Whenever I get a new smartphone, I write a review blog. Last year I wrote about the Galaxy Nexus (click here). I ended that blog by pining for the Galaxy Note, but it wasn’t available on Verizon. This year Santa delivered. Lucky for me Verizon carries the upgraded Note II. I loved my Galaxy Nexus, but jumped at the chance to switch to the Galaxy Note II. I’m glad I did.
Why I like it
- Amazing screen – One of the main draws to this device is the huge 5.5” screen. It is really big, bright, and crisp. The first time I saw the device it looked huge, but after about an hour, all other phones just look puny. And, yes, it fits in your pocket fine even with the jeans that have “shrunk” on you over the past couple of years.
- Incredible battery life – With such a large screen and 4G LTE, I figured the battery life would be horrible. Luckily it is the complete opposite. I have most of the bells and whistles turned on all the time and after 16 hours or so, I still have nearly 70% battery life remaining! With the Galaxy Nexus, I would often run out of battery by the end of the day.
- It is VERY fast – The thing has a quad core processor and 4G LTE so everything about the device is very fast. It never seems to slow down. Then again, this has a more powerful processor than the 3-year-old laptop does. Crazy how fast technology has evolved.
- Comes with a pen – There is a cool little pen that docks in to the bottom of the device. The screen is big enough to hand write notes, draw, or just use the pen as a mouse. The system is also smart enough to use the pen to hover over things and have them interact (hover over an email and it pops up the message in a little window, hover over a video in your list and it pops up with a preview of the video, etc.).
- Control your phone with motions – You can turn on different gesture motion options. I have mine setup so that I can wave my hand over the phone and the screen lights up briefly to let me know the time, how many calls I missed, and battery life. Get a phone call when you forgot to mute – just turn the device over and it auto mutes. Need to go to the top of your emails, just tap the top of your phone. Open a contact or read a text message and want to call that person – just hold the phone to your ear and it will auto dial them. Lots of other options available.
- Still light and thin – With such a huge screen and big battery, you would think the device would be heavy. Oddly it is not at all. Yes, it is a couple of ounces heavier than the iPhone, but the Note II is only 6.35 ounces so it is not heavy.
- Great camera – The camera takes great still and video shots. It also has some special features for slow motion, fast motion, panorama, best face (you can take a series or group shots and pick the best expressions from them all and it will put them all in one picture),and my favorite is the ability to say smile for the camera to take the shot.
- Really loud speaker – A lot of phones have tiny speakers that are barely loud enough. My Galaxy Nexus was like that. The Galaxy Note II however has a speaker that is really loud and crisp. Sounds great.
- Smart home screens – There is a feature you can activate that will give you smart home screens when doing specific functions. For example you pop the pen out and you have a home screen for pen type activities (drawing, note taking, etc.). You can also plug in a headset and a smart screen will pop up with music player and other functions.
- Very fast boot up – The device boots up from powered off to functional in about 12 seconds. I wish my Windows 7 laptop booted up like that…
- Runs the latest and greatest Android – It is always better to get a new phone with the latest version of Android and this one has it. This version includes Google Now, which is better than the iPhone’s Siri.
- Texts also go to your Inbox – Sounds like a minor thing but it is pretty cool. If I get a text message, it pops up in my email (which also means my desktop Outlook) so I can read and reply from there. I like it!
- Notification Bar – The notification bar is interactive and more informative. It used to just tell me how many unread emails I have but now it gives me the subject lines of the messages. It also has a handy quick task list at the top to turn on/off things like wifi, Bluetooth, airplane mode, etc.
What is annoying (no deal killers here….)
- Bloatware – I don’t think I will ever understand why the carriers dump a bunch of bad apps on the phone and there is no way to uninstall them (unless you want to hack the phone to root it). At least some of them can be disabled now, but that is a manual effort and not a straightforward process. I’ve never heard of any customer liking these apps.
- The darn thing is slippery – With the entire phone being smooth plastic with no texture, it is slippery. I wish it had a textured back surface to better help the phone from slipping out of your hand. I have not dropped it yet, but feel like it might happen at any time. I’m not a fan of cases, but might opt to get one for the sole reason it will make the phone less slick.
