I have seen the future, and it is phabulous
For those of you who would rather read about cellphones than XPages, I have a pleasant surprise: this is a gadget review, not related to programming in any way (except, perhaps, tangentially). If, like me, you develop Domino applications for a living, I sincerely promise that nothing of what you are about to read will make you any better at your job.
A week ago, I finally replaced my original Samsung Galaxy with a Galaxy Note II. The previous phone, which now looks like a Fisher Price toy, by comparison, was only 19 months old. Doesn't feel like a long time to me. But in mobile years, that's ancient. Verizon had been sending me emails for a while reminding me that I was due for an upgrade, but when a fellow developer at a customer site upgraded to a Note II, and I got to play with it a bit, I knew I wanted one of my own.
I'll cut right to the chase: this thing rocks. Perhaps the easiest way to convey its capabilities and user experience is to point out that I am composing this review from the phone. I'll remind my long-term readers that, thus far, my blog has always been a Blogsphere instance, then pause to allow the previous sentence to sink in.
Blogsphere does not have a web-based interface for authoring new posts. I'm typing all of the HTML markup you now see into a document in an NSF, via the Lotus Notes client. From my phone.
This process may sound tedious, if not painful, but it's not. That's because I've done the following:
- paired the phone, via Bluetooth, with an Apple Magic Mouse and keyboard;
- am remote controlling, via the LogMeIn app for Android, a Windows VM assigned 8 GB of RAM running on a Linux host with 24 GB;
- using a Micro USB to HDMI adapter, I'm mirroring the phone's display on a 22 inch Dell monitor... as I type this, I'm not even looking at the phone.
If I needed to, I could do my entire job this way and be at least minimally productive. It's certainly a viable option for hotel-coding while on the road. It's not ideal, of course; when I get my 2012 W2's, I'll be deciding whether I can afford a shiny new Macbook Pro, complete with Retina display. But here I am creating content in a Lotus Notes database, periodically forgetting that I'm doing so from a cellphone.
Remote control revelry aside, how is the phone? It isn't. It's a tablet that just happens to be only slightly larger than most smartphones, and can also serve as a phone. Some tech analysts have started to refer to devices like this one as "phablets". If electronic devices were cabaple of jealousy, my iPad 3 would be rather put out right now. Not because the Note is more powerful (although, in raw specifications, it is) or is, in any objectively measurable sense, "better". Nonetheless, it has almost completely replaced my iPad in terms of day-to-day use. Just yesterday I was having a discussion with a customer about mobile devices, and although my iPad was less than a foot away from my shoe, I had forgotten it was there. In the last 7 days, I've opened the lid on the Air at home maybe 3 times. The Air is still my primary work laptop, but at home, the Note is enough.
On average, I probably watch an hour or two of video a night. I immediately switched to the Note for this purpose, and at no point have I found myself thinking of switching to something with a larger screen. If I'm not actively using the Air, it's my go-to device for email, web browsing, listening to music, ordering pizza (yes, Papa Johns has an Android app), pretty much every activity that requires electrical power.
Speaking of which, the battery life is welcome relief from my previous routine. Because the size of the device is dictated by the screen, not the internal hardware, that left Samsung enormous space to hold a battery, and they definitely took advantage. The battery for this thing is massive. In return, a single charge grants me about 15 hours of heavy use. My old phone's battery would last about 4 hours... if I was gentle. Try to watch a movie, and it would last a little over an hour starting from a full charge. In addition, it took almost as long to charge the battery as it did to exhaust it, so I had a spare that I would keep in a charger while the other was in use, and every few hours I'd swap them. Now I have a battery that lets me use the device however I choose, all day long, and then refills in about 90 minutes.
I suspect the reason it charges more rapidly is that Samsung is one of a couple vendors who recently switched their Micro USB ports from a 5 pin design to an 11 pin design. They claim the motivation is to provide higher video quality when doing precisely what I'm doing now. But I'm guessing a handy side effect is that it also gives the power cord a bigger pipe through which to squeeze electrons. Whatever the reason, it's a nice change. But if you purchase a Note, or an S3, or any of these larger devices, and want to mirror the screen via HDMI, make sure you know how many pins your adapter will need, and how many are in the one you're purchasing. Samsung doesn't tell you that the adapters you can find online for $12 won't work... and neither do those selling the adapters. Honestly, if I have any criticism of this device it's the lack of communication on this one deviation from the MHL standard. Everything about this device is amazing... but because it's a bit more advanced than just about any other smartphone (for now), customers need to be aware of discrepancies like this one in order to get full use of its capabilities.
In closing, I'm sure a bit of the novelty will wear off once I've been using it for a month or two, and the newness both of Jellybean (the old phone was still stuck on 2.6) and the device itself simply become the new normal, but in the meantime, this is my computer. I won't bother with taking the silly stance that this phone is "better" than an iPhone 5, or some other Android phone, etc. But I can tell you this: if you think you want this phone, you do. Unless you spend more on it than you can safely afford, buyer's remorse is highly unlikely.