Samsung Galaxy

Samsung walks the edge: Introducing the Galaxy Note 4 and the Galaxy Note Edge

In its eagerness to show off its latest technology -- and possibly take a bit of the attention from the September 9th’s iPhone 6 announcement -- Samsung offered a glimpse today of three upcoming devices: the Galaxy Note 4, due to ship sometime in October; the Galaxy Note Edge, which will ship later this fall; and the Gear VR virtual reality headset, which currently has no expected ship date. No prices have been supplied yet.

I attended Samsung’s press event this morning, and after hearing the announcements of the three devices -- and of some services, including an expansion of Samsung’s Milk Music -- we were allowed to try them out.

I didn’t spend much time with the Galaxy Note 4, which is an upgrade of its predecessor, the Galaxy Note 3. Featured improvements for new phone include a 5.7-in. 2560 x 1440 Super AMOLED display, a 16-megapixel back-facing camera with an optical stabilizer and a 3.7-megapixel front-facing camera with a shooting angle of up to 120 degrees, and an improved S Pen stylus.

I also decided not to get on the long line of journalists waiting to play with the Gear VR headset, a wearable that wraps around the head and which will only work with the Note 4. (And yes, we can now start counting the inevitable comparisons to the headgear worn by the character of Geordie in Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

However, I did spend some time with the Galaxy Note Edge, a very interesting smartphone which has a 5.6-in. display that wraps around the right edge of the device.

Samsung has obviously spent a lot of thought in planning how the panel (which is what it calls the wrapped edge of the display) will work. And while I’ve had some complaints in the past about the complexity of some of Samsung’s interfaces, in the short time I worked with the Edge, I had no problem at all working with and individualizing its features.

The panel basically changes functionality depending on where you are, when you are and which app you’re using. For example, when you’re on the home page, it becomes a place to keep icons for your most-used apps; click on a small star icon and you can easily remove and add whatever apps you like.

But wait, there’s more: Use your finger to slide it sideways, and you have access to a variety of other panels. For example, there is one that offers a series of small applets such as a timer, a flashlight, a recorder and, yes, a ruler. You can have a panel that runs your Twitter feed or the latest news headlines from bottom to top like an old-fashioned news ticker. You can use one of your photos to provide a nice-looking side margin. Or you configure it to be an alarm clock at night (you tell it when to switch to clock mode), showing the time even when the rest of the phone is dark.

And in some apps, the side panel changes to offer appropriate icons. For example, when I tried out the S Note app -- which you use to take notes using Samsung's S Pen stylus -- the side panel conveniently offered icons for the apps main features that I could immediately tap on and use.

While the Galaxy Note Edge shares many of the specifications of the Galaxy Note 4 -- a 2.7GHz quad-core processor, the same rear-facing and front-facing cameras, an S-Pen and the multi-window apps -- it does come with a slightly smaller screen and a slightly less powerful battery (3,000mAh vs. the Note 4’s 3,220mAh).

All the same, after spending some time with it, it’s the Galaxy Note Edge that I find more interesting. With any luck, we will be reviewing it -- and the Galaxy Note 4 -- closer to ship date. I look forward to seeing how this innovative feature will work in the long term.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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