Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note II around a year after the first Galaxy Note, which was a venture into a path uncharted. After proving that they could do it, with impressive sales, they decided to make an even larger-screened device with even more awesomer features. The stylus becoming more than the pen it was into a quite useful part of the smartphone. And with the blend made the best smartphone there ever was. The Galaxy Note, even having a larger screen than the pioneer Galaxy Note, looked and is actually slimmer than the predecessor, only slightly taller. Samsung reduced the bezel to accommodate the extra 0.3 inches they would add to make the second generation in the Note Series.
With the Galaxy Note II we also witnessed a redefinition of multi-tasking on a smartphone, we got to see split screens, note-taking during calls, screen switching, advancement of handwriting recognition, stylus hover to reveal contents of email and photo gallery, pop up video which showed true multitasking, motion UI that allowed a user to turn the phone to mute it and many more features the average user takes quite long to fully discover. These and more are what define the Galaxy Note II. Let’s quickly go through the Note II specifications.
The Note II sports a 5.5 inch HD super AMOLED display, 720 x 1280 pixels with capacitive touch screen covered by corning gorilla glass. The pixel density is 267 ppi, way above many smartphones in the market. This is powered by a 1.6GHz Exynos 4412 Quad Core processor, Mali-400 GPU and 2GB RAM. Storage is 16GB but there are other options of 32 and 64 and is complemented by microSD support of upto 64GB. The battery is a 3100 mAh Li-Ion giving it amazing battery life. The rear camera is an 8 MP auto-focus with LED flash with Geo-tagging, touch focus, face and smile detection, image stabilization and best photo features. Video recording is at 1080p@30fps and the front camera is a 1.9Mp. It has Bluetooth 4.0, WI-Fi, DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi Hotspot, NFC and microUSB 2.0. All this inside Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean. The Galaxy Note II is currently available in Titanium Gray, Marble White, Amber Brown, Ruby Wine and Pink.
And now drilling inside the device we have:
Device Build and aesthetics
The Samsung Galaxy Note II takes after the Galaxy S III which was designed with river pebbles in mind. This is characterized by the curvy design with a rear that’s smooth like a river pebble. The back cover is still light ans plastic. Samsung’s use of plastic on their devices is partly the reason they are so light, unlike iPhones and Nokias. The home button remained guarded by the two touch sensitive controls, the back and options control that become active only when the screen is on. On the top we have the ear piece and on the left we have the invisible notifications area, on the right we have the front camera. The power button is the lone button on the right of the device while the volume rocker is to the left, at the top we have the 3.5mm earphone slot and the microUSB/Charger slot is squarely at the centre of the bottom. The S Pen is slotted in at the right corner.
Under the battery cover we have the microSD slot that can be hot swapped without need to remove the battery, the microSIM would require you to have the battery off. The back cover has the NFC extension for S Beam. The device is 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4 mm and weighs 183 grams
Samsung usually does extra work to own the Android they fit into the device. They add TouchWiz UI and a couple of applications out of the box specifically for Samsung. TouchWiz gives Samsung an extra two home-screens above the usual 5 Android home-screens. The Note Series gets even more love in a bid to make it a productivity device. Applications like S Memo, S Planner, S Suggest, Paper Artist, Music Hub, Readers Hub and Game Hub, S Voice and Allshare play.
Samsung even added two home-screen modes to make it easy finding things on the home-screens. Easy mode shows the most frequently used apps and phone settings on separate home screens to make it easier for a user to find their way around. You can edit this to add what in your opinion you use frequently. Switching between these modes is through the device>Home screen mode settings. While we are at settings, motion UI settings allow you to set some preferences guided by the motion UI feature. These are Quick glance that allows you to check key information while the screen is off, Direct call where the phone will dial the contact that is currently displayed on the screen if you move it towards the ear, smart alert vibrates when you pick up the phone to inform you that there are some missed notifications, double tap to top takes whatever application you are in to the top, pan to move icon lets you move an application icon to the other page, pan to browse images lets you move around an image when it’s zoomed in, shake to update is a feature that allows you to scan for other devices and lastly turn to mute or pause music.
Here you can also turn on the hand motion features where you could place your hand on the screen to mute it or swipe the palm to capture a screenshot.
