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AT&T Samsung Galaxy S6 Active hands-on: Battery life and protection all Galaxy S6 owners should have

The Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are great smartphones, but both have limited battery life and lost the water-resistance found in the Galaxy S5. The Galaxy S6 Active is the device you really wanted.

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My full review of the Galaxy S6 Edge resulted in a contributor's rating of 9.3. The new AT&T Samsung Galaxy S6 Active improves upon the S6 and S6 Edge in a couple of key areas and if I posted another full review it would earn a 9.7 or higher.

I returned my Galaxy S6 Edge in large part because the battery kept dying on me in the early afternoon. The Galaxy S6 Active provides a battery capacity of 3,500 mAh, up from just 2,600 mAh on the S6 Edge. I have yet to kill the battery in a day and wish Samsung would have had this capacity in the S6 and S6 Edge.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge also lost the water resistant rating so many enjoyed on the Samsung Galaxy S5. Thankfully, the Galaxy S6 Active provides a rugged shell with IP68 level water-resistance and dustproof protection.

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Hardware

The Samsung Galaxy S6 Active maintains the gorgeous 5.1 inch Super AMOLED display, fast Samsung Exynos 7420 octa-core 64-bit processor, fantastic 16 megapixel camera, and 3GB RAM. Unfortunately, it is limited to just 32GB of internal storage where the S6 and S6 Edge have options for 64GB and 128GB. There is also no microSD to expand this storage yourself.

You also lose the fingerprint scanner while gaining three more hardware buttons. A task switcher and back button are found on either side of the home button while a new quick access button, colored blue, is present in the upper left side. This button is assigned to the Activity Zone out of the box, that gives you quick access to the weather, barometer, compass, S Health, flashlight, and stopwatch. For those who use this rugged device for activities, it's a very handy button to have assigned to the Activity Zone.

One great aspect about the IP68 rating is that there are no doors on the microUSB or headphone ports, which always bugged me on the Galaxy S5.

The Galaxy S6 Active is not as sleek and svelte as the S6 or S6 Edge thanks to its rugged shell, but it's still much thinner and lighter than adding on a large protective third party waterproof case. The back is also dressed up in camo white, camo blue, or gray. I was sent a camo blue one to check out for a couple weeks. The camo pattern is subtle, but also looks pretty cool too.

You primary notice the rugged nature of the shell with the edges and back frame pieces that add some extra structure to the casing.

Software

The Samsung Galaxy S6 Active runs Android 5.0.2 out of the box. I haven't noticed any lag or stuttering in the device and find it to be a very responsive device.

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The Activity Zone app is pretty cool and useful when hiking. I used the compass, barometer, and flashlight while out in the Alaskan woods and like that a button is available to launch this utility so quickly.

The Samsung TouchWiz software is the same as you will find on the S6 and S6 Active with the typical Samsung add-ons. These include Hancom Office 2014, Milk Music, Milk Video, Voice Recorder, Memo, and S Health.

It's an AT&T device so you also get all of these bloatware apps that include AT&T Live, AT&T Locker, AT&T Mail, AT&T Mobile Locate, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Smart Wi-Fi, Device Help, Digital Life, Mobile TV, Smart Limits, Usage Manager, DriveMode, AT&T Family Map, AT&T Ready2Go, Lookout, Caller Name ID, and YP. I sure wish AT&T would stop loading up so much junk on Android smartphones. It's enough to almost make you want to just get an iPhone and avoid all of this. Some are useful, but many apps and services are redundant and should be presented as options for the end user.

Daily usage experiences

This is the Samsung Galaxy S6 I wanted from the beginning. A fantastic device with an excellent battery life and water resistant rating. The only con is that you are limited to 32GB of internal storage, but if you don't mind using the cloud and offloading photos and video, then the Galaxy S6 Active may be perfect for you.

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I took the Galaxy S6 Active up to Alaska and used it to take photos when I was hiking. It performed very well and helped me capture some great shots of the forest and trail. There is definitely some peace of mind knowing you can count on the device to withstand Alaska rain or California dust without using any case.

The sides of the Galaxy S6 Active are coated in material that significantly improves the grip of the device over the S6 and S6 Edge. The buttons also have texture to them so they are easy to press.

It's quite expensive at $694.99, but can also be picked up for as low as $199.99 with a two-year contact.