Monday, February 20, 2012

The curious success of Samsung Galaxy Note

"It's a bird...it's a plane...it's SUPERMAN!".

I've not seen a phone generate as much controversy and heated debate as the Samsung Galaxy Note. Is it a large phone? Is it a small tablet? Is it a useless product? Is it a great  product concept? Can you really use a phone with a 5.3 inch screen?

Samsung shipped 1 million Galaxy Notes in just 2 months in 2011. This was before the US product launch, and  the world's largest smartphone market will definitely add on to the sales figures . It's early days to predict success, but one can certainly say that the novel phone-tablet has not been a flop. In press, it gets written about constantly. And I have met several extremely happy users, who simply love the phone.  At stores like Croma, I have always seen people checking it out, or asking for it. All these seem positive indicators.

And it's important to note that some people simply love the product and others can't stand it. Going by the marketing textbook, we are taught that any strong product will create a strong and distinct target audience, and by default, exclude some portion of customers. I see that happening with the Galaxy Note.

I was seriously considering a Galaxy Note. Seriously, there is a lot to love about  this phone and it's not just hardware specs that only excite techies - there is stuff that makes a huge impact in the way you use the device. Like the powerful 1.4 GHz dual core processor which makes the phone super fast. The gorgeous 5.3 inch HD Super Amoled Display, the S-Pen which allows you to write notes or sketch.

There is really only one strike against  the device - the low battery life. The screen size is not a negative in my book - it can be a turn-on or a put off for you, depending on your requirements.

Why do I think the Galaxy Note has worked with consumers?

Firstly, Samsung has gotten the price value equation right. At Rs.32,000 (approx.) in India, it is priced only slightly higher than the Samsung Galaxy S2, and it combines a high-spec tablet and a high-spec smartphone. People who have not yet bought a tablet will save at least Rs.30,000 by buying this device. The large screen makes it a fantastic ebook reader and browsing device - which is the basic functionality of a tablet. I think it's a truly different concept, in a world where too many smartphones look like carbon copies of each other.

Secondly, I think large-sized gadgets have a huge appeal for men. It's not just that they like carrying around a chunky, big, sexy device. With my small hands I still find typing on a small touchscreen keypad to be a pain. With bigger sized hands, guys will find it much easier to type on the large virtual keypad offered by the Note. Equally, I must note that most women (including myself) are put off by the huge size. Unlike men, we will not have a pocketability issue - women carry phones in their (ever-present) bag and not in their pockets - but it just feels too big and heavy. We may not all love the 'girly' phones put out by cellphone manufacturers, but I think women prefer lighter and smaller devices for sure.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the screen size is a boon for anyone who wants to give their eyes a bit of a break. We spend an ever  increasing proportion of our time staring at our too-small, often too-dim cellphone screens. With texting and browsing on phones on the rise, this proportion of time will only keep increasing. A large and bright display will make this easier on our eyes, and may especially be a boon for people who use spectacles!

So in a nutshell, I think Samsung has an interesting product, and there is definitely a bunch of people out there who will be interested in it. With the Note due for an ICS 4.0 Android update, it's a compelling product. I think everyone interested in buying a smartphone or tablet should take a look at it. It may not be  the device for you, but it's a device that's very hard to ignore!