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.
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.
Next up: Lollipop: do you want it?
Lollipop: do you want it?
Even though Lollipop has been out for quite some time, very few people are using it. Its Material Design user interface is quite a departure from that of KitKat and Jellybean, the Android versions most people are using.
When it comes to Samsung, it's never entirely clear what they'll do about software, but it is reasonably likely that the S6 will come with Lollipop, since it's now been out for quite some time. Of course, if Samsung doesn't distribute the S6 with Lollipop, that will be very much a black eye for that version of the OS.
So here's the question: do you want it? If you're happy with KitKat and don't want to move to Material Design, you might not want to move just yet. Of course, it is probable that the S4 and S5 will update to Lollipop at some point, so you may just be postponing the inevitable.
As for me, I have KitKat on my S4 and Lollipop on my Nexus 7. I'm fine with both. I am curious how all the KitKatly customizations I've done on my S4 would translate to a Lollipop environment, but it wouldn't hold me back. On the other hand, having Lollipop wouldn't particularly motivate me to update.
What about the iPhone?
What about other makers? Is it time to go iPhone 6 or 6 Plus? Are you married to the Android ecosystem? Of course, if you own a ton of apps, use them, and they're moderately costly to replace, you'll have to factor that into whether you want to jump ship.
Perhaps you're excited about the Apple Watch (really?). Perhaps you like the phablet form-factor of the iPhone 6 Plus. Perhaps you use a lot of other Apple products and want to use Continuity. No matter, if it's phone upgrade time, this is the time to consider a platform jump.
If you do decide to make that jump, here's a guide with some great tips.
As for me, I jumped the other way at my last phone upgrade. I went from the iPhone 4s to the Galaxy S4 (yeah, and the letter/number sequences confused me, too). I found a lot to like on the Android side, and have no intention of switching back for my next phone.
Now, that's not to say I don't use iOS products. I use my old iPhone 4s every night to read in bed, I have an iPad and an iPad mini and both see service with special-purpose projects. It's just that for the one device that's with me at all times, I need the one that can be most flexible, and right now, that's still Android.
What about the Galaxy Note 5?
I'll let you in on a little secret. When I got the Galaxy S4, only the Galaxy Note 2 was out. If I had waited through the summer to the fall, I could have gotten the Note 3. I honestly think I would have preferred the larger screen.
Of course, now the Galaxy S5 and the Note 4 are out. That means that we're likely not only to see a Galaxy S6, but a large phablet Note 5 right around the corner.
In recent years, Samsung has not released both together (a trick Apple pulled off with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus), and it's a fair bet to say that if Samsung announces the S6 next month, it probably won't talk about the Note 5 until after the summer is over.
So, do you rush out to get an S6 or do you wait to find out what the Note 5 has in store? Speaking personally, I'm probably going to wait. I think I would prefer a Note phablet over the phone, I have big hands anyway, and I like the idea that I can get nearly mini-tablet screen functionality on a phone.
That means I'm probably not going to upgrade right away, but wait for the Note announcement. We'll see though. If the S6 is just fabulous, I might have to change my mind.
What about you? What are your expectations of the new Galaxy models? Are you ready to camp out and upgrade as soon as the new phones are available, or will you leave all that sleeping outside the store craziness to the Apple fans?