Samsung Galaxy Note Review

It's tempting—oh so tempting—to lead off a review of Samsung's Galaxy Note by mocking its enormous size. So I shall.

The Note is big enough to give me a sense of empathy for our toddler when she picks up our phones. Its 5.3" display is the largest I've used in a pocket-sized gadget since 1998's MessagePad 2100.

But at $299.99, with a two-year AT&T contract, it has bigger problems than being the SUV of smartphones. Although it offers good ideas and could fit well for people who want a credible tablet-phone, it embodies the least appealing trends in the Android ecosystem.

LTE first, battery life second. The faster speed of Long Term Evolution means short-term usage away from an outlet, to judge from the numerous LTE phones I've tried that didn't make it through a full day without a recharge. The Note has a higher-capacity battery than the scrawny hardware on other Android phones and so managed to last through over six hours of Web-radio playback. That said, standby battery life was still subpar.

Specs before experience. Enough about the Note's screen—let's talk about the camera on the other side of the phone from it. We're supposed to be impressed by its eight-megapixel resolution, but I'd gladly trade a lower resolution for less lag after pressing the shutter and between shots.

Carrier bloatware. The Note is not as bloated by with somebody else's idea of a good time as other Android phones, but it needs a cleanup. I would start with AT&T's $9.99/month AT&T Navigator—except that you can't uninstall it. Ditto for the CityID, Social Hub and YPMobile apps here. Why do carriers still think this is a good idea?

Proprietary, user-hostile input. The onscreen keyboard Samsung built into the Note, to allow for input with its "S-Pen" stylus, is excruciating for thumb typists. Its errant autocorrect changed "tweets" to "sweets" but left a standalone "i" uncapitalized, but refused to butt out when I was trying to delete its mistakes. You don't type on this thing so much as you duel with it. By default, it vibrates with every keypress, as if we haven't already been using touchscreen phones for the last five years.

Uncertain software updates. Like almost all other Android phones, the Note ships with Android 2.3, not the current 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich version. AT&T says it will ship 4.0, but hasn't said when. AT&T also offers no assurances about further updates for this phone.

It, Samsung and other Android vendors did pledge in May 2011 to offer 18 months' worth of Android updates for new phones. But the commitment's "as long as the hardware allows" clause renders it meaningless. How can we trust them after such a sad history of abandoning earlier models?

As an Android user, I hope other manufacturers and carriers are taking notes. But I worry that they're only doing so to make sure they don't miss out on any new obnoxious habits.


    1. True enough, but there’s been this fancy invention from Europa, that’s rapidly catching  on all over the continent.  It’s called “glasses”.

      1. Eyeglasses aren’t much help with manual dexterity issues.

        I’m fortunate to have small fingers, but I know folks with large fingers and/or arthralgia – and having a larger screen to support a larger keyboard area is tremendously useful.

        FWIW, I have a 5″ Dell Streak. It’s okay as a phone, but handles most other tablet tasks quite well – enough screen real estate to read ebooks or web pages. And I spend far more time on those activities than speaking over the telephone.
        I don’t want to go around carrying multiple gadgets, so a single device which doubles as a small-tablet and large-phone seems like a pretty good idea.

        1. Sure, there are probably a ton of reasons why bigger can be better.  But lots of them are niches.   

          I’ve also given up – more or less –  on reading on my iPhone i favour of packing a Kindle 4. Even though I have an iPad, which I still use for reading, too.  

          The keyboard, forever, rapidly becomes a non-issue for me, as Siri is actually usable.   Well, most of the  time – Siri doesn’t like mixing Englisch and German, yet many English loand words are so common, that using a German synonym would be stupid.

          1. Well a million Notes were sold in the first two months of its (European & Asian) release, I would say those figures are more mainstream than niche.

            Given its size I would imagine the large screen was the main selling point.

      2. Ok, use a note for a month, then try using an iphone sized screen and see if youd rather use a magnifying glass or look like a twerp barking at your phone in a crowded room. 
        Also, I have the Ice Cream Sandwich installed update which was leaked a month early, so theres no uncertainty here, and all iphone owners who’ve played with it have drooled over every aspect. Its sickeningly fast!
        Yes, the pen is pointless, and the default keyboard does stupid things (I installed ‘thumb keyboard’- it rocks!) but its a FAR better phone than your review dares to acknowledge. I wouldnt swap my note for an iphone 4s and ipad3 if you paid me

          1. I actually wanted to cancel the post, but seem to have hit the wrong button, as it wasn’t clear to me whom Adam was addressing.

