When the GALAXY Note was first revealed last June at IFA 2011 in Berlin, there was a lot of buzz about its innovative functions and ease of use. Utilizing HD Super-AMOLED technology, the GALAXY Note offers the greatest resolution available on a 5.3 inch screen at WXGA (1280X800) as well as a wide viewing angle and a contrast ratio of 100,000 to 1. In addition to the striking display, its touch screen offers such precise sensitivity that using the accompanying S Pen feels like writing on paper.
As the GALAXY Note breaks barriers between tablet PCs and smartphones, there is bound to be a great amount of interest and number of unanswered questions. To hopefully alleviate some of that curiosity, we interviewed GALAXY Note designer SangSik Park and UX (user experience) designer YoungMi Kim.
Q. Can you tell us the main concept behind the design of the GALAXY Note?
Park: As people living in the modern world, a mobile phone, as a communication device, becomes a window to rest of the world, and we wanted to capture the light that a window provides. Light is truth and mankind is constantly striving for truth. We wanted the GALAXY Note to become a window to the truth, and also a means of reflecting our nature through the input process.
Q. What about in terms of aesthetic design? In which colors will the phone be available, and what materials were used?
Park: The GALAXY Note will boldly abandon the general front-and-back-cover design to have only the back cover define the whole mould. Since there’s no line one the sides separating the two covers, it offers a more solid, minimalist feeling. Two main colors are currently in development. With consumer demand in mind we are planning to release the colors carbon blue for a sense of elegance and the more sophisticated ceramic white.
Q. We heard that the GALAXY Note features TouchWiz UX. Can you tell us about the upgraded TouchWiz UX?
Kim: We found a way to maintain the characteristics of the Android OS while highlighting the unique features of the GALAXY Note UX. Not to say that it would be a complete departure from the original TouchWiz, but to naturally integrate improvements to the original.
For example, the original Message and E-Mail menus are still there but with the addition of the “pen drawing” button, you can also send hand-drawn images. The Video Maker is also very similar to the original app but you can use the S Pen to edit video frames, so the focus can be said to have been on integrating S Pen features.
Q. What was the most difficult aspect of the “realization” of the GALAXY Note?
Park: Since we were exploring a new direction for smartphones, as a designer there was some pressure, but at the same time it was exciting to attempt new things with the project. From the very beginning we wanted to consider where the market was heading and by careful analysis of the smartphone users’ desires. Achieving the best performance with these considerations in mind was probably the most difficult aspect.
Kim: It was very difficult to remove the touch interference problems. There was interference like accidently pressing the “Back” button while using the pen and also by having the side of the hand touch the screen in addition to the tip of the pen. A great deal of effort went into removing these interferences and have the device only recognize the pen while being able to zoom in and out with your fingers shortly after you use the pen.
Q. The S Pen is what makes the GALAXY Note stand out, so was there any difficulty acquiring the space for the S Pen? If so, how was it resolved?
Park: The GALAXY Note was created through fundamental changes that utilized both the 5.3 inch HD Super-AMOLED screen and the new input system the S Pen offered. The difficulties that arose from this were in terms of the usability of the S Pen and portability. Not just in terms of the design but also in terms of development, maintaining the slimness and grip of the 9.65mm thickness was only achieved through the stubborn determination of both the design and development team.
Q. The 5.3 inch display is considerably larger than the average smartphone. How were the issues with “grip” handled?
Park: The GALAXY Note was designed after careful analysis of research surveying the opinions of over 12,000 smartphone users in 9 countries regarding the screen, one-handed use, pen input, calling style, and other ergonomic issues. After this process we decided on the 5.3 Inch HD Super-AMOLED display. From the beginning we were determined to have the best grip possible for such a large screen without sacrificing sophistication, and created numerous prototypes to achieve this. As a result we were able to combine the thinness and lightness of a smartphone with the advantages of a Tablet PC to create the new concept of a sensual and emotional Smart Device.
Q. Is there a hidden design facet that you might reveal to us?
Park: Despite the already impressive thickness of 9.65mm, we were able to further emphasize its thinness by using different design techniques. To maintain a visual thickness of 8.4mm, we developed a 3.5mm ear jack module, designed new details for the LCD window and bracket and used grouped colors to emphasize the effects.
Kim: The screen capture feature is the “hidden” user interface function. Taking a cue from phones that have the screen capture button on the device itself, you can screen capture by “scanning” the screen with your hand, or by pressing the screen with the S Pen for more than 2 seconds. It’s a useful feature when you want to write or draw something on top of a screen capture and then share it through e-mail or messaging. We look forward to this feature being very handy when it comes to working on a project and you want to takes notes on a screen capture or just being fun and useful for the average user.
Q. What aspect of the design are you most proud of?
Park: Unlike other models that have been released, the GALAXY Note case is customizable to fit the style and personality of a wide variety of users. I just want to mention that a lot of consideration and hard work went into the material, color, and other aspects of design. I’m proud of the final design of the phone and its case, and not just one single part of it. You’re going to love this phone.
Kim: Rather than just a single aspect, I’m proud of the variety of emotional elements. In addition to the existing push-pull function, you can pause music by covering the phone with your hand, turn a picture 90 degrees by rubbing the screen left to right and mute a ringing phone by flipping the phone over flat on its screen.
Q. What would be the GALAXY Note in one word? The GALAXY Note is _____.
Park: The GALAXY Note is “sensibility”. It’s not just a phone with top of the line specifications. It’s a product that was created through a fundamental transformation of the input system to allow users to intuitively store their thoughts and emotions. As the GALAXY Note design was based on thorough market research, I think consumers will find it to be both satisfying and dependable.
Kim: The Samsung GALAXY is “sensibility” for me too. Like adding an analogue pen to a cold digital device, the features will enhance the overall satisfaction from the UX aspect as well.
Not only did the GALAXY Note push the limits of picture quality, touch sensitivity and speed, it also tore down the wall between smartphones and tablet PCs, giving users a never before experienced user environment. The reason the GALAXY Note stands out is because it’s a realization of an idea that before was only imagined. That’s why we have a lot of confidence in it.
The content on the blog is based on individual opinion and does not represent the position, strategy, nor opinions of Samsung Electronics.