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:
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.