The Galaxy Mega 6.3in phablet has been out in the UK for a little while, now – in fact, you can pick it up at rather a bargain price. And indeed Samsung has recently released the super-sized phone over in the US. The company says it is committed to giving its customers a choice in screen sizes, and now has smartphones ranging from 3in to 6.3in. I believe this, combined with the fact that it offers phones at a range of prices too, is a major reason Samsung has become the top smartphone provider.
In contrast Apple has different price points for the iPhone, but the singular nature of its design gives consumers only one option. While that's not necessarily a bad thing since it gives dealers less SKUs to deal with and makes it easier to support, the plethora of Samsung smartphones in various sizes clearly appeals to customers. In fact, it pretty much proves "one size does not fit all."
The Galaxy Mega is not the first large phablet on the market, of course. Huawei introduced the 6.1in Ascend Mate at CES last winter. However, over in the US this device has only seen minor support from networks thus far, so it's been hard to determine if this phablet will resonate with US consumers. With Samsung now entering the market we will finally get a chance to see if phablets like this will take off in the States.
The screen size of smartphones has been a hot topic for both vendors and customers for some time. While Apple pretty much made the 3.5in screen the de facto standard when it introduced the iPhone, various vendors started experimenting with larger screen sizes in a bid to differentiate themselves from Apple. Most ranged from 4in to 5in, and started getting serious interest from consumers.
Apple recognised the interest in a larger iPhone and debuted the iPhone 5 with a 4in screen last autumn. Rumours suggest Apple may once again up the screen size on the new iPhone to be unveiled on 10 September. A few months back I predicted that Apple would not release a 5in iPhone because the company has been so focused on smartphones being used with one hand.
I also have a 5in Samsung Galaxy S4 and while I do like its larger screen, I can't use it with one hand as is possible with the 4in iPhone. With that in mind I would not be surprised if Apple's new iPhone has a 4.7in screen since this boosts the screen real estate yet can still be used with one hand. I'd be fascinated by a 5in iPhone, too.
Now Samsung and Huawei have raised the screen size stakes again. But unlike the Galaxy Note, this time the Galaxy Mega delivers a solid tablet experience and just happens to have calling capabilities too. But the big issue remains the fact that holding a 6.3in smartphone to your ear looks even geekier than holding a 5.5in device. And using it for one-handed operation is out of the question. Most mini-tablets have 7in screens and people seem to love these thus far.
More importantly, these smaller tablets can be bought for under £100 in some cases, although most hover around the £130 to £200 range depending on configurations. So far consumers seem fine carrying a smartphone and a small tablet as part of their digital lifestyle, yet the idea of having two-in-one could be quite alluring to those who don't want to carry two devices.
Over in America, AT&T has started selling the Samsung Mega for $150 (£97) with a two year contract, and Amazon has an unlocked version for $459 (£295). For a mini-tablet this is pricey, but for a combo device, this pricing is pretty impressive.
While the Note has certainly been popular in Asia, and indeed other markets like the UK, it will be interesting to see how the Galaxy Mega fares in the US market. I saw the Galaxy Note as a tweener, but the larger Mega, with Samsung's marketing prowess and the support of most of the US carriers, might find serious traction in America.
In fact, I think it could become the first device to successfully bridge the gap between phone and tablet and strike a chord with a lot of US consumers looking to streamline their device load. Most analysts still currently consider this a niche product, but many of us are truly intrigued by this new form factor, and we will be following its success closely.