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Samsung launched two new phones yesterday that could prove vital to the firm's future, after it found itself squeezed by Apple at the top end of the market in 2014 and competition from Chinese firms at the bottom.
The two new phones, the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the S6 Edge, both come billed as 'flagships' for the South Korean electronics brand. So what is unique about them and why are there two?
Galaxy S6 design
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The Galaxy S6 has a flat display, a metal frame, and front and back panels made of glass. The S6 edge has a similar design but curves off at the sides which gives the phone "a distinctive character", according to The Verge.
The impact of constructing the phones entirely out of metal and glass "cannot be overstated", it adds. The new looks replaces "the cheesy and cheap-feeling plastics" that have been used in Samsung's products for years with high quality materials and the phones now look and feel "worth the premium price tag they command".
Tech Radar describes both the new phones as "stunning" and "a thing of beauty". But the new construction does come with some trade-offs. First, the phones are no longer water-resistant. Second, the sleek chassis doesn't allow for a microSD slot to allow users to expand the phones' capacities with cheap extra storage. And finally, their backs cannot be removed to change their batteries – which was possible with the devices' predecessors.
Both phones come with a 5.1-inch display with Super AMOLED screen – which Samsung claims is the "best in the market". In his hands-on review of the phones, Tech Radar's Gareth Beavis says: "I'm inclined to agree".
The phones come in five different colours at launch - 'White Pearl', 'Black Sapphire', 'Gold Platinum', 'Blue Topaz' and 'Green Emerald'.
Galaxy S6 hardware
The phones come with different storage sizes ranging from 32 GB to 128 GB. The top end of that spectrum matches Apple's iPhone 6 devices, but the removal of the MicroSD slot means that the phones can no longer be expanded, which may frustrate some Samsung users.
Beneath the hood, the S6 phones are powered by a 64-bit "octacore" processor plus 3GB of RAM. The changes should make the phone function more swiftly and Samsung claims that users will see at least 40 per cent improvement with the speed of opening apps and other functions of the phones.
The new S6 models come with the same 16-megapixel sensors as the S5 but have been upgraded with an aperture to f/1.9 that should allow for better low light shots.
Auto focus also appears to have been improved, Pocket Lint says, and the camera also launches in 0.7 seconds.
On the front is a 5-megapixel camera that also features f/1.9 aperture and Auto HDR, so the quality of your selfies will get an instant boost.
One of the big issues for many smartphone owners is that the current crop of devices has an extremely short battery life. Samsung claims to have addressed that by creating a more efficient processor, but the firm also unveiled new built-in wireless charging capabilities. This means that the device will be able to charge when placed near a wireless charger, rather than having to be connected via a cable.
The S6 and S6 Edge also charge faster than their predecessors. Samsung says that the device takes just 10 minutes of charging to get 4 hours of use and will charge from zero to 100 per cent battery in half the time it takes the iPhone 6.
The two phones come with Samsung Pay, a smart wallet service that will allow users to make purchases by tapping their device against a shop's NFC chip reader. At launch, this feature will only be available in the US and South Korea.
Samsung Galaxy S6 price
The price of the new handsets has yet to be announced, but Life Hacker estimates that the cost of the S6 will be close to iPhone 6 levels and more for the S6 Edge.
"The Galaxy S6 accomplishes something important for Samsung," the New York Times says. "It's a flagship phone that finally feels like a flagship".
Other early reviewers agree that the phone is a big step forward for Samsung and could help them take on Apple at the top end of the market.
"Samsung has clearly listened to feedback – not just for the Galaxy S5, which just missed the mark last year costing the company greatly – but also the S4, which was a product that tried to cram in every piece of technology it could find," Ben Wood, head of research at the CCS Insight tech consultancy, told the BBC. "The software has been made into a much more crisp and clear experience, the design of the product has clean lines and looks very nice, and the marketing campaign is expected to only pinpoint three things – and that's certainly something that had been missing from Samsung's products for quite some time."
Galaxy S6 software
The S6 and S6 Edge will both launch with Android 5 Lollipop software on board, but will run a version tailored specifically for the devices using Samsung’s "Touchwiz" user interface.
This year, Samsung has gone to a great deal of effort to "cut the clutter" and simplify its "hugely bloated" user interface, says PCPro, making the device significantly less complicated to navigate than its predecessors.
The company says it has now jettisoned 40 per cent of the preinstalled apps that used to come as standard, freeing up storage space – an important development now that the phones can no longer be granted extra memory via a microSD card.
The S6 Edge makes use of its curved display via a new system that lets users assign on-screen positions to their favourite contacts, which have their own colour and slot on the screen's edge. This means that users can instantly see who is calling, even if the phone is left upside down.
The rounded edge can also be used to show quick information such as tweets and messages as well as lap times and even a ruler. The edge of the screen can also be set to display a night clock.
Samsung Galaxy S6 to launch at MWC in Barcelona in March
Samsung's latest smartphone, the Galaxy S6, is to be launched at a trade fair in Barcelona on 1 March, and The Independent says invitations have been sent out for the launch event at the Mobile World Congress (MWC).
The new handset has prompted plenty of pre-launch interest. The International Business Times says it has been codenamed 'Project Zero' at Samsung and will be "like no other Samsung flagship released thus far".
So what's so exciting about the Galaxy S6?
A curved screen
If the phone unveiled in Barcelona doesn't have a seductively curved touch-sensitive screen, a lot of tech journalists and bloggers will have egg on their faces. The new screen is the one feature on which observers are all agreed. Why? Because the invitation to the launch features a "sleek silver line that then curves at the end", explains The Independent. It's possible there may be two versions however - one curved, one not.
Quad HD display
The phone is expected to have a Quad HD (ie 1440 x 2560) display, says the IBT - though PC Advisor believes it might even be 4K (2160 x 3840). As for screen size - PC Advisor predicts it could be "as large as 5.5 inches", given that the trend is for bigger screens and the Galaxy S5 has a 5.1 inch screen.
A body made of graphene?
PC Advisor says the phone might signal a departure from previous Galaxy models by being made from a new material - there have been rumours that graphene could be used. On the other hand, Samsung may stick with what they know: previous Galaxies have been metallic. Meanwhile, the IBT has come across rumours that the phone may have a glass back panel.
Don't get it wet
The S5 was certified waterproof - but Italian site WebTrek says the S6 will not be - however, according to a translation on Sammobile, WebTrek expects there to be an Active version of the S6, which would be water resistant. According to PC Advisor, there may also be a third version, the Galaxy S6 Edge, and a fourth - the Mini.
Samsung's own chips, not Qualcomm?
The Independent says the phone will use chips made by Samsung itself, rather than its usual manufacturers, Qualcomm, because Samsung is concerned the old chips were given to overheating. PC Advisor hasn't heard that rumour - and asserts that the phone will be powered by a 64-bit Qualcomm chip.
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