Switched from iphone to Note 3...
I'm sorry for the lengthy post, but I want to keep my new Note 3. For those of you willing to wade through my non-fanboy yet very honest observations, I appreciate your helpful feedback and suggestions.
I've been a longtime pda and smartphone user. Various palm's, treos, blackberry's, iphones and androids. For a decade+, I was convinced that none of them could meet my needs: road warrior who makes extensive use of webinars, calendars (events with multiple attendee updates and prioritization of tasks), emails (long threads, multiple attachments), creation, sharing and edit tracking of documents, spreadsheets and presentations among other things. I've spent probably way too much time weeding through the crud of various OS's styles, limitations, GUI's, manuals, online forums and volleying with companies and devs to maximize their hardware and software. I had been looking forward to the Note 3 for months. Trust me when I say that I want this thing to fit my needs, especially when the large thing actually fits into my (normal-sized) front jeans pocket. Keep in mind that I've jailbroken my iphones, most recently the 4s, for years and tweaked them to their max. I'm no apple fanboy, just a fan of getting my work done efficiently so I can live life.
- The android phone (dialer) app seems sorely lacking...at least for me. It feels like a patchwork. The ios design (at least before ios 7's bsod's, how ironic!...lol), is seamless. I've used the ios Contacts app, but for me it is entirely unnecessary. The ios Phone app has the Faves, Recent (call log), Contacts, Keypad and Voicemail. Clicking from one to another is seamless, quick and reliable. Scrolls are smooth and reliable. However, after working, and we're talking days and nights here, with the stock Samsung dialer app on the Note 3 and downloading many, well-reviewed Play Store dialers, I've realized that android took the separate-but-not-equal approach. Unless I'm mistaken, it appears that Google keeps contacts and the phone (dialer) apps separate but links them with a detour method. I launch the dialer and there are 4 tabs: Keypad, Logs, Faves and Contacts. Each time I move between Phone and Contacts, the screen refreshes to allow the other app to launch/reload. I have nearly 5,000 contacts and it takes 1-5 seconds every time I switch between the tabs. Perhaps those with far fewer contacts will not experience this delay but it's eating into my work time big time. I get off a call and sometimes have less than a minute before another call comes in or I have to take care of something asap and these delays hurt. Many of the Play Store dialers are also sorely lacking. Some GUI's are nicer than the stock dialer. There's even one that tries to mimic the ios GUI, but none come as close to the reliability I prefer with the ios design. There are a few things that I like better about Samsung's dialer. You swipe on the contact in 1 direction and it dials, swipe the other direction and it launches the SMS app. The ios phone app is more fluid than Samsung's in layout for creating and editing a contact. Android requires more steps when adding or editing, the average contact's info: name, company, title, work phone, home phone, email, website, work address, home address and a few bits in notes. The difference becomes even more pronounced when pushing myself to do this as quickly as possible by using onscreen progressions ("next" or arrows to move ahead to the next empty field). Now I like android's keypad better than ios' because it allows T9 entry. However, the stock android keypad doesn't allow me to search within company name, notes,...for the letters I enter. Play Store apps often offer this feature, but many yield results that don't make sense. A single contact with multiple personal and work numbers will be broken down and listed as separate contacts. Other contacts with zero info matching the T9 info I entered will appear. I've tried ExDialer, RocketDial, DW, Smartdial, dial app, Dialer+, HiDialer (the ios wannabe...but I do respect this dev because he seems to reply to many users' comments!) and Dialer One. Anyway, if you don't use your phone as much for the contacts/calling or have far fewer contacts, maybe these concerns will not make sense.
- Build quality. I know that only I can decide if this phone is physically ok for me. My concern is more about the durability based on Samsung's track record. I've looked on various forums, but am still unsure. I actually don't mind the faux black back. It could be nicer, but it's a heck of a lot better in my opinion than the Note 2 I've seen in the stores. The shear length and width of the phone takes getting used to, but it feels terrific considering the large, ***beautiful*** screen and the super thinness. It's the large screen that's one of the reasons making me second guess returning it. The 4 things I don't like about it physically are the home button, the limited space above the home button and the placement of the power button and volume rocker. The home button is cheap and looks crooked many times because of its design and the way it was attached to the phone. Many times I can't help but press on the screen, accidentally pressing some onscreen option or launching some app because Samsung didn't think to leave just a few more millimeters of space between the home button and the touchscreen. This is a large phone and I love that, but how many people have such large hands that they can move between the home button, volume rocker and power button without playing hand Twister? I'm no hardware engineer, but why didn't they place the rocker and power button further down the sides? Anyway, I do realize that using 2 hands would negate these concerns.
