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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Stupid 'Smart' Phones

I had been carrying around a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 for nearly 4 years, now.  It was time to upgrade, and Samsung finally announced that it wouldn't even make a Note 6 model, but that I could pre-order the Galaxy Note 7 on August 2nd.

The jump in the model number wasn't so irritating, but these kind of antics always seem to prove that whoever it is in charge of branding has their head up their butt.  Take the advance release of Windows 7, which was called Vista.  It wasn't finished and it wasn't up-to-snuff, but Microsoft had to do something to get a new version out, because Windows 7 (not called that at the time,) was taking forever.  Since the release of Windows 7, Microsoft has dumped all sorts of crappy OSes on us, 8, 8.1, and then the version skip... Windows 10, just so that they can seem as advanced as Apple, with its Mac OS X and iOS 10.

I don't personally know anyone that is happy with 8, 8.1 or even 10.  It seems that we have all settled into Windows 10 despite the fact that we prefer and miss Windows 7, just because it's so important to keep up-to-date.  But it isn't a very good OS at all, with only minute updates and flaunts a boring wardrobe in comparison to Windows 7.

This kind of waffling on versioning is purposely intended to confuse.  I suppose 8.1 counts as 9, now?  It's all just a marketing gimmick.  But there is no device on earth more gimmicky than the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.  Samsung, in its infinite wisdom, totally disregarded what the platform was all about.  The Note was designed for artistic and creative people, and for those who enjoyed using a pen, including note-taking students and business people.  Yet, it wasn't just good at what it did, it was clever.  "Was" being the operative word.

I went in to my local corporate Verizon store to check-out the device on August 2nd, 2016.  But in hindsight, the device wasn't actually made available to me since the SPen was missing.  Had I had the opportunity to try the SPen, I would not have pre-ordered this unit and awaited something better.

But since Samsung, in its infinite wisdom to give us pretty instead of uiseful, decided to not even allow anyone to choose whether they bought a curved edge screen or a full sized flat screen model, for the very first time ever, they effectively turned the device into junk because the curved glass is a completely unreliable writing surface that becomes an obstacle to the user.

On top of that, since the edges of the glass are curved, the width of the glass is measured disproportionately, and this is further complicated by the fact that most of the curved edge of the touch screen is completely useless.  This type of idiocy reveals that the Note 7 is no longer an artist's platform, and was never meant to be such since you cannot .  The Note 7 was simply a bad gimmick that further blackened the Note platform (irreplaceable battery in the Note 4, no microSDcard slot in the Note 5).

Perhaps, if Samsung offered a flatscreen Note 7 model, with touch sensitivity from edge to edge, it could have saved a great deal of face.  I know I didn't want a curved edge display, nor have I ever.  I was simply forced into it, because I knew and respected the Note platform.

Surely, Samsung was trying to take the Note mainstream.  But that curved edge isn't even slightly useful and the sacrifice of functionality for a useless pretty form on a platform that relies on a stable writing surface (functionality).  Look at it this way, I bought the Note 2 because it was a large screen phablet.  As an aspiring artist and as a website and media designer, I could easily take notes, I could draw on photos, I could even pen a sketch or illustrate an idea to a client, easily.

But there is much more to it than that.  Unfortunately, the Koreans, Chinese, even the Japanese don't get us because their perspective is so small.  Perhaps it is hard for their small hands to hold a large phablet?  But I am 6'2", my son is 6'3" going on 6'4".  My wife is 5'8".  We are demonstrably taller, and larger, than our oriental world neighbors.  They don't understand our needs because of their smaller, compact perspective.

This has been proven again and again over time as you see department stores sell out of the limited larger sizes of clothes they send us, such as 40", 38" and 36" waist jeans, while we can't seem to get rid of the 28", 29", 30" & 31" smaller sizes that always wind-up on clearance because we have too many of them.  Girls and women's T-shirt clearance racks are full of XS & S sizes, because they send us more of them when we actually need more of the larger sizes.  And no matter who complains, these Asian companies are always sending out styles in lots with sizes that they deem are appropriate no matter the feedback they get.

