Apart from growing bigger (and bigger ... and bigger ...), the fundamental design of the smartphone hasn't changed a lot since the first iPhone back in 2007. But Samsung's Galaxy Note Edge, with its curved "Edge Display," is the rare phone that breaks the mold. Is it worth buying? Read on, as Gizmag reviews the Galaxy Note Edge.
The Galaxy Note Edge is almost exactly the same phone as the Galaxy Note 4. The biggest difference is that its wider screen bleeds into a curve on the right side of the phone. You'll still see your phone's content in the same 16:9 ratio that you're used to, but you also get a bonus sidebar for alerts and shortcuts.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,200 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
The Edge Display is fun and different. Like the Gear S smartwatch, the curved glass is a pleasure to fondle. It also adds a little bit of convenience: you can quickly launch your favorite apps, read incoming notifications without intruding on your main content area, and get quick access to info like tweets, sports scores or the weather. You can customize the panels that show up on the Edge Display (just swipe to the side to switch), and Samsung is even opening a section of its Galaxy Apps store for delivering new Edge Display panels.
Another cool use of the curve is the Note Edge's Night Clock mode, which turns the phone's edge into a little faux desk clock. You can set the hours that it automatically fires up, and since the phone uses an AMOLED display, it doesn't drain much juice (it's probably going to be charging at night anyway).
Does the Edge Display radically change our experience of using what is otherwise a Galaxy Note 4? No. But it's pretty cool nonetheless. In that way, it's a lot like a curved TV: fun new tech that feels a bit like a solution looking for a problem.
There are only a few other minor differences between the Galaxy Note Edge and Galaxy Note 4. Sizes and weights are very close: the Edge is about 2 percent shorter, 4 percent wider and just a hair lighter and thinner.
Screen sizes are also close: including the Edge Display, the Galaxy Note Edge's screen is actually a hair bigger (owing to its wider 16:10 aspect ratio). Not including the curve, though, its main display area measures about 5.55 inches diagonally (at least according to our tape measure). That gives apps roughly 5 percent less real estate on the Edge than they have on the Note 4.
Both the Note Edge and Note 4 include Samsung's upgraded S Pen, which gives you a more natural writing experience than you'd find in older Notes' pens. They also share the same front and rear cameras, ultra-sharp Quad HD display and speedy Snapdragon 805 processor under the hood.
The Edge's battery does hold about 7 percent less juice, but it doesn't noticably affect battery life. In our stress test (streaming video over Wi-Fi with brightness set at 75 percent), it dropped 12 percent per hour vs. the Note 4's 10 percent per hour. Like the Note 4, it also includes Qualcomm's Quick Charge 2.0 technology, which lets it charge from 0 to 50 percent in around 37 minutes.
If someone knocked on our door and offered us either a Galaxy Note 4 or Galaxy Note Edge for the same price, we'd probably go with the Note Edge. Hell, we might even consider throwing in an extra US$50. The Edge Display doesn't revolutionize the smartphone, but it is a nice (and fun) bonus.
The only problem is that the Note Edge's price isn't the same as – or even within a stone's throw of – the Note 4's. Nope, this is one of the most expensive phones we've handled, ringing up for $400-430 on-contract or $840-945 full retail (it varies by carrier). The Note 4 isn't exactly a cheap phone to start with, but the Note Edge is 33-43 percent more expensive on-contract, and 20-35 percent pricier off-contract. That's a lot to ask for what amounts to a fun novelty and a little extra convenience.
This is clearly a device aimed at early adopters. If you want to sit on the bleeding edge of mobile technology, and money isn't an object, then ... bon appetit. Pricing aside, the Edge is one of the best smartphones you can buy – arguably the best. For everyone else, though, we recommend waiting until Samsung (perhaps) incorporates the Edge Display into the Galaxy Note 5, 6 or 7. Right now it's a cool concept that, for most shoppers, won't justify its markup over the also excellent Note 4.
The Galaxy Note Edge is available now from three of the four major US carriers (Verizon's version isn't here just yet).
For a closer look at the rest of the Note Edge's features, you can hit up our Galaxy Note 4 review from earlier this year.
Product page: SamsungView gallery - 12 images