- Odd text sizing in the email app – I know, with such a huge screen the text size should not be an issue. You can change the size of the text and even the font that is used, but oddly in the email app, the text size on the list of emails is really big compared to the size of the text when opening a message. Consequently I have to make the text size for the email list huge just so the size of the text in the message is big.
- Verizon logo is everywhere – For some reason Verizon went all out branding the darn thing. The logo on the back of the device is much larger than in the past, the logo shows when the device boots up, and the big home button on the front of the device also has a Verizon logo. A 3rd party has even come out with stickers to cover them up!
- Slow power button response – Now I know I’m getting nitpicky. Pressing the power button turns on the phone so you can see the home screen. Most of the time it takes a second or so to see the home screen after pressing the power button. Just feels slow. Feels like the slowest thing about the phone actually.
- The apps are sorted by date? – Yes, you read that correctly. Click on the Apps button to see all of your apps and they are sorted by the date they were installed. AND if you delete an app, it leaves a blank hole where the icon was. The amazing thing is that there is no way to change it. What the heck?! I had to install a 3rd-party app call AppZorter to sort them and get rid of the empty space. Works great – just need to remember to run that every once in a while.
- Can’t turn off alerts/speaker at night – I really don’t want to hear my phone get a new email at 2:00 AM. There is an option to set the peak and off peak times for the email app to sync your emails, but that does not affect Gmail and other alerts. I installed a free app called Timeriffic which can handle multiple schedules and multiple options for what to silence and how.
- Wifi notification is always on – I’ve gotten used to it, but on the notification screen, there is always a line for the wifi whether you have wifi turned on or off. Normally I have wifi off so I would not care to see this notification at all.
As you can see from the two lists, the pluses outweigh the minuses, both in quantity and magnitude. With purchasing this device, I was really after the big screen and the pen for taking notes – and I’m tickled with the extras. If you want a new smartphone and like a really big screen then check out the Note II. You won’t be disappointed.
Want to learn more?
Here are some additional resources for the Note II:
- Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (click here) - If you want a blazing fast smartphone with a huge screen and amazing battery life, then this is the one to get.
- Gelaskins (click here) - Really cool protective gel skins for your smartphone and iPad. The best part is that many have matching backgrounds for a seamless look. You can even send them your own picture or artwork and have a custom gel skin made!
- SoundJaw (click here) - Elegant svelte sound enhancer and booster for your iPad.
- Sharp 90" LCD HDTV (click here) - Yikes. Too bad my wife won't let me get one - not that I have an entire wall to dedicate for this...
- Vent Miser (click here) - A programmable AC/Heat vent for your home.
- Bheestie Bag (click here) - Drop your smartphone, camera or other digital device in the lake on vacation? Drop it in a Bheestie bag and chances are it will be fine.
- Lil' Piggy Power Bank (click here) - Very small key chain size battery backup for your smartphone. Recharges via solar power or usb.
- LG HBS-730 Bluetooth Headset (click here) - Great headset that works with multiple devices - smartphones, PC's, anything bluetooth.
- Kindle Paperwhite E-Book Reader (click here) - The latest and greatest e-book reader.
- Google Nexus Tablets (click here) - Great Android tablets!
Task: You rely heavily on your smartphone for staying connected, but are you getting the most out of this powerful tool? Surfing through the app store can be overwhelming, and forget about reading the phone’s help manual.
Solution: Waident’s support team huddled to come up with some of our favorite apps – plus we’ll direct you to some good online resources for how to get smarter about your smartphone.
How: Check out the list below, organized by task area, to find ones that might make your life easier.
Touchdown – Great Exchange email application with more robust features than built-in Android email client. Allows for multiple profiles, more like Outlook, set time for syncing, remote wipe, pin ability, and a huge amount of customization settings.
Google Voice – One feature of this app is the visual voicemail, which transcribes your phone messages into written ones.
Evernote – This is a note keeping app – similar to OneNote, but Evernote is simpler.
