Samsung Galaxy Note 5: innovation or afterthought?
The launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, as well as the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ on Thursday didn’t have too many unexpected moments thanks to pre-event leaks, but the confirmed details of the new phablet, along with its specs, made us question the future of the Note line within the Samsung product line.
The first Samsung Galaxy Note was launched in 2011, and at the time many people felt that the 5.3-inch screen meant the phone was too big to hold comfortably. It felt comically oversized at a time when the iPhone 4S was the reigning king, with a 3.5-inch screen. The Samsung Galaxy SII was an inch smaller than the Note, with a 4.3-inch screen.
Whether you liked the Note or not, in 2011 you had to admit that it was an atypical product that really stood out. Over the years, the “phablet” category would continue to grow, driven by demand in markets like India and China. Soon there was a growing wave of homegrown brands making phones with screens larger than 5 inches.
Over the years, the Note became a premium product quite distinct from its S-series siblings, and as we noted in our Galaxy Note 4 review, with a uniquely looking device that represented the high end for Samsung. , in terms of design, specs and – thanks to the S-Pen – even functionality.
The new Note 5 seems to erode that legacy though, and the results don’t look good if you’re a Note enthusiast.
For one thing, the Note 5’s design looks like a very basic retread of the Samsung Galaxy S6’s look. Our Galaxy S6 review praises the phone, but also notes that the Galaxy S6 feels like a missed opportunity in terms of breakout design. With new materials and new priorities, Samsung could have gone in some exciting directions, but the Galaxy S6 not only carries over most of the style of its predecessors, but at the same time manages to look like it’s borrowed clues to Sony and Apple.
The Note 5 meanwhile resembles a larger S6, ditching the textured back and features like a removable battery – and also reducing the size of the battery – in order to look much more like the S6 than its direct predecessor, the Note 4.
(Also see: Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S6 vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 4)
This becomes more apparent when you compare the three phones. The new Note is slightly lighter and has a slightly smaller battery, and like the S6 it doesn’t have a removable battery. Like the S6, the Note 5 also lacks the microSD card slot you’ll find in the Note 4. Sure, there are technical benefits to these changes, but people are already complaining about them.
It retains the 5.7-inch screen size, so it’s still bigger than the S6 by a fair margin, but as the base sizes of phones keep increasing, how long will that stay? it an important factor?
Then there is the issue of specs. The Note 4 was very different from the Samsung Galaxy S5, with a higher resolution, more powerful processor, more RAM and more storage, to name just a few key differences.
The Note 5 and the Galaxy S6, on the other hand, have very few notable differences. Both run at the same display resolution and are both powered by an octa-core Exynos 7420 1.5GHz processor and have 32GB of internal storage. The only difference on paper is that the Note 5 has 4GB of RAM, while the S6 has 3GB. This means that the only significant difference between the two phones today is the inclusion of the S-Pen with Note 5.
And with phones getting bigger and bigger (as Apple fans learned last year), small differences could easily disappear, too. For this reason, we have to wonder – is Samsung’s Galaxy Note family becoming an afterthought, of its once prime position? It certainly looks like that.