Offered with humility, a new Note

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Above: Samsung’s Note 8 and S-Pen are both rated at IP68 for water and dust resistance. Photo courtesy Samsung.

BitDepth#1108 for August 29, 2017

It was a surprise to see a new phone bearing the Note name appear last week. After the travails that Samsung endured last year, losing trust, prestige and billions in product sales with the total recall of the Note 7, I’d assumed that the brand, like Edsel, or perhaps more relevantly, Pinto, would be retired, never to be heard from again.

Samsung’s Note 8 will be available at the end of September in T&T in Midnight Black and Maple Gold. Photo courtesy Samsung. Click to enlarge.

The launch of the Note 8, starring a remarkable three panelled set which turned the expansive floor and two massive walls into a stunning digital canvas for three-dimensional illusions of massive phones gliding across its expanse, also featured an eloquent and expansive apology to Samsung’s Note users for the failure of the Note 7.

The early moments of the launch explored the soaring history of the groundbreaking device through the ecstatic joy of its early users right through to their crushed, shattered expressions after last year’s recall.

By the time DJ Koh, President of Mobile Communications Business took to the stage, his apology came as the capstone to an extended apology offered from multiple perspectives.

“None of us will ever forget what happened last year,” Koh said, “I know I won’t.”

Koh spoke expansively of the company’s wonder at what’s been created using the “phablet” form factor of the Note over the years, pulling dozens of expressive illustrations from Samsung’s Pen-Up website galleries done by Note users as examples of the startling creativity the device has stoked.

Justin Denison, Senior Vice-president of Product Strategy also saluted the tenacity of Note users, but stressed the new features of the Note 8, which features a special version of the Infinity Screen introduced with the Samsung Edge devices which became the default on this year’s S8 line.

Drawing, painting and colouring on new adult colouring book art bring new allure to the Note 8. Photo courtesy Samsung. Click to enlarge.

The Note 8 version, after testing with hardcore users of the accessory S-Pen stylus that’s an inseparable accessory for serious Note illustrators, features a sharper curve than the shallower gradient used on the S8.

The curve remains a space for swiping out feature panes on the Note 8 though, with a new feature, App Pair, designed to make use of the expansive screen.

Users can bind two apps together using the feature and launch both as a single combined icon. The two app windows will automatically adjust to split-screen mode, offering a useful shortcut for multitasking users who frequently want to work with two apps, side by side.

According to Denison, the device will come with 6 GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and premium AKG earphones from Harman which he rather snarkily pointed out can be plugged into the “standard earphone jack.”

I happen to be a fan of large form factor phones, and the critical dimensions that seem to affect the perception of their size are their width and weight rather than their height.

Even with large hands, once you put a protective case on a phone, the width can quickly go from comfortable to chunky.

The Note 8 has gained a full inch in dimensional size from the original Note, which came with a 5.3 inch screen that we all thought was huge.

Shifting here to metric measures for admittedly incremental dimensional differences, of the four large form factor phones currently available on the T&T market, the Note 8 leads on height at 162.5mm.

Next is the S8+ at 159.5, the iPhone 7+ (158.2mm), Mate 9 (156.9mm) and P10+ (153.7mm).

The narrowest of the five devices is the S8+ at 73.4mm, followed by the P10+ (74.2mm), Note 8 (74.8mm), iPhone 7+ (77.9mm) and the positively chunky Mate 9 (78.9mm).

The Note 8 is the heaviest of the five devices at 195g, the lightest is the P10+ at 165g. The S8+ follows at 173g, with the iPhone 7+ (188g) and Mate 9 (190g) rounding out the middle of the weight range.

Each of these devices is balanced to work well within its design parameters, so it’s somewhat pointless comparing them as if these are Playmate stats to divine their attractiveness.

People who like using a Note will be overjoyed to not just have a new, modern device available, they will get one that’s a full inch taller than the original “phablet.”

Samsung’s new Dual Lens design for the Note 8. Photo courtesy Samsung. Click to enlarge.

New to the Samsung line of premium smartphones is a dual lens system. The Note 8 pairs a wide-angle lens and a 2x telephoto lens that work both separately and apart for picture making.

Uncertain snappers can capture both a wide-angle and telephoto view of the same image simultaneously with Dual Capture or can use the binocular view of both lenses to shift background focus even after capturing an image with a feature the company calls Live Focus.

Samsung has chosen the iPhone 7+ path for its dual lens package, offering a bundle of built-in lenses instead of the more radical computational photography that Huawei has been exploring with its P series.

The Samsung implementation is likely to win fans for its elegant and straightforward implementation.

S-Pen users have some pleasant surprises in store. You can “Live Message” by writing or drawing with animated “inks” on photos and send the resulting file off as an animated GIF.

The stylus now sports a thinner tip, and is lighter and more sensitive to pressure for artists.

Samsung’s tremendously useful “always on” screen now is a writing pad with up to 100 pages that you can scribble away on without waking the device up.

The writing will be white on a black background as you write, but inverts when the device is fully active.

Samsung emphasised the translation capabilities of the new phone during the launch, which allows you to point the camera at a foreign language and get a translation or currency conversion on screen.

But it fell to Terry Weech, IT and Mobile Communications Sales Manager, who answered questions after the event, to explain that writing done on the pad is not only straightened and tidied, the characters are recognised and turned into editable text on the device.

Even cooler, someone can write on the phone in this mode in their native language and the Note 8 will translate it.

Weech, who had T&T on his travel agenda last week, also plans to reintroduce Samsung’s experience points to the country, which the resurgent company needs to properly show off its new, impressively technical goods.

DeX, which expands the smartphone into a full computing device, was  introduced with the S8 earlier this year but is likely to be more impressive when experienced than explained.

Samsung will launch the Note 8 in T&T on September 29 in Midnight Black and Maple Gold.