Samsung’s Note: A Smartphone? A Tablet? A Little Bit of Everything?

You knew it would happen eventually: Convergence in the tablet and smartphone space. The main question was: Who would get there first?

For now, it looks as if Samsung will have a first-mover edge in bringing to market a handheld device that claims to be everything rolled into one 5.3-inch, 6.3-ounce super gadget.

The Galaxy Note, announced last week and debuted in Berlin, is advertised as a smartphone, tablet, notepad, planner, and game. Of course, it also has all the bells and whistles we've come to expect — camera, video recorder, music player, Internet connectivity, Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) OS, and I guess it sometimes will be used as a phone. Here's the video of the Note in action and details from the company's IFA 2011 Press Conference.

Curiously, what's making it a stand-out isn't some totally crazy new feature. Can you guess what's marking the tablet-smartphone crossover? Yeah, it's a built-in stylus. You know the throw-back to the days of Palm Pilot and other PDAs?

Admittedly, I'm happy to see the return of the stylus. As a natural scribbler and doodler, the stylus — used in combination with the touchscreen swipes — ups the level of gadget usefulness, at least in my mind.

That said, if you're an avid watcher of the electronics space, the timing of the announcement may be interesting, if not fascinating.

On one hand, the Korean electronics company is embroiled in a legal IP battle with Apple, which EBN's Bolaji Ojo has written about extensively. (See: This Apple Win Should Not Stand.)

Samsung has lost the initial rounds of the patent war in German and Australian courts, and a couple weeks back, a Dutch court in The Hague issued a preliminary injunction against the company's Galaxy S, Galaxy S II, and Ace Smartphones, according to the media reports; Samsung's tablet was not included in The Hague's injunction.

In light of the lawsuits, some immediate questions come to mind. How different is the Note compared to the iPad or iPhone? Will it be safe from litigation? And how will the courts balance the need to protect corporate patents while ensuring that the markets remain competitive?

On a lighter note, the rapid convergence even seems to be throwing analysts off.

Last week, Juniper Research analyst Daniel Ashdown blogged about the troubles of pigeon-holing something like the Note into forecasts. He quipped that some media outlets are already calling the Note a phone-tablet hybrid or a tablet phone, while others think it deserves a new category title. For now, at least, it looks like it will stay on Juniper's smartphone radar screen:

    We're willing to up the limit of a Smartphone though and include the Galaxy Note. For one reason, it runs Google’s Android OS version 2.3 (Gingerbread), and not 3.0 (Honeycomb) — a dedicated Tablet release. More importantly though it is a phone in the strictest sense, in that it can be held up to the ear — of course, it will be up to consumers to make the final decision on this as to whether this is a comfortable size.

Whatever Note is, it's obviously going to make other OEMs take a second look at their smartphone-tablet strategies, don't you think?

25 comments on “Samsung’s Note: A Smartphone? A Tablet? A Little Bit of Everything?

  1. Ariella
    September 8, 2011

    It could be a good option for people who feel they can only choose one such device but don't want to feel like they are giving up the advantages of either. 

  2. Jay_Bond
    September 8, 2011

    This sounds very interesting and a viable option for people who don't want to carry around both items. Though it seems like it might be pushing the upper limits of size when it comes to something to put up to your ear and talk on. It seems like many new smart phones are touting much larger screens, but overall reversing the market trend of old where “smaller was better”. I'm sure Samsung will see how many people are willing to have a slightly larger phone for the benefits of a tablet.

  3. Clairvoyant
    September 8, 2011

    It is a very interesting new device. I like all the features it has. I like the stylus as well, much better for drawing or writing out notes. It looks to be a little big though to be carrying around as a phone, although if you have a purse or bag to keep it in, that wouldn't be a problem.

  4. Adeniji Kayode
    September 8, 2011

    It not a bad idea at all for Samsung to have combined the features of an Iphone and Ipad in on device, this will really attract users that love to have”All-In-On” applications, and I think the use of bluetooth handfree may make the phone features more easier to take advantage of especially because of size of the device.

  5. Adeniji Kayode
    September 8, 2011

    You are right  Jay_bond,I feel the combination or having the features of a phone and Ipad in one device could be a good one though, I expect this device to sell more despite the size but like you rightly said, let's see what Samsung makes out  of this

  6. Anand
    September 8, 2011

    “As a natural scribbler and doodler, the stylus — used in combination with the touchscreen swipes — ups the level of gadget usefulness”

    @Jennifer I totally agree with you that the stylus ups the level of gadget usefulness. I think Samsung was smart to realise this gap and released Samsung Note, which looks very different and unique from rest of the peers. Just wondering if this gadget will pose threat to Apple ?

  7. elctrnx_lyf
    September 9, 2011

    the search for hybrid will be always on…. Till we can't carry around a phone smthng bigger than our palm, we can't have this devcice which is called tablet phone or phone tablet.

  8. saranyatil
    September 9, 2011

    This idea is going to turn out to be a lucrative business for Samsung. Looking into the future i feel there s going to be a huge fight between the giants ( Apple, Google – Motorolla, Samsung). At the end just hope that we end up choosing the right device and not get lost.

