Samsung shows a renewed sense of purpose with its S6 and S6 Edge smartphones

1 Mar 2015

If tonight at Mobile World Congress taught us anything it was that Samsung, with its new S6 and S6 Edge smartphones, is anything but a sleeping tiger and has one real enemy in its sights, the Apple iPhone 6.

JK Shin strode onto the stage and quipped: “My first language is engineering.”

But it was preamble for something that was part-truth, part apology and a definite statement of intent.

In revealing the new S6 and S6 Edge Samsung has thrown away the cheap and cheerful plastic designs of yesterday and has replaced it with a device that is all metal, but also which comes with a battery built-in and not only that, capable of wireless charging.

“We have learned from our successes and missteps,” Shin told thousands of mobile executives and journalists. “Some companies set the future through design, others through practically. We have built the best in class smartphone with the best in class design. And we did it from the ground up. The S6 and S6 Edge have capabilities that no other phone can match. That’s not all, they look really cool.”

Will it bend? Short answer: no

Samsung’s head of global marketing Younghee Lee emphasised the words “designed with purpose” and said the level of craftsmanship that has gone into the new devices has been unparalleled.

For example she said that the metal for the body of the devices was tempered to 800 degrees Celsius just to curve the device.

“It will not bend,” she said to applause from the audience and in reference to claims that the Apple iPhone 6 Plus can bend under stress.

As well as announcing Samsung’s own mobile wallet technology Samsung Pay, comparisons with Apple were indirect. What was telling was Samsung bringing on stage a second female executive who can only be described as Samsung’s version of Jony Ive.

Hyun Yeul Lee bubbled with excitement as she outlined how the “designed with purpose” design philosophy has transformed the user experience in terms of appearance and function. Areas of the device have been colour coded, Samsung has enabled one-touch auto reply.

“The exterior is sleek, solid and endurable. The UX is fast and intuitive,” Lee said with an authority that makes one sense we’ll be hearing more from her in the future.

Power and performance

Samsung’s chief strategy officer Justin Dennison said that the chip technology in the S6 and S6 Edge surpass anything else on the market.

“They set the bar for the entire industry, they are 64-bit processors produced using a 14 nanometer process, a first for the industry.”

Dennison revealed that the 5.1-inch smartphones have a screen resolution of 577 pixels per inch.

“The S6 Edge has a super Amoled screen wrapped around both edges of the device.”

Dennison also revealed that the new Gear VR, Samsung’s foray in to virtual reality with Oculus, will work with both the S6 and S6 Edge.

Not only that but he revealed that the new devices – which can charge wirelessly using induction technology – can be 40pc charged within 10 minutes and can be fully charged in half the time it takes to charge an iPhone 6.

In terms of camera technology Samsung has managed to squeeze its new real-time HDR feature into the 5MP front-facing camera, a world first for smartphones. The same real-time HDR technology features on the 16MP rear-facing camera too, which Samsung claims provides better lighting and clarity than on the competing iPhone 6.

In conclusion Younghee Lee said that the new S6 and S6 Edge will be available in the market from 10 April in 16 countries.

The devices will come in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB configurations.

If anything was clear tonight, it was that Samsung still has potential to lead the smartphone industry despite threats from Xiaomi in Asia and Apple worldwide. Important lessons it seems were learned and this is clearly a company that no longer wants to be seen to be on the back foot.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years