It's pretty rare to see something new and unexpected when it comes to smartphones these days. Between an endless cycle of leaks and the annual slog of product announcements, it's nice to see something that takes you by surprise. That's why I'm so amped for the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge: because it's wonderfully weird.
The Galaxy Note Edge was announced at this year's IFA Conference in Berlin.
Positioned as a “premium” option to the Note 4, the Note Edge copies everything from the new flagship. It comes with a 16-megapixel camera, the S-Pen, the Snapdragon 805 processor, the gorgeous QHD AMOLED display, and the 3200mAh battery. The only difference is that along the right side, the screen slightly dips, completely eliminating the bezel, and bringing a really weird addition to the Note family.
This dip actually shrinks the main screen size to 5.6 inches to make room for the crazy new edge, but the phone’s overall size is the same, and Samsung moved the power button from the right side to the top of the device to compensate. The main reason for the Note Edge to exist is to make information more glance-able and available whenever you want it. It acts like a stock ticker. Swiping left cycles through custom ticker options, such as trending tweets, sports scores, news headlines, and of course, stock prices, to name just a few. The ticker bar also acts as an app tray for easy access to your favourite apps.
The side screen is such a curious little thing. It's so amazing what it does to the usability of the gadget.
Your eyes are tricked into thinking that the dip is a natural extension of the screen when you hold it in portrait or landscape in your hand, so it feels extra wide with a screen that goes right to the edge.
The dip itself has huge potential as a screen extension for so many of your apps. Hosting notifications and Quick Launch applications on the OS is a no-brainer from Samsung's perspective, but it's going to be so interesting to see what other developers do with it. It could be a persistent options menu for a great email app so you have full control over the functionality, or it could be used as a persistent news ticker across all your apps.
Because it's slightly weird and there's only one phone with this particular UI at the moment, there is a risk that nobody will actually build stuff for it. Here's hoping they do.
The only downside we can find to the side screen right now is that it's kind of awkward to pick up from a flat surface when the screen is on. You're always worried you're going to activate the damn thing or launch an app you didn't mean to. That means you're left picking it up by the top edges with two hands, which is annoying.
Elsewhere on the device, you find that it's wrapped in the accented metal band first seen on the Samsung Galaxy Alpha. It makes the whole thing feel like a weird iPhone.
The back cover feels thin and cheap, which is interesting considering how premium the back leather cover feels on the new Galaxy Note 4.
All in all, it's a very heavy device and reasonably thick, that serves to make it feel almost more premium when you hold and carry it.
While the device might be thick and heavy, the new stylus is as light as a feather, making it easier to flick about than ever. Using the pen is better than ever, especially for handwriting. It's a joyous writing experience at last.
Overall, it's a curious little experiment that we can't wait to spend more time with.
Darren Orf also contributed to this piece.