  9. Adeniji Kayode
    September 9, 2011

    @Saranyatil. you are right and i agree with you on that. I think the fight has just began because we should expect more manufacturers than those you mentioned in this fight soon

  10. Adeniji Kayode
    September 9, 2011

    @anandvy. If Samsung note is not going to be a threat to Apple, it will come really close to it.And like you rightly said, Samsung is really smart with this one.

  11. saranyatil
    September 9, 2011

    @ Adeniji,

    There will be many more i just mentioned a few of them looking into the present scenario.

  12. eemom
    September 9, 2011

    I think that it is fantastic that Samsung has already announced this product.  Hopefully, they will follow through and make it available to consumers before competitors, like Apple, jump on the bandwagon.  We have to assume that Apple is working on a similar idea.

    That being said, I don't know how I feel about such a device if the form factor is too large to hold up to the ear (or at least perceived to be too large).  Certainly bluetooth will help, but again, I see this as a tool for the younger generation who communicate mainly via texting and actually talking on the phone is a thing of the past.  Maybe college students that can carry this tool around and utilize all its features without ever having to “pick up the phone”.

  13. Wale Bakare
    September 10, 2011

    it's obviously going to make other OEMs take a second look at their smartphone-tablet strategies .

    I think, that is certain and destined to happen. Samsung has a style and it's often live by it – making distinct smart designs in OEM market, which has been helping to cope with competition.

  14. Wale Bakare
    September 10, 2011

    @saranyatil you didnt list RIM among them. Unfortunately tide may seem turning against the Canadian based maker of Blackberry but still major player in smarthpone market. Should RIM makes Android compatible with its Playbook tablet PC that may redirect the market to different scene.

    As RIM's senior director of global developer relations, Mike Kirkup disengaged his services from the company, another shaky moment for the company. To buttress this, a report from Michael Lewis, a Business Reporter for the Star.comthe loss of Research In Motion Ltd.’s developer relations chief comes at a critical time as the company struggles to attract software developers to the BlackBerry family of mobile devices “, full report here.


  15. t.alex
    September 11, 2011

    I am curious to see how the android player work out on RIM. However is there any issue when running android apps on RIM? can it still be able to access Android Market? 

  16. _hm
    September 11, 2011

    Technical features are one aspect of product. Its potential applicable market is another part of story. What specific market will this device serve? Is it for just for average consumer markwt? Samsung has to adrress this issue too. I hope the device gets more poulairty. But its form factor may not be very satsfying to many consumer.


  17. Jennifer Baljko
    September 12, 2011

    Think all of you have said it perfectly. There are pros (the stylus) and cons (if this is truly a handheld format). And, agree – consumers will ultimately decide whether it suits them or not.

    If nothing else, it's fun watching how these gadgets seem to be evolving in real-time.

  18. Clairvoyant
    September 12, 2011

    True, Jennifer. We can pick out the pros and cons all we want to, but really the sales and feedback that the manufacturer gets (and competitors looking at this technology) will ultimately pave the road to improved versions.

  19. Patrick_yu
    September 13, 2011

    Perhaps there is not much Mike K. can do to change the tide.  As the ship is shinking, the pool of Blackberry developers, like its end-users, will continue to shrink.  RIM must do something drastic very quickly, or Nokia / Palm would be a direct reflection of its future.

  20. Patrick_yu
    September 13, 2011

    I wonder if you ever consider to use a Bluetooth headset.  With BT4.0, a well designed headset can be used for days without re-charge.  Otherwise, I agreed that it would look odd and clumsy to hold a phone with 5.3″ display.

    Also, considering the Use Case, it is natural for you to speak with someone on the phone while you would also want to pull out the phone/tablet from your bag and search for information like a friend's address or phone number or the location of a restaurant which you want to meet your friend at.   Make sense?

  21. jbond
    September 13, 2011

    I am curious as to what the begining price tag will be with a 2 year contract and which carrier/s will carry the phone. Little has been said on the internet as to when this device will be released and any pricing or carrier information.

  22. JADEN
    September 13, 2011

    The way I'm looking at the 5.3 inch is not as a small Tablet but a big Phone.  I'm partial to a larger screened devices and can't wait to to take the Samsung Note for a test.

  23. Ariella
    September 14, 2011

    I just saw that this topic came up in a question on Focus: Do you believe smartphones and tablets will eventually converge? Please explain why or why not? One of the responders said he uses 3 different Android devices because each serves a particular function; he offers an analogy to selecting from a fork, spoon, or a knife.



  24. SunitaT
    September 19, 2011

    One of the responders said he uses 3 different Android devices because each serves a particular function; he offers an analogy to selecting from a fork, spoon, or a knife.

    @Ariella, I am not sure if that analogy works because if he is asked to carry fork,spoon, and knife along with him all the time I guess he would prefer to eat using his hands rather than use those tools.

  25. Ariella
    September 19, 2011

    @tirlapur, but hte person who said this does carry all 3 devices, and, slim as they may be, they would take up more room than utensils. But it did make me think of the Swiss army knife, which can contain various individualized tools, like a knife, corkscrew, etc., all in one gadget. Perhaps that is a goal to work on for mobile devices — an all-in-one witht the capability to take on the specialized functions of each.

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