It's hard to imagine a time when large touchscreens aren't the norm, but in September 2011, Samsung debuted its first Galaxy Note to mixed reviews. Journalists chided Samsung's pocket-unfriendly smartphone, but users gravitated towards the Note, which came packed with useful features that make the device more than just a large-screen phone.
Some of these features – like the split screen multitasking, floating windows and curved edge display – eventually made their way to the consumer-centric Galaxy S series. To keep the differentiation between a large Galaxy S phone, like the newly minted Galaxy S6 Edge+, Samsung has reserved the hallmarked S Pen for the Note.
This year's Galaxy Note 5 is no different. Samsung promises an improved S Pen, productive accessories and even more features that are designed to appeal to enterprise customers. Here are eight Galaxy Note 5 features that business users will love:
Feature 1: Samsung Pay
For business users looking to travel light and leave their wallets behind, Samsung Pay promises to work at more locations than either Apple Pay or Android Pay. The digital wallet uses two technologies to make its acceptance more ubiquitous – traditional NFC, which is also used by its rivals, as well as a Magnetic Secure Transmission, or MST.
With MST, coils placed within the phone generate a signal that can be read by traditional payment terminals. It's similar to the signal generated by swiping the magnetic stripe on a credit card and doesn't require vendors or businesses to upgrade their hardware, unlike NFC.
Like Apple Pay, you authenticate with a fingerprint, and security is maintained because the phone doesn't transmit your actual card number. Instead, it uses a tokenization system to protect your card. You just hold your phone up to the terminal, and the phone emits an MST signal that's picked up by most traditional magnetic stripe card reader.
Feature 2: Adding your personal signature
One of the many S Pen enhancements this year is the ability to annotate PDFs. If someone sends you a PDF contract, you can now sign it, mark it up, save it and email it back.
The fine tip of the S Pen, compared to your blunt finger, makes it easier to sign and mark up PDFs, allowing you to remain productive even while you're away from your PC, tablet and office printer.
Some software, like Adobe Document Cloud, attempt to bridge the paper and digital divide, but Samsung's implementation makes adding a signature to a digital PDF simple and easy.
Feature 3: Kill the BlackBerry envy
With an optional keyboard case accessory, you can essentially transform your Galaxy Note 5 into a device with a similar form factor as the BlackBerry Passport. The case contains two parts. There is a protective plastic shell, like a traditional hard case, to protect the smartphone. A snap-on keyboard attachment can be stowed on the rear of the device for travel. In this location, you'll have access to your full touchscreen.
Snap on the keyboard to the front of the device, and you're on your way to typing out long emails and documents while on the go. There are separate versions made to fit the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+.
I found the attachment mechanism to be secure. The case interfaces with the device through a capacitive film on the rear side of the keyboard. Samsung reps informed me that this method was chosen over Bluetooth as it doesn't require a battery, which means users won't have to remember to charge two separate devices.
The case works extremely well, with sculpted key edges that reminds me of a BlackBerry. Key travel is smooth and responsive, and the keys didn't feel as stiff to press as the discontinued, and unfortunately named, Typo 2 keyboard accessory for the iPhone 6.
As the case covers the bottom part of the screen and the navigation buttons on the Note 5, the content on the screen resizes to fill the smaller screen space left unobstructed by the keyboard. In use, it just feels like you have the software keyboard activated at all times with the hardware keyboard snapped on.
Feature 4: Replace Post-its and memo pads
With a renewed focus on the Note's defining feature – the S Pen – Samsung is making it easier for you to quickly jot down ideas, reminders and thoughts. As a Galaxy Note 4 user, I still relied on paper and pen, even for quick notes, because it was a lot quicker to start writing than having to activate the software and app on my phone.
With the Note 5, the moment you withdraw the S Pen from its silo, a black screen appears and you're ready to jot down your memos. There is no more friction, metaphorically speaking, between your thoughts and the act of writing.
The interface is simple with white ink on a black background. It's unclear if Samsung merely wanted to eliminate the colorful clutter of the S Note app for simple memos, or if the white on black design is a carefully thought out design aimed at prolonging battery life on the Note 5's high resolution AMOLED display.
Additionally, now you can also use the S Pen to easily capture screenshots of long webpages with a feature called scroll capture.
Feature 5: Work and play united
Even though the Note 5's 5.7-inch screen makes it a large device, it's still easier than having to carry two separate devices for work and play. With Android for Work security features baked in as well as Knox, you'll only need to carry one device for personal and professional use.
Knox creates a separate containerized environment so you can securely access your work apps and content. With Knox, IT administrators have access to your work partition, and your enterprise can wipe your device remotely if you lose it to safeguard sensitive data. However, your personal files, apps and content are yours, and your personal partition is kept hidden from prying IT eyes. This makes the device safe for your own personal privacy as well.
Feature 6: Take control
Rather than dealing with your smartphone's small screen, you can see your phone's display on your larger monitor when you're sitting at your desk. SideSync lets you take control of your phone with your laptop's or desktop's keyboard and mouse and mirrors the content of your phone to a larger display.
You can connect your phone to a tablet, Mac or PC using Wi-Fi or USB. USB is more reliable and speedy, but I didn't notice any lags or slow downs when the phone is connected to Wi-Fi except when playing games with high frame rates.
With the phone connected, you can launch apps, send text messages, share files between your phone and computer and do anything you would do on your phone. When you take or place phone calls, audio is routed through your computer's microphone and speakers.
The feature is similar to iOS's continuity with OS X and Continuum with Windows. Unlike continuity, SideSync works across multiple platforms, and you're performing tasks on your phone with a keyboard, display and mouse plugged in, rather than handing tasks off between a computer and a phone.
Feature 7: Get 'amped' up
Even though the battery on the Note 5 is larger than the battery on the Galaxy S6, Samsung claims that it takes the same amount of time to charge both. The Quick Charge feature has been improved, and it's not even more efficient to allow you to quickly charge the Note 5's battery. We'll have to wait for a review unit to see how fast Quick Charge can charge a depleted battery to 80% and 100%.
Additionally, even wireless charging is getting a boost. Samsung says that it is now even faster to wirelessly charge your Note 5.
Whether these enhancements are enough to justify Samsung's decision to eliminate the user-replaceable battery will depend on how you use your device. Unlike prior generations of the Galaxy Note, you can no longer replace a depleted battery for a fresh one as the Note 5's battery is sealed. Like the Galaxy S6, Samsung has taken a form over function approach.
Feature 8: Go live
If you're launching a new product or hosting an event, you can draw in a global audience thanks to the Galaxy Note 5's YouTube Live Broadcast feature. This feature allows you to livestream your event, using your phone's camera, on YouTube.
The feature is embedded within the camera app, where users can set their privacy and share settings. All you need to do is either mount your phone to a tripod, activate the feature and start broadcasting and sharing the YouTube link with friends.
Live broadcasting events may not be as useful for enterprise customers, but if you're a small business trying to build a social media following, it could help you connect with your audiences.