Three things of note about the Galaxy Note Super Bowl ad

Samsung paid more than $10 million to tell you, loudly, about a new stylus-based mini-tablet. Because they could.


Samsung Galaxy Note Super Bowl ad

The stylus

The Galaxy Note spot was the only Super Bowl ad my wife saw. After one and a half minutes of its ironic over-production, she asked, “So, it has a pen that’s going to be easy to lose?” My wife is much better at getting to the point when it comes to new toys.

In announcing the original iPhone in 2007, Apple CEO Steve Jobs jabbed at the then-standard stylus, the plastic pen without ink, and once quipped that in looking at devices, “If you see a stylus, they blew it.” But there has been, apparently, a quiet contingent of hand-writing, drawing, and sketching advocates pushing for pen-driven interfaces, ever since Jobs and Apple wipe the slate clean (ahem). There’s a pressure-sensitive, inaudible-sound-drive iPad stylus in the works, and Samsung’s Note may be just the first in a line of S-Pen-powered devices on the way.

I can see a few arguments for styluses. One is the alternative they offer to small-screen typing, which, from conversations with relatively new iPhone converts, is still a sticking point. The last major study I can find about iPhone typing efficiency and enjoyability comes from 2007, right after the launch of the first iPhone, and with physical phone keyboards still the norm. Voice-based interfaces like Siri are a help, but only in situations where you feel comfortable saying your momentary desires out loud. If you truly feel uncomfortable typing on a small screen, perhaps handwriting recognition would work better for you, but you’ll likely have to do the same kind of device learning and adapting that iPhone typists have made.

Another is the precision of using a stylus, as opposed to a finger. This holds less weight for me, having seen what kind of works can be made with a finger on an iPhone, and noting that on any non-professional touch-driven device, there’s a grid of sensors that can only be so close together. In other words, a device made to be used with either fingers or a stylus, like the Note, can’t be a true graphics tablet.

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