Samsung Galaxy Note 2: Big enough to be worth the trouble

Samsung Galaxy Note 2: Big enough to be worth the trouble

Summary: The Galaxy Note 2 is one of the biggest smartphones ever made. It's so big the display provides enough utility to be worth the trouble of carrying such a large phone.

Galaxy Note 2

I like big phones I cannot lie. Even so, every phone with a giant display I've tried has left me cold as they are hard to carry around as easily as the smaller (normal) phones. At least that's what I felt until buying the Galaxy Note 2. Its 5.5-inch display is big enough to yield a fantastic user experience and that additional utility makes it worthwhile to carry around every day.

I've been using the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 for a few days since picking one up at the local Sprint store. It's not new to the market so this is not a review of the phone, rather it's a collection of thoughts about the Note 2 in my everyday usage. I can easily state it's the best phone I've ever used.


Samsung has put fanastic hardware inside the Note 2 which yields outstanding performance. The quad-core Exynos processor powers the 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display to great effect. This phone is fast! It handles everything without missing a beat due to the fast processor.

I can easily state the Note 2 is the best phone I've ever used.

The good performance is no doubt hard on the battery, so Samsung put one of the biggest batteries inside. I haven't done any battery benchmarks but even with heavy usage typical for a new phone the Note 2 hasn't come close to running dry. I charge it each night but suspect I could get by with almost two full days of heavy online use.

S Note portrait
S Note inking

The most unique feature of the Note 2 is the inclusion of the S Pen that works well with the active digitizer on the phone. I am only just beginning to investigate all that can be done with the S Pen but I'm already happy with the feature. Jotting a quick note is as simple as pulling the pen out of the silo on the phone, which fires up the floating Quick Note app. The Note 2 is smart enough to warn me if I walk away without putting the pen back in the silo, a nice touch.

I haven't taken a lot of photos with the camera, but it has impressed me so far with the image quality. I am especially happy with the total lack of shutter lag with the camera software. Hitting the shutter button immediately snaps the photo.

The speaker on the Note 2 is nothing special, with audio quality typical for a phone. The volume level is pretty loud and I have no complaints about that. 


I have used a lot of Android phones over the years and I usually prefer those without a lot of OEM bloatware. I like to have a phone that is pretty much stock Android without a lot of bells and whistles.

That's not the case with the Note 2 as Samsung has loaded it up with special software. I have only begun to scratch the surface with how good this software is, but I am impressed with it so far.

Pen image capture
Image captured with S Pen

There is a ton of software for handling the S Pen that is very useful. The S Note app is good as is the Quick Note app mentioned. There is a utility for capturing a portion of the screen by just drawing any shape around the part for a capture. This is far more useful than I thought it might be.

Samsung has baked a lot of usability software into the Note 2 that makes it the most useful phone on any platform that I've tried. There is a bunch of motion software that does really useful things in daily use. 

One such function is the ability to hold down on an icon on the home screen and simply tilt the phone to the side. The selected icon is sent to the home screen in the direction of the tilted phone. Simple and elegant.

There is another motion feature for working in the image gallery. Put two fingers (or thumbs) on the displayed image and then tilt the phone backward and forward to zoom/unzoom the image. This sounds basic but is tremendously useful in practice.

User experience

The big display and special software that Samsung has put on the Note 2 combine to yield a very good user experience out of the box. There is an easy mode to get going right away for those who need it, and a standard mode for those familiar with Android.

In a first for an Android phone in my experience Samsung has a nice help utility that shows the special features of the Note 2. This is done very well and make it easy to find special features and shows how to do them.

Multiview web twitter
Multi-view with browser and Tweetings (Twitter)

The Note 2 has the famous multi-window mode that lets the user put two different apps onscreen side-by-side. This is extremely useful and works well in either portrait or landscape orientation.

Not all apps work in this mode but quite a few do. My favorite Twitter app Tweetings does work in multi-window mode nicely. It is very useful to have Tweetings on the display with the web browser. Tapping a web link in a tweet instantly opens up in the other part of the display without leaving the app. This is very useful to someone like me who spends a lot of time using Twitter.

What makes the multi-window mode so handy is the ability to drag the border between the two apps displayed to make one of them bigger. When I see something of particular interest in one half of the display I drag the border to make that window bigger. I drag it back when I want to return to two equal windows. There's a floating icon that will swap the two apps on the screen, and another to make one of them take over the whole screen.

The large display on the Note 2 is big enough to be truly useful compared to other phones with slightly smaller screens. It provides enough additional benefit to make the Note 2 the first large-screen phone worth carrying around. I found other phones to be unwieldy to carry around every day, especially since their displays don't show enough extra information.

That's not the case with the Note 2 which is the perfect size to show a lot of information on the big screen at once. It makes me want to carry the phone around all the time, even though that's not always easy to do given its large size.

Conclusion: the best phone I have ever used

This article has only touched on some of the features that make the Note 2 so useful. Useful is a good description for the Note 2 as it is easily the best phone I have ever used. It's certainly not for everyone, which is true for any smartphone, but for those looking for an innovative phone in the crowded Android space the Note 2 is worth a look.

Topics: Smartphones, Android, Reviews, Samsung

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  • The "million dollar" question

    Do you think it may replace a smaller phone plus a 7" tablet for many users?
    • I'm keeping my tablets

      I tend to view tablets as offering different usage scenarios so I'm not getting rid of my Nexus 7 or iPad mini. Some folks might but not me. I do find the Note 2 useful enough to often just grab it when I need to do something online really quick. It excels at that.
      • Wow

        Love my job, since I've been bringing in $5600… I sit at home, music playing while I work in front of my new iMac that I got now that I'm making it online.(Menu more information)
      • Yes but

        How many are going to carry around a tablet? A nexus 7 is nice and all but sometimes its just a little too big... (ok no jokes now)
        John Shue
    • I have a Galaxy Note 2 and other tablets.

