82 Comments

Summary:

So I broke down and ordered a Galaxy Note 2 from overseas. Why spend the money when I have a Galaxy Nexus phone and Nexus 7 tablet? A video demo shows how Samsung is further bridging the mobile and traditional computing space and I bought in.

android-this-week

Regular readers of this weekly column know that I typically recap interesting Google Android news from the prior week. Occasionally, I make an exception to cover one specific Android item, and today, I’m doing just that. Why? I ordered a Galaxy Note 2 from overseas on Sunday morning and it should arrive within the week.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 in greyThe new phone cost me a pretty penny — £449.98 ($727 US) delivered from the UK to the U.S.  — but I tend to buy unlocked devices off contract. I have an invitation to a Samsung press event in late October, which is likely to be the U.S. launch of the Galaxy Note 2 and if I were to buy one at full price from a US carrier, it would likely cost nearly as much anyway.

I certainly don’t need another smartphone — I currently use a Galaxy Nexus with a $45 a month Straight Talk SIM — but the idea of a device with a mix of phone and tablet form factors is intriguing to me. The original Galaxy Note did as well, but I didn’t feel it was enough of a change from my Galaxy Nexus to spend the money. This time around, I feel differently in terms of the form factor, hardware and Samsung’s updated TouchWiz software with more functionality for the included digital pen.

In fact, after watching this video demonstration, it hit me that Samsung is really blending mobile and desktop use-cases like never before and I decided to take the plunge:

A few examples from the demo illustrate what I’m talking about:

  • The new S-Pen and dual digitizer add a new hover view, similar to functionality provided by a mouse cursor on traditional computers. I originally thought this was gimmicky, but the video shows some smart uses. Hover over a calendar event and you get the details without the phone opening a completely new screen, for example.
  • The new multitasking feature that shows two apps on the screen at the same time reduces home button presses and app switching. Until recently, our smartphones and tablets have been single app at a time devices; that changes on the Galaxy Note 2 and previously, the Galaxy Note 10.1. Granted, only certain apps support this feature for now. Still, I see productivity potential here.
  • Related to the two apps on a screen simultaneously is the dock-like app launcher around the 2:07 mark in the video. There’s no need to tap a hardware button and scroll through pages of apps — our traditional smartphone user interface — when you can customize a floating dock and tap or drag an app for usage.

Galaxy Note 2 dimensionsI like that Samsung slimmed the width as compared to the original Galaxy Note. I found that device a smidge too wide for my hand. And the S-Pen was to small for me to use comfortably; the new one is longer and has a more ergonomic design. Along with these changes that further bridge the gap between desktop and mobile computing, the hardware on the Galaxy Note 2 is impressive; possibly the best for any Android phone at the moment.

The 1.6 GHz quad-core Samsung Exynos chip paired with 2 GB of memory ought to make this device blazing fast and it should be helped by the performance improvements found in Android 4.1. The 5.5-inch display uses a 16:9 aspect ratio, making the Galaxy Note 2 look like an oversized Galaxy S III. Gone is the PenTile display in 1280 x 720 found on my Galaxy Nexus (which I find quite good); the Note 2 uses an HD Super AMOLED screen in the same resolution. Pixel density is down by comparison, but I suspect the lack of PenTile will offset any clarity loss. And while I’m fine with the 5 megapixel camera found on my Galaxy Nexus, I’m looking forward to the 8 megapixel sensor and improved camera software in the Galaxy Note 2.

I’ll very likely keep my Galaxy Nexus, mainly because it gets software updates directly from Google as soon as they’re ready. Heck, I kept, and still have, my old Nexus One, purchased in January of 2010 for the same reason. It’s possible however, that a 5.5-inch phone that doubles as a pseudo-tablet could replace my Nexus 7 tablet. That’s one of the many questions I’ll be looking to answer for myself as I review the new Galaxy Note 2. Stay tuned for a video look at the device when it arrives, which of course will be followed up by a full review!

  1. The note intrigues me. Hope to see a video of your impressions after you receive it.

    By the way, do you think the James in the messaging app demo is James Kendrick??

    Share
    1. Yup, I’ll get a video up shortly after I have the device in hand. As far as the messaging app demo – you’d have to ask Samsung. ;)

      Share
  2. Hello Kevin,
    Thanks for sharing that, you mentioned something about galaxy note dual sim, is the dual sim function supported at the note2?? If this true then it Is worth ordering immediately?? Awaiting ur reply, thanks again!

    Share
    1. Loay, the model I bought isn’t a dual SIM device. I have service that supports either T-Mobile or AT&T through Straight Talk, but each has a separate SIM. Hope that helps.

      Share
      1. Yes it will come in with a dual sim features, these are the rumors in China:

        N7102 for China Unicom, WCDMA + GSM, Dual SIM

        N7108 for China Mobile, TD-SCDMA/GSM, Single SIM

        N719 for China Telecom, CDMA2000 + GSM, Dual SIM

        It will be available at the end of December :)

        Share
  3. When you get your Note II, can you upload a speedtest video using your straight talk sim? I don’t know if straight talk is good for an out of the states phone. thanks!

