Note 9 rumors have been a bit of a free-for-all in the lead up to today’s big event. Samsung did manage, however, to do a slightly better job keep today’s big wearable news under wraps. We’d heard a few rumors up to this point, but the details have been pretty sketchy. As rumored, the new device is, indeed, the Galaxy Watch, bucking the Gear naming convention.
On the face of it, the new device features most of the same features as the Gear, including the circular bezel, which doubles as a control — one of the primary features the line has going for it versus Apple’s offering. The Galaxy Watch also comes in two different sizes, a decided improvement over early Samsung watches, which were entirely too large for many wrists.
No specifics yet on battery size, though the company says the new wearable should get “several days on a single charge,” an impressive claim, if true, and certainly of of the major pitfalls in the smartwatch world. For those times when you do need to refill, there’s that new Wireless Charging Duo, which can handle a Galaxy mobile device and watch at the same time.
Unlike previous rumors, the Galaxy Watch appears to still be running Tizen, rather than Android Wear.
Update: Samsung says the Watch will be available in the United States on August 24 before launching in additional markets over the following weeks. The 42 millimeter version of the Watch will be available for $329.99, while the 46 millimeter version will be available for $349.99.
Also, Samsung’s announcement confirms that the Watch will still be running Tizen.
Everything you thought you knew about the Galaxy Note 9… well, it’s pretty spot on, honestly.
Between the images, promo videos, teasers and that image of Samsung CEO DJ Koh using the damn phone out in public, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the company simply embraced the leaks in hopes of generating a little extra excitement ahead of launch during these (excruciatingly hot) dog days of summer.
As expected, little has changed aesthetically this time out — and that’s just fine. There are a couple of new colors, a shifted fingerprint sensor and a screen that’s larger by a fraction of an inch, which is perhaps why the aforementioned C-level executive thought he’d be able to go unnoticed. That’s all perfectly fine, of course — it’s probably too much to expect some radical design departure with each subsequent generation by the time you’re on number nine or so.
Really, like the S9 before it, the new Note isn’t a radical departure in any respect. The latest version of the industry-defining phablet is more focused on the fundamentals. It’s honestly a welcome change from a company like Samsung that often feels entirely focused on the bells and whistles. More storage, a better camera, an improved S-Pen and a considerably larger battery are all on-board this time out.
Which isn’t to say there aren’t any new whistles or bells, of course. This is Samsung, of course.
In a briefing, Samsung referred to the Note line as “our innovation brand,” a nod to the fact that it’s regularly been the first device to receive many now standard Galaxy features — see: the Edge display (curving screen), S-Pen, giant screen, dual-camera. If there’s one new feature that stands out, however, it’s actually that larger battery, which now measures 4,000mAh hours — that’s a 700mAh jump over its predecessor.
That’s great news, of course. Samsung doesn’t have any official hour estimates to share at the moment, and is instead still calling it an “all day” battery — though the vast majority of users should be able to squeeze out more than that with standard usage. The real significance of all of this likely won’t be lost on anyone who’s been paying even the slightest bit of attention to the mobile industry over the past couple of years.
The Note 9 marks the first significant battery capacity increase since the Note 7’s exploding lithium-ion led to two separate recalls for the company. Naturally, Samsung’s on the offensive about this one, noting the eight-point safety check the company instituted when the literal and figurative smoke cleared with the Note 7. The company subjected the phone to external scrutiny from UL.
“What we want to do is a tempered approach to innovation any time,” Samsung’s director of Product Strategy and Marketing told TechCrunch, “so this was the right time to increase the battery to meet consumer needs.”
Of course, the company had to consider both the pragmatic concerns over battery combustion, along with the optics of rushing too quickly to push the bounds of capacity. There was, after all, a general notion that the company had flown too close to the sun on this one. As such, battery life has stagnated on the last several Galaxy phones.
As the initial invites for today’s event suggested, the S-Pen also gets a lot of love this time out, featuring the most significant upgrades since the stylus was announced all the way back in 2011. The most obvious difference: the striking new colors. The image on the invite was, indeed, a closeup of a neon yellow stylus. There’s a purple one, too — each writing on the off-screen memos in a color that matches their design.
The real differentiator here, however, is the inclusion of Bluetooth low energy inside the S-Pen, which allows it to function as a remote. That, of course, requires a battery, so the stylus now includes a super capacitor so it charges when it’s in the slot. Samsung says it should get around 30 minutes of standby time with 40 seconds of charging. Mileage will vary, of course, but given the fact that it will effectively be charging whenever it’s not in use, that shouldn’t be an issue.
