Review: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ for AT&T
The Galaxy S6 Edge+ is a bigger and better version of the Galaxy S6 Edge. We were pleased with the larger display and improved battery life. Moreover, AT&T's version has a small leg up on the Verizon variant. Here is Phone Scoop's full report about this powerful Android smartphone.
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Is It Your Type?
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ is simply a larger S6 Edge. If the S6 Edge wasn't big enough for you and you're anxious for more screen real estate, the Edge+ fits the bill. This ultra-premium handset is an attractive option if the Note 5, with its stylus, isn't quite your style.
Note: Since the Galaxy S6 Edge+ is practically identical between carriers, significant portions of this review have been carried over from our earlier review of the Galaxy S6 Edge+ for Verizon. Of course we did fully test this AT&T version and update the relevant sections.
The Galaxy S6 Edge+ is an ambitious smartphone from Samsung, but only slightly more so than the original S6 Edge. The Edge+ takes the dual-curved screen of the Edge and expands the display from 5.1 inches to 5.7 inches. It embodies the phrase "there's more of it to love." It shares almost every feature with the Note 5, save for the curvy glass and stylus.
The design features a metal frame sandwiched between two glass panels. The materials and build quality are second-to-none. I appreciate the attention to detail that's evident in the shape of the aluminum sides as well as the curves of the glass. The seams are fitted together flawlessly. The S6 Edge+ exudes style and class in every way, and will be a fine companion if you're dressed up for a night on the town.
Of course, it's darned big. The S6 Edge+'s dimensions are nearly identical to those of the Note 5. It's 1mm taller, but 0.7mm thinner. The Edge+ is significantly lighter than the Note 5 (5.4 ounces compared to 6.03 ounces), perhaps because the frame is thinner and the Edge+ doesn't have a stylus. I noticed immediately how much lighter it is. It should go without saying the Edge+ is significantly taller and wider than the normal S6 Edge.
Given its size, Samsung did as well as it could to make the phone comfortable to hold and use. When comparing the Note 5 to the Edge+, I'd swear to you Samsung simply reversed the frame. Where the Note 5 has a flat front and curved back, the Edge+ has a flat back and curved front. The effect is to make the Edge+ feel wider than the Note 5, even when it is technically 0.02 inches narrower. The aluminum frame is thin along the side edges and digs into your skin a bit. The Note 5 is more comfortable to hold and use, in my opinion.
The entire phone is slippery as hell; the finish on the Gorilla Glass 4 panels is smooth, which means the phone will easily slip into — and out of — your pockets. Some people may worry enough about the glass to protect it with a case. Adding a case will hide the phone's pleasing design and make the phone even larger.
The front of the phone carries forward design traits we've seen on Samsung phones for years. The panel is mostly display with thin side bezels and thicker top and bottom bezels to house the usual set of components. Above the screen, for example, are two sensors, the chrome-accented speaker grille, and the user-facing camera. Below the screen, you'll see the oblong home screen button / fingerprint reader, which is flanked by capacitive multi-tasking and back keys. The home button has an accented rim, which helps it stand out visually, and the physical profile is excellent. I found the button easy to find and use.
The volume buttons are on the left. They are two separate keys, rather than a single toggle. They have excellent profiles, travel, and feedback. The screen lock button, on the right, has similarly pleasing characteristics. I do wish the S6 Edge+ had a dedicated camera button, but there's not much room for one.
The SIM card tray is on the top edge. The bottom edge holds the stereo headphone jack, the micro USB port, and the grill for the speakerphone. There's no IR port, unlike the smaller S6 Edge. The Edge+ does not have a stylus either; that's reserved for the Note 5.
The camera module protrudes noticeably from the rear panel. It has not one, but two (!) chrome accents, which, oddly, draw attention to the camera bump and its size. The flash and heart rate sensor are packaged together in a separate module to the right of the camera, but they are flush with the surface.
Many Samsung fans were not happy with the company's decision to dump removable rear covers, swappable batteries, and swappable memory cards on the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. Unfortunately, Samsung made the same decision (mistake?) with the S6 Edge+. The battery is sealed in tight, and there's no memory card slot. To help offset that loss a bit, the S6 Edge+ is compatible with most wireless charging pads thanks to support for multiple wireless charging standards. What's more, it includes rapid charging and rapid wireless charging, with the proper (Samsung) pad.
