You want fancy? Samsung Electronics is going to give you some fancy. I recently got a chance to play around with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, two upcoming flagship models the smartphone manufacturer introduced on Sunday. Both are clearly an effort by the electronics company to address criticisms about the real and perceived quality of their upmarket devices.
If you haven't been paying superclose attention to the vicissitudes of the smartphone market, here's the fast version of the past year or two: Samsung's good fortune, in part, has been due to the company's success making phones for every kind of customer and doing so at a lower cost than its competitors. Indeed, the company's victories in the marketplace led many to wonder whether Apple would have to reverse course and, instead of focusing almost entirely on the higher end of the market, start making a line of less-expensive phones.
But that turned out to be the wrong analysis. Apple has been posting insanely large numbers each quarter, while Samsung—bedeviled by new iPhones at the high end and Chinese and Indian competition at the low end—saw declines.
Apple didn't have to go down market; the market went up. And when that happened, people looked at the flagship phones of both companies, and, well, Samsung's plastic-bodied Galaxy S5 paled in comparison to the machined surfaces on Jonathan Ive's aluminum-and-glass MoMA collection entries. (And the iPhone 6's larger screens took away one of Samsung's major advantages.)
With the new phones on display at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Samsung has responded. These models are both made out of aluminum and glass, with clean lines, reflective surfaces, and colorful finishes (including a British racing green, which is pretty dope). The Galaxy S6 has what you'd expect a new flagship phone to have: new processor, new display (which was very impressive in a hotel conference room), improved battery life (charge it for 10 minutes, and you can watch a two-hour movie, Samsung says), and other bells and whistles.
The Galaxy S6 Edge is the funkier of the two. It has a similar display to Samsung's Galaxy Note Edge—one that slopes off the sides, giving extra space for narrow control panels and notifications.
Samsung's Galaxy S6, left, and Galaxy S6 Edge
Samsung is the largest electronics company in the world by revenue and is part of a larger conglomerate that spans the globe, making everything from chemicals, to ships, to life-insurance policies. These new phones aren't just new models; they're throw-downs (like proverbial gauntlets). They're tangible examples of Samsung saying, in effect, "Oh, you want fancy? We're one of the biggest things on this great, big Earth of ours. We can do fancy."
The phones will be available in April. Samsung is not saying how much the new phones will cost, but presumably the Galaxy S6 will run you the same as the Galaxy S5 and iPhone 6 (starting at $199 with a two-year contract), while the Edge will cost more, perhaps as much as the iPhone 6 Plus ($299). Look to second-quarter numbers—opening-day figures are good for press releases, but they don't really tell you anything—from Samsung to see if the market is into the luxe they are selling.