- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In one of the more memorable scenes in the 1986 comedy “Crocodile Dundee,” the Australian outback curiosity played by Paul Hogan is accosted on the streets of lower Manhattan by a thug with a switchblade.

“That’s not a knife,” Dundee drawls in his best antipodean twang, producing an instrument with which a crocodile could, indeed, be field dressed. Holding the massive blade before the awestruck ruffian, he adds, “Now, that’s a knife.”

Spend $299 and commit to a two-year AT&T wireless contract and you can get a Samsung Galaxy Note, a 6.28 ounce smartphone with a tablet screen larger than an iPhone and sharper than, well, possibly your high-definition TV at home. But before you short your Apple shares, keep reading.

On the very positive side, the Galaxy Note is a great phone - audio quality is great - and not too shabby as a minitablet; the combination has earned the device a new category name of “phablet,” merging both words. The device measures 5.78 inches by 3.27 inches by 0.38 inches, versus the iPhone 4S, which checks in at 4.5 inches by 2.31 inches by 0.37 inches. The iPhone is 1.38 ounces lighter than the Samsung device.

And, as noted, the Samsung Galaxy has a far larger screen: 5.3 inches (diagonal) versus 3.5 for the iPhone 4S, or more than 50 percent bigger. Both devices have 8-megapixel cameras, and both have front-facing cameras for real-time video as well.

There is, then, a lot to like about the Samsung product. Lacking some of the media resources - my test unit from AT&T lacked access to Samsung’s Media Hub application, as well as AT&T’s live TV option - I could only test the video by dialing up some YouTube clips, including a couple from a recent episode of “Glee.” The quality, even streaming over Wi-Fi, was remarkable, both for sound and audio. Plug in a headset and you’d have a concert-quality experience, I believe.

Using applications on the Samsung Galaxy Note is a generally pleasant experience. Amazon.com’s Kindle for Android application - yes, this is an Android-based phone - is very nice to use on a screen this size. If Amazon mated a smartphone with its Kindle Fire tablet, the Samsung device could’ve been the result. Another favorite app, Logos Bible Software, installed and ran very well here, too. I tested this because it is highly text-intensive, and again, the Galaxy Note screen is good for such applications.

One of the big differentiators between this “phablet” and other smartphones is the built-in stylus, which slips out for use with applications such as S’Memo Lite, a combo note-taking/drawing app. Artistic types, which I am not, will appreciate such features more than I did. But I could imagine times where a stylus would come in handy.

Samsung sells, but I did not test, a car-mount for the Galaxy Note. My standard phone holders couldn’t accommodate this large device, which made using it as a GPS a bit of a challenge. That’s a shame, because this size would be quite suitable for that purpose.

So with all these pluses, would I buy a Samsung Galaxy Note? Would I use it as my cellphone of choice? And should you do either?

For me, as appealing as the Samsung device is, I still have reservations, some of which I’ve expressed in reviewing previous Android-based phones. I’m still concerned that rogue applications can easily make it into the Android application “marketplace” from which they can be downloaded; by contrast, as noted here before, Apple’s App Store process is far more rigorous.

And there’s a lot more in terms of expansion, accessories and supporting items for the iPhone platform. You can buy an iPhone for use on AT&T, Verizon or Sprint, and the phone can be made to work with T-Mobile’s network as well. The Samsung Galaxy Note, so far, only works with AT&T’s network.

I’m impressed by this device, but not so much that I’m ready to give up my iPhone - not just yet. Add some more carrier options, give me better applications security, and I could yet be tempted, however.

Send email to mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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