Galaxy Note II for big-screen enthusiasts
Every time I think I'm completely happy with my iPhone, I see another Android model that has a newer, bigger, faster feature that I covet.
Now I'm reviewing Samsung's new Galaxy Note II, the second-generation Note that brings all of its features together under what has to be one of the biggest screens on a phone.
It's no secret that if you're in the market for a Note II, you're screen-size obsessed.
I don't blame you.
I love the iPhone 5's larger screen, and as a person who has rather large pockets, I'd say bigger is better.
The Note II boasts a 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED screen with a resolution of 1280 by 720 pixels. To give you a size comparison, my iPhone 5's entire body fits entirely inside the screen area of the Note II.
Other specs include a 1.6 GHz quad-core processor running Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). The Note II is 5.95 inches by 3.17 inches and 0.37 inches thick. It has 2 gigabytes of RAM, and storage starts at 16 GB, with a microSD card slot to add up to 64 GB more.
The front-facing camera is 1.9 megapixels and the rear camera is 8 megapixels with LED flash. Video recording through the rear camera is 1080p HD. Built-in sensors include accelerometer, digital compass, proximity, gyro and barometer. GPS is there, too.
You'd think the Note II would be too big for one-handed use, but Samsung has thoughtfully included a special one-handed mode. If you need to type with one thumb, the size of the keyboard or phone keypad can be reduced slightly and anchored to the right or left edge.
If you've never used a Samsung Note, you'll be either pleasantly surprised or horrified that the phone has a built-in stylus. The Note II pen's features are much improved from the previous model.
The S Pen lets you draw on the screen in almost any application. Draw a map in an email, enter calendar events by hand, and even highlight days on your calendar with the color of your choice. You can even draw a box on the screen and immediately capture that screen data, copy it and paste it somewhere else.
When you hold the stylus about a centimeter above the screen, you'll see a small circle appear that moves with the stylus. This hovering is called Airview and can bring up temporary previews of things like photos and emails so you can select them more accurately. The tiny circle works just like a mouse in the browser to do things like activate popup menus.
Samsung knows Note II users are big note-takers. S Note is a combination note-taking/document creation app that's kind of like Apple's Pages app but with the ability to use pen input as well.
When you launch S Note, you're presented with templates for creating your own documents or you can start with a blank screen. You can fully customize the pen's tip, color and size and choose from other pen types, such as paintbrush or markers.
Entering text or drawings on the screen is easy with the stylus, and you can switch to typed input with the onscreen keyboard instantly. Inserting photos, graphics or audio into your notes is simple as well. Notes can be shared with other Note users via S Beam or with everyone else by converting the notes to JPG or PDF files.
The Note II and a slew of other Samsung phones have near field communication, a technology that enables the phone to read and react to chips in other devices.
Samsung describes its TecTiles stickers as “an introduction to the user-friendly capabilities of NFC beyond mobile payments.”
TecTiles are small NFC chips that can be programmed to perform actions on the phone such as turning features on or off, launching apps and setting up preloaded phone profiles. Set up what you'd like the TecTile to do and program the chip. Anytime you touch the phone to the TecTile, that action will occur.
You might have a TecTile on the door of the office conference room that turns off your phone's ringer and sets notifications to vibrate.
A TecTile in your car could be set to enable Bluetooth and connect to a Bluetooth receiver in your car, launch a navigation app and adjust the volume for turn-by-turn directions.
You can create private tags that only the owner's phone responds to and unlock previously locked TecTiles for reuse and relocking.
TecTiles are $14.99 for a pack of five and are available where Samsung phones are sold.
The Note II has more features, including a $39.99 protective flip cover that replaces the phone's battery cover.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Easy Mode, which makes the phone friendlier for users who don't want to geek out to every feature on the phone.
If you're a stylus fan and love scribbling notes, the Note II is your dream phone.
I enjoyed my time with it and could see using the Note II, as it has all of the features I'm interested in and a bigger screen than my iPhone. It doesn't disappear into my jeans pocket, but it doesn't stick out either.
The Note II was released in October and will be available on all major carriers starting around $299 with a new 2-year agreement.