Samsung Galaxy Note LTE

Samsung Mobile: The Samsung Galaxy Note packs a 5.3-inch HD Super AMOLED display and that means a pixel format of 1280×720. Resolution is quite high at 277 ppi and due to the size of the display the average usage distance will be somewhere between smaller smartphones and larger tablets. I would put 277 ppi for a 5.x-inch gadget right around the border of being Retina class. Display technical specs looks top notch.

Next is the S Pen, a pressure sensitive stylus. I agree with Steve Jobs that the finger is the most direct and natural way to navigate a multitouch-based user interface like iOS on smartphones and tablets. However the stylus can come in handy and in some cases be better. Two in fact, according to Ben Brooks: hand-written notes and drawing precision things.

I’ve shared quite a bit about my desire to have a smartphone without the phone, but with 3G/4G data connectivity. The biggest portion of my phone bill is voice and voice is the feature I use least. And isn’t voice just zeros and ones? Finally Samsung has seen the light (Update: I am wrong. The Galaxy Note is just a huge phone with a stylus.): The Galaxy Note has the option of HSPA+ or LTE. Now where did I put my man-bag…

Update: Samsung has announced the availability of its S Pen SDK 1.0, which allows adding a canvas and popup windows.

Update 2: Daniel Cooper, Engadget, reports the Samsung Galaxy Note with GSM 850/1900 MHz, WCDMA II/IV bands and a GT-N7000B model number has gained FCC approval today. It’s not LTE, but even with 3G a smartphone untethered from an overpriced voice plan is exciting. Although calling something that has a huge 5.3-inch display a smartphone might be pushing it.

Update 3: Samsung (Flickr):

Samsung’s flagship smart device Galaxy Note has reached 1 million global shipping.

Shipping, as in shipments into the channel, and not sold to people who will use it. I’m not down on the Galaxy Note. I hope smartphones without the phones become more popular as I can’t wait to drop the voice portion, which is the most expensive, of my smartphone bill. An iPod touch with 3G or LTE would be perfect.

Update 4: The Galaxy Note LTE is a go on AT&T.

Update 5: Vlad Savov, The Verge:

The absence of the word “Plus” from the end of the Super AMOLED branding will tell you that the Galaxy Note has a Pentile Matrix display, meaning that every one of its pixels is composed of four subpixels, one each of red and blue plus two smaller green ones. Under a magnifying glass, you’ll see this gives the display a brickwork-like pattern, which has a negative impact on fine-grain detail and can make high-contrast edges appear softer than they are. That’s long been a good reason to avoid the Pentile RGBG layout, but I honestly can’t see any such issues on the Galaxy Note. Its 1280 x 800 resolution deserves the credit, as it leads to a 285ppi pixel density, essentially making the downsides of the subpixel arrangement too small to be discernible. If you want the very best AMOLED display, though, you’ll have to look to Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7.7 — it has a Super AMOLED Plus screen and looks simply phenomenal.

PenTile Matrix does not require the use of four sub-pixels. The minimum is two and the maximum is ten. Nonetheless the not-quite-Retina but still high ppi seems to have minimized the negative visual effects, especially when rendering text, of PenTile.

Update 6: The Galaxy Note will be available on AT&T on February 19 for US$299.99 with a two year agreement.

Update 7: Tim Stevens, Engadget:

This is a non-Plus display, meaning it uses RGBG sub-pixels. This PenTile arrangement was the subject of many lamentations when the Galaxy Nexus was announced, that presence of extra green sub-pixels causing some display purists to lose sleep, but we didn’t find much to complain about here. Yes, we would certainly prefer a Plus display, and the color reproduction would surely be better if it were, but what’s actually in the phone is beautiful.

Because it’s an AMOLED display the contrast is phenomenal — true blacks and searingly bright whites. Viewing angles are very good, though we did notice a strong shift to blue at particularly extreme angles. And curiously, Samsung (or AT&T) opted to not include the “Screen mode” option found on the international Note that lets you select from three color settings on the display. So, you’re stuck with the default.

