Around these parts, we’re no strangers to Samsung press events. The world’s leading handset vendor has been on quite the publicity streak over the past year, culminating in the high-visibility kickoff of the Galaxy S III a few months back. The South Korean giant shows no signs of resting on its laurels, however, with a big Unpacked event planned for IFA at the end of the month. Before we can even hop on a plane to Berlin to cover that one, though, Samsung is calling us to New York City for yet another announcement. It’s crazy, man. It’s like Samsung’s in it to win it or something.
So tomorrow, August 15, we’ll see Samsung unveil or announce … something. Mum’s the word from the company itself, but based on the buzz, we feel pretty good about throwing a few predictions around. Here’s what we’re thinking we might see announced tomorrow, in descending order of likelihood.
Galaxy Note 10.1
We’ve seen leak after leak pertaining to this mystery tablet, from the user manual to a bogus Amazon price point, and nearly everything in between. Now that the Nexus 7 has made the leap from myth to reality, and with the Surface still a few months away, the Note 10.1 has slid into place as the world’s most buzz-worthy tablet.
That it took the Nexus 7 release to come and go before the chatter surrounding the Note 10.1 really ramped up is telling. I like a lot of Samsung’s products, but the truth is we’ve seen Android tablets from the company before. A lot of them. And while its hardware is usually quite nice, the TouchWiz layer sitting atop Android usually really, really isn’t. Whenever I’m in a carrier store or consumer-electronics outlet, the Galaxy Tab device family gets more than its share of my attention, but only as long as it takes me to hit my first real lags in the UX. That’s not long. So it’s not surprising that only we hardcore geeks -and the people we rope into conversations- are amped about seeing what Samsung will bring with the Note 10.1.
Of course, as far as user interface is concerned, the new TouchWiz isn’t the old TouchWiz. We were impressed with the functionality (if not the name) of the new Nature UX on the Galaxy S III, and it’s likely that Samsung will port those improvements to the new Galaxy Note tablet. In addition, the “Note” branding virtually guarantees enhanced stylus support with this latest tablet, a differentiator that competitor HTC tried leveraging with its Flyer tablet a while back, without much success. But walking the trail blazed by the successful Galaxy Note might give Samsung a leg up in this contest. In fact, rampant speculation is unnecessary: the device is so close to release that review units have already been distributed to the press, and unboxing videos are already starting to crop up here and there. It’s even offered for sale at several online outlets, and its profile happens to match Samsung’s event-invite graphic (see title image). There’s also the small matter of Samsung’s official announcement of impending global availability. This thing is so close to release I can smell the screen-protector plastic.
If this is the tablet we see unveiled tomorrow, we can expect to see it launch with a 1.4GHz quad-core Exynos processor, 2GB of RAM, WiFi/HSPA/LTE configurations, and of course, the best stylus implementation this side of a graphic designer’s office.
T-Mobile USA Galaxy Note
The least exciting possibility is also, in my opinion, the second-most-likely. After months of persistent rumors, we finally got official confirmation that T-Mobile USA would indeed be picking up a branded version of the original Galaxy Note. That offering has already hit store shelves, and though it comes almost a year after the device was first announced, it still stands as only the second carrier-branded Galaxy Note to hit the States. Maybe Verizon and Sprint couldn’t be bothered to press Samsung to build a CDMA/LTE variant, or perhaps the resistance came from the manufacturer’s side; either way, it’s quite a coup for T-Mobile, the smallest national U.S. carrier, to score such a (relatively) well-known handset, even at this late stage.
T-Mobile is also sitting on a few billion dollars’ worth of termination fees from AT&T’s failed bid to buy the smaller company. Even though much of that value is measured in terms of spectrum and not cash, it’s possible the company -or its mostly-disinterested parent, Deutsche Telekom- was able to scratch up enough dough to cajole Samsung into making a big deal about a ninth-inning Galaxy Note launch.
Galaxy Note 2
As unlikely as I find the possibility of a T-Mobile-based announcement, I find the prospect of a Galaxy Note 2 unveiling tomorrow to be even less fathomable. Symmetry argues against it, for one: the original Galaxy Note was announced at last year’s IFA, and it makes sense that the company would choose the same venue a year later to unveil its successor. Additionally, like most of Samsung’s products, the Galaxy Note is a heavily international product; the 5 million sales it enjoyed in the first five months of availability were due to many factors, but the device’s presence on a single U.S. carrier probably wasn’t the biggest of those. So announcing such a significant sequel product in America doesn’t make sense to me.
However, one of my compatriots here at Pocketnow disagrees. He sees announcing the Note 2 tomorrow in NYC as a possible tactical move, one which would allow Samsung to get its big smartphone/phablet announcement out of the way, clearing the path for a tablet-focused frenzy at IFA. It makes some degree of sense: Samsung will need to overcome a lot of buyer resistance to the idea of “yet another Android tablet,” and it would help to have its new phablet already announced and out of the way well before such a big push.
If that’s what Samsung is planning, we can expect to see a device announcement in line with our earlier speculation on the Note 2: a 5.5-inch, 720p display, an Exynos 4 Quad CPU running at 1.6GHz, and possibly 2GB of RAM, humming along inside a casing no larger than its predecessor.
Whichever camp you’re in, one thing is indisputable: right now, I’m on a train on my way to New York City, and we’re gonna get to the bottom of this in a very short while. Stay tuned to Pocketnow for coverage of what might be a tablet, a phone, or something somewhere in between. And if you’ve got some speculation of your own, you know where to drop it; you won’t have to wait long to see if you’re right.