Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Samsung Note 3

It came in an excellent box.  I love it when packaging alone makes me happy.  I unwrapped and uncoiled and plugged in before I read the comically short instruction booklet which wasn't an instruction booklet at all.  It told me the wonderful tricks my new device could play. It didn't tell me how to play them.

Perhaps, were I younger, more astute, more comfortable with electronic gadgetry, this would have been less of an issue.  However, I am old.  I am wary. I am reluctant to play with the controls for fear of sending an errant message.  The machine stumped me. I was officially generationally challenged.

It took me a week to realize that the reason no one was answering my calls was because no one recognized the phone number.  The Note 3 came with its own, Texas-based, phone number, pre-installed for easy use upon receipt.  I'd assumed they'd just added another phone to my own cell number, kind of like an extension phone for a land line.  If I take a moment and think about it, that's obviously absurd.  I even had a test right at hand, since my Galaxy S3 and the Note 3 were often right on the desk at the same time.  One would ring, but not the other.  I should have been paying more attention, I suppose, but there were so many things that weren't clear.  This was just one of them.

It took me a week to become comfortable with the device.  Certain apps weren't linked to my primary account, and didn't show up on the new phone.  Chief among those were the phone numbers. Google synced my contacts, but if the digits weren't in the database they weren't transferred from my original phone to the new one. If I needed a reminder that this was more than a telephone, it was right there. The basic function of a phone - to make a call and hear a voice - was unavailable without reentering the data. I spent a day bemoaning that fact.

The Note 3 has a stylus.  It's a very thin stylus, with many extra tips in a neat little bag for use when I press too hard and squish the nib, I suppose. When the pen is removed from its holding slot, a curved menu appears on the screen.  That menu doesn't stick around very long; it took me another week to figure out that by pressing the tiny button on the tiny side of the tiny stylus I could make the arc return. Until I deduced that fact, I was inserting and removing the stylus, over and over again.  It was not a seamless process.

The S-pen menu has Action Memo, Scrapbook, writing and search functions. Having watched the advertisements on television, I was anxious to create a contact by writing on the screen and clicking a button or two.  I'm sure that's possible; I haven't figured out how.  In fact, the messages that I wrote to myself were swallowed up and withheld by the device.  I couldn't find them.  I searched. I scrolled.  I pinched.  I opened and delved deeply into a variety of sections. They were lost.

I went back to the basics.  I took the Note 3 to Ms. Levine's kindergarten class today and took pictures of the students' Mousetronaut stories. Sitting on the table next to one of the artists, we used it to seek pictures of Pluto and Saturn.  It would be wonderful if I could easily swipe them through so that you could see the eight planets (with faces) snarling at poor, excluded, pouting Pluto.... but I am not good enough to accomplish that. The kids were delighted with the device, scrolling through photos and enlarging the ones that caught their eyes.  I had to sigh; I was upstaged by a five year old this morning.

The Scrapbook feature would have been lovely while we were planning a wedding. I could put emails and pictures and handwritten messages all in one place, by dragging and saving the individual items. At least, that was the thought behind it, I guess.  I had the problem of the vanished notes and my utter inability to circle the item I wanted and transfer it to the Scrapbook.  I kept losing the connectivity needed to do so.  That little stylus and little button became more and more annoying as the trial period went on.

I re-read the email which preceded the arrival of the Note 3.  The distributor wanted me to concentrate on evaluating Pen Up, not so much the device itself.  Ever obliging, I looked on the Note 3 for the app... or was it a widget.... or was it a website... or was it some diabolical plot to reinforce my low opinion of myself in relation to electronics?  Whatever it was, I couldn't find it.

It was time to seek help.

Shannon, she of the magic massaging hands, is a genius and an obsessive when it comes to the newest and the bestest of electronic arts.  She's gone from Android to iPhone to Android and back to iPhone in the three years I've known her. She agreed to meet me for lunch and a tutorial.  She had a margarita.  I stuck to ice tea.  I needed to be alert and operating on all cylinders for this lesson.