The display is not equal to the best, but probably good enough for most. Regarding the experience of jotting down notes on the Galaxy Note:

Annoyingly, though, actually writing with the thing is a challenge. Ostensibly, this phone was designed to replace something like a Moleskine notebook that many journalists stuff in their back pockets, but writing legibly with the S Pen is a difficult proposition. You must write far larger than you would with a pen on paper, so what might have been a few lines of notes can take a few pages of an S Memo.

Again, probably good enough, but not great.

Update 8: Jonathan Geller:

This is a phone, after using it for a few hours, that feels like it is too big to be taken seriously. That’s the end of it.

If only Samsung had dropped the phone function from the Galaxy Note and made it one of the first mini-tablets to use VoLTE.

Update 9: Walt Mossberg:

After testing the Galaxy Note, I have decidedly mixed feelings about it. It isn’t a very practical phone and, as a tablet, it can’t match the experience of the iPad, which is more spacious and has over 150,000 apps designed for it. However, I can see where some folks might consider the 5-inch screen a good trade-off for much better portability than other tablets, and Samsung has done some very interesting work in making the stylus, which is stored in a slot on the device, useful.

And this is hilarious:

Smartphone Industrial Design: Trendy v. Timeless

Jonathan Standing and Clare Jim, Reuters:

“Its industrial design hasn’t changed for almost two years. Unless it launches a really different phone, it’s hard to sell the product at a premium price,” said Roxy Wong, analyst at Mirae Asset Management in Hong Kong.

John Gruber:

The problem with HTC is not that the industrial design of their phones isn’t “new” enough. It’s that their phones aren’t good enough. What Apple shows is that if a phone is actually great, it will sell for years.

And by great Gruber means the industrial design of the iPhone 3G/3GS and the iPhone 4/4S is timeless, not trendy, and the complete user experience from hardware and operating system to apps and multimedia has been thought through with care and brilliantly executed with excruciating detail.

Don’t Buy This Jacket

via Patrick Rhone, Minimal Mac. Patagonia:

[…] everyone needs to consume less. Businesses need to make fewer things but of higher quality. Customers need to think twice before they buy.

Patagonia addressed the issue of consumerism head on by running an ad in The New York Times on Black Friday telling people, “Don’t Buy This Jacket”. This company has guts and I like it.

Think twice? Think a dozen times. Take days, weeks, months if necessary. More often than not you end up deciding you really don’t need it. But to prevent yourself from starting this mental ping-pong of should-I-buy-it-should-I-not in the first place stay away from TV and magazines, where the supreme purpose of both is to convince you to buy something, anything and everything.

I also wholeheartedly agree that businesses need to focus their attention on making not just fewer things but just a few things with much much higher quality. In the near future I’ll be posting up reviews for two cases, one for the iPhone 4 and one for the 17-inch unibody MacBook Pro, with an exhortation toward higher quality.

We can’t not buy anything. We need things. But when we do decide to buy things spend the extra time, the extra effort, and the extra money to buy something that is of high quality and that will last for a very long time. The interesting thing is that these high quality products almost never go on sale so there is no rush. You can wait until you are in absolute need.

Acer Iconia Tab A200 Ad

YouTube: I think Acer tried too hard here, and not hard enough. The first unusual thing that caught my eye was why if you want to take your family camping would you bring a tablet. I’m not against taking high-tech gear on camping trips. I completely understand the full-sized DSLR. But a tablet? Do we want junior to be tapping away at a football game on the tablet while camping?

The second thing that caught my eye was the photo at around the :26 mark. I find it difficult to believe the dad took that shot one-handed, with a DSLR. And finally at the :45 mark you see the dad reading a story for the family off the tablet on their big screen TV. But then who is panning out the video?

A B ad, at best.

