Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus and Note 5 hands-on review: beautiful phones get bigger

Samsung created the market for big phones — are its two new handsets the product it needs to win it back?

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The Independent Tech

Earlier this year, Samsung fought back against disappointing sales with the best-designed phone it’s ever made, the Galaxy S6 edge, a sleek, classy handset with head-turning looks and class-leading tech inside.

Today, at the company’s latest event in New York, it was the turn of the big-screen models. The Samsung Galaxy Note5, which won’t yet be released in the UK, and the Galaxy S6 edge+, which is on its way here next month. The Independent has spent a little time with the new products.

Samsung launched the first Galaxy Note in September 2011, a phone with a preposterously large screen (5.3 inches). It seemed unwieldy, ridiculous and doomed. But Samsung had spotted what nobody else had: that there was a strong market for people who didn’t want to carry both a smartphone and a tablet and could they have something in-between, please?

Not only did the Note sell well but successive iterations each pulled off a clever trick, packing an ever-bigger screen into a body that was the same size or smaller. Other manufacturers followed suit and last autumn Apple released the iPhone 6 Plus, with a 5.5-inch display, with great success.

s6edgeplus1.jpg This year, the Note5 and the S6 edge+ both have 5.7-inch displays. Yet the S6 edge+ is smaller in every direction than the iPhone 6 Plus and the Note5 only exceeds it in thickness from front to back, and then only by half a millimetre. Both Samsung handsets are smaller than the iPhone 6 Plus and have screens which are much higher-resolution.

Enough stats: the S6 edge+ is gorgeous, and as high-end as the earlier S6 models. It has the same sloping-edges glass front that the smaller S6 edge has, which contribute to the way it feels manageable in the hand. And the display is eye-poppingly sharp and vivid, making video sing and tiny text completely legible.

Samsung pointed out some improvements over the phones released earlier in the year. The new model still has the versatile wireless charging capability as before except this time it’s faster to recharge without wires. The case itself has been improved with an aluminium that the company says is tougher and more scratch-resistant than before.

Some will be alarmed that the battery is not quite as big as in the Note 4, but Samsung claims that this new, built-in battery shouldn’t leave users running out of juice early.

The edge screen now had enhanced features. It still alerts you when one of your favourite contacts is calling you, flashing a colour that’s visible even if your phone is face down on the table (handy if you’re in a meeting). But now you can use the edge display to quickly send a message to your contacts or to launch chosen apps with a swipe.

There are new messaging elements such as a live broadcast feature so you can share what you’re filming with your best friends. In a demo this worked well and was fun to use. The 16-megapixel camera has an aperture (f/1.9) to let in as much light as possible and it’s quick to launch – 0.6 seconds when you double-press the home button.

And in brief tests, the Galaxy S6 edge+ was a quick performer that was responsive and slick. The home button contains a fingerprint sensor, which makes the phone compatible with Samsung Pay.

Almost all these features are the same on the Note5, though that also has a stylus for added functionality. But it’s the S6 edge+ which will be with us first, going on sale later in the month.

Samsung’s autumn launch is traditionally in September – perhaps it’s been pulled forward to put distance between its new handsets and the next iPhones, expected next month.

Whatever the reason is, Samsung has delivered a handsome, highly desirable phone that could recapture the large-screen phone market for the company that created it.

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