#2072 | Samsung Note 9 – Hands on, First Impressions, and MOVING FROM THE IPHONE

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Hey guys,

So I just got my paws on the Samsung Note 9 last night, something I’ve been super excited about ever since my Note 8 was unceremoniously smashed my a straggly haired backpacker in the Hong Kong International Airport last month.. Anyway. I set it up within the hour of getting it and here we are, good to go:

Context

I’ve been using the Note 8 for a year now, and I’ve also tested the Samsung S9 for a prolonged period of time, so I am pretty familiar with the Samsung system. I switched from the iPhone 6s+ to the Samsung Note 8 last year because my iPhone kamikaze-d on me the day the new iPhone x was announced. I have long believed that Apple deliberately kills old phones to force you to buy new ones, something which many reports last year also raised, but I was willing to ignore it for a long time. For my phone to not only self-destruct on the day of the announcement, but to also wipe my contacts across both my phones, was the kicker for me. It was clear that my phone was attacked through iCloud, which I pay for. I’m not using the free version of their subscription, I literally give Apple money every month to secure and back up my data and they just screwed me over with my own money. That realisation was what pushed me over, I think, and what finally made me decide to migrate to Android.

My current phone set up

So before I go on, I’m just going to put it out there that I currently and always have used two phones, ever since year two of university. This initially happened by accident – it was because I was using a Windows phone and my best friend gave me a blackberry for my birthday (Yes he is very generous, which I know and am eternally appreciative of), and at the time I also had two phone lines because of some work thing. Anyway, I stopped using my second number, but had gotten used to multitasking on two phones, so when my sister got a new phone and gave me her old iPhone, I gave my Windows phone to a friend’s mum who needed a new phone at the time. So I was using the blackberry primarily, and the iPhone 4 on wifi. And then from there I’ve just always used two phones, and sometime last year I got another number for work on Circles Life, and so I was using an iPhone 6s which I bought at no-contract retail (a real heartache) and an iPhone 6s+ which was a gift.

So for the past year, I’ve been using the Samsung Note8 as my primary phone, but my secondary phone is still my 2 year old iPhone 6s (which I strongly believe is one of the best iPhone models) and it’s running fine cos i havent updated the OS in years. I use the iPhone for the photo and video editing apps because all my paid subscriptions were already loaded on the iOS store, but other than that I use the Note for almost everything else.

Note 9 – first impressions

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Look at this GORGEOUS packaging. Putting the key of the Note series, the stylus, front and center

Fresh out of the box the Note 9 is a thing of beauty. I remember the feeling I had last year when I unboxed the Note8 – I wanted to cry because it was so beautiful but also because I just knew it was a fingerprint magnet (and it is). The Note8 a phone that requires commitment, and because I am not the type of person to carry a microfibre cloth around with me, I have just been rubbing the screen on the back of my jackets. LOL.

But I get the sense that Samsung has changed the screen type of its phones ever since the Galaxy S9, which is significantly less of a fingerprint magnet. This might be a new kind of coating or something, which means it’ll wear away as time passes, but I’m glad the same screen reappears on the Note 9 as well. It’s not as smudgy, making it a joy to type on. And, it’s the biggest screen Samsung has put out yet, a 6.4inch one, which I’m really happy about because I read books on my phone a lot and the bigger the screen the easier on the eyes.

As physical forms go, the Note9 is a thing of beauty. I actually used the Samsung Edge 7 two/three years ago and I really liked it, because Samsung understands aesthetics. The curved sides of the phone are aesthetically phenomenal, and I love that the phone is nearly bezel-less (unfortunately, no manufacturer has figured out how to make a phone that completely conceals the camera and audio receptors yet, but one day). There are a few phone manufacturers that I believe create truly beautiful phones – Samsung is one of them, Oppo is another, and I also like this relatively obscure Japanese phone maker that hardly operates out of Japan called Docomo. I actually bought and hacked a flip Docomo phone once, when I was 16, and while the sim card incompatibilities brought me much pain, I was perpetually in love with how cute the phone was. Thus my priorities are laid bare.

