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Review: Samsung Galaxy S6 for AT&T

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May 27, 2015, 4:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

Samsung's flagship Android smartphone for 2015 is stunning in many ways. This metal-and-glass handset is attractive and powerful. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth report about AT&T's version of this remarkable phone.

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Is It Your Type

The Galaxy S6 is Samsung's flagship smartphone for 2015. It represents the best in design and technology from the market leader, though it cuts a more conservative path than its brother, the S6 Edge. The Galaxy S6 makes a compelling case for picking Samsung over LG and HTC when it comes to premium Android smartphones. If you are looking for a great all-around device that is both stylish and powerful, the S6 is a heavy-weight contender.

Note: Since the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are very similar — as are the Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T versions of each — portions of this review have been carried over from our other reviews of the S6 and S6 Edge.

Body

The Galaxy S6 isn't quite as bold as the S6 Edge, but it's still a significant leap for Samsung. The phone trades the oft-derided plastic build of past S handsets for modern and sharp glass-and-metal construction. Samsung was sure to stuff its new baby with a powerful set of specs for good measure.

For all intents and purposes the S6 and S6 Edge are the same phone. Where the S6 has a fairly standard frame and flat screen, the Edge has a thinner frame to accommodate curved glass. Other than this detail, the phones are practically identical. They are clearly cut from the same cloth as previous generations of Galaxy S smartphones, but manage to make their own mark in Samsung's expansive lineup.

The front and back panels of the S6 are both made from Gorilla Glass 4. The glass panels are fitted tightly to the metal band that forms the outer edges of the phone. The band has a uniform thickness around the exterior edges. Samsung polished the edges of the metallic band to give them some extra sparkle. Matching accents can be found on the home button, earpiece grill, and camera module. The quality is top-notch. Samsung clearly took great care in designing and assembling the S6. It absolutely goes toe-to-toe with Apple's iPhone and HTC's One in terms of fit and finish.

Body  

The S6 is more comfortable to hold than the S6 Edge thanks to the thicker metal frame. Samsung did a great job tapering the glass fractionally right where it meets the metallic housing. This, combined with the shape of the frame, makes it relatively smooth in your hand. (The Edge has a sharp edge that isn't as palm-friendly.) The S6 is thin and relatively light. It doesn't sit deep in your palm, but it's not so wide as to make it unwieldy. Thanks to the smooth glass surfaces, the S6 will glide into any pocket or pouch like an eel through water.

The front face is all glass, save for the physical home button placed below the display. The home button doubles as a fingerprint reader. As per usual, Samsung bestowed the S6 with two capacitive keys (back, multitask) on either side of the home button for help in navigating the user interface. All three buttons work perfectly. The home button has an excellent profile and wonderful travel and feedback. On the obsidian black model — which we're testing — the user-facing camera module and sensor array disappear nicely. They are separated by the chrome-accented earpiece. There's a hidden notification light for good measure.

You'll find the volume buttons on the left. They are two separate keys, rather than a single toggle. Their profiles, travel, and feedback are excellent. You can apply these same descriptors to the screen lock button, on the right side. The SIM card tray is also on the right edge, which differs from the S6 Edge, which places the SIM tray on top. I do wish the S6 had a dedicated camera button. Alas, it doesn't. The bottom edge holds the stereo headphone jack, the micro USB port, and the grill for the speakerphone. I will say I'm rather surprised Samsung didn't make the jump to the USB Type-C connector, which is reversible and faster for data transfers. The top edge of the phone holds the IR port for interacting with home theater equipment.

The back panel is perfectly flat and smooth glass, save for the camera module, which protrudes noticeably. Samsung placed the flash and heart rate sensor in a separate module to the right of the camera, but they are flush with the surface.

Perhaps the biggest departure for Samsung with respect to the design is the rear panel, which cannot be removed. For years Samsung has teased rivals for their sealed designs and pointed to its own swappable batteries as a benefit. Samsung can no longer make such claims. The S6 is sealed up tight, which means no swapping batteries. It can, however, work with most wireless charging pads thanks to support for multiple wireless charging standards. What's more, it includes rapid charging. These will offset the battery's inaccessible state for some. Further, the S6 doesn't include a memory card tray, though Samsung sells it in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB variants.

Using two glass panels has practical limitations. Anyone who dropped and broke an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4s can tell you what a pain in the rear it is to deal with replacing so much broken glass. Samsung is taking a bit of a risk with the double glass design, but Gorilla Glass 4 is supposed to be pretty tough stuff. Consider yourself warned.

Samsung did about as well as it could have in designing and manufacturing the Galaxy S6. No phone is without compromises, and the S6 certainly has a few, but overall it's an excellent piece of hardware that should please most people.

(It's a shame that U.S. carriers are not initially offering the blue and green colors, which I thought looked spectacular. The white and black models are a bit dull, and the gold is too... well, not for me.)

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