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printed November 25, 2014
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Review: Samsung Galaxy Note for AT&T

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Is It Your Type? Body The Three S's Usability S-Pen  

The S-Pen introduces some interesting features, though I am not sure how much use they'll get.

First, the S-Pen itself is a tiny thing. I found it comfortable to use for a few minutes here and there, but if you're going to spend an hour performing some task, you're going to want the S-Pen sleeve for less hand fatigue.

For starters, every single portion of the user interface is accessible with the pen. You can skip using your hands entirely if you want and just use the S-Pen to swipe between screens, open apps, peck out messages, and so on. So, what can you do with the pen that you can't do with your finger? The special functionality is tied mostly to a single application called S Memo.

S Memo is pretty much what the name implies, a note-taking application that takes advantage of the stylus. For example, if you use the press the S-Pen's button and then press-and-hold on the screen, the Galaxy Note automatically takes a screen shot and then opens the S Memo app. Using S Memo, you can write notes on the image, erase portions of it crop anything (not just squares or circles, but really fine-tuned cropping), reverse the images, share it via a social networking and so on.

S Memo also lets you take notes. You can fire up a new note and compose a message -- either by writing the note yourself as you would on paper, or by using the S-Pen on the Swype keyboard. (I will admit that Swype works WAY better with the S-Pen than with your thumb, as the S-Pen allows you to be much more precise.) Notes can be multiple pages long, and S Memo includes handwriting recognition software to try to figure out stuff you write yourself. You can import images, clip art, or map, you can skip the pen and keyboard entirely and dictate notes, and of course you can send the notes to others via email, social networks and the whole shebang.

Samsung has released the S-Pen SDK to developers, and says that some have taken up the challenge of creating S-Pen compatible apps. It will call attention to apps written for the S-Pen in the Samsung App Store (which is an adjunct of the Android Market).

At launch, however, there's little use for the S-Pen other than the included note-taking app.

I've included a look at the S-Pen in the our video tour of the Galaxy Note.

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