This Acer Iconia Tab A200 ad is terribly made in my opinion not only because of the many inconsistencies but primarily because it is born of a lack of understand of us, regular people, of what we really want.

Take camping for example. One of the many good reasons why we go camping is to get away from brick and mortar and toward nature. And that means leaving behind a bit of comfort for a bit of adventure. Routine for something new.

I am touched by Apple’s iPad ads, because the guys that make those ads understand people. Sounds hokey, but it’s true. If Acer’s marketing is any indication of the inspiration and thinking that went into the Iconia Tab A200 itself, then I’m not certain it’ll be all that great.

Jawbone UP, Thumbs Down

via Ben Brooks. Cliff Kuang, Co. Design:

You’d think that Jawbone, the company that mastered Bluetooth headsets, would have made the UP communicate wirelessly with your phone. That’s not how it works: The wristband, which has a speaker jack clearly hidden on one end, has to be plugged into your phone every time you want to refresh your data. (Why no Bluetooth? Battery-life issues, apparently.)

Kuang suggests constant communication between your smartphone and the Jawbone UP for it to “become truly present in your life.” I agree, but others will have a different level of ‘constant’. I have a solution.

The friction in user experience (fUX), namely the trouble of physically connecting the Up to a smartphone, is harsh enough Kuang can no longer recommend it. There are other fUX too but I’ll focus on the lack of Bluetooth connectivity.

PhysOrg reported up to 74% power reduction of 3G smartphones by Finland-based Aalto University researchers, who used a network proxy to burst Internet traffic and force the 3G modem to idle in between bursts. This got me thinking.

Burst sync data from the UP to a smartphone and force the Bluetooth modem to idle in between bursts. The user can determine the exact tradeoff—realtime data at the one end and all-day battery power on the other—depending on the need. So that’s power consumption, but how about power generation?

Seiko Kinetic watches. Kinetic technology is based on micro-capacitors that generate electricity using the movement of the arm. The UP is asymmetric with a thicker, heavier top portion and I don’t like the overlapped bottom. Make the design symmetric allowing a bit more room for a few micro-capacitors. This establishes an interesting symbiotic relationship: Now your movements fuel the UP, which in turn encourages you to move.

Combine smart Bluetooth wireless technology with motion-based electricity generation and fUX can be significantly reduced giving the Jawbone UP a chance at being “truly present”. This enhanced UP might even earn a thumbs up from Kuang.

Update: Ben Brooks on Fitbit:

In the end these types of devices are utterly useless because they are tracking the wrong things. We don’t need our steps tracked, or for a device to guess at our ‘activity’ level, or looks at our sleeping habits. We need to be told what we are doing wrong and how we can change it.

That’s going to help.

And that’s not what the Fitbit, UP, et al does. Save your money, because these activity tracking devices are about as good as the Palm Treo was when all we were looking for is an iPhone.

The Jawbone UP or the Fitbit are mere data collectors. The analysis and recommendation part, the useful parts, will need to be done by you.

Update 2: Dana Wollman, Engadget, on the UP:

But all that means little when the device routinely malfunctions. Though the company says a minority of users have reported breakage, it’s telling that both of the units we tested over the past month have bricked — one of them within 24 hours. Worse, Jawbone hasn’t yet diagnosed the root cause of these problems, a collection of maladies that run the gamut from a rapidly draining battery to a silent vibration motor. We still feel that the Up has promise, but until its engineers iron out the kinks, we can’t in good faith recommend it.

Update 3: via Ben Brooks. Garrett Murray:

Here’s the TL/DR version: Don’t buy this piece of shit. It doesn’t work, it will fail, and the software is terrible. Jawbone is still selling them even though they know they’re all future bricks. *Don’t buy one.*

Update 4: Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman:

With your help, we’ve found an issue with two specific capacitors in the power system that affects the ability to hold a charge in some of our bands. We’re also fixing an issue with syncing related to the band hardware.

