A friend of mine noticed it the other day and said “is that a non Apple device in your hands?” I said yes. That’s how well my Apple Fan Girl status is known both online and offline but I’ve bought the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and I’m not going back.
My first encounter with the infamous Phablet was with Sunita at the Chicago RT. I was intrigued but not enough to leave iPhone. Time marched on. Apple has failed to really innovate. I moved from the iPad down to the iPad Mini but still found myself reading mostly on my small iPhone screen. Last summer, Angela James was showing off her Samsung Galaxy Note 2. The screen was so big! [insert your own dirty joke]. We’d exchanged emails since then with me asking her how she liked it and Angie replying that she wouldn’t go back. She would even write me up a guide on switching.
Every so often I would wander over to the Galaxy Note 3 at the Best Buy Mobile store in the mall or at Costco and I would fondle the big screen. The last time I was at Best Buy, the sales person gave me a great sales pitch. Return it, no questions asked, in fourteen days. And, he added, he’d never had anyone return a Note 3. Within a minute they had transferred my contacts and then I was good to go. What sold me was the size and the stylus.
I immediately emailed Angie to ask her for the guide. Angie’s guide was something I looked at frequently when I first started using the Galaxy Note 3 but the device is far more intuitive than I thought it would be. Angie’s guide is as follows:
Making the move from iPhone to Android
My background with the iPhone (I tell you this to help others who are thinking of switching understand & gauge where I fell in the casual vs committed iPhone user spectrum. Definitely committed).
I’ve been an iPhone owner since the original iPhone came out. I can actually tell you when I saw my first iPhone in person—it was actually at an RWA and it was Jane (of course!) who was the earliest adopter I knew. I remember sitting at a breakfast gathering, trying to type out texts on Jane’s iPhone and determining my thumbs were just too damn fat. To this day, even after years of iPhone ownership, the keypad still makes me feel like an ungainly giant (in reality, I come in at just under 5’ 4” and my hands are not large). But despite that initial feeling that I’d never be able to type on the iPhone, I was caught by the seductive technology and I ended up buying an iPhone shortly after that.
I was always one of those iPhone owners who updated with each new phone and who vehemently proclaimed you could “pry my iPhone out of my cold, dead hands”. Dramatic, for sure, but an example of how much I enjoyed the iPhone and how dedicated I was to it. In fact, the iPhone was my first Apple product but after that initial purchase, in the years following, I became the owner of a MacBook Pro, an iMac, a MacBook Air, 2 different versions of iTouch (for my daughter), an iPad, iPad2 and iPad Mini, and also switching my husband to iPhone, and he’s had 3 versions of the iPhone. In short, we entirely switched our family over to the Apple systems, so needless to say, we have a lot of investment in apps, music, movies & TV shows playable only on these systems.
Why I finally made the decision to switch
But in September 2012, when Apple was just releasing the iPhone 5, and it was time for my newest phone upgrade, I found myself hesitating. I travel a lot and while I had okay coverage & reception with AT&T & the previous iPhones, there were definitely times when I was finding I didn’t have coverage when I should have. A great example was at a USA soccer game held at FedEx Field in Washington DC. I couldn’t get any signal, none. No one with an iPhone seated around us could get signal. But people using various Android devices? They had signal.
Funny enough, also at a (different) soccer game was when I first realized how awesome those big screen phones were. A girl sitting in front of me had one of the larger screen Android phones and I was instantly enamored with that screen size. I wanted that. As I said, I travel a lot, and that means I spend a lot of time using my phone for, well, everything. Reading manuscripts, looking at cover art, reading & answering emails, browsing the web, social media, etc. I could only imagine the bigger screen would make that so much easier and I wanted a bigger screen.
So I gave some thought to switching, both because of the reception issue and the screen size. But when my contract came up for renewal, my brother convinced me to give Verizon a try (not incidentally, he works for Verizon). I was ready to see if my signal problems were partially due to my provider, so I agreed. At the same time, the iPhone 5 was releasing with a slightly longer screen so, because I did have a lot of time & money invested in the iOS platform, I decided to stick with the iPhone and upgrade to the 5, hoping that slightly larger screen would be enough of a move up in size.
I don’t think there are a lot of decisions I’ve regretted quite as much as not going with my initial instincts to move to a new device, and instead buying an iPhone5.
