Not just an in-between: Samsung launches hybrid Galaxy Note

Samsung launched its new smartphone-tablet hybrid yesterday – a 5.3-inch screen device complete with stylus, known as the Samsung Galaxy Note.

Although the much-maligned portmanteau “phablet” was not used at the launch (much to this reporter’s chagrin)* Samsung Electronics Australia’s VP of telecommunications, Tyler McGee, described the device as sitting in “Samsung’s own product category”.

Spec wise, the Note features a 1.4GHz dual core processor, a 5.3-inch HD Super AMOLED screen (1280×800 resolution), 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash and 2-megapixel front-facing camera, and 16GB internal memory which is expandable with microSD up to 32GB.

The device is made for the 3G-network (rather than 4G) and it operates on the Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system, though it will be updateable to Ice Cream Sandwich, an upgrade that Samsung is “working on” according to McGee.

Essentially, the Note has been designed to offer the “portability of a smartphone with the versatility of a tablet”. The key differences between the Note and other devices are the size and the S Pen. At 14.7 x 8.3 x 0.9 centimetres, the device is certainly larger than your average smartphone (and smaller than a full-sized tablet), though McGee said “despite its size, it still fits comfortably into a pocket or handbag”.

The large screen has been designed to be used in tandem with the S Pen stylus, which can be used to draw, capture and crop images, and write (either by adding memos to images in the user’s own handwriting, or using the handwriting-to-digital-character conversion feature).

“The S Pen is a very quick way to write for those who don’t use a keyboard everyday, it can be used any time,” said McGee. “And the S Pen functionality has been deeply integrated into native Galaxy Note apps.”

These native apps come under the ‘S Choice’ sub-category of Samsung apps, and include drawing apps such as OmniSketch and Zen Brush, as well as more business-focused apps such as iAnnotate PDF and Soonr Workplace, which has been designed for collaborative annotation of documents.

While the product will be available to purchase from this week, concerns were raised at launch that the device has been available through direct import before now.

However, McGee insisted consumers would have a better experience by buying the Note through Australian channels, which also gave consumers access to local apps including turn-by-turn navigation.

“The product is optimised for market here, on the 850 band,” he said. “Direct imported models are not optimised for this market. I would just say buyer beware, there’s no guarantee that overseas products deliver on promises [as advertised online].”

Pricing

The Samsung Galaxy Note is available for $899 outright (unlocked). It will be also available this week from Optus and Vodafone, with Telstra set to get stock in April.

Verdict?

Appliance Retailer had an opportunity to take the Note on a test drive and while it is more cumbersome than a regular smartphone to hold and operate in one hand, the larger screen size does make for a much more enjoyable media experience.

Videos were clear (and obviously bigger), and the larger screen gives you more room to move when you’re taking advantage of the creative programs. The S Pen is certainly nifty, and it is easy to see this kind of product being used by designers, architects and artists who need the capacity to send quick info via text or email, but with the added feature of inputting their own added details (with drawn plans, designs, images etc.)

If you’re looking for a regular smartphone the Note may feel clunky, and if you’re after a tablet it may feel small. But it might also just be the perfect mix of the two.

*Other suggestions for the name of this new category (if phablet is so hated) are Smphablet, SmartFab and T-Bone.

The Samsung Galaxy Note.

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