For all the unpredictability of the minute details, the broad strokes of the mobile industry are, generally speaking, fairly easy to predict on a year-by-year basis. Big manufacturers are habitual creatures, by and large, and we're at the stage in the year now where we have a pretty good idea of what to expect in the next few months; new devices from Google (Nexus) and Motorola will be major points for the remainder of the summer, while going into Autumn the focus is very much on September for a brand new batch of iPhones, as well as new launches from Samsung.
Chief amongst Samsung's crop is the Galaxy Note 5. Samsung launches a new Galaxy Note phablet every year at the IFA expo in Berlin, Germany, which takes place every September. While some rumours have pointed to an earlier launch, the firm has consistently denied this, stating it will be in attendence at the German event with a new Note handset in tow. Still, reports of a launch in August still persist – and Samsung has been known to tell porkies in the past.
“The new fifth-generation Note will premiere at a special event in the U.S., although the city has yet to be decided, the source said,” reports Apple Insider. “Samsung had traditonally timed phone announcements for large industry conferences, such as IFA Berlin or spring's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The Galaxy Note 5 could signal the company joining the likes of Apple, Google, and Microsoft, which prefer their own press events for major products.”
The Galaxy Note series, for the longest time, was where Samsung did all of its innovating. The Galaxy Note, for instance, was the first handset to get split-screen multitasking. It was also the first to popularise a stylus and, since about 2013, has been the absolute de facto champ when it comes to battery life in Samsung’s stable of smartphones. However, now it appears Apple is borrowing some ideas from the company it loves to accuse of copying its design language. iOS 9 will feature a new mode on iPad that’ll allow users to run two applications at once on the display. Sound familiar? It should –– Samsung and Microsoft have been doing this for years now.
And if you’re expecting the Galaxy Note 5 to feature microSD, well, don’t go getting your hopes up. According to reports from both SamMobile and GSM Arena, Samsung is keen to continue what it started with its Galaxy S6 line inside its Note range, meaning a switch to faster UFS 2.0 memory, which can write and read data almost two times faster than eMMC 5.0.
“A microSD slot would simply be a detriment when it comes to things like storing apps, photos and other media; the reality that microSD cards will one day be unable to keep up with inbuilt flash storage has been a long time coming, and UFS 2.0 is simply too good to be able to coexist peacefully with an SD card,” said the report.
Having said that – most people use microSD for films and media and not, as the above report seems focussed on, applications. For the most part people use microSD to access pictures and videos – or, just to expand the storage of their device.
1. Stunning Premium Design
In short, the Galaxy Note 5 will almost certainly align VERY closely with the Galaxy S6 in terms of overall shape. It will, naturally, be bigger, to accommodate a larger display, but it probably won’t be massive, because Samsung has effectively “capped” the Note series at 5.7in for the last few models while keeping the bezels razor-thin and surrounding bodywork tight-fitting; making for a nicely compact phablet , as they come. Samsung does NOT want a massive, oversized, Nexus 6-like beast on its hands (or in anyone else’s).
We already saw last year’s Galaxy Note 4 land with a metal frame, and as the Galaxy S6 has this too we can be pretty certain this will return on the Note 5. Then, keeping the ties with the Galaxy S6 we are likely looking at glass panels on front and back rather than the old faux leather plastic we saw on the last couple of Note handsets.
What else could change? Well generally speaking the “thinner, lighter” mantra is a good one to follow, although it does run into trouble with certain display sizes, and power hungry display (QHD) and processor tech which needs big battery cells. However, Samsung’s use of its super-fast, super-cool, super-power-efficient 14 nanometer Exynos octa-core processor in the Galaxy S6 has produced a very svelte bodyshell together with some damn impressive battery life from a comparatively low milliamp-hour cell. In other words, Samsung’s figured out a pretty good hardware optimisation setup which could allow for the Note 5 to be a nicely thin, lightweight and relatively compact phablet without sacrificing performance, display prowess, or battery life. Winner.
There have now been plenty of leaks of details from insiders (usually via SamMobile or nowhereelse.fr - both reliable sources), renders, cases, and various other images that all correlate pretty well by this stage. We have a good idea that the Galaxy Note 5 will look a bit like a giant inverted Galaxy S6 EDGE; by that we mean it will have a flat front and display, with a metal frame and a rear glass panel design that features curved edges like the display of the Galaxy S6 EDGE.
2. Gorgeous Display
Oh it’s going to be good. It’s going to be very, very good. Samsung has consistently delivered some of the best displays on the market for a while now. It had a few teething problems with complaints of PenTile fuzziness and poor colour accuracy earlier on, but the company listened to the critics and upped its game - and we honestly can’t remember the last time we saw a top-tier Samsung display that failed to impress. Super AMOLED keeps going from strength to strength with excellent colour accuracy and contrast, as well as brightness levels and viewing angles that make the phones a joy to use in virtually all conditions.
