With glass, metal, and a number of hardware improvements, Samsung Electronics is hoping to entice consumers to spend big on its latest smartphones with large screens, the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+.
When Samsung launched the first Galaxy Note, few believed the concept would work, but the company correctly predicted the appetite for large screens, in what are often called phablets. Now, though, it faces an arguably bigger challenge: convincing people to pay top dollar for the Note 5 and S6 Edge+ as other competitors have given up on charging as much for their top models as Apple does.
Samsung is "betting big" on smartphone owners using the devices as multimedia consumers and multitaskers, Samsung Electronics CEO Stan Shin said.
Samsung has taken the designs it premiered on the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge earlier this year and enlarged them. The Note 5 and S6 Edge+ also have a glass back and a metal frame, which give them a classier look than previous Galaxy Note products.
However, this new level of luxury once again comes with a few drawbacks: Neither of the models are water-resistant, have a user-replaceable battery, or have a MicroSD card slot.
The battery capacity is 3,000mAh, slightly smaller than the Galaxy Note 4's 3,220mAh. Samsung partially makes up for that with quick charging and a power efficient processor. The devices also have wireless charging capabilities.
The decision to exclude expandable storage makes the new models stand out from a majority of their Android-based competition. Vendors such as Sony, LG, HTC, Motorola Mobility, Huawei Technologies, and Asus have all included MicroSD card slots in their latest models. OnePlus and Xiaomi are siding with Samsung's view that expandable storage is no longer needed. Apple has never offered such expansion.
The rest of the Note 5 and S6 Edge+ specifications include the same Samsung-designed octa-core processor used in the existing Galaxy S6, with 32GB or 64GB of integrated storage and, for the first time, 4GB of RAM. Add to that a 16-megapixel camera on the back and a 5-megapixel camera on the front. A fingerprint sensor is also included.
The screen size on both models has remained unchanged from the Note 3 and Note 4 at about 5.7 inches, and the resolution has stayed at 1440 by 2560 pixels. The quad-high-definition resolution is starting to make sense on the larger screens, and is one of main strengths of the Note 5 and S6 Edge+.
After a slow start with last year's launch of the Galaxy S5, Samsung's bet on a screen with curved edges caught on with the S6 Edge. Unfortunately, Samsung underestimated demand for that model, and only had a limited supply available, according to analysts.
The company is now hoping to build on that momentum with the S6 Edge+. The curved screen helps it stand out from other smartphones, but Samsung is still struggling to come up with effective ways of using that feature. The S6 Edge+ has an "apps edge" for easy access to favorite apps, and an enhanced "people edge" for easy communications with preferred contacts, the company said.
For users that want Samsung's S Pen, the Note 5 is the model to buy. With every generation, Samsung has improved the accuracy of the pen to make it more useful, and it has improved its feel to be more solid and balanced in the user's hand, Samsung claims.
Both the Note 5 and S6 Edge+ will be available in stores in the U.S. and Canada on August 21 and globally later this month though the Note 5 will not be sold in Europe.
Pricing wasn't immediately available, but both newcomers are expected to come with big price tags. As a frame of reference, the Note Edge with 32GB of storage costs $840 without a contract from U.S. mobile operator Sprint's website.