Samsung Galaxy Note – Boldly Going Where Tablets Were Meant To Go

Lately, most of the tablet talk has centered on HP and the TouchPad/webOS soap opera. The drama continued today when various tech news outlets reported that HP may be making as many as 1,000,000 more TouchPads to fulfill commitments with their supply-side vendors. At an estimated loss of almost $200 per unit I’ve got to believe that those vendor contracts must have had some significant penalty clauses. In any event, in just a few weeks everyone’s $99 TouchPad dreams may be answered and the eBay scalpers may be facing a bit of a nightmare.

With TouchPad fans now in a waiting game, and Apple not introducing a new iPad until sometime in 2012, tablet fans turned their attention towards Germany and IFA 2011 (a super-sized version of the Consumer Electronics Show). Everyone is chasing after the iPad and using different methods of attack. Google’s Android OS is the base for at least three major manufacturers to launch tablets of different sizes, shapes, designs and price points.

Sony entered the tablet wars with a couple of devices; a standard full-sized slate (SonyTablet S) and an interesting clam-shell design (Sony Tablet P). Toshiba added a second tablet to its lineup, joining the “Thrive” is the super-slim (.3-inch) Toshiba AT200. Toshiba has always been great at making computing devices smaller, lighter and thinner. I expect their latest handiwork will be well received. Lenovo, who already has two full-sized and priced tablets on the market appears to be trying to garner some of the low-priced TouchPad interest with its announcement of the 7-inch IdeaPad A1 priced at $199.

Then it was Samsung’s turn…and today they decided to go small rolling out a new Samsung Galaxy Tab at 7 inches and a 5.3-inch little gem called the ”Galaxy Note” that made my heart flutter.

The Galaxy Note is a 5.3-inch phone/tablet that includes all of the usual top-of-the-line bells and whistles; HD Super AMOLED display, 1.4ghz dual-core processor, and dual cameras (8mp and 2mp). The big difference though is a real, honest-to-goodness stylus. You can use the stylus or your fingers interchangeably throughout the UI and it includes handwriting recognition capabilities.

Yes, I know that Steve Jobs has declared the stylus a sign of device design failure, but for those of us that need to input text or are sick of pressing the wrong link or are just tired of carrying screen cloths everywhere we go the stylus is a wonderful implement. Hey, Steve, we all finger-painted at one time, but most of us progressed to crayons and then pens and pencils.

My first tablet was the Apple Newton MessagePad. I purchased it back in 1993. While it took Apple a few revisions to get it right the Newton 2100 became my constant business companion. It was the right size for taking notes in a meetings, reading and composing emails, looking at websites without having to scroll side-to-side or zoom in and it could easily be held in one hand. While writing by hand isn’t nearly as fast as typing on a full-sized keyboard it sure beats pecking away on glass or, even worse, the thumb stretch we’re all trying to do with our iPads, TouchPads, etc.

When the iPad came out,  Steve Jobs made a brilliant strategic move in downplaying a design decision Apple had made. Rather than be faced with the iPad as a finger only device and the others as the stylus UI he discredited the concept entirely. It worked, at least for a while; his competitors went along with the Jobs’ law of tablet input and created finger-only work-alike devices.

It’s my belief that there is a significant market for people that want a device that is smaller than carrying a “netbook-sized” screen around and larger than an iPhone-sized mobile phone. There was a time when almost every businessperson carried a calendar/notepad of sorts. Generally men carried them in the inner pocket of their suit jacket and women had them in their purse or business case. They were close by and allowed for notes to be quickly jotted down. In the early 90s companies tried to replace this item with the Personal Digital Assistant. It was a bit smaller, had a stylus for input and allowed for some form of handwriting recognition.

Then Handspring/Palm decided to insert a phone into the mix and created the Treo. Somewhere along the line the basic functions of taking notes, and real calendar functions got pushed into the background and gaming, video, and  internet/app use took over.

There’s nothing wrong with playing games, watching videos, running apps or reading the web, but as screen size has grown to accommodate those needs phones are becoming more and more cumbersome to carry. A mobile phone should be smaller, and meant for the quick retrieval of information, short text input and even an actual phone call or two. The smaller and lighter the phone is the more convenient it becomes.

