Samsung's Galaxy Note Edge is essentially the best business phone on the market, with a twist. It takes the Galaxy Note 4 — my pick for the best productivity device of 2014 — and adds an eye-catching curved screen that's actually useful. The screen shows alerts and gives you quick access to your most-used applications. If nothing else, this phone's unique design is sure to wow your friends and colleagues. Plus, it retains the big screen, integrated stylus and handy multitasking features that make the Note 4 such an excellent work phone to begin with.
Of course, there's a catch. The device costs an extra $100 over the standard Note 4. So can this phone's novel edge display justify the extra expense?
With its slick, curved display, the Note Edge makes other smartphones look downright pedestrian. And the curved edge feels as good as it looks. It doesn't come to a sharp point, so resting your thumb along the edge is quite comfortable. Lefties might have some difficulty using the edge, though Samsung did shoehorn in an awkward left-handed mode that lets you hold the device upside-down to get a better angle with your left thumb.
Like the Note 4 before it, the Note Edge shows Samsung taking a more premium approach to smartphone design. In particular, the sturdy aluminum that frames the device helps give it a solid feel, especially compared to the plastic rims on previous Note iterations. And the soft-touch faux leather back is handsome and makes the big device easy to grip.
Unfortunately, the power button had to be relocated from the right edge to the top in order to accommodate the curved screen, making that button a lot harder to reach. On the bright side, you can still turn the screen on by pressing the Home button, though turning the display off with one hand requires a feat of finger gymnastics. The volume rocker is also less accessible on the phone's left edge.
For a smartphone this big, the Note Edge was pretty manageable. Measuring 5.9 x 3.2 x 0.32 inches (15 x 8 x 0.8 centimeters) and weighing 6.1 ounces (173 grams), it's actually slightly smaller and lighter than the standard Note 4: 6 x 3.1 x 0.33 inches, 6.2 ounces (11.7 x 7.9 x 0.84 cm, 176 g). The iPhone 6 Plus is about the same size and weight as the Note Edge: 6.2 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches, 6.1 ounces (15.7 x 7.9 x 0.76 cm).
A smartphone this big isn't for everyone, especially if you have small hands. But business users will appreciate the phone's huge, quad HD display, which gives you tons of room to work on. I loved composing documents and editing spreadsheets on the Note Edge, especially with the extra precision afforded by the included S Pen stylus. The wide display also provides room for extra functionality, including a dedicated number row on the keyboard and the ability to run two apps in split-screen mode (more on that later).
The Note Edge's 5.6-inch (14.2 cm) main display is actually a tiny bit smaller than the Note 4's 5.7-inch (14.5 cm) screen, though the difference is negligible. In fact, the Note Edge actually has the sharper screen, since it packs the same number of pixels into a smaller space (540 pixels per inch vs. 518 ppi for the Note 4). That's a perk for business users, since a pixel-dense display can show more content on screen at once. Text looks extremely sharp on the device, and images are bright and colorful.
The phone's curved edge actually includes a narrow secondary display that has two basic functions: to show you alerts and updates as they arrive on your device, and to let you launch your favorite applications quickly and easily. You can swipe sideways to reveal different shortcuts, or drag the side of the bar away to hide it altogether.
The edge display can show you all sorts of information at a glance, including incoming messages, calendar alerts, news, weather, stock updates and more. I liked being able to see the number of unread emails in my inbox, for example, by glancing at the email icon on the edge display. You can also turn on special sidebars, such as a news ticker or stock market updates, which provide scrolling information along the side of the screen. The Edge comes with 11 different panels out of the box, with six more available to download. I appreciated this functionality, though I sometimes had difficulty reading the horizontal messages.
And while the sidebar does expand on the basic Android notification tray in a few key ways, the regular notification tray is still there, ready to be swiped down from the top of the screen. Plus, notification icons continue to cluster at the top of your phone, even when the same alert is being shown in the sidebar. Together, the two systems feel a bit redundant.
The sidebar is a lot more useful as a quick launch tray for your favorite applications. I liked being able instantly hop to my email inbox or messaging app at any time, without exiting back to the home screen. You can easily add or remove apps from your favorites list, and create folders for multiple applications in the sidebar. It's a genuinely handy multitasking tool that I found myself using often.
