Take the Galaxy S6 Edge and make it bigger. That's basically all Samsung did here. The Edge+ still has Gorilla Glass panels on the front and back, along with a strong metal frame, but the size of its curved screen has been bumped up to 5.7 inches from 5.1. Yes, it's gorgeous -- even more so than its smaller sibling since the overall effect of its curves is more pronounced. It's the most confident design statement we've seen from Samsung yet.
Looks aren't everything, though. I was almost ready to give up my iPhone 6 for the GS6 Edge earlier this year -- that is, until I actually held it for several minutes. While the curved screen looks cool, it also works directly against the natural contour of your hand, digging into your flesh rather than resting comfortably. That same problem rears its head again with the Edge+ -- and it's an even bigger issue since there's so much more phone to hold. It makes the phone awkward to wield with one hand (even with my large paws) and tougher to grasp for extended periods. The curves also make it tougher to use apps that put buttons and options on the edges of the screen, as you'll inevitably hit those by accident when merely holding the phone. Basically, if you're considering the Edge+, be sure to get some real hands-on time with it before you commit.
As for its other design elements, the Edge+ also shares quite a bit with Samsung's other S6 phones. Gone are the days when Samsung phones were made of cheap plastic; everything here feels premium, from the glass back to the metal. But just like with the iPhone 4 and 4s, having a glass rear still feels like a questionable choice, especially if you're prone to dropping your phone. And while the metal components are nice, it's hard not to notice that the S6 Edge+, like Samsung's other recent phones, looks just like the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus from certain angles. The company's inspiration is clear, but at least it's a tasteful remix (and it's not as if Apple didn't take some cues from Samsung's pioneering work with big-screen phones.)
The Edge+ also includes the same fingerprint reader on its home button as the other S6 models, and it works surprisingly well. I didn't spend a significant amount of time with those earlier phones, so it was refreshing to see a well-implemented fingerprint reader on an Android phone. Adding your fingerprints simply involves holding down your finger several times, and the authentication process was typically fast and error-free. Of course, the entire process works just like Apple's Touch ID implementation, but at this point, did you really expect anything different?
If you're confused why Samsung didn't just call this phone the "Note Edge 2," after last year's foray into a curved-screen phablet, it's because it simply has more in common with the S6 Edge. It also lacks some of the Note Edge's screen widgets (since that phone had a much bigger curve to work with). Really, though, a more appropriate name for the S6 Edge+ might be the "Note 5 Edge." It's surprisingly tough to tell the difference between this phone and the Note 5 side by side, as they share many of the same design flourishes. But where the Edge+ has a curved display on the front, the Note 5 has curves on its back, allowing it to rest more comfortably in your hand. Under the hood, the two phones are exactly the same (more on that later). But while the Edge+ is the same size as the Note, there's no S Pen stylus; it's geared more toward consuming content than being productive.
If there's one thing Samsung can do without much effort, it's make a gorgeous display. And the Edge+ is yet another example of that. Its 5.7-inch, Quad HD (2,560 by 1,440) Super AMOLED display is vibrant and colorful, even in direct sunlight. Given its size, it's ideal for watching movies or perusing photos, but it's also sharp enough to make text look great. It basically packs in everything you'd want from a modern mobile screen.
None of this should be a surprise, though: Samsung's had a great run with Quad HD panels over the last year, starting with the Galaxy Tab S slates. Now you could argue that such a high resolution might be overkill on a phone screen, and you'd probably be right. The Edge+ packs in a whopping 518 pixels per inch in its display, but you'd have to be superhuman to see the difference between that and the 386 pixels per inch on a similarly sized 1080p display. Those extra pixels might actually be useful if you plan to use the Edge+ in Samsung's Galaxy Gear VR headset, but that's a $200 accessory most people won't buy (and will probably never even see in person). All of that being said, it's hard to knock the phone's display in real-world use. Samsung is positioning the phone as an ideal media-consumption device, and it's succeeded at making a screen that you can easily spend hours gawking at.
Another year, another slimmed-down software offering from Samsung. The Edge+ ships with a lightly skinned version of Android Lollipop 5.1.1. While Samsung's TouchWiz interface isn't as clean as stock Android, it's nowhere near as intrusive as the company's earlier software attempts. Even the preinstalled apps are pretty useful, including Microsoft Word, OneDrive and Skype (which are also more signs of Microsoft's ever-broadening mobile ambitions). Samsung also offers a choice selection of software via "Galaxy Apps," which is where you can also pick up Samsung-built apps like "S Translator" and its custom chat app "AllTogether." The beauty of this approach is that there's less crap installed on your phone that you might not need.