The reviews of the recently released Samsung Galaxy S6 have been mostly positive, and the sales have been highly impressive. However, it is not quite the ‘iPhone 6-killer’ that both Google and Samsung had hyped it to be.
Over the years, many smartphones have been hailed as ‘iPhone-killers’. The Samsung Galaxy S6, launched on April 10, is the latest to join the bandwagon. Android fans and loyalists have been quick to point out how the first-week sales figures of the S6 and the S6 Edge have been more than that of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus (79586 vs 36700 units, according to an April 20 ATLAS Research and Consulting report). So, will Samsung Galaxy S6 live up to its billing as the ‘iPhone 6-killer’? The following factors and device bugs suggest that it won’t be able to do so:
- Poor battery performance – Flagship smartphones hardly ever boast of great battery lives. The Galaxy S6 is no exception to this. Its battery (2500 mAh) is slightly smaller than that present in its predecessor – the poorly received Samsung Galaxy S5 – and in terms of performance, it is about at par (maybe marginally better, but it’s too close to call) with that of iPhone 6. Activating the Battery Saver Mode can help users (or doing a factory reset) get a bit more battery juice from the device. Rather inexplicably, Samsung has gone for a non-replaceable battery for the new flagship phone. There have been reports of the battery of S6 dropping by more than 60% within 5-6 hours of normal use.
- Unreliable wifi connectivity – Prior to the release of iOS 8.3, the iOS 8 platform also had this problem. General users as well as Android app developers have confirmed that the new Samsung Galaxy phone has the same bug as well. The speed of the wifi connection is generally sluggish, and there have been many instances of call drops. Testers have found that the wifi of S6 remains weak even in environments where the signal is fairly strong. A telltale sign of poor wifi reception is the painfully slow speeds at which common social media applications (Twitter, FB, etc.) load on the S6. Samsung has failed to bag any advantage over Apple in this regard.
- Memory bug – This one has been officially admitted by Samsung, and is a major usability issue with the Galaxy S6. The presence of 3GB DD4 RAM in the S6 and the S6 Edge sound nice in theory – but many users have discovered that only about 400-450 MB is available for use at any time. In other words, this means that around 2.5 GB of memory is being eaten up by the system tasks of the new devices. At online Android app development forums, there have been several complaints of users not being able to install applications – since their brand new S6 has inexplicably ‘ran out of memory.’
- Error-prone GPS – Apple Maps is not yet perfect, but neither is the built-in GPS of the ultra-hyped Samsung Galaxy S6. The problem becomes particularly pronounced if a user does not set the GPS to ‘High Accuracy’ (under Settings → Location). For general purposes, the location tracking features of the S6 are fair enough – but there is a disturbing app lock related problem that crops up often. While using fitness apps, many people have reported that grossly inaccurate data is being displayed on the phone.
- Faulty screen rotation – This has been a concern of the early adopters of Galaxy S6 as well as Android app and game developers alike. It is pretty much certain that the accelerometer and gyro sensors of the phone have issues – due to which the display often gets stuck in the Portrait Mode (even when auto-rotation is activated). Device analysts have found that the x-coordinate of the device’s sensors does not change from -32768, which gives rise to this display problem. Incidentally, users of Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge have experienced this problem too. There have been no similar bugs reported about the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus.
- Random refreshing of apps – Together with the RAM management problem, this has been yet another irritation for buyers. According to reports obtained from the XDA forum, Android apps get automatically refreshed – even when there is plenty of free memory space. There have been instances of app refreshes interrupting other active tasks on the phone. In all likelihood, this is a software bug – and the best workaround is opening the ‘Smart Manager’, identifying the apps that are not likely to used regularly, and getting rid of them. iOS 8 app developers have, to date, not received reports of such user-complaints.
