I have been trialling out the new Samsung Galaxy Note. For those of you who haven’t heard or seen this phone before – it’s huge. Huge compared to any other phone you’ve seen with a 5.3” WXGA (1280 x 800) screen. Check out the official specs here: http://www.samsung.com/global/microsite/galaxynote/note/spec.html?type=find
The first thing that came to my mind when deciding if I wanted to test this device was this Dilbert comic:
So, can a device still be a good phone, while being large enough to be a tablet? After playing around with it for a while, my personal answer is ‘yes’, but it’s still not the best solution for every scenario.
The first thing I noticed about the phone after taking it out of the box, was the size. Suprisingly the phone is quite light, thin and study despite this. After realising I also needed to put the battery in, it was still quite light. Powering on the unit then displayed it’s next great feature, yes the display. 1280 x 800 pixels brightly showing on 5.3″ is a rather decent resolution, and the picture takes up almost the full front face of the phone.
Here’s a comparison on size. An iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy Note and finally an Acer Iconia A500:
As you can see, the Note is still much closer to an iPhone than it is a full 10″ tablet. if I had a 7″ Tablet that would have been a closer comparison.
The next difference is that this phone actually has a stylus. A great addition in my opinion, as you can interchange with using the fingers you’re used to for touchscreen devices, or the very old ‘stick technology’. It means you can write your own notes/lists on the go, draw diagrams or doodle whatever takes your fancy. For me, the main use I considered was that I could Citrix into my work environment and use the stylus on a Windows desktop, which definitely isn’t designed for fingers. Sadly this didn’t work out the best, but this isn’t Samsung or Google’s fault – after logging in using the Citrix app, it seems that using the stylus on the screen does the same function as pressing the delete key along with what you’re selecting. This made a rather large mess of my mailbox as I deleted about 20 emails. Hopefully there’s a solution to this, but even the Citrix Connector Beta had the same issue.
Using the on screen keyboard is quite nice, due to the screen real estate you’ve got nice big virtual keys to press. There’s some extra functions for zooming/scrolling that I hadn’t seen before, such as putting 2 fingers on the screen (one from each hand ideally) and tiling the device backwards or forward to zoom in and out. Not a bad idea, especially if you’re reading something and already holding the device with 2 hands.
Anyway, I should mention the software. It’s running Android Gingerbread, with an Ice Cream Sandwich update coming out soon. Response times of opening, switching and scrolling are great. It’s a very smooth experience natively. I can’t say the same about the official Twitter app though, the scrolling in that was very jerky and clunky. I’m going to guess that this is the fault of the Twitter app developers, since everything else ran so smooth.
There are a bunch of pre-installed apps and widgets on the device. Nothing seemed to be bloatware, and the widgets are a really nice feature for your home screens. It’s really customisable!
I’ve also set up a full home screen just for my calendar (that was actually there by default) and added, removed and resized others. It really makes you feel like it’s your own device, instead of having screens and folders full of apps (sorry Apple).
Now, if you’re considering the device there’s a few things to think about, especially for men. Unless you’ve got large pockets, you’re going to need a manbag. This is something that I can’t do, but maybe you’re fine with that. My work pants are fine, but I could never wear a pair of jeans and manage to fix the Samsung Galaxy Note in a pocket (gangsta’s probably won’t have this problem). Women, well generally you don’t even have pockets and this will fit nicely in that little red handbag of yours.
In summary, I like it…. buuut it’s too big. I love the screen size, and it’s selling really well around the world, but I think for a single thing to carry around 24/7 I’d rather wait for the Samsung Galaxy S3, which comes in at a smaller but decent 4.6″ screen. Either way, I now look at my iPhone 4S and have size envy.
Update: Since writing this article, I obtained a Samsung Galaxy S3 and have been very happy with it.