This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Samsung took the smartphone world abuzz yesterday by unleashing its most advanced phones to date, the Galaxy Note5 and S6 edge+. The newest warrior to join the S Pen-wielding team is without a doubt the most advanced handset to come be released by Samsung, as it packs specs that are nothing short of impressive, top-of-the-line design, as well as features and functionalities that can be found on hardly any other devices. Along with it, Samsung also unleashed a super-sized Galaxy S6 edge that is rolling under the S6 edge+ moniker and aims to capture the attention of those who love sleek curves. While its design is certainly the highlight here, the largest Samsung phone with a curved display is also packing a punch.
As we spent August 13 focusing on Samsung's Unpacked event, we've had more than enough time to get intimate with the specs sheets, feature lists, and notable new highlights of the two new superphones in town. Hence, we decided to sum up our impressions about the Galaxy Note5 and the S6 edge.+
About the Galaxy Note5: The Samsung Galaxy Note5 appears to be a worthwhile update to Sammy's high-end phablet line. For those who use their phone for everything, the Note5 is a powerful tool thanks to the S Pen and the huge 5.7-inch display. Samsung could have added a microSD slot and IP certification, but that really is nit picking at this point. If you use your smartphone for any kind of work related to diagrams, charts, sketches or art, the Samsung Galaxy Note5 is the most logical choice.
About the Galaxy S6 edge+: Does the world really need a larger screened version of the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge? HTC has discovered that producing too many variants of the same phone is not a productive strategy. I can understand the Samsung Galaxy S6 Active because that model protects the device from drops, spills, etc. But why cannibalize two phones? The Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ might take sales from the Galaxy Note5 and the Galaxy S6 edge.
That said, the Galaxy S6 edge+ contains the same appealing qualities found in the smaller version of the phone. Truthfully, if you need a larger screen, why not just pick up the Galaxy Note5?
About the Galaxy Note5: While the Samsung faithful are busy being overly harsh, I've been trying my best to keep an open mind and consider what's on offer with the Note5. And it's not little — a more attractive design, improved S Pen for those who'd make use of it (I wouldn't), ever better performance in terms of speed and imaging, and a much de-bloated TouchWiz experience. And while Note 4 owners are quick to knock down the Note5, I've got to say that the new interface alone is enough reason for me to upgrade. Old TouchWiz is my least favorite thing.
About the Galaxy S6 edge+: It's hard to put into words how I feel about the Galaxy S6 edge+, it being an engorged Galaxy S6 edge and little else. Not only that, but the darn thing is actually replacing the Note5 in some important regions (like Europe), and that just doesn't feel right. In fact, it feels like sacrilege on Samsung's part, but I somehow still blame the S6 edge+. In all, the S6 edge+ is the less attractive 'successor' if we could tag it as one, for some of the important (to me) improvements of Samsung phone-making were already available with the S6 edge. If you really, really liked the S6 edge for its design, though, but its screen diagonal was the disappointing part, I expect you're jumping up and down right now. That is, unless you already bought into something else, in which case I imagine Samsung is not a topic of civil discussion for you right now.
About the Galaxy Note5: The Galaxy Note5 is undoubtedly the best phone that Samsung has produced to date, and the best phablet there is, period. Not only is it laden with the most potent mobile chipset at the moment, one of the best cameras, and a unique S Pen stylus for added convenience to your grocery shopping, but all that jazz is finally wrapped in a slim and stylish unibody, crafted with exquisite materials. We are certain that Samsung will keep the Note5 in line with its premium pricing policy, but this latest representative of the venerable phablet line of the world's largest phone maker has the beach body to show for it this time, so it might earn a place in the heart of wider audience than the usual specs-centric geeky crowd, too.
About the Galaxy S6 edge+: The Galaxy S6 edge+ will be a godsend for those of us who were intrigued by the unique interface interactions that a side-sloping flexible display can bring, and yet couldn't stomach a "mere" 5.1" display diagonal. Granted, Samsung is obviously still experimenting with ways to make its innovative plastic substrate panels bring added value in everyday operations, but even without the App Edge and People Edge quick launch options, the S6 edge+ is one mean and powerful media machine that will stay futureproof for the foreseable horizon. The only downside is that owning a piece of the future is not going to come cheap.
