Author(s): Laura Simeonova
Samsung unveiled its latest flagship device, the Galaxy Note9, at its Samsung Unpacked event in New York today. The handset brings several improvements to the Note8 and we expect it to be well-received by the notoriously loyal Note fans, who will be delighted with the upgrades to the battery, S Pen and camera.
With its new device, Samsung has addressed one of the few complaints about the Note8. Users had voiced their concerns about battery life, and the company has responded by installing its largest battery of any of its smartphones. The Note9 sports a 4,000 mAh battery, 21 percent larger than the one found in its predecessor, and Samsung claims it can last a full day.
The handset also features support for gigabit LTE, with speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps. Storage has also been doubled: the entry-level Note9 offers 128GB of internal storage and 6GB of RAM, and a special version with 512GB of internal storage and 8GB of RAM will also be available. The handset boasts a 6.4-inch Quad High Definition Super AMOLED infinity display and runs on an Exynos 9 Series 9810 processor.
The defining feature of the Note family, the S Pen, has been improved and can now be used as a remote control for the device, enabled by Bluetooth Low Energy and an antenna.
This remote-control function can be used to take selfies, control some applications, including YouTube, and manage presentations when used with a dongle, which is available separately. This is a simple, yet clever idea that will be welcomed by Note users.
Samsung announced that it will release a software development kit to allow third parties to create other ways of using the S Pen. The S Pen battery lasts for 30 minutes and is fully charged within 40 seconds when placed inside the phone. More-creative users will enjoy the updates to Samsung's AR Emoji, which will allow them to colour in images with the S Pen.
Samsung also launched the third version of its DeX system. Previously, DeX users had to buy an additional dock to access this function. This will no longer be necessary with Note9, as DeX is now a software feature. However, to connect the device to a large screen, users will still need a USB-C to HDMI adapter.
We believe Samsung has missed an opportunity to bundle this adapter with the Note9 as an incentive for those pre-ordering the device. Although it can be bought separately it isn't a cheap add-on. The company said its marketing strategy will revolve around a "PC in a pocket" for the future.
Unlike previous Note device launches, there were no really outstanding camera features introduced. There are incremental software improvements, including a screen optimizer supporting 20 types of scene, as well as flaw detection for eye blink, image blur, lens smudge and back light. The camera also benefits from HDR and Live Focus mode for low-light conditions. The Note9 also sees the addition of many new hardware features found in the Galaxy S9+, such as placement of the fingerprint scanner on the rear of the device, in the middle.
Surprisingly, Samsung emphasized that the Note9 offers the "ultimate gaming experience", featuring a carbon fibre cooling system, which Samsung claims dissipates heat 3.5 times better than traditional systems, as well as a smart performance adjuster.
Other prominent features include IP68 certification for water and dust resistance, a stereo speaker powered by AKG by Harman, and security tools including Samsung Knox and biometrics. Despite recent moves by other major smartphone makers to omit the 3.5 mm headphone jack from their handsets, Samsung has decided to keep it.
The phone is available in three colours: Ocean Blue (with a bright yellow S Pen), Midnight Black and Lavender Purple (both with matching-colour S Pens). Pre-orders begin today at £899 for the 128GB version and £1,099 for the 512GB variant. The device will be available from 24 August.
Samsung will once again launch loyalty programmes including trade-ins, encouraging customers to upgrade by offering increased values for their current phones. Releasing the device in late August means the Note9 should have about four to five weeks on the market before Apple's new iPhones appear in late September and Google's latest Pixel devices expected in October. The Note9 will offer an important boost to Samsung's sales in the second half of 2018, after it reported lower than expected sales of the Galaxy S9 series in the second quarter.
The Note9 improves an already widely admired phone and will be eagerly anticipated by the most committed Note customers. However, the question remains if these small but important updates will be enough to persuade those considering an iPhone or even a Huawei P20 Pro to choose the Note9.