It's been a year since Samsung recalled the Galaxy Note7 worldwide, and the company is hoping to finally put that misstep to bed — with the best smartphone it's ever made.
Enter the Note8, with a mix of old and new: a massive 6.3-inch Infinity Display, a brand new dual-lens camera with wide-angle and telephoto sensors, and that inimitable S-Pen stylus supercharged with brand new software.
Just wanna know when you can buy one and when you can get a hold of it? Here's everything you need to know.
The Note8 will be instantly familiar to anyone who's seen a Galaxy S8 Plus: take the body of that phone, make it a little bigger, and hide the pressure-sensitive S-Pen stylus from the Galaxy Note7 inside it at the base. It's slim, it's glossy, it's edge-to-edge glass, but it's unmistakeably a Samsung Galaxy Note.
Note fans love their devices. Samsung's short advertising video for the Note8 showing Note customers advertorials even included a Note7 owner saying the company had to make him give his back; paid testimonial or no, we know that Note fans are keen for their top-of-the-line Android phones.
Three quarters of Note customers call it the best phone they've ever used; 85 per cent say they'd recommend one to friends and family. And Note has been Samsung's top phone for nearly a decade, combining all of the company's smartphone tech hallmarks like AMOLED displays, water and dust resistance, and wireless charging — as well as the S-Pen.
Samsung is targeting three main pillars to promote the new Galaxy Note8 as its best phone ever, and arguably the best phone ever. A new dual-lens camera is the first for any Samsung phone, a new Infinity Display made for stylus use is the first for a Note series phone, and new software to make use of both the extra screen space and the S-Pen stylus.
In a lot of ways, the Note8 brings a lot of the Samsung we already know and like: the design cues of the Note7 meeting the S8, that same Infinity Display as the S8 Plus but larger, Samsung's own distinct flavour of Android and its extra features like Bixby. But it's what's new about the Note8 that excites me most.
A Squared-Off Design Made For The S-Pen Stylus
The new Samsung Galaxy Note8 is slightly larger in all dimensions than the previous Note7 — at 162.5x74.8x8.6mm and 195g, it's more sizeable and heavier than the 153.5x73.9x7.9mm and 169g Note7. It's thicker, too, an unsurprising result of Samsung's increased safety checks. I didn't have one nearby to test it against, of course, but Note5 owners will find the new device significantly taller.
It's more squared-off than Samsung's current S8 flagship, but has a very similar design overall — curved at its longest edges, the Note8 has a chromed metal strip running its perimeter. The back has dual rear-facing cameras alongside a flash and relocated fingerprint reader, and you'll find the S-Pen at the base alongside a USB Type-C power/data connector. And yes, the 3.5mm headphone jack remains.
That design houses Samsung's largest-ever edge-to-edge Super AMOLED Infinity Display at 6.3 inches, only slightly edging out the 6.2 inches of the Galaxy S8 Plus. It's an objectively better screen not because it's larger but because it's flatter for most of its screen area, though — something Samsung's done to make it possible to write on the edges of the display with an S Pen. It's still that same 2960x1440pixel Quad HD+ resolution and 18.5:9 ratio though, and supports Mobile HDR Premium.
The battery inside the Note8 is smaller than in the S8 Plus, though — at 3300mAh versus 3500mAh. That, combined with the slightly larger screen and the extra demands of the stylus digitiser, may mean slightly worse battery life overall, but Samsung isn't releasing any official figures just yet. Battery life should be superior to the Note7's 3500mAh cell, though, because new phone has a processor built on the most advanced current architecture at 10nm, rather than the 14nm of the previous Note.
64GB, 128GB and 256GB internal storage variants will be available, and microSD expandable storage makes a welcome return — although we won't get those larger internal storage variants in Australia. 6GB of onboard RAM is the most that any Samsung device has ever had, too. The Note8 will ship with Android Nougat 7.1.1 straight out of the box, too — it's a month short of Google's early-October release of Android Oreo 8.0, but expect an update in the not-too-distant future, as well as monthly software and security updates that are ongoing for an unspecified amount of time.
A New, Powerful Dual-Lens Camera With Software To Match
The Galaxy Note8 is Samsung's first smartphone to include a dual-lens camera setup, following in the footsteps of Apple's iPhone 7 Plus and the Oppo R11 — rather than using dual lenses with individual RGB and monochrome sensors like the Huawei P10, the Note8 uses two similar senses with lenses of different focal lengths.
Like Apple and Oppo the new Samsung has a '1x' wide-angle camera and a '2x' telephoto; the wide-angle camera setup is identical to the Galaxy S8 with a 12MP dual-pixel autofocus and optical image stabilised f/1.7 lens and sensor combo, while the telephoto camera uses the same 12-megapixel sensor without dual-pixel autofocus, but still with optical image stabilisation and a slightly less bright f/2.4 lens. The camera specs compare favourably to the competition — both Apple and Oppo lack OIS on their telephoto cameras and have slightly less bright lenses.
