Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are the most interesting and well-designed phones the company has ever produced. They feature sleek designs with premium materials, such as glass and metal. They also have very fast performance and great cameras, putting them at the top of the heap when it comes to Android smartphones this year.
But during the process of making the S6 and S6 Edge the best phones it’s ever made, Samsung cut some highlight features that were big talking points of its earlier smartphones. The S6 and S6 Edge don’t have Micro SD card slots or removable batteries, and their battery life leaves a bit to be desired. The Galaxy S5 from 2014 was water resistant, so you could drop it in the sink without worry, but the S6 and S6 Edge don’t have any water resistance to speak of.
And that brings us to the Galaxy S6 Active, a variant of this year’s phones that AT&T started selling last week. The Active is the third generation of Samsung’s Active line of smartphones that started with the S4 Active in 2013. It’s essentially the water-resistant version of the S6, capable of being submerged in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. It’s also shockproof, able to resist a drop from up to 4 feet. If you were hoping to get a Galaxy S6 but were bummed out that you couldn’t drop it in the toilet without worry, the S6 Active seems like just the phone for you. Maybe. Here are six reasons why you might want to go Active and six more for why you should stick with the standard S6.
It's water resistant and shock proof
You don't want to get the normal S6 wet, but the S6 Active can be submerged in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes and walk away just fine. It can also withstand a 4-foot drop without worry, which is something the standard S6 might crack or shatter under. The S6 Active does all of this without requiring annoying port covers over its Micro USB charging port or headphone jack.
The battery is enormous
The S6 Active's battery is a giant 3,500mAh cell that dwarfs the 2,550mAh battery in the regular S6. As a result, the battery life issues we saw with the S6 are non-existent with the S6 Active — this thing can easily last an entire day of heavy use without worry. It also has the fast charging features of the S6 and can be wirelessly charged with Qi compatible chargers. If only every phone had a battery this large.
It has an extra shortcut button
The S6 Active has a unique button on the left side just above the volume rocker. By default, this launches Samsung's Activity app, but you can reprogram it to whatever you want. I set it to launch the TV remote app with a single press, and launch Spotify with a longpress.
It stays cool under pressure
The glass-and-metal S6 and S6 Edge both get very warm during normal activities, but the all-plastic S6 Active doesn't heat up at all. Even while multitasking and juggling a bunch of things at once, the Active stays cool and more comfortable in your hand.
It's only $10 more than the normal version
You'll pay more than $10 for a decent case for the normal S6, but the S6 Active gives you water resistance and shock proofing without a case for a marginal cost difference.
It has the same performance and camera as the S6
Maybe the best part of the S6 active is that it's water resistant and shock proof while still having great performance, an awesome screen, and an impressive camera. It's just as fast, it's screen is just as sharp and bright, and the camera is just as good as the S6 and S6 Edge, which are three things you wouldn't want to compromise on for the Active version.
Six reasons to get the Galaxy S6 Active instead of the Galaxy S6
The Active is really ugly
The S6 and S6 Edge are the best-looking phones Samsung has ever made. The S6 Active is the exact opposite of that: it looks like it fell out of the ugly tree and got hit by every branch on the way down. The camo on the blue and white versions of the phone just reeks of poor taste, and the Active model is thicker and larger than the standard versions.
The Active is all plastic instead of glass and metal
While the S6 and S6 Edge have premium metal-and-glass finishes, the S6 Active is made of cheap-feeling plastic. It's as if a normal S6 is wearing a really cheap and ugly case that hides all of its nice materials.
The Active doesn't have a fingerprint scanner
The fingerprint scanner on the S6 is great: it's reliable, accurate, and easy to reach with your thumb. But the Active doesn't have one at all, requiring more steps to unlock the screen if you use a PIN code or pattern lock. (Samsung says the Active model will be compatible with Samsung Pay when that launches, and a user can use a password to authenticate a purchase in lieu of the fingerprint scan.)
The Active only comes in a 32GB model
The S6 and S6 Edge can be purchased with 32, 64, or 128GB of storage, but the S6 Active is only available with 32GB. It doesn't have a Micro SD slot for expansion either, so if you take a lot of photos and video or store a lot of music on your phone, you might run out of space on the Active.
The Active is only available through AT&T
All of the major carriers in the US are selling the S6 and S6 Edge, but the S6 Active is an AT&T exclusive. If you're on a different carrier, you're out of luck and your dreams of getting the S6 Active have been dashed. (Sprint has offered "Sport" variants of older Samsung phones in prior years, which are essentially the same thing as the Active models. But it has not announced any plans to launch a Galaxy S6 Sport this year.)
Updates for the Active model will come slower, if they come at all
If you purchase an S6 or S6 Edge, chances are pretty good that it will see updates to newer versions of Android at some point. In fact, some carrier models of the S6 are already getting updated to Android 5.1.1. But with the S6 Active being a unique model specific to a single carrier, the odds that it will get a timely update to the next version of Android are pretty low.
Six reasons to get the Galaxy S6 instead of the Galaxy S6 Active