A Note 4 that trades the metal design for an interestingly-curved display
So say you like the size and S Pen functionality of the Note series, but want something a little different to set you apart from every other big phone out there. Well, here's Samsung's answer to that user group: the Galaxy Note Edge. It's a plastic-clad version of the Note 4, with all of the same great perks — QHD display, S Pen, 16MP OIS camera — of the latest generation, but with the added twist that it has an extended portion of the display that's curved over its right edge.
That's right, the Note Edge makes use of a curved AMOLED display, but rather than distributing the curve gently across the entire panel — akin to the Galaxy Round — it uses it sharply on just one edge. That rounded edge offers you another way to multitask, with small amounts of information occupying the rounded portion while the rest of the display shows a full-screen app.
It's a pretty awesome idea, and one that we haven't seen executed to this effect until now. Read along for our full hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge.
Galaxy Note Edge hands-on video
Sometimes seeing is believing. Before we get into all of the details, take a look at our first hands-on video with the Note Edge.
The look and feel
The curve is dramatic ... and it's only on one side of the phone.
Your eyes do not deceive you — the Note Edge's screen really does have that dramatic of a curve along its right side. And we should be clear that the curve is only along the right edge — the rest of the phone is shaped no different than the Note 4 it was announced with. The other edges, bezels and back are all of a standard design, letting you focus on that unique display shape.
The Note Edge's display is actually slightly wider than the one on the Note 4, with 160 pixels of extra width devoted to the curved portion — dubbed the "Edge Screen." That means you're getting a "full" 5.6-inch display, but one that simply has a little extra bit on the side that's curved over the right edge. (Samsung actually defines the resolution as 2560 x 1440 + 160.)
You're giving up a metal frame to get that curved Edge Screen.
In contrast to the Note 4, the Note Edge is made of plastic rather than metal. It takes on very similar design characteristics, with the shiny edges and accent pieces, but loses the metal frame for polished plastic bits instead. It's also more of a "standard" rounded square shape, dropping the bulged-out corners of the Note 4. Due to the curved side the power button shifts up to the top edge as well, which may cause some usability issues considering its overall size though the Note Edge is technically a couple millimeters shorter than the Note 4. From the back the devices look nearly identical, with a camera pod, heart rate sensor, speaker and S Pen slot all in the usual places.
There's something you just can't quite get over when looking at the Note Edge, and that's the asymmetrical design. Having a phone that isn't the same on both sides is a bit jarring, particularly when considering that when the curved portion of the display is in use it shifts the screen over to the left just enough to notice. The curved right edge makes it awkward to hold in your right hand at first as well, which is the more noteworthy part of the design.
What you can do with the curved display
The Edge Screen is meant to provide secondary information at all times.
This all begs the question: what exactly can you do with the rounded edge of the display? Before we get too carried away making comparisons to the Samsung Continuum, the Note Edge actually does offer a few neat things you can accomplish with it. The basic concept of the curved portion of the display is to offer you passive or secondary information while you're using your phone as you normally would, reducing your reliance on the multitasking key.
At any time, even while using full-screen apps, a swipe in from the right edge of the display expands the Edge Screen. The main view of the Edge Screen is an app launcher, which looks nearly identical to the Multi Window app launcher found on previous Samsung devices. You can customize the app launcher, and use it to switch between apps at any time. This app launcher takes place of the regular "dock" setup of icons at the bottom of the home screen, freeing up that space for more content.
An additional swipe to the left starts to cycle through different panels (apps, if you will) that do various things. Right now you have your choice of about a dozen different panels, of which you can have seven enabled at any given time, but Samsung will make it easy (according to them) for developers to make panels of their own for you to download.
Available panels include music player controls, an S Health overview showing steps and calories burned, a status panel with weather, missed calls and messages, a Twitter panel showing trends and more. Samsung has partnered with Yahoo to offer up Finance, News and Sports panels, if that's your sort of thing. There's also a toolbox panel of sorts that offers up quick buttons that turn the panel into a ruler (yes, really), stopwatch, timer, flashlight and voice recorder.
Different panels do different things, but they're all pretty basic right now.
Some panels, like the Yahoo, S Health and Twitter ones, will open up your browser or appropriate app in full screen when tapped. Others, like the music controls and toolbox, will simply operate independently alone in the Edge Screen area. Beyond the standard panels, there are also two separate features that the Edge Screen has to offer. One is a persistent "Express me" panel that you can customize with a wallpaper, photos and different effects (it's as basic as it sounds). The second is a nighttime alarm clock, which simply displays a dim time and date on the Edge Screen when the rest of the screen is turned off.
Considering that this is a usage paradigm that hasn't really existed before, it takes some time to get used to. Knowing which panels will do which things, how to move between them and most of all how to avoid accidentally hitting the Edge Screen when you're trying to do something else is a tough thing to learn, and it will take some time before we know how natural it can end up feeling.
How it lines up next to the Note 4
Which do you choose? Well, it depends how much you like that curve.
Being a member of the Note series, announced alongside the Note 4 and sharing nearly all the same specs, it's a valid question to wonder where the Note Edge fits alongside the Note 4. Samsung is apparently positioning the Note Edge as its highest-tier device, despite the fact that it lacks the more premium metal design. The one aspect in which the Note Edge edges out the Note 4 is in internal storage by having a 64GB option available, and of course paired with what can definitely be described as an interesting and innovative feature in its curved display.
On the software front, beside the separate Edge Screen interaction there's little difference between the Note Edge and Note 4. You still get the full suite of S Pen features, new Multi Window changes, Ultra Power Saving Mode and everything you've come to love (or hate) about Samsung's software offerings.
Much more to come
The Note Edge will be available on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon later this year (sorry, nothing more specific is known). Pricing wasn't immediately announced by the carriers. As for color choices, we're looking at just black and white for this one.
We're just scratching the finely-rounded surface here on the Note Edge, with far more coverage to come as we spend more time with our hands on one of the latest Note devices. Be sure to check back with us for continued coverage.