Last summer I did not upgrade to the iPhone 5S. I was happy with my perfectly functional iPhone 5 until I began to spend time with people who had these larger Android devices. In January I finally broke down and bought one of my own. It’s been three months now and I’m not sorry that I’ve switched.
To be clear, I’m an Apple girl. I have an iMac, a Macbook Air and an iPad. And I’m not the only one. Every computer in my house is an Apple product. I had real concerns about compatibility and functionality but I paid close attention to Angie James’ article on switching.
On my iPhone my most frequently used apps were iMessage (texting), Notes (f0r everything from writing grocery lists to blog posts), Mailbox (for my email accounts), Kindle and Marvin for reading and Dropbox. I had paid for many apps including SimpleNote (for longer note taking), Pages (to replace Word), Goodreader (PDF reader and annotations) and iAnnotate (another PDF reader/note taking).
The biggest challenge was finding a replacement for iMessage and I haven’t found a good replacement for Mailbox.
Notes. The biggest change I made was moving away from the Apple ecosystem of apps and toward device independent apps. Instead of Notes, I moved to Evernote, a program I had used before but not to its fullest. Now I use Evernote for everything from saving a web article I want to read later to grocery lists to blog posts to work notes.
Evernote can be accessed on the Web and has apps for PC, Apple, IOS, and Android. I’m still not using it to its fullest capabilities but it’s the perfect cross platform note taking application. It saves automatically and syncs automatically so all you have to do is worry about taking the notes.
Ebooks. I really like Marvin but there are plenty of ePub reading apps. Android is a more open system and there are two programs that I’m enjoying using. The first is Pocketbook. PocketBook doesn’t have as many customization features, but I like it’s elegant interface. You tap the center and a circle of options are presented along with access to your library, the table of contents, search, and navigation. It even remembers the last place you were in a book so if you start at page 50 and then advance to page 150, with one tap of your finger, you can return to page 50.
You can also highlight, copy, takes notes, and even take a screenshot by dragging your finger over the screen. It connects to your Calibre library over the network as well but just launches a browser access.
I like the app Calibre Cloud that connects to your Dropbox library of ebooks. There are two problems. 1) if you have a big library, it takes time to load initially. 2) You have to force sync your desktop Calibre program. It’s pretty easy to do this. You can either restart Calibre or you can switch to a new library within Calibre. I do the latter. I have a “research” library where I keep an index of various cases and so I switch to that library and then switch back to my main ebook library. I guess Calibre locks the database and prevents it from syncing until it understands that you aren’t using it.
You can also use GDrive instead of Dropbox. Given the recent HUGE price drop in Google Drive, I might switch from Dropbox.
An important note. In iOS you can download a mobi and then open in Kindle but under the Android OS you cannot do this. I don’t know why. Calibre Cloud has a function that will automatically send a book to your Kindle account but it doesn’t always work.
Messaging. There is no perfect solution to iMessage, particularly when your entire family uses it. However, Mighty Text provides a decent replacement when used in conjunction with Google Hangouts or another non device based text messaging service.
Mighty Text basically syncs your text messages from your phone to your computer. You can text and send video and images via your computer that are automatically synced to your phone’s messaging service. I’ve taken to using Google Hangouts because it is free but Facebook’s recent acquisition “What’s App” is incredibly popular. I like Google Hangouts because you can do video chats (like Facetime) and because Google is device agnostic. There are apps for every device.
A bonus feature for Mighty Text is that it tells you what percentage your phone battery is at. It’s reminded me more than once to plug in my phone.
For someone who texts a lot, you may like Sliding Messages. It features a popup screen for texts and allows you to respond without leaving your current app. So I can be reading a book and a text message pops up. I answer and when I press send, the text box disappears and I’m back at my book without having to press another button. Sliding Messages costs $1.99 and can be buggy!
Mail. I haven’t found a mail application replacement for Mailbox that I love. One thing about Mailbox was that it’s snooze feature which allowed me to archive an email message for a particular time (like hours, days or even weeks) helped me achieve the zero inbox which I love. Since I’ve moved to Android, I no longer have that feature. I hear that Mailbox is creating a similar app for Android but I’m worried that it’s recent acquisition by Dropbox will mean development will be placed on the back burner. Boomerang is a similar alternative but I don’t love the interface of Boomerang. I might try again.
Google Voice. There is no visual voicemail as default. Visual voicemail is a list of voicemails left. You can listen to them on your device and delete them from your device instead of calling a number and working through those voicemails via keypad entry. Visual voicemail is an extra $2.99 for a Verizon customer. I’ve opted to hook up my phone number to a Google Voice number and Google Voice then alerts me to the new voicemails and, if possible, will do a voice to text conversion and send it to my inbox or as a text message. There is also a Google Voice App that shows your voicemails a bit like Apple iOS. All for free.
