Samsung answers Apple with curvy Galaxy S6 phones, Samsung Pay

Korean electronics giant fires the latest shots at rival Apple with newly designed flagship smartphones, a mobile payment system, and a virtual reality headset.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
4 min read

Watch this: Wireless payments come to the Galaxy phones

The rivalry between Samsung and Apple appears alive and well, with Samsung firing the latest salvo by unveiling two new flagship smartphones, a mobile payments system and a new virtual-reality headset.

On the eve of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Samsung on Sunday announced the much-anticipated and highly redesigned next-generation Galaxy S smartphones: the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge . It also announced its second mobile virtual reality headset, the Samsung Gear VR , as well as its own take on Apple Pay, Samsung Pay.

Samsung and Apple have been duking it out throughout the world in the smartphone wars for several years. And now, as other devices and technologies emerge to complement smartphones, the companies have extended their rivalry to wearable devices and services like mobile payments.

Samsung's newly designed smartphones look to be a long-awaited answer for fans wanting a device that offers the premium design and feel associated with Apple's iPhone. Meanwhile, the Samsung Pay mobile payment capability is a direct response to the Apple Pay system announced last year with the iPhone 6. The new VR headset builds on Samsung's wearable portfolio, which in shear number of products beats Apple's wearables offering. But with the new Apple Watch about to debut, Apple will soon show its might in this category as well.

Here's a look at the new products Samsung is bringing to its fight with Apple:

Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge

Succumbing to the peer pressure of the day, Samsung has ditched the durable plastic mainstay of its smartphones for premium materials, such as aluminum and glass. The Samsung Galaxy S6 and curved-screen Galaxy S6 Edge ditch the the old plastic build and removable battery of previous Samsung flagship phones, and instead sport sharp metal lines and plenty of glass.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge Josh P. Miller

For the most part, the two devices offer the exact same specs, with only a few minor differences in dimension and battery life.

Some of the key features Samsung is touting in these new devices include:

  • Embedded battery
  • No microSD card
  • Camera quick launch
  • Smarter fingerprint scanning
  • Wireless charging
  • Quick-charging
  • No waterproofing

The devices come in multiple colors, including, gold, platinum, emerald green, blue topaz, and black.

The device uses the latest Android software, Android 5.0 Lollipop.

Samsung said the new smartphones will be available across 22 wireless operators throughout the world during the second quarter, between April and June. All four of the major US carriers plan to offer both new devices, as well as Cricket and US Cellular. UK and Australian networks haven't been announced yet.

Fully metal Samsung Galaxy S6 looks sharp (pictures)

See all photos

Sprint and T-Mobile announced Sunday that the new Galaxy S smartphones will be available on their networks starting in April. T-Mobile added that the smartphones will also be available on its prepaid brand MetroPCS. AT&T and Verizon haven't said when the phones will be available.

None of the carriers have announced pricing for the new smartphones.

For more on the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge, check out CNET Reviews senior editor Jessica Dolcourt's hands-on review of the new phones.

Screenshot by CNET

Samsung Galaxy Gear VR Innovator Edition

Samsung announced its second stab at a virtual-reality accessory at Mobile World Congress. The new Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition works with both the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.

This new headset is 15 percent lighter than its original virtual reality headset developed with Oculus. And it comes with newly designed straps. Samsung also added ventilation, which should make the device more comfortable to wear long term.

For more on the new Gear VR check out CNET Reviews senior editor Scott Stein's initial hands-on take.

Samsung Pay

Apparently, the world can't have too many mobile payment systems. Samsung debuted its own take on the mobile phone as a wallet Sunday with Samsung Pay, an application that allows you to pay for goods and services by waving your smartphone near a register instead of swiping a credit card or pulling out cash.

Screenshot by CNET
The first devices to get Samsung Pay will be the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. The

company said Samsung Pay will launch in the US and South Korea in the summer, with Europe and China to come later.

It's not difficult to see that Samsung Pay is a direct answer to Apple's Apple Pay mobile payment offering that was announced last year along with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Like Apple Pay, Samsung's version also uses near-field communications, or NFC, a technology that uses an embedded chip to talk with compatible registers. But Samsung says it has gone beyond NFC to also include a technology that will allow it to be used with any register that can accept a credit card. Through its acquisition of LoopPay last month, Samsung has added technology called Magnetic Secure Transmission to the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge that allows these devices to be used with a traditional credit card swipe reader. This essential makes the payment application backwards compatible with nearly all payment terminals around the world.

For more information on Samsung Pay check out CNET News executive editor Roger Cheng's take on the payment capability.