Samsung Electronics Co. (KRX:005930) pretty much created the market for high-end, large-screen smartphones -- phablets, if you will -- with its Galaxy Note line, which includes high-resolution displays and a handy S-Pen stylus. For the past two years, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has ceded that end of the market to Samsung, but perhaps not for long: Next week Apple is expected to unveil its first large-screen device, the iPhone 6L, with a 5.5-inch display, almost as big as the Samsung's 5.7-inch screen.
Now Samsung is unveiling the latest version of its high-end phablet the Galaxy Note 4 at its Unpacked event Wednesday, one week before Apple’s big day Sept. 9, meaning the phablet wars are about to get hotter.
The company said its Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone, which launched in April, is outselling the previous Galaxy S4 by 10 percent, and expects the Galaxy Note 4 to outsell the Galaxy Note 3. Samsung has a lot riding on its new phablet and definitely doesn't want to cede the fall to Apple, so here's what to expect:
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 may include a QHD (1440x2560) resolution display. The Galaxy Note 4 is expected to retain the same 5.7-inch display size as its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. This unchanged display size with an increase in the display resolution would mean images on the Galaxy Note 4 will be sharper and colors truer.
â€” Droid Life (@droid_life) August 11, 2014
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is expected to have a design similar to the Galaxy Note 3 and the recently announced Samsung Galaxy Alpha, which incorporates metal into its design. Photo leaks show the presumed Galaxy Note 4 as large and rectangular with an S-Pen stylus included, like previous Galaxy Note models and with flat, sharp, trim like the Galaxy Alpha. The device features a leather-textured back panel, much like the Galaxy Note 3 and also includes a USB 3.0 port. Though the Galaxy Alpha features metal edges, the Galaxy Note 4 is expected to retain the same full polycarbonate plastic exterior for which Samsung devices are known. Kim Hyun-joon, Samsung senior vice president for mobile communications, said during an earnings conference call a premium device to be released after the Galaxy Note 4 will be made of “new materials.” He gave no hint of major design changes to the Galaxy Note 4.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 will likely include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 or Samsung Exynos 5433 chipset, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. Some rumors suggest the Galaxy Note 4 could feature 4GB of RAM and also 16GB and 64GB internal storage options. While Samsung has been developing 4GB RAM modules since December, it is uncertain whether the Galaxy Note 4 will feature more RAM. The manufacturer also got rid of the 16GB storage option with the Galaxy Note 3, making 32GB the standard. It is likely Samsung will continue with the 32GB storage option as its new standard for the Note line. Like other devices in the Note series, the Galaxy Note 4 should include S Pen stylus and should also be water and dust resistant like the Samsung Galaxy S5.
Though early rumors suggested a 12-megapixel main camera for the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, later reports indicated the device will include a 16-megapixel main camera. The camera is expected to have a host of new software features including one called Side Touch, which would allow users to tap a sensor on the side of the Galaxy Note 4 that would serve as a shutter button and a gesture-based shortcut; users would be able to access the app while the handset is off by tapping the screen with two fingers and swiping them apart.
Other software features of the Galaxy Note 4 camera app may include Selfie mode, Wide Selfie mode, Selfie Alarm and Create A GIF File. Selfie mode triggers the camera to take a photo when the user smiles or winks. Wide Selfie mode allows for wide-angle selfie shots. Selfie Alarm detects when a selfie shot is in focus before a photo is taken. Create A GIF File allows users to make animated GIFs of their photos.
Samsung is also expected to increase the number of megapixels on the Galaxy Note 4 front camera. The device may include a 3.7-megapixel lens, which would be able to capture images and videos in WQHD (2560×1440) resolution. An improved front camera makes sense given the likely focus on selfies within the Galaxy Note 4 software.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is expected to run the Android 4.4.4 KitKat operating system. Notably, Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is expected to release its new Android L operating system in October; however, the Galaxy Note 4 should already be on the market by then.
The Galaxy Note 4 may also include other software features in addition to those expected for the device’s camera app. A leak in May indicated possible Galaxy Note 4 features like Swipe to launch Motion Launcher, Aqua Capture, Multi Network for Booster and Smart Fingerprint. A leak in July indicated possible features like S-Studio, VRSVC, Out Of Focus Viewer, Photo Studio and Smart Self Shot, among others.
Earlier rumors suggested that the Galaxy Note 4 may include an iris scanner, but later rumors indicated the device will include a fingerprint scanner with at least two new features, one called Fingerprint shortcuts and another called Web sign-in. Fingerprint shortcuts lets users swipe a finger to an icon directly on the lock screen, which will unlock the device and open the application as the same time, while Web sign-in lets users utilize their fingerprints to sign into various websites in lieu of a password.
Reports indicate the Galaxy Note 4 may also include an ultraviolet sensor, which would be able to measure the levels of ultraviolet radiation from the sun and offer suggestions for users to protect themselves. Reports also indicate Samsung may announce a virtual reality headset called Samsung Gear VR that would pair with the Galaxy Note 4.
Price and availability
There have been no details on what the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 will cost in the U.S.; however, recent rumors suggest the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 might cost 34,990 rubles ($940) in Russia. The device will likely sell for $299.99 to $349.99 in the U.S. with a two-year contract from a mobile carrier, much like previous models. Off-contract, the Galaxy Note 4 may sell for $699.99 to $749.99.
Early reports suggested the Galaxy Note 4 would be available for AT&T (NYSE:T), Sprint Corp. (NYSE:S) and U.S. Cellular (NYSE:USM) while later leaks also included T-Mobile US Inc. (NYSE:TMUS) and Verizon Communication (NYSE:VZ). All of these networks have carried Samsung flagship devices in the past, so it is likely they will again.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 will likely be announced at Samsung’s Unpacked event Wednesday. The smartphone is expected to go on sale on or around Sept. 25. Notably, many U.S. mobile networks may have their own release dates for the Galaxy Note 4 after the device's debut.