Meet The Galaxy Note II, Samsung’s Most Important Phone Yet

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The original Samsung Note was huge — in both physical size and popularity. Samsung sold over 10 million units of the huge phone, or rather, if you prefer, mini tablet. The Note II is more of the same, really. It sports a much more capable mobile SoC, which should make the Jelly Bean Android build run as smooth as, well, butter. Strangely, the new model features a lower resolution screen than the original, but that likely won’t hurt sales.

In all, the new Note is like the old Note. Engadget likes what they see so far. That’s a good thing. It’s still a massive thing, likely too big for some users. But that’s fine with Samsung. The Note II shows Samsung’s swagger. It might not be the best selling phone in Samsung’s lineup, but it’s the most important.

Samsung is fresh off a huge court loss that could have sweeping effects. Early reports from phone resellers indicate that users are actually dumping their Samsung phones twice as often as normal. Gazelle.com, a site that buys old phones from owners, reports a 50% increase in Samsung smartphones buybacks over the past three days. That’s just nuts. But Samsung is plowing forward even though some devices could face a ban in the U.S.

The Galaxy Note II is the successor to the widely popular Galaxy Note. The original Note wasn’t the first 5-inch touchscreen phone, but it was the model to make it big. The 5-inch Dell Streak busted into the market in the summer of 2010 but failed to make much of an impact. The Streak shipped with outdated Android software and Dell failed to provide updates in a timely fashion. Plus, unlike the Note, the Streak wasn’t marketed to the general consumer; the Streak was intended for the business crowd.

Samsung announced the Galaxy Note one year ago at IFA 2011. The phone hit the European market in late October and went on to sell one million units prior to launching in the U.S. the following February. Samsung went big with the Note’s marketing and went as far as showcasing it at CES in a huge booth by having artists draw caricatures of show goers. It was a widely popular stunt, and the booth often had a massive line.

Samsung is likely to go even bigger with the Note II’s advertising. The original’s success shows that there is a big market for large screen phones. With the new iPhone using a larger screen, Samsung’s argument for huge screens could be made easier this time around. If nothing else, the Galaxy Note II is a fine halo device, designed to draw consumers’ attention to the Samsung brand — and to the Galaxy S III.

Consider the Chevy Corvette — it’s too expensive and not practical for every buyer, but it brings people into car showrooms and that’s the Note II’s job too. The Note II is physically huge. It’s not for everyone. But Samsung would argue that the Galaxy S III, the Note’s smaller and cheaper counterpart, is for everyone. Where the Note II is Samsung’s Corvette, the Galaxy S III is the Chevy Camaro, an everyday driver.

At $199 with carrier subsidies, the Galaxy S III is Samsung’s mainstay. The phone still features a large screen, but it’s rather small compared to the Note II. The GSIII lacks a stylus, tablet-ish flappy cover and, most important, the negative connotation that it’s too big.

Samsung clearly knows what it’s doing. It’s the largest phone manufacturer in the world and the Galaxy S III will rival the new iPhone in sales; the Note series will not. But it doesn’t have to in order to accomplish its mission. The Note II gives Samsung’s lineup a bit of variety while still keeping the manufacturing simply by using parts similar to that found in the Galaxy S III. This way Samsung can offer more models while keeping manufacturing costs down.

Expect to hear a lot about the Note II in the coming months. It’s scheduled to hit Europe in October, with a wider release to follow shortly.

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