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6 tiny changes that make the Note 5 a huge improvement on the Note 4

The guys at Samsung are geniuses. I spent intimate time with the Galaxy Note 4 and the Galaxy Note 5 for several weeks and now I'm convinced of it. Why? Samsung has made us think the Note 5 is better than its predecessor when it did almost nothing to improve on it. 

androidpit samsung Note4 vs Note5 12
The Galaxy Note 5 is simultaneously much better than and barely different to the Galaxy Note 4. / © ANDROIDPIT
Lowest price: Samsung Galaxy Note 5
Amazon price for Samsung Galaxy Note 4
Lowest price: Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Let me clarify. Samsung did make some changes between these two Notes, with hardware changes being the most obvious. But it’s the miniscule differences between them which struck me as the most interesting, because they represent how small changes can have a big impact. Here are six incredibly small things that make the Note 5 totally superior to the Note 4.

1. The lock-screen fade

Duhhh, duhhh, duh duh duh duhhhhh duh, duh duh duh duhhhhh duh; Why am I trying to recreate the Star Wars theme in type? Because I’m trying to convey the experience of locking the Galaxy Note 5.

It’s not unique to the Note 5, but it is a change introduced by Samsung this year, which the Note 4 lacks. When you tap the lock button, a 'wipe' transition appears, whereby the display fades to black from the right and left sides inward – much like the scene transitions on George Lucas’s Star Wars movies.

andoridpit galaxy note 5 lock wipe
This animation is subtle, but very satisfying. / © ANDROIDPIT

Why is this a big deal? It’s not. As I said above, it’s basically nothing at all. But put the Note 4 and Note 5 side-by-side, and see the later device waves goodbye, then compare it to how the Note 4 fades to black the boring normal way, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. 

2. The auto-eject stylus

On the Galaxy Note 4 you have to pull the S Pen stylus the whole way out of its holder yourself. I know, it’s outrageous, right? But on the Galaxy Note 5 you simply press on the S Pen’s head, and it will partially eject, making the process of hooking your nail under it to pull it out minutely more pleasing.This also has the benefit of allowing the Stylus to be better concealed, so the bottom edge of the phone looks cleaner.

samsung galaxy note 5 s pen
This is how far the S Pen ejects out of the Note 5. / © ANDROIDPIT

Samsung has included this 'James Bond gadget' style feature, which changes absolutely nothing about the phone’s software and only marginally improves usability, and made it seem like it’s a big deal. Bravo. 

3. The smaller resolution

Samsung’s TouchWiz software has been improved since the Note 4, and the resolution has changed. Check out the photo below and notice how the webpage layout looks different.

andoridpit galaxy note 5 galaxy note 4 website
The Note 5 (left) looks like it has higher resolution just because the font is smaller. / © ANDROIDPIT

Why is this the Note 5 better? The illusion of distance makes the icons and text seem more detailed. It makes it look as though the Galaxy Note 5 has a higher resolution than the Note 4. When I showed this to colleagues I had to repeat that both devices have a QHD display – I had to double check this myself.

Here is possibly the shining example of what Samsung has achieved with the Note 5: it has made it look superior just by changing the native font size of its user interface.

androidpit samsung touchwiz font size screenshot
Note how the native and icon size on the Note 4 (left) is bigger than the Note 5. / © ANDROIDPIT

4. The thinner sides

The Galaxy Note 5 is less than 1 mm thinner than the Galaxy Note 4 (7.6 mm compared with 8.5 mm). That’s an almost imperceptible difference, but it feels much more pronounced thanks to some smart engineering.

The Note 5’s sloping rear sides and slimmed down the metal edges provide the illusion that it’s far slimmer. Your hand is almost tricked by your fingertips, which recognize the thin edges and perceive them as representative of the entire device, and it makes the Note 4 seem bulky by comparison.   

androidpit samsung Note4 vs Note5 7
The slimmer metal and more pronounced curves of the Note 5 (top) make it feel much thinner than the Note 4. / © ANDROIDPIT

5. The glass rear

Samsung has replaced the removable faux-leather back panel of the Galaxy Note 4 and replaced it with a sultry glass panel. This only improves the Galaxy Note 5 in terms of look and feel, and in some ways it has actually harmed functionality. 

Samsung has steered my attention away from the fact that it has omitted the microSD card slot and removable battery option from its Galaxy Note series by dazzling me with the shiny, smooth backside. It’s almost like misdirection – I was so taken by the thief's charm that I failed to realize he'd carefully confiscated my wallet. It’s fiendishly clever. 

samsung galaxy note 5 back 2
The premium quality Note 5 rear looks and feels great. / © ANDROIDPIT

6. The capacitive buttons

The capacitive buttons at the bottom of the Note 5 light up not only when you tap on the area when they are located, but also when you tap on the display. This momentary flicker of life occurs on the Note 4, but only when the buttons themselves are tapped, or when the phone unlocks/wakes.

What this is, essentially, is two icons speaking to you. Two icons waking up and saying, “hey, it's okay, I’m here.” In a darker setting, these fuzzy little friends appear welcoming. Safe, even. They make you feel like the device has more going on inside of it than it possibly has. And that it’s there for you whenever you need it. 

andoridpit galaxy note 5 capacitive buttons
The capacitive buttons below the display light up even when they aren't directly interacted with. / © ANDROIDPIT

It’s important to be critical of any mass-marketed luxury goods like Samsung's mobile products, and I am completely open to the discussion on the Galaxy Note 5's successes and failures. 

