Samsung held a South African launch event for its new range of Galaxy Note smartphones in Cape Town on Thursday, 16 October 2014, where it showed off the Note 4, Note Edge, Gear VR, and Gear S.
This gave the launch attendees an opportunity to get some hands-on time with the new toys Samsung is bringing to South Africa.
Immediately evident to those familiar with Samsung’s large-screened smartphone line is that the Galaxy Note 4 is very similar to its predecessor, the Galaxy Note 3.
As might be expected, and as shown in the table below, the internal hardware of the Galaxy Note 4 did see an incremental improvement over the Note 3.
|Specifications||Samsung Galaxy Note 4||Samsung Galaxy Note 3||Samsung Galaxy Note Edge|
|Dimensions||153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5mm||151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3mm||151.3 x 82.4 x 8.3mm|
|Operating system||Android 4.4||Android 4.3||Android 4.4|
|Display||5.7″ QHD (1440×2560) Super AMOLED||5.68″ 1080p (1080×1920) Super AMOLED||5.6″ QHD+ (1440 + 160 x 2560) Super AMOLED|
|Processor||2.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805 / Exynos 5433 Octa-core (1.9GHz quad + 1.3GHz quad)||2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 / Exynos 5420 Octa||2.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805|
|Graphics||Adreno 420 / Mali-T760||Adreno 330 / Mali-T628 MP6||Adreno 420|
|Cellular data||LTE / HSPA+||LTE / HSPA+||LTE / HSPA+|
The Note 4 makes a good first impression: it feels comfortable in the hand and the display is crisp and responsive to the touch.
Samsung hasn’t made dramatic changes to the user interface other than to bring the new settings menu and system icons from the Galaxy S5 to the Note 4.
If Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface customisation for Android didn’t bother you before, it won’t get in your way this time either.
Those who like Samsung’s use of hardware buttons on the front face of its devices, instead of adopting software buttons as its competitors have, will be pleased to know that the Note’s button layout remains largely the same.
One big change is Samsung’s decision to finally drop the menu button in favour of the “Recent apps” button introduced with Android 3.0 Honeycomb and 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
There is also still a noticeable delay between pressing the home button and the home screen appearing. As with other Samsung devices, the delay seems to be related to a trigger for S Voice which lets you call up the Siri-like voice processor by double-tapping the home button.
Disabling this trigger in S Voice’s settings immediately makes the home button more responsive.
Hardware is only part of the story when it comes to smartphones, and Samsung highlighted a number of the Galaxy Note 4’s software and ecosystem features.
On the software side, this includes the ability to select multiple items in a collection (such as a photo gallery) by dragging the stylus across the screen – similar to how you would click and drag with a mouse.
Another click-and-drag feature added to the Note 4 is the ability to copy information between applications by dragging it from one to the other, augmenting the Note’s existing multi-tasking capabilities.
The note-taking features of the device have also been expanded to make it easier to create and store or share collections of screenshots, as well as convert photos of whiteboards and the like into an editable note.
Another camera-linked feature Samsung introduced was the “Wide Selfie” mode, which lets you shoot an almost-panoramic photo with the front-facing camera.
In my hands-on time, all of the new features Samsung touted seemed to work as advertised.
It’s worth going into a bit more detail about “Photo Note” as it might not live up to everyone’s expectations. While Photo Note does let you convert a picture into something you can edit, it does not support optical character recognition.
Instead, it converts a part of the image into lines which you can select, move around, and change the size and colour of.
Though it wasn’t really possible to get hands-on experience with the value-added features Samsung announced for the Note 4 in South Africa, it is worthy of a mention as it forms a big part of the value proposition.
In addition to a host of bundled apps, the Note 4 will also come with included features specific to Africa and South Africa.
Among them is the well-known “Accidental Damage from Handling”, or ADH Warranty.
Under this two year warranty, Samsung offers one free repair of the device’s screen should it become damaged for whatever reason. Note 4 owners are provided a loan unit for the duration of the repair and Samsung said that your device will be collected from and returned to you wherever you are in South Africa.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 also includes 2GB of free Wi-Fi per month for 12 months through AlwaysOn, and ships with the DStv BoxOffice application.
Note Edge hands-on
The Note Edge has a lot in common with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, so much of the hands-on impression given above also applies in its case.
As it is somewhat wider than the Note 4, it is more unwieldy and doesn’t feel quite as easy to grip.
Left-handed users may find the Edge especially cumbersome to use as the edge display sits wedged against the palm when held in your right hand as opposed to resting against your fingers when held in the left.
You switch between the edge display’s currently selected panel and a universal set of shortcuts by swiping vertically. Switching between different edge display panels involves swiping horizontally.
The edge display itself is responsive, but doesn’t come across as more than a nifty gimmick for now. It will be interesting to see where this use of curved displays goes.
Samsung and South Africa’s mobile operators launched the Galaxy Note 4 on Friday at a recommended retail price of R11,759.
The Samsung Galaxy Note Edge is set to become available in South Africa during the first quarter of 2015.
Accessories such as the Gear S smartwatch are also not available immediately, though Samsung said it expects to launch it during November 2014 at a recommended price of R6,599.
Samsung has also promised that it is working to bring the Gear VR headset for the Note 4 to South Africa.