The Samsung Galaxy Note II is the long-awaited successor to the original 5.3-inch Galaxy Note. It’s bigger, better, and available on all the major U.S. wireless carriers (unlike the original Note, which was limited to GSM/HSPA networks). Its big brother, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, has been called a possible game changer for business, but the 5.5-inch Note II may be an even better choice for on-the-go business users due to its pocketability (assuming you have fairly large pockets).

Any modern smartphone gives business people a way to literally carry a computer with them everywhere they go, but the S Pen is what makes the Galaxy Note family stand out from the rest. It gives you the advantages of paper and pen without the disadvantages.

Taking notes

How often have you scrounged for a blank piece of paper so you could scribble a quick note in a meeting or write down a phone number or address while talking on the phone? With a typical smartphone, switching to a note taking program and then typing out the information on the tiny keyboard, while carrying on a conversation, is tedious at best. With the Note II, if you’re in the middle of a call and you need to make a note, all you have to do is remove the S Pen from its slot in the device. A little notepad automatically pops up on the screen, and you can quickly jot down the info, as shown in the screenshot below.

Figure A

The pop-up notepad that appears when you remove the S Pen is incredibly convenient.

This feature alone saves a huge amount of time and frustration, and you can configure whether or not you want the notepad to pop up when you remove the S Pen from its slot, as shown in the screenshot below.

Figure B

You can configure many aspects of the S Pen, including whether to pop up a note when it’s removed from its slot.

If you prefer that the note display text instead of your handwriting (but you still want to input the information by handwriting it), just tap the “T” in the notepad’s toolbar, and that will switch you into text mode. An area will appear underneath your note, and this is where you write the information. Unless your handwriting is really terrible, it will be recognized and transcribed into text as shown in the following screenshot.

Figure C

You can write in the bottom recognition area and have it transcribed into text in the note itself.

If you have more than just a line or two of information to write and need a larger writing area, just tap the diagonally upward pointing arrow at the top left of the notepad. That will save your note and open it in the full screen S Note program, as shown in the screenshot below.

Figure D

You can expand your pop-up note into a full screen note with room for more text or a drawing.

I especially like that the full screen note on the big display gives me plenty of room to sketch a diagram or map.

Annotating pictures

I often use my smartphone camera for business purposes. If I’m out in the field, I’ll take a photo of a network setup, or if I’m checking out equipment I’m considering buying, I’ll snap pictures of the different options to help me remember. But sometimes it’s difficult remembering exactly what the photo represents, or which of the devices in the store was $699 and which was $1250.

With the Note II, I can write notes directly on the photo, so that I don’t have to rely on my memory. I used to email myself each photo when I took it, with notes attached, but this is much quicker.

Along the same lines, I can remember juggling a dozen or more business cards from various people when I would make a lot of new contacts at a conference or meeting. I would often make notes on the backs of the cards. These days, I sometimes find myself in a situation where someone didn’t bring along enough cards to go around. No problem – instead of taking a card, I can just snap a picture of it. Oh, but what about that extra info (such as a cell phone number or the best day to call) that I once scribbled on the back?  Using the annotation ability, I can use the S Pen to write that information on my picture of the card, as shown in the screenshot below.

Figure E

The S Pen makes it easy to write or draw directly on photos.

There are various photo editing programs you can use to do this. I’ve been using PicsArt, which offers many additional photo editing tools.

Sign on the dotted line

Another great business use for the S Pen is to affix your handwritten signature to documents. There are a number of document signing apps available through Google Play. One of the top enterprise apps is SOFTPRO’s SignDoc Mobile. With it, you can upload your PDF documents to the SOFTPRO server, or enterprises can implement their own servers so the documents never have to leave the organization.

One of the nicest features is that you can embed time-stamped photos in the signed documents as part of the electronic signature, proving that it was really you who signed the document, as shown in the screenshot below.

Figure F

The S Pen makes it easy to sign documents.

This app integrates nicely with the S Pen, and it won the Public Choice Award of the Samsung Galaxy S Pen Challenge. It does away with the need to print a document, sign it in ink, and scan it in order to send a signed document — and the photo feature brings added security.


These are only a few of the ways that I’ve found the S Pen to be a fantastic business tool that lets me get work done faster and more efficiently. Samsung has a number of programs that are designed to work with the S Pen and, given the growing popularity of the Note devices, I expect developers will be creating more of them in the future.

For example, there is an app called Map Note that lets you draw directions to a destination over a live map or satellite image and share it via email, Facebook, and other communications venues. It’s even possible to process credit card payments on your Galaxy Note II with the tiny Square Card Reader and its accompanying payment processing service (for a monthly or per-swipe fee); customers sign the transaction with the S Pen.

The pen may not be mightier than the sword, but it’s mighty convenient to have one when you need it, and with the Galaxy Note II, you always have one that never runs out of ink.