NEW YORK – Samsung's new smartphone illustrates the limits of innovation at a time when hardware advances have slowed.
The new phone, the Galaxy Note 9, will be faster and will last longer without a recharge. But while earth-shattering new features are in short supply, it will carry an earth-shattering price tag: $1,000.
The minor improvements reflect a smartphone industry that has largely pushed the limits on hardware. Major changes tend to come every few years rather than annually, and this isn't the year for anything revolutionary in the Note.
The new phone, which comes out Aug. 24, will get some automatic photo editing and a stylus that can serve as a remote control. But the highlights will be a bigger battery, a faster processor and improved cellular speeds.
“You don't see massive breakthroughs anymore from a hardware perspective,” said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with Creative Strategies. “Everything is a little bit better, but nothing's revolutionary.”
Even though the improvements from last year aren't huge, Technalysis Research analyst Bob O'Donnell said they will come across as major for those who haven't upgraded for a few years.
A 21 percent boost in battery capacity from last year's Note 8 should translate to more than a day of normal use without a recharge. Samsung has been conservative on battery improvements ever since its Note 7 phone in 2016 developed a tendency to burst into flame, prompting an expensive recall.
Since then, Samsung has subjected its phones to multiple inspections, including X-rays and stress tests at extreme temperatures. The company is also sending phones to outside labs, including UL, for independent safety tests.
“We're three generations removed now,” Samsung's director of U.S. product marketing, Suzanne De Silva, said of the company's renewed confidence in the battery. “This is the right innovation at the right time.”
Although Samsung's Note phones are large, niche products intended for power users, they offer a preview of what's to come in the mass-market Galaxy S line.