11 November 2014

Samsung Galaxy S6 release date, news and rumors

The way Samsung launches phones is easy to work out: the flagship 'S' model appears, and then a few months later the improved Note pops up. So now the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has arrived the path is clear for the Samsung Galaxy S6.

In fact, with the possible exception of the Nexus 6, the Galaxy S6 is the next biggest phone launch, despite being many months away.

We're already seeing a few whispers and wonderings about this next model, and with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha trying to fix some of the design failings of the Galaxy S5 - plus the Galaxy A5 options recently launched - there's definitely been a quick change at the South Korean brand to try and make its phones look much better.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The next flagship smartphone from Samsung
  • When is it out? Early 2015, probably March or April
  • What will it cost? A lot, at least as much as the pricey Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S6 release date and price

There's no official word on when the Samsung Galaxy S6 might launch, but Samsung has a yearly product cycle which it rarely deviates far from.

In fact from the Samsung Galaxy S2 onwards the company has always announced its phones at or close to MWC, and we're certain the same will hold true for the Galaxy S6.

2015's MWC is set to take place between March 2 and March 5, so it's likely that we'll see the Samsung Galaxy S6 sometime around then. Possibly not at the show itself but perhaps at a press conference a day or two before it starts, much like Samsung did for the Galaxy Note 4 launch before IFA 2014.

However, that's not when it will actually go on sale. The Samsung Galaxy S4 and Samsung Galaxy S5 both launched in April, of 2013 and 2014 respectively, so there's a good chance that you'll be able to buy the Samsung Galaxy S6 from April 2015.

There's no real information on what the Samsung Galaxy S6 might cost either, but this is a flagship phone we're talking about.

This means it's not likely to be any cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy S5, which at launch sold for £579 (around $972 / AU$1048) SIM free.

Given that the specs will presumably be better and that it may even have a premium build for once it's possible that it could be even more expensive, but we'd be surprised if Samsung went much higher than £600 / $1000 / AU$1100.

Samsung Galaxy S6 design

Samsung needs to sort out the design of the Galaxy S6, and there are (happily) reasons to believe it's doing just that. There's every chance that Samsung will mould it on the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, which launched with a metal frame but still kept hold of the polycarbonate rear from the Galaxy S5.

At just 6.7mm the Galaxy Alpha is considerably thinner than the Galaxy S5, and we hope this is a positive sign for the Galaxy S6.

Sources in Samsung's supply chain have been talking fast and loose about the Galaxy S6, claiming the Galaxy Alpha and Note 4 will test the waters for Samsung's metal design ahead of an all-metal flagship in the form of the S6.

But what if Samsung's feeling that's not enough? Project Zero is coming, apparently, and not only do we love that name it also heralds Samsung starting again and completely retooling the S6 to be something that even iPhone and HTC lovers can't keep their paws off.

Given one of the design chiefs at the South Korean firm was shuffled sideways in the aftermath of less-than-expected Galaxy S5 sales, we can really believe this is happening.

Weirdly we haven't seen any leaks of the new phone, even in its usual prototype form, so we'll have to make do with this interesting concept from Josip Jakubiv - it's the same mottled back, but with a much larger screen and a refined design - perhaps even a spot of metal there?

Samsung Galaxy S6 screen

There's no sign that Samsung is ditching Super AMOLED in its screens, so we expect that to make a return in the Galaxy S6.

The resolution will likely get a boost though, as Samsung has already revealed the 2560 x 1440 Galaxy Note 4 and even among smaller screen sizes there's the equally QHD Galaxy S5 LTE-A in South Korea, so we expect the Galaxy S6 to have a resolution at least that high.

In fact Samsung has previously said that it hopes to have smartphones with 4K 3840 x 2160 displays on the market by 2015. It's possible then that the S6 will leapfrog 2K and go straight to 4K, but with an early 2015 launch expected we'd be surprised.

More likely Samsung will save that for the Galaxy Note 5... plus, surely, that's getting to the point of just too many pixels in a phone screen?

Either way, the Samsung Galaxy S6 may have a slightly bigger screen than the Galaxy S5. The company has slowly been increasing the size of the screens on its flagships and we wouldn't be surprised if the Galaxy S6 were to push things up by another 0.1 or 0.2 inches to 5.2 or 5.3 inches.

If Samsung can shrink the bezel then it could probably even achieve that without increasing the phone's footprint. On the other hand the Note 4 is no bigger than the Galaxy Note 3 and Samsung's going to want to keep its two premium brands differentiated, so maybe it will decide that 5.1 inches is the sweet spot.

There's also an outside chance that the Galaxy S6 might have a flexible display. Samsung has been looking at this sort of technology for a while and has even recently revealed the Galaxy Note Edge: a version of the Note 4 where the screen curves down one side, so it's possible.

