Hands-on and first impressions with Samsung Pay, Galaxy Note 5, and S6 Edge+
Today was Samsung Unpacked in New York City, and I was there live. Hundreds of tech journalists made the pilgrimage to the Lincoln Center to learn about the company's newest smartphones.
Sadly, there was little magic in the building, as the devices were leaked well in advance. Ever see a movie trailer that gives too much of the movie away, and then you go to see the film, and you have already seen the best parts? Yeah it was like that. No surprises. Still, both the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+ seem to be wonderful new phones.
If you've ever been to an event like this before, it goes like this; first you line up early outside so you can get a good seat at the keynote. After the keynote, the journalists file out like cattle, and then run like manics to get to the demo tables first. In other words, it is a lot of jockeying for position.
It is clear that the Note 5 was not the star of the show. During the keynote, and during demos, the S6 Edge+ was the phone Samsung was pushing. The demo tables were especially telling -- there were far more S6+ tables than Note 5. I actually had to ask a Samsung employee to show me where the Note 5 was, as it was not apparent.
With that said, the first phone I tried was the Galaxy S6 Edge+. If you think it is nothing more than a larger Galaxy 6 Edge, then, well... you would be right. OK, technically it has better specs, including a mind-boggling 4GB RAM, but the experience is essentially the same. It is important to focus on the experience, as this is what will impact consumers in a now-mature smartphone market.
The screen on the Galaxy S6 Edge+ is amazing -- the curved edges on the larger display makes it look like magic. Seriously, colors are vibrant and the phone feels alive. It felt great in my hand -- light and comfortable.
You can see a demo of the Galaxy S6 Edge+ in the above video.
After that, I located the Note 5 and got to try it out too. This is very similar to the Galaxy S6 Edge+, but without a curved screen. If of course has the much-celebrated S Pen, which many professionals love. Truth be told, I am not a fan of using a stylus, although I respect the functionality it adds. For my smartphone usage -- mostly consumption, gaming and social media -- the Galaxy S6 Edge+ would probably be the better choice.
The screen on the Note 5 looks as good as the Galaxy S6 Edge+, but I prefer the curved experience on the latter. With that said, holding the Note 5 is easier and more mindless, as you do not have to be aware of the edges.
You can see a demo of the Note 5 in the above video.
Both phones feature Samsung Pay, yet another mobile payment system. At first, I was disinterested, until I learned that it works with existing magnetic strip card readers. In other words, a merchant does not need an NFC terminal to take these types of payments. In layman's terms, the card reader is fooled into thinking a traditional magnetic card has been swiped -- very cool. Check out the demo above.
They both also support Samsung's exclusive Fast Wireless Charging, as seen in the video above. The company promises that this will wirelessly charge the phones faster, but I could not get them to commit to how much faster. Of course, you will need to purchase the new accessory to achieve that speed, but luckily, older Qi chargers will still work, albeit slowly.
The keyboard cover seen above will work with both the Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+. It transforms the smartphones into Blackberry-like typing machines, perfect for both business users and hardcore texters alike. I got to try this accessory and found that it worked brilliantly. It definitely improved my typing as compared to typing on the screen. It snaps onto the back of the phone when not in use, so you do not have to worry about losing it.
Overall, Samsung has done it again. Both the Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+ are fast, beautiful and powerful. Both phones manage to stand out in the sea of Android phones -- a curved screen, an S Pen -- without being gimmicky. In other words, Samsung is doing what no other Android OEM can -- being striking and distinct.