Samsung's Galaxy S6 Edge feels like the business phone of the future. In reality, it's almost functionally identical the standard S6, but it offers a unique, almost sci-fi design that's sure to turn heads at the office.
The S6 Edge is an expensive smartphone, though. It will cost you $300 upfront when you sign a two-year contract through Verizon or AT&T — a price that used to be reserved for monster phablets like the Galaxy Note 4. The standard Galaxy S6 costs $200 with a two-year agreement.
Price aside, the S6 Edge is a top-tier work phone. It offers a roomy 5.1-inch display, handy software features like split-screen multitasking, and even a fingerprint scanner for added security. But should you pay for it, when the standard Galaxy S6 is already so good — and $100 cheaper?
The S6 Edge effortlessly knocks the iPhone 6 from its pedestal as the best-looking business phone around. Samsung has delivered a design that's light-years ahead of the plastic, toylike design of last year's Galaxy S5. This really is the best-looking smartphone I've ever seen.
In addition to the two tapered edges, the S6 Edge sports a sturdy aluminum frame that makes the whole package feel solid and durable. The back of the device is made from scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass, the same material used on the front display. As a result, the S6 Edge is one of the more slippery smartphones I've used; I never dropped it from my hand, but I did catch it trying to slide off my desk a few times when it was on a slightly uneven surface.
My review unit came in Sapphire Black; white and gold versions are also available. My unit wasn't totally black though; it actually looks dark blue when the light hits it at an angle, which is a very attractive effect.
The S6 Edge measures 0.26 inches thick and weighs 4.7 ounces, making it thinner and lighter than the standard S6 (0.28 inches, 4.9 ounces). It's even slightly thinner, but a bit heftier, than the iPhone 6 (0.27 inches, 4.6 ounces). HTC's One M9, which is probably the S6's closest Android competitor, is much chunkier at 5.5 ounces, but that phone has a larger 5.5-inch display.
Business users with only basic computing needs don't necessarily need the fastest smartphone around. But a little extra power under the hood is nice for making navigation quicker and multitasking smoother. And phones don't get more powerful than the S6 Edge. Like the standard S6, it runs on Samsung's Exynos octa-core processor with 3GB of RAM, so it has more than enough power to handle just about any workload.
When we ran the S6 Edge through the Geekbench 3 test, which tests overall performance, it far outpaced its competitors with a score of 5,335. In comparison, the iPhone 6 scored 1,2931, the Galaxy Note 4 scored 3,124 and the HTC One M9 scored 3,818.
It's not just the frame of the S6 Edge that's tapered on each side; the screen actually curves right along with it. It's a neat effect, but it won't really change how you use the phone very much. (See the next section of this review for more on this.)
Even with the curved edges, the S6 Edge's 5.1-inch display is about the same size as the screen on the standard S6. That means it gives you a good amount of space for screen-intensive tasks like viewing documents and lightly editing spreadsheets, without being so big that the phone feels cumbersome. Personally, I think it strikes a nice balance between more compact phones like the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and a massive device like the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 4.
The 2560 x 1c440-pixel screen is also seriously sharp, colorful and bright. It delivered an impressive 536 nits of brightness in our screen test, which is quite a bit higher than the average (396 nits). That'll help you use the phone outdoors or in direct sunlight.
The S6 Edge isn't actually the first Samsung phone with a curved screen. That distinction goes to last year's Galaxy Note Edge. But that phone offered a lot more functionality on its edge display, providing app shortcuts for easy multitasking, and also providing tickers with information like stock updates or breaking news.
The S6 Edge doesn't have any of that. Instead, swiping in from the side of the screen displays People Edge, a customizable list of your favorite contacts. Each is marked by a different color, which comes into play during the other edge feature: When the phone is lying face down and one of those contacts calls, the edge will glow with the contact's corresponding color.
These are mildly interesting and occasionally useful features, but they're not exactly mind-blowing. The fact is that the S6 Edge's unique design is mostly for show.
Samsung's TouchWiz software — a customized version of Google's Android operating system — is known for being packed with so many niche features that it can be overwhelming. Thankfully, Samsung trimmed the fat for the S6 and S6 Edge. I suspect that very few users will notice the absence of small features like the Galaxy S5's Air View, which blew up pictures and images when you hovered your finger over them.
