A few weeks ago I bought a brand new Samsung Galaxy Note 3 on a great deal, and wanted to see if it would be possible to use it to replace my iPhone AND iPad, much as I would try to do with an iPhone 6+. As usual I went ‘all in’ with my attempt – and failed. Here is why!
Until getting the iPhone 5 in 2012 I had been an Android-only phone user, and had sampled pretty much every new 7″ Android tablet since the Samsung Galaxy Tab. I had a huge library of Android content between Google Play and Amazon’s appstore. I knew the territory, and have always maintained at least one device of all platforms … so there was no ‘culture shock’.
A couple of basics before I get started:
It was NOT the size! Yes the Galaxy Note 3 is huge, and yes I complained about the Note 2 size back in 2012, but I had no problem with the Note 3 size. You DO handle it differently, because it is generally too large for pockets while sitting and oversized for shirt pockets. But very quickly it becomes second nature.
Don’t underestimate ‘ecosystem pull’ Even though I was careful about the ‘iMessage transition’ thing, I DID have initial messaging issues, but not universally and they cleared up quickly. However, having everyone in our extended family on iOS together provides a considerable pull to also be on iOS. What I realized was that when I was on Android, no one else in our family had smartphones, but have gradually moved to smartphones over the last couple of years. Sharing everything that way is very easy, meaning that using Android requires additional work.
Everyone’s experience varies! Because not all of us have had the same experience, a few Gear Diary team members have interjected their thoughts along the way as well. To avoid confusion, all the team comments are in blue.
Here are the ‘Top 10 Reasons I Switched from the Gorgeous New 5.7″ Galaxy Note 3 back to the iPhone 5’
1. App (non) Parity:
Once you get beyond the ‘biggest few’, apps are almost universally inferior in terms of either design or functionality. And it starts with Instagram … here are some others:
– Instagram – filters missing frames, having to re-associate accounts, always returning to default image picker home, and so on.
– WordPress – Problems with notifications, updates, reader keeping up, etc.
– Paypal – I loaded this on, logged in, and it was responsible for >20% of battery drain that day. WTF?
– Corporate apps – I use Concur for expenses, TripIt for travel, VIP Login (from Symantec) for 2-factor company logins, and so on. And they are ALL worse on Android … and the VIP Login instability killed my chances to get some work done during a layover in Detroit this week.
These are not ‘one off’ apps – all of these are used by millions of people, with Instagram behind only Facebook in terms of smartphone usage.
Wayne 1. App parity varies wildly depending upon what apps your trying to use. Not fair IMO to judge based on corporate specific apps. No argument that lions share of effort goes into iOS apps. I just haven’t had the experience of Android apps being that bad. Oh btw – how’s the sharing on iOS to various social media accounts? Pretty good so long as you like sharing to Twitter and Facebook, huh? I’m using Bufferapp to regularly process shares on Android.
2. Screen Size ‘for Grandparents’:
You cannot help but love the HUGE and gorgeous screen … but then you ask, so WHAT is Samsung / Google doing to take advantage of that screen?
There is no difference in Android running on a Galaxy Note 3 and an old Samsung 3.2” screen Android device I have laying around. Nothing but larger text … and a bigger view for camera and video. It reminds me of those cell phones that came out with huge numbers on the pads for sight-impaired people.
Wayne 2. Screen size for grandparents – this is just preference. BTW I think the Gmail app resizes for tablets sized displays. And to be fair – most of the resized iOS 6+ apps are Apple issued applications – at least for now. This is a fair point that Android doesn’t have enough tablet specific apps.
3. Non-Rotate and other non-tablet reminders:
One of the great features of the iPad and most tablets in general is that they will auto-rotate in apps when you turn the device, and suddenly give you a new view of things that can be highly productive.
This is a GREAT new thing with the iPhone 6+ … and totally absent on Android.
This means I can only use the phone in portrait mode on a stand with my external bluetooth keyboard … and oh, Android doesn’t hide the built-in keyboard when a Bluetooth keyboard is hooked up, so you lose the added screen area.