      I would say this about the Galaxy Note II:

      It is a handy device (mine has 80GB of storage via a 64GB card) for some uses, but the screen makes reading things (books, etc.) a little hard when not in landscape mode (very small). I am keeping my Galaxy Tab for reading books, but many other things the Note II does well.

      Your mileage may vary, depending on your needs. Pair it with a Bluetooth or wired earpiece and it is easier to use as a phone, else it is huge (even compared with hands and pockets). Keep in mind that the device is huge in comparison with most phones (due to the tablet functionality).
      • I prefer reading books on Note to Tab 7 Plus.

        The Tab is the perfect size for reading at a desk or reading the paper at my kitchen table. I find that the Note, however, is the perfect weight for reading in bed or while walking (I take a brisk walk at lunch in a long corridor that is rarely used-- I wouldn't want to wind up in a YouTube video, or a hospital, by doing that on the street.)
    • I think that the Nokia 920 and iPhone to have the best screen size.

      In my opinion, the two best smartphones on the market are the Nokia 920 and the iPhone5. To me the screens are pretty much just right, without having a phone that's too big to be usefull.
      Personally, I want something I can easily carry in my pocket and answer just as easily.
      At 6" tall and close to 3 1/2" wide , I don't see the practicality. I can't even see me comfortably talking on it.
      NoMore MicrosoftEver
      • I guess it's all in the eyes of the beholder

        Every time I use a 3.5" iphone now, I just have to laugh a little bit at how difficult it is to do some things on such a small screen, and the 4" isn't much better.

        Don't get me wrong, I recognize there are advantages to a smaller phone, but fitting in my pocket better isn't as important as the user experience to me. That's why I'll never go smaller than a 4.3" again.
      • Re: I think that the Nokia 920 and iPhone to have the best screen size.

        I'm sure they're fine for people who are satisfied with smaller screens.
      • To Challenger R/T

        Check out My Challenger R/T project
      • Galaxy Note 2 is not big quite big enough!

        Having used a Note 1 for about a year now, I'm not entirely happy that the Note 2 is only marginally bigger in diagonal screen size. They actually went a bit lower with screen resolution (Note1:1280x800 vs Note2:1280x720).
        What I actually want is something in the order of 6-6.5 inch 1920x1080 res screen as I still have room in my pocket for a larger phone! Most of my pants pockets can fit a 7" tablet at a squeeze so something a bit smaller would hit the mark for a biggest-screen-in-pocket device. Tablets don't cut it as most cannot function as a normal GSM phone.
        I have two 7" tablets and a 10" tablet so I'm very familiar with their practicality or lack thereof. My 7" tablets are going to end up as carputers, while the 10" tablet rarely leaves the house.
        BTW, I've seen Samsungs working models of flexible LED screens and the future of devices will be amazing!
      • It's really not a big deal

        I'm not a big guy but talking on the Note 2 is no issue, it's just like any other phone. The reality is that we talk on bigger phones all the time with no worries (land line phones). And before the current iphone got upsized to its current dimensions Android phones were all that size and people said they were too large. It's all about perception, nothing else.
    • It replaced my 7" tablet

      Also replaced my Nook Touch. Although slightly smaller in size, Note 2 displays more information, and with slightly smaller font size it's more comfortable to hold and read (much smaller overall size). There are times when I wished it were bigger (reaching for my 7" tablet) but not often. I can live with Note 2 and a notebook PC. No need for anything in between. The biggest problem is how to carry it around..
    • I would drop my Nook and possibly my iPad

      I would drop my nook and possibly my iPad, however I bought a Samsung Ativ Smart PC 500 for that purpose since I wanted to replace my iPad and my laptop. The Ativ is what attracted me to the Note II. With that said, I could see this replacing even my iPad 2 (10 Inch). The Note is the Ativ with a smaller screen and Android. I have had it a week and I agree it is the BEST smartphone I have ever had.
  • S Pen only for specalized apps?

    James - Does the S Pen (& active digitizer) only work with special apps, or does it work with any app - like a windows machine with dual digitizers.

    The specific application I'm thinking of is my go to - OneNote, can I use it with the S Pen?
    • S-Pen

      The S Pen is hardware specific to the Galaxy note and will therefore not work with Windows
      James G Foster
      • S-Pen works with Windows!

        I've got a HP TX2000 touchscreen laptop with Windows 7 and the S-Pen from my galaxy Note WORKS on the Wacom digitizer layer (2 layer digitizer: resistive and Wacom)
        I can hover the mouse pointer with it by having the s-pen up to 5mm from the screen.
        The pressure sensitivity also works in applications that supports it.
        So yes, it does work with WINDOWS!
    • Don't think it will

      Work with OneNote.
    • there is wine

      And it is coming to Android soon, so maybe it es going to work
    • Stylus DOES work with OneNote

      I have a Note 2 and never thought of using it with OneNote before. So I thought I would try it and see (and then we'd both know).

      I wrote in a OneNote page with the stylus. It brought up the stylus note-taking area, and allowed me to scribble words. OneNote, meanwhile, took my scribble and created text letters and words in the page perfectly.

      So, yes, in answer to your question, the stylus does work with OneNote.