So let me put it like this: does Samsung deserve praise for making a phone that feels more enjoyable just through some minor alterations? Or should Samsung be lambasted for producing a handset that has barely changed, removed some key features, and has a higher asking price than its predecessor? Let me know your thoughts below.

Readers' favorite comments

  • Mark Oct 18, 2015

    Two major changes that make the Note 5 worthless to me. No SD slot and no removable battery

  • Howard Jones Oct 19, 2015

    Mr. Gordon good article and you have succeeded in confirming my opinion that Note 4 is the King of all Smartphones-still:H
    1. "Here is possibly the shining example of what Samsung has achieved with the Note 5: it has made it look superior only by changing the native font size of its user-interface." SO IN OTHER WORDS, YOU THINK IT IS AN ADVANTAGE TO HAVE SMALLER TYPE SO NOT IS HARDER TO READ! ARE YOU NUTS? I AM 54, IN 20 YEARS YOU WILL REGRET YOU SAID THAT WITH AGE!
    2. POP OUT STYLUS? GEE. That is a nice feature but considering the other is just fine ..this is way overhyped.
    3. The fact that you feel impressed with yourself for being distracted by the manufacturer by their fragile glass back in order to be dooped into being impressed by their resolution seems hugely unremarkable!!


Write new comment:
  • Yoma Ma 10 months ago Link to comment

    "The capacitive buttons
    What this is, essentially, is two icons speaking to you. Two icons waking up and saying, “hey, it's okay, I’m here.” In a darker setting, these fuzzy little friends appear welcoming. Safe, even."
    You must be a Very Insecure person to have even thought of that. I don't need to know where they are by sight. I just go to the bottom of the phone and touch... they are always there. And I feel safer knowing I can count on myself to always find them, even in the dark. And, actually, the Note 4 saves me battery not lighting those to little "safety" icons.

    As far as the smaller resolution, #3?, my opinion is that we should have the option of one resolution or the other, kind of like on PCs. I believe the technology is there for a variable resolution device, don't you think? So let's not praise it nor knock it down; let's root for more and better choices!!

    Finally, for #1, Duhh!! How childish, specially for an informative, however lighthearted, article opener. That shouldn't have even been mentioned!!! Less is good, sometimes.


  • Lexuzz89 11 months ago Link to comment

    I have bought the my note 4 n910c extra from UK because I can use the sixperience rom v2 from geiti94 ;) in Germany you unfortunately can only buy the n910f :/
    wirh the Sixperience v2 you have 100% note 5 software with all features and a lot of extras :) I love my note 4 and never will buy a note 5! try it .. I can recommend it :)

  • No no its not really note 4 is and still way better than the 5 pls !

  • Mark Oct 20, 2015 Link to comment

    After reading a lot of these comments some people wonder what the big deal is about not having an SD support and removable battery. Yes these are features you can live with out. My question is why should we have too? Just so the manufacture can make more money off of us. It is cheaper to build phones without these options that why they do it. In the case of the battery it also puts a limited life span on the product from 2 to 3 yeas or less depending on the user. Yes you can pay 150 to 200 dollars to have it replaced. Is the two year old phone or gadget worth that? usually not. Is it worth 20 to 30 dollars if you can replace it yourself? usually yes. To me it is a no brainer and I will not buy a phone without a replaceable battery.

  • I had the Note 2, 3 and now 4. I wanted the 5 but no SD card and battery is not cool. Who wants to lose things. I don't want to save my stuff to the cloud and I like having the ability to have an extra battery. I am holding out hoping Note 6 looks like the S edge+, has a stylus pen and brings back the sd and battery. Also I want more colors than black and white. That is a lot but until then I will use my Note 4

  • Did they take away that horrible max volume warning?

  • I assume this article is a joke lol. But the note 4s capacitive buttons light up when you touch the screen too. The note 2 did that lol.

    • I have the note 4 in my hands right now. Those capacitive button don't light up. I love my Note 5 even more than my note 4.

      • Rodolfo is correct. They light up, but not when you interact with the display like on the Note 5. Also, it's not a joke, just lighthearted:

        'Does Samsung deserve praise for making a phone which “feels” more enjoyable just through some minor alterations? Or should Samsung be lambasted for producing a handset which has barely changed, removed some key features, and has a higher asking price than its predecessor?'

        I'm genuinely interested in other opinions here so thanks for the comment :)

      • I'm holding the note4 right now and the capacitive buttons light up when you touch the display too, not just the buttons.

      • Bojan M. Oct 19, 2015 Link to comment

        "barely changed" is not a correct statement (for superficial people it is though).

        No point in discussing that, it depends on what one wants. As you can obviously see in these comments. It seems that everyone who wanted removable battery and/or micro sd support is now butthurt, like bunch of kids who think Samsung owes them something.

      • On our test device this does not happen. I will factory reset the device if have another look.

        I'll update the article if this was a bug/glitch or a mysterious change in the settings.

      • I'm not "butthurt" by the lack of micro sd support, I just like to have sd card support on my devices. I also quite like the lightweight feel of the S5 plastic! So I'm sticking with my S5, note 4 and tab s2 for now...

      • After factory rest the capacitive buttons still don't light up when I tap the display, only when I tap only when I tap on the buttons themselves or wake/unlock the device as I stated in my article.

        You can see what I mean here:

  • This is the most ridiculous article I've read comparing the King NOTE 4 to the Runner up Note 5!

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