First Look

Hands on: Getting to know the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge

Samsung's Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are the most talked about new smartphones of the season -- and they're officially here in my hands. Ready to check 'em out?

Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge

Watch out, world: Samsung's Galaxy is about to soar into a whole new dimension. 

After years of producing flagship phones that were more chintzy than sophisticated, Samsung is finally stepping up its game and going for a premium vibe with its new Galaxy S6. The Galaxy S6, set to launch on all major U.S. carriers on April 10th, trades the tacky plastic of yesteryear for a more elegant glass-and-metal approach.

We've been hearing about the phone and its brother, the curved-screened Galaxy S6 Edge, for a while -- but what are the devices actually like to use? I've got 'em both in front of me right now.

Here are the first things I've noticed as I've started to live with the phones:

The Galaxy S6 is different -- yet familiar.

My first thought upon opening the Galaxy S6's box and seeing the device was: Huh. This looks like a Samsung phone. With all the talk of the departure in design, part of me expected to see the S6 and have an immediate "whoa" sort of reaction -- a moment of, "Wait, Samsung made this?!" That wasn't the case.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Design

The Galaxy S6 is different from past Samsung efforts, but it still looks very much like a Samsung phone

And you know what? That isn't a bad thing. Samsung has managed to retain its distinctive visual identity while lifting up the construction and design of its product. The Galaxy S6 is very much a Samsung phone -- only elevated. It feels like what you might get if a Galaxy S5 somehow mated with an iPhone 4 (imagine that sex tape!).

A glass-centric phone is nice -- but it's also worrisome.

We seem to go through this same cycle every few years with glass in mobile design: First, it's "Hey, glass backs look great!" Then, six months later: "Wait -- glass is slippery, and it scratches and cracks easily. Why did we do this, again?" Fast-forward two and a half years, and the cycle repeats.

To be sure, its flat glass back and aluminum (yes, actual aluminum -- not plastic masquerading as aluminum) frame make the Galaxy S6 more sleek and premium than any Samsung phone before it. The device really does make an excellent first impression. But we've also been down this road before. No matter how much Gorilla you put into your glass, it's still glass -- and if it falls off a table or out of your hand, it's inherently more prone to shattering than other materials. And the fact that it's more slippery to hold doesn't help.

Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge Glass

Glass backs are beautiful -- but not without their downsides

The tradeoffs of beauty -- what can ya do? It's a bargain owners of Sony phones are also familiar with, and it's hard not to consider when you first pick up the GS6. But damn, does this thing look good.

The Galaxy S6 Edge is interesting -- but I'm still questioning if it's practical.

The Galaxy S6 Edge is pretty much the same phone as the regular Galaxy S6, only its screen slopes subtly over at both sides, creating an unusual and striking appearance. It's futuristic-looking and -- from both a visual and a technological standpoint -- pretty freakin' cool.

Using the Edge for a little while, though, I'm not entirely convinced its curves are optimal for function. Text that falls along the curved glass can be harder to read than if it were on a flat surface, and on-screen buttons and keys that land on the sloping areas can be awkward to press.

Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge Comparison

The regular Galaxy S6 (left) next to the S6 Edge (right)

For now, I'll say this: The Galaxy S6 Edge's design is incredibly eye-catching -- and it's certainly quite impressive -- but eye-catching and impressive don't necessarily mean practical. So we shall see; maybe it's something I'll get accustomed to after a while. The one thing I know for sure is that I'll need more time using the phone in my day-to-day life before I can say for sure.

This is just the start.

The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge mark a meaningful shift in Samsung's style and strategy -- and there's far more to explore with these devices than I could possibly cover after just a day of using them. Software, cameras, performance, stamina -- we've barely begun to scratch the surface of what Samsung's latest smartphones are all about.

I'll be living with the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge for the next several days in order to get a meaningful feel of what they're like to use in the real world. Stay tuned for my in-depth review in the days ahead -- and if you're jonesing for more GS6 chit-chat in the meantime, come hang with me on Google+ or Twitter.


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