T-Mobile Galaxy Note II first impressions: Samsung stepped up to the plate with this upgrade

T-Mobile Galaxy Note II first impressions: Samsung stepped up to the plate with this upgrade

Summary: The Galaxy Note II is now available for T-Mobile and if you are a data centric user then this is a serious device you should consider. I may have found my perfect device with not a single lame specification.

SHARE:
T-Mobile Galaxy Note II first impressions: Samsung stepped up to the plate with this upgrade

I have been very pleased with my Samsung Galaxy S III, but when I heard more about the new Galaxy Note II I couldn't resist so I sold the GSIII and bought the Titanium Gray Note II at my local store yesterday. I will be spending MUCH more time with it moving forward, but wanted to share some of my first impressions as the Note II starts to roll out on various carriers.

You can check out a few photos of the T-Mobile Galaxy Note II and screenshots in my image gallery.

In the box and specs

The retail box is one of those common well constructed white cardboard boxes I have seen for a few years on T-Mobile with a sleeve showing the device and some common features. Inside you will find a USB cable, A/C charger, Start Guide, recycle envelope, and a wired stereo headset with replaceable eartips. The headset is actually pretty decent and comes in white.

Specifications of the T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy Note II include:

  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS with TouchWiz
  • Quad-core 1.6 GHz Exynos processor
  • 21 42 Mbps HSPA+ support
  • 5.5 inch 1280 x 720 pixel HD Super AMOLED display
  • 16GB internal memory, microSD card slot with support up to 64GB
  • 2GB RAM
  • 8 megapixel camera
  • Front facing 1.9 megapixel camera
  • NFC, GPS
  • Dual band 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi
  • Bluetooth 4.0 with Apt-X support
  • MASSIVE 3,100 mAh removable battery
  • Dimensions of 5.95 x 3.7 x 0.37 inches and 6.35 ounces

I was VERY pleased to see Samsung launch with the quad-core Exynos processor here in the US, along with the same form factor as seen in Europe. There is usually at least a couple of specifications that leave me wanting more, but I have to say it looks like Samsung may have finally launched with a device that is lacking in NOTHING at all! If you can get along with the size of the device then it may just be the perfect one for data-centric folks.

The Galaxy Note II supports T-Mobile's WiFi Calling technology so you can make and receive calls via WiFi when your cellular signal is low. The Note II also does not have LTE enabled, but from what I understand it may be inside the unit and there is the possibility it could be unlocked when T-Mobile rolls out LTE. In the meantime, you will find support for T-Mobile's 42 Mbps HSPA+ network. Nearly all the rest of the specs should be the same across the wireless carriers in the US.

I recommend you take a look at this great video review of the Galaxy Note II:

Walk around the hardware

I thought the original Galaxy Note was a bit too wide and the 0.07 inch (1.8 mm) is noticeable enough to make the Note II better for me. The front is dominated by the 5.5 inch HD Super AMOLED display and display purists will be happy to know that Samsung was able to do away with the pentile display seen on the last Note and previous Samsung AMOLED devices. Check out this great detailed discussion on the display over at GSM Arena. Below the display you will find the menu button (capacitive area), center action physical button, and back button (capacitive area). Above the display you will find the proximity sensor, indicator light, headset speaker, and front facing camera.

The traditional Samsung power button is on the right side while the volume button is on the left. The 3.5mm headset jack is on the top with the microUSB port and S Pen silo on the bottom. The speaker is on the lower back with the camera and flash up near the top. Under the back cover you will find the massive 3,100 mAh battery, microSIM card slot, and microSD card slot.

While Samsung uses plastic and glass, the display is so large that the only real plastic is found on the back cover. It is a solid feeling device and feels like a $650 device.

Bluetooth 4.0 with Apt-X is supported so you get excellent Bluetooth audio quality. NFC is also included and I am having fun with my new Samsung TecTiles I bought last week.

The S Pen is MUCH more useful this time around and if you press the pen button and swipe up the display you will see the Quick Command pop-up. In here you can draw a ? followed by a keyword for an Internet search, an @ sign with name to send an email, a # sign and name to call someone, and more. By pressing and holding the button you can also use Easy Clip to outline or crop anything on the display. There are many S Pen gestures and I highly recommend you read through the Start Guide to figure some out.

