Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Review

I have been a fanboy of Samsung’s Galaxy Note series since the Galaxy Note 2 was released back in 2012. I love the stylus and as someone who uses my phone 6-8 hours each day, I appreciated the features aimed at more power users.

I switched to the Galaxy Note 2, then 3, and then 4 in quick succession until the disaster that was the Galaxy Note 5. In releasing that phone, Samsung completely ignored why people chose the Note series in the first place.

So now along comes the Galaxy Note 7, which I pre-ordered and have been using for the past couple weeks. As far as I’m concerned, this is the best Android phone available at the moment for people who use their phone intensively, but it is still a long way from being the best Galaxy Note that Samsung could have produced.

Performance

This phone is the fastest Android phone I’ve used and more than fast enough to accommodate all of the applications and background processes that I throw at my phones. There has been some push back claiming that the Note 7 is significantly slower compared to other devices (especially iOS phones).

Most of the videos I’ve seen demonstrating this all use Samsung’s native interface and apps. I will concede that if you use Samsung’s crappy apps, pretty much every Samsung phone is close to unusably slow. The first thing I always do whenever I get a new Samsung or other phone is install Nova launcher and disable or replace all of the manufacturer’s native apps. Friends don’t let friends use Samsung’s native messaging app. Just don’t.

Once I installed all of my apps and configured the phone to use those, it was more than fast enough.

Storage

It is about time Samsung released an Android phone with both 64gb of native storage and a micro-SD expansion slot. It is a bit ridiculous that there aren’t more Android phones that feature more storage — 32gb is just not enough onboard storage in 2016.

The main reason I pre-ordered the phone was because of Samsung’s promotion that also let me score a 256gb micro-SD card at no additional cost. Once that was installed and encrypted, I ended up with a total of 320gb available on the device. Currently I have about 32gb of the onboard storage filled and another 100gb of files on the micro-SD card.

I need a phone that lets me carry around everything I might actually need access to in a day, and Samsung finally delivers.

Screen

I have a love/hate relationship with the Galaxy Note 7’s screen. The AMOLED display itself is amazing. Easily the best I’ve seen on any phone I’ve used. With a maximum brightness of 1,000 nits, the screen is viewable in almost direct sunlight. It’s gorgeous.

But then Samsung went ahead and layered Gorilla Glass 5 on top of that. Apparently, this new version of Gorilla Glass was used because it is more resistant to shattering when dropped, but reports emerged shortly after the phone’s launch that the tradeoff was that the phone was more prone to scratching. Gorilla Glass manufacturer Corning went so far as to respond that tests that appeared to show the glass scratching fairly easily weren’t properly conducted.

I call bullshit. I always put my phones in cases because I tend to be a klutz and drop them a lot. But a few years ago I stopped using screen protectors to see whether or not the phones I was carrying would scratch–they didn’t. I keep one pocket free of coins, keys, etc. and carry my cell phone in their when needed.

So, I used an LG G4 for the past year with no screen protector and there isn’t a single scratch on it. After two weeks of using the Note 7 under the same conditions, there are numerous visible scratches on the glass. According to Corning,

Based on our testing, for scratch performance as well as the hardness testing we do that’s widely used in the industry, we believe that GG5 should be performing similarly to GG4.

Apparently, their definition of “similarly” means “not at all like.” If you have this phone, you’re going to need a screen protector. I found a tempered glass screen protector that works fairly nice, but I shouldn’t have needed to if Corning wasn’t blowing smoke up its customer’s asses.

Battery Life

Battery life is decent until it explodes, apparently. As I mentioned, I use my cellphone intensively with multiple background processes a transferring ~100gb/month over 4G. With my LG G4, I had two spare batteries and an Anker external charger. Most days I was using both of the external batteries and occasionally the charger.

Not being able to swap batteries on the Galaxy Note 7 is an annoying drawback. If Samsung did this in order to make it easier to make the phone water resistant (it is IP68 rated), I would have preferred a removable battery to being able to take the phone underwater.

That said, I had fewer battery issues with the Note 7 than the LG G4 largely because of my particular work habits and the Note 7’s support for wireless fast charging. I bought a wireless fast charger for my home office and my actual office, where I spend 80% of my day. I was impressed at how much more convenient the wireless charging was over the wired charging.

There would definitely be times at work with my LG G4 where I might have 20 minutes between a meeting and I’m not going to bother hooking and unhooking the phone up to a cord for charging. But the convenience of being able to set the phone down and just pick it up and go meant that the battery was generally sufficiently charged throughout the day.

There were, however, two times when the Note 7 completely died on me during weekends when I was out doing things. What made these especially irksome was that when I checked the battery life during these two times, it was around 10%. Both times, however, within less than a minute of seeing that the battery was at 10%, the phone actually went to 0% and powered off.

I’m not sure if that was an Android issue or a battery issue, but either way the phone made me think I had 15 to 20 minutes to get to a charger when I really only had a minute or two left. Not cool.

Overall Impression

Best. Android. Phone. Yet.

Decline in WordPress Wow Factor? I’d Be Happy for a Duh Factor

WP Tavern has an article–now with dozens of comments–arguing that the wow factor in major WordPress release is getting few and far between.

Because of WordPress’ maturity and the short development cycle, major features are getting few and far between. By looking at the Beta tab on the WordPress plugin directory, visitors can view projects that may end up in future versions of WordPress. The only project on the page that excites me is the Front-end Editor but based on how long it’s been in development, I’m not holding my breath.

Please excuse me while I throw up in my mouth. The self-hosted version of WordPress is one of the most widely deployed pieces of software on the web, and yet in 2016 users still have to track down a plugin if they want to do something as basic as rate limit logins to prevent brute force password attacks.