- Customization. I love being able to do so many things without having to jailbreak or root a phone! I could not consider the HTC One because of a few reasons, primarily the lack of a menu button. Having this and the back button are AWESOME! With one of the launcher apps, I'm using Apex, the Note 3 becomes a much more usable device. I have my settings so that the apps, folders of apps and folder of my speed-dial favorites are within a smaller area in the lower right of the homescreen, similar to the footprint of an iphone 5/5s. This way I can use the Note 3 more 1-handed than not. I set the homescreen portrait and landscape grids to 7X7, icons are shrunk to 90%, dock icons are set to 7, and dock icon size are set to 85%. I have 5 rows X 5 columns of icons/folders on my homescreen and 5 dock icons. My lowest-right homescreen folder contains my ~dozen speed-dial faves who I call daily, and the other folders contain my most often used apps, with a few apps as standalones. Folders/icons are a bit squished in landscape rotation, but I'm usually viewing the homescreen in portrait. It works for me.
- Freezes. I seriously thought this would have been fixed by now. After trying 3 previous android phones, it should be clear that I really want android to work for me, but the freezing issues are still there. I keep checking the active apps and RAM status to no avail. Btw, if anyone else can explain why the RAM shows that my phone has only 2.38gb total instead of the spec'd 3gb, I would appreciate understanding the difference. The freezes have happened a few different times when searching with the Google search bar, in the contacts app and when surfing the web.
- App switching. Apex's solution is simple and it works well!
- Email. If someone uses Gmail exclusively, they're probably good to go. I don't and the stock mail app seems like a much plainer, distant cousin that does not seem to offer push email and is visually boring. Despite having it set to the "combined" inbox, whenever I respond to a notification of a new email, the app automatically pares the mail view down to only that specific account's inbox. I haven't spent time looking for a mail app replacement as I've been desperately looking to feel comfortable with the phone-contacts side of things.
- Voice recognition. I'm surprised by how much better Siri seems to handle simple contacts search instructions for placing calls. I've tested this dozens of times and android takes at least 2-3 times as long as Siri and more times than not doesn't match the contact correctly. Siri nails it every time. Am I doing something wrong? I though that android's method was supposed to be much better than siri's, especially considering that my old 4s was running the still-beta version of siri.
- Keyboard. The stock keyboard is ok. The SwiftKey app rocks!! I do wish there was a way for SwiftKey to incorporate features from the jailbreak tweaks/apps SwipeBack, SwipeSelection, Action Menu and Action Menu Plus Pack. All of their features combined would probably blow most users' minds!
- Camera. It's strange how photos seem great on the Note 3's display but are blurrier than expected when downloaded. I've tried well-lit and low-light conditions and it hasn't mattered. Could be my own incompetence. Dunno.
- Apps. I now know to take liberal doses of sodium when others tell me they're equal. Most apps **that I have been using** on android (except such no-brainers as Google's own Gmail, Chrome, Maps, etc) are better in the alternative ios versions. I have too many examples to list. This is something that I could live with if I can improve the other things.
- Calendar. Samsung's stock app is decent. Here is where I will give a clear exception to my above, 3rd party app disappointment. I've been dying to switch to android for a while partly because of my love for Pimlico's apps and professional support. The single most powerful and reliable event/task app I've found on any platform! The dev, CESD, created an app called Pimlical specifically for android and it rocks. This is another reason why I am hesitating to return to ios.
- Battery. I started my day at 5am today with 100% battery. I've had a slow phone day, only 5 calls totaling about 1 hour and 14 minutes, Wi-fi has been off, GPS on, bluetooth off, power saving on, smart stay on, sync on, air view on, I've been in good cell range with solid LTE (at&t) service, brightness set to about 30% and having streamed zero videos or music and having only used email and spent 5 minutes on Flipboard. It's now 11:35am and my Note 3 is at 63%. I'm not sure if this is what other Note 3 users are seeing or if I could tweak things to get better battery life.
Anyway, if you made it this far, thank you! And thanks for taking the extra time to post a helpful comment.