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Whither Galaxy S6? Samsung’s Newest Entry Shows Misdirected Smartphone Evolution

Being a Samsung (KRX: 005930) Galaxy user across a number of years (From the S3 to Note3 and then the S5, the last two in parallel right now – that’s quite a vote with someone’s wallet, I guess), I did eagerly await the launch of the Galaxy S6 to see if it is worth the upgrading consideration. Especially since the Galaxy Note Edge, the interim variant with the single curved side 2560×1600 16:10 display, did show some promise on how the extra curve can be used without affecting the main work area size.

However, what came out did seriously disappoint me: what happened was that both the straight and curved versions share the same 2560×1440 16:9 display – meaning that the curved side in a sense lost some 1/6 of its straight viewable work or play area on an already narrow display.

But that was just the beginning: the new phones had no microSD card slots for user storage expansion flexibility and, no, the battery can’t be replaced by the user either, just like on the iPhones. But yes, they have very very fast processors and 3+ megapixel displays with gazillion dots per inch density in a, yes, 5-inch format.

Hold on for a second: the existing 1920×1080 FullHD displays on 5-inch plus smartphones already reach some 400 dots per inch resolution, beyond what a normal human eye can discern from say one foot distance. What is the point of adding extra resolution that can’t be seen? Wouldn’t it be better if Samsung add extra pixels to its laptops instead, so that 4K 15-inch models are a reality? Or UHD 16:10 3840×2400 tablets, for instance, in the same format?

Don’t forget that the extra pixels add to the processing burden, video frame buffer memory footprint and of course the power consumption, yet there is almost no 1440p video content to benefit from them. And, yes, world standard 1080p FullHD content will look better on a “pixel for pixel” matching 1920×1080 screen then interpolated across a 2560×1440 screen. So, what the hell was the point in doing this? And, mind you, it’s not just Samsung doing this.

Is the Galaxy S6 a step in the right direction?

This brings us to a point: is the current smartphone evolution seriously misdirected? Not just from a ‘consumerised dumbing down’ of the overall approach and the waste of CPU cycles with slow Java apps compared to what optimised C++ stuff can do.  Remember a Cray 3 supercomputer three decades ago is slower than a current top end smartphone by quite a bit, but was hell a lot more optimally used resource-wise. It is desperately trying to create added specs that make no real usage sense, just to justify the new sales cycle – and any PC market technology trickery of that sort looks like angelic honesty compared to what is devised in the smartphone market.

The features being added don’t seem to make much sense in terms of real use: the 1440p displays are one good example of absolute uselessness unless you have a true eagle eye, I guess. The good stuff that was added – in the Samsung case, the USB3 connection for faster recharge and PC connections in the S5 and the Note3 – ended up removed and downgraded to the USB2 in the Note4 and the S6!

Then, if we really want a visually rich phone with such a strong GPU power, why not a direct microHDMI connection to a FullHD TV set to, say, play those lovely 3D Moto etc beginner’s games on it without having to use roundabout means such as wireless Screen Mirroring?

And, yes, looking at the on-screen keyboards there… when they occupy half of the screen, and you can barely see the message typed, it seems the time is to bring back the 16:10 screen to the smartphones too. It would help manage the problem, especially in the horizontal mode.

Back to the point above: Samsung is the leader of the smartphone market today, like it or not. Apple (NASDAQ: APPL) is still a formidable force, and Xiaomi could be the another top league member. However, the last we expected from a market leader was to create a closed ‘black box’ product with useless new stuff added, and good current stuff removed, all in the name of, what, an industrial design exercise? My vote on this is a big no, in the name of keeping what’s left of the basic sanity of this market, and it looks like the next phone I get will be a Chinese one (hope malware-free), and so be it – hope they get a little more pragmatic in the approach to the product evolution.