‘Take a note, Miss Mona!' said the boss. And Mona whips out her notebook and takes shorthand at a blazing 80 words per minute. That was an era long gone, replaced by Pocket PCs that let you take your own notes, replacing pencil and paper with glass screen and stylus. That too was swamped by the smartphone: typing became a two- finger exercise on a touchscreen.
But somewhere in our collective psyche, we still long for the feel of pen on paper -- and Samsung's latest addition to its Note series -- the Galaxy Note 9 -- is a fond salute to this retro writing tool. Take away the S Pen and the Note 9 is not much different -- spec-wise -- from many another flagship phone. Correction: I forgot the insanely huge storage: at its max configuration, 512 GB inside and 512 GB in the microSD slot, making this a one terabyte pocket monster, which can carry all your files, movies, music for years, without using any cloud storage.
The 8 MP front camera is fairly standard in this class of phone except for the 960 frames-per-second slow motion mode. Samsung has lavished attention on the dual 12 MP front camera combo with wide angle, 2X optical zoom telephoto and two aperture settings: F2.4 for well-lit subjects and F1.5 for dark. AI which phone cameras increasingly deploy is creatively used here to detect flaws: eye blink, smudged lens, excessive backlight or just someone jogging your elbow to create a blur. In all such cases, the phone prompts you to reshoot!
The Note 9 is primarily a productivity platform -- with a large 6.4-inch screen that provides a 4K Ultra HD display. The sized allows you to split the screen between two apps (one work, one play, I imagine!). You can link the phone to laptop or PC monitor via HDMI and use the bigger screen to show presentations, spreadsheets etc with a tool called Dex. And the 4000mAh battery should keep you going over a working day. This is a device that can be customised in many ways, but like the Seven Veils of Sheba, one has to peel through layers to find many hidden customisation tools. While this jumbo-sized phone asks to be held with two hands, you can set up a one-handed mode, if you chose, by shrinking some of the displayed apps.
The true USP is the S Pen, a cool tool with a tiny button that provides a great writing feel. Hover over any text and tap the blue 'T' sign to bring up the writing pad anytime. But for me, the truly innovative use of the S Pen was this: You can use it to bring up the camera with a long press -- then run to join a group of people and click to take an old-fashioned group shot. From selfie to groupie... back to the future indeed!
Galaxy Note 9 is available for Rs 67,900 and Rs 84,900 for 128 GB and 512 GB variants, respectively.