"What do you want to do with this phone?" was her first question. Pen Up and using the stylus were at the top of my list; she didn't think that would be a problem. I laughed as it quickly became apparent that new technology stumps even the most adept user.  The stylus was too skinny and uncomfortable for her (slightly bigger and much stronger) hands, just as it was for me. We never figured out when we had to depress the button and when the stylus would work on its own.  Perhaps that will come in time, with use.  At the moment, it was annoying.

We spent an hour playing with the S-Pen, writing notes and action memos and then trying to locate them in the device's memory.  Turns out that there's a search function that, with a little bit of concentration and a reorganization of my mental processes brings me to a host of installed apps, running programs, calendar options, and my missing notes. I can't tell you how excited I was to see them once again.  I thought they'd been devoured by the ether.  We drew circles around parts of pictures and we transferred them to Facebook..... and therein, I'm afraid, lies the rub.

The device is wonderful, now that three or more weeks have passed and I'm used to the interface. I took most of my All Souls Procession photos on Sunday night with the camera, and it was simple to upload them to Facebook and Twitter and would have been no harder to add them to Pintrest or Instagram if I used those platforms.  It never crossed my mind to play with them and upload them to Pen Up.

I'm already overloaded with social media's demands. I cannot imagine adding another sphere to which I must contribute.  I blog. I post on Facebook. I tweet, on occasion. And, I live in the real world, with meetings where connectivity is less prized than face-to-face conversations.  Pen Up is fun, and were I more talented it might hold my interest for longer than the three or four half hour stints I put in to do due diligence to the kind people who sent me the review copy. But I don't see the need and I'm not sure I'll use it once I get my own Note 3 tomorrow.

Yes, I'm upgrading because it's just too cool to be able to write on the screen and have it turn into a contact.  Plus, I really want the watch that works with it.

I've been waiting for one since I first saw Dick Tracey.


  1. Now that you have the Note, you can get the Samsung watch. :) I'm still learning Samsung. I'm part of the Apple Chapel, but my daughter wanted a Samsung. We got her a Galaxy S3. She loves it and it was free. She prefers Samsung products. The rest of us use Apple products;. I get lost on her phone and even being a techie, I still cannot find my way. Glad you are loving it.

    Megan xxx

  2. It speaks to me more than Apple does. Little Cuter is has drunk the KoolAid with you, but I am an Android :)

  3. I am relatively new to the iPhone and since I downloaded the new OS, it has gone haywire. A trip to the Apple Store didn't help much and the clerk managed with one dismissive look to reduce me (in her eyes and my mind) to "a sniveling old woman." I cannot imagine trying to learn the Android technology on top of this. Bravo to you!

    1. I found a person at the Android Store who did not talk down to me. Attitude is everything, according to my kids... who tell me that I am capable even when I know that I am not!

  4. I kept reading along, thinking I'd see a photo of it. Then I realized the meta-absurdity of that possibility.

    Thanks for the review! We're an Android household, too, but basically an island in an Apple ocean. So I'm always ready to read first-hand, "normal-person" news of stuff like this!

    1. "Normal Person".... have you not been my friend long enough to know that this is rarely used as a descriptor for me?!?!

      Yes, it was a meta-absurdity at which I laughed a lot... it's a slim square, just like the S3. Thinner than the iPhone and less cult-ish, I think.

    2. Well, with a phrase like "normal person" I am of course speaking in generalities. I mean somebody who, y'know, goes grocery shopping. Drives him/herself around. Has a library card. Uses it. Does not buy technology for technology's sake.

      A lot of room for variation within that group. And yes, I know you do vary. :)

    3. I vary.... LOVE that! There was an NPR story about review copies of items/books and the consensus was that these are usually less favorable than paid reviews. I wanted to like Pen Up more than I did... really... truly...


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