by Joe Lan, CFA
Price varies depending on contract
Samsung continues to push the boundaries with “phablets,” or phones with very large screen sizes. When Samsung first released the original Galaxy Note, people were skeptical as to whether there is a market for phones of the “phablet” size. Now we know that not only is there a market for these types of phones, many consumers actually prefer these large phones over ones with more “traditional” screen sizes. After the commercial success of the original Samsung Galaxy Note, the Note II was released as Samsung’s updated version in the Note phone series.
The Samsung Galaxy Note II comes with an even larger screen than its predecessor, measuring in at 5.55 inches diagonally. Even though the screen size is very large, the phone itself does not feel too large to make calls. Make no mistake, however, this is a large phone. Using phone functions and apps, and simply typing, requires the use of two hands because your thumb simply cannot reach everywhere on the screen.
As with the original Samsung Note, Corning’s Gorilla Glass covers the entire front of the phone. An issue I continue to have with Samsung’s designs is the cheaper-feeling material of the back cover of the phone. Although I have no actual evidence other than my own sense of touch, I suspect that compared to the iPhone 5, the back of the Samsung phone is in fact made of cheaper-quality materials. For a high-end phone that costs several hundred dollars with a two-year contract, I expect a more solidly built phone and hope Samsung will rectify this in the future. It is worth mentioning, however, that Samsung may opt for this design to keep the phone light.
The Galaxy Note II was one of the first phones to ship with a quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM, which has become the new standard for high-end phones. In addition, the phone comes with an 8MP rear camera and 1.9MP front camera. The Note II also provides an expandable micro-SD slot that can hold memory cards up to 64 GB in size.
The Samsung Note II runs on Google’s Android operating system version 4.1 (JellyBean). Samsung, however, installs its own front-end touch interface named TouchWiz, which was created to make the operating system more user-friendly. The operating system does require the use of additional phone resources.
As expected, the Note II’s performance is fast and snappy with no real hiccups of any kind. In fact, the speed and responsiveness of the Note II seems noticeably better than the original Note. The improvement in performance should be attributed to both better hardware available on the phone and another year of maturity of the Android operating system along with a newer TouchWiz.
Features and Applications
One of the best features of the Note II is the stylus that comes with the phone. In the original Note, taking notes using the stylus in the S Memo app lagged, but the Note II seems much more responsive. It is also easy to copy and paste text and pictures using the stylus. Tapping on the home and return buttons at the bottom of the phone still does not work with the stylus, though, just as it didn’t with the first Note. I’m sure this is a conscious decision from Samsung, but it seems easier to be able to use the stylus for every function.
With the increased responsiveness of the S Pen, it is a shame that there are not more stylus apps. Developers are likely hesitant to create apps that use the stylus since only users of the Note and the Note II will be able to use the apps. For now, users are relegated to mostly using the stylus for the S Memo.
The best part of having a phone so large is surfing the Web, watching videos and playing games. Most new apps are made to fit well on these types of large-screen phones. The Note II, however, does not come with high-resolution display, which seems to be the trend that phones will be taking in the near future.
The commercial success of the Note II solidifies Samsung’s place as a premier maker of smartphones, especially in the “phablet” and larger-screen-size arena. Samsung now offers two main lines of phones, the Galaxy S series and the Galaxy Note series. The smaller phone, the S III, still has a screen size that is 4.8 inches, much larger than Apple’s iPhone 5. Additionally, there are rumors that the new Galaxy S4 will come with a 5-inch screen, which means Samsung will offer no phones smaller than 5 inches.
Choosing a phone is no longer as easy as choosing the phone that most “fits your eye.” With so many applications moving toward the cloud, it is important to keep in mind your entire ecosystem. If you choose to use a phone that runs on Android, you should use a tablet that runs on Android as well. Transferring files and data is much easier, rather than attempting to use a phone and a tablet running on completely different operating systems.
Price varies; From $665 at Amazon.com