Samsung’s latest Galaxy Note 9 premium business phablet will be unveiled at the company’s newly announced Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2018 event on Aug. 9 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
In a teaser invite emailed to eWEEK on June 27, Samsung said it will hold the Unpacked event while also live-streaming it on several Samsung websites.
The invite does not actually identify the coming model as the Note 9, but an image accompanying the invitation clearly shows a portion of the Note’s iconic built-in stylus, which is a vague reference to what should be the latest Note model.
“On August 9, Samsung Electronics will welcome a new member to the premium Galaxy family,” the invitation states. “To celebrate the launch of the upcoming device, the company is hosting the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event on August 9, 2018. Live streaming of the event will be available at news.samsung.com/global, www.samsungmobilepress.com and www.samsung.com/galaxy.”
Little is officially known about the upcoming Note 9, other than it’s expected to include performance and feature upgrades, as is usually the case with new handsets. But rumors have been swirling for months about improvements including a fingerprint sensor located beneath the display glass and a Samsung software “overlay” with custom add-on features for its Android operating system. Also rumored are such improvements as a longer-life battery, an upgraded S-Pen stylus, a better camera, and added accuracy and features for its Bixby AI assistant software.
The Note series has been a popular seller for Samsung, with sales recovering in 2017 for the Note 8 after the disastrous Note 7 debacle of 2016, which ended with a total model recall after a series of battery fires and explosions plagued the handset.
The current Note 8, which sells for $930, includes a 6.3-inch HD AMOLED display with 2,960-by-1,440-pixel resolution, a 64-bit octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and 6GB of memory.
Several IT analysts told eWEEK that to continue the success of the Note line, the next model must include features that will impress buyers and motivate them to move up to the new handsets.
“The Note has long been Samsung’s technical flagship, so the Note 9 will need to excel in imaging, productivity and the ever-elusive ‘something else’ that captures the imagination of buyers … even if it is mostly experimental on the Note,” Avi Greengart, mobile device analyst with GlobalData, told eWEEK.
“Consumers have forgiven Samsung for the Note 7—the Note 8 and the Galaxy S phones that were released since then have sold well,” he said. “However, one consequence of the Note 7 battery fiasco is that Samsung has been extremely conservative about the batteries in these phones.”
With better battery testing and manufacturing processes now in place at Samsung since the Note 7 disaster, said Greengart, “I’d really like to see them pushing things forward again. Everyone needs more battery life.”
Tuong Nguyen, an analyst with Gartner, said he expects buyers to be excited by the Note 9 by default because it is a premium phone that will get upgrades desired by users.
The Note 8 did well in the marketplace and helped bolster Samsung’s high-end phone sales, while also allowing the company to show off its use of Bixby to manage features and settings, said Nguyen. “This doesn’t necessarily mean that Bixby got significant traction, but it was a compelling feature.”
But will the Note 9 get any innovative features that will be effective in persuading buyers to replace their existing smartphones?
“This question really applies to all new phone launches from all vendors,” said Nguyen. “So far, I see all vendors slightly upgrading existing features, and consumers are happy enough with it. I think the bigger challenge is introducing a product that is compelling enough to drive a regular or even shorter cadence in the replacement cycle.”
Another analyst, Rob Enderle of Enderle Group, said that to motivate buyers, the next Note model will “need to be a significant upgrade with no major problems, and Samsung does seem to be able to deliver on that promise now.”
Last year’s Note 8 was “a nice recovery product” by Samsung, so buyers “stuck with the brand” and returned to the model even after the Note 7 problems, said Enderle.
For Samsung, the marketplace has been changing in recent months, especially as more Apple users have been getting frustrated with that company’s approach to quality control, user feedback about battery and keyboard problems, and other related issues, he added.
“I doubt [Apple users will] migrate, but new users are increasingly more likely to take Samsung because the cache around the iPhone has been significantly reduced,” said Enderle. “I expect Samsung to do very well with this product as a result.”