Samsung is rethinking how a smartphone should be designed with the Galaxy Note Edge, which moves your home screen to the side of the phone, a risky innovation that sets it apart from the boxier competition.
Samsung utilized Corning’s ultra-thin, flexible glass — called “Willow” — to extend the screen down the side of the phone. Unlike Corning’s indestructible Gorilla Glass, Willow is light and bendable. Thanks to the paper-thin glass, Samsung was able to bend the right side of the Edge into a “second screen” that can be customized. And it’s easy to navigate. You can easily tap or swipe through widgets with your thumb or a stylus, just like you could if they were on the main screen. Having apps and notifications there instead of at the bottom of the home screen means more room for content and less time spent switching between views. For instance, Spotify users can skip tracks and identify what’s playing without navigating to the app itself.
The Edge is a very close first cousin to the Galaxy Note 4, boasting nearly the same crisp, 5.6 inch Super AMOLED screen, but measuring 4 percent wider than its predecessor. The question becomes whether you’re willing to pay a fair share more for the Edge in order to count your footsteps, or read news blurbs without having to interrupt a Netflix stream or an actual phone call. Even camera controls are moved to the side, allowing the image itself to monopolize the display. Battery life and performance are again quite comparable to previous Samsung smartphones. The S Pen stylus has been updated to respond more sensitively to pressure, making it easier to vary your digital pen-stroke. And the Photo Note feature is way cool — jot handwritten notes with the stylus, then convert analog to digital and save with a quick tap of the shutter.
The bottom line: The Edge is an interesting, useful piece of tech, but Samsung will have to rely on a cadre of developers to make the switch from the Note 4 to the Note Edge worth the investment in the long run. [$945.87 (without a contract), $399 (with two-year AT&T contract; samsung.com]