The Samsung Galaxy Note 6 won't be with us for several months — but that doesn't mean we can't offer up a few early predictions.
With the Galaxy S7 released, reviewed and being snapped up by smartphone buyers around the world, it's time to turn our attention to what's next from Samsung — the Galaxy Note 6. At the time of writing, nothing has been announced, and nothing noteworthy has leaked out about the inevitable sixth-generation version of Samsung's popular stylus-equipped handset. But based on the direction of current Samsung's 2016 products — and the general trends within the industry — it's possible to infer a few things about what Samsung's next big thing.
Galaxy Note 6 Water resistance, removable storage, wireless charging
As in previous years, we'd expect the Galaxy Note 6 to adopt many of the tentpole features of the current Samsung standard-bearer, the Galaxy S7. That means wireless charging (already introduced in the Note 5, water resistance, and microSD expandability are all highly likely to feature in the Note 6.
This would fit with Samsung's track record of using its smaller handsets as a baseline and expanding upon them with the Note line.
Galaxy Note 6 Battery and internals
Samsung has made a concerted effort to boost its battery capacity in the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, so we wouldn't be surprised to see the Note 6 packing a battery substantially larger than the 3,000mAh cell of the Note 5.
Given the likely size increase relative to the GS7 edge (a phone with a 3,600mAh battery), a capacity of 4,000mAh wouldn't be out of the question, assuming the proportions stay roughly the same.
As for the other internals, it's pretty much inevitable that Samsung will cherry-pick the best Exynos or Qualcomm Snapdragon chips at the time, as it has in previous years. The only question is whether it'll have an upgraded Exynos 8 Octa chip ready in time (so far nothing has been announced), or whether Qualcomm will have refreshed Snapdragon 820 silicon ready to go for fall 2016 devices (again, nothing has been announced.)
Galaxy Note 6 Screen size and resolution
As for screen size, the past three Note handsets have stayed put at 5.7 inches — large enough for an enjoyable big-screen experience, but not excessively hefty. While another 5.7-inch Note is a good bet, another possibility is that the existence of the 5.5-inch GS7 edge may prompt the firm to push to a slightly larger screen size — perhaps 5.8 inches. Given the razor-slim horizontal bezels of the regular Galaxy S7, the company may even be able to bump the screen size further without making it noticeably wider.
A 4K Note might seem crazy — until you consider the implications for VR.
The case for pushing smartphone screen resolution beyond the current high-end standard of Quad HD — 2560x1440 — hasn't been particularly strong up to now. Sony claimed a world first with the 4K-capable Xperia Z5 Premium, however this phone operated in 1080p mode most of the time.
Assuming Samsung is able to mass-produce a 4K SuperAMOLED display for the Note 6 without sacrificing brightness, color quality or battery life — and that's still a very big assumption to make — there's one big reason why a 4K screen might make sense for the next Note. Samsung has been pushing Gear VR in a big way over the past year, with a VR-based launch event for the Galaxy S7, and free headsets for pre-order customers. Smartphone display density is a big, huge limiting factor for VR, so a 4K Note 6 would be able to offer much sharper visuals than Samsung's current handsets. (For regular apps that don't need insane pixel density, Samsung could follow Sony's lead and render this stuff at Quad HD.)
Will the benefits for VR — and 4K gameplay and photo viewing — outweight the technical challenges? We'll have to wait and see.
Galaxy Note 6 Software possibilities
Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Note 6 would ship with a software experience similar to that of the Galaxy S7 series. That would mean perhaps a slight visual refresh, one or two new features centered around multitasking and the S Pen, and perhaps some cross-pollination with Samsung's expanded Edge Screen functions.
Android N could be with us by August — and that may affect what we see on the Note 6.
But with the likelihood of final Android N code being with device makers much earlier than in previous years, it's possible (but far from guaranteed) Samsung may be able to ship the next version of Android on the Note 6. Samsung has certainly had early Android N code for far longer than the first public N Developer Preview has been available. Its own developer documentation, first published in February, refers to APIs to be deprecated "in N."
In finalizing the new APIs and releasing "stable" builds of Android N earlier in the year than in previous cycles, Google might be looking to avoid the situation that normally occurs with Android phones shipping in the Fall — new devices arriving on store shelves with an old version of the OS. If that's the goal, what better candidate to lead the charge than a new Galaxy Note?
Speculation aside, it's far more likely that Samsung will stick to the tried-and-true approach and ship the Galaxy Note 6 with the latest version of Marshmallow at the time of launch. Nevertheless, Android N arriving on a wave of late-2016 phones including the Note 6 isn't outside the realm of possibility.
Galaxy Note 6 in Europe?
To the chagrin of many, Samsung chose not to offer the Galaxy Note 5 in Europe, instead selling the GS6 edge+ in European countries. This was followed by a near reversal of the decision — sources tell AC that a European Note 5 launch was on the cards for January 2016, before the plug was once again pulled.
So what of the chances of the Galaxy Note 6 suffering the same fate? Well, it seems highly unlikely that Samsung would release a Galaxy S7 edge+, given that this year's GS7 edge already sports a 5.5-inch display. So instead, the Galaxy Note line might well make a triumphant return to European shelves this fall. Of course nothing is guaranteed until it's officially announced, but we're crossing our fingers.
Galaxy Note 6 Camera
Samsung has renewed its focus on low-light photography in the Galaxy S7 series, so there's a good chance this "low-light camera," as the company is calling it, will also make the transition across to the next Galaxy Note. So at the very least, Note 6 buyers will be getting a proven smartphone camera.
It's too early for the details of any new image sensor technologies from Samsung or Sony (both of whom supply sensors for the Galaxy S6, Note 5 and S7) to become known. Based on features we've seen from Samsung's competitors though, possibilities for future handsets could include laser autofocus — already being used by LG, ASUS, Google and others — and further improvements to lenses and optical image stabilization (OIS) components.
Galaxy Note 6 MicroUSB or USB-C?
A move to USB Type-C will have to coincide with new Gear VR hardware.
Many high-end Android phones in 2016 will ship with new-style USB Type-C ports. However Samsung's Galaxy S7 devices are sticking with the older microUSB standard, in order to maintain compatibility with a range of existing accessories, including the strategically important Gear VR.
So if Samsung chooses the Note 6 as the product to make the jump to USB-C, it'll have to release a new Gear VR at the same time, and start transitioning its other accessories over to the new standard. And as we've discussed previously, there are plenty of reasons why it might not be worth it yet.
With no reliable leaked info to go on, this one's still 50-50 in our opinion.
Galaxy Note 6 Release date
The only thing we can say with any certainty right now is that the Note 6 should arrive sometime in the latter half of 2016.
In 2015, Samsung chose to release the Note 5 earlier than in previous years, with a separate mid-August launch event ahead of the IFA tradeshow which usually welcomes new Note handsets. This allowed the firm to launch the Note 5 (and GS6 edge+) ahead of Apple's iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. Assuming Apple sticks to its usual September timeframe for the iPhone 7, Samsung might well want to go early again in 2016.
The other wildcard is Android N, if Samsung does choose to launch the next Note with the new version of Android. (Again, that's a very big "if.") And if another August launch is on the cards, that's going to be cutting it close, as the current Android N roadmap points to the developer preview program wrapping up in July or August.
Stay tuned to Android Central in the months ahead for all the news on the Galaxy Note 6 as release approaches!