How big is too big when it comes to the size of a smartphone? That’s the question I’ve been trying to answer for myself lately. I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy S III for the past 6 months, but only recently I decided to try a Verizon Wireless Samsung Galaxy Note II. The Note II is a phablet, which is the nick name given to the category of smartphones which are so large that they more like a mini tablet than a phone. Bigger is better right? Let’s see.
Note: Images can be clicked to view a larger size.
Which size is just right for you? Left to right: Apple iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Apple iPad mini.
When you place the Samsung Galaxy S III next to a Samsung Galaxy Note II (from here on out, I’ll call them the S3 and Note 2), the difference in size is noticeable, but it’s not apparent what that difference in size means until you get a chance to actually use the device for an extended period of time.
Right after the Note 2 came out, I remember people saying that using this device as a phone made a person look like they were holding an iPad up to their ear. So I was wondering what I’d feel like using the Note 2 to make calls. Maybe it’s because I have big hands and/or a big head, but I have to say that it really doesn’t feel that much bigger than the S3 in my hand. I don’t have a problem holding it in one hand or holding it up to my ear to take a call. On a scale of 1-10, with 0 not being self-conscience at all and 10 being totally embarrassed to use the the Note 2 to make calls in public, I would say that I rate a 2 or 3 at the most. Since I typically only make 1-2 calls a day, it’s really not a big deal for me. If I made more calls, I’d probably use a Bluetooth headset or speakerphone in my car just because the Note 2 is heavier.
It’s obvious that the size of the display is probably the number one reason why a person would buy the Note 2. The lovely 5.5 inch AMOLED screen, is the perfect size for reading books, emails, playing games and surfing your favorite sites. But besides the screen, there are a couple other reasons why I love using the Note 2.
One reason is the S-Pen stylus. I wish all my touch screen devices had an S-Pen because it elevates stylus usage to another level. First of all it has a tiny tip unlike the big squishy rubber tips that most normal styli have. The small tip allows you to write legibly on the screen and it makes doodling/drawing very easy. Also, the S-Pen apps preloaded on the phone are full featured and fun to use.
Even better than the S-Pen is the battery life on this phone. It can go days on one charge unlike my S3 which is lucky to last for 12hrs per charge. The Note 2’s replaceable battery is 1000 mAh’s larger than the S3’s battery. There is a lot to be said for not needing to worry about having to recharge so frequently.
In the time that I’ve been using the Note 2, I’ve only noticed one problem with it…
Because of its size, you have to be careful how you carry it around. I don’t wear a belt and as a result, I do not wear a belt case for my phones. I usually try to wear some type of cargo pants to work every day and carry the phone in my side pocket when I need to be away from my desk. As you can see from the image above, the S3 peeks out of my pocket, which isn’t a big deal. But the same pocket is dangerously small for the Note 2. I learned this first hand one morning when I put the Note 2 in my side pocket (of the pants shown above) and drove to work. I parked the car and walked into the building. When I got up to my desk on the 2nd floor, I realized the Note 2 was no longer in my pocket. I will be honest and admit that my heart started beating pretty quickly because I was afraid it had fallen out of my pocket in the parking lot. So I retraced my steps and luckily found it safe and sound in the seat of my car.
I had been using the Note 2 for a few weeks and got accustomed to the size. Then I switched back to the S3 to do an accessory review last week and now going back to the Note 2 is feeling a little awkward for me mainly due to the issue of carrying it.
Is it crazy that I want to go shopping for new pants with deeper pockets, just so I can safely carry the Note 2 around with me? 😉
There’s no doubt for me that the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is a great device with an excellent display, long battery life and S-Pen. So I think that bigger can be better, as long as you have a good (safe) way to carry it.
What do you think? Are phablets too big or just right?
I used the Note 2 for a long time before I handed it down to Jeanne and switched to a newer Android smartphone. She’s been using it now for 2-3 years. I’ve replaced the battery once, and it is still running, but she has recently started complaining that it freezes or locks up. It also hasn’t had an OS update in years, so it isn’t compatible with some Bluetooth gadgets like the Kwikset Kevo Smart Lock. This phone is going to get a new home in my “old phone drawer” as soon as the iPhone 8 comes out and I can give Jeanne my iPhone 7 Plus. The Note 2 has been a good phone, but it’s time to retire it.
