Dear reader, I am not too proud to tell you that I spent a good portion of last night playing Fortnite in the bathtub. This happened due to my purchase of a new phone.
I will also ask for your indulgence up front, because I’m about to effusively praise a bit of consumer electronics. It was not provided by the manufacturer, nor did I spend the site’s money. With all that out of the way, I think we can begin.
The Galaxy Note 9 is the most obscenely over-the-top smartphone that is currently on the market. It has no new ideas, and it doesn’t feel particularly clever. It just takes everything that exists in current phones and gives you more of it. If anything, this feels like the last hurrah of current phone technology; something is going to have to give if another manufacturer wants to compete in terms of pure specs. I have a theory that many of the design decisions behind it are there just to slight Apple.
Do you like big screens? The Note 9 gives you a 6.4-inch screen that’s so bright you need sunglasses if you crank it up. Anything larger would be nearly impossible to hold. There’s no notch, thank the maker.
While Apple often seems to design phones that focus on being thinner and lighter, Samsung is guessing that you don’t mind a heavy phone if it means the battery lasts forever. The 4,000 mAh battery gives you a full day of use even if you’re playing graphically intensive games. It will stretch across two days of “normal” use, but this isn’t a phone for people with normal habits. I want to be able to use every feature for as long as I want and still have enough juice to listen to a podcast in the shower at the end of the day, and by gosh someone has finally done it.
Apple is famously stingy with storage, but the “entry-level” Note 9 comes with 128 GB of storage, along with Micro SD support so you can add even more.
It has a standard headphone jack, which shouldn’t be a question in new phones but is, thanks again to Apple.
What all this means for you, or at least for me
It’s a huge, heavy phone that is ridiculous and I love it.
I’m always surprised at how few phone manufacturers are willing to really go for it in terms of larger batteries, because the difference in piece of mind is noticeable. I’m no longer doing mental math about how much power I have left, even when I’m playing Fortnite and feeling the thing heat up in my hands.
The IP68 water resistance rating means dropping it into the tub while you’re playing isn’t a big deal, if you’re silly enough to want to play Fortnite in the bath.
Friend, I am silly enough to play Fortnite in the bath.
The approach of taking existing features and cranking them up to disgusting levels isn’t exactly novel, but for my usage habits it feels like the perfect move. I have five kids, which means taking an ungodly number of pictures, which means storage is a priority. The screen is big enough to watch movies or television comfortably, no matter what David Lynch thinks. I play a lot of mobile games, which makes the extra battery life feel luxurious.
I have never felt more giddy about a piece of electronics that other people uniformly dislike when I show it to them. It’s hard to hold if you have smaller hands, and you may have issues fitting it comfortably in your pockets. The heft instantly annoys people who like more reasonable phones.
But this isn’t a reasonable phone. The competition thinks you have to give up something to get more of something else, or maybe you just don’t need to have the most of everything because providing that leads to engineering and design limitations. They’re likely right; most people are perfectly content picking a phone with one or two distinguishing features that may lag in other areas.
But those people will never know the joy of carrying a huge phone that lasts forever on a charge and comes with a weird little Bluetooth pen that you can use to trigger the camera so you can take selfies without trying to hit the button with your thumb or waving your palm at it or whatever.
The Note 9 is the phone to get if you want the biggest screen but also want a ton of storage but also want a huge battery and also you don’t care about holding a brick. It’s the phone to buy if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to eat a steak with a piece of cheesecake on top, or if you’ve ever wondered if you could knock someone out by throwing your phone at them.
There’s also the issue of the Fortnite exclusivity, which isn’t by itself a huge selling point. But it helps that the Note 9 is also one of the better phones for playing Fortnite in general thanks to the screen and battery life and water resistance so you can play in the bath which is something you may or may not want to do but it’s something I did and will continue to do because it’s amazing. And yes, I play enough Fortnite in general that it swayed my decision.
The Note 9 starts at $1,000, which makes it a non-starter for people who also want to pay a reasonable amount for a new phone. One of the trade-offs Samsung was willing to make was giving up the battle for a low price.
But it feels luxurious, if you’re after the kind of luxury it’s selling. And I am definitely after that particular brand of luxury. Being able to watch hours of video or play round after round of the mobile version of PUBG on a screen that doesn’t make me squint at the menus without putting a dent in the battery is worth the size and weight. I didn’t realize how many of my annoyances with phones could be erased by just making the damned thing huge and slamming a massive battery in there. Fanny packs are probably back in style anyway, right?
My carrier even shipped the stupid thing a few days early; the Note 9 isn’t supposed to be released until Aug. 24. But I love this thing, even if so few things about it feel like a mainstream product. Samsung decided that being subtle wasn’t worth it, and I salute them. From the bathtub.