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BW Businessworld

Powerful & Dazzling

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September is a great month for lovers of technology. There’s the IFA tech show in Berlin, Samsung’s Unpacked event, and very soon, Apple’s event possibly bringing the iPhone 6 to an eager world. And of course, everything leaks a little before it happens so much was already known about Samsung’s next version of the Note, the Note 4 super-smartphone. Way back in 2011, the Note was responsible for kicking off users’ fondness for really big phones that blur the lines between smartphones and tablets. It’s a trend that has shown no sign of ending. In fact, it’s rumoured that Apple will be going so far as to follow that trend by unveiling a “phablet.” If it does, one wonders whether the device will have anything of the maturity of Samsung’s Note, which has by now had a few years to evolve.

This time, Samsung has actually gone ahead and unleashed not one, but two Galaxy Notes, the Note 4 and the Note Edge, presented by Samsung’s Vice President, DJ Lee. This was at a three-city event with the main event being in Berlin and echoed in Beijing and New York, and it took place just ahead of the IFA tech show. And depending on how you want to play it, you may see the fare at the Unpacked event as being either about iterations or innovation. I’m inclined to think there was plenty of both.

 
Galaxy Note 4
The Note 4 doesn’t look dramatically different from the current Note. It’s the same size, a bit thicker and heavier, and has more metal on the edges, I suppose because people complain so vociferously about plastic. The still-removeable back panel is made of soft leather-looking material, as before. But practically everything else has been bumped up so that the Note 4 today is most likely the most powerful smartphone around. First there’s the screen. Not only is it Super AMOLED with its strong contrasts and colours, it’s now at 1440 x 2560 pixels resolution or QuadHD and has a pixel density of 515ppi. So it will look crisp and as well as bright and colourful. There are two or three other phones with this resolution and also one of Samsung’s own tablets, but on a device the size of the Note 4, it is dazzling, as those who’ve seen it are reporting.

Other specs are also enhanced, including the processor which is a 2.5GHz quad core Snapdragon 805 and a variant which is Exynos 5433 octa-core. There’s 3GB of RAM and a 3,220 which while it isn’t very different from the Note 3’s now includes quick charging, going to 50 per cent in just 30 minutes.

The cameras are another iteration. The primary camera is a 16MP and now has optical image stabilisation for less blurred phtotos, low light images and steady video. The front camera is a 3.7MP shooter, being touted as just the thing for selfies. It would have been great if they’d just put in a swivel mechanism and allowed you to use the primary camera all round. But another good use of the camera onboard the Note 4 is that it has a Snap Note function with which you can take a picture of text and then be able to edit it.

The heart of the Note and its main differentiator is the stylus or S-Pen and this has been enhanced in several ways. First, the pressure sensitivity has been played with so that it feels more like natural writing. There are very useful additions such as being able to select multiple objects and text and dragging that into a note application. In the note taking app, there are now additional pen styles including calligraphic ones, again, to make the handwriting more personalised and real.

 
Samsung Note Edge
There’s a fingerprint scanner which is said to be improved, a heart rate sensor which even has a camera triggering function, and a recording function that journalists will love as it picks up sound from eight different directions and allows the user to control what can be heard more.

Coming in with a second Note and surprising everyone with an entirely new feature, Samsung has put in an extra bit of screen space on the right of the screen, rolling off the main area. This edge, after which the Note Edge is named, displays apps, alarm clock, news and whatever else app developers will now work to put there. It’s innovative and attractive and can be potentially put to many interesting uses.

Samsung also launched two wearable devices at the Unpacked event, one of which uses virtual reality.

The Note 4 and Note Edge will start to be available in October although the Edge may not be present in all markets. IDC says that “phablet” shipments will hit 175 million over 2014 and by 2015, they’ll actually surpass tablets. So it looks like big phones are here to stay, unsurprisingly as there’s so much more that can be done on them. With the Note being just about the most capable and feature-endowed of these so far, there’s no doubt Samsung has a good thing going.

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