This week, Samsung decided to give me a Galaxy Note for a week to evaluate it in real use. Thanks for that, it's a nice way for me to determine the current status of android and the quality of Samsung devices.
After a few days, I've switched back to my iPhone. But the whole story first.
The Galaxy Note is a huge smartphone. It's really huge – you basically have to have both hands available if you want to do anything, as reaching over the screen is impossible ( given my thumb length, at least ). That's the first obvious thing I noticed. Huge screen. Huge device.
After the device boots, which is quite fast, a home screen cluttered with all kinds of widgets presents itself. It's completely full. 6 Pages full of stuff I never asked for. So the first task for me was to remove all of that stuff to get a clean start.
The next thing that bothered me was that I had to reboot the device 8 (!) times for all updates to install. And even after all updates were installed, the Android version running wasn't Ice Cream Sandwich ( the current one ), but still 2.3.6, which is over 6 months old. Don't get me wrong, 6 months isn't a big deal, but I was actually looking forward to testing a device with a current Android version.
Actually using the device at home is fun. It's snappy, the screen is really bright and nice to read stuff on. The device itself is really light, which is astonishing given the size. The drawback is that the material choice reflects that weight: everything feels a bit "cheap", i.e. the back cover is a simple piece of plastic, about a mm thick, thats completely bendable, without any structure whatsoever. This may be a good design choice, but it simply doesn't go well with the pricing. Even old Nokia phones had a thicker back.
It's a phone, so one wants to make phone calls. It works, of course. But once I installed my bunch of standard apps ( RunKeeper, Skype, Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and few others ) the default behavior vanished and every time I was about to call someone, the system asked me whether it should use Skype or the Phone application. So annoying, impairs productivity without any gain.
I still don't get my head around the decision someone made to include a stylus in the Note. I used it to draw some stuff, but actually, I considered it a toy. And, for a dualcore 1.4Ghz CPU, it's disappointing that the input lags when drawing using the stylus. And it does.
The question that remains for me: is there a real benefit from carrying around a giant screen at all times? For the occasional read, it's really handy. What bothers me is the lack of a UI concept that effectively uses the bigger screen to generate a better user experience. Most apps are simply pulled up without any adaption to the screen size. So you basically have the same app, different size. There are some built-in ones that try tablet patterns, but the general impression is that no one really thought about it hard enough.
When it comes to productivity, I was reminded of the unfortunate fact that iCloud isn't all-so compatible with the Android world as I wished it was. I'm running a full Apple-Setup: MacBook, iMac, iPad and normally iPhone. I'm pretty much used to everything working very smooth. I refrained from buying an app that let's me sync my iCloud calendar and just stuck with creating events somewhere else. Given the market share of Apple devices, the decision to not support iCloud at least rudimentary doesn't make much sense. Well, maybe it's Apple blocking the development, I don't know.
So, why have I switched back? I need a reliable device that integrates well into my environment and is easy to use at all times. The Note is a good device, but given my Apple-centric environment, it was just too much pain syncing and setting up stuff. Sorry Samsung.