We can review new devices when theyíre first launched, and their performance can generally be predicted from their specs. But specs only tell part of the story.

Samsungís latest flagship device, the Galaxy S6, has been out for about a month and a half, and it's one of the most highly rated phones out there. Most consider it to be the best Android phone in the world.

Here's what itís actually like to use from a real life ownerís perspective.

Design

Samsung has refreshed its design philosophy from tacky fake chrome edges and plastic/faux-leather textures on previous Galaxy phones to a more refined, sophisticated glass and metal build for the Galaxy S6. I got the white version, which looks and feels premium and does a much better job at justifying its $650 price tag than the previous phones that felt like toys inside Kinder Eggs.

But now that the S6 has sleek, smooth aluminum edges, it feels like it wants to slip out of my hands on a one-way trip to a hard floor. So how do you remedy that? With a cheap plastic $20 case that hides any indication that your S6 is made with premium materials, or that itís an S6 at all since most Galaxy phones look pretty similar from the front.

Performance

Samsung packed some pretty powerful hardware into the S6, and it feels like it for the most part. Performance is largely quick and smooth, animations rarely stutter, and I can switch between apps and scroll down websites pretty smoothly.

Occasionally, however, Iíll wake my phone from sleep and it wonít be able to unlock for about four to five seconds because of a bottleneck with the hardware. That might not sound like much, but itís not something youíd expect from a brand new phone with some of the most powerful specs commercially available thatís just stripped you of $650 or more.

Itís also not very good for fast smartphone typists as the S6 lags behind what youíre typing, especially when the Samsung keyboard tries to auto-correct or guess what youíre typing, which it does terribly anyway. I would suggest immediately downloading an alternative, like the Google Keyboard.

The fingerprint sensor is excellent and you no longer have an excuse to leave your phone without some sort of security measure. It registers my thumb prints quickly and accurately and I can get to my apps just as easily as swiping the lock screen to unlock it. Eventually, I'll be able to use the fingerprint sensor with Samsung Pay, Samsung's answer to Apple Pay that launches this summer.

Samsung's Android

TouchWiz is the extra software Samsung uses to "skin" the basic version of Android made by Google so that it can differentiate its phones from other Android phones. That would be fine if only TouchWiz didn't look so cartoony and cluttered in the past.

Samsung has dialed down its latest version of TouchWiz to look more sophisticated and less cluttered, but it's not quite as mature as the basic Android version. 

Youíll still find silly TouchWiz traces, like ďWi-Fi Connected to Network XYZĒ banner in the notification shade. It's completely unnecessary and will drive notification perfectionists mad because you canít swipe it away like you do with other notifications. In typical TouchWiz fashion, thereís no way to remove it, either.

Most Samsung apps can be disabled, but some keep running alongside Android to run the TouchWiz interface, which uses up the phoneís resources and slows it down. Overall, it's a step in the right direction, but I still prefer Google's basic version of Android.

Display

The S6 has the sharpest display there is on a smartphone at the moment, and it looks gorgeous. Itís pleasingly bright and one of the only TouchWiz features I like lets you change the color scheme for a natural, warmer, cooler, or colorful display.

Battery

I experienced the same questionable battery life that many Galaxy S6 owners were reporting. This one isnít Samsungís fault.

I was getting only slightly better battery life than with my old Nexus 5, and I was about to put the S6 back in its box and ship it back to wherever it came from.

Before I did that, I tried one last thing. I switched off Google Now, Google's digital assistant, and my battery life skyrocketed to last me about 36 hours on a single charge with relatively decent usage, including music streaming, but without using Bluetooth or GPS. I charge it every night, but I usually have just under 50% battery left before I go to bed.

Google Now used to periodically activate my GPS antenna to gather my location and it forced my phone to process the information for the Google Now updates, and it destroyed my battery life. I somewhat miss Google Now, but not that much, and itís a problem Iíd likely experience with any smartphone.

Camera

The S6 takes fantastic pictures. The camera app can be pulled up quickly enough with a double tap of the home button and Iíve rarely missed a moment I wanted to capture. It offers myriad options like panorama, slow or fast motion, selective focus, and pro mode (for more DSLR-style control over your shots) in a convenient menu when you swipe right.

Thereís a ďVirtual shotĒ mode that takes multiple pictures around a still object to create a cool surrounding effect, but itís mostly for novelty and has few uses because itís difficult to take stable surround shots without some sort of camera tripod.

Conclusion

I wish I didnít have to use a grippy plastic rubber case with the S6 because it mutes the newfound beauty of Galaxy smartphones, but I donít want to drop it and potentially shatter the screen or dent the metal edges, either.

Samsung could have kept using plastic for its phones and still had a premium design, it just had to use plastic well. Take my old Nexus 5, for example, it wasnít quite as ďprettyĒ as the S6 since it was made of plastic, but itís still one of the best looking and best feeling phones Iíve ever owned. And it absorbed drops like a tank with only a few tiny dents and scratches.

Overall, the Galaxy S6 is a great phone despite Samsungís insistence to keep its heavy TouchWiz layer, which helps slows everything down. To be fair, itís been dialed back enough that itís not too offensive, and the slowdowns are quite rare. Either way, if you often use the camera on your phone because itís convenient, the Galaxy S6 is for you as it has one of the best shooters available on an Android smartphone.

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