The new S-Pen can be used to control things like the camera, slideshows and music playback. In Spotify and Google Music, one click of the button does Play/Pause and two clicks advance the trick. There’s no back, but there’s really only so much one can do with a single button. In photo mode, it can be used as a shutter, with a double-click flipping the camera around for a selfie.
The functionality will only be available for a select number of apps at launch, but the company’s going to be opening up the SDK for developers. There also will be some level of customization available in the settings, so users can designate different functions.
Here’s what you’re working with as far as camera hardware:
Rear: Dual Camera with Dual OIS (Optical Image Stabilization)
Wide-angle: Super Speed Dual Pixel 12MP AF, F1.5/F2.4, OIS
Telephoto: 12MP AF, F2.4, OIS
2X optical zoom, up to 10X digital zoom
Front: 8MP AF, F1.7
The biggest change on the imaging side is software, however. Scene Optimizer is similar to technologies we’ve seen on recent flagships from companies like HTC. The system uses an on-board AI process (no cloud connection required) to determine what you’re taking a photo of. There are 20 categories, all told, including Night, Snow, Street Scene, Birds, Indoors, Text, Food, Pets, Flowers and Sunset. Once the system has decided what it’s shooting, it adjusts the white balance, color and saturation accordingly.
I was only able to try it on a limited number of objects during a brief hands-on, but it worked well with things like flowers and a plate of food, really highlighting colors in the process. You can’t actually manually override the system to choose one of the aforementioned 20 scenes, but if you’re getting a false positive, you can just shut the thing off.
Even more compelling is Flaw Detection, which points out when you’ve messed up. The system will notify you if a shot is blurry, if there’s a smudge on the screen, if the subject blinked or if backlighting is making everything look crappy.
Spec-wise, we’re talking a 2960×1440 (516ppi) display, Octa-core Snapdragon 845 and 6 or 8GB of RAM, running Android Oreo.
Oh, and then there’s storage. The Note 9 comes with beefy 128GB, standard. If you really want to go all-in, there’s also a 512GB version, which, as Samsung notes, makes the device “1TB ready,” when you factor in the expandable 512GB microSD that exists for the the price of a mid-tier smartphone (PNY’s is $350 right now). Oh, and speaking of money.
Take a deep breath.
Samsung had suggested early on that it was going to attempt to rein in the cost on this one. Maybe next generation. The 128GB model runs $999.99. The 512GB version will set you back $1,249.99. Both are available starting August 24, with pre-order starting August 10. The latter will be limited to “select retail locations and carrier sites, including AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and U.S. Cellular.
The Note 9 comes in Ocean Blue and Lavender Purple, which ship with a purple and yellow stylus, respectively. And yes, there’s a headphone jack.
It’s true, Fortnite is coming to Android this summer. We’ve known that for sure since May. There is, however, one key caveat (aside from that whole no Google Play bit): The obscenely popular sandbox survival game will launch on Google’s mobile OS as a Samsung exclusive.
The Epic title will be available for Galaxy users with an S7 or higher (Note 9, S9, Note 8, S8, S7,S7 Edge). Those with a Galaxy Tab S4 and S3 will get a crack it it, as well). That, naturally, includes the new Note 9, which the company is positioning as something of a mobile gaming powerhouse.
The specs are certainly impressive, and the 6.4-inch screen should lend itself well to portable gaming. There’s also a new Water Carbon Cooling system on board, to help keep the handset from overheating from more resource-intensive tasks. The new tech improves the liquid cooling system the company has had on-board its Galaxy devices since the S7.
Starting today, the title will appear on Galaxy devices’ game launcher, remaining an Android exclusive until the 12th — at which point, one imagines, it will become more widely available for the rest of Android users. As with the rest of the versions of the title (the PS4’s issues aside), the game will support multi-platform crossplay.
To celebrate the deal, those who pre-order the Note 9 will be able to choose between free AKG noise cancelling headphones or a device with a 15,000 V-bucks — the in-game equivalent to to $150 of our regular people dollars. All Note 9 and Tab S4 users will also get access to a Fortnite Galaxy skin (see: above), which is unique to those devices.
IDC’s latest tablet numbers tell a familiar story. Shipments are down yet again, a trend that shows no sign of abating. There is, however, one clear bright spot in all of this, bucking the trend.
Quarter after quarter, convertibles have continued to grow, as users have demanded more productivity than is traditionally possible with slates. It’s no surprise, then, that Apple, Microsoft, Google and Samsung are all vying for mindshare. The convertible segment may still be small, but at least it’s moving in the right direction.
