As a long time iOS user, I’ve always been a bit turned off by larger screened smartphones, or as some say, the ‘Phablet’. These devices are hybrids between tablets and smartphones, with screens usually ranging between 5″ – 5.5″. And up until recently, I hadn’t had the chance to play around with one of these devices on a day-to-day basis. However, this all changed recently when I received a Samsung Galaxy Note II on the US Cellular network to play around with for a couple of months. Below, I’ve compiled my thoughts on the Android experience on such a large device from an iPhone user’s perspective.
Note: I’ve been an iPhone user for quite sometime. Back in 2009 I got my hands on an iPhone 3GS after switching from Windows Mobile 6.5. Before the 3GS, I was the owner of a first and second-generation iPod touch, so I’ve had quite some time with iOS throughout my life. Day-to-day, I use an iPhone 5, iPad mini and a third-generation iPad with Retina Display. I’ve had experience with Android in the past and have tried out many devices like the Galaxy S III and the Droid Incredible 4G LTE.
Since the Galaxy Note II’s flagship feature is its enormous screen, I feel obligated to cover it first. During my time with the device, I found that the screen was great for watching movies and drawing with the S-pen (more on that later), but was unnecessary during regular use. Also, because of the Note’s giant screen, it’s next to impossible to use the device with one hand. When taking calls, the Galaxy Note II feels awkward and unnatural due to its screen size. However, though the screen is enormous, it’s very clear and is on-par with my iPhone 5 and iPad with Retina Display. This is due to the device’s 1,280 x 720 Super AMOLED display that looks fabulous in low-light and high-light situations.
As far as performance goes, the Note II is by far the smoothest Android device I’ve used. The device is responsive for the most part and graphic intensive games seem to run flawlessly. This stellar performance is due to the fact that the smartphone is running Android 4.1 and is powered by a quad-core Cortex-A9 CPU clocked at 1.6GHz and 2GB of RAM. This gives the phone all the power needed to run the latest cutting edge Android games.
While the Galaxy Note II’s specs may look better than the iPhone 5 on paper, there’s just something about Android and the Galaxy Note II that feels a bit off. For instance, when using the Note II’s web browser, I often find the device over-scrolling. I’ve also found the Galaxy Note II to be overly snappy when performing system transitions and animations, giving the user interface an unnatural feeling.
The Note II also includes an S Pen, or as I like to say, a glorified stylus. You can use the pen to control the device like you would with your finger, but it can also be used to draw and jot handwritten notes with the S Note application. In theory, this would work well due to the Note II’s massive screen, right? Wrong. Taking handwritten notes with the S Pen feels quite awkward due to the short length of the S Pen itself. The Note II also doesn’t have enough room on the its screen to allow me to comfortably rest my hand when jotting notes. Because of these two factors, I often found my hand slipping off of the Note’s screen, sending my S Pen falling to the floor.
Even though I think the Galaxy Note II is a well performing Android device, it won’t switch me from my good ol’ iPhone. This is mainly due to the fact that the Note II’s screen size and Android OS still seem a bit unnatural to me, though I did throughly enjoy using the device for streaming Netflix videos. However, if you’re a fan of large mobile phone screens and enjoy having the customizability of Android, you’ll probably love the device.
All in all, the Galaxy Note II is a great phone if you’re on the US Cellular network. If you wish to purchase one for yourself, expect to pay $299.99 upfront for a 16GB model on a two-year contract. If you’d prefer to go contract free on US Cellular, the Note II will run you a whopping $799.99.