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In defense of the Galaxy Note

Last updated on April 21, 2014

Honeycomb, you are deluding yourself. It is the Samsung Galaxy Note that is big. Indeed, last Friday Sam Biddle at Gizmodo recently lambasted Samsung’s 5.3” smartphone, calling It a “distended LED baking sheet.” The self-described rant goes on to decry the Galaaxy Note as an ergonomically poor design and then amplify concerns that the Note will lead to other phones of similar or perhaps even greater size.

The first thing about the Gizmodo piece I find interesting is that it doesn’t weigh in at all on the S-Pen. In this age of blending finger and pen input, I’m certainly not as anti-stylus as I once was, but I’ve noticed that the inclusion of the pointing device hasn’t been nearly as polarizing as the size of the screen. In fact, it’s had so relatively little impact that it’s somewhat surprising Samsung has forged ahead on integrating it into a 10” Galaxy Tab.

While the supersized phone has in some ways been more of a U.S. phenomenon than it is in other parts of the world. (We do like our big screens here in the States), Samsung did launch the Galaxy Note in Europe before it came here and I’d think that they would not have brought it stateside had it been a complete bomb there. At CES, there were many Galaxy Notes being used by Europeans (and I doubt all of them were Samsung employees).

I concede that the Note is a handful. It is a lot to grip in one hand and, believe me, I don’t have doll hands by any stretch. Even holding it with two hands is awkward, but more because it’s so foreign and unbalanced. Alas, there are simply times when you’re going to have to do this. But there are also plenty of times when you will not, like when it’s in a windshield mount or on your desk or even during a phone call when I imagine many Galaxy Note users use a Bluetooth headset.

If those scenarios are common ones, the Galaxy Note can be an appropriate choice. Simply put, the Galaxy Note is just about the most screen you can keep in a typical pants pocket. I would really like to see the (again delayed) Jorno released already for the ultimate pocket productivity solution.

As for the idea that the Galaxy Note’s success will encourage other vendors to build phones with larger screens, that is an old story. The Galaxy Note is not the start of a big-screen trend; it’s the product of it and its forebears, including the 4.7” Galaxy Nexus, the 4.5” Impact, and the 4.3” HTC EVO 4G. All of these handsets attracted concerns about being too big. And according to Apple, they all are. Assuming Biddle is not being facetious, he is simply incorrect in stating that the suitability of the Galaxy Note’s size is not a subjective issue. While five million people can be wrong, there is no wrong in this case.

As with notebooks and TVs (and at some point tablets although we haven’t gotten close there yet), there will be a market segment that prefers the biggest displays they can get their hands on (or around in the case of smartphones) By today’s definitions, it would be difficult to get too much bigger than the Galaxy Note without meandering into tablet territory. Within a few more tenths of an inch, we are likely looking at the upper boundary of what most consumers will consider in a smartphone.

Samsung introduced the Galaxy Note to the U.S. with a Super Bowl ad (again focusing more on the pen than the display) and hasn’t let up much since in terms of an advertising barrage. That a few million devices should define the upper end niche of a market of hundreds of millions is not at all odd, much less freakish. The Galaxy Note is not for everyone. And neither is any other phone.