Friday, September 5, 2014

Samsung's new Galaxy Note 4 and everything else from Unpacked

Galaxy-Note-4-articleThe Galaxy Note lineup stretches back to IFA 2011 and since then Samsung have pioneered the phablet market and brands like LG, Sony and even Apple have been busy replicating the big screens on their devices but failed to create a success mainly because they don't have Samsung's magical addition to the Galaxy Note which is the S Pen. For the past three years Samsung has been changing the way how the Galaxy Note looks like and last year’s Galaxy Note 3 design was probably the most sophisticated one yet. Unlike Galaxy S devices, the Galaxy Note lineup has often been regarded as Samsung's premium offering of the year. Being announced months after the flagship Galaxy S series, Samsung will have time to optimize the features that they implemented earlier and take a pick at which is better.

Like previous years, Samsung is back at IFA again showing off their latest Galaxy Note device. This time around they created a hyper around the device by showcasing the various usage scenarios of the big screened device paired up the S Pen stylus. Today's Unpacked event was built upon the Galaxy Note 4, every device/accessory announced was related to the Note 4 in some way.

Hardware

Galaxy-Note-4-colors

For this iteration, Samsung didn’t introduce a radical new design but instead build upon the successful design of the Galaxy Note 3 by wrapping the device around with an aluminum band (like the recently announced Galaxy Alpha) to give users that sense of premium-ness. Despite the similar design approach, the Note 4 has slight differences when compared to its predecessor. Probably, the most noticeable change to the Note 4 is the display new display which is no longer a flat, Samsung has incorporated a 2.5D display like on the Lumia 930. This gives the display that slight bump and allows light to shine atop of it to give it a more glamorous look. The rear of the device has also been given a fresh new look, similar to the Galaxy S5, the note 4 has the similar camera and HR monitor placement same hole. Additionally, Samsung has dropped the fake stitching which was made to look like a book and instead they are incorporating a more eye popping faux leather back which is deep down still Samsung’s classic flexible polycarbonate back which has a soft touch and rubbery feel to it.
In terms of hardware the Note 4 still has a 5.7" display on the front, but this time around the resolution has been bumped up to QHD which is about 500+ PPI and although the Galaxy Note 4 isn’t the first QHD smartphone but it sure is one of the best looking one due to it being an AMOLED panel which boasts extreme color saturation and higher contrasts. Under the hood, Samsung has packed in the most powerful chipset available for the masses which is the Snapdragon 805 or the Exynos 5433 (market dependent). First used in the LTE-A variants of Samsung and LG flagships, Samsung is making LTE CAT 6 a commonality in major regions with the release of the Note 4. The Note 4 still has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage which is expandable via the trusty microSD card slot located on the underside of the device. One thing to note! is that unlike the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy S5, the Note 4 does not feature a microUSB 3.0 port, instead a standard 2.0 slot is utilized. The decision not to include it was because customers were not utilizing the faster data transfer speeds of the port and to save space they opted for a smaller microUSB 2.0 port. One interesting addition to the Note 4 which was not talked on during the event is that the Galaxy Note 4 has a UV sensor build into the device. This is a first for a smartphone and the UV data can be accessed via the S Health app on the Note 4.
 "same 5.7" display but now with 120 more pixels per inch"
The Note 4 comes with a 3220mAh battery which is a mere 20mAh increase from its predecessor, but Samsung said they have been optimizing the software on the Note 4 for better battery life. Besides bringing forward the Ultra Power Saving mode from the Galaxy S5, the Note 4 has another trick up its sleeve. Using the included adapter that comes with the device, Samsung says that the Note 4 can charge up to 30% faster and that equates to charging up the device to 50% in just half an hour. This however is not as fast as OPPO's VOOC solution which can juice up the device to 75% in 30 minutes.

Camera

Galaxy-Note-4-16-MP-cameraThat’s not all, with the Note 4 Samsung finally have a OIS camera onboard one of their smartphones. The 16MP shooter on the Note 4 has Samsung’s ISOCELL technology inside and as I said, optical image stabilization is present. In terms of software, not much has changed. Since the Ellen selfie went viral earlier this year at the Emmy’s, Samsung has addressed the issue of the narrow field of view on the front facing camera on the Galaxy Note 3. This time around, they are bumping up the resolution to 3.7MP with a f1.9 aperture and the field of view has been bumped up to 90 degrees from 77 degrees on the Note 3. From the front you can clearly see that the camera hole has also gone bigger. A new camera wouldn’t be complete with Samsung’s software addition, there’s a new feature called Wide Selfie which is basically just a panorama mode for your front facing camera.

S Pen

Galaxy-Note-4-smart-selectThe Galaxy Note 4 wouldn’t be perfect without the S Pen and this year Samsung has made even better for the Galaxy Note 4 by making it slightly thinner and lighter. Also new is the 2048 points of pressure which is double the pressure sensitivity of its predecessor and 8 times more sensitive than the S Pen which came with the original Galaxy Note. On the software side, Samsung has kept Air Command and while dropping S Finder from the elliptical menu, they have added a new S Pen feature called Smart Select which can be accessed from Air Command. Basically this feature allows the user to take the S Pen like a mouse to copy and paste multiple clips of the screen for sharing purposes. It might sound gimmicky but I beg to differ because yesterday I was trying to show one of my friend how to access a part of the application but I ended up taking multiple screenshots to show my point. Another relatively new software inclusion is the Snap Note which works a lot like the CamScanner app. The twist here is that you can not only annotate on the captured document but you could also move the text and images on the document around.

