I am actually not surprised at the news that Samsung has shipped (not sold) 5 Million Galaxy Note smart phones. Given that it is doubtful that Samsung will reveal actual sales figures as well as regional breakdowns, my educated guess is that most of these devices were shipped and sold in Korea, as also pointed out by this CNET article.
If they shipped or sold nearly that many in the US that would be impressive but just like the first Galaxy Tab, I have a strong hunch the device was appealing in Korea. What this proves is how potentially different each region may be in terms of their consumer preferences. This is key to understanding these markets because the way in which different regions mature with regards to smart phones and tablets has huge impacts on regional device strategies.
My firm has a history of researching and studying consumer adoption cycles of technology products. What is becoming clear to us is that each regional consumer base may not have universally similar traits. This is reminiscent of much of the miniaturization efforts of Notebooks and other gadgets from Toshiba and Sony and their wild success in Japan alone. Of course both of those companies were based in Japan so of course Japanese consumers would be loyal. However, Japanese consumers did have a desire for smaller gadgets which is why many of those products were successful there and almost no where else in the world.
This again is what I think is happening with the Galaxy Note and there is of course nothing wrong with devices having regional success. In fact strategically designing for not only market segments but also regions is a smart global strategy.
I actually applaud Samsung’s efforts to differentiate and experiment with new form factors and use cases. The Note is positioned uniquely in the market both in terms of size and with the pen accessory and that alone is enough to get some consumers to at least check it out. This is one of the better examples of late of an Android device being designed to stand out in the sea of sameness that is Android devices.
Whether or not these devices are mass market or even global successes is largely irrelevant for the time being. What matters is that consumers are exposed to a variety of different choices and options with regards to their technology.