Samsung Note 2: A user POV

Beginning of 2013, I blogged about getting the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 which I think is better in terms of size and portability than an iPad mini for a mobile and quasi-road notepad. I bought my Note 2 in Feb and had been itching to blog about my experiences with it.

Bear in mind my article is based on the use of my Android 4.1.2 Jellybean Samsung Note 2 N7105 (16GB 4G/LTE). I put together this blog based on what I think the device do to make my life technically better and will focus on how the device software and hardware work to serve its purpose be it as a phone or a tablet.

Straight off the bat, Note 2 is a beautiful phone. The plastic feel did not dampen my enthusiasm. From the first power on, the colours were vibrant and vivid and comparable to that of iPad 3’s Retina Display I am so used to.

It was great not having to decide what memory size I should get. Something I had agonized for weeks when selecting my iPad 3. I knew 16GB would be what I needed on Note 2 given the fact I had the MicroSD Expansion slot. It would have been better if Android had continue to allow the App2SD feature without rooting.  But nevertheless, it was easy to manage with 16GB of space without video since my iPad’s 64GB is >50% video.

First week of use on Note 2 was rather funny, I did not know how to pick up a call for 3 days. There was no instructional manual telling me to swipe and well, the screen was rather silly showing green and red arrow both ways with a large icon on screen. I ended up defaulting to the home button and 2 soft keys to no avail. Perhaps its my lack of iPhone experience showing.

Note 2 was awkwardly huge to speak into like a regular mobile phone. I find it easier to use either the speaker mode or the headphone mode. I also had to get use to the way I hold it. My thumb would often find its way to the off switch while my middle finger to the volume button. Once I accidentally shut down my Note 2 midway through a call.

Sensitive screen is a good thing but when using the Note 2 as a phone, it is really bad. I have learnt to avoid leaning the screen to my cheek if I want to avoid my face touching buttons on the phone. I now hold the Note 2 at an awkward 45 degree angle to my face, with the speaker pointing to my ear.

Another problem I face is the soft key is so sensitive to touch that it makes playing game a nag. I almost always accidentally touch the soft key during game play. This is where Apple engineering brilliance come into play. No excessive buttons to cause such problems.

Note 2’s rotation is also too sensitive for its own good. It is fast to react but often wrongly. However there is a smart rotation option that determines screen rotation by checking the orientation of your face with the device. It will lag a few seconds or so but is good enough to give a more precise rotation of the device.

Generally, Note 2 is fairly easy to use. The widgets and apps are easy to customize. The sheer number of duplicate apps is unfortunately irritating and making it slightly schizo. I have 7 apps download manager that works like Play, 2 browsers and 3 media players and 2 Voice apps. Many of those installed by Samsung are not removable like DropBox, ChatOn and more. So what I did was to make sure they never get updated to save on my memory space.

Unlike iOS, Android phones works on a file structure which is viewable. People familiar with Windows/Blackberry phones should be accustom to this. You can scroll through the folders to see where your music, pictures and videos are stored. I found it especially useful with video apps. Through this, I can locate where the mp4 are downloaded to and move them from my phone internal storage to the microSD and play off the media player. I can’t do this in iOS.

But with the good, comes the bad too. You also get to see all the garbage that Android downloads or run in the background. With iOS, this is impossible to see/track. However, in Android, you need a few good apps to help clear your cache, clean your history and close your tasks to avoid significant speed compromise.

Emails are a breeze to use, as I had expected. Photo sharing is  surprisingly good, better than iOS. If you have an app that takes photos/pictures, you can automatically choose to share it from Watsapp/LINE to Email to Dropbox/Google Drive.

Browsing on the Chrome is easy and the 4G LTE speed really shows. Note 2 actually loads webpages faster than my iPad 3 4G LTE. I believe that’s due to its faster hardware and cellular features.

Maps and Navigation are two new tools I welcome. I miss Maps on my new iPad (given Apple’s decision to remove all things Google) but Navigation is new for me and makes my phone a default GPS on the go. I like that.

Default Keyboard on the Note 2 is a little fancier than on ios 6. It incorporates gesture input typing. However, what’s lacking is the multi-language option which I can set up easily on ios 6. In the end, I opted for the Go Keyboard which has all the best features you can find in a keyboard with the added benefit of being completely free.

Two highly promoted feature on the Note 2 that I rarely use/have enough reasons to use frequently are Multi Window and S Note. I actually like the S Note. It is a good note taking tool and I use it to write a quick note here and there. The problem I faced when using these 2 tools is how quickly the battery drains. Note 2 is a power guzzler. It drains power like a thirsty bear at a water hole.  A solution to this is necessary if you intend to go on the road with this device.

Camera on this phone is excellent. I take better picture with this than on my iPad 3. The 5-megapixel on my iPad 3 often appears grainy and less than satisfactory. Note 2 on the other hand was making my photos look stunningly professional. Since getting the Note 2, I have added a SanDisk 64GB MicroSD card to my expansion slot for the photos I know I will be taking on this. I also found a slew of nicely design but rudimentary China-Made telephoto lens, micro lens and fisheye lens to take even more professional looking shots.

I can see why the world is so enamoured with Samsung and its Android phones. Android has evolved to become a really good mobile software and a strong contender for the iOS while Samsung makes excellent hardware that complements what the Android does.

Update 6 May 2013

A few days ago I decided to reset my Note 2 and get a feel for doing so.  The original Samsung Kies did not offer too much option and I wasn’t sure it will do a good job. A search landed me to Super Backup. It backs up everything including messages, contacts and apps to files which you can move to an SD card and reload from the app when you have reset your device. This app is a must have for any Android users.