It’s hard to believe now, but before the original Note dropped back in 2011 the phablet market didn’t really exist.
Three generations of Note smartphones down the line, larger phones are now ten-a-penny.
Meanwhile, Samsung’s monster, stylus-toting handset has become a phenom that ranks just behind the Galaxy S and the iPhone for sales and capacity to generate tech-press headlines.
Last time around for the third edition, Samsung upped the screen dimensions while slimming the handset down and adding some smart new features for the S-Pen.
But that was then. What’s in store for us this time? Here’s what we’ve heard so far…
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 release date
The Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 dropped in September, meaning it had to scrap for column inches with the iPhone 5S and 5C.
Will Samsung want to take on Apple’s now dual-headed hydra again? Or will it find a window where things are a bit less competitive?
We've put our ear to the ground to report all the rumblings from the supply chain...
Samsung will bring the phone’s release forward
That’s the word from Mobile Review editor and analyst Eldar Murtazin at least. His market intelligence indicates that Samsung will change course and drop the Note 4 ahead of the phone’s standard August/September due date.
How far ahead? That much he couldn’t or wouldn’t tell us.
But assuming he’s correct, the smart money would be on leaving at least a few months between the Galaxy S5 (due around April) and the Note 4.
That points to a due date around June or July.
Actually, it will be September after all
South Korean site News Tomato claims Samsung will make the Note 4 available to buy 'immediately' after it's unveiled.
That's all to the good. What we don't know yet is which day of IFA, which runs between September 5th-10th, that Samsung will use to showcase its handset.
Still, if earlier years are anything to go by we can expect the Note 4 to drop early on, leaving rivals to fight over column inches on tech sites as the week wears on.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 specs
Bigger. Fitter. Faster. That’s the deal with new smartphones. But how much bigger? How much fitter? And how much faster?
Let’s delve into the rumour vortex to find out. Once more into the breach, dear friends…
It’ll pack an octa-core processor
Sources cited by DigiTimes claim that Samsung is gearing up to fit its phones with eight-core processors from the second half of 2013.
Believe what you read and they’ll be manufactured by Mediatek, which has inked a deal to join Samsung’s supply chain.
Reports didn't mention the Note 4 by name. But given that it’s the only high-end Samsung phone whose refresh date falls in the second half of the year, it’s a safe bet that the Note 4 will be the Galaxy phone that debuts the ultra-brawny processor.
Biometric security tech will feature
Compared with the non-starters that were Siri, FaceTime and Passbook, Touch ID’s security-boosting biometric tech must go down as one of the more successful selling points or ‘killer software features’ from Apple.
At least one analyst forecasts Samsung will implement something similar with the Note 4. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time the Korean company has followed Apple’s lead, that’s for sure.
But will it be a fingerprint scanner or a retina scanner?
Marwan Boustany, senior analyst of MEMS and Sensors at HIS reckons Samsung could eschew common-or-garden fingerprint scanning and go one better with a retina scanner.
The only downsides here are that while the price of fingerprint scanners is falling rapidly, the cost of retina security remains pretty prohibitive. There’s also the fact that, as waggish iFans will point out, Samsung hasn’t got an Apple model to copy this time.
A three-sided screen will be on board
In an interview with Bloomberg, Samsung Vice President of Mobile Lee Young Hee disclosed that the company is experimenting with a “three-sided display”.
The advantage is it would allow messages to be read from angles that would normally make this impossible.
Once again, he declined to mention the Note 4. But he did say that the feature is aimed at the corporate market who form a large tranche of the market for Samsung’s Note range.
Or will it be curved? Or flexible? Or none of the above?
Korea Times sources warn us that this year will see not one, but two additions to the Note range. One with a curved screen. And one without.
Set to launch simultaneously, it seems the curved edition will only be released in select territories, while the standard model will be up for grabs everywhere there are mobile-phone networks.
Samsung has form with curved screens, after testing the water with the Galaxy Round in its domestic market of South Korea last year.
But given that the Round reportedly failed to win over punters, it makes sense for Samsung to be cagey when trying an unfamiliar form factor/design on a device as critical to its bottom line as the Note 4.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 design rumours
Change is afoot, it seems. Here's what we've heard.
It'll be the thinnest device ever and sport a much boxier design
According to TK Tech News, the Note 4 will be the thinnest device on the market. Again.
Snaps the @evleaks associate managed to obtain also suggest it wll feature a boxier, less rounded look that previous versions of the Note.
The change is thought to have been engendered by criticism of earlier models' design and 'cheap' plastic construction.
It's hard to tell too much from the images, but we think the result of a move away from Samsung's pebble-style form factor recalls Sony's recent top-end Xperia handsets.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 price rumours
How much? That's the bottom line. We don't know yet. That's the problem.
If last year was anything to by, though, expect to pick it up free from a shade over £40 from day one. In the meantime, here's some of the conjecture doing teh rounds.
It'll be bundled with a smartwatch
Word is that Samsung will sell the Note 4 and its similarly unreleased third-gen Gear 3 smartwatch in a bundle for a reduced price.
That makes a modicum of sense, given that the phone-maker appears to be ready to give away earlier models for free in a bid to get its smartwatches in people's hands ahead of the launch of the iWatch.
The only factor that casts doubt on the credibilty of this notion is that the Gear 2 landed mere months ago, so it's unlikely, if not impossible, that Samsung has readied another iteration for release so quickly.