The Samsung Note 9: Bigger, badder, and boring

As Samsung President Dong Jin Koh paced around the stage in New York to introduce the company’s newest phone on Thursday, it all felt a bit surreal. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is no doubt an impressive piece of hardware, but we’ve heard this kind of hyperbole — this is the most powerful phone ever — before. In fact we hear it at every release event, every year.

The first iPhone or even the first Galaxy Note were radically new pieces of technology, but for all its genuinely powerful, novel features, the Note 9 is just another incremental upgrade. This is not really Samsung’s fault. The familiarity of the Note 9 instead points to a broader problem facing smartphone makers, and Android manufacturers in particular: Now that the smartphone market is matured, we are starting to hit an upper limit on what the smartphone can do, leaving companies scrambling to try and create the next thing without losing their relevance.

Still — the Note 9 is an impressive piece of hardware, and power users looking for a new phone would do well to consider it. The Note line has always been unique in that it introduced the world to the large-screen smartphone and combined it with top-end hardware and a stylus. The Note 9 continues the trend by including an enormous 6.4-inch screen, a top-of-the-line processor, and a new pen that doubles as a camera remote. There’s also a big battery — safety tested to avoid the debacle of the exploding Note 7.

But the most interesting feature of the Note 9 is the same one that most clearly points to the problems looming over the horizon for the smartphone market. The phone includes the latest version of DeX, Samsung’s solution to use a smartphone as a PC. Plug in an HDMI cable to connect the Note 9 to a TV, and you can use the phone to watch videos, access documents, and, once you connect a keyboard, also work on them.

It’s very intriguing, but it also highlights the contortions that phone companies are having to perform to sell each new model. Presented with devices that can be used to communicate, entertain, discover, and more, users are still asking, “well, what else can I do with it?” Samsung’s answer seems to be: “What if you could also use it as a basic PC?”

In fairness, this is where technology seems to be going. Both Samsung and Microsoft are also rumored to be working on dual-screen smartphones that will unfold into workable laptops. Mobility is the future and a small, multifunctional device may be just the thing that meets the needs of both productivity and portability.

For the time being, however, it’s hard to avoid the sense that companies are throwing everything and the kitchen sink into their devices, just to keep them relevant and novel enough to entice users into upgrading. While this is true for both Apple and Samsung, it really underscores the Android’s broader strangeness at the moment: How is the …read more

Source:: The Week – Entertainment


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