Sunday, 12 January 2014

Samsung Note 3

Samsung Note 3 (or is it III?)

I may have mentioned a few times that I got a new phone. It's not just "smart" - it's top-of-the-line, which is a little unusual for me. I usually try to get by with the minimum, and cut costs wherever it won't cut service. But when we started thinking about getting a smart phone, I narrowed things down to 4 phones, one of which was the Note 2. Then Black Friday came, and T-Mobile put the Note 3 on sale for $100 less than list price. Comparing the specs, Note 3 blew away the competition. The Google Nexus has the same size processor and is cheaper, but it, like the HTC One, has a non-removable battery and no memory upgrade. Samsung's phones have both of those life-lengthening features. 

The stand-out feature of the Note phones (and tablets) is that they come with a built-in stylus. Yeah, you can buy a stylus for other touch screen devices, but Note is made for it - there's a button on the "pen" that activates certain features, and it has an alarm if you walk away from the pen. You all know how old I am, so it won't be a surprise that I grew up writing notes, not typing them. I still find it more natural to jot a note than to type one out, and often have to be reminded to use the computer/printer instead of pen and ink. I enjoy the physical sensation of holding a well-crafted pen (similarly, I prefer a paintbrush to a roller). But anyway, this is about the phone, not me. :D The point is that I like to pull out the pen and write my grocery list on my phone. I was so sick of losing well-thought-out grocery lists! Now it's on my phone so I better not lose it! Besides that, I can select text and move it around, so I can jot down each item as it comes to my attention, and then organize the list by store when we are ready to go shopping. It also recognizes handwriting, so I can convert it to text, or even write down a phone number and then have the phone call it.

Another distinctive is the size. It's actually classified as a "phablet" - a phone/tablet hybrid. It looks ridiculously large when put next to an iPhone or most of the cell phones around, but is still smaller than a home phone in height and width, and of course much smaller in depth. This can be either a plus or a minus, depending on taste. I personally don't mind the height of it - I think it's handy when a phone reaches to both ear and mouth - but think it's a little wide when using as a phone. For non-phone use, it's great! 

The size of the screen enables another bonus feature - "multi-window". A number of applications can be opened in a portion of the screen while another app is running on the other side. I haven't used this a lot, but it is handy when I want it. For instance, I could be watching a video and look up something online at the same time (or write a note). There are several ways to take a screen shot, and then save, edit, or even write on it. It has voice activated Google-powered search that can search the internet as well as the phone itself (for tags I've put on photos or saved images or documents, as well as document content).

Of course there's the standard features like front and rear facing cameras, texting, phone calling, internet browsing. The main camera is 13 megapixels, but as people with real cameras know, the sensor size makes the difference, so it's not much better than an 8 MP would be. It does take super-high definition videos, which are pretty nice. Text is easy to use; my complaint there is that the spell check doesn't like me to use texting shortcuts like gr8 or tmr. This is fine with me, but I worry about people with small phones who need to receive short texts. The first call I made was to my Dad, who said it sounded like I was calling from "next door." I haven't talked a lot on it, but am satisfied with the volume and quality of the calls. It came with a browser, and I soon downloaded Firefox as well. On the phone, I can't tell much difference between the two as far as form or function go.

Being an Android, it has much more to offer than an Apple. We do have an (original) iPad, so have dealt with Apple and the iStore. With Apple, the store shows you the top 5 - 10 apps of the day, and it is no end of trouble to try to get past that into the thousands of available apps. If you know what you want and search for the name, you can find it, but browsing is impossible (for me). With the Google Play store, each "top" category has 500 apps in it, which allows for a lot of browsing. There are multiple ways to browse, and of course the search function as well. Then there are other stores: I have looked in Amazon's app store a bit, and Samsung has their own, but I didn't like it much (too much adult content). 

I have downloaded a few apps: games, maps, navigation, star charts, guitar tuner and chord teacher, phonics and math games, my bank, my favorite stores (see their sale flyers and get coupons)... I can send pictures directly to my computer (without even telling it to), print to my home printer, view and edit .doc and .pdf files. 

Compared to my old flip phone that I had with AT&T pay as you go, the sound is better, the numbers are easier to access, and there are tons more options, It's also WAY more expensive, and I have to charge the battery every 2 days instead of every 10 days. Funnily, the battery is better than the phone thinks it is. At 25% power, my app that sends my pictures to my home PC stops running. At 15% power, the phone starts warning me of low battery.
Compared to the iPad, everything is better except the location of the power button - it's just opposite the volume "rocker" and I tended to squeeze them both at the same time (I have trained myself to not do that anymore).

Wil has mentioned that his new phone is slower than his home computer for internet browsing, but at home we are limited by our provider rather than our computers, so all devices run the same. In town, where I can connect at 4G LTE, it is amazingly fast. I downloaded a program before the little progress bar even popped up. But my plan does limit how much I can use the 4G speeds, so at home I connect (and even call) over my wifi network. 

I tried once to download some music from my computer to my phone via a "cloud," and it worked but took hours. Then Bob went "duh" at me, and I bought a memory card. I stick it in my PC and download songs in just a couple of minutes, then play in my phone straight from the card. So while it may be "nice" to be able to download or share files wirelessly (as Apple does exclusively), it is much "better" to have a memory card.

Not sure what else to say... I used my own photos (from my Facebook account) for my "lock screen" and my "home screen" backgrounds.  I set a password on my lock screen rather than the default swipe to unlock, because I have children. Phone calls bypass the lock and can be answered by a swipe. Notifications show up on a bar at the top of my screen, and swiping down from the top allows me to see details of the notices, and take action right from there (for instance, if someone comments on my Facebook post, I tap on the notice and it opens up the Facebook page). I bought a screen protector that's supposed to be impact resistant, and a leather-look wallet thing that has a plastic case for the phone to snap into, and a magnetic latch on the front cover. I hope that these will lengthen its usable life (I didn't opt for the protection plan offered by T-Mobile). 

These opinions are (obviously) my own; no one asked me to write this or will pay or(I hope) prosecute me in any way for saying what I did.


MamaOlive said...

I wanted to put in a couple pictures, but was afraid of messing up the whole thing.

Wil said...

That's a really nice review. It sounds like an impressive device in so many ways.

I completely agree about the app store differences; one of many reasons I wouldn't opt for the iPhone.

It sounds like your phone's operation is very similar to mine (Droid4), probably because they're both running Android?

With a few exceptions. I don't have the stylus, which I'd absolutely need if I was going to use the on-screen keyboard (fortunately, my phone has a slide out actual keyboard). My fingers are just too thick to hit the correct keys on-screen (I've tried).

In fact, I *have* considered buying a stylus to use with my phone, just for the on-screen links and buttons (about 1/3 of the time, my finger cannot possibly hit *only* the link I want).

As for internet speed... I haven't tested with 4glte; am too afraid of using up our plan's tiny allotment. But at home the wifi is often startlingly slow on the phone, while amazingly fast on the computers.

(The apps seem to work quickly enough, but the browsers -- on actual www sites -- are embarrassing.)

MamaOlive said...

I suppose the Android devices are close to the same, though the pros say that Samsung puts a spin on their version of the OS. I've also seen apps that you could download to change the "root" menu and stuff that I'd be way too scared to mess with. But Android is personalizable, unlike Apple. (I guess I just made up that word?)

And today I had my first real frustration with my phone. I was trying to check my T-Mobile account (of all things to not work right!), and their mobile site kept saying I wasn't connected to the internet. I went to their www site, and it popped up a word verification thingy - directly behind my keyboard! I couldn't move the popup or the keyboard. So I got the account stuff settled on the computer.