NEW YORK – We’ve seen curved displays on smartphones before (see the Galaxy Round and LG G Flex), but they’ve mostly been eye candy. The new Galaxy Note Edge gives that curve a purpose by providing a second screen on the right edge of the device that provides instant access to your favorite apps, Twitter trends, sports scores and more. Based on my hands-on time with this device, the Note Edge is a refreshing case where Samsung isn’t merely innovating for innovation’s sake.
The Note Edge has all of the same features as the new Galaxy Note 4, including a sharp quad HD screen, metal frame, and improved S Pen functionality. You’ll also get Qualcomm’s latest and fastest Snapdragon 805 processor, a 16-MP camera with optical image stabilization and a wide-angle selfie camera. The difference between the two handsets is that the Edge sports a secondary display that’s 160 pixels high — and it can do some pretty cool stuff.
The Note Edge’s second screen can display all sorts of at-a-glance info. For instance, you can see notifications as they roll in, look at what’s trending on Twitter, scan the latest news headlines, and see who won the Yankees game via Yahoo Sports (yes, you can customize which teams show up). You can also peek at stock updates. Flipping among all of these feeds is as easy as swiping your finger.
From the lock screen, you can also quickly access a bunch of app shortcuts, such as the flashlight, ruler, timer and voice notes. When the phone screen is off, you can continue to use this second screen in alarm clock mode (Night Clock). The time looked rather dim, but you should be able to read the display fine in a dark room.
A special settings menu (Edge screen) lets you customize the order of all of these mini apps, as well as drill down — when there’s an option — to specify things like your favorite teams and stocks. You can also create a special panel that pulls in photos and displays a special message to give your Galaxy Note Edge a more personal feel.
The Note Edge does have one notable drawback. Because the curved right side comes to a somewhat thin and sharp edge, there’s no room for the power button there. Instead, it’s on the top of the device. I’m also concerned about the durability of this display, and how much it might cost to replace should both the primary and secondary screens crack. A case will be a must.
Another concern is price. If the Note 4 winds up costing $299 on contract like the Note 3 did at launch, the Note Edge will probably be priced at $349 or even higher. That’s a steep cost for a subsidized smartphone. It will be up to Samsung to convince shoppers that the Edge display is worth the premium. Samsung will also have to sign up more developers for its Edge Screen SDK. So far, though, I like what I see.