            It was about how I prefer to use an 10″ tablet or a laptop in the situations he claims a Note is superior in. But this is pointless, as it is a mostly a matter of preferences.  

          2. I actually didnt say its superior- ive not used an ipad enough to be able to say that- i just said that having a device that you can comfortably browse the web, has a camera thats better than most compact cameras, is instantly fast for everything I need to do, can be tinkered with beyond reason (including running Ubuntu Linux!) and fits comfortably in my pocket makes both iphone and ipad completely undesirable to me

    2. I got sick of squinting too – of course, I was using a palm pre which is notoriously “smallish” on it’s screen size.

      I finally gave in and bought a 10″ tablet (hp touchpad) and couldn’t imagine going back. I pair it up with my cell phone so it receives/sends texts, can make the occasional speaker-phone or bluetooth headset call, has a stupid long life battery, and I use it for my general out-and-about webbrowsing needs. My pre2 is still there for the occasional use, but I’ve went from everyday all-the-time use of it to once-in-a-blue-moon since I picked up my tablet. The phone mostly sits in my pocket while my tablet does all the work.

      Haven’t had any issues since. It’s a hassle to carry a bigger device around but man is it nice when you sit down to actually USE it. No straining eyes, no zooming in and out and trying to tap on tiny little links. Brilliant for reading, perfect for web browsing, awesome for media (video).

      I could see the galaxy note fitting a similar niche for people who want a larger screen experience without carrying two devices around. Hell, that’s -exactly- what I wanted prior to picking up my touchpad. Sure, hauling around a 5.3″ phone (or in my case, a 10.1″ tablet) is a BIT of a pain, but the benefit of having it outweighs the downside of having to carry it imho. On the same coin, I was hauling around physical paper-and-pen planners for years prior to these devices hitting the market, so it’s not like much has changed for me outside of a massive improvement in my mobile computing capabilities. As for the android complaints for galaxy note, I’m sure ICS will improve the user experience remarkably. I’ve been using ICS on my touchpad now for awhile and it’s awesome. It’s also massively adjustable, so if you don’t like the way the keyboard works, for example, grab a different keyboard and stop worrying about it :).

      Of course, now that I’ve taken the plunge I can’t go back. I keep wanting an even bigger device – I can’t help but feel if my tablet was just a HAIR bigger I could have a full-size on-screen keyboard on it (at least the alphabet keys) instead of the slightly abbreviated “netbook-like” keyboard we have now. Would make my touch-typing much more comfortable. For now I’ll make do with my awesome device :). A year back I never thought anyone needed a tablet like this, now I can’t imagine living without it.

    1. My solution is to run a third party ROM, which is totally unavailable on Apple devices. I ran 2.2 on my G1 (the first android phone, carrier stopped at 1.6 (I don’t blame them, there really were hardware issues, surmountable with a fast SD card, and a few scary tricks)). I did make a mistake with my current MyTouch 4G Slide, the ROM community has been slow to pick it up. From here on out, I think I will stick to pure Google phones, which are always the first things the community updates.

      1. Totally unavailable? What do you think Jailbreaking is? It’s like having an open ROM where you can change anything. This is the big oooops when thinking an Android is  better by claiming Apple’s system  is closed. It’s got a GREAT closed system, but if you really want to mess up an elegant UI and put 5 icons instead of 4 across you can. The joke is the fact that even the hackers who jailbreak get an OS upgrade about a day after the normal users, and here’s a NEW phone that is 2.xx and not the 4.0 that is current. That’s hilarious. Not having a sane upgrade path is the number one reason I think Android is trash.

        1. Technically, Android had an upgrade path. Hardware manufacturers have the issue. One could argue Googles reluctance to take more control of that could be a drawback.

          I’ve seen some iOS users have difficulty differentiate that because there is little differentiation in the iOS world. Nothing wrong with that, just the way it is.

        2. There is a key difference. On an Android, if your supplier doesn’t update the OS, there’s an outside chance the community will vis-a-vis via cyanogen mod or similar. Good luck getting ioS ≥ 4 working on an iPhone ≤ 3.

      2. I did too, to squeeze a bit of extra usefulness out of my Android. But I got tired of having to hack my phones to make them useful even on basic levels, especially considering the price of good Android phones compared to an iPhone 4.

    2.  What you convey here is exactly how I see Apple device owners. They throw up their hands in abandon at trying to use technology and instead buy an iSomething, which comes equipped with a brand identity so developed that it completely overwhelms their technofail shame and handily averts it going forward by making all decisions on their behalf – for a fee.

