It’s worth taking note of Samsung again. Sorry, that was terrible. But it’s true. Let me explain.
- Power for the power users
I’ve never been a Note customer because of my love of diminutive mobile computers, but have always admired the endurance in the past. After the Note 7 debacle, however, the Samsung phablet battery life crown has slipped quite considerably. All that changes now, though. The brute force approach of a 4 000 mAh cell paired with fast and fast wireless charging should do well to restore the Note 9 to its powerhouse glory. Then there’s the addition of clever new water and carbon cooling alongside the enlarged heat pipe that should keep the phone’s internal environment temperature under control, further benefiting battery life.
- Turning up the volume
A screen experience can only be so immersive, then you need an equally involving audio experience. In comes the stereo speaker set-up first debuted on the Galaxy S9 – co-opting the earpiece as a loudspeaker to help out the bottom-firing speaker. Audio output is tuned by Samsung-owned AKG and there’s Dolby Atmos on top for extra loudness and quality.
- Screen expansion
You’ll notice a trend of ideas borrowed from the S9 refinement over the S8 with regards to the Note 9 design improvements over the Note 8, like the same design trick. Slightly smaller top and bottom bezels bump up the screen size to 6,4-inches on the diagonal. It’s a little (half a millimeter or so) shorter and wider (about 1,5 mm) than the model it replaces and the screen curve is also slightly less dramatic. This feels like a beefier handset, which is really comforting.
- Mightier S-Pen
The S-Pen makes the Note. This year we get the regular sensitivity enhancements (4069 degrees of pressure)plus Bluetooth LE connectivity that turns the button on the S-Pen into a remote control. Samsung SA are offering “welcome packs” for pre-orders which include a tripod, which makes the idea of using the pen to control your camera shutter a lot more appealing. You can also skip tracks, pause and play media and flip through PowerPoint presentations… which brings us neatly to:
- Streamlined DeX
I’m a big DeX fan, possibly the only person in the country who really sees the potential. And now you can enable DeX with just a USB type-C to HDMI adapter. Going from phone to desktop experience is now easier than ever. I would prefer it if DeX could be integrated into wireless screen casting, but this is progress. Yes I am well aware that Huawei do this exact trick on the Mate 10 and P20 family, but the DeX integration with Microsoft Office and Adobe creative software is a better solution for my workflow.
- Faster internals
Note 9 gains the Exynos 9810 processing powers from the S9 and we can debate all day about how the new chip was a step backwards for battery optimisation, but the power gains are well worth it. For sheer number crunching the CPU is excellent, but it is susceptible to extreme thermal throttling. Faster LTE speeds (1,2 gbps with 4×4 MIMO) and better antennas will genuinely improve the overall user experience. And while 6GB RAM on the standard unit is in line with the current trend, offering an 8GB RAM/512 GB storage version for R5 000 more than the base model does gives a handy upgrade option for those who need a bit more power.
- Dual-SIM options
For certain units – unsure of the model availability – you can option a different SIM tray that can accept a second SIM instead of a microSD card. This is a play for the Indian market where Samsung is failing miserably and worth investigating.
- “Sensible” pricing
There will be more powerful phones this year with Apple still to launch a rumored plus-sized iPhone X with new internals and Huawei already on the seven nanometer process train, but those devices will break R20 000. At R19 000 for all the features you could possibly want is great pricing strategy. You will not get a more feature complete device than this. The camera is good enough, battery is big enough, all of the biometrics, all of the charging methods and a very mature ecosystem.
- Samsung finally plays its IoT ecosystem hand
SmartThings should be the dominant smart home platform by now, but Samsung’s reluctance to get into bed with Google leaves it dead in the water until it can offer something desirable for consumers. A deeply-integrated music partnership with Spotify may just be that thing. Samsung announced the Galaxy Home Bixby-enabled smart speaker and will also be taking Spotify to its other devices like the Family Hub fridge. Seamless transfer of music – remember that Samsung owns Harman, a company with over 50 per cent market share in connected car infrastructure – is enough to make me, a Spotify naysayer, take notice. Hell, integrating the streaming service into the native music player may solve the biggest problems I have with the service: unintuitive UX design and relatively small catalogue.
The Galaxy Note 9 is an important device for Samsung in the wake of slow S9 sales and overall growth. I think it’s a good answer and perfectly timed to pick up Note users who jumped ship when the Note 7 went up in flames and are coming up on two years on their contracts now.
The Galaxy Note 9 will be available in three colours: Ocean blue, Midnight Black and Metallic Copper.