I would like to say my experience with Samsung’s Galaxy Note, on sale Feb. 19 from AT&T (NYSE:T) for $299.99 on contract, was a super-success, but I cannot.
The truth is that making and receiving calls on this Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android 2.3 Gingerbread-based smartphone in public made me feel quite self-conscious. Self-conscious enough that I didn’t want to make or take a call, and that’s a problem.
When I did take or make a call with this phone, its 5.3-inch display covered the entire side of my face. The Note boasts a 5.3-inch high-definition Super AMOLED (active-matrix organic LED) screen, which makes it beautiful for accessing apps and watching video, but unwieldy for holding the device up to the side of a human face.
While using the Note to make calls, I felt like Don Adams, the actor who played Maxwell Smart in that spy comedy “Get Smart,” which aired from 1965 to 1970. For those not old enough to remember it, Smart would make calls with his shoe. It seemed funny then, and it seems ludicrous now.
Well, now you know what it’s like using the Note for calls. Okay, I’m exaggerating just a tad, but making calls is no fun unless you put the Note on speaker phone. I’m not the only one who felt awkward making calls the traditional way. Walt Mossberg wrote that making calls with the Note makes you look “like you’re talking into a piece of toast.”
Burnt toast, anyway. The Note I’m testing has a nice black textured back. Yet Mossberg and I are not alone. Boy Genius Report’s Jonathan S. Geller wrote: “The phone is too big. You will look stupid talking on it, people will laugh at you, and you’ll be unhappy if you buy it.”
If You Can Get Past the Size Issue, The Note Has Its Advantages
That’s plainly spoken, but if I don’t get over the Note’s size issuecall quality was fine on this 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) phoneI won’t be able to finish my review, so let’s put it to bed.
As a piece of tablet-style hardware, the Note is svelte. It’s 0.38 inches thin, making it super-slim and portable. It weighs only 6.28 ounces and is less than 6 inches long. However, it is more than 3 inches wide, which meant my average hands couldn’t grip it properly for calls. Okay, so maybe I couldn’t get over the Note’s proportions. Oh dear.
Here’s what I did like or even love about the Note. It’s blazing fast for downloading apps, watching Netflix or YouTube video. The 4G LTE from AT&T paired with the phone’s 1.5GHz dual-core chip made for a speedy processing machine.
Another hallmark of this handset is it’s got great note-taking, sketching and drawing capabilities, thanks to the S Pen digital pen, which looks and feels like a real ink pen in the hand, and the accompanying S Memo application, which you use to take notes or jot down other stuff.
The S Pen wrote fluidly for me, and I have terrible handwriting. In fact, the S Pen and S Memo app worked better for me than the rival HTC Scribe technology for the HTC Jetstream, and Motorola’s subpar digital ink and stylus technology for its Droid Xyboard slate.
I made notes and grocery lists, and edited photos, but you can also annotate Microsoft PowerPoint presentations through Polaris Office if you’re so inclined. You can also do a nifty multi-tasking trick. While on the phone, you can hold the S Pen’s button down and double tap the Note’s screen to take notes with the S Memo Lite version of the app.
There is also a preloaded Crayon Physics game, and Google’s Android Market also offers additional apps for the S Pen, including games such as Sudoku, crossword puzzles and word search.
But you don’t need the note-taking app and S Pen to enjoy input on the device. Thanks to the display, typing on the virtual keyboard is a joy for texting or even just entering credentials to get into apps.
The Note’s 8-megapixel camera worked well for pictures, and video recorded and played back in HD 1,080p. The front-facing 2MP shutter also played well with the Qik Lite video calling for face-to-face chats.
As you’d expect in a device this size, the battery is pretty good. The 2,500mAh power supply lasted a full day on a charge, even when I watched whole TV episodes or movies on Netflix. The device also comes with 16GB of memory, expandable to 32GB with a microSD card.
Can I recommend the Galaxy Note? Good question. It depends on what you want to use this device for. I can recommend it as a small tablet for note taking, gaming or watching video. But it’s less than ideal as a phone or a communications device for the hand.