#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.

#2152 | LIVING IN THE FUTURE! Google Home Hacks + giveaway

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My Google Home Minis in Charcoal and Coral!

Hey guys!

I am SUPER psyched to announce that the Google Home is coming to Singapore!!!!!!!! Yes, all those exclamation marks are totally necessary. Dont be hatin.

I bought my google home mini last year end when I was in the States, and my affection for it has not dwindled in the slightest over the past four months of our love affair. Beyond being a clear sign that it wasnt (as my boyfriend predicted) just a gimmicky toy I’d play with and get bored of quickly, I think it speaks to how effectively its been integrated into my life. I talk to my google home every single day, prompting my friend Warren to tell everyone that I do so because I have no real friends, because he is mean.

Anyway, the point is! I’ve been getting a lot of questions on my google home because it makes such frequent appearances in my instagram stories. I had been intending to write a post on it for the longest time, but life got the better of me, as it does. Anyway I procrastinated for so long that it coincided with Google actually bringing the Home to Singapore and collaborating with me on a giveaway, so the moral of the story is life has a funny way of working itself out, and alls well that ends well! Huhu.

My Mini and I: The Love Story
Why and How?

Questions I have been asked:

Why did you get a google home?

I love love love the idea of a smart home, I think it’s got to do with all the futuristic movies I watched as a kid. That stuff just blows my mind. When tech giants started developing smart devices, I got so excited. I think it was just a matter of time before I got my own smart home device, to be honest. It used to be so unthinkable (honestly I thought only millionaires would have access to this kinda tech) but as the years went by it got more and more affordable. And my visiting the States last year end was the perfect opportunity to get one. The only question that remained was which device to get…

Why a google home?

Honestly there were only two options I was considering, the google home mini and the amazon echo dot. Both were cheap (under 100USD), small, and did similar things. I scoured a ton of reviews online and they both seemed to be nearly on par too, differing only in their partnership offerings with third party providers. What finally made my mind up for me was a malaysian youtuber review that I chanced upon – the Alexa completely couldnt understand the malaysian accent at all, and the Google home had no problem processing the youtuber’s commands! And I thought, well, if the alexa cant understand a malaysian accent, it definitely cant understand the Singaporean one hahahaha. And deciphering my speech is kind of a big part of it because, yknw, its a voice assistant. So my mind was made up. A google home it was!

How did you decide which model to get?

The google home comes in the mini, standard, and max size. The mini is the cheapest by far, it was 50USD. The google home standard sized was 129usd. I couldnt figure out what the big price difference was for so I went on reddit and other forums to try and suss out what the deal was… turns out the mini and home do exactly the same thing, but the mini just comes in a smaller size. What! I liked the fact that it was small! So it was a no brainer for me.

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Look at how inconspicuous it is! Like a little pebble
You have to keep it plugged in to a power source btw. I’m just putting this here to illustrate how cute it is. I actually keep my charcoal mini in my bedroom.

Where did you get it?

It was available at a ton of places in the States – Walmart, Target, the online google store.. I went to Target to get mine cos I didnt want to wait for it to arrive if I shipped it from the Gstore, and I wanted to play with it IMMEDIATELY!

If you set it up in the States, was it a problem to bring it back home?

Nope, the only difference is the plug head. Other than that, I just set up the google home mini each time I moved (3 x accomodations in the states and then again when I got home) I would just reconnect it to the wifi. It just has to be on the same wifi network as your phone, then you can control it using the Google Home app on your phone!

My Mini and I: Married life
Best hacks and everyday life

I super love my mini and I use it a lot. Here are some of the best hacks/ ways that I use it:

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My Google Home Mini in Charcoal, located at my bedhead. Other things I keep at my bedhead are books I’m currently reading/ want to read, body moisturiser and a sleeping mask pot, and a neon light that’s decorative but doubles up as a light source when I’m already in bed and want to see where my moisturiser is!

Starting my day with my daily briefing

I installed the mini at my bedhead, so when I wake up each morning I go “Ok Google, good morning!”
And it replies: “Good morning Jemma. The time is 530am. Currently in Singapore it is 25 degrees with a high of 32 and a low of 25 today. Today, you have F45 at 620am LUNCH MEETING WITH XXX at 12 noon, and MEETING WITH XXX at 5pm. Don’t forget to pay your OCBC CREDIT CARD BILL and GIVE SHANE A WAKE UP CALL AT TEN. Thats all. Here’s the news for today. PLAYING NOW: FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES.”

The google daily morning briefing, which is triggered by the good morning command, breaks down the time, weather, my appointments, and reminders for the day, then plays to me news from pre-selected channels. I trigger the morning briefing the minute i wake up, before I even get out of bed, and listening to it while slowly waking up helps me get into my work mood for the rest of the day.

I LOVE this. I am totally living in the future. Some people raised questions to me on privacy, like, arent I bothered that this thing is always listening to me? Er, not really. My life is already so deeply wrapped around the cloud – I work almost 100% off Google docs and sheets, dropbox, and the like – that I doubt this makes a big difference. The amazing convenience of the home is so great that Im willing to trade off the possibility that the mini is listening to me at home. And besides, I dont deal in any hugely secretive matters, and it would be narcissistic of me to assume that google is interested in my life… if anyone were to listen in on my conversations at home it would just be about me gossiping with one sister about the other sister. I mean, its not terribly exciting stuff. HAHA.

But yes, Google says that the Home apparently only lights up when it’s listening, so I guess that’s an indicator of whether it’s listening or not, although if youre security-paranoid this may not do much to reassure you.

Waking up to a music alarm

More on morning routines. I have recently transitioned into becoming a morning person, but there is nothing I hate more than waking up to the damned phone BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP alarm. Now, I do this every night:
Me: “Ok Google, wake me up with a music alarm at 530am”
Mini: “Alright, what music would you like me to play?”
Me: “KENDRICK LAMAR”
Mini: *unfazed* “Alright, I’ll play kendrick lamar’s music at 530am”

I can 100% confirm that waking up to music puts you in a way better mood than waking to a bleepin phone alarm. You need to connect your google home to Spotify to do this (or pandora or one of the other compatible music streaming apps) but it’s not hard to do within your Google home app.