With some of its baggage gone, TouchWiz's best features really have a chance to shine. For example, S Finder — which can be launched with one tap from the notification drawer — is still a great way for you to locate files, apps and menus without digging through tons of menus. And Samsung's virtual keyboard is still the best one for business users, since it includes a dedicated number row above the standard QWERTY layout.
But my favorite TouchWiz feature is still the multiwindow mode, which lets you run two apps at once in a split-screen view for better multitasking. Launching multiple apps is easy — just hold down the Recent Apps button, located just to the left of the home button, and select the apps you want to use. Then you can change the size of each app window by dragging the border between them, or rotate your phone to change their orientation.
Sure, multiwindow mode feels more cramped on the S6 Edge's modest 5.1-inch display than on the Galaxy Note 4's huge 5.7-inch display. I still like having the feature for certain tasks, though, such as using the calculator or searching the Web while I'm drafting an email.
A good front-facing camera is a nice perk if you plan to use your smartphone to meet remotely with colleagues and clients. The S6 Edge comes with a nice 5-MP front-facing camera that captures images that are clearer than most smartphone shooters. A selfie I snapped with the device was nice and crisp, with accurate colors and not much visual noise. And the phone delivers loud, clear audio, so you'll have no trouble hearing the person on the other end of the line.
Last year's Galaxy S5 had a fingerprint scanner, but it was so unreliable that it wasn't really worth using. That's been totally corrected with the S6 and S6 Edge. Both phones come with a fingerprint scanner that's every bit as easy to use as the Touch ID scanner on newer iPhone models.
Just place your finger over the S6 Edge's home button and wait a moment for your phone to unlock itself. It's a big perk for business users who want to keep their work phones locked down without resorting to annoying password screens.
The fingerprint scanner can also give you access to the S6 Edge's other big security feature, the Knox workspace. Knox is the name for Samsung's smartphone security software, which is available in two varieties. The first is the Knox Enterprise Mobility Management suite, which is made for large businesses, with features to help an IT department securely deploy and manage company-owned phones.
Small business owners, on the other hand, will get more out of My Knox, a separate app that provides good protection out of the box — no IT support necessary. When you tap the My Knox app icon, you switch between the standard S6 Edge home screen and the Knox workspace, which separates your work apps from personal stuff. That provides an extra layer of security, ensuring that other people (as well as rogue applications) can't access your sensitive work data.
Edge functionality aside, here's the other main difference between basic and Edge versions of the Galaxy S6: The Edge model lasts longer on a charge. It ran for a solid 8 hours and 57 minutes in our battery life test, which simulates continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi with the screen set to 100 nits of brightness. That's longer than the standard S6 (8:32) and the smartphone average (8:22). It also beats out other flagships, including the HTC One M9 (7:14) and the iPhone 6 (7:27).
The S6 Edge's impressive longevity is a big plus for business users who depend on their phone to last through the end of the workday and beyond. But remember that, unlike the S5, neither version of the S6 has a removable battery, so you won't be able to swap out a dead battery for a fresh one in the middle of a long business flight.
The most obvious alternative to the $300 Galaxy S6 Edge is the basic Galaxy S6, which is functionally identical, apart from a few edge features, a boxier design and a cheaper $200 price.
HTC's One M9 sports a slick all-metal design and a bigger 5.5-inch display, but it lacks the security features of Samsung's phones. It has an SD card slot, though, which the S6 Edge lacks.
LG's G4 also sports a large 5.5-inch display in addition to a fancy leather back. Its lacks a fingerprint scanner and has shorter battery life than the S6 Edge, however.
Apple's iPhone 6 offers good security options and a great selection of apps, but it also doesn't last as long on a charge as the S6 or S6 Edge.
What more can I say about a smartphone that's functionally identical to my favorite overall work phone? The S6 Edge delivers all the features of the standard S6, but in a sleeker package. If you like the look and can afford to pay the $100 premium, the S6 Edge is a no-brainer.
If you're on the fence, though, the standard Galaxy S6 is probably a better bet. The novelty of the curved screen is likely to wear off fast, and the cheaper model is just as versatile and powerful. Either way, business users can't go wrong.