I hated the iPhone 5. It never worked right for me. I had terrible battery problems, more than I’d ever had with any previous iPhone. I had continued reception problems, even with the move to a new provider. My iPhone’s screen would freeze, become unresponsive, do some weird “jumping” thing and basically made me not just dissatisfied with my experience but actively disgruntled. In January, after only owning the phone for just around 4 months, I took my phone to the Apple store & explained my issues. Within 30 seconds of my explanation, the associate said “Is your phone backed up? I’ll get you a new phone.” While this seemed to be great customer service, I was worried by how quickly that was offered. It said to me that whatever was going on with my phone certainly wasn’t isolated to me. Especially since the man standing next to me was in for the same reasons and had just received the same offer. Ouch.
So out I went with a new iPhone5, hoping my issues would be resolved. Sadly, they weren’t. Within a short period of time I had similar screen problems, I still had reception and battery problems and the “larger” screen that the iPhone5 had released was still really not that much larger and nothing like I could get with a different platform. But I was stuck unless I wanted to pay full price for a new device, because I had 18 months to go until my next upgrade. So I lived with it, until in May, I decided I didn’t want to live with it anymore and I’d pay what I needed to make the change (it helped knowing that I’d be able to sell my iPhone5 for a nice price and make up a lot of the difference).
Making the switch
I did a lot of research on switching from iPhone to Android over the months I was thinking about this. I did Google searches on other people who’d made the switch—part of the reason I’m writing such an in-depth post, because it was hard to find good, relatable stories out there—I researched my device options, started reading up on the Android platform, took a hard look at what my app choices would and wouldn’t be, and basically mentally prepared myself to learn a whole new system. I’d been using the iPhone for over five years, this was going to require a major change of thinking, work processes and muscle memory. Not to mention all of the apps, shows, movies I was going to lose access to. I needed to make sure I was actually ready to make this type of time and money investment, and that I was switching to a device that I would like.
With all that in mind, I went into Verizon with 2 potential devices I wanted: the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 or the S4. I knew that screen size was very important to me, and while I liked the stylus option of the Note 2, I have to admit that Samsung’s advertising of the S4 during the months leading up to its release (it was still 2 weeks from release when I went in to switch) had worked on me and all of the bells and whistles they advertised seemed fun. But, ultimately, the Note 2 was available for me to walk out of the store with, and I thought I’d get some use out of the stylus, so I went with that.
The pains of going from iPhone to Android
There are the obvious things that initially had to be dealt with—getting my contacts from one phone to another (Verizon did that for me and it took an hour in store. But it was painless.), figuring out how to transfer not just my music, but my playlists (more on that later), setting up options, learning the settings, and just basically getting used to both a new device design but also a new platform design.
In the first few weeks of owning the Note 2, I think I spent more time doing Google searches for “how to…” do various things than I did anything else. It felt like every time I turned around there was something else I didn’t know how to do on the Android.
This is where I want to be clear to people thinking of switching: I don’t find the Android platform nearly as user-friendly as I do the iOS platform. I compare it to the Kindle device. Hand someone that device and they’re going to be able to figure out how to do the basics right away, do more in-depth things in a day or two. Amazon has made it very easy to pick up and use. iPhone did the same, with some of their built-in settings I’d gotten used to happening automatically, while on the Android platform, you have to figure out how to make it happen, and in a few cases, I still haven’t made it happen exactly as I want. Some of this is complicated by the fact that I have to have a lock setting on my phone because of my work email, part of it is complicated only by the fact that it’s the Android system.
Let me give you a few examples. First, on the iPhone, when you get a text message, you can have that text light up your screen and the text appears on screen, even when the screen is locked. On the Android, with my lock screen in place, I wasn’t able to make that happen for my first few months of ownership. Thankfully, my provider, Verizon, came out with an app called Verizon Messenger that solved this problem for me. It’s now my default messaging app and all is right in my word for getting text messages on my lock screen.
On the same type of issue, on the iPhone, even when your phone is locked, you can access your camera with a simple swipe. I LOVED this option, because I take a lot of impromptu pictures very quickly. Again, because of the lock screen on the Android, I can’t do this. I have to take the time to enter my passcode and then go to the camera app. I’ve spent a lot of time and apps trying to work around and I did seem to find an app that would at least open the camera right after the passcode, but I have to enter the passcode first (and on the Android, entering the passcode means having to hit “okay” when you’re done, because you can have more than 4 #s, unlike the iphone). This means I’ve missed a good number of photo opportunities in the 6 months I’ve been using the Android. This continues to probably be my number one discontent with the phone. If someone can suggest a fix (without having to root my phone) I’d be 100% content with the phone!
Jane’s Note: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 allows you to take a photo, take a note and operate the music controls from the lock screen. The messaging app also pops up when you have a new message and allows you to read the message and send without leaving the underlying app.
