The T-Mobile Note is a perfect example of how carrier exclusivities can ruin a device

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: July 30, 2012

Earlier today, you may have noticed that reviews and other content surrounding the T-Mobile Galaxy Note went live. Our own David Beren of TmoNews provided a quick look into the gigantic phablet for Magenta and gave us quite a bit of insight on how well the device has worked for him over the past five days.

All of that is well and good, and I'm glad the Galaxy Note is finally making its way to T-Mobile after months of rumors and speculation. But this irks me … probably more than it should.

It's not because I wanted the Note when I was on T-Mobile. In case some of you don't remember, I purchased an AT&T Galaxy Note, unlocked it and flashed a T-Mobile modem to it with limited success back in March. It wasn't exactly what I was hoping for – data speeds were hit or miss and it was more trouble than it was worth. But it worked decently well while I still had T-Mobile.

However, this goes much deeper than a personal vendetta against T-Mobile for not bringing the phone I wanted to their lineup while I was still a paying customer. And it really doesn't have much to do with the Note itself. The Galaxy Note is caught in the crossfire, it's simply a perfect example of how exclusivity deals with carriers can kill the potential of a device and stifle competition (as they are designed to do).

To be very clear, exclusivities may have worked well prior to the smartphone boom. It worked particularly well for Apple with their famed iPhone before the AT&T exclusivity ended last year. But times have changed and the market moves too fast for exclusive deals to really make a major impact … aside from turning away and upsetting potential customers.

Besides myself and a few colleagues, I don't know many people who would be willing to switch carriers for a phone. Instead of jumping ship and switching carriers to buy a phone, most people know they can wait it out – either for the exclusivity to end or for the successor of the device they want to launch.

But I digress. Back to the Note.

Originally, the global version of the Samsung Galaxy Note was announced in September 2011 and later launched in October. Seeing as its dual-core Exynos chipset did not support LTE at the time, the U.S. version followed in February with a Snapdragon S3 chipset and LTE capabilities. Now – over five months later – the same exact device is launching on T-Mobile with the same specifications (even down to the radios), same hardware and the asking price only a brand spankin' new device should warrant.

The problem is, five months ago, the internals of the Galaxy Note were already pushing obsolescence. Yet now, the device is already showing its age, even before its official launch, and T-Mobile isn't even willing to price it accordingly. From TmoNews' David Beren:

"The real disappointment of the Galaxy Note is the Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 processor which isn’t pokey but doesn’t feel like it’s S4 screaming. It’s disappointing, though understandable that T-Mobile took the Galaxy Note hardware as-is. The real question is how many customers will be turned off by the presence of an S3 processor. The Note scored a 2960 on the Quadrant benchmark test, well below the 4500+ I see on the Galaxy S III. That’s not to say you can’t work your way through daily tasks on the Note. You absolutely can and will do so with minimal frustration. It’s just difficult reviewing a device that certainly qualifies as running 'older' hardware when I’ve been spoiled lately with the latest and arguably best Android device on the market."

Having used the S4-powered HTC One X and Galaxy Note side by side, there is a largely noticeable difference in the performance levels. I used the Galaxy Note for about two months straight and could barely make it through an entire day without an instance of unbearable lag (both on official and unofficial software). On the HTC One X and essentially any other S4-powered handset, lag is essentially a non-issue.

Had the Note launched on T-Mobile prior to the One S and Galaxy S III, or with an S4 chip, even I would have had a hard time turning the offer down. But the device is old news, the innards are aging and there is a much more powerful and larger successor in the rumor mill. Honestly, if what you're after is a phablet … wait. The Note 2 will be worth it. Then again, it's impossible to know how long it will be before a successor launches and if some other carrier signed an exclusivity deal with Samsung.

Still, there is not a single reason I would recommend the Galaxy Note to anyone on T-Mobile, especially not for $249.99 with a two-year agreement. For $250 and two years, I would expect the best the market has to offer. Five months ago, the Note was arguably the hottest device on the market. In fact, the Note was my #1 choice in our Official Smartphone Rankings™ for nine weeks until the One X launched. But in my right mind, I could not recommend the Galaxy Note over a Galaxy S III for just a little more cash or waiting it out for a truly new device.

Despite originally being considered a very niche device, the Note has actually been respectably popular. A large number of non-AT&T customers were dying to get their hands on a Note – myself most definitely included – and some were intent enough on getting the Note on Verizon that they started a petition. Alas, AT&T's exclusivity on the Galaxy Note all but killed the potential of this device, as do most exclusive deals in the mobile industry.

Me? I would pass on the T-Mobile Note as I would hope most of you would, too. But I know there are still a ton of people out there just dying to get their hands on a 5.3-inch phone and its S Pen. Tell me, readers. Will you be sticking it out for the Note II? Or will you cave and get the Galaxy Note once its available on T-Mobile?

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