55 thoughts on “Julie’s Gadget Diary – Is the Samsung Galaxy Note II too big?”
Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
The Note is very popular in SE Asia. On a recent trip to Vietnam and Singapore they were everywhere. Prices on them and the S3 weren’t that different to Aussie prices either.
I have the Note 1 and must say that never will look back again. I used to have a blackberry and migrating to the Note was a huge change. The display is beautiful and Android increadibly user friendly. Now, the size…it is big, but fits perfectly in my dockers pockets. Making phone calls are not uncomfortable and you get used very quickly. And there is kindle, in your pocket. My reading increased exponentially with Galaxy Note.
Battery life? It lasts 24h, so it is not a problem.
Now I´ve got a Iphone from my employer, and it seems like a toy when compared to the Note. Thank you. I will keep my big screen.
The note 2 isn’t big. Wait till you see me with my tab plus glued to my ear. I don’t find it awkward using a 7 incher as a phone.
@danny are you being funny or serious? 🙂
Buy a belt and getta grip 😉
@Wunderone I hate belts and usually wear shirts that are not tucked into my pants.
After using the note2, I actually find smaller phones now too toyish. In fact, my biggest problem with the Note 2 is that now I want a 2nd gen Note 10.1, because the Note 2 isn’t big enough for a lot of stuff it can do!
Also, check out http://www.scottevest.com/ (I’m not affiliated in any way, but I use a lot of their stuff). The Note 2 barely fits in the inside phone pocket of their big jacket, and it’s too big for the velcro, so I often keep it in another pocket. However, they have lots of gadget-oriented clothes with lots of pockets.
I have seen mostly ladies enjoying Note 2 who ditched iPhone. They like it as sub for tablet and told me no discomfort with using it as a phone.
This is why I’m kind of burned out on Android devices – the trend (even for the “pure” smartphone devices) is sliding gradually towards the phablet sizes. I currently use a limping Droid X2 (seemed like a good purchase at the time, in hindsight horrible purchase) and can’t imagine a larger device. I’d like to use a phone one-handed for reading, pictures, etc. and the X2 is JUST small enough to make that possible with a little stretching to hit all of the screen, and my hands are pretty big. Can’t imagine how hard that’ll be on the “new standard” of 5″-ish screens :/
@Kevin .. my last phone was also a DX2. Horrible, horrible phone. It was broken from day 1 for me and I should have taken it back then. The Note 2 however is pure joy. Smooth, fast, long battery life. Now I still use the DX2 on its dock as a clock, but it seems so *tiny* now. Nigh unusable. Just like the rest of it.
I suppose I have big hands but I find the Note 2 fits in my hands perfectly. If you want a smaller phone, probably wait for the S4. That said the Note2 also has a number of optional tweaks to turn on for using it 1-handed (though I don’t use them myself). I use it like a tiny tablet that can make calls. It may help to see it in person; the Note series always seemed smaller than I expected from the advertising.
@rpav I’ll take a look at one… but I think the size still might be a turnoff, along with the S4. I mean, that’s a 5″ screen on a flagship phone, which every other manufacturer is going to scramble to match. I doubt a there will be a decently spec’d sub-4.5″ screen phone on the market after this year. Maybe I’m just turning into a retrogrouch and need to get with the times: bigger screens appear to be here to stay!
And I’m glad I’m not the only one that got burned by the X2. Buyer’s remorse so bad I have serious reservations about going with another Moto phone.
@Kevin & rpav I still have my Droid X and miss the nav buttons and dedicated camera button.
I am using the Galaxy Note 1st Edition at first I loved it, then I thought I wanted a normal phone and switched back to the iPhone. After using the iPhone for a week, I realized that I did miss having a larger screen, and the S-Pen to take quick notes. The downside is that the battery life in the Note 1 is awful, so it is good to hear that the Note 2 is better. Hopefully I can find some balance for the battery!
