Samsung Storms NYC with Curvy Phablet and Mobile VR

1 - Samsung Storms NYC with Curvy Phablet and Mobile VR
2 - An Early Edge on the iPhone 6
3 - Smart Curves
4 - Now the Hard Part: Apps
5 - Galaxy Note 4: Not Fancy but Pleasantly Functional
6 - No Slouches Here
7 - A Steady 16 Megapixel Shooter
8 - A Vibrant OLED Screen
9 - A Handful but Palmable
10 - Mobile VR Arrives Ahead of Schedule
11 - Girding for Battle in NYC?
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Samsung Storms NYC with Curvy Phablet and Mobile VR

by Pedro Hernandez

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An Early Edge on the iPhone 6

Less than a week before Apple unveils the iPhone 6, which is rumored to ship in a phablet-sized version, Samsung needed something to counter the deafening buzz coming from Cupertino, Calif. The Galaxy Note Edge and its distinctive curved screen provided the company's mobile portfolio with some much-needed attention.

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Smart Curves

Given the tepid response to LG's G Flex smartphone and Samsung's own Galaxy Round, it's easy to dismiss the device's curved right edge as another ill-fated stunt. But after spending a little time with the device, it charms with a thumb-friendly area that makes it easy to flip though mini app experiences. It's just as at home on a nightstand, where it can act as an alarm clock, as in a conference room, where users can surreptitiously catch up on sports scores.

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Now the Hard Part: Apps

Ryan Bidan, senior director of strategy and operations at Samsung Telecommunications, said the company is releasing a software development kit (SDK) to help Android developers build Edge-compatible apps. If the company can get them onboard, then the Edge screen may become a signature feature across the company's mobile lineup that is genuinely useful.

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Galaxy Note 4: Not Fancy but Pleasantly Functional

Also unveiled was the Galaxy Note 4, which was understandably upstaged by the Edge. Nonetheless, traditionalists will appreciate a handsome, fast-performing handset that allows them to multi-task with ease.

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No Slouches Here

No surprise here. Both the Galaxy Note 4 and Edge responded to taps, gestures and other inputs instantaneously and without discernable lag. Both models ship with a 2.7GHz quad-core processor. In some regions, the Galaxy Note 4 will be available with a 1.9GHz "octa-core" processor, consisting of 1.9GHz and 1.3GHz quad-core chips.

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A Steady 16 Megapixel Shooter

The rear-facing camera on both the Galaxy Note 4 and Edge is a 16-megapixel shooter with "image stabilization that rivals $1,000 digital SLRs," boasted Bidan. Tethered as they were to demo stations, it was tough to put that claim to the test. Nonetheless, sample pictures appeared sharp and vibrant, undoubtedly aided by the phablets' super-saturated AMOLED screens.

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A Vibrant OLED Screen

Just a tenth of an inch separates the Galaxy Note 4 and the Edge (5.7 inches vs. 5.6 inches). In both versions, the "Quad Super HD" AMOLED displays boast a resolution of 2,560 pixels by 1,440 pixels. As is typical of OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays, colors are bright, blacks are inky and visuals refresh without ghosting or smearing. In short, everything from photos, to videos, to Web pages looks great.

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A Handful but Palmable

Both the Galaxy Note 4 and the Edge are solid, premium handsets that are nice to hold, at least in this writer's medium-sized hands. With a thickness of 0.33 inches and 0.32 inches, respectively, they also strike a stealthy profile. The Galaxy Note Edge takes a slight ergonomic lead with a curved screen that puts one's right thumb to good use.

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Mobile VR Arrives Ahead of Schedule

Another standout hardware announcement from Samsung was its new Gear VR hardware, developed in conjunction with Oculus. The wearable technology cleverly leverages the Galaxy Note 4's display—the smartphone snaps into the unit—to provide 3D virtual-reality experiences. It's certainly attention-grabbing, but at this early stage, only early adopters need apply. Gear VR goes on sale later this year.

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Girding for Battle in NYC?

Samsung's choice of its new flagship digs in NYC doubled as a venue for the Sept. 3 unveiling. Located at 837 Washington St., the new offices are steps from the iconic High Line, a former elevated train route that has become a tourist attraction in recent years. More importantly, it's a stone's throw from an Apple Store in Manhattan's trendy Meatpacking District (on the corner of 14th Street & 9th Avenue) and a couple of blocks from Google's mega-complex. Expect it to host other major unveilings in the future.

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