Home / Mobile / Mobile Phone / Samsung Galaxy Note 4 / Software, Apps and S-Pen

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review

Michael Sawh

By Michael Sawh

Updated:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Summary

Our Score:

9

Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Software

The Note runs on Android 4.4.4 KitKat with the TouchWiz UI overlay we’ve already seen on the Galaxy S5. Samsung has made some small tweaks and removed some clutter, such as the gestures that rarely get used and a few of the Samsung apps, but it has largely the same look and feel.

There’s still the same keyboard and multiple homescreens, now with a Flipboard-powered widget replacing the Magazine UX when you swipe all the way to the left. The Recent Apps feature has been redesigned, with apps now piled on top of each other so you can browse through like you're flicking through files in a filing cabinet.

When you jump into the Settings menu, Samsung has swapped the dark background for a lighter one, and now arranges settings in a list instead of spreading them all across the screen, which did feel more overwhelming.

We definitely prefer the pared-down approach, especially when TouchWiz – alongside Sony’s Android treatment – can feel like the busiest flavour of Android to get around. We don’t really need loads of gestures and gimmicks that we're not going to use on a day-to-day basis.

Note 4

Multi-Window

One feature we do still like, and which works on a screen this size, is Multi-Window. This basically lets you run two apps at the same time, letting

you switch between the two without leaving the screen. Not all apps support Multi-Window, but the most useful, regularly used ones do, such as YouTube and the web browser.

You still need to turn it on in the settings and hit the capacitive Recent Apps button to select the apps you want to use. A nice new feature is the pop-up multi-window, which you can activate by swiping diagonally from the corner of an application. Then you'll be able to move it around like a widget on the screen, while you carry on clearing up your homescreens or finish off some work. To close, you can simply press on the top of the window and you’ll get an X button appear.

It’s a shame you can’t resize the pop-up windows, but it strengthens what's already a great multitasking feature.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Apps

As we’ve already mentioned, Samsung's scaled back on its own bloatware apps, so out of the box there's not so much sitting alongside Google’s own Chrome, Gmail, Maps, Google Play Music and the rest. There’s WatchOn to use the Note 4 as a remote via the built-in IR transmitter, plus Siri-rival S-Voice. S Translator and Knox app are notable omissions from the app drawer, although the latter is still supported.

One of the most interesting S apps is S Health. This is Samsung’s health and fitness hub, where you can store all of your data using the phone’s accelerometer to track steps and GPS support to map runs or cycling routes. It was pretty primitive and basic in its first iteration, but Samsung's added a new coach mode that takes advantage of the new sensors packed into the Note 4 to record more data and create a more comprehensive picture of your day-to-day activity.

note 4

You can measure heart rate via the sensor on the back of the phone, which can also give you an indication of stress levels as well. The same sensor also has the ability to measure oxygen saturation levels in a similar way to the Withings Pulse O2 fitness tracker. This measures how much oxygen is in your blood, and can be an indication of how fit you are. A SpO2 reading between 95% and 100% is good and anything lower suggests you might not be in great shape. If you're worried about going out and getting sunburnt, Samsung's even included a UV monitor that works by pointing the rear-mounted sensor towards the sun.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Performance

The Note 4 features a 2.7GHz Snapdragon 805 processor with 3GB of RAM and an Adreno 420 GPU. That’s some pretty impressive specs and it’s no surprise to find that the Note 4 is well equipped for all that you can throw at it.

But let’s start with that Snapdragon 805 processor, which sees the move from a Snapdragon 800 processor, which was by no means slow and sluggish, to Qualcomm’s most advanced chip technology.

Aside from generally keeping things running quick and smooth, the 805 is also better equipped for things like handling higher-resolution displays, improved camera shooting and offering better battery life during video playback.

Note 4

It also sees the introduction of the new Adreno 420 GPU, which Qualcomm has previously said is 40 per cent faster than the Adreno 330 GPU and ramps up the Note 4’s gaming prowess considerably. Running our test game, Real Racing 3, things not only ran smooth but the extra shadow and added visual sheen were more evident.

In the benchmark tests, the multi-core scores back up how much of a powerhouse device the Note 4 is. Its closest competition is another Samsung phone, and it even wipes the floor with the iPhone 6 Plus.

Geekbench 3 multi-core scores

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 - 3,162

Samsung Galaxy Alpha - 3,124

Samsung Galaxy S5 - 2,908

Apple iPhone 6 Plus - 2,871

HTC One M8 - 2,840

Xperia Z3 - 2,772

LG G3 - 2,425

Samsung Galaxy Note 4: S Pen

The S Pen is what separates the Note 4 from the rest. It’s not for everyone and most will likely ignore it, but for those who want to have an alternative method of input, this is arguably the best stylus experience you can currently get on a phone or tablet.

