Long term "Vanilla Android" thoughts on Galaxy Note 2.

Good evening fellow Verge readers. Like many, I am completely appalled at Google's handling of the Nexus 4 release. I have never seen a company so resistant to taking money from willing customers. This led me to do research on alternatives and ultimately choose an inferior version of Android but a vastly improved experience overall. I've been a Nexus guy since the release of the Nexus One in 2010, always taking pride in having the latest and greatest version of Android, even when the upgrade was simply a bug fix or something minor. 4.1 was game changing with Google Now. 4.2 is also somewhat with the Picture Sphere project. But Google's inept ability to sell us their flagship device throws all of this out of the window. Enter the Galaxy Note II. I picked it up last night from a phone shop in the Netherlands after some very thorough research (awesome review by The Verge btw) and I've been on Cloud 9 since. I'm upgrading from an unlocked Galaxy Nexus also purchased in the Netherlands running 4.2. Is it me or did the latest update kind of make the GNEX almost unusable kind of like Apple did to the iPhone 3G with iOS3 vback in '09? Project Butter has completely gone out of the window, my GNEX became sluggish and very unresponsive even when running the simplest of tasks. The new panoramic mode is incredible but the GNEX is struggling with it. Beyond that, I just found the bleakness of stock Android kind of boring after awhile. I think this is reflected in Google's choice of stock wallpapers. All expressionless, modern, lonely pieces of art. I was very eager to update and wow is all I can say. First the immense size of the GNII. I thought it would be awkward to hold but my Nexus 7 prepared me for this. It's big but extremely comfortable to hold, especially when using the stylus. I've yet to find a case for it as it's simply much bigger than the rest of the phones available. It fits comfortably into a jean pocket. The look on people's faces when you pull it out to get there number is pretty awesome as well. I subscribe to a few magazines on Google Play so reading them on this phone is awesome. Again, with the advent of 7" tablets, this phone actually feels a bit more natural to hold. Don't worry about it being too big unless you have really tiny hands. I was a bit worried about TouchWiz after reading some horrible stuff about it in the past but I have to say I'm very surprised. I don't love their skin/software but I don't hate it. Most of the apps are useless to me as I already have my own selection of apps I've paid for and used for years. Not being able to delete the stuff I want is vaguely annoying but I'll live. There's also some really useful stuff baked inside of there. My favorite being the S-Note suite. No matter what keyboard they come up with next, nothing will ever replicate the ease of simply writing something down. It's handled here flawlessy. Samsung really seems hellbent on taking over the world, having remade almost every app Google puts into stock Android. I'm surpised they aren't working on their own map client. I'm still getting notifications about TouchWiz apps buried deep in the phone. If that's your thing, go for it. I'll have to read into rooting and maybe installing a ROM without all of this stuff. In the meantime just delete all the widgets, remove the apps from the homescreen. Maybe install a custom launcher and you're GTG. My absolute favorite part of this phone and a very strange omission from Google's phones....microSD card support! I currently have a 32GB Class 10 card in while my 64gb gets shippped....that along with the onboard 16gb (10gb after all the Samsung stuff) is memory overload! No more having to ration my music or weekly picture unloads. I have more space than I know what to do with and it feels awesome. I can't believe I've gone this long with just 16Gb phones. Never again. There is no turning back. I probably won't even use most of it...just the fact that I have it there makes me sleep much more comfortably at night. I'm not a huge fan of FB, preferring Twitter and G+, but it syncs everything from FB to your phone's calendars (if you choose) so you see friends birthday, club events and the like directly from your phone's calendar. Pretty awesome. I have 1000+ friends so it's actually a bit too much information but it could be useful for someone. If I recall, this was possible with stock Android before Google and FB became enemies. Samsung must still be in FB's good graces. The overall design and user experience is my main concern and I couldn't be happier. I've yet to see the N4 in person so I can't compare that experience to the GNII. But comparing the GNEX, I believe Samsung has taken an already solid OS and made it more interesting to use. I'm not thrilled about being a version behind but the extra's they supply make it easier to deal with. In all honesty, I'll probably end up getting a Nexus 4 anyways and have a phone for DE and one for NL. But if you don't have that option and can't decide which phone to get, don't rule out the Galaxy Note II. Coming from a former Stock Android fanboy, it's not the end of the world, and we'll eventually get the latest version (fingers crossed). Dom