Since its introduction back in October, Samsung's Galaxy Note 2 has skyrocketed to superstardom, pushing 5 million units and earning the top spot on holiday gift guides across all carriers. It has also been written about ad nauseam, without countless stories popping up across the internet ranging from that display (it’s as huge as they say) to the battery life (it’s as phenomenal as they say). Here at Android Central, we’ve got reviews on file for both the international and T-Mobile models, which both come to the consensus that this might just be the biggest, baddest phone you’ll be able to stuff your stocking with this holiday season.
So how does Verizon’s model differ from what we’ve come to know and love? Aside from the few details below, this behemoth is nearly identical to every other iteration, from the breakneck performance of the quad-core Exynos processor to the TouchWiz-touting Jelly Bean UI. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again—the Note 2 is simply one of the best Android devices ever produced.
If you want to see what makes Verizon’s model unique, hit the break for the full rundown.
Branding, branding, branding!
Let’s get it out of the way up front—the Verizon’s Note 2 is one of the most heavily branded, overly-tattooed devices you will have ever had the pleasure of knowing. There really isn’t any way around it— you’ll find a Verizon logo on the home button, as well as oversized Verizon and LTE logos on the battery door. There won’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind that you are a loyal Verizon customer.
But fret not — there are already plenty of solutions out there. Our own Jerry Hildenbrand spotted some aluminum decals floating around the internet that fit perfectly atop that branded home button, and Samsung's popular Flip Covers will replace that tattooed battery door with a clean, Verizon-free one.
Personally (and I’m probably in the minority here), I don’t find the logos to be all that offensive. Sure, they’re there, but they’re not all that more prominent than on any other Verizon device. The Note 2 happens to have a home button where Verizon’s front logo usually ends up (Samsung got away with omitting it on the GS3, but that luck seems to have dried up), so fellow long-time Verizon customers will feel right at home here. I’m actually more offended by the rear logos, as they’re noticeably bigger than on other similar devices. But for those who protect their phone with a case, or plan on picking up one of Samsung Flip Covers, this is truly a non-issue. The long and short of it: what Verizon has done here isn’t all that different from what they’ve consistently done in the past.
Samsung’s Multi Window functionality might just be its flagship lineup’s most innovating and useful feature, but after AT&T launched its model with the functionality absent, Verizon customers were left to hold their breath. Rest assured, Multi Window is alive and well on Verizon’s Note 2, and works like a charm.
The concept is simple: hold down your back button and a menu of seven apps appears to your left. Drag one to the top of your screen, and drag another to the bottom. Voila! You’ve got two apps running simultaneously, a magic trick made possible by the Note 2’s uber-powerful processor and RAM, along with its monstrous 5.5-inch display.
For right now, Multi Window is limited to seven apps: Email, Gallery, Messaging, Video Player, Internet, Polaris Office, and S Note. Samsung has said that YouTube and Gmail are on their way, but for now there’s no exact timeframe as to when we’ll see the additions.
We’ve become pretty desensitized to Verizon’s heavy-handed influence over manufacturers, so the Note 2’s locked bootloader comes as no surprise. It’s been debated time and time again, but it always boils down to Verizon explaining its decision to no one’s satisfaction. Luckily, we’ve seen a recent trend of Verizon releasing “developer editions” of its most popular smartphones (e.g. the Galaxy S 3 and more recently, the Droid RAZR HD), but there’s no word yet regarding the Note 2.
But just because Verizon has thrown us a few banana peels doesn’t mean an unlocked bootloader isn’t possible. We’ve seen extensive efforts on the GS3 and other recent devices result in an unlocked device, and as of this week developers have already rooted the Note 2. While a full unlock hasn’t been achieved just yet, we’d venture to guess that it’s not all that far off.
We were pleasantly surprised to find Verizon’s recent Droid DNA ship SIM unlocked, meaning its compatible with both AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks. Our excited piqued even more when we heard from our friends and WPCentral that HTC’s Windows Phone 8X was in the same boat. But alas, our hopes were dashed to find out that, at least for now, this trend appears to be HTC’s doing and not Verizon’s, as the Note 2 is locked to Big Red’s waves only. We’ll keep an eye on the developers out there to see if anyone can come up with a work around, but history has taught us not to hold our breath for this one.
The bottom line
Verizon’s Note 2 enters the game a little later than we had all hoped, but for most customers of the nation’s largest carrier, it was well worth the wait. The Note 2 is a stunning addition to an already robust portfolio; at any other time of the year, we could easily say it is the best device on Verizon’s shelves. But after the releases of the Droid RAZR HD, the MAXX HD, and the Droid DNA, the Note 2 faces some stiff competition this holiday season. You can’t go wrong with most of Verizon’s offerings right now, but if you’ve got a taste for the quality UI we’ve come to expect from Samsung, and a display that bridges the gap between your phone and your tablet, the Note 2 is well worth your $300.