Samsung’s announcements last week don’t have long until release, but before that happens, we’ve gone hands on with a preview.
Phones do some pretty impressive things these days that they couldn’t do ten years ago, but the evolution is hardly revolutionary anymore. In fact, these days, you have to do quite a bit to get the world’s attention.
Marketing can do a lot, but features will be the very thing that grab the customers, and with the latest Samsung phone and tablet, that appears to be what the company responsible for the “Galaxy” products is pinning things on, introducing the ninth edition of one and the fourth of the other.
We’ve already gone through the specs of each with their respective announcements, so what are they like hands on?
Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9
Without doubt, the biggest part of this week’s briefing was the star of the show, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9.
We already know the Note 9 is the most powerful device in Samsung’s arsenal, running the same processor as the Galaxy S9 and S9+, but upping the memory and storage to either 6GB and 128GB, or a staggering 8GB and 512GB respectively. Both are positively huge, with the 128GB starting out the line-up and providing a massive amount of storage, while its sibling offers a size virtually no phones arrive in.
But while the storage and power are one thing, the reason people come to the new Note will likely be the pen.
“The S Pen is the main reason customers remain loyal to the Note,” said Garry McGregor, Vice President of Mobile at Samsung in Australia.
“This product has forced us to bring our A game,” he said.
That “A” game is to turn the pen of the Note into something more than just what it is now, with the scribbling, drawing, and note taking abilities pushed a little further thanks to Bluetooth and the button on the pen.
There’s now a battery in the S Pen that will be recharged when it’s thrown back into the Note, and that battery powers the Bluetooth Low Energy feature of the Note 9’s S Pen.
Bluetooth being used on the Note 9 pen means the stylus can be used as an accessory without the screen, such as a remote release for the Note 9’s camera (which works better than we expected), or to flick the slides on a Note 9-powered presentation hooked up to a screen (which is how Samsung ran the briefing).
Perhaps the most exciting part of how the Note 9’s pen has been designed is that these two ideas are only the beginning, and with Bluetooth on-board and an API being provided for developers, there are lots of opportunities for how the new S Pen can be used.
Outside of that, the Note 9 does feel solid in the hands, and while you’re not likely to notice the extra 0.1 inch, rest assured that the screen on offer is bigger and helps to hold in Samsung’s biggest battery yet, sitting at 4000mAh.
That should be enough for a day, and possibly then some, though we’ll have to wait until the review unit rocks up, which given the release next week, shouldn’t be long at all.
Previewing the Galaxy Tab S4
We also spent a few minutes with Samsung’s next tablet, the Galaxy Tab S4.
It’s an area most phone makers have given up, and Samsung is one of the last players competing with the iPad, in an area clearly led by Apple.
This year’s take on the tablet looks more like a Galaxy phone, complete with a glass back holding the new innards, and a few new tricks.
For starters, Samsung’s desktop experience DeX is built directly inside, and activates when the keyboard is attached. That means when you use the keyboard case with the Galaxy Tab S4, Android becomes more like a proper desktop, with support for apps in windows, rather than just apps running full-screen or in multi-tasking side-by-side windows.
You can experience DeX with Galaxy S8, S8+, Note 8, S9, or S9+ phone attached to a DeX dock (and the Note 9 shortly), and while the dock turns the phone into a computer, we rather like the idea of an Android tablet feeling more like a proper computer.
While iOS 11 helped to make the iPad work better in a productive way, the few Android tablets out there just don’t have that, and Android tends to be focused entirely on phones.
However, with the introduction of DeX on the Tab S4, Samsung might be onto something, and there might finally be a reason to actually make Android worth using in a tablet environment.
A glance at the Samsung Galaxy Watch
Samsung’s Australian briefing on the Note 9 and Tab S4 wasn’t just left to phones and tablets, though, with a showing of the Gear S3’s successor, the Galaxy Watch.
And the good news is this: if you liked the Gear S3, you’re probably going to like the Galaxy Watch, too.
Tested this week, the watch offers a clear AMOLED touchscreen display complete with Samsung’s circular rotational bezel, keeping with the Samsung method of offering two ways to control the watch: touch and the circular wheel surround the phone.
Aside for that, the screen looks bright and the bands look nice, and while we didn’t get to put the Galaxy Watch through its paces, Samsung has said that it’s basically military grade, able to go swimming and dropped. That’s a good thing, because health and wellness apps are being emphasised here, and Samsung is saying it should track the various stages of sleep, too.
Battery life is the other big plus, with a big change here. The bigger watch will rock up with up to four days from regular use, while the smaller model will see closer to two to three, though you may see more depending on how much you use the watch.
In Australia, the Galaxy Watch should even have connectivity without the phone, with Samsung telling journalists this week that it is in talks with all the major carriers to support its eSIM-equipped Galaxy Watch.
When can I expect the Note 9, the Tab S4, and the new Galaxy Watch?
Depending on when you want each, there may not be long at all, though you also may be in for a wait.
Both Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy Tab S4 will see the same release day, with August 24 being the date you’ll find these out.
Samsung did say that its presale offer on the Note 9 has helped to drive early sales already, with the 512GB model running at the same price as the 128GB ahead of official release, and that means you might see stock shortages of the Note 9 at launch.
Meanwhile, the Galaxy Watch will have a little longer to go, with a release expected in October.