Galaxy S6: what to expect from specs, software and design

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The Galaxy S6 is set to be a crucial product for Samsung. Having established itself as the runaway leader among Android phone manufacturers, the last 18 months have seen Samsung’s fortunes—and finances—take a turn for the worse.

A strategy of ultraconservative, incremental updates to the company’s flagship handset in the Galaxy S4 and S5, complete with unfashionable plastic design and unpopular software, saw Samsung’s success grind to a halt. Reports suggested that as of last November as much as 40% of the stock of the S5 was unsold, with total sales around a quarter lower than the previous year’s S4.

These sequence of events has ushered in ‘Project Zero’, Samsung’s name for the Galaxy S6, and the idea that the South Korean giant will be rethinking its biggest product of the year from the ground up.

The phone is likely to be announced towards the end of February or early March, either at the annual Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, or at least near it. Update: The S6 will be unveiled in Barcelona on 1st March.

So what can we expect from the Galaxy S6?

Galaxy S6 specs

The benchmarking service AnTuTu recently posted benchmarks purported to be from the Galaxy S6, and they reveal the device to be running a quad-core ARMv8 processor that PhoneArena concludes will be Samsung’s own Exynos processor, with 64-bit architecture and clock speeds of 1.8GHz.

This seems a safe prediction. The move to 64-bit has been expected for a while, and Samsung’s reliance on its own CPU is all but confirmed after the company announced that the other likely processor option—the Snapdragon 810 from Qualcomm—ran too hot during testing and therefore wouldn’t be used.

Reports in the Korean media, as passed on by GSMArena, suggest the Galaxy S6 will have 4GB of RAM. This is also a safe bet, as is the presence of a QHD display—1440×2560 pixels—as confirmed by the leaked benchmarks. The display is likely to be 5.5 inches, and may include a variant with current edges, similar to that seen on the recent Galaxy Note Edge.

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The AnTuTu benchmarks also indicate a 16MP camera will be present. However, more recent reports suggest that the S6 will have a 20MP camera instead. This would represent an upgrade over the S5, so seems quite likely.

So, in summary, this is how the Galaxy S6 specs are shaping up so far:

  • Processor: 64-bit quad-core Exynos @ 1.8GHz
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Display: 5.5-inch
  • Resolution: 1440×2560 pixels, 534ppi
  • Camera: 20MP

We’ll keep this list updated as more leaks and rumours emerge before the launch date.

Galaxy S6 software

The Galaxy S6 will run Lollipop, most likely Android 5.0.2, with Samsung’s own software customisations on top. This is the skin still commonly referred to, but no longer officially named, TouchWiz.

TouchWiz is one of the most controversial pieces of software in the mobile industry. It began as a UI layer so heavily inspired by the iPhone that Apple chose to sue Samsung over it. (Ironically, TouchWiz is now the victim of copycats itself.)

Over subsequent iterations is took on its own identity, but attracted significant criticism from users and detractors alike, thanks to unattractive, inconsistent design, excess bloat, duplicate apps that repeated functionality already available through Android’s stock software, and the sheer weight of features that Samsung crammed into it.

The S4, for instance, was heavily marketed on the presence of hands-free gestures, which in practice added little value to the phone, and in some cases barely even worked.

Signs are that Project Zero will also apply to the software. The Material Design-inspired TouchWiz is already looking a major improvement over previous versions. We don’t yet know how far Samsung will go in stripping back the bloat in the software, and streamlining the user experience.

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The fact that they appear to believe the device needs 4GB of RAM suggests TouchWiz may still be on the heavy side.

Galaxy S6 design

With the Galaxy Alpha, and then the Galaxy A range of Android phones, Samsung went in a whole new direction with its handset design. Out was the flimsy plastic; in came metal frames.

We can safely say that the S6 will also be metal, with some suggestions that the back may be glass too (although that would not be a great idea given the propensity for glass-backed phones to shatter quite easily).

This should please those that have complained about the decidedly non-high end design of Samsung’s phones over the years. But it is also likely to disappoint those that like their devices to have replaceable batteries. Unlike Samsung finds a nice compromise solution a move away from a plastic back is likely to also mean the battery is fixed in place.

Galaxy S6 release date and price

As we said above, the Galaxy S6 is expected to be announced around the time of MWC, which puts it at late February, early March.

Update 2nd Feb: The Galaxy S6 will indeed be unveiled in Barcelona at an event on 1st March.

Based on the patterns from previous years, the S6 should go on sale a month later, so April.

We’re not expecting any significant changes to the price, so it will cost around the same as other flagship phones. This puts it around £550 SIM-free in the UK.

We’ll be keeping this page updated as more rumours and facts emerge in the run-up to the Galaxy S6 launch.