Samsung’s shifted approaches a number of times over the years. Say what you will about the company’s approach to devices, but at least the company’s everything-and-the-kitchen-sink model has allowed them to stay limber for such a hulking hardware behemoth. The Galaxy Tab S4 simultaneously finds the company building on existing technology, while attempting to reinvent the wheel in the process.
The Tab S4 isn’t a radical departure from its predecessor, save for one key thing: DeX. The brand, which previously referred to smartphone docking stations for Galaxy handsets, is now the name of the custom desktop version of Android Samsung built. The change clearly hasn’t fully taken, however — Samsung’s official DeX site has yet to reflect the move as of this writing. But, then, the company’s clearly been busy these past few weeks.
Porting it over to the tablet means the company can offer a device that’s capable of doing double duty as both a standard slate tablet and a makeshift laptop. It’s also a roundabout of way of not relying on Windows 10 on the Galaxy line. After all, the ability to switch modes has long been the operating system’s raison d’être, so this really feels like a thumb in the eye of Microsoft. Given the recent well-received launch of the Surface Go, however, I suspect the company’s not really sweating the slight.
I didn’t get a great justification from Samsung as to the motivation behind the move ahead of launch. I suspect the whole thing boils down to control — something you’re afforded a lot more of when you work with Android vs. Windows. There’s also the fact that Windows 10 doesn’t have nearly the selection of apps you get with Android — definitely a major factor if you’re working with the more locked down/tablet-friendly 10 S.
DeX in effect
The result is something of a mixed bag. I will say that the DeX layout looks better on the 10.5-inch display, rather than the big, curved DeX docking monitor, where the Android icons feel entirely out of place.
For the most part, the DeX version of Android operates the same as the standard tablet version, allbeit with smaller icons. The desktop features three by default: My Files, Gallery and Settings. With the latter, you can adjust the DeX settings, so the OS automatically switches to the mode when you plug the tablet into the keyboard dock (though not the other way around, oddly).
I’d prefer it if the DeX settings were more easily accessible in the drop down menu, but one gets the impression that Samsung’s still working out some of the kinks on this one. Also, while it’s possible to get it to auto switch, the tablet screen always switches off when removed from the dock. A slight nuisance, but not the end of the world.
The biggest nuisance is, predictably, the same issue you run into on ChromeOS ever since Google allowed Play Store access. There simply aren’t that many apps optimized for the mode. You can access them through the Apps for Samsung Desk header located in the familiar Android apps menu. The company didn’t disclose the number of compatible apps for good reason. There are like 16. On the upside, the company teamed with Microsoft for Word/PowerPoint/Excel — all important inclusions when you’re pushing productivity on your shiny new device.
There are some other big names here, like Amazon WorksSpaces and The New York Times. There’s also Deezer, which seems to be eager to get on any operating system that will have them, bless their hearts. There’s also TripAdvisor and Craigslist, neither of which I would honestly put on my list of must-need desktop apps.
The main issue with the unoptimized apps is scalability — and the fact that they’re not designed to work well with the mouse input (which is, admittedly, optional). They do run, but opening them to full screen size requires restarting the app every time. One assumes, however, that more companies will get on board if the new Tab proves a hit for the company.
I’m not really convinced that DeX was the right choice over Android here, but at the very least, it gives the company room to grow on that side of things. It also offers an important differentiator over the iPad Pro, which has introduced some desktop-like functionality, but still relies on standard iOS. Apple’s been wary to blur the lines between desktop and laptop too much, relinquishing the upper hand to Samsung here.
Just in case
Here’s a bit of a shocking admission: I actually kind of like the keyboard case. I didn’t expect to. I don’t really ever like keyboard cases. They’re one of the bigger barriers between me and the possibility of ever taking convertibles too seriously as a potential laptop replacement. The keys on the S4 are plasticky, sure, but I prefer them to the standard keyboard case found on products like the Surface Go, which basically feels like typing on felt.
That said, there’s really no getting around how cramped the keyboard is, when designed for a 10-inch tablet. I considered pulling the Tab out for meetings multiple times this week, but ultimately thought better of it. I’m sure I’d be able to ramp up my speed given enough time with the system, but it ultimately wasn’t worth the potential of missing some important points, as my fingers struggled to keep up.
The lack of a trackpad feels like a glaring omission. Granted, it’s not exactly standard on keyboard cases these days, but Microsoft certainly demonstrated that it’s possible on a small scale with the Surface Go. And given the prominence of desktop mode here, one expects to be using the cursor as much as touch here. You can always use the S-Pen or buy a bluetooth mouse, but it seems a shame to have to add that cost on top of the keyboard case’s $149 asking price.