        1. Well I was going to say something snarky about the difference between designing technology systems for a living and writing about them but when I read your bio it pretty much described what I’d rather be doing, so cheers.

      1. As I see Android users, they are like 15 year old pimple-faced nerds, intent on creating a “killer” background image to render their desktop unreadable on a huge laughable device. Iphones consistanly do what I want it to do when I do, fast, without a problem, in a fast, easy to use UI. If I wanted to do something crazy, I have a jailbreak option, but as of yet I see no need too.  If I were a developer I would give up on Android altogether because of it’s moronic fragmentation. And I too, put my tech cred up against your tech cred.

      2. Honestly I regret posting that. I’m an old school Apple geek who joined the dark side way back when MacOS had to be rebooted regularly for stability reasons. I did my Apple certification at Apple Canada headquarters and a Laserwriter and Apple IIgs were on the exam. I have owned a working Apple Lisa. I remember overclocking Apple II’s. Don’t even get me started. I find the Apple zealotry to be especially annoying because I have been one, a long time ago before I became an actual IT professional and discovered Linux.

        Fact is that these days most of the Apple users I meet are not zealots. Apple has gone main stream. Hurray for that. So apologies to the Mac geeks. That said, you guys make it too easy and maybe you should develop a sense of humor. ;-)

  1. I bought the international HSPA+ version in November and I love it. The size for me, is a bonus. The screen is beautiful, watching movies, Colbert, reading Boing Boing, is a treat. I also have a 32 GB micro SD card in it, which the Nexus can’t do, for all my music and videos I don’t want to stream.  I have yet to try and play a file on it that wasn’t supported. Try that on an iPhone.

    As for the keyboard, I agree the standard keyboard is only adequate, but if you hold your finger down in an input box you can switch the input to Swype, which is faster and better than thumb typing for me. 
    Lastly, I expect to have ICS on my GNote next month. I don’t like carrier locked phones, which is why I bought mine unlocked, but I have never had a better phone than this one: and I currently have an iPhone 4 as my work assigned phone, which I only use it when I have to.

    1. Thanks for the comments. I stick to the defaults as much as possible when testing things–and in this case, the procedure for changing keyboards is particularly non-obvious. (The settings icon in Samsung’s keyboard, which is easy to spot, doesn’t let you change to another input method. That’s not how aftermarket keyboards on other Android phones I’ve tried have worked.) 

      1. Uhg.  Why do you “stick to the defaults”?  I understand if you are doing a review in FHM or Cosmopolitan because we kind of assume that people reading those magazines are just barely technical enough to find the on button.  For BoingBoing users though?  Is this REALLY a safe assumption?
        I so freaking sick of reviews that assume that the audience are a bunch of drooling barely self aware idiots.  I want one website that assumes that if the user doesn’t like something and there is a way to change it they just… you know, change it.

        Reading reviews for Android phones as a techie is particularly infuriating when most of the default crap can just be changed.  It is like reading a car review where the reviewer bitches and moans and about how much he dislikes the brightness of the controls or the windshield wiper speed, blatantly ignoring the controls that change those things.

        Reading a review from the perspective of an idiot isn’t useful to me and, I assume, a lot of other people.  If your Note thwarted you from changing the keyboard, THAT would be something to mention.  Mentioning that the default keyboard sucks probably isn’t worth a single sentence.   Anyone who agrees will just… you know… change it.

        The other annoying thing is getting the reviewer’s two cents on the size of the phone.  Seriously, if someone is getting the Note, they are getting it because THEY WANT A BIG PHONE.  It isn’t like an iPhone where you take the size you get.  The Note is supposed to be a phone for people who want big phones / tablet hybrids.  Again, it is like reading a review for a truck, and the first thing the reviewer does and go “WTF, this is way bigger than my sports car!!111!”.  No shit.  It is supposed to be.

        I’m not trying to trash on you, but seriously, write to the audience.  You can assume that the average BoingBoing’r can find the power switch and poke through the settings.  Be different.  Write a review that assumes the user knows that big phones are bad for people who don’t like big phones, and who can figure out how to change the defaults.  Let us know about battery life when you turn LTE off,  the devices performance, if it maintains performance if you slap a new skin on,  how well the freaking stylus works, can you root the thing easily, and so on.  If I need the generic “assuming have never ever used a phone before and are terrified by technology” review, I can go literally anywhere.