Being a total taitai when I go to sleep

This is such a chi chi thing to do that I am almost embarrassed to admit that I do it. I love the feeling of sleeping indoors when it’s raining outside, so before I sleep every night, I say:
Ok google, play me the sound of rain

And it plays rain sounds. O M G. This has totally revamped my sleeping experience. I am sooo relaxed when I go to sleep listening to rain sounds, it’s nuts. My sisters and I share a room, and this is their favorite command too. Haha!

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My Google Home Mini in Coral, which is an online store special!!!
I keep this one in my living room. It’s mainly for family use.

Getting it to remember stuff for me

I misplace things a lot, so a thing that I do is to say:
“Ok Google remember that I put my ibanking dongle in my make up drawer”

And when I cant find it weeks later, I just go “Ok google where is my ibanking dongle?”
And it’ll reply, “I remember you told me it was in your make up drawer.”

AMAZING.

Currency conversion

This was something I used a lot in the states, when I was trying to order food I would just be like “Ok google what’s 23USD in Singapore dollars?” and it would convert it for me. I imagine this would be super convenient for people who are living overseas for studies or work, but who still think in their home currency.

TURNING OFF THE LIGHTS FOR ME AFTER IM ALL SNUGGLY IN BED

This is a life CHANGER! As you all know, I try to make it a habit to read for an hour before bed, and I have a shelf of ongoing/to-read books atop my bedhead. But after the hour is up I feel sooooo lazy to get up and go turn off the lights. Anyway I recently got Phillips Hue light bulbs, and after awhile of tinkering around with them, they’re all set up in my room and have TOTALLY CHANGED MY LIFE~

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The Hue bulb!! All Phillips lightbulbs kinda look the same so make sure youre buying the right ones ok haha

So how these work is, you get the bulbs and a Phillips Hue Bridge and set the Hue Bridge up with your home Wifi network. After that, using the Hue app on your phone, you can connect the Bridge to your individual bulbs! The bulbs are pretty easy to set up with your existing bulb lamps. Unfortunately at home I only have one bulb lamp in my room, the rest of my house lights are LED and cant be replaced so easily. I’m thinking of getting the Phillips light strips next!

I followed these instructions to set up my Hue lights: https://www.howtogeek.com/247500/how-to-set-up-your-philips-hue-lights/ for those of you who want more info!

This is super awesome lah because not only is it mega cool, I no longer fight with my sisters on who has to get up and turn off the lights! I just go “Ok Google turn off the bedroom lights” MAGIC!

Google Home: Fixing sibling relationships everywhere. LOL.

Another thing I like about this is that I can get the lights to turn on at a certain time. I’ve set them via the Hue app to turn on a gentle yellow light at 5am during the weekdays (the hue bulb has a ton of colors, you can choose which you want for whatever situation, yknw, like white light for reading, yellow for like bedtime, etc), so that when I get up the lights are already on and I’m not just fumbling in the dark. It makes it a lot easier to get out of bed in the morning too!

A cheaper alternative to voice controlled lights

The Phillips Hue starter set is about 200 bucks, but you can get a TP Link smart plug for about 50 bucks. This is basically a wifi controlled plug that becomes the middleman plug between your powerpoint and your device, be it a light, iron, fan, aromatherapy machine or whatever. Then using the Kasa app on your phone you can set it up and voice control it! You can plug this into your lamp, and turn on and off the lights that way. Works too.

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The TPLink smart plug

Broadcasting messages to the rest of the house when I’m lazy
This is something cool you can do if you have more than one Google Home. You can get one to broadcast a message to the rest of them around your house and scare your unsuspecting family members!! I think it’s mainly for people with big houses lah, so you can broadcast messages like HEY ITS TIME FOR DINNER without walking up and down the stairs. But for me I just do stupid things with it, like..

“Ok Google, Broadcast.”
My Mini: “What do you want to broadcast?”
Me: “Keziah is a lazy ass.”
*From the living room a short while later*… “YOU THEN”

Bahaha.

Helping my mum out in the kitchen

I taught my mum to use the google home for when she cooks! Not only does the Home easily translate unit measurements for you (“Ok google, how many teaspoons is there in a cup?”), it also sets timers pretty easily. My mum has the habit of playing shows on the television while cooking then popping her head out to watch bits of it from the kitchen. Now she can say “Ok google set an alarm for 30 minutes!” Then go watch her drama and go back and take the salmon out of the oven when the Mini pings!

My Mini and I: Spreading the joy
THE GIVEAWAY

As you can tell, my Google Home is the best fifty bucks I ever spent. I love it so much I actually start to miss it whenever I travel for too long, prompting this exchange:


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intense

HAHA. But real talk: I’m honestly so glad the Google Home is now retailing in Singapore, because so many people asked me about it that I was considering purchasing one the next time I found myself in the States (or UK, or Australia) to bring back home for a giveaway. But now I dont have to because if you want one you can just buy it straight from the Google Singapore store! WOOHOO.

That said though, Google has very kindly offered to come on board re: giveaway idea, and we are collaborating this month to give away three classic Google Home sets. All you have to do is leave a comment below telling me what your favorite Google Home hack is, or if you have a smart tip for using Google Assistant that I havent listed above (so I can try it too!).

Please remember to fill in your email in the comment form so I can contact you easily if you’ve won 😀

Giveaway ends on Monday, 23rd April. The giveaway is only open to people residing in Singapore – if you’re entering but you’re based elsewhere, just make sure there’s someone in Singapore who can receive the prize for you, like a cousin living here or something.

Alrighty then. All the best! I’m sure you guys are going to love your google home as much as I love mine 🙂

Ok, Google. We’re out.

x
Jem

UPDATE: Giveaway has closed and winners have been contacted. Thanks for taking part everyone!

#2123| google pixel 2xl vs samsung note8

Hi guys,

In November this year I got my paws on the Google Pixel2XL at the Singapore launch event and wanted to see how it would match up against my existing phone, the Samsung Note8. I told the Google real-human assistant (you know, as opposed to the artificial intelligence system they have) this, and he let out a low whistle.

