Tuesday, 17 February 2015

When the Galaxy S6 comes out, should you upgrade? (rumors and innuendo edition)

With March 1st right around the corner, rumors are swirling that the first of the month will be the date of the next Samsung Galaxy smartphone announcement. Some say it will have a wrap-around screen on both sides of the phone, while others insist there will be an Edge and an edgeless model.
Amidst all the fuss comes the obvious question: should you rush out and upgrade? That's what we'll be exploring here.
It should be noted that this article is being called the "rumors and innuendo edition" because we don't know precisely what Samsung will be announcing and the final product could be something unexpected. Even so, it's time to start thinking about what would sway you to upgrade, and this article can help get that thinking process started.

Personally, I have an S4

Personally, I have a Galaxy S4 that will run out its contract in late spring. My wife also has one. When I first got my S4, I was amazed at all it could do, especially considering the restrictions of iOS.
Now, to be fair, iOS 8 has removed (or at least toned down) some of the more egregious restrictions (like letting you swap keyboard software), but even so, I intend to stick with Android as my smartphone choice for quite some time.
That said, I did not choose to pay the contract-breaking upgrade tax and switch my phone to the Galaxy S5 last year. There just wasn't enough new or exciting to make it seem worth the time or the money.
But with our contracts ending, what about the S6? Is it enough to drive me to the Verizon store for the next model? As I walk through the criteria you should consider, I'll also tell you how I'm evaluating those issues for my work and family.
Obviously, your needs are different, but by showing you the issues and also how I'm parsing them for my home and work environment, it should give you an example of how you might look at these issues yourself.

Fancy new Edge display

I have to admit, I'm intrigued by the idea of a display that wraps around the side of the device. My original impression was that it was a silly idea, but after reading ZDNet's Matthew Miller report on his experiences with the Note Edge, I'm much more open-minded.
Even so, one thought keeps coming back to me. For the longest time, I used a monstrous Otterbox Defender case, not so much because I'm prone to drop the phone (I'm not), but because the phone was so small that whenever I gripped it outside of a case, my fingers would press the edges of the reactive screen, causing unpredictable results.
I do like the idea of quick-to-see status messages and soft buttons on the device sides, but I also wonder how difficult the thing will be to hold, especially since the holding surface will apparently be reactive. I also wonder how cases would work, given the need to keep the two sides open and visible.
Finally, I wonder about whether or not that extra display space, especially if it's used in a case-closed status mode, will use a lot of extra battery.
Personally, the Edge display isn't enough to convince me to go ahead and upgrade.

Cost to upgrade

Then, of course, there's the cost to upgrade. Premium smartphones are never made available for free, even on a two-year contract. If the S6 tracks with previous smartphones, the low-end version will likely cost about $200.

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In my case, my wife and I would probably upgrade together, so we're looking at a minimum of $400. Is there four hundred bucks of juicy goodness in the new phones? Are my current phones bad enough that it's worth ponying up the cash to get back to solid ground? To me, that's still an open question. Our current Galaxy S4s have 16GB memory, which has proven to be a bit too small. We're not running a lot of downloaded video, but all the mapping and resource intensive apps do take up a lot of space.
If a 32GB or 64GB S6 is $300 or $400 a pop, buying two could be a big expense and, for now, it just might not be worth it.

Cheap alternative: battery replacement

I can't speak for your device's performance, of course, but after almost two years, my S4 runs out of juice way too quickly. It no longer makes it through the entire day without needing to tap into USB and drink its fill of that tasty voltage and amperage cocktail.
If the S4 were an iPhone, the answer would be clear: upgrade. But because the S4 has a replaceable battery, another option might be to simply swap out the old battery and get a new one.
Given that replacement batteries for the S4 are going for as little as $8.95 on Amazon, it would certainly make sense -- assuming the other features don't draw me into an upgrade -- to pull the trigger on a battery order and see what that does for my day-to-day performance. After all, less than $17.90 is a lot less expensive than $400 and up.