About the Galaxy Note5: Admittedly, the Galaxy Note5 is the most premium looking Note to date, thanks to the fact that it uses the same glass and metal design that Samsung introduced with the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge. However, this combination of materials is definitely not for me (and I'm not the only one who seems to dislike it), as it makes phones slippery and prone to fingerprints. It seems that the Note5 is saying something like: "look at how beautiful I am... but don't touch me, or you'll be disappointed." Of course, since it packs the latest and greatest features that Samsung can currently offer, the new Galaxy Note will undoubtedly have lots of fans, even if it lacks things that some users are considering essential, like microSD card support. I don't think Note 4 owners will be too keen to upgrade to the Note5, though owners of older Notes (or users who are interested in getting their first high-end, extra-large, and expensive smartphone) might see the new Note as a near-perfect device.
About the Galaxy S6 edge+: While I like the 5.1-inch Galaxy S6 edge for its unique aspect, the larger, 5.7-inch S6 edge+ doesn't attract me. Save for the bigger screen, the S6 edge+ doesn't really offer anything new, while also diminishing the uniqueness of the original S6 edge. Then again, plenty of users want larger screens no matter what - obviously, that's why Samsung made the S6 edge+ in the first place.
About the Galaxy Note5: A lot of the thunder is still coming from the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 edge from earlier this year. Before its unveiling, we kind of knew that Samsung would employ a very similar design language with the Note 5. On one hand, it's still gorgeous from a visual standpoint, and incredibly powerful with its roster of features, but for the most part, everything about it is evolutionary - not really revolutionary. In contrast to the Note 4, we continue to see Samsung's "less is more" approach, which not only stays true with its software features, but also extends to the hardware itself. Gone are the microSD card slot, IR blaster, and removable battery.
About the Galaxy S6 edge+: As for the Galaxy S6 edge+, it's not accompanied with the same level of anticipation and excitement I had with the standard S6 edge. Quite simply, it all boils down to size. So if you wanted the S6 edge in a larger format, the S6 edge+ answers that concern. While there are edge features unique to the S6 edge+, I would certainly hope that the S6 edge would receive the same set sometime in the future.
And lastly, let me talk about pricing! These phones are expensive! This has been the year of mid-range premium phones that sold me on what they're capable of. Devices like the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3, Microsoft Lumia 640 XL, Asus Zenfone 2, and Moto G 2015 have shown us that budget phones can deliver top-notch performances. Now that many of the carriers are eliminating contract prices entirely, I think consumers will be more conscious and smarter about picking their phones. There's a huge disparity between $180 and $800+ for a phone.
About the Galaxy Note5: Technology and design-wise, the Galaxy Note5 is the finest Note phablet to date, no doubt. But the caveats cannot be understated. The lack of expandable storage and the limited availability, in particular, are the kind of problem areas that better design, an upgraded S-Pen, and a handful of other minor improvements cannot really make up for. For many of you, the Galaxy Note 4 might still be the best Note phablet Samsung released.
About the Galaxy S6 edge+: What irks me about the oversized S6 Edge is that it's a product born not out of innovation aspirations, but rather out of a marketing spreadsheet.
Samsung needed a premium big screen smartphone that targeted the average, multimedia-loving citizen, rather than the productivity-oriented business class. Thus, Sammy filled this empty spot in its lineup in the most predictably corporate way!
It upsized the Galaxy S6 edge in the most economical, effortless fashion, and handed it to the markets where Note devices didn't sell very well. Rather than stand on its own with a unique device like the Note 5, Samsung basically went copycat on the Apple iPhone 6 Plus.
But it's the way it goes - the market works on sales numbers, not on pride. Besides, not everyone wants a Note - in fact, the S6 Edge+ will probably turn many heads from customers that simply look for an attractive big-screen smartphone.
About the Galaxy Note5: Samsung produces so many products it is difficult to keep up, and sometimes I wonder if Samsung is able to keep up with itself. I really like the new design language that Samsung has applied to line of Galaxy flagship devices. The build quality is solid, the displays are beautiful, and the cameras are stellar. It looks to me that Samsung has kept the majority of that formula intact with the new Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+.