Are you possibly a bit spatially challenged? If I put in my cargo pockets horizontally instead of vertically, it fits fine, the flap closes, and the phone still quite easy extract.
@Doc My pockets are not wide enough to allow the Note 2, S3 or even an iPhone to be oriented horizontally.
I can’t wait to switch over to the Note 2! The only reason I haven’t yet is cost – I have AT&T and would have to purchase the phone outright as to not to break my contract. I don’t think it would be too big, since I usually carry a bag with me at all times to work and/or in my jacket/jeans pocket. I seem to always have my iPhone 4s and Nexus 7 on me anyway…so this can combine the two. 🙂
@Elizabeth With the Note 3 due out sometime later this year, I’d just wait on that one if I were you.
@Kevin I am not on the fence there; moto phones are on my blacklist
@Julie Yeah I heard lots of good things about the DX1, which prompted me to buy and stick with the DX2. Sadly not as good. As for camera buttons .. it’s definitely not as convenient, but you CAN assign app buttons to the *lock* screen, and then swipe-unlock from that icon to launch it directly.
Also I’ve found the ability to say “shoot!” is amazingly good for those times when even the act of touching the screen would upset things (I don’t have particularly steady hands).
I’ve been using the original Note and still love it. I went out and got a Mugen extended battery and get 4+ days on a single charge. I like the specs on the Note 2 but wouldn’t get one unless I could get the 64 gig version. Now that the Note 3 is around the corner I’ll be giving that a long look. The Note fits in my shirt or sport coat pockets so size is no problem at all.
I was an early adopter….Dell Streak for a year (as painful as that was), got the Note 1 in early Dec 11, and I wouldn’t go back to an under 5″ screen again. Even with my old 4″ and under phones I was a two fist user, always using both hands in landscape mode. The 5″ screen makes it so much easier for my big thumbs, plus, it forces me to NOT use it when driving, since you can’t really text one handed, so….it’s A SAFETY FEATURE lol.
Holding off on the Galaxy 4, perhaps a Note 3 sometime this year?
At first I thought the Note 2 was large but as I have gotten use to it I do not think it is large at all now. I love this phone and the battery life is awesome. I recommend it and if a 6.0 fablet comes out I will certainly be on it. Bigger is better.
I’ve been carrying a note 2 since early last December and happy with it. It’s my first smart phone. It’s not so easy to carry or handle in some situations because of size but that’s the price you pay for the big screen.
I like the stylus and use it a little most work days. When the stylus is fully implimented as an input device in the operating system, when it works in most applications, and includes hand writing recognition, most people will find a use for them.
Smart phones have at least 5 radioes, wifi, phone, data, bluetooth, and GPS. I turn all of them on and off manually on battery power, as needed except the phone radio. Doing that saves a LOT of power.
Adjusting screen brightness intelligently could also save significant power. The current controls are not very good on the note 2.
For all day field trips I have a 6200 mah battery, twice the capacity of the stock battery. Even that will run down fast if power is used wastefully.
It’s possible the Galaxy S4 screen, with more pixels, will hold as much legible information as the Note 2 but there won’t be much joy in that if it is power hungry.
Energy efficient foldable screens might allow Note 2 size screens in small phones but that is yet to be proven.
I love the Note II , and have several friends who have them. This is the phone that will take me away from the Apple ecosystem, If they every put out a phone that has more than 16G. My iPhone is 32G, and I have to carry a 64G iPod Touch to carry all my my music, audiobooks, language lessons, podcasts, etc. without constantly playing audio file librarian. I HATE the current state of streaming music. I don’t have “normal” musical tastes, and can’t get what I want in the music stores. If I put all of my audio files in the cloud, I get constant dropouts, the music skips, and my data bill at the end of the month looks like the National Debt. Carrying it with me is the ONLY solution. I either need a 32GB or bigger phone with a 64GB card, or if they ever come out with a 128GB microSDXC card, I could do with the 16GB phone.