        1. ” Again, it is like reading a review for a truck, and the first thing the reviewer does and go “WTF, this is way bigger than my sports car!!111!”. “

          So, if reviewing, say, a Ford Excursion, should all mention of its size and all the possible issues this size may bring completely out of bounds, only because the buyer is already presumably aware that it’s a “big” SUV?

          For something that is ostensibly a phone, the fact that it can’t easily be used one-handed should be pointed out to potential buyers, I think. Knowing something is big is not the same as being fully aware of what this entails.

          1. If the review had pointed out that  yes, it is indeed big, and then gone on to point out the pro’s and con’s of having a big ass tablet/phone thing, I would buy your argument.  That isn’t what this review did. It just complained about the size for the first paragraph, and then continued to complain a little more into the second paragraph.

            This is how a lot of Android reviews go.  Pointing out what the form factor is and the pro’s and con’s to it is one thing.  Pointing out that it isn’t your favorite form factor is pointless.  Cool, you value the size of crap in your pocket more than screen size or battery life.  I don’t care.  I don’t need to read in every single truck review that the reviewer really doesn’t like trucks and prefers small and sporty.  

            Android having a pile of form factors is a feature.  It means you can find a phone that fits what you want. I would love a phone the size of the Note.  I know this puts me in the minority.  That is okay.  Not everyone has to buy the same phone.  

        2. If I were writing for Cory Doctorow: Absolutely, I’d do the in-depth techie review. But I see a reasonably wide range of technical aptitude here. More importantly, I assess things under default settings because it’s the right thing to do. The defaults tell you what the vendor thought important.

          I will keep your comment in mind, should management have me back. Bear in mind, this is the first story I’ve done for Boing Boing, and most of my other outlets do have more of a beginner audience. Now if I bring a Boing Boing sensibility to the Q&A column I do for USA Today’s site… then I’m going to be in real trouble. 

          – RP

        3. I don’t completely agree.  I think it’s useful to know the default settings, and what it ships with, and how.  Even if I know I can, and probably will, change it, it lets me know how much work I’m going to do right out of the box.

          For instance, I have found out that the Note ships with a fair amount of bloatware.  That’s not a deal-killer for me, but it means that, if I buy it, I’m going to be rooting it and uninstalling some of the pre-installed stuff earlier than I would otherwise have done.   Knowing that the default keyboard is annoying and that the pen doesn’t really help much means that I know that I would install Thumb Keyboard earlier.

          But, yes, there is a difference between, “This feature sucks and you are going to want to change it,” and “this feature sucks therefore the product sucks.”

      2. If you go into the main settings menu and select “Language and keyboard” you will see that the first of the keyboard settings options is “Select input method” where you can choose the Swype keyboard. I would not call that particularly non-obvious.

        I turn off the predictive text if I am typing in my native language which is certainly a bad sign but the overwhelming majority of my user input to the phone is not via the keyboard. The large screen is particularly user friendly and was the only reason I bought the device.

        You state that it is uncertain that it will be updated to ICS but dont mention that Samsung have pledged to do just that, not just support it for 18 months, hardware permitting.

      3. Perhaps the keyboards work differently, but a long press in an input box is the default way to change keyboards on Android without delving into the settings.

  2. “…largest I’ve used in a pocket-sized gadget since 1998’s MessagePad 2100”

    you obviously missed out on the Dell Streak then ;)

  3. The majority of this review are just issues with Android in general, and have very little to do with the Note in particular. Disappointing review as it really doesn’t offer any reasons why one would or wouldn’t choose this over any other Android phone … and isn’t that the point of phone reviews in the first place?

    1. Well isn’t that really the issue? I mean can you really dance around or omit the inherent problems/benefits with Android and just review the specs of the device? The hardware features are meaningless without discussing how it works with the OS…if you were reviewing the iPhone, you’d likely see the same type of review where it’s a mixture of hardware and the software that runs it. 

      1. It’s not even that he was complaining about Android, but the lameness of the things he complained about and the ease with which they are fixed.

        “It corrected ‘tweet’ to ‘sweet’.” That’s because ‘tweet’ isn’t a real word. Add it to the dictionary if it bothers you.

        “The buttons vibrate when I press them.” Then disable haptic feedback. It’s two clicks.

        “The battery life isn’t good on LTE.” Yes, but it’s better than *any other phone on the market that has LTE on any OS*, which you almost alluded to in the review but didn’t quite get there. That’s kind of important.

        It’s just poorly done in my opinion.

