3 Things to Know Before Buying the Samsung Galaxy Note 2

Despite the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4 being the company’s flagships, the Samsung Galaxy Note series also has commanded quite a bit of attention, becoming one of the more popular smartphones on the market. With powerful hardware and software to boot, it’s not surprising to see many consumers with their eyes on devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and Galaxy Note 3. However, the Galaxy Note isn’t a typical smartphone and therefore, consumers should be cautious about buying one.

Shortly after the launch of the original Samsung Galaxy Note, there was quite a bit of skepticism about whether or not this new big-screen smartphone could succeed in light of the failures of other big screen smartphones like the Dell Streak. The device was absolutely massive compared to phones like the iPhone and utilized a stylus, a smart pen accessory that saw its use fade with the arrival of the touch screen. With so many other options, could a device like the Samsung Galaxy Note succeed?

Turns out, it could. The Samsung Galaxy Note, despite only launching on AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S., was one of the biggest surprises of 2011 and 2012 as it sold millions of units across the globe. Seems, people were alright with a smartphone that boasted a 5.3-inch display and a stylus that Samsung calls the S Pen.

The success of the Samsung Galaxy Note turned up the pressure on carriers other than AT&T and T-Mobile to offer the next version of the Galaxy Note, which they did. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon, all carriers of the Galaxy S3, launched the Galaxy Note 2 in late 2012. And like its predecessor, the Galaxy Note 2 has proven to be popular with consumers, even with the larger 5.5-inch display.

And while we’re only a few months into 2013, there are already rumors swirling about the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, the successor to the Galaxy Note 2, and a device that is said to have an improved S Pen, Exynos 5 Octa processor and quite possibly, an unbreakable flexible display, all upgrades over the Galaxy Note 2 and the Galaxy Note.

For Galaxy Note and Galaxy Note 2 owners, the devices have been great purchases. Many future Galaxy Note 3 owners will likely love their device as well. However, before buying in, we want to caution consumers as there are a few reasons why they should think twice about buying the Samsung Galaxy Note whether it’s the Samsung Galaxy Note, Galaxy Note 2 or the Galaxy Note 3.

Why You Should Think Twice About Buying a Samsung Galaxy Note 2

There is a lot to like about the current Galaxy Note models and there will be a lot to like about the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. However, they aren’t for everyone. In fact, there are some things that should cause some consumers to think twice about buying, even if the hardware and the software are fantastic.

It’s a Monstrosity

Those that are unfamiliar with the Galaxy Note series will want to note that the Galaxy Note models are far away some of the biggest smartphones on the market. The Galaxy Note features a 5.3-inch display, the Galaxy Note 2 a 5.5-inch display. The size of these displays means that the form factor of the phone is massive as well.

To put the sheer size of the Galaxy Note 2 into perspective, take a look at a photo of it next to the iPad mini and the iPhone 5. It dwarfs the iPhone and it’s almost as big as Apple’s smallest tablet.

iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy Note 2 vs. iPad mini.

iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy Note 2 vs. iPad mini.

As we’ve noted, the size and weight of the Galaxy Note 2 makes it far less pocketable than other smaller devices, even the Galaxy S4, which has a display size of 5-inches. What’s more is that the phone is often difficult to use with just one hand. Personally, I have large hands and found it difficult to use the phone with my thumb, let alone my other fingers when clasping it in my hand.

For many people, this won’t be that big of a deal. However, for those with smaller hands, those that already own a tablet, and those that like to easily be able to grip their phone in one hand, the Galaxy Note series is a series to think twice about. It may be a good phone but it’s an absolutely massive phone and one that could prove difficult to deal with.

Longer Waits for Updates

Over the past few weeks, I’ve received emails from frustrated owners of the AT&T Samsung Galaxy Note. The emails have been in regards to the missing Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update, an update that rolled out for the international model many weeks ago and one that will be bringing quite a bit new to the table in terms of features.

This of course isn’t the first time that I’ve received emails from angry AT&T Galaxy Note owners. The same thing happened with its Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update which rolled out months after the international model got its upgrade. Simply put, the process of upgrading the Galaxy Note with new versions of software is slow and it will likely continue to be slow.

Read: AT&T Galaxy Note Jelly Bean Release Date Now Total Mystery.

The Galaxy Note 2 is still stuck on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The Galaxy Note on AT&T is still on Android 4.0.

The Galaxy Note 2 is still stuck on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The Galaxy Note on AT&T is still on Android 4.0.

The Samsung Galaxy Note is a complicated device, in terms of software. It possesses Samsung’s TouchWiz software, which comes with many features, along with the device’s unique S Pen software. Samsung’s Galaxy S series only has TouchWiz and not the unique software as it doesn’t take advantage of a stylus.

While Samsung has never confirmed it, many believe it’s the testing of these features, along with the size of the display, that slows updates for the Galaxy Note. It’s not clear if that is the case but what is clear is that the Galaxy Note series is extremely slow to upgrades. Case in point. the Galaxy Note got Android 4.1 long after its initial arrival in July of last year.

Another example, the fact that the Galaxy Note 2 launched with Android 4.1 but still hasn’t been updated to Android 4.2. U.S. Galaxy Note 2 owners likely won’t get a major Android update within six months of buying the phone. The Samsung Galaxy S3? It got Android 4.1 Jelly Bean two months after Jelly Bean first landed.

So those that are looking for swift, speedy updates should be weary of the Galaxy Note as it typically faces long waits, particularly in the United States where carriers just can’t seem to get it together.

S Pen May Not Be Necessary

Make sure you will use the S Pen before buying.

Make sure you will use the S Pen before buying.

And finally, the S Pen. Consumers looking at new smartphones will want to consider, strongly, whether or not they need the S Pen as it not only adds to the overall price of the Samsung Galaxy Note but it’s also seen the Samsung Galaxy S4 take a little of its thunder.

The S Pen is the Galaxy Note’s unique stylus. It allows users to write and draw on the screen and also take advantage of some unique apps. Some of these are nice to have. S Note for example is a quick way of jotting down notes. Others though, like Idea Sketch, feel gimmicky. In the time I’ve spent with the Galaxy Note, I often forgot all about the stylus, probably because I’ve never been a stylus user. And even when I did remember it, it didn’t make things more efficient in my daily use.

The Galaxy Note 2 also has, or I should say had, a unique feature called Air View that allows owners to hover over content like email, with the S Pen, to get a preview. The Samsung Galaxy S4 has stolen that feature away and takes advantage of it without the need for an S Pen.

Surely, Samsung has some tricks up its sleeve when it comes to the S Pen and its apps on the Galaxy Note 3, but that doesn’t necessarily mean owners will need it or want to use it.

So before buying in, consumers will want to think about whether the S Pen will fit into daily use or if it will constantly be sitting inside of its dock. If the latter is the case, it might be worth checking out the Galaxy S4.