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Galaxy Note 4: Samsung finally listens to its fans, and it pays off

Florence Ion | Oct. 17, 2014
With the Note 4, it feels like Samsung took every little comment stuffed into its cobweb-covered suggestion box and actually listened to what its users want.

Our review unit was an AT&T variant, and it struggled to maintain 4G speeds throughout New York City, Las Vegas, and San Francisco--my HTC One (M8) on Verizon Wireless fared better in the same locations. Of course, your mileage may vary where you live.

I'm still annoyed that Samsung chose to beef up every other part of the phone, but won't opt for front-facing stereo speakers. I hope you have a nice pair of earbuds or a Bluetooth speaker to pair with this thing, because anything you listen with the phone's pitiful rear speaker sounds tinny.

Wait--let me take a selfie
This year has definitely been the year of the "selfies." No matter where you turn, there's another device manufacturer claiming to have the very best front-facing camera.

Samsung's on the same bandwagon: its front-facing 3.7-megapixel camera sensor exists to help you take the great selfies. It also has a neat feature called the Wide selfie, which essentially lets you take panoramic photo of you and your crew or the scenery surrounding you. For higher resolution shots, you can also take selfies with the rear-facing camera; aim it at your face, and the Note 4 will beep when you're in focus. It's the perfect set of features for the narcissist in you.

The Galaxy Note 4's 16-megapixel rear-facing camera is a vast improvement over its predecessor. In addition to a better camera sensor, better low-light performance, and a better flash, it also features Advanced Digital Zoom. 

The Note 4's Advanced Digital Zoom will never be a replacement for true optical zoom, but it works much better than some of the other smartphones out there.

Write it out
My biggest gripe with the last three generations of S-Pens is that the stylus felt stiff and offered no tactile feedback whatsoever, but this year's Note S-Pen offers a similar drag to what you might experience while writing a note on a piece of actual paper. It makes it easier to write notes and doodle, no matter how sloppy you are with a pen.

Like last year's version, the S-Pen features a small button you can click to bring up Air Command, which has been pared down to four essential features: Action Memo, Smart Select, Image Clip, and Screen Write. S-Finder was nixed from the Air Command menu, while Pen Window was converted to Smart Select.

All four of Air Command's mini-apps have been given a minor feature makeover. Action memo now enables you to pin a note to your Home screen as a sticky note; it functions just like a widget, and you can pin multiple notes as you see fit.

Smart select and Image clip work similarly: they each clip a selected area, but the former will save to an S-Note scrapbook page while the later will enable you to either save it as an image or share it across various apps.


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