We've been using the Samsung Galaxy Note II for a few days. Here's a few things we dislike about Samsung's latest Android smartphone.
S Pen apps
The new S Pen is longer and better designed than its predecessor, but there remains a lack of apps that have been specifically optimised for it. Samsung's S Note app is handy and a great example of what the S Pen is capable of, but that aside, there aren't many good quality, third-party apps designed with the S Pen in mind.
A quick look in the Samsung Apps store shows a few other apps under the category "Best S Pen apps" but none of these are really noteworthy. Most of them seem overpriced and while many of them will work fine with the S Pen, not all are completely optimised for it. As an example, most won't be able to take advantage of the S Pen's pressure sensitivity capabilities, which is really what gives the S Pen a distinct advantage over an ordinary stylus.
Our review unit of the Galaxy Note II is the Titanium Grey model, which has an extremely glossy finish. It will ultimately come down to a matter of personal taste, but we found the finish a bit over the top. It's glossier than the pebble blue version of the Galaxy S III and is therefore hard to keep free of grubby fingerprints and marks. It also looks a little cheap in our opinion, even if the excellent build quality isn't an issue.
Of more concern was the fact the Galaxy Note II appears to scratch and scuff rather easily. After just a few days use our unit developed some visible signs of wear and tear, particularly around the edges and on the removable back cover. While we like the materials used in the build, we think Samsung would do well to give the Galaxy Note II a better finish — perhaps a matte surface like HTC uses on the One X and One XL smartphones.
The N7100 Galaxy Note II model we have in for review is a 3G device only, so it doesn't support the 1800MHz 4G networks operated by Telstra and Optus in Australia. Samsung will eventually sell an N7105 model that features 4G capability on the 1800MHz network, but there is no confirmation this is the model that will be sold in Australia — so far, Samsung has refused to comment about a potential Australian release of the Galaxy Note II.
One point to keep in mind with a 4G model is that it isn't likely to possess the same stellar battery life as the 3G-only version. LTE connectivity is known to be a huge battery drain but the N7105 model features the same 3100mAh battery as the N7000. That is likely to translate into less battery life, though we'll be keen to put that to the test if and when we can get our hands on the N7105 variant.
This will be another personal preference, but we've never been the biggest fan of the way Samsung's TouchWIZ UI overlay looks. While it certainly adds plenty of functionality and features, we wish Samsung would try and tie more into the stock holo theme that Google uses on Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean. TouchWIZ looks much like a cartoonish version of iOS, in our opinion. While some people may like this look, we suspect many other users don't.
It's not just looks either, as TouchWIZ also has some annoying design issues. Despite the Galaxy Note II's huge screen, the software only allows you to have four icons vertically across the display. This doesn't make sense on a 5.5in screen as its such a waste of valuable space that could be taken up by more icons or larger home screen widgets, for example.
You can always get around this issue by installing one of the many third-party Android launchers available in the Google Play Store (we recommend Apex Launcher or Nova Launcher). Keep in mind that some of TouchWIZ's motion features, such as panning to move an icon to another page, won't be available if you choose to install a third-party launcher.
The Samsung Galaxy Note II has a volume rocker on the left side, much like the Samsung Galaxy S III. While the button is well positioned and provides good tactility, the extra size of the Galaxy Note II means its easy to accidentally press when in your pocket.
While listening to music through headphones with the phone in our pocket, we found that the volume was accidentally bumped up and down multiple times. Wearing jeans, this happened frequently. While it isn't a huge issue, those who like to keep phones in their pocket while listening to music may be best advised to purchase a case or find somewhere else to store the phone.