          1. Fair enough, you’ve got me there. I’m guessing the context of use in this case was a bit different than that first definition, though …

        1. By all accounts, the Droid Razr Maxx has the best LTE battery life–because Motorola and Verizon gave up on making the thinnest phone ever and just stuck a bigger battery in it (3300 mAh, compared to just 1780 mAh in the original Droid Razr). The Note looks like it could accommodate a larger battery than the 2500 mAh model inside, and I thought about commenting on that–but without conducting a teardown inspection, I couldn’t say for sure.

        2. yeah, complaining about auto-correct seems silly. I think a lot of phone OSes have this issue. One in particular seems to have its own website where people damn the autocorrect…

        3. “That’s because ‘tweet’ isn’t a real word.”  

          Tweet most certainly IS a real word.  It means: “a weak chirping sound, as of a young or small bird” as a noun, and “to make a weak chirping sound” as a verb.  I see no reason why the built-in dictionary sould not already contain it, or why sweet would be preferred to tweet.

          1.  “Sweet” is used much more often than “tweet”, even today when “tweet” has another meaning associated with smartphones. That’s why the phone prefers it.

            All predictive dictionaries work this way, and most will learn from the user’s habits as well, so if you frequently say “tweet” and rarely say “sweet” it will learn that.

    2. Yeah but I’m still glad to see reviewers calling out the general failings of the Android platform. It offers hope that manufacturers may eventually catch wise and improve ALL Android phones by addressing these issues.

      All of which are, interestingly, eminently addressable without increasing manufacturing costs (except I suppose battery life). As an Android fan, I wish to god they would.

      1.  Battery life is addressable as hell via software alone. I run a custom kernel that supports CPU scaling, plus Juice Defender, which turns off the data connection if it’s not being used. These two things easily double the battery life of my EVO.

      1. If I may say so, your Discovery News review is much better, and addresses most of the issues I had with this one :)

      2. Have you used a dev phone or a rooted phone with AOSP? Vanilla Android is, in my opinion, far superior to the crap the manufacturer installs for you that you can’t get rid of without rooting (HTC Sense, Samsung TouchWiz, Motorola Motoblur, etc…)

      1. He wasn’t “supposed” to do anything. But I would have preferred a review of the *phone* rather than the generic OS, since it ostensibly was a *phone* review.

        1. I know what you’re getting at but it would be like reading a food review to find out what plates they served it on. Not unimportant but not exactly tons to talk about.

          1. You’re assuming that the review was supposed to be about the food, and not the particular style of china it is served on.

            It’s a phone review. Reviewing Android instead of the phone is useless.

            Whatever, I can tell you’re just going to blindly defend an off-target and shallow review for some inexplicable reason. Go for it, chief.

      1. Ugh. Are you people even reading my critique? It’s that he *didn’t review the device* in a meaningful way. If he wants to review Android go for it, but in a phone review, *try to get a few words in about the damned phone*.

        1. He DID review the device.  Crappy input, subpar battery life, and a camera that fails to impress.  Those are all comments about the Note, not general Android comments.

          For a phone with such a huge physical footprint, one would expect a better camera sensor and better battery life.

          1. Of the few things he mentioned about the device, battery life has to be the DUMBEST. There’s only one LTE phone on the market that gets better battery life than the SGN. What a terrible analysis.

          2. So what?  I’m not arguing the validity of his point.  I know that current LTE chipsets are battery suckers.

            Your original argument, which you’ve reiterated multiple times, is that he reviewed the OS, and not the device.  I just read the review, and off the top of my head was able to name 3 things, without having to refer back to it.

            So I guess “terrible” applies equally to your original ‘critique’.

          3. How in the world could the battery life be “subpar” when it it higher than all but one LTE phone and even most 3G smartphones? That’s a poor usage of the word ‘subpar’.

          4. That was his opinion.  Of the device.  The thing you said he DIDN’T review.

            In any case, my point was made, whether you got it or not.

    3. Yup, totally agreed. This review told me nothing I wouldn’t have anticipated about an Android phone, and nothing that is unique to using this particularly distinctive phone.
      If this review was aimed at people who know nothing about smartphones and have to have the general characteristics of Android explained to them, that would be kinda reasonable, but I don’t think that is Boing Boing’s readership. What we want to know is – is it a reasonable compromise between phone and tablet? Do you feel comfortable using it as a phone? Have you found any unique uses for the combination of hardware?

  4. It is strange that iPhone users may criticize this as too large for a phone (which, unfortunately, Samsung markets it as, rather than a Tablette with phone abilities), yet I see many iPad users taking pictures with their iPads, where I find the iPad as awfully large for a camera…

    1. No, that’s not strange. Some iPad users are stupid idiots who take photos with their iPads in inappropriate contexts. Those iPhone users (or non-iPhone users) who say this it too big are not necessarily those same users.