When we’re going to be in a situation where we need more such as a business meeting few people are going to try and type notes on their phone…or pull out a full-sized tablet. That’s the time for what I hope devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note will become. Small and light enough to carry around regularly, but not all the time, fully stylus capable for relatively quick and accurate input and still large enough to allow it to make sense as a notepad, calendar, email client and even a semi-reasonable browser in landscape mode.

Hey, we know that all of this technology started with Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek…and Starfleet officers always carried a communicator (which got smaller as the series went on ) and a tricorder for gathering information and then when it was time to kick back with a video they pulled out their larger PADD. If they all could work in the 26th century…I think they can work now.

Posted in: Android related, News

{ 16 comments… add one }

  • Steve Holt September 2, 2011, 4:50 pm

    I have the HTC Flyer and I must say that I use the note taking ability all the time. And since it automatically syncs with Evernote my notes live forever in the cloud, even if I get rid of the Flyer. Been very happy with it so far. I would love to see this little thing though.

  • Easter Cat September 2, 2011, 10:27 pm

    Has there been a successful smaller tablet? I ask, because I keep thinking of Dell’s flop in that category.

  • Caleb September 3, 2011, 2:35 am

    I was one of the unfortunate souls who bought a Treo 300. That piece of garbage forever turned me off to the concept of internal batteries. However, looking at the Note, I think I might be persuaded to take the plunge again. I’ve been using a Droid (gen 1), but the upgrade to 2.0 caused my performance to take a dive. That, and I just dropped it in a pond today.

  • Ken Schoenberg September 3, 2011, 6:33 am

    Easter Cat, that’s hard to say right now because the current tablet market is so young and just making a smaller version of the bigger tablets really doesn’t answer the need. I’m hoping we see a few tablets that are portrait oriented, use a stylus, and are in the 5″ – 6″ screen size range.

  • Ken Schoenberg September 3, 2011, 6:38 am

    @Caleb, the Treo had some bugs both in the OS (battery burn) and the hardware (cracking hinges). But, by the time Handspring got merged back into Palm it was actually a pretty good device….although it was the first step away from PDAs and towards smartphones. I also remember Kyocera having a PalmOS phone at the time.

  • buck pentecost September 3, 2011, 10:33 am

    Nicely thought out comments. I agree with much of what you said. I think I will always prefer a paper calendar though, for the ability to draw stars. underline, circle, add arrows to related notes, and so on. Choice is great!

  • Ken Schoenberg September 3, 2011, 3:45 pm

    buck, you can do that with a stylus although I’ve never been happy with the results. Related items was what the Newton did so well…I really wish someone would understand that contacts, notes and calendar really need to work together a lot better than they do.

  • Joe G September 4, 2011, 11:43 pm

    I would love to have this. I miss the stylus. I didn’t get an iPhone 3GS until my palm 515 burnt out. Taking notes is painful with the iPhone. It does a lot of things well, but the screen is too small for email, Facebook, and browsing. I’m on the road 3-7 days a week. This would be great for someone who has to use a calendar for business daily, take notes that can be saved, and entertain and relax with in the evenings. Oh…and having a phone that didn’t drop calls would be a good thing too… I can’t even remember what that was like…

  • Wrencis September 5, 2011, 12:38 am

    Wow, someone who recognizes that the iPad is better as an afterhours device. We can all use that but business has different requirements and this device just may be the new Palm Pilot. Even if it isn’t, there will be a business tablet and it will NOT be built by Apple.

    Nothing against Apple but they don’t cater to the 9 to 5 pragmatist.

  • 10basetom September 5, 2011, 2:34 pm

    Many would say between 4″ and 9″ is no man’s land. I’d widen this field a little bit by saying that between 3.7″ and 7″ is no man’s land. A phone with a screen bigger than 3.7″ starts to not feel like a phone anymore; similarly, a tablet smaller than 7″ starts to feel not like a tablet anymore. A device with a 5″ screen is asking to be relegated to the niche counter unless they can make it weigh 130g and have a roll-up flexible screen. But this is just me.