“That’s a tough battle,” he said.

It’s true. The Note8 is widely considered to be the best Android phone available to man, but now that Google has released the Pixel, they’re basically neck to neck. Both phones are already considered very powerful, and it’s really the nitty gritty details that give either one an edge over the other. Now, I’m no tech wizard although I do super love geeking out over gadgets, so I can’t give you solid commentary on the intricacies of the specs in either phone. But I am an intensive phone user, and one who obsessively customizes and tweaks her phones to get the best possible user experience out of it, and it is based on that that I am now presenting to you: ANDROID WARS!!!!!! GOOGLE VS SAMSUNG.

Disclaimer

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I was seeded media sets for both the Google and the Samsung. I am not being paid for any content created relating to either phones, nor do I earn a commission on sales or anything remotely like that. If you want to know why I switched from being a full on Apple user to Android, I’ll be blogging about that in a separate post.

We also did a comparison of the Apple iPhone X, Google Pixel 2XL, and Samsung Note8 on Hype Hunt’s latest episode – which you can watch here:




But because we’re limited by screen time and also cos it’s a lifestyle and not tech show, we covered more day-to-day features on the show. This post will be a bit more about the in-depth user experience.

Google VS Samsung: the basic stuff

Right out of the box, both phones operate Android but different versions of it. The Samsung Note8 runs Android 7.1.1, affectionately known as Nougat. And the Google Pixel runs the Android 8 – the new Oreo system.

Because Google’s Pixel is native to the software it runs on (Google owns Android, FYI), the Pixel is likely to get updates before anyone else in the future, and it’s also probably going to run more smoothly with these updates. There’s no news yet of the Note8 getting the Oreo, and because Samsung is third party to the Google Android OS, it still has a layer of what’s called the ‘samsung skin’ on the phone. This means that the Note8 will be marginally slower than the Pixel because commands from the Android system will go through the Samsung skin first before you see it. In reality, this hasnt made a huge difference for me. My Note8 doesnt lag, and neither does my Pixel2XL. I also dont really see a huge difference between the two versions of Android, but i think this is more a FOMO situation than anything else cos some people are bound to just want the latest version of the OS.

At the moment though, I actually prefer the older version of the OS that my Samsung Note8 runs because it’s more customisable, especially with regards to widget control. This is because of the Samsung skin that runs on top of the Google Android OS, but it’s also why the Note8 is a bit slower than the Pixel.

The Google Pixel2XL comes with free original quality Google Photo storage until 2020. This is pretty cool cos as far as I can tell, google photos is the default storage album for the Pixel phones. So everything you take is automatically uploaded to the cloud unless you disable it, and the phone has the option of freeing up storage space on the device itself by deleting images that are already backed up to your Google Photos. This might make you panic, the idea of photos just deleting themselves, but its ok cos its all stored in full res on your Google Photos which you can access any time on your phone as long as you have internet connection! This is an extremely cool function because I am all too familiar with that “YOUR PHONE IS OUT OF STORAGE SPACE” pop up and that’s just never going to happen again with the Pixel!

The Samsung Note8 does not come with free anything as far as I can tell, but I dont think the unlimited original quality google photos is a dealbreaker for the Pixel vs Note8 because actually, all phones can download the google photos app and get free unlimited high quality cloud storage. I’ve been using this app since my iphone days and this is actually super. Basically the minute you get wifi, the phone starts uploading photos that youve taken or downloaded on your phone to the Google photos cloud linked to your gmail account. Anything under 16mp is fine, anything above that gets compressed to 16mp. Which honestly is enough for most people unless youre a professional photographer, cos 16mp is pretty generous for a photo anyway. It’s just that with the Pixel, you can keep your pictures in original quality lor.

The Samsung Note8 also comes with two sim card slots so you can run two numbers at the same time, whereas the Google Pixel2XL only comes with one. Again, this is not a dealbreaker, unless you travel a lot to one other specific country for work. Like say, if you live in Singapore but work in Malaysia, then the dual-sim would be invaluable because you can run your SG and work number in the same phone instead of switching to and fro especially when you need to authorize banking transactions or whatever with your OTP.

Google VS Samsung: physcial looks

Both phones are pretty big, with the Samsung being a wee bit longer. No real difference lah cos big is just big. But once you turn it on, the difference kicks in because Samsung has a bigger screen, so you get more real estate on your device.

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The two phones side by side: Display Off

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The two phones side by side: Display On

The most noticeable difference from the front is that the Samsung Note8 has a slightly curved screen that tapers off at the edges, a design aspect ported over from the Samsung Galaxy S series. This gives it a really nice, classy look. The Google Pixel 2XL has a glossy screen too, which is very pretty, but for all intents and purposes it’s just a straightforward and nice looking screen. Both phones have Always On Display functionality, which means that you can tell the time without waking up the phone. The Pixel’s AOD is cooler by a margin because it has auto music recognition, so if you’re in a mall or cafe and there’s music playing in the background, the Pixel will auto-detect it and display the song currently playing in your vicinity. It’s basically like Shazam, for those of you familiar with the service, except it detects the song playing automatically in the background.

The Samsung Note8 is a fingerprint magnet through and through. It picks up fingerprints more easily than the Google Pixel2XL, and while i dont understand exactly why, I can just honestly say that it’s a noticeable difference when both phones are sleeping. This really bothered me at first, and now I’ve just come to accept it as is. I’m going to get a matte screen protector for it so hopefully it stops picking up fingerprints then.

Speaking of fingerprint magnets – the back of the phones also differ quite a bit. I think this is just a minor point because most people will buy a case anyway, but the Samsung Note8 has a really glossy (and thus, fingerprinty) backing, whereas the Google has a nice matte metal back panel. I have no idea why Samsung makes phones with glossy backs and smudgy fronts because literally everyone I know will pick a matte option if they have half a chance to. I definitely prefer the matte feel of the Google Pixel2XL’s back, but then again, this isnt really a big deal once you put cases on both phones. And as far as I know, both phones come with cases out of the box.

