Whenever I get a new smartphone, I write a review blog. Last year I wrote about the Galaxy Nexus (click here). I ended that blog by pining for the Galaxy Note, but it wasn’t available on Verizon. This year Santa delivered. Lucky for me Verizon carries the upgraded Note II. I loved my Galaxy Nexus, but jumped at the chance to switch to the Galaxy Note II. I’m glad I did.
Why I like it
- Amazing screen – One of the main draws to this device is the huge 5.5” screen. It is really big, bright, and crisp. The first time I saw the device it looked huge, but after about an hour, all other phones just look puny. And, yes, it fits in your pocket fine even with the jeans that have “shrunk” on you over the past couple of years.
- Incredible battery life – With such a large screen and 4G LTE, I figured the battery life would be horrible. Luckily it is the complete opposite. I have most of the bells and whistles turned on all the time and after 16 hours or so, I still have nearly 70% battery life remaining! With the Galaxy Nexus, I would often run out of battery by the end of the day.
- It is VERY fast – The thing has a quad core processor and 4G LTE so everything about the device is very fast. It never seems to slow down. Then again, this has a more powerful processor than the 3-year-old laptop does. Crazy how fast technology has evolved.
- Comes with a pen – There is a cool little pen that docks in to the bottom of the device. The screen is big enough to hand write notes, draw, or just use the pen as a mouse. The system is also smart enough to use the pen to hover over things and have them interact (hover over an email and it pops up the message in a little window, hover over a video in your list and it pops up with a preview of the video, etc.).
- Control your phone with motions – You can turn on different gesture motion options. I have mine setup so that I can wave my hand over the phone and the screen lights up briefly to let me know the time, how many calls I missed, and battery life. Get a phone call when you forgot to mute – just turn the device over and it auto mutes. Need to go to the top of your emails, just tap the top of your phone. Open a contact or read a text message and want to call that person – just hold the phone to your ear and it will auto dial them. Lots of other options available.
- Still light and thin – With such a huge screen and big battery, you would think the device would be heavy. Oddly it is not at all. Yes, it is a couple of ounces heavier than the iPhone, but the Note II is only 6.35 ounces so it is not heavy.
- Great camera – The camera takes great still and video shots. It also has some special features for slow motion, fast motion, panorama, best face (you can take a series or group shots and pick the best expressions from them all and it will put them all in one picture),and my favorite is the ability to say smile for the camera to take the shot.
- Really loud speaker – A lot of phones have tiny speakers that are barely loud enough. My Galaxy Nexus was like that. The Galaxy Note II however has a speaker that is really loud and crisp. Sounds great.
- Smart home screens – There is a feature you can activate that will give you smart home screens when doing specific functions. For example you pop the pen out and you have a home screen for pen type activities (drawing, note taking, etc.). You can also plug in a headset and a smart screen will pop up with music player and other functions.
- Very fast boot up – The device boots up from powered off to functional in about 12 seconds. I wish my Windows 7 laptop booted up like that…
- Runs the latest and greatest Android – It is always better to get a new phone with the latest version of Android and this one has it. This version includes Google Now, which is better than the iPhone’s Siri.
- Texts also go to your Inbox – Sounds like a minor thing but it is pretty cool. If I get a text message, it pops up in my email (which also means my desktop Outlook) so I can read and reply from there. I like it!
- Notification Bar – The notification bar is interactive and more informative. It used to just tell me how many unread emails I have but now it gives me the subject lines of the messages. It also has a handy quick task list at the top to turn on/off things like wifi, Bluetooth, airplane mode, etc.
What is annoying (no deal killers here….)
- Bloatware – I don’t think I will ever understand why the carriers dump a bunch of bad apps on the phone and there is no way to uninstall them (unless you want to hack the phone to root it). At least some of them can be disabled now, but that is a manual effort and not a straightforward process. I’ve never heard of any customer liking these apps.
- The darn thing is slippery – With the entire phone being smooth plastic with no texture, it is slippery. I wish it had a textured back surface to better help the phone from slipping out of your hand. I have not dropped it yet, but feel like it might happen at any time. I’m not a fan of cases, but might opt to get one for the sole reason it will make the phone less slick.
- Odd text sizing in the email app – I know, with such a huge screen the text size should not be an issue. You can change the size of the text and even the font that is used, but oddly in the email app, the text size on the list of emails is really big compared to the size of the text when opening a message. Consequently I have to make the text size for the email list huge just so the size of the text in the message is big.
- Verizon logo is everywhere – For some reason Verizon went all out branding the darn thing. The logo on the back of the device is much larger than in the past, the logo shows when the device boots up, and the big home button on the front of the device also has a Verizon logo. A 3rd party has even come out with stickers to cover them up!
- Slow power button response – Now I know I’m getting nitpicky. Pressing the power button turns on the phone so you can see the home screen. Most of the time it takes a second or so to see the home screen after pressing the power button. Just feels slow. Feels like the slowest thing about the phone actually.
- The apps are sorted by date? – Yes, you read that correctly. Click on the Apps button to see all of your apps and they are sorted by the date they were installed. AND if you delete an app, it leaves a blank hole where the icon was. The amazing thing is that there is no way to change it. What the heck?! I had to install a 3rd-party app call AppZorter to sort them and get rid of the empty space. Works great – just need to remember to run that every once in a while.
- Can’t turn off alerts/speaker at night – I really don’t want to hear my phone get a new email at 2:00 AM. There is an option to set the peak and off peak times for the email app to sync your emails, but that does not affect Gmail and other alerts. I installed a free app called Timeriffic which can handle multiple schedules and multiple options for what to silence and how.
- Wifi notification is always on – I’ve gotten used to it, but on the notification screen, there is always a line for the wifi whether you have wifi turned on or off. Normally I have wifi off so I would not care to see this notification at all.
As you can see from the two lists, the pluses outweigh the minuses, both in quantity and magnitude. With purchasing this device, I was really after the big screen and the pen for taking notes – and I’m tickled with the extras. If you want a new smartphone and like a really big screen then check out the Note II. You won’t be disappointed.
Want to learn more?
Here are some additional resources for the Note II: