Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider
Samsung’s Galaxy Note is probably the most controversial and polarising smartphone right now.Its launch kicked off with this Apple-bashing commercial that aired during the Super Bowl.
Apple fans reacted predictably, criticising the Note for its monstrous size and resurrection of the stylus.
Samsung’s goal with the Galaxy Note is to provide you with one device that has all the big-screen benefits of a tablet along with the handy communications features of a smartphone.
So is it the Galaxy Note the right device for you?
Keep reading to find out why.
There's no doubt about it. The Galaxy Note is going to be way too big for most people's tastes. It's absurdly large, almost six inches long and three inches wide. You'll definitely turn some heads walking down the street.
Samsung's goal is to blend the benefits of a smartphone and a tablet into one device. The result is a phone that's just plain awkward to lug around. It's too big for your pocket. It's too big to fit comfortably in your hand. It looks silly when you hold it up to your ear to make a call.
Yes, the Galaxy Note is a pretty and well-built device, but it's size makes it feel like a practical joke.
Samsung has a stellar reputation when it comes to making displays. Whether it's for a big-screen TV or a smartphone, Samsung displays never fail to impress.
The same holds true with the Galaxy Note. The 5.3-inch screen is absolutely gorgeous, one of the best we've seen on a mobile device. It's bright, crisp, and has a crystal clear resolution.
When you boot up the Galaxy Note for the first time, your home screen is going to be bogged down with a ton of apps that you won't need.
That's because Samsung partnered with AT&T to launch the Note and the carrier forced its own crapware on the device. Most of these apps can't be deleted from the phone and constantly ping you with reminders to sign up for whatever service AT&T is trying to sell.
AT&T's new 4G LTE network is pretty impressive. In our tests, we often found AT&T's data speeds rivaled what we're used to on our cable modem. At times, it was a lot faster than that. Speeds can vary widely depending on your location, how may people are using the network, and a million other factors, but it's still insanely fast on average.
Unfortunately, there's a good chance you won't get to try AT&T's 4G LTE network if you buy the Galaxy Note. It's currently only available in 28 cities. And AT&T is pretty hush-hush about which cities will get LTE next.
Under the hood, the Galaxy Note is one of the most powerful smartphones you can buy today. It has a blazingly fast dual-core processor that gives the entire user experience a zippy feel.
The Note won't choke no matter how many apps you have open or how big the web page your loading is. It's one of the best Android experiences available.
Note-taking on your phone isn't broken, so it's odd that Samsung is trying to fix it. The Galaxy Note's stylus is an unnecessary add-on to a phone that works perfectly with just touch gestures.
Plus, the stylus feels plain awkward to use. There's a lag between when you touch the tip to the screen and the marking appears. If you take notes on your smartphone, you're better off using the on-screen keyboard. It'll be faster and a lot more accurate.
The iPhone killed the stylus. There's no need to bring it back now.
Despite the Galaxy Note's power-hungry screen and 4G antenna, its battery will easily get you through a full day's use, and then some. The Galaxy Note is one of the few phones out there that prove you don't need to sacrifice battery life for high performance.
On the flip side, you'll get all the benefits of Android such integration with popular services like Dropbox, Evernote, and Facebook. You also get many more options to customise your phone than with the iPhone or Windows Phones can offer.
The Galaxy Note ships with an old version of Android called Gingerbread. The OS is optimised for smartphones, not tablet-sized devices like the Note. Luckily, Samsung is working on an upgrade for the phone that will give you the tablet-optimised version of Android called Ice Cream Sandwich. But knowing Samsung's record for smartphone upgrades, it could be months before that update comes. In the meantime, Gingerbread feels a bit odd on such a large screen.
Conclusion: The Galaxy Note is a great device, but falls into a category most people don't need or want.
This Dilbert comic nails it. The Galaxy Note's monstrous size makes it a niche product. Before buying you have to sit down and ask yourself if you're OK with carrying around this beast in your pocket or bag. With a 5.3-inch screen it does feel more like a tablet, but it's not as good of an experience that a seven or 10-inch screen can provide.
To be clear: we're not saying the Galaxy Note is a bad product. It simply caters to such a small audience that we'd be shocked to see it become a big seller.