Samsung’s had something of a rough year.
Although the company’s name is well-known (as are its products), the company ended up on the wrong side of consumer confidence in April when it unveiled the Galaxy S5. “It’s not metal,” a number of consumers said.
But Samsung never gave up, never lost hope in its ability to innovate and still carve its own path in the midst of criticism. And this never-tiring optimism led to the creation of a surprise smartphone called the Galaxy Alpha, which Samsung Group announced a few weeks ago.
Borrowing from the Galaxy Alpha’s metal design language (that is gunning for Apple’s iPhone 6), Samsung arrived to its Unpacked 2014 event today.
And the Korean manufacturer put forth the best products of the year.
Galaxy Note 4 Unveiled
First, there was the Galaxy Note 4 (the nomenclature is no surprise to Note 3 fans), Samsung’s “phablet” designed for business professionals that maintains the same display size as last year’s Note 3 at 5.7 inches, but brings a whopping Quad HD screen resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels. With over 4 million pixels on-screen, you’re getting an experience that is superior to all other smartphones on the market. LG’s G3, despite the fact that it emerged with a Quad HD G3 in May, doesn’t have the viewing angles of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4.
The Galaxy Note 4 also features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor, which brings the graphics improvements that many have clamored for in high-end smartphones all year. Fortunately for Samsung, its Galaxy Note 4 now has the most coveted processor of the Android world. To add to this, the device has aluminum chamfered edges that provide a bit of a classier feel than some consumers have experienced with Galaxy devices, but retains the plastic leather backing that made the Galaxy Note 3 so famous. In our view, the Galaxy Note 3 has one of the nicest back covers of any Samsung phone to date, and the Galaxy Note 4 will be no exception (fortunately).
The Note 4 will come in four colors (Charcoal Black, Frost White, Bronze Gold, and Blossom Pink) and includes some additions to the company’s Note software. Alongside of the usual Note capabilities now come Snap Note and Voice Note, allowing you to take pictures of notes on a classroom board in a lecture (for example) and transfer the text to actual notes that prevent you from having to write down lecture notes manually. Voice Note helps you dictate something onto your phone without writing it. If you’re on the go and don’t have time to slow down and grab a pen, just dictate your coworker’s number onto your Note 4, and save it. It’s that simple.
Another Galaxy Note 4 feature that users will find welcome is the S Pen as Mouse function that allows you to save multiple pictures and texts and send them all at once, rather than having to select each photo or screenshot in your photo gallery to send.
The Galaxy Note 4 contains its award-winning 16MP rear-facing camera (found in the Galaxy S5) with optical image stabilization (OIS), as well as a 3.7MP front-facing camera with F/1.9 aperture that lets in more light so that your photos look even more life-like than before. OIS has been a rumored feature for Samsung Group’s Note line for a long time, and it’s nice to see it arrive in the Note 4. Along with increasing its “selfie” camera, Samsung has provided a Wide Selfie option that lets you take a full photo by turning your Note 4 120 degrees in both directions. “Selfies” will now convert to “We-fies,” seeing that many of your friends will want to join in on the fun as well.
As for battery life, the Galaxy Note 4 features a 3,220mAh battery (only 20mAh above the Note 3’s), but Samsung now includes a fast charging feature that allows you to return to 50% battery in just 30 minutes. Samsung Group has also lowered battery consumption rates by as much as 7.5%, meaning that your Note 4 will sip less battery than that of its predecessor.
Galaxy Note Edge
This is impressive enough, but Samsung went even further with its newly-innovative Galaxy Note Edge. The name tells it all: the goal of the Galaxy Note Edge is to allow you to view sports, email, Google Hangouts, texts, and other notifications by glancing at the side “edge” of your phone (with no need to open your phone case or get distracted while watching a movie). Some have said that dropdown notifications make this feature unnecessary, but in our experience, you can still miss notifications because they appear in your dropdown window without alerting you at all. Samsung Group’s Note Edge makes notifications active – as they should be.
Despite the breathtaking innovation with the Note Edge, there’s still an ever better way to glance at your notifications.
The smartwatch was already announced a few days ago, but Samsung decided to unveil its new standalone smartwatch (once dubbed “Gear Solo”) at the Galaxy Note 4 presentation. The smartwatch, called the Gear S, comes with a 2-inch curved, Super AMOLED display that provides a 360 x 480 screen resolution (up from the 1.6-inch Super AMOLED display with 320 x 320 resolution found on the Gear 2, for example). The Gear S operates as a fully standalone smartwatch: it can make calls, provides a keyboard so that you can type texts, and even allows voice texts via Samsung’s very own S-Voice so that you don’t need a Bluetooth connection or smartphone to do so.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to jog without your smartphone, you’ll love the Gear S. Samsung’s integrated a standalone music player into the Gear S (as it did the Gear 2) so that you can now take your music on your wrist without your smartphone. The Gear S provides Wi-Fi and 3G functionality (not 4G LTE), allowing you to do nearly anything from your wrist.
While Samsung’s Gear S is a standalone smartwatch in many respects, you must connect it to a smartphone via Bluetooth to update or download apps (even to download your Google Play Music onto your watch), but these are only minor inconveniences. Answering phone calls, receiving and sending texts, and listening to music on your evening jog are all possibilities now without your smartwatch’s dependence on your smartphone.
If you haven’t taken notice of the time, you’ll want to start with Samsung’s Gear S.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 presentation was about showing two things: first, Samsung Group is a company focused on staying relevant (with the Note 4), but also wants to project and lead the technology of the future. The Galaxy Note Edge will indeed help in this endeavor, along with the Gear S, but there’s another piece of the puzzle.
It’s called virtual reality.
We’ve all seen it in movies and cartoons: the idea that one could travel to a whole different world behind a set of goggles. It seems as though the Internet has blurred lines between virtual and actual reality (people who view Facebook friendships as their only meaningful friendships, for example), or those who buy and sell virtual property on the World Wide Web (or appeal for the dissolution of “virtual marriages”), but virtual reality is a huge area for gamers and the gaming industry.
And Samsung just made a bold entrance into the gaming sector.
The Korean manufacturer today unveiled a device that, with the help of Facebook’s Oculus VR, will help Samsung Group become a forerunner of a new ground-breaking gaming world that lies behind a pair of glasses. Samsung’s Gear VR headset utilizes the gorgeous 2K screen resolution of the Galaxy Note 4 and places it within a set of head glasses, that, once on, bring you a whole new world unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It’s easy to find yourself submerged in the world behind the goggles, and Gear VR will keep you occupied.
Samsung didn’t say much about the Gear VR headset, but, like the Galaxy Note Edge and the Note series as a whole, the company is all about leading the tech of the future.
Remember when the Note series was new, and most consumers believed that “phablets” were disgusting to see and hold? Now, millions of consumers use Samsung’s Note line every year, and even Apple’s paid attention (as its increased iPhone 6 display sizes indicate). That is what Samsung Group is doing with the Note Edge, Gear S, and Gear VR.
Some day, when we all look back, we’ll know that Samsung started it all. Today was a tribute to Samsung Group, a tribute to all that the company has innovated in the tech space. Yes, it is a company that throws out new products until it gets it right, but isn’t that what innovation is about, after all? Isn’t that how innovation comes?