Samsung hasn't been doing too well financially over the last few quarters. Its sales have fallen, and its profits have sharply declined by as much as 60 percent year over year. Samsung has been getting quite a bit of criticism over the design and materials of its Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S5 devices, but the company didn't seem willing to pay attention to that criticism as market inertia and big advertising budgets continued to make its phones successful.
Now that the Galaxy S5 has done more poorly than expected, the company is finally listening and seems to want to change the direction for its design and build materials. Samsung has already made a few changes in design with the Galaxy Alpha, although it kept the same plastic back as on previous flagships. With the A3 and A5 series devices, Samsung is showing it can build full metal devices, too, although the designs still seem to rely too much on the old design language.
With next year's Galaxy S6, the company seems to want to be much more serious about the changes it intends to implement in the new flagship, so much so that it gave the project the codename "Project Zero." This is an indication that Samsung wants to start from scratch with this smartphone and make it as unique as possible.
Some leaked details about the Galaxy S6's specifications point to a Quad HD (2560x1440) resolution display, which likely uses the same panel technology as the Note 4 but with a smaller screen size. The phone will also use the same sensor found in the Note 4, although it's not clear yet whether Samsung will go with a 16MP or 20MP resolution. The front-facing camera will have a 5MP resolution.
Samsung will finally give up on the 16 GB storage option and make 32 GB the default, while also adding 64 GB and 128 GB options. Considering that Samsung's software has been getting bigger and bigger with each new generation and thus leaves less room for the user's own apps, and that 64 GB of storage now costs roughly as much as 16 GB cost in 2010, this move is both long-awaited and welcome.
The company will also finally adopt ARMv8 chips across its entire lineup of high-end devices, but once again the US market will get the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chip, while most other countries will get Samsung's Exynos 7420. This time, however, the chips should be very similar, as they both use ARM's Cortex A57 and Cortex A53 cores in the big.LITTLE configuration. The main difference will be in the GPUs and modems they use.
The Exynos model will use a Mali GPU (likely a Mali-T760, but with more cores or higher clock speed than Note 4), while the Snapdragon 810 will use Adreno 430.
Samsung will of course use Qualcomm's integrated modem that comes with Snapdragon 810, but it will also begin to use its own LTE mode, called the Exynos Modem 333. This modem will replace Intel's modem that Samsung was using with Exynos 5430/5433, which could be a big hit to Intel's LTE business just as it was taking off the ground.
The specs are impressive, but they're more or less what you'd expect to see in a flagship phone by mid-2015. What will be more interesting is to see whether Samsung manages to overhaul its design language for both its hardware and software, giving the Galaxy S6 a unique and iconic design and making its software much lighter, without being a burden on performance anymore.