We’re big fans of Samsung’s current flagship phone, the Galaxy S5. We even awarded it a full five stars in our review. But that’s not to say it’s perfect, and it’s certainly not the best smartphone around – in fact the S5 sits a fair way down the chart when it comes to our best-rated mobiles.
But, in a few months’ time, the Korean company has a chance to grab back the top spot by launching the Galaxy S5’s replacement, likely to be called the Galaxy S6. While very little is known about the S6 at the time of writing, the Stuff team has butted its collective heads together and scoured the rumour mill to come up with a list of things we’d like to (and are likely to) see from it.
Build: Very metal
The world keeps wondering when Samsung will ditch polycarbonate (that’s “plastic” to you and us) and join the likes of Apple, Sony and HTC in delivering a flagship phone with a slinky metal or glass body – and yet the company doesn’t seem to take the hint.
There’s nothing wrong with plastic smartphones per se. Nokia’s higher-end Lumia Windows Phones are plastic and quite glorious, as are the iPhone 5c and new HTC Desire Eye, but the Galaxy S range has always fallen a little short of expected standards. That could and should change with the Galaxy S6.
Some sources have hinted at a “more premium build” for the S6, with Samsung going for an aluminium build, or even using super-advanced material graphene (which the company has found a way to manufacture in greater quantities than previously). While the latter would be a bold, memorable move, it’d probably push the S6’s manufacturing costs a little too high, and to be honest at this point we’d be happy with metal rather than another year of uninspiring plastic.
We’d also expect to see some measure of dust and waterproofing. The S5 is sealed against the elements, and its successor is sure to follow. It might even kick things up a notch so you can take it even deeper ‘neath the waves: bumping the spec to IP68 from the S5’s IP67 rating would mean you could completely immerse the phone for a prolonged period of time without water getting inside. No more desperate bags of rice and crossed fingers if your phone tumbles into the bath or the other water-filled thing in the bathroom.
Screen: time for 2K?
The Galaxy S5 has a very solid screen: 5.1in; 1080p resolution; AMOLED technology. We like its lush, vibrant colours a lot – but we very much doubt Samsung will stick with it for the S6.
The company’s great Korean rival LG has already launched a phone with a 2K screen (the G3’s display has a grand total of 2560 x 1440 pixels), you see, and Samsung loves to be seen to be outdoing – or at least matching – its compatriot. We think the chances of a 2K screen making its way into the S6 are very high indeed, especially as the Note 4’s 2K screen proves that Samsung’s got the capability to churn them out.
The screen will probably get a slight size bump too, but maybe not too much. It wouldn’t want to compete with its Note 4 brother, after all.
We’d personally be more than happy with 2K and 5.2in – going any bigger risks making the phone too big for the hands of normal folks and going sharper strikes us as pixel overkill on a screen this size, especially as more pixels require more power and put more strain on the battery.
Curved screen? Sure, why not
The Note 4 Edge has a curved screen, with the right of the display bending around past the edge of the device.
It’s not that unusual to entertain the possibility of Samsung blessing the Galaxy S6 with a similar screen.
The chief Note Edge designer Kim Na-su himself recently stated that “a change in the platform can bring about a variety of new considerations [and]a curved screen is a big solution for overcoming those challenges”.
Jerry Kang, a senior analyst at IHD, has previously stated that the Galaxy S6 will have a dual-edged screen which curves on both sides.
Add all of the above together, and curved screen in the next Samsung flagship could be a real possibility.
Power: Quad-core, you know the score
Many are predicting that the Galaxy S6 will come with a new Qualcomm chipset – either the Snapdragon 808 or 810. Both are quad-core, 64-bit and more powerful on paper than any smartphone processor at the time of writing, and we’d be pretty happy to see either of them on the S6 (they seem likely to require more power than the S5’s Snapdragon 801, however, which could put extra strain on the battery life – see below for more on that), especially if they were paired with at least 3GB of RAM.
Samsung has form in launching its flagship phones with octo-core Exynos chipsets too, which we’re more likely to see here. While eight cores might sound twice as powerful as four, in reality it doesn’t quite work like that: in benchmarks, the Exynos-equipped S5 only performs marginally better than the Snapdragon 801-equipped S5. We think Samsung can stick to a quad-core Snapdragon 808 or 810 and still offer the performance a phone like the S6 will require.
We’ll talk about storage here too. If it goes down the removeable backplate design route, Samsung is likely to support expandable storage via microSD, and thus the built-in storage doesn’t need to be huge – let’s say 32GB. If, however, the phone is has a metal unibody design and memory isn’t user-increasable, we’d like to see 64GB and maybe even 128GB as an option, just to keep pace with the Apple iPhone 6. And Samsung does like to be seen to be trying to keep up with Apple.
Battery: Bigger and better
The Galaxy S5 has a 2800mAh battery that matches up to the majority of its Android rivals by lasting around a day in normal use conditions (but not all: the Sony Xperia Z3 lasts at least half a day longer), and it holds an advantage over most too in that it’s user replaceable. If Samsung decides to go with a seamless metal body that could change, and if it does we’d like to see better battery life, either owing to a larger battery capacity or increased efficiency.
The LG G3 has a 5.5in 2K screen and markedly longer battery life than the 5.1in, 1080p Galaxy S5, so it’s certainly possible for Samsung to improve its power efficiency. Much of this will depend on the processor it chooses for the S6, and if that’s the Snapdragon 808 or 810, neither seems likely to offer lower energy use than the S5’s Snapdragon 805. So it could well be that a larger battery is required.
Of course, Samsung may want to retain its user replaceable battery selling point, in which case it’ll probably hint that those looking for more battery life could simply buy a second battery to carry around with them.
Camera: Better in low light, please
Were we betting types, we’d put a significant chunk on the S6’s camera outstripping the S5’s when it comes to megapixel count. The S5 has a 16MP sensor, and we’d be surprised if the S6 doesn’t take things above 20MP.
But megapixels alone don’t make a good photo, and we’d much rather see some measures taken to boost performance in low light conditions: larger megapixels (Apple’s favoured method), optical image stabilisation, a wider aperture, or a combination of those. Optical image stabilisation is a distinct possibility, we’d say, as Samsung has already used it in the Galaxy Note 4.
We’re not personally much inclined to take selfies, but we hear a lot of “the young people” are, and Samsung may well attempt to entice them to the S6 with a higher resolution front-facing camera. The HTC Desire Eye manages to squeeze a 13MP snapper on its front side, and while we wouldn’t expect (or want) Samsung to go to those lengths, we wouldn’t be surprised to see something in the 7 or 8MP range.
Release date: No hanging about
With Mobile World Congress 2015 running from 2nd-5th March, we’d expect Samsung to make its big Galaxy S6 reveal around that time (March/April is the period when Samsung traditionally unveils its flagship Galaxy S devices). Price-wise, we’d expect it to be on a par with previous Galaxy S models – so don’t expect it to be cheap and don’t expect it to be vastly pricier than the S5 cost at launch.
As is traditional in Android circles, we also expect to see many a leak about the S6 between now and its likely launch date. So keep an eye on Stuff for all the news as we get it.