For years, iPhones were the only smartphones with premium, elegant designs, while Android phones were better known as plastic or industrial-looking affairs. But recently we've seen several Android flagships play that game at least as well as Apple. The Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ is the best example we've seen.
The Galaxy S6 edge+ is a knock-down, drag-out, drop-dead gorgeous phone. We can't say we see curved screens as functional advantages, but they sure as hell look good. Not only does it make the S6 edge+ look like a piece of jewelry, but it also gives your content an extra dimension. It's not 3D, of course, but it is a bit like 2D that's reaching out towards you.
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It's the same thing we saw in the smaller Galaxy S6 edge earlier this year, only that effect is more pronounced when the device is bigger.
Like its baby brother, the S6 edge+ has a smooth-feeling Gorilla Glass 4 back, with aluminum edges. The phone is also very light for its size (11 percent lighter than both the Galaxy Note 5 and iPhone 6 Plus) as well as thin (just 6.9 mm/0.27-inch). It ticks all the boxes we'd want a premium handset to tick.
It's essentially a lighter and thinner Galaxy Note 5, minus the S Pen and plus the curves. We aren't going to repeat ourselves too much here, so be sure to hit up our Note 5 review for more detail on the many things they have in common, including camera samples and battery tests.
Born in the same litter as the Note 5, that means the Galaxy S6 edge+ isn't just getting by on looks alone: it's also an absolute beast of a phone. Seamless performance, great battery life, built-in wireless charging and Samsung Pay on its way next month. Throw in the best rear camera and best display you'll find on any smartphone today, and you have a near-perfect 2015 flagship.
Because it lacks the Note's stylus, the Galaxy S6 edge+ is probably more of a direct rival to the iPhone 6 Plus (and, more so, its upcoming successor) than the Note 5 is. Jumping from the 2014 iPhone 6 Plus to the Edge+ is a big step forward. Samsung's phone is more compact, but its display is also better: bigger, much brighter on average, sharper and with better color accuracy. We think the Edge's camera quality is also a little better and its premium design at least matches – maybe even surpasses – the iPhone's.
On the whole, we'd still give the software edge to the iPhone. The Edge+ includes some carrier crapware, along with more than one pre-installed app each for messaging, web browsing, email, photo gallery and cloud storage. Multiple apps for that many categories could confuse beginners, not to mention it wastes internal storage. Too many cooks in the kitchen.
But otherwise we think the Note 5 and GS6 edge+ are standing in a league of their own right now. These are our picks for the 2015 phablet champions so far (though Apple won't announce its next model until September 9).
So if you're torn between the Note 5 and S6 edge+, which do you go with? Well, US carriers are charging about US$75 extra for the Edge+, so that's one notch in the Note's column. If you think there's any chance you'll ever want to use the Note's S Pen, that's another reason to go that route. You can use finger or stylus on the Note, but only your finger on the Edge+. The Note gives you more options for less money.
On the other hand, though the Note is quite the looker in its own right, the Edge+ is the better-looking, lighter and thinner device. You can also use the Edge Display to:
- launch quick shortcuts for contacts and favorite apps
- scroll info like time, weather, notifications and feeds across the edge when the phone is sleeping
- get color-coded notifications that let you know who's calling without picking up the phone
- use it as a night clock while the phone is sitting on your end table at night
We find the Note's S Pen features to be more useful than these Edge Display features, which seem a bit like an attempt to turn a cosmetic perk into a functional one, but your mileage may vary.
Our best advice is to play around with the Note 5 in a store. If you think you'll use the S Pen at all, then go with the Note. If you have no interest in a stylus, and don't mind throwing down an extra $75, go with the better-looking, lighter and thinner S6 edge+.
No matter which way you go, though, you're getting a flipping outstanding smartphone. Big, beautiful, powerful and premium.
The Galaxy S6 edge+ is available now, starting at around $775 full retail (it varies a bit from carrier to carrier), with installment options starting at $0 down with good credit.
For more on the details we skipped over here (including camera and battery test), you can fill in the blanks with Gizmag's Galaxy Note 5 review.
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