Samsung Galaxy Note OTA Update

The new OTA update is out! But if you are one of those hoping that it will be the new ICS update, well, I have to disappoint. The latest update for the GN is meant more for better usability controls along with an improvement for the onscreen keyboard.

The new OTA update pushes the firmware to N7000DXLA1.

One Hand Operation

Five Rows with Numbers on top

Numbers keypad has also been given the same tweak

The largeness of the screen will make it difficult for some of us to type with one hand and the UI has been improved for the keyboard to do this. The keyboard is now made a tad smaller with the option to be placed more to the left of right depending on your preferred typing style.

So if you are thumb typist, you can still use your right thumb to do the walking while the rest of the fingers are used to grip the device. The keyboard only works if you select the standard Samsung Keypad. They Swype keypad has no affect should you select one hand operation.

The Samsung Keypad now has five rows of keys, with the addition of numbers keys right on top. This is great. No more shifting around to get numbers when you want them and that means one handed operation gets easier.

Typing speed should improve considerably and this should take things up a notch. The rest of the layout hasn’t changed so you will still find the same mic input button where it usually is.

Lock Screen

New Screen Lock like the Galaxy Nexus

torch widget

When it comes to lock screen access, Android is on top but the stock standard lock screen on the GN was a bit different and people did not know how to get around this. What Samsung has done is simplify it further should you want immediate access but do not want to use a pattern or key lock.

It gives you an idea on where you wish to swipe to unlock and how to swipe it. Frankly, I don’t use this feature at all, preferring instead to use a pattern lock as I find that more snazzy.

Lastly there is the torch widget, which of course lets you peer into dark places by using the inbuilt camera flash as a flash light.

There are three settings, pushing it once will give you some light, second push will give it full power and third is to switch it off. Aside from this, the updates are not really significant. What I am more concern about is stability of the OS during day to day use and if this improves stability, then I am all for it. Right now, there are compatibility issues between ICS and Gingerbread. In the same sense, any firmware upgrade be it on iOS or Android will open up a can of worms. We can safely assume that this update for Gingerbread will be the last one before Samsung pushes out ICS. I would caution all of you to NOT rush this.

Both Apple and Google over the years have gotten ahead of themselves in terms of firmware updates, most of which will impair your previous apps and give you a new set of headaches than solve them. For this I won’t take sides on which is better because I have friends who are suffering from device failures on iOS 5.01.

If this update is not going to do much for you, then skip it. It will not hurt you one bit.

 

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Borderless Data Roaming on Portable MIFI

Jump into the Box

I just ordered my JumpSurf personal hotspot for my Galaxy Note and am excited about it. Just as you were about to give up on data then something like this comes along.

Now what the heck is this jumpsurf thingy? (www.jumpsurf.com)

For those of you who do not travel, jumpsurf will mean nothing for you. But if you are data savvy and travel often to a neighboring country in Asia, this makes a lot of sense.

In Asia, roaming can be had in two flavors. There is the daily buffet, a all-you-can-eat data plan that cost a flat rate of about US$10 when you go from Singapore to Malaysia or Malaysia to Singapore or the snack plate where you are charged for what you use. Now the Snack plate is the most convenient. You don’t have to register for extras, just roam with your phone and pay between US$2.50 to US$8.00 for 1MB of data. WTF?!

For the buffet, you need to ROAM with a preferred roaming telco partner in a neighboring country to enjoy that flat fee. If not, you will get hit with multiple snack plate charges that will run into hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

So what about you, who just want to use some data but not sit at the buffet table or for that matter pay exorbitant prices to have a snack? Have you lucked out or did the data evolution just didn’t take you into consideration?

This is where JumpSurf steps in. The prepaid plan is for fixed data blocks of US$0.20 for 1MB block.

Why hasn’t anyone thought of that?

Mobile Telcos realize now that data is the new revenue stream. You do FB, Google+, play games, access email, etc. People do not care to call or text because data is there for you for free. Get on IM, Skype or Viber and you won’t get charged extra for talking or sending messages to your friends.