I get the Note 5, it is a fine sequel in the phablet space, and it does not try to reinvent the wheel with crazy features. Perhaps the best new feature is the ability to just take an S-pen note while the phone screen is off, a great way to scribble something down in a hurry. That piece alone I think perfectly rounds out the use-case for the S-pen.
About the Galaxy S6 edge+: When it comes to the Galaxy S6 edge+ though, I don't get it. The form factor of the curved screen lends itself to one-handed use, and the larger device makes that more difficult. I also see less value for a much higher price tag, especially when compared to the Note 5.
It would have been nice if Samsung explored design ideas that would allow for front-facing speakers, especially since the latest AMOLED panels just beg for media consumption, but that's not really the end of the world. What is a big damper for me though is TouchWiz. I like how Samsung has lightened the load with the UI, but it always seemed to find ways to stutter or delay for no apparent reason on my Galaxy S6, whom these devices share a number of components with.
About the Galaxy Note5: I have always thought of the previous Galaxy Note handsets as ideal for productivity-minded users, but it looks to me like the new Note5 just doesn't fit the bill anymore, and it's all because of Samsung's decisions in terms of battery. To me, a small and non-removable battery is the worst possible combination for people who want to get work done on a smartphone. Fit in a long-lasting battery and power users won't mind that they can't swap it for a fresh one when the juice runs out. Make it removable, and they probably won't mind that it doesn't last very long.
But make the battery both small and non-removable, and the Note loses its appeal as a productivity workhorse. On the other hand, it will probably be unmatched in terms of raw performance (benchmark results already hint at this), the S-Pen has learned a few neat tricks, the display cannot be anything less than awesome, and I also like the fact that it's the most compact Note smartphone to date in relation to its screen size. TL;DR version: Man, oh man, the battery...
About the Galaxy S6 edge+: Design and build-wise, I feel that the original Galaxy S6 edge is the coolest smartphone around. I just love glass and metal sandwiches, and the curved edges add an appeal that no other smartphone can match. Since the Galaxy S6 edge+ is really just a larger version of the original S6 edge, I really think that it's the best-looking phablet currently out there. It's also fast, very thin, has a great display, and it's very compact for a 5.7-inch smartphone. It may sound strange given what I think about the Note5, but I don't feel like the S6 edge+ lost character since large, user-removable batteries and microSD card support are really for productivity-minded users. TL;DR version: Coolest phablet around!
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About the Galaxy Note5: I can't deny that I'm excited about the Samsung Galaxy Note5, but at the same time, I have mixed feelings about the next big thing. On one hand, I know that it is going to rock. After all, the Note 4 was a pretty solid phone, and I doubt that its successor would disappoint in any way. But on the other hand, I sure hope that the Note5 won't become the laggy mess the Note 4 turned into after a month of use (at least in my case). Thankfully, that seems unlikely given the potent hardware it is rocking. Speaking of potent hardware, one thing I'm looking forward to testing is the Galaxy Note5's camera. The Note 4's weak link was the camera app, and that seems to have been taken care of. However, I am not a fan of the glass back design. Yes, it is kind of pretty, but I find it highly impractical with its shiny, slippery surface. Still, who knows, it might grow on me over time.
About the Galaxy S6 edge+: Nah, I'll pass on this one. That dual-curved screen does make heads turn, but can't impress me when it serves no practical use whatsoever. On top of it all, the edges make an already large phone even more difficult to hold.
About the Galaxy Note5: Aside from having a really impressive screen-to-body ratio, I can't say the Note5 is a giant leap forward for Samsung's phablet line. Sure, it boasts the powerful Exynos 7420 and 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM, which makes it look like a future-proof powerhorse. However, the Note 4 is still a pretty mighty flagship in its own right, and I am confident that if Samsung would push the snappy, new TouchWiz to it (Sammy probably won't, though), it would remain a pretty potent handset throughout 2016. I also can't get on board with the glass back on the Note5. It was fine for the smaller Galaxy S6 / S6 edge, but that slippery material may cause a bit of trouble on a phablet-class device. I really liked the faux-leather on the older Notes and think that the Note 4 / Note Edge design language already looked good enough - there was no need to make the jump to Galaxy S6-level shiny.