The S6 Edge+ is an incredible piece of hardware, despite its shortcomings, and stands near the top of the big-screened smartphone mountain. It may be somewhat less comfortable to use than the Note 5, but the design is more appealing to me, and the drop in weight is welcome indeed. It's an impressive smartphone.
What's not to love about a 5.7-inch quad-HD display? Damn, the S6 Edge+'s screen kicks butt. It's amazing in every way. Samsung uses Super AMOLED tech for its screens (as opposed to LCD), and the S6 Edge+'s display is a winner across the board. It's pixel-rich, bright, colorful, contrasty, and flat-out incredible. I was able to use it indoors and out with no problem. I saw minimal brightness drop when the phone was tilted side to side, and colors remained accurate. Quite honestly, the S6 Edge+'s screen is the best available on a smartphone right now.
The only issue might be viewing angles. Where the Note 5's screen is flat, the Edge+'s screen is curved along the sides. The curves reduce the percentage of the screen you can see when the phone is held at an angle; you cannot see what's on the far edge, which curves out of sight. It's not severe, but it is noticeable. Moreover, there's a bit of optical distortion on the side edges when the screen is viewed head-on. It's only noticeable when you're looking at a fully white screen; you'll see the side edges look a wee bit bluer than the rest of the screen.
I tested the S6 Edge+ on AT&T's network throughout New Jersey and New York City. It performed on par with other handsets I've tested in the region. The phone did a good job connecting to AT&T's signal. Most times the phone showed several bars of 4G LTE coverage and only dropped to HSPA in weak signal areas. Importantly, I was able to connect calls no matter how strong or weak the signal, and the phone didn't drop or miss any calls while I reviewed it. Data speeds across AT&T's LTE service were solid. I was impressed with web page load times, app downloads, and Instagram refresh rates, which all felt speedy.
Like the Note 5, I was not particularly impressed with the S6 Edge+ as a voice phone. I had hoped the AT&T version would sound better than the Verizon version, but it didn't; they are on par. The S6 Edge+ is just barely loud enough with everything at the maximum level. Loud environments, like busy city streets, made it rather difficult to hear calls. Holding conversations in moving cars was difficult. Quality was also lacking. Voices sounded only fractionally clearer in the S6 Edge+ on AT&T's network when compared to Verizon's.
Switching to the speakerphone helped alleviate these problems a bit. The speakerphone on the AT&T Edge+ was noticeably louder than the Verizon model, and it delivered clearer audio, too.
Ringtones and alerts were able to get my attention the majority of the time. The vibrate alert delivered a satisfying jolt when inbound messages arrived.
Whether you use Google's Play Music app, Samsung's Milk Music app, or the stand-alone MP3 player, music sounds good when pumped through the S6 Edge+'s stereo headphone jack. I have no complaints on that front.
The S6 Edge+'s glassy design necessitated that the 3,000 mAh battery be sealed inside. I thought it performed a bit better than the battery in the Note 5 (which is the same capacity). It never delivered 36 - 48 hours of uptime like the iPhone 6 Plus, for example, but it still pushed through an entire working day with some room to spare at the end of the day.
Samsung sort of makes up for the power-hungry nature of the phone with rapid charging and rapid wireless charging. I tested the rapid charging via USB and found the 3,000 mAh battery could ramp up from 0% charge to 100% charge in less than 90 minutes. That's pretty quick. Of course, the more you charge it, the sooner the battery will lose its ability to hold a charge.
The S6 Edge+ also includes Samsung's Power Saver and Ultra Power Saver modes. These do make a difference if you run into trouble. The first option tones down a few features and doesn't crimp the phone's performance too much. For example, it will limit the CPU a bit, turn down brightness, turn off the key backlights, and put the display to sleep faster. The second takes a more aggressive approach and kills off all but the basics. It strips the UI down to the bare essentials, goes grey-scale, and prioritizes only key functions, such as calling and messaging. These will definitely help you save power in a pinch.
Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi
I was very pleased with the S6 Edge+'s wireless performance all around. The Bluetooth radio did a great job as far as pairing with other devices was concerned. Call quality was not the best, especially via my car's hands-free system. I'd call the experience noisy. Music pushed to aptX-compatible Bluetooth headsets sounded fantastic.
The GPS, NFC, and WiFi radios all functioned perfectly, I didn't have any problems with them. I was impressed with the speed of the GPS radio, which pinpointed me to within 10 feet in just a couple of seconds on a consistent basis. The NFC radio allowed me to quickly pair the phone with other hardware and the WiFi radio was speedy for use in browsing the web.
