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Samsung stuns critics by selling 5 million 'phablets'

UPDATE March 30: Samsung has stunned critics by saying it has sold five million units of its Samsung Galaxy Note - a 5.3-inch sceen device that's either a mini tablet, or super-jumbo smartphone, depending on your point of view.

And that's cash-money  retail sales, too, not shipment stats. It's five months since the Note was first released overseas (NZ saw it February).

I'm surprised at the sheer volume of Note sales - especially given its robust price - but I can it's done well.

One of the features Samsung has pushed hardest is the pen stylus and its snazzy (if slightly laggy) drawing ability. It's all very clever tech, but I have to admit I haven't get made out like Kate Sylvester and whipped up a sketch to send collegues.

Nevertheless, I'm a happy Note user. The big display simply makes it a lot easier to do anything, from email, to web surfing to watching multimedia or gaming. Yes, the trade-off is you can't hold it in one hand, and reach everything onscreen with your thumb (as is possible with a 3.5-in iPhone).

Of course, there's now a bunch of mini Androids (and the BlackBerry PlayBook) around the 7-inch mark. But the slightly smaller Note has the advantage that it can also be used a conventional smartphone.

You can hold it to your ear, or slip it into a pocket. 

The Note has a clear place in the market. I can see some who own a laptop, smartphone and 9.7-inch or 10-inch tablet thinking they could ditch the smatphone and tablet, substituting a Galaxy Note. 

It'll be interesting to see how Apple responds to the Note, and other large-screen Androids (at the moment I'm also packing an HTC Sensation XL, which boasts a 4.7-inch display).

Will it bring out a mini version of the iPad, a supersized iPhone (one industry rumour says a 4.6-inch handset is on the way), or surprise us with a new contender?

Samsung "phablet" gets NZ release

February 24: Samsung has released its Galaxy Note in New Zealand, through Vodafone for $1199.

With its giant 5.3-inch display, the Note can be seen as a super-jumbo smartphone, or a mini tablet. Internet wags have dubbed it a "phablet."

A signature feature is that the Note uses a pen stylus, recalling the first wave of Microsoft Windows and Palm smart devices.

NBR's correspondent immediately recalled Walter Isaacson's recent authorised biography of the late Steve Jobs, in which he prohibited the iPad development team from developing a pen-based system. You've already got 10 styluses, the Apple co-founder said, waving his fingers. 

During a quick play with the Note (NBR will run a full analysis once review units become available), the phablet's virtual ink lagged a littlle behind the pen, despite the gadget's beefy 1.4GHz processor.

The stylus is optional, however, the Note can be controlled via finger swipes, like any other Android device (including Samsung's Galaxy Tab series and Galaxy S2 phones).

And despite NBR's initial fears, there proved no problem placing the Note in a shirt pocket (as West Auckland man Ben Gracewood illustrates in the middle photo), or holding it to your ear to make a call (as Tuanz chief executive Paul Brislen illustrates bottom).

From the 3.5-inch iPhone (with a rumoured 4-inch iPhone 5 in the works) to the 4.3-inch Samsung Galaxy S2 to the 4.7-inch HTC Sensation XL and now the 5.3-inch Note, mobile makers seem in a war to make the biggest display.

It's a situation that will bring a wry smile to anyone who remembers the aftermath of the shoe-phone era, when the likes of Nokia and Motorola competed to make ever-smaller handsets.

Tech specs support for HSPA+ (for mobile downloads with a theoretical top speed of 21Mbit/s, a 1.4GHz Dual Core Processor, 16GB of memory (upgradeable to 32GB via SD card), 1280x800 5.3-inch Super AMOLED display, Android 2.3 (Gingerbread*), 8 megapixel rear camera with LED flash, 2 megapixel front camera and 1080p video recording, A-GPS, Bluetooth 3.0 + HS, USB 2.0, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n.

The Galaxy Note measures 146.85 x 82.95 x 9.65mm (by contrast, an iPad 2 is 88mm thick) and weighs 178g.

More by Chris Keall