NEW YORK — The original big-screen phone is back — and it’s got a new companion.
Samsung today officially announced the Galaxy Note 4 and the Galaxy Note Edge at media events across the globe. The Note 4 keeps the same 5.7-inch screen size as last year’s Galaxy Note 3 but packs in a higher resolution quad HD display, a refined 16 megapixel camera with optical image stabilization, and a much faster processor.
The Note Edge, on the other hand, is something entirely new: It’s a big-screen phone with a screen that wraps around its edge. The two announcements show that Samsung now has to manage the legacy of its Note line, which has plenty of fans, by implementing entirely new features.
The Note 4 doesn’t look much different from the Note 3 except for the addition of a fingerprint sensor-equipped home button from the Galaxy S5. Oddly, Samsung didn’t show off much of the Note Edge’s interface or many details about it specifications. It looks cool, but I’ll have to get some hands-on time with it to see how it really works.
Samsung is also using the Galaxy Note 4 to step into virtual reality. The company showed off the Gear VR, its virtual reality headset developed together with Oculus VR, which uses the Note 4 to power VR experiences. That’s a first for a smartphone, and it’s notable because you currently need a powerful PC to run Oculus’s latest Rift headset.
The Note announcements comes less than a week before Apple is expected to unveil two new iPhones, one of which may sport a 5.5-inch screen, making it a direct competitor to Samsung’s Galaxy Note line.
I’ll admit, I was wary of smartphones with gigantic screens when Samsung kicked off the trend with the first Note in 2011. They were too big for most hands, and they looked hilariously large in your pocket. But the phablet (phone + tablet) phones were a hit in many international markets — especially places where it would be prohibitively expensive to own both a smartphone and a tablet. Phablets ended up being the best of both worlds.
Smartphone manufacturers like Samsung, HTC, and LG have made great progress making phones with huge screens more usable. The phones are now lighter, thinner, and can even fit into some skinny jeans. But we’ve also seen a steady rise in screen size among other smartphones — Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S5 display is only half an inch smaller than the Note 4.
Samsung says the Note 4 will be available in select markets in October, while the Note Edge is coming later this year.