The Note was first announced in the latter portion of 2011. It went on sale in some markets before the end of the year, and hit the U.S. market earlier this year on AT&T's network with LTE 4G in tow.
According to Samsung, the Note is popular in China, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, and Belgium. Consumers rate it highly, and especially like the call quality, battery life, and picture quality. Owners of the device say it offers a "differentiated experience."
The size of the display is obviously the key selling point of this device--and here's why it's key: The Note is a good smartphone for budget-conscious shoppers. It has all the benefits of a smartphone (portability, decent battery life, connectivity) but has an advantage when it comes to productivity, thanks to the large display and larger on-screen elements.
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The 5.3-inch Super AMOLED HD display is beyond impressive--but it also makes the Note an enormous device. I found it difficult to use with one hand. Most often, I was forced to use two hands to input text or make selections on the screen. I and other reviewers -- such as the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg--concluded that, though the phone has many positive features, it isn't a device fit for daily use for most people.
Samsung, however, is emphasizing the Note more as a tablet--because of its large screen size--than as a phone. The Note comes with Samsung's S Pen software and a stylus for writing on the screen. Samsung says the pen can be used for "accurate sketching and artwork, and instantly capturing ideas freely before they float away." The Note also has S Memo, a multimedia application "designed to record all forms of user-created content," according to Samsung. This content includes pictures, voice recordings, typed text, handwritten notes, or drawings. Each can be captured and converted to a memo, "to be edited, annotated, and shared as desired."
Sure, the Note costs $299 from AT&T and requires people to spend about $60 per month on a voice/data plan, but a device such as this can be used to replace both a smartphone and a tablet. Most smartphones sell for about $200, and unsubsidized tablets are between $400 and $800, depending on the device. Those unsubsidized devices will need Wi-Fi or a mobile hotspot to reach the Internet. The math is pretty obvious if you don't really require a full-sized tablet, but want a larger-than-average smartphone.
Bottom line? It turns out the "phablet"--size be damned--has real appeal to consumers, as evidenced by the 5 million shipped units.
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