samsung’s purchase of LoopPay, which gives it a mobile payment platform of its own.

LoopPay Card Case Transaction

Although neither company would likely admit publicly to any friction, there’s plenty of reason to think it’s there.

Google was reportedly not happy when Samsung decided to use its own Tizen software to power smartwatches, for example. Samsung later added Android Wear options to the marketplace but pushed forward with its own Tizen phone in December to further break away from Google’s handset control. Surely Samsung wasn’t pleased when Google bought one of its partners in Motorola, even though the company put out canned statement supporting [company]Google[/company].

And now we have the LoopPay deal, giving Samsung its own mobile payment platform even though Google has Wallet available for Android partners.

Google Wallet

I can see why Google might be upset, particularly since Samsung has no obligation to offer LoopPay to its peers in the Android device market, Google gets no payment data from LoopPay transactions, and because LoopPay already works with an estimated 90 percent of all card payment terminals. The product uses magnetic fields to send card data from a phone to replicate the information stored on the magnetic stripe of a credit or debit card.

Here’s the thing: I don’t blame Samsung in this case one bit.

Google itself could have bought LoopPay and made the technology available to all of its Android partners at any time in the past. Instead, it’s been working on Google Wallet for several years but from the outside looking in, and it has been an inconsistent effort that has faced several roadblocks: Lack of worldwide support, new terminals needed and carrier pushback along with competing carrier payment solutions, for example.

Image: Softcard

Put another way: Why shouldn’t Samsung be looking out for itself if Google’s own Wallet product isn’t widely adopted, isn’t well-known by the Android phone users and isn’t marketed well? If Google really wants to rally the troops with a common mobile payment system, it needs to evolve Wallet, something the Journal said it will do this year, possibly even paying carriers for Wallet to be prominently displayed on Android phones.

Regardless of Google’s plans to put Wallet back in the spotlight, there’s no guarantee that Samsung will be in a better position later this year. Spoofing the magnetic stripe of a credit or debit card will work for now, but how will Samsung handle the coming transition to smartchip or EMV payment cards in the U.S. later this year? It’s too early to say, but LoopPay has told my colleague Kevin Fitchard that it has already started talks with banks to firm up support and partnerships for EMV payments, for which it has a solution in mind.

As critical I can be towards Samsung for creating a dizzying array of confusing product lines combined with cramming too many features in devices, I have to give the company credit here. Samsung is watching [company]Apple[/company] erode its smartphone sales crown on the one hand, as it quickly gains Apple Pay adoption on the other.

Apple Pay at the register

Samsung can’t combat that with Google Wallet in its current state, so what’s the alternative to going it alone? Sure it could wait for Wallet to gain more traction but Google has had since the 2011 debut of Wallet for that happen. You can’t blame Samsung for trying to take the lead when Google has faltered in mobile payments.

Microsoft’s next mobile move may be apps pre-installed on Galaxy S6

That Galaxy S6 phone Samsung is expected to introduce on March 1 could have one big trick up its sleeve: Microsoft apps pre-installed. That’s the word from SamMobile’s sources, which previously reported that Samsung’s own TouchWiz apps were likely to be unbundled from the new Galaxy S6.

Had this been reported a year ago, I would have shook my head and said, “no way.” What a difference a year makes.

office for ipad

Over the last 12 months, [company]Microsoft[/company] has made a very concerted and public effort to get its apps and services in front of as many mobile users as it can. Search the iTunes App Store or [company]Google[/company] Play Store for the word Microsoft and you’ll see it: Dozens of new apps available including Word, Excel, Power Point, Outlook (which is a rebranded version of Acompli) various utilities such as Android lock screens, and more.

Sure, getting these apps in the iOS and Android app stores helps with exposure but having them pre-installed on new devices, particularly a flagship phone, is worth even more to Microsoft. The company doesn’t have to get users to take the action of searching an app store and installing the software when it’s already there on the device. People are more likely to try Microsoft’s apps as a result, which can then result into more active users for the company.

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Samsung would have little to lose here because it doesn’t have competing apps of its own; at least not in the breadth and depth of what Microsoft has to offer. And if potential Galaxy S6 users get a better experience through Microsoft’s apps, Samsung should be happy; the pre-installs could be marketed as a selling point. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft pays Samsung for such a deal.

Of course, Google won’t likely be happy at all if this does happen. The company’s entire reason for Android to exist is for mobile device users to engage with Google services, thereby providing Google with rich, detailed data for its main source of revenue: Advertising. That means the more time people spend in Microsoft’s mobile apps, the less they’re spending in Gmail, Drive, Docs and the like.

Instead, Microsoft gets that user engagement along with the brand recognition and the reinforcement that it too is part of the communication when it comes to mobile computing. That could be very handy when Windows 10 for phones debuts, because the switching barriers for an iPhone or Android owner get reduced a little if the same apps are available — or even better: more optimized — on Windows 10, which looks promising based on my first take.

New Samsung fingerprint scanners may be more like Apple Touch ID

Samsung has been including fingerprint scanners inside the home button on its high-end devices since the Galaxy S5 launched, but there’s been one major difference between the Samsung scanners and Apple’s Touch ID: On a Samsung phone, you’ve got to swipe your finger over the reader, as opposed to Apple’s implementation in which users simply place their finger on the home button.

Samsung is looking to upgrade its fingerprint sensor on the forthcoming Galaxy S6 — and presumably on other fingerprint-equipped handsets after that, according to new information from SamMobile. The new sensor is reportedly touch-based as opposed to swipe-based, so users will simply need to place their fingerprint on the home key.

samsung swipe anandtech

Samsung’s fingerprint technology will probably continue to center around a touch-based capacitive reader, the way Apple’s Touch ID does.

Of course, Samsung’s current home button may be a little too skinny to get a good look at your fingerprint. SamMobile cites sources who believe Samsung will make its home button slightly bigger to accommodate the new sensor.

I’ve used Samsung’s fingerprint scanner on devices like the Galaxy Note 4. Personally, I’ve found the current implementation to be more trouble than it’s worth. In addition to understandable (and common) fingerprint reading failures, there’s an ergonomics issue: When holding a big device in your right hand, Samsung’s current fingerprint scanner simply isn’t great at reading your thumbprint at a horizontal angle. It worked more reliably with my index finger, but that requires two hands to hold the device.

A more reliable fingerprint scanner won’t just make [company]Samsung[/company] smartphones more secure; it could do a lot for Samsung’s mobile payment ambitions. A key part of Apple Pay’s success is that Touch ID biometric authentication is reliable and quick, so you’re not standing at a cash register trying to get your iPhone to recognize your finger.

Samsung is developing mobile payment software with Paypal and biometric verification firm Synaptics. A mobile payment system based around an effective fingerprint reader is much more likely to be successful than the rumored LoopPay case that would emulate soon-to-be-obsolete magnetic credit card swipes.