Our lives are full of dichotomies that continue to divide our society. Everything is Ford vs. Chevy, McDonald’s vs. Burger King, Republican vs. Democrat, and Mac vs. PC. However, when it comes to mobile phones, the biggest fight is between Apple and Android. Fanboys (and girls) spend hours bickering over who has the best displays, the best cameras, the best operating systems, and on, and on, and on. Well, as a long time Apple user, I decided it was time to give Android a chance. As soon as I got the go-ahead from Verizon to upgrade, I did some research, and I was off to my nearby store to pick out my new phone.
Initially, I wanted to go with a Google Pixel, seeing as though Android is made by them, and I wanted a seamless experience. That is, until I found out that the storage space on the Pixel only goes as high as 128GB from the factory and I was coming from a 256GB iPhone XS Max, so that option was off the table.
After some testing in the store, I decided that I wanted the Samsung Galaxy Note 10. I was intrigued by the inclusion of a stylus, and the display size was comparable to my iPhone, so that was the phone I went with.
Can’t deny, this is a gorgeous phone.
However, before we get into it, let’s address some of the elephants in the room.
First off, yes, I worked at Apple for a period of time as a technical specialist with the Genius Bar. Second, yes, I am partial to Apple products seeing as though both of my computers are Apple, and I’ve only exclusively used iPhones since around 2011 or so. I feel as though I have to address these things before Samsung fanboys come at my throat for being biased in this (sort of) review of their favorite phone manufacturer.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, I guess I want to dispel any notions that the Samsung wasn’t for me because I “didn’t know how to use it” or I “hadn’t taken the time to get used to it.”
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 is a great phone. It’s sleek, fast, and definitely worthy of being a flagship device. I feel as though I gave this phone a good shake, and to be honest, if I were starting off with my first smartphone now without any prior knowledge or bias, I would have no issues using it. Yet, after all of this praise, I still switched back to an iPhone after a week. I want to get into that, but first…
Why did I switch in the first place?
If I’ve invested all of this time into one platform, why would I switch over to Android? Well, my biggest reason was the rising price of iPhones. When Steve Jobs was the CEO of Apple, the price of iPhones remained relatively static and even decreased when taking inflation into account over the years. Sure, iPhones were more expensive than some of the other smartphones on the market when it was introduced, but prices never soared as they have under the direction of Tim Cook.
In 2018, Apple announced that they would no longer report iPhone sales numbers after year-over-year growth fell to zero. Every year from 2007 to 2017, Apple showed nothing but year-over-year growth in its sales numbers for iPhones, but 2018 was an inflection point. This news led to a 7% drop in the value of Apple stock, and since then, we’ve heard no news of iPhone sales figures. Shareholders probably weren’t happy about this, and to keep the board happy and profits steady or on the rise, Apple decided that price increases were the solution to stagnating sales growth.
Since then, the price of your standard iPhone has risen from $649 for an entry-level iPhone 7 in 2016 to $999 for the entry-level iPhone XS in 2019. Luckily the new iPhone 11 is seeing a decent decrease in price down to $699 for a starting model, which signals Apple’s wariness of pricing out its buyers.
What was frustrating about these price increases was the lack of innovation that accompanied them. Sure, the chips are faster, and we see higher and higher pixel numbers shoved into the displays, but where are the true innovations that made the iPhone great in the first place? I felt as though what the iPhones had to offer in newer generations didn’t justify the higher prices.
So, after reading over and over again about all of the features included with Samsung phones and the Android operating system, I decided that they deserved a shot. I wanted to see why so many Android users were passionate about their phones, and in some ways, I now understand why they love them so much.
What I loved about my Samsung Galaxy Note 10
Just because I switched back to an iPhone doesn’t mean that there weren’t things I liked about my Samsung. In fact, there were features and quirks that I wish Apple would jump on board with, such as:
1. The pinhole display camera
If there were one thing I could change about iPhones today, it would have to be the god awful notch at the top of the display. I absolutely love how Samsung managed to remove the phone speaker from the display and boil down the selfie camera down to just a small pinhole at the top of the screen. I’m not sure why Apple continues to trudge along with a giant notch taking up much of the real estate at the top of the display and think it’s okay. If Samsung can fix this problem, then so can they.
2. Application multitasking
This is yet another case of “why isn’t Apple doing this?” Why can’t I surf Facebook while a YouTube video plays down in the corner of my screen when using an iPhone? Why can’t I have two windows open at once while using iOS? Why? Why? Why?
I love the Galaxy Note 10s commitment to productivity and multitasking. I love being able to work on different things simultaneously or have a video running while I work on something else. Samsung is ahead of the curve in this respect.
3. Fingerprint unlock in the display
If Apple can make this happen with their old home button, then why can’t they make this happen in their displays? Face-ID unlock is very convenient, but sometimes I have to look at an iPhone at just the right angle to unlock it, and that is a little annoying. Samsung lets me choose my methods for unlocking my phone, including swipe patterns, pin numbers, fingerprints, and facial recognition. Give me some options, Apple!
4. The application drawer
I’m gonna miss having this clear home screen.
I used to have an HTC Evo 4G back in the day, and one thing I missed from using that old build of Android was the application drawer, and I’m happy to say that hasn’t changed. It was so nice not having a cluttered home screen full of apps, unlike what iOS has to offer. Every application I download goes straight to the drawer, and I can decide whether or not I want it on my home screen.
What I hated about my Samsung Galaxy Note 10
Okay, hate may be a strong word, but there were some things I disliked about this phone that I wish Samsung would step up the quality on.
1. The camera
This doesn’t apply to the Google Pixel.
That’s right, the number one joke about Samsung phones is back! The camera is just awful in my opinion. In a bubble, it’s a decent camera that can get the job done, but in the context of every other smartphone camera on the market, it’s a bloated, gimmicky mess. Samsung is still playing catch up with Apple when it comes to image quality, and now they’ve even fallen behind the smartphone newcomer, the Google Pixel. The blurring and depth perception of the two rear cameras is subpar when compared to Apple’s portrait mode. The background blur tends to bleed onto the subject creating a softer image that messes with the resolution.
On top of all of that, it took me forever to figure out how to use the camera to its capabilities due to the confusing user-interface. The “Pro” mode for the camera gives users so many superfluous functions, like aperture settings, that I feel as though they did it just to say that Apple “doesn’t have these features.” Anyone going that in-depth with their photos isn’t going to use a phone to capture them, and even if they did, they wouldn’t choose this phone.
2. Phone navigation
I hate the “back” button that is integral to the Android platform. It just feels so outdated compared to Apple’s swipe gestures that make up much of their navigation functionality. This “back” button at the bottom of the display rules over exiting everything from applications to web pages. It’s so archaic, and it even creates issues when using other developer’s applications. For example, when I tap on images while using the Facebook app, I can’t just swipe up or down to exit the image, I have to use the back button to do it, and it kills me a little inside having to do it.
User-experience is everything to me when I review software in my day job, and it’s everything to me when I use my phone. I want my navigation and transitions to be seamless, and the back button feels like an old function that Samsung hasn’t gotten around to changing just yet.
Samsung users, you knew this was coming. Now, I can’t judge all Android phones for this, since the Google Pixel isn’t loaded up with tons of unnecessary crap when you first start it up, but I sure can knock Samsung for it. While running through the pros and cons of this phone to my girlfriend prior to writing this piece she asked why I was making such a big deal out of the bloatware when I can just remove it. In a sense, she is right. It is relatively easy to get rid of it, but why should I have to do this in the first place? When I buy a new car from the dealership, I shouldn’t have to remove a bunch of shit from the trunk and backseat. I don’t want Candy Crush Saga, Yahoo! Play, Slotomania, Merge Dragons, Coin Master, or Yelp pre-installed on my phone.
4. It feels cheap, kinda
Alright, so this is gonna be a divisive criticism of this phone, but it’s one that I can’t seem to get over. The phone feels cheap. There I said it. Now before you bite my head off, let me explain using cars.
When you shut a car door, do you ever judge how cheap it is based on the sound? If you ever rode in your high school friend’s shitty 90s Honda Civic you probably noticed that the door would make a lighter “tin like” sound when you shut it. This indicates to you that the car is cheaper and the materials they used are cheap. However, when you get into a nicer car and shut the door, you’ll typically get a satisfying “thunk” when you shut the door. It’s incredible how these little things demonstrate quality to us, but these small psychological hurdles are unavoidable. Car manufacturers have noticed this over the years, and they spend lots of time, money, and effort constructing car doors in such a way that when you close them, it’ll produce that “thunk” we’re all looking for. Even if the car isn’t particularly expensive, that “thunk” sound gives you a feeling of quality, and in this case, perception is reality.
