Is Samsung's Galaxy Mega Android smartphone lineup just too big?

Is the Galaxy Mega a big, awkward phone or a small, potentially expensive tablet?

While the issue of size creep in Android phones hasn't exactly been ignored, big devices have become so commonplace that the discussion is largely academic at this point -- the vast majority of high-end Android phones are simply big. Deal with it, as a certain former Microsoft employee might say.

Nevertheless, the announcement of Samsung's Galaxy Mega line is a clear indication that it's time to revive the discussion.

[ MORE ANDROID: HTC's Q1 profit sinks to record low ]

There's an argument to be made that the two titanic devices are the results of engineers running amok -- designed with total focus on wow-worthy feature sets, and zero consideration of the possibility that people with hands smaller than Dikembe Mutombo's might not dig the 6.3-inch form factor.

The Megas, strangely, have less impressive hardware than Samsung's own Galaxy S 4 - despite the outsized dimensions, the devices lack quad-core processors, 1080p screens, and pack 1.5GB of RAM instead 2GB. (Oh, and despite Samsung's emphasis on camera features, the Galaxy S 4 has them beat there, as well.)

That's not to say that they're bad devices, exactly -- a big screen is still a big screen, even at 720p, and they look to be powerful enough to provide a good user experience even on their ever-so-slightly downgraded hardware. And the 6.3-inch model, at least, packs a beefy 3,200 mAh battery, which should provide solid endurance.

The Megas' appeal may come down to pricing, which Samsung didn't reveal in its announcement. If the asking price is less than that of, for example, the Galaxy S 4, the case could be made that the Megas represent a good value if you're a particularly enthusiastic mobile media consumer.

But, like all tweeners, the Megas run the risk of being neither one thing nor the other -- either it's a big, awkward phone or it's a small, potentially expensive tablet with a mobile subscription. I guess if you need a tablet that does 3G/4G and also fits in your pocket, the Megas are the devices for you. Samsung says they'll be rolled out first in Europe and Russia in May, with other markets to follow.

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Samsung may also be headed in the other direction, sizewise, if a rumor reported by SamMobile is to be believed -- the Galaxy S 4 mini will hit retailers' shelves around the end of May or beginning of June.

It's not going to be all that small, according to the rumor site -- which points out that, with a 4.3-inch screen, the Galaxy S 4 mini will be the same size as the full-size Galaxy S 2.

The Galaxy S 3 mini was a fairly uninspired offering, so here's hoping Samsung has decided to make sure the latest "mini" version is a little bit closer to its namesake in terms of performance.

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Another new release this week is the ZTE Geek, a fairly standard 5-incher with a 720p screen, 1GB RAM, wireless charging, and -- most notably -- a 2GHz Intel Atom Z2580 processor, the first to use the company's latest mobile chipset.

Unfortunately, for those of you wowed by that clock speed, it doesn't seem likely that the Geek is headed to U.S. shores anytime soon. It's a shame, because I'd be interested in checking out the Geek and any further ZTE developments, which I'm going to assume will be called the ZTE Nerd, ZTE Basement-Dweller, and ZTE Neckbeard.

(H/T: Android Guys)

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From the "in-no-way-terrifying-and-anxiety-inducing" department -- one presenter at the Hack in the Box security event in Amsterdam demonstrated that it's possible to use an Android phone to hack into electronics used on commercial aircraft. According to a report from The Register, researcher Hugo Teso said he can effectively fly a commercial airliner from an Android device, thanks to major vulnerabilities in the software used for navigation and automatic piloting. (Wisely, he did not disclose the exact nature of his exploits.)

Teso, thankfully, noted that the flaws are easily patched and that manufacturers and the FAA are working to solve the problem.

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The Play store got a facelift this week (see right), and Android users should see the more colorful, clean-lined interface popping up on their devices over the course of the next few weeks.

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Delays in getting the critically acclaimed One to market have torpedoed HTC's profits, the company reported Monday. This highlights the fact that it wouldn't just be embarrassing for the Taiwanese OEM if Samsung gets the Galaxy S 4 onto the shelves first, despite having announced much later -- it would be potentially catastrophic. HTC has until April 26 to avoid that fate.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.

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Tags MicrosoftsmartphoneswirelessNetworkinghtcsoftwareData CenterPChardware systemsconsumer electronicsZTEConfiguration / maintenanceGoogle Android smartphoneGalaxy MegaSamsung AndroidGalaxy S 4 mini

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Jon Gold

Jon Gold

Network World
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