Last, an example of the Android taking extra steps for things that doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not you use a lock screen, and that’s downloads. On the iPhone, if you have an attachment in an email or download something, and you tap on it, it will open right then and there. Not so with the Android. There are steps involved. You have to download. Then you have to go to the download folder (not in all cases, but many) and choose to view the attachment. And the Android doesn’t always have the right application to open attachments. Or makes it hard to open the attachments even when you do have the right program. There’s nothing intuitive about viewing attachments on the Android platform, like there is with the iPhone. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that Android makes it unnecessarily difficult, and almost a deterrent. I’ve gotten used to the extra steps, but they were definitely an annoyance when I was first getting used to the phone.
The joys of going from iPhone to Android
Those three things I listed above are probably my biggest bug-a-boos with switching. However, it must be said—those things, as annoying as I find them, are not enough to keep me from being happy I switched so I need to tell you all the things I do like about having made the switch.
First, it has to be obvious by now, but the screen size rocks my world. The Galaxy Note 2 doesn’t have the biggest screen on the market but it does have one of the bigger screens. I love it, there’s nothing I regret about the size of this phone. If I need to hold it to talk, it doesn’t feel unwieldy (but I generally use headphones anyway because I spend a lot of time on the phone for work & holding a phone for hours, no matter what the phone, is annoying.) There’s a reason phones of these size are referred to as “phablets”, because the screen size makes it less like doing tasks on a phone and more like doing tasks on a tablet. But it’s still small enough to fit easily in my back pocket and even a small clutch. I haven’t had to change how I carry my phone, even with the upgrade in size.
The screen is really obviously larger. I can’t even count the number of times random strangers have asked me what I’m using. Including small children. Everyone is drawn in by the screen size. Going up in screen size has made a huge difference to me in using my phone. I find viewing cover art & emails, and searching or browsing the internet more practical than on the iPhone. I also use my phone as a reading device, and I’m an avid reader so use it heavily for this purpose, and being able to go up in screen size has made this even more enjoyable. Comparatively, when I pick up my husband’s iPhone5, I can’t believe how small the screen seems (and it’s worth mentioning that my husband is also now seriously contemplating a switch to a phone like this).
The second thing I like a lot about the phone is actually the platform itself. Even though I mentioned a few things about it that really annoy me, there are still many things I like. One is how customizable it is, not just in settings, but how I can set up my home screen and the easily accessible immediate settings via a swipe down menu.
Also, navigating the phone is made easy with both a home button and a back button. I love that back button & find myself longing for it when I’m navigating my husband’s iPhone 5. The Android platform offers a number of different options for customizing how your screen appears, including color usage, dimming options, etc.
Another feature I like is that you don’t get one screen brightness setting for every app, but you can adapt the screen brightness in home mode, but have it set totally differently in an app, such as reading apps.
I mentioned the ability to customize the home screen, and Android allows more options than iPhone, giving you both icons and widgets for different apps, so your home screen is fully customizable, both out of the box and also with app managers that you can download. My screen looks exactly how I want it to look, now how Apple thinks it should look.
Jane asked me if I ever use the stylus and the answer is yes. The stylus is one of the reasons I went with the Note 2. I find myself using it surprisingly more than I thought I would. When I was in Italy last fall, for instance, I found myself in a small local business in Southern Italy learning how to make limoncello. I couldn’t type as fast as the interpreters spoke but I could write with my note app and stylus!
Another bonus of the Note2 has been the ability to expand the memory using a micro-SD card. This allows me to store all of my music, books, pictures and other media on the storage card and save the internal storage for Apps. This has made a huge difference in being able to expand the memory of the phone, obviously.
One of my absolute favorite things about this phone is going to be meaningless to someone who doesn’t use their device as much during the day as I do, but a heavy phone user, someone who uses it for both talking and playing will appreciate this—the ability to change out the battery. I’ve never owned a phone that lasted me an entire (long) day of use. Not an iPhone and not the Note2. I said early on that I had extreme battery issues with the iPhone 5, so for me, the Note2 was a step up there, but even so, I’m still hard on battery life. I do use this battery management app, Juice Defender, to help with this but I still am an extremely heavy user of my phone. So it’s awesome for me to be able to carry an extra battery and change out when the first gets low. It beats having to carry a cord and a battery charger. I bought a phone charger that will charge both the battery and phone simultaneously, so both get charged at the same time at night. The extra battery goes into my pocket or purse for the day and I’m set!
Last, Jane asked me to cover some of my favorite apps. I would be remiss by not pointing out one of the things I like about the Google Play app store—you can get a refund of an app if you don’t like it. They make it easy to get a refund, via a “refund” button that appears on the app page for a few days after your purchase. Thank you, Google. I appreciate that. It makes trying apps less risky (ironically, though I love this feature, I’ve never actually returned an app).
