SAMSUNG will launch a slimmer, smaller and thoroughly redesigned big-screen phone as much as three months earlier than last year, it’s revealed in New York, giving the company a headstart on major rival Apple and its upcoming iPhone announcement.
The world’s leading smartphone maker will also fast-forward the launch of a slimmer, curved screen version of its biggest phone, with both handsets due to arrive in Australia “in the coming weeks” with local prices revealed next Tuesday.
The new smartphones will feature slender glass and metal bodies, 16-megapixel cameras, wireless charging, and new software additions.
Samsung’s worldwide announcement, held in New York City’s Alice Tully Hall at 1am Friday Australian time, signals the start of a new battle over large-screen phones, with Apple rumoured to be launching its new phablet on September 9 and analysts calling Samsung’s announcements “critical” for its success.
But Samsung Australia mobile vice-president Prasad Gokhale said the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ launch had been expedited because they were already “on the drawing board” after the revamp of other phones this year.
“Our ergonomics have really evolved — the whole plasticky experience is gone,” he said.
“The plastic experience was okay when it was done. It was of its own kind. I believe (the new design) is motivating customers to (upgrade).”
Both the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ smartphones will offer better cameras, including a 5-megapixel camera for clearer selfies, a more reliable fingerprint sensor, more RAM for better multi-tasking, and smaller, slimmer bodies than the last Note phone, coming in as slender as 6.9mm and as light as 153g.
The Note 5 will also feature a curved back panel for an easier grip, and a noticeably smaller border around its 5.7-inch screen.
“People want a bigger screen but a smaller phone,” Mr Gokhale said. “(Reducing) the bezel is a very unique aspect. The thinner you can get it, the prettier it is because it’s all screen.”
But both new Samsung phones have dropped some features of its predecessors, including the removable battery and expandable memory of the Note 4, and the infra-red blaster that could act as a TV remote control.
The new handsets also feature slightly smaller batteries, and only offer built-in storage up to 64GB rather than 128GB as in the Galaxy S6 phone.
Samsung has a lot riding on the success of its latest smartphones after it lost its mantle of top Australian smartphone seller to Apple in the first quarter of the year, according to IDC, with a 38 per cent share to the Apple iPhone’s 49 per cent.
But the company could see its fortunes rise as more Australians fall in love with large-screen phones.
IDC Australia market analyst Joseph Hsiao said “phablet adoption” had increased from 9 per cent in the third quarter of last year to 38 per cent by the last quarter of 2014.
“By the end of the year, one in two smartphones sold in Australia are likely to be a phablet,” he said.
Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi said Samsung had a lot of brand loyalty and “repeat purchase” intention from its Australian customers, and could benefit from pitting its products against what could be a minor update from Apple this year.
“Obviously it’s an important release for Samsung and it’s an opportune year for the company given it’s not a major refresh of the iPhone,” he said. “It’s critical for Samsung’s product to be addressing what the market needs this year.”
Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson travelled to New York as a guest of Samsung.