Dropbox or Skydrive – Provides online storage that is especially good for files that you need to access from multiple devices. As an added bonus, you can upload your pics automatically so you never have to worry about losing those precious baby (or party?) pictures.
Dictionary.com or Merriam-Webster – One of us uses it mostly for the word of the day. Merriam-Webster even lets you do a search by speaking the word versus having to type it.
iAnnotate – For those people who have to review long legal, business or other PDF documents, this app makes it easier to read, mark up, and share those documents.
Metra Minder – Quickly find your train schedule (there are versions for most cities with public transportation) instead of fumbling through a clunky website.
Transit Tracks – Tells you when to expect your next CTA bus or train so you can time your exit perfectly.
SpotHero – A great way to find the best price for Chicago parking.
Pandora – You may already use Pandora on your laptop. This app goes mobile to easily stream music based upon a band or genre – on your phone.
Google Goggles – Accesses Google’s extensive library of images – of buildings, products, whatever – so you can learn more about whatever picture you’ve just snapped!
Pulse – This neat customizable news reader takes your favorite websites and transforms them into a colorful and interactive mosaic.
Instagram – They say a picture is worth 1000 words – and this app makes it easier than ever to share photos.
Goodreads – Find new books, keep track of books you’ve read, and, of course, read what other people thought about books you’ve read. Includes a barcode scanner.
IMDb – If you’re a movie aficionado, check out this app. It has the things you love about their website (movie and TV database) all packed into a nice little app. Get show times for theatres near you, fan and critic reviews, etc.
Amazon Flow – Uses your phone’s camera for real-time searching of products and Amazon price look-ups.
Amazon App Store – You’ll find more apps on this site plus a free app of the day.
Our Groceries – Easiest way to sync shopping lists across multiple devices so no trip to the grocery store is wasted.
Flashlight – Uses your camera’s flash ability to turn your phone into a flashlight for those dark and stormy nights.
Tips for iPhone — Tricks & Secrets – If you’re one of those “never reads the manual” people, this iPhone app may teach you a thing or two. We got the reco from this New York Times article entitled “How Smart Is That Phone? Apps Unveil the Tricks.”
Want more Waident DYK Tips?
The best kind of friend is the one who will tell it to you straight. He won’t hum and haw and pretend to love your idea because he doesn’t want that awkward moment of truth. She trusts your relationship enough to know that while the truth can sting in the moment, in the long run it’s her way of looking out for your best interests. These kind of friends are willing to say, “Don’t be dumb,” and you’re willing to listen.
Well, I have a few of those tell-it-to-me-straight scenarios that I experience with clients:
- Technology support – Dumb technology support is everywhere. I see it all the time. People take the easy route to solve a technical problem. Sometimes they will say that it simply can’t be done. Or they will do one-off fixes that “solve” the problem in the moment but not permanently. Let me give you a common example. Some technicians will manually map a network drive as a temporary fix, when they should spend the extra time to figure out why drive is not automatically mapped when a user logs in. Exceptional support involves thinking through the situation and determining the best path for the longer term solution. And saying something can’t be done? Unacceptable.
- Buying gear – Inexpensive equipment is often a bad deal. We’ve all been there before – we buy something cheap and it dies before we’ve paid the credit card bill. By all means compare options and prices, but don’t let price be your only driver. Look for value and challenge yourself to think about what you really need.
- Demo-driven software purchases – I see it all the time. A company needs new software to handle one or several of their business needs, and they do a Google search to find a few options that might address their needs. They do some demos and choose the one that looks the best. They buy that system to only find out that it has some major limitations. This problem is easily addressed by doing two things – document a needs assessment before the demo. Make the vendor tell you how the software will address each required item, then attach that assessment to the vendor’s agreement. Define success on your terms, not theirs.
- Low budget – Just because you can get away with not having a technology budget (or a really low one), does not mean you should. We see this syndrome over and over with very consistent results. The companies without a thoughtful budget have a much higher rate of problems and downtime. Not to mention that employees are miserable when their essential technology is unreliable. Be smart and make sure your technology line item is as thoughtfully considered as your the rest of your budget.
