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Thursday, 13 August 2015

Samsung Galaxy Note 5: The disappointments

Samsung introduced the Galaxy Note 5 on Thursday. From most angles it’s an amazing new smartphone. You have an incredible Quad HD display, the gorgeous metal and glass design that we first saw on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, brand new S Pen functionality, support for Samsung Pay, PMA/Qi wireless charging… I could keep going.
But, like all smartphones, the Galaxy Note 5 isn’t perfect, and you can’t please everyone. There are a few features we wish were still available, especially since the Galaxy Note family has been known for offering a few of these since the very beginning.
Make no mistake: this is still a great phone and may be the very best phablet on the market, we’ll be testing that, but we can always dream about other features, right?

128GB is gone

This was kind of surprising. Samsung offered the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge in three storage options: 32GB, 64GB and 128GB. The largest size is my preference for my phones, since I love to carry around tons of offline music, videos and games.
Samsung ditched the 128GB option with the Galaxy Note 5, though, and will instead only offer 32GB and 64GB flavors. Considering there’s no microSD card slot — another feature we wish it packed — that’s a bit of a bummer. We’re not sure why Samsung removed the model; perhaps consumers just weren’t buying that capacity.

No microSD

It’s surprising that Samsung ditched the microSD card slot because it was a staple feature of earlier Galaxy Note devices. In my opinion, these have been powerhouse smartphones for power users, the folks who want large displays, fast processors, tons of storage and the like. Now they don’t seem like they’re after that market.
Really, it’s sort of a bummer that we’re stuck with just 64GB of storage. Smartphones are now capable of supporting up to an additional 2TB of storage using a microSD card — not that they exist yet — and I’m not sure what this nearly fully loaded 64GB card on my desk is going to be good for any longer.
Guess I’ll have to rely on the cloud more.

No Gear VR

Samsung introduced Gear VR with the Galaxy Note 4 last year. This year, again, it’s taking a totally different approach to the handset. While Gear VR is available for the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, it won’t be available for the Galaxy Note 5. Crazy, huh?
Samsung said it’s focused on offering Gear VR for its Galaxy S handsets and that the Galaxy Note 5 is more of a productivity machine. That doesn’t quite answer why the Galaxy S6 Edge+ won’t support the Gear VR either, since it’s targeting the multimedia market. Perhaps development costs weren’t worth it?

No USB-C

This comes back to my vision of the Galaxy Note generally being the smartphone that “offers it all,” including some of the latest tech available. We don’t get USB-C, though, which offers faster data transfer speeds and will almost certainly be widespread during the shelf life of the Galaxy Note 5.
Maybe Samsung isn’t as convinced right now, though. After all, it added USB 3.0 to its 2013 smartphones, including the Galaxy Note 3, and then ultimately pulled back to USB 2.0 again.

No removable battery

The Galaxy Note 5 packs a 3,000mAh battery. I asked Samsung whether this is going to get us through a full day, since the 2,550mAh battery on the Galaxy S6 — with a much smaller screen — can’t even get close. Samsung told me it’s fully capable of lasting that long, so we’ll see.
I still wish a removable battery was an option, though. With past Galaxy Note devices, I’d order third-party batteries (from trusted companies such as Anker) online, and keep an extra in my backpack at all times. It’s super useful for days when you’re not near a plug.
The tradeoff, it seems, is that now we get the beautiful non-plastic design and a glass and metal body. Worth it? For some folks, sure.

Final Thoughts

Again, we’re really excited about the Galaxy Note 5.
But we like to play devil’s advocate from time-to-time to take another look at each new flagship smartphone, one that isn’t as glossy-eyed.