I have the S3 and have played with friend’s Note 2s. That being said I fell in love with it. My hubby still has a 4s and is in the camp that he wants a very small portable phone. Every time I pick up his phone that small screen just seems too small to do anything with. I am eligible for upgrade in June, but I am pretty sure I am just going to wait out and see what the Note 3 looks like. I have heard rumors the note 3 will be 6in and worry about size issues at that point. I know they were able to make the S4 be the same height and width as the S3, but they only increased the screen size by about 2 inches. So I am just holding my breath and hoping Samsung does not make the Note 3 too big.
Was all geeked about the Note ll, went to purchase and the Verizon rep told me I would have service/coverage issues with it… So held off to do more research. Anyone experiencing this to be true?… Appreciate the help.
@Paige Do you already have a Verizon 3G/4G phone? If so, any issues with it? I’ve not had any issues with my Note 2 as far as reception. Works perfectly.
Looks like this will be my next phone.
Thanks for the size review.
Btw, have you thought about a case with a loop and carabinier on your empty belt loop?
@Bubba I’m not sure I’d want to hang the Note 2 from a belt loop. I think it would bang against my hip as I walked.
@Larry I enjoy using my smartphone for calls, texts, games, ebook reading and occasional surfing. But even though I don’t make many calls, it’s first and foremost a phone. I must have my phone with me at all times. I’m really AR about that after an experience several years ago where I missed a very important call about a sick relative. No one could get ahold of me because I was in a mtg at work and I had left my phone laying on the desk. Never again…
@Anna if you find some good pants, let me know 😉
For me, I guess the issue is this. Am I buying a phone that offers some functionality that I would need for work, or am I buying a work device that functions as a phone. Having recently switched from a BlackBerry to a iPhone 5 I actually get more functionality out of my iPhone. But the bottom line for me is, it is a phone first everything else second. If I did not need to have email access for work and my company I would probably be using a old flip phone.
I hardly make calls on my iPhone but I like to have it on me all day in order to be available to my children.
So a bigger phone, though from screen estate welcome, would hinder me to much.
I did carry an Nokia phone with Internet and BT, in combination with an iPod touch before I got my iPhone from my employer.
That was a combination of the best of both worlds back then, yet I always had to carry two devices.
So I’ll just stick to the iPhone.
I LOVE my note2 which i got a week ago. Big yes but i got used to it quickly. No, you’re not crazy, I’ve been looking for new pants too:-)
when I decided to buy Note 2 , I didn’t think about the size I made 2-4 calls a day , so I was looking for efficiency and what is the most power device
For internet, ,gaming and right notes and thoughts in the same time
I have iPhone4 and ipad 1-2 and had enough from apple to much restrictions need jailbreak to customized my one device that I paid fortune
So I saw the S3 but mmmm not that good to make me change form iphone
THen the note2 ,, and I became watching videos for every aspect to this device ,, I have it for a week now
I cant say more than Woow I am new in Android world I transfeed from nokia symbian to iphone since 2009
I speek alote I know 😀 but what should I say … I love the device
Sory for my bad English; )
I also have the original Samsung Galaxy Note (1) and had a battery problem too. Then I found and extended use battery, 5000 MAH, and it just can’t be beat !! This battery lasts 2 days, easily, and I will never go back to the standard 2500 battery that came with the phone. You can purchase them from Accessory Swamp, online. I have seen them a little cheaper elsewhere, but the customer service is hard to beat at this vendor. I was considering getting rid of my Note, because of the battery, until I found this gem. Thought I would share that with you so you can enjoy your Galaxy Note as much as I enjoy mine — NOW !!
I for one have no issues whatsoever about sticking my note 2 in any of my pocket front or back jeans, polo shirts, short or long flannels etc, never have I experience any problems no matter what brand of jeans I used levi’s 101 to dickies, to Dockers, wranglers, khaki pants, shorts pants, basketball pants, sweat pants none whatsoever but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the problem and I can clearly see the kind of pants you have on in the picture, I can only guess and wonder would it have something to do with your hieght just curious not suggesting that could be the reason why. I am not a tall guy I’m just an average 5’7 155lbs.