Now even the best friend in the world isn’t going to prevent you (or me) from occasionally making dumb decisions. It’s called free will and it’s been getting us in trouble for millennia. It’s how you handle your own and other’s bad decisions that defines character. In other words, what do you do when bad things happen? But that’s a whole other blog article.
Technology consultants – I’m not a big fan. And I don’t think I’m alone. Sure, some large companies need consultants, but I believe that smaller firms should steer clear of them. Frankly the larger companies don’t really need them either, but that is another blog about how big bureaucratic organizations are often broken and need exhaustive coalition-building meetings and CYA documents to make decisions.
Let me be clear on my definition of “consultants”: people who provide expert advice professionally. They are in the advice business first, and the action business second. What does that mean? In my experience it means too much money gets spent on too many long meetings that result in too much time spent producing too many “thought pieces.” What’s missing? Getting the project done in a timely way. Instead execution happens after delivery of a dusty binder and an additional project bid.
At Waident we respect clients’ time, quickly making great decisions and then executing. And we do it on budget and on time. How do we make this magic happen? I think there are four underlying reasons for our success: intimacy, trust, connection and orientation.
- Intimacy – We get to know our clients, their goals and how they make decisions, which means we don’t need exhaustive meetings to get background for every project. We see the kinds of technical issues the organization faces every day because the problems cross our helpdesk, and are logged and reported.
- Trust – Because we have longstanding relationships with our clients, they trust us to make sound decisions based on our experience across many companies. We don’t need to produce 30-page documents to justify our existence or our recommendations.
- Connection – We work to get the right people in the room the first time and keep the discussion crisp. We only have follow-up meetings if absolutely needed. We provide timely, concise communication after meetings and to track project progress.
- Orientation – We are not consultants; we are a consultative technology management company. It may sound like I’m splitting hairs, but it’s an important distinction. Our product is not advice, it is active management of a client’s technology, delivered in a consultative way.
So are there any good consultants out there? A few. My favorite consultants are more consultative and action oriented, and less prone to wordy treatises on this, that and the other thing. They focus less on reams of B.S. advice and more on driving positive action for their clients.
If you are “stuck” with a consultant, make sure you have someone in the room who has a good B.S.-o-meter, and can help re-focus on action versus discussion, timeliness versus exhaustiveness.
- M-Disc (Click Here) - a disc media that will last for 1,000 years!
- Cool Sh*t You Can Buy (http://www.coolshityoucanbuy.com/) - Enough said
- Samsung Series 9 Laptop (Click Here) - A light, thin laptop with a large 15" screen.
- Flea3 Camera (Click Here) - Tiny 8 MP camera with interchangeable lenses
- Vent Miser (Click Here) - A programmable AC/Heat vent for your home.
- ZAGGsparq 6000 (Click Here) - 4 times faster charging and power on the go
Task: You’ve created dozens, maybe even hundreds, of Word documents. But are you being as efficient as you could be?
Solution: Review a list of time-saving techniques to help you work faster, and more effectively.
How: We’ve done our homework – researching sites and asking some Word power users – to find keyboard shortcuts and other tips to make using Word more productive. Please note some of the tips might be slightly different for earlier versions of Word. We’ve also provided links to some of our favorite online training resources if you feel inspired to learn more.
Open Word (Really Fast): Windows key+R then type “Winword”
Use Templates: Templates can really be helpful for upgrading the professionalism of client or customer facing documents quickly and easily. Spend a few minutes surfing through what Microsoft has to offer. The list is pretty extensive. To find these templates, after you open Word go to File, New, Sample Templates.
Go to Beginning or Ending: Hit Ctrl+Home or Ctrl+End to go to the beginning or end of a document.
- A word – Double click on the word
- A sentence – Hold down the Control and click with the mouse
- A paragraph – Triple click anywhere in the paragraph
- A whole document - Hit Ctrl+A.
Close a document: Control+W
Paste Your Formats: If you want to apply your formatting and styles for a given paragraph or document to a new paragraph or document, hit Ctrl+Shift+C to copy, select the text you want to apply the formatting to, then hit Ctrl+Shift+V. Colors, fonts, styles and all other formatting will be applied.
