Samsung unveiled its latest premium smartphone with the Galaxy Note9 at an event in Brooklyn in a bid to offer the best performance on the biggest screen.
At 6.4-inches, the Note9’s Super AMOLED display is the largest Samsung has produced on a smartphone to date. Its design isn’t all that different from its predecessor, and borrows heavily from the Galaxy S9 and S9+ that came to market earlier this year. You might consider this an evolutionary step from both the Note 8 and S9, tweaking and adding, rather than drastically changing.
Maintaining the look
Granted, this phone’s screen is only marginally bigger than last year’s model, with the same aspect ratio. It’s curved, and is otherwise pretty much the same as you’d expect from a Note handset. The glossy all-glass back is back, only this time punctuated by a fingerprint sensor that is below the camera lenses.
You do get two lenses, one of which is a 2x optical zoom. Everything else has been carried over from the Galaxy S9/S9+. The mechanical aperture that switches between f/1.5 and f/2.4 has been included. In Auto mode, it switches automatically, depending on shooting conditions. In Pro mode, you can switch it yourself.
The Super Slo-Mo mode is also included, allowing you to capture a slow-motion video at 960fps. AR Emojis, that mode letting you create an animated emoji of yourself or other supported characters, is also in here. Essentially, the camera interface and features are the same as the Galaxy S9/S9+.
One of the only notable differences is a Scene Optimizer that applies to the Auto mode. It recognizes up to 20 different settings, like food, street, sunset, pets and people, among others, and adjusts settings accordingly.
Another is a flaw detector that will point out if something’s wrong with a photo. Did it turn out blurry, did someone blink or is the backlighting too strong? That sort of thing. The idea is that users can know right away that they need to retake the shot even before viewing it.
Storage space and power
The base Note9 will come with 128GB of internal storage, making it pretty sizeable out of the box. With the microSD card slot, you can expand that up to another 500GB.
Beyond that, Samsung didn’t delve into too much detail about the specs inside. There is a 4000mAh battery inside that the company expects will keep the device going longer per charge. The processor, RAM and other components are supposed to boost performance, though only further testing will bear that out.
In case you were wondering, there is a headphone jack, situated at the bottom next to the USB-C port. Everything is, more or less, where it was before, so putting this side-by-side with a Note 8, the resemblance will be strong.
S Pen does more
The Note’s S Pen has improved over time when it comes to writing performance, but now it has more flexibility. Using Bluetooth Low Energy, the pen can act as a remote to control the phone’s camera. Holding down the button can launch the camera, while clicking once can snap a photo, or double-click to start recording a video. That can be handy when shooting a group photo or taking a selfie.
More than that, it can play or pause a video or music. Or even act as a clicker for a presentation running off the phone. Samsung says it will open this up to developers to come up with other use cases for it.
Since it needs to run on a battery to manage these wireless features, it will last up to 200 clicks or 30 minutes (whichever comes first) per charge. The good news is that putting it back in its holster for about 40 seconds will fully charge it back again. The reason it’s able to pull that off is because of the fast charger inside.
For those who have used Note phones before, but only sparingly used the pen, this could make things interesting. The possibilities for enabling the S Pen to be more than just a writing tool hold some potential. Time will tell.
Samsung has pushed its DeX platform as a means to getting a desktop-like experience from a compatible phone. Previously, it would have required using the DeX docking station to connect to a monitor or TV to do it. With the Note9, much of that hardware is built-in, meaning you could plug the phone to a monitor using an adapter that has HDMI on one end and USB-C on the other.
From there, you can use the phone’s screen as a trackpad to move the mouse around, and even type in text through the keyboard. DeX is already built-in to Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S4 tablet, where you can switch between the standard Android tablet interface and DeX’s PC. Using a keyboard, Bluetooth mouse and its own S Pen, you can treat it like a 2-in-1 convertible.
It’s not a feature that may resonate with most Note9 users, given its about productivity, but it is in there if you want it.
Samsung continues to try evolving Bixby into something viable as a voice assistant. During the event, demos showed how users could make restaurant reservations or order a ride-sharing vehicle to go to a set destination.
In addition, the company confirmed a partnership with Spotify, which will enable the service’s subscribers to request music by voice. It’s not entirely clear to what extent that integration will work, but it may be similar to how Bixby already works with Google Play Music.
Though four colours were unveiled, only the ocean blue and midnight black versions will be available in Canada. Pre-orders are already underway. If you do pre-order the Note9 by August 23, you will get a free pair of Samsung’s Gear IconX true wireless earbuds, too.
The Note9 officially launches August 24.