No really. In most ways, it’s just another current generation Android device. Other than the interesting addition of a stylus and some apps that use it, nothing else really stands out other than the battery life and the fact that it has a nearly tablet-sized screen.
In other words, it’s huge.
Now, for someone like me who has big hands and has had problems with the small form factor of previous phones, the size is not a problem, but I hardly represent the average in that regard. Even though I do have big hands, I still find myself using the phone more often like a tablet than I do like a phone.
I have no problem with that kind of usage because I kind of bought the phone for that purpose, but I can see how it could become off-putting for quite a few people. It turns out that there really is a maximum size to a smartphone, and the Note II is pretty much it.
As for the function of the phone itself, it does what I want it to do. The stylus and bundled apps seem a little gimmicky, but I suspect that’s mostly because there are virtually no non-Samsung apps out there that utilize the capability. If such apps materialize, the stylus could become very useful indeed.
The screen real estate means that a lot of apps just work better on the Note II. They’re easier to see, read, and interact with simply because they’re bigger. I especially enjoy interacting with apps like Evernote more on the Note II than I did on previous phones.
The other advantage of the Note II is battery life. Given that the phone is so physically large, it has a lot of room for a big battery, and the one Samsung included is easily up to a day’s worth of tasks without needing to be recharged. This is a big change from previous Android phones I have owned where battery life was an issue.
Overall, I would recommend the Note II to anyone who has needs similar to my own based on this first impression. For everyone else, I’d suggest looking at other phones first.
It turns out that I have always been a PDA (as in personal data assistant) sort of guy. I loved my Jornadas and was suitably happy with my iPaqs. They did the things I needed them to do as a technology guy, writer, and geek.
As a result, I was sad when the advent of the smartphone killed the PDA off. Now, some people would argue that the smartphone was merely the melding of the cell phone and the PDA, but I would argue they are wrong. Smartphones have never really been very good phones and they have certainly been, at best, adequate PDAs for the kinds of things I tend to use them for.
What kind of things, you might ask? For example, I wrote all 70,000 words of the draft of my first novel on one of my iPaqs. I used my first Jornada as a mobile data collection tool way before apps like Evernote. The point is that I don’t just need a mobile address book and calendar. I need a mini computer that I can almost always be sure to have with me.
Which brings me back to the Frankenstein’s monster that is the modern smartphone. I’ve had several over the years, including HPs early Windows phones, a couple of Motorola entries, and HTC Fuze, and now a Droid 2 Global. They’ve all sucked at what I want them to be best at doing.
What I’ve discovered that I miss most about my PDAs that my smartphones have been terrible at is acting as a kind of personal tricorder. It’s not enough to have a camera and a note taking app. Everything on the device has to integrate and work the way I want when I want it to. My PDAs did that. My smartphones don’t.
Which then brings me to the Samsung Galaxy Note II. The reviews all agree that it is, at best, a mediocre phone. I don’t care because I’ve made about one voice call in the past six months. I have enough roll over minutes to never pay for them again.
No, what the Note II brings to me is the first smartphone designed to collect data. As a writer and a technologist, collecting data is the heart of what I do. The Note II promises to do it well, and that’s the best selling point any company could have for me.
I will grant that the Note II isn’t for everyone. If you use your smartphone as a phone, don’t buy it. If you prefer the tablet form factor over the smartphone form factor, don’t buy it. But, if you need a tablet-like device that you can carry with you everywhere you go, I think the Note II is the right choice.
I will find out soon enough if I’m right. And I will be sure to let you know what I find out.