Format Text: Use keystroke shortcuts to format your text, including Control+B (bold), Control+I (italicize) or Control+U (underline). Control+E will center, Control+J will justify text left to right and Control+R will right align.
Undo an Action: Control+Z. Helpful when you accidentally delete a sentence, or change your mind on formatting or other changes.
Redo an Action: Control+Y. Undoes the undo. Upon re-reading, you realize you really did want to delete that sentence.
Convert a List into a Table: Highlight the text then go to the “Insert” menu bar and select Table, picking the “Convert Text to Table” option from the drop down menu under Table.
Zoom In: Hit Control and scroll with the mouse to zoom in or out
Find and Replace: Highlight the text your want to replace, then click on Replace on the Home tab (or Control+H), then type in the new word. Select Replace All to replace all instances of that word in the document.
Get Rid of Red and Green Squiggly Lines: If you don't want to see Word put red squiggly lines under words that aren't in its dictionary, and you don't want green squiggly lines under phrases that don't match Word's grammatical rules, use File, Options, Proofing, and clear the checkbox next to "Check spelling as you type" (that gets rid of the red squiggly lines) and "Mark grammar errors as you type" (that gets rid of the green ones). You'll now need to get into the habit of starting a spell check by pressing F7 or going to the Review tab and clicking Spelling & Grammar. If you don't want Word to check grammar while it checks spelling, clear the checkbox in the Proofing menu next to (you guessed it) "Check grammar with spelling."
Export to a PDF: Anytime you send a document to another person for review (versus editing), saving as a pdf can ensure that the formatting stays as you intended it, and won’t get messed up by their viewing it on a Mac or with a different version of Word. Simply select Save As and pick PDF from the dropdown menu.
- Word 2010 tips and tricks - http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/word-2010-tips-and-tricks-RZ102673170.aspx
- 12 Time-saving Tips for Microsoft Word - http://gigaom.com/2008/02/21/12-time-saving-tips-for-microsoft-word/
- 15 Essential Microsoft Word 2010 Tips for Beginners - http://www.pcmag.com/slideshow_viewer/0,3253,l=265750&a=265720&po=1,00.asp?p=n
Want more Waident DYK Tips?
I wrote a blog a few weeks ago entitled “Sometimes Technology Sucks!” Of course my marketing person cringes every time I say that phrase, so now I need to do a little horn tooting. I can say all day long how great Waident is, but why believe me? Instead, as I tell prospective clients, ask my existing clients.
Since phoning up our users can be time consuming, we asked some of our clients to go on the record about their Waident experience. You can see all of what they had to say at our website’s Client Testimonial page. In the meanwhile, here’s a summary of client feedback:
- “High-Touch, Personalized Service” - Pranav Kothari, Managing Director of Mission Measurement
- “Waident Makes Me a Better Lawyer by Solving My IT Problems” - Bret Rappaport, attorney with Hardt, Stern & Kayne, P.C.
- “Waident’s Approach is Much More Proactive” - BJ Swanner, IT Manager for Epic Land Solutions, Inc.
- “Took Away My Worries about Technology” - Larry Strickland, Owner and General Manager for Brouwer Brothers Services
- “Very Quick Response Time” - Jon Oestermeyer, CIO and Director, Customer Care, for RightPoint Consulting LLC
- “Waident Has IT under Control” - Erin Walsh, Principal for Chicago-based NorthCape International
- “Truly Functions as an Extension of My Business” - Terrence D. Moore, Owner and Board Member for Aspen Earthmoving
We’re certainly not perfect, but I’m proud of the enduring relationships we’ve built with our clients. We’d welcome the opportunity to make you our next testimonial.
Yes, we’re heading into budget season again – time to lift your focus from the day-to-day business to plan one to three years out. Let’s face it – most of us don’t look forward to creating and managing to a budget (except the CFOs – God bless them). My experience, however, is that those companies who thoughtfully plan their technology investments each year have a leg up on those who stay in reaction mode. Of course, their first question is, “How much should I spend on technology?” Wouldn’t it be nice to have a resource that told you the magic number (as a percent of revenue) to spend on technology (or marketing or sales or…)? Well, wishing doesn’t make it so; I would be lying if I told you there was a no-brainer answer on how to budget.
