In 2011 Samsung came out with a phone called the Galaxy Note. It was ridiculously large (such a big display, who needs big screens on a phone?). It came with a built-in stylus (a stylus? What was Samsung doing, going back to the 1990s?). It had a lot of business software (huh? Who was Samsung trying to compete with? Blackberry?).
The new new thing
Thus was born the phablet and Samsung redefined the very idea of the mobile phone. Large screens became the norm and practically killed off the tablet market.
The Note became the symbol of cutting-edge technology with every iteration pushing the boundaries and setting new standards. That class of phones went on to become a cult success, with big screens, an incredibly intelligent stylus mated to software, serious specs, a great camera, huge battery and almost limitless memory storage add-ons.
So this year, the launch of the new Samsung Galaxy Note 5 in New York was heralded as a redefining moment in the smartphone business. It truly was – though it had a huge splattering of awesomeness sprinkled with a serious amount of confusion.
The answer lies in the criticism that Samsung has taken now for years. That its phones may be the best in their class but the design and materials used are a decade old. That Samsung may have the best specs, but totally falls flat, with also the worst looks.
The S6 and the S6 Edge were a radical departure from anything they had done before. The phones used extreme styling and fantastic materials. That got Samsung the title that they had always wanted. The S6 and the Edge were called the best-looking phones on the planet.
And therein lies the story of why the Note 5 has sacrificed function for form, features for looks! People don’t buy ugly phones anymore and Samsung wanted to make sure they had the best looking phones in every category, including the Note.
The might of the fruit
And that, of course, brings me to the other reason that the Note and the S6 Edge look similar and have come out at the exact same time. This is a dual assault from Samsung on the Apple iPhone 6S Plus, a phone that is also just about a month or so away from being launched.
And if the rumours are to be believed, it has some fantastic features and great styling to take the iPhone bandwagon forward. This is Samsung getting ready for that battle.
But overall, the problem remains. By taking away its identity and mixing it into the Galaxy S family, Samsung may have made a huge mistake. One that it may look back and regret.
Having a phone that started the phablet revolution, having a phone that stood out distinctively with hardcore tech specs and no-compromise business features was a huge advantage for Samsung. With its S6 Edge like styling, the Note may just have lost its Edge.
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3
From HT Brunch, August 23
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