First Look: Samsung Gets a Lot Right with New S6 Phones

Samsung's new Galaxy smartphones improve in two major areas: design and picture quality. Samsung ramped up its camera technology in last fall's Galaxy Note 4, and the camera is even better in the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge announced Sunday. More importantly, the new phones have a more stylish design.

I had less than 90 minutes to try out the new phones in controlled settings, so it's too early for a definitive assessment. But I'm impressed with what I've seen so far. The phones will start selling in April, at prices not yet determined.

Design

For years, Samsung phones have had removable backs made of plastic. That allowed for battery replacement, but made the phones look cheap. I'm glad to see the metal frame and glass back in the new phones. The phones are lighter than before, even with metal.

The main S6 model feels boxy in my hands. More recent iPhones have smoother, curved edges. The S6 Edge curves on the left and right sides to create side displays, so it feels better. But boxy or not, I prefer Samsung's new design over its old models.

Camera

The Note 4 camera was excellent for producing images rich in color. However, the colors sometimes felt unnatural, especially with indoor shots. The S6 phones seek to fix that by using their infrared sensors (normally used for heart rate tracking) to better detect and adjust for specific lighting conditions. This sounds promising.

The S6 phones also sport better focus, borrowing technology from Samsung's stand-alone NX1 camera. You already can focus on a person by touching that part of the screen. But if the person walks away, the focus is off. With the new technology, the focal point moves with the person. It worked in my limited tests, though the subjects were still blurry because of poor lighting conditions. I...

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