Samsung sees value in bigger Galaxy Mega smartphones

Largest Mega will have 6.3-in. display

Samsung struck again today, announcing two even bigger Galaxy Mega smartphones with 5.8-in. and 6.3-in. LCD HD screens.

The Mega 5.8 and the Mega 6.3 both run Android 4.2 and will ship globally, starting in Europe and Russia in May, Samsung said in a statement. Pricing and wireless carriers have not been announced.

The trend toward bigger screens is already well-established with Samsung and other Android phone makers. Samsung's Galaxy Note IIsmartphone- tablet features a 5.5-in. display, while its upcoming Galaxy S4 will have a 5-in. HD Super AMOLED display.

By comparison, the popular iPhone 5 has a 4-in.display, the first in the iPhone line with a screen of more than 3.5 inches.

Samsung also has a penchant for offering devices in a variety of sizes and form factors. Its four basic Galaxy Tabs have displays ranging from 7 to 10.1 inches.

Samsung manufactures many of its own device components, making the cost of rolling out different sizes of devices more manageable than if it relied only on third-party suppliers.

Still, the increasing sizes of the smartphones has given some analysts pause.

"How many more sizes will we have?" asked Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi. The ideal size for one-hand usage is 4.3-in., she said, well short of what Samsung has been promoting in the past year.

She said a small person can use a smartphone with a 6-in. display, but mainly as a phone "and anything more is a push."

Milanesi suggested that Samsung may be offering the Mega as an experiment to see what customers prefer.

"I am not sure Mega is anything other than an experiment to see what consumers like, but that can be an expensive experiment," she said.

It may be an experiment that Samsung can afford. The Seoul-based company sells half of all the Android phones globally, and phones running Android make up nearly 70% of the entire smartphone market globally, according to Gartner and IDC.

But Samsung is also marketing-aware and has invested heavily in advertising its products based on market research, analysts said. "If there wasn't a market for bigger screens, the phones wouldn't sell," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "If you look around, you can find an Android device with a smaller form factor -- just perhaps not with the latest Snapdragon or Tegra processor."

Bigger phones tend to use the newest and most expensive chips, Gold said, partly because the overall higher price paid by consumers allows it. While bigger screens make it hard for a one-handed user, they also are easier on the eyes of older users when watching video and surfing, he added. "The market is driving the device selection," he said.

Samsung didn't say which brand of processor it is using in the Mega devices, although the Mega 6.3 will have a 1.7 GHz dual-core processor while the Mega 5.8 will have a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor. The Mega 6.3 will support LTE and HSPA+ networks, but the smaller Mega 5.3 will support only HSPA+. Both will have two cameras with 8 megapixels in the rear and 1.9 megapixels in the front.

The batteries are also different, with the larger device running a 3,200 mAh battery and the smaller a 2,600 mAh. The Mega 6.3 can come with either 8 GB or 16 GB of internal storage, but the 5.8 comes only with 8 GB of internal storage. Both can accommodate an added microSD up to 64 GB.

While the Galaxy Note II includes a stylus, neither of the Megas has one. Even so, Samsung claimed the Mega devices are a mix of a smartphone and tablet that can support multitasking while being held in one hand.

Screen size is not the only difference between the Mega and other Samsung devices. With LCD screens in the Mega devices and their less expensive dual-core processors, their prices will likely come in below the Galaxy S4 with its Super AMOLED-ready display, analysts said.

The GS4 will also have either the 1.6 GHz Exynos 5 Octa quad-core chip inside (with eight cores, but only four working at any time) or the U.S version of GS4 with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor.

The GS4 is expected to go on sale in the U.S. for $200 plus a two-year contract sometime in the second quarter, but possibly by the end of April, according to some reports.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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