Friday, 20 March 2015

The forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S6

No, I'm not obsessed by mobile technology, but I do have to plan my gadget acquisitions. And having an up-to-date phone (read: constantly-consulted mobile computer for self-organisation, information and entertainment) is top of my gadget list.

There are now provisional reviews available of Samsung's flagship offering for 2015, the S6, and I've been looking at them and wondering what I should do, bearing in mind that I got last year's flagship, the S5, on the very day it was launched, and it's still an amazing bit of kit and very nice to use. The gadget media didn't like its styling, but personally I find that very acceptable, and hardly the eye-rolling deal-breaker they made it out to be. Journalists making a fuss about nothing, I'd say. Screen, memory size, battery life, and real-world performance are the vital features - not whether the thing is made of metal.

Nevertheless, these latest reviews do show a very handsome all-glass-and-metal S6. I will admit that Samsung's new phone has style in spades.

But is it worth finding money for? Or rather, is an upgrade justifiable at this point, when I'm still building up my savings? As soon as I have more than £5,000 stashed away, I will feel uninhibited about upgrading as often as I like. But I'm not anywhere near there yet. I am quite sure that it's prudent to stick with my 'austerity plan', and replace things only as they wear out, and not whenever they happen to get superseded by a new model.

That said, am I nevertheless tempted? A qualified yes...but read on!

There are two versions of the metallic S6. One looks very similar to the S5, apart from the metal that has replaced the old plastic. The other version (named the S6 Edge) has stylish curved edges to its screen that enhance the entire appearance of the phone - it really does look fantastic. The S6 Edge also has a bigger battery than the plainer version. Both versions will cost a lot of money if buying outright, the Edge especially so. And both will of course cost more than now to buy on a monthly contract, as a manageable alternative - in fact, I'm guessing nearly £50 per mouth for the Edge at the very start.

I suppose that if having the very latest thing is an essential part of one's personal image, then it's a no-brainer and one won't hesitate. But I'm a practical person, and the reviews have highlighted four design issues that will matter to me.

Number one: the make of processor has been changed. Its performance characteristics are not yet known. It ought to be distinctly better than the one in the S5, but unless it's such an efficient processor that it significantly prolongs battery life, this looks like gratuitous overkill on speed and capability.

Number two: there's no memory card slot. What?? Surely this endangers all the items one might load the phone up with - photos and mp3 music tracks, for instance. If the phone dies, all this cherished stuff might be stuck there without any simple means of rescue. You can't take off the back panel, fish out the memory card, and pop it into another device that is functioning. I accept that if one has been following an off-device backup routine - and I have such a routine - then phone failure can't matter, and although it would be temporarily inconvenient, nothing up to the last backup would be lost. I also see that anything stored up in the cloud would be safe (I use Dropbox for my documents and spreadsheets). Still, a large-capacity memory card costs much less than buying a large-memory version of the phone. And next time around, I'd be wanting a 128GB memory.

Number three: the battery is sealed in, and can't be replaced. Hmmm. All the Palm organisers I bought in the early 2000s had sealed-in batteries, and all seemed to lose their ability to charge up properly after a year or so. Then the device became annoying, as it too easily consumed all its power, and it felt absolutely tied to the charger. Of course, battery technology has improved greatly since then; but the principle is unchanged - if the battery dies, so does the phone. How likely is it that the sealed-in battery will soldier on for its theoretical four years of useful life? Methinks not at all likely! Against that, the S6 will be able to charge up wirelessly, which could be very convenient.

Number four: the battery will be smaller. Not good, definitely not. It's roughly a 10% reduction in battery size, compared to the S5. Samsung are clearly thinking that the hoped-for extra efficiency of that new processor will more than compensate for the loss of power on tap. Well, that's not yet proved, and won't be until the S6 goes on sale in April.

The above analysis tells me that I'd be taking a gamble if I committed myself to having a new S6 next month. The financial hit would anyway be too much just now. And if I ended up with a phone that looked wonderful but did nothing better than Demelza can at the moment, I'd be somewhat miffed. Only a couple of my friends are salivating phone freaks, the sort to be in any way impressed. The rest are thoroughly sensible and know what's really important in life. And changing phones without getting a clear advantage isn't important.

So my game plan - unless Vodafone get in touch and push the S6 at me with a special deal so seductive and compelling that no sane person could possibly ignore it - is to see my present S5 contract out. That'll take me into 2016 and S7 territory. Not only will my financial options be wider then, I'm confident that the S7 will correct any mistakes Samsung have made with the S6.

Right, sorted.


  1. Come on Lucy, we are waiting for the pictures from your travels.

  2. Coming, coming. I've had a busy social life in the last few days, and quick-to-write posts on gadgets have been all I can manage!



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