The heftiest phone in the world has arrived: a super-powered mobile with an added stylus, which is designed for those who want a tablet but in phone form – just be prepared for some odd looks in public
When you first clap eyes on the Samsung Galaxy Note you could be forgiven for wondering what exactly it is: a phone or a tablet.
Technically it’s the former, but its massive 5.3-inch screen pushes it firmly towards the tablet sector – and that’s a very conscious choice from its makers.
With the Note, Samsung is trying to fill a gap in the market, catering for people who want a larger screen than your run-of-the-mill smartphone can provide – but crucially don’t want something as large as an actual tablet. And it just about fits, because it just about fits in your trouser pocket (though it looks rude). It’s thin and very lightweight too.
The screen is the undeniable star of the show here. Not merely large, it’s also sharp: the resolution is 1,280×800 pixels and the pixel density 285ppi (only slightly less than the fabled 326ppi Retina Display on the iPhone 4). And because it uses AMOLED technology, the quality of colour reproduction and contrast is incredibly high. Black looks black here, deep and inky, rather than the slightly washed-out grey you generally see with LCD screens.
This makes the Galaxy Note one of the best phones we’ve ever used for watching videos and web browsing. When it comes to the latter, the screen is so detailed that viewing proper, full-size web pages rather than the mobile versions is actually a pain-free experience.
But there’s more to the screen: Samsung has also included a stylus, and in conjunction with the S Memo app included, this turns the Galaxy Note into, well, a notebook. The screen is large enough that you can jot down handwritten note, sketch diagrams and so on.
The stylus isn’t perfect however, and if you use it as a replacement for your finger it can feel a little inaccurate.
Browsing the aforementioned full-size web pages, for instance, and trying to click a link with the stylus often results in you selecting the one above or below it by mistake.
The Galaxy Note runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread with Samsung’s own TouchWiz interface overlaid, and it’s a joy to use. There are seven homescreens available, and you can customise them with your own selection of widgets and app shortcuts, flicking between them with the merest movement of your finger. The multitouch controls, such as pinch-to-zoom on photos and web pages, also work beautifully smoothly.
The phone comes preloaded with a huge number of apps, and while you might see that as a positive, we suspect a large proportion of them will go unused by the average owner. While we’d stop short of saying the Galaxy Note is stuffed full of bloatware, we’d prefer a ‘less is more’ approach from Samsung: why not let the user decide the apps that he or she wants?
Samsung does feature a handful of its own apps, and some are noteworthy. Social Hub, for example, draws all your messages and emails into one tab and all your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn updates into another; it’s handy. There’s also Voice Talk, which works like a poor man’s version of the iPhone 4S’s Siri: you can speak to send messages, update Twitter or open apps.
Full article in Mobile News issue 504 (December 19, 2011).
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