Sunday, May 19, 2013

Take Note


A few weeks ago in my blog “The Great Gadget Debate”, I wrote about the plethora of mobile devices and platforms on the market these days. I became eligible for upgrade through Verizon in April, but waited an extra month for budgetary concerns and to research devices before deciding on the Samsung Galaxy Note II. Actual retail price of this “phaplet” device is $700, but I can got it for $200 from Verizon; I could have gotten it for or $150 through Amazon.com but I was to impatient to wait on the shipping. Plus, I like having the option of simply going back to the store should I have any problems or change my mind (not that I'm likely to).


As you can see in the picture to the right, the Note II (on the right) is quite a bit larger than my previous smartphone, the HTC Incredible 2. The Incredible was a great phone, and served me well for the last couple of years; recently, though, it began having issues with the battery starting to go bad and running out of storage space. Despite running most of my apps from the micro-SD card, I still had a lot of apps that could no longer get updates because the phone itself was running low on space. The Note II has 16GB of onboard storage in addition to a micro-SD slot that supports up to 32GB (I transferred my 16GB micro-SD card from the Incredible to the Note already). Some may balk at the size of the Note, but since I’ve gotten to where I read mostly ebooks these days instead of printed books, I really wanted the larger screen the Note offers. I do still have my Nook Tablet, but I was tired of having to carry two devices around; plus, the Note is better at being a tablet than is the Nook, not to mention that with the Note I have access to both the Nook and Kindle apps, so I have more options for where I can purchase ebooks. Further adding to the bulk of the phone is the fact that I have it in an Otterbox Defender case; yes it adds to the size and weight, but not that much - certainly not as much as some reviewers of the case have asserted.

Speaking of reviewers, I naturally read a lot of reviews of the phone before making my decision. I have come to the conclusion that the bad reviews are mostly the result of people who are either too stupid or too lazy to figure out who to use technology; they fall into the same category of people who complain about Windows 8. Among the more ridiculous complaints about the Note that I read online were folks who gave it only one star because the screen broke (after they dropped it because, you know, it’s Samsung’s fault you’re a clumsy oaf) and another one that apparently went into a rage because Verizon had dared put their logo on the home button (as though no other carrier puts their branding on any phone that they sell). The only real complaint I read that I might be inclined to agree with is that the phone software apparently does not allow for apps to be installed to the micro-SD card; however, with 16GB of onboard storage, if this becomes a factor for you, then you’ve got to many apps, in my opinion (I mean, really, how many apps do you need that you would use up 16GB of storage to install them all?).

As to technical difficulties that some reviewers complained about, I have yet to experience any of those problems. The Kies Air app and functionality for connecting the phone to my PC via Wi-Fi worked fine (at least in terms of actually connecting - I haven’t delved into actually using it yet); my Bluetooth headset paired to the device right away (I don’t have Bluetooth built into my car, so I cannot confirm or deny if it has any issues with pairing up a built in car Bluetooth speakerphone). Another person stated that they couldn’t email pictures via the Gmail app - totally did this at least twice already. To the guy who complained about Flash content not displaying in their browser, that’s not Verizon’s nor Samsung’s fault; keep up with what’s going on in the tech world dude - Adobe dropped mobile support for Flash several months ago (as in, before this phone even came out). Most of the other complaints/critiques I read were more of a “this phone just isn’t to my liking” after having given it fair trial, which I can at least respect.

My review, after roughly three and a half days is that I love it. I love the larger screen, I like the large form factor (for me it’s easier to hold on, especially with the Otterbox case and its rubberized back cover). The quad-core processor along with having access to Verizon’s 4G network means that web pages load pretty damn quick (almost as quick was on my laptop) and apps take seconds to download and update instead of several minutes. And, I actually really like the S-pen stylus; my fat fingers have a tendency to tap the wrong place on the screen, so having a stylus helps and I like that I can do handwritten notes with the S-Note app that came built into the phone.

Admittedly, I haven’t had it but a few days, and I’ve yet to really dig into all of its features, but so far it is the best Android device I’ve owned.

Just for fun, and to demonstrate that the S-pen makes it super easy to get screenshots, here’s the current home screen line up I’m using. That’s another thing that I like about this phone - I can add and remove home screen pages. It had the default five screens, as you can see here, I currently have four, but at one point I had seven (primarily because I kept accidentally adding screens).





So, there you have it. My initial review of the Samsung Galaxy Note II. If you’re looking for a tablet - this probably isn’t for you. If you just need a smartphone, again, this may prove to large/bulky for you. If, however, like me, you’re looking for a device that can function as a tablet and a phone so that you only have to carry one device and you don’t need a full on 10” Tablet, then you may want to give this a look.

~ JC

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