If you want to maximize the screen size of your phone and get a bevy of features, you should check out the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. The Note 2, with its 5.5″ screen, can do double duty as a phone and as a small tablet, earning it the moniker of “phablet”. But the Note 2 is much more than a large phone. The Note 2 has plenty of unique features to make it a compelling choice for those in the market for a new smartphone.
The Note 2 is the sister phone to the Samsung Galaxy S3, running Android 4.1, Jelly Bean. Most of the Jelly Bean features listed in 10 Features My Galaxy S3 Has that Your iPhone Doesn’t also come on the Note 2, such as Video Overlays and Smart Shot. This article focuses mostly on the many features that are unique to the Note 2.
The most obvious feature of this phone is its size. For a phone it may seem mammoth at first, but once you start using the phone you will quickly appreciate having the extra screen real estate to surf the web, read email, watch videos, take notes and use many of the Note’s innovative features.
I quickly became spoiled by the Note’s screen size. After using the Note 2, going back to the small 3.5″ screen of my iPhone 4S seemed uncomfortable. I usually bring my iPad with me when I’m headed out the door, but when I had the Note 2 with me, I found that I didn’t need to take my iPad along. When I went to a more formal event, I was able to fit the Note 2 in my evening bag without a problem.
As I tested the phone, I repeatedly heard from friends that the Note 2 was “too big”. Men were concerned that the phone wouldn’t fit in their pockets, but they quickly discovered that wasn’t an issue when they actually tried it. Unless you’re a tween, a supermodel, or a tween supermodel, you shouldn’t have an issue fitting this phone in your pocket.
Holding the Note 2 in my hand wasn’t a problem. I was concerned that long phone conversations might be uncomfortable but that didn’t happen. In fact, I quickly became engaged in the conversation and forgot I was holding the Note 2.
Where the size of the Note 2 may become an issue is if you use your phone when you exercise. If you’re a runner, for example, having a large phone on your run may be inconvenient.
In short, I enjoyed having a phone with a 5.5″ screen, but you have to see if it fits in your lifestyle. Just don’t dismiss the phone as being “too big” until you hold it and see if it fits in your pocket.
If you have smaller hands or want to use the phone with one hand, you can activate One-handed Operation in Settings. This will display smaller versions of the phone keypad, keyboard, calculator and password unlock screens. You can activate this feature for each of these individually or for all of them at once.
S Pen Stylus
A killer feature of the Note 2 is its stylus, called the S Pen. The S Pen is not your father’s stylus. The S Pen feels futuristic and is loaded with so many features that you wonder how such a svelte stylus could be so potent. If you don’t like using a stylus, you can keep it nestled in its nook and use your fingers on the touch screen. But this S Pen is so powerful you may quickly become a stylus convert.
When you use the S Pen, you can insert handwritten notes into calendars, email and notes. If you find handwriting easier or you remember ideas better when they’re in your own handwriting, then you will enjoy the ability to handwrite on your screen.
Samsung has done an excellent job of making the S Pen feel like an actual writing instrument. You can use the stylus at wide angles and the pressure you put on the pen affects how the markings appear on the screen.
While writing handwritten notes may be easier for you than typing, sometimes you would prefer to read typed text rather than your handwritten notes. No problem. The Note 2 can transform your handwriting into text. With the Handwriting-to-Note feature, the phone will translate your handwriting into typed text. This feature also works for shapes, so a wobbly hand-drawn circle can become a perfectly round circle.
This transformation is taken a step further with Formula Match. You can jot down a mathematical formula and the phone will transform it into a typewritten formula. You can even have the phone solve the equation for you using search engine Wolfram Alpha.
The S Pen can also make using the phone easier. You can use the phone for shortcuts such as taking a photo of the screen. You can even crop the photo using the S Pen. Use the S Pen to copy and paste, access frequently used apps, preview photos, and perform many other functions with this super stylus.
The S Pen is so powerful that it doesn’t even need to touch the screen. You can hover the stylus over the screen to highlight objects, see more information in pop up windows, and activate preview screens.
Keeping Track of Your S Pen
One of the biggest challenges with having a stylus is, well, not losing it. Few things are more frustrating than going for your stylus only to find an empty slot where you forgot to return it.