JumpSurf Personal Hotspot

For telcos, giving you a cheap data plan would mean giving away their profits. This will not do. So expensive data charges is the way forward and we can already see this in the form of throttled data plans for those who exceed their data bandwidth. If Data was cheap, they have no reason to do this.

The same logic applies for data roaming or borderless data usage as some like to call it. There is no such thing as roaming on a flat rate for one simple reason. It is too much of a hassle for telcos to band together to give a flat data roaming rate to partners. You can tell from the Bridge Alliance Network, where telcos who join give reciprocal data roaming charges to one another but the list is always limited to a handful of operators. Often this is to protect their own turf. Lesser in numbers mean that they can charge you for data access when you forget to turn it off when overseas. I have had so many people who venture across to another country and forget that they have their data access turned on for data roaming and it happens too for Blackberry users—for those who think that the BBM service comes free when overseas.

JumpSurfing

Mobility Top Up Screen Account. Personal details have been blurred for privacy reasons

JumpSurf aims to change this by making the whole process of overseas data access much simpler. First you have the JumpSurf device, which acts like a mobile personal hotspot allowing you to connect up to five devices at any one time. Complementing this device is the JumpSurf Mobility plan, that allows you top up your credits for data access.

The device is very easy to use and comes preloaded with some credits to get you started. Start up time depends on the location you are in and it can be up to 3 minutes for it to hook on to a telco partner signal.

The unit can give you roughly 3 hours of continuous use before it needs to be charged again. Charging time for a full charge is 2 hours.

Topping up is easy, just buy credits when you need to as seen on the screen on my GN. The top up portal is browser friendly so as to make it compatible with all mobile devices.

From the top up screen, you can see the balance and battery level of the unit so you know how much juice you got left to soldier on.

The neat thing about this is that there are no messy wires, accounts, or settings to worry about. Though I didn’t like the fixed WLAN login/password combination that comes with the unit, I was told that this can be changed when you contact the system admin.

On my GN, I have a WIFI management control so whenever I switch on the JumpSurf Hotspot, it latches on automatically. All I do is switch off my Data Roaming in the settings panel and I can now access data without having to sell my left kidney once I get home from overseas.

Oh, and there is no expiry date for the top up. Unlike prepaid data roaming cards which limits you to a fixed amount of data for a period, JumpSurf Mobility Service has no such thing so you can use as little as you want.

I am a moderate user and the plan suits me well. For heavy users, it might be better to go with the prepaid wireless data plan on a daily basis or the buffet package—both require some settings tinkering or SIM card changes.

Patented Technology

I was wondering what this patented technology is and asked them about it. It seems that the personal hotspot device has in inbuilt SIM card that is tagged to the hotspot device. If you remove it, the SIM and hotspot device won’t work. This I was told was a security measure to prevent fraud or security violations.

The technology itself is in the hotspot device, where it does everything automatically using the SIM card as a form of ID. The SIM and device have to be registered to a single user so should it be stolen, you can quickly get in touch with the system admins to have the account barred. All remaining credits will be transferred back to you when you get a new device.

There will be a roll out schedule for Asia in 2012 and will cover all countries in the Asian region. Right now, the roaming service is available only in urban Indian cities, Singapore and cities in West Malaysia.

Reading List

I have been sick. So that means activities are limited and the best you could do is read. Now reading has never been simpler than on my iPad and since getting the Note, I was wondering if the same experience could be had on Android. Apple’s iBook reader is spiffy. Load up your PDFs and ePub formatted books and you’re given a choice of two shelves, one for PDFs while the other for ePubs.

ePubs are the de facto standard for ebooks these days and Apple supports and extended ePub format meant for pictorial books that has yet to be adopted by other eReaders as yet. For the rest of us, PDFs are probably the best way forward for reading pictorial magazines.