The S Pen itself might not look like it’s changed a great deal, but there’s some new things to make the Note-writing experience more accurate and useful. It’s roughly the same length and size as the one in the Note 3, and now Samsung has flipped the design so the bottom half has the grippier ribbed design and the smooth finish is on the top half.

You can still choose between plastic and rubber removable nibs, depending on whether you plan to do more drawing or writing. There’s a set of them supplied in the box, plus a little clip to help pull them out and swap them. You’ll still find the button at the end nearest the nib, which you press to fire up the S Pen launcher on the Note 4's screen.

S Pen

Pressure sensitivity, which is key to creating an accurate stylus experience, is now up to 2048dps, which basically means you're getting the same kind of control and sensitivity as from a dedicated Wacom stylus – one of the best in the business. Spending some time with the Note 3 and Note 4 S Pens will give you an idea of the added finesse with writing. It’s more fluid, with better recognition of angles and swoops.

Just like you can on the Note 3, you can use the S Pen to navigate homescreens, write texts and emails, hover over icons to discover their functions, select and cut out images, and of course do some doodling. One of the nicest new features is the ability to use the S Pen to select copy within web pages where previously you had to cut them out.

Samsung has a bunch of specific modes it thinks will help you make more use of it.

note 4

Action memo

As the name suggests, Action memo opens up a small notepad page where you can quickly jot down notes. By clicking the ‘link to action’ button you can share the note to a contact via text, email or even open the web browser to search for it.

Smart Select

One of the new S Pen features, Smart Select enables you to quickly crop out homescreens, web pages and pretty much anything else, collecting it in the Scrapbook album where you can build up a collage of items. This is definitely one for designers.

Image Clip

Similar to Smart Select, Image Clip uses the kind of magic wand tool you find in Adobe Photoshop, allowing you to quickly draw around an item to grab it and save it or add different crops.

Screen Write

With Screen Write the phone will automatically take a screen shot of whatever's currently on the screen and then you're free to make notes, draw diagrams and pretty much anything else you want to doodle on it, then save and share.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4: S Pen apps

Samsung offers a handful of S Pen-optimised apps and they vary in terms of usefulness. You can find other apps on the Google Play Store that play nice with the Note 4’s S Pen, such as SketchBook X, but we're disappointed Samsung hasn’t made a greater effort in its own Galaxy App Store to at least provide a section dedicated to S Pen-compatible applications.

note 4

S Note is largely the same, although it now has an added Photo mode so you can add images to your notes. Scrapbook, as we mentioned previously, is a place for collating images, while S Planner will now let you handwrite entries – although we found that if you don’t write very neatly, it has issues accurately converting the handwritten text. Last up is PEN.UP, an Instagram-style social network for Note users to share images they've drawn. We didn’t really want to share our feeble efforts, though.

iFrank

September 3, 2014, 10:52 pm

"Using the phone, we were able to zoom in to stills and video content without any image degradation or distortion".

Naysayers please note.

Major Sceptic

September 5, 2014, 2:21 am

looks very good indeed, i was going to buy a note 3 a while ago, the 3 is still good but i`m glad i waited,
it will be a toss up between the edge and the note 4, i wonder if the edge is also able to use the VR, ...... anyone know ???

mark5

September 6, 2014, 5:25 am

Great phone and in my view the best phone on the market – it will be my next phone. Just wish it was waterproof. I am not an “active” user and I have never dropped a phone in water. However, I really like the idea of not having to worry about getting my phone wet accidently. I must say that after the Samsung S5 Ice Bucket challenge, I expected all Samsung high end phones to be waterproof.

Dennis Nowak

September 12, 2014, 10:22 pm

How does a protective case work with the EDGE model?

sassydiva29

September 13, 2014, 1:03 pm

They need to make the note 4 and different colors other than black and white. I have the note 3 and i love it but I'm looking forward to getting the note 4 just wish they would come out with a pink note 4

Jason G

September 16, 2014, 5:25 pm

There is one, look at the quote between the parts about the Design and Screen.

"Not one to stick with standard black and white, Samsung will offer four Note 4 colours at launch. Joining the traditional monochrome options will be ‘Bronze Gold’ and ‘Blossom Pink’ options."

Jeff The Great

September 16, 2014, 5:55 pm

Your wish is granted.