About the Galaxy S6 edge+: I just can't see why the Galaxy S6 edge+ was a smartphone that needed to exist, especially instead of a Note Edge 2. The dual-curved screen of the former offers limited unique features, and that was perfectly fine for the smaller, more "mainstream" Galaxy S6 edge. However, when you step into the realm of phablets, at least in my opinion, you step in the realm of power users and multitaskers.
The Note Edge had a tight niche, that's true, but was appreciated for the extra functionality, ease of multitasking, no small thanks to its various panels, and the S Pen. The latter is entirely absent in the Galaxy S6 edge+, which may be yet another disappointment in the eyes of Samsung phablet fans. In my opinion, Samsung is hoping that it would mimic the (allegedly unexpected) success of the Galaxy S6 edge, but I find that hard to believe. Let's wait and see.
About the Galaxy Note5: I'm disappointed with Samsung. First, it stripped the Galaxy lineup from two staple features (you know what I'm talking about, don't you), and now, it stripped the Note family from these as well. Tsk tsk, not good in my book! While it's an upgrade in a lot of areas compared with the Note 4, certain corners have been cut, and that's something that beats me. Why would Samsung shoot itself in the foot by striping its arguably most advanced and feature-packed line of phones from a number of important features and reducing the battery capacity? That's the million dollar question, and the answer to it is rather simple: in Sammy's camp, it's form over function. As a former fan of Samsung, I don't feel that this is the right path in the long run.
About the Galaxy S6 edge+: The way I see it, Samsung unveiled an S6 edge+, but lost the edge. Admit it, the curved screen is a gimmick and it doesn't impress me a bit, as the display doesn't offer any significant bump in terms of added features or functionality. The device is merely a rehash of a formula that is working for the time being, but after a while, the appeal of the curved display will certainly fade away. It's merely an emergency move aiming to attract those naysayers that have been chanting "Samsung's design is ugly! Ditch the hideous plastic!" all along, while alienating the core Samsung customerbase in the meantime. I am not impressed with the S6 edge+ and it doesn't appeal to me at all; that's the way the cookie crumbles, and this cookie is not my thing.
About the Galaxy Note5: The Note5 officially arrived yesterday, and I'm kind of saddened by the fact that it failed to surprise us in any way. Yes, it's the best Note ever, but this fact alone has never cut it for me. Losing much of its character, Samsung's hardcore smartphone line has now parted ways with customer favorites like the microSD card slot and user-replaceable battery. What's more, the IR blaster has also been forgotten somewhere along the way from the Note 4 to the Note5. All that is bound to create some unrest among the ranks of Samsung fans. So, what are we looking at? Samsung trying to one-up Apple at its own game? Doesn't really seem like a wise move.
About the Galaxy S6 edge+: As a product, the Galaxy S6 edge+ actually makes more sense to me than the new Note, and that's funny, considering the only major thing to differentiate it from the Note5 is the lack of stylus. Oh yeah, it also has a curved screen; I almost forgot about it. While the Note5 no longer seems to know if it wants to be a Note or an S, the S6 edge+ is exactly what it says – a big S6 edge. Whether or not that's a good thing, I'll leave for you to decide. At least it doesn't confuse me as far as its general concept goes.
About the Galaxy Note5: I find it hard to get too excited about the Samsung Galaxy Note5: it looks just like a supersized Galaxy S6 with the S Pen stylus that I've never found any practical use for. Like many pundits, I'm also not too happy to see Samsung do away with expandable storage and removable batteries, two features that I find essential to extending the life of a smartphone.
About the Galaxy S6 edge+: The handset I'm definitely more excited about is the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+. The dual-edge display might not be a big productivity booster, but to me, it's just a cool-looking thing that will get better with time. Unlike the Note5, the Galaxy S6 edge+'s compromises with expandable storage and lack of removable battery actually result in a very thin device, which also makes a huge difference in daily use. And given the fact that this will be the main phone sold in international markets (the Note5 might be sold only in the United States), I'm wondering whether Samsung itself hasn't abandoned the S Pen idea in favor of a new era of design-centric, stylish devices...