By Harry McCracken | Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 4:00 am
“If you see a stylus,” Steve Jobs famously said at the original iPhone launch, “they blew it.” Here at the IFA show in Berlin, Samsung just announced the Galaxy Note, a new device that’s got a stylus–and which revels in that fact. Samsung is calling it “a new category of device,” but to me, it feels like a 2011 take on an old idea: the PalmPilot-style Personal Digital Assistant.
Like the late Dell Streak, the Note is about as huge as a phone can gget and still fit in a shirt pocket. It’s got a 5.3″ Super AMOLED screen with 1280 by 800 resolution and 285ppi–more pixels in much less space than the iPad. It’s spacious enough that the Note feels as much like an undersized tablet as it does an oversized phone. And Samsung squeezed that nice big screen into a good-looking, surprisingly sleek case that feels like an upsized version of the more petite Galaxy S handset.
The Note has a 1.4-GHz dual-core processor, an 8MP camera on the back and a 2MP one on the front, and HSPA+ data capability. It runs Android Gingerbread.
Oh, and there’s that stylus. It slides into a holder on the back, is magnetic and pressure sensitive, and works with some special apps that Samsung has developed, including a planner that’s designed to make good use of that giant screen. Samsung envisions it being used for note-taking and sketching, and says it’s going to help third-party developers create programs that take advantage of it.
The Galaxy Note certainly doesn’t require the stylus to work–I’ll bet that some people will buy the device and will pull the pen out only rarely, if ever. But for those two special-use cases–taking handwritten notes and drawing–it makes sense. I suspect that most gadget fans who here about it will either be immediately intrigued or totally disinterested–and both reactions are fine.
I got some hands-on time with the Note yesterday and…kind of liked it. It’s still not clear whether there’s a big market for a phone this humongous. (Let’s face it: If you hold it up to your ear to make a call, you’re going to look silly.) Judging from what I saw, though, Samsung has done a nice job engineering this device–it’s certainly slicker and less ungainly than the Streak, and the display is superb. If I were in the market for an Android phone, I’d consider buying one myself–especially once Samsung updates it to Ice Cream Sandwich–and I’ll be curious to see if it turns out to have a mainstream audience.
The Note’s a phone, so it’ll be sold through wireless carriers–AT&T and/or T-Mobile in the U.S.–and there are no details yet on pricing or availability in the U.S.
Here’s Samsung’s own video on the Galaxy Note:
Samsung also announced yet another Galaxy product: the Galaxy Tab 7.7, a modern update to the original 7″ Galaxy Tab which the company unleashed a year ago at IFA. It’s the first tablet with a Super AMOLED Plus screen, and is only 7.89mm thick–thinner than the iPad 2, the Galaxy Tab 10.1, and every other tablet I can think of right now. (The original 7″ Galaxy Tab was a relatively hefty 11.9mm–hey, in tablet time, September 2010 was a century or two ago.)
The Tab 7.7 runs Android 3.2 Honeycomb, and I haven’t seen it in person yet–so I’m not sure if it’s the definitive 7″ tablet that I’ve been looking for.