Is the new Samsung Galaxy Note and its tuck-away stylus a throwback to the Palm Pilot? Does its 5.3-inch AMOLED HD screen make it a huge phone, a small tablet, or a cocktail of both?
Yes, yes, for sure, and absolutely.
The Samsung Galaxy Note, a supersized Android 2.3 device that AT&T started selling Sunday for $300 (with a two-year contract), isn’t like any other device. It’s big, chunky, a lot of fun to use, and in its own goofy way, practical.
Part of what makes the Samsung Galaxy Note practical is its S Memo application. A free app designed especially for and preinstalled on the Galaxy Note, S Memo allows you to use the device’s included S Pen stylus to scribble notes on the fly. The app can also translate handwritten notes into text, which it does with reasonable, though not flawless, accuracy.
You can import photos, add voice annotations and multiple pages to each note, and draw freehand style with a handy eraser and undo/redo when you mess up. Notes can be linked to calendar events, tagged (for sorting and searching), and shared in various ways—over Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Gmail, Facebook, Picasa, and via other apps.
The Galaxy Note also includes S Memo Lite, which is a version of the S Memo app you can access from within other apps, such as the web browser, with a double tap of the S Pen stylus. Once you call up S Memo Lite, you can make drawings or add annotations to whatever is on the screen—a Web page or Google map, for example. Then you can save that page along with your annotations and share it via email.
Does anyone really need S Memo in this era of the finger-responsive touchscreen? The entire concept is easy to dismiss as hopelessly retro—after all, Steve Jobs and the iPhone trained the masses to view a stylus as a thing of the past.
But I say there is a place for S Memo, the S Pen, and the Galaxy Note. I’ve already used S Memo Lite several times to annotate Web pages and Google maps and share them with friends and colleagues. It’s easy to do, once you get beyond a slight learning curve. (Tip: You should download the Samsung Galaxy Note user manual or the free Samsung Galaxy Note S Pen user guide to learn more about how to use the pen and S Memo.)
S Memo is currently one of only a few S Pen-enabled apps for the Samsung Galaxy Note, though more are on the way. Soonr Scribble, which I reviewed recently for the iPhone and iPad, is another app that works with the S Pen on the Galaxy Note. It lets you markup 35 different file types. (The app is currently free in the Android Market.)
Of course, the Samsung Galaxy Note, S Memo and S Pen probably won’t revolutionize how you work. But they could make your work a bit easier—and more entertaining.
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.