REVIEW: With the Galaxy Note, Samsung has succeeded in creating a hybrid mobile device that doesn't look like the typical smartphone, nor can it be perfectly defined as a tablet. But it works equally well, whether you need to take notes or want to make a phone call.
The Galaxy Note isnt exactly a smartphone, although you can make phone calls on it, and its not exactly a tablet, either. Its an enterprise-friendly device thats designed for meetings and other demands for note-taking, along with normal smartphone and tablet functions. But it works fine just as a phone, too.
I first saw the Samsung Galaxy Note in the hands of UberGizmo editor and co-founder Eliane Fiolet as we sat in a nearly empty press building the day before CeBIT opened last March in Hannover, Germany. Eliane had been using the device to take notes as we took the traditional CeBIT press tour of the soon-to-be-opened displays at this massive trade show. I noticed that she was using it in much the same manner as I used my old-fashioned reporters notebook, except that she used a stylus while I was using a pen that was running out of ink.
The next day, the attendees arrived and the Galaxy Note was ubiquitous. I also noticed something else. While the Galaxy Note seemed to be great for note-taking, the look when someone was making a phone call was fairly odd. It seemed as if the person was holding a paperback book up to their face as they talked. Now that AT&T has brought the Note to the United States, I realize that the Note isnt really as big as it seemed at the time, but it is still big compared with todays smartphones. This device has a 5.3-inch active-matrix organic LED (AMOLED) screen.
While the Galaxy Note is a little large to be comfortable as a phone, it fits nicely into the hand and with its included styluscalled the S Pen by Samsungyou can open a memo app on the device and indeed take notes just by writing them down. But thats only the beginning. The Galaxy Note is a lot more than just a phone with a pen.
According to Samsung, the Galaxy Note is SAFE- (Samsung Approved for Enterprise-) certified. This means that the Note has enterprise features such as broad support for mobile-device management (MDM). It can be encrypted. Furthermore its designed to work with corporate email systems and it can access a VPN.
Samsung also has created a series of software kits that provide APIs that work with nearly any MDM, which gives administrators the necessary permissions to access all levels of the device. Samsung says that these capabilities are built into the OS, for the Note can allow MDM software to function at the highest-possible level. The Note runs Android 2.3, or Gingerbread.
This kind of enterprise integration is fairly rare in smartphones, especially those that are part of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement. At least the Note, along with other Samsung SAFE devices can be made to work with the enterprise, instead of providing an impediment to secure operations. Fortunately, the higher level of support for enterprise operations doesnt interfere with the Notes usability.
While the inclusion of the S Pen may seem like a throwback to the days of the Palm Pilot, it turns out to be a useful tool for more than just note-taking. The stylus allows you to make precise selections on sometimes-difficult screens, for example. This means that you can select the exact Web link you want on a crowded page.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.