The Galaxy Note II is Samsung's "fifth iconic device in 12 months," Teri Daley, Samsung's vice president of public relations recently told a roomful of U.S. journalists. It's perhaps a bit of an overstatement, given that the device hasn't yet shipped. It will head to Europe, Asia and the Middle East in October, and a version for the United States will arrive later this year. But given the success of the four devices that preceded it, whether her words are hyperbole may be a matter of timing.
Samsung's "year of innovation," as Ryan Bidan, Samsung Mobile USA's director of product marketing, put it, began with the Galaxy S II smartphone, which "kicked off" the trend of smartphone displays growing to between 4.3 and 4.5 inches. Given that Apple's iPhones, with their 3.5-inch displays had been a roomy-enough norm, suddenly consumers got a taste for more real estate.
Up next, by Bidan's calendar, was the Samsung-made Google Nexus, which features a 4.65-inch display. "We've developed more with Google than anyone else and have more experience with developing new software the fastest," said Bidan.
The Nexus was followed by the original Galaxy Note, a device often referred to as a "phablet," since its 5.3-inch display made it seem as much a tablet as a smartphone. A year earlier, Dell had little success moving a device the same size; analysts pointed out its lack of "pocketability."
Launching the Note was "very polarizing," said Daley. "That's what happens when you introduce a new form factor." She added that consumers were encouraged to "take a 30-day challenge," and that after 15 days they were usually hooked.
In a matter of months, Samsung sold 10 million of the devices.
Next came the Galaxy S III, a large, slippery, sensor-packed smartphone stuffed with sharing capabilities, the ability to literally look a user in the eye and a 4.8-inch display. In 100 days, Samsung sold more than 20 million.
Likely in time for holiday sales, the foursome will be joined by the Galaxy Note II. First introduced Aug. 29 at the IFA 2012 trade show in Berlin, the global version of the Note II features a 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED (active-matrix organic LED) display, a Samsung Exynos 1.6GHz quad-core processor and will run the Jelly Bean version of Android (version 4.1) when it ships.
Samsung shrank the bezel around the display, so while it offers 2 more inches of screen, it's thinner and doesn't feel drastically larger; it measures 151 by 80.5 by 9.4mm to the original Note's 147 by 83 by 9.65mm. And while the battery has increased by 25 percent, the weight has held steady at 6.3 grams.
The tricky Pebble Blue of the Galaxy S III has been replaced by a Titanium Gray, and there will again be the option of Marble White.
The Note II will be optimized for Long-Term Evolution (LTE) 4G technology and Samsung has upgrade a number of aspects, from improving the physical S Pen-which is now longer and thicker-to what it's capable of. An AirView feature enables users to hover over the display for more information, without clicking on anything. When a video is playing, for example, a user can hover the S Pen over the timeline on the bottom and see upcoming footage. In an album of videos, hovering the S Pen over the thumbnails offers a condensed look at the footage that awaits.
Samsung has entirely changed the way photos are handled-including the ability to take better group photos and view image libraries in a spiral instead of just a grid-and there are new S Note capabilities.
"We're committed to this form factor," said Daley. "You're going to see amazing upgrades to this device."