For a good long while, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was my go to device when it came to reviewing Android games and apps. It was a good device that was able to play pretty much every app and game I threw at it. I also really liked the S Pen for writing quick note of sketching out ideas that I might have had. Despite what some may say about its large size, it actually made things a lot easier for certain things because of it. The larger size gave me plenty of room to write with when using the S Pen and the large screen made playing games and using apps a lot more comfortable to look at. What I didn’t like about it though were the typical complaints you find for most Samsung mobile products. The main one being that I didn’t really like how cheap the phone felt with all the plastic parts used. Samsung must have taken those complaints to heart because the new Samsung Galaxy Note 4 surprisingly features an all metal frame that gives the new devices a much more premium feel over its predecessor.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 doesn’t look particularly different from the front when compared to the old Galaxy Note 3. From the front, they look almost identical except that the Note 4 is a tiny bit taller. The bezel around the screen on the Note 4 also has a bit of a pattern to it where as the Note 3 did not. The main differences however are in the rest of the details which is actually quite a bit and makes the Galaxy Note 4 light years ahead of the Note 3 in terms of design and feel.
The big difference in the design comes from an all metal frame on the Galaxy Note 4. Since I got the white model of the Galaxy Note 4, I’ll be basing these observations on this model. The band around the white model is very nice looking. It’s not entirely all polished looking or metallic looking like on the iPhone 5/5S. Instead, it is coated in matte white with polished champhered edges. It gives the Note 4 quite a unique look that is similar to the iPhone, but different enough where it’s not a complete copy. This alone makes the Galaxy Note 4 a much more premium looking phone than the Note 3 ever was.
Another difference is around back on the back cover. It still uses a textured back cover with that “leather” look, but not longer has the faux stitching on it. That gives it a much smoother and cleaner look. The cover also seems to have a less rubbery feel to it making it a bit more slippery than the Note 3 was. The Note 3 was very easy to hold where as the Note 4, you have to make sure you have a firm grip on it.
Lastly, one of the least noticeable changes, but it’s a big change, is that the speaker has been moved from the bottom of the phone to the rear of the phone. This is a change that I don’t entirely like at all because it makes sounds difficult at times. I’ve never really need a fan of rear facing speakers and believe that speakers should either be on the front of the device, or at the very least, on the sides. Having the speaker on the rear just makes no sense to me.
Also, I almost forgot to mention that the Galaxy Note 4 now includes a finger print scanner built into the home button.
The Galaxy Note 4 arrives with Android 4.4.4 (KitKat). The Note 3 on the other hand only saw an upgrade to 4.4.2. The Note 4 also comes with an upgraded version of the TouchWiz software which in my opinion, looks a lot cleaner than previous version. It’s not too much a difference to notice, but icons seem flatter and cleaner and the user transitions are different as well. The software feels springier and faster, though not sure if that has to do with the upgraded specs or the new version of Android. TouchWiz on the Note 4 also sees some slight UI changes over the previous device but overall, everything is familiar to those who have used a Note before.
On a side note, Galaxy Note 3 users supposedly will see a 4.4.4 (KitKat) upgrade or a 5.0 (Lollipop) upgrade in the future.
I won’t talk too much more about the software here, but most likely I’ll get more in depth about certain included apps in future posts, specifically that of the camera software and the Galaxy Note exclusive S Note software.
For this portion of the review, we are doing things a bit differently. I’m not the one actually putting it through its paces this time. Instead, my wife is the one who was evaluating it. This is because her current phone is an iPhone 5 and I wanted to see what it would be like for someone who had never used an Android device before, let along a huge device like the Galaxy Note 4. My wife is a tiny person, so having her adjust to something like the Galaxy Note 4 seemed like it would be an interesting experiment. Below are her thoughts on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, coming from someone who has never used a Samsung device before or Android.
- The screen is gigantic! It took some time to get used to, but the larger screen makes apps a bit easier to use over a smaller screen phone. I don’t have to squint my eyes to see certain things anymore and games in general are just much easier to play now. I’m also finding that I use my tablet a lot less now.
- Gorgeous screen. Compared to the iPhone 5, the screen on the Note 4 is very bright and clear. It’s one of the best screens I’ve seen which is what I’ve heard others say about it. I’ll have to agree.
- One handed use is gone. I have tiny hands and this phone is impossible to use one handed. Two handed use is a must. The phone is a tiny bit slippery because of the metal border and the rear cover doesn’t seem as grippy as the old Note 3 my husband has.
- Camera seems to be really good. Does well in both well and dimly lit situations. Dimly lit pics however have colors that are a bit blotchy and muddled. Photos though are still quite good don’t come out as dark as they did on the old iPhone 5. Speed of the camera however is a bit slow and it takes a split second for it to actually snap a photo.
- The “selfie” button is a neat little touch. I like that all you have to do is tap the area where the LED flash is to snap a photo. It makes it much easier to take a selfie.
- Software takes a bit getting used to. Going from iOS to Samsung’s flavor of Android will take time to get accustomed to. There are many things similar but also many things that are different. You will spend a ton of time just going through all the settings. On top of that, Android is highly customizable so trying to find the right balance of apps and widgets to place on my homescreen is another challenge in-and-of itself.
- I must find a case for this phone because I feel like I’m going to drop it a lot.
- The stylus comes in handy when jotting down notes. It’s a lot faster jotting down something quick then trying to type it up on the keyboard.
- The speaker is surprisingly loud despite it being placed on the rear of the device.
- There are a lot of Samsung installed apps on the device. Some I use, most I don’t. I’m still trying to figure out what is useful and what isn’t. There seems to be more that isn’t than there are those that is.
Based on what my wife has told me with her experience so far, it looks like she’s really enjoying the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. She’s still trying to learn the ins and outs of Android as a platform but for the most part, it didn’t take her that long to get antiquated with it. The biggest issue was just finding what the Android equivalent apps were that she was using on iOS and for the most part, third party apps she was using were also available on the Google Play Store.
Of course the biggest thing for her was the better camera on the Galaxy Note 4 in comparison to her old iPhone 5. Photos seemed clearer and brighter in good lighting. With poor lighting, photos were a lot brighter as well, though not quite as clear as they could have been, but still better in her opinion than what she was getting off the iPhone 5.
In summary, she is finding that she is using the Galaxy Note 4 more now than her iPhone 5. To her, the screen allows her to see things larger and she’s able to see more she says when browsing the web. There’s just more room to work with and she really likes that.