The Allure of the Galaxy Note
While everyone’s response to the Samsung Galaxy Note has been a resounding "no thanks" combined with a healthy dose of absurdity and skepticism regarding the device1, something inside me keeps coming back to the idea that its existence isn’t entirely unwarranted.
Thing is, there’s an allure to the idea of a 5-8 inch phone or tablet. I’d venture many people with smartphones or iPads have wondered at some time or another how certain apps could be improved if only they were on a device slightly larger or smaller. Indeed, I often wish for ever so slightly more screen real-estate as I’m writing on my iPhone, but yet can find no place for an iPad in my life. Between those two form factors, there seems to be a yet undiscovered middle ground. Hence why the Note exists, why HP nearly got a smaller TouchPad out the door, and why it’s plausible Apple is doing exploring of its own on the subject.
Allure however, is but the distinction between our own personal concepts of this in-betweener device and the physical experience of one you buy in a store. Even Jonathan Geller’s scathing review of the device acknowledges that, at the very least, the device hits the right marks2 on paper:
The Galaxy Note essentially has everything you’d want in a smartphone: a great dual-core processor, a solid camera, a beautiful display and good build quality, and it runs on AT&T’s new 4G LTE network that delivers incredibly fast downloads speeds. Plus the battery seems actually decent so far, which is a triumph for modern smartphones.
But in real world use, whatever illusions convince us to purchase something like the Note are shattered with unambiguous finality.
Perhaps allure alone is enough for Samsung to decide it’s worth jumping feet first into creating these increasingly expansive phones. They may be hoping to capitalize on the Note’s allure and be the only offering in some pre-determined “market”, even if that market ultimately rejects the Note and devices of its ilk. Maybe it’s the case that Samsung doesn’t care to distinguish between sales that make happy customers and sales that make them miserable, as long as money is coming in somewhere. A less cynical person might say that Samsung is just throwing devices out there, hoping one form factor will stick. At best, it could be construed as some blindfolded, caution to the wind attempt to get lucky. At worst it’s a pathetic, abusive, and frankly pitiful exercise in pandering to whatever the fleeting “market” trend of the hour might be.[^3]
Forgetting Samsung’s business practices for a moment, maybe the issue is simply that 5-8 inch devices like the Note live in some kind of nightmare no man’s land of personal computers: constantly in an existential crisis over whether it wants to be phone or tablet and destined to follow the UI paradigms of its smaller and larger siblings when it so evidently needs software tweaked ever so slightly in its favour.
I’m not quite ready to believe those are impossible obstacles to overcome. Neither is Samsung apparently, despite constantly falling flat on its face trying to do so.
My favourite take on the Note comes curtesy of The Tech Block, my rookie of the year tech blog that’s come out of left field in recent weeks with a host of fantastic articles. How soon are these guys hiring? I want in. ↩
Part of me wonders how reviewers approach to the Note might have changed if Samsung had removed the telephony component altogether. I get the feeling the “Who the fuck wants take a call with this thing to their ear?” colours reviewers’ impressions of the device in a way it may not have otherwise. [^3]:Here’s where I would contrast Samsung’s method of product development to the inception of any Apple product, but that chorus gets more airtime than Adele on the radio. ↩