BitDepth#979 for March 10, 2015
Two weeks ago, at an event in Barcelona, Spain, Samsung introduced the latest in its S series, the flagship of its considerable lineup of smartphones.
The S6, now clad in sparkling metal and glass livery, has now been joined by an even more adventurously styled partner, the S6 edge.
Both phones live up to the advance hype, though do not quite live down the inspired spoofs that the pre-launch campaign inspired.
But, as old school, pre-reputation management and social media shills might insist, any news is good news.
Even the burgeoning threat of ‘edgegate,’ a still to be formally confirmed or acknowledged issue with the touch sensitivity on the rounded corners of the new S6 edge phone, only serve to bring more attention to the company’s new style driven initiative.
And awareness of this radical shift in its direction is what the company needs bring fresh attention to the new styling of its top-end smartphone line.
In terms of raw feature development, S5 users will find only a few major changes to the base feature set of the already quite evolved S series line.
The built in camera adds a fast 1.9 lens, which is almost certain to improve the camera’s iffy low light capture capability and doggedly retains the 16MP sensor that’s tended to sparkle with noise in low light.
The new phones ship with Android 5 (Lollipop), Samsung Pay, a new digital currency platform and a first stab at including Microsoft’s productivity offerings with the inclusion of OneNote bundled with two years of free access to 115GB of storage on OneDrive, the company’s cloud storage offering.
What’s been sacrificed is the access to the internals of the device, most notably the battery and SD card slot, one point of differentiation that the company has maintained against the trend of sealed box, sleek devices that have characterised its competition.
Past attempts at matching the sleek lines of competing phones have led to some curious design decisions, which may have hit a nadir with the faux leather and stitching of the Note 3 and Galaxy Tab.
But that’s allowed Samsung to hold on to the idea of users being free to change their batteries and expand their storage, a concept that’s history with this new edition of the S series.
If you want a 64GB S6, you’ll need to buy one with those specifications right from the start.
In pure market positioning, this shift in feature emphasis places the two new models up against Apple’s iPhone 6 and smartphone buyers will be looking at the look and feel of the two devices more closely than they have before as a defining point of separation.
Does the S6 finally stop flirting with being a premium smartphone brand and step up to direct competition with the best phones in the Android market?
Is the newest version of Samsung’s TouchWiz interface elegant enough and crisply functional enough to rival the spare, functional design of iOS?
The judgements on those questions will begin soon among those journalists present in Barcelona for the launch and others who get early looks at the new S6 series, but all that Samsung has to be truly concerned about is what happens after the new devices hit the market on April 10.
When the new phone enter the market, those are the critical questions that potential buyers will be asking then and the opinions they form after seeing and using the new devices will be key to giving Samsung clear guidance on whether their new direction is going to be a much-needed win for the company’s smartphone business.