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Comparing the back of both phones

Oh, and one last thing. Fingerprint related also. The fingerprint scanner on the Google Pixel2XL is perfectly placed. I really hated using the iphone fingerprint scanner because I found it irritating (the new iPhone X has done away with that though, I heard), and the Samsung Note8 fingerprint scanner is just pure awkward. It’s too high up, it’s on the same panel as the camera (and so you end up touching the camera lens instead quite a bit), and it’s basically a very strange position to have a fingerprint scanner. You can bypass this if you use the iris scanner or passcode instead, but it’s just annoying if youre already used to unlocking your phone with a fingerprint.

Google VS Samsung: onscreen looks

When you power on the phones, the first thing that comes to mind is that the Google Pixel is cuter. The time stamp uses a thicker font, which makes it look more adorable, and the Pixel’s app icons are brightly colored little circles that reflect the spirit of the quad-colored google logo.

The Samsung Note8 is a bit more grown up. I’m using a theme that I found in the inbuilt Samsung theme store, and I adore it because I’ve tweaked my phone screen to show me exactly what I want in the way I want it. As a result, my entire display is more muted, with more jewel tones and less bright pop colors. This is mainly because I have tweaked the phone extensively, but it’s worth noting that while you can do all this on the Samsung Note8 right off the bat, you need a third party launcher on the Google Pixel to change or edit the theme, which is kind of troublesome. I’ve used third party theme launchers before (I used a Sony XPeria, very briefly, 2 years ago) and I hated it because it was just so cumbersome and it slows the phone down. So if you dont want to figure out the mechanics of using a third party launcher, you’re stuck with the original Google skin that the phone comes with.

It actually really annoys me that I cant customize the way the Pixel looks, but to be fair, the original Pixel configuration is pretty gorgeous from day one of use. It comes with a live wallpaper enabled, and mine is an aerial view of a sea washing up against a cliffy beach. The waves move too, they’re perpetually crashing against the beach, and the overall effect is really nice. The same live wallpaper is also available on the Note8, but somehow i think its more optimised for the Pixel cos the movement and colors seem more vivid there.

Google VS Samsung: camera and pictures

Both phones have killer cameras. I initially thought the Samsung was a definite win, but after using both phones for about two weeks, I think they’re basically on par.

Both cameras are really good, impressive markers of how far technology has come. The Google Pixel2XL operates on a single lens, whereas the Samsung Note8 has 2 lenses. Google is trying to prove, i think, that you can get great photos without needing two lenses, and they do quite a good job of that with their Portrait mode. The portrait mode on the Google is also available for the front facing lens, which is nice if you want professional looking selfies. The Note8 only has portrait mode for the back camera, but it is the only camera (of the current 3 flagships – Google, Apple, and Samsung) that allows you to toggle the intensity of the portrait mode, so you can decide how bokeh you want the photos to be.

As a result of its single-lens configuration, the Google photos look a bit more digitized. I actually have to edit the photos to soften them a bit, otherwise it’s too sharp and looks unnatural in certain lighting conditions. The colors on the Google are also more true to real life, so they look a bit colder. But then again, some argue that colors on the iphone and Samsung are artificially saturated. So it depends on what floats your boat. Either way, you’re probably going to edit a picture before posting it, which brings me to my next point – the native photo editing capabilities within the Google Photos folder on the Pixel is fantastic. It’s actually pretty impressive for a native editor. Here are some examples of the photos on both phones:

Selfies:

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Photos with the back cam:

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These photos are all unedited. But once you put in editing, both phones produce fantastic photos lah. I think the act of comparing the cameras is really just an exercise in how amazing technology is now. I’ve shot entire blogposts on purely the Samsung Note 8 camera – look at these amazing low light photos in this Mexican restaurant we went to in Melbourne! I don’t have blogposts that are fully shot on the Google Pixel yet cos I just got it not too long ago, but the Pixel camera is honestly also damn good, like I’m super impressed every single time I use it. I’m going to just put some of my favourite photos from both phones here.. these are edited using various apps on the phones:

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My birthday party this year, shot on the Note8 back cam

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Selfie at St Kildas using the Note 8 front camera

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Other photos using the Note 8 back camera

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Selfie at a cafe using the Google Pixel 2XL front camera

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Photos indoors using the Google Pixel 2XL back camera

PS. This all refers to photos – the video taking capability on the Samsung Note8 is a clear win – you can see us test the two phones and their video functions in our latest Hype Hunt episode. This may not be a big concern for most people because not everyone uses their phones to take video – but it’s important to me because I film and edit my #Jemmainajiffy videos on my phone.

Google VS Samsung: Audio and Music

EARPHONE JACK: Google 0, Samsung 1
SPEAKERS: Google 2, Samsung 1

I have mixed feelings about this. The earphone jack actually doesn’t matter to me because I’ve been using wireless earphones for a long time, I hate wires. I use the cordless Samsung Icon GearX buds with the Note8, but when I was on my iPhone, I used the wireless Sudio Sweden Vasa Blas. So the earphone jack thing actually doesn’t matter to me, although I know it might to some people.

I really don’t know how to feel about the speakers. I think both phones leave a lot to be desired in terms of how they’ve designed the audio experience. Firstly, I think in terms of speakers, Google has got the right idea there, installing front facing dual stereo speakers on the top and bottom of the phone. Samsung only has one speaker on the Note8, and it’s placed at the bottom right of the phone, which is an incredibly awkward place for a speaker because when you’re using your phone chances are your finger will block the speaker and muffle the audio. Between this speaker and the fingerprint placement thing, I think Samsung really needs to find whoever is making these decisions and shake some sense into him, because both of these are really major design flaws.

But then when the music actually starts playing, the sound output on the Samsung is significantly better than the Google. I’m really not a tech expert so I don’t know what the industry term for this is, besides saying the same song just sounds better played on the Samsung than the Google.

So.. the conclusion is you would not be buying either phone for their audio experience.

This is no longer an issue if you listen to your music with headphones on or whatever, but it’s noticeable to me because I listen to podcasts in the morning while I’m getting ready, and I don’t plug in because I want to be able to move around and choose clothes etc etc. So podcasts are always broadcasted off my phone in the mornings. And also, like I mentioned before, I like to watch Netflix videos while conditioning my hair, and obviously I won’t have earphones in while in the shower, so yeah, there are just some situations where I’ll be using the phone speakers instead of wireless earphones, and those are the situations in which the output experience matters.