The apps that I use the most
Here I don’t have an app I LOVE to rec. I’m a heavy user of Twitter, plus I manage two accounts, so I’ve tried a whole lot of apps. All of them are flawed in two ways. The top two I’ve switched between are Plume and Tweetcaster. I probably favor Plume moderately over Tweetcaster right now, but not enough to say you absolutely must use one of these.
Jane’s note: I’m using FalconPro. You’ll need to follow the instructions here on logging in and creating a dev account for the app.
I have a number of reading apps I’ve tried, pretty much all of them from the article Brian did here on DearAuthor, and my two top used are Aldiko (which I like a lot for it’s ability to create collections and also its interface with Dropbox) and the Kindle app. The drawback to the Kindle app is that in the last 6 months, each update seems to make it buggier, so I’ve recently had a lot of problems with it both crashing, and also throwing errors when I try to read purchased books. I also have to give major props for the Audible app for audiobooks, because it’s excellent.
Related to reading, I also recommend Polaris Office 5 for reading documents. I use this a lot because of work.
While the default calendar is very functional, I found it wasn’t syncing right with my work (Outlook) calendar for whatever reason. I’ve been using SolCalendar and I like both the interface, the widget, the syncing and the features.
Here I use Music Player, which I think came on the phone, but more importantly I use an app called iSyncr to sync my playlists and music from iTunes to my phone. I tried a lot of different things (for the love of God, stay away from Kies. Trust me.) and this is both easy and painless. I highly recommend it.
I use a few apps to keep my phone system running smoothly. I mentioned JuiceDefender Ultimate for battery management, I also use Clean Master for cleaning out extra temp files & keeping the memory cleaned out. For home screen management I use Nova Settings. There are a lot of home screen management apps, this is just one I settled on, so I don’t necessarily strongly recommend it, it’s just what I use. And last, I automate a lot of functions using AutomateIt Pro. It’s very customizable and does things like turning the sound off when I open the Camera app, blocking all but calls/messages from my favorites between certain hours and tasks like that, that I want to occur when certain times or functions happen.
Jane’s Note: I’m using Aviate which I really love for the clean look and the way that it changes the screen apps depending on the time of day. The code is YAHOO.
I do highly recommend two screen management apps: Twilight and Screen Filter. Twilight is a very cool app that manages the blue light setting on your phone. At dusk (and Twilight knows your local dusk time) Twilight starts to steadily decrease the amount of blue light on your screen until, later in the evening, you’re looking at an orange-tinged screen. If you spend a lot of time on your computer or looking at your phone, this is excellent for both eye strain, but also the blue light is what can interrupt sleep patterns. It creates a slightly dimmer screen as the night goes on, that’s easier on your eyes and brain!
Screen filter is an app that’s purely for making your screen even dimmer. The brightness only goes so low on the phone and in apps, so Screen Filter lets you do just what it says—filter the brightness even further. Nice if you read in bed in the dark like I do!
Verizon Messenger. I mentioned this in my article but want to pull it out because it’s really a great messenger app and added some functions to the phone over my lock screen that I didn’t previously have.
Zedge for downloading new ringtones and message tones.
Paprika Recipe Manager. I was pretty disappointed in Paprika because I had previously paid for the Ipad app, the iPhone app, and the Mac app (yes, all three separately) and probably had about $25 invested in all three apps. So I contacted them to see if they’d give me a discount code for the Android app because I REALLY did not want to pay full price for a fourth version. They said no so…I didn’t download it. It was the principle of it. But all of my recipes I used were on the app and one day about a month ago I was in the grocery store and I needed the ingredients. So I caved. I still feel a little dirty about that, but it is a good app. They’re just getting into my wallet on all platforms, which feels kind of yucky in a multi-platform digital age. Oh well!
Candy Crush Saga, Contra (yes, that Contra) and Ski Safari. Because everyone needs brainless games on their phone.
I travel a lot, so this is a key category for me. White Noise—I use this to help block hotel noise when I sleep. Highly recommend it.
TripIt. If you’re a heavy traveler, TripIt does an excellent job of helping you manage not just ALL of your travel plans, but also track all of your various loyalty program points.
And there you go, there’s my switch from iPhone to Android. Will I go back to iPhone if they come out with a bigger screen? Nope. I’m still an Apple fan. They have fantastic customer service. I use only Macs, I love my iPad, but I’m also very happy with my Android experience on my phone. I love being able to switch batteries, customize my screen, and really customize my apps.
If you’re an iPhone user thinking about switching, I’m happy to answer questions about my experience. I seriously angsted the switch. And if you’re an Android user, please tell me what some of your favorite apps are. I’m always looking for another great app!