Samsung's Galaxy S-series phones have traditionally been top performers in our smartphone Ratings. Our tests of the company's latest flagship phones, the Galaxy S6 and the S6 Edge (a curved-screened variant), have found them to be among the best phones you can buy. But surprisingly, these phones don't score as highly as their top-ranked predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S 5.

There is plenty to like about the S6 and S6 Edge. Both have large, ultra-sharp (1440p Quad HD) displays that present photos, videos, Web pages, and other objects with an incredible amount of detail (550 pixels per inch).

Samsung's new phones also have a multitude of convenient charging options most smartphone users will find useful. For instance, these phones can be rapidly charged (up to 50 percent capacity in about 30 minutes) via an included 9-volt, USB 2.0 charger. Or, you can wirelessly recharge them with charging pads that follow either the Qi or Powermat wireless charging formats.

Bleeding-edge innovations like these are what has helped the Samsung Galaxy S line earn its reputation as the leading alternative to Apple’s iPhones. Samsung's phones have traditionally offered the latest technologies, swappable batteries, and expandable memory, while Apple's devices have prioritized design, high-end materials, and simple ("too simple," say some) operation.

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But with the new S6 and S6 Edge, Samsung has pulled an about-face on the Galaxy S line's anti-iPhone persona. The new devices are significantly more Apple-like than previous models.

Both new Samsung smartphones are made of glass-and-aluminum. (The S6 Edge’s screen also bends at both edges.) A decidedly more elegant look, but other Apple-like modifications actually hurt these devices in our Ratings—ironically, putting them on-par with Apple's iPhone 6.

For instance, these are the first Galaxy S models with non-removable batteries. Also missing: memory-expansion slots. That means Galaxy S6 owners will have to bring their phone to a service center to replace the battery, or buy a more expensive version of the phone if more onboard storage is needed—just as you do with an iPhone.

What’s more, these Galaxies are not water-resistant like the Galaxy S 5, so you’d better hold on to it tightly when you’re near a sink, puddle, or pool.

The Galaxy S6 battery life, although, very good, was also a notch below the Galaxy S 5 and smartphones from other makers, including LG.

As a consolation, Samsung promises a free battery replacement if charging capacity drops below 80 percent during the first year. Thereafter, you’ll pay only $45 plus shipping and local taxes to replace the battery. And if you accidently crack your phone’s screen, Samsung will replace it for a flat $45. 

It could be worse: Apple charges $80 for iPhone repairs. 

—Mike Gikas

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