Fast performance. Premium materials. Excellent cameras.
- Cons Extremely expensive. Edge functionality is limited.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ on AT&T is a big, beautiful, powerful smartphone, with a sky-high price that's tough to justify.
AT&T's 32GB Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ is the most expensive base-model smartphone offered by any U.S. carrier, at $ 814.99. It's also the most expensive carrier model of the Galaxy S6 edge+. And while the edge+ is a fast, powerful, and handsome device, the high price is hard to swallow, especially considering that the even more powerful Galaxy Note 5 costs $ 75 less.
Most of the AT&T Galaxy S6 edge+'s features are the same as the international model we recently looked at. We'll focus here on what makes the AT&T model different, and thus whether you should buy it. Read our international Galaxy S6 edge+ preview for all of our other assessments.
To recap: The edge+ is a very fast phone with two excellent cameras and a gorgeous screen that curves down on both sides. The very flat glass back is handsome, but is fragile (one of our four test units cracked). The curving 5.7-inch, 2560-by-1,440-pixel screen has a lot of real estate, and the sloped edges make the phone easy to grip, but can reflect light in a slightly distracting way.
The S6 edge+ and the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 are based on the same hardware and software platforms, with some design changes (that we feel are to the edge+'s detriment, to be honest). Both phones have excellent performance.
Editors' Note: The slideshow below is of the international Galaxy S6 edge+.
Call Quality and Battery Life
Flagship Samsung phones generally have excellent voice quality, and the edge+ is no exception. Audio quality is terrific here, especially with AT&T's new voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) system. With VoLTE on, I got loud, clear calls with excellent noise cancellation. Turning VoLTE off didn't alter the basic volume, but there was a tiny bit of buzz over my calls if I turned the volume all the way up. The speakerphone is loud enough to use anywhere except the noisiest outdoor environments.
With LTE bands 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/17/20/29, the AT&T edge+ has the most flexible band layout of any of the carrier models we surveyed. Aside from supporting AT&T's newest carrier aggregation bands, which will ensure the fastest possible AT&T service, it has bands 1, 8, and 20 for speedier international roaming than the Verizon model can offer. AT&T is a leader on international LTE roaming, and you'll find super-fast connections globally with this phone.
I got the weakest battery life on the AT&T edge+ of the three carrier models I reviewed. That may come down to slightly weaker AT&T signal in our test area, but it doesn't explain why AT&T's edge+ was the only one of the carrier models not to get a longer battery life result than its Note 5 sibling: Both models got 6 hours, 10 minutes of continuous LTE streaming video. That's still considerably longer than the 4 hours, 43 minutes on the iPhone 6 Plus, but it's much less impressive than the 8 hours, 2 minutes I saw on the Verizon edge+. Like other edge+ units, this phone charged very quickly with the included quick charge adapter, reaching a full charge in 80 minutes.
Android and Bloatware
Like other Galaxy S6 edge+ models, the AT&T model runs Android 5.1.1 with some heavy Samsung customizations. One of the most welcome, Samsung Pay, is only in beta right now but should be launching at the end of September. That's Samsung's new payment system, which should work with any credit card machine that takes standard swipe cards. It uses the edge+'s fingerprint sensor, which I'm happy to say is by far the best one Samsung has put on a device yet. It feels just as accurate, and just as fast, as the iPhone's.
Otherwise, there's a ton of bloatware here, and none of it can be deleted. There are seven apps in an AT&T folder, and another 13 AT&T apps outside the folder. Some of the most obnoxious bloatware apps include Uber, that Yellow Pages app nobody uses, and Plenti, a loyalty card app. You can sock them all in a folder, but they'll still take up 7.7GB of your 32GB of non-expandable storage.
Fortunately, all of these preloads don't impact benchmark performance. Each of our carrier models of the S6 edge+ benchmarked the same. Antutu benchmark scores were between 67k-69k, Geekbench scores were in the 1,450 range, and the edge+ scored 37 fps in the GFXBench T-Rex test. Among phablets currently available today, only the Apple iPhone 6 Plus, with Apple's A8 processor, scored higher. No other Android device can keep up on processor scores, although the high screen resolution gives the phone a bit of a disadvantage against devices with lower-res screens when it comes to graphics tests.
The edge+ doesn't have the Note's S Pen stylus, or the apps which focus on drawing on the screen. Instead, you get the ability to swipe a list of your favorite contacts, or five app shortcuts, out from the curved edge of the screen. This is a less powerful and more cosmetic edge than on the Galaxy Note Edge, which gives you calendar alerts and application UI elements. But we tested the night clock mode and found that it doesn't have light leakage like the Note Edge does, so the edge+ is a lovely alarm clock.
Comparisons and Conclusions
This phone costs $ 814. That's a lot of money. As the AT&T edge+ doesn't have better battery life than the AT&T Galaxy Note 5, you really are paying $ 75 for curved glass here, and I don't think that's the best deal. The Galaxy Note 5 brings you the same great screen quality, the same software, and the same performance, plus the S Pen, for less money.
We're also going to see several new AT&T-compatible phablets at much lower prices soon. If you don't need an S Pen, you'll probably want to consider the $ 399 Moto X Style, the $ 389 OnePlus 2, the $ 629 LG G4, the forthcoming new iPhone, or the rumored Huawei Nexus 6. That's going to make for some critical competition, and it's worth assessing before dropping eight+ C-notes on your next device.