In praise of the Note 4

I want to celebrate the Samsung Note 4 which, though now quite old, is still giving me sterling service. In fact, this post is being written on it, my feet up on the sofa, on holiday in a remote Scottish location with no phone or data signal. If I find an internet cafe (yes they still exist here) later this week, I will upload it.

What makes the Note so good is its unique combination of practicality and flexibility. As its name states, it is a portable notebook and a perfect interface between analogue ‘me’ and the digital ‘out there’. Most functions are replicated on other phones but it is the unique handwriting input with the built in ‘pen’ that sets it apart. The Note means I no longer need a laptop. I go directly from scrawl to blog, email or report. It is all extremely fast, intuitive and effective, especially after several years of use.

For example, when working on site, or researching in libraries and archives, my handwriting immediately converts to text as I write. I can then take photos and/or make sketches and insert them live into the document. Creating an illustrated report in the cloud and on the go is so easy. It saves hours of work duplication.

The main apps I use are Google Handwriting, Keep and Docs for notes and reports with photos, Samsung Note S for notes with sketches and Google Photos and Snapseed for image manipulation. All these are free. Snapseed is a professional grade photo app with perspective control – essential for adjusting architectural photos. However, it doesn’t do image flip, as the mirror shot of my phone shows! If I get tired of handwriting, I switch to Google Keyboard and use the pen to stab out the words – much easier than fingers!

I find the Note 4 better than the recent crop of handwriting laptops and tablets. The phone simply sits in one hand and the pen in the other, like an old fashioned notebook – no table or desk needed. Incidentally, I also have a Samsung Note tablet but rarely use it. Writing is so much easier on the phone.

These days, the Note 4 sounds a long way from the current Note 8 but it is not as dated as it seems. The Note 5 was a transient affair not available in the UK, the Note 6 never existed and the Note 7 caught fire and was quickly withdrawn. So, in practice the Note 4 is the previous model to the Note 8. It is a credit to its design that it remains an extremely useful tool.

I haven’t been tempted by the Note 8 as it is expensive and adds little to the 4. Also, easily replaceable batteries are available for the Note 4 but not the 8. A charged up battery lasts for months so I always keep one in my bag so I can pick up a big task at the drop of a hat.

Things move on, of course. The brand new Note 9 looks good and has a beefed up battery. Its extra portrait camera lens would allow me to leave my cameras at home for most jobs. However, for now I’m still appreciating the Note 4 as it enters its autumnal years.