The UP No Questions Asked Guarantee” starts December 9.

E Ink FFS LCD Production: LG Display → Chunghwa Picture Tubes

DIGITIMES:

E Ink Holdings (EIH) will suspend a cooperation agreement it signed with LG Display for the production of FFS (fringe field switching) LCD panels and will buy back a sum of corporate bonds (CBs) issued by its Korea-based subsidiary Hydis Technologies from LG Display, according to EIH.

FFS, originally developed by Hydis, has performance similar to IPS and has been used in lieu of IPS LCDs. E Ink will manufacture FFS LCD panels at Chunghwa Picture Tubes’s (CPT) G6 fab.

Samsung Galaxy S II: Bigger Is Not Better

Samsung has a new ad. It’s about the Galaxy S II smartphone. No, it’s more about people who stand in line to get iPhones. Actually, it’s a bit of both.

Maybe it’s because it was only yesterday, but I can’t help but compare Samsung’s ad to Apple’s iPad 2 ad titled ‘Love’. The iPad ad made me feel good; the Samsung ad frustrated me enough to write this post.

John Gruber gets to the heart of the problem:

This one from Samsung is more “people who buy iPhones are image-conscious fad-following idiots”.

The part that gets me is around the 30 second mark when the Apple guys are looking at someone’s Galaxy S II side by side with an iPhone 4:

A guy: Oooh.
Second guy: Check out this screen; this thing is huge.
Third guy: It’s pretty massive.

What Samsung wants you to believe is that bigger is better when it comes to a smartphone. The 3.5-inch 960×640 IPS LCD used in the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S is small and therefore not as good.

The Galaxy S II packs a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display that uses RGB sub-pixels in its 800×480 pixel format. So it definitely is bigger, by 0.8 inches.

When it comes to display specs one of the most important indicators of how good your visual experience will be is resolution. Resolution as in pixel density, the proper definition. Apple kicked up the relevance of resolution several notches when it introduced the iPhone 4. Along with it came the 3.5-inch 960×640 IPS LCD with a resolution of 326 ppi or Retina Display.

The Samsung Galaxy S II has a bigger display, certainly, but the resolution is 217 ppi. That is significantly lower than 326. And that means everything is less crisp. You get more of less.

Here are some other things to consider. OLEDs die sooner than LCDs. If you are ever in Seoul, South Korea keep your eyes open for bluish tinted smartphones. Those are smartphones with OLEDs that have circuitry that compensates for the blue OLED phosphor that dies out quicker than the red and green. Sure most of you don’t want to keep your smartphone more than the two year contract, but wouldn’t it be better to be able to sell your smartphone to get some money back?

Then there’s power consumption. Some people seem to think that OLED displays consume less power than LCDs. Well, that’s generally not true. OLED displays consume more power than LCDs with one exception: When you’re watching videos. Because the overall brightness levels are on average darker than anything else you do on your smartphone OLED displays consume less power than LCDs. The brighter the display the more power OLED consumes.

To conclude, yes the Samsung Galaxy S II has a bigger display than the iPhone. But bigger in this case means, well, bigger and that’s about it. The iPhone’s Retina Display has a significantly higher resolution, which I consider to be one of the most important specs in determining whether you’ll be getting a fantastic visual experience, or not. And this is not to say that the Galaxy S II doesn’t look good; it does. But what I am saying is the iPhone 4/4S with the smaller but higher resolution display looks better.

Sharp IGZO-based iPad 3 Retina Display

via Brian Caulfield, Forbes. Peter Misek, Jefferies & Co.:

Also, we believe that Apple and Sharp together have a modified IGZO (indium, gallium, zinc) technology to achieve 330 dpi, which is sufficient for an HD display while not using IPS nor having to include dual-bar LED backlighting. In our view, this should lead to several design advantages, namely the device can be thinner, battery life should be longer, and the overall experience for users should be meaningfully improved.