- Camera flash does not turn off – This has been a bit of a shocker for many Android fans. The 16 MP rear camera of Galaxy S6 was expected to be qualitatively a couple of notches higher than the 8 MP iPhone 6 camera. In reality though, the bugs in the former has made it practically unusable. The built-in flash in many of the Samsung device remain on even when the camera app is not being used (there have been stray reports of the flash remaining on after the phone has been turned off too!). Mobile software analysts and app developers have reported that the camera focus of the S6 and the S6 Edge has room for improvement too. With bugs like this, no smartphone can become an ‘iPhone-killer’!
- Problems in Bluetooth connectivity – Another very common issue with new flagship smartphones, and Samsung has not been able to stay away from it. Locating and connecting via bluetooth (Bluetooth 4.1 is set up in the phone) is strangely slow and often buggy, while cases of connection drops midway through file transfers are also not uncommon. Those who have tried to use Bluetooth in the car on their S6 devices have faced this problem more frequently. Booting the phone in Safe Mode can be a workaround (as can be making the handset ‘forget’ all the connected devices, and then initiate search again). However, until a patch is released to resolve this issue, users will remain dissatisfied.
- Auto-deletion of messages – Another quirky feature of Samsung Galaxy S6 which keeps it from becoming a serious challenger of iPhone 6. A fairly large percentage of users have found that the text messages received on the phone get deleted on their own, after a certain time interval. Restarting or doing a hard reboot does not sort out this intermittently appearing problem. What’s more, those who make Android apps and other related software have found that deactivating the ‘Delete old messages’ option is not of any use either.
- Charging problems – Android has evidently not been able to work its way out of phone-charging-related problems yet. While using a wall-charger (the one that comes with the device), many users have found that the charging process is too slow. At times, the charging stops and resumes automatically as well. Experts in phone battery management and Android application development have advised people to use USB chargers – but the process becomes even slower if that is done. Poor battery life and problem-ridden charging is certainly not a desirable combination in a smartphone that aspires to become one of the best of all time.
- Tendency to get overheated – Not a uniform problem, but even so, it is worth a mention. Mobile gamers as well as professionals from the domain of game development have found that the S6 gets overheated after an hour (often, less) of playing games on it. The rate of battery drain accelerates significantly too. A temporary fix for this can be rebooting the phone (preferably in the Safe Mode). Interestingly, some users have experienced overheating problems even though they were not putting the phone to any intense use. Another problem for Samsung to identify and sort out.
- Mediocre app performance on certain cases – Mobile app companies have received plenty of reports about applications not functioning normally on the S6/S6 Edge. In general too, there is a bit of sluggishness about the performance of the device (which is a surprise, since Samsung has done a good job of improving TouchWiz). Some of these issues have been more or less resolved when users have updated the problematic apps – but most Android fans are looking forward to a performance patch for the new flagships.
- Call drops and random disconnections – Again, not an universal problem – but something that an ambitious, state-of-the-art smartphone should not have at all. However, it has been tested and confirmed that call drops do occur rather frequently on the Samsung Galaxy S6. Certain users have also stated that, while their calls do not get disconnected totally, the voice sort of fades away (even when the phone volume is turned up). To compete with iPhone 6, major improvements on this count are required.
- Buggy fingerprint scanner – It’s just sad that, at a time when issues related to mobile security are being highlighted, an Android phone has come along which has a rather unsatisfactory fingerprint scanner. The ‘Home’ button has to be repeatedly touched/tapped, for the phone to be able to ‘recognize’ you. On the one hand, Apple Pay is gaining in popularity by the day (it works like a charm on Apple Watch), and on the other, the Galaxy S6 is riddled with biometrics related problems.
Speculations have been rife over the non-arrival of the Tizen OS (for many months, rumor had it that the next flagship Samsung phone would ditch Android and have its in-house operating system, Tizen) on the Galaxy S6 phones. To give where credit’s due, the new handset is a vast improvement over its shoddy predecessor (the Galaxy S5), with the metal body instead of the plastic on the previous models being a refreshing change. It gives the phone a premium look and feel too. However, until all the above bugs are successfully removed, the Galaxy S6 will not be challenging the popularity of iPhone 6 – let alone ‘killing’ it.
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