Samsung also added blocking mode where you can add some numbers you do not intend to access you and you can then turn blocking mode on or off from a tap on the notifications. Other settings within TouchWiz are within display settings where you can turn on 0r off, the LED indicator settings for charging, low battery, notifications and voice recording. Page buddy is another interesting feature that allows you to set what action the phone will do when you either pop out the S Pen, dock the phone, insert the earphone or when you are in roaming. If you turn these on, there will be an extra page for each activity with specific applications dedicated to the activity, like if you plug in the earphones you get a page with music, videos an other applications you would use music for. You also get shortcuts for the came in the pull-down notifications on the phone. Oh, and when you tap and hold onto the settings shortcuts on the notifications area you reveal the setting options.
Other features of the Galaxy Note II include the Reader which makes mobile reading on the browser easy. Instead of the usual mobile browser with tiny characters, you can tap on a green icon that shows up on the browser to reveal a formatted page for mobile viewing with larger characters and stripping of unnecessary elements in the page, particularly if you are reading news on blogs. When you open phone contacts or messages list, you are able to call the person whose contact shows by just swiping right to call and left to send a message. Swiping left reveals messaging options from whatsapp and text. Features on this device are quite many that missing them is very easy.
The 8 megapixels camera does a lot of justice, with the clear images and touch focus. I usually find the Galaxy Note II sufficient as my main camera. This blog post is evidence of the photos that one is able to take, particularly on close up. The ability to adjust to environment is quite impressive and the camera shutter is very fast, something that was a setback in the Galaxy S II. You can also turn on low light shooting and have images in dimly lit rooms quite visible. The photo editor and paper artist apps complement the camera to add filters and other nice things like frames and image effects.
Have you ever heard anyone complain about the battery life on the Galaxy Note II? Well the 3100 mAh battery does Galaxy Note II huge justice considering all the apps, screen real estate, screen resolution and processing power that goes in the entrails of Note II. I have been using this device as my main phone and save for the times when I have to rely on tethering of data, I live on one charge a day quite comfortably, even with a lot of tweeting, reading emails, blog posts and photos. The camera also has a feature called best faces that allows you to select the best shot of the face in-case one was caught by the shutter with the eyes closed. You will then be able to restore to the best image of the person among 5 shots taken before the shutter clicked.
The S Pen is one controversy item in the smartphone world, many asking whether it’s really necessary. With the handwriting recognition on the Galaxy Note II that is unmatched in the smartphones world, I would conform that it’s indeed an essential component. In my opinion (well this whole post is my opinion already) one is able to take notes faster on the Galaxy Note II with the S pen than with the old fashioned notebook and paper during briefings where you are probably standing without a laptop. This is then complemented by the advanced S Note that has shapes and formulas recognition so when you draw a square it straightens it. Additional advantages are that you can then export this as pdf, image file, text file or even print. Sharing is also easy in various file formats. Notes can then be synced with Evernote and Gmail as notes.
Airview is another feature that makes the S pen a darling, where you can preview contents of an image album without opening it, you can then scroll by hovering it there for seconds longer. Airview also works in videos where you hover to play a video without really opening it. Also when you open and play the video, you can then hover over the video timeline to show various sections on the video, this allows you to select a point where you will start watching from.
With the S Pen you are also able to personalize commands that you can then execute to request some features or apps, like drawing a T and setting this to open techweez.com on the browser. Easy clip, also enabled by the S pen allows you to clip any part of the screen and paste it in the clipboard for pasting in the S Note, this would come quite handy where you want to clip, say a shoe that you liked on the internet and save it on the S Note for reference.
One would assume that losing the S Pen is easy, well no, it’s not. The S Pen keeper is a feature that you can turn on in the S Pen settings so you will be alerted when the S Pen is out of it’s slot for long. The vibrate and pop up message alerts you that the S pen has stayed long out, so you won’t find yourself leaving a place without it slotted in.
This is one awesome device that is more productive than beautiful. The number of things you can do conveniently with this device are numerous. I once in a while blog fully from this device without hitches at all. In-fact the previous blog post was done from a coffee shop on the Galaxy Note II. Other than that, there are some accessories you can add to make it even function like a computer, like the official Smart Dock from Samsung. The small things like smart stay, smart alert, page buddy, airview and many others are great innovations that make this device unique. The battery life, quad-core processor, 2GB RAM and large display make it quite the productivity device that really is unmatched. Samsung differentiates itself from the competition by the software. LG tried this route with the Optimus Vu but with very minimal interest, even with low pricing.