Samsung solved this annoying issue by virtually tethering the S Pen to the Note 2. You can set up the S Pen to alert you when you walk away with your phone, leaving the S Pen behind. I tested this feature plenty of times (mostly by accident) and was able to keep track of my S Pen without a problem.
Also see, Android Authority Samsung Galaxy Note 2 – Top 5 S Pen Apps!
If you like multitasking, then you’ll love the Multi Window feature of the Note 2. With Multi Window you can open two windows on your screen, side by side. You can watch a video while checking email. You can be surfing the Net while responding to a text message.
Multi Window even lets you easily adjust the size of each window with a slider bar.
Multi Window only works with certain apps and you must activate the feature in settings.
The phone comes with an 8.0 MP camera in back and a 1.9 MP camera in the front. As you might imagine with this phone, the camera comes packed with features. One of the coolest features is Best Shot, which you will love if you take group shots of your family, a sports team, class room, etc. With Best Shot you can take a picture of up to 20 people and then the phone will help you choose the best shot of each person and mesh the best pictures of each person into a photo. If you’ve ever had a great group photo except for one person blinking, you will enjoy this feature.
I’m not much of a photographer, but here are some images taken with the Note 2 under different lighting conditions:
In addition to the features listed above, the screen is bright and beautiful, delivering a stunning visual experience. The phone is fast, with 4G LTE connections and a very powerful processor. You can see that the phone has a lot going on “under the hood” as the scrolling and page loading are smooth and fast.
If you like your phones simple, don’t worry about all of these powerful features making the phone complicated. You can use the Note 2 as a basic Android smartphone if the added screen space is your main motivation for getting this phone and you don’t want to bother learning new features. If you like to delve into the depths of a phone to figure out the added features, the Note 2 will not disappoint you. Between the S Pen, Jelly Bean, Multi Window and other features, you could spend quite a while harnessing the power of this phone.
To help you figure out which features the Note 2 has and how to use them, the phone has a handy Help section, complete with instructional videos. These can walk you through how to use these amazing features or help give you a reminder if you forget. Just click on the Help icon in the Apps section to access this information.
If you want even more help, check out the free Samsung apps GALAXY Note II User’s Digest and GALAXY Note S Pen User Guide from Google Play. These apps will help give you tips and tricks to help you make the most of your Note 2.
You may think that with the big screen and all of the features of the Note 2, you’d have to carry around a couple of extra batteries to make it through the day. You would be very wrong.
The battery life on the Note 2 is almost too good to be true. If you’re used to charging your phone every night, you may just get out of that habit. In my testing the battery on the Note 2 lasted several days between charges. When I took the Note 2 to New York for the weekend and tested the Field Trip app (see Field Trip – Discover the World Around You!), I never took the charge cord out of my suitcase. The Note 2 lasted all weekend and into Monday morning without needing extra juice.
According to the Verizon Wireless website, the battery has:
- Usage time – up to 22 hours OR
- Standby time – up to 250 hours
No phone is perfect, including the Note 2. You may consider the large size to be a negative, though I personally would put the size in the Pros instead of the Cons. I realize a phablet isn’t for everyone, some will prefer a smaller smartphone. But I urge you, before you rush to judgment, to look at the screen and to weigh how important a large screen is versus having a smaller phone. While some may say that they have small hands and don’t want a small phone, my 14-year-old daughters have small hands and thoroughly enjoyed using the phone.
The phone feels solid, but the back is made from plastic and feels cheap when you remove the back cover. The back looks like metal and fooled one techie friend of mine who was surprised when he found out the back was made of plastic. If you don’t like the look and feel of the back of the phone, get a cover.
That’s it. I really can’t find any other quibbles about the phone. Yes, it’s a great phone.
If you’re considering getting an Android phone, you should consider the Note 2. Don’t write the phone off because of its size. The features of the phone and the S Pen make this a worthy candidate for your consideration. Once you get spoiled by this phone, you will wonder how others manage without one.
Have you seen a Samsung Galaxy Note 2? Do you like using a stylus? Do you like the Multi Window feature? What do you think of the size of the phone? Let us know in the Comments section below!
Many thanks to Verizon for lending the Note 2 to me for review.