Joel – On your number 3…I never had a issue with the keyboard staying on when using a Bluetooth keyboard…but then I rarely use one with my phone but I do use it on my Nexus 7. Some of the other stuff is valid…if you care about them. For example Instagram filters and frames missing doesn’t matter to me at all.
Mike – I agree – on any of my Android tablets (including my two most recent – the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HDX) the keyboard would auto-hide appropriately most of the time. So I think this is a phone-specific thing.
4. Welcome Back to Windows:
After loading up all of the standard social media, blogging, entertainment, reading and other apps I use regularly, I noticed that my performance was degrading. I would regularly bring up the task manager and ‘close all’.
But in some cases that wasn’t enough … so I ended up downloading one of those ‘utilities’ … it clears memory, optimizes startup, and so on … and I found myself using it every few days.
The battery life is also a bit of a mystery – there is a massive battery, and some days I would get great life, and other days I would be below 50% mid-morning for no apparent reason!
I spent entirely too much time time wondering WHY the Galaxy Note 3 was slower than the iPhone 5, and what I could DO about that. I also wondered about the battery too much. I contemplated apps installed, where they were, memory allocations, and so on. It was absurd.
Wayne 4. I hate hate hate replies to issues that say “never happens for me” — so I won’t reply that way. I’ve not noticed this problem (except for the new Google Hangouts which is laggy as all heck on my Moto X).
5. Technical Glitches and Performance
The Galaxy Note 3 has 3GB of RAM, the iPhone 5 has 1GB … so that Note 3 should be more responsive, right? Um, no. Here are a few things I noticed:
– Lag – this is an infamous Android ‘feature’ and while it is better, it remains.
– Web – with 3GB, why do Chrome tabs reload more than my Safari tabs?
– Too many options means less efficiency. – the lists of ‘send to’ or ‘get from’ items are formidable, especially since I have so many attached services. And it seems like by default Android sends you back to ‘home’, meaning that I am always trawling directories.
– When I say ‘Always do this’ … WHY do I EVER get asked again? Or rather, why am I ALWAYS asked again, across multiple apps? This happened with EVERY Android phone I have ever used, so I refuse to accept the ‘it is just you’ excuse anymore.
– Text messages – we were shopping and I was taking advantage of in-store WiFi in a number of stores, and after going in and out of stores several times the phone got stuck not able to send text messages. I rebooted and it worked again … I did it twice that day. I might have dismissed it except it happened again shopping the following weekend! And apparently this is not an isolated thing.
Carly – I use my tablet and phone totally differently, but here’s my take on positives/negatives:
-Texting issues went away when I switched to Textra.
-with respect to RSS, reader+ on android is significantly more stable than mr reader on iOS.
-Chrome reloads less often than safari for me.
-I had phone crash once on Android for me, that was all.
-My mini is far better for games, but that’s as much a function of screen size.
Overall, I see less crashes on my M8 than with my mini. It could be that I do more heavy lifting on my mini, or it could be that I have a specific workflow on my phone that happens to work well. Hard to say.
Forgot to add: I don’t think I could survive without Google Now. It is awesome for traffic reports, and since we rarely fly I don’t bother with trip it, but GNow saved our butts by flagging a cancelled flight right away earlier this week.
Wayne 5. Technical Glitches – I give this one a push — be happy to scare up another dozen links on similar related issues — as I’m sure there are similar for Android, but here’s an Apple thread on it.
6. Fitness, Music and Games all SUCK on Android
While I like the S-Health app on the Note 3, everything else related to using fitness devices with Android is awful. Here are a few examples:
– To get my Polar Loop working with Android I had to do a ‘factory reset’ on the device to get it to sync … and even then it is SLOW and unreliable. When I returned to iPhone, it was fast and immediately picked up where I left off.
– Same for Magellan with the Echo fitness device, Garmin Connect, and so on. Slow, unreliable, demanding … and consistently so to the point where I ask ‘if this happens with EVERY device … maybe it is the common root that is the problem’?
– Music apps … not talking about Slacker/Spotify/etc but music making … and yeah, as much as I have already talked about it … Android just keeps falling further and further behind. I couldn’t do even basic stuff musically while I was away … thankfully I had my iPad (remember, one key thought was to use the large screen of the Note to get rid of the iPad).
