It was only recently that Samsung debuted its much-discussed flagship smartphone, the Galaxy Note. With notable features like the S-pen, its behemoth of a 5.3-inch screen and hilarious Super bowl advertisement, there’s little to wonder as to why it has been so discussed. And here, we’re discussing it again.
The Dell Streak, launched in June 2010, also had a 5-inch screen, but was not talked about nearly as much. This may have been due to Android smartphones still catching up to the iPhone, but it’s interesting to note (no pun intended) the fact that something so large was barely discussed. Sure it got some coverage from the likes of Engadget and other tech blogs, but it surely did not create as much buzz as the Galaxy Note has.
Whether or not Samsung’s marketing team is better than Dell’s is not the point. Rather, it’s all about the name of the phone – emphasis on ‘Note.’ With the inclusion of a stylus (or S-pen for you Samsung aficionados), the Note certainly is making a bold statement. Steve Jobs was quoted as saying that the manufacturer fails in terms of the interaction design when a stylus is included. But the Note adds something interesting here. This isn’t your average-to-crappy capacitive stylus that lags and adds almost no additional functionality. Instead, it’s a fully branded Wacom pen, with a function button on its side. The Note itself has an active Wacom digitizer, which is pressure sensitive (though it is not known up to how many levels of pressure). That means the same manufacturer that make some amazing graphics tablets (like the Intuos and Cintiq) is actually embedded in the Note’s screen. Hence the S-pen is much more accurate than any other capacitive stylus, and I’m sure the artists out there would appreciate having a pressure-sensitive sketchpad on the go.
The other ‘feature’ that the Note has – which cannot be overlooked – is its size. Measuring 146.9mm (length) by 83mm (width) and 9.7mm (thickness), it has a fairly large footprint when held in one’s hand. And although the thinness makes up for the large size, which makes the phone feel somewhat smaller, one-handed operation would no doubt be difficult. And if you’re someone who likes to wear skinny jeans, this phone could be sticking out of your pocket – a fairly large concern if you ever plan on sitting anywhere. But with great size come great specifications. Samsung’s trademark Super AMOLED display with its deep blacks and over saturated colours give it a very natural look. And once you see the 1280×720 resolution (720p) display in person, it’s simply
phenomenal. The pixel density is listed as 284 pixels per inch, which may not be quite as close as the iPhone 4S’ 329 pixels per inch, but the screen’s resolution more than makes up for this. No small feat when you consider that there is also an active digitizer embedded in the screen. A 1.4 GHz dual-core Exynos processor helps things happen swiftly, and the 1GB of RAM ensure a fluid experience (at least for the international version – the North American version has LTE capabilities which changes the processor to a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon with a clock speed of 1.5 GHz) .
But even with these specifications, the size of the device has to be considered. The iPhone 4S, with its 3.5″ screen, looks absolutely tiny in comparison to the Note. And when you also consider that the iPhone 4S is by all means one of the most popular smartphones today, the Note has certainly raised more than a few eyebrows. Even the higher-end Android smartphones, like the Galaxy Nexus, look small with its 4.65″ screen. Thus it is quite obvious that the Note is breaking a lot of norms, but is this for better or worse?
I could go on and on about the changing technologies and how they affect us, but I’ll keep it simple. The Galaxy Note has made the term ’phablet’ popular (strange term I know), which is phone + tablet. That’s really the reason why the Note looks attractive. Tablets have been gaining some serious traction, and Apple thinks that we’re ready for the post-PC world (though I heavily doubt that claim). But it would be foolish to ignore such a burgeoning market, and Samsung has shown that they’re committed to the tablet market with their Galaxy Tab series.
However, buying a tablet with either 3G or LTE will mean that you need a SIM card, and a plan with the carrier you choose. This can become fairly redundant, especially if you already own a smartphone with the ’required’ data plan (wireless carrier monopolies in Canada, what can I say). But your average smartphone can certainly not do everything a larger iOS/Android tablet can do, essentially due to the screen size. And that is precisely why I believe the Note fills the hybrid gap between a tablet and phone very well. The size may be a bit of an issue to quite a few people, but for those who want the best of both worlds without having two separate devices/data plan, this device is most certainly ideal. There’s a lot to discuss as to why the Dell Streak didn’t make as much of an impact as the Note has, but I think it can be attributed not only to Samsung’s significant growth in the
past year, but also the S-pen. It’s Samsung’s way of saying that there is more interaction than just with your finger – which I personally think gives it something that no other capacitive touch screen can currently do (that also has a phone built into it). But overall, the Note has certainly introduced a new type of device, and possibly one that will be continued instead of a small niche market.
In closing, while I may claim that the device is filling a gap that is currently void, many people may not desire such a large phone, or they already have a tablet, which does reduce the desirability of the Note if that’s the case. Over time, sales numbers will tell whether or not the Note is on-time, or too early for widespread adoption (or possibly too far ahead of its time), but I think Samsung knows who they are targeting. And this will most certainly not be the last form factor phone of this size. Lastly, if you enjoyed reading this, let me know and I’ll see if I can continue to add similarly themed articles.