Like a prize idiot, I went to work yesterday, but left my laptop at home. Prat!
So, time to put the Samsung Galaxy Note II through its paces. I’ve had the phone for a couple of months and been really pleased with it. But I sensed that I hadn’t really used it in anger. I decided to spend the whole day trying to do my work only using the GN2. And, to make the challenge more exciting – no recharges!
Let’s kick things off!
To help with my blogging, I used the official WordPress for Android app. It’s pretty good, but a bit fiddly to add photos and formatting. Good if you’re posting a quick update or just a single media item.
First thing’s first, I knocked on the power saving mode. I didn’t want the battery to conk out half way through the day. I attached to WiFi and made sure the radio was in GSM mode – no need for 3G. As I wasn’t going to be playing videos or 3D games, I was quite happy to dial the CPU down.
One thing I will say about the GN2 is that it is as stable as any phone I’ve ever used. Mine has been running solidly for over a month without being restarted. It’s still just as smooth and fast as when I first turned it on.
For all the typing I do in my day-to-day work, nothing beats SwiftKey. Its predictive text is uncanny – making typing spectacularly efficient. I wish I had it for my desktop.
I often need to SSH into Linux boxes to fiddle with them. Enter ConnectBot – a rock solid SSH program. Works well over 3G and even copes with 2G. I can even set up shortcuts on my homescreen for specific servers.
Ten percent gone. I didn’t have the screen on constantly, but I was using it more than usual. Conservatively, that’s 15 hours of battery life when using the phone fairly solidly.
The day wouldn’t be complete without reading and writing too much email! The GN2’s Outlook email client is really poor. It flickers horribly, scrolling is jerky, and it doesn’t do server-side searching very well (which, to be fair, may be our IT setup).
That said, the landscape mode is really useful. It also has “Do Not Disturb” hours – so I don’t get any work email alerts after 1700 or before 0900.
Come lunchtime and I’d been using the phone for a couple of voice calls – weird, I know! I’d spent around 45 minutes talking on the phone – it’s pretty clear that has a big impact on the battery.
But, still, two-thirds of the battery left. Nice!
For getting files on and off remote machines, I used Turbo Client – FTP/SCP. Not the greatest interface in the world, but very fast at shifting files to and from my GN2.
Editing them was a bit trickier. Reading and writing Word Documents is a bit of a chore – even with Office Suite Pro 6. Luckily, I don’t have to work with Excel spreadsheets. It was tolerable, but not especially pleasant..
I got to the end of the day, with all my emails answered, files edited, and phone calls made. But how did the phone do?
A full eight hour day with – as you can see – the phone in fairly constant use. With 50% battery to spare I could do another full day without a recharge!
The day wasn’t without problems – some are Samsung’s problem, some are mine.
I couldn’t find a decent code editor. Luckily I could get away with a day without slinging code. I tried DroidEdit which some people rave about, but I didn’t get on with.
Flipping back and forth between the web and email is a bit of a pain, and I found copying and pasting to be a hit-and-miss affair. It mostly worked, but occasionally seemed to skip a character which I could have sworn I selected.
I was able to get the split-screen functionality working – but it really is of limited use.
For watching a video and reading the web it’s fine.
Chrome as a browser is excellent – it coped well with every page I threw at it. A few web pages which weren’t optimised for touch were tricky to use. Those that rely on hovering a mouse over a link to reveal a menu didn’t work so well.
Samsung’s software is fairly crappy. I had to replace their atrocious “TouchWiz” interface with HoloLauncher which is far less cartoony.
Worse than that, the Samsung software is terribly unstable. On first boot, I was constantly plagued by their CloudAgent crashing.
In the end, I disabled 27 pieces of pre-installed rubbish which Samsung had unilaterally decided their customer would want. All of which seemed to run in the background sucking up RAM and battery life.
I also killed some default Google processes – such as their movie service and Google Plus.
The much vaunted “S-Pen” is pretty useless. It’s very sensitive, which makes drawing a pain as it thinks the pen is on the screen when it’s hovering a few centimetres above. Worst of all, the pen can be used to navigate on screen but doesn’t work on the physical buttons below the screen. That’s incredibly annoying if you’re trying to navigate solely with the S-Pen and then have to switch to your fingers to pull up a menu or go back a page.
In terms of hardware, the Galaxy Note 2 is second to none. For battery life alone, it beats all other devices. The screen is gorgeous – going back to a Galaxy Nexus or, worse, an iPhone is painful. It’s like surfing the web while looking through a postage stamp.
What lets down Samsung again and again is their software. TouchWiz is slow and ugly, their default services crash repeatedly, the bloatware is poorly thought through (why do I need multiple app stores with duplicate content?), and their custom user interface is replete with poorly translated English. And don’t get me started on the abomination which is Kies – their half-arsed media manager which doesn’t work in Linux.
Samsung – please stop trying to write software! Your hardware is excellent and compliments Android perfectly.
Despite Samsung’s best efforts, the Galaxy Note 2 is a superb device. The screen is big enough to type on comfortably for long periods, the battery is a real work horse, and the app ecosystem is strong enough to cope with a wide variety of tasks.