Samsung, one of the largest and most popular Android partners, has slowly been making inroads in enterprise. Last month, the company released its two new flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge, which are identical except for the GS6 edge's curved display and slightly larger battery.
Due to the popularity of Samsung's Galaxy S devices, it's easy to find GS6 reviews, but our evaluation is written specifically for business users -- and the IT staffers who need to support them. I've been using both devices regularly for almost two months, though I gravitated to the GS6 edge. As such this evaluation is focused on the GS6 edge, though most of conclusions apply to both phones.
Is the GS6 edge a good BYOD device? Does it meet all the basic needs of today's business-oriented "power users?" Which GS6 phone is better-suited for enterprise use? And are there any shortcomings IT and corporate users need to know about?
You'll find the answers to each of these questions, and many more, in the following pages. First up, the good stuff ...
What you'll like about the Galaxy S6 edge: Security, style, screen and specs
The most important business-oriented feature in the Galaxy S6 edge is KNOX, Samsung's security platform that's built into the Android OS.
KNOX lets IT admins use a variety of popular mobile device management (MDM) tools to manage Samsung devices, including BlackBerry, AirWatch, SOTI, MobileIron, Citrix, FAMOC, Good Technology and MaaS360. KNOX provides more than 1500 MDM APIs. It has federal information security certifications from multiple governments, including Australia, Canada, Finland, the UK and the US. And the US. FBI currently uses KNOX to manage more than 28,000 devices, according to Eric McCarty, vice president of mobile product marketing, Samsung Business.
KNOX Workspace lets IT separate work and personal data on corporate-managed devices, but GS6 users automatically get a variety of KNOX security features, even if their IT departments choose not to deploy Workspace. The My KNOX app, which is available on the Google Play store, also lets business users create their own "containers," to separate work and personal data. I tested My KNOX, and though it's a bit buggy (more on that coming up), it mostly works as advertised, and it's more intuitive than some other containerization options I've tried. (I'm looking at you, BlackBerry Balance.)
KNOX also works seamlessly with, and complements, Android for Work, the security platform Google built into Android v5 "Lollipop," so IT departments can choose which specific security feature they want to use, or employ a variety of features from both KNOX and Android for Work, McCarty says.
Of course, KNOX isn't perfect, and it does have some BYOD shortcomings. (Read this comparison of KNOX and Android for Work, from my InfoWorld.com colleague Galen Gruman, for specifics. Samsung also provided an official feature comparison document for KNOX and Android for Work.)
The last generations of Samsung's Galaxy S and Galaxy Note phones have fingerprint scanners for user authentication, but put bluntly, those scanners suck. You have to slowly swipe your finger, and the process frequently results in errors. The fingerprint reader on the GS6 edge works much better, and you no longer have to swipe a finger; you just tap a digit on the oval-shaped home button, and you're good to go. It works well (if slightly more slowly than Apple's comparable Touch ID system), and it is a simple, secure way to protect the GS6 edge, which is a good thing for IT and its corporate users.
The GS6 edge is also a thing of beauty, which may not mean all that much to IT, but image-conscious execs and other businesspeople looking to make solid first impressions will surely appreciate the phone's design. It's light, slim, trim and sleek-looking. The GS6 edge is particularly eye-catching, thanks to is curved, dual-edge display, which makes it look as much like a piece of jewelry, or a fashion accessory, as a smartphone.
The GS6 edge packs the best display I have ever seen on a mobile device. The 5.1-inch quad HD Super AMOLED (2560x1440) display makes my iPhone's slightly smaller "Retina" screen look downright dull in comparison.
The GS6 edge supports both the PMA and Qi (say: "chee") wireless charging standards, and you do not need to use any sort of case or accessory to enable the feature. In my experience, wireless charging takes significantly longer than traditional charging, but it is convenient. (Check out my review of Samsung's new wireless charge pad for more details.)
The GS6 edge has a 16MP, auto real-time HDR rear-facing camera with optical image stabilization (IOS). Image quality is above average in my experience, though the camera is still plagued by an issue that's common in many phone cameras: problems balancing light in dim or poorly lit environments. My favorite thing about the GS6 edge camera, however, is the tap-to-open feature, which lets you quickly tap the home button twice at any time to open the camera.
