Samsung Galaxy Note Review: One Week Later

I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note last week and really like the phone. The Note commends itself with great features like a beautiful screen and the responsive S-Pen.

Samsung makes using the Note a pleasure. I’m glad I switched from iPhone because of the stellar turn-by-turn directions that whip iPhone’s, for now. I love the ability to choose other default apps like my browser and camera app, and excellent input options not available to the non-jailbroken iPhone user.

Read: Why I Bought the Samsung Galaxy Note

Unfortunately, I struggle with a couple of things that frustrate me with this phone and might push me to exchange it when the Samsung Galaxy S III ships later this month. I’d hate to lose the screen size, but the items below will tempt me if the S III masters these issues.

Camera Failures

The camera app, compared to my iPhone 4S, makes it hard to get great shots. It’s slow and I can’t tap to focus. On an iPhone you tap the screen where you want the camera to focus. It also meters the exposure for that point. Other camera apps let you tap one spot for focus and a second spot for metering. Without Ice Cream Sandwich, this doesn’t seem possible on the Note. I’ve looked for replacements that will let me tap to focus and/or meter a shot, but all of them say they need ICS for that feature to work.

When I hit the shutter button, the phone lags about half a second behind before taking the shot. It kills me. I lose great shots that I could get on the iPhone 4S. I take a lot of pictures with my phone, so this irritates me. If you’re a Note user and found a way around these weaknesses with GingerBread, please let me know.

S g note

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OS Updates

Speaking of Ice Cream Sandwich, we’re told it should come by month’s end. The OS shipped last year!

Love or hate Apple and the iPhone, but they keep updating the phone and every model back to the iPhone 3GS which will get iOS 6 when it finally launches in the fall, albeit a dumbed down version. A two-year old iPhone gets updates, but a phone released this year still isn’t updated.

I can’t understand why carriers and OEMs can’t fix this problem. Maybe they don’t care about the more passionate fans since the common user doesn’t get that excited about OS updates. Apple understands that the passionate user will evangelize for Apple due to this kind of issue. Android phone makers and the wireless are too focused on hard bottom line numbers, they miss that spending the cash to develop updates for recent and even older hardware provides enough good will to make customers their PR people.

Battery Life

I’m not going to complain too loudly about the poor battery life on this phone, but I will complain softly. I never had to plug my iPhone into a power source as often as I do my Note. The Note’s large display and real 4G LTE connectivity use battery life fast.

If I keep this phone, I’ll get a higher capacity battery eventually. I’m taking a trip next week and that will really test the phone since I won’t be near a power outlet for hours during the day. I may need to get an external battery backup to carry.

  

Comments

  1. Fernando says

    Hi Kevin: thanks for your note. A couple of thoughts:

    (a) There are already a number of ICS ROMs for download over at the xda-developers forum for the Note. I have mine running and love it (much better than Gingerbread). I do have to agree with you in that Samsung should make the new ROM updates available much faster that they do; I can;t understand why that does not happen.

    (b) Yes on the battery life. I ended up getting a “gold 3300 mAh” battery on ebay (same size as the original 2500). It does make the battery life a good chunk better. I think you should also tinker with the Android power settings to get better life. I should say thet battery life got better with the switch to ICS.

    Hope you stay with the Note. You will miss the screen size…

  2. rob says

    i also ran into periods of unexplained high battery drainage on my note. not sure the exact culprit but what works for me is turning the note off & removing the battery for a moment. after restarting i go to running services (under applications in the start menu) and end everything not necessary (for me it’s the social features, email, app store programs). some programs won’t even force close after you turn them off, such as maps and poweramp, hence the restart to stop them for good. (i also started use juice defender but am not convinced this really helps that much.)

    i have been doing that and my battery life is regularly great. when i get up in the morning and the battery has mysteriously dropped 25 percentage points, i do the above. there is something eating the battery, you just have to figure out what it might be and all *should* be well. and keep an eye on running services.

  3. Richard Conway says

    I have an International Note and have experienced some instances where the battery life is only 8 hours or so – this is primarily due to widgets like the News and Weather widget that update regularly and never let the phone sleep. If you turn off apps that do this constant updating (you only need it them to update when you look at it!), you can easily get 2 days of battery life (48 hours – that is).

    Maybe the International Note has different camera software, because mine allows tap to focus. There is a bit of shutter lag, but normally it’s not too bad.

    I love the huge screen – it’s big enough and the resolution is high enough that you can look at full web pages without lots of scrolling. Also awesome for reading books. It is big enough to allow you to read Documents and Spreadsheets – but thin enough that it fits comfortably in your front pocket. I would recommend it to anyone.

