Fascinated By A Phablet: Is The Galaxy Note Better, or Just Bigger?

America's obsession with size, whether large or diminutive, is an ongoing exercise in opposites, a constant battle between "thin is in" and "fat is fabulous." Cliches aside, society's always been obsessed with the mass of virtually anything, from models to fast food portion sizes--and the tech industry is no exception.

I'm used to the notion that technology has always strived to make things smaller--more portable ultrabooks/netbooks, tiny cellphones, and mini computers abound--and that is what is desirable. The Galaxy Note by Samsung challenges that concept, pushing the form factor of a candybar, all-screen mobile device to something not a smartphone, not yet a tablet either. This has been dubbed the "phablet" by some, and its success in the marketplace has been pretty solid

Even through I've said great things about Sprint in the past, and recently switched to change to an Android phone, some recent troubles with customer service and reception quality led me to leave them and return to AT&T. This, of course, made a new phone purchase necessary, and I decided to go with the Note. Why, you ask!? What's it like to actually own one?

Yeah, it's big.

Don't listen to anyone who says "it's really not that big." It's definitely big.

In fact, I reject the term "phablet." It's too small to be a functional tablet of any sort. 

It's just a huge phone.

A Huffington Post reviewer makes no bones about pointing this out repeatedly (dead horse, anyone?) People will notice it. People will comment on how big it is. One family member of mine quipped, "Is THAT your phone?" Why yes, yes it is.

So, leave your pride at the door. I doubt the stylish David Beckham would actually use the thing, beyond getting paid to hold it for a few seconds.

However, it's not really cumbersome.

Regardless of its relative enormity, the Note is quite comfortable to hold, even with my smallish fingers (I have huge wrists, but short digits. Go figure.) As such, I imagine larger-phalange'd people would have no problem with it. It fits nicely in a pocket, and is very slim, as well as not too heavy. Jokes about the much more ridiculous N-Gage aside--disclaimer, I owned one--it's also pretty comfortable to talk on and has great audio quality. Plus, the speaker isn't on the side, and it doesn't look like a taco.

I will say that it is difficult to use one-handed, but I don't see that as a huge disadvantage. 

You can never go back once you see the Galaxy Note's screen.

The screen of this thing is seriously awesome. Not only is it bright and beautiful, but it's huge, and like a 60" TV compared to a 27", it's just not the same. I picked up my wife's Windows Phone with it's 3.5" screen and laughed; it was like typing an email on a Tic-Tac.

The S-Pen is cool.

"If you see a stylus, they blew it." The famous words of the iconic, legendary, late Steve Jobs probably came to the mind of most gadget geeks when first laying hands on the Note. However, I disagree in this case, since it doesn't need a stylus at all.


It's simple an option you can invoke when desired, and it works quite well. I found writing on the screen, even pressure sensitive strokes, to be accurate. The handwriting recognition leaves something to be desired, but I have a feeling most will be using this to notate screenshots, draw immature graffiti, or play games.

Either way, while I don't think it's a go-to feature, it's neat and actually useful.

Finding a case is difficult.

Prepare to search around for a case you like. This phone is an odd size, and most of what you find will either be too big, too small, too expensive, or some combination of the three. I ended up getting a Garmin GPS sleeve that fits it almost perfectly.

It's super fast and pretty power efficient, but not out of the box.

I really like AT&T. Never had any problems and their customer service is pretty great, although I had the typical iPhone service problems of the day. However, they suck for loading up this phone with evil bloatware. The average consumer who uses this thing out of the box is likely to be disappointed with battery life and speed.

Heed my advice and follow these steps:

  1. Check out the XDA developers' forums and learn how to root the phone (it's easy)
  2. Install Titanium Backup and delete all the bloatware
  3. Install Juice Defender to maximize your battery life

If you want to go further, you can install a custom ROM and firmware (I heartily recommend this) and even overclock the phone if you want, but it really doesn't need that. Once you de-bloat and optimize the phone, you'll be blown away at how responsive it is, and how much battery life you can squeeze out.

Gaming is fantastic.

Not sure how much I need to go into detail on this, but with the gorgeous screen, larger form factor, and excellent 3D performance, this thing's a screamer for games.


For me, in this case, bigger is indeed better.

  • I'm hooked on the large screen of the Note not only because of its looks, but for how it makes the phone so much more functional and pleasurable to navigate
  • The form factor, while pretty massive compared to other phones, isn't cumbersome to hold or use
  • The processor and GPU have plenty of oomph
  • A solid amount of developer support
  • The S-Pen is pretty sweet and actually useful
  • Official ICS update coming soon
  • Pretty unique compared the ubuquitousness of other phones out there

You can score a Note from Amazon Wireless for $199.99, or pick up the unlocked international version for quite a bit more. (For the record, Best Buy matched Amazon's price for me!)


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