Samsung’s Galaxy Note II: U.S. Carriers Show the Phablet Some Love

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For a product that was supposed to be niche, Samsung’s Galaxy Note II sure has a lot of interest from wireless carriers.

In the United States, the Galaxy Note II will be available by mid-November on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless — that’s all four major carriers — as well as U.S. Cellular.

It’s rare for any phone to get that kind of broad availability, let alone a phone-tablet crossover. The Note II’s 5.5-inch display is the largest of any phone on the market. Though it’s a little narrower than the original Note’s 5.3-inch display, it’s also taller.

(MORE: Hands On with Samsung’s Galaxy Note II: Even Bigger Screen, Nicer Pen, More Refinement)

U.S. carriers approached the original Note with caution. AT&T didn’t pick it up until three months after it launched in overseas markets. T-Mobile started carrying the Note in August, but has stopped selling the device online, presumably as it waits for the sequel. Verizon and Sprint skipped the Note altogether.

This time around, the delay between international and U.S. availability will only be one month. The Note II will be ready for the holiday shopping season, and more widely available than its predecessor.

What’s changed? For one thing, the phone-tablet hybrid concept has proved its worth. As of August, Samsung had shipped 10 million Notes worldwide, according to The Verge. Sure, the oversized screen may look a bit silly during phone calls, but calling is in decline anyway, and the larger device brings its own advantages, including a roomier keyboard, easier reading and, in the case of the Note, a built-in stylus holder. If you’re willing to sacrifice easy one-handed use and have a big enough pocket or purse to fit the device, you’re good to go.

Besides, smartphones are getting larger anyway. People like bigger, and phone makers are rolling with it. Samsung and HTC have both released flagship phones with 4.7-inch to 4.8-inch screens this year, and Motorola and LG plan to do the same. Even Apple’s iPhone 5 gained a half-inch in screen size compared to earlier versions. While a 5.5-inch display may have seemed absurd a year ago, it’s not unthinkable anymore.

My guess is that we’re now at the upper bound for screen size, and as smaller, high-resolution screens become easier to produce, we may even see screen sizes come down a bit. But right now, these are high times for gargantuan smartphones, and Samsung is living large.

VIDEO: Samsung’s 5.3-inch Galaxy Note: Phone or Tablet?