Today’s business user relies on a smartphone almost as much as a primary notebook even for day-to-day productivity. But for phones to occupy such an important position in the modern worker’s business toolkit, IT needs to ensure fast and reliable connectivity between the user’s multiple devices. Otherwise tasks won’t be synced, data won’t be seamlessly available, and productivity will wind up problematic rather than enhanced. This is one of the key capabilities that Samsung is looking to address for business users with its new Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10+ phones, both of which were released earlier this week.
PCMag attended the Galaxy Unpacked event on August 7 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, as well as preview events in the days before to get the scoop on the new devices. Turns out, the Note 10 features a 6.3-inch screen while the Note 10+ comes with a 6.8-inch display. Samsung boasts that the brightness of these screens isn’t just attractive but also ideal for difficult-usage scenarios, like field workers. PCMag got early hands-on time with the new Galaxy Note models, which feature an enhanced S Pen with six new motion controls called “Air Gestures.” Versions of the Note 10 and Note 10+ with 5G will be coming later this year.
Samsung claims that the new capabilities it has incorporated into the Note 10 model will help sell the device into new business markets, including banking, logistics, health care, and retail. Like other flagship Samsung phones, the Galaxy Note 10 works with FirstNet (short for First Responder Network Authority), a broadband network for first responders. To help the phone line fit into even more industrial use cases, Samsung also partners with companies such as Gamber-Johnson and Ram Mounts, which make equipment used to install mobile phones in public safety vehicles.
Even on its own, however, Samsung touts the Galaxy Note 10’s business capabilities. Here are four features the company believes will appeal to general business users:
1. S Pen and Air Gestures
Like in the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 before it, the S Pen in the Note 10 can serve as a clicker for presentations. However, the S Pen in the Note 10 brings six new gestures called “Air Actions.” Samsung is issuing a call to developers with a software development kit (SDK) to build mobile applications that will incorporate the S Pen and the gestures, according to Taher Behbehani, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Samsung’s Mobile B2B division. Developers can assign actions to the gestures to fit their apps.
“What that means is, if you develop an app for a certain vertical, then you can use these gestures to make the navigation easy,” Behbehani told PCMag. “You don’t need to go unlock, swipe, go here…log in and start again; you can use the pen to do all of that.”
It will take some creativity to develop apps for the S Pen gestures. However, Patrick Moorhead, President and Principal Analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, sees some potential when it comes to independent software vendors (ISVs) incorporating gestures into Microsoft PowerPoint presentations.
“I can see integration into PowerPoint where users can use air gestures from across the room, without having to be right on top of their phone, PC, or tablet, and make annotations,” Moorhead said.
Behavior change will be key to getting business users to adopt air gestures for various industries, according to Rob Enderle, Principal Analyst at the Enderle Group. Then developers will have success building apps for these purposes. “The pen is perfect for forms. But [though] we’ve had lots of attempts to move people to more creative air interfaces, none have gotten to critical mass because of a lack of funding focused on behavioral change, which is expensive,” Enderle said. “Without that, we can’t get adoption to where it needs to be, and the efforts have failed.”
Even without the gestures ability, however, the S Pen can be valuable in any business scenario that requires regular signatures. In health care, patients continuously need to sign documents, while the retail industry has a constant stream of signatures as part of credit card processing or handwritten entries for inventory management.
You might not think of your phone’s camera as anything but a selfie machine, but the Galaxy Note 10 offers a powerful camera that Samsung says could play a significant role in industrial use cases and other field scenarios. For example, it could be used by first responders as a bodycam, a use case that’s already part of the portfolio of its predecessor, the Galaxy S9. The Kit Carson County Sheriff’s Office in Burlington, Colorado, has incorporated Galaxy S9 smartphones into their duty vests to use the cameras. Samsung hopes that additional use cases will occur with later models like the Galaxy Note 10.
“If you get out of a car and go to a scene, you basically make your phone calls and get instructions on what to do,” Behbehani said. “Then, you attach [the S9] to your vest as a bodycam, all in one, and you’re ready to go.”
Enderle doesn’t see the Galaxy Note 10 being used as a bodycam by a police officer, though. That type of application is usually reserved for devices with more ruggedized chassis and likely lower overall price tags, too. Samsung responds by pointing out that the Note 10 supports the Ingress Protection (IP) 68 specification, meaning it’s resistant to water and dust. However, that still doesn’t qualify it as a fully ruggedized device.
Enderle considers phones used as body-worn cameras as problematic due to the extreme work environments. In those work conditions, “relying on a smartphone, any smartphone, would be risky,” he said. “Bodycams are dedicated devices and likely need to be to adequately perform their function.”
Ray Couey, Flagship and Rugged B2B Handheld Product (HHP) Owner at Samsung, says the rugged cases that are compatible with the Galaxy phones help with keeping the devices secure in vehicles, but for body-worn situations, emergency workers prefer a thinner case.