That’s not to say that I hate the form factor of the iPhone – I actually quite like the iPhone’s matte feel, which I personally think makes it easier to type on as compared to the Samsung, which is slicker and so, slipperier. The iPhone keyboard also has a larger space bar, so the transition from apple to samsung means a whole load of typos for the first couple of weeks. Minor things, but things that matter.


S Pen that fits at the bottom of the phone, and charges there too


The Note series also comes with a sPen
that you can click in and out of place, it slots neatly into the bottom of the phone. This was the main draw of the Note series over the Samsung S series for me – I doodle a lot on my pictures, and so having a pen would make this infinitely easier. And it does – since getting the Note8 last year, I havent touched my wacom tablet! The pen also beeps if you leave it out of the phone or bring it too far away from the phone, so that’s a pretty good precaution for preventing against losing it.

Note 9 vs Note 8

Besides the less smudgy screen, there are quite a few differences between the 8 and 9. See:

– The Note 9 has a way stronger battery than the 8. It comes with a 4,000mAh battery, which is 21% bigger than the Note 8.

– The Note 9 has the same camera as the S9+, and the S9 had a freakin amazing camera. Seriously, I was impressed by the 8, but when I used the Galaxy S9 I was blown away. The Pro mode (which debuted with the S9) is fantastic for capturing low light scenes, like dusky sunsets, and it’s come to become my primary go-to camera.

The phone features a dual 12MP rear cameras with a primary dual aperture lens which shifts between F2.4 (for more detail in well-lit shots) and F1.5 (for low light). It’s not the best on the market, I think that goes to Huawei, but this is still pretty damned good.

lololol the Samsung camera is damn good y'all

A post shared by Jemimah James Wei (@jemmawei) on

Minimal editing needed!

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No editing – straight off the Note9 auto mode

Besides Pro and Auto, there’s also an inbuilt hyperlapse, live focus (essentially portrait mode) and panorama mode in the native app. The camera has other cute functions like a super slow-mo video and AR Emoji camera, but I’ve used those exactly.. 1 time in 6 months. Haha.

– The camera is also kind of a smart camera. With the Note8, it prompted you to wipe your camera lens if it detected smudges. With the 9, it apparently also has a Flaw Detection feature that can also spot if you’ve got problems with blinking eyes, blurred images and backlighting, prompting you to retake the photo.

– There’s also a big storage upgrade – the Note 9 now has a minimum of 128GB with an 6gb RAM. It goes up to 512GB with an 8GB RAM. And of course, you can top this up with a microSD card, so if you play your cards right, you might be looking at a phone with 1TB storage on your hands.

STEREO SPEAKERS!! This was debuted on the S9. One of my complaints of the Note 8 was its disappointing sound experience, with one speaker near the bottom of the phone which is easily and frequently blocked by one’s fingers when holding the phone. This has now been rectified with dual stereo speakers by Dolby on the Gen 9 phones, which makes Netflixing a much more pleasant experience. You feel this immediately if youre moving from the 8 to the 9.

– My other main complaint for the Note 8 was the fingerprint sensor placement, which was next to the camera, meaning you often touch the camera lens instead of the sensor, which is really surprisingly bad design given that everything else on the Gen 8 phones were so aesthetically oriented. Happily, the fingerprint sensor has moved downwards, to below the camera, making it easier to reach with one hand given how big the phone is. It’s the same placement as the S9 and Google Pixel phones. I really like this!!!!

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The backs of the Note 8 and 9 (both have a silicon case on)

(Related blogpost: The Note 8 vs Google Pixel 2XL)

Extremely quick unlocking with the face + iris scanner. This is also on the S9, but on the Note8 you only have an iris scanner. Essentially, for the Note9, the phone uses a combination of face recognition and iris scanning to unlock your phone when you raise it up to your face. It was quick on the S9 but I find it even quicker on the Note9. Fast and accurate face recognition is a feature you can find on most new phones though, like the iPhone X, which just goes to show how amazing technology is getting. What a time to be alive!