Readers Hub

On the GN, we are given the Reader’s Hub. But it is not a iBook competitor nor was it designed to be one. Samsung’s Reader’s Hub is actually two apps made into one, namely, Zinio and Kobo. There is a also a newspaper section which allows you to download and subscribe to the dailies for a fee but in all, none of them actually allows you to load up a book on your own to read on the go.

Reader’s Hub comes stock standard on the S2 as well. This is probably the saddest app on the GN. iBooks on the iPhone and iPad could easily do this, making sure you don’t go out looking so if you do have to look, what’s there anyway?

 

Go Books

Go is the name of a slew of apps from a Taiwan based company. Found on the Android Market, you can download this for free onto your GN. What I like about this app is that it is fully compatible with the GN in terms of screen size. There is no problems running it and has since become a favorite of mine.

The idea and execution is similar to that of iBooks. You upload the PDF and ePubs of your choice and have the app recognize them by autoscanning or importing it from a directory within your SD card. Once it is up, you are presented with a book shelf of all your reading material.

Because it operates very similarly to iBooks, it becomes a joy to use. The book mark function helps you to keep track where you left off even though you may be reading more than one book at a time while the Night Mode turns the background to black with the text in white, making it much easier for the eyes. The Night Mode function only works with ePub files.

Limitations

In PDF magazine mode, you can only display one page at a time even if you were to read it in landscape mode. This means double page spreads are never seen as such so much of the impact of a photo that shares the gutter space can never be revealed in its full glory. Furthermore, the pages of the mag is scrolled from top to bottom and not flipped from right to left like a real magazine.

I am sure there are other apps that do this quite well but I am looking at free apps for the time being. That said, GO does pretty well for free and I won’t be changing my mind about this app until I tire of it.

Any book I upload is stored in the SD card. That said, I can manage my space quite well without having to worry about it occupying valuable RAM storage or USB storage on the Phone. A larger screen does make it easier to read a book. Trust me. I still use my iPad to read books but never on a iPhone screen.

The GN comes a close second and this is what I am interested in. The Note is a tool and not a toy. If you want a toy, go buy an iPhone. There are loads of games for it. There is far more entertainment value for the iOS. If you are looking for serious work, the iPhone is a bad choice. Too many distractions and too small a screen to justify the price.

Control your Desktop on Galaxy Note

For sometime now, iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad have had remote desktop app but few ever heard of it for the Android. If you care to look, Jump Desktop has one that runs on the Note.

Remotely accessing your desktop have long been the domain of the computer geek and they know how to put this to good use. It is like a personal cloud service, so instead of paying to have it, you just buy the app to remotely access all your files at home.

In the past, you could do it by cleverly hacking your WIFI router and using your MAC address to virtually tap into your home desktop but there security issue. Jump removes the issue by securely identifying your login and gives access to your desktop machine securely.

I have tested this on the Galaxy Note and it runs but there are limitations. The Note is multitasking and should you suddenly want to send off an email from your phone, Jump suddenly stops working. Everything else should work just fine.

Desktop App

You need both the desktop app and the phone app installed for it to work. The desktop app which is OSX and Windows friendly is free. you need to buy the mobile app which can cost you about US1.00 (that’s the price I paid during the offer) so please check with Android market for the latest information on this.

The Desktop app has a menu bar widget that allows you to switch on remote access on the Mac, but you must authorize it to do this the moment it is switched on or else it won’t log you in.

For the sign in, you need to use your google account. If you don’t have one, it wont work.

Mobile App

Downloading the mobile app is easy enough, and there is a link at jumpdesktop.com for you to do this. You can remotely control your desktop from several computers just by registering each one and leaving them on when you need to access files.

So what good is this. For one, you can access your documents for example you may suddenly want to fetch a desktop Word file and have that dropped into your Cloud storage for multiple sharing. All this can be done remotely so that you don’t have to worry about carrying all the files with you as you go along your day.

