Cross posted from Random Thoughts
By Warren C. Bennett
Those of you that have been reading my blog for a while know I recently purchased a Galaxy Note II. Since I’ve owned the phone a little over a month now, I thought I’d take some time and write down some thoughts. The long and short of it is the Note II is best phone I’ve ever owned. The 5.5-inch screen is just the right size to be both a phone and a tablet, letting me use the device comfortably in a number of ways. I am happy I purchased it and plan to keep the phone for at least two years.
I know the Note II might seem like it is a big phone, but the form factor is thin enough that it slips in to my pocket easily. I feel no discomfort at all when I am walking around with the device, be it at a grocery store or church or another function. I don’t like keeping it in the pocket when I am sitting down, but I am not fond of keeping much in my pocket when I am sitting. I do find that I prefer to use a Bluetooth earpiece while talking on it. However, it can be easily used as a regular handset and I do use it as such on occasion. I still prefer using the Bluetooth earpiece when I talk. As a phone, the sound is clear and I’ve had no issues with the Verizon network that I use.
(As an aside: I bought the Plantronics M55 Bluetooth earpiece. I’ll have to do a write-up on that at a later date.)
The phone is aptly named. One thing I really love about the device is the S-pen stylus. I never thought I’d go back to handwriting anything, but I find myself doing so with the Note II. I am even searching for apps that make great use of the stylus, instead of just being smart phone apps. (I’ve found a few I love and will be doing a write-up on them as well.) Since the phone has a Wacom Digitizer inside, the stylus works very well at taking notes and drawing. Since I am currently working on a web comic, this is helping me start to sketch out ideas for the characters. I am so impressed with the tech that I am going to look for a 10-inch or bigger tablet to use as a pad to draw on. Although I thought the S-pen stylus was a neat idea, I never thought I’d use it as much as I am.
Since this device is a pocket-sized super computer, I also use it as one. I wasn’t overly fond of the stock browser so I decided to download Google’s Chrome browser. One perk of using Chrome is that both my desktop Chrome browser and my mobile one sync up. I can see what I’m viewing on either device regardless of what I am using. Very nice. I want to use this device as a productivity tool. I am planning to get the Samsung Smart dock for easy plug and play monitor support. I can download apps that will let me use my desktop remotely; creating a great portable workstation, I can take with me on the go. I have several different office apps and access to Google Docs, so I have no worries about productivity-oriented applications. I can imagine taking this on the road with me, just packing a small screen and a keyboard. While in a hotel I could use it like a desktop and while out and about, I can use it like a mobile device.
Since the screen is so big, I find myself using it to read books. At five point five inches, it isn’t much smaller than a typical Amazon Kindle. It is a bit smaller than the 7-inch tablets, but I find the size isn’t as big of an issue as I imagined when I read. It isn’t much smaller than a typical paperback book page, making the Note II a great device to read with on the go.
The screen size is also big enough for me to feel comfortable playing games on. I’ve played an assortment of titles from Angry Birds to The Bard’s Tale to Shadowgun Deadzone, an action oriented multiplayer online game. Not all games are perfect, some games still have a lack when it comes to touch controls, but this is the first phone I’ve enjoyed using as a game system. It helps that my thumbs aren’t constantly in the way as they were on smaller phones. I can sit back and play Order and Chaos Online with no issue or try to frog people in the aforementioned Shadowgun Deadzone with ease. I still would prefer physical controls on many games, but I am not missing them as much as I thought I would. The graphics are also very good. The system pumps out some amazing visuals that I am very happy to look at.
I also use this phone for media capabilities more than I find myself using the Note II to stream music quite a bit. I have an LG sound bar that has Bluetooth capabilities and I use this feature constantly as I am working. I use apps on my phone like Winamp, Pandora, and TuneIn Radio to stream audio from my phone to the speaker system all the time. I also find I love using my phone to control the YouTube app on my Playstation 3. I am not fond of how the PS3 YouTube app is laid out; it is hard to search/find videos and such using the app. Since I paired my phone with my YouTube account, I can use it to search and queue up videos to watch. That is a very nifty feature. I am looking in to using it to stream video to my TV set up as well, but haven’t had the chance to dig in to that.
There are two different cameras mounted on the Note II. The first is a 1.9 megapixel front facing camera, so people can show their face while chatting. The second is an 8 megapixel on the back, for using to take regular pictures. Both cameras take both video and still pictures. I think the quality of the pictures is phenomenal, matching or beating other dedicated pocket-sized pont and shoot cameras. There seems to be a bit of an issue in darker areas, but the phone also comes equipped with an LED flash. I’ve been exploring the different camera apps on Google Play while I find out exactly how the camera works. It has been fun.
The battery life is also stellar. I am what you might call a power user; I tend to use my phone constantly. When I am using the device during the day, I can get 10 to 12 hours of battery life out of it. When the phone is on standby, the battery life goes up significantly. I haven’t had any mobile electronic device with a battery life that lasts this long. I am truly impressed with the stock battery. There are aftermarket batteries that extend the time even farther at the cost of making the device a bit more bulky.
With every list of positives there has to be some negatives. There are a few issues I have, though they are minor. Although the Jelly Bean version of the Android OS is very smooth and fixes many of the issues with the previous incarnations, there are still some lingering issues. Some programs will force close for no apparent reason, leaving me to wonder why the program closed. This happens much less than in the past, but it still happens. I also wish I had a physical keyboard. I’m sure that as I use this device, I will become used to using the stylus or just touch-typing, but I still miss having a keypad to use. I also wish there was a camera button on the outside of the device, so I could use the camera functions without having to open or unlock the screen. I don’t like having to go in to the phone itself to use the camera functions.
Since this device is so complex, I am still discovering what it can do over a month after I bought it. I honestly love that, but I know many might look on the complexity as a con. I am constantly finding new tricks that are built-in to the device, from swiping your hand to take screenshots to using the face lock function so the screen doesn’t rotate when I am looking at it.
This phone can do so much, from playing games to sketching to being a useful business device. I am impressed with the Samsung Galaxy Note II. This comes from someone who vowed never to buy a Samsung phone after having use one of the company’s entry-level handsets for a few months. This phone may not be for everyone, but it is definitely for me. I’d like to do a complete review of this device, but I don’t know when I will. However, if you are looking for a great large form phone? The Galaxy Note II is not a bad choice at all.