Samsung has announced the Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ but there's a weird strategy going on here, and it's not going to please the diehard Note fans one bit.
The Note was always an oddity, and many of us laughed when it came out. But the truth, as I've discussed with Andy Griffiths, President of Samsung's UK and Ireland, is that people wanted a different device. Something that wasn't the same size as every other phone. And so, the phablet was born.
The problem with the Note 5 is twofold. Firstly, Samsung isn't rushing to launch it in the UK. Instead, the firm is pushing the Galaxy S6 Edge+. To me, that's an odd decision because the Edge+ doesn't feel like it sits in the same category as the Note anyway. I think it has huge potential, and I actually liked the device a great deal, but it's not what the diehard Note fans want, or need.
The second problem that will cause Samsung some grief is the removal of the microSD card slot and the ability for users to change the battery. Everyone moaned about this with the S6 and S6 Edge, but I don't find it a problem with those phones, they are aimed at a totally different audiences. With the Note, you're messing with the enthusiasts, and that's dangerous ground - something Samsung saw even with the S6 and S6 Edge.
For many, the real appeal of the Note 4 and all the Note devices before it wasn't the pen - as good as that tool is - it was the flexibility. Long battery life, a microSD card slot that allowed to carry a load more video, music and photos than the standard 16 or 31GB handset. It was a big screen with high resolution and a larger form-factor that made it ideal for power users.
So where does the S6 Edge+ fit into this? Well, that's the problem, it doesn't. The S6 Edge+ is clearly an extension of the S6 line. The company has opted to make a larger version of the S6 Edge, and that actually does make some sense because larger phones have a real market that appears to be growing.
From what I can tell from the limited time I spent with both handsets at the London pre-brief, they're both very capable. Samsung Pay is great, and has the potential to be a great alternative for Android users who want to make use of mobile payments. It may even beat Google's own service to the market. Of course, only select Samsung devices can use it. That said, their addition of MST to allow the phone to pay even on terminals that don't support contactless is very smart - it wins over Apple in this easily.
The Note 5 looks to be a worthy addition to the Note name, but I just can't get over the idea of a sealed-in battery and no expandable storage. And to be honest, I'm sure I would be happy with the phone, but I simply don't understand why Samsung needed to hobble the Note 5, when the S6 Edge+ offers the larger form factor and the style of the smaller S6 phones. Why not offer an S6+, with no edge display too and provide two sizes of S6 and leave the Note to enthusiasts?
Ultimately, people need removeable batteries and expandable storage less than they think they do. It's like manufacturer user interfaces like HTC's Sense or Samsung's TouchWiz. There's very little wrong with them, but users want a more vanilla Android. When you're finding your sales slowing, perhaps the answer is to give people what they want and see if that boosts interest, rather than taking away choices.
For now, if you have a Note 4, it sounds like you might want to hang on to it, especially if you're someone that really does make use of the microSD socket and who changes batteries regularly.
- Check out our Note 5 hands on!