The benefits of IGZO are plenty: lower cost of manufacturing, up to 30x higher electron mobility than a-Si (amorphous silicon), increased aperture ratio for improved light transmittance, higher resolution in terms of ppi, etc. IGZO would allow for significant cost reductions compared to LTPS (Low Temperature Poly-Silicon) based high resolution LCDs like the rumored 9.7-inch 2048×1536 IPS LCD for the iPad 3.

Misek claims Apple purchased US$500 million to $1 billion in display manufacturing equipment to be installed at Sharp’s Kameyama-based G6 LCD fab for the purpose of producing IGZO-based LCDs for iPhones and iPads.

Update: Juro Osawa, The Wall Street Journal:

Sharp already supplies LCD panels for Apple’s iPhone smartphones, according to the person. The company will be supplying panels for the next iPhone, which is also expected to launch sometime next year, the person added.

“The person” is someone familiar with this matter. I’m guessing Apple will move away from mentioning IPS when touting its display on the iPhone and focus on it being Retina. I expect the same thing for the upcoming iPad 3. And this might explain why there has been a dip in display quality in the iPhone 4S.

Update 2012.02.21: Raymond Soneira:

Update – it is now clear that it is extremely unlikely that IGZO Retina Display LCD panels will be ready for the March iPad 3 launch. Sharp has stated (in their end of 2011 financial statements on the Japan website) that they are experiencing “significant delays” with IGZO, and that production is “expected” to begin in February in the Kameyama No. 2 Plant (not the Sakai Plant as some Wall Street analysts have stated). The word “expected” has been used for a year now to describe IGZO production. Starting production for a new technology is always slow and iffy so at best it will take months to get IGZO panels into iPad 3s. So, unless Sharp is providing misleading information (illegal in the US for a public company) the iPad 3 will not have Sharp IGZO Retina Display LCD panels for many months (if indeed they are coming to the iPad 3).

NPD U.S. POS Tablet Sales Data

NPD reported January through October U.S. tablets sales, excluding iPads:

PC manufacturers are dominant in the tablet space, as four of the top five tablet brands already have a strong U.S. consumer PC presence. Only two of the top five brands play in the smartphone market.

John Gruber:

PC manufacturers are not dominant in the tablet space. Companies that provide a complete ecosystem — hardware, software, app stores, movies, TV shows, books and periodicals — are. PC manufacturers are utterly failing in the tablet market. The only thing you can learn from NPD’s report is that tablet market share numbers sure do look different when you don’t count any of the tablets that people are actually buying.

NPD reports on U.S. point of sale (POS) data that covers roughly 65% of the market. Not included in NPD POS data are retailers such as Costco, Walmart, Sam’s Club, etc. These retailers are massive and Walmart in particular sells a variety of tablets. Here is a list of tablets Walmart sells online, up to date as of yesterday: Velocity Micro Cruz T301, BlackBerry PlayBook, Maylong M-250, Filemate Identity, Motorola Xoom, Acer Iconia Tab/10.1, Acer Iconia W500, Toshiba Thrive, Kaser Net’s Go, ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Arhos 70/100, Coby Kyros MID8024/1125, Sony Tablet S, E Fun Next5/6, ViewSonic ViewPad 10, Sungale Beam (7- and 10-inch), iCan Tablet, Ematic eGlide, Vizio VTAB1008, and Lepan TC970. Costco sells the Samsung Galaxy Tab/7.0 Plus, Toshiba Thrive, Acer Iconia A500, and Vizio VTAB1008.

Barnes and Noble doesn’t release tablet sales figures. And Kindle Fire tablet sales data will most likely not be available from Amazon either based on how secretive the company has been with E Ink-based Kindle sales.

In the near future tablet sales will increasingly come from companies like Amazon—companies that do not share tablet sales information—and maintaining relevancy for its U.S. tablet POS data will be quite a challenge for NPD going forward.