It's no exaggeration to say the Samsung Galaxy S3 is one of the most anticipated smart phones in tech history. Not since the iPhone 5 rumour mill began spinning its siren songs has the Internet been so deluged with a flood of 'leaked photos'.
But while Android lovers have been distractedly salivating over all that Galaxy S3 photoshoppery, they've failed to notice Samsung has already launched what it considers to be the sequel to the S2. Or so says Simon Stanford, VP of Samsung Telecommunications and Networks for Samsung UK and Ireland, speaking in an exclusive interview with CNET UK.
"The evolution in S2 is already here, it's there, it's Galaxy Note and that is a really strong device for Samsung, globally as well as in the UK," he says.
The Galaxy Note is an enormo-phone-cum-mini-tablet, which includes a stylus for doodling in a retro throwback to PDAs of yesteryear. This 5.3-inch beast straddles the gap betwixt the biggest smart phones and the smallest tablets. It's both phone and tablet, says Stanford, who reckons its whopping screen represents the perfect combo of the two devices.
"The successor [to the S2] is already here, it's the Galaxy Note," he repeats, echoing the Galaxy Note exclamatory brand tag-line: 'It's Galaxy Note!'
"People don't have to have a tablet and smart phone -- it can be done all in one device -- which is exactly what people are using it for," Stanford adds.
"The Note is the one device. It's the all in one device. I had an S2 and a tablet, now I use a Note. It's as simple as that -- because I can do everything I want from that particular product," he enthused. "The 5.3-inch screen is perfect for gaming, video, it's also ideal for PowerPoint presentations, Excel presentations, Flash presentations. I can edit those, look at them, share them."
Stanford says the Note's stylus -- or 'smart pen' in Samsungspeak -- may look like an antiquated throwback to an earlier era of input mechanisms that could be lost down the back of the sofa, but is actually a breath of fresh air in an age of identikit tech. Having slab-plus-pen enables Note users to customise and "do things differently" -- and it's really handy for Draw Something.
"The smart pen helps people personalise what is very much a sterile interaction with technology," he claims. "What people want to do is be a bit different, get individuality back... With Note you can take a picture, you can annotate it and send that straight onto Facebook -- you're doing things differently."
Samsung doesn't break out country-specific sales figures, so won't say how many Notes it has sold in the UK. But Stanford says: "The Galaxy Note is incredibly strong for us -- sales are doubling week upon week."
'No big issue with the big phone'
Does Stanford use his own Note as a phone for making calls? "I use it every single day, there's no big issue with the big phone," he tells me, holding up a pair of standard-issue business man-sized mitts that obviously don't have any trouble wrapping themselves around an enormo-phone as he barks into it.
Stanford adds, however, that the general trend is for mobile users to make fewer phone calls these days -- a tacit admission that hours of jawing into a Note clamped to your ear isn't really what it's designed for. "What we are finding is that more people are using more data and using voice less," he says. "This particular device [the Note] allows you to use all the data you can."
For S2 lovers who remain unconvinced by the Note, Stanford will only say of the theoretical Samsung Galaxy S3: "We haven't confirmed any successor to the S2. The S2 is a very, very popular device. It's the number one selling Android device in the UK and has been now for coming up to a year... Whatever the [actual] successor to the Galaxy S2 is will only help develop that further.
"Any successor to the S2 we will announce at a separate Samsung event when it's nearer commercial release -- if [there is any successor]," he adds.
Some 30,000 Galaxy S2 smart phones fly off the shelves every week in the UK, according to Stanford -- and the popularity of the hero phone has helped the company swell its UK smart phone share from 6 per cent last year to close to a third (28 per cent) today.
"That hasn't come easy so we don't want to lose it," he says. "But equally it's listening and responding to the likes of your readers who have issues -- we don't want any customers to have issues, we don't want anyone writing in and complaining."
'We're not seeing a huge drive for Windows Phone'
Android is the only mobile OS currently growing its market share in the UK, according to Stanford. Asked for his views on the rival Windows Phone platform made by Microsoft -- an OS Samsung has used on a minority of its smart phones -- he says Windows Phone is not currently a priority because Android's popularity is eclipsing it.
"As it stands at the moment we're not seeing a huge drive for Windows," he says. "We will react to consumer demand. When we see consumer demand toward another OS such as Windows of course we'll be at the helm.
"Right now Android is the fastest-growing OS in the UK. We're helping to drive that, we've got a very strong relationship with Google -- we also have our own platform, Bada, which again we take very, very seriously so we are consistently developing in those areas. We will then, when the time is right and the consumer need is there, address [Windows Phone]."
Has the close relationship between Microsoft and Nokia affected Samsung's involvement with Windows Phone? "We want to work very closely with Microsoft, and we do work very, very closely with Microsoft -- I think the relationship [between Microsoft and Nokia] doesn't really have a bearing on our working relationship with Microsoft which goes back years anyway, so we have a strong relationship there to build on," says Stanford.
'Consumers don't care about the OS'
"I don't think the average consumer really cares a huge amount, if I'm honest, about the OS outside of Apple... Google have very much captured the hearts and minds of a lot of people who want an open system. And so that translates itself into the shop staff and people selling the products who are very comfortable and very happy to continue selling Google," he adds.
"I think what you'll start seeing is more and more manufacturers bringing on more and more Windows devices. Will that slowly change [Windows Phone's fortunes]? We'll have to wait and see."
Asked whether Samsung might consider expanding its own brand shops -- currently limited to one store close to the Olympic park in Stratford, and a Samsung-branded concession in Phones 4u's flagship Oxford Street shop where our interview took place -- Stanford says it's something the company is certainly weighing up. Educating people about why they need a tablet is especially important, he says.
"We are very much looking, learning, listening and seeing the results and then will define our strategy from there on in. What we do know is that technology is such that consumers need and deserve to have an environment such as this, where they can come and see exactly what's on offer with trained staff in an environment which is not pressured.
"That's only going to help customer satisfaction. [Devices are] so complex you could spend an hour taking somebody through why they need a tablet."