Some renders have emerged that suggest Samsung’s “other” flagship phone will see only minor hardware revisions in its latest iteration. The Note 5, it appears, will follow closely from the Note 4. But honestly, that’s a really good thing.
With the Note phones, what Samsung has managed to do is spearhead a new part of the market. No one did big phones to much success before the Note, and I remember laughing a lot when the first one was launched. My tune had changed by the time I used it, and when the second rolled around my friend James had managed to sell me so comprehensively on it that I had to have one.
Having established the Note as somewhat of a flagship device, it seems that Samsung wants to keep this phone a little less controversial than the S6 and S6 Edge. For example, I’d be very surprised if the company took away the removable battery and microSD card on this phone, if anything the Note is more of a fanboy device than the Galaxy S is, so to do so would spell trouble for the firm.
On the other hand, I think there’s a really good chance Samsung will switch away from Qualcomm again on the Note. That makes sense as Samsung has had no real problems with the processors in the Galaxy S6, its first high-end phone to totally shun Qualcomm in some time. I don’t really buy into the idea that the Snapdragon 810 overheats – the Sony Xperia Z3+ issues are something else, and Sony has always had heat problems in the Z series. Qualcomm’s issue now is one of perception, and that has become a real problem with the 810.
Even if the hardware was just a minor upgrade from the Note 4, it seems like the big deal for Samsung at the moment is software. The S6, for example, has cut down dramatically on the things that power users like me dislike, which is that extra bloat and customisation found on most Android phones of old. If you haven’t seen the S6, it’s worth taking a look just to see the effort that Samsung has gone to with the OS. It’s not perfect of course, but it’s a step in the right direction.
The Note 5 is likely to incorporate many of the other features. Samsung will want its Pay service on there, especially with Apple and Google’s payment services gather momentum. It feels like this aspect of the S6 has failed to make any headway yet. Rumours suggest it will launch in the US and Korea in H2 this year, but time will tell if that’s accurate. Every moment Samsung waits though it will lose ground to Google. Apple Pay isn’t a competitor here, but Google might spoil Samsung’s service if it gains more ground.
Personally I’m more interested in seeing the camera features make the move from the S6 to the Note 5. The fast-start access from the home button has, weirdly, proven to be a really nice feature about the S6, and one I really struggle with when I use other phones now. Samsung has also nailed the camera on the S6 to the point where it leads in both benchmarks and in subjective terms.
Samsung will also need to move the Note over to the same fingerprint scanner as is in the S6. I’ll be honest, the fingerprint scanner in the Note 4 is just awful, and was easily my least favourite aspect of that phone. The S6 addresses it, and while I think the iPhone still leads here, I think Samsung has the scanner to the point where most people would be happy to use it.
I’m also interested to see what happens with wireless charging on the Note. Samsung has tended to ignore this feature but included it with the S6 and added support for both Qi and Powermat charging, which is nifty and a first. I really hope Samsung doesn’t leave it out of the Note 5, as again it was one of the things I liked best about the S6, and something that is really handy if you just want to plonk the phone on a charging mat and have it charge.
So while the design leak for the Note 5 doesn’t exactly scream “major changes ahead” from the rooftops, it looks like the sort of stability that Samsung needs in its popular phone. I’ve spoken before about Samsung’s surprise at the way the Note took off. It was only ever supposed to be a niche device but it has become much more of that.
Whatever you believe about the S6 sales – it’s hard to judge without actually having official numbers – the Note 5 may be an even more important part of Samsung’s portfolio from now on. And let’s be honest, choice is a good thing.