|Samsung Galaxy s6 with Curved Screen|
With two models to choose from, the differences are not as strong as you might think. A lot the discussion here at Forbes, and elsewhere online, has naturally followed Samsung’s lead and focused on the three elements of the revamped design to promote a premium experience, the upgrades to the camera hardware and software, and the wireless charging support.
At the same time, everyone can see the influence of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus on the handset. From the fingerprint recognition and curved corners to the 64-bit CPU support and the inclusion of mobile payment, there are many echoes that are sure to raise eyebrows in Cupertino.
While all the above are worth noting, what I find interesting is the impact that the design decisions have likely made to the bill of materials. Samsung has been working to bring down the complexity and the cost to build the Galaxy S6. Given the drastic drop in revenue and profit the South Korean’s mobile division suffered in 2014, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge have to deliver in every department if Samsung is to remain ahead of the chasing pack of smartphone manufacturers in the Android space.
Take the battery issue. Going with a fixed battery means the engineering and complexity to build a removable cover, durable connectors, the extra plastic around the battery and in the chassis, and the potential extra space required, has all been reduced. The smaller capacity of the battery compared to other Android flagships will also bring down the cost.
On the other hand, wireless charging does add some complexity, but with Samsung using its own chips for this the company does not have to deal with the profit margins of another supplier.
The same could be said of the Exynos system-on-chip design being used in the new Galaxy family. The expectation until recently was Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 SoC would be used. While technical reasons are the oft-cited reason for the switch, I’m sure that the financial arguments that the money is best kept inside the company while it goes through a tough period will have weighed heavily in favor of a global rollout of the 64-bit Exynos product.
Dropping the external memory card reduces complexity in a number of areas. The mechanism to hold a card in place, the electrical contacts, and the connection to the main PCB, these have all been jettisoned (as has putting a gap in the chassis for the microSD card to be inserted, or working with a removable back plate.
Samsung has also removed the waterproofing feature from both of its handsets. This is one of the most practical developments in smartphone technology of the last few years, and one that I especially appreciate. Yes it is complex to implement, and requires far more engineering with lower tolerances, but on balance it made for a better consumer experience.
But the margin has to be retained on the S6 and S6 Edge. With waterproofing removed the yields on parts used will be higher, there will be less testing and rejected handsets before consumer sales, and that keeps the build cost down.
All of these changes may not add to much on their own, but the cumulative effect of the changes on each handset, magnified by the millions of handsets that will be sold, will have a noticeable effect on the mobile division’s bottom line. Samsung is on the ropes, and the launch of the S6 is one of the last strong punches it can put some weight behind. It needs every advantage it can find. With the stripped down hardware, the designers have done their part.
Now to see how it plays out in the media and with the consumers.