– The bluetooth enabled S Pen is a real game changer. I’ve long said that the pressure sensitive stylus (made by Wacom!!) is the deal breaker for Samsung’s Note series and the biggest thing that guarantees a loyal following. Many Android phone makers compete year after year to come up with better phones, and it’s easy to see how an Android user might be easily tempted to switch from one brand to another each time they renew contracts. But there is no parallel on the market for the Note series purely because of the S Pen. I use the stylus so much it’s essentially a third arm for me now. And with the Note 9, the stylus is bluetooth enabled, meaning I can use it as a camera remote control. You can also use it to control music or slides (if youre fixing the phone up to a projector for presentations) but the camera remote is the biggest thing for me!

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Note 9 – favorite features

And as far as things to get used to go, you could do a lot shabbier than the Note9. The phone is truly a monster. Beyond being gorgeous, the phone is also insane in terms of what it can handle. I do find (and i think that this is true of most android phones) that the more you use and adapt the phone to your patterns of behaviour, the more the phone performs the way you want it to. When I first started using the Note8 last year, a huge issue for me was battery life, but after I turned off the Always On Display (which means the screen always displays a clock, even if it’s been locked and put away for awhile) and auto-brightness, the battery life lasts quite a long time. I could go a full day without a midday charge, which I think is pretty good since I’m a relatively heavy user. Things like that.

– Obviously, the earphone jack bears a mention, in an age where they are gradually going extinct. The phone also comes out of the box with AKG tuned earphones which are anti-tangle, and the earphones are really, really good. It’s a nice surprise to get such good earphones for free with the phone, and I think this will satisfy most casual music listeners. And if you’re not a casual listener, chances are you probably already have a pair of really good headphones that you can just continue using with the Note9’s earphone jack anyway.

– The Note 9 also comes out of the box with a standard protective casing, which is a basic clear case which will do nicely to protect your phone till you get another case. It’s got enough grip to stop the phone slipping out of your hands too. I dont really see a huge need to change the case either because this lets you show off the pretty colors of the phone if you opted for the copper gold or ocean blue variations.

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Copper Gold version with no case

– One of the best things about the Note9 is also how it turns into a personal assistant of sorts for you. I’m not talking about Bixby, the Samsung equivalent of Siri, because I found that super annoying and turned it off the minute I figured out how. I mean the fact that the phone is built for productivity, which makes the neurotic side of me really happy. The widgets let me have my mail and to do list on the home screen, as well as a dual city clock and weather report (you cant do this on the iOS unless you jailbreak it, and for someone who travels frequently, this is ace). They also show me at immediate glance how much data I’ve used for the month, what my upcoming appointments are, that kind of thing. Love it! iOS has something similar with their latest left locked-homescreen widget panel, but its still quite new so it’s not as refined yet.

– The edge display also lets you pair apps to multitask together, which is really awesome. Already the multitasking function that allows you to open and run two apps side by side is great, but the app pairing on the edge display is fantastic because if youre already habitually using two screens together (your notes + school documents, for example), then this allows you to start both in split screen with one swipe, which is pretty neat.

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I really love how customisable the phone is. WIDGET ESPECIALLY. I LOVE WIDGETS! Here you have one of my home pages, which has currency exchange screens for countries I’m visiting, a shortcut optimiser button, and a quick shortcut to my notes.

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The left swipe screen of my home screen is just a giant translucent calendar for a quick glance at all my events for the month

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All my other apps are kept in the app drawer, allowing my homescreen to stay uncluttered/ allowing me to prioritise the apps i use most.

– The phone comes with the office suite, so you can run Microsoft word, excel, etc, all off mobile. This is very useful for people who work on the go.

– The huge and VERY high res screen means watching Netflix on the go is insane, and also, I get a better reading experience out of my mobile Kindle app, especially since the phone comes with a blue light filter option that makes it easier on the eyes.

