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Android this week: So I bought a Galaxy Note 2…

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Regular readers of this weekly column know that I typically recap interesting Google (s goog) 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:

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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!

82 Responses to “Android this week: So I bought a Galaxy Note 2…”

  1. I would like to buy it, but am too uncertain how i would obtain service with the device considering i am a sprint customer now, but am no longer with a contract. Boost, metro, att, t mobile ect. lots of choices, but which data network is more compatible with the Note 2 ?

    • This international model works on AT&T’s HSPA+ network – no LTE that I can see. Should also work on T-Mo for voice, but EDGE for data — unless you live in Las Vegas where T-Mo has already refarmed its 1900 MHz spectrum for HSPA+. More cities to follow, but that will take time.

  2. Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm

    Hello all: to Kevin and all those of you that already have it. Can you indicate where you bought it? I am in the US so would need to order it for delivery.

  3. Great article Kevin.
    I have the note 1 and l love it.finding new things everyday that are so nice.coming from iPhone it was a bit of a learning curve but not terrible.
    Do you know if the note 2 supports credit card Swype?
    I use Payware and note 1 will not allow me to Swype cards.they say the phone is not supported!
    I’m losing big bucks by manually keying in card sales. you know how I can get a note 2 without getting killed by the price considering I just picked up my note 1 six months ago?

    • Not sure on the Payware support, Andy. I’m thinking the folks behind that service could better answer the question, but it doesn’t bode well that the first Note isn’t supported – I wonder why? There’s no way to find a “cheap” Galaxy Note 2 considering it’s just now starting to ship and isn’t yet available in the US. I’d say recoup what you can on the first Note by selling it and put that towards the new one!

  4. Edison Fabolu

    Hello Kevin;

    The video of Samsung Galaxy Note 11 is fascinating.
    “Multi window””, multi usage Samsung Galaxy Note 11, a must -have hand
    set for sure. I am up for one.
    Thank you for sharing.


  5. Great choice Kevin! After using my Note 10.1 tablet unlocked and getting great speeds on AT&T, I also rather get the unlocked version Note 2, as we can expect to see the AT&T branded sell for around $599 plus tax. This would bring the Note 2 around $670, this depends on your states tax so $727 is a great price for it to be unlocked. Also usually you get updates a lot quicker than the AT&T branded. Thanks to Kevin, now I am going to think about ordering my Note 2 or keep my SIII?


  6. Jack N Fran Farrell

    One step remains to reach the Star Trek criterion for personal computing. User facing camera’s and microphones should work together so that user voice and gestures cross check each other in 3D. Highly reliable face recognition and lip reading could make personal computing a reality for more than just handheld devices.

    Jobs’ entire career was devoted to breaking IBMs degradation of man in the man/machine interface. GUIs and TouchScreen are about to be made optional in a keyboard-optional computer assisted world. It’s ironic that ecosystem of large/small tablets of iPad/iPhones that Jobs created won’t really need touchscreens.

  7. Can you please help with where you made your purchase of the Samsung galaxy Note2 in the UK as I will like to purchase from same store. None of the stores I have checked in the UK are selling for that price. I will truly appreciate.

  8. Andreas Ødegård

    Note II is likely my next device too, if I upgrade my SII before there’s a Note III. I tend to hang onto devices for a while as the biggest upgrades for me are accessories and custom software, not hardware. Just got home automation that works with Tasker, which means more to me than a bigger screen. Ironically, I’d get the Note II for the HW…yet to see stock software be good in practice

  9. I am really thinking of making the quantum leap from the iphone 4s to the Galaxy note 2. I have looked at everything on the market and the upcoming big boys like the lumia 920. I know the new note is big and I’m sure I’ll get some strange looks when I hold it to my ear. However, I dont use a phone as a phone much anymore in the car its bluetooth and headphones elsewhere. Most of my usage is ‘smartphone’ and this phone is surely smart!

    Where in the UK are you geting yours from???

  10. I think 5.5′ is too big, I preferred the Note one’s 5 inch screen. If they were going to make a 5.5 inch device they should have gotten rid of the home button and make it a touch screen only device such as the galaxy nexus.

  11. 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

  12. Jeremiah Owen

    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!

  13. 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.”

  14. 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

  15. annegriffin

    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.

  16. Phillip Hartier

    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!

      • Aliff Alfiry

        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 :)

  17. 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!

      • 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 :)