Tuesday, July 16, 2013


The first time I got hooked

As some of you might have notice from the previous part, the Galaxy Note 8 is not my first experience of using a tablet as my primary phone. That honor goes to the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 GSM.

A little over a year ago, I was in dire need to upgrade my aging smartphone. I had tried the HTC Radar because I quite fancy the minimalist UI (I still do) but that experiment wasn’t successful because most of the apps I needed was not, and still not, available on Windows Phone. So I got back to Android.

I knew what I wanted then. I wanted a dual core device with at least 1 GB of RAM. It also has to have a big screen so I can do more with it.

My job requires me to be on the road quite often. So at the time, every time I stepped out of my place I had to carry the following: a smartphone and its charger, an external battery to re-charge the phone in a pinch, a 13 inch laptop and its charger, a paper notebook and of course the requisite stationary.

As I’m sure you can imagine, my shoulders and back started to complain after a while. It’s quite an exercise to carry a fully loaded bag around. Not to mention the anxiety of fearing someone might snatch the bag and stole all of my devices in one go. It was clear that I need a device that had the potential to replace the array of computing devices I carried around with me.

One day I noticed the phone capable Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 was launched and Samsung Indonesia put a $400 price tag on it. My other option at the time was the Galaxy Note 1 which was priced at around $700. I compared the two, weighed their pros and cons before I came to the conclusion that the G Tab 2 with its 7 inch screen (albeit non HD) had more chance at substituting phone+laptop combo. It also has a more developer friendly SoC compared to the Note 1 since the GTab 2 7 runs one OMAP 4 just like the Galaxy Nexus. So I thought it would have a better chance of staying fresh for longer. It was also at least $300 cheaper. So I jumped at the first chance I had to get the GTab2. To my advantage, it turned out that Samsung had an early bird program so I ended up paying only about $370 for it.

I have to remind you that at that point, the N7 was yet to be announced, and while 3G version of the N7 (albeit with no phone capability) reached Indonesia at around January 2013.

Back to my tablet, sure enough after around two months of using it, I totally stopped carrying the heavy bag.

I found that the screen offered enough real estate to do light work on Google Docs, hence saving me from the need to always carry my laptop around with me.

The tablet had also changed the way I read books. Previously, I mostly read physical books since I find the smartphone screen to be far too small for lengthy reading while reading on a PC for hours taxed my back too much. I went from finishing a book in two to three months to munching through two books in a month. It’s safe to say that using the tablet as an e-reader has improved my reading life.

Another thing I noticed was that I spent more time browsing the internet, reading more news and learning about more things each day. If you haven’t noticed, my back is not actually in tip top shape so I find it hard to sit in front of a computer screen for hours on end. Hence the amount internet content I consume depended largely on how long my back can bear the strain. The 7 inch tablet allowed me to have the full desktop browsing experience anywhere and in any position I choose. That’s great because it means that I can now browse and read for hours on end while changing the attitude of my body from time to time. After the first month, I had almost completely stopped accessing the web through my PC.  

Before my switch to using tablets as a phone, battery levels of my devices had always been a source of anxiety for me. Whatever I was doing and wherever I went, I had always worried about the battery charge I have in the each of the devices I carried.

For example, when I’m sat in a coffee shop, the first thing that crossed my mind was deciding whether I should plug the laptop or the phone first? Which one needed a recharge sooner and which one was more important at the time? Those kinds of thoughts are constantly in my head, I worried so much that I had always brought a 15 ft extension cord with me, in that same huge bag!

It goes without saying that switching to a tablet had saved me from the craziness. I only had a single battery charge to worry about and that battery seemed to be able to hold up for at least 8 hours of heavy usage on HSPA connection. 8 hours was surely enough for me to either get back home or at least to have an excuse to get in the car to drive and charge my single device there.

No more multiple chargers to worry about leaving at the café, no more multiple battery states to constantly get anxious about, no more having my phone dying on me after I used it to browse for a couple of hours while waiting for the shop to finish servicing my car, no more carrying that silly extension cord and most importantly, none of that horror of having all my mission critical devices stolen at once.

It is safe to say that using a tablet as my only phone has been a liberating experience for me.
About that community developer support I told you earlier? It turned out that my initial guess was accurate. The affordable 7 incher got official Cyanogenmod support, allowing me to enjoy Android 4.1 Jelly Bean about 2 months from its initial launch and 4.2 in January of this year. That’s quite a feat since even the tablet I replaced it with, the Galaxy Note 8.0, is currently still on 4.1.

So if you live in a place where devices are not subsidized and want to try the same experiment but you’re on a tight budget, a used phone-capable Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 3G is still a good buy. Provided you’re comfortable with Root’n Rom’n. It might be a bit sluggish with Samsung’s firmware but it’s buttery smooth on CM10.1. Furthermore, the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 is out with almost exactly the same specs and will certainly push the second hand price of the older model further down.

If you enjoyed this one, in the next installment I will talk about how upgrading to the Note 8.0 has exponentially improved my productivity, along with the concessions I had to make due to the larger screen.