Instead, let me tell you what I’ve learned from being a virtual part of 50+ companies over the years:
- Winning companies see technology as an investment versus just an expense.
- Being cheap now can be expensive in the end.
The clients that invest in their technology every year spend a bit more, but have less downtime, more reliable systems, and can focus on their business and future needs. The clients that do not invest annually end up in a cycle of fire drills with more downtime and less productivity. And here’s the kicker: they have to shell out a bunch of dough every five years or so to get the technology up to speed and reliable again. Ultimately the clients with the annual investment philosophy end up spending about the same amount of money over the years as the ones that do not invest annually, and they gain with increased productivity from more reliable, predictable systems. Yes, you heard that correctly. The firms that invest annually are ultimately better off and don’t spend a lot more than the firms who use the famine-and-feast method of spending.
Don’t believe me? Let me give you examples. We have a client that has about $25 million in annual revenue. They invest annually in their technology and their budget is about $1.25 million, or 5% of their revenues. This budget includes support, hardware, telecom, everything to do with technology. This client has systems that are up to date (not cutting edge), and they rarely have downtime or technology fire drills. Our regular tech meetings are about the business needs and looking forward. Contrast that picture with another client that is about $10 million in annual revenue with a technology budget of about $200K, or 2% of their revenues. They have aging equipment, face regular downtime because of failing hardware and old software, experience near constant technology fire drills. Our meetings are all about the technology “time bombs” and what we can do to avoid anything from blowing up.
As you think of your own business, which option would you rather have? Spend less money in most (but not all!) years and accept business interruptions and drama. You might call this the “Cold Sweat” model. Or have a consistent budget, predictably investing in technology thereby reducing your risk and increase your employees’ productivity. Think of this as the “Focus on the Business” model. Ask yourself which environment you and your employees would prefer.
At the end of the day, we support both types of clients, counseling them to spend wisely and only invest in things that will help make the business more productive and/or reduce risk. Ironically, the reactive clients often spend MORE, not less, in Waident support dollars. Turns out that being in reactive mode is more expensive than proactively executing a plan.
If your company is ready to stop worrying about your technology blowing up, talk to us. We love to help clients transform their relationship with technology through a thoughtful and ongoing discussion of their business needs, smart planning and excellent execution.
I’m continuing my series on Waident strategic partners -- first I talked about what makes a great partner, then last month I introduced Woodmark Technology, Inc. If Woodmark helps make a company’s data smarter, this next partner stores the data and applications in a smarter way. Meet XNet Information Systems, Inc., a boutique data center located in the western suburbs of Chicago.
Back in the day when I was CIO, we housed our data on servers located in a noisy, locked closet in our office. There are some companies who still are well served by this type of set up, but increasingly my clients are taking advantage of cloud storage (learn more about how to decide what’s right for you).
For those clients who don’t want to deal with the behind-the-scenes hardware so they can focus on their core business, XNet is the provider I recommend. Here’s why XNet is a trusted Waident partner. First, XNet doesn’t provide a cookie-cutter solution, instead they act as a true partner, helping companies create a flexible infrastructure that is customized to their needs. Second, XNet delivers personal service. How personal? Where else do you get the cell phone of the organization’s president? As I’ve written elsewhere, sh*it happens. Look at Amazon, a juggernaut in the cloud storage space. Recently they had significant outages. Try reaching a live person at Amazon! Yes, sh*t happens, but sh*tty service doesn’t have to!
I have a third reason for liking XNet; this is a company run by a man whose focus goes beyond just making money. XNet President Arthur Zards will tell you a little sheepishly that XNet helps finance his love of smart people. Not just smart employees, mind you, but smart people in general. As the curator for TEDx Naperville, Arthur is committed to helping great ideas to travel. If you haven’t discovered TED yet, I encourage you to check it out.
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