– Games – all you have to do is look at ‘coming this week’ on TouchArcade and DroidGamers a couple of weeks and you will see reality … there is no comparison. Sure you can say ‘it isn’t the numbers’ and I agree – but pretty much if you are a ‘hardcore gamer’ you want an iPad (or iPhone 6!).
If making music, playing non-trivial games, or tracking fitness are important, you simply don’t buy Android.
Wayne 6. Another example of how developers are pushing out iOS versions first. I’ve used Google music without issues – also slacker,etc.
Mike Oh – just to be clear I am not talking about the Slacker / Spotify / Amazon Music / etc of the world … more like the AmpliTube, Beatmaker, NanoStudio, Auria, and so on – the music CREATION category.
7. TouchWiz … Bad As it ever was
Based on advice from Wayne and Joel I quickly switched to the Google Now Launcher, which made a big difference – because TouchWiz remains abysmal … pretty much the same as it was two years ago when I looked at the Galaxy Note 2.
TouchWiz was a bad iPhone emulator when it came out, and STILL really looks like a tired 2009 Android interface. Most non-geeks I know with Android phones are using TouchWiz. And it is fugly.
Wayne 7. Android skins are the devil…. this is my #1 beef about Android and why I’ve gravitated toward the relatively skin-free Moto X
8. Android Tablets Suck
In general the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is a solid Android smartphone – and I believe in general that the Android and iOS smartphone OS have pretty decent parity. But tablets are a different story. I really believe that the Android developers don’t ‘get’ tablets and as a result the OS is less efficient.
Why do I mention this? Because of the screen size – and Android does’t really have much to offer beyond the ‘upscaled smartphone’ experience. Which is what you get with the Note 3.
Wayne 8. I think the tablets on Android are not as good. However this is largely a repeat of your #2/#3 above. The Samsung “blast out a million variants and hope one sticks” is not doing Android any favors long term.
9. Are they KIDDING with the S-Pen (non) Integration?
Once you get beyond the few Samsung-specific Samsung apps, there are precious few places (other than drawing apps) that use the S-Pen. Evernote is one, but it is bizarre how it has limited pages, editing is different than on the S-Note app, and so on. I have used the S-Note app more than any other, but aside from that app there is very little there … after a couple of years!
That said – the S-Pen is a great piece of hardware that interacts well with the Note 3 … it is just sad that after all this time it is an inferior experience to the Newton MessagePad 2000.
Wayne 9. S-Pen – this falls under skins and how the only good skin is no skin…
10. Control Center is Better
The old adage with Apple is ‘they are seldom first, but usually best’ is very true here. I wanted to use the flashlight to look at something the first week I had the Galaxy Note, but I was unable to find it. So I found out I needed to download one, and then figure out where to pin it, and then run the app which is ad-laden of course, and will keep the screen on no matter what your default time-out, and turn it back on to serve up new ads.
This is just generally true:
– iOS gives me the most common things, such as Airplane mode, etc, whereas with Android you get some o the top pull-down, but to get to Airplane mode takes more taps, and there are 40 icons I can choose from, including ‘Screen Rotate’ that is ambiguous (what does on vs off do?)
– The drag up / drag down metaphor put more useful stuff at your fingertips. I used to love the notifications of Android … now it is just frustrations. Too little useful stuff, too many apps needed, too may taps.
Wayne 10. Not sure the Apple control center is better — or that having a flashlight pinned there proves that it is… since inception you’ve been able to put all sorts of things in the Android control center / notifications area.
Bonus – Moronic Auto-suggest
My default email address is my gmail address … so you would THINK that when I start typing it I would get my email as a suggestion. But of course not. Nor would it do #ouch, or a vast array of other words that it ‘helpfully’ fixed for me. Or misspellings it did NOT fix. People joke about iPhone autocomplete … but it is dramatically better than the awful Android experience! And with iOS 8, the default keyboard is generations ahead of the default Android keyboard.
Wayne My TL;DR of your issues: Android is not the best choice for mainstream users because developers are still focusing energies first on iOS apps and second on Android. The tablet experience on Android is generally far less optimized than iOS and the skins that Android manufacturers lay over the top of Android add more confusion than helpful features.
What do you think?