      So not strange at all. It’s just you stretching to come up with something to criticize “iPhone users” about in the absence of actually defending this phone.

      1. Not really. More a comment on the fact this shouldn’t be called a phone by Samsung but rather a tablet which can make calls. just as u would not call an iPad a camera…

        1. You need to have light to take pictures. Most “problems” are caused by lack of lighting. You know, it’s photography- it requires light.

    2. That’s really a non sequitur.   The iPad isn’t intended to be used on the go, as smartphones are. Yes, it has a camera and when it’s the camera that’s at hand, it’s the best camera there is.  My computers also have cameras and I use them to take pictures, too.

      The note, however, is supposed to be a smartphone and those have size constraints.   

      I consider that size to be awkward, as it was with the Messagepad, which I gave up for that reason and the bad handwriting recognition.   

      But if the size’s okay for anyone, hey more power to them.  Doubt that’ll be that many.

  5. Even in these images you can see Samsung is copying just as much of the iPhone as they think they can get away with from a UI perspective. And a stylus? Really?

    And like or hate Apple, whichever camp you reside in, they have proven to get some things absolutely and 100% right, where other phones and carriers continue to flail. 

    I don’t want ATT’s logo screened on my phone. I don’t want pre-installed carrier bloatware. Apple’s been pretty solid about providing major updates to past hardware, while Android phones continue to trail blaze ahead leaving Android users to wonder why no Ice Cream Sandwich for them?

    I was in an ATT store the other day and I was shocked at the sales experience. There was one section with two iPhone 4s models on display…and there were 16 Android phones…several Windows phones, a few dumb phones…and I just thought to myself…if I was just coming in to buy a phone the first time in a few years…I’d be thoroughly confused and overwhelmed at the experience. Android may be a rapidly growing alternative to iOS, but the landscape is enough to make you weep from confusion. 

    1. I had this same discussion elsewhere about low-end phones… while they offer an opportunity to lure potential iOS users away because of the price, poor hardware may give users the impression that it is Android that sucks, not their experience on a phone with hardware that cannot offer a good experience, and thus drive them to the iPhone.

      1.  I agree totally.  Back when my wife was looking for a smartphone we looked at everything.  She liked the slightly smaller screen on the iPhone 4, and I liked the fact the UI was fast and responsive.  We did some product research, but in the end it was a lot of hands on playing to see how they felt.  In some ways it was like buying a car, a lot more painful then it really should have been.

    2. ps – regarding copying, it was also evident that Apple was copying as much from Android as they could get away with when they released the 4s

      1. I’m referring to the OS. The color scheme, the icons, the placement…this is an ongoing thing. They’ve even been known to use Apple or other app developer icons. 

        What exactly are you referring to with copying from Android when it comes to the 4s? Are you referring to iOS or the hardware, since the phone looks identical to my 4…and the OS didn’t change much at all visually. 

        1. Sorry, was referring more to functionality. As for color scheme and icon/placement, I am not sure Apple invented black backgrounds or a grid layout for icons. 

          That being said, we could argue all day about who copied whom, but when all is said and done, it really has no bearing on which is a “better” phone (which to me is subjective anyhow, depending on what you want).

      2. How so? The sliding tray for notifications? I’m pretty sure NextStep had sliding trays, if my memory isn’t failing me completely.

      3. You realize that Apple has successfully sued Android manufactures multiple times, in multiple countries for copying Apple?

        1. Sure ’cause the patent system is broken. They’ve also unsuccessfully sued. and other manufacturers have succesdfully sued Apple. Not sure what you point is.

          I still maintain copying has little bearing on whether one OS or one piece of hardware is better than another.

  6. With regards to the “Proprietary, user-hostile input,” the beauty of Android,  unlike iOS, is that you get to choose what keyboard you use. The free “Keyboard from Android 2.3” on the market is pretty good, and allows you to disable vibration. If you’re willing to pay a few bucks, Swiftkey is excellent. Swiftkey takes a little time to learn your typing habits (you can jumpstart it be giving it access to your gmail and facebook messages), but once it knows you it is scarily good at predicting the next word you are going to type based on the context.

  7. This is not a Samsung Galaxy Note Review. This is a Samsung Galaxy Note as sold by AT&T Review. Just saying. Also, I usually get at least a couple of days of standby out of my Note (free from any carrier restraints and bloatware), but then again I don’t have the LTE version. YMMV of course.

