Supersized Additions

Samsung Introduces the Galaxy S6 edge+ and Galaxy Note5

Samsung_devices_lAt a company event in New York City on 13 August, Samsung unveiled two new smart devices: the Galaxy S6 edge+ and the Galaxy Note5. It also released further details about its mobile payment service, Samsung Pay.

The Galaxy S6 edge+ is an extended version rather than an update of the Galaxy S6 edge introduced in March 2015. The Galaxy S6 edge+ has a 5.7-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED “waterfall” display, an increase from the Galaxy S6 edge’s 5.1-inch screen and larger than the 5.6-inch display on the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge. The S6 edge+ contains a Samsung Exynos 7 octa-core processor, has 4GB of RAM and comes with either 32GB or 64GB of internal storage. It has no microSD slot.

The S6 edge+ runs Samsung’s Enhanced Edge UX on top of Android 5, and includes the Apps Edge feature that supports a revolving screen running over the device’s curved edges. Samsung has added new input methods to the device, like handwriting, poking and knocking.

The phone’s imaging features include a 16-megapixel rear camera, five-megapixel front-facing camera, video digital image stabilization, video collage mode and a Periscope-like live broadcast facility that allows users to share real-time video via media services such as YouTube. The S6 edge+ also features battery charging that’s up to 27 percent faster than the Galaxy S6 edge. The battery is a non-removable 3000 mAh lithium ion model, a step up from the 2600 mAh found in the S6 edge.

Other features include NFC, a fingerprint sensor, support for ultrahigh-quality audio and SideSync 4.0, which provides cross-platform support for connecting to computers. Samsung stressed the thinness of the device’s bezel, a trend among some smartphone makers. The S6 edge+ will launching worldwide later in August.

Samsung’s Galaxy S6 edge+ is the third edge-series device in the company’s portfolio. The design is essentially a supersized version of the well-received Galaxy S6 edge, offering a differentiated take on the industry standard monobloc touch device. The primary function of the design is for quick access to contacts and frequently used apps, but there’s also scope for developers to use the edge screen. However, as CCS Insight has previously highlighted, the challenge will be in attracting more developer interest to bring greater functionality to the unique feature. The large screen of the Galaxy S6 edge+ means it could create portfolio confusion for buyers who recognise the Note sub-brand as the nomenclature for Samsung phablets, and it remains dubious as to whether such a discrete category is still relevant in the face of a growing number of large-screen smartphones. Samsung has adopted Apple’s “plus” terminology, seemingly indicating that this is becoming an industry standard for supersized versions of devices.

The Galaxy Note5 is an update to the Note 4, which was introduced in September 2014. The Note5 has a 5.7-inch display and enhanced S-Pen function that supports new handwriting features including PDF marking. It also allows users to write directly on the locked screen, which could be a saleable feature if the advantages are demonstrated properly. The Note5’s software and accessories make it a strong candidate for enterprise use. However, it’s somewhat perplexing that the Note5 won’t launch in Samsung’s key European markets.

Samsung also shared updated information about its mobile payment service. Samsung Pay will support magnetic secure transmission (MST), a technology that allows compatible devices to be used at traditional swipe point-of-sale terminals and provides the service with a wider reach than Apple Pay. MST came to Samsung through its acquisition of start-up LoopPay in February 2015 (see Daily Insight: Magnetic Attraction). Samsung Pay is also compatible with NFC terminals, can store up to 10 cards and requires a PIN or fingerprint for authentication.

Samsung has tested Samsung Pay in its home market, where it already claims high engagement levels and will roll out the service later in August. This will arrive in the US in late September, and Spain, the UK and other markets will follow after that. MST technology makes the service “past-proof”, providing legacy support to close to 100 percent of payment terminals compared with the more limited availability of Apple Pay, though this is a closing window of differentiation for Samsung, particularly in the US. However, Samsung Pay could find greater favour among retailers as the company takes no cut of the transaction.

There’s an argument that the Galaxy S6 edge+ is the best Android phone Samsung has ever made. Its snappy design and powerful specifications underline its flagship credentials, but both new devices received relatively muted receptions compared with previous launches. A broadening consumer apathy toward new smartphones is palpable, and a challenge that affects all device makers. Even Apple could find that whipping up a frenzy of interest in updated phones during its typical launch window in September is more of a struggle.

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