Hands on with the Samsung Galaxy Note
Definitely a big phone, not a small tablet
IFA 2011 Samsung's Galaxy Note Android Gingerbread-based device is undoubtedly an oddity. The South Korean giant claims it brings the best of the smartphone world - cellular comms, a relatively compact casing - with the best the tablet offers: a big (ish) screen.
Whether you agree will depend on whether you see the value in a notepad-style machine that has a big enough display to view content clearly and to jot notes on but won't tug on the pockets the way a 9in or 10in tablet will.
Big phone or small tablet?
Of course, you may well say the opposite: the Note is too big for a phone and too small for a tablet. The Note's 5.3in OLED screen runs to 1280 x 800, and it is wonderfully crisp.
That's a higher spec than you get on phone, and the Note is clearly much bigger than a phone too, even one with a 4.3in or 4.7in screen. But the Note is nice and thin so it's not uncomfortable to hold. The edges curve round to the back in a manner very reminiscent of the original iPhone.
That gadget didn't come with a stylus, but this one does - it slots into a bay at the base of the Note.
It's the nylon-tipped stylus that gives the Note its digital scribble-pad quality. Jotting notes, and sketching charts and pictures does feel more natural when you use a stylus rather than your finger.
The pen has a button, a press of which takes a screenshot. Samsung reckons users will be grabbing such images left, right and centre, cropping and tweaking them in the Note's easy-to-use photo editor app, and email the results off with pen-jotted annotations.
"Very useful for businessmen," said the lass who gave me a guided tour of the device, before finishing off the demo with an app created by enterprise data management software specialist SAP.
The Note is a full phone, though it feels slightly odd when held up to your ear - it's just too large. A Bluetooth headset solves that, though calling up contacts one-handed is tricky unless you have an unusually long thumb.
But this is a tool for folk who need a bigger phone screen than most handsets provide. Think of it as a big phone, not a small tablet, and it makes sense.
The camera on the back is 8Mp
There ought to be room in the market for such a form-factor. It won't suit everyone, of course, but it will suit someone.
I could see myself using such a gadget as an e-book reader, for instance, one way more portable and pocketable than my iPad but requires less squinting than my phone's screen does. Or I could just carry a regular e-book reader around.
One-handed thumb typing is do-able but not ideal
And that's the difficulty for Samsung: persuading potential buyers they can carry the Note around instead of two or more other devices. ®
The market for this is who exactly?
Well, me perhaps.
I like the bluetooth headset idea (why isn't it integrated and sold with it?).
I like the stylus idea.
I could use it as a super notepad for working on things, and making notes as I go, photographing serial numbers and writing down test results.
It would make a fantastic satnav for those of us oldies who take a long time to change focus from infinity to tiny writing on the autobahn, especially at night.
nearly sold. Does it take two sim cards?
Sold! as well
I've come to the realisation that I want a good portable internet experience/media player/casual games console/camera more than I do a nice small telephone. I don't make many calls - of 600 minutes a month I can't remember the last time I used more than 50 of them. But I do send a lot of texts, a fair amount of emails and I surf the web a lot.
And for that reason, a really big screen is a good thing, even if I have to hold it to the side of my head once in a while.
That's my next handset. Thank you Sammy.
Don't know what to call it?
How about ... phondleslab?
Why not integrate Bluetooth headset into pen?
Pen can be the size of a normal Parker pen and live in your breast-pocket. It could double-up as a Bluetooth headset- either held in the hand to make/take calls, or be equipped with a socket for your choice of wired headset, with a twisty end (like those Network Walkmans) for volume/track jog functions.
It would be also be convenient for making voice memos.
A phone this size is not for everybody, but I'm surprised so many appear shocked by Samsung's reasoning... A Moleskin journal or Filofax is no smaller. The market for a good note-taking device must be big enough for at least one manufacturer to reach out to.
I personally would love an AutoCAD-style (or hell, a 3D parametric CAD) application on a pocket-able device, and my finger just ain't the right input tool.