Samsung published a timeline of its Galaxy Note phones counting up to number 10, but we wanted to focus more on the original – the Samsung Galaxy Note. It made its debut at IFA in late 2011 and is the original “phablet”. There have been many large phones since, the Note’s real trademark feature is the S Pen.
Many thought that Samsung has gone mad – the phone was entirely too large and styluses are outdated, they were saying. And they were partially right, styluses were needed for the small resistive screens that suffered from low sensitivity.
However, Samsung argued that using a stylus is more natural, allowing you to write or draw like you would with a pen or pencil. A simple capacitive stylus wouldn’t cut it, however, so Samsung partnered with Wacom.
Wacom is a well-known maker of graphics tablets, used by artist to draw or edit images on a computer. The active digitizer technology (which worked without needing a battery in the stylus itself) was what set the S Pen apart from other efforts.
It could sense 128 different levels of pressure, allowing it to simulate not just pens but also brushes. Even if you weren’t artistically-inclined, you could jot down a note by launching the Quick Memo feature using the stylus itself.
The screen of the Galaxy Note was quite special too. At 5.3”, it towered over the 4.3” panel of the Galaxy S II (the S II was used as base for the Note’s design). The screen was wider too, having a 16:10 aspect ratio, which is better for writing (and reading).
This was the first Super AMOLED with HD resolution, 800 x 1,280px. It was a PenTile panel, unlike the RGB sAMOLED of the Galaxy S II, but the extra resolution was still a perk. Basically, this was the perfect device to browse the web or watch videos, if you could fit it in your pocket.
Which many doubted, but it turned out to be a non-issue. Large screens quickly caught on and the Galaxy Note gets the credit for starting this design trend. Though modern phones have hit the limit on width so they are expanding their screens vertically with taller rather than wider aspect ratios.
The phone wasn’t quite perfect. The dual core processor was fast for its day (it even handled 1080p flash videos), but battery life left something to be desired, as the phone died after just 3 and a half hours of web browsing.
Also, the S Pen wasn’t instant – the digitizer followed the tip of the stylus with impressive accuracy, but it was slightly sluggish. But Samsung would improve the battery, the S Pen and everything else on future Notes.
The end result is that Galaxy Notes are some of the most popular flagships. Samsung has settled in a “two a year” cadence, launching the Galaxy S early on the year and following up with a Note in the second half. While every maker is building large phones, there’s only one phone that got the stylus right – the Galaxy Note.