Among Samsung’s IFA announcements was the highly awaited Samsung Galaxy Note II ‘phablet’. The original note made huge waves in the smartphone industry with its massive screen, stylus integration and, at the time, questionably existent target market. The Note went on to be a moderate success but, more than that, it paved the way for the large 4.7 and 4.8 inch displays that have become standard with the recent generation of Android (and now Windows Phone 8) premium devices.
The Galaxy Note II has obviously seen some improvements over its predecessor. The old 5.3 inch display has seen a bump up to 5.5 inches; hardly surprising considering that the standard size of smartphone displays has increased overall. If Samsung wanted to keep the image of a ‘phablet’ going it was likely going to have to increase the size of the Note II’s display by way of course.
The aspect ratio has also been trimmed down to 16:9 rather than 16:10, meaning that it should offer a better HD video viewing experience, making full use of the entire screen with no need for letterboxing.
There’s also a super-powerful quad-core 1.6GHz Exynos processor. Yes, you read that correctly; that’s even more powerful than the Samsung Galaxy S3.
One bit of info that actually left us a little surprised, but very excited, is that the Galaxy Note II will ship with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean straight out of the box. Traditionally, we probably wouldn’t start seeing adoption of a new Android version by third party manufacturers for a couple of months yet so this is great to see. Perhaps Google’s post-ICS focus of reducing device fragmentation is paying off after all.
Of course the S-Pen is back, along with some new functionality. For instance, removing the S-Pen from its slot will automatically unlock and open the phone, assuming that no password lock has been activated.
Furthering this trend, removing the S-Pen will jump you straight to a customisable S-Pen home screen, where you can put all of your favourite S-Pen related apps. We like this addition, as it immediately takes your ‘phablet’ from its day-to-day phone functionality and jumps it straight in to tablet mode.
An extra little handy addition is the Note II’s ability to recognise when you may have left your S-Pen behind. If the accelerometer detects that the phone is in movement, but the S-Pen is absent from its dock, the Note II will prompt the user to retrieve the integral part. We can imagine this coming in handy for more than a handful of users.
The S-Pen itself has even seen some upgrades. Similarly to the Note 10.1, the Note II’s S-Pen now sports a rubberised tip. The new tip protects against minor screen scratches (more common than you might think on the original) and has a full 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity, compared to the 256 of the original Note.
One last piece of juicy new S-Pen integration is Hover. Users can now hover the S-Pen over the screen and they will be granted with a miniature round cursor. Hover isn’t utilised too often, but it can be useful in some situations. Hovering over a folder, for instance, expands the folder so that the user can quickly glance at the contents before making a selection. Videos also have use for hover, whereby the user can hover over the progress bar and be granted with an image of where they’re hovering, allowing them to jump through videos with added accuracy.
The device itself takes its cue from the design of the Galaxy S3. The Note II looks to be available in both white and a kind of ash-grey colour when it eventually launches, both options sporting a similar shape and rear-plate to the GS3. The profile has also been reduced from 9.7mm to 9.4, which should help reduce the large device’s noticeable impact when kept in a pocket.
The new thin look is especially surprising considering the new 3100mAh battery. 3100mAh is fairly huge for a device of this size, so hopefully it should be enough to handle the large HD display and S-Pen input without sending users running for a power outlet before the day is done.
Overall we’re very excited about the new Galaxy Note II. The new S-Pen stuff sounds great and we’re thrilled to hear that it will be shipping with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Of course we’ll have to wait a while; the Note II won’t see global availability till October (even later in the US), but we have a feeling that it’ll be worth the wait.