There are no fancy gestures, motions, or taps to wake the S6 Edge+'s screen; you have to press the lock screen button on the side of the phone to wake it up. With the lock screen lit, you can see the big digital clock up top with notifications beneath. Along the bottom are two shortcuts: one to the phone and one to the camera. The camera shortcut is a bit redundant, since a double-tap of the home button also launches the camera (even when the S6 Edge+ is locked).
You can choose a PIN, password, pattern, or fingerprint to unlock the phone, and you can customize how much content is revealed by notifications on the lock screen, as well as what animation is used to unlock the phone.
Unlike the Note 5, the Edge+ has some lock screen functions worth mentioning. The edge screen — what Samsung calls the pixels that run along the curved glass — can be set to display the time in a night clock mode. It's barely visible, but can serve as a clock on your nightstand if you wish.
The Edge screen doesn't display message or email alerts/notifications when the screen is locked, but the edges will flash colored lights for incoming calls if you want them to. This way, you can tell who's calling even when the phone is placed face down.
The S6 Edge+ uses Android 5.1 “Lollipop” as the underlying operating system with Samsung's TouchWiz user interface on top. Samsung has committed to updating the S6 Edge+ to Android 6.0 “Marshmallow” at some point down the road.
The home screen panels, main app drawer, notification shade, and settings tools are identical to those of the GS6 and are straightforward to figure out and use. Like the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, the S6 Edge+ offers users an incredible amount of flexibility when it comes to personalizing the experience. In addition to the usual spate of wallpapers, alerts, ringers, and widgets, the S6 Edge+ lets users set fonts, text sizes, and choose the maximum number of widgets that can appear on the home screen panels.
Themes are the biggest addition to TouchWiz and they can be a lot of fun. Many of them completely alter the home screen experience of the handset with different icons, color palettes, and fonts. Three are preloaded, but dozens are available for download.
The Note series pioneered split-screen multitasking on Android, and the S6 Edge+ carries it forward. This allows two apps to function in separate windows at the same time. It's fairly easy to activate, and a decent number of apps work with the feature, such as the browser, Gmail, YouTube, messaging, and so on. It's a cinch to drag content from one live window to another and otherwise interact with the multiple windows.
The S6 Edge+ offers Samsung's Easy Mode, which totally dumbs down the home screens and menus to a more digestible format. I expect most Note owners are power users and will ignore Easy Mode, but those with poor vision might find Easy Mode is easier on the eyes.
The edge screens do support some content on either the left or right side, but not both edges at the same time. There's a simple-to-use control panel in the settings menu that offers a handful of info strips that run down the edge of the screen. For example, there's one that shows missed calls and messages, another that streams Yahoo headlines, one for Twitter and so on. You can have several of the strips active and swipe through them to see the different alerts. The content can be refreshed if you pull down on it. If you tap the content, it will open the associated app.
There's a tool for the edge screen called People Edge. Turn it on, and a little bar appears on the edge of the home screen panels, close to the top. Swipe the little bar over and the Edge Screen will open and show you five colored circles. Assign up to five of your favorite contacts to these circles. The side edges will light up — with the corresponding color — when any of these five contacts call you. This way, you'll know who's calling from afar. Further, the People Edge screen includes notifications for missed calls/voicemails and lets you access them quickly if you want. People Edge is only accessible from the home screen.
The Edge+ adds one feature not found on the normal S6 Edge: Apps Edge. In addition to providing quick access to five of your favorite people, the Edge+ offers access to five of your favorite apps. The process for adding app shortcuts to and accessing them from Apps Edge is the same as with the People Edge tool. I like this feature and found it was the best place to stick apps like Spotify and YouTube.
The heart of the S6 Edge+ beats with the power of eight 2.1 GHz cores with a 4GB circulatory system (RAM). The Exynos processor is incredibly fast and I can say with all sincerity that the S6 Edge+ is among the fastest phones I've used.
Samsung snatched the camera app from the GS6 and dropped it into the S6 Edge+. As noted earlier, there's no dedicated camera button, but you can launch the camera with two quick presses of the home button. It pops open in a jiff.
The camera UI is much improved when compared to previous generations, but there's still a lot going on. Icons are floating all over the place and it takes a minute or two to acclimate to the arrangement of buttons, toggles, and switches.
Here are the basics: touch the screen anywhere to focus. Press and hold to set exposure. A quick tap of the shutter button captures a single image. Press and hold to fire off a burst of shots. Separate camera and video buttons allow you to snap shots while recording video. Want to adjust the settings? You have control over aspect ratio, image size, location data, color, and so on.
