NEW YORK—There’s a delicate line between a feature that is gimmicky and one that’s functional or innovative. Samsung appears to be straddling the edge of that border with the new Galaxy Note Edge smartphone that I’ve been reviewing for a few days—and that hits some stores Friday.
Note Edge is so named because of the curvy display that cascades along the right edge of the screen to provide information or icons that behave independently or in concert with stuff that appears on the main portion of the screen.
We’ve been hearing about curved displays for some time now; here’s one of the first devices to exploit this in a potentially useful way, at least some of the time.
The latest phablet is modeled after its close sibling the Galaxy Note 4 that I favorably reviewed recently. Note Edge is an interesting product with some appeal. But given a choice between the two—for now anyway—I think I’ll stick with Note 4, while continuing to watch the evolution of flexible displays.
Both Note 4 and Note Edge take advantage of Samsung’s pressure-sensitive S-Pen digital stylus, which you can use, among other chores, to write on the screen or clip images. The two handsets have fast charging cables and excel at multitasking. Both have Samsung’s S Health app and heart rate monitors, along with fingerprint scanners. Both have 32GB of internal memory, expandable via microSD. And both have aluminum frames that surround large, good-looking Quad HD displays—the Note 4 having a 5.7-inch screen versus 5.6 inches for the Edge.
What makes Edge different, of course, is the aforementioned narrow slice of screen that wraps along the edge of the phone like a waterfall.
Pricing is also different, with Note Edge carrying a premium over the Note 4. It will cost about $400 with a two-year contract, a $100 step-up, with various monthly options available from the carriers. All the major U.S. wireless carriers will have it in their lineups eventually; Verizon Wireless hasn’t revealed its plans yet.
The customizable edge on Edge, which is scrollable, isn’t so much a separate screen as an extension of the main panel. In techie terms, it adds 160 lines of resolution to the main Super AMOLED 2560 by 1440 display.
What you find along this edge area depends on what you’re doing, with a swipe in either direction changing what you see.
In one edge view are icons for your favorite apps, in lieu of an apps tray that might take up room in your regular home screen. You tap an icon to open the app on the main screen.
In another view, you can summon a collection of quick tools—stopwatch, timer, flashlight, voice recorder, even a handy 4-inch long ruler that remains along the edge.
The edge can also serve as a scrolling real time information ticker for stocks, sports scores and news headlines (all provided by Yahoo), as well as Twitter trends, and the weather.
If you’re listening to a song through the Google Play Music app, Samsung’s own Milk or third party apps such as Spotify or Pandora, the edge displays the name, artist and sometimes the album cover of what you’re listening to along with playback controls.
Similarly, camera controls turn up along the edge if you open the camera app on the phone.
Notifications appear there too, of updated apps, incoming texts, and calls–but not in every case during my tests. The idea is that you won’t have to leave the app that you’re working in to act on the notifications.