Samsung knocked this one out of the park.
This week, it launched two excellent new phones, the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+. Both are excellent, but my favorite is the Edge+, which I've been testing for about a week.
It's more beautiful than the iPhone. It's the best phone Samsung has ever made and one of the best phones, period.
The Edge+ costs about $815 for the 32GB model, but each carrier offers payment plans and other deals.
Beautiful inside and out
The Galaxy S6 Edge+ is a supersized version of the Galaxy S6 Edge that launched earlier this year. It has a 5.7-inch screen that slightly curves over each side. Samsung says the curve makes it easier to watch video because it creates the illusion that your phone doesn't have a border around the screen.
I don't buy that. Instead, the images appear to melt over the edge, slightly distorting the picture. It's not awful, but definitely not as magical as Samsung makes it sound. Overall though, the screen is sharp and bright. I can't stop looking at this thing. It's nearly perfect.
On the software side, the Edge+ also has a menu that swipes over from the side that lets you store a few of your favorite contacts and apps so you can quickly access them no matter what you're doing. (Like most phones, you'd normally have to go back to the home screen before selecting a new app.) It works well, but I wasn't a fan of the little nub that's always on the side of your screen when you have the feature enabled. It didn't save me much time either, so I ended up turning the feature off after a few days.
Bottom line: The curved screen is mostly there just to look pretty, and that's perfectly fine. The Edge+ is the best-looking phone I've ever used, and it doesn't bother me at all that the curved screen doesn't usher in some kind revolution in the way we use smartphones. It's simply nicer to hold and look at.
And yes, I really do think it's prettier than the iPhone. I've spent years praising Apple's designs while poking fun at the flimsy plastic devices Samsung made. But Samsung outdid Apple with the Edge+. Even with the larger screen, the Edge+ has a smaller overall footprint than my iPhone 6 Plus. It's easier to use with one hand and fits a lot better in my jeans pocket. And it just looks so good.
The camera is also one of the best I've ever used on a smartphone. My only complaint is that sometimes the exposure lets in too much light in outdoor shots, but overall it captures more detail than any other phone camera.
There's another big feature coming to the Edge+ and a few other Samsung devices later next month: Samsung Pay, the mobile payments system Samsung originally announced in the spring. Samsung Pay will be available in the US on September 28 with a software update, so I haven't been able to test it yet. But if it works as Samsung says, it has a lot of potential, and could even be bigger than Apple Pay.
The key difference: Samsung Pay will work with regular magnetic credit card readers and near-field communication (NFC) payment pads. (Apple Pay only works with NFC, which is only available at a small fraction of retailers.) In theory, you'll be able to use Samsung Pay almost anywhere credit cards are accepted. That's potentially game changing.
Software is good, but not ideal
Samsung has the hardware side of things locked down. The Edge+ is an incredible phone on the inside and the outside.
But my biggest complaint is the software. Android is a great operating system on its own, but Samsung and other manufacturers like to modify Android and add their own features, often to the point where the software gets clunky and confusing.
Samsung cleaned up its software this year with the Galaxy S6 that launched in the spring, and the Edge+ has essentially the same look and feel. It's smoother and more attractive, but it's still not as good as the "clean" version of Android that comes straight from Google. There are a lot of unnecessary and redundant Samsung apps and features that you don't need. Still, the software is not as maddening as it was in older Samsung phones, and I doubt most people will mind it. I'm just a snoot when it comes to these things.
The problem with Samsung phones
As good as the Edge+ is, it still faces the same problem Samsung has been wrangling for the last year or so.
It's just too expensive.
We're starting to see several Android phones that are really nice, but cost hundreds less than Samsung's latest devices. For example, I just tested the OnePlus One, which costs $389 for the 64GB model. It's not as attractive as the Edge+, but, for the most part, it can do just about anything Samsung's phones can do. Motorola has another new phone called the Moto X Style launching soon that only costs $400. It's hard to find a compelling reason to spend several hundreds more than that for an Android phone.
If you can stomach the price, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ is an incredible phone. If you love Android and want the best of the best, this is the phone you should buy.