The Samsung Galaxy Note “phablet” as some like to call it is finally making its way to T-Mobile. The phone has been available for some time both internationally as well as from AT&T, but August 8th T-Mobile will join the list. What makes this phone special you ask? It has a 5.3-inch Super AMOLED HD display that is just massive, but looks amazing. That isn’t all either. You should know plenty about the Note already, but if not stay tuned for more details.
We’ve reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Note here at Android Community more than a few times. To start you’ll want to see our international model review, then the AT&T Galaxy Note review. What we have today is essentially the exact same impressive and unique device, only on the magenta carrier we all know and love as T-Mobile. One major difference is we are running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box, as Samsung has recently updated most their phones.
The hardware from the folks at Samsung and T-Mobile is exactly the same as the other Note models. We have a bright and vivid 5.3-inch Super AMOLED HD screen rocking a crisp 1280 x 800 resolution. The phone is so wide we get 5 apps from side to side, rather than 4 like most other Android smartphones. Under the hood isn’t the new Qualcomm S4 processor all the recent Samsung phones have, but it still chugs along great with the 1.5 Ghz dual-core Qualcomm S3 processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage as well as micro-sd option for more.
Then it gets that quality 8 megapixel rear camera, 2 megapixel front for video chat, a huge 2,500 mAh battery, and of course the stylus or “S-Pen” as Samsung likes to call it. Off to the right we have the power/wake button, the left side has the lone volume rocker, with the headphone port up top and the micro-USB charging port sitting at the bottom. Again, this is the exact same Galaxy Note that’s been available for almost a year, so the device shouldn’t be too new for anyone.
If you’ve never used the Galaxy Note, it’s huge. By far the biggest phone I’ve ever held in my hand, but the extremely thin 9.6 mm design and rounded edges makes it easy to hold, ergonomic given its size, and fairly pocketable. At first it might seem too big, but you’ll quickly get used to it — plus playing games or watching YouTube is awesome. This large of a phone might not be for everyone, but if you like the idea you’ll love the phone from T-Mobile.
For the software like mentioned above we have Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich. Which was the latest and greatest until Google dropped Jelly Bean last month. Samsung just updated their previous Note phones to ICS this month, so we’ll have to wait for Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. However, Ice Cream Sandwich brings some welcomed changes, awesome performance, face unlock security, and Samsung’s premium suite of apps for the S-Pen stylus.
While it’s the AT&T flavor, here’s a quick video showing you the neat new features included with Android 4.0 on the Galaxy Note that will make that stylus really come in handy for business professionals, to Draw Something game fans.
With Formula Match you’ll be using your S-Pen to write out equations that will instantly be translated into perfectly legible text, first of all, then will be entered into Wolfram Alpha to be either solved or graphed — awesome. In the hands-on video we use a simple x and y equation to show how graphing works with this setup.
Then the fun for kids and adults Shape Match ability makes your circles, triangles, squares, rectangles, and more, one whole heck of a lot more perfect. Draw a wobbly circle and POOF, it’s corrected to perfection. Draw several lines in a row, and bang! They’re all straight! Even if you have no use for this ability whatsoever, it’s still rather fun to watch – it’s like magic!
The Handwriting-to-text function has you able to write a word, have it translated to standard text, hit the space bar button, and write another word, and so on and so forth. This ability seems to be more of a proof of concept than it does an extremely helpful ability – and you’ll see this ability utilized fabulously with both Knowledge Search and Formula Match.
Inside Knowledge Search you’ll find Wolfram Alpha put to the test as you write out questions word by word and have that engine solve your quandary. Make sure you ask it severely difficult questions like “where am I” and “what does an Android look like?” This isn’t quite Google Now or S-Voice, but it’s a nice additional feature.
Out of the box with Android 4.0 ICS the performance is just as we expected. The unlock screen has options for slide-to-unlock, pattern, the new face unlock, and a few others — but sadly they don’t have unlock shortcuts for the camera or text message apps. As far as pre-installed apps though, this thing is bloated. So many in fact that the 16GB of internal storage only has about 9GB usable. Between all the awesome S-Pen apps mentioned, to the multiple “useful” things from T-Mobile.
For Android 4.0 and above’s awesome multitasking feature you simply push and hold the home button, but for some reason performance here was a bit choppy. The fluid swipes to clear apps and tasks on most phones stutters a bit here, but still works without fail. Otherwise performance is excellent from browsing the web, playing games, or watching videos in HD on that massive 5.3-inch and bright display.
As usual we ran a few quick benchmarks, but this being the older last-gen Qualcomm dual-core processors we knew what to expect. The phone doesn’t perform like the HTC One X or the Galaxy S III, but it still holds it own quite well. Getting around 3600 in Quadrant and AnTuTu had it right in line with previous offerings. You won’t win any benchmark wars, but don’t really need to either. This phone is all about that screen baby!
Camera and Battery
The 8 megapixel does quite well for itself, but that’s never been a weak point for Samsung. I’d say it’s on par with their recent phones, but doesn’t offer the burst shutter mode the Galaxy S III features. Photos inside or out were decently good, and the shutter speed is fast for a quick shot. Below is a quick sample with a few more in the gallery below.
Battery life can vary greatly however with this device. Having that 5.3-inch screen is awesome, but can drain the battery. Luckily Samsung tossed in a 2,500 mAh battery (although could easily fit more) and it lasts all day for me. Barely using the phone I’ll last over 2 days, but having the second biggest battery of any Android smartphone keeps it chugging all day long even for business users and more. Battery life shouldn’t be an issue unless you’re gaming or watching tons of YouTube, then it’s expected.
T-Mobile doesn’t offer 4G LTE options, but their HSPA+ is usually pretty great. Here in Vegas I’ll get varied results but my speedtests weren’t that great here. I averaged around 7 Mbps downloads and 1 up, but around town 20-30 isn’t uncommon. It isn’t quite LTE, but then LTE is more of a battery drain too.
Call quality was top-notch. Many reviews skip this feature of a “phone” since we all text these days, but it’s equally important. T-Mobile’s network has always had some of the best voice quality if you ask me, and it delivers here as usual. The speaker is loud, clear, crisp, and speakerphone gets loud enough for a conference call if needed too.
Now to wrap things up we do have a few concerns here. Samsung has released the Galaxy S III flagship — and it’s available on T-Mobile. With a 4.8-inch screen and better performance it’s a tough choice. If you love the larger screen then this will be a no brainer. Sadly we are also expecting a newer, larger, thinner Galaxy Note 2 with a 5.5-inch screen to be announced in the month of August — so that could send some buyers packing. Most likely T-Mobile will not be getting that right away, if at all, so if you’d like the big screen that shouldn’t concern potential buyers. I know that might be an argument, but I doubt T-Mobile will get it anytime soon, making this current Galaxy Note a great choice.
My only concern other than the Note 2 is price. T-Mobile opted to ask $249 for the Galaxy Note but only after a $50 mail in rebate. Which means buyers will be tossing out $300 originally and waiting for a $50 check. Releasing a year old phone, right before a sequel, but still asking top dollar is a bad move. Then again this phone does have a huge screen and trumps anything else from T-Mobile in this size range.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 5.3-inch phablet smartphone has won over more than you’d think. Samsung had massive sales of this phone and an overall awesome response from buyers. If you’ve been eying a bigger screen and are on T-Mobile this is hard to pass up. I’d go for it or the Galaxy S III personally. Get the all new T-Mobile powered Galaxy Note starting August 8th for $249.