If you're in the market for a single device with the combined features of a smartphone and a tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Note II is for you.
The Galaxy Note is a hybrid Android device. At approximately 3.17-by-5.95-by-0.3 inches and weighing 6.44 ounces, it's large enough that it may feel awkward while making calls. But the 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED display (1,280 x 720) is so gorgeous that you might not notice.
You navigate the Galaxy Note with the S Pen, a smart stylus that's stored within the Galaxy Note itself. Releasing the stylus displays a variety of pen-based icons on the screen. A unique hover feature allows you to hold the stylus over the Galaxy Note to bring up additional information or options.
The stylus was designed by Wacom, maker of high-end electronic drawing tablets for artists, and the quality shows. The S Pen is pressure-sensitive, with stunning results in S Note and other S Pen-enabled apps. Samsung offers "S Choice" apps that take full advantage of the S Pen's capabilities. The Galaxy Note II also has a full-featured touchscreen, if you prefer to swipe rather than use the stylus.
The S Pen works in conjunction with S Note, a comprehensive note-taking app that will make you wonder why Apple doesn't include something similar with the iPad. S Note includes a wealth of options including handwriting-to-text conversion, shape and formula recognition, and the ability to add graphics and sound. There are templates for common tasks like business note-taking, journaling, or sketching. If you like taking notes by hand, you will love S Note.
You'll also appreciate the ability to annotate just about anything: documents, PowerPoint presentations, email. For example, with the S Pen you can clip a section of an image or website, annotate it, then send it via email.
Other Samsung-specific features include S Planner, a calendar app, and S Beam, which uses NFC technology to share photos, videos, and documents simply by tapping two devices together. There's also S Voice, an advanced voice-recognition program that allows you to control your Galaxy Note. Samsung Hubs bring video and music entertainment to your Galaxy Note.
But you're not limited to Samsung apps. Because the Galaxy Note is an Android device, you've got the full Google Play marketplace available to you. With its stunning screen, it makes a terrific device for gaming.
Performance-wise, the Galaxy Note II is a winner. It comes with a 1.6GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, more than enough to handle heavy usage. It runs on 4G LTE as well as 3G networks. The main rear camera is 8 megapixels with autofocus and LED flash. The secondary front camera is 1.9 megapixels. Camera options include Best Photo, Best Face, and Low Light Shot.
Although the Galaxy Note may appear difficult to use with one hand, you'll find One-Handed Operation under the Settings menu, which allows you to position buttons for easier access.
Security is an issue on all mobile devices, but Android has been hit especially hard. The Galaxy Note II includes security features such as passcode lock, but they're no good if you don't enable them. You should also avoid installing apps from places other than Google Play, as this is one of the primary ways of introducing malware onto your Android device. Get yourself an Android antivirus app, too, not just the built-in scanner, which has been demonstrated to miss most viruses. Many popular antivirus manufacturers offer solutions for mobile devices.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Note II is a powerful tool for the mobile user who needs an all-in-one device that can still fit in a pocket.
• Triona Guidry is a freelance writer and IT specialist. Her Tech Tips blog (http://www.guidryconsulting.com/techtips) offers computer help and social media advice. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @trionaguidry.