Pre-2007, when mobile power users wanted a device, their options fell between the Communicator form factor, or the touchscreen plus stylus form factor (which I shall call the “Pocket PC” form factor). The former were almost exclusively a Nokia terrain – laptop-like form factor with a small external display, a huge internal one, and a full QWERTY keyboard. The latter were initially from Ericsson (later Sony Ericsson) and Palm. The most powerful devices were almost always to be found in these two camps. The Communicator was undisputed king, but many power users who didn’t want one settled for the Pocket PC form factor.
Of course, both camps were ruled by Symbian. Windows Mobile manufacturers later stepped into the touchscreen plus stylus camp, and flooded it with a number of devices. Unfortunately, despite the number of manufacturers churning out that form, Windows Mobile never became a serious contender to Symbian in the smartphone space.
In the Symbian camp, I owned the 9210, 9500 and E90 Communicators. Nokia tried to pass off the E75 as one but it didn’t stick. I also owned the Ericsson R380s, Sony Ericsson P800, P990i, and P1i. I had a brief stint with Palm with the Palm 700P. On the Windows Mobile side, I owned the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1, HTC/Sprint, Samsung i780, and HTC Touch Pro2.
The Communicator was usually the largest, most powerful and most versatile smartphone in the market for almost a decade. In that light, Nokia hasn’t produced a true Communicator device in years. The E7 was marketed as one, but it was neither the most powerful nor the most versatile smartphone on the market. Perhaps it is just time to lay the Communicator to rest. There appears to be a new king of the hill, and it cares nothing for a laptop format, or for hardware QWERTY keyboards, and isn’t coming from the Finns.
During the era of the Communicator, power users who didn’t want one usually picked up a Pocket PC form factor device. In this new dispensation of the touchscreen, that form factor appears to have risen to the top spot that Communicators used to occupy. A mobile ice age has come and gone, and the Communicator is extinct. For some years now, there has been no device that made power users drool – a device that stood head and shoulders above the crowd in terms of specs and functionality. Thankfully, such a device is now here.
Long Live The Note
Today, mobile power users are lusting after one device that towers above others. People who miss Nokia’s Communicators, Sony Ericsson’s P-series, and the Windows Mobile Pocket PCs of old, are drooping over Samsung’s Galaxy Notes. What is there for a power user not to geek over? Powerful processors, the largest displays on smartphones and high-tech styli make the Notes exactly what the doctor ordered for that class of users.
I belong in that class. Handwriting recognition, scribbling and drawing are natural and intuitive ways to interact with text. I loved my Sony Ericsson P-series devices to bits for these attributes. I cannot begin to imagine what improvements technology has brought to this form factor. Yes; I know all the specs, but I don’t do specs. I get my grubby hands on them and try them out.
Oh yes; just like the Communicators and Pocket PC form factors were niche, so also will the Notes be niche devices. They will never sell as much as the iPhone, or the Galaxy S series. But people who want to squeeze out the most from their smartphones and people who want one super-converged device between mobile and proper PC computing will want one. They will likely buy one too.
Mobilists and mobilettes, we have the new ultimate jack of all trades, Samsung’s Notes.