If the size of the phone is what you are concerned about then most definitely note 2 is not right for you but for people like myself who likes to use big screen phone and be able to use two screen or multiple screen at the same time, or do multi tasking with phone then there’s no other phone that can do it but Samsung Note2 esp if you have tmob service with extended 10gig Data. Imagine watch a movie and make phone call, or surf the web, or jot down pertinent info with Spen, in multiple screen, make video phone calls, sharing video and games etc. So I don’t know what else to tell you, is your convenience really that bothersome or is it ” more convenient this way Note 2 is the future phone and the coming generation of Samsung phones. The real question you should ask what else can Note 2 can not do for you?
Dear Charlie: Where did you find a 6200 mah batery for your original Samsung Galaxy Note? I have a 5000 mah and, as I said before, I am happy with it, but I would love to have 6200mah but have never been able to find one. If you don’t mind sharing, can you tell me where I can purchase this battery? Thanks for your help, I think you can understand why I am interested in the battery with the most power and battery life available. Your help is appreciated.
No its not too big. It easily fits in my trouser pocket. As long as it could I decided that would be the deciding factor regarding buying or not buying.
Another Gadget Diary. Yay! It looks pretty good I must admit. But Julie, will it fit into a Jeans pocket? It looks slim so that’s not too Bad. The only reason I haven’t gone for a Phablet is because it doesn’t seem like it will fit in a pocket too well… I’d rather not carry a bag for my phone! 😉
@Jake It all depends on the size of your jeans pockets. I wear a woman’s size 6 and find that the Note 2 is too large for the pockets of all of my pants.
I went from the iPhone 5 to the note 2, and I must say, the level of personal customization that android has(with root) is amazing.and the note 2 it’s the perfect phone. Great battery, high performance and a quality build! I couldn’t possibly go back to Apple’s ecosystem!
I went from the iPhone 4S to a Note 2 and I love the device. Even though its slow with updates it still ahead of my iPhone. I dont have any problems sticking the Note 2 with earphones plugged in into my front pocket of my jeans. When I wear a dress or leggings I normally carry an over the should small purse big enough for keys money and my Note 2 the bag is super light I still use my headphones from it and I csn leave it on all day long. I love the stylus as a write quick notes, make quick bday cards, can write quick emails, with a print app I can create a memo work on documents on the Go and print them from where ever I need. I use an OtterBox. I love that unlike my iPhone with heavy use I still dont have to charge but maybe once through the day and thats normally only when it reaches 40% as reassurance for the rest of the day. My iPhone 4S I charged 2-3xs a day with heavy use even with powersave techniques. As of now I wouldn’t give it up too go back to my iPhone any time soon.
Thanks for all these review. i am torn in between buying a note 2 and s4. i am now using iphone 4, but there’s a lot of limitation for my works. s4 offers such awesome features, but note 2 seems perfect for my job, i am an architect. i am sooo worry about the size tho, as i am clumsy. but all of you since convinced me, its not big at all (i make calls a lot). i guess, i might go get the note 2.
thanks julie, and others
A few years ago I bought an ipod (second hand)mainly fo put my music files and also to be able to use ibooks for downloading and reading pdf files and folders.Then a couple of weeks later I walked into the apple store on Regent Street in London with a naieve request that I would dearly love apple to make a ipod or an iphone about two times the size of the current ipod /iphone.Of course I was laughed at by the staff at the store who said that apple had thoroughly researched their market and they would never produce a gadget of the proportions I wished for…..
About a year and a half later the first tablet came out.After having been to the apple store I also forwarded a suggestion on their website almost repeating similar words requesting apple to please develope alarge ipod so that it could have a large enough screen for me to read pdf files wit relative ease……but of course I never received a response as even an acknowledgement of receipt of my suggestion…. a few years have.passed and Samsung have produced The Galaxy Note followed by Note 2 and now I wait with great patience for Note 3….and I hope it will be SIX inches large and with a removable battery(ESSENTIAL)and of course a slot for a very large Micro SD card……i am enjoying the Note1 and Note 2.
