The Galaxy Note runs on Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread. Samsung has said an update to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich will be made available. Although an exact timeframe for this update has not been announced, Samsung has said the Android 4.0 updates will begin rolling out sometime in the first quarter of 2012.
Like many other Samsung devices, the Galaxy Note comes with Samsung's TouchWiz user interface. Overall, we found the TouchWiz additions to be useful and didn't feel they interfered too much with the system overall.
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While we appreciated the high resolution screen of the Galaxy Note while browsing the web and performing many other tasks, there are some apps that don't scale as well as we'd like to this high-resolution screen. For example, when using the Gmail app, we found the reply button to be quite small. The Archive, Delete, Next, and Previous buttons at the bottom of the screen were quite large by comparison. Similarly, the Comment and Like buttons in Facebook were quite small, and other apps also had small icons due to the higher screen resolution. Since Ice Cream Sandwich is designed with devices of all screen sizes in mind, we hope the update will bring controls that are a bit more appropriate in size to some of these apps.
The S Memo application adds to the functionality of the S Pen. With this app, you can import or capture pictures and make notes or draw directly on the picture. You can also start from a blank slate and draw or take notes in your own handwriting. Samsung makes it easy to capture any screen of the Galaxy Note by pressing the power button and home button simultaneously. With this screen capture functionality, you can capture a picture of a map or website from the Galaxy Note, pull that screen shot into S Memo, add your annotations, and send it to a friend quickly and easily.
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When setting up the phone, AT&T gives you the option to use its AT&T Ready2Go utility to set up the Galaxy Note using your computer. With Ready2Go, you can enter your Gmail account, set up social networking accounts, enter contact information, install selected applications, create web bookmarks, personalize your home screens and much more from an easy-to-use web interface. We liked this setup process and found it to be faster than trying to type in account information and customize our settings directly from the device.
The Galaxy Note has seven customizable home screens. You can view a thumbnail of each of these home screens by pinching to zoom out from any of the home screens. At the base of each of the home screens, you'll see five static icons (Phone, Calendar, Email, Web, and Applications).
In addition to the S Memo app, Samsung and AT&T have preloaded some applications on the Galaxy Note. Some of these applications include AT&T Navigator, Crayon Physics, Kies Air, Media Hub, Qik Lite, YPmobile, and more. Some of the applications, such as Amazon Kindle and AT&T Code Scanner can be uninstalled using the application management screen while other apps such as AT&T Navigator can't be uninstalled without hacking the phone.
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If you press the Menu button from within the Applications screen, you'll get the option to sort and file applications into folders for better organization. You can also add pages to the application listing. From the Menu button, you can also choose to view apps in a Customizable grid, Alphabetical grid, or Alphabetical list.
The Galaxy Note comes with the standard Android keyboard, a Samsung keyboard, and the SWYPE keyboard as well.