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Dissecting-the-GALAXY-Note_1
Summary:

We often see third-party device teardowns, but Samsung bucks the trend by showing breakdown of its 5.3-inch Galaxy Note. Those who say Android screens are getting larger mainly because of LTE radio size need to take a closer look at this dissection. I think they’re wrong.

We often see device teardowns that show the chips and circuits, but rarely do we see them from the actual hardware manufacturers. Bucking the trend is Samsung, which shares a blog post and breakdown of its Galaxy Note, the 5.3-inch Android handset I took a close look at on video during the Consumer Electronics Show this month.

Perhaps the most interesting tidbit in the device dissection is section 5.2, which contains the phone’s memory, CPU, rear camera and LTE radio. Why? Because there has been recent discussion about why Android phones have larger screens than the iPhone.

I’ve long said it’s because a larger screen has the potential to provide a better overall experience, provided the display resolution is high. It’s easier to read and type on a larger screen and also is better for watching video, a smartphone activity that’s on the rise.

In contrast, Apple blogger John Gruber recently suggested Android screens are growing in size in order to accommodate the LTE radio chips. Following the chip and baseband industry, I simply didn’t agree at the time of Gruber’s statement, and a look at Samsung’s Galaxy Note tends to back me up; an LTE radio and supporting antenna could certainly fit in a smaller device if desired. In fact, it’s already been done in the Samsung Galaxy Attain for MetroPCS: a 3.5-inch Android phone with LTE radio.

  1. No offence, but it seems kind of like you are using some faulty reasoning here. In the first place a teardown of one device doesn’t necessarily translate to another and secondly, a teardown of such a recent device, given that Apple is likely committed to putting in LTE this year anyway means nothing. A direct comparison of LTE chips and chipsets in terms of volume and date of availability is necessary to prove the point you wish to make.

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    1. Jeremy, I understand your point. Consider this teardown as an example or an illustration of the size of an LTE chip for those suggesting that an LTE device must be large. I agree with you that it doesn’t mean every LTE-enabled phone will be a small-screened device, but the MetroPCS example I linked to shows that it can be done.

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  2. I thought that Gruber was claiming that they were larger because they needed a larger battery. Does it appear that the battery would also fit in a smaller phone? Since the battery isn’t labeled, I can’t tell.

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    1. That was part of his argument, Jimmy, but his first point was the size of LTE chips. In terms of battery size, that’s certainly a challenge, but not solely because of LTE. All of Verizon’s phones have to support LTE (a GSM technology) and CDMA/EVDO; a totally different type of network. That’s leading to inefficiency and faster battery drain. AT&T’s LTE phones will be working solely on GSM technology, i.e.: a single network, so I expect their LTE devices to do better in the battery department; even in smaller phones.

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      1. Kevin—slightly off this particular topic:
        Samsung’s super AMOLED is their rolls-royce display technology. Do you expect them to keep it in only their high-end (highest) devices like this & the Galaxy phones, or perhaps will it gradually become the standard? I would appreciate any thoughts, and enjoy your columns. Cheers.

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        1. Akatsi, not to confuse the issue, but Super AMOLED actually has two higher quality “brothers” if you will. Super AMOLED Plus skips the pen-tile display and adds more sub-pixels for greater clarity. And Super AMOLED HD is what the Note and my Galaxy Nexus uses; full HD resolution. Confused yet? ;)

          In any case, to answer your question, I anticipate more Super AMOLED “mid-tier” phones and not just from Samsung. Motorola’s new RAZR Maxx uses a Super AMOLED display, for example, although it’s also not what I’d call a “mid-tier” phone. So this year, yes, I think Super AMOLED will find its way into a minimum standard for $150 to $200 (with contract) phones. Just my educated guess of course.

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  3. Pictured it the UK version of the Note, notice the physical button and missing 4 capacitve buttons present on the US phone. No UK version of the Note has LTE. Weird…

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  4. Pictured is the UK version of the Note. Notice the one physical button and missing 4 capacitive buttons the US version has. The UK version of the Note does not have LTE. Weird…

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  5. Kevin–thanks for your response & extra detail. Good point about the RAZR–not sure how I forgot about that. I agree that Super AMOLED (which is a trademark of Samsung as you probably know) in whatever variation will a design standard in screens supplied by Samsung. That is my hope anyway.

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  6. Tofel is misunderstdning Gruber’s argument and actually proves it more. Gruber was simply saying that Android’s trend of being larger has to do with the LTE chips – of the time – that were mainly built for hotspot mifi devices. Just to be first but at what expense of overall size, plus this works with Android lack of tablet ready apps.

    Of course now their being incorporated in a smaller phone and perhaps will change the design footprint of phones as smaller LTE chips become ubiquitous.

    This is exactly what Apple is waiting for and the wait has payed off. The three most popular sold phones are as follows; iPh4S, iPh4, iPh3S all sans 4G. The 4th phone is the newest GS2 with 4G.

    It may appear that Sammy is adjusting as those smaller LTE chips come available because they spit out different phones every month. I honesty dislike this approach. Too much overheard with different handsets and the high volume of devices that loses support, bad for users.

    The LTE Apple is waiting for is will be a game changer for the iPhone 5 and any phone OEM that incorporates that chip. Both are slated to come out in 3Q12.

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  7. Steve DiPaola Friday, January 27, 2012

    hmm I would think #3 would be the most interesting since it is available in no other modern phone, is an amazing innovation and might be a new trend – that is a real wacom pen digitizer – which allows for pressure sensitive, very precise pen control including accurate hand writing to text recognition and amazing notes/drawing control. This is additive with the typical regular touch capacitive system all phones have.

    -steve

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  8. I’ll take the giant screen as long as it’s HD 1. because I prefer a bigger device and 2. because it accommodates a giant battery.

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  9. Kevin
    Good article
    My question is that I am keen to buy the galaxy note but only after it is upgraded to the ICS
    ANY CLUE WHEN?

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    1. Samsung hasn’t offered specific update timelines yet, but from what I’m hearing the 1st quarter isn’t out of the question. If I can get any more information, I’ll be sure to share!

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