Bonus points, however, for including an S-Pen slot in the keyboard case for those of us who would lose our heads if they weren’t attached. The magnetic Microsoft pen that sticks to the side of the Surface is still the one to beat, but the holster does the trick, too.
All work, no play?
I remain skeptical as ever that convertibles will serve as a sufficient replacement for both laptop and tablet. I’m certainly not in a rush to put my MacBook out to pasture. That said, the devices provide a nice supplemental function for those who don’t want to port their heavier PCs around.
The $649 Tab S4 certainly has solid specs, with 4GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage (augmented via microSD). The 7,300mAh battery can’t compete with the iPad Pro’s 8,134, but it should get you through a day’s use, no problem. The screen is solid for movie playback, and ditto for those AKG-tuned speakers.
I liked the keyboard more than I thought I would, as well, though it’s a bit cramped and using a keyboard without a trackpad feels like relying on a phantom limb. The DeX desktop, meanwhile, is an interesting addition to the tightening convertible tablet race, though it’s got a ways to go before it feels as fully fleshed out Windows 10.
Some companies keep products a closely guarded secret, like they were nuclear codes or ingredients to a popular cola. Others seem less concerned about the whole thing, as long as it keeps people talking. Based on all we’ve seen from the Galaxy Note 9 to date, it seems that Samsung falls firmly into the latter camp.
Of course, it’s key to point out that we won’t really know what the new handset is all about until its big reveal at Unpacked on Thursday. But also, we really know what it’s all about because, I mean, look at all these leaks.
That said, there’s probably still plenty of reason to pay attention to the event. Given the fact that the company opted not to wait to announce the Galaxy Tab S4 could point to even more big product announcements in the coming months.
There have been various other rumors swirling around these past few weeks and months, including a lot of speculation around a new Samsung Gear watch that could make its debut at the same event.
The Note 9, on the other hand, has all but stood up and announced its presence. In addition to your standard array of rumors, there have been a few egregious leaks on Samsung’s part, including a top executive using the new device in public and Samsung posting a promo video to YouTube.
Here’s what we know so far about the upcoming phablet.
By all accounts, the design language hasn’t changed much since the last generation device — in fact, that’s likely the reason DJ Koh thought he could go unnoticed using the phone. There is, however, one major tell that tipped off viewers to the fact that the executive was using something new.
Originally rumored to be located under screen, the fingerprint sensor has, indeed, been moved. This time, out, however, it’s under the camera, rather than beside it — addressing a key complaint with the Note 8’s design, which found users fumbling with the camera lens when attempting to unlock the device.
The dimensions are reportedly roughly the same here, as well. At 161.9 x 76.3 x 8.8mm, the device is marginally shorter than its predecessors, due perhaps in part to thinner bezels on the top and bottom. The display, meanwhile, is the ever so slightly larger at 6.4-inches to the 8’s 6.3.
Samsung’s made it pretty clear from the start that battery life is a primary focus for the new device. The company appeared to confirm early rumors that the handset would be sporting a 4,000mAh battery in an early teaser that openly mocked the iPhone’s relatively small offering (as is Samsung’s M.O. these days).
That’s a 700mAh jump over the Note 8’s offering, and puts the forthcoming handset toward the top of the phone battery heap. It also bucks Samsung’s recent trend of battery modesty, in the wake of the ongoing Note 7 fiasco. The company apologized profusely, instituted strict testing guidelines, and the phone buying public appears to have mostly forgiven and forgotten the whole kerfuffle.
Subsequent teasers, meanwhile, have focused on additional storage and performance enhancements. A massive 512GB version is rumored to be on tap and will no doubt cost a pretty penny. That can be augmented by up to a terrabyte, courtesy of the microSD slot.
This is a no-brainer. Camera updates have been the focus of virtually every flagship phone release. That said, this is one of the few pieces of the phone that’s still a relative mystery.
The company’s beloved stylus was clearly a focus from the outset. In fact, the Unpacked invitation shows a closeup of the S-Pen’s button on a yellow background. The new leaked video confirms the vibrant new color scheme, which, at the very least, should make it a bit harder to lose.
The company has also strongly hinted that S-Pen improvements will be a focus for the new phone, but these have mostly managed to stay under wraps. Suggested functionality includes non-drawing controls for things like music playback and remote unlock.
Yep, still here. After all, it was only a few weeks ago that the company was mocking Apple for what it perversely deemed a “double-dongle” required to listen to music and charge the phone at the same time. It remains a key differentiator between Samsung’s handsets and the iPhone, and as such, is likely sticking around for a wwhile. All of the leaks thus far appear to confirm this.