Cases and Accessories
I find the cases and accessories for the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 to be uniformly poor. I use the S View case but I kind of hate it because it feels cheap even though I paid through the nose for it and the stupid front never stays shut. I’ve looked around for a better case and I’ve not found one that I particularly like.
As for accessories, there aren’t any of importance other than extra batteries. I first bought an extra Samsung battery but then I realized that the only way to charge the battery was to stick it into the phone. That made no sense so I bought this Anker package of two batteries and a charger. I really only needed the charger but now I have three extra batteries. I haven’t ever run out of battery power which is a real pleasure.
A stylus comes with every Samsung “Note” device and I thought I’d use it frequently but I don’t. The only time I use it is to play with my screenshots.
I will say that while the pen itself is very thin it takes notes better than any stylus I’ve tried on an iPad or iPhone.
Other cool features
I’m a big fan of being able to go to the Google Play store on my computer and install apps from there. You click on the install button and you can install the app on whatever device you have registered with your account.
On screen customization.
I’ve literally spent hours looking at launch programs for the phone. There are so many ways to customize the way that your home screen looks, it’s overwhelming. Currently I use “Aviate” which only allows for widgets only on the main screen but I really like how the apps change on the front page based on where you are (particularly great when you’re traveling) or what time it is (it presents the DO NOT DISTURB and Alarm at night).
Aviate basically utilizes Tasker like features. If you plug in your headphones, it assumes you want to listen to music and brings up your music apps. If you are home, Aviate allows you to see a context specific menu on the front page. If it is nighttime, a different context specific menu appears. My nighttime apps include Kindle, PocketBook, Houzz, and DVR Commander. I think you can all guess what I do before I go to sleep right?
I’d prefer a second page for widgets so I can have a nice big picture of my family on the first page.
It should be noted that Aviate was purchased by Yahoo!. If you do use Aviate, I recommend subscribing to the blog because it tells you about its new features like icon packs and shortcuts.
The back button.
The right button on the phone is a “back” soft key which means it takes you one step backward. If you opened a program and want to go back to the previously opened program, you tap the left soft key. When I’m using my iPad, I really miss the back key and I’m constantly tapping the right side wondering why nothing is happening.
I also tend to forget that there is a lot of functionality to be accessed under the left soft key.
Mini SD Card
In the back where the camera is exists a slot for expandable memory. I’ve stuck a 64 GB card there to hold all my music, books, and a few videos. I haven’t even begun to use all the space on that card.
I’ve not fully explored this but there are two apps – Tasker and AutomateIt – that do things based upon triggers (see Aviate above). Currently I am using AutomateIt and I’ve downloaded a few rules such as disabling the lock screen when I’m on my home wifi and sending me a text message if it is going to rain on a particular day. There are many more features but I haven’t explored this fully.
Annoyances / Drawbacks
The Samsung lacks the elegance of the iPhone. Maybe I’m an Apple Fangirl but the form factor of the iOS is superior. It could be that the iPhone and iPad’s all metal casing versus the plastic of the Samsung is the difference maker, but when I pick up my iPad mini, it just feels better than the Note 3.
I really dislike the camera on the Samsung over the iPhone. I’m not a great picture taker but the photos I took on my iPhone are far superior to the ones I take with the Samsung. On my Note I take a picture and then wait for several seconds while it says “processing”. You can eliminate that by turning “smart stabilization” off. While that helps, the onboard stabilizer isn’t as good as the iPhone in my opinion. For those who have a steadier hand than me, though, this article suggests that the comparison between cameras is minute.
I’m not sure if it is because of an Apple patent but you have to swipe to do everything on this phone. To answer a call, you need to swipe to the right instead of simply tapping. Pressing on a phone number takes you to the dial screen but you have to press the green phone button to dial the number which is one more step than the iPhone. I was able to customize the phone to set the home button to answer and the power button to hang up but I’ve frequently forgotten which is which and hung up on people accidentally.
The voice command isn’t as good as Siri but you can download different voices including a male one.
There are more cases and better accessories for the iPhone primarily because it is one standard size. There are dozens of different Android devices all with their own unique shapes and sizes. This means that the accessory market is slim. I am looking into the Bamboo Stylus for the Note. Anyone have one of these?
The iPhone is supposedly coming out with a larger screen device. I’m not sure I could change back given the battery, external SD and customization features but I’ll let you know this fall when I see what Apple has to offer. For now, though, I’m pleased with the screen size and I’ve found replacements for most–if not all–of my favorite iOS Apps.
I don’t miss the small screen iPhone and I certainly wouldn’t go back to a smaller screen device. In the end, for me, size matters.
I’d love to hear how people are using their Android devices including what Apps I should be downloading; what cases they like; how to customize the lock screen so I can see text messages and other stuff, and how to use Tasker and NFC tags!