Props to the Pixel, however, for putting in a lot of effort into designing the music experience of their phone. For example, like mentioned before, when your pixel picks up music playing somewhere in the vicinity, it auto-identifies the song information and puts it on the Always On Display, which is a cool feature especially for Shazam lovers. And when you use the Pixel to play music off Spotify or something, the entire screen changes to the album art, which is pretty nice.

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The Google Pixel 2XL plays with music lovers pretty well.. for anything except the actual music playback

If only the Pixel had better audio output quality. Sigh!

Google Vs Samsung: Assistants

I must say that getting into the AI functions of my phones is a relatively recent thing – I tried Siri briefly when I was using the iPhone, found it totally unusable, and quickly forgot all about it.

But ever since getting on Android, I started fiddling with the AI features on both the Samsung and Google again. Google uses Google Assistant, and Samsung uses Bixby. I’m just going to say, straight up, that there is absolutely no competition here. Google wins hands down.

The Google Pixel 2XL has fantastic, fantastic google assistant capability – it activates either by voice (saying “ok google” wakes the phone up”) or by squeezing the phone. This is so random and cute that I just adore the weirdness of the whole thing. What a time to be alive – you can pick up your phone and squeeze it and it will wake up and ask you what you need! This must be what married life is like.

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Super cool! Nothing happens when you squeeze the top half – it only activates when you squeeze the bits that i put the wiggly line next to

The voice recognition on the Google Pixel 2XL is AMAZING. It can recognize what youre saying relatively easily, it’s able to discern the intention of your statement pretty easily (so I can say “ok google take me home” and it maps me home), and it is incredibly quick. Singlish recognition is coming to Google Assistant soon too, which is an added plus, though not a dealbreaker. All in all, I think the Google Assistant function is integral to your phone usage – I use it nonstop when I’m holding on to the Pixel.

The Samsung has Bixby, which can also be voice-activated (say “hi bixby” to wake it up) or physcially activated with a dedicated Bixby button. Bixby is developed by Samsung, and it doesn’t have the same advantages as Google of having, well, the largest search engine and artificial intelligence database in the world. So when you bear in mind that Bixby is still a baby, it makes sense that it’s just not as good as the Google Assistant. It does have some pretty promising features – I programmed some quick commands into it, which basically means I link stacked commands to a certain series of keywords. (EG. I say “Hi Bixby Goodnight” and it turns off wifi, turns off bluetooth, turns on blue lighting filter, sets my alarm for the next day, clears all my notifications, and optimises my phone battery in the background)

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Dedicated Bixby button – but the Samsung Note8 also supports Google Assistant if you prefer that

In theory, this is fantastic. But the voice recognition capabiliy of the Samsung is just not as good as the Google. Bixby often doesnt understand my speech, which I’m a bit offended at because I’ve been using it for like a month already. And it also randomly wakes up sometimes for no good reason without me activating it. I dont think this is simply a Bixby problem – I think it might be Samsung’s internal voice recognition software, because I also have Google assistant downloaded on my Note8 and it doesnt recognize my speech as accurately as the Google Pixel. Google Assistant on the Note8 is still better than Bixby on the Note8, but yeah, its just not as accurate.

Overall, Bixby and Google Assistant both have different capabilities (Bixby’s stackable quick commands are honestly genius) and in an ideal world, using both on the Note8 would really render the Note8 a powerhouse. But Samsung really needs to work on its voice recognition technology, because that is such a crucial part of the AI experience. So yes, for now, Google wins.

Google Vs Samsung: hardware

Both phones are water-resistant, so you can take them into the pool or the beach without worry. Personally, I load Netflix shows on them and prop it up in the bathroom so I can watch new episodes of shows while conditioning my hair, which is a half-hour affair.

Battery is pretty good on both, especially when you tweak the power saving modes on the Note8. They can comfortably go a full day on a single charge in my experience, though the Pixel has overall longer battery life.

But the Samsung’s main advantage is its stylus. Honestly, incorporating a stylus into the Note series is a brilliant move. Firstly, it differentiates the Note so distinctly from every other phone out there, that if youre dependent on the stylus, you’re never even going to consider moving to another phone system.

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The SPen is the Star of the Note 8

Secondly, it is a damned good stylus. It’s made by Wacom, which is what, like, every serious digital artist in the world uses. It’s pressure sensitive, which means your handwriting on the Note is personalised and pretty, but beyond that, it also means that you can sign off on documents while on the go, which is a huge thing for freelancers like me. The Note8 comes with Office suites, so if clients send me contracts, I can easily endorse them and send them back without having to look for a printer/scanner. This is amazing. I cannot emphasize this enough.

The stylus is also waterproof and made to play well with the Samsung screen. This has two main functions, the more obscure of the two being if youre trying to take a photo underwater, you can use the stylus to do this, because sometimes screens dont recognize your finger underwater. The second, and more relevant function, is that when you use the stylus to take notes, you can lean your wrist on the Samsung screen while writing/jotting notes down using their native Samsung Notes app. This is amazing. You have no idea. I have been using this nonstop at press conferences to jot down important notes and points that I later incorporate into my articles, and its not only more intuitive to use a pen-like stylus, it also looks more professional because i dont look like I might be texting when the speaker is talking? I assume this is the same for office meetings or school lectures.

And lastly – if you’re into doodling, this is also pretty great. I use the stylus every single day for drawing on images, especially on my instagram posts or instagram stories. It just makes for more personalised content, and I personally love doodling, so it made total sense. It also complements the big screen very well, because you have a lot of real estate to doodle on! Every single doodled photo in this post was doodled on using the Note8 Stylus.

The stylus slides right into the Note8 and clicks into place so youre not likely to misplace it – it sends an alert to your Note8 if you move too far from the stylus to remind you not to leave it behind. Pretty impressive!

