Review: 'Mega' phone is huge, with limited appeal

Sep 04, 2013 by Anick Jesdanun
The Samsung Galaxy Mega, left, Samsung Galaxy S4, center, and Apple iPhone 5 are shown in this photo, in New York, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013. With a screen measuring 6.3 inches diagonally, the Galaxy Mega is almost as big as a 7-inch tablet computer. The difference: It makes phone calls. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Please turn off all electronic devices, the flight crew instructs as we approach Los Angeles. With a small phone, I might have gotten away with ignoring safety regulations. Samsung's new Galaxy Mega phone was too conspicuous for that.

The Mega shouldn't even be called a phone, if it weren't for the fact that it makes . With a screen measuring 6.3 inches (16 centimeters) diagonally, the Mega is more like a small Android . It shares the tablet's advantages in showing more detail in photos and video. Text is larger and easier to read, too.

That doesn't make the Mega practical, though.

As a phone, it's huge. It doesn't fully fit in the pocket of my jeans, and it sometimes pokes at my stomach when sitting. It doesn't feel comfortable in my hands. I'm unable to grip it tightly because it's so wide, so I feel as if it's going to slip out of my hands. Without that grip, I also feel that it'll be easy for a thief to snatch it away.

A friend jokingly said that it was bigger than her head as she held it up to her ear. A cousin called it ridiculous. A co-worker pointed out that cellphones used to be big, too—in the 1970s.

It could have been worse.

Samsung's Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet has an 8-inch (20.3-centimeter) screen, its diagonal length just a quarter larger than the Mega's. But the tablet is about twice the size of the Mega, in part because it has a thick frame. With the Mega, the screen stretches close to the edge, keeping the overall device relatively slim. Held on its side like a movie screen, the Mega is about as wide as a dollar bill, but slightly taller.

AT&T Inc. is selling the Mega for $150 with a two-year service contract, or $480 without one. By contrast, smaller phones such as Apple's 4-inch (10-centimeter) iPhone 5 and Samsung's 5-inch (12.7-centimeter) Galaxy S4 typically go for $200 with a contract and more than $600 without.

The Mega also costs just half of AT&T's contract price for Samsung's 5.5-inch (14-centimeter) Galaxy Note 2. It's like getting a bigger screen for less. The Mega is only a tad heavier—at 7 ounces (198 grams), compared with 6.4 ounces (181 grams) for the Note 2. (Samsung is expected to announce the Note 3 in Berlin on Wednesday evening.)

The Samsung Galaxy Mega, left, Samsung Galaxy S4, center, and Apple iPhone 5 are shown in this photo, in New York, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013. With a screen measuring 6.3 inches diagonally, the Galaxy Mega is almost as big as a 7-inch tablet computer. The difference: It makes phone calls. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The Mega is also coming to Sprint and U.S. Cellular. Dates and prices haven't been announced.

Although I don't see myself using the Mega, I can see its appeal to those who are willing to carry along a tablet computer but don't want to carry a second device—the phone.

The Mega gives you many of the benefits of tablets. With the larger screen, I can read small print on websites without zooming in, and I make fewer mistakes when trying to click on buttons and links. For e-books, I get a screen size that feels closer to a paperback. I see slightly more content when checking email or Facebook. I don't see a whole lot more, though. Typically, text and images simply get larger to fill out the additional screen space.

Some Android apps have been adapted to take advantage of the tablet's larger screen, but for the ones I checked, apps appear on the Mega as they would on other phones. With the Foursquare social network, for instance, a map showing nearby friends and venues is squeezed into a rectangular banner at the top when held vertically. On tablets, the map is allowed to fill out the entire right half of the display.

It's a shame that the display isn't sharper. The resolution is 233 pixels per inch, compared with 441 for the S4 and 326 for the iPhone 5. Video looks dull on the Mega by comparison.

And fans of the Note might be disappointed with the Mega. Although the Mega has a larger screen, it doesn't come with a stylus, something the Note is known for.

I am impressed by the Mega's battery life. Despite the larger screen, which uses more energy, the Mega outlasted Samsung's flagship phone, the S4, in streaming video on Netflix. I got nearly six hours on the Mega, compared with nearly five hours on the S4. The Mega is packed with a larger, higher-capacity battery—something the S4 couldn't have because of its size.

As with other Samsung phones, the Mega comes with an array of Samsung apps, including ones for translating text, taking notes and controlling a TV by turning the phone into a remote control. There's also an easy mode with limited options for first-time smartphone users, plus ways to perform tasks without actually touching the phone. Some of these features can be useful. Others are gimmicky or duplicate what comes standard with other phones running Google's Android system.

I decided to use the Mega to finish reading the e-book "Up in the Air" near the end of my flight to Los Angeles. I figured it was fitting given that its main character spends his life racking up frequent flier miles on planes. But a flight attendant spotted it on my lap and said, "You can turn that off now, please."

Busted.

About 20 minutes later, we landed. I called my brother to pick me up at the airport. For that, I used the smaller iPhone 5.

The Mega remains a novelty that will appeal to people who primarily want a tablet and make few calls. For everyone else, small is the way to go.

Explore further: Galaxy Mega: New 6.3-inch Samsung phone approaches tablet size (Update 2)

1.6 /5 (7 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New Samsung tablets mimic Galaxy phones

Jun 24, 2013

Samsung is making its tablet computers look more like its hit Galaxy phones in the hope that the success of the smartphones can boost tablet sales.

Review: Two giant phones decent, but not for size

Dec 12, 2012

Over the past few years, smartphones have gradually gotten bigger and tablet computers have gotten smaller. So it should come as no surprise that devices in between are starting to emerge.

Samsung reveals new Galaxy Note II

Aug 29, 2012

Fresh off a legal battle with Apple, Samsung is announcing a new version of the Galaxy Note, an offbeat, oversized smartphone that's become a surprise hit.

Recommended for you

Five features an Amazon phone might offer (Update)

Apr 18, 2014

A report this week in The Wall Street Journal that Amazon is planning to release a smartphone has prompted industry analysts and technology blogs to muse about what the device might offer.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

evropej
not rated yet Sep 04, 2013
Bigger phone is not better phone. Once the size reaches that of a tablet, then its a tablet. Call a spade a spade.
Soylent_Grin
3 / 5 (2) Sep 04, 2013
Once the size reaches that of a tablet, then its a tablet.

...and when tablets can make phone calls...
evropej
not rated yet Sep 04, 2013
Once the size reaches that of a tablet, then its a tablet.

...and when tablets can make phone calls...


My PC can make phone calls, maybe we should carry those like boomboxes :)

More news stories

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

A homemade solar lamp for developing countries

(Phys.org) —The solar lamp developed by the start-up LEDsafari is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people ...

UAE reports 12 new cases of MERS

Health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have announced 12 new cases of infection by the MERS coronavirus, but insisted the patients would be cured within two weeks.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...