Thanks to Telecom New Zealand and Geekzone, I have had the opportunity to review the Samsung Galaxy Note II over the 2012 holiday period.
Most of the reviews and commentary I have seen about this handset really focus on it's 5.5" screen size and too-many-xmas-mince-pies weight, so instead of subjecting you to 'yet-another-blog-about-how-2-weeks-with-the-Note-II-makes-the-Galaxy-S3-seem-really-compact' (it does.) - I thought I'd focus on some other aspects that I haven't seen talked about too much.
The Samsung Galaxy Note II has simply amazing battery life. Some days have seen as little as 5% battery drop in a 24 period, including a few short phone calls, several text messages, a few emails, and a few web page views in the browser. Even taking into account the fact that the battery is significantly bigger than most other phones, the battery drain when idle is minimal (1% overnight with flight mode on). The best I managed with my Galaxy S3 was about 3% per hour.
Without even trying, and with regular usage, I have gone four days and nights without charging the Note. This will of course depend on your individual usage, and the signal strength in your area. I live in Hawkes Bay, and Telecom coverage is superior here, especially as where there is Telecom coverage, it is always decent 3G coverage.
I think that as well as the bigger battery, Samsung - the hardware maker, and Google - the operating system maker, have really put in the effort to be frugal with battery use.
Gone are the days of "I have a smartphone so I am going to have to charge up again after 5pm if I need my phone tonight".
I am happily using my phone as normal, and going two or three days without charging, and still having enough battery life to take photos of the kids, or check directions when out and about.
The User Interface
TouchWiz is the customized user interface (or 'skin') that Samsung puts on its Android handsets. It gets a bad rap from a significant portion of the modding community, but to be fair, I think it does a good job of taking the clean-and-crisp-but-tailored-to-geeks standard Android UI, and making it friendly to use for non-geeks.
I think it's easy to lose sight that by far, the market for these devices is not dominated by tech-heads who demand every last drop of performance, or the most-stripped-back UI for that faux-geek kudos, but in fact it is dominated by regular people, who aren't necessarily computer enthusiasts. TouchWiz is for them (and me! I like it on the Note II).
Regular folk won't even really know what TouchWiz is, which probably marks its success. Anyone who already knows they don't like it probably has the ability and desire to try a different ROM or launcher.
The TouchWiz interface is 'nice'. I'm not going to say it's the best out there, but it isn't ugly, and it IS useful. Add to that, the specific features of the Galaxy series - like the S Pen, multi-view, floating video window, and Samsung has delivered a product that works extremely well as-is. That's the real clincher for me - the out of the box experience has been awesome.
Sliding your finger down from the top of the screen reveals the typical shortcuts to turn various features on or off, including Wi-Fi, 3G, email syncing and more, and being able to easily control screen brightness.
My only customization to the phone so far is installing my favorite games and apps, including "Tasker", from the Play Store.
Tasker allows me to do lots of different things, but because I don't use my phone at night, I have Tasker turn all the notifications off from 11pm until 6am. Additionally, it detects if I have plugged the phone in overnight or not, and if not, it puts the phone in airplane mode for that 7-hour period, saving a few more precious % of battery life.
Samsung's lock-screen still leaves a bit to be desired, it is rather plain, and the ability to customize the shortcut icons is there, but not as easily accessible as you might expect. A lock screen app like Widget-Locker will allow you to build a much prettier and more functional lock screen that can display widgets and icons to your liking.
Ultimately, Android, including TouchWiz, is very customizable, and you can put what you want on your home screens. I'll cover some useful apps and widgets in further blogs.
I'll be keeping TouchWiz.
It Just Works
I can't believe how little I have changed on this phone.
If you know me from the Geekzone forums, or in person, you will know I usually tinker with my phones, but the Galaxy Note II seems to mark a milestone for Samsung, in that the performance of the phone is brilliant out of the box, the functionality of the phone is brilliant out of the box, and there is very little to be gained by messing around with the operating system.
Having said that, "Dear Samsung & Google, please take the most popular 'root' applications like Titanium Backup and SetCPU, and provide sanctioned access to that functionality, without gaining root access to the device."
I hope you enjoyed reading about something other than size, weight, and processing power. Keep checking back on the Telecom Tech Blog for further posts about Galaxy Note 2 features that matter.
About The Author
My name is Tony Hughes. I am an I.T. & telecommunications consultant based in Hawkes Bay. I am a musician, I love to play guitar (acoustic or electric), and enjoy playing the bass as well. I geek around with mobile devices, Ubuntu, Debian, the Raspberry Pi, Linux in general, and web technologies. I have an operating system installation habit of about one a week for which I do not require help. Just more operating systems.
Other related posts:
Samsung Galaxy Note II – More Than Just A Giant Phone (part 2)
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