Using the Note 2 for a week has forever warped my sense of smartphone size. There’s just something incredibly unnerving about picking up a Galaxy S 3 or One X and mentally thinking, ‘wow, this feels really small all of a sudden,’ but such is what the Note 2 has done to me. There’s that ever-present adage about it not always being entirely about size, but in the smartphone space lately it seems as though that conventional wisdom just doesn’t apply, as displays across every OEM’s lineup are getting larger and larger. My friends (whose wits are more keenly sharpened than mine) have been kidding me about the size of the Note 2 since I started using it, making jokes that would probably get me in trouble if recounted here, and Anand usually lets us all get away with quite a bit. I earlier said that the Note 2 is almost like a novelty check of a phone, and just like I’ve always wondered whether people really can cash those novelty checks, I wondered how useable the Note 2 would be as a daily driver. Turns out the answer is that it’s very usable. The TSA didn’t even make me put the Note 2 in a separate bin through the X-Ray when passing through security.


Galaxy Note 2 alongside its predecessor

All jesting aside, the Note 2 is, again, something of a realistic upper bound for device size. This is the extra large that needs to come after large, this is the super big gulp to the big gulp, the stretch limo to just limo. It seems as though wherever you look, large begets at least one more gradation above and beyond, and the Note 2 is that proverbial step in this space. Samsung innovated and took a risk with the original Galaxy Note, and the result was an overwhelming success and huge following. Nailing down the why and how is really something of a market study. One of the biggest factors young tech reviewers like myself forget is that visual acuity does diminish with age as the crystalline lens loses its ability to flex and accommodate, thus reducing how close one can focus. In that case, there’s a subconscious (or perhaps very conscious) desire for a phone with the largest display possible simply for the legibility when held at a comfortable distance. That’s my own personal speculation for the trend to larger and larger phones. The other is simply as a status symbol or fashion statement, and that needs no explanation.

From another angle the Note 2 represents basically a mid-cycle refresh of the Galaxy S 3 for customers in the USA. Samsung’s own Exynos 4412 quad core SoC is finally here, something that has been out of grasp unless you imported your own international Galaxy S 3 unlocked and went with HSPA+ 21.1 instead of LTE. That brings me to the second part — greater SoC choice as a result of Qualcomm’s MDM9x15 now being available, as a result of it being natively voice enabled with support for basically every radio access technology deployed right now. Battery life also doesn’t take as big of a hit with either of those big steps thanks to 32nm HKMG and 28nm process nodes respectively.

Finally, for T-Mobile this is a notable step. It isn’t proudly proclaimed on the box or the spec page on T-Mobile’s site but their Note 2 includes LTE support on AWS which makes it relatively future proof when that rolls around. T-Mobile’s pricing for the Note 2 is really quite steep though, at $369 with a two year contract as of this writing, though T-Mobile also priced their Galaxy S 3 higher than other carriers initially, and other carriers are proposing $299 with two year contract for the Note 2. It is clear however that the Note 2 is going to be positioned in its own pricing tier.

When I was using the original Note, it was one of the few Android devices I’ve ever used which solicited many questions and discussions in public. With the Note 2, the form factor is still fresh and different, and as a result I strongly suspect it will likely get the same kind of curious attention that will help move units. S Pen also makes the Note 2 different from the rest, and the improvements Samsung has made to the active digitizer and input with S Note have elevated my impression of the Note platform from a notetaking perspective considerably.

I’ve enjoyed using the Note 2 considerably. Who knows, I very well might move my personal T-Mobile SIM from one of the smallest smartphones on the market right now, to the largest.

Speakerphone and Noise Suppression
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  • barry spock - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    The longer I spend think about my own subjective limitations, the more I realise that the products from anyone but apple aren't getting a fair go.
    And this one's an interesting product to attempt to not pigeonhole. I'd think of it more as a media device than a phone. And so does the rest of south korea, as I watch them using these things on the subway -- they watch tv on them. They make calls using earbuds -- not holding a thing this size to their heads. And they rarely put it in their pockets -- it goes in a handbag (or a manbag)
    The bit about it not fitting in the F-150's "big Gulp" plastic cup holder speaks volumes about the culture it was written in.

    Different cultures will use these devices differently. I imagine Samsung won't fret if this isn't taken up in droves in the US, because after all, there's always china.

    Also, Anand, et al. *please* give us the ability to mod-down thoughtless comments such as the first one attached to this article.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    Please give us the power to wipe out the idiots who are stupid enough to double post, as if their comments are better than others comments, and as if we need to see them. Reply
  • Paulman - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    "One of the biggest factors young tech reviewers like myself forget is that visual acuity does diminish with age as the crystalline lens loses its ability to flex and accommodate, thus reducing how close one can focus."

    Ha ha, this is an optical engineer's way of explaining that old(er) people need reading glasses :P I had to wikipedia this, but apparently the medical term is "Presbyopia" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presbyopia

    Can't wait for the next episode of the Anandtech Podcast, Brian!
    Reply
  • galaxynotetoo - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Every feature that Galaxy Note 2 has, can be found in bigger screen tablets expect for the ability to make calls. The other big screens cost fraction of what Galaxy Note 2 costs. eg : 199 for Google Nexus, 329 for iPad mini. Why pay $700 for this crap Galaxy note 2 ? Reply
  • Visual - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Firstly, the obvious thing - to make calls. Duh.

    Secondly, no, it's not every feature. Pressure sensitive active pen digitizer is not found on any other current ARM tablet, and is a serious plus for some applications, i.e. drawing or even just handwriting. There's a reason it is called Note.
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    You really created an account here just to say that? :|

    Miniaturisation doesn't come cheap. Fact is, though, they're probably taking decent margins on this too. We can thank Apple for setting up that pricing expectation and capitalism for making sure every other company follows suit.
    Reply
  • VooDooAddict - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Been the first phone I've been excited about hitting sprint since the Palm Pre.

    Soon as it's available it will be replacing the launch Pre I'm still using.
    Reply
  • liffey - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    "Switching back and forth between the stylus and fingers for using the basic Android interactions is annoying"

    Um you do know that you can invoke the menu and back command with the S Pen, right? Hold the button and swipe left for "back", and swipe up for "menu" (while holding the button, of course).
    Reply
  • 996GT2 - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    iPhone 5 screen resolution is 1136 x 640, not 1136 x 960 as listed in the table. Reply
  • cokata - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    the razr i has been mentioned and benched here and in the ip5 review and at least on the cpu side of things it looks like the only good competition to the A6 Reply

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