Why I’ve Only Ever Admired the Note Series from Afar

Samsung Unpacked 2015

It’s Note 5 reveal day! Woo?

I have to say that I was a bit surprised at the apparent lack of interest to the leaked press images and specs for Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 (and S6 Edge Plus). Were I a Note user myself I suppose I’d be none too pleased at the prospect of a non-removable battery. Howard seems to be even more dismissive of the Note line; according to him a phablet-sized iPhone has made the Note altogether irrelevant.

But I can still vividly remember being in Hong Kong (in 2012, I think) and seeing Notes and Note 2s everywhere—the super-sized phone was easy to spot in the hands of kids, moms, dads, grandparents… Everyone seemed to have one. I suspect that for a lot of users Samsung is Android, and for a good couple of years there the Galaxy Note was king among Android phones, if only for its size.

Truth is, I’ve always admired the Note series—I’ve just never used one as my daily driver. Here’s why…

1. Carrier Locks

In days of old I had no problem buying Nokias from grey-market resellers (there was really no other choice), but the Nexus has since spoiled me. I don’t do subsidies, and I don’t do $800 phones. Paying for an unlock code on top of that seems wrong on principle.

2. Region Locks

This was, if you’ll recall, an issue with the Note 3. Even if you unlocked your device (or bought it unlocked in the first place) it would still only work in the region where it was sold. A fix for this was made available in short order—thanks, Chainfire!—but it required root. Which brings us to…

3. Modding Issues

Once upon a time I rooted some long-forgotten Galaxy variant for a friend who wanted to move apps to his SD card. The only thing I remember about the process was how unnecessarily convoluted it was.

To mod a Note 4, you first have to figure out which SKU you have:


Then you’ll need to download software for your PC that will enable you to run an exploit, to install a custom recovery and/or achieve root. For this you have the choice of using Odin, a leaked Windows-only program from Samsung, or Heimdall, an open-source app that also works with Linux and Mac OS. If you still have the patience to find and execute the steps necessary to make a Note 4 your own, you’ll most likely end up with a custom ROM that doesn’t support the proprietary Wacom drivers that make the Note’s standout feature—it’s stylus—such a pleasure to use.

These are my reasons for generally avoiding Samsung Galaxy Notes, despite being an admirer from afar. I’m interested in hearing yours, along with any insights from fans of the device. I’ll be posting links about today’s launch in the news round-up later this afternoon; if you wanted to see the spectacle for yourself, here’s a link:

Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2015, August 13th


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