A cool multitasking feature lets you view and use more than one app a time, which can be helpful when trying to, say, update a calendar appointment with new information from a browser window. And you can drag to resize the windows, so they appear the way you want them.
If you use the default Android mail application, you can touch a message header with two fingers and then drag down to see an extended message preview and get access to quick reply, reminder, read/unread and deletion features, which make it simple to monitor and respond to messages, as well as organize your inbox without leaving the main inbox screen.
Depending on the wireless carrier, Microsoft's Office suite may come preinstalled on the device, but even if it doesn't you can download the individual apps from Google Play. I didn't spend too much time with the apps, but I was able to easily open up Word documents that were attached to email messages and then make minor changes. New GS6 edge users also get 100GB of OneDrive cloud storage for two years.
Samsung worked closely with Microsoft to ensure the best possible Office experience on the GS6 phones, according to McCarty. The company also says it spent significant time with Cisco, Google, Oracle and Salesforce to improve the performance of their apps and service on the GS6.
The GS6 edge has top-of-the-line technical specifications. In addition to what I already touched on, its octa-core, 64-bit processor and 3GB of RAM mean you'll see little lag when running multiple applications at the same time. The GS6 uses a standard micro USB port for charging and syncing. It has a helpful infrared blaster, which can be used along with a variety of different applications to advance PowerPoint slide decks and control other peripherals. You can crank the external speaker to an impressive volume, which is good for speakerphone calls, though the audio quality is expectedly tinny. It also supports NFC and Wi-Fi calling (depending on the carrier), which could save organizations significant money.
All of these things make the GS6 edge shine in a crowded space, but it's not all glorious curves and brilliant displays. The GS6 edge has a number of shortcomings that become obvious with extended use. On that note, the bad stuff ...
What you'll won't like about the Galaxy S6 edge: Battery, bugs, (potential) breaks
The Samsung Galaxy S6 edge has a glaring Achilles heel: battery life. The first day I setup my phone, I noticed that the 2,600mAh battery seemed to drain significantly faster than it should. So I turned my screen brightness way down. I turned off wireless radios I wasn't using. I signed out of applications that I don't use frequently to make sure they weren't constantly updating and sucking power. The issue remained, and I haven't made it through a full day of heavy use with my GS6 edge during the nearly two months I've had the device.
For context, I have all of the same apps and service set up on my iPhone 6 (and more) as I do my GS6 edge, and as a test, I purposely streamed music and played the occasional game on the iPhone while avoiding these apps on the GS6 edge. I did my best to use the phones equally other than that, and the Samsung phone still died before the iPhone. I also don't think the iPhone 6 has great battery life, at least when compared to, say, the BlackBerry Passport -- which admittedly has a larger battery pack -- so that also speaks to the poor GS6 edge battery.
It's worth noting that my iPhone is on AT&T and my GS6 edge is a T-Mobile device; however, I get solid coverage on both networks in the areas I frequent, and I use Wi-Fi at home and in my office, where I spend most of my time, so the network shouldn't have a significant impact on battery life.
I asked Samsung about the battery issue, and it says it hasn't received any other similar complaints. It suggested that my problem could be related to the preproduction review unit it gave me. I can't be sure of either of these things, but the GS6 edge I'm using sure doesn't impress when it comes to battery life.
The GS6 edge has a number of power-saving modes, and you can use special Adaptive Fast Charging (AFC) cords to power up a device quicker than with a standard USB cord. (It takes about two hours to fully charge a dead device using an AFC charger, which ships with the GS6 edge.) The features are valuable, but they simply aren't enough to make up for the lack of reasonable battery life overall.
I'm also disappointed that the GS6 edge doesn't have a removable battery (which would help assuage some of my concerns about battery life) or a swappable memory card. Past generations of Galaxy S phones had both of these things, as does the relatively new Galaxy Note 4. Samsung says it used fixed a battery and memory to make for a slimmer device profile, among other things, and though it achieved that goal, I'm not sure it was worth the tradeoff.
The new Galaxy S phones both run the latest version of Android, v5.0, or "Lollipop." Unfortunately, the software experience is quite buggy. For example, one of my most used applications simply doesn't work at all (a banking app) even though Google Play thinks it's compatible with the GS6 edge. Many apps run so poorly on the GS6 edge that I've come to just avoid them.
