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Meeting the Samsung Galaxy Note

The Samsung Galaxy Note is a hybrid device that combines many features of smartphones and tablets. The Note is larger than a smartphone, smaller than the smallest Galaxy Tab, and includes the “S Pen” stylus for writing and drawing on the screen. Eric Butow, author ofMy Samsung Galaxy Tab, walks you through the various features of the Note.
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Samsung introduced its Galaxy Note with a splashy television ad that aired during Super Bowl XLVI. The Note, which has been described as a “tweener,” a “mini-tablet,” and a “phablet” is larger than Samsung’s line of Galaxy smartphones and smaller than the smallest Galaxy Tab tablet but has features of both. With a 5.3-inch screen and a pen stylus that Samsung calls an “S Pen” that harkens back to the days when smartphone styluses were standard features, Samsung is aiming for customers who want the best of both worlds.

Despite what skeptics (including Scott Adams) think about the “phablet” concept (as in Adams’ “Dilbert” comic strip of February 23, 2012), the Galaxy Note has sold more than 1 million units in select overseas markets where the Galaxy Note was released before coming to the U.S. Samsung is going all-in with the Note concept, not only with its original 5.3-inch version but also with a forthcoming 10.1-inch version. However, as of this writing, only the 5.3-inch version is available.

The Fundamentals

Because the Note is a new and interesting addition to the Galaxy tablet family, let’s take a closer look.

You can purchase the Note at either an AT&T or Best Buy store. AT&T’s cost for the phone plus a two-year cellphone plan is $299.99. If you want to purchase the phone without any plan, then you’ll pay $649.99 at AT&T or $749.99 at Best Buy. The AT&T plan includes 4G LTE connectivity, so if you live within a network that supports those speeds, such as in a large city, then you’ll have faster Internet connections.

The Note comes in two colors: carbon blue and ceramic white. The unit is designed to fit more comfortably in your hand than a tablet does but also feel weightier than a smartphone[md]the thickness is only 0.38 inches, which is 0.01 inch thinner than the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus but 0.04 inch thicker than the Galaxy Tab 10.1. The weight of the unit, 6.28 ounces, is certainly lighter than a tablet, but it’s heavier than Samsung’s top of the line Galaxy Nexus smartphone.

If you remember the look of the Galaxy Tab 7.0 explained in my book My Samsung Galaxy Tab, then the Galaxy Note will look familiar. Below the Galaxy Note screen, you’ll see the buttons to open the menu at the bottom of the screen, return to the home screen, go back one screen, and search on both your Note as well as online.

Samsung has to employ these buttons because like the Galaxy Tab 7.0 (the original, not the 7.0 Plus), the Note uses Android version 2 as its operating system. Unlike the Tab 7.0, the Note uses Android 2.3, also known as Gingerbread. The Tab 7.0 uses Android 2.2, and if you have any familiarity with the Tab 7.0, then using Gingerbread on the Note will bring a similar experience.

The Note also has many of the same features you would expect in a tablet, including front and rear cameras, camcorder, Bluetooth capabilities, a music and video player, Wi-Fi, GPS, e-mail, and web connectivity. However, the Note comes with some features that you find in Samsung’s line of smartphones including a 1200-by-800 pixel screen based on AMOLED, or active-matrix organic light emitting diode technology. What’s more, the Note has a phone built in so you can chat by headset or by speakerphone, voicemail, text to speech, and voice recognition.

The S Pen Stylus

The one thing that sets the Galaxy Note apart from other tablets[md]at least until the 10.1-inch Note arrives[md]is the S Pen stylus. A few years ago, this stylus wouldn’t be a big deal because nearly all smartphones had a stylus that slid into a slot in the unit, so you could easily slide the stylus out and tap and write on the phone screen. These days, phones and tablets let you manipulate the screen with your finger after the release of the Apple iPhone and iPad became huge hits and changed user interfaces on phones and tablets.

Like other smartphones with a stylus, you can use the S Pen to manipulate objects on the screen. You can also use various apps to write information on the Note because it comes with handwriting-to-text conversion. The Note screen is also pressure-sensitive, so when you press down harder on the screen the thickness of the point or line increases; this is handy if you’re using a drawing app. Samsung has a list of 10 apps that use the S Pen on its website, so you can get an idea of the types of apps that use the S Pen.

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