The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 held our best smartphone in the world title for almost six months until the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge claimed it recently. This may still be the finest phablet available today, and its sequel is just around the corner.
Samsung already let slip that the new phablet is in the pipeline and we expect it to arrive at IFA 2015 in September. Based on recent speculation, and Samsung’s current design philosophy and direction, we're taking a look at what the new phone might offer in our Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Galaxy Note 5 comparison.
Galaxy Note 4 vs Galaxy Note 5 comparison: Design and build quality
The Galaxy Note 4 design appears to have been informed by a lackluster response to the of the Samsung Galaxy S5. Instead of the plastic chrome-effect body with dimpled rear, the Galaxy S4 Samsung introduced metallic edges and faux-leather. The result was a phablet which looked sharp and felt comfortable from all angles.
Yes it was big, at 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm, and weighty at 176 g, but the combination of the black metal sides, the silver trim, and the soft, textured rear gave it an air of importance. Moreover, with the display taking up about 75 percent of the body, it never felt too big, as phablets sometimes can.
This is partly thanks to the convenient button placement and added grip provided by the rubbery rear, nonetheless I'm pleased that current rumors suggest the display proportions won’t change significantly on the new phablet.
This year, the Galaxy Note 5 is primed to take further steps into the domain of premium feel, with a metallic unibody as found on the Galaxy S6. While this could provide for and even more sultry feel to the phablet, it comes with its caveats.
Until recently, the Galaxy Note series held something over the iPhone and Nexus competition: a removable battery and expandable storage. These were afforded by its removable back panel, which thus far does not like will be making a return on the Note 5.
This isn’t a huge surprise given Samsung’s lack of these on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. That being said, an interest in phablets tends to imply a higher interest in 'consumption' also, as media tends to looks better on larger displays of a phablet than a smartphone.
With phablets primed for watching movies and videos, which often require high storage capacity and always require a lot of power, the idea of being limited in these spaces may turn some people off.
It’s too soon to rule out expandable storage and a removable battery, this is only speculation. But if the Galaxy Note 5 does lacks these features, it could spell trouble for the Note series, and Samsung’s profits.
Galaxy Note 4 vs Galaxy Note 5 comparison: Display
The Galaxy Note 4 has a QHD screen which comes in at 5.7 inches. It’s super-bright, highly detailed (with around 515 pixels per-inch), responsive and provides excellent viewing angles.
In almost every circumstance the Note 4’s screen exceeds that of the competition. Like many of Samsung’s displays, it is a fraction over-saturated and not 100 percent true to life, but I welcome its vibrant and larger-than-life tones. Truly, there are few smartphones with a display as sharp and clear as this.
Samsung will no doubt deliver in the display area again, as it has done year-on-year with its Note series, but I don’t think we’ll see the leap to 4k resolution just yet. It would probably be too costly and far too hard on the battery.
More likely, we’ll see another QHD display of roughly the same proportions as its predecessor, though this isn't necessarily a bad thing. If it’s as good as or better than the last offering it will still be worth getting excited about.
Galaxy Note 4 vs Galaxy Note 5 comparison: Software and performance
What separates the Galaxy Note 4 from most other phablets is its stylus, the S Pen. With its own set of largely useful functions, this is one of the major reasons to pick up the Note 4. You can read more about what it does in our Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review, but at this point we don’t know where Samsung will take this functionality in the Note 5.
Samsung has been continuing to improve the Air Command menu which works in conjunction with the S Pen in each iteration of the Note series, and the Korean company is also particularly keen on making “multi-tasking” a focal point of its Note series upgrades.
Last time around Samsung introduced “windowed apps” which let you minimize apps just by dragging from the top right corner, with the apps remaining open in the foreground. What is the next step for multi-tasking go in on the Note 5?
In terms of performance specs, the Note 4 housed a Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor or Exynos 5433, depending on where you purchased it. Since Samsung split with Qualcomm, it will be using its own chipset on the Note 5 which current rumors suggest will be a Exynos 7422 chip.
The Exynos 7422 is said to combine an octa-core CPU, GPU and RAM and Samsung’s Shannon LTE modem in an all-in-one package. This would be new ground for Samsung, and it’s too early to say how successful it will be.
Galaxy Note 4 vs Galaxy Note 5 comparison: Camera
The Galaxy Note 4 camera is another standout feature of the handset. The 16 MP main snapper comes with OIS, autofocus, LED flash, and 2160p video-recording at 30 fps. These aren't only top-tier specs but its real world performance is reflective of the internal components' quality. Check out some of the shots below.
Galaxy Note 4 vs Galaxy Note 5 comparison: Battery
As mentioned previously, the Galaxy Note 5 is unlikely to house a removable battery. The Note 4’s battery has a 3,220 mAh capacity which ensures it’s battery life is good, especially since with a QHD display gobbling it up. It has significantly stronger battery performance to the Galaxy S6's 2,550 mAh battery which houses a QHD display also.
Moreover, the Galaxy Note 4 offers quick-charging, providing around 50 percent battery life in a 30 minute charge, as well as wireless charging - though it requires a separate battery cover. So, where will the improvement lie in the battery department on the Note 5?
If the battery capacity is going to increase significantly it would have to make the phone longer or wider, neither of which is particularly likely. In addition, both phones will likely get upgraded to Android’s next version and take advantage of the battery improvements found therein. (You can read more about the features of Android M at the link.)
Samsung decreased the battery size between the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S6, so there’s even the chance that this could happen between the Note 4 and Note 5. Sure, the software will likely be better optimized for the battery, but it probably won’t produce a notably stronger battery performance.
Galaxy Note 4 vs Galaxy Note 5 comparison: Conclusion
If the current rumors are accurate, and the Galaxy Note 5 display is almost the same as its predecessor, the battery is weaker and isn’t removable and it lacks microSD card support, then I really don’t know how much better the Galaxy Note 5 is going to be than its predecessor.
It might have increased performance, the camera could be more impressive, and it will be more prepared for the next Android version, but the degrees to which this matters, in the grand scheme of things, may be negligible.
What I mean is: how much faster and stronger can things get?
Until I see how the software and S Pen functionality is changing, and how much it is going to cost, I’m skeptical about how the Galaxy Note 5 will make the series tangibly better.
But that’s just my take. What’s yours? Let me know in the comments below.