19 months with the same phone is a new record for me since 2007. I previously got restless with the iPhone 4 and jumped to the Samsung Galaxy S3. That only lasted a couple of months. I cited not being able to see its screen in the sunlight and lack of timely OS updates as reasons to crawl back to Apple. My iPhone 5 had a pretty good run. It is and was a solid phone. I did not give it up because it became a poor performer, though the battery left a bit to be desired. I gave it up for some other reasons.
The first reason was that my step daughter had a phone with a cracked screen and needed a replacement. Second, the iPhone 5 screen, has just become too small for me. The quality of the screen is almost second to none and the text is crisp and clear, but I have a hard time typing on it as it cramps my hands up after a while. This is a real issue. Additionally, I found myself using it less and less for everyday things. I'm getting older. I have to zoom in on text on my 23" monitor sometimes so that I can read more easily. My wife still has an iPhone 4. It is hard to believe so many people made it through on such a tiny screen for so long. When I look at that screen now, it is that much harder for me to see text.
These days, I am the least loyal gadget geek there is. I do not care who makes it, I just care that it does what I want it to. I know the rumors are that Apple will release one or more larger screen iPhones this year. This makes a ton of sense. From now until then, presumably, is about 6 months of wait time and there are no guarantees. Being the impatient person I am, I needed to switch to something for those 6 months, possibly longer.
Enter the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. This marks my second shot at an Android device and I certainly am off to a better start than I was with the Galaxy S3. The first test was to walk outside of the Verizon store and check the screen's ability to display properly in direct sunlight. It passed this test. Though, I need to leave Auto Brightness on for it to be readable. It basically has to turn itself up to 100% brightness in sunlight, but I can at least see the screen which was not the case for the Galaxy S3.
The next test was to verify the battery could at least match the aged iPhone 5 battery I was using. I have had battery disappointment with my iPhone 5 from the beginning. Well, that is not entirely true. The first iPhone 5 I purchased in October of 2012 seemed fine. When I had to get multiple replacements, battery life was never as good as my original. Age and iOS updates furthered my disappointment with the battery.
The Note 3 appears to have equal or slightly better battery performance than my iPhone 5. Being able to pop in and out a fresh battery at will also helps. There probably is not a smartphone that exists yet that can give me the battery performance I am looking for. As long as a battery can get me through a full day with fairly heavy use, I should be good and that has been the case with the Note 3 thus far. I do dream of the jump in science which will allow increased battery capacity say tenfold (Graphene?).
With these tests passed, I needed to know more.
The front of the phone is a rectangular screen with one button. The trim is a metal looking plastic band. The back is a black plastic somewhat faux leather design. It will not win any design awards, but it also will not win any ugly awards. More and more phones design is defined by a screen with a button. The only thing that sets them apart are the degree of curves, choice of materials, and thickness. For the most part, I look at the front of my phones, which is the screen. If you take away the button, speaker grill, and any logos and only took a picture of the screens of competing phones, it would be tough to pick one out over another.
The phone is thin enough for sure, even with a slim plastic case attached. The only complaint I have is I wished the headphone jack was at the bottom as I have grown accustomed to that. It is much less jarring than having it on top. Some people might be thrown off by the power button being on the right side as opposed to the top, but I have gotten used to that, mostly.
The Note 3 still seems gargantuan to some people. I am 6 feet tall, so I'm a big guy. While I cannot speak for others, this phone fits in all of my pants pockets just fine without hinderance. Sure, it is a bit more noticeable to me than the iPhone 5 but it does not bother me a bit. It also does not stick out very much because it is fairly thin.
I think the new HTC One M8 is gorgeous and I considered it, but its camera got terrible reviews. The camera on the Note 3 is fantastic. Pictures and videos are super crisp and I really like the default saturation.
I do not use any gestures. Unfortunately, since taking a screenshot the standard way (power and volume button) does not appear to work on the Note 3, I did have to enable palm swipe for screenshot which caused me a bunch of unwanted screenshots on my S3. Hopefully that is not the case this time around.