Verdict

This is an incredibly close fight because both phones are fantastic and I find myself perpetually amazed that we are living in an age where phones are able to be so powerful: they’re basically tiny computers by now. COLOR ME IMPRESSED Is what I am saying. But if youre looking to definitively buy one of the two, telling you both are great isnt going to help much. So I re-looked at the functions and features on both phones, and I narrowed it down to basically one criteria..

The deciding factor is AI vs hardware. Everything else is so excellent on both phones that this is really the main differentiation point of the two phones. If you foresee yourself relying on Google Assistant, the Google Pixel2XL will give you an integrated, smooth experience with the AI. If you love the idea of having a waterproof stylus that can quickly mark up documents and essentially act as an extra arm for you, then the Samsung Note8 might just be your best bet. So ask yourself this question, and you’ll find your decision a lot clearer.

Ultimately, both phones are stellar and I’m pretty sure youre going to love whichever one you finally go with. The real winner here, is the consumer. Keep competing, all you phone makers. I am here for it.

X
Jem

#2117 | Getting my first Chromebook!

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Hey guys,

So I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, but in November, I finally stopped dithering, went out and bought myelf a chromebook.

This came as a surprise to most people – I have a perfectly fine macbook pro (old, but trusty) and I work off a second hand iMac in my office (bought off carousel for $400, can you believe it?). But I wanted something portable and functionable enough that I could use for travel – I’m always on the go, and more often than not I’m out of the country at least once a month. I don’t always need a laptop on these trips, but I do get a bit nervous whenever I dont have it cos I’m afraid something urgent will crop up, so I end up lugging it along out of habit anyway. And half the time, it ends up being deadweight, because I either dont use it, or use it just once on the trip. Of course, a simple solution would just be not to bring anything – but the occasion has popped up more than once where I needed to rush some edits, or do some writing, and I’ve always been glad in those instances to have broguht my MBP with me.

My travel set up is hectic, because I usually have my laptop, DSLR, and an extra lens if I’m headed on a big trip. All things that I obviously will not put in my check in baggage, so I’m always lugging around at least 3kg of electronic weight around with me in my carry-on backpack, in addition to other miscellaneous plane things. I knew I wanted to streamline this because not only is it cumbersome, it’s also not great for my back. And all signs seemed to be pointing to getting a portable work machine that would serve my basic needs while on the go to complement my more fully fleshed out work set up back home.

Ever since my chromebook appeared in my instagram posts, multiple people have written to me asking me to do a review of the chromebook. I’m not a tech expert, so if you want to know the super technical specs stuff, please do your own reserach. But from a user’s experience? Sure. Here we go:

Chromebooks – what?

Chromebooks are basically computers that run on the google chrome OS. It is not a brand, it is a type of device – like a phone, a tablet, or a computer. My particular chromebook is made by HP (it’s the HP Chromebook 11 g5), but you could get one from Lenovo, Acer, Asus, etcetera. Their defining characteristics are usually that they’re cheap, and that they run on the Google OS. Beyond that, each chromebook differs.

Chromebooks – why?

Like I said, I wanted a work machine for travel. I considered getting a tablet, but I quickly realised that Im a traditionalist and I need a keyboard. The tablet + keyboard combo would add up to too much money for my liking, so that was out. My boyfriend pointed out that I could have upgraded my current 4 year old macbookpro to the latest one which is way lighter, and so reduce the number of devices I would need to own in total. But my MBP is chugging along fine, and the new macbooks start at a ridiculous 1,900 to 2,000SGD, which I refuse to pay unless my current MBP dies completely.

That left netbooks and chromebooks. They’re both cheap options – netbooks are tiny laptops that usually run Windows 10, and chromebooks are tiny laptops that run the Google OS. Most retail for 500SGD or under. They’re also smaller and lighter, thus fulfilling the portability requirement for me. I debated for very long between the two, but finally went with the chromebook.

Chromebooks – why I decided to get it and how I decided which model was right for me

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My matte black chromebook! You can identify chromebooks by the little google logo at the top corner

What I got was the HP Chromebook 11 G5. I bought it from the HP store at Marina Square Singapore for $449, and it came with a one year warranty, the charging cable, and a free squishy sleeve.

Deciding on this was a matter of sitting down and writing out what I wanted vs what I needed, what I would realistically use it for (which begs the question: what I was willing to compromise on), and what was available to the Singapore market.

What I wanted
Portability (weight)
Portability (size/dimension)
A good keyboard
Good battery life
Touchscreen option
A nice screen?
Something cheap (<$500) Something that doesnt lag too much Something that looked nice

All of the above I would have liked, but I know that at $500 which I refused to budge on, compromises would have to be made. So I narrowed it down. Portability was key – weight was more important to me than size, although preferably I hoped to find a sweet spot between the two). I had to have a good keyboard because I would be using it mainly to write. I tried one of those super thin keyboards before and hated it, I need a solid keyboard that’s evenly spaced and with good key travel (kind of like the amount of depression you get when you press the keys). Everything else was just a wish list. So this is what my list of needs looked like after considering the above:

Something light
Good keyboard
Cheap

Everything else I reasoned, would be a bonus, but I wouldn’t die without. And I knew for $500, I couldnt expect something that would blow my mind – but that’s ok. I just needed something that worked for my purposes. Everything else would be fluff and glitter dust.

What I would use it for

Narrowing down that above list of requirements came with truly knowing exactly what I was in the market for. People can get overboard when buying new things, and I’m like that too. I want everything! I want a sexy looking laptop that weighs next to nothing and has three USB ports and an SD card reader and solid wifi connection and a screen that will blow my mind, and preferably this dream laptop costs nothing!!

But that’s unrealistic. To narrow down what you truly need vs what you want, ask yourself what you are using it for. For me, I needed something to 1. Blog on 2. Reply emails 3. Possibly book tickets for things when I’m travelling.

So that’s like, a glorified blogging machine. Ok. If I can watch Netflix on it on the go, great, that’s a bonus. But I don’t need a fantastic screen or something that’s got a hardcore enough processor to edit photos on. I can do that on my phone. I just need something small that I can write on. Ok. Great. That simplified things a lot for me. So if youre thinking of getting one, ask yourself what youre going to be using it for, then work backwards from there!