Walk through the software

Samsung's Galaxy S III stood out in part due to all of the software and services Samsung added to the device. Samsung continued with the Note II and offers some very cool functionality that will keep me busy for weeks. You will find functions and utilities such as:

  • Air View: Hover the S Pen over the display to see things in the app appear, scroll through lists, and more.
  • Popup Play: You can watch video while doing other things on the device.
  • Quick Glance: Pass your hand over the proximity sensor to see various notifications on the display. This reminds me a bit of what the N9 does.
  • Multi-window: You can use the large display to view and work with a couple apps at once and I can't wait to try this out. This came to the international model after a week with an update and is not available yet on the T-Mobile version.
  • Smart Rotation: This is functionality to help control rotation so you can do things like read in bed without your device switching orientation all the time.
  • Smart Stay: The display stays on as long as you are looking at it.
  • Blocking Mode: Similar to the Do Not Disturb function in iOS 6 you can control when you notifications are active and if anyone can get through while you sleep.
  • One-handed operation: There are settings for the dialer, keyboard, calculator, and unlock pattern to help improve one-handed usability.
  • Photo capture by voice: I believe the Galaxy S III has this capability too, but I just found it on the Note II and love it since tapping the display to take a photo sometimes introduces blur. I also like the burst and best shot modes.

On of the fun things with a device like this is the discovery of functions like this and more. I know not all of this functionality will be useful to everyone, but if a couple of nuggets help you out then you may decide the device is worth the price.

One of the main reasons I wanted the Note II was for the Jelly Bean goodies like Google Now. When you first get the Note II you may begin to wonder if Now is even there, but rest assured it is and is just not as prominent as it is on the Nexus where you simply swipe up from off the screen. On the Note II you can do the following to get to Google Now:

  1. Press and hold on the center action button and then tap on the center Google icon.
  2. Press and hold the left menu button to launch Google Now and get right into the Google Search box.
  3. Add Google Search as an icon to the lock screen and then drag it up to launch right into Google Now.

I keep using the lock screen trick to get to Google Now and LOVE this Jelly Bean feature. I also disabled the double tap of the action button to launch S Voice since I do not find that utility very useful.

Availability and summary

The T-Mobile Galaxy Note II is available now online and in stores. There were four people in front of me yesterday when the Seattle store opened with about another 10 or so coming in after I bought mine. I heard the store manager say he had about 5 left so they likely sold out at that particular store. The Note II will be coming over the next month to other carriers with rumors that Verizon won't get it until the end of November.

So far I am LOVING my Galaxy Note II and I am very impressed by the improvements Samsung made compared to the original Note. The original Note sold over 10 million units and I imagine this one will do even better and offers quite a contrasting device to the small Apple iPhone 5.

Related ZDNet coverage

Topics: Mobility, Android, Reviews, Samsung, Smartphones

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

17 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Some specifications are not lame -- too strong word -- but still lacking

    Battery life test shows the device is much less autonomous, comparing to iPhone 5. The screen is still PenTile (though different, better configuration). Graphic performance lags behind iPhone 5.

    But this device is totally different form-factor, so if you really need big-screened phone, then this is probably the best variant now. HTC promises huge phone, too, but it is not here yet.
    DDERSSS
    • I showed you mine now show me yours...

      Read this about the screen
      http://www.gsmarena.com/samsung_galaxy_note_2_att_tmobile_sprint_verizon-review-836p3.php

      Please reply with a link regarding the graphics lag
      BigGuy135
      • About the GN2 screen

        Not only it is still PenTile, but also it still give very distorted colours. I forgot to point that in the first post.

        As to graphics lag:
        http://www.anandtech.com/show/6330/the-iphone-5-review/11
        DDERSSS
        • Close but no Cigar

          I checked 10 different articles including the Samsung site all quoting that the note is non pentile However its new pixel configuration is not as per the standard matrix....Refer again to the GSM arena for the best explaintion of this configuration.....But really thats picking at pixels and the short and sweet of it is that the Note screen looks better than the S3 Screen so unless i get that Bionic Eye i have always wanted i wont complain about the layout but i'm gonna enjoy that screen for sure!

          Now with regards to your reply ...in article from your Link it does not mention the Note 2 , it only speaks of the S3... so you basing your comments on that? Please dont do that..The S3 and the Note 2 are different devices..wait for a non biased review with a direct comparison for the i5 and the note 2 ....In all honesty i dont even want that because the note 2 and i5 are in different leagues catering for different users ..... ....Real world performance is always the acid test both look good and both are fast and when we start getting to nanosecs and pixels then we lose the point of diversity in the cellular market.
          BigGuy135
    • The iPhone 5 is a 2011 mobile device.

