Yuhnke Commentary: Is the Samsung Galaxy Note a smartphone or a tablet?

PHOENIX - Smartphones are getting bigger. Tablets are getting smaller. Somewhere in the middle lies the Samsung Galaxy Note on AT&T . I had a chance to demo the new "crossover" device.

The Galaxy Note is big! The first response from everyone I showed it to was simply, "Wow, that's huge!" It has a 5.3" screen. Consider the fact that the iPhone's screen is 3.5" and the Kindle Fire screen is 7". With that said, it doesn't feel very heavy. It's slim and sleek with the bezel around the screen kept to a minimum.

The screen is the highlight of the Note. It's huge and crystal clear. The 1280 x 800 resolution means everything is crisp, clear and bright. It's powered by a 1.4 Ghz dual-core processor and has an 8 megapixel camera on the back. It runs a Samsung modified version of Google Android 2.3. The Note also includes a stylus that slides out from the back.

The stylus is slick. Initially I wondered why we were going back to 2008 when smartphones came with a stylus. "Really!?!?" I thought. The size of the screen and the Advanced Smart Pen technology prove that a stylus can be useful even in today's age of finger touching goodness. When drawing pictures on the S Memo app, it almost felt like I was using a real pen. It was pretty impressive. Lines would thin out and trail off toward the end. Clearly there was some "secret sauce" built-in that made it a nice experience. Would I personally pull the stylus out and use it on a daily basis? No way. But I could see how some people in certain industries might find it useful.

While I'm not the biggest fan of Android software modifications, most of the additions from Samsung were clean and simple. I'm anxious to see this big screen running Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich. That update is expected later this year .

The AT&T network on the Galaxy Note is impressive. I had 3/4 bars of coverage at KNXV and got great download speeds of 13,000 kbps with upload speeds of 3,677 kbps. In other words, it's comparable to a DSL connection at home. Apps downloaded in seconds instead of minutes and web pages appeared on the screen almost instantly. With decent 4G coverage, the Note flies.

With all that said, I'm left wondering: what exactly IS the Galaxy Note? Is it a smartphone?

Well, clearly it's being sold by a cell phone company, AT&T, and it can be used as a smartphone pressed against the side of your face. But the sheer size of this thing would make it almost impossible to carry around as a smartphone. It feels and looks weird when used like a traditional phone. Perhaps someone with a purse wouldn't mind but there's no way I could comfortably carry this in my pocket.

OK, so is it a tablet? It certainly has the same features as an iPad or Android tablet. The resolution of the screen is actually higher than the iPad 1. For me though, it's just not big enough to be a tablet. The screen is too small to be used as a tablet.

Seven inches seems to be where tablets begin. Phones seem to get too big at 4.6". The Samsung Galaxy Note sits in a no man's land. Perhaps for some people it's the perfect mix of both but for me, it's annoying as either. One day I'd love to replace two devices with one but that day is not today.

The Samsung Galaxy Note is available right now on AT&T for $299.99 with a 2-year contract. 

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