This August is ending on a good note, literally.
After months of speculation, leaks and rumours, the much-anticipated Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is finally here. Claimed to be the "best Android phone ever" by tech commentators, UAE consumers are expecting the first delivery on Thursday.
The latest addition to the Samsung Note series, this mighty gadget made its debut in New York on August 9, promising a better battery life, a Bluetooth-connected stylus pen, an intelligent camera and a tie-in with Fortnite, the hottest multi-player game on the planet right now.
It comes with a cutting-edge 10nm processor and the reduced size of processor leads to less energy consumption and heat generation. The Note 9 also offers support for the fastest network speeds available in the market (up to 1.2 gigabits per second) to stream and download. It also includes an on-device AI-based adjusting algorithm to deliver a powerful performance. For example, the AI-powered scene recognition capability helps the phone camera to identify different landscapes, such as sunsets or darkness, and automatically adjust the settings such as exposure and wide-angle.
Samsung was the global leader in smartphone shipments in the first quarter of this year. Its market share was 20.5 per cent, followed by Apple (14.1 per cent) and Huawei (10.5 per cent), according to the researcher Gartner.
However, a slowdown in the global smartphone market is starting to take a toll on overall business. Samsung’s net income fell short of analysts’ estimates as the slow market hit demand for its Galaxy devices. Net income was 11 trillion won (Dh35.99 billion) in the three months ended June, compared with the 11.6tn won a year earlier, according to average estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
Note 9 is the most expensive smartphone from Samsung and the second-most expensive phone in the market after the Apple X, which starts at Dh4,304.
As it arrives in the UAE market, The National takes a look at some key aspects of the latest variant from Samsung, the world's biggest smartphone maker.
Is it all new or just slight upgrades?
Design-wise, it could disappoint smartphone enthusiasts as Note 9 does not offer more innovations when compared with its predecessor in the Note series – Note 8. There is slight more screen-to-body ratio in Note 9 – 83.4 per cent – while it is 83.2 per cent in Note 8.
Besides, Note 9 has a 6.4-inch Amoled (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) display, compared with the Note 8's 6.3-inch Amoled display. Compared with LCD display, Amoled produces light from individual pixels, offering higher definition displays with many pixels. That means pictures are brighter with an improved resolution.
"I am not sure if we can call them [features] new, it [Note 9] is just an evolution from the previous models. But yes, there are some incremental improvements," Roberta Cozza, research director with Gartner's personal technologies team, told The National.
“It has become harder and harder in the smartphone market to call anything new now.”
How has the latest model improved?
A signature feature of Note 9 is the S Pen stylus that now comes with Bluetooth Low-Energy support to deliver an entirely new way to use the machine. With just a click, it is now possible to take selfies and group pictures, present slides, pause and play video, and more. In the previous models, S Pen was not Bluetooth-enabled but in Note 9, it helps to control the device remotely.
Abbas Ali, managing editor of TechRadar Middle East, considers the Bluetooth-enabled S Pen the biggest change Samsung has introduced with the Note 9.
“Now Bluetooth allows users to literally pull out a pen and control a PowerPoint presentation and to remotely control devices. That is the biggest innovation that Samsung has brought in with Note 9, others are only upgrades from Note 8.”
Additionally, the Note 9's camera is Samsung's smartest yet. It uses AI to identify elements of a photo, such as scene and subject, to automatically classify it into one of 20 categories and instantly optimise it by bringing it in the main focus, based on the category. The result is a stunning, lifelike image with bold colours and dynamic definition.
Has Samsung learnt from past battery glitches?
Trying to move past 2016's disastrous Galaxy Note 7, which had to be recalled after dozens spontaneously caught fire because of defective batteries, and complaints about the Note 8 battery draining too fast, the South Korean tech giant is adding more battery power this time.
The Galaxy Note 9 has a monster 4,000-mAh battery, while Note 8 has a smaller 3,300-mAh battery. The bigger battery offers more capacity, with rapid charging and longer duration.
“If you are a heavy-duty user, Note 8 would struggle to make it through the end of the day. Note 9, on the other hand, comes with a phenomenal battery. This is 20 to 25 per cent bigger than Note 8,” said Mr Ali.
Ms Cozza said Samsung had recovered from the Note 7 debacle.
“They have already addressed the mistake and now they are trying to enhance the experience with a bigger battery. However, it is still not certain whether a bigger battery will help Samsung to sell more Note 9 [than Note 8] or not,” she said.
Is it worth the price?
Note 9 is so far the most expensive phone within Samsung’s premium Note series. Note 9, with 128GB of memory, is priced at Dh3,699, while the 512GB memory variant will cost Dh4,599.
Market experts feel keeping the price high is an attempt to get better returns, something its competitor Apple is able to manage.
“At the end of the day, one of the main aims of Samsung is to get better margins and Note 9 is the key device to help them to maintain the leadership among the premium brands,” said Ms Cozza, adding “I don’t think they are targeting mainstream users, it is for the high end.”
Mr Ali considers the high price justified.
“There is no denying the fact that it is the most powerful Android phone available in the market today. It’s best in class, with a fast processor and offers 512 GB memory that no other phone is offering,” he said.
When will Note 9 be available to buy in UAE stores?
Galaxy Note 9 will be available from Thursday across all major retailer and Samsung brand stores in the UAE.
It comes in three colours: Midnight Black; Lavender Purple (with matching S Pen); and Ocean Blue (with a Pearl Yellow S Pen). All models have a MicroSD slot to enhance the memory by up to 512 GB that could be done by simply inserting the card in the device