Samsung Rolls Out Galaxy Note II 'Phablet' During Week of Tablet Intros

NEWS ANALYSIS: In a week of clustered tablet introductions, the Samsung Galaxy Note II shows another approach. It’s a combination of a smartphone and a tablet. It's unclear whether this is a great idea or will just bewilder buyers.

Samsung has introduced the 5.5 inch Galaxy Note II, the latest model in what is becoming perhaps the most diverse lineup of tablet models in the computer industry.

The company already has 7- and 10-inch tablets and it’s got smartphones with screens in the 4+ inch range and smaller. And of course it’s got the 5-inch Galaxy Note.

While the official unveiling didn’t take place until the evening of Oct. 24, T-Mobile was already selling the Note II. Sprint will follow T-Mobile by one day, but the selling price is a little lower. Samsung introduced the Note II a day after Apple introduced the long-anticipated iPad Mini and the surprise fourth-generation iPad.

However, unlike most tablet and tablet-like devices, the Note II is aimed at business users that also like to do things such as play games. The Note II is obviously not a normal smartphone, but unlike the tablets on the market, it works like one when you want to make phone calls. It’s an attractive device that actually fits into most pockets, just like a phone.

But when you use it, the Note II is more like a tablet. The 5.5 inch screen is big enough to read or write on and it comes with Samsung’s S Pen that lets you create drawings and to write handwritten notes, which the Note II will translate into text, if you’re lucky. But there’s also no question that this isn’t like a basic 7-inch tablet.

So the big question is where exactly does the Note II fit in the world of devices? It gets the “phablet” moniker because it’s part phone and part tablet, but in use it’s mostly a tablet. For some users, the highly portable Note II form factor is a real plus.

It’s easy to carry, you can cradle it in one hand while you write or type with the other and you can attach a cover for protection or privacy. In some part of the world this combination seems to be wildly popular. When I was at CeBIT in March, the original Note seemed to my casual observations to be the preferred mobile device of the under-30 age group, at least in Europe.

By having it, you don’t need to carry two devices, a phone and a tablet. You can do both functions as effectively with the Note II as you could with the earlier Note.

Even though it looks a little odd to be holding a device the size of a paperback book up to your face to make a phone call, at least you can do it. Presumably this could save money and cut down on clutter. So it’s clear there’s a market here.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...