Tuesday, February 12, 2013

TECH REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy Note II by Verizon Wireless

It's a really, really big smartphone - with lots of cool, useful features...

For two weeks, I had the pleasure of trying out one of the hottest smartphones on the market - the Samsung Galaxy Note II. The trend use to be that smartphones needed be be sized to fit nicely in your pocket. But now with the success of the Samsung Galaxy Note II, more smartphones are getting larger and looking more like tablets than phones.

But is a huge smartphone that has been termed a phablet (phone + tablet) really something that you would want to use on a daily basis? I found the answer to be YES!

This smartphone is BIG!!!!
The first thing you notice when taking this phone out of the box is how big it is.  The Samsung Galaxy Note II measures 5.95 x 3.17 x 0.37 inches and is even bigger than the original Note device. The size is something you will love from the get-go or something that you will have to get used to. 

My hands are very small so I initially had a lot of trouble handling the Note II.  My fingers actually hurt for the first couple of days of use because I tried to handle the Note II by gripping the edges like I would a regular size smartphone. I then wised up and started handling it like a tablet which means I just laid it flat in the palm of my hand without gripping the edges. After that change, I was able to handle the phone without killing my fingers.

Stunning Screen!!!
The Samsung Note II has a beautiful.5.5” HD Display which makes watching movies and reading books a joy.  Every time I turned this phone on I was amazed at how beautiful everything looked on this big gorgeous screen. 

A Battery that is Hard to Kill!!
In my last smartphone review, I raved about how great the battery life is of the Verizon Motorola Razr HD. Well, the battery in the Note II is even better. I used this phone all day, every day, and only had to charge the battery every three days. The Note II battery life is simply amazing.

The Note II runs smooth and fast!!
The Note II has a 1.6 GHz quad–core processor and 2 GB RAM which means everything runs super fast.  The Note II also runs Android™ 4.1, Jelly Bean, Android’s newest and fastest operating system so all the apps run very smooth.

S Pen and Near Field Communication (NFC) are cool tools...
In the past, I owned a HTC Evo View tablet with a special HTC Scribe Pen that allowed me to interact with the screen and also take notes. And that same type of technology is available using the S Pen with the Samsung Galaxy Note II.

The S Pen allows you to draw pictures and takes notes with the included notes app. You can also use the S Pen to interact with the Note II to preview emails, calendar entries and photos just by hovering over the screen with the S Pen’s Air View feature.  And also, unlike the original Note device, the S Pen can be stored in special slot on the Note II so you won't lose it.

The Samsung Galaxy Note II also features Near Field Communication (NFC) and Android Beam technologies for exchanging info with other compatible smartphones by touching phones back-to-back. This feature is great for exchanging photos, videos or just contact information.

Photo Credit: Samsung
Split Screen feature for running two apps - not what I was expecting...
One of the features that I was dying to try out was the Split Screen that allows for the use of two apps at the same time for multitasking.  I have seen all the cool Note II television ads showing this feature and it looked like a real winner.  But I ran into some problems. The television ads show people jotting down notes while watching YouTube videos and taking notes while using Gmail.

While I was able to split the screen, none of the Google apps (Gmail, YouTube) were available for use with the Split Screen feature.  I did some digging and found an online article that indicated that the Verizon version of the Samsung Galaxy Note II is not currently setup for using Google apps in split screen.  Anyone buying the Note II for this split screen functionally and wants to use Google apps needs to demo the phone at your Verizon Wireless dealer before purchase so you won't be disappointed.

Here is rundown of my thoughts on the Samsung Galaxy Note II by Verizon -

Pros -
- Runs the Jelly Bean Android OS with a quad core processor for smooth performance
- Wonderful battery life
- Stunning screen
- Great camera
- S pen comes in handy for taking notes using your handwriting
- Split screen feature allows you to work with two apps at the same time
- NFC and Android Beam for wireless data exchanging with other NFC smartphones

Cons -
- Hard to handle with one hand if you hands are not large
- No Google apps can be used with the split screen feature

Tablet Killer?
The Samsung Galaxy Note II is really an awesome smartphone with a beautiful screen, great battery life and lots of awesome features that most people will love.  If you can get over the huge size and the lack of Google apps available for use with the split screen, this smartphone is close to perfect.

For those you want to know if this "phablet" will allow to you to own one device and replace your tablet, I can only answer as follows - While I really enjoyed using the Samsung Galaxy Note II with it's cool features, I won't be giving up my Apple iPad anytime soon.

The Samsung Galaxy Note II can be purchased for $299 with a two year contract with Verizon Wireless.


Disclosure: I was loaned a Samsung Galaxy Note II for review by Verizon Wireless. All opinions are my own.

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