iPhone 5 and Galaxy Note II hands-on impressions

So I had a chance to spend some time with both these phones yesterday when I visited Croma. I didn’t get to use the iPhone 5 there for long but luckily I was meeting Preshit the same day and since he bought one recently I got to spend a lot more time with it. So here are some first impressions. 

• • •

iPhone 5

When I first saw this phone in the store I walked past it. It’s hard to tell it apart from the previous two generations because it looks pretty much identical to them. The longer display is only really noticeable when you have the older phones side by side.

You must have heard about how light the phone feels and it really does feel extraordinarily light. But along with the fact that the phone really is light, it’s also because you are used to associating a certain weight with the iPhone. The first five iPhones weigh between 133g to 140g and the new one is 112g. Your mind is not prepared for this lightness, especially because it looks so similar to the previous versions. It’s like lifting a suitcase you thought was full.

The build quality, fit and finish are exemplary. Any previous comparisons to actual jewelry are fully justified. Few objects can match the feel of the iPhone 5. It’s on a whole new level altogether. Although, I must say, just like with the previous two iPhones, this one does not fill me with confidence. Now that I know the paint chips off even if you stare at it for too long, I feel like I’m holding a new born baby when I hold the phone.

I tried out the camera for a while. It didn’t seem much better to me on the phone’s screen compared to the 4S, but then the 4S had a brilliant camera so I can’t really complain. I tried the new panorama feature in the store and it worked remarkably well, stitching a photo that was perfectly seamless, even though I was careless with the recording. Easily the best implementation of panorama I’ve seen on a device, and this includes point and shoot cameras that have had this for a while.

The new screen is, well, more of the same really. To my eyes it still looks brilliant. People say the One X has a better display. Actually, the One X has a bigger display. The display on the 5 is more accurate and life-like.

Every thing else seemed similar to the iPhone 4S. The UI is still butter smooth, and not the cheap sort of butter they use on Android these days. There was not much in terms of apps and games to try out on either iPhone 5 that I used but whatever I tried was smooth and fast, exactly as you expect from an iPhone.

 • • •

Galaxy Note II

Moving on to the Galaxy Note II, I actually managed to spend a surprising amount of time at the Samsung section in Croma and the staff did not seem to mind at all. Good thing about this was that I also had the previous generation Note and Galaxy S III at hand to compare side-by-side.

Before I moved to using the Note II, I reacquainted myself with the Note, which I used a long time ago. It still felt as ungainly in my hand as it did back then but I also realized just how amazing the display still looks, PenTile matrix be damned.

Switching over to the Note II made it instantly clear how much easier it was to hold. The display is bigger but narrower, which facilitates easier grip and I could wrap my finger around much better. It felt more secure in my hand in a way the original phone never did.

It also feels horribly cheap. The phone feels like a child could snap it in half. The glossy plastic feels atrociously bad and the whole device feels like it is manufactured by Mattel.

The display on the Note II is technically superior than the ones on the Note and the S III because it uses standard (well, almost) RGB layout. In reality, it does not look better. It looks worse. The display on the Note looks sharper and more vibrant. The display on the S III looks even sharper. I compared both these phone side by side and the icons and text on the S III was much sharper, even from a distance at which you’d normally hold a device as big as the Note II. Now the display on the Note II is not bad and looks pretty good in isolation but the move away from PenTile hasn’t really made it any better, which teaches us an important lesson that sub-pixel layout isn’t everything and that people need to stop getting their panties in a bunch at the mention of PenTile.

The longer display on the Note II also makes reaching for things at the top of the screen more difficult that on the Note. You know, important stuff like the notifications. As with the previous one, you can’t use the Note II single-handed efficiently.

The UI on the Note II felt quite smooth. I must say, though, that Jelly Bean hasn’t made jackshit of a difference and Google is bullshitting people again. The S III on ICS was just as smooth.

• • •

That’s about it for now. I’ll be getting both these phones from their respective manufacturers for use so expect to read more about them in future.


  1. What kind of impression is this? A demo one since you don’t owe both the devices! Galaxy Note 2 display is much better if take it outside *direct sunlight* but I can’t blame you since you tried it in Chroma. No doubt iPhone5 display blows out Note2 but both the phones are of different league. One who loves Apple ecosystem will definitely choose iPhone 5 and the others who love BIG screen phones would go for Note II.

    Regarding build quality: iPhone 5 always rule here but Note II is much better too if you compare it with Galaxy SIII(Better matte finish feels great). Samsung has does tremendous job this time.

    I am using both the phones and to me, comparing a beast of different platform doesn’t make sense! Anyway, you should add more depth to this article rather than just fulfilling your promise. :)

    • It’s not a comparison between the two phones, which is why I went through the trouble of segregating the two. They are just in the same post, that’s all.

  2. People have noticed a great performance difference with Jelly Bean on the Galaxy Nexus. You yourself had tweeted that the HTC One X has improved performance with the Jelly Bean Update. Do you think Touchwiz is the culprit here or Project Butter is more of a gimmick??

    • I never used the Galaxy Nexus before the Jelly Bean update and the One X has a lot more changes under the hood than just Jelly Bean, with a new kernel and all. And the two other phones I used with Jelly Bean, my Nexus S and the Galaxy Note II showed no difference over ICS. I won’t dismiss it completely but it sounds more gimmick than something really useful.

      Also, there is no reason to blame TouchWiz here, as the S III is quite smooth with ICS.

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