Samsung turns a corner to take on Apple
The new Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Metal design and curved screen for Galaxy Note 4 join Gear S smartwatch to mark a turning point in Samsung’s design standards, less than a week before the iPhone 6

Technology giant Samsung has launched a major new drive to challenge Apple’s standards of design, abandoning its much-criticised plastic phones for models that feature metal frames and curved glass.

The launch at Berlin’s IFA technology fair of the new Galaxy Note 4 and Edge follows the launch of the Galaxy Alpha, the company’s first phone to use a metal frame, and comes less than a week before Apple is widely expected to unveil the iPhone 6. Samsung also revealed the Gear S, a smartwatch that can make phone calls and features a curved glass screen, GPS and bluetooth, aiming to appeal to both fashion-conscious and sporting markets.

The Note 4 features a 5.7-inch screen and improvements to the S Pen stylus that can be used to write on its screen. The limited-edition Edge model includes a curved glass screen wrapped around one side of the device. Samsung claimed that while both models include “Progressive innovation”, it also added that they offered “Breakthrough design”. The curved side of the Edge is as much intended to show Samsung’s continuing ability to innovate as it is to offer new features, which are largely limited to easy access to existing functions alongside new, simple options such as a ruler.

The emphasis on the improved designs, however, will be seen as a concession to critics who compared Apple’s metal and glass designs favourably to Samsung’s primarily plastic models. While Samsung will continue to use what it describes as its “signature back”, which is made of plastic, the devices’ overall look and feel marks a step change.

Samsung turns a corner to take on Apple
The Samsung Gear S

The Note 4 is the latest in a series of large-screen devices that Samsung has pioneered, attempting to produce a digital alternative to the notepad. It includes an improved camera, new glass providing greater clarity and microphones that can be used to focus on individual speakers.

The Gear S smartwatch, featuring curved glass, is also likely to be seen as an attempt to steal a march on Apple’s much-rumoured plans to launch a wearable device itself next week, although it comes after Samsung has already released a number of previous models.

Samsung turns a corner to take on Apple
The Samsung Gear VR

“Samsung is leading the exciting and rapidly developing wearable category with continuous innovation that aims to enhance the lives of technology fans,” claimed Ines van Gennip, of Samsung UK and Ireland. “The Samsung Gear S is set to redefine the idea of the smart wearable device and the culture of mobile communication, enabling people to live a truly connected life anywhere, anytime.”

Samsung also followed Google and Facebook with the new Gear VR headset, an accessory for the Note 4 which turns it into a virtual reality display.