I love my note 2 its my best buddy and friend and when I cant find it I go crazy seriously I love the phone and trust me its hard for me to fall in love.When I txt specially sideways beautiful space feel like a old fashion keyboard. Love it
Anyone experiencing as many glitches while phone plugged in for charging as well as headphone jack as I am with Note 2? Phone has a comedic mind of its own when I charge it and attempt to use the device. This problem happens when any charger is plugged in whether that be the stock provided Samsung charger, aftermarket charger or other Droid compatible charger. However,this problem is limited to ac/dc plugs only. Works smoothly while plugged in to car lighter port.
AT&T Note 2 I317 4GLTE
4.1.2 Jelly Bean OS
Further more, I have factory reset this device twice due to poor/slow performance and charging issue. Per AT&T “caring” suggestion.
I am under warranty as well as insurance.
@The_Droid_Abides: I say take it back to the store you got it from and ask for a replacement as it doesn’t work properly. If not Contact Samsung as it is still under warranty.
I love my Galaxy Note 2. Bought it on release and I just keep on loving it. I’ve had no glitches, nothing but good stuff. This is the only phone I’ve owned that I can say this, my Motorola Defy was a horrible.
I am dying for note 3. But it seems too big. I have huge hands and that is nota problem. But it won’t fit in any of my pockets and I don’t use a purse (out of principle) and carrying it in my backpack seems way too unpractical. Since I don’t carry my backpack everywhere. What can I do?
@Sofia I have the same issue… If you figure out how to solve it without wearing a belt or carrying a purse everywhere you go, let me know.
I am still using my original NOTE and happy with it but I am itching for my contract to expire so I can upgrade to a NOTE 3. I have no further battery problems since I found the extended use batteries (first a 5000maH, then found a 5600 maH, and finally a acquired a 6200 maH) so I do not have the nightmare issues I used to have with my original NOTE (I wanted to throw it against the wall everyday, that’s how frustrating this phone was for me) and also upgrading to the Ice Cream Sandwich Program helped TREMENDOUSLY! But now it is time for a change and I have to.wait until March to upgrade.
I wanted to thank everyone for their contributions to this discussion. I have been helped a great deal by all the input, and just love that Julie is as patient as she is and continues these discussions for as long as it takes to let us be heard.
I believe Samsung has hit a nerve with the Apple Empire, giving them a run for their money, regardless of what the stock market reflects. I, too, have owned Apple products beginning with the 3GS. Samsung has won me over with usability and customer friendly products – and I had my doubts in the beginning as well. Now, if March would just hurry up and arrive, we will have survived another Winter and Spring brings rebirth, so I look forward to the end of my contract with great anticipation.
My Best Regards,
I’ve had the note 2 for almost a year now. Ive had a love hate relationship with it. I love its hardware and software capabilities. I love all the little things like picture quality and the blazing fast quad core processor.
I only have one problem with it. Size. I love the size because its my phone and laptop all in one. But I work maintenance and the size is a serious problem. Im genuinely embarrassed to break out my phone because all the guys I work with are 40 or older and think its ridiculous. But not only image. I have to carry it in my shirt pocket because its my only pocket at work big enough. Im in uniform so I dont have a choice.
Anyway enough about that. Last month I forgot to put my otter box case on it (which makes it MORE huge btw!) And it slipped out of my only pocket and broke on concrete.
Maybe this was helpful. Maybe not. Thanks for the opportunity to provide feedback though.
Come now, you can drop a nice custom ROM on it and keep trucking right along. Here’s a well regarded Nougat Rom:
Jeanne’s ready for a new phone and I want to keep us on the same OS so when she calls me to ask for help I don’t have to struggle to figure out what I should tell her to do. Having two Android phones didn’t even help with that because we were on wildly different versions.
I was mostly teasing. The Note II is going on 5 years now and even the well cared for one that I was using for a makeshift hotspot/spare has long since died on me.
I can’t see buying a new phone every year but every three years or so, sure!
I have been trying to think what I might use it for once I replace it…