NEW YORK — In Samsung’s newest phablets, we can clearly see the companies conflicting personalities: a noble urge for refinement and a bumbling desperation to be innovative.
Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge this morning, both of which build on its legacy as a pioneer in big-screen “phablet” phones (although the latter may end up hurting its legacy, more than helping).
The Galaxy Note 4 is your typical upgrade from last year’s Note 3 — not necessarily a bad thing, since that was a pretty solid phone. But the Note Edge is something entirely different: It’s a phablet with a screen that curves on its right edge, allowing you to quickly reach commonly used phone functions and receive notifications without interrupting your current app.
The Note Edge looks cool, to be sure, but after spending a few minutes with it today, I’m not sure why anyone would want to use it. Its curved edge makes it even wider than the already-wide Note 4, which made it impossible for me to hold comfortably. And no, I don’t have small hands.
Shoneel Kolhatkar, Samsung’s senior director of product planning, told me in an interview today that the Edge is aimed at multitaskers and early adopters. But really, it seems more like an experiment: Samsung’s crazy attempt to make big-screen phones popular ended up succeeding, so why not try shaking things up again? Just like the Galaxy Round, a curved screen smartphone that Samsung unveiled last year, the Edge seems like a device meant to test the waters with new interface paradigms.
The Note 4, on the other hand, felt about the same as the Note 3. It’s still surprisingly comfortable for a phone with a 5.7-inch screen, although this time it sports a metal trim around its sides, rather than chrome-looking plastic.
While holding the Note 4, I could feel all of the effort Samsung spent slimming down its phablets over the years. But with the Edge, it feels like all of that progress was simply forgotten.
Check out my hands-on videos with both phones below: