- By Francis Worden
Note 4 review and look back at Samsung’s poor privacy record
Some of you may remember the article in our sister magazine back in March 2015 concerning deeply worrying security issues in a wide range of Samsung product:
Here at The International this was deeply saddening as we are, were, big Samsung fans here with a lot of their products used in our offices. However the technological atmosphere is changing rapidly here. All of our reporters were until recently given Samsung Note 4 smart phones to help us in conducting our work.
Whilst the hype always compares the Note 4 to the iPhone 6+, let me make this very simple for you; there is no contest.
The iPhone 6+ is a highly advanced smart phone that can perform limited computer functions. The Note 4 is essentially a phone sized computer with full capabilities, they are in two very different classifications and can not be compared.
We use the Note 4 here as we are able to use software and data transfer methods that would simply be impossible on any other device that apple could offer, and believe me we have tried, a lot.
The problems however started to become wide spread throughout The International approximately 9 – 10 months after we all received out handsets.
Whilst on paper the specs are outstanding and when you first start using the device it almost lives up to the secs, you soon learn that the devices are worse than useless, they are the most unreliable devices we have ever used.
Let’s start with the main issue, the battery. Samsung is proud of it’s ultra fast charging system that allows 15 and 30 minute charges to take you from 0% to 30 and 50% respectively, and to be fair this works every time. This issue is that the batter even fully charged only lasts about 30 mins. You have a land line basically not a mobile device.
We tested a large number of the devices over a 10 month period and found that with standard conditions of: Internal memory 90% capacity and SD card at 50% capacity with no constant background applications running. At new we needed to charge these devices twice per working day (not great), after only 4 months we were charging the devices on average 3-4 times per working day, and after 10 months all of our staff were given 4 spare batteries and a portable charging unit as the batteries were lasting between 15 minutes and 2 hours (total range of all the devices, mean 45 minutes).
At 10 months into our 24 month contracts the vast majority of the devices are in the bin. The problem is not the batteries themselves, it is the device, it power dumps, releasing all of the battery’s stored energy at once both killing the battery and damaging the device in a power surge that can wipe valuable data.
Secondly even if you have a device that can hold it’s battery power for more than 2 hours, your device itself is unlikely to stay on. The Note 4 loves to crash, often turning on and off repeatedly many times before freezing rendering all solutions bar one useless, the battery pull. Unlike iPhones, Samsung permit you to remove the battery manually, this is essential in such a poor quality device.
So apart from being a useless landline that constantly crashes these high tech devices must surely be error free, right? Well, no, unfortunately not, the Note 4 despite an impressive 2.7 GHz processor with 3 GB of RAM the devices freeze, a lot, they can not handle fast typing or speech to text dictation. Swapping windows in multi screen mode or swapping between multiple open apps will also kill the device, this seems to be the most common cause of it’s power dumps.
So if it has all of this potential but performs so poorly over time it must be cheap? Well no, our devices ranged from £53.50 to £103 per month on 24 month contracts.
So why would anybody pay so much for a device that is not fit for use?
Well to be honest these devices do work reliably if; you do not use it for what it’s meant for. The Note 4 is targeted as a business smart phone capable of handling demanding users; it’s not.
The Note 4 works fine as a smart phone, but if it’s a smart phone you want, you really can’t beat the iPhone 6+.
If it’s a high performance smart phone that you can use for a demanding work life, then the Note 4 is for you, as long as you are willing to buy a new one every 3 months or so.
If it’s a smart phone for business that can replace your laptop you want, then unfortunately this is not it by any means, in fact one does not yet exist. Although on paper the Note 4 could be used as a tablet or even a note book (perhaps where it’s name comes from) the reliability and life span of the device means that it is not fit for this purpose.
With iPhones, you know what you are getting, they do what they say, not much by comparison, but they do it. The Note 4 you never know, there was a lot of variation between individual handsets, and they did not wear well with time or use. It’s a bit of a gamble as to what you will get and how long it will last, but to begin with at least they will run rings around the iPhones, for a short while at least.
We settled on a mutual decision on rating for the Note 4 among the journalists in our London head office:
Battery: 1/5 (We only gave it 1 because it charges so quickly)
Ease of use: 5/5
Data transfer: 5/5 (USB comparability is a great feature)
Value for money: 3/5
Compatibility & Available Software: 5/5
So if Samsung sorts out it’s reliability issues then all is well?
No, as an entity the worrying privacy issues covered in the magazine story featured at the start of this article remain, but who isn’t spying on us these days?