1. USA Today – The phone will launch with the Android 4.1 mobile operating system. It’s also the first Samsung phone for the U.S. to house a powerful quad-core processor.
I’ve had a chance to check out the T-Mobile version for more than a week. Despite a few networking snags — T-Mobile’s 4G network was out of reach in some of the New Jersey areas where I tested the device — I am mostly positive
The S Pen
In the new phone, the S Pen is a bit taller than before but packs a bunch of new tricks.
Using S Pen, you can add your signature to e-mails, circle key dates in the calendar app, or draw in other programs. Samsung has improved a cropping feature that was introduced on the first Note. Hold down the button on the S Pen and circle an image or map to clip that image for use in another app.
Perhaps the most clever stunt is an Airview feature. Hold the pen nib just above the screen without actually touching it, and you can preview e-mails, make drop-down menus fly out as you move through websites, or play videos that pop up in a small screen window. You can scroll through Web pages, too, without actually getting your fingerprints all over the display.
In the S Note app, you can jot down notes with the pen while simultaneously recording sound, so you can follow whatever you scribbled as you play back the audio.
Another S Pen goodie lets you draw on the back of a photo, maybe the names of the people in the image or the place at which you shot it, without doctoring the front of the picture.
Best of the rest
As with other Samsung smartphones, you can take advantage of the S Beam feature that relies on NFC (Near Field Communication) technology to share photos, videos, music, maps, Web pages, contacts and S Note files by tapping capable devices back to back.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note II runs on a 1.6GHz quad-core processor along with a full 2GB of RAM. The result is a blazingly fast smartphone experience with no noticeable slowdowns or stutters; from app loading to Web browsing and even multitasking, the Note II’s performance is consistently impressive.
Also impressive is the device’s stamina: While it’s no Droid Razr Maxx HD, the Galaxy Note II packs a removable 3100mAh battery that provides more than enough juice to get you from morning to night. Even with the massive power-sucking screen, I found myself making it through full days of moderate usage with room to spare.
The S Pen’s real potential, if you ask me, lies in its creative uses — the sketching, drawing and image manipulation functions it enables. Samsung’s S Pen app has a variety of pen and brush options and even a feature that can clean up your shapes and turn sloppily drawn squares into ones with precise lines and angles. The Note II also ships with an app called Paper Artist that lets you apply a variety of filters to images and then color over them with the pen.
For more robust features, you’ll have to do a little digging — and probably a little purchasing. There are plenty of photo-manipulation and art-oriented utilities available for use with Android, like the popular Adobe Photoshop Touch ($10) or Autodesk SketchBook Pro ($5). A free app called iAnnotate PDF, meanwhile, works well for marking up PDF files with the pen.
If you’re worried about losing the S Pen, you don’t have to: Samsung has smartly incorporated a “missing pen alert” feature that causes the phone to sound an alarm when the stylus becomes separated by more than several feet. I tested it out and it worked exactly as promised — a very nice touch.
3. EWeek – what impressed me most about the Note II was the rear camera. There are lots of options and features and filters, it’s easy to move between the front and back cameras, as well as between photos and video modes, and one can even pause during recording and then restart—an actually very helpful feature. But, really, it’s the display that makes taking and viewing images and video so satisfying—the size is nice, of course, but it’s the resolution and how saturated but crisp it makes images look that made it a treat to use.
The display is a Super AMOLED (active-matrix organic LED) with 16 million colors and a resolution of 720 by 1280. Together, these make each photo—particularly in bright light—seem better than the last. Transferred to my MacBook, the photos still look good, but they didn’t pop the way they did on the Note II. As much as sharing photos—and Samsung has included lots of ways to do this—I just wanted to show them off on the Note II’s displa