Welcome to the event many never thought would happen. After the Galaxy Note 7 turned from flagship phone to airline PA warning and tech blogger punchline, many wondered if there would be a follow up. But here we are at Samsung Unpacked in New York, and every teaser and leak points to the return of the company’s phabled phablet.
As far as what to expect from the Galaxy Note 8, we’ve seen plenty of hints. Samsung’s own press material has suggested, unsurprisingly, the return of the iconic S Pen, along with the addition of an Infinity Display.
In fact, it seems like a safe bet that the company will be taking more than a few cues from the Galaxy S8 — the addition of smart assistant Bixby is also a no brainer. With all that in mind, the company has to find a way to differentiate the product from the S8+, beyond just the S Pen. Perhaps some new features or a different screen size?
And, of course, Samsung always has a few surprises up its sleeves. Accessories, perhaps? In past years we’ve seen new Gear VR headsets and Gear 360 cameras. Wearables could also be on the menu, though the company has to keep something up its sleeve for IFA in a few weeks.
We’ll be documenting things as they unfold right here, beginning at 8AM PT/11AM ET. Bookmark this page to reserve your front-row seat. You can also follow along at home with Samsung’s Unpacked live stream.
And that’s all she wrote. We back to that commercial from the top of the show where users complain about how bummed they were that people took away their Note 7. This time out, they’re giving them a sneak peek of the Note 8.
There was a bit of a tease for IFA, which is around a week or so from now. Last year the company launched a new smartwatch, so that may well be on the docket.
The phone launches September 15 and ships with Harman headphones. “And guess what you can do with those headphones. Yes, you can plug them in.” /end shade.
It’s IP68 water resistant and features wireless charging. We just sort of flew over the battery. It’s 3,300 mAH — smaller than both the S8+ and Note 7. The company is definitely being much more cautious on that front, along with making room for the extra insulation and S Pen slot.
Knox security is back, of course, as are all of the biometric unlocking options — finger, face, Iris. The company told me it patched the early spoofing issues with face unlocking that were reported on the Note 7.
Samsung has always been generous on the storage front. The US version ships with 64GB of on board, an there’s a microSD slot, expandable up to 256GB, so all of those double images shouldn’t be an issue.
All right, it’s time to start talking specs. There’s a 10nm processor on board and a healthy 6GB of RAM.
Justin Denison is back on stage. That was it for DeX — nothing really new, just features that have been rolling out since it was announced a few months back.
I stand by my initial reaction that the actual practical real world use of this kind a product is still pretty limited for people who don’t actually work at Samsung, particularly given the prevalence of cloud syncing. Your information is already accessible on most of your devices.
DeX is the latest in a long line of phone makers trying to get around the limits of screen size through a plug-and-play option. Though this one is certainly smoother. You can, say, start a video conference on a phone, plug it into the hub and keep it going on the big screen.
Like Bixby, DeX was a bit limited at launch, but the company has been growing the products software through a number of partnerships with companies like Microsoft, allowing for fullscreen use.
Now it’s time for DeX. The accessory was introduced with the S8. It features a big display and hub, essentially turning it into a desktop experience.
The company has added Spotify compatibility to Bixby — that’s a big plus for most users. Beyond that, the company has promised more information at the company’s developer conference in October, so stay tuned, I guess.
Bixby is a smattering of some interesting features, but it still has a lot of work to do, if it’s going to become competitive with the leg up that Siri and Alexa have at the moment.
Again, Bixby voice was delayed, but it’s now available for the S8 and will ship with the Note 8 out of the box.
Marking director Jonathan Wong just took the stage to talk about Bixby and DeX, the company’s plug and play monitor that converts the phone into a desktop.
Screen off memo has been improved a bit as well, letting users write up to 100 pages without waking up the screen, for all of those who need to write a novel on the go.
Live Message is a nice addition to the S Pen functionality. It basically lets you make an animated GIF using handwriting that you can send via a message. It’s a more customizable/user friendly version of the touch notes that iMessage uses. The S Pen isn’t perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better for writing than the finger.
(That stage design is awesome. Well done, Samsung.)
The company has also added adult coloring books to its gallery — that’s coloring books for grownup, not coloring books with adult subject matter, mind.