Others have been keen to push this idea, with the rumours that the Note Edge was supposed to feature the dual-bend design, but it was shelved and pushed the to Galaxy S6. It would certainly boost the brand's presence on the shop shelves.

But we doubt Samsung would equip its flagship with such an untested technology, so we'd expect the S range to stick with a flat screen for at least one more year.

It would be cool if the S6 had a bendy screen though - something different from the continuously-similar rectangular designs, right?

Samsung Galaxy S6 power

With Android Lollipop here and bringing 64-bit support with it we fully expect the Galaxy S6 to have a 64-bit processor.

As for which processor specifically that's still rather up in the air, but traditionally it's been equipped with a Snapdragon chip of some variety and both the Snapdragon 808 and Snapdragon 810 are expected to start appearing in devices during the first half of 2015, so one of them seems likely.

The Snapdragon 808 is a six-core 64-bit processor with support for 2K screens, while the Snapdragon 810 is an octa-core 64-bit chip which can power screens of up to 4K resolution.

This includes an Adreno 430 GPU, which is said to be 30% faster than the Adreno 420, so either way it should be in for a boost in terms of gaming and general screen flutterings.

Though it's always possible that it will stick with the Snapdragon 805 that's found in the Galaxy Note 4 - but come on Samsung, surely you'll go harder than that? After all, there's a strong Exynos chip in the Galaxy Alpha, so perhaps Samsung will go for its own chip design for the next flagship.

There's no word on how much RAM it will have, but a 64-bit processor works well when imbued with north of 4GB, so Samsung should be looking to get the best out of its new devices' power range.

Having said that the Galaxy S5 only has 2GB of RAM and even the Galaxy Note 4 has stuck with 3GB, so we'd be surprised if the S6 had more than 4GB - and lest we forget, specs for the sake of specs is never a good thing.

Samsung Galaxy S6 operating system

While Samsung is cooking up its own Tizen operating system, the Galaxy S6 will almost certainly stick with Android, and probably Android Lollipop since it should arrive several months before the S6.

It will also run Samsung's TouchWiz UI on top, albeit streamlined once more to make sure it doesn't annoy consumers who are becoming aware of the simplicity of raw Android, so given the Samsung Galaxy S5 was made sleeker, this could well happen again in the S6.

Samsung Galaxy S6 camera

One of very few rumours that specifically refers to the Galaxy S6 notes that it may have a 20MP camera, up from 16MP in the Galaxy S5. Samsung's always about more and bigger so this seems believable.

According to ETNews the Galaxy Note 4 was originally going to have a 20MP sensor but Samsung dropped it to 16MP (the report actually says 12MP, but we now know that's wrong) to keep it thin while still including OIS, however the company will instead use the 20MP sensor on the Galaxy S6 apparently.

What it doesn't say is whether the S6 therefore won't include OIS or won't be all that slim, since reading between the lines one or the other is likely to be the case. In fact at 8.5mm thick the Note 4 is already slightly fatter than the Galaxy S5, so if the Galaxy S6 does get OIS then it's likely to put some weight on too.

Samsung Galaxy S6 other features

There are a few things that we can be pretty confident that the Galaxy S6 will include. Samsung has been putting its fingerprint scanner on a number of phones and tablets so we're sure the S6 will get it too.

Likewise it will probably retain the heart rate monitor from the Galaxy S5, since that's also been included on the Galaxy Alpha and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

We fully expect a microSD card slot too, since the Galaxy S range has always included one and we'd be very surprised if it wasn't water and dust resistant, since the Galaxy S5 is and removing a useful feature like that seems unlikely.

Though neither the Note 4 nor the Galaxy Alpha is, so it's possible that the Galaxy S6 won't be either.

We may also see the Samsung Galaxy S6 inherit some of the new features which have been added to the Galaxy Note 4, such as fast charging, a UV sensor and multi-directional microphones.

Something that is unlikely but has nonetheless been rumored is a retina scanner, as Samsung has claimed to be looking at iris detection. Of course such technology may still be quite a way off yet and we're not all that convinced we'll see one in the Galaxy S6.

Samsung Galaxy S6 - What we want to see

Given we don't know a whole lot about the new Galaxy S6 at this point, here are the key things we think Samsung must chuck in there to make it a roaring success, rather than an unimpressive flop:

A better body

It would be fair to say that the dimpled back panel on the Galaxy S5 wasn't universally well received. Everyone has been crying out for a new design in the Galaxy S series for a while now, but Samsung seemingly hasn't been listening.

An S6 with a metal unibody and a premium feel would be a potential crowd pleaser. If a redesign is on the cards, why not take it further and go for a new form factor? A new premium profile could refresh the range and make it feel special again.

Given that the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and Samsung Galaxy Note 4 have more premium builds it's likely that the Galaxy S6 will too, but we hope it goes all-metal rather than just packing in a metal frame.

