November 26, 2018

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Switching from iOS after 2.5+ years

So I recently upgraded my phone during Black Friday 2018. I initially planned to purchase an iPhone XR - the logical upgrade from an SE. I bought the SE at launch back in 2016 and it served me very well. I spent the majority of those ~2.5yrs falling into the Apple ecosystem, eventually buying a Macbook and Apple Watch to go with the phone. In the past 6mo I’ve gone the opposite direction and pulled out the ecosystem, with my iPhone being the last component to be replaced. This was an intesting move to Android as I generally avoid using Google services, and the best way to do that is (usually) to just use iOS.

Part of this switch includes a multi-year jump in the state of smartphone tech, which makes commentary difficult as I am comparing hardware built in 2015 to hardware built in 2018 and it is tough to say whether an improvment has come from better silicon or from being on a different platform. I’ll do my best to comment on which factor I think played a larger role at any given feature comparison. My thoughts on this mainly boil down to one question: Would I have seen this improvment had I purchased a 2018 flagship iPhone or not?

Camera

Wow. The Note9 camera is amazing. From what I read online, the Google Pixel 3 puts out better images than this camera, which seems amazing to me coming from the 12mp sensor origially found in the 6s. This is obviously an improvement had by the evolution of pocketable camera technology in the past couple years as the reviews for the current year iPhone flagship also put its camera in the top billing against its Android counterparts. One feature I (surprisingly) used on the camera was the built in remote shutter with the S-Pen. It made taking a large family photo during Thanksgiving very easy and removed the need for someone with long arms to take a poor quality selfie or race against a timer to get into the photo. Obviously the S Pen feature is an upside of the platform change, not the march of technological progress.

Display

Again, blown away by the high DPI OLED display, coming from a low-res LCD panel on the SE. This is a win for the 2018 display technology as I could’ve had a similar quality screen on a XS, Pixel 3, S9 or my Note. I really love the concept of the always on display for the clock (I estimate that >50% of my phone pickups are just to check the time) and I believe that feature is only on Samsung/Android phones.

Apps

I don’t think I ever bought many apps, so I wasn’t concerned with leaving a library behind. Everything I use (Twitter, messaging apps, Insta, banking apps, etc.) were all available on the Play Store and appear to behave the same way as I’m used to. One downside to the Samsung has been that Samsung ships many duplicate apps to Google’s own and I tend to use 3rd party apps, creating instances of 2-3 browsers, email clients, mobile wallet apps and more. I can’t reliably remove many of these apps.

Battery Life

So far it has only been a couple days, but battery life is great. I belive this upside has come from a combination of Samsung stuffing a huge battery in the phone (4000mah) and more efficiant silicon being developed in the last few years. Note that I replcaed my iPhone battery this summer, so there was no significant degradation at the time of the upgrade.

Fingerprint/Iris Scanning

The finger print scanner is significantly faster than the Gen. 1 TouchID found in my SE. The iris scanning works, however it doesn’t feel reliable and from my limited experience testing FaceID, it appears that modern iPhones have a superior biometric unlock/security experience.

Notifications/Quick Settings

I really believe that this is one of the areas where my experience with Android has been strictly superior to the notifications on iOS 9/10/11. For a majority of the time I used an iPhone notifications were horrible. iOS 12 made many significant moves to fix that, however I only ran that software for a couple months before changing devices and a majority of my experience with iOS notifications has been poor. Now onto the positives with the Note. I really love that I can disable an app’s notifications right in the notification center. I keep minimal notifications enabled (messaging/calls mostly) and this really helps me catch anything which slips through the cracks. Also being able to see a non-attention seeking icon with the Always On Display is a nice touch.

The quick setting menu is excellent as well. I can manage almost all of the settings I need without needing to ferret out another app. I wish I could have more settings in the iOS Control Center.

One ergonomic difference I’ve found is that instead of pulling down on my screen for search, it brings me notifications/settings and the search is in the app drawer which I get by pulling up. Not a game changer, but it took an hour or so to adjust.

S Pen

This is honestly one of the coolest features I’ve had in a phone. As I mentioned earlier the remote shutter is an awesome feature. I also use the pen quite a bit to take note while the screen is off. It feels great in the hand, and has minimal latency. Not as comfortable as the Surface Pen but good enough for a phone.

Misc. Hardware

Overall build quality is quite good, same as what I expect from an iPhone.

Misc. Software

The software experience has been primarily positive.


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