Samsung Electronics is hoping that super high-resolution screens on the Galaxy Note 4 and the Note Edge will help bring back some of its mojo.
The Edge's screen, which wraps around the side of the device, sparked an explosion of comments by tech reviewers on Twitter the moment it was unveiled Wednesday at the IFA show in Berlin. Simultaneous Samsung events were also held in New York and Beijing.
Samsung is once again updating its Galaxy Note smartphone-and-stylus line-up. Since its inception three years ago, the Galaxy Notes have become as important for Samsung as its Galaxy S range of smartphones.
On Wednesday, Samsung expanded the range with two new models. The Galaxy Note 4 is a replacement for the existing Note 3 model while the Galaxy Edge, with its curved screen, is a new member.
"The Note 4 will be the big seller, but the Note Edge will capture headlines and help Samsung to differentiate from rivals in an increasingly crowded mobile market," said Neil Mawston, practice director at Strategy Analytics.
The Note Edge has what Samsung calls an edge screen, which wraps around one of the sides of the device. This part of the screen offers quick access to frequently used apps, alerts and device functionality, including the camera shutter. It can also be used when the case is closed.
To build on what Samsung itself offers, there is an SDK developers can use to add their own features. Uptake of the SDK will be key to the device's success.
The importance of Wednesday's announcements for Samsung cannot be underestimated. Samsung has had a tough first half of 2014 and its flagship handset, the Galaxy S5, got a weaker-than-expected reception largely because of its design, according to CCS Insight.
To make the Galaxy Note 4 look more like a premium product, Samsung has changed the design, adding a metal frame and a new version of the faux leather that the company used on the Note 3. Samsung is also working with Montblanc, which will offer both an S pen and a case made from real leather.
As it did when it launched the Galaxy Tab S tablets earlier this year, Samsung is leaning on a super-high resolution screen to boost interest. The Galaxy Note 4 has a Super AMOLED 5.7-inch screen, like its predecessor, and the Note Edge has a 5.6-inch screen. Both have a 2560 by 1440 pixel resolution, a feature it shares with the G3 from LG Electronics, which has a 5.5-inch screen.
Despite the increased resolution, Samsung promises better battery life.
The new devices share a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera with optical image stabilization. In addition, a 3.7-megapixel front-facing camera offers a default 90-degree shooting angle and up to 120-degree wide angle. The latter lets selfie addicts take the best group shots with friends, according to Samsung.
The devices are powered by a Snapdragon 805 processor from Qualcomm, which will help set the Galaxy Note 4 apart from the competition because it has so far only been used in Korean versions of the S5 and G3.
The Snapdragon 805 offers better performance across the board compared to Qualcomm's existing Snapdragon 800 processors, which are used by most current high-end smartphones. The processor also lets Samsung implement LTE-Advanced, a network technology that offers speeds up to 300Mbps in the version Samsung has integrated. For it to work, mobile operators have to upgrade their networks.
The Galaxy Note 4 will be available across the world next month and the Galaxy Note Edge will be available in "select markets through Samsung's retail channels, e-commerce and carriers later this year," the company said. Pricing wasn't immediately available.
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