Samsung will unveil the Galaxy Note 3 in a few hours and all eyes are on Berlin to see what the Koreans have come up with this time. The Note series has revolutionised the smartphone industry and brought in a trend of large-screen devices that have resonated with audience and content-builders. Will the Note 3 manage to capitalise on the phablet craze and outshine its ‘smaller’ brother, the Galaxy S4? We weigh in.
Samsung Galaxy S4 sold 20 million units within two months of its launch, this was back in June this year. Samsung Galaxy Note 2 sold 5 million units within two months of its launch last year. Those figures are indication enough of the kind of numbers we should expect when we will see the Note 3 launch tonight. The Samsung Note series, the pioneer of the phablet category, is quite popular after the Galaxy S series and also referred to as the second flagship product from the Samsung stable. But I don't see it overtaking the S4 sales numbers.
Looking at the leaked specifications, it does not really offer much of an upgrade so to speak, apart from the speculated Snapdragon 800 SoC, a bigger screen and more RAM. The one thing that may work in Note 3's favour is the rumoured 32GB capacity on the base model with memory expansion slot option. Considering it will be a bigger screen size than the S4's 5-inch, and sport a full HD display, the battery life has to be great. The S4 comes with a boatload of software, which may seem like bloatware to some but a lot of you may find value in them. Note 3 will most likely come with a stylus or S Pen which was seen in the previous Note handsets, but that in itself isn't a huge draw.
The Note II was a mega-hit
Traditionally, the Note series is priced higher than their Galaxy S counterparts, so unless you are a real Samsung fanboy and drool over large screen sizes, there is very little motivation to switch from S3 or S4 or from Note 2 to the Note 3. The Galaxy S4 will have a lower price than the Note 3 at launch, so anyone looking to upgrade will also have that at the back of their mind. Unless the Note 3 offers a compelling feature absent from the S4, there is no chance that it is going to overtake the S4 in sales numbers.
Also you can't just look at Note 3 only vis-à-vis the Samsung S4. With the 5S launch around the corner and also strong rumours of a cheaper iPhone, the 5C, the Note 3 may just have more competitors than just the S4. The Galaxy S4 was launched in April when the iPhone 5 fever was already on the wane and it had fairly little competition as such, except maybe from the HTC One. So it will be doubly difficult for the Note 3 to maintain a sales momentum, when it will be surrounded by flagship phone launches by other players.
The recent revelation of phablets making up nearly 30% of all smartphone shipments in India suggests that large screen devices are gaining in popularity in all segments of the market. What works in the Note’s favour even more is that Samsung has managed to create a ecosystem and a separate category around the Galaxy Note and its stylus-enabled apps. The Korean company brought phablets into the mainstream, which led to other players also jumping on the bandwagon. The Galaxy Note is still considered the holy grail of this class of devices. It's the sort of halo device that garners as much attention as an iPhone or a Nexus device, perhaps even more than the Galaxy S4 flagship.
Secondly, Samsung can push the envelope as much as it wants with the Note. This allows them to cram in unheard of specs and features into the Note. In fact, the phablet category itself has been born out of Samsung pushing the envelope in the original Note. This year’s Note will bring some more tricks too and perhaps, more than even the software-heavy Galaxy S4. Some may call it gimmicks, but consumers love
Galaxy S4 is the current Samsung champ
The big thing that could work against the Note 3 is of course the price. High-end smartphones are getting far too expensive for them to be feasible for all budgets. With the recent Butterfly S launch, HTC has crossed the Rs 50,000 mark, and the Note 3 will most likely be close to that figure too when it launches in India. If Samsung manages to price the Note 3 right, it could very well be a blockbuster and outshine the Galaxy S4 in terms of sales.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note series has struck a very deep chord with the Indian audience and the Note and Note 2 are standing testament to that. According to IDC’s latest reports, Samsung has maintained its top spot for the second quarter of 2013 as far as smartphone sales are concerned and this is primarily due to very good sales of the Note 2.
The Note 3 sill no doubt carry a hefty premium over the Galaxy S4 but if what we know about the device for now turns out to be true, I think it will be worth the premium and will be the phone to beat in the high-end segment. Sony went a little overboard with the Xperia Z Ultra and I doubt that will give it any competition. The Note 3 will have to contend with LG’s G2, Nokia’s soon to be launched Lumia 1020 and HTC’s Butterfly S.
Samsung's phablet may follow the S4's sensor overload
Samsung already has a loyal fan following for the Note series who are all just itching to upgrade. Over the course of six to eight months, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Note 3 outsells the Galaxy S4, and if Samsung implements the cash-back and zero per cent EMI scheme as well, I think they’ll hit a home run.