To put the hardware to good use, the Note8's Camera app has been redesigned. The same '1x'/'2x' button as seen on iOS makes an appearance here, as does the smooth graduation between '1x', '2x' and digital zoom of up to '10x' in total. But it's the extra processing power of Samsung's newest 10-nanometre Exynos chips that makes possible a live depth-sensing background defocus to isolate subjects — within 4 feet of the camera — from the wider world. You can apply these Live Focus effects either while you're shooting or after, since the depth information is saved when you're shooting telephoto in the right conditions. Samsung also lets you shoot in 'dual capture' where both '1x' and '2x' photos are captured.
Some New S-Pen Software You Might Actually Use This Time
Alongside that S-Pen — the Note series' previous calling card, although this flagship is host to some more high-end tech this time around too — you actually have a reason to use it in the Note8. I've always been the kind of long-time Note user that wanted to use the stylus but never really found a reason beyond taking it out and playing around with it aimlessly.
One of the social aspects of the new consumer-focused Note8 is its Live Message feature, one of the options that pops up when you pull the S-Pen out of its spring-loaded hiding place in the Note8's chassis. With it, you can write a short message on a coloured background or image, with different coloured inks and pen tips and sparkly effects, then have that message saved as an animated GIF for you to send directly to your contacts through any service like Facebook. It's easy to use, and that means you might actually use it, although it's still a novelty at best. What used to be done with phone calls is now done with GIFs and emojis, Samsung says, and that's the audience that Live Message is for.
Screen off Memo, the lock-screen note-taking that launched with Note5, is the most popular way of using the S Pen, accounting for 60 per cent of all notes created on any Note device. On the Note8 you can take exhaustive notes, too — 100 pages can be written with the screen off through a button, can be saved straight into Samsung Notes, and can be edited later too.
The phone's Air pen gestures, too, get more powerful. Now you can just hover over any piece of text with the S-Pen and have it translated into the language of your choice — including English, of course. But more useful than that is hovering over any currency to have it converted to Australian dollars or anything else; doing away with the process of bringing up a new Web browser and Googling the answer will save me more time than I care to think.
Multi-Tasking Done Right From The Edge Menu, And More DeX
One feature that the Note8 will launch with is App Pair, a small addendum to the existing Edge menu that all curved-edge Samsung phones have launched with. It's essentially a shortcut to launch or load any two compatible apps simultaneously, and it's crazy that it hasn't been done before.
It works well, too — both launch simultaneously, in portrait or landscape, and windows can be resized. Samsung showed off combos like maps and music for driving, and phone and internet for conference calls. It's entirely possible, and probably likely — we'd hope — that this feature will be rolled out in software to other extended-length Infinity Display devices and maybe even the Note5. But at launch, it'll be restricted to the Note8.
Beyond that, the Galaxy Note8 will launch with extended support for the DeX desktop station. DeX now supports a full-screen mode for Android games that had a fixed window size in the past, and it works well — the extra power of the Note8 means you can do more when you're travelling than any other Note before it.
Australian Price And Release Date
The Galaxy Note8 will be the most expensive phone Samsung has ever released in Australia. At $1499, it's more expensive than each of the $1249 Note7, $1199 S8 and $1349 S8 Plus. You'll be able to buy either the 64GB Midnight Black or Maple Gold colour variants in Australia — no Deepsea Blue or Orchid Grey phones will be stocked by Samsung or any of its carrier partners, nor any larger internal storage capacities. Apple's direct competition for the Note8, the iPhone 7 Plus, costs $1269 for a 32GB, $1419 for a 128GB and $1569 for a 256GB variant.
You'll be able to pre-order the Galaxy Note8 from tomorrow — August 25 — through Samsung and all its carrier partners, with a convertible wireless charger worth $119 included as a pre-order bonus. Samsung says convenient charging is one of the top three things Note owners wanted from a new phone, so pre-ordering is your way to get that without spending additional bucks.
The phone itself will be available for purchase and will be delivered to pre-order holders around Australia on September 22, a week after the first regions around the world like Korea and the US.
And one last thing: if you buy a Note8 in the launch period in Australia — from preorder until October 31 — and register it with Samsung, you'll get peace of mind in the form of the company's free Screen Assure program. That means one free cracked screen replacement in the first year of purchase; Samsung isn't putting a value on the cost of replacement, but a genuine Infinity Display replacement part from Samsung would run you about $350 — so that's a great reason to pick up a Note8 early or not too long after general release.
If you were one of the 51,060 Note7 buyers in Australia who had to give back their phones, too, Samsung is planning to make it worth your while to upgrade from whatever phone you're using now to a Note8. It's working with the telcos to tailor a package with each — whether that's an additional pre-order or purchase bonus. We'll have all that info in our carrier pricing post, too.
We'll have full carrier pricing for the Note8 in a separate post. Expect to see on-plan costs for the phone significantly discounted, though, to attract you to challenger telcos, along with generous call and data inclusions. Vodafone, for example, will give you an additional $200 credit if you trade in any previous Note device for the Note8.
So, what do you think? Let us know your thoughts about the Note8 in the comments below.
Gizmodo travelled to New York as a guest of Samsung.