The Note II runs Android 4.1.1 (Jelly Bean) and sports all the high-end features you'd expect of a phone costing $299.99 with two-year agreement, and then some.
The first thing you'll notice about the Note II is that it's huge, measuring 5.95" by 3.17" and .37" in thickness. It's not quite large enough to function as a tablet, but it's big enough that I could comfortably read Amazon Kindle books. At 6.35 ounces, it weighs just a tad more than competing Android phones. However, its heft makes it a good bet for the purse or briefcase, but not your pants pocket.
Generous dimensions give you more screen real estate for vivid, eye-popping videos and games. YouTube videos look phenomenal on its 5.5" HD Super AMOLED screen. Games like Angry Birds and Words With Friends look fantastic and play very smoothly. Everything moves along at a rapid clip, too, with the phone's 1.6 Ghz, quad-core processor.
The spacious screen also makes for pleasant reading of emails, texts and articles. The onscreen keyboard offers both multi-purpose keys and a top row of numbers for quick typing.
One of the coolest things about the Note II is Samsung's S-Voice app. You simply press the Home button twice and say "Hi Galaxy" (or whatever other phrase you assign), then speak a command. For example, you could say "Send text David message I'll pick you up at eight" or "open Words by Post" or "call Jim mobile." To execute a Web search, say something like "search Gangnam Style."
You can also dictate text from within apps, using the microphone icon on the keyboard, for tasks such as text messaging, Google searches or email, or in documents you create in the included Polaris Office app.
The phone's included S-Pen even lets you take notes or doodle on the screen. The pen slides out from the bottom of the phone, so you won't even know it's there unless you want to use it.
The Note II's 8 MP camera takes great photos and offers 4x zoom, LED flash, burst shot and voice activation. You also get a 1.9 MP front-facing camera and 1080p HD video recording. I recommend using Dropbox to easily sync pictures and videos with your computer, so you never have to worry about trying to email large files to yourself.
AT&T doesn't suck up a significant chunk of the 16 GB internal memory with bloatware, giving you plenty of space for apps. Plus, you can add up to a 64 GB microSD card.
AT&T's plans cost about $70-$80 per month for minimal data and unlimited text and voice. If you've had signal problems in your area years ago with AT&T, you may want to give them another shot, perhaps trying a friend or co-worker's AT&T phone. The company has devoted considerable resources to upgrading their network and spreading their incredibly fast 4G LTE mobile service to more and more corners of the U.S.
Even if you drop off their 4G LTE network, you'll probably pick up an HSPA+ signal, which is slower than LTE but faster than 3G. However, anywhere I took the Note II in my area, I had a strong 4G LTE signal.
Battery life on the Note II seems pretty amazing, possibly since Samsung could put in a larger battery than they can in most smart phones. You're good to go for a day or two, depending on usage and apps running in the background.
Samsung seems determined to maintain such a large selection of fine phones among various mobile carriers that there's one for every shopper's needs. The Note II nicely serves buyers looking for extra screen space, perhaps for ease of reading messages, spaciousness for showing photo files or more enjoyment in watching movies or videos. Customers who don't mind the phone's extra bulk will likely find the Note II to be an amazing device.