  8. Actually that is my point. Had they marketed this as a tablet, people might be saying, “hey this is a nice portable tablet option and, hey, I can make calls. ” instead of saying it is a really large phone.

  9. So I’m guessing the call quality is pretty awesome right?
    I know it’s a smart phone, but it is a phone…
    (I still own a dumb phone cause I love call quality, at least that’s what I tell myself.  Cause really I’m too tight/poor to afford a smartphone.)

  10. the biggest issue is drawing with the pen is laggy and it sucks, so there is absolutely no reason to buy this phone.

  11. Thanks for the reminder of the Newton MessagePad 2000. I carried one of those around with me for years, and didn’t think it was too big to hold, so that’s one less reason to worry about the Note in that regard. I mean, for crying out loud, it’s only a small fraction of an inch bigger than the deck of 3″x5″ cards that hipsters carry around with them everywhere in this town, so it would fit in the same pockets they use.

    I observe that the reviewer didn’t even bother to open the Settings app, as half of the things about Android he complained about can be easily changed there.

    No, the reason I’m not rushing to grab a Note, which strikes me as a great portable web browser and podcast viewer that also makes phone calls, is the price. Given that I can get a no-contract 7″ Android tablet for $200 to $250, the idea of paying $300 with a two-year contract for a 5″ tablet, even with a phone modem built in, strikes me as ludicrous. At $200, I’d be tempted; $250 or more with a 2 year contract is indefensible.

  12. I have this phone from T-Mobile.  The battery life gets better.  I am not sure how it works, but in the beginning, the battery held a charge for 4 to 5 hours.  After a few weeks, the battery held a charge for 12 hours.

  13. I switched to a Samsung Galaxy SII Skyrocket in November the day it was released after using iPhones for the past few years because my company is working on Android software.

    This last weekend, I broke down and bought an iPhone 4S and life has never been sweeter.

    Android just isn’t there. Physically the screens are huge but suck in resolution and depth when compared to a retina display. ALL Android keyboard software sucks (and I tried several). As with the reviewer, I felt I was fighting my phone just to enter a damned tweet, let alone an email.  The bluetooth stack was so bad that I had to reboot my phone to get bluetooth working again at least twice a week after either pausing my stereo headset or just trying to turn it on and off. Then there are the lack of updates and the low overall quality of the apps.

    Owning a big Android smartphone means always knowing where your charging cable is and topping off the phone once or twice a day, at least, if you don’t want it to die on you. Compare this to my iPhone, that I charge once every day and a half or two days and never run out of power.

    While I dislike the direction that Apple has taken in having a closed platform, their phones are simply so hands down better than I eventually just have to not care.

    1. really.. most of the apps I use are created for both android and iOS, and they seem to work perfectly fine on Android. If you are talking about the sh!t found in both markets, I wouldn’t know if the fart apps are better on iOS than on Android..

      And responses like this seem to go back and forth between referring to Android as a software and as a hardware platform. Unfortunately, being open source, it is difficult for Google to keep manufacturers from putting Android on crap hardware.

  14. 5.3″  display is a diagonal measurement. This form of advertised measuring needs to be stopped, very few buyers can do the math in their head.  What’s the area? 

    My Kyocera Echo has a viewing area of over 11″, or 3″ x 3 3/4″. I can choose between half this size or fully open. I can run  different applications on each screen too. It even comes with TWO batteries. 

    Samsung uses the largest numbers available to represent size, in millimeters. 
    82.95mm x 146.85mm. In inches, measurements the American market understands, the screen area  is 3 1/4″ x 5 3/4″. That makes a total screen area of 18 3/4″. But you can’t fold it up like I can with my Kyocera.

  15. I agree with all the points.  I will note, however, that the size is not all bad: it fit very well in the hand, and is surprisingly light.  However, I like the fact that I can hold the iPhone in one hand, and have a thumb free to manipulate pages – specifically, to scroll through ebooks I’m reading while standing up on the bus.

    My big complaint about this thing has to do with the promotional event I was stupid enough to participate in.  They were offering a potential prize of one of these things if you filled out the usual form, which I dutifully did – the person I was with wanted this thing – and then I got a text from Samsung telling me to go to the nearby AT&T store to find out what I’d won. Okay.
    Except the people at the Samsung promo – in the Westfield Mall – had no idea what this meant or where the store was.  When I got to the AT&T store, the store employees, including the manager, had no idea what was going on.  And a Samsung rep had been in THAT morning to tell them about this event.  Calls by the AT&T manager to Samsung got nowhere.  My calls and texts to Samsung got nowhere.

