Samsung’s new smartphones and tablets might not offer enough to entice current iPhone and iPad users to switch, but they keep Samsung at the head of the class among Android gadget makers.
The new Galaxy devices come weeks before comparable updates from Apple are expected. The Galaxy S6 Edge Plus and Note 5 phones arrived this month, while the Galaxy Tab S2 tablets come out on Thursday
So here’s a closer look at the devices:
Samsung pioneered jumbo phones with the original Note in 2011, but lost some of its shine after Apple came out with its own, the iPhone 6 Plus. Samsung’s new 5.7-inch phones seek to restore some of that lustre.
Of the two, the Edge Plus is likely to appeal more. The screen’s left and right edges are curved like a waterfall and blend into the phone’s aluminium casing. You get a better grip and a more immersive viewing experience, even from an angle.
As with the smaller S6 Edge phone, you can access frequent contacts and have the edge light up in a different colour, depending on who’s calling. With your phone face down, you know whether the caller’s important enough to interrupt a meeting. The Edge Plus model adds quick access to frequently used apps.
The Note 5 model comes with a regular, flat screen and will appeal primarily to professionals who do a lot of note-taking and messaging. You can write instead of type an email or reminder. Software converts the handwriting – even my chicken scratch – into computerised text. You can jot down a note even with the screen off, so you don’t lose your train of thought in turning on the phone and opening an app first. You can also annotate documents and web pages to share with others.
Both phones have great screens with vivid colours, though colours sometimes look unnatural. The cameras are excellent, but have colour challenges, too.
The phones have great battery life – 13 to 15 hours of Hulu video, while the included wall charger gets you a quarter charge in 15 minutes and more than 85 per cent in an hour.
But to entice iPhone users, they need to be much better. Samsung has a better chance at luring back some Android users – at least those willing to pay $696 to $740 for the Note 5 and about $75 more for the Edge.
Tell me about the new tablets?
Compared with the original Tab S, the Tab S2 update sheds bulk and weight, akin to what Apple has done with the full-size iPad Air and Air 2. But Samsung also scaled back on some features to make that happen. The $500 full-size model is now 9.7 inches rather than 10.5 inches, while the $400 mini version is 8 inches instead of 8.4 inches.
Any other changes?
Samsung also dropped the camera flash, something rare in tablets to begin with. Battery capacity is reduced, though you don’t need as much power to light up a smaller screen. In any case, the 12 to 14 hours promised for video should be enough for most flights or evenings at home. And as with the Samsung phones and the original Tab S, the new tablets use Amoled screen technology for vivid colours. This type of screen is rare for tablets because it’s expensive to produce at such sizes.
Best change in your opinion?
The dimensions are now 4:3. Android tablets, including the original Tab S, have typically used a wider, 16:10 aspect ratio, which is great for video but bad for just about everything else. The 4:3 ratio, which the iPad has long had, is better for photos, magazines and Web browsing. Samsung is ahead with multitasking features that let you view multiple apps side by side, though similar features are coming to the iPad soon with the iOS 9 software update.
So should Apple users switch?
Just as an iPad can be a good companion for iPhone users, a Samsung tablet is great for Samsung phone owners.
Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter