Samsung Announces Galaxy Note, Turns Out to be a Giant Phone With a Stylus

Posted on 01 September 2011 By Ben Lang



Today at IFA, Samsung announced the Galaxy Note, a new phone with a ridiculously large 5.3” screen and a stylus.

You may have seen my speculation the other day that the Galaxy Note might have actually been something exciting, like a sliding smartbook, but it seems I may be the only person who realizes that bigger isn’t better when it comes to Android smartphone screens.

We’ll get to being critical about the device in just a moment, have no doubt. For the time being though, let’s get some specs out there:

  • Android 2.3
  • 1.4GHz dual-core CPU
  • 5.3” Super AMOLED display @ 1280×800
  • Front and rear cameras @ 2MP and 8MP respectively
  • HSPA+ connectivity
  • 1080p recording and playback
  • GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, and WiFi a/b/g/n
  • 16/32GB built-in memory and a MicroSD slot for storage expansion
  • 2500 mAh batter

The stylus is active which should make for smooth and natural feeling digital writing.

It seems like Samsung designed this device to straddle the line between tablet and phone, but I find that to be a flawed concept from the start, tantamount to UMPCs that came in at a thumb-board-sized keyboards but with keys designed for touch-typing!

To me, the 5.3” size of the Galaxy Note’s screen means that the device is too big to be an ergonomically designed phone, but smaller than someone would want for a tablet.

As for handwriting input, the Galaxy Note isn’t going to be a useful device if it tries to pull an HTC Flyer and launch a product that has the technology to write on the screen, but no proven usage scenarios.

Don’t get me wrong, in my day-to-day activities, I use an HP Tablet PC and I love the touchscreen for digital inking. The difference is that, in Windows, the digital inking experience is built-in at an OS level (and even then it is still criticized). The Galaxy Note, on the other hand, comes with an OS (Android 2.3) which has no core support for digital inking input – everything having to do with handwriting at this point is either proprietary or third-party. I mean, come on! Look at the press shot at the top of this post. Is this really how Samsung things people would use something like this… to draw constellations on a picture on their homescreen and annotate it with some stupid text? There are far more useful ways to use written input, but it looks like no one has figured them out yet on Android.

Naturally, Samsung says that they’ll be including some apps specific for pen use, but it’s yet to be seen if they include any truly useful functionality, or just silly proof-of-concept apps like the ability to annotate screenshots. I’ll be happily wrong if Samsung built some really useful functionality out of the digital inking ability of the Galaxy Note, but I don’t see it happening.

The only points the Galaxy Note will see from me is that the device actually has a built-in stylus silo, so you won’t have to carry it around separately in your pocket. Oh and the Super AMOLED display is likely to look really good!

That’s my take anyway. What do you think, would the Galaxy Note be useful in your life?

Pricing and carrier availability have yet to be announced, but we’ll update as we hear more.

Update: Hands-on video!

16 Responses to “Samsung Announces Galaxy Note, Turns Out to be a Giant Phone With a Stylus”

  1. Andover IT says:

    If they can get something like the handwriting recognition the old HP Jornada 560 used to have I’d have one.

    I still use my 568 and can make notes quicker with the pen / stylus than the keyboard.

    For those of us that like to work whenever / wherever we are, the normal tablets are too big to lug around and 3″ screen phones too small to work on.

    This could be a good device!

  2. End User says:

    I don’t care about the stylus. I do care about the 5.3″ 1280 x 800 display. Wow!

  3. Ben says:

    The biggest advantage of an active digitizer is really handwriting accuracy. Resistive screens definitely ‘work’ for written input, but are often frustrating to use because of vectoring problems and input that doesn’t feel natural.

    It has been confirmed that it uses an active digitizer which is definitely a plus. Serious productivity use-cases for written input on this type of device have yet to be proven — proprietary software isn’t going to cut it, and third-party has little incentive to make pen software because of extremely limited market exposure and proprietary APIs.

  4. Ben says:

    Don’t forget about it being AMOLED either. Size and pixel density are one thing, but quality is a whole different category. Luckily the Note has it all! The question is simply whether or not a 5.3″ phone is ergonomic… I say no:

    http://www.carrypad.com/2011/08/12/a-critical-look-at-the-interface-and-ergonomics-of-android/

  5. Neliah says:

    I’m surprised Chippy would let you post something so bias, this should have been an informative post not an opinion post.

    sounds like you would be happier with safer more predictable Apple products. all of us who have been living this lifestyle for the last decade live completely on the fringes, obviously this phone is for us not you.

  6. Ben says:

    I’m not trying to say that no one will find use in the Galaxy Note and I won’t deny that there is opinion in this post; without it, no one would ever be able to provide accurate analysis. All the information above is an indication of what you’re likely to see with the device which is informed by years of market observation, research, and device testing.

    Don’t interpret realistic expectations for bias. Bias indicates that I have something to gain by leaning one way or the other, which is not the case. An example of bias would be if I was trying to push the Galaxy Note as being the next big revolution in mobile technology (even if it wasn’t) because I want the market in which I work to keep growing.

    Trust me, I’d love to see a Galaxy Note with fully integrated and useful pen functionality. Unfortunately what we’re seeing at the moment is an expensive technology being added to a device that doesn’t currently have the software to support many productive scenarios [among some other issues with the device] (translation: this thing will not go anywhere near mainstream). Chippy and I have both said that we like the idea of an active digitizer (disregarding the software hurdles), but we think it would be more useful in a larger device.

    If you want “informative”, check out a press release. Companies would be happy to tell you all the features of the phone, no matter how trivial. They’ll also be happy to tell you that every product they make is going to revolutionize the industry/humanity/world/etc. (that’s bias). If you want a realistic picture of how these devices are positioned among contemporaries and what they need to truly succeed, you are welcome to stop by any time you like. We don’t claim to always be right, but we definitely do our best to give you the most accurate analysis that we can based on the information available.

  7. Adam says:

    I think the pen is a non-starter.

    But the screen….wow.

    If this is front pocketable I might stray from the holy keyboardphones…

  8. Joe says:

    Critical is one thing. Biting sarcasm is another.

    1) The 5.3 inch AMOLED screen is great for me. 3.5 is way too small. I use a stylus on my Apple 3.5 inch screens. 4.3 inch is better, but I expect 5.3 to be great.
    2) The tablet/phone will fit in a regular front shirt pocket!!

    Now after those two superlative pluses, I am ready to buy. So how much?

  9. Joe says:

    The dimensions of the Note in inches are:

    5.99″ x 3.385″ x .394″

    I have a little note pad right here
    on the table that is
    about that size to try out.

    4.5″ x 3.5″ x .275″

    It fits very well in my pocket.
    One hand easily handles it.

    I can hardly wait!

    Now our contributor here had something
    to say about the ergonomics.

    Well as I said I can easily handle
    something that size, and my eyes will appreciate
    the greater screen.

    Perhaps our contributor only reads
    emails and a 3.5″ or even 2.8″ screen
    can usually handle those so he thinks
    5.3″ is overkill, but most of
    what I read is not emails.

    I just wish it had a built in GPS, but it looks
    like it will be an assisted GPS.

  10. Vilet says:

    tech pundits also said the 4″+ phones were too big, Evo would flop, blah blah. Look what happened, 4″+ is now the industry standard. If your phone doesn’t have it the blogs won’t even mention it’s existence.

    I wouldn’t rely on the past “years of market research” to prove squat about the future, Android is breaking ALL the rules & completely dominating the market while doing it. There was no 4″ superphone or market research data before the Evo but it still succeeded. In fact, if we do rely on market research now then signs point to the 5″ being a huge success as well.

    Don’t worry, the sites awesome, Chippy’s awesome. I’m not sure how long any of the new writers have been following this community but it’s the people like us who years ago knew the future was mobile when UMPC’s & the OQO’s of the world were trying to make it. We just didn’t have a proper OS to support our dream. Well netbooks broke us into the mainstream, superphones & tablets will make our vision come true. Goofball mainstream tech pundits like Leo LaPorte & others don’t know jack until Apple tells them what too like.

  11. Ben says:

    Don’t worry, I was right along side you guys in the UMPC world. I started writing for UMPC Portal in 2008 and prior to that (and still) I moderated and wrote for MicroPCTalk, a community dedicated to Sony’s UX PC. I’m a happy owner of the UX still, an amazing little device that I’ve gotten years of use from. And even though I love the thing, I’m still willing to admit that it has problems.

    Smartphones have taken us forward in leaps and bounds on the experience, though some people still want or need the x86 architecture.

  12. Ben says:

    Again, I’m not trying to say that nobody is going to want or use this device, on the contrary: there may be a perfect niche group who find this to be the best product ever — I’m merely trying to provide an accurate analysis of where it falls in the big picture.

  13. End User says:

    Ergonomics are a concern (currently an iPhone 4 user). I made a mockup of the Note and it was not bad at all. Hopefully it will appear in Canada in the not too distant future.

  14. jb82 says:

    have you seen the video editing software… the stylus probably makes that easier to work with on this size screen with selecting specific areas along the timeline or even just writing in a title. Little things that make it a useful addition.

    Obviously if like me you write little notes, to do lists etc on tiny scraps of paper then the note taking abilities of a pocket sized device will appeal.

    I agree it hasn’t the wow factor of a breakthough technology but it certainly is great that samsung are coming out with some innovative products that give the market something different.

    I tried out a dell streak and it didn’t really work for me. It just felt too big for an everyday, all day phone and too small for general tablet use. I like the size, weight and shape of the note slightly better though and may have to try it out. The streak seemed built to be used predominantly in landscape as a minintablet with the phone part as an after thought (i found i would have to use a bluetooth headset due to the poor earpiece in the streak) but the note seems built more with both in mind.

  15. Phil says:

    What I want is a giant phone with a great looking screen for watching streaming video. Since I’m the only one who cares about that, i guess im a “niche” consumer (haha). And I want a stylus for drawing because drawing with your finger is as lame as having to learn about new product by reading negative editorials.

  16. Andover IT says:

    Have been waiting since 2002 for something like the Galaxy Note :o)

    It won’t be for everyone and if you just want to check your emails I suspect it’s too big. To be able to have a single device that can do email, website updates oh and make calls on a reasonable size screen = can’t wait!

    Those odd minutes of downtime (waiting in queues, travelling etc) could be put to good use.

    Liking the site btw Ben