According to the most recent reports the Galaxy Note 5 will feature flat (as in non-EDGE) Super AMOLED display measuring 5.7in and with a 2560 x 1440 QHD resolution.
3. Processing POWER
This is a big deal. As mentioned earlier, Samsung almost always uses the same CPU inside its Galaxy Note phablet as whatever it used inside the Galaxy S launched in that year.
For the Galaxy S6 this year, however, Samsung parted ways with Qualcomm and exclusively used its own hardware: an Exynos 7420, 64-bit octa-core chipset built on 14 nanometer FinFet production processes.
This thing is insanely fast, runs cooler, and is much kinder to battery life than pretty much anything else on the market. So, yeah, it’s promising that this will likely appear inside the Note 5.
However, Samsung may have something beefier in store for the Galaxy Note 5. According to a report from reputable and reliable source SamMobile the Galaxy Note 5 will feature an upgraded Exynos 7422 chipset. Why's that significant? Well allegedly this will be Samsung's first foray into an "all-in-one-solution (ePoP)" with an integrated modem. CPU, GPU, RAM and storage on one SoC. On top of this the report claims Samsung is also testing using an Exynos 7430 chip, but it has "no plans" to release this model as it's just an engineering tester. Subsequent reports have also apparently confirmed the presence of 4GB of RAM aboard this all-in-one SoC.
4. Multitasking & Stylus Features Galore
This is the cornerstone of the Galaxy Note series and what really makes it stand out as THE phablet to go with in a sea of other phablets trying to keep up, but failing to deliver by offering nothing more than an inconveniently over-large display. It’s not just about the big screen, it’s about a gorgeous big screen with some software tweaks to make the most of it, and a handy little S-Pen stylus to let you do oh-so-much more.
Samsung teams up with Wacom, the undisputed master of the capacitive stylus space, to produce the most sensitive, accurate, and flexible stylus experience we’ve ever seen anywhere. Period. Handwriting recognition and pressure sensitivity simply works, and works very well indeed. You can actually sketch, annotate, and take notes effectively to your heart’s content. Meanwhile, Samsung’s unique UI changes allow you to split the massive display between apps, or create small windowed applets; it’s close to a desktop like experience, and that’s great on a handheld device with a big ol’ screen and super accurate touch.
All of these elements have become progressively more impressive with each iteration, the stylus has become more accurate and sensitive, the software has become more intelligent and easy-to-use, with more thoughtful, useful features added each time.
Word has now emerged that Samsung has patented some new software features in the US, specifically, the patent covers directly annotating PDF documents on a smart device with a stylus.
The feature, dubbed "Write On PDF", was described thusly in the patent filing:
"computer application software for mobile phones, smart phones, tablet computers, portable media players and handheld computers, enabling users to annotate and save PDF documents, images and files."
Multiple Chinese news publications are reporting that not only will this feature come aboard the Galaxy Note 5, but so too will a new improved S-Pen stylus. SamMobile has also chimed in saying that the new stylus will look and handle more like a genuine pen, and multiple leaked images imply it will fit flush into the bodywork with some kind of pop-out auto-release mechanism.
According to a report from SamMobile, Samsung is in the process of "testing and fine-tuning" the Note 5 web browsing experience. It seems an HTML5 test database showed a Samsung device dubbed "ZenZero" based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop and running a previously unseen version of Samsung's own browser application; version 3.2, which is a step up from the build on the Galaxy S6 (version 3.0). The use of the "ZenZero" name also aligns the device with rumorus of the Note 5 named as Project Zen.
5. BIG Battery Life
Battery life on the last few Galaxy Note handsets has been top notch, partly because they’re bigger devices with room for bigger battery cells, and, in the case of the Note 4, because Samsung introduced its awesome Ultra Power Saving mode which has almost always got your back if you do make use of it. But, with the Note 5 we have the prospect of combining these already impressive features with what appears to be an extremely battery-friendly processor; the 14 nanometer Exynos 7420. The Galaxy S6 already displays fantastic battery life on this hardware and the Note nearly always upstages the flagship, so we’re expecting great things, potentially some of the best battery performance ever!
Samsung’s level of mastery over software and hardware is now almost equal to Apple’s. The Korean giant makes its own chips, the brilliant Exynos 7420, and boasts one of the best, most-fluid Android overlays in town. This level of control and optimisation means truly excellent performance and brilliant power management.
During our tests we expected the Galaxy S6 to slump after six hours or so, but the handset has the chops to go all day long thanks to its awesome 14nm Exynos 7420 chipset and clever power management. If Samsung can do something similar with the Galaxy Note 5 we could be looking at one of the best battery performers in the business.
Excited is an understatement. Roll on September!