The Infuriating Experience of Switching from iPhone 4S to Samsung Galaxy Note 2

Before I begin, I will just say that I am fully aware what I am getting myself into. The commenters here will instantly label me a fanboy and delegitimize anything I say from this point on. Why? Because I will be praising Apple and complaining about Android. In my defense though, I have written countless articles praising Windows Phone, Google, and many other companies for making excellent products. Can you guess what the commenters of those articles labeled me? That’s right, a fanboy of Microsoft, Google, and on occasion, even Nokia. In fact my last article here was possibly the most anti-Apple post you will read in a long time. But that doesn’t matter. I am a fanboy.

Putting those distractions aside, I will try to stick to facts and leave opinion out. So let’s start from the beginning. A friend wanted to buy me a present and asked me which  phone I prefer, the new Galaxy Note 2 or the iPhone 5.

I have been using the iPhone 4S since its debut and that was a choice I made, since I have access to pretty much all Android and Windows Phone devices. I have been overall happy with a few exceptions, but like many, I got bored of it and when I say “it”, I mean iOS.

So, when the opportunity presented itself to switch to Android’s top of the line device (last week, now the Nexus 4 is, but that is a rant for another time.), I jumped on it and asked for the Note 2.

I am now very much regretting that decision.

I find myself trying to pick up the Note to read emails, tweets, messages, etc but keep getting drawn back to the iPhone. Why? Let me explain.

Android Jellybean is a fantastic operating system, way better than its predecessors, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, and even Ice Cream Sandwich, a huge improvement. Having said that, one cannot talk about Android without addressing the layers placed upon Android by the manufacturers, in this case, Samsung.

You see, the Note 2 is an absolute WOW device. The specs are off the charts, the screen is fabulous, and the S Pen is ridiculously futuristic with all its integrations. But those are the trees! The forest is a complete mess!

There are literally tens of examples of this but I will focus on one. One instance of a key feature/functionality that is so poorly implemented in Android, that I literally do not understand how anyone who needs to get things done, uses this platform. Again, Nexus is different but a vast majority of Android phones sold are not Nexus devices, they are Samsung devices. If you want to separate the two, then talk to Google and blame them for giving away their baby to the devil, but this is the reality.

I want to talk about notifications. On iOS, you like getting pinged for every message you get, you can. If you are in a meeting and your phone is off, you can have the new notification show up on the lock screen, at which point, you can either choose to unlock the phone or not, but the choice is yours. How ironic.

On Samsung’s version of Jellybean, you are in a meeting, your phone can vibrate or play a ringtone for a new email, but no indication of what the content of the message is. You want to know? Unlock your phone and look. Unnecessary extra step, but no big deal, right?

Of course, it does not end there. Even after you unlock your phone, swipe down the notification bar, you only see the last tweet, the last message, or the last email. Missed 20 emails? Sorry, you have no way to know that. Even the Gmail app has no indication of how many unread emails you have.

This is borderline infuriating for anyone who wants to be productive, not to mention a person like me with A.D.D and a need to stay on top of my notifications.

What if you are not in a meeting and your phone is on? A new email (not Gmail, I mean the Email app) will display a little envelope that you have a message. What is that message? Click to find out. Why not just tell me?!

Again, I understand this is a personal preference but in iOS, you can configure notifications however you like. You want a popup for new messages? Done. Want the app to show how many unread messages you have without clicking through? Done. You want that app to display notifications in notification Center? Done. Android Jellybean with Touchwiz? A little envelope with zero information.

Oh, I know quite well what you Android fans are going to say next. “Download a better email client”. Oh, I tried, trust me, I tried. I even tried to download apps that offer better notifications, ironically called iPhone Notifications. None of these are real solutions. I tried email apps including Enhanced Email, K9, RoadSync, Touchdown, AquaMail, to name a few. None of them simply show me who is the sender of an email and what is its subject.

To achieve this basic need, I have to use two different apps to check my email. Or… Wait for it, I can use an iPhone.

Again, this is one simple example, but this is reflective of the experience I have had over the past week switching from iOS6 to Jellybean with Touchwiz.

