It seems Android smartphone superstar Samsung won’t be happy until it offers a Galaxy device at every possible screen size and price point. That’s a trend we’ve been commenting on for a while, but we’re not talking about brand dilution or new product categories today. The Galaxy product line seems in no danger of foundering under the weight of its wide selection, and the latest products out of Seoul aren’t exactly blazing a new trail in form factor. They’re phablets -phone/tablet hybrids- through and through.
We’re talking about the new behemoths on the Android playground, natch: the duo of supremely oversized smartphones aptly dubbed the Galaxy Mega 5.8 and Galaxy Mega 6.3, announced last week.
The real question is: who would buy one of these, and why?
The question is different today than it would have been in, say, 2011. Back then, the idea of a smartphone with a 5.8-inch screen was preposterous – to say nothing of one with a 6.3-inch panel. Samsung’s own Galaxy Note was among the first to challenge traditional concepts of how big a smartphone could (or should) be, and though it was a stronger than expected seller that achieved unexpected success, it was still a very peculiar device for a very particular customer as recently as last year. It took the Galaxy Note II -which earned a very high score in our full review– to popularize the concept of a superphone, and push the idea of a “phablet” into the mainstream.
But the Galaxy Note family doesn’t just bring an oversized display to the table. It’s a popular product line because it adds value to the smartphone experience with a variety of improvements, rather than relying entirely on the “bigger is better” crutch. The Note and Note II do this principally by way of the S Pen stylus, another feature whose utility we questioned when the device was first released, but which won us over fairly quickly. In concert with the Wacom digitizer and a rapidly maturing set of software enhancements, the S Pen makes the Galaxy Note and Galaxy Note II more than just big smartphones.
The Galaxy Mega devices won’t ship with S Pen support. That makes sense, since they’re not members of the Note family, but that renders the devices little more than giant Android smartphones, doesn’t it? It begs the question: what separates the Mega phones from giant slabs like the LG Optimus G Pro, Huawei Ascend Mate, and ZTE Grand Memo – all of which we’ve criticized at points for being little more than me-too efforts?
The answer, at least partially, is: not much. The Galaxy Mega line might have those competing slabs to thank for its existence, insofar as Samsung wants to compete at every device size its resources allow. Considering the company’s deep pockets, and its affinity for throwing a lot of spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks, that’s a wide range. webOS Nation Editor-in-Chief Derek Kessler dramatically illustrated this fact in a recent tweet:
So while the Mega line is a stab at competing on specs in one respect -screen size- in other areas it’s far from spec-beast territory. Samsung has said that the Mega devices will be powered by a “dual-core Snapdragon” processor, backed up by a gig and a half of RAM. There’s nothing wrong with that; other flagship Samsung devices do just fine on a dual-core CPU, even running at slower clock speeds than the Mega’s 1.7GHz, but such a processor is nowhere near the top-end quad- and octa-core chips of 2013. The screen is similarly underwhelming (not to say unimpressive) on each model, topping out at 720p resolution. That still results in a pretty display, if early accounts are to be believed, but it’s not the 1080p resolution that’s gradually becoming standard on high-end devices, and at such large screen sizes, the pixels-per-inch count starts to suffer.
But the flip side to that metric mediocrity -besides the usual acknowledgement that specs don’t matter to most buyers- is that it allows Samsung to price these devices more aggressively, if it chooses. Early rumors indicate that some third-party retailers are setting preorder prices fairly high for the Mega units, but it’s possible Samsung could offer the devices for much cheaper, given the components it’s using. That’s speculation on our part, but it makes sense: consumers don’t always want to pay top-dollar, particularly for features they won’t use. Not everyone needs or wants an S Pen or the accompanying digitizer elements, but many folks want smartphones with large screens to enjoy an immersive multimedia experience. The Mega packs hardware more than capable of playing local video or streaming Netflix or YouTube, so it would seem to be the perfect device for someone interested mainly in passive entertainment – or spacious virtual keyboards. And there’s even some multi-screen action here, for the real taskmaster.
Truthfully, we’re not sure what Samsung’s end goal is with the Galaxy Mega family; it’s entirely possible the line will see only one or two iterations before being folded into either the Galaxy S or Galaxy Note brands. Then again, it seems unlikely Samsung would introduce an entirely new sub-brand without plans to build it into something substantial, pasta-at-the-wall tendencies or no. The Galaxy Mega won’t land until sometime in May, and it looks to make its debut in European and Russian markets, so we have plenty of time to draw further conclusions. If it’s priced properly and targeted at the right regions, it will probably do quite well – the only question left is whether it excites you. And the only place to answer is a scroll-swipe away, down below.
Galaxy Mega pricing rumors source: International Business Times