6 months with the Galaxy S6 Edge

How does Samsung's flagship phone hold up over time? Here's what it's been like living with it every day.

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Confession: I am no longer using the Galaxy S6 Edge as my daily driver. I bought a fancy gold-colored one after posting my review back in April with the intent of using it until something better came along, probably in a year or so. And then the Nexus 6P came along. The gold just wasn’t enough to keep the Edge in my back pocket.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for Samsung’s flagship in my life. It was my phone every day from April until October. Here’s how it’s held up over time, and why my SIM no longer lives in its tray.

It takes a little tweaking

Here’s the thing about Samsung’s smartphones: There’s a bit of prep work involved before you can use one as your daily driver. In my case, I swapped out Samsung’s TouchWiz for the Google Launcher and Samsung’s keyboard for the stock Android one. I went through the entire applications list to disable Verizon’s bloatware. I banned Samsung’s browser, too, and replaced it with Chrome, and I told Samsung’s app store to wait for me before it installs any updates.

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A fraction of the apps I disabled when I first set up my Galaxy S6 Edge. 

I don’t hate TouchWiz. If you recall, I initially wrote that this year’s rendition is better than it has been in the past. I even grew to love the crowded Quick settings bar I previously rued because of how much I could stuff up there. I also like the fact that you can quickly close all tasks in the application switcher and that the camera app is user friendly.

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It’s nice to have access to all these settings at once. 

However, I still think Samsung should pare down on how much stuff it bundles with its devices. I don’t need Microsoft’s Office applications preinstalled on my device, and I’m sick of Verizon asking me to use its maps application. And while I appreciate all the free stuff, like 100GB of OneDrive space and six months of The Economist, I’d rather trade those in for just a bit more storage space on my 32GB device.

Debloating TouchWiz would also help the Galaxy S6 with its overall usability. When I first set up the S6 Edge, it was blazing fast and applications launched quickly. Then I started downloading more apps, which inevitably resulted in even more notifications pushing through compared to the initial review period, and that just seemed to slow everything down. I specifically recall the phone freezing up in the middle of turn-by-turn navigation. I had to pull over my car to restart the phone. I yelled a lot. Driving and diagnosing a sluggish Android device is not safe.

I don’t know exactly why my Galaxy S6 Edge has become so much slower. My own anecdotal experience leads me to believe it has to do with the memory management issues that were rampant shortly after the phone’s release. I haven’t been able to confirm whether Verizon sent out a fix for that in this summer’s Android 5.1.1 update, either. At the very least, it’s not like the Galaxy S6 Edge is slow and sluggish all the time, but when it’s processing a few things at a time, it struggles to keep up with how quickly I expect it to move.

Still the best point-and-shoot

The Galaxy S6 is still one of the best camera phones on the market. It has a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera with an aperture of f/1.9 and auto real-time HDR capabilities. Samsung is so proud of it, it put the same sensor on the Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Galaxy Note 5, which arrived months later.

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An untouched photo of New York City through my hotel window. 

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An untouched photo of San Francisco taken with the Galaxy S6 Edge.

The only smartphone that’s manage to edge by the Galaxy S6’s camera is the LG G4, but that phone is a bit too big for me. The S6’s smaller size means that it’s a camera I can easily take anywhere, which is why I pop my SIM inside when I know I’ll need a proper point-and-shoot device on hand. It fits easily inside the smallest of my purses, and its fantastic low-light performance means it snaps some of the best bar selfies with my pals. I also don’t have to worry about it falling out of my jacket or bulking up my pants pockets like I do with the larger Nexus 6P.

Battery life is inconsistent

Battery life was so good on the Korean variants of the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge I originally reviewed. Our benchmarks told the story of a pair of phones that could outlast other high-end phones. But, when I brought home my Verizon version of the S6 Edge, I had a decidedly different experience.

The Galaxy S6 Edge usually teeters around 30 percent in the early evening, after ten hours off the charger. I have to constantly remember to charge my phone before I leave the office so that I have enough juice to listen to a podcast on my commute home. If I don’t do that, I whip out the portable battery pack I’m carting around and plug the phone into that. It’s a frustrating dance to perform.

My life with the Nexus 6P and Marshmallow’s Doze mode is much different. I typically leave my phone untouched on the desk for hours at a time, and at some point the Nexus 6P kicks into Doze. When dusk arrives, I pick up the phone and see it’s somewhere between 60 and 70 percent charged, depending on how much I used it in the morning. I haven’t had to charge the 6P at work or plug it into an external battery pack before leaving the office. I’m hoping Doze will eventually have the same effect on Samsung’s smartphones once it seeds out a Marshmallow upgrade.

The Galaxy S6 Edge does have one first-world luxury I don’t have with Nexus 6P, and that’s wireless charging. I love being able to plop the phone down on the Tylt Vu and keep it charged up throughout the day. And its fast charging capabilities make it so that I’m not waiting around to juice it up.

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Samsung’s power saving modes are some of the best I’ve ever used. I like that I can dial down the features when I need to. 

Also, I like the power saving modes that Samsung’s software offers—and this is an example where Samsung adds value in additional features, but shouldn't need to change Android's interface to do so. While on a family vacation in Minnesota over the summer, I left the Galaxy S6 Edge in Ultra Power Saving Mode for several days. There weren’t many power outlets to share, but I still wanted to keep my phone on in case anyone back home needed me. The Ultra Power Saving mode dumbed the phone down to its most basic offerings and ensured my parents and my best friend could still text or call me, without the cellular standby eating up my battery life.

I’m lucky it hasn’t shattered

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It’s hard to capture with a kit lens, but there’s quite a few scratches around the charging port—not to mention a bunch of gunk stuck inside it.

I love the metal and glass construction of the Galaxy S6 Edge—It’s basically been the premium design standard I’ve held other flagship phones to this year. However, it’s not the most durable device. It’s definitely seen some wear and tear just by being in my bag every day. I’ve also dropped it a few times and if it weren’t for the case, I think it would have fared much worse. The case only covers the backside, though, and you can see scratches and scuff marks along the metal edge. I’m glad the Galaxy S6 Edge has remained in one piece all the time, but I also take a little more caution with it than I did my HTC One M8, for instance. The glass and gold combination is too nice to ruin.

Still the best Samsung flagship

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This is still a pretty darn great phone. But it needs Marshmallow to help with some of its battery-sucking issues.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are still two of the best phones to come out this year, though I’m hoping that next year the company focuses less on bundling its devices with software and app specials, and sticks closer to the standard Android interface design. In a phone that costs $700, the company can afford to let marketing and bundle deals go, and should at least sell an unlocked and bloatware-free version online. It should instead focus on the sort of unique features that add real value, like Samsung Pay, camera features, and wireless charging that supports both Qi and PMA standards.

Regardless of the memory management issues—which some carriers have fixed through a software update—and the inconsistent battery life, I keep the Galaxy S6 Edge charged up and updated so that I can switch it to it when I need a capable smartphone camera in tow. Its smaller size is also better for travel. I bring along a laptop and the Galaxy Tab S2 with me everywhere I go anyway, and the smaller size of the Galaxy S6 Edge ensures it stays in my pockets on the plane so I can keep it on my person for the entirety of the flight.

However, I recognize that I’m in a particularly privileged position given that it’s my job to switch between Android devices. I can choose to toss aside Samsung’s phone for a Nexus device if I want to, whereas most people are stuck with one choice for a couple years. The good news is that if you have a Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge on you, there’s no need to swap it out in a panic. But until the Marshmallow update comes through, I’m staying with the Nexus 6P. Once you Doze, you can’t go back.

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