Despite the  media and marketers poking fun at our big phones, the phablet platform is great for larger people with stout fingers.  When I moved from the tiny Droid X to the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, I could actually type efficiently, effectively without near as many typos.  It was literally an answer to a prayer.  I couldn't've been happier, to tell you the truth.

But after almost 4 years with a Note 2, it was past time to upgrade.  I wanted to upgrade top the Note 4 as soon as my 2 year contract was done, but the battery wasn't removable anymore, so I waited until the Note 5, but that was a terrible phone because I will definitely take high resolution photos and 4K UltraHD video, and it didn't even have enough memory, or any storage card, to accommodate that.  Just FullHD alone is about 3 to 4 GB an hour.  I easily take 20 minutes to an hour of video shooting the local deer and wildlife, every day on the bike trail.  The Note 5 only came in a 32 GB model and there was no microSDcard support, or any removable storage, for that matter.  It just wasn't practical.

For some reason, the corporate giants that produce phones think that using the cloud is perfectly acceptable, but its not unless you live in New York, Chicago or LA and never leave the city.  Out here in the real rural U.S. that people call "God's country", or disparagingly refer to as "fly-over country", neither internet nor cell coverage is reliable.  Plus, our data limits are curbed by the carriers themselves so that using the cloud, even just for backup, is impractical.

Certainly, those of us who require a removable memory card expansion slot have been left in the cold.  But it isn't just that the wild (mid)west has spotty coverage, if you are a real serious player in the scope of technology, as a corporate entity you are looking to expand and promote your brand.  It's an absolute requirement of your stock holders.

But you cannot expand into rural and developing areas without addressing their needs, and where does Apple, Google, etc.. have to expand its elitist flagship market but into the business minds and leaders of rural, developing and third world areas?

Oh sure, you can record your friends and family in a lower resolution.  But technology marches on and 640x480 video is now a tiny window on a PC screen and we miss out even sooner if we record video at anything less than the optimum resolution.  Eventually, my grandkid will say "Why did grandpa record at such a tiny resolution?  I can barely see you!" That, if he can actually still play the video I recorded of my son.

Of course we need to photograph and record stuff at the highest resolution possible.  We see all those old time photos of our ancestors and wish they were better.  Now the very formats we recorded our kids only 10 or 20 years ago are marginalized.

What Samsung has been trying to do with the Note platform is ruining a good thing.  Every Samsung Galaxy Note since the Note 3 has been a march down hill.  The brand was originally an impressive platform, but now that it is obvious that the Note 7 is shorting out, it seems that Samsung itself has finally killed off what was once the best flagship platform ever produced.

There just isn't anything that compares.  This is clear when I look around for a replacement, now that my Note 7 recall replacement phone is being recalled.
  1. Nothing comes with a multi-pressure sensitive stylus that slides neatly into the phone.  NOTHING!
  2. Apple is the only real competition to Samsung, but they refuse to support any sort of removable storage solution and require everyone to use the cloud.  And now Apple is removing the stereo earphone jack so that we have to carry around a dongle to listen to our MP3s or even swipe credit cards for our businesses?  UNACCEPTABLE!  
  3. Apple offers a pen, but it's easily lost without a dock in the phone to keep it.
  4. Motorola put out the modular phone, the Moto Droid Z, which looked very interesting, until I learned that it no longer offers a stereo earjack, same as Apple's iPhone 7.  Why?  I have both PayPal Here and Square credit card processing I need to use, without a dongle.  Plus, I love to listen to my now rather large library of Google Play Music.  Again, UNACCEPTABLE!  
  5. Google's Nexus and Pixel phones are also absolute crap for anyone in a rural setting because they are also leaving out those of us that require a removable storage solution.  The Drive is nice, but we need access to it to use it in rural areas, and that is spotty, around here.
  6. Hey, I might be an amateur photo and video buff, but that's primarily because I don't want to carry around a lot of gear and I enjoy my mobility, on the bike trail, through the parks, having a camera phone should work for me.  But no one offers anything good, anymore.
There was a day when a company could see the demand of consumers and answer it, but without a Note, I am quite F'ed.  

