Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

Commentary


In recent years, Samsung has captured the global lead in smartphone sales, and stood alone as the colossus of Android — the only Android hardware maker successful enough and profitable enough to go toe to toe with Apple.

But the Korean giant’s smartphone sales dropped last quarter. And the smartphone market as a whole seems to have hit a pause in the kind of big innovation that gets consumers excited.

Meanwhile, Samsung’s archrival Apple will suck the oxygen out of the tech media next week, with a flashy event in its hometown of Cupertino, Calif. Apple is expected to roll out two new iPhones, which will finally be of the large-screen variety that has sold so well for Samsung. It’s also expected to unveil its first wearable device, something Samsung has already done, but with little success. And it is rumored to be announcing a phone-based payment system that, if done right, could make its new iPhones more attractive.

So, this morning, in New York, Samsung struck first. It didn’t just introduce a new standard model in its popular stylus-based Galaxy Note line of phones, as it usually does around this time of year. It also unveiled three more unusual products: A phone with a screen that’s curved at one edge to display icons and information, a smartwatch that can connect to a cell network all by itself and virtual-reality goggles that are powered by a phone.

Virtual-reality goggles powered by a phone

Virtual-reality goggles powered by a phone

While I’ve only spent a short time with these devices, they look interesting, and could certainly appeal to some groups of users. But I’m not sure they change enough of what a phone is about, for enough people, to support the message Samsung says it wants to send.

The main message is that Samsung is a leader in innovation, in design and in pleasing customers.

The subtext: Smartphones and their accessories are even cooler than before, and you need a new one, even if we sell it at premium prices (this will also be part of Apple’s message, of course).

To me, the most initially intriguing of the products is the phone with the curved screen, the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge. The right vertical edge of the screen curves down around the side of the phone, and is treated like a very thin second display. So, for instance, it can show a column of small icons that launch your favorite apps. Or it can display a one-line crawl of headlines or sports scores from Yahoo. It can also show notifications, or a slender alarm clock when the phone is lying flat on your nightstand.

Maybe it will take the world by storm. But I found myself wondering how much it would improve life with my phone. I don’t really have trouble finding my favorite app icons. While it would be nice to set notifications off to the side, I’m still unlikely to be able to prevent them from interrupting me.

Samsung Galaxy Edge in clock mode

Samsung Galaxy Edge in clock mode

Plus, in typical Samsung fashion, there’s a whole rabbit hole of settings for doing different things with this curved part of the screen. Software curation remains a weak point for Samsung.

Oh, and the Edge will cost even more than the standard Galaxy Note, which itself typically costs more than the Galaxy S model, which outsells the Note in the U.S., and is usually regarded here as the head-to-head competitor to the latest iPhone.

As for the Galaxy Gear S watch and Gear VR goggles, the former is still large, and is expected to have a relatively short battery life. The latter is likely to appeal to a limited number of people, and Samsung was vague about how many games and other virtual-reality content it will be able to offer, and when.

I’m not saying that Samsung doesn’t deserve credit for making new and different things. It does. Heck, even the most familiar of the new devices, the Galaxy Note 4, has some nice features for stylus lovers, like the ability to shrink and move around app windows, an improved camera, a sharper screen and a better pen.

Making things better or different is good. But I’m not sure this latest crop from Samsung, other than the Note 4, will provide the kind of positive jolt Samsung is looking for.



7 comments
Novajohn
Novajohn

Dear Samsung engineers:

If I was to hold this phone with my right hand, how would I be able to see all the icons on the right edge of the phone and be able to click on one of those icons with my right thumb?

Thanks,

Curious J.

erk.mobi
erk.mobi

I was delighted with the possibility of what this 'ticker glass dimension' can do for some industries. Samsung is doing well on leveraging its strengths on both industrial design and in marketing. What I do see Samsung desperately need is to think how it can deliver solutions at institutional levels, to deliver full fledged packages for big buyers. For example, I have see how insurance applications were applied in S.Korea and its worth is barely touched outside of the home country. I'd be curious to see who fills the gap that Blackberry and MSFT left in terms of B2B space as well as the intersection between the Govt, Enterprises, and collective societies.

jbelkin
jbelkin

If it's running Android, it's value is like WIN PC's to Mac PC's - about 33%. People will accept it as long as they don't pay more than 33% of an iPhone. That's not to say there aren't a few hundred thousand anti-Apple users and a few hundred thousand Samsung fans who will buy it regardless at full price that samsung insists on thinking their brand is as valued as Apple's but after a few week, it'll fall to BOGO or $99. As noted, you can buy smartphones in China for $9 USD so that's where Samsung is headed with the rest of the Android smartphone market - a race to the bottom - at least WIN PC makers had 15 years to make serious money before the bottom fell out - the Android market - 2 years?

Eideard
Eideard

Only a casual interest - I already have beaucoup confidence in Apple's ability to meet my needs - in depth and ahead of the curve. But, I wonder if Samsung is doing itself any favors by moving towards their own OS - which means moving a chunk of product away from Android?

For cheapskates, Android is generally good enough. There never were any powerusers for VCRs, either. Meanwhile, of all the electronics in my life there is none more frustrating, with poor utility, than my Samsung "Smart" TV.

Having been part of two successful class actions against Samsung for lousy QC in their TV sets, I've already decided to leave the brand. That perfect Samsung pixel shape and definition becomes meaningless with 4K - even with uprezzed 1080i. The mediocre OS included as a so-called feature reinforces that decision.

So, is their new OS too simple to screw up or does it bode well for Samsung's trial run at innovation? Or is it a flop?

J Peters
J Peters

@Eideard  I'm not a Samsung or Android fan but you make a lot of points that are not correct. For example, Samsung is not moving away from Android to their own OS. In fact, this was abandoned. Then you mention "for cheapskates, Android is generally good enough." I'm sorry but when did a Galaxy product become a thrift product? It's a premium Android product. Don't fool yourself, just because you're a sucker and pay a high price for Apple product doesn't mean squat. In fact, Apple's products cost less to make than Samsung's. What's worse, you're fooled into thinking Apple has better specs by their marketing ploy when it's not true. Again, I'm not an Android or Samsung fan and don't own any of these products. Just pointing out your BS.

Lisha
Lisha

@J Peters @Eideard I would add that you're refuting Eideard's opinion with your own opinion.

For many people, and this is something which statistics bear out year after year, merely having iOS on your device is worth a premium. The fact that an Android device like the Galaxy S4 is priced equally as premium only makes it more of a joke and less of a bargain in that case.

He may be off on the "cheapskates" remark, but spot on about Android itself.

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