Samsung Proved us All Wrong and The Note is Only the Beginning of a Popular Trend
By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)
I have been using the Samsung Note for a few months now (first a review unit from Samsung and then my own) and if you want to know my opinion on the new "phablet" that is "too big to be a phone and too small to be a tablet" in three words, here it is. I love it.
Now before I go on, let me just say that if you are judging by the press that the Samsung Note received across the blogosphere, you would think that what we have here is a complete failure of a device. You are going to have to try very hard to find a positive review of the Samsung Note.
However, it seems Samsung got the last laugh for multiple reasons. For starters, one of Samsung's biggest competitors LG, already tried and failed to copy the Note with its Vu. Gizmodo summed up the Vu by saying it is “offensive in virtually every way that an object can offend… Let it never leave Korean gadget hell.”
If competitors trying to imitate you is not proof enough that you are on to something, let's try a different angle. A new study from Strategy Analytics found that smartphone owners in the U.S. and U.K. prefer bigger displays over smaller ones, as long as the device is also thin. “Almost 90 percent of existing smartphone owners surveyed chose a prototype smartphone with a display larger than their current device,” commented Paul Brown, a Director in the Strategy Analytics User Experience Practice.
The study also found that "Existing Android owners are more likely to seek larger devices than existing Apple iPhone owners."
Kevin Nolan, Vice-President for the User Experience Practice at Strategy Analytics, added, “In order for smartphone owners to adopt larger devices, it is important for handset manufacturers to ensure that mobile devices are not too heavy and that the devices remain thin enough for purses and pockets.”
Any guess what device in the phone category has the biggest display with the thinnest body? That's right, the Samsung Note. To be fair, the study did say that the most desired size for a phone was 4"-4.5", not 5.3" like the Note, but I think the trend is clear.
If you look a little closer at the trends in mobile hardware over the past decade, it is actually very interesting. Mobile phones started out huge and fat. Then they got smaller but by no means were they small, but they were thin, very thin. Then came the next stage. They got bigger again, moved over to touch and maintained the slim waist. Now, we are going back to our roots and regressing back to huge devices. On a diet. They are now thinner than ever before.
OK, so if the Samsung Note is such a huge hit, then why are people not buying it? Why don't you see random people on the street holding up 5" devices up to their face? Well, numbers don't lie and Samsung has already sold over 2 million Galaxy Notes. As TechCrunch reports, that is a solid number but by no means is it on the same scale as the iPhone 4S or even the Galaxy SII.
Apple sold 4 million units of the iPhone 4S in its first weekend and Samsung sold 3 million after 55 days. The Note has been available in Asia since October 2011 so we are talking at least four months since its launch. Having said that, it has only been available in the US since February 2012.
Also, the SII and the 4S are the fastest selling devices in history so comparing anything to them would be embarrassing.
Samsung has gone on record saying it intends on hitting the 10 million mark by the end of 2012 and something tells me they will even surpass it. The skeptics will say that these numbers are understandable since Samsung has put all its marketing might behind this new category of devices with a pretty wild Superbowl ad, an exclusive launch with Angry Birds Space, and ongoing aggressive marketing at MWC 2012 as well as other events.
There is no doubt that Samsung is pushing hard, but I think the Note's relative success can be attributed to more than marketing. Forbes asked "Do people really need these things? “I think people don’t know what they need,” Hankil Yoon, a product strategy executive at Samsung, says confidently. “But as soon as they start using it, they think that’s what they need.” Yoon adds that he’s grown to enjoy reading emails and browsing web pages on his Note’s SuperAMOLED display. “I’m not going back to other devices now.”
I could not agree more. I am using the Note for most of my daily activities and the only reason I still carry around the iPhone 4S is for iMessage. I need my iMessage. Other than that, the video on the Note, the Web browsing, the camera, the screen, the customization, and most importantly, the battery life on the Note are all reasons that keep drawing me in.
As soon as Ice Cream Sandwich hits the Note, that might very well be the final nail in the coffin of the iPhone, as far as I'm concerned.