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Samsung recently said that in only two months they've sold over six million of their Galaxy Note 2 smartphones -- or “phablets” as some call them -- because their 5.5-inch screen makes them more of a cross between a phone and a tablet. This is the same type of large screen smartphone the late Steve Jobs derided at a July 17, 2010 Apple press conference claiming “no one is going to buy a big phone.”
Well, it’s been in a little over two years since Jobs’s statement and it seems that people want bigger screens on their phones. In fact, Apple themselves boosted their iPhone screen size from 3.5 inches to 4.0 inches with the release of iPhone 5.
So, after using a Verizon LTE-based Galaxy Note 2 for about a week I have the following thoughts:
Screen Readability -- The Galaxy Note 2’s size means that reading the screen is a lot easier. Perhaps it’s my imagination, but app makers seem to cram more and more info into smartphone screens making text harder to read. No such problem with the Note 2.
Battery Life -- The Galaxy Note 2 has a 3100 mAh battery. In practical terms that means by the end of my work day (5:00 am to 9:00 pm) my Galaxy Note 2 is sitting with about 60 to 70 percent of its battery life. The battery is also replaceable if you chose to carry a spare.
S-Pen -- The Galaxy Note 2 includes a stylus that allows you to make handwritten notes on the included S-Note. You can also use the stylus to navigate the phone menus. If you remember using the older type of stylus and smartphone where you could drag your hand across the screen and leave long lines - worry no more. The Galaxy Note 2 accurately accounts for your "palm press" and won't leave marks. This is perhaps the coolest "old" technology in this phone.
Verizon LTE Data -- I have a Verizon Share Everything plan. This means I don't have unlimited data, but instead I chose the amount of data I need (4 GB is my pick) and data is shared between all smartphones on my plan. What I really like is that included in this plan is the use of Mobile Hotspots. When I go to customer sites I bring my laptop and tether via WiFi to my LTE signal at no added cost. The signal is fast, reliable and much easier than begging the customer's IT staff to provide me with a WiFi password for their office. The fast, reliable data is one of my favorite features of Verizon LTE and their Share Everything plan.
Android Operating System -- If you're a Google Apps user -- or user of Gmail or any of Google's services -- then the Android operating system is your best bet. It’s tightly integrated to Google and entering your Google account and password magically synchronizes all of your contacts, calendars and email. I experienced possibly the easiest setup of any smartphone operating system on the market.
Camera -- Included in the Galaxy Note 2 camera software is the ability to apply filters to your pictures (similar to Instagram) so they can be saved with different color schemes. I'm not a big fan of tinkering with camera settings while taking pictures, but the filtering on the phone is easy to set (tap the magic wand) and the results are very nice.
- The Galaxy Note 2 is big. This makes it difficult to maneuver one handed. Swiping one-handed to open the screen will be a challenge for anyone with average to small hands. Try this yourself in the store to see whether it is an issue for you.
- The Verizon Galaxy Note 2 offers only 16 GB of storage although you can insert up to a 64 GB MicroSD card to hold your photos and music. A standard Galaxy Note 2 does not support storing apps on the MicroSD card which is more a limitation of Google's Android operating system than the smartphone.
- The Verizon Galaxy Note 2 is $299 after a two year contract. That's on the high end of the scale of phones which can increasingly be found for $99 or less at online sites such as Amazon Wireless.
If you're a Google Apps (Gmail, Contacts, Calendar, etc.) or Android addict - and you can manage with the 5.5-inch screen dimensions - this is a great phone.
If you have smaller hands - or aren't sure about whether you can handle the screen size – visit a store first to test it, most major U.S. cellular carriers should have it.
Based on my experience I think larger smartphone screen sizes with the bigger batteries that can be stored within them are going to become much more common. Side by side, the iPhone is dwarfed by the Galaxy Note 2 and after using the bigger sized screen for a while it's tough to go back.
Wayne Schulz is the founder of Schulz Consulting. He began his career working for two professional service organizations and managing their consulting divisions. He has been active not only with the implementation of Sage 100 ERP software(formerly MAS 90 and MAS 200), but often is engaged to help clients design or evaluate their current accounting procedures.