"Not one to stick with standard black and white, Samsung will offer four Note 4 colours at launch. Joining the traditional monochrome options will be ‘Bronze Gold’ and ‘Blossom Pink’ options."

Jeff The Great

September 16, 2014, 5:56 pm

I believe it is going to be water resistant like the S5. I just don't think it will be certified waterproof.

Jeff The Great

September 16, 2014, 5:57 pm

The Edge will NOT be able to use the VR. I was hoping it would be able to myself.

Major Sceptic

September 16, 2014, 6:39 pm

Thanks for the reply Jeff The Great, oh well it will still be a ripping device, i was reading lab tests for the note 4 screen quality, , currently it is rated as the best, ie..... numero uno, also read the difference between the note 2 and note 3 screens in lab tests, ................. i still think my old note2 is pretty good, but apparently when tested against the note3 ...... the note3 screen was improved upon in every single test, and the note 4 has improved on the 3 and due to more efficient design, the screen uses 14% less power while again being even better color accuracy and clarity and brighter, this ones a keeper i think ;).

Steven Kendall

September 22, 2014, 4:29 am

Will they fix the AT&T Note 4 inability from 3 to show the # of visual voicemail's waiting to be heard on the face of the app? (the red circle with a number like your unviewed text messages, unviewed emails and missed calls)?

Janice Dsouza

September 22, 2014, 10:08 pm

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is now up for Pre-order.

Find sites offering best prices & amazing deals on Galaxy Note 4 only at bestandroidphonedeals(dot)com (Just replace the (dot) with the actual . )

KillBuzZ

September 23, 2014, 8:46 pm

No thank you. Samsung is rubbish. Same old same old

Guest

September 25, 2014, 1:02 am

*sigh*

It's going to be a great phone, like so many phones these days, but can't they put the headphone jack at the bottom of the device? I don't know of one soul who likes the input on top?

thelad

September 26, 2014, 3:16 pm

Me! On the bottom is a royal pain in the arse, the phone does not sit correctly in your pocket, there is the days I do not wear my watch I want to be able to glance at the phone for the time rather than pull the whole device out of my pocket.

Jason

October 17, 2014, 10:08 pm

I don't like it at the bottom

toboev

October 18, 2014, 12:03 pm

Are you sure it has a Gorilla Glass display? Samsung does not say it has, I'm sure I've read elsewhere that Samsung use their own glass. Could you point to the source of your information?

Keith

October 18, 2014, 7:24 pm

I've currently got a HTC One M7, so of course due an upgrade... Went into carephonewarehouse today and held the Note 4, I could only hold and not play :( because the battery was flat, I must admit it felt rather nice in the hand for such a large phone, after having the HTC I thought it would be a bit of let down, I like my phones naked so it's something I do take into consideration (what's the point of a nice build if you wrap it in a case). As has been mentioned though, price is a bit of sticking point. Not because I don't think it's worth the money, because it's seems like a lot of phone. But more that I think the price will drop sharply pretty quickly!!, especially if the Nexus 6 comes in at a good price point. So I think I might hold out, even if they don't drop the price I've a feeling that Samsung will do some sort of deals soon.. eg. Free Gear S with it etc.

Troy Dyall

October 19, 2014, 11:20 am

the reviewer seems intent on pushing the note 4 price higher than the 6+. you can find it for a lot cheaper than mentioned. im not sure what the agenda is in this regard,,,,

torjs99

October 19, 2014, 1:15 pm

is the nexus 6 bigger than this? i prefer the nexus as no crappy samsung 'software'

Troy Dyall

October 19, 2014, 4:49 pm

Nexus is thicker & taller but not as wide

torjs99

October 20, 2014, 11:58 am

cool. contract's up this month. really excited by the nexus 6.

Prem Desai

October 20, 2014, 12:15 pm

Agree with the statement about Samsung crapware - they really need to stop.

Ironically, apart from clogging up your phone and no way to uninstall these (without rooting), they actually play a big part on why firmware updates are so late, if ever.

Prem Desai

October 20, 2014, 12:24 pm

This may help - it works for me anyway.

I don't like the headphone socket on any device. Both the plug and socket are too fragile.

I've resorted to using bluetooth headphones. Been a revalation (for me) - especially if you have the controls on the headset itself.

torjs99

October 20, 2014, 12:26 pm

totally agree. galaxy 3 owner, samsung stopped updates because they couldn't get the not wanted crapware on there with android. idiots! nexus next.

comments powered by Disqus