One of the biggest criticisms of Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) phones is that they looked kind of "cheap" relative to some of the other high-priced smartphones in the market. Samsung has apparently taken this criticism to heart, and has made the Samsung Galaxy S6 look -- and reportedly "feel," although I have not personally used one yet -- far more "premium" than prior Galaxy S smartphones.
However, even though Samsung is using higher-quality materials than it did with prior phones, I can't shake the impression that the S6 simply lacks subtlety.
Hey, look at me, I'm premium
The Galaxy S6 features an interesting design. The metal edge around the device looks like the edge around the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 6/6 Plus -- particularly, as has been widely observed, the bottom -- and the back is covered in Gorilla Glass 4. It looks nice, but I'd imagine that the reflections on the backside of the phone, thanks to that Gorilla Glass 4 coating, might prove excessive to many.
Some reviewers have called the back of the device a "fingerprint magnet," which means that users may find themselves having to clean the back of the device relatively frequently. It's almost as though Samsung wanted to make this device as flashy as possible so that it could point at specific elements of the design, and claim that the S6 is a "premium" device.
Removing previously touted functionality for the sake of a premium look seems iffy
Samsung explicitly mocked iPhone users in an advertisement for the Galaxy S5, calling them "wall huggers" because they couldn't replace the batteries of their devices. So, of course, in the name of a more "premium" design, Samsung went ahead and made the battery in the S6 non-user replaceable, and even included a lower-capacity battery than it did in the S5.
Samsung also removed the SD card slot, a feature that many cited as a key advantage that Samsung phones offered over iPhones. If Samsung can actually get people to buy up the stack to 64-gigabyte and 128-gigabyte storage models, then that should help the company's margins. However, there is some risk that Android users who liked the ability to use SD cards might just go with phones from competitors.
The S6 looks like a solid phone, but I'm not sure aesthetics ultimately matter
Don't get me wrong: The Galaxy S6 looks like a good Android phone overall, and my expectation is that it will do well relative to the competition from the Android camp, assuming Samsung doesn't go crazy on pricing. However, I'm not completely sold on the idea that high-end Android device buyers, in general, care about how "premium" the device looks and feels.
My impression is that Samsung phones are attractive because they offer strong specifications and a robust feature set. The S6 still delivers what looks to be a solid display, fast processor and memory, and zippy connectivity. It even includes a better fingerprint reader than what was found on the S5, as well as built-in wireless charging.
However, the S5 was better than the S4 in many of the same ways as the S6 is over the S5. Yet sales were still disappointing.
If the S6 turns out to be a megahit that helps Samsung improve its revenue and profit significantly, then maybe the "premium" design was just what Samsung needed. If not, then Samsung will have spent all of that effort trying to make the phone look better for no real payoff.