Loud auditoriums, ballet dancers, camera flashes, YouTube video reviews and then silence. This is the short, floodlit, winding road that is universally traversed by all global players in the mobile industry when unveiling “the next big thing”. Sooner or later – usually sooner – the bandwagon then moves on to the next, “next big thing”. So, approximately 6 months after launch, we look back at the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, in Retrospect.
Back in September 2014 the Samsung-loving world was eagerly anticipating the release of the company’s next device. An iteration of the phone that coined the term “phablet” and a continuation of the Note lineup, the Galaxy Note 4.
The Galaxy Note 4 managed improve in almost all areas on its predecessors’ feature set with more 4G radio bands supported, a QHD 1440 x 2560 Super-AMOLED display sitting at 515 ppi pixel density, an improvement on the Snapdragon SoC installed, now an 805 and also delivered Android’s latest Operating System, Android 4.4.4 KitKat upon launch.
So how does the device fair after 6 whole months? Is all still well with the world for those Note 4 users out there? Our view is, yes, mostly.
The glitz and glamour of the Note 4’s QHD screen is still very much a highlight. The device certainly isn’t bezel-less but they are small enough to really feel quite immersed in whatever you are doing on the 5.7″ Super-AMOLED beauty. Furthermore, the Note 4’s 16MP optical image stabilised rear camera is still one of the best smartphone cameras out there. For us, this sits proudly alongside the iPhone 6(+) and the Xperia Z3 for quality. It really gives some great shots with a very, very fast shutter speed.
Video is no different. The Note 4 excels in Video capture with either 1080p or 2k (2160p) shooting options. We’d highly recommend keeping to 1080p if only to save you some space on your device, and to conserve that little bit more battery. The difference, as you will see, is negligible.
Other areas have not weathered quite so well. The software, TouchWiz, is still one of the most divisive Android skins around. Heavy, unwieldy and plain cartoonish, it still fails to deliver a cohesive, intuitive environment for both work and play. The stylus; sorry S Pen, to some degree helps to offset this frustration by linking user experience layers together via its smart apps. Action memo, Smart Select, Image Clip and Screen Write all manage to give enough value to perhaps allow users to overlook TouchWiz’s shortcomings.
The lovely design of the Galaxy Note 4, is offset somewhat by its material choices. With its faux leather effect plastic back, and beautiful, but seemingly scratch and dent magnetised chamfered edges, the Galaxy Note 4 isn’t a rough rugged device. If you tap this device on any hard surface, or drop it accidentally from almost any height, you’ll be reaching for a cloth in the hope you can polish the scratches away!
The 3220 mAh battery manages to just about deal with the QHD display and delivers, on average, around 4 hours of screen on time. With devices such as the OnePlus One and the Droid Turbo both managing way above 4 hours screen on time (varying by usage), and with the Droid Turbo providing a QHD display also, users might be found more wanting. That being said, one of the advantages the Note 4 has over both of the aforementioned devices is a removable battery. Grab a spare and users won’t find themselves reaching for the charger halfway through a tough day!
The long and short here is that if you’re a consumer who is 6 months through a 24 month contract with the Note 4, the odds are you’re going to be quite happy with how things are. The Note 4 still has a powerhouse of a CPU, ample battery life to drive it, and the 5.7″ display it sports, as well as fun and games to be had with the S Pen. With the recently announced OTA update of Lollipop (Android 5.x) currently working through the Note 4 population as well, there is more than enough to be getting on with. However, 6-12 months from now we’d expect consumers to be slightly less enamoured with this device as new battery levels are introduced, wireless charging becomes the norm and Android 5 matures still further.
We’d still recommend the Note 4 as the go to device for phablet lovers out there especially given as the price for a Note 4 is down to around £450. It’s worth a look if you’re looking to skip the currently released flagship generation and see something through to next years’ silly season.
Special thanks to our friends over at Three UK for allowing us a loan Galaxy Note 4 for us to complete this Retrospect article. You could do much worse than taking a look at their tariffs and SIM only plans.