– And lastly, the amount of precise doodling you can do with an inbuilt pen is awesome. See above re: S Pen being a game changer. For freelancers like me, the benefits of the sPen isnt just limited to creative expression, it also allows me to sign on contracts and send them back immediately, instead of having to print, sign, and scan back contracts. Dealing with contracts is something I do on a near-daily basis, so this feature has legitimately changed my life better and is SO useful. Nuff said.

iPhone to the Note – transitioning

*Speaking from my experience transitioning from the iPhone to Samsung last year*

The fact that I was using both the Samsung and the iPhone with two separate numbers meant that I felt my brain nearly cleave neatly into two, switching from iOS to Android and back nearly fifty times a day. Honestly, after the first week I called my boyfriend and I was like I WANT TO CRY I CANT GET USED TO ANDROID I MIGHT GIVE IN AND BUY AN IPHONE AND HATE MYSELF FOREVER FOR HAVING WEAK FLEXIBLE MORALS. (See above re: refusing to give apple money for destructing my 6s+) I was mad frustrated because I kept making typos, I couldn’t understand how to change the clock display, and for the life of me, I COULDNT FIGURE OUT HOW TO COPY AND PASTE TEXT. It was driving me mad, I felt useless, I felt old and felled by the new fangled movements of technology which had upped and left me in the dust. I thought: let me tuck my morals away, quietly get an iPhone, and shut up for the rest of my life. But no. Both a sense of loyalty (my friend had gotten me a phone, I at least had the obligation to stick it out and figure out if I could love it) and pragmatics (getting a new phone when I had a perfectly fine one would be prohibitively expensive, and the broke student in me was wilting at the idea).

Transitioning is hard, and I’m saying that both literally and figuratively, based off the internet’s tales. Anyway.

The part where I come in with personal experience is here: it’s hard, but it’s rewarding. The Note is a phone I’m sure android users will love off the bat, but for a seasoned iOS user, it takes about two weeks of daily intensive use before you love it – and it’s a gradual love, a slow simmer. I must admit that I started out a skeptic, because I thought that no amount of impressive hardware or technical statistics would be able to impress me when the apps I needed were all from the iTunes app store. I dont need a fancy phone, you see, I just need one that works for the purposes that I need. But the Note8 was a monster of a phone: its capacity for multitasking, organization, and its absolutely sick camera kills me. It really does. Because of the way I started out using the Note8 (subconsciously convinced that I wouldnt be able to adapt from iOS to Android), I was super perplexed and confused when I started liking it, I was like, what are all these feelings?! A bit dramatic, but you get what I mean. And the Note 9 is even better.

My attitude towards the Note now is the same as my attitude towards the infamous iOS 8 change – you may feel incredibly strongly about something, but for better or for worse, you’ll get used to everything in the end!

Note 9 – Upgrade?

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The Note 9, unlocked

The Note 9 is coming in with a really good pre-order deal from now till August 21st, where you get the 512GB version for the price of the 128GB one with a pre order. This is great because pre-order deals normally throw in extras like wireless chargers or headphones, all of which are nice to have, but not essential to the phone itself. A storage upgrade is fantastic, especially for people who are heavy users or trigger happy photo takers.

Still, the phone is expensive. It’s retailing at SGD1398 which is slightly more than the Note 8, before telco deals. And when considered together with the fact that the Samsung’s 10th generation of phones is just a year away..

The Note 8 and S 9 phones are already very, very good phones. I think if you’ve gotten either one within the past year, you might wanna hold out till the 10s come out since theres a good chance the 10s will be a big deal. The new features are awesome but I’m sure they will still exist with the 10 phones. But if you’re in the market for a new phone (perhaps if youre upgrading from a 6 or 7), and are the kind of power user which the Note 9 is catered for, then you’ll be very happy with the 9 I’m sure.

Note 9 – Conclusion

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First photo taken with the Note9 on the front facing camera! No filter or edits made.

Overall I’m actually super happy with the Note 9 – I adored the Note 8 and I’m certain I will love this one as much, if not more.

The days when new phones cost a hundred bucks with a basic student recontract line seem far away and a dream, almost. Anyway. The flagship phones from all the big players all cost a pretty penny today, and if you’ve decided to get one, you’d best make sure it’s a solid investment. Whether a phone is worth the price often depends on your priorities, and for me, anything that maximizes my productivity is a solid win. It’s just such a big plus point that the Note9 does this while being absolutely gorgeous, too.

x
Jem

Disclaimer: I was seeded the Note 9 as part of a media drop and am not paid for this post.

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