With Galaxy Note 2, Samsung perfecting the ‘phablet’

If you would have told me a year ago that one of Samsung’s most successful devices would be a phone/tablet hybrid in excess of 5 inches in screen size that utilized a stylus as a main means of interacting with the handset, I would have probably asked for a hit of whatever you were smoking. While the trend towards larger, higher resolution displays was obvious, it seemed unlikely that users would gravitate towards a device that would be hard to operate with one hand. And the whole stylus thing? That was supposed to have died off with the Palm Pilot years ago.

But we all know the story. The seemingly implausible success of the Samsung Galaxy Note was real, and a new category of devices was born: the phablet. Now, Samsung is pushing the envelope once again with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, a phone that improves on some overlooked flaws of the original while enhancing the stylus experience to a point where it is no longer a gimmick, but a natural extension of the way we interact with our mobile devices.

Natural might be the most appropriate term, as the new Note gets a heavy dose of the nature-inspired design language of the Samsung Galaxy S3. And it works. While the phone sports a larger 5.5-inch display size, it’s proportioned with a 16:9 aspect ratio. A curvy body, small bezel, and glossy finish manage to create a device footprint that somehow both feels and looks smaller than the original. And speaking of the 16:9 display, it looks great. Samsung has utilized the latest generation of Super AMOLED technology to provide a hi-def viewing experience sans PenTile technology.

And while we could continue to rattle off the obvious upgrades such as a quad-core Exynos chipset, the real improvement comes with a re-calibrated stylus, which expands its Wacom roots to completely change the way we interact with a phone. The old stylus could hover, triggering a cursor that would allow you to interact with the original Note without actually touching the screen, but the new stylus can hover from a greater distance, making the feature far more usable. Not only that, but Samsung has come up with some clever ways to make the tool almost indisposable, from previewing video to navigating around the device or on the web.

Everything we have seen of the Note 2 thus far has impressed, and impressed in a way that the first iteration didn’t. The previous model had us at times asking, “Why would anyone use this?” The sequel begs a different question. Why is this not the way we always interact with our smartphones? Once we have a chance to spend a bit more time with the Galaxy Note 2 we’ll offer a full review, but the small taste Samsung has already given us has us mighty excited for what is to come.

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