Flashback: Samsung Galaxy S6 received a lot of hatred, but it also got a lot right
The Samsung Galaxy S6 had a sleek metal case that was nicer and of higher quality than the useful, plastic Galaxy S5 that came before it. The phone’s internal code name was Project Zero, as Samsung tossed the Galaxy S Playbook out the window and started from scratch.
The company must have been surprised by the loud outcry when it finished working on Project Zero and presented it to the world. While the premium look was nice, Samsung made several unpopular choices.
Samsung Galaxy S6 flanked by the iPhone 6 Plus and the Galaxy S5
First, the back of the glass was glued, so that the battery was no longer accessible to the user. The S6 wasn’t even waterproof like the Galaxy S5, this one had an IP67 rating and a removable back cover (and a flap over the USB port, but that wasn’t the biggest issue).
Samsung has also left out the microSD slot. Doubling the base memory to 32 GB (from 16 GB on the S5) and switching to the faster UFS 2.0 (from eMMC) didn’t seem to matter to fans – they just cared that they couldn’t add more memory to their phone.
Only SIMs allowed, no space for microSDs in this card slot
There were other inexplicable downgrades. The battery was smaller (2,550 mAh vs. 2,800 mAh), a side effect of the decision to reduce the phone’s thickness to just 6.8 mm. Also, people were more concerned about the aging of the battery as it would reduce its already low capacity. It supported faster charging at 15W, which Samsung said was better than having a removable battery. Many disagreed.
The Galaxy S6 was only 6.8 mm thick compared to the Galaxy S8 at 8.1 mm
Also, Samsung gave up its microUSB 3.0 experiment and went back to the regular microUSB 2.0. Not that anyone missed the wobbly microUSB 3.0 port, but going back doesn’t look good and USB-C wasn’t uncommon in 2015 when the Galaxy S6 hit the market. MHL was shortened (it is an early form of TV output via USB).
From top to bottom: lighting connector (iPhone 6 Plus) * microUSB 2.0 (Galaxy S6) * microUSB 3.0 (Galaxy S5)
The Galaxy S6 didn’t come alone – it had a curvy friend, the Galaxy S6 edge. Its display was curved on the left and right edges and borrows the flexible OLED technology of the Galaxy Note Edge. It was still the same 5.1 inches diagonal, but the curved sides gave it a unique look (the Note only had one curved edge). This came at an additional cost and not everyone thought it was worth it, but at least people had a choice.
Curved screens would become very popular in the flagship segment
Later in the year, Samsung also released the larger Galaxy S6 edge +, which reached up to a 5.7-inch display – the size of that of the Galaxy Note4 and 5 (although it was curved rather than flat). Aside from the larger 3,000 mAh battery, the screen size was basically the only upgrade over the smaller Galaxy S6 / S6 edge.
The Galaxy S6 Edge + (center) was as big as the Note5 (left) and put the S6 Edge (right) in the shade
Despite some unpopular changes, the Galaxy S6 series represented an upgrade over the Galaxy S5. Its Super AMOLED screen was raised to a resolution of 1440p (the S5 was criticized for staying at 1080p). The curved sides also make for an eye-catching design.
The camera on the back stayed with a 16MP sensor with 1.12 µm pixels, but brightened the aperture significantly (f / 1.9 vs. f / 2.4) and took over OIS. The front camera has also received a major update – 5MP might not sound too exciting, but it is much better than 2MP.
Samsung Galaxy S6 camera examples
The Galaxy S6 was also the first Samsung Pay phone to feature a groundbreaking MST feature – it could emulate the magnetic stripe of credit and debit cards. This also ensured compatibility with older PoS terminals that were common in the USA.
Of course, you’d want this feature to be well secured, and the improved fingerprint reader helped with that. The Galaxy S5 had an FP reader, but it was the awkward swipe-type that was really inconvenient to use. The S6 had a real capacitive reader.
A real fingerprint reader, in contrast to the swipe reader of the Galaxy S5
Sales were everywhere. After high pre-order numbers, the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge together hit 10 million sales around a month after they were released. The S5 was faster, it was there in 25 days alone. Information from Korea indicated that the slim S6 outperformed the S6 Edge 3: 1. However, demand picked up and Samsung had to open a new factory to keep up with S6 Edge orders. Three months later, the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge had set a new record with 15.8 million sales worldwide, beating the previous champion, the S4 with 15.2 million.
The Galaxy S7 would also beat it by a fair margin the following year, but that shows two things. First, the upgrades outweighed the hated design choices, making this one of the best-selling Galaxy S phones (the S5 had its critics, but the S4 was a real hit). Second, some people really hated the S6, which led to a backlog when the S7 arrived.
Loved or hated, the Galaxy S6 was one of the best-selling models of its era
Storage is a fun thing, we remember the Galaxy S6 as being hated while the S5 was received mostly positively. The thing is, however, the S5 had a lot of warts too, and the S6 established some features that were used in the S series for many years, particularly the metal and glass design.
Or we see it that way now because our views changed in 2021. For better or for worse, replaceable batteries are a thing of the past. And while the microSD card was briefly reinserted, it has disappeared from the S series. Even the 3.5 mm headphone jack is missing (luckily the S6 had one). Maybe it wasn’t perfect, but maybe the Samsung Galaxy S6 and its two Edge siblings weren’t as bad as we remember.