Samsung have made a beautiful phone. A beautiful, stupid phone
There’s a lot to love about Samsung’s Galaxy S6 Edge. But nobody will notice them — the only thing that people are likely to remark on when you show off your (very expensive) new phone is its dazzling, disorientating three-sided screen.
It’s a wonderful phone, somewhat spoiled by its headline feature. Samsung seem to have ruined what could have been their best work through a fear of getting it wrong – or possibly taking too big a risk.
The screen is astounding and bright. But some of that brightness isn’t the work of the screen but the glaring sunlight that reflects off of it. It can sometimes be difficult to actually see how gorgeous the image on the screen is because it’s so hard to look at.
Despite adding the curved screen, Samsung have managed to keep the phone fairly narrow and thin. But that actually makes it difficult to get used to if you’ve been using something wider — and I was upgrading as a model Samsung customer, from the S5.
The three-sided screen is supposed to have two main points: it’s visible when the phone is face down, and it allows a new way of interacting with the phone when it’s the right way up. Neither makes sense.
According to Samsung, if you place the phone down on its screen you can use the sides to tell what the phone’s up to, and who’s ringing. You can give people different colours and the strips on the side will light up according to who’s calling — you can set one for your wife and another for your mistress, as Samsung executives ‘hilariously’ joked during the launch. The feature is about as bad and weird as that gag.
And developers aren’t really using the three sides in any interesting way when the phone’s the right way up, either. The main thing is a contacts bar that you can swipe onto the screen using the edge. It mostly replicates features that you can get just as easily elsewhere — favourite contacts for instance, and notifications that are shown up at the top anyway.
That shambling use of the three-sided screen shows that there isn’t really much point bothering to even try to integrate it into apps, especially since everyone without an S6 Edge won’t be able to use it. And most developers seem to have got the message, with no apps that I’ve seen actually taking advantage of it.
Some apps are no more useful but just look plain weird. On Instagram, for instance, the pictures are bent around the sides of the screen, distorting and ruining them, in my opinion, rather than making them ‘pop’, as some have claimed. When you look at the phone sometimes the stretching can cause a weird kind of nausea or motion sickness, like you’re being pulled around a corner but staying still.
There are other problems, too, though ones that plague most phones nowadays. There’s no removable battery, no expandable storage, none of the waterproofing that was there on the S5.
The screen is beautiful. The phone is fast. But that speed and screen are going to be overshadowed by an annoying gimmick. Samsung has failed by making its iPhone rival just too eye-catching.