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Working off my Chromebook on my lap on a plane ride. It’s very light, so it balances quite easily.

What was available at my desired price point and for my needs?

For under five hundred bucks, honestly, my options were a B grade tablet, a netbook, or a chromebook.

I needed a keyboard, so a tablet was out.

That left netbooks and chromebooks. I was more inclined towards a chromebook because my girlfriend Kate from New York uses one (they’re pretty rare in SG) and she swears by it, and also because it was new to me and thus exciting. But the netbook seemed safer because the Windows OS is something more familiar, and it has all the things you would traditionally see in a computer – Microsoft office, offline apps, etc. Whereas the chromebook would only run things off Google and the Chrome app store, and its utility was mostly reliant on the availability of a solid internet connection.

So I went on various tech websites to read reviews of specific net vs chromebook models, but it wasnt helpful because the verdict was like, everything had pros and cons and HELLO? Dont tell me that. Just tell me which is better. But nothing gave me that answer. Then I went on tech forums (mostly useless, too much technical jargon) and finally, to reddit. Reddit, the place I go when I wanna hear conspiracy theories about the meaning of the latet Black Mirror episode. But it turned out to be a pretty good thing because the support for chromebooks on various Reddit threads was nearly unanimous.

I realised quickly while browsing threads that I didnt need the windows OS – it was just a more familiar, safe option. Also, windows netbooks tend to be slower, because the hardware developers pay rights to Microsoft to run Windows, so the leftover money invested into the hardware is less. Whereas Google and Chrome is free, so the cost of the chromebook mainly goes towards making a solid book. Then they have profit markups from there.

Lastly, and specific to me: I use a Mac and macbook as my main computers, and I have two phones (work and personal, 2 numbers), one iPhone and one Android. The one thing that would unify everything was the google platform. It seemed unnecessarily complicated to add a Windows OS to the mix, and now I had a solid reason to move most of my work to the cloud. Now, I can edit my documents in Google Drive on any one of my computers, then pick up my phone and add notes if I think of anything extra on the go. It was all about streamlining my workflow, and the Google OS made the most sense for this.

The purchase of most chromebooks will also come with 100GB free Google Drive storage, valid for 2 years. This is really a great bonus!!! It’s obviously to encourage you to store things in the cloud instead of on the device itself, which, yknw, im totally fine with.

Availability in the Singapore market

Chromebooks are not popular in Singapore – I think many people are not willing to move to something that’s so web-based and away from a familar platform, and brands may not think it’s worth it to bring an entire line in? Most great chromebooks arent actually brought to Singapore, and I didnt want to ship something so expensive from the States because I’m paranoid and also cos sorting the warranty out would be a pain. I had my eyes on the Acer R11 and Asus C201, both of which arent available here. So from the existing options I picked the HP. It was between this and an Asus model, but I went to both stores and tried them out several times, and the HP has a truly great keyboard which is crucial for me. It also looks slightly more chic, coming in a nice matte black. So the HP it was!

Chromebooks – My experience so far

I’ve had the chromebook for a week now, and I’ve used it pretty frequently in that time. Obviously, my review might change after six months or one year of use, but here’s my take for now.

The HP Chromebook 11 G5 has a truly, truly amazing keyboard. Typing is so comfortable on this that it is an immediate win for me. And it is so light (just over 1kg) and small (smaller than A4) that I have no problems slipping it in my tote bag when I travel, and sliding it out to pick up work on an existing document on the go. In fact, this blogpost was entirely typed out on a car ride from Pakbara Jetty Terminal to the Hat Yai city center.

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Tada

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The keyboard is matte, has good key travel, and is decently spaced out so typing for long periods doesn’t cramp your hand.

The battery life is sick. Way better than my Macbook – because it doesnt have to do as many things as my mac, and so it doesnt have all the battery consuming applications of a macbook. The advertised battery life is 12 hours, but I usually get about 8-10 out of it, depending on whether I’m working off the internet or not. Either way, I have never had to bring a charger out with me, as my chromebook lasts and lasts and lasts.

Because of the improvements made by Google to it’s offline drive support, I can create and edit documents offline, which becomes immediately synced to the online server once I connect to wifi. Then when I pick it up again from either my Mac or back again from the chromebook, I just copy-paste the contents to my wordpress composer and finalise the draft before posting it. When I work offline, it just autosaves a draft every five seconds or something, so I’m never worried that my work will be lost halfway.

The offline G drive support wasnt available as recently as 2 years ago, and without it I definitely wouldnt have gotten the chromebook because i want to be able to work offline. The offline capability means I only really need the internet to back it up to the cloud server – before Google added offline functionality, chromebooks were useless without internet. This was also was a good signal to me because it indicates that as long as Google keeps updating and improving its services, my chromebook will benefit from it, be it one or five years from now, as long as the hardware doesnt die on me.

For those of you who still want to use MS Word to craft documents, they do have that available as an application. It’s slightly stripped down from the full desktop version IMHO, but still workable. Google owns Android, and in a recent move, they’ve allowed newer chromebooks to access the Android Play store. This means chromebooks with a touchscreen can play games now.. But it’s not something I need or want to do. I downloaded the apps for MS Word, Netflix, Spotify, Dropbox, and Multi Messenger (a multi platform app that lets you chat with whatsapp, FB messener, and Telegram all within the same tabbed app), and that’s all that I need right now. I’m trying to keep my Chromebook free of things that i dont need, because I want to keep the expereince as straightforward as possible and I am conscious of the fact that too many apps will slow it down. So far, it’s been pretty smooth.

And lastly, my chromebook is so fast. Start up time is almost immediate, it springs into action once I open it, and it hasnt given me any lags so far yet. This is also because I take care not to run too many applications at a go or have like more than 10 tabs open, as I know that might slow it down, but so far user experience has been smooth.

Things that I dont like about the chromebook so far are minor physcial things – my HP chromebook’s keyboard, while amazing for typing, doesnt have a backlight. So if I’m working in the dark, I cant see what I’m typing. But I’m so used to keyboards that I can type without looking at the keys, so thats fine. It’s just a minor inconvenience and also something that’s a bit jarring when you first notice it.

