There’s no doubt the Galaxy Note 5 is a looker. With its sleek glass-and-metal build, gorgeous screen, and top-of-the-line camera it’s sure tempting to make it your next phone.
But boy, is it expensive. That’s more important nowadays, as getting a flagship phone for $199 thanks to carrier subsidies is largely a thing of the past (AT&T remains the sole holdout, but you’ll pay a lot more per month for a subsidy plan).
If you have a Galaxy Note 4, you’re plagued with the ultimate first-world problem: whether or not to upgrade to the newest model. While the siren call of the latest-and-greatest is strong, there are a few reasons you may want to hold on to your current Note.
A removable back and SD card slot are super handy
Two of the features that many loved about Samsung phones was the removable battery and expansion storage via an SD card slot.
Just like with the S6 and S6 Edge, those are no longer found with the Galaxy Note 5 (same with the S6 Edge+).
Personally, the loss of the removable battery and microSD slot doesn’t bother me. I would rather use a portable charger than keep track of a battery or fiddle with storage settings by moving content to an SD card. Also, Samsung’s newest Note supports rapid charging, so you can get your device up to speed quickly if you get a Samsung or third-party Fast Charge pad.
But a lot of Android fans feel differently, and for them this is a dealbreaker. So you probably want to hold on to your Note as long as you can until it’s ready to give up the ghost.
The price may drop
Samsung has been on a tear this year with new phones. It seems like just a few months ago that the excellent Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge went on sale. To get jump on the iPhone, Samsung pushed out the Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+.
With so many new phones, there’s bound to be some give with the price. A few deals have already popped up, such as an unlocked Galaxy S6 for $470. It’s hard to believe there is a strong enough market to sustain four flagship phones priced at $700 or more.
Once the next iPhone comes out, Samsung may be under pressure to move some more units. Expect either a price cut or some more discount offers from third-party retailers.
The Note 4’s screen is (almost) as good
If you’re going to be “stuck” with your current phone, it may as well have the second-best display on the market.
Displaymate recently gave the Note 5 the “best screen” title, just edging out the previous winner, the Galaxy Note 4. With your current phone still on the podium at the number two slot, you’re probably not gaining that much in clarify for all that extra money.
You really have to stare and point out small differences to spot where the Note 5 outperforms the Note 4. It still offers the same excellent 1440 x 2560 resolution with 515 pixels per inch. The screen is still great to look at, so you’re not necessarily making that big of a compromise by sticking with the Note 4.
Samsung is much better at software updates
Samsung used to be the worst at updating its phones. But part of its new religion of glass and metal includes a newfound ability to speed up how quickly it gets out the latest Android updates.
Samsung was pretty fast about delivering Lollipop to the Galaxy S5, and it’s been on the ball when it comes to the Stagefright patch. Samsung joined Google in pledging that it would delivery monthly security updates to its flagship phones.
The only caveat here is that with the exception of the Sprint model, the Note 4 is still stuck on Android 5.0.1. It’s not so much that you’re missing out on a ton of features by not getting 5.1.1, but there were some important bug fixes and performance improvements. If that doesn’t change soon, my recommendation may move to one that says, “Get the Note 5 now.”
The camera is still really good
The Note 5 camera is great, but the Note 4’s shooter is still really good. I’ve taken it on several trips and been very happy with its performance in a lot of different circumstances.
Dissatisfaction with one’s camera can be a huge driver behind upgrading one’s phone. It’s why I ditched the Nexus 5 for the Note 4. As much as I loved stock Android, terrible pictures are a real drag. The Note has really impressed me with low-light performance, though it really shines with outdoor pictures and when there’s good lighting. Yes, you’ll get a better camera in the Note 5, but not by much.
OK, maybe you should upgrade
Give Samsung credit for making upgrades in the right places to make the Note 5 rather tempting. While we noted the new screen has the same resolution as the Galaxy Note 4 it’s quantitatively better, recently earning the title of best smartphone screen from DisplayMate.
In general, we found the Note 5 to be fast and long-lasting in our benchmark test, outperforming the Galaxy Note 4 in many areas. The Note 5 also does that neat camera trick the Galaxy S6 first introduced: double-push the home button to launch the camera and then snap away.
Don’t expect to see this feature in the Note 4. Same thing with those cool themes and other UI enhancements: Samsung may update the Note 4 over time with the latest builds of Android, but it’s clearly focused on differentiating its Note 5 and other the other new flagships.
In all, however, you can’t go wrong by holding on to your Note for a while longer. Let those initial bugs in the new flagship get worked out, and decide if some of the tradeoffs (like no expandable storage) are worth the slight bump up you’re getting in screen, camera, and build quality.