Back in September, Samsung debuted a true “tweener” device in the Galaxy Note. With a 5.3-inch display, it’s larger than a typical smartphone but smaller than a tablet, so size-wise, it’s in between the two popular product lines. The Galaxy Note isn’t available in the U.S., although SlashGear reports the FCC has tested a version that would work on AT&T’s network.
However, the Note is already on sale in some European regions. Steve Paine, a blogger who shares my love for the now-defunct 7-inch Ultra Mobile PCs, spent three hours with a Galaxy Note and shared his thoughts. Based on my interpretation, it sounds like mainstream consumers won’t be interested in a smartphone this large, but long-time tablet and small form-factor PC users are sure to be intrigued:
What an excellent bit of kit the Samsung Galaxy Note is and it’s the best converged phone/mid/tablet that I’ve ever tested. When Ice Cream Sandwich comes along, it gets even better! I wasn’t a big fan of converged phone/tablet products before this hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Note and although I still think it’s risky (and battery-draining) to put all your eggs in one basket, I’d certainly be happy to take a Galaxy Note and to hand over my Nokia N8 and Galaxy Tab. I’d miss the N8’s camera for sure and wouldn’t find the Note as comfortable to type on, but I think I’d get over it, especially as I’d be getting a phone and a tablet for around €520. ($707.15 USD)
Paine hits the key point in his final summary sentence. I can relate, because I often travel locally with just a 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab; with its 3G connection, I have voice calls routed to the tablet via Google Voice and Skype. Essentially, it’s a large phone that I use primarily as a tablet. Interestingly, several fellow Galaxy Tab owners I know that live in Europe do the same; they use the device as their phone. Of course, it’s easier for them to do this because the European carriers didn’t strip out the voice functionality from the tablet.
Whether a tablet is 7-inches in size, or is 5.3-inches like the Note, you don’t want to be holding the device up to your head. (Trust me!) Between hands free conversations and wired or wireless headsets, however, taking phone calls is no more difficult than using a traditional smartphone.
I’m not sure 5.3 inches is the perfect compromise size for a cross between a phone and a tablet, but I do believe that over time, more people will seek the benefits brought by a larger display for the tasks they do the most. Voice simply isn’t one of them, as it has already become a secondary feature on handsets for more than half of all smartphone owners.