Why the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is Less Appealing This Time Round

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

As you might have heard, Samsung recently announced the Galaxy Note 4. I was one of the first few to get the original Galaxy Note, which prior to getting it had me walking around with a scientific calculator of roughly the same size in my pants pocket to see if the then-unprecedented size of the Note would be an issue (it wasn’t), and since then I’ve always bought one each year they came out. Partly because I had a Singtel bundle that allowed for yearly upgrades without any penalties, but also because each new generation had enough compelling upgrades that made me say yes. So what’s changed this time?

Here’s a quick run-down:

The first Galaxy Note, the GT-N7000 had a very simple reason for me: Battery life. Back in 2011 where the iPhone 4 was still reigning supreme and could actually be sold for a profit if you were lucky to get your hands on them, Android phones had terrible battery life. Android’s true multi-tasking nature didn’t help, but most manufacturers thought it was an earlier era and crammed 1,500 mAh or thereabouts batteries, which just made it worse. Apple’s iOS with its stricter walled garden could get away with it, but not Android’s open nature. So when a smartphone with a 2,500 mAh battery shows up, I said yes. The large screen, good CPU and Wacom pen were nice touches.

The Note II, the GT-N7105 for me, added LTE, a larger battery, a better camera, and an improved screen. Having Android Jelly Bean was also a great upgrade.

The Note 3, the SM-N9005 is the refinement of the Note series, but also adds an annoyance. The Full HD screen on the Note 3 is great, and the Snapdragon 800 SoC really blows everything away. It’s the first phone that I really felt that nothing was lacking. The 13 megapixel camera is pretty good too, enough for documentation and perhaps some very casual snaps (even for casual snaps I still prefer a dedicated large sensor camera). However Samsung added Knox, a security software suite that is deeply integrated into the phone, and among other things, made rooting the phone an act that destroys the warranty. That irked me as Samsung’s default DPI settings on the Note series have always been too large for me: I bought a large screen phone so I could squeeze more content, not have the fonts displayed at a size for those with poor vision. I still can see very well, thank you very much Samsung.

So on to the Note 4: The only two standouts I can see are the screen with its WQXGA (2560 x 1600) resolution, which is a nice return to the 16:10 aspect ratio, and the camera, which gains OIS. The other new or upgraded bits are inconsequential to me, and having to think about Knox again just peeves me off.

There could have been a killer app though, and it would have been this:

 

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That’s right, the Samsung Gear VR is neat VR headset that requires the Galaxy Note 4 to operate. Having used the Oculus Rift DK1 headset before and suffered from its low resolution display, the Note 4’s high resolution screen would be a perfect fit. Unfortunately, it looks pretty much to be a standalone system, with no connections to the PC whatsoever. Imagine if it could be made to work like an Oculus Rift “Lite”. I’d be first in line for both the Note 4 and the Gear VR. Unfortunately as that is unlikely to happen, so unless something new about the Galaxy Note 4 is made known, I think I will wait for the Note 5 instead.