Other edge functionality
The sidebar can also perform a few other minor tasks. For example, it shows persistent media controls in Samsung's video player, and camera controls in the camera app. I also like that you can use the Note Edge as an alarm clock by displaying the time, date and weather on the sidebar. That way you can see the time at night just by glancing at your bedside table.
S Pen stylus
While the curved screen is the first thing you'll notice about the Note Edge, business users will probably get more mileage out of the integrated stylus. Outside of the Note line, no other smartphone available in the United States comes with a stylus, let alone has such a deep set of pen features.
The stylus sits in a slot at the bottom of the device. Sliding it out automatically launches the Air Command menu, which gives you quick access to four applications for jotting down a note, marking up a screenshot and more. You can also access the menu by hovering your pen tip near the display and pressing the button on the device's side.
The pen itself feels pretty sturdy for a smartphone stylus. It includes a springy tip that makes using the stylus feel a lot like writing with a ballpoint pen. The stylus also detects how hard you're pressing, allowing for more accurate and natural note taking.
Sidebar aside, the Note Edge has software features identical to those of the Galaxy Note 4. That means you get access to the same Quick Settings menu inside the notification tray, along with a customizable panel that lets you quickly toggle-on options like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, change the brightness and more.
One-handed mode makes the Note Edge easier to use when you don't have a second hand free. It shrinks the phone's interface down into a smaller window that you can resize and position anywhere on the display, just by swiping in then out from the left side of the screen.
Like other Galaxy smartphones, the Note Edge supports Multi Window mode, which lets you run two apps side by side for better multitasking. I liked being able to use the calculator, or perform a Web search, while composing an email, for example. You can also swipe down from the top left side of the screen to turn full-screen apps into floating apps, which you can move around on screen, resize and minimize.
If you use your smartphone for work, security should be a top concern. That's why the Note Edge's built-in fingerprint reader is such a nice perk. It lets you unlock your device quickly and easily by sliding your finger down over the home button. I like it because it lets me keep my phone locked down without an annoying password screen.
Unfortunately, Samsung's reader is still leagues behind the Touch ID fingerprint reader found on newer iPhones, which works flawlessly. The Note Edge requires a slow, deliberate swipe to recognize your fingerprint; if I swiped my thumb at an odd angle, or swiped too quickly, it often did not register.
The Note Edge is a seriously fast smartphone. It includes a 2.7-GHz Snapdragon 805 processor with 3GB of RAM, allowing for smooth performance and snappy multitasking. I occasionally noticed a bit of lag when switching between applications, though. Regardless, the Note Edge is more than fast enough for everyday productivity tasks.
It also comes with a solid 32GB of internal storage, which is enough to store tons of files and documents. If you have a lot of media, you can always add up to 128GB of extra storage via the microSD card slot.
Our Note Edge review unit offered pretty good longevity in everyday use. It lasted 8 hours and 50 minutes in our battery-life test, which involves continuous Web browsing via T-Mobile's 4G LTE. That's slightly longer than the Note 4 (8:43), though that device was on AT&T. The Note Edge's time also beats the Nexus 6 (7:05), but falls short of the iPhone 6 Plus' epic 10-hour battery life. Regardless, the Note Edge lasts long enough to get you through the end of the workday and beyond.
Here's the rub: The Note Edge is an expensive smartphone. You can currently pick it up for $399 with a two-year contract through AT&T. That's $100 more than the standard Note 4. Alternately, you can pick it up off-contract through T-Mobile for a whopping $870 up front, or on a payment plan for $36.25 per month for two years. If that sounds like a lot to pay for a smartphone, remember that T-Mobile offers cheap monthly data plans, so you could actually save money in the long run by buying off-contract.
Is the Note Edge's unique design worth an extra $100? For most users, probably not. The Note 4 is already the best business phone you can buy, even without that feature. But if you can afford it, the Note Edge is a tempting device.
The Galaxy Note Edge is an excellent business phone, with a huge screen, a handy pen and awesome multitasking capabilities. The problem is it's a lot more expensive than the Note 4, which delivers a nearly identical experience. I did find the Edge's sidebar novel, and at times genuinely useful, but most users are better off saving their cash.