Samsung Galaxy Note II has taller screen, quad-core chip, more pen features

Samsung's Galaxy Note II, the follow-up to last year's popular phone-tablet crossover, is now official after a month of teases.

The Galaxy Note II is still a humongous smartphone, just like its predecessor, but the shape is slightly different, with a 5.5-inch, 1280-by-720 Super AMOLED display. The screen's aspect ratio is 16:9, compared to 16:10 in the older model, and as a result the Galaxy Note II is about 0.1 inches narrower, but 0.17 inches taller than the first Note. Samsung's S Pen stylus is also longer and thicker, and comes with a new rubber tip to make using the stylus feel more natural as you slide it across the Note's screen.

Other specs include a 1.6 GHz quad-core Exynos processor, an 8-megapixel rear camera, a 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera and support for HSPA+ and 4G LTE networks. Storage options include 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB, and there's a microSD slot on board as well. Powering it all is a whopping 3,100 mAh battery, which is larger than the battery in the original Note, and should keep the phone going for several hours.

It's not all about specs, though. The Galaxy Note II runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, with lots of tweaks coming from Samsung's TouchWiz interface.

Many of Samsung's software features that debuted in the Galaxy S III have made the leap to the Note II. Smart Stay, for example, keeps the screen from timing out while the user is looking at it, and camera features such as Best Faces and Best Photo help select the ideal shot from a series of quick snaps. The Note II will support S Beam, which lets users share content to other Samsung phones by tapping them together, as well as AllShare Play and AllShare Cast for sending content to television wirelessly.

 The Samsung Galaxy Note II also has some new features that take advantage of the S Pen stylus, which slides out from the bottom corner of the device. Popup Note sounds particularly useful: If the user takes out the stylus during a phone call, the S Pen app automatically opens on the screen for jotting down notes. Another feature called Air View lets users hover the pen over an e-mail, calendar or videos to preview the content without actually opening it up.

For content creators, the Galaxy Note II has an Easy Clip feature that can outline or crop a part of the screen for copying and pasting. That's an improvement over the first Galaxy Note, which could only capture entire screenshots. The Note also includes a screen recorder and a feature called Idea Visualizer, which creates images from handwritten words.

The original Galaxy Note was viewed by some as a niche device, but Samsung still managed to sell 10 million of them. It's no surprise, then, that Samsung hasn't stayed too far from the original device with its follow-up. There are more features and slightly better specs, but the main difference is the change in aspect ratio, which should make the phone easier to grip and better-suited for high-definition movies.

Samsung says the Galaxy Note II will launch in Europe, Asia and the Middle East in October, but the company's U.S. launch plans are unclear. The U.S. version of the original Note lagged a few months behind its international counterpart, so stateside fans of oversized phones may have to wait a while longer.

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