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​Samsung's Galaxy S6 Edge should be its one and only flagship phone (hands-on)

With its beautifully curved sides and light-up notifications, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge stands on its own.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Editorial Director, Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Thought Leadership, Speed Desk and How-To. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica led CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Expertise Content strategy, team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Samsung, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
Jessica Dolcourt
4 min read

BARCELONA -- I'm sitting in a Samsung room for US media, about six inches away from a briefcase full of of Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge smartphones when this thought crosses my mind: the Galaxy S6 Edge should have been Samsung's only flagship phone.

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And why not? Samsung trumpets the S6 Edge's bold and innovative design (in this case, dual-curved display and highly reflective color surface), as well as software features along the phone's edge display. What would be bolder than revealing a single new flagship device that breaks the mold?

After all, the S6 Edge and straight-sided Galaxy S6 share every major spec and nearly every color, and with its beautifully rounded sides, the S6 Edge looks and also feels like the more interesting, more premium handset of the two.

Read on for a walk-through of what works and what doesn't in the Galaxy S6 Edge compared with the S6. For a breakdown of the hardware and software, read my first impressions here.

Two curves really are better than none

Samsung talks about the "immersive viewing experience" of the Galaxy S6 Edge's rounded display. Turns out, this isn't merely a bunch of marketing spin. The edges curve out and down, giving the screen a sort of bubble effect along its sides. Navigating around the S6 and Edge side by side in real life produces more lifelike icons and images than when viewing them on the flat S6 display. (Alas, this doesn't translate well in a photo.)

Double-edged sword: Samsung's curved Galaxy S6 Edge (pictures)

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The concave Galaxy Round, which is sold only in South Korea, had some of this effect, too. When reviewing that phone, the screen's deeper bend occasionally caused a parallax problem, one that the S6 Edge should be able to avoid since most of its surface is flat.

Aesthetics and the phone's in-hand balance aren't just skin-deep here -- in fact, they really shine. The phone feels slimmer, almost aggressively so. It's balanced in the hand, and the sharper sides provide a surprisingly solid grip. Compared with the S6's familiar rectangular shape, the S6 Edge is palpably modern and chic. If you're wondering, the Note Edge felt the same way despite its asymmetry, though I like the way this Edge looks even more.

Although LG gave us the first dual-curved display as a concept piece at CES, Samsung got it into a commercial product first.

Edge display: Cute, and only a little useful

The Edge display undergoes a major facelift in the S6 Edge. On the Note Edge, this always-on strip of interface essentially doubles your screen real estate for launching icons, and tries to give you more to do from a more power-saving part of the phone. In the S6 Edge, Samsung throws this all away. The optional Edge screen slides out from the left or right when you want it, but otherwise remains hidden from view.

The S6 Edge and Note Edge have different curvatures. Sarah Tew/CNET

It also sheds almost all its former functionality, except for the night mode. This displays the time during sleeping hours, using very little energy. Apart from that, it serves two functions: It will flash alerts for email, texts and missed calls (but not Twitter or Facebook notifications), and it serves as a color-coded hub for five of your favorite contacts.

There's one other related activity, and it's a very specific use case. Say you have the phone upside-down on the table during dinner. If one of your five favorites calls or texts, the edge of the phone will glow with their associated color, sort of like speed dial.

And that's it.

The Edge display gives Samsung an excuse to play around with new experiences. Sarah Tew/CNET

When taken at face value, this Edge display remake has a smattering of practical functionality, but is far too limited to solely justify buying this phone over the S6. However, if it were already integrated into the Galaxy S flagship by default, that would really give Samsung the edge (sorry).

Do these things with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge's edge (pictures)

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Pricing: The S6 Edge's Achilles' heel

Based on what I've seen so far, the S6 Edge won't be worth the buy for the mass market audience if it costs even $50 more than the S6. It would take an early adopter or design lover to pay up for what are essentially cosmetic purposes, and that's a shame, because the S6 Edge is undoubtedly the more attractive, more interesting device. I'm not sure that I'd pay more for the design.

So why isn't it the main event? Samsung is clearly taking things slow, experimenting with what works with curved shapes and a separate sidebar interface, and what doesn't. Realistically, a phone like the S6 Edge that people find too unusual to own -- either on its own or when compared to a rival device -- would be corporate suicide for a big dog that's trying to keep its place in the pack. It's far safer to than to move forward with a sure thing than heavily invest in an intensive production process that requires ferocious heat to mold a screen.

A curved left edge gives this one-of-a-kind phone instant recognition. Sarah Tew/CNET

We can't ignore that process, either. It's also possible that Samsung wouldn't be able to manufacture enough curved displays in its factories to fulfill demand.

For now, releasing two separate phones is the sensible choice. It just isn't the boldest.

Samsung gives Galaxy S6 camera app a facelift (pictures)

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