Amid the 3000 flashing lights, rockstar introductions and anticipation of new tech, Samsung packed a lot into the Note9 launch at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn. Here are five things you may have missed.
The Bluetooth S Pen
It’s already been featured, but Samsung’s Note9 S Pen is better performing than I first thought.
It uses Bluetooth Low Energy support and gives you the ability to click a button on the pen to take a photo or move a slide show without touching the device. Having spent a longer period of time with the phone, the S Pen, although a modest improvement, is a huge selling point.
It’s a sleek design with the yellow pen makes it a statement piece, but also harder to lose.
I find the button midway through the pen is ergonomic and although quoted at being operational 10m away from the handset, I’ve found it can actually function at least 30m away from it.
The stylus button also works with YouTube; a double-click skips to the next video, one click to play or pause. It would be a great function to use if your phone is hooked into a monitor using a HDMI cable and you can flick through videos with very minimal effort.
There are a range of possibilities which include sketching over photos, jotting notes, translating languages, controlling powerpoint slides and much more.
It takes only 40 seconds to charge it for about 30 minutes of usage.
Although one of Samsung Electronics vice president Ji Soo Yi’s questions to Samsung’s AI technology Bixby 2.0 was misunderstood on-stage, the AI holds a lot of promise.
The aim is to make Bixby more conversational, more personal and useful and it will feature in Galaxy Home, Samsung’s new smart speaker.
It’s whether Bixby can stand up to Amazon’s Alexa, iPhone’s Siri and Google Assistant (which is also available on the Note9), in the eyes of consumers.
Bixby was able to check my calendar, set an appointment and the weather, phone a friend, find good restaurants nearby and then open WhatsApp for a message. But there were many instances of misunderstanding and features that aren’t yet available.
When Bixby is having trouble understanding, it’ll ask you to rephrase. When asking to send an email to someone that it couldn’t find in my contacts Bixby asked me to add him in. The company is also looking to a relationship with Google Maps for further integration.
Samsung aims to incorporate Bixby throughout their company, and because Samsung produces a wide range of items this could be across their washing machines, driers and fridges.
“Samsung makes a lot of different products, a lot of different things, we think that’s a great strength of ours,” Samsung product marketing director Jon Wong told Fairfax.
“We believe that’s a differentiating point for us especially as we move forward and start connecting these devices together.”
There are no rock paper scissors games yet (Alexa will play if you ask), but there are witty remarks, and in terms of a personal assistant style AI, Bixby may surpass our expectations.
The question is how will she work in the home?
Galaxy Home will be coming to Australia but pricing and availability will be announced closer to the Australian launch.
DeX “helps differentiate us. It’s a mobile powered computing platform,” Mr Wong said.
Samsung is angling even further towards its handset’s DeX software, something Apple and Google have so far steered away from.
The new device features a Bluetooth stylus that can take photos 10m away from the device with the click of a button.
It allows a PC-like experience when hooking into a monitor with a HDMI cable, you are now able to use two applications separately, one showing on a monitor, the other on your phone.
So you may be screening a presentation on the monitor, while taking notes on your phone.
Creatives can also plug into a monitor and use that to sketch or draw with an S Pen.
Mr Wong said people wanted to take more advantage of their phones.
“People don’t want to take that extra baggage, literal and physical baggage. I personally use it all the time – being able to plug it in with the external display, get that full PC-like experience and then kick back and watch a video at home with that same technology,” he said.
“Your entire digital life is on your phone and that’s really exciting for us.”
The Note9 camera is a high performer, it’s a dual camera (at the back) with dual optical image stabilisation, 12mps but it boasts 20 “scene settings” which are akin to Instagram filters.
There are also some other very cool functions which give you more control than ever in a smartphone camera. There are five shooting options; panorama, pro, live focus, super slow mo and hyperlapse. There are also four selfie settings. The pro option, similar to the S9+ gives you more control over ISO, f-stop and focus. There’s even a manual focus slide and a green focus assist that helps your image remain crisp.
The wide selfie is a tough one to master, and some will be happy to know the AR emoji is still available, albeit it looked nothing like this reporter.
There are some great camera phones on the market at the moment, including the HTC Leica, so this is a competitive space.
These are the Note9 camera specifications:
Dual Camera with Dual OIS (Optical Image Stabilization)
– Wide-angle: Super Speed Dual Pixel 12MP AF, F1.5/F2.4, OIS
– Telephoto: 12MP AF, F2.4, OIS
– 2X optical zoom, up to 10X digital zoom
Front: 8MP AF, F1.7
Chief executive of Spotify Daniel Ek said a partnership between Spotify and Samsung could hold a range of possibilities.
The green Spotify logo appeared onstage as Mr Ek waltzed down a white digital carpet in the centre of it after Samsung product market senior director Drew Blackard made the announcement.
“We had to make sure that they share our values and are committed, long-term, to helping people enjoy music in new ways,” Mr Blackard said.
Obviously excited, through an onstage display, Mr Blackard demonstrated how music playing on your mobile could be easily switched to a Samsung television or even a fridge thanks to a combination of Bixby and Spotify interconnectivity.
As part of the deal, Spotify will create apps to complete the partnership, encouraging a “unified ecosystem” with “seamless connection”.
It will also open Spotify up to hundreds of millions of new users. Bixby will get deeper Spotify integration, with Bixby pulling your favourite songs.
Spotify app is already on Samsung Smart Switch and soon Samsung Smart TV users will be able to play Spotify through the app.