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8/30/2012
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Samsung Galaxy Note 2, Windows 8 Smartphones: First Impressions

Samsung's new Android phablet and Windows Phone 8 smartphones impress, but Nokia is gunning for Samsung.

Windows Phone 8 Preview: A Visual Tour
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Windows Phone 8 Preview: A Visual Tour
Samsung announced two new smartphones, the Galaxy Note 2 and the ATIV S, during its press conference at IFA in Berlin Wednesday. The Galaxy Note 2 is a second take on its massive phablet and the ATIV S bears the distinction of being the first Windows Phone 8 device announced.

The original Galaxy Note may have shipped more than 10 million units worldwide, but it was far from a success in the U.S. Perhaps the Galaxy Note 2 will change that. It's superior in just about every way.

The most important element of the Note 2 is that Samsung updated the design to match that of its sexy Galaxy S III. The GSIII is one of the best phones Samsung has produced, and the Note 2 looks like it may be as attractive. The original Note was a bit utilitarian in appearance.

Samsung chose to alter the screen dimensions in a positive way. The diagonal measurement has been bumped from 5.3 inches to 5.5, but the pixels have been changed to 1280 x 720, giving it a 16:9 aspect ratio. This let Samsung make the Note 2 a bit narrower than it otherwise might have been. Narrower phones are easier to hold.

Other speeds and feeds have been improved as well. The Note 2 has a quad-core processor, an 8-megapixel camera, more storage options, and better radio configurations. Samsung also updated the S Pen software to make it more useful. The S Pen, after all, is the most unique feature of the device.

[ Trade-in sites see a spike in Samsung listings. Are Consumers Dumping Samsung Smartphones? ]

All these improvements make for a much better device. Samsung said the device will reach the U.S later this year (probably from AT&T or T-Mobile). Those looking for something altogether different from the iPhone 5 will have a good option with the Note 2.

Samsung surprised everyone by announcing the first Windows Phone 8 device. Nokia was expected to earn that distinction next week during a press conference it is holding with Microsoft. Samsung beat it to the punch, though it may not matter.

From a spec perspective, the ATIV S is a winner. It adds a number of features that previous generations of Windows Phones weren't able to offer. These include a dual-core processor, an HD display, removable memory, and so on. The design is gorgeous, it's made out of brushed aluminum. Metallic materials are something that many Samsung devices lack. Metal adds an element of quality and class that simply can't be achieved with plastics.

Samsung didn't say whether the ATIV S might reach the U.S., and more importantly, Samsung didn't say anything about what Windows Phone 8 can do.

Nokia and Microsoft will surely give us a very good look at everything Windows Phone 8 has to offer during their event scheduled for September 5. Without knowing how the ATIV S can put all those specs to use, it's somewhat of a hollow announcement. Nokia has already taken to the Web to call the ATIV S a "warm up" for next week's event.

Until then, the ATIV S is the only Windows Phone 8 device to talk about.

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