written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
Samsung is pulling out all the stops with their flagship line of Galaxy devices. After the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge were released this past Spring, they continue to look to the horizon. The August 13th event showcased some key new releases for the brand, part and par for the course is the eventual refresh of the Galaxy Note line with its fifth installment coming soon, but a few other products deserve some recognition here… let’s touch a bit on what makes Samsung, to me, a true innovator in the smart phone space.
Bigger, Faster, Stronger…
The Note 5 is coming, and while last year’s Note 4 was an incremental upgrade from the previous year’s Note 3, the Note 5 is packing some serious bells and whistles. The most compelling feature is the size of the new device. From the initial demo shown on screen, though I can’t stand by these claims since I am yet to hold one, the Note 5 will feature more screen with less phone. My biggest complaint after having the Note 4, and what eventually led me to forsake it for the Galaxy S6, was the bulky size of the device. One handed operation was a bloody chore and while I loved the ability to have such a big phone when it came to movies and games, I felt the trade off was a slightly awkward feel when in hand, more screen but less phone deliver what smart phone enthusiasts want (a large brilliant screen) while making the device easier to hold. A curved back with a luxurious feel thanks to the all metal and glass enclosure are a major step up from the plastic backs of previous Samsung devices. While for the android enthusiasts who loved the ability to swap out batteries and expand memory, this may be a major deal breaker, but for myself… previously owned every iPhone until the 5S when I jumped ship, this is a major plus in my book. Plastic phones always felt cheap to me, one reason I’m so in love with my Galaxy S6 is how luxurious it feels in my hand. Your smart phone isn’t just a tech device, but a fashion statement… wouldn’t you want to look your best?
Speaking of the S6, the Unpacked event also unveiled another device in the Galaxy family. Seemingly borrowing from the iPhone’s formula of creating a bigger device, the Galaxy S6 is getting a “plus” version as well, specifically the Galaxy S6 Edge. The S6 Edge+ is a bit wider than the Note 5, but features the same sized display, essentially looking like the S6 Edge’s big brother. Now, I just switched over the the S6 Edge but I’m already thinking of hopping back over to the phablet side of the fence… just for this phone. Thankfully I’m on T-Mobile’s “Jump on Demand” program that allows me to swap out my phone up to 5 times in an 18-month period.
Missing from the show was a refresh of the Galaxy Note 4 Edge. When I first saw the Note 4, I was torn between whether or not to get the Edge variant or the standard (I opted for standard… mostly because the Edge was delayed). I felt it was a good choice and the creation of the Note 4 Edge felt kind of gimmicky, like Samsung was testing the waters with edge screen technology and how they would integrate it. With the S6 Edge+ it seems like for the phablet family, going forward, the Galaxy brand will continue to feature both a smaller sized device in both the standard and edge variant, while keeping the Note as the phablet+stylus device in the Galaxy line.
Speaking of the S-Pen, personally… I rarely used it it myself, but when I did… man it was useful. Having the S6 Edge, I miss how I can take notes on the fly as I did on my Note 4. The biggest change in the S-Pen is the ability to write on your screen when the phone is locked. This dramatically speeds up productivity, allowing you to jot something down without having to navigate to an app on your device. The fact I was forced to navigate to a note taking app is what kept me from utilizing the S-Pen more often. Plus… a satisfying “clicking” mechanism just feels like it’ll be so damn cool.
Taking A Page From Apple
Apple Pay is everywhere, and while in countries like Japan and Korea, paying with your phone via NFC has been commonplace since the days of clamshell-flips, it wasn’t until Apple Pay pushed forward with their payment system that it started making strides in the US. Following suit, Samsung is developing their own payment service… ceremoniously dubbed Samsung Pay (real creative there guys).
Where Samsung Pay gets exciting is in the use and execution. Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and even the soon-to-be-unveiled Android Pay all rely on an NFC signal to transmit your data to the merchant. Samsung Pay will allow you to use your cards with virtually any device that can already swipe credit and debit cards. This is achieved through a tiny coil built in to the Galaxy S6 and forthcoming S6+ and Note 5 that transmits the magnetic data to the EFT terminal in the same fashion as would a conventional swipe. It’s called Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST for short) and while I won’t get into the nitty gritty on it, The Verge posted a great article outlining how it works, this is monumental for Samsung Pay, instantly making it virtually accepted anywhere… even places where Apple Pay and Google Wallet are not accepted. This can also store loyalty cards (like a QFC or Qdoba card) and Merchant Gift Cards, pretty much urging you to say bye-bye to that wallet.
This is exciting, and will definitely be a feature I plan to use at launch. I’m curious to see how retailers with more strict policies like warehouse clubs (i.e. Costco and Sam’s Club) will deal with the technology.
The Wearable to Keep Me in the Galaxy Fam!
As the show closes, we get a quick glimpse at the next version of Samsung’s Galaxy eneabled wearable. The Galaxy Gear S2 is a far cry from the curved wearable released last year, featuring a round face as opposed to the more futuristic look of the previous years, I’m excited to try this out.
Originally I was going to get a Gear S the day I got my S6, so glad I held off because this announcement made the Gear S2 a day one buy, I’d rather wait for the new and shiny than get last year’s model… yes I’m that kind of tech nerd.
Exciting stuff coming from Samsung this fall, I originally left the iOS eco system because I was disheartened by the lack of innovation Apple’s flagship smartphone had every year. Originally I stepped into the HTC camp, and while I dug my HTC One M8, it had serious issues with longevity… mostly with the plastic screen over the camera getting scratched too easily and the phone’s battery life diminishing drastically the longer I owned it. Jumping ship to the Samsung side of the fence was the best decision I made, in the span of owning smartphones at least, and if this Unpacked event is any indication… the future of the Galaxy brand is bright indeed, here’s hoping the market share follows suit with all the excitement.
As a bit of a final statement, I gotta give it up to the team over at the T-Mobile store in the Crown Hill neighborhood of Seattle. I originally wasn’t on the “Jump on Demand” program, but thanks to their due diligence and a lot of time spent in their store on Monday, I got my new phone and JOD dammit got into the program with ease… of course that’s after all the issues we had to deal with on the customer care side of it… but hey, that’s what made these folks so damn awesome, and why I brought em a box of cookies. So if you are ever in the Crown Hill neighborhood of Seattle and pop by the T-Mobile store on 15th, bring em a cookie and tell em Lifted Geek’s Prince sent ya.