The Galaxy Note Edge from Samsung is one of the strangest phones we've ever seen. It has a 'melted' curved screen at one side which seems to wrap around the natural boundaries of (a) a phone and (b) reality, and represents a genuinely new direction for smartphone hardware.
Announced at IFA in Berlin, it resembles something you'd see behind a glass case at a conference, and which would never make it to sale.
But the real surprise is that it's also a real phone. And you will be able to buy one.
Samsung has remained tight-lipped about UK availability and price so far, but it looks set to emerge here soon.
Ahead of the release date we've managed to get some exclusive hands-on time with the device. Here are the main specs, followed by our first impressions.
- 5;.6-inch Quad HD screen, with a unique curved edge
- Dedicated notifications and controls panels for the Edge
- Ability to add pictures and other control to the Edge
- Integrated Note S-Pen stylus
- 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity
- Quick charge boosts the battery to 50% in 30 minutes
The Note Edge looks like a concept phone. That's because it is - kinda. Samsung says this is a device which represents its vanguard design language ('Modern Fluidic') and at first glance it is obviously an aggressive, unprecedented design.
But Samsung also says that this is a real production phone, and it looks set to come to the UK soon. So what's it like in person?
Actually, pretty amazing.
The curved sidebar looks beautiful - that much you can tell from the pictures. But the actual shape is hard to describe. It's reminiscent of a rolled-up magazine, with a smooth and gentle curve that ends with a flat, clean edge at the bottom. The screen -- which is all one panel, not two separate displays -- has the appearance of being right under the glass, despite the odd angle and curvature of the form factor. From some directions the Edge looks distorted, but from the angle you'll actually use it it's both attractive and discrete. It's a natural place to put notifications - you can see them, but you don't have to look at them.
The phone then is sleek and futuristic to look at. Luckily it's also fun to use. The Edge is just as responsive to the touch as the rest of the screen. You swipe 'down' across from the phone's long edge to switch between the different bars you've chosen (whether it's a Twitter stream, icons, a game or a wallpaper) and the Note Edge moves between them as elegantly as any homescreen on the phone.
There is a dedicated app to let you switch and edit your Edge choices, which also lets you set pictures as wallpaper and edit which applications appear in the quick launch menu.
Samsung says developers will have open access to their API, meaning other notifications, uses and even games could be coming soon.
In the hand it's a little odd at first - ergonomically this design might take some getting used to. But it's pleasing and feels like a natural evolution of the phone. It also intelligently switches its layout based on which way up you hold it - in case you're left handed, for instance, and want the edge next to your thumb.
The key here will be in the implementation. If developers jump on board, or Samsung provides enough genuinely cool use cases -- and if it's not too much more expensive than the Note 4, which in virtually every other respect it is identical to -- then it might be a fun nice-to-have for the forward-thinking early adopters out there. If not it's possible it might just be another slightly confusing extra feature for which no one asked.
To illustrate, one of the features Samsung showed us was a quick-pull-down menu of little tools, which you can select from the Edge. Some - like the torch - seem like obvious things to put in a handy place.
Another of these five, though, was a ruler. A 10 centimetre ruler. A to-scale 10 centimetre ruler. You press the button and the ruler pops up. You then measure stuff (small stuff) using this insanely advanced piece of tech and its static ruler feature.
The future, ladies and gents.
That said, we're optimistic about the Edge and the future of design it represents for Samsung. We love to see Samsung experimenting in public, and this is one of their best experiments to date. It's something we haven't seen on a phone before, and it's something that we're probably not going to see from Apple for years.
It's also far better than previous experiments in 'curved' smartphones like the LG G Flex, which impressed in pictures but disappointed in person. In that respect the Note Edge is a really pleasant surprise - and once we get a chance to test it in full, it might just be an excellent phone in its own right too.