TORONTO - When Samsung released its big, boundary-pushing Galaxy Note smartphone in Canada early last year it drew sniggers and ridicule for designing a device with such a large 5.3-inch display.
Who would want to be seen in public holding such an enormously large phone to their face? critics snickered.
Depending on their age and pop cultural background, many wiseguys likened the Galaxy Note to the clunky 1980s mobile handsets immortalized by Gordon Gecko in the film "Wall Street" and Zack Morris on the Saturday morning pre-teen favourite "Saved By the Bell."
Well, Samsung said it sold more than 10 million units of that phone and millions more of the slightly larger Galaxy Note II, which was released a few months later.
Having found that there's a market for mammoth mobile devices — sometimes called phablets, because they blend the features of phones and tablets — Samsung has upped the ante with the new Galaxy Mega.
It comes with a 6.3-inch screen, which looks just a touch smaller than a seven-inch tablet. A Samsung rep said he doesn't expect the company will try to make a phone even larger than the Mega.
The Mega slips into the side pockets of a pair of loose fitting pants if angled just right, although it's too long to covertly store in a back pocket. Don't even try with skinny or tight jeans.
It may squeeze into the inside pocket of a suit jacket or blazer but would probably create a bulge and sag.
So consider cargo pants, a purse, or some other kind of bag a prerequisite for lugging a Galaxy Mega around on a day-to-day basis.
But if you're still intrigued rather than turned off by the Galaxy Mega's size and don't consider its bulk to be a hindrance, there's a lot to like about the device.
While it can feel oversized when held to your face as a phone, it's got a very manageable form factor for using like a tablet. Despite its size it fits in one hand comfortably in either portrait or landscape orientation. And weighing in at 199 grams (that's just under half a pound) it's light enough to hold for long stretches of web browsing or video viewing without tiring.
And there's no question it's far easier to navigate the web with than the comparatively tiny iPhone, for example. There's no need to rely on stripped down mobile-friendly websites as the Galaxy Mega's browser can easily display even the busiest of pages with little to no zooming required.
The big screen is also great for streaming videos — in theory.
Samsung is positioning the Mega as a lower-end smartphone in its Galaxy lineup. It has most of the features found in its flagship Galaxy S4 but with a few notable hardware sacrifices. It's going for $100 on contract or $500 outright, compared to $180 and $700 respectively for the Galaxy S4.
To lower the Mega's price, it's built with a dual-core processor instead of quad-core power, which doesn't seem to make a major impact in performance. The phone still feels zippy enough to use with very rare bouts of annoying lag.
The Mega's 720p screen is noticeably less sharp than the 1080p screens increasingly found on today's high-end phones. It isn't always apparent while browsing the web but it's clear while watching high quality video, which appears to have more softness and artifacting compared to a high-end device. The quality is passable and may not bother many viewers but side by side with a sharper screen it's obvious the Mega isn't quite at the same level.
It's easy to poke fun at the Galaxy Mega and write it off as a gimmicky oversized phone that's bound to be a dud. But given the strong sales Samsung enjoyed with its similar Galaxy Note phones, it's clear that some consumers don't mind trading a little bit of portability for a lot more screen real estate. For them, the Mega may be exactly what they're looking for and at a discount.