A while ago I predicted that there would only be one device launched at Samsung's 2015 Unpacked event: the Galaxy Note 5 Edge. I was convinced that Samsung would boldly adapt the Note series to the new Edge idea and the world would never be the same again. It turned out I was wrong – Samsung launched a Note 5 and an S6 Edge+, but not the hoped-for Note 5 Edge – but the fact that I was wrong actually raises some interesting questions.
Over the last few months I had started to waver in my original prediction, and thought that maybe Samsung had a good reason to produce two large-screened devices instead of just one combined. When I finally saw the Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+ though, I knew I had been right all along: there really shouldn't be two phones.
Not only are the two phones nearly identical to look at, they're the same internally. They share a specs sheet, right down to the tiniest detail, which in itself pretty much all comes from the Galaxy S6. Except for the obvious difference of a curved screen on one and a stylus on the other (and the software features each pairs up with), the two new phones are the same.
So what gives? Samsung told me that it had identified two distinct user groups for their devices: casual consumers of media – games, movies and so on – and multi-tasking business types. That, combined with the relative lack of Note series penetration in Europe, led the company to build a bigger S6 Edge to sit, rather awkwardly, alongside the Note 5, instead of making a Note 5 Edge.
The idea behind having these two devices is that multi-taskers will use the S Pen on the Note 5, and everyone else can watch wall-to-wall movies on the curved display of the S6 Edge+. But wouldn't putting a curved display on the Note 5 satisfy both groups? Why make two phones when one would suffice? Because Samsung, that's why.
I'd argue that if customers don't like the S Pen, they could just choose not to use it. Both devices are going to cost about the same (the S6 Edge+ is just a little more expensive), so you can't argue that customers would be paying for stylus features they didn't use if both features were combined in one device. But Samsung clearly doesn't think that a Note 5 with a curved screen makes sense.
But is the S6 Edge+ the answer to this problem? The decision to bring out a larger version of a phone – with a practically identical specs sheet – six months after the original is a weird one.
Samsung could be accused of trying to mirror Apple, whose product portfolio has both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but Samsung invented the larger-display category when it came out with the original Note, so that's not the case. However, that doesn't stop the S6 Edge+ seeming out of place and pointless.
Is there really that much of a market for a bigger S6 Edge? And if so, why is that perceived market global, while the market for the Note 5 only in North America and parts of Asia? By denying Europe a Note 5, Samsung has essentially killed any chance it might have had of luring consumers back to the Note series. You can't win a race you're not in.
Which brings us to the Galaxy Note Edge. As exciting as it was, it was a niche product; Samsung admitted this all along. But the fact that the Note 5 doesn't even have one curved screen suggests that Samsung doesn't think the S Pen and curved edges play well together. Which also makes it unlikely that there'll be a Galaxy Note Edge 2.
If I'm right about this – and I ought to remind you how we started this little story – I'll be disappointed on two fronts. I won't have gotten my Galaxy Note 5 Edge and I won't even get the runner-up prize of a Galaxy Note Edge 2. You should take a look at our article on five things the Note Edge can do that the Note 4 can't to see why this is a letdown.
So what is the future of the curved screen if it is not applicable to the Note series? Is the Note series on the way out? Are the S series and Note series slowly converging? There's not much to distinguish them from one another anymore. Next year's Unpacked might give us the answers – but it might just throw up even more questions.
What do you think Samsung is up to? Will we never see another Note Edge?