Even Samsung's own My KNOX app, which lets you separate work and personal data on your device, crashes every time I try to access its "More" settings menu. I also found a bug that lights up the rear camera flash every time you touch it (or if it's in your pocket) if you sign in and use the Google Fit app, which puts even more strain on the battery.
Some of these issues will likely be resolved with future software updates, but for now, it's tough for me to rely solely on the GS6 edge due to what seems like a bug infestation. New users will likely seek assistance from IT when they encounter a bug that hinders their work (or their tweeting), and that could translate into an unwelcome burden on support staff.
You can use the GS6 edge fingerprint reader to unlock the phone, access KNOX containers, and authenticate purchases using the PayPal app, but other than that, its functionality is limited. Samsung plans to roll out its mobile payment service, Samsung Pay, later this month, and developers could build apps that use the finger scanner, but for now it doesn't do very much.
The most notable things about the GS6 edge are obviously its curved edges. However, the curves are more gimmick than anything else, and their value is mostly aesthetic. The GS6 edge is slick and sleek, and the curved sides have a lot to do with that, but they don't offer much business value.
Appearance aside, business users could potentially appreciate the edge notifications, and some of the "People edge" features. The People edge lets you pick five frequent contacts and then assign specific colors to each. The edge lights up when the GS6 is placed facedown and you receive a notification from one of your designated five contacts. You can quickly send or reply to messages from those contacts by dragging your finger inward from the curved edge, when the device is awake. (You need to wake and unlock it to read or send messages, though you can see color-coded notifications when the GS6 edge is locked.) Another feature lets you send preset messages without lifting up your facedown device by tapping the rear-facing camera lens, which is kind of cool, but also limited.
Those curved edges do not come for free, and you pay at least $100 more for the GS6 edge than the standard GS6. More specifically, the black, AT&T 32GB GS6 costs $815 without a contract; the black 64GB version goes for $915; and the black 128GB AT&T GS6 edge costs $1,015 off contract. (The GS6 phones also come in cool new colors, but you'll pay even more for them.) Of course, organizations that purchase bulk orders will likely receive some sort of discount, but the GS6 edge will still cost more than the GS6.
After using the GS6 edge for almost two months, I find that the curved edges are more trouble than they're worth. I have fairly large hands, and the sides of my palm and my fingers kind of curl around the phone when I hold it one-handed. In other words, my hand is always "half touching" the display, and it sometimes triggers unwanted actions, such as randomly closing apps or scrolling through screens when I don't want to.
Both GS6 phones also feel very delicate, especially the GS6 edge. I haven't dropped either of my devices, so I haven't really done any "real world drop tests," but Samsung tells me it didn't see any difference in durability between the two phones during its testing. Still, GS6 edge just feels more delicate than its brother.
It is, however, much easier to find durable glass screen protectors for the GS6 than it is for the GS6 edge, and I guarantee it's significantly more expensive to replace a cracked display on the GS6, which probably won't go over well in many IT shops.
To sum that all up ...
Samsung Galaxy edge enterprise review: Conclusion
From a security perspective, the GS6 edge outshines every other Android phone on the market, thanks to Samsung's KNOX platform. The new and improved fingerprint scanner works well and is infinitely more effective than the company's last-generation scanner. The phone is stylish and functional. Its display is amazing. It supports two wireless charging standards without any sort of add-on accessory. And it has a quality camera, as well as top-of-the-line tech specs across the board.
However, GS6 edge battery life is horrific. The Android software is buggy, and certain apps don't run well or won't run at all. The GS6 edge's curved display looks cool, and it's sure to grab attention, but other than that, it's a novelty -- it also costs at least $100 more than the standard, non-curved GS6. The GS6 fingerprint scanner doesn't do much beyond let you secure and then unlock your phone with a tap. And the device seems delicate, so a quality case and a screen protector is a must.
Overall, I really like the GS6 edge, and if it weren't for that glaring battery issue, I'd say, without hesitation, that the GS6 edge is the best Android phone for business. However, the poor battery life is a deal-breaker for me, and the general software "bugginess" also doesn't help Samsung's cause in the enterprise.
The added cost of the GS6 edge curved display should push most organizations and business users toward the standard GS6. The GS6 with standard display also seems more durable, and it's easier to find glass screen protectors to help cushion the inevitable drops. For these reasons, the standard GS6 is probably a better option for business than its fancy, curved counterpart.