Samsung held one of their legendary Unpacked events today so they could showcase the bigger Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ and better Samsung Galaxy Note 5. So, what's new about the new devices, and what does it mean for Apple and the upcoming iPhones 6S?
- Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ hands-on and first impressions
- Samsung Galaxy Note 5 hands-on and first impressions
First, and inside-baseball to be sure, Samsung decided to release all the news and lift all the embargoes for the Galaxy S6 edge+ and Galaxy S Note 5 at the same exact moment the event started, which forced a lot of attention splitting and double duty for those of us trying to keep up with everything. Next time, maybe stagger them?
Anyway, Samsung has always been like the crazy sibling in the smart phone family. They'll try almost anything and everything, and while some of it makes you palm as many faces as you have available, some of it genuinely is interesting and does help everyone get to the future a little faster. The best of Samsung, in my opinion, is when they're not aping Apple but driving technology and forcing everyone else, including Apple, to keep up.
So yeah, I'll make the prerequisite jokes about Galaxy S6 edge+ being needlessly similar to iPhone 6s Plus in branding, or about the keyboard cover (which turns out not to be Bluetooth like the Ryan Seacrest's Typo but capacitive like the dozens we've seen in the tiny-town booths at CES every year. But I also want to focus on the positives.
The Galaxy S6 came out about 6 months after the iPhone 6 and Samsung really did manage to produce an incredibly capable camera. The edge 6+ and Note 5 are coming out 11 months after the iPhone 6 and, if performance matches marketing, it sounds like Samsung has used the time to make the camera even better.
Previously, more megapixels meant smaller pixels, as manufacturers would just chop up a sensor to get a bigger number on the box, lowlight performance and image noise be damned. Now we're starting to see higher megapixel cameras that not only preserve quality but improve it, and allow for things like downsampling, functional digital zoom, and cropping while still maintaining acceptable sizes.
Comparing the latest Samsung cameras to 11 month old Apple cameras is a bit silly, since the next iPhones are only a month away and Apple has been improving their cameras every year as well, but credit where it's due—Samsung really is helping push mobile photography forward now.
Likewise wireless charging. You can argue about power efficiencies and that you still having to plug the other end into an outlet, but the pieces are falling in place. And like with LTE and NFC, it's good to have Samsung pushing it forward.
Apple already uses wireless charging—and OLED screens—on the Watch, of course, and since wireless charging for metal backed devices has just been announced, it's not hard to imagine that Apple will decide those technologies are ready for the iPhone.
The Galaxy Note, however, does lose some differentiation as well, though likely only for the hardest of the hardcore Android customers: No more user-swappable battery or SD card support. Luckily, though, it also loses the faux stitched-leather backing that went with them.
And in case you were wondering if Samsung had taken the time to clean up the industrial design—that's a negative.
So what does all this mean for the iPhone? Apple has to keep pushing ahead with the camera, because that's not only one of the most important features to most people, it's also now one of the most competitive. It also means Apple has to keep their eye on technologies like wireless charging because they'll go from niche to necessary in the blink of a cycle and catching them at the perfect time is key to Apple's feature-sets-over-chipsets strategy.
As to the rest, Samsung still comes off equal parts forward thinking and unnecessarily duplicative. It's like Lex Luthor, who builds amazing power suits but still keeps trying to clone Superman... and keeps getting bizarro. Just focus on the power suits already.
Keep it locked to to Android Central for everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ and Samsung Galaxy Note 5, but if you're even considering either phone, do yourself a favor and wait a month to see what Apple has to offer with the iPhone 6s.
And while you're at it, make sure you enter our #SwitchToiPhone give-away!
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.