My monitor’s hinge is limited to slightly over 90 degrees, and I would have liked the option to push the screen back a bit more so if I work in some positions it makes the screen more comfortable to look at. But this is something that only comes up when I’m working while in cars/planes, and it’s also solvable by adjusting my seating position.

The trackpad is pretty mediocre, it’s not bad, but after coming from using a macbookpro for almost six years, it sure is a noticeable difference. Still, none of these things bother me in the long run because I just smirk at the fact that the whole computer only cost me 450$ ho ho.

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Chromebook relative to human

Chromebooks – Is it right for you?

For those of you who wrote me asking about the chromebook, I know youre scanning through this post thinking so is it a good buy or not!?

Well, that depends ultimately on you. Different people have different needs, and all I can do is give you an honest recount of my experience. I will say that it will never be my primary laptop purely because I need apps like Pages/Word for writing, and when I’m in full on work mode, I have like seven hundred things running at once. But for travel? It’s perfect. The Chromebook makes an excellent secondary laptop, and it’s been a joy so far.

Some of you who wrote to me want to use it as a primary laptop for school. I dont know if I would recommend this because school sometimes requires groupwork and I dont know students these days are ok to work entirely off Hangouts and Google Docs? Again, be sure you know what exactly you want to do with your new computer and if this can be done within the limitations of the chromebook. Heavy video / photo editing and gaming, for example, is a no go. But if youre using this mainly to take notes and do web-based work, I think it’s a pretty good deal.

And if you’re a working professional looking for something light, productive, and power efficient? You won’t be disappointed with a chromebook, I think, not when offline functionality for Google has been so improved and when there’s wifi hotspots nearly everywhere in the city anyway.

The bottom line is, it’s a $450 machine that’s very value for money, does what it’s supposed to do, and this model in particular looks pretty neat while doing so. In other words, yes, Baymax, I am satisfied with my care.

X
Jem

#1316| Healing Touch Singapore Review – Oiling up paid, earned and owned media.

Currently listening to:Red, White and Doze mix tape by The Jane Doze
Status:Sore.

Hey Guys,

I want to talk a bit about this fantastic spa I went to yesterday which had amazing masseuses and a really well executed media plan which is honestly pretty kick ass impressive for a spa.

So for some reason, I was having the worst upper back/neckache yesterday. My headache was also so terribly pounding that my colleagues described me as Depressed Looking, Terrible, and Please Go Home. Yup. Just what every girl wants to hear.

My headache was so bad though, that I didnt just want to sleep it off because I’d wake up with backache still there- so Mavis and I googled Great Massage Places in Raffles and this popped up:

A paid ad, for Healing Touch Singapore.

For those of you unfamiliar, how paid google ads work is, you do market analysis for certain targeted keywords, and then execute media buys and integrated SEO (Search Engine Optimized) copy into your website. Understandably, there will probably be more than one company vying for the same keywords (ie. imagine Starbucks, Coffee Bean, and Spinellis spamming money to buy the top search result for keywords “MOST AMAZING COFFEE EVER“) so Google does some algorithm mumbojambo and you appear on the top paid ads for a certain percentage of the search results. This is classified under Paid Media in Advertising Speak- referring to any ad space you buy. This includes Facebook ads, banner ads, blah blah blah.

So they managed to rank top on page 1 of Google’s search for Great Massage Places in Raffles, which was pretty impressive i thought. This despite the fact that after clicking through, none of their outlets were, in fact, in Raffles. They have one in Upper Thomson, River Valley, and Tampines, which was the one I went to.

I read through their website, which had reasonably compelling copy and the prices really did seem reasonable. The thing that sealed it for me though, was their Facebook page recommendations left by, i don’t know, a million customers?

All discretely glowing reviews! I couldnt understand it. How miraculous were these massages that all their customers took the trouble to go on Facebook to leave them a nice review??? I booked my massage immediately.

Booking done via calling/online booking. It was pretty seamless and fuss free, which was nice esp since i was having a headache and didnt want to deal with Press One for English, Two for Chinese, Three for Malay.. you get what i mean. As another side note, in Ad Speak this falls under Owned Media- any thing or channel you own, like websites, Facebook pages, twitter handles, so on and so forth.

The Tampines branch was conveniently located within a few steps of the MRT, on the fifth floor of the CPF building. From the time i stepped in till i left, the staff and masseuses were polite, soft spoken, and could do wicked things with their hands. I chose their signature Asian Fusion Massage,which is an oil based stress relieving full body massage, and at this one point in time the lady literally got on all fours on top of my back and started cracking the hell out of it. The point being i felt absolutely amazing after the whole thing, and even more impressively- noone asked me to sign up for a package even once. UNHEARD OF.

Of course, they don’t ask you to sign up probably because they know they’re so good you’ll be back soon…

Still, I didnt understand how it could get so many positive reviews on Facebook. I mean, I checked in on foursquare and tweeted about it (received a BUNCH of enthusiastic replies from previous customers, they obviously have a cult like following), and I would probably have made a passing mention on Facebook or my blog, but go to their Facebook page and leave a paragraph? Really?

Then this morning I received this:

it all makes sense now

At first i was wondering how they got my email, and then i realized- The online booking system. So devious! And then, the follow up incentivized call to action.. so quietly effective because potential customers (ie. me) would be won over by the barrage of positive reviews!

This is where the last bit comes in- I very superficially explained Owned and Paid media earlier on, but the last one is basically the dream of every marketer and brand: Earned Media. Earned media is the “snowball effect”, “word of mouth“, or as everyone loves to call it, “viral” effect of any advertising campaign. Most brands are fantastic at paid and owned media, but earned media is always a tough nut to crack. I think Healing Touch did a pretty neat job of integrating paid and earned media to achieve their desired results: not case study level, but pretty noteworthy nonetheless.

And of course, their massages are to die for, so that helps.

Healing Touch
Website | Facebook page
199 Upper Thomson Road (next to Long House food center)
5 Tank Road #01-01 (Opposite Liang Court)
Tampines CPF Building #05-10 (beside Tampines MRT)

x
♥jem