You could assume that the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge is the Korean tech giant’s attempt to change the shape of smartphones and phablets as we know them. If you do assume so, then you would be correct.
The device is different to anything else on the market at the moment. The curved Edge doubles as an extra information screen, presenting you with a sliver of information resources, such as missed calls, new emails and other things, such as the latest tweets you could devour at a glance. It’s customisable so you can make of it what you will.
How useful it is and whether it will become standard in future Samsung devices is anyone’s guess. At present you could call it a gimmick. But it’s a very attractive gimmick. But is it a useful gimmick?
And let’s face it, the smartphone market needs a few gimmicks. Because they all look the same, slabs of glass, chrome and plastic. Outside of Apple’s iOS ecosystem, every competing device is invariably Android and in that particular ecosystem Samsung is getting its backside handed to it by other Asian rivals, such as Xiaomi and Huawei.
So it has to think outside the box and challenge the status quo with something different.
As a form factor, the 5.6-inch Galaxy Note Edge device competes directly with Apple’s 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus smartphone. Both devices have their merits.
First impressions and specs
The first thing that catches anyone about the Galaxy Note Edge is its appearance. It is truly unique. And unlike the iPhone 6 Plus it comes with a stylus to allow you to write by hand, draw, scribble, squiggle, whatever takes your fancy.
As phones go, and to unearth an old cliché for describing phones, it is a conversation starter. Everyone who sees it oohs and ahs and in every case the reaction is unanimous in terms of the brightness and clarity of the screen.
The Edge screen is mind-blowingly different. The device itself looks more expensive than the standard Samsung fare in that it has a kind of leather backing that makes me think of the dashboard of my car.
The AMOLED display has a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 and it is ideal for playing back videos in HD and viewing images. The size of the screen also lends itself perfectly to reading documents and – if you wish – you can easily annotate them with the stylus.
I was impressed with the device’s 300mAH battery, which unlike most smartphones I could mention, can actually go on a single charge for at least two days.
The device is powered by a 2.8GHz quad core processor and it has 3GB of RAM plus 32GB of internal memory. Additionally, it supports microSD cards with up to 128GB of storage.
The winning factor? The camera
While I liked the S-Pen stylus and the ability to choose all kinds of different pen and pencil types – if you fancy drawing a nice picture, you can – but I’m more of a keyboard jabber than a penman and alas, I used the device much as I would any other smartphone.
But what won it for me was the sheer performance of the camera. The device has a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera that works wonderfully with the processor to give you a consistent view with no judders or delays.
Photographs as you would expect are crystal clear. But the real game-changer is the Live HDR (high dynamic range) feature. Photos that were taken in poor light conditions (as in the dark and rain) lit up wonderfully as if on a bright day.
The device has all the other features you would expect in a smartphone in terms of gyroscopes, accelerometers, barometer and even finger scanning capabilities.
And in terms of connectivity, it does all the 2G, 3G, 4G, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi stuff you could ever require.
In terms of productivity, what I found interesting and useful was the three microphones on the device, which allows directional voice recording.
I wasn’t expecting to like the Galaxy Note Edge as much as I had. It packs a lot of firepower and as well as complementing your digital life for fun stuff, it is very much a device with productivity in mind. As workhorses go, this one belongs on the racetrack, not in the yard.
The jury is still out on the actual usefulness of the curved edge, which can be customised to give you information on the fly, as well as allow you to answer calls with a swipe. Samsung has actually produced covers for the phone that allow you to get info from the Edge at a glance and this makes me wonder will it find its way onto future Samsung smartphones in the Galaxy range. I think it would make a fitting hallmark.
As phones go it is certainly the most interesting on the market at the moment with firepower to match.
While I still struggle with large format smartphones – let’s call them phablets – they can be ungainly when trying to answer or make calls with one hand, for example; I got very used to the Galaxy Note Edge very fast.
That begs the question, are phablets here to stay? The evidence from the US is that users of the iPhone 6 Plus, for instance, are using their iPads less and less and it is easy to see why.
These devices are chock-full of powerful tools with a screen that makes reading, watching and capturing imagery more accurate and engaging.
My ultimate verdict on the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge is that there is nothing else like it in the market. With this new phone, Samsung has definitely found its Edge.
Four stars out of five.
Availability of Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
Vodafone has the distinction of being the first carrier to offer the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge and until 31 December, Vodafone stores and select Carphone Warehouse outlets will have just 500 of these devices. Prices start at €149.99 on Vodafone’s RED Extra Super plan.