It's almost time for a new Galaxy Note ...
We're just a few weeks out from IFA 2014, the annual consumer electronics show held in Berlin, Germany, each September. And for the past three years, the highlight of the week for Android fans has been Samsung's Galaxy Note devices — the line of half-phone, half-tablet hybrids with Wacom-enabled stylus input. The Note line has gone from a quirky sideshow in Samsung's Galaxy range to a series of handsets that's seen a surprising level of mainstream success.
This year, Samsung's Unpacked 2014 Part 2 invite leaves little to the imagination, telling us to "note the date" alongside a graphic that looks like the Note 3's Air Command menu. So we're pretty much guaranteed to see the Galaxy Note 4 in the next month, but what form is it likely to take? Let's dive in.
The Galaxy Note 4 display
Note devices have always featured larger-than-average displays, going from 5.3 to 5.5 to 5.7 inches over the past three years. This time around, however, there are signs that Samsung might not attempt to push the display size any higher, instead focusing on an increase in resolution. Leaked documentation points to a 5.7-inch 1440p (QHD, or 2K) SuperAMOLED display.
However big the Note 4's screen ends up being, the move to a QHD panel is virtually guaranteed. Samsung has already deployed this screen resolution in the Korea-only Galaxy S5 Broadband LTE-A, and it's arguable that such a high resolution makes more sense in an oversized handset. If Samsung did ship such a panel in the Note 4, it would boast an enormous 515 pixels per inch.
The Korea Times also reports that a version with a curved screen may also be offered in "niche markets" with a traditional flat SuperAMOLED purportedly used elsewhere. Such a device would follow in the footsteps of Samsung's Galaxy Round, which only ever saw the light of day in the company's home market of South Korea.
The Galaxy Note 4 specs
The Note line has also given Samsung a way to take advantage of advancements in computational power in the second half of the year. As such, it's little surprise to shiny new Exynos and Snapdragon chips touted as possible Note 4 candidates.
In the European market, reports from SamMobile point to a homegrown Exynos 5433 chip being used in the SM-N910F variant, a chip believed to house four ARM Cortex A57 cores and four A53s in a big.LITTLE configuration, along with a Mali-T760 GPU.
In the U.S. and Asia, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 805 CPU — a chip we've already seen handling a 2K display in the GS5 Broadband LTE-A — is apparently the processor of choice. That would be paired with Qualcomm's Adreno 420 GPU, which can output 4K video to external displays.
So once again we're looking at two hardware variants hitting different markets, one with a Qualcomm-made CPU, the other with a Samsung SoC. In either case, expect the Note 4 to be fast.
The other interesting rumors surrounding the Note 4's internal hardware has to do with its camera setup. The front-facer is apparently unchanged from the Galaxy S5, but there's talk of a 16-megapixel rear camera with OIS (optical image stabilization), allegedly a Sony-build unit. Optical stabilization might make the Note 4's camera a better low-light performer than the GS5, which has to rely on software stabilization instead in darker conditions.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 hardware tricks
Samsung introduced water- and dust- resistance to its flagship line with the Galaxy S5, along with a fingerprint scanner on the home button and a rear-mounted heart rate monitor. It's unclear which of these might make it across to the new Note, but given that Samsung has already incorporated fingerprint tech into its latest tablets, that one's a good bet.
Another interesting possibility comes to us via SamMobile, which claims that the Note 4 will feature an ultraviolet light sensor designed to protect users against sunburn and potential skin damage. The feature would reportedly be rolled into the S Health app alongside existing features like the heart rate sensor and pedometer.
That's on top of the usual Wacom-based S Pen magic, of course. And it'll be interesting to see whether Samsung has augmented its already substantial loadout of pen-based features in the Note 4.
Metal or plastic?
With every high-end Samsung device there are rumors that the company will switch from the usual all-plastic chassis and use a metal-framed design. And with recent leaks of the Galaxy Alpha things look, finally, to be heading in that direction. It's unclear whether Samsung would adopt a metal-based design in a device as large as the new Note, however. As phones like the HTC One Max proved, using metal in a "phablet" class device has the potential to add considerable weight.
Galaxy Note 4 availability
In previous years Samsung has launched each new Note handset within a few weeks of its pre-IFA announcement. This time around it has an added incentive for a fast turnaround — Apple's looming iPhone 6, rumored to come in 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch varieties. Getting its product out ahead of its arch-rival's would be an early win for Samsung, especially as it looks to shake off recent decline in profits.
We still don't know a whole lot ...
Samsung has typically done a good job of avoiding any serious pre-release leaks of its Note devices. Specs are one thing, but we rarely get any solid info on the features or design of new Notes ahead of their announcement. So be sure to to take all this stuff with a pinch of salt, as nothing's official until it's officially announced.
Join us live from Berlin and New York for the expected Galaxy Note 4 launch at Samsung Unpacked 2014 Episode 2 on Wednesday, Sept. 3.