Samsung Galaxy Note 2

A few weeks ago I bought a new Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Android phone. As I predicted in my post about Phone and Tablet Sizes [1] the Note 2 with a 5.55″ display is a bit too big for me to have an ideal single handed side grasp (I estimate that about 5.2″ would be ideal). But I can stretch a bit and move it around in my hand to touch all parts of the screen with my thumb. Although when doing that I don’t have a tight grip, with my previous phone the Samsung Galaxy S3 [2] I could properly wrap my hand around it to grip it tightly while using it with one hand. The Note 2 will be easier for me to drop or for a thief to snatch it from me.

While the big screen makes the phone difficult to use with one hand it does allow viewing more data. The ConnectBot SSH client (Play Store link) [3] (F-Droid repository link) [4] works a lot better on a larger screen – I’ve also discovered that the volume control buttons can be used to change the font size in ConnectBot which is handy as the default is really tiny. Also Klaus Weidner’s Hacker’s Keyboard (Play Store link) [5] (F-Droid repository link) [6] works a lot better with a larger screen. When I tested the Hacker’s keyboard on a smaller phone I found the 5 row layout too difficult to use, but on the Note 2 it works well. As an aside I wish I could quickly and easily toggle between 4 row mode (good for SMS) and 5 row mode (good for sysadmin work) in the Hackers’ Keyboard.

For less serious use the large screen on the Note 2 is good for watching TV. I’ve got a collection of mp4s of TV shows that I’ve been meaning to watch, now I watch them in bed on my phone.

Another advantage of the Note 2 is the battery life. When playing Ingress and doing all the usual email checks etc my Note 2 will last about as long as my wife’s Galaxy S3 with it’s power case. So without any extra batteries a Note 2 will probably last about twice as long as a Galaxy S3.

The Note 2 has more RAM than the S3 I used to use (I had the S3 with 1G of RAM) and it also apparently has a faster CPU. The CPU speed hasn’t been an issue for me but the extra RAM is a real benefit, it means that I can usually switch between Ingress and other programs without having to restart Ingress each time. As an aside I think that Google and LG should release a “Nexus Ingress 4” phone or some other device that’s optimised for Ingress, I’m sure it would sell well.

Some people make a big deal about the stylus that comes with the Note 2. It is a neat feature to have the device know when the stylus tip is hovering over the screen but it’s not very useful for me. If I was going to create art work on a phone (as some people do) then it would interest me, but I’m more interested in email and ssh for fine input and my fingers are generally good enough for those tasks. I have got thin fingers, so I think that people with thicker fingers could really benefit from the stylus. I recently bought a batch of stylus pens from Kogan which have a pen at one end and a rubber stylus tip at the other for fat fingered people I know who need to use an Android phone but can’t afford a Note or Note 2.

I also like the software build on it which is almost the same as that on the Galaxy S3. It seems that many people prefer the apparently stock features on the Nexus 4 but I like the way Samsung does things.


I’m very happy with my new phone. The bigger screen allows me to see things more clearly, this is good for web browsing, reading email, and now that I can use the Hackers’ Keyboard I can type more effectively. The longer battery life is really good too, although I think that Samsung could have done better – if the phone was 3mm thicker then it could have a much bigger battery and have a larger CCD for the camera.

I don’t think that the phone is really different, at least not for my use. Samsung has promoted it for artistic use and I’ve seen evidence to support their claims. But for most people it’ll just be a phone with a larger screen and a bigger battery. Some people criticise it for being too big, but it’s still smaller than the handsets on most desk phones so it’s not big by the standards of old fashioned phones.

The increased size has not only allowed me to do the same things more effectively but also allowed me to do things I hadn’t tried doing on a phone before such as watching TV. This isn’t because of the phone being particularly special in any way, it’s just that the change in size gives more possibilities for ways of using it.

The Samsung Galaxy Mega is the largest smart phone. The 5.8″ version of the Mega has a resolution of only 960*540 (less than the Note and Note 2 – not good enough IMHO) and the 6.3″ version has the same resolution as the Note 2 of 1280*720. I think that both Mega variants are too big for me, I need to be able to use a phone with one hand. So it seems that the Note 2 is probably the best phone for me right now.

7 comments to Samsung Galaxy Note 2

  • Bud

    Russell, Have you tried JuiceSSH? I don’t use ssh from my phone often but JuiceSSH seems to have some nice features. — Bud

  • I do as you have done on my note 1. I use connectbot and hackers keyboard, but to get around the tiny keys I use Google Keyboard from the store everywhere else. You then simply press the world button to toggle back to hackers keyboard, and to go back it’s a tap and hold on the microphone button and select input method.

  • Toggling Hacker’s keyboard between 4- and 5-row mode: you can have that if you are willing to rotate between portrait and landscape.

  • Mark

    I picked up a Note 2 at the end of March, and have been really liking it. Mine was effectively free with a trade in promo and a three year contract (standard length in Canada). The big screen is fantastic for web use, and it makes an onscreen keyboard useful for the first time. I really like the number row in the stock keyboard, and the battery life is great.

    I only use the stylus once in a long while for precision work, but it is really handy when I need it. I’ve used it twice in the last week, once for hitting a tiny checkbox on a webpage, and once for a really tricky bit in Toki Tori.

    I’m a big guy with fairly large hands, so the physical size of the phone is pretty good for me. My kids look kind of ridiculous holding it.

    I have found that watching too much TV on it has made my eyes sore. I had a Naruto Shippuden marathon about a week and a half ago, and my eyes have been sore looking at phone and computer screens ever since. Maybe its time for some glasses.


  • etbe

    Bud: Never tried any other SSH client for Android. ConnectBot works reasonably well and I haven’t felt the need to try anything else. Are there any particular killer features that it has?

    Joshua: Switching from Hackers Keyboard to Samsung is easy enough, but I haven’t figured out a way of switching back easily.

    Marius: The problem with that idea is that ConnectBot which is the main reason for a 5 line keyboard doesn’t support landscape mode.

    Mark: I’ve been wearing glasses for a few years now (I wrote some blog posts about it). I had an ophthalmologist tell me that I shouldn’t get glasses because my vision was apparently average for my age, but I did so anyway and it was great. I need better than average vision for all the stuff I do.

  • The key for me was Google not Samsung keyboard. Then in settings, language and input, Google keyboard settings cog, advanced options then tick switch to other input methods. Can’t do this with the samsung keyboard so you lose the top number row. An alternative is to pull down the notification shade and tap the choose input method notification.

  • Bud

    re-connectbot vs juiceSSH ( I don’t really do a lot of ssh’ing from my phone so I’m far from an expert. Initially I used connectbot but I saw another blog that suggested juicessh. The two things I like with juice are the ability to use the volume keys to zoom and you can tap the terminal to bring up an extended keyboard with arrow keys and tab, esc, alt, ctrl, home, end, etc keys. I’m sure there are alternate keyboards to do this but I like the way juice does it and I don’t need to learn another keyboard (I use kii)