BARCELONA: Samsung had a tough time in 2014. The firm kept its place as the world's top Android smartphone maker, but lower than expected sales of the Galaxy S5 enabled key rival Apple to gain ground in the global battle for dominance.
Despite its disappointment in the mainstream space, a ray of hope for Samsung appeared at IFA in the shape of the Galaxy Note Edge, which featured an innovative curved screen around its right side.
Commonly viewed as a proof-of-concept for the firm's then rumoured Galaxy S6, the Galaxy Note Edge justifiably caught the world's attention.
As a result, come MWC we're pleased to see that Samsung has followed up the Galaxy Note Edge with what appears to be an even more innovative handset, the Galaxy S6 Edge.
Design and build
Visually the Galaxy Note Edge shares the same design philosophy as its sibling, the Galaxy S6, and features a metallic chassis and Gorilla Glass back. This combination of factors made the Galaxy S6 Edge feel like a hybrid of the Sony Xperia Z3 and iPhone 6 during our hands-on.
The only noticeable difference between the Galaxy S6 Edge and Galaxy S6 is that it's slightly fatter at 7mm, and has twin Super Amoled Edge Screens, like those on the Galaxy Note Edge, wrapped around its left and right sides.
We were impressed with the design and found it noticeably more solid and premium than past Galaxy handsets. This is due to the cold forged steel used in the chassis, which Samsung claims is "50 percent stronger than the aluminium used in competing handsets".
We were also pleased to see the return of the custom fingerprint scanner debuted on the Galaxy S5. Housed in the Galaxy S6 Edge's physical home button, the scanner offers similar functionality to the TouchID sensor on Apple iPhones.
It means that the Galaxy S6 Edge can be set to unlock or approve certain actions, like in-app purchases or mobile payments, only after the user has proved their identity.
Samsung made a big song and dance about the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge displays at MWC, claiming that they are the "most advanced ever seen on a smartphone". Putting aside the Galaxy S6 Edge's displays, we can understand why.
The Galaxy S6 Edge features the same 5.1in Quad HD 2560x1440 577ppi main display as its Galaxy S6 sibling. As with most Samsung Super Amoled displays, we were impressed with the Galaxy S6 Edge screen.
It's super vibrant, colour balance levels are great, viewing angles are wide and text and icons are wonderfully crisp.
The Galaxy S6 Edge comes with Google's Android Lollipop operating system, overlaid with the latest version of Samsung Touchwiz.
We've found Touchwiz to be a negative in the past, as it floods Samsung handsets with bloatware applications and makes needless changes to the user interface.
Testing the Galaxy S6 Edge, however, we were impressed at how good a job Samsung has done in cleaning up Touchwiz and most of the additions we noticed were positive.
Key positive additions included the latest version of Knox and Samsung Pay. Knox is a security service compatible with most enterprise mobility management services that lets users create a sandboxed, managed area on the Galaxy S6 Edge.
Samsung Pay is similar to other payment services, but is based on NFC and MST.
The MST tech offers mobile payments "even when a merchant only accepts magnetic stripe wipes". Samsung has already inked deals with payments services including MasterCard to support Samsung Pay.
The one problem we noticed is that Samsung hasn't done the same good work it did optimising Touchwiz to work with the Edge displays that it did on the Galaxy Note Edge.
Samsung set up a custom application shortcut menu and push notification menu for the Edge display on the Galaxy Note Edge. We didn't see either of these services on the Galaxy S6 Edge.
The Galaxy Note Edge is powered by the same "one of a kind" 14nm, 64-bit octa-core processor that combines quad-core 2.1GHz and 1.5GHz parts demonstrated on the Galaxy S6 and boasts 3GB RAM.
We didn't get a chance to properly benchmark or see how the Galaxy S6 Edge dealt with demanding tasks like 3D gaming during our hands-on.
However, with regular use we found the handset fairly fast and it opened applications and web pages very quickly.
Camera technology is an increasingly competitive area with smartphones. Samsung has loaded the Galaxy S6 Edge with a 16MP rear, F-1.9 with Real Time HDR and Optical Image Stabilisation camera and custom application.
Samsung claims that the F-1.9 lens lets in 60 percent more light than the Galaxy S5's lens and will radically improve low light performance.
The Real Time HDR shoots several images and combines them to create a more consistent and accurate photo.
The custom camera application adds a number of shot options, the most interesting of which is the Pro mode. This offers manual control over things like ISO and white balance.
Backing this up the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge feature completely reworked internal components.
Testing the auto mode, we found the Galaxy S6 Edge's camera fairly impressive. Shots taken on the brightly lit showroom floor on the rear camera featured decent brightness and contrast levels. Shutter speeds were also good, and in general our opening impressions are positive.
Battery and storage
Powered by a 2,600mAh non-removable battery, the Galaxy S6 Edge features fast and wireless charging technologies.
Specifically the Galaxy S6 Edge features fast charge tech which Samsung claims "charges four hours worth of charge in 10 minutes" and built in WPC and PMA wireless charging technology.
We didn't get a chance to test the fast charge tech or battery life during our hands-on, but will do so for our full review.
Storage wise Samsung is offering the Galaxy S6 Edge with 32GB, 64GB or 128GB of internal space and custom eMMC, as opposed to SSD, storage technology which Samsung claims will radically improve performance and write speeds.
Samsung is yet to reveal the Galaxy S6 Edge's price, although it probably won't be cheap considering the Galaxy Note Edge's hefty £700-plus price tag.
Despite this, our opening impressions of the Galaxy S6 Edge's custom Edge displays, screen, camera and custom technologies make it one of the most interesting smartphones to arrive this year.
Hopefully it will make good on its opening promise come its release in April.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
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