A 2K display

No one is impressed by 1080p any more, not when 4K TVs are in the shops. We wouldn't have been surprised to see a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution on the Galaxy S5, but it seems QHD displays were not ready for prime time back at the beginning of 2014.

It's all change now though, with the Galaxy Note 4 and LG G3 both packing 2K screens, so anything less than a QHD display in the S6 will be a bit of a disappointment. Just make sure it doesn't hurt the battery while you're at it, Samsung.

Hey, we're not here to solve these issues - that's for your fancy R&D labs.

A 64-bit processor

Perhaps the lack of a 64-bit processor in the Galaxy S5 was an acknowledgement that there aren't many advantages yet, or maybe it was a statement about not copying Apple.

In any case, regardless of benefits perceived and real, 64 is a bigger number than 32 so it must be better, and if our friend's iPhone has one, if you don't put one in the S6 we're not buying it. The good news is that with the upcoming Android L supporting 64-bit processors it's likely that the Galaxy S6 will take advantage.

While you're there, for heaven's sake add more RAM – 2GB is not enough to satisfy the modern day demands of multi-tasking, especially if you're going for a 64-bit chip.

A flexible design

Remember that advert where the guy folds his phone out to tablet size? That would be a real slice of fried gold and we've heard Samsung has a folding prototype already. Failing that, a squidgy, bendy phone that can take all sorts of damage and return to its original shape unblemished would be nice.

Squeezy controls could bring a fresh tactile element to smartphone ownership. At the very least we expect flexibility to deliver greater durability and new potential shapes, but it has got to be better than the Samsung Galaxy Round. Samsung's on the right track with the Galaxy Note Edge, so we're looking forward to the next step in curved and bendy screens.

A bigger battery

We can hold the sum total of humanity's achievements in one hand, accessing all of our scientific knowledge, and our greatest works of art, but only for a few hours at a time. Why are mobile phone batteries still so crap?

We need bigger batteries, more efficient power management, and faster wireless charging. The 2,800mAh battery in the Galaxy S5 might be a slight step up from its predecessor, but it has an extra 0.1 of an inch of screen to power. You're treading water, Samsung. Free us from the daily charge.

An end to bloatware

No-one wants a Samsung-branded app that does exactly the same thing as an existing Google app, only worse. We also expect a device listed as 16GB to have more than 10GB free. The days where Android was rough and ready and Touchwiz really added value are gone.

Stock Android is smooth and delicious, KitKat needs no embellishment and Android L already looks like a rich and creamy desert to our tech starved stomachs. It's time to tone it down a little.

By all means stick S Health on there as an optional extra, but please let us uninstall all the S apps we don't want and ditch the superfluous doubles.

There is some good news here, as a top Samsung exec has been quoted as saying the firm is looking to ditch the Samsung Hub suite, sparking talk of the end of bloatware heavy smartphones, and that change is already happening on the Tab S range. We can but hope.

A decent pair of stereo speakers

Sadly there's just one speaker on the S5. We don't want to have to wear headphones or hook up speakers all the time. It's a mobile device. The HTC One clearly demonstrated the benefits of dual front-facing speakers. Sony heard it, because the Xperia Z2 and Xperia Z3 have them too.

Screens are big enough to watch movies with friends now. How about bringing that sound quality up to scratch? A good set of stereo speakers in the S6 would be welcomed by everyone.

A DAB chip

Wi-Fi isn't always available and mobile data can be costly, so streaming tunes from the cloud or internet radio can be tricky and prohibitively expensive. FM radio seems to be rapidly disappearing from mobile devices and the quality is pretty patchy anyway.

Isn't it about time digital radio made it into smartphones? Access to high quality stations without the fiddling or the network connection would open up a world of music, sport, and talk. DAB chips are coming to smartphones and we'd love to see one in the Galaxy S6.

Always listening

The Moto X was a mixed bag, but it's undeniably cool to be able to talk to your phone and have it blink to life. Google continues to improve Now and add more functionality. If the Galaxy S6 was always listening, we'd get more value out of it. Google Now has been updated to listen for commands from any screen, but on the S6 we want it to listen even when the screen is off.

Voice recognition is improving fast. Given that our smartphones are starting to connect to wearables, home electronics and cars, the ability to issue voice commands brings us a step closer to the futuristic utopia we've all been dreaming about.

A new UX

We already suggested that Touchwiz is no longer adding much value to stock Android, but that doesn't mean it couldn't. A radical rethink of the stagnant UX could wash away childish fonts and pointless features to deliver something fresh and stylish.

Samsung must have bags of data on how we interact with our smartphones and a cursory glance at popular launchers reveals a world of possibilities. Be bold Samsung, offer us something new and exciting! As long as it isn't a candy-fuelled, garish, neon nightmare, we'll give it a try.

>>Read the full and detailed Samsung Galaxy S5 review<<

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