I'll send my replacement Note 7 in when someone comes out with a phone to fill the void that ruining the Note platform has left behind.  I am not letting it go until there is a solution out there for me, somewhere.

My Note 2 died after pre-ordering the Note 7, and I have to wonder if Samsung zapped it on purpose.  

Has Samsung's reputation faltered?  You bet it has, miserably.  Most likely, it is unrecoverable from here on out.  As a family, we have purchased the following Samsung products based on our happiness with the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and 3 different Samsung Galaxy S 3 phones;
  • 3 more Samsung Galaxy S 6 phones (and of these, 2 users are not happy without the microSDcard support).
  • The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 (it's going to be recalled a second time without a phone to fill its niche?).  I wonder who's going to pay for the 2 cases I bought for it, this time?
  • The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Wireless Standing Fast Charger (as I don't want another Galaxy now, it's not going to help me out anymore, will I get my money back?).   
  • A Samsung hands-free Bluetooth earpeice (which works really well).
  • A 2014 Samsung 32" SHDTV (and it's been my experience that the 2014 SHDTVs are forgotten as far as apps and support go).
  • A Samsung Galaxy CORE Prime (that although is tiny & slow, it has come in quite handy as a second line after I upgraded from the old cellphone when my Note 2 was zapped, especially with having to keep exchanging phones every week or so, and NEEDING a smart phone as a simple requirement for both my job and my business).
  • A Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7" (that I intended to use specifically as a remote for the above 32" SHDTV, but Samsung killed support for it).
  • A Samsung stainless steel french door refrigerator (we actually bought a cooler, better model, but the delivery men switched it on us for this for this stupid model "because the 2 drawer model won't make it through the door").
I think its time that our family boycott all Samsung products, now.

UPDATE: And yet, after searching for well over 3 days now, it seems the only acceptable choice is an older Note (# 3 or 4).  

It's a shame, my father was in the Korean war.  I expected great things, and was happy to see them do well, but now it is clear that they can't deliver and are just taking advantage of us.

That's my take, and I do feel betrayed.  I am a brand expert.  I know this will destroy Samsung's reputation.  But the real reason it does, is because of our experience with them.  Our original buys were awesome devices.  After that, we kept up the loyalty, despite mediocre user experiences owning everything else we have purchased from them.  Despite my very vocal input and feedback, Samsung ceases to think about what I, or any consumer wants.  

It's just a shame.  

Yes, they could come back, but it is obvious that there is a lot for the company to deal with.  It would require that they produce quality technology that people want, and from my experience, they are no longer capable of that.  This debacle with the Note 7 is specifically for trying to mainstream the Note flagship and put it into more people's hands.  But they ruined the platform with 'pretty' over practical performance.  

I certainly have given-up on them, completely.

UPDATE (Oct 13): Although I am considering a Google Pixel phone, it is a stretch for me, without any removable storage solution.  But, at least it has an earjack, ahem... Apple & Motorola... AHEM!

I am also playing with the idea of getting an iPhone and an Aonit Pixel Stylus, but it doesn't seem to support the iPhone 6S Plus or iPhone 7 Plus, yet?  There's always something!  Isn't there?

In the end my only choice might to get an old Note until someone answers the call to provide the flagship phone we all need, complete with a great camera, a multi-pressure sensitive stylus, the microSDcard slot and the old handy earphone jack.

UPDATE (Oct 14): What happens if I turn in the phone and can't find a replacement right away, do I lose my ancient easy-to-remember phone number?  There are just too many unanswered questions and one news program says one thing while another says something different.  

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