I am blown away by this beast. It has remapped my understanding of what one can do on a phone.
Here are my notes, based on a review I did elsewhere recently.
I am a long time smartphone user. I’ve run Palm Treo (270, 600, 650) Windows (Dash, SDA, MDA) and Android (G1, Optimus T, Inspire 4G) and this is the best phone I have ever used or even seen. Mine is the T-Mobile SGH-T889 model; an unlocked/international model is also available.
Yes, it’s big. But the size does not seem incremental or evolutionary like the change from 3.5″ OptT to the 4.25″ Inspire. The Note’s size and form factor are a totally different thing. Some will love it, some will hate it. I love it. And, yes, it does fit in a shirt pocket.
- battery life is a revelation. No more Android Charging Anxiety. I use the phone however I want and charge it when convenient. It’s just not an issue anymore. Seriously. Other manufacturers really, really need to pay attention.
- the screen is not just big, it changes the way I use a phone. I find myself using a PC less and less. My phone’s case has a kickstand, and I really do use it like a small tablet.
- quad core w/2GB RAM never struggles. This thing is a beast.
- Stock ROM based on Jelly Bean works quite well. Fulfills the promises made by ICS. And Samsung did not totally hose it with “gotta stand out from the market” flashy, bloaty crap. I have no desire at present to flash a CyanogenMod or AOSP-based ROM. That’s high praise from me. I did make some changes to streamline things: Nova launcher, rooted to be able to freeze TMO/Samsung bloat.
- the stylus is functional rather than a gimmick. I use it for boring stuff like selecting text, picking out small bits on the interface, etc. Like I used the stylus on the Palm devices. It even pops an alert if you walk off and forget the stylus. Smart!
- there is a feature you can enable that checks to see if you are looking at the phone before shutting of the screen. Seems like a small thing but it really improves the experience. No constantly turning the phone back on or having to use very long screen timeouts.
- HDMI out (have to buy an adapter) so you could hook it to a monitor, get a BT keyboard and conceivably use it as a minimal desktop for light duties. Google Drive docs, Netflix, social media stuff, kindle reading, whatever.
- the phone is big and it’s not for everyone. I bought mine at a steep discount from someone who found it was too big for her in day-to-day use. It took me about a day to get used to the size.
- the internal/external sdcard thing is annoying. Some apps don’t let you save data to your SD card so it becomes mainly a repository for media files, etc.
- I’ve never been a fan of branded TUIs from the various manufacturers. This version of TouchWizz I dropped in the freebie Nova launcher and am much happier.
- Lots of bloatware, as is (unfortunately) to be expected these days. Root + Titanium Backup will freeze most of those parasitic annoyances.
- the Exynos CPU is not overly friendly to CyanogenMod devs, unless Samsung decides to get generous with their proprietary code. But the phone cleans up so well (as described elsewhere in this review) that I am keeping the stock ROM.
Ideas to improve battery life even further:
- turn off animations except for when you need to show off 🙂
- run a simpler launcher (I use Nova)
- use static wallpapers and widgets when possible
- adjust the wifi sleep policy
- root the phone so you can do things like freeze apps with Titanium Backup or hibernate them with Greenify. Use Better Battery Stats to find out what’s actually consuming power.
- use the phone’s Power Saving Mode found under settings.
- use dark themes in apps when available
- set app syncing to longer intervals as appropriate
- use apps like Tasker or the free Llama to disable syncing completely when you are asleep.