Samsung announced two new phones this week, the Galaxy S6 Edge + and the 5th generation Galaxy Note. This morning in Sydney, Australian media were invited for the local launch of the new devices. After an efficient briefing, it time for a hands-on with the two new large, curved phones.
Eight freaking cores
A new Octa-core processor combined with 4GB RAM and a 64-bit OS, means this pair are probably the fastest Android devices on the market right now (ok, shortly). I can’t say I did anything too taxing on the devices today, other than shoot some 4K video and stream HD live to YouTube, but the OS itself is amazingly snappy.
Thankfully Samsung got the message loud and clear, leave the crapware at home and deliver a close to stock Android experience and while there’s still certainly customisations, they’re far more acceptable than in the past.
Ultra fast charging
Samsung have developed new technology for fast wireless charging. They say this enabled the devices to charge so fast, they actually beat some wired solutions. Typically the loss from Wireless over wired means it takes longer, however the difference is now only around half an hour.
This little hockey puck charger is Qi compatible for other devices, but will only charge them at regular speed. There’s new hardware inside the S6 Edge+ and Note 5 that can leverage extra voltage (9V) that delivers charge to the device in a fraction of the time.
Unfortunately Samsung don’t have a price or availability date for this accessory just yet.
Live streaming to YouTube
Normally YouTube restricts Live Streaming to channels with significant followings. Now all you have to do is buy a Galaxy S6 Edge + and fire up the camera app. There’s now a new option in the mode dialog that allows you to start streaming footage to YouTube. Right now the internet is loving Periscope by Twitter for lives streaming, but to be honest the quality is terrible.
This app allows you to control the stream quality, all the way up to 1080p (no 4K yet). With these device the first in the country to support the new category 9 cellular connection, it’s definitely possible, as long as you have found your way to some business that pays for your data plan. Remember kids, uploads count and streaming 1080p video over 4G will eat it like it’s going out of fashion.
When you start your stream you can share the link via SMS or email. Unfortunately there is no way to setup the event stream in advance and say, embed it in your website. Samsung, please consider adding this, if you do, this feature will get a LOT of use. Without it, it’s still possible, but you’ll end up with the first 10 minutes of a stream pointed at a desk while the user visits the link, grabs the embed code, then inserts it in a post or page and then starts the proper stream.
Taking notes on the lock screen
After watching this feature be announced at the international announcement, I was sceptical, but after using it, the lock screen not taking works well. It even has a sound that is supposed to emulate what you get from an actual pen/pencil making contact with a regular surface. Like the audible keyboards, I expect most will disable this.
The notes are only a single page at a time, there’s no zooming or scrolling, but they are saved to the regular notes app, so there’s not a weird extra storage location. The idea here is to take notes quickly, and avoid the 3-4 taps of unlocking, pin code, open folder or slider to the home screen and launch the app, then take notes. When it’s explained like that, it is a good solution, but when I tried the Surface-style click the end of the pen to launch notes, nothing happened. Samsung, please add that, it’s natural and just makes sense and could actually solve the speed problem, especially if you permitted the Notes app to run on top of the lock screen.
For taking the quick phone number or directions, transient information will be a good use for this, but I can’t see myself using it regularly.
Pop the pen out from the end of the Note 5 and you’ll get a new menu that pops open, Samsung say this was based on user feedback and certain does help to speed up quick actions. The PicsArt app is pretty comprehensive and while it’s certainly not Photoshop, if you had to combine images or image assets and effects into a single image, without a laptop, using the pen and PicsArt would allow you to achieve decent images.
Another new feature as a result of user feedback is the addition of Apps edge which assists the user in adding apps to the edge of the S6 Edge +. No word on if this will filter back to the regular edge. Adding and modifying your pinned regular apps, or people is now done right and much more approachable for regular users. The Edge drawer is now available globally throughout the OS, not just from the home screen and can be configured in position and side.
Microsoft OneDrive partnership
If you buy a Galaxy S6 Edge +, you’ll also receive an extra 100GB of OneDrive storage thanks to a partnership with Microsoft. This goes some way to answering the criticism of Samsung’s decision to move away from expandable storage via SD card. While the prompt suggests you can use this space to backup your photos, in reality, you can store files of any type on OneDrive and with Samsung pitching the device as one that has productivity as it’s strength, this makes sense.
Don’t forget Microsoft is also making Office apps for Android now, so the mobile productivity space is moving quickly, something Google may want to keep an eye on.
History of the Galaxy Note
The entire history of Galaxy Note devices were on display, with the first starting way back in 2011, now 4 generations on, the product may not look significantly different externally, but inside and certainly software-wise, it’s a completely different device. I have to admit, I was one of the people that dismissed the original Note for it’s obscenely offensive size, but Samsung (and consumer demand) has proven I was wrong. Phones have iterated in size and in many ways ‘caught up’ to where the Note was 5 years ago, maybe it was just ahead of it’s time.
Bonus shot from the 47th floor briefing.
Price and availability
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Galaxy Note 5 go on sale September the 4th, making it one of the closest announcement to launch timeframes we’ve seen from the company. The devices both retail for more than $1,000 each, but given most buy it on a plan, you’ll pay it back over the course of your next contract.
Samsung have done some things very, very right here and should be handsomely rewarded with strong local sales once they’re released to the wild. Powerful, good battery life, amazing fast and good quality camera all add up to a stellar offering. With two devices so similar, the differences and decision between the two boils down to this.
The S6 Edge+ has curved edges on the front, so the display curves. The Note 5 has the curve on the back so the larger device is deceptively thin and fits better in the hand. Don’t be surprised if we see these merge into the same device with a curved screen and a curved back when the 6th generation rolls around in 2016.