A potentially brighter use case for the Note 10’s camera is business-grade video conferencing. Here, the high-quality cam can connect remote workers into a larger meeting, and it might actually serve as an alternative to the cameras you’ve got mounted in your conference rooms should they have problems or should the meeting take place somewhere that dedicated cameras haven’t been installed.
“Latency is very low, and the camera is so powerful that you can actually see the other individuals in the conference room or the individual as if you’re right next to them,” Behbehani said. “You don’t need a heavy-duty camera or expensive room setup to essentially start a conference.”
3. Samsung DeX
The Samsung DeX PC to Phone interface is how Samsung envisions Note 10 users moving data between their devices. First introduced in the Galaxy 8, DeX helps business users connect their phone to their PC via a simple drag-and-drop interface that lets them quickly and easily move files from one device to another.
To make this work, DeX turns the Galaxy Note 10 into a virtual machine (VM) on the target device. You use a mouse or keyboard on the PC to control your phone. It’s geared toward workers using cloud productivity apps such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google G Suite Business. Samsung says this means you don’t need to have these apps installed on your device to access them; you just need an internet connection, which essentially relegates your PC to thin client status. But while that sounds great on paper, there are several factors that impact perfornance in this scenario outside of the internet connection, including a certain amount of local CPU and graphics processing horsepowerâ€”especially in a virtual or thin client configuration. Customers should be careful to evaluate such a scenario in detail and under load before making any large-scale purchasing decisions.
Still, Samsung remains optimistic about this scenario’s future. It sees features such as DeX used as a hot-desking option for workers who travel. “You can use the screen, keyboard, and monitor that’s already there. I can be visiting you in your office…show you some files in a window, but the files still remain on my phone,” explained Couey. “It just creates a much more frictionless travel experience.”
With the Galaxy Note 10, DeX only requires a USB cable and can now connect directly to a PC. Previously, you had to use an HDMI cable connected to a monitor. “The idea is to be open and plug in to any work environment,” Behbehani said. “So your PC becomes an extension of the phone on the [Galaxy Note] 10, and then the phone is an extension of the PC.”
Samsung isn’t the only vendor to offer a PC-to-phone app. Dell has a Mobile Connect tool that lets you make calls on your PC as well as send texts, get notifications, and transfer files. Later this year, Samsung claims DeX will be able to send calls from a PC as well. This will offer another option for business users beyond cloud video conferencing or Voice-over-IP (VoIP) services for making a call on a PC.
Samsung stresses how data won’t get lost if your phone is stolen because it’s in the cloud. The Samsung Knox mobile device management (MDM) platform provides the security backbone and encryption for the phone, and allows users or IT administrators to wipe a phone remotely should the device become lost. So, as long as companies employ an MDM system for device management and are careful about storing data in the cloud, their data should remain secure, according to Samsung. In addition, data is just viewed and not transferred, and corporate IT departments will have to white list DeX. “As soon as you unplug the phone, that terminal loses all that [data],” Couey said. “So there’s no information sitting on your PC at any time; it’s only doing screen mirroring.”
In retail, using DeX with a phone like the Galaxy Note 10 can eliminate the need for multiple devices for inventory management and point-of-sale (POS) transactions, according to Couey. You can also consolidate tasks such as time tracking and take care of back-office logistics all on one device.
4. Link to Windows
An expanded partnership between Samsung and Microsoft brings new features such as “Link to Windows.” It places a menu item on the Galaxy Note 10’s Quick Panel (called Link to Windows) that lets you connect to your Windows 10 PC by using the Microsoft app called “Your Phone.” Unlike with DeX, Link to Windows is designed to let business users access their phone notifications and text messages on their computer without having to look back and forth between devices.
At Wednesday’s Galaxy Unpacked event, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella described the Link to Windows as a “a profound shift in how we interact with the many devices in our lives.” He said their ambition is “to help people to be productive on any device anywhere, from calls and text messages to emails and photos.”
Merging the phone and the PC has been a long struggle for business users, and through Link to Windows, Samsung and Microsoft are making some progress in this area, according to Moorhead. “Enterprises have been frustrated that vendors have not solved this broken connection between smartphone and personal computer,” Moorhead said. “Samsung’s Link to Windows and Microsoft’s Your Phone…don’t solve the entire problem in phone-PC interaction but is a great start.”
Bridging the Phone and PC
Other companies like Dell are working on DeX-like features to connect phones and PC, and it will take some work to get significant traction among business users, according to Enderle. “There are many DeX-like efforts in the market so there clearly is a need,” Enderle said. “But the marketing and behavior modification efforts critical to the success of these features haven’t yet risen to the level needed for broad adoption.”
Not only does Samsung connect phones and PCs, it wants to be a “one-stop shop,” Behbehani said. This means providing a mix of devices, apps, and services. “Taking the pain point off your hands as a business owner and onto us is what we have to focus on, so I think that one-stop shop packaging is really important for us,” he said. “That’s where we are going to go.”