      With the likes of the Galaxy Note II and upcoming LG phones and S4, the iPhone 5 looks like it's standing still not just with it's hardware but date UI as well.

      What battery life and graphic performance test are you referring to? Considering the GNII is only now coming out in any meaningful way, it will take a little time to get the comparison videos between the two devices. We'll see then.
      laequis
      • Battery life

        Who cares about battery life on Samsung Galaxy Note II (or most phones). A battery is a small thing that can be swapped when empty (and refilled later on) - unless the phone is from Apple, and the battery is non-removable (like everything else from Apple). That, to me, is totally unacceptable and it's a deal killing just there.
        Always buy a phone with removable battery (it used to be always user-replacable, untli Apple started making phones), and go wherever you want for days without worrying about the need to charge your phone. 2 spare batteries (they're very small, thin, light, cheap at $10 to max. $20 apiece) will go a long way.
        BostonBiotech
    • Can u Spot the Apple fan

      @BigGuy135, thanks for setting DDERESSS straight with the facts.

      I'm curious to see how apple fan react when apple jumps aboard the 5in tablet/phone game. When 4in were the "new", all the people I knew who owned iphones said 4in is too big of a phone 3.5in is perfect. When I got the Dell Streak (Streak5) in Nov 2010, everybody said "Daymn, thats F'in huge". Upgraded to Note (i717) on release to 5.2in and apple just jumped on board to a 4in screen and they say thats the perfect size. Now the Note2 is available with a 5.5in screen, wow. Now thats a perfect size. The best of both tablet and phone worlds. I got mine on preorder (att).

      Point of story: apple is behind the times. When will they jump to quad core like the rest of the world. LTE has been around since Feb of 2011 in US, apple is now just getting it late 3rd quarter of 2012. I give apple props for they way they market things, very clever indeed. I personally wouldn't buy apple but do and have use their laptops and desktops. Which lacks in the functionality department in some instances.
      Free Webapps
  • Where is the truth

    I second BigGuy135 - DDERSSS - prove that the new Note is Pentile.
    dimonic
    • There are plenty of close-up photos

      Just look at AnandTech SGN2 review, for example.

      The screen is still not SuperAMOLED+, where with "+" sign Samsung marks honest-resolution screen. Retina-class resolution SuperAMOLED+ will only debut next year.
      DDERSSS
  • T-Mobile version vs Unlocked

    What are the advantages/disadvantages buying a T-Mobile version vs an unlocked version?
    rreifsnider@...
    • If on T-Mobile in the US, get the T-Mobile one

      I am fairly certain that the international one does not support the 1700 MHz frequency band T-Mobile uses for HSPA+ data so you may be limited to those areas where T-Mobile is now supporting 1900 MHz. You also get WiFi Calling with the official T-Mobile USA one and I personally find this useful when at home or on the road where T-Mobile signal may not be that great.

      Thankfully, the processor, form factor, and other pieces that have been different in the past are now all the same so there is much less reason to buy the international model.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • "If on T-Mobile..."

        Do you know if T-Mobile is willing to unlock the SIM so that the T-Mobile version can be used in Europe and Australia?
        rreifsnider@...
        • T-Mobile unlock

          I've never had any trouble with this. Just call t-mobile, tell them you'll be traveling to Europe and need the unlock code.
          rberman
          • T-Mobile unlock

            I second rberman (25 October, 2012 17:49). T-Mobile will do it (I did it 2 years ago with my T-Mobile "G2", and it worked in Europe). I asked them last week if they'd do it for a new Samsung Galaxy Note II, and they said yes AFTER 2 months.
            Make sure you give them a few days (at least one week) to respond to your unlock code request. It usually takes ca. 2 days (but they say up to a week or two).
            BostonBiotech
  • Usable as a cell phone?

    Do you have any feel for the capability of this device as a cell phone?
    charleyj98
  • 2013 Smartphones

    I too have been watching this device very carefully. I think it offers about 274ppi. Based on other upcoming devices with 440 to 443ppi, I may want to wait for the Galaxy Note III.
    Heres the NEWS ARTICLE:
    2013 Smartphones With 5-Inch 443 PPI Full HD 1,080p Displays Will Kick Glass
    http://ppci.me/b/FXDL
    Paul B. Wordman
  • Samsung II Note

    Ok, so now I must have this phone. I do tons of emails and this looks like a must have for me.

    Woody
    800Mobileapps.com
    woody cundiff