Galaxy Note Edge hands-on: Samsung’s newest phablet packs a huge twist

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Galaxy Note Edge Review

Samsung has proven time and time again that it is not afraid at all to experiment with new ideas. Sometimes, those ideas lead to huge new product segments — imagine Samsung hadn’t pushed so hard with supersized smartphone screens. Other times, the company falls flat on its face. Of course, Samsung has enough money in the bank that it can afford to fall down while it searches for “the next big thing.”

Is the brand new Galaxy Note Edge an aha moment featuring meaningful innovation or another instance of Samsung throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if it sticks? We’ll let you be the judge.

BE SURE TO ALSO CHECK OUT OUR SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 4 PREVIEW

Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 4 smartphone was hardly a surprise when it was unveiled during the company’s press conference on Wednesday. In fact, months of leaks and rumors told us exactly what to expect.

The Galaxy Note Edge unveiled alongside the Note 4, however, was a big surprise.

On paper, the Note Edge appears identical to the Galaxy Note 4. Specs include a 5.7-inch quad HD Super AMOLED display, quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor, 3GB of RAM, a fingerprint scanner, a heart rate monitor, a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera with OIS and 8x digital zoom, a wide-angle front-facing camera, up to 64GB of internal storage, microSDXC support and Android KitKat.

But there’s a huge twist on the Galaxy Note Edge: The phone features a flexible display panel that wraps slightly around the right side of the device to create a separate panel adjacent to the main display.

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The result of this unique design is a smartphone that looks a bit… odd.

Samsung’s idea behind the Note Edge’s design is an interesting one. The extra space on the side of the screen is used to show separate content that is configurable. So, for example, while on the home screen you can display app shortcuts, a scrolling stock ticker or news headlines.

The side panel is also contextual. So while in the camera app it displays menu buttons and a shutter button, and when the Note app is open, the panel shows editing buttons.

Samsung is also offering an SDK to third-party developers so they can make use of the side panel in their apps, if they so choose.

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In my short time with the phone, I really wasn’t impressed by the design. The side panel is nifty, I suppose, but it offers precious few benefits in actual use. What’s more, almost everything that can be done on the side panel could also be accomplished on a normal flat display by simply giving developers the option to separate a strip of real estate.

Making matters worse is the fact that on the two white Note Edge models I tested while meeting with Samsung, there was significant light bleed on the white plastic bezel surrounding the display. It’s off-putting, to say the least.

The Galaxy Note Edge is unique and interesting, but I’m not sure it will catch on. Developers will have little incentive to customize their apps to make use of the side panel, so the included functionality in Samsung’s pre-installed apps may be all users have to enjoy. And while Samsung hasn’t announced pricing yet, there are indications that the phone will be more expensive than the Note 4.

Put plainly, the funky side panel on the Note Edge would certainly not be worth a premium over the Note 4’s price.

The Galaxy Note Edge will launch later this year on all four top wireless carriers in the U.S.

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