I barely lasted a week and a half with the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge.
Here’s the gist: I was really excited when I received word that the Verizon variant of Samsung’s phablet-sized curved phone was on its way. I was eager to try something different from the usual cadre of flat-faced smartphones that rule the Android world. The Note Edge had a certain je nais se quoi about it, too—something I hoped extended beyond just its curved right edge and would convince me the display wasn’t just a gimmick, as I’d thought when I first laid eyes on the phone last year.
But I was wrong. There’s really nothing special about it. The Galaxy Note Edge seems to be nothing more than an experiment from Samsung to see what customers want from a curved phone. That’s fine, except that this science project costs an exorbitant amount of money—about $400 with a two-year contract, or $800 off-contract on Verizon. But even worse, the phone’s flagship feature offers nothing more than an extra bit of space where you can dock application icons.
With all this talk about Samsung possibly debuting a curved flagship at Mobile World Congress next month, I figured now would be a good time to share my complaints with Samsung’s first curved device in the US. But before we get into the negatives, let’s quickly talk about what I did like.
Inside, the Galaxy Note Edge is essentially the Galaxy Note 4 with a curved display panel. The major difference is the smaller 3,000mAh battery pack in the Note Edge (the Note 4 battery pack is rated at 3,220mAh). The Note Edge also comes bundled with all the software bells and whistles of its counterpart, including the ubiquitous S-pen.
It’s all rather redundant if you have a Note 4, but the Note Edge has a leg up in the revolving interface of the curved right edge. It’s aptly called Revolving UI, and it’s like a multifunctional version of the Mac OS X dock. You can cycle through the UI as needed, and it goes into hiding when you’re in a fullscreen app like S-Note or Twitter.
I primarily used the panel to store app shortcuts and view at-a-glance notifications, though you can also use it as a news ticker, step counter, or as a fun “side game” if you download the appropriate app for it from Samsung’s own app store. There’s even a toolkit of sorts that you can use by pulling down from the top. It includes tools like a flashlight, voice record, and a ruler.
Eventually, I grew accustomed to cycling through the panels to get what I needed. I liked that there was one specific part of my phone where I could store app icons. My Home screen had never looked so perfectly manicured. I also really liked some of the Edge-only features, like the Night Clock. It’s an optional mode that dimly displays the current time and your next alarm just in the Note Edge’s curved bar. You can set when this particular feature shows up, too. In my case, I liked to have the clock on between 10pm and 6am.
What doesn’t work
The Note Edge may employ the same brightly colored Super AMOLED display as the Note 4, but the asymmetrical shape of the phone makes it awkward to hold up to your ear to conduct a phone call. I kept feeling like I was going to accidentally launch an app from the dock. It’s hard to hold the phone with just your shoulder, too.
Left handers, you’re also out of luck. The Note Edge seems to be specifically catered for the right-handed. There’s a setting that lets you flip the phone 180-degrees so that you can use it, but that will require you to learn how to use the phone upside down. You’ll also have to flip the phone right-side up to take a call.
Some apps don’t work well with the curved screen either, like Samsung’s camera app, which embeds the shutter button within the curve of the display. Again, it’s awkward to tap. I felt like I was going to drop the phone while snapping photos of my friends. I opted instead to use the volume rocker on the side as the shutter button to get a better grip of the device.
I also failed to see much benefit from the “second screen” experience. While I liked having notifications roll in and out on the side (rather than popping up and bugging me while I was doing other stuff on the main screen), there were several instances when Android couldn’t figure out where to deliver a notification. This resulted in several missed phone calls and Facebook messages—something I don’t particularly appreciate when I’m using my phone to sync up with pals at the park.
Now, lump all that on top of the fact that the Galaxy Note Edge still uses Samsung’s blue-hued TouchWiz Nature UX, and you’ve got an Android experience that’s just not worth paying for.
Save your money
There are two things I ask myself when I’m using a smartphone: Does it look good and does it work well? For the most part, the Galaxy Note Edge looks interesting enough that you’ll get friends asking about its weird design, but the curved edge of the screen won’t do much to enhance your smartphone experience. Why not opt for the cheaper Galaxy Note 4 instead? Seriously—it’s $100 cheaper!
The Galaxy Note Edge is merely an experiment. I understand why Samsung would put the device out in the wild, and it makes sense given the company’s penchant for “trying things out,” but this isn’t an experiment like the Gear VR. It’s a smartphone that you’re supposed to use throughout the day for everything. I would have rather Samsung put its efforts into trying out a subtle-y curved display like the upcoming LG G Flex 2, which I impressed me the minute I laid eyes on it at CES (mind you, I wasn’t a big fan of the first generation G Flex either). Hopefully we’ll see something like that from Samsung at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
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