With the recent release of the much-anticipated Samsung Galaxy Note10, and noting that there have not really been any transformational changes in smartphone design, features or functionality in several years, we felt it important to ask whether we reaching the limits of the capability of the smartphone.
Earlier this week, mobile/cellular phone giant, Samsung, released the much-anticipated Galaxy Note10, which is one of the firm’s flagship devices, in addition to the Galaxy S series. The Note10 will be available in two sizes: a ‘compact’ Note10, at 6.3 inches; and the Note10+, at 6.8 inches.
As expected, Samsung has packed the kitchen sink into the new Note10, including a new and improved stylus pen; handwriting to text functionality; along with updated processors, display, screen, camera and photography features, to name a few. The table below highlights some of the key specifications for both the Galaxy Note10 and Note10+.
If you are going to quibble about the price, a phablet might not be for you
However, all that capability does not come cheap. The starting price will be at least USD 1,000.00, with the Note10 starting at USD 1,259.99, and the Note10+ starting at USD 1,459.99.
For those you have the disposable income, purchasing a Note10 might just be a status symbol. It will not be the device that ‘every Tom, Dick and Harry’ will be able to own. However, in examining the device more closely, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the Note10 is not a mass market device. In other words, it has been designed to cater to niche consumer segments, and more importantly, those who are prepared to pay for such a device without grumbling about the price. Individuals who might want, or even need, such a smartphone, are likely to be executives and business people, especially frequent travellers, and possibly, even content creators.
When might ‘big’ be too big?
To be clear, big phones, those that are at least 6 inches, have increasingly become the norm, especially among the top brands and for premium smartphones. Typically, the biggest selling point tend to be the screen size, and consequently the larger viewing area to watch movies, read documents, type, etc. Further, in being larger in size than more budget-friendly smartphones, but more portable than a tablet computer, to a considerable degree, phablets are obviating the need for consumers to also have a tablet computer, or even a desktop or laptop computer, in some cases.
However, the question that continually begs to be asked, is “when is ‘big’ too big?” In being 6.8 inches, the Samsung Note10+ will be one of the largest smartphones on the market, It might be too large for most pockets, and perhaps a bit unwieldy for one-handed use, especially when making or receiving voice calls and having the device up to one’s ear.
However, in creating a larger device, there is also the opportunity to pack even more features and functionality, which to some degree, may justify the price. Further, and to accommodate those added features, the engineers and designers would need still to push the limit of their designs, which back in the day, spurred considerable and memorable innovation. Unlike in the past, when significant changes and improvements in the design and capability would be evident from one device release to the next; today, the changes are more subtle, and tend to appear more incremental than revolutionary.
The new kid on the block
To a considerable degree, the seemingly incremental improvements to phablets, similar to the more modest-sized smartphone, seems to suggest that generally, we might be getting to the limits of how much we can pack into such devices. Having said this, Samsung has also unveiled the Galaxy Fold, which has a screen size of 7.3 inches (!), but folds to a compact 4.6 inches, and is scheduled to be released on or around September 2019.
Clearly, there are considerable engineering complexities in the Galaxy Fold: to have a device that functions both at 4.6 inches, and at 7.3 inches. Interestingly, it is being seen more as a portable tablet, than a larger smartphone, which may in turn affect the design/engineering approach and ethos. Nevertheless, as a first generation concept, which arguably only has the potential to improve, the Galaxy Fold (and other similar devices) may actually be the future of the smartphone.
Images credit: Samsung