    I’m told you can manually install the ICS release for the Note by using the Samsung Kies software. Mine has already been updated over the air.

  4. al says

    Be careful of that guerrilla glass 2 screen. It’s about as breakproof as a champaign flute. It probably shouldn’t be taken out of the house, unless in an aluminium mini briefcase. It doesn’t take but a 3 foot drop to shatter it and need a $365 repair. Corning really dropped the ball. My Motorola with Gorilla glass 1 was way stronger. thay should be recalled as being unsuitable for their intended use and normally expected wear and tear.

  5. John says

    DO NOT BUY GALAXY NOTE N7000B. While I love my Glaxy Note, apparently Samsung made a special version called the N7000B which has not been updated to new ICS system and may never be. Be sure to check packaging and only buy N7000 version of the Note.

  6. Tony says

    Kevin, this was a great article, but I have a few thoughts about my experiences with my Gingerbread AT&T Galaxy Note since I bought it in March.
    1. I don’t remember installing AT&T Mark The Spot, but it was a big drain on my battery life. It’s gone now. I did housecleaning on my unused widgets – I was just installing everything I could find.

    2. Keep in mind you have one of the fastest phone sized computing devices the world has ever seen. On one charge, it can do more computing than it took to go to the moon. I often use mine harder than I realize.

    3. I seem to be able to do touch focus on my camera just fine. I agree with you on the slow shutter speed and the metering. My wife couldn’t get it to focus on the water fountain at the LA Music Center, but shooting water can be tough. This camera has never actually failed on me; maybe you have a bad phone.

    4. I wouldn’t give Apple credit for supporting IOS 6 on the 3GS. Apple dropping support for the 3G past IOS 4.2 (a 3G killer by itself) drove me into Samsung’s arms.

    5. I just installed the SanDisk 64GB micro SDXC. I can’t tell if it reduced battery life, but I have ALL my music.

    You are right about everything else, especially the slow pace of ICS releases. Give em hell! But I love this big screen and S-Pen so much I wouldn’t dream of parting with this phone.

  7. sonny says

    I too, got my galaxy note from telcel carrier here in mexico at first i was loving this device and was bragging so much because i have been with apple and my family are all using apple devices, other than i love the screen size this device is a bit of a fuck up, firstly, apps is tailored to which country you get the sim card, meaning some apps like base in US is not available in Mexico, a neighboring country, then i have this issue of being so not user friendly, as mentioned above, the camera is so slow to open lagging, and yes the battery, i charge mine three times a day, volume, my iphone is so wonderful in playing music, i am stuck with this phone for 6 months but i gues that will give time to save money and buy iphone, ohhhhh when are we gettung ice cream here in mexico,, i dont expect anymore knowing samsung and tecel, ….. I am telling friends of my experience so they will not be getting same.mistake as i did. … Buy samsung. …

  8. mafioso says

    To be honest I have the international note, the American version is much slower and obviously not as good, my camera is great and I can tap to auto focus, my battery last me basically the whole day and only requires a charge before I go to sleep and I am on it quite often, make sure u set your settings for the screen to automatic as that could help….

  9. tyn123 says

    I have a note and just recently upgraded to Android 4.0.3. The phone is running much smoother and the battery life seemed to have extended. The camera shutter is still slow but the tap focus is working fine.

    Besides that, it also installed a lot of Google crap that i don’t want or need.

  10. Gary Tan says

    Hi, nice work. I am using N7000 with ice cream sandwich. You can tap to focus and if you reset some of the setting in developer tools the battery life greatly improved, up to 24 hour if you are light user.

  11. Dipanjan Roy says

    Samsung galaxy note falls in between a tab and a smart phone, its too small to be called a tab but appears to be very large if we call it a smart phone. Apart from the size the gadget is just amusing, its a great time-pass when no one’s surround to hangout with. Its 5.3 inch HD Super AMOLED display is super cool offering excellent image viewing, hd video playback. Despite of having that monstrous display the phone is remarkably slim and light. It’s just 9.65 mm thik and 178 grams in weight. It runs great on android v2.3.5(gingerbread) and is vastly loaded with features, recently i have installed inDefend Mobile Backup from dataresolve.com it’s a great application that helps to take backup essential data from your smartphone and store it on an online and encrypted cloud.

  12. Ettianne says

    My camera is very good tap & focus on gingerbread. The shutter delay is there. I am keen photographer & took 300 pics last week. Battery is good but I do keep wifi, syncing etc off unless necessary.
    Disappointed about slow release ICS.

