Review: Samsung Galaxy Note II for Verizon Wireless
The Note II stays in familiar territory when it comes to media consumption. The bare-bones music and video playback apps are on board and can be used with most sideloaded content. The Note II is also loaded with the the Google Play Store and associated apps for music, video, books, magazines, and apps.
The Note II also comes with Samsung's Media Hub and Music Hub. The Media Hub is an alternative place through which to purchase and/or rent movies and television shows. It works fine, but requires a Samsung user account. The same goes for the Music Hub for making music purchases.
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Last, the Note II includes the Verizon-branded NFL app, viewdini, Amazon MP3, Audible, and viewdini.
The Note II includes an 8-megapixel shooter. It does not have a dedicated camera button, but the camera can be launched via the lock screen shortcut. It loads quickly.
The layout of the camera controls is typical for a Samsung smartphone. There is a control strip down each side; the viewfinder is positioned between them. The settings strip - which is fully customizable - offers access to features such as the flash, exposure controls, scenes, shooting modes, and so on.
Once you've spent a moment familiarizing yourself with the controls and perhaps even customized them to your own liking, the camera is a breeze to use. It focuses and shoots photos quickly. You can choose to use touch-to-focus if there is something in particular you want to be in focus.
As I expected, the images I captured with the Verizon variants of the Note II were on par with the excellent results from the AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile versions. The camera sensor is able to accurately capture exposure and color, while the shutter does a fine job of making sure everything is in focus. It's a good camera for a smartphone, no doubt about that.
Video also looks great. Again, all of the elements are captured correctly. The video is razor sharp, well exposed, and all the colors looked spot on. You'll certainly be able to capture share-worthy video with the Note II.
The Note II's gallery application is very close to the stock Android 4.0 gallery app. The basic view includes a mish-mash of photos from all your accounts in one epically huge grid. Using the tools at the top of the page, you can shift the view to specific folders or collections of photos.
The Note II has the same photo-editing features that most Android 4.0 smartphones do. Images can be cropped and rotated easily. Also, more intensive edits (straightening the image, killing red-eye, correcting exposure/color) are handled by the Samsung-enhanced gallery app.
The Note II comes with a typical mix of Samsung and Verizon-branded apps. Stand-outs include Flipboard and Paper Artist (a really cool scribbling app that takes advantage of the S Pen). You can't delete most of the pre-installed apps, but you can at least hide those you don't use. Either way, there's plenty of on-board storage for your own apps. The Amazon App Store is on board, too.
The Note II's Bluetooth radio worked flawlessly. It paired and connected with every device I have sitting on my desk. Phone calls sounded quite good when routed to a Bluetooth headset. I have no complaints about stereo music, either.
The Note II ships with the stock Android browser. The application itself is fine for browsing the web and does a good job of rendering web sites. It performed excellently on Verizon's LTE 4G network. Web pages appeared quickly thanks to the speedy power of Verizon's 4G. There are plenty of alternative browsers available in the Google Play Store, however, if you're looking for something a little bit different.
There's a white digital clock on the lock screen. It is big enough to be seen at an arm's length, but it cannot be customized at all. There are a multitude of clock widgets available for the home screen.
The Verizon Note II has Google Maps and VZ Navigator for navigation. The GPS radio worked really well. It pinpointed me quickly and accurately (often to within 10 feet). I didn't have any trouble routing directions between points. Both Maps and Navigator are capable tools when it comes to plotting directions and routing you from Point A to Point B.