The S Pen has a finer tip and more pressure sensitivity this time out. The distinctions are pretty subtle for most users, though — it’s still a far way from good old fashioned pen on paper.
And now it’s S Pen time, “the heart and soul of the Note series.”
You can also adjust the blur after the photo has been taken. It does this by taking individual photos with each camera and saving both by default. The company calls it dual capture. The downside: it takes up twice the storage space.
Live focus is the most interesting new feature on the camera front. It lets user adjust the depth of field (the blur in the background that helps make the subject pop) in a live preview.
There are some differentiators here — both cameras have optical image stabilization for images and video. The shots look much steady up against demos from the iPhone 7 Plus.
As suspected, there are two rear-facing cameras here. One is for wide shots and the other is telephoto, which is a bit of catch up with other flagships.
“You might even say that the Note 8’s camera is twice is good as before…and I mean that literally.”
Suzanne De Silva, the Director of Product Strategy is up now to talk about the camera. She’s running down some older features like dual-pixel for low light images and Quick Launch for easy access to the photo app.
The Note 8 comes in Midnight Black, Orchid Gray and Deep Sea Blue. No word on which are actually going to available here in the States. We’ll probably get more info on that at the end.
The Note 8 has a new feature called App Pair that lets users associate two apps and launch them at the same time in multi-tasking windows. Not earth shattering, but handy for those with familiar habits.
In recent generations, however, Samsung has done a good job cramming more screen real estate into a smaller footprint, and the Infinity Display should help push that even further.
All right, this thing is 6.3 inches — that’s quite a bit bigger than the Note 7. And, more to the point, it’s a full inch larger than the first generation Note, which many in the industry mocked when it was released.
He’s talking about the Infinity Display, which, to be fair, is a really gorgeous feature — easily the strongest introduced with the S8 line.
“We created the Note because we saw people who getting something out of every inch of their phone and still wanted more.”
SVP Justin Denison is up now to talk details on the new phablet. “Today isn’t just about unveiling a new product. It’s about celebrating what’s behind that product.”
Lost of dramatic bass heavy music now, and suggestive shots of the S Pen going into the phone.
Aside from that, it’s hard to say precisely how Samsung plans to differentiate the Note from the also gigantic S8+, though Koh did mention that this one’s even larger. From the looks of it, though, the lines seem to be pretty blurred at this point.
And, of course, the return of the Note’s most iconic feature, the S Pen stylus (but don’t call it a stylus).
The design language is right in line with the S8, including the Infinity Display that virtually does away with the bezels. Looks like dual-rear facing cameras, as well.
And there we go, the Note 8!
“And so, we are here to celebrate the Note lovers who inspire us today and to introduce a smartphone that will inspire the Note lovers of tomorrow.”
Koh is currently going over features introduced with the Note 7 and S8 — waterproofing, Bixby, et al. Though keep in mind, Bixby didn’t feature voice when it launched on the S8 (the company has since rolled it out as an over the air update).
This one is going to be Samsung’s largest yet, says Koh. That means bigger than the 5.7-inch Note 7 and, yes, the 6.2-inch S8+. That’s a big phone, kids.
Large screen phones are the largest growing portion of the market, according to Koh. Though, what’s officially large?
According to their surveys, 85-percent of Note users would recommend the phone — mind you, those numbers were taken this year, after all of the Note 7 stuff went down.
“Your passion is the most important measure of our value.” He’s thanked them again to a smattering of applause. And we’ve officially moved on from the Note 7 portion of the show.
Some of those loyal Note users are here in the audience [more applause].
He expressed his “deepest gratitude” to much applause, without actually mentioning what happened last year. Not that we’re not all painfully aware.
“And none of us will ever forget what happened last year, but I’ll never forget how millions of loyal users stayed with us.”
But he’s right, people initially laughed off the phone for being way too big. That was 5.3 inches, mind.
He’s taking us through a Note retrospective, going all the way back to 2011 by showing a Dilbert strip, the height of relevant tech comedy (and political discourse).
DJ, the President of Mobile Comms is taking the stage to kick things off, looking sharp in a beige suit jacket.
The show is kicking things off with an ad about how disappointed Note 7 owners were that they had to return their phones. A bit tone deaf if you ask me.
It was a close call. This place is packed, but the show is finally starting.