  13. john12 says

    it’s not a perfect device but I will never ever consider going back 3.5″ especially on 3g network. its none sense people talking it is too big on hand I know who they are. The size gets used and it fits nicely after a week or so than hold again 3.5″ how you feel seriously. not just hold it one time than tells it’s too big.
    international verson of the note is better for everywhere.may not as fast as my at&t one is speedy 6-30mbps near as fast as my Wi-Fi at home. everage around12mbps on NYC. just darn no spinning for waiting at all.
    Yes camera shutter legs wish it doesn’t but it still takes great photos its impossible a smart phone try to be a DSL camera. Over all no real complain exception of one: UPDATE ICS, BLAME AT&T MORE THAN SAMSUNG, SEE HOW MANY BOLTWERS THEY OUT ON THIS PHONE.

  14. Gary Tan says

    Hi, the new firmware is already out but you will need to install Samsung kies onyour computer to check for upgrade. You will need to connect your phone to the computer with the USB cable to start the up grade.

  15. ausnote says

    I did upgrade to ICS but notice the battery is draining a little faster. Maybe I have not turn on battery saver mode as yet.
    One other quirk is I cannot go to the camera picture if I am a call which I hope it will be fixed soon.
    Minor issue, will definitely upgrade to the a higher capacity battery.

    Screen size is everything for me and cannot go to Galaxay S3 been a 4.8″ screen.

    I am hoping to upgrade to the Galaxy Note 2 with 5.5″ screen hopefully with quad core CPU.

    But BEST PHONE EVER. Period.

  16. Devon says

    I don’t know what the hell Note you’re using, but I can tap on the screen with the default camera app to focus. No idea how you can do it wrong. Also, that’s a feature of the app, not the camera. Kinda unfair to knock the camera based on app features (especially ones that ARE there).

  17. Laura says

    Hi i am really sorry but i have to say your part about the camera well i don’t knowif it may just be you but you can tap it anywere to autofocus i use my camera everyday for work and family and i use the auto focus i tap anywere on the screen and it and it goes into focus right away you really can not compare it to an iphone i had an iphone and i can not stand themi have had my note for two months now and it is the best phone i have ever hadand i have had a lot of phones i just didn’t think it was really fair for you to say it didn’t have touch auto focus when it actually does as for the battery it drains fast tge first couple of weeks but then it gets better mine lasts all day but if you are using it a lot like every other phone it will draini got ICE CREAM SANDWICH last week it is amazing makes your phone go a bit crazy the first few days but after that it works lije a dream and all the new features are just amazing i am sorry for my little rant but i just couldn’t not sit and say nothing about the auto focus csuse it does do it i use it everyday.

  18. Tony says

    You can find out what’s eating your power, just from Settings. Use Settinngs/Applications/Battery usage. Right now it says mobi.mgeek.TunnyBrowser has used 30% of my battery since this morning. Display is at 26%. I’m going to put my Mobisynapse stuff on the chopping block. I don’t need Carat snooping around in my Galaxy Note for a week to tell me where the battery power is going. Likewise you can cleanup your memory usage from Settings/Applications/Running services.

  19. PolkSDA says

    Must be some extreme variability on the camera app and performance depending on which version of the Note you have. I’m using the international GT-N7000 with Gingerbread 2.3.6 stock, and I can tap to focus without any problem. Also the time to shot when tapping the camera button is almost instantaneous.

    • Nakka says

      buy the s3 my friend there’s loads of things you can’t do on the note which you could do on the galaxy 1, like pressing in a image and saving it can’t do it in the note, basically it’s basic. i will be selling it life a lot of people are doing and buying the galaxy s3 the note,s crap.

  20. Jon says

    Well I only had problems with the battery life. I recommend Mugen Power’s HLI-N7000XL extended battery. Trust me, a little bulk is worth +25% usage time.

  21. Jannik Lindquist says

    Good points in both post and comments. I have an international Note (I’m in Denmark) and I can certainly tap to focus – both now on ICS and before on GB. However, it still isn’t possible to tap to meter. It’s driving me nuts and for that reason alone my old Galaxy S is a better camera phone

    • al says

      I agree that the directions are great, but the map tends to laag behind, and can confuse directions, since it will show a few minutes ago a straight blue line for several blocks (which you have already passed) while telling you to make the next turn.

  22. josh says

    I upgraded my note to ICS and it has slowed down quite a bit. Battery life is fine for m
    e, but the phone is so much different. The AT&T rep said to send it back, but i bought it used. The GPS doesnt always come on, auto correct is broken and the cursor jumps a lot .
    This was my favorite phone, but not anymore. After going back to GB the phone is so much worse . I tried to sell it to a samsung expert qho thought he could fix it, but he wouldnt even buy it for $50 . Something happened during the upgrade and ruined the phone AT&T, cant even help

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