Documents can also be opened, as you can see, the app when connected as cursor controls which you can use to spring clean your desktop should you be bored out of your wits in some remote corner of town. You can trash files as if you were in front of your computer so that should be quite productive.

On the Galaxy Note, you have more screen real estate to deal with. The AMOLED display also helps with the reading. I think for Tablet use it would even be better.

 

 

Going Side Swype

image

swype screen on Galaxy Note

When you are running about or in motion, typing is a bitch. Just when you think your forefinger is on target to hit a key, you go sideways and hit the next key and should you keep going, you’re going to end up with lots of spelling mistakes. Sure you can have text prediction switched on but that rarely helps if the keys you tap make no sense in the first place.

I have the same problem on iOS and Android devices and for a long time, had to struggle with it. Heck, you have seen all the jokes made on “Damn you auto correct”. Often it is the wrong keypress that gets autocorrected to mean something else and bummer. I hate that.

The Galaxy Note has a Samsung Keypad built into. That said, it’s plain jane vanilla and I never liked it. But how many of you are aware that Samsung also included Swype into the Note?

WTF? In a perfect world, it would be the type of keypad you’d use when you are too drunk to type. To enable this, you need to go to settings>language & keyboard>Swype

I have in the past sent out pretty bad text messages. Thanks in part to bad type on a keypad while moving about. So it would make sense to have something where you don’t press on but rather swipe around.

The Swype keypad is spiffy. It spells out stuff for you as well as include punctuations where it should matter. Though still in beta, the keypad works far better than I have imagined.

For example, typing the word merry would mean hitting the “r” key twice. But Swype senses this and gives you a predicted text in blue as an optional word. Brilliant! And there are a few more tips too if you want to know more, just head down to this link.

If you have had problems typing, I think you should get this. Face it. No one is going to notice you’re drunk or for that matter a bad typist who keeps missing the keys if you can’t get your fingers to work straight. Best of all, it’s already installed on your Galaxy Note.

So far, only a few handset makers have bothered to preinstall this as Swype collects a license fee. Aren’t you glad you had a Galaxy Note? As for iOS, there is a Swype wannabe app but that cost US$3.00. Buy it at your own peril.

Install from Non-Market

One of the first things you should do is for an Android device is to make app installations easier via the settings page shown  down here. We all know that Google has Android market but should you wish to install apps from say Amazon’s appstore, then you need to know how this can be done.

Non-Market Apps starts here!

Google is pretty open about the fact that you can buy apps outside of Google’s own App Market. But there are some questions on this on whether this is a safer option. Truth is, the answer is a big negative. Google does not check apps for malware though it has the capability of removing it remotely from your phone if they find one.

Google has a very loose policy for app developers. You can put anything up as long as it is not outright porn.

This is the main reason why it hasn’t been allowed to operate in China but that’s not to say you can’t find appstores for Android devices there. China has several Android device stores and these can only be accessed in China since paid apps use a different payment option instead of paypal or western credit cards.

I am not going to list them here but you do need a Chinese bank account to get it going.

Now what about the other appstores you can use? Samsung has it’s own Appstore and though it is pretty thin in selection, I think there will be more in the future. Samsung started one to support it’s own Bada OS.

Most paid apps can be purchased through credit/debit card and you need to register this.

Galaxy Note Apps

Galaxy Note apps are very few for now. To find them you need to access the Samsung Appstore but there’s a number of free stuff if you care to look. These are mostly games and work perfectly on the Galaxy Note. Samurai 2 is particularly good as I bought this on the iPad before.

There are a number of Stylus apps which you can use to paint or draw. I will review some of these as I go along.

Right now Samsung is seeking more developers for the stylus and since it is shipping the Note by the truckloads now, we should be able to see some developers hopping onto the bandwagon.

As of end 2011, Samsung shipped over a million Galaxy Notes. The devices have yet to hit the shores in North America though Canadian carriers have them. Even in its homebase of South Korea, the phone was only launched in November.