This is the feeling I get when it comes to the weight of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10. My iPhone XS Max had a very substantial feeling to it. It was slightly weighty, had rounded edges, and the cool touch of the glass and metal made it feel like it was made from quality materials. The Samsung is made from similar materials, yet the sharper edge design and lighter weight make it feel cheaper. Sure, they are both expensive flagship phones, but the iPhone just feels like a higher quality device when I hold it. Don’t kill me Samsung fanboys; it’s just psychology.
These were features that I liked and disliked at different times while using the Galaxy Note 10. Sometimes I thought they were convenient while other times, they were a nuisance.
1. Facebook messenger bubbles
For those of you that have never used an Android phone before, the Facebook messenger app will create a small bubble on your screen every time someone messages you that grants you quick access to the application. At times this was convenient since I didn’t have to go searching for my messenger app to read messages and send replies. However, there were other times when this stupid f****** bubble would get in my way while trying to tap on something else, so I would drag it to the bottom of the display to get rid of it, and moments later, it’s back when I get yet another message. Gahhhh!
2. The stylus
This is where I’m going to move towards some fundamental criticisms of Samsung. While I enjoyed the stylus and its smooth response with the display, I can’t help but feel like this is the prime example of a Samsung gimmick. It’s not necessarily a bad feature on the Note 10, but it feels like something completely unnecessary, especially on a smartphone. This stylus didn’t enhance my user-experience with the phone. It only gave me a unique way of interacting with it. I feel as though this is a microcosm of Samsung doing something just because they can, not because it’s something we need.
3. Curved display edges
Listen, Samsung, I totally get it that you need to hold it over Apple’s head to say “nyah, nyah, our display bezels are smaller than yours” but curving the display over the sides of the phone is completely unnecessary at best and annoying at worst. It’s cool that most of the front of this phone is all display, but when I’m trying to scroll, and my palm is touching the side of the screen, it messes with registering touches. There were so many times when touches wouldn’t register correctly because of this issue, and I just wanted the madness to end.
Why I switched back to iPhone
Interestingly enough, it wasn’t necessarily Samsung’s fault that I switched back to an iPhone. As I said at the beginning of this piece, the Galaxy Note 10 is a great phone and if someone asked me if they should get one, I would say yes so long as they were okay with starting fresh. My problem is that I wasn’t 100% onboard with starting fresh, at least that’s what I learned after my week of using the Note 10.
After years of using iPhones, I’d grown accustomed to certain functions, features, and conveniences. That is completely not the fault of Samsung, but it does highlight the difficulties in switching from one platform to another. I’ll give you a couple of examples:
1. Going from Apple Lightning cables to USB-C cables
Having worked at Apple, I built a sizeable collection of lightning charging cables and power bricks, which is extremely convenient for me. No matter where I go, from the living room to my car, I have lightning cable chargers there for me. Switching to a Samsung created a problem for me. Not only would I have to get more USB-C cables, but also new car chargers that accept USB-C and power bricks that accept USB-C. This was a solvable problem, but an annoying one.
2. My entire family uses iPhones
This was an issue entirely of my own making. I was the catalyst that led to most of my family buying into iPhones years ago because they are user-friendly, high-quality phones. Over the years, we’ve grown accustomed to our family group chat hosted over iMessage and conducting occasional family FaceTime chats. These benefits went away when I switched over to Samsung. In fact, my family was shocked when my text messages started coming in as green bubbles. I was entirely out of the loop from my family, which was a weird feeling. Not Samsung’s fault, but a gap in my user-experience.
These are just some examples, but switching to Samsung meant a lot of changes that seemed like slight inconveniences at first, but slowly turned into annoyances. Again, these are not the fault of Samsung. These are issues that build up over the years of investing in a specific platform. My laptop and desktop are both Macs, and, conveniently, my phone shares an ecosystem of programs, files, and functions that work seamlessly with each other — using a Samsung phone changes all of that. It’s like making a dinner of chicken carbonara, and you add chocolate to the sauce. Chocolate is great, but it doesn’t work with this dish.
Making the switch from one phone ecosystem to another was very different from what I thought it would be. Some people have succeeded at it, but for the time being, I don’t think I’m ready to make that switch because my life is fully integrated into the Apple system. I am glad I tried out something different because it gives me a better perspective on the features I’d like to see Apple implement in the future. As an Apple fanboy, I can say without a doubt that Samsung phones are great too, only different.
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