Software

Galaxy-Note-4-multi-window
This year Samsung didn’t seem to add a lot of bold and useless features on the Note 4, well maybe they did and are hidden deep inside the phone. Instead of adding features like Smart Scroll, they have focused on the main reason why people choose to buy the Galaxy Note. The reason of course is to have that big display and to enjoy doing multitasking with Samsung’s multi-window. Like last year, Samsung has once again reinvented how multi-window works. With the Note 4, you can now instantly resize an application to a quarter the size of the screen and the best part is that you can minimize these resized windows. Theoretically you could open up to 16 of these windows and when minimized they’ll look like floating chat heads. The cool part of this feature is that with a supported application you can instantly move it to the multi-window panel so you can perform tasks like drag and drop from one window to another. This sounds really cool but I doubt anyone would use it in a day to day basis.

Accessories

Galaxy-Note-4-Swarovski-case As I said earlier, the Galaxy Note 4 comes with a bevy of accessories and the majority of them are cases. There are 4 official cases for the Note 4, View Cover, Flip Wallet, S View Wallet and a new LED Cover. The LED cover is something new and judging by the pictures, this new cover is inspired by the Dot View Case from HTC. Samsung’s version however does not use the display and holes on the cover to convey the notifications, instead they are using (as the name suggests) LEDs which in return show sparkly and pixelated notifications. Besides these 4 cases, there is another case which is created in partnership with Swarovski will have actual crystal and is available in both silver and gold to give the Galaxy Note 4 that much needed ‘bling bling’. Crystal filled cases are not the only exclusive accessory, Samsung has partnered with Mont Blanc to create a premium S Pen which looks exactly like a premium Mont Blanc pen but with the tip replaced with a rubber tip (presumably). Premium cases and S Pens are really no match to the Samsung Gear VR, which is arguably the most lucrative accessory for the Galaxy Note 4. Created in partnership with market leader Oculus, the Gear VR is the portable Virtual Reality device. With the help of the Galaxy Note 4, the Gear VR is able to let users experience virtual reality on the go. This works pretty well because of the AMOLED display of the Note 4 which has a low response rate and the QHD resolution also makes the viewing experience more memorable. Samsung says that with the Gear VR and the Galaxy Note 4 users will be able to experience 175” TV from a 2 meters away. Also included alongside with the Gear VR is various applications which will let users watch movies and play games.

Galaxy Note Edge

Galaxy-Note-EdgeFinally after a lot of words we’ve nearly reached the end of this article, besides the Galaxy Note 4 alongside it’s range of accessories, Samsung has potentially just announced a new product category which may or may not become a hit in the future (who knows? anything can happen). The Galaxy Note Edge is a variant of the Note 4, everything good about the Note 4 is on the Note Edge. The one and only difference is the Note Edge has a curved display, not like the one on the Galaxy Round or LG G Flex but something like in those concept renders about Samsung YOUM display. There display curves to the right and essentially it becomes some sort of a second display and I don’t think Samsung hasn’t thought much about what goes on that display. At this state, the display will replace you homescreen dock and with the support of apps, developers will be able to alter what that screen will display. An example of that is the stock camera app on the Note Edge which places all the controls like the camera shutter key on the curved part of the display so you’ll be able to use the entire screen as the viewfinder without any distractions from the buttons.

Wrap-up

Galaxy-Note-Edge-hands-onAbout now, yeah this is what Samsung announced at IFA. From this event itself I can see that Samsung is actually changing for the better (at last!) and they are beginning to understand what users want like including a more premium build on Galaxy devices and not include software features which makes no sense at all. Also as I was doing my reading for this article I noticed down in the comments that this time around people seem to be quite content with a Samsung device. The response was so good that the comments on Apple dominant tech sites are positive, you can check it out yourself if you don’t trust me.
“everybody is loving the Galaxy Note 4”
Before I end this, I would like to discuss a few things which netizens complain about the Note 4, one of them is about the back of the Galaxy Note 4 which is indefinitely still Samsung’s magical polycarbonate plastic. People on the internet were complaining why didn’t Samsung just include a metal back since they already integrated an aluminum band around the device. The answer here is pretty simple, Samsung is most likely still testing out a full aluminum device because metal is known to be bad for wireless signals and much can be learnt from the problems Apple faced with the iPhone 4. It’s safe to say that it’ll take some time before we’ll see a fully aluminum Galaxy smartphone. Besides an aluminum band and plastic back isn’t so bad, look at the Lumia 930 and 2014 Moto X, they all received positive impressions. Another downfall which I’ve been reading about is that the Note 4 is not IP rated. Again this is another simple answer, I remember reading an article last year that the Wacom digitizer doesn’t work well with water and also fully sealing the Note 4 is no simple task because the S Pen slot itself is a big hole.

In short Samsung announced 2 phones and a ton of accessories to go with the two new devices. The Galaxy Note 4 will be available worldwide in October alongside the Gear S. The Galaxy Note Edge in the other hand will only be available in select regions, same can be said for the Gear VR which is not only limited in stock but it’s not going to be affordable by any means. As usual follow us at the usual places (TwitterFacebookGoogle+ and Instagram) so you don't miss any of our future coverage of the Galaxy Note 4