The Samsung Note Hybrid Delights…and Confuses

by Matt Klassen on September 6, 2011

The Samsung Note

The tagline reads, “It’s a new type of smartphone,” except the problem with the hybrid Samsung Note is that’s its neither a new type of anything nor a smartphone.

Unveiled this week at the IFA tech conference in Berlin, the Samsung Note is looking to fill that void between the conventional—and not to mention portable—smartphone and the versatile and functional tablet computing platform, if such a void really exists.

The company claims that it has pioneered a new type of mobile category, the smartphone/tablet hybrid, and while the reactions to the Note vary greatly the device has garnered a great deal of critical acclaim already, with many lauding its versatility as both a tablet and smartphone.

But if you’re experiencing a little déjà vu, it’s because we’ve seen this all before with the ridiculously over-sized Dell Streak, a device, it turned out, that was too big to be a phone and too small to be a tablet.

I will admit that I’m impressed by the specifications of the Samsung Note, with its large 5.3-inch HD Super AMOLED screen—although the size is of course the issue here—which sports a 180-degree viewing angle. The hybrid device also features a stylus, an addition many thought had gone the way of the Dodo bird in the age of touchscreens, which is a critical component in the device’s main feature, its realistic note taking ability.

The hybrid Note also has an 8 MP camera capable of video capture in 1080p HD and a front facing camera for video chat. The whole package is powered by a beefy 1.4 GHz dual core processor and runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread.

With a list of features like that its not hard to see why so many in the tech world are giving this device a second glance, but again, that’s exactly what happened when Dell unveiled the Streak, and we all know how that turned out.

What interests me, though, is the fact that Samsung seems to have no recollection of Dell’s foray into exactly this same sort of territory, as it continues to advertise the Note as the first sort of hybrid device ever created.

“The Galaxy Note is a new category of product, developed through Samsung’s deep consumer understanding and insight,” Samsung said. “It combines core on-the-go benefits of various mobile devices while maintaining smartphone portability to create a whole new user experience.” So will this hybrid functionality have enough appeal to make the Note a success?

There’s no question in my mind that the Note will find its niche market, especially among certain professional and artistic crowds that will find value in the ability to scribble notes, drawings, or thoughts onto the phone with the stylus, but I would guess that such a market won’t be enough to keep the Note around for very long.

You see, the problem with hybrid devices is generally that they combine the major weaknesses of the genres they are trying to marry, meaning, as I’ve said before, that a device like the Note is too small to be a tablet, way too big to a smartphone, lacking the power or functionality of a tablet and since it obscures half your face while you talk on it, I would say lacking the convenience of a mobile phone as well.

To be fair, Samsung has made significant improvements over Dell’s failed Streak offering, but I would guess that most people would still much rather have one useable smartphone and one useable tablet, instead of one partially functional hybrid.

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