  • Steve Holt September 5, 2011, 4:24 pm

    Well, I have the HTC Thunderbolt with a 4.3 inch screen and it is a perfect size. The iPhone screen is just too small.

  • Matt Connolly September 5, 2011, 4:39 pm

    I’ve been shopping for an ipad for a while. The 10 inch is too large. The 7 inch seemed like a 10 inch, that is something that really is not carryable all the time. The iTouch I have is too small for my old eyes. I’ve now found just what I need. A five inch screen with all the gadgets one could imagine even the S pen.

    I can hardly wait to get one. The only worry I have, and I see Apple is also worried since it is getting injunctions against its sale, is that I won’t be able to get one. Apple is in trouble with this since it blows two of Job’s ideas out of the water. Idea one, you have to decide between 10″ and 3″; idea two, you don’t want a pen. Sorry Steve, wrong on both counts – you probably saw the future and retired while your reputation as a seer was still in tact.

    By the way, if HP is doing another million 10″ tablets that’ll be a disaster because this 5″ deal rocks. Why waste $100 when you can put it to a better product.

  • James September 7, 2011, 12:50 am

    The S Pen still needs proper hand writing recognition for note taking, but Samsung is pushing software development with the S PEN SDK package to developers.

    So it has a lot more potential than the HTC Flyer’s N-Trig pen.

    While the HD Super AMOLED display blows away the competition but costs more and may have supply issues with Samsungs present production capability for that screen, even if they get around Apples efforts to stop them. So we may not see a full world wide release… At least not this year. Or we may see a cheaper version using a more standard screen if they have to meet high demand.

  • Mitchell Oke September 7, 2011, 8:10 pm

    As soon as I read about this device I was smitten. God (and everyone else) knows I love my iPhone 4, but it’s screen size is it’s weak point. It does make it brilliantly small, but with the amount of content I consume on my phone on a daily basis (reading websites and watching video) a thin 5in device sounds pretty damned good.

    If the battery can hold up to a full day of heavy use like my iPhone can then I’m in.

  • Gery Teague September 9, 2011, 3:26 pm

    The Dell Streak 5″ tablet was a bust, but for specific reasons that don’t apply to the Samsung Note.

    1 – The Streak was using an old version of the Android OS.
    2 – Dell locked it down for horizontal use initially. Which made use as a phone uncomfortable at best.
    3 – Dell heavily customized the OS, making it very laggy.
    4 – Dell’s customized OS didn’t offer any improved usage scenarios.
    5 – Possibly one of the most important problems was the inability to use it for 3G unless you found one of the rare AWS versions.

    But you’ll find that there is still an active developer community around this device who rooted it and put on custom versions of android, where as Joe-consumer won’t be doing this.

    So, what are the lessons learned?
    1 – There is definitely a desire for larger screened devices.
    2 – Users want access to atleast 3G on their devices.
    3 – Consumers don’t want a customized OS that creates a laggy experience, and offers no discernible advantages.
    5 – Customers must have an OS that they can use and feel is current and fast right out of the box.

    When people see a 5″ device, they think high-end, and the assume that it must go faster because it is bigger. If it isn’t faster, doesn’t feel immediately accessible and doesn’t feel high end, the average consumer won’t buy it.

    People focus on the screen size being Dell Streak’s downfall, but it had nothing to do with that. It was all about a device that was supposed to be high end, that didn’t even perform like a mid-range device.

    If Samsung is careful with their customizations, keep the device high-end in performance and feel, and release on time, they have the great potential to really differentiate themselves.

  • Dzapkin September 24, 2011, 12:24 pm

    We all wish to work remotely, giving us the opportunity to multitask our lives. Therefore the phone and tablet function is overdue to converge. Pieces we are missing is Galaxy Note (incoming:-), docking station for fast hook in of large screen, WAN, and some special devices. We also must have Bluetooth scaledown keyboard (Apple one is nice) and batch of good productivity software to seamlessly work with mainstream software. Once we have that, only thing missing is wings!

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