Is it a Tablet or a Smartphone? Hands-On with the Samsung Note

At IFA 2011 in Berlin, Samsung introduced what might be the most interesting smartphone to hit the market in some time. One thing’s for sure – it’s definitely the biggest.

The Samsung Note features a 5.3” screen, fairly massive for something shipping under the name of a smartphone. Samsung is trying to avoid calling it a smartphone, though, touting it as a fusion of many mobile devices – the ultimate mobile device, if you will. The specs are solid, as the Note packs a 1.4 GHz dual core processor and HSPA+ and LTE compatibility. The Note will run Android 2.3 Gingerbread out of the box. It should make for a solid gaming machine, especially when you consider the large screen, which features Super HD Amoled technology.

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The major feature, though, is the S Pen – an included stylus that brings with it a whole host of new features to your mobile life. The S Pen is integrated with all parts of the Note. You can make handwritten notes or images anywhere, in any app, and save them as memos that can be sent via email, text, or ChatON – Samsung’s own chat service. The promotional video featured someone tracing an item on a shopping website, cutting it out, and saving it as a ‘must-have’ item. The video also showed what look to be very robust artistic tools – the Note could very well be the best electronic sketchpad we’ve seen on a mobile device.

Other features that use the stylus include the S Planner and the built-in video and picture editor. The S Planner lets you save handwritten reminders, or send them off to others (so you can send an electronic chore list to your significant other with that sweet, personal touch). You can also doodle and write on images and videos, which is essentially a lock to be a massive and satisfying time waster.

Lastly, Samsung has released an SDK for the S Pen, in the hopes that developers will create apps just for their prized new stylus. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of artistic and gaming apps are born out of that SDK, given the relative rarity of styluses with smartphones. In our brief hands-on time with the device, we were impressed with how lightweight the device is. The stylus is also quite fun to operate.

Keep an eye out for more information about this tablet-smartphone hybrid. The capabilities are tantalizing, though using a device with a 5.3” screen as a phone might be a little challenging for the small-handed. The device remains competitively thin and light, but it remains to be seen if the huge size for a smartphone will be a turn-off.

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