They were parodied and pilloried: Who wants to hold that huge thing up to their head? But Samsung proved people wanted not smaller but bigger smartphones, better known as phablets. Now, Samsung is beefing up its flagship model, to the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, and when it debuts on August 24 it promises to be a doozy.
Starting with its price.
At $1,000, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is in Apple iPhone X territory. But it offers much more for the money, including a bigger, higher resolution 6.4-inch screen (all the better to see you with), more standard memory (128 GB vs. 64 GB), a bigger battery (4000mAh), waterproofing, wireless charging – and a standard 3.5-mm mini headphone jack (all the better to hear you with). Better still, you can add more memory via a microSD slot for up to a terabyte of storage – four times the storage of the laptop computer I’m currently using.
Not enough to make you give up your iPhone? The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 also comes with a nifty S Pen. Not only can you use it to sketch out an idea or scribble notes on the screen (who among us is really comfortable trying to text with two thumbs?), it also does double duty as a remote control for the phone. No more figuring out the darn selfie timer setting for the family portrait. Just grab the pen and click when everyone is ready (and then click again because you know everyone is never ready). You can also hook the phone up to a display (via a USB-to-HDMI cable) and flick through a slideshow presentation with the S Pen – or use it to control a video.
The truth is, I was one of those people who poked fun at the bigger smartphones when they first appeared. But after a family trip to Williamsburg, I was a convert. I could see maps without squinting, read emails without looking over the top of my glasses, locate nearby restaurants with ease, and read the news without constantly zooming in on pages. Indeed, phablets turned out to be the perfect boomer smartphones. And the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 promises to be the best of the biggies.
The Note 9 includes dual 12-megapixel cameras and intelligent software (they call it AI) to automatically make adjustments for portrait, landscape and closeup shots. In a quick hands-on, this feature felt a little tardy, but it sure beats having to dig into photo settings every time you want to tweak a picture.
On the downside, there’s a dedicated Bixby button on the phone. Bixby is Samsung’s answer to Amazon’s Alexa & Apple’s Siri, and it’s competent enough but not worth a dedicated button – and you cannot reassign to button to handle another function. On the other hand, you can always download the Alexa app or Google Assistant and use them instead.
Lastly, Samsung is promising the Note 9 will slay the bête noire of smartphones: short battery life. The company says a full charge will last all day – and all night – without sending you running for a USB-C charging cable. We’ll see for ourselves when we get our hands on a long-term tester. In the meantime, if you’re shopping for a new phone, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 should be at the top of any older gadget-lover’s list. Look for deals from T-Mobile and Sprint to mitigate to the phone’s steep price (and yes, it will be available from AT&T and Verizon, too).