Smartphone Review: Samsung Galaxy Note II

In the world of mobile, smaller is better, right? Well, with its release of the Galaxy Note II, Samsung is attempting to buck that trend. But, does it work? The Galaxy Note II finds itself stuck between a phone and a tablet, and the results are mixed.

The first Galaxy Note was a huge seller, but then sales don’t always equal quality (as many reviewers can attest). Reviewers docked the original for its size, so why does Samsung insist on continuing to make oversize “phablets?” Maybe they know something the consumer doesn’t — or maybe not.

In our review, we take a look at the display, the camera, the size, and a myriad of other features the Galaxy Note II brings to the table. Some of the positives include great battery life, a beautiful AMOLED display, and a powerful processor capable of running a variety of applications. The negatives? Well, the size, for one. There are also problems with the user interface, which have been inexcusably brought over from the first Galaxy Note, as well as some of the preloaded apps.

For a comprehensive look at the Samsung Galaxy Note II, check out Nathan Olivarez-Giles’ recent review. Find out if Samsung has finally gotten it right, or if it needs to head back to the drawing board.

“Is The Samsung Galaxy Note II Better?

Design-wise, the Note II falls right in line with other Galaxy products — it essentially looks like a stretched out Galaxy S III, with the same rounded corners, glossy finger-print loving plastics and fake-chrome ring running around the edge. The Note II largely runs the same software as the S III — Google’s Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system skinned in Samsung’s unpretty TouchWiz user interface and filled to the brim with redundant features.

 Like the S III, the Note II comes with Samsung’s own apps for sharing photos and videos — some of which are reliant on Wi-Fi, some which use NFC, and none of which are fun or easy to use. It also has the various UI accoutrements I wish Samsung would give up on, like the lock screen that simulates water ripples when you swipe it, and the water-themed sound effects set as the default sounds for various clicks and alerts.

 And then there’s S Voice, Samsung’s voice-assistant app built to challenge Apple’s Siri and Google’s Voice Search. S Voice sucked when it made its debut on the S III, and it still sucks on the Note II. The service debuted months and months ago, and yet nothing about it has improved. When I asked it questions, I got more errors than answers. It’s painfully irritating.

 The app prompts you to say, “Hi, Galaxy,” when you start using it. So I did, and I got an obtuse response: “I’m not sure what you mean by ‘Hello Galaxy.’” Even after it came around, it still played hard-to-get, often replying with, “Server error. Please try again.” Thankfully, the Google Search app, with its fantastic Voice Search function (the best voice assistant app on any phone or tablet) is available in Google Play, so Note II owners never have to fuss with S Voice.”

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