    It felt like customer service hell – and I didn’t even have the product.  
    What really pissed me off was that I had just bought a big, shiny Samsung TV – and now I was so pissed off at the company for getting my friend’s hopes up and making me waste all that time that I wanted to return the damn thing!

  16. I have a Nexus S and have no complaints about Android at all. The vanilla-issue Android is perfectly useable. I wish it had expandable memory, but otherwise I’ve found it close to flawless, with no lagging at all. Apple users I’ve shown have been fairly surprised at how nice it is. I wish that Samsung would just ditch TouchWiz as that seems the major source of grief with all their phones and tablets. 

    I really like the form factor on this thing. It’s not stupidly huge if you carry your stuff in a bag like I do. I liked the Dell Streak quite a bit when that came out, but there wasn’t much to differentiate it spec-wise from a regular phone.

  17. I would love to see a *SINGLE REVIEW* of this thing that talks about its abilities as a sketch pad. I was hoping BoingBoing would step up to the plate and review the phablet from the point of view of its target audience, but I guess not. 

    A plea: Rob, can you draw with it? Is the pressure-sensitivity? Is the drawing responsive? Is there a cool app that remembers your drawings as a time-based series of lines, so you can play them back? 

    1. In theory, you can: Samsung’s SDK says it’s pressure-sensitive. But I haven’t found any apps that support that. The S Memo app on board does not, and two others that I tried from the Samsung Apps gallery, OmniSketch and Hello Chalk, don’t appear to either. (The former does look like you could create some decent art in it.)

      There’s also a usability problem wielding a stylus on a touchscreen; it’s too easy to bring up the keyboard or a menu when you brush a finger accidentally against it.

      The screengrab below is from S Memo. It should explain why I don’t draw for a living.

      1. Thanks for your response! Looks like the day of the 5″ self-contained Cintiq are coming, but not quite yet. It’s sad, I think if Samsung has just put in a bit more time and effort (a good sketch app, and something that detected that the pen was nearby and disabled fingers), then they could’ve made a winner, as opposed to a sad punchline.

  18. I’m thinking about getting one, I’m a current old iPhone user and have a Ipad…

    FOr me, I want* a phone that doubles as a PDA and camera.   THe fact that it’s not instant I can deal with.   The Android market place will replace Itunes and the AppStore.   I can’t move my apps over but I still have the ipad1 to use everything I’ve purchased in the past…   If I had a WAN Enabled Ipad3 I go back to a burner phone…

  19. I have just spent two days researching my new phone purchase and, having read dozens of articles on this device and a shortlist of similar devices, I have to say this is the least informative and most misleading article of them all. Your gripes reflect a lack of experience with Android OS. The onscreen keyboard is great; especially thumbing in landscape mode.

    There are many good things to say about the Note. It leads the pack on a number of key features; this is a next generation device available now. ICS is due to drop very soon. The large format is not for everyone; you have the choice between this or the Galaxy S II LTE which is just a smaller version of the same device.

    I chose the Note over the Galaxy S II LTE because I like the idea of a microtablet, as my bias is portable communicator over telephone. I’m going to pair this with an ultraportable keyboard and mouse and leave my tablet at home when traveling. I also need GLONASS support but wasn’t willing to compromise on an iPhone 4S to get it.

    My spouse got the smaller version because she wanted something compact.

    The Note is what it is – a terrific Android phone in a unique form factor for those who want one device not two.

    1. Rob Pegoraro tries to make sense of computers, consumer electronics, telecom services, the Internet, software and other things

      Well at least he TRIES. Someday, he might succeed.

  20. Having owned and used both an Android phone and an iPhone, I can say that for me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I preferred my Android over the iPhone. To me, the Android felt more intuitive, and I preferred being able to modify and customize a lot about my phone. I’ve bricked my Android several times and was able to recover it quite easily. My iPhone crashes, and I have to make an appointment to go get it fixed, sometimes waiting a week or longer.

    A lot of this Android v. Apple debate comes down to one very simple thing: personal preference. I don’t slight people who use Apple products, that’s their choice. Just as using Android is mine :)

  21. i like galaxy s2 and also galaxy note. its weight is a little big but works well.

  22. I would love to see a *SINGLE REVIEW* of this thing that talks about its abilities as a sketch pad. I was hoping BoingBoing would step up to the plate and review the phablet from the point of view of its target audience, but I guess not.

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