PHABBA-DABBA-DOO! Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Edge, Gear VR – feast your eyes

The New Mobile Culture – show report

Selfie conscious

Weary of pushing up the pixel count on its phone cameras, Samsung has been working on making the most of what it has got and has come up with a some crowd pleasing functions. Students will certainly be smitten by Snap Note. Who needs to write when you can take a pic of the tutor's scrawl on the blackboard? Then you make tilt corrections, trace the text and insert it into a note which can be annotated.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Snap Note

Snap Note: for when jotting things down with an S Pen seems too much of an effort

If Snap Note sounds more like work than fun, then Wide Selfie is a crowd pleaser in more ways than one, as it can take a 120-degree shot. It is activated from a button on the back of the handset to offer a broad field of view that captures more than just a fuller figure.

Assuming these features will be found on the Galaxy Note Edge, what you get on this future phablet is a curving of the display along the right edge enabling this separate strip of screen information to be viewed from the side too.

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge promo pic

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge promo pic: so which hand do you use to hold your handset?

You can flip strip modes with your thumb which is fine if you hold the Edge in your right hand, which is how all the promo pics appeared. So what’s wrong with this picture? Nothing if, like me, you happen to be a left hander, as holding and thumbing the handset in the right hand works very well with an S-Pen in the left hand.

I sense there will some gnashing of teeth among the left brain thinkers out there who buy into the Edge when it arrives though. So Samsung, is the pen really mightier than the thumb? Which side of the brain came up with this design, I wonder?

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge camera

The Galaxy Note Edge showing camera controls easily accessible from the right thumb

Samsung has been busy with brain teasing of a different sort, teaming up with Oculus to create its own Gear VR headset that responds to movements in less than 20ms. It takes advantage of the Note 4’s rapid response AMOLED hi-res screen and, combined with the headset’s own internal optics, delivers a 96-degree view which, to the wearer appears, as if it was a 175-inch mega screen from 2 metres away.

Samsung Gear VR headset

Gear VR headset made with Oculus takes advantage of the Note 4's AMOLED display clarity and responsiveness

Oculus CTO John Carmack appeared in reality and talked of how Samsung’s low-level access to the hardware platform enabled an enhanced experience on a mobile platform with guaranteed clock rates and graphics drawn with “multiple context prioritised GPU threads”.

This allows the main world to be drawn at very low rates. The second higher priority thread gets to update the screen very quickly to respond to head tracking, "closing that loop of how you move, to what you see".

Samsung Gear VR headset

It maybe great to view for short periods but VR headsets remain unwieldy accessories

The trouble is, you still look like you should be swimming or skiing when you wear the Gear VR and the 176g of the Note 4, plus all the other headset chicanery, puts quite a lot of weight on your bonce. There’s no doubt VR can be fun, but its strap-on execution is somewhat unconvincing.

To a certain extent, the new Gear S has similar problems related to chunkiness, but Samsung has teamed up with Swavorski to add bling to the wristband. It’s an appealing way of disguising the standard Gear S which looks like it could be an offender tagging device.

Interestingly, the new Gear S has its own Sim card, a you can use it much like a phone, although initially it still needs to be paired to one of 20 Samsung Galaxy handsets.

Samsung Gear S Swavorski wristbands

Bling bracelets: Gear S Swavorski wristbands

DJ Lee’s remark that our daily lives will never be the same points to a New Mobile Culture of the near future, but if the Unpacked 2 intro is anything to go by, you can’t help but notice that making music on mobiles has been going on for years among iOS users, so the future appears to be a moveable feast depending on which platform you use.

So are Samsung’s refinements on some levels simply playing catch up and on others paving the way? We won’t have long to wait to find out, as Cupertino will be unpacking its own hubs of human interaction next week. ®

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