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 1,500 MDM APIs. It has federal information security certifications from multiple governments, including Australia, Canada, Finland, the United Kingdom and the United States. And the U.S. 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 …