By Michael Fisher | January 21, 2013 3:20 PM
If you’ve had your ear to the ground over the past day or so, you know the Galaxy Note 8.0 is all but assured a grand unveiling at MWC 2013 in Barcelona next month. Sources say the tablet will come with a 5MP rear-facing camera, probably some form of Exynos processor, and -of course- an 8-inch display with a rumored 1280×800 resolution.
That’s not all that exciting on the surface: we’ve seen those specs, or variations thereon, spread across many devices already. But bundling them together inside one chassis, especially one bearing the prestigious Note sub-brand, is exciting.
Samsung is no stranger to the tablet landscape: its initial Galaxy Tab was the first significant Android tablet to challenge the first iPad’s dazzling success. But Samsung has since offered countless variations on the Tab, in all shapes and sizes, some of which have been challenged by Apple in very visible court proceedings. The legal stigma, combined with the dilution of a brand that was never all that sexy to begin with, hasn’t done the Galaxy Tab family any favors.
Assuming Samsung breaks out some new features, parts with some bad habits, and markets with its typical aplomb, the Note 8.0 stands a good chance of serving as the turning point toward large-scale success in Samsung’s tablet initiative. Here’s why.
Form Factor and S Pen
We’ve talked about the relative wisdom of super-phones and micro-tablets before. The phablet category has always factored heavily into the size equation, and I’ve called out other iterations of the Note when asking who, in the world of jumbophones, needs a phablet anyway. These questions are still valid for a lot of buyers, but my initial skepticism at the idea of a midsize Note has since abated.
As anyone who’s listened to the Pocketnow Weekly podcast knows, a large proportion of the Pocketnow team appreciates the 7- and 8-inch tablet form factor. That appreciation apparently extends beyond geek circles, if the success of devices like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire are any indication. A sizable number of buyers find the portability of smaller tablets a big enough advantage to invest in them. The Note 8.0 will arrive just in time to capitalize on what cachet remains in the midsize-tablet space.
And then there’s the S Pen. We haven’t heard anything specific that says the special stylus is coming to the Note 8.0, but it would be foolish for Samsung to omit it. With its myriad features, the S Pen is what makes a Note a Note. Paired with the Wacom digitizer, the pen brings real added value to a category flooded with capacitive screens numb to pressure-sensitive input. The S Pen is what will save the Note 8.0 from the stigma of being “just-another-Android-tablet.”
It’s Not A Note 10.1
We gave Samsung’s full-sized Note 10.1 tablet a favorable score in our full review, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Note 10.1 spends the entirety of its existence eking out marginal sales numbers. Its flimsy build, somewhat laggy performance, and annoying proprietary charger are all marks against it, and the tablet enjoyed a $100 price slash over the Black Friday buying holiday. It just doesn’t offer enough, in my view, to justify the $399.99 price point that many retailers are demanding.
For that kind of dough, it makes more sense (for those not in need of an S Pen, anyway) to snap up the sleeker, svelter, direct-from-Google Nexus 10. It runs stock Android without the TouchWiz skin -which in my experience still feels cumbersome on large tablet screens- and despite its ten-inch screen, it’s thin and light enough to be held in one hand.
The Nexus 10 is also instructive in the sense that Samsung obviously knows how to make a tablet that feels and looks good in the larger form factor. It’ll be interesting to see, then, how that expertise translates to an 8-inch tablet, with the benefits of the S Pen and Wacom digitizer (again, assuming those are present).
The Note Name is the Hotness
We’re starting to sound like a broken record, but it’s almost impossible to overstate how fiercely Samsung is dominating the mobile scene in terms of marketing. It mopped the floor with the Android competition in 2012, destroying any hope of high-profile success for HTC’s excellent flagship One X smartphone with the all-out blitz for the Galaxy S III. Samsung then proceeded to light the same fire under the Galaxy Note II, saturating the market with more billboards, posters, and bus wraps than I’ve ever seen for a mobile device supposedly designed for a “niche.” And don’t get me started on the prevalence of weird TV spots.
The result of that saturation is a brand name with impressive mind share, considering its relative youth and its roots in a product many thought would fail right out of the gate. Anecdotally speaking, the Note name is the new hotness. Everyone, from my 70-year-old uncle to my younger Luddite friends, at least recognizes the name “Galaxy Note.” The same can’t be said for the older but lower-profile Tab name – unless, of course, you’re talking about awful canned cola.
In short, the Note 8.0 isn’t likely to be the instant fail I predicted when I first heard rumors about a midsized Note. If Samsung is serious about transferring its success in smartphones to dominance in the tablet world -and I think it is- it’ll put a lot of effort into shoring up the already-strong Note brand name. Part of that reinforcement is bound to include some of the speculation above, but I suspect Samsung will have even more up its sleeve when it comes time to take the wraps off the Note 8.0. The bottom line is that, unlike the tweeting refrigerator of CES, this is probably a product worth getting excited over.
We’ll be in Barcelona for the unveiling, but we’ll also be tracking the Note 8.0 news leading up to MWC, so keep it locked to Pocketnow to see how right -or wrong- that prediction turns out to be.