The Galaxy Note is a “phablet” because its 5.3-inch display lands it somewhere between a phone and a tablet. For me, it seems mostly like a very large phone, with the addition of a stylus to enable a few unique applications.
Despite its odd size, or maybe because of it, the Galaxy Note has been finding a niche in the market. It’s great for people who want a device that is larger than a typical smartphone, but don’t want to carry a tablet too.
The Galaxy Note is an Android device with a 5.3-inch, 1,280-by-800 pixel Super AMOLED screen and stylus capabilities, running Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). The OS firmly roots the device on the phone side, as “tablet” applications don’t run on it. But then again, there aren’t that many Android tablet apps and nearly all the phone applications I tried looked at worked quite well on the larger screen. I found it particularly good for applications like email, where the larger (and higher-resolution) screen lets me see more of my messages.
The size does take some getting used to. It’s large, but surprisingly slim and light. Carrying it in a coat or trouser pocket is easy, but I find it just a bit too big for most jean pockets. My hands are small, and I can’t reach all the corners of the device with a single hand, so I find myself most often using two hands. If you have larger hands, you might like it more.
The 5.3 inch Galaxy Note beside an iPhone 4S
As a phone, I know some people think it’s too large to be pressed against the side of the head. I used it mainly with a headset, so that wasn’t an issue for me; then again, I don’t make that many voice calls anyway and the size didn’t bother me. The phone uses AT&T’s 4G LTE network, and I got very good speeds in most places where I used it in the New York and San Francisco areas.
What makes the device really stand out, though, is the stylus used for applications. Samsung calls it the S Pen and it slips nicely into a slot on the back of the device.
The most important seems to be an application called S Memo, which lets you either type or, more impressively, draw notes and comments. You can also share your memos via Twitter, Facebook, and email. You can pull up a light version of this by just holding the button on the side of the screen and taping twice with the pen. It’s pretty convenient.
That is nice, but I was even more impressed by Soonr Scribble, which lets you use the pen to mark up and annotate a variety of different documents, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It also comes with Polaris Office, another way of viewing and editing Office documents, though I don’t find that works particularly well with the pen.
A number of other applications that use the pen are available, including Zen Brush, ComicBook!, and some interesting games, such as Crayon Physics
It had 8 hours, 30 minutes of talk time on the gigantic 2500 mAh battery.
The Galaxy Note hooked up without trouble to our Jawbone Era ($129, 4.5 stars) Bluetooth headset for both voice calls and multimedia sound, including triggering the relatively accurate voice dialing.
This is Android 2.3 and not 4.0 so there’s no way to set the built-in browser to force desktop page mode; you have to download the Dolphin HD browser to do it.