Samsung hit its mark with its Galaxy S6 announcement at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona this week.
The company came prepared with an entirely new smartphone design and a concise explanation of the powerful hardware, rich display, strong security, great camera, and intuitive Android Lollipop software. The Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge stood out as high-end hardware designed to compete with top-tier Apple and HTC smartphones.
The S6's design and engineering afforded Samsung the luxury to concentrate on just the most important features during the announcement. It eliminated the temptation to add a bloated feature list that consumers often ignore and which mobile device companies are so often inclined to add during product announcements out of a desperation to differentiate me-too devices.
Here's what you need to know about the Galaxy S6.
Samsung announced the S6 and the S6 Edge, two smartphones that are identical with one exception – the S6 Edge folds the LED screen around the bezel-less rounded side edges. The additional rounded side LED area can be programmed to display text, such as a clock or an alert notification color. The design makes the S6 Edge look more fashionable than its plainer sibling the S6.
Premium materials make a very sophisticated first impression. The exterior is made with ultra-durable Gorilla Glass 4 front and rear panels and a polished metal frame that Samsung said will not bend because it's 50% stronger than that used by competitors, presumably Apple in the iPhone 6.
Both devices have a 5.1-inch display with a 70.7% screen-to-body ratio. This lands right between the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The Galaxy S6's resolution is significantly greater than the resolution of either of the newer iPhone models.
The S6 is powered by a Samsung Exynos 7420 processor designed and fabricated by Samsung. That is notable because it debuts Samsung's shift to 64-bit processors in Android devices. Both S6 devices have 3GB of RAM and can be purchased in very Apple-like memory increments of 32, 64, or 128 GB of ROM.
Diverging with earlier designs, the S6 doesn't have a removable battery or an SD slot. Samsung claimed that faster charging performance and wireless charging compatible with both PMA/WPC industry standards eliminate the need for users to buy extra batteries.
Samsung eliminated the SD slot long cherished by technical Android users who root their devices to give themselves super-user capabilities and to side load apps that evade the Google Play Store's security. Though unexplained at the announcement, it's obvious the SD slot was eliminated to remove that security threat.
A much subtler theme of the S6 is the introduction of Android 5.0 Lollipop and Material Design. Material Design is the user experience (UX) software equivalent of the premium materials used to build the exterior of the elegant S6. Up until Lollipop, Android lacked a clear set of design principals. Material Design brings both a framework and design guidelines that make apps more intuitive and an all-around better user experience. Samsung demonstrated some of its redesigned apps (dialers, contact lists, mail) employing Material Design to make them more colorful and appear clearer and better organized.
Material Design is a subtle change that will significantly improve Android user experience. Users may never know or hear the term Material Design, but this design methodology is attracting a large following in the web and mobile app design community because of its significant UX improvements.
Samsung did not devote a lot of time on stage to the enterprise features of the S6, but it's clear nonetheless that Samsung believes the enterprise is important because enterprise security was mentioned in the first few minutes of the announcement. And Samsung later revisited the enterprise customer in announcing that its defense-grade Knox security solution has been integrated with many of the MDM vendors: Airwatch, BlackBerry, FancyFon, Good, MaaS360, Mobile Iron and Soti.
Samsung also introduced Samsung Pay, an equally secure but more widely applicable smartphone payment system than Apple Pay. Samsung Pay can be used at any payment terminal that has a magstripe reader. This is a big advantage compared to the Apple alternative, which only works with Near Field Communications (NFC) enabled terminals found on just 10% of point-of-sale payment terminals.
Oftentimes mobile device manufacturers lose their audiences when presenting esoteric camera features. Samsung intelligently sold the S6 camera to the audience like a mass-produced automatic SLR designed for the average consumer. The company downplayed both front and rear camera specifications in favor of touting the S6's fantastic selfies and clear low-light images and videos, making direct comparisons to Apple's iPhone 6 to illuminate Samsung's superior photographic capabilities.
Samsung aimed its Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge announcements right at the iPhone 6. Just a month ago, Samsung's critics said the Galaxy S5 was a disappointment, particularly in light of Apple's breathtaking iPhone 6 and overall financial performance in 2014. Samsung faced perpetually declining unit shipments and margins, bounded by Apple on the top end and Xiaomi on the lower end.
Samsung has come roaring back with these devices. The S6 looks like an iPhone 6 alternative that all but the most ardent Apple fanboy would have to consider when it's time for the next upgrade. The company stands a good chance to make all that was announced work as represented because of its engineering and electronic manufacturing prowess. But now it's up to Samsung to deliver on its promises.