Beyond the basics, the S6 Edge+ includes an assortment of shooting modes. Where Samsung gave the GS6 seven shooting modes, the S6 Edge+ has nine: auto, pro, bokeh, panorama, video collage, live broadcast, slow motion, fast motion (time-lapse), and virtual shot. You can download more shooting modes from Samsung if you want.
The pro mode is impressive in that it gives users control over nearly every facet of the camera's behavior. It's truly powerful for the knowledgeable user. The virtual tour mode, which we found to be weird on the GS6, was equally weird on the S6 Edge+. It's probably best ignored unless you're trying to give someone an in-depth look at a 3D object. The other shooting modes behave as they do on most handsets.
The single most interesting feature, Live Broadcast, lets you push video live to your YouTube account. This feature worked flawlessly when I tested it. You have to jump through some hoops first (agree to data usage jargon, sign into YouTube, etc.), but otherwise it's point-and-share live video straight from your phone to YouTube. The function then saves the live video into your YouTube channel for regular playback. Samsung isn't the first to offer this feature, but it worked really well from the camera app.
The user-facing camera includes several shooting modes, too. The most helpful is the wide-angle selfie, which lets you squeeze more people into the frame.
The S6 Edge+'s camera does everything in an instant, which I often find is vital (hey, I have kids). It doesn't do anything different from the Note 5.
Like the Note 5, the S6 Edge+ has a 16-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/1.9 to let in more light. I am extremely happy with the results it produces. Focus, exposure, and white balance were almost always perfect, even in contrast-y places that might confuse lesser cameras. I didn't see any grain. Colors look exceptional. The S6 Edge+ can handle the majority of your basic photography needs.
The selfie cam, which has a 5-megapixel sensor, is also excellent. I did see a bit more grain than with the main camera, but that's to be expected. The wide-angle option is truly useful for group shots, which for the most part turned out well. Colors, exposure, and focus were generally right on. If you love taking pix of yourself, the S6 Edge+ is a fine selfie-snapping smartphone
The video camera can capture video up to 4K, but you needn't bother. For starters, with no memory card slot you'll eat up your precious storage. Moreover, with no SuperSpeed USB, transferring the videos off the phone would be a pain. The full HD video you record will probably suffice for most of your videography needs.
The results exceeded my expectations. Video is crisp, colorful, and shows proper lighting. As with the camera, the S6 Edge+ should cover almost all of your video needs.
AT&T and Samsung Bloat
The amount of crappy junk on the AT&T Galaxy S6 Edge+ is astounding. There are 16 AT&T-branded apps alone, only a few of which can be disabled or deleted. There are also AT&T-sanctioned bloat apps like Uber, Lookout, and Hancom Office 2014. You can get rid of these as well as the handful of pre-installed Amazon apps if you care to.
Believe it or not, Samsung-branded apps are largely absent. The S6 Edge+ has Milk Music, but not Milk Video. It has S Note, S Health, S Voice, and the Galaxy App Store, but not Samsung's messaging app.
It's worth pointing out that the S6 Edge+ comes with either 32GB or 64GB of storage. Samsung is not (yet) offering a 128GB version of the phone. The 32GB model, which we tested, leaves about 24GB available to end users.
One of the more significant new Samsung apps is SideSync 4.0, which lets the S6 Edge+ connect wirelessly to PCs for sharing files, responding to text messages, or answering calls. The companion Mac OS app is not yet available so we were unable to test this feature.
The S6 Edge+ is one of those phones that puts its money where its mouth is; it delivers the goods. Samsung did a great job in designing and building a high-end smartphone that performs well in nearly every way.
The hardware is fantastic, the display is incredible, the wireless performance is top-notch, and the battery life is good enough. I'd prefer if Samsung meddled less with the Android software, but it's nice that you can take control of the home screen experience via themes and other customization tools. I was pleased with the camera, which delivers consistently good results. The edge screen software adds some functionality that few other phones have, such as quick access to contacts and apps. Everything on the phone runs quickly and smoothly. My most serious complaint about the S6 Edge+ is the so-so call quality (but who talks on their phones anymore?) Some may be put off by the lack of removable battery and memory card, although these limitations don't bother me, personally.
If you want the best phablet money can buy — without a stylus — the Galaxy S6 Edge+ should be at the top of your shopping list.
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