    Share
    1. Ram, I’ve done a number of speedtests using ST SIMs (for both T-Mo and AT&T’s networks) and they give the same HSPA+ speeds as a native operator SIM. There’s no speed limitation.

      Share
  4. Phillip Hartier Sunday, September 30, 2012

    I just picked up the first Note. I was gonna be content and wait a bit for the 2, but the more I read about it… Less width and bigger stylus are excellent improvements. Loving the Note!

    Share
    1. Phillip, I am just wondering now what real differences there are between the 1 & 2. Kevin would you be willing/able to comment on that in your review?

      Share
      1. Note 1 = Dual core processor, 1gb of RAM, 1280×800 screen HD Super AMOLED in Pentile, 5.3 inch screen size

        Note 2 = Quad core processor, 2gb of RAM, 1280×720 screen HD Super AMOLED non-Pentile, 5.5 inch screen size

        Although Note 2 seems to have a bigger screen size, it’s not. Actually, Note 2 is tad slimmer and the extra 0.2 inches went towards making the device taller ala iPhone 5. So this time around, it’ll be much easier to hold using 1 hand only. Other than that, there’s tons of software improvement and the new S-Pen. Hope it helps :)

        Share
  5. I’m very much looking forward to this review. Note 2 seems such a logical combination of two useful devices and I keep waiting to hear/read how likely it is to fully bridge the gap.

    Share
  6. Would I be able to plug in my AT&T sim in the uk ordered galaxy note and use it in the us?
    Like you, I prefer to buy unlocked phones but have never bought from another country and want to be sure it will work. Thanks

    Share
    1. Absolutely; most any unlocked phone bought for the UK works with AT&T’s HSPA+ frequencies here in the States. BUT: I don’t know the LTE frequencies in this model, so that may be an issue for you. My SIM doesn’t support LTE service, so that’s a non-issue for me. For most, however, it’s something to be aware of.

      Share
      1. Sorry Kevin, one more dumb question, will I be able to charge this in a standard US electrical outlet? Again, I have never purchased a phone from an international site before and am just trying to anticipate any issues

        Share
        1. Not a dumb question at all – it’s a good one! Some of the places I’ve bought from overseas see the US shipping address and send a charging adapter with the device. If not, you can pick one up – Radio Shack tends to carry them, but I’d bet other local places do as well.

          Share
      2. Hi Kevin, I ordered the Galaxy Note 2 from Handtec and it arrived today
        Unfortunately, my AT&T sim card wont fit. It seems the Note 2 needs a micro sim
        Any suggestions for me?

        Share
        1. Correct, it uses a microSIM. Knowing that, I spent $8 on one from Amazon and cut my SIM yesterday. Look for one that includes SIM adapters so you can still use the SIM in other devices.

          Share
      3. Would I be able to get a cutter with adapter and cut the existing sim to fit in the Note 2?
        I am thinking if I have the adapter I can switch out the same sim between my Galaxy S2 and the Note, correct?
        If so, can you recommend a good cutter with adapter? Maybe something from Amazon?

        Share
        1. Yup, you got it. Cut the SIM for the Note 2 and use it in an adapter for older phones. Here’s what I bought: http://www.amazon.com/Noosy-Generation-Micro-Cutter-adapters/dp/B005EMS1YG/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1349310554&sr=8-4&keywords=sim+card+cutter

          Share
      4. Awesome thanks. Already ordered and will be here Friday wish me luck
        So far playing with the note 2 on wi fi and Love it!

        Share
      5. No dice. I cut my sim, inserted into the Note 2 and received an invalid sim, contact customer care message. :( Fortunately I was able to use the included adapter in the Noosy cutter and the new cut sim still worked in my old Galaxy S2. Any idea why it wouldnt work in the Note 2 if it still works in my Galaxy S2.
        I hate to think I paid $725 for a 5.5 inch tablet with wi-fi only

        Share
      6. Ok, I probably wont be bothering you again. I searched online and found the sim was locked to my other phone but called customer care and they unlocked it.
        Put it back in and BAM!! Note 2 is working on my old sim.
        Thank you for all of your advice and help. I am thrilled to have my new Galaxy Note 2 up and running!!

        Share
        1. Whew! Glad it worked out! :)

          Share
  7. The Note 2 is what I’ve been waiting for. After seeing that video I can see why Samsung doesn’t advertise that early, because it would kill all Smartphone sales. Once it’s released though, rather than “The next best thing” their theme should be “So you made the mistake of buying an iPhone 5.”

    Share
  8. Kevin, thanks! Looking forward to detailed reviews, will probably help me make a final decision. /Craig

    Share
  9. Yeah….I have an iPhone 5, galaxy nexus and just sold my lumia 900. I have been on the fence about getting a 920 or a Note 2….. I think I am going with the Note 2 at this point. Looks great so far can’t wait to hear your thoughts when you get it Kevin!

    Share
  10. Bought it for my mother after she wanted to take my iPad home with her. So I told her to get rid of her Galaxy S2 and take the plunge with the GNOTE 2. Should arrive within 1-2 days and we all know that for the first hour or two I am going to be the one using the phablet

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post