At this point, the lack of such a basic feature has to be put down to extremely poor leadership and vision. WordPress is deployed by a lot of novices, and not only should there be a rate-limit feature, but it should be enabled by default.

But hey, what’s minimal security features in a world where the admin UI needs to be redesigned repeatedly or basic features in the editor need to be removed for no good reason?

My Pokemon Go Kit

Like a lot of people, I’ve been playing Pokemon Go pretty intensely since its July 6 release. The game is addictive, but also a major drain on my LG G4’s battery. I need to keep playing the game, but I also need to keep getting texts, phone calls and the stray Slack notice. So I put together a kit via Amazon that I’ve been using to make sure I’m not caught with a dead battery (links go to Amazon, but there are not affiliate links and are simply what I purchased after a couple hours of Google and Amazon searches).

1. Topoint Water Resistant Running Waist Bag

This is a thin waist bag designed for running that has a total of four pockets. There is a velcro pocket on the left, perfect for extra cell phone batteries, and a zippered pocket that fits the external battery pack I selected. Above the two front pockets is a zippered pocket that runs the length of the bag, where I store a USB cable compatible with my phone. Finally, there is another zippered pocket that runs the length of the bag on the back side of the bag, where I stick my wallet and cash while I’m out looking for Pokemon.

The other nice thing about this bag is that it is small enough that it can be worn over your shoulder so that the bag portion stretches across your chest diagonally. And that is how I use the bag exclusively.

Topoint Water Resistant Running Waist Bag

 

2. Extra cell phone batteries and external charger. Typically I try to buy Anker replacement batteries, though I did go with a couple Trendon batteries for my LG G4 since they got such good reviews. A couple batteries and an external charged should run you about $25-ish depending on the phone. This is one area where most Android phones really shine over iOS.

 

Trendon LG G4 Batteries

 

3. Anker PowerCore+ 10500 Portable Charger

This is a compact, 10000mAh portable charger that goes for about $33 on Amazon. The “500” in the model number apparently indicates that it is compatible with Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 systems. This is a method of quickly charging some cell phones including my LG G4. Before you spend the extra money on a Quick Charge 2.0 compatible charger, you need to check and make certain that your phone implements the technology.

This is small enough to fit into the front zippered pouch on the Topoint. It stays fairly cool while charging, and I was able to recharge my LG G4 3 times from 5 percent to 100 percent without a problem. The fast charging worked as advertised. The only downside is that, as you can see in the photo, there’s just a single USB port. So you’re only going to be using this to charge one device at a time.Anker PowerCore 10500

4. Nylon Braided High Charging Speed USB 2.0 Cable

I love these nylon braided USB cables from iSeeker. As the name suggests, they can accommodate the Qualcomm quick charging feature, and I ljust happen to prefer them aesthetically over non-braided cables. A pack of three is $11. (If you’re into iOS, I like and use Mribo’s nylon-braided Lightning cables.)

Nylon-Braided USB Cables

 

 

Pokemon Go / Google Fitness Conflict?

Since 2011, I’ve been using an Omron Pedometer to measure how many steps I take. I’ve resisted buying a Fitbit or similar device largely because I hate the idea of wearing something on my wrist, and from what I can tell the Omron is still the most accurate device out there.

Unfortunately, it has also been discontinued by Omron and the replacement models are unimpressive. So recently I started using Google Fit on my phone to measure my activity. It doesn’t seem quite as accurate as the Omron pedometer was, but it is close enough. It also let me eliminated yet one more device I needed to remember to replace batteries and carry around with me.

So all was good until Pokemon Go came along. So Pokemon Go also appears to measure the steps you take in order to track how far you’ve walked before an incubating egg can hatch.

Which would be fine, except Pokemon Go and Google Fit do not work well together. If I’m playing Pokemon Go, then Google Fit simply will not record any steps I take. I’m assuming that Pokemon Go accesses my phone’s sensors in a way that precludes other apps from doing so as well.

I’m not sure if this is due to a poor implementation by Niantic (which would not be surprising at all given how buggy Pokemon Go is), or some sort of limit to how the sensor data can be accessed. I suspect the former, as I’ve noticed something similar with apps that access the microphone. I have an app that records audio from the microphone. While it is running, some apps that also rely in microphone input will report they cannot run because the microphone is already in use, while other apps will have no problem accessing the mic audio and acting normally.

Knowing very little about how Android works, I would assume that there are APIs for accessing sensor and audio data on phones, and that apps would access these APIs rather than trying to access the devices directly. But it appears that some apps may, in fact, use the later method which is a bit head scratching.

Cory Doctorow: How Stupid Laws & Benevolent Dictators Can Ruin the Decentralized Web

Excellent presentation by Cory Doctorow from the Decentralized Web Summit.

 

 

So, as you might imagine, I’m here to talk to you about dieting advice. If you ever want to go on a diet, the first thing you should really do is throw away all your Oreos.

It’s not that you don’t want to lose weight when you raid your Oreo stash in the middle of the night. It’s just that the net present value of tomorrow’s weight loss is hyperbolically discounted in favor of the carbohydrate rush of tonight’s Oreos. If you’re serious about not eating a bag of Oreos your best bet is to not have a bag of Oreos to eat. Not because you’re weak willed. Because you’re a grown up. And once you become a grown up, you start to understand that there will be tired and desperate moments in your future and the most strong-willed thing you can do is use the willpower that you have now when you’re strong, at your best moment, to be the best that you can be later when you’re at your weakest moment.

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