Samsung has long had a reputation for throwing as many form factors and devices against the wall and seeing what sticks – they try and produce something for everyone. Four years ago they started producing a device called the Note which was memorable for its 5″ screen size – at the time most phones were in the 4″ range so this seemed huge. The Note got the moniker of phablet and was a modest success.
For the last two years the Note has been iterated and iterated and has grown in screen size and has gone from a modest success to a straight winner. Today Samsung announced the Note 4 at a live event in IFA. The device has grown again to 5,7 inches and has 4 gigs of RAM and probably the most powerful processor available on the market. The screen has increased in resolution slightly and a metal band has been put around the phone but there have been no major design changes. The only exception to this was the addition of a
After announcing the Note 4 Samsung carried on announcements and showed off a new phone called the Note Edge, a smartwatch and a VR headset.
The Note Edge takes the new Note 4’s internals and body and adds an unexpected twist – almost a literal one. The right hand side of the screen does not stop at the edge of the device but instead curls around it. This curved part of the display is used as always on quick launcher and lets you put widgets up independent of the main screen. Initially this could be used for news tickers, tweets going through, steps, music control or perhaps something we’ve not thought of yet.
Its an odd and unique looking idea that I’m not entirely sure is a good one but equally might be. It does however seem optimised for those who are right handed – I can imagine left handed users having immediate problems with mis-touches.
Next Samsung announced the Gear VR. This is a virtual reality headset built in conjunction with Occulus Rift that uses the Note 4 as its display. In effect this is somewhere inbetween a full Occulus Rift and Google’s cut price Cardboard. Reviewers and testers on site seem to find it comfortable and very immersive and the fact that it is wire free is certainly a plus. It remains to see if it will be successful but if the price is relatively low and developers make use of it it could be the first really mass market VR device.
Finally Samsung announced another smartwatch, the Gear S. This one runs Tisen and is designed to operate independently (at least somewhat) from the smartphone. It has a 2 inch screen that curves slightly around the wrist but is very substantial in size. This size makes it less of watch and more of a computer that you wear on your wrist. There is certainly a market for that and the extra abilities to operate without the phone are welcome but it does not look like a market changer in itself. Samsung seems to agree and it is to be only released in Korea.
Samsung has followed its normal path and given us lots of variety in devices today. The Gear VR and the Edge in particular are something new but new may not be enough.