The pre-iPhone announcement season is off with a bang. At IFA 2012 on Wednesday, Samsung unveiled a set of interesting new products, including an Android-based camera and a Windows RT tablet, but its Galaxy Note II hybrid smartphone was the highlight.
The first Galaxy Note was a big hit when it arrived last year. Global sales hit 1 million in two months, 5 million in five months and have since surpassed 10 million. If you thought the Galaxy Note couldn’t get any bigger, it did. The second-gen phone-cum-tablet, which had its specs leaked a few hours early, has jumped up from a 5.3-inch screen to 5.5 inches.
Speaking of specs: The new Galaxy Note II is powered by a 1.6GHz quad-core Exynos processor and runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The device will support either HSPA Plus or LTE connectivity. Buyers can choose between 16GB, 32 GB and 64 GB of storage, and it has an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera.
Samsung is boasting that the Note II’s HD Super AMOLED screen offers a “perfect viewing experience”. That’s a bold claim, and I’ll have to see it to believe it. The company has also redesigned the S Pen to be longer and thicker.
There’s no release date for the device yet, though Samsung has confirmed that it will launch in Europe, Asia and the Middle East in October and will arrive in the US by the end of this year. The original Note gained significant traction in Asia, especially in China and its home country of Korea.
In its extensive coverage, The Verge was quick to draw comparisons between the design of the Galaxy S III and the second-generation Galaxy Note. In fact, Samsung itself didn’t shy away from making the comparison. Ryan Bidan, director of product marketing for Samsung Mobile US, told the publication in an interview:
The best way to think about the Galaxy Note II is that we took kind of that experience that we created with the Galaxy S III, both in terms of design and software experience, and brought that to the Note platform. So, you’ve kind of got the refinement and evolution of what we did with the original Galaxy Note, along with all of those great sharing features and the power of the Galaxy S III device. So thinking about it along the lines as the Galaxy S III I think is absolutely fair because it does feel and act a lot like that, but now you’ve got the further advantage of having the S Pen and the Note characteristics with that.
However, Bidan was careful to note that the Galaxy S and Note families of devices remain separate:
[Samsung] started it with the original Note, kind of creating that unique category where we took a very powerful smartphone and integrated a lot of great tablet functionality. And if you look at kind of what we did with the S Pen with the Galaxy Note 10.1, kind of extending that paradigm a little bit further to content creation and a bunch of the unique tablet functionality, and now continuing to extend that category even further with the Galaxy Note II, so absolutely look at it as being a very different device than our Galaxy S III.
I’m curious to see how far this screen creep will go, but, hey, if you’re already at massive, what’s another 0.2 inches. Besides, millions of consumers have said size matters by voting with their wallets, so as long as the kids keep buying, expect these phablets to keep growing.
Bidan admitted as much when he said, “The reality is: Why would you stop extending? I mean I think as long as consumers continue to look for kind of these unique features and as the technology continues to evolve, we’re going to continue to deliver these innovative products.”
Coverage of the Note II has been largely positive. Tech Crunch compared the device to a Chevy Corvette in that it’s “not for everyone” but will bring people into showrooms. The Galaxy S II, on the other hand, would be the more practical Chevy Camaro.
Engadget’s first impressions were that the new features on the device “all felt simpler and more cohesive than the original — less business and more pleasure…so far so good.”