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Samsung's Galaxy Note II: A first look at a sleek new Note

Barbara Krasnoff | Sept. 12, 2012
Samsung has introduced a follow-up to its initial offering: the Galaxy Note II. This tweaked version offers a sleeker and easier-to-hold design, an improved version of the S-Pen, and upgraded software.

The new S Pen is slightly thicker and longer than the previous one -- to give a more "pen-like" feel, according to the Samsung rep. The tip depresses slightly when you press it, just like the tip of a ballpoint; it has also been rubberized so that it gives slightly more resistance when it moves across the screen.

The technology used with the S Pen allows it to be recognized even when it's a few millimeters away from the screen, and Samsung has done some interesting things with that. For example, you can hover the pen over an email, and you'll get a preview of the first few lines. If you hover over a video thumbnail on the S Pen's video app, you get a preview of the video with sound. You can create a cropped screenshot by holding down the S Pen's button and then circling the section of the screen you want to save. And if you need help with some of the gestures the S Pen uses -- to, say, pull up a menu -- just hover it over the screen and a small round help window will pop up to remind you.

One of the things that can go very wrong with using styli is that they are small, portable -- and very easy to lose. I was impressed with how Samsung has dealt with that.

First, the Note 2 recognizes when you've removed the S Pen from its holder in the lower right-hand part of the device and immediately takes you to a page showing all the S Pen enabled apps. But even better, it has an alarm system that will let you know if you leave the S Pen behind. When I shut the Note II off and walked away with the smartphone (but not the stylus) in my hand, once I was a couple of yards away, the Note vibrated and a pop-up windows told me that "The S Pen has been detached."

Looking forward

The Note 2 offers other upgrades as well, including more features for its 8-megapixel camera, such as holding down the "shutter" to get a burst of 20 shots, offering time-lapse videos and an enhanced photo album that lets you easily move your photos into different albums and view them via a snazzy spiral view.

It will take a lot more time with the Galaxy Note 2 before we can really assess its capabilities, and whether its larger form-factor and S Pen capabilities will attract more users than the Galaxy Note has (according to Samsung, it's had over 10 million global sales). Unfortunately, U.S. users will have to wait a while; the Galaxy Note 2 will start selling in Asia and Europe this October; as of this writing, there was no set date for a U.S. appearance.

But I'm looking forward to it.


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