I suppose I might be one of the few people who got the Note 3 with no real everyday need for the S Pen. I will say that drawing in an app like Autodesk Sketchbook is an entirely different and more accurate experience than using a finger or large headed stylus on any other device. There is something to be said for the its sharp tip and I believe I will make use of it more and more in the future.
TouchWiz? No! Nova Launcher Prime:
I do not use Touchwiz. Touchwiz is useless. So the first thing I do is install and configure Nova Launcher Prime. This allows me to create a pleasurable and familiar layout for my phone.
The default Samsung keyboard is ugly. Swiftkey is beautiful. The keyboard takes up half of your screen a lot of the time so I think it should look nice. Luckily Swiftkey also functions very well.
For me, the system font is important to the look and feel of the phone experience. As such, the fonts that come pre-installed with the Note 3 are not what I prefer. I was able to fix this by purchasing Helvetica Nue.
I actually like the way iOS notifications work on the lock screen in that the screen turns on and you see swipeable items. In order to get a very similar experience, I use Nils Notification Lock Screen and Floating Panel. What I dislike about iOS notifications are all of the other things you have to shut off for each app (badges, etc). In Android, it is simple to turn off notifications in one setting. I really appreciate the all or nothing sensibility.
I also grew accustomed to the camera swipe shortcut on the iPhone lockscreen. In order to achieve something similar and beyond, I turned to Widget Locker. With this app, I am able to set many different shortcuts on my lock screen, camera included.
There are many ways to add custom ringtones to an Android device and it is arguably much easier to do than iOS. I chose an app called Ringtone Maker. I simply downloaded the .mp3 files I wanted to use from my OneDrive app and set the tones from within Ringtone Maker.
My work email is Microsoft Exchange based. The most modern looking app I found for this was Nine. This allows me to bypass the ugly default email app completely, using the Gmail app for my Gmail account.
In my previous foray into Android, I used GoSMSPro to replace the uninviting Messages app. Google Hangouts now offers to take control of SMS and MMS. I appreciate having a unified system for all messages. My only gripe is that distinguishing between Hangouts and SMS messages are marked by a very small 'SMS' tag. Being able to separate SMS messages into its own tab or something similar, would be very helpful.
Further Battery tweaking:
I noticed I was losing a bit more battery power than I should so I turned off location services for Google Now and turned off push for all email accounts. I am also mindful to open the task manager and clear memory every so often. These few things seemed to get back some valuable juice.
A very important benefit of having an iPhone is its easy integration with many automobiles. I was able to plug a lightning cable from my phone to my car usb port and get power, audio, and even song information. My car only supports basic bluetooth audio functionality, not A2DP, but this worked fine side by side with my iPhone for phone calls.
With an Android device, I was not about to plug in a cable to the bottom for power and an audio cable to the top for audio with a mess of wires all over the place. Instead, I purchased this Bluetooth adapter to solve the issue. Now all audio plays through this bluetooth device and I only plug one cable into my phone for power only when necessary. It is not as convenient, but it gets the job done.
I had previously purchased the iMagnet car holder for my iPhone which worked amazingly. It works just as well for the Note 3. I highly recommend this product to everyone regardless of what phone you have.
With these customizations, I am able to have an Android experience that is very functional, minimal, and pleasing to my eyes. I will admit that it took me a fair amount of time to put it all together and find the right apps and settings. Coming from an OS that is mostly dictated, I feel like an animal uncaged when moving to a platform that lets you do so much.
iOS absolutely has a coat of polish and uniform elegance that Android lacks out of the box, but with some effort, I find the Android experience can rank right up there and also be better in different areas because of the vast customization abilities it affords you.
Sure there are a few iOS exclusive apps I will miss like Tweetbot but the reality is I absolutely can get along without them. I will still enjoy those apps on my iPad as I feel the tablet experience on iOS is still unsurpassed. iPads also come in multiple screen sizes. I feel great about being able to make use of several different ecosystems: Windows on a PC, Mac OS on a laptop, Android on a phone, and iOS on a tablet.