American Airlines Wednesday said it plans to deploy 17,000 first-generation Samsung Galaxy Note devices to flight attendants for use onboard its planes.
The flights attendants will use the smartphone-tablet Notes device to record meal and beverage preferences, and to access some customer information -- such as a person's name, seat number and whether he or she needs special assistance. The airline will begin rolling out the devices later this year, and expects to continue distributing them through mid-2013, the airline said in a statement.
Notes was chosen following a pilot program in which several devices were tested. Feedback from the 40 flight attendants in the pilot led to the selection of the Samsung device, according to a video posted on the American Airlines website.
American said the Galaxy Note was selected for its thin design, security features, and its 5.3-in. HD display that provides easy readability. Attendants liked that they could hold the device in one hand, and also can slip it into a pocket -- which is not always possible with a larger tablet.
A flight attendant manual and other features will be rolled out to the Notes devices, wich will eliminate the need for attendants to carry paper manuals.
While Samsung calls the Note a smartphone with tablet features, American Airlines refers to it as a tablet due to its size. While the Note is equipped with a digital stylus, called the S-Pen, airline officials appearing in the video used a finger to touch the display to make commands.
American Airlines CIO Maya Leibman said the rollout of the Notes is part of a corporate program that includes adding new planes and pioneering new technologies "to build a new American and return to industry leadership."
The airline is also expanding use of tablets by pilots in the cockpit during all phases of a flight. American is the first commercial airline to receive FAA approval to use the devices in cockpits.
Officials said the company also plans to use the devices to communicate updated information on connecting gates, flight delays and weather to customers. That service requires FAA approval.
The information would be updated over Wi-Fi when the wireless networking technology is added to each aircraft, American said. American didn't comment on how or whether attendants will use Notes as phones to make voice calls.
By the end of the year, 90% of American's domestic fleet will be Wi-Fi-ready, according to American's website.
American's rollout of the Notes comes as Samsung has unveiled a slightly larger Galaxy Note II that will be available from five major U.S. carriers by mid-November.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.