Again, Android fans, I know what you are going to say “Get a Nexus”. That is one solution; I definitely love my Nexus 7. I have two things to say to that:

  1.  That is not a real solution. Android is still a complete mess with every OEM doing to the operating system what it wants and the loser ends up being the consumer.
  2. More importantly, there are two real options for the Nexus route. First is I can get a last generation Galaxy Nexus, which means I have to compromise on hardware in order to get the best Android software.

The second option? Get the Nexus 4, which comes out on November 13th (coincidentally my birthday. Subtle hint). While that is a good option I might consider, it also means no LTE (which right now affects me less but will affect me in the near future).

In other words, no matter how you look at this, you can use Android and get an open platform that lets you fully customize your experience, which in many cases is truly awesome, but that also means you will have to compromise somewhere on something. Or, get an iPhone 5 and, well, I don’t see any real reason not to.

I know, I know, I am a fanboy. Except I am not because I am giving Android a chance to wow me and in many ways, it has, but at the end of the day, this is not a political election campaign and I am not voting for an operating system based on values such as openness and transparency. I want a phone with the best supporting ecosystem and the best possible experience to get things done.

I am going to continue to use the Note 2 for now but mainly because I am forcing myself to, and not because it is the best thing for me and my daily productivity.

Looking forward to the personal attacks in the comments.

Author: Hillel Fuld

"Hillel is a tech blogger who manages multiple sites such as Technmarketing, Appboy, and inneractive. In addition, Hillel has written on many leading online publications such as Mashable, Gigaom, and others. In addition to his blogger hat, Hillel is an active Twitter personality who defines himself as a "Social media addict". When Hillel is not blogging or tweeting, he is the Head of Marketing for inneractive, a mobile startup that deals with app monetization across all mobile platforms."

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  • Nunyo Bidness

    I tried doing this when I purchased the original Note and there was no app that did this well over/through the secure lock screen. Trust me I REALLY wanted it to work because I really liked the device. However after 30 days of trying everything other than rooting the phone I gave up and returned it =(

  • Nunyo Bidness

    The point isn’t about whether or not there is a notification for new messages. The point is the ability to customize the information that is displayed when the message arrives. I want to be able to simple turn the screen on and be able to see at a glance whatever information I decide is valuable (such as who the sender is that sent the new email) without having to unlock the device. This was not possible with Gingerbread and Google acknowledged that it was working to add this type of functionality in future versions of Android.

  • Nunyo Bidness

    I tried iphone notifications on the original Note to try to enable the functionality, but it was limited by the “secure” lock screen. =(
    Do you know if this limitation is no longer in place with Jelly Bean?

  • Nunyo Bidness

    The issue isn’t knowing whether or not I have a new email/text/etc. It’s abotu being able to display relevent information about the message on the lock screen that allows a user to determine the importance of responding to the message.

  • vasras

    Different strokes for different folks.

    You like iPhone one-size-fits-everybody.

    Somebody else likes customization-to-the-max.

    Not better. Just different.

  • DiamondDaveB

    So what happens when you get two notifications? How do you determine relevant info from more than one notification from the lock screen?

  • Bear

    Folks it is senseless to justify any Android related benefits/advantages and/or choice with this writer. His head has been saturated with Apple stuff. End of story.

  • ApplesGone

    I upraded to the note 2 from my iphone 4, my wife from the 4 to the 5 and we will never go back to an Iphone. She is very dissapointed in her choice now. We never knew what we were missing until I switched, now Im afraid we will be getting her an S3 and taking a big hit on her iphone 5.

  • millgate


    I’m not looking for an argument … but my Gmail client on Android 4.0.9 – running in SILENT MODE – shows ALL email arrivals in BOLD; until I choose to look at them.

    Isn’t that what you want to happen?

    By the way … that’s currently on a ‘noname’ Chinese, 6 inch screen, phone which I am testing; and it’s running very well thanks at approx.£128 bought, shipped and safely delivered in 3 days flat.

    I’m over 70 years of age and the large screen is a complete revelation !

  • Laura E

    Love this answer!

  • fadilkarim

    i have jailbroken my ipod touch 4th gen…i still got bored. i mean yeah its nice to download themes and icon packs and little customizations here and there like iconoclasm and bigify and barrel, but theres only so much you can do. you cant go deep and overclock the processor or change the entire OS

  • fadilkarim

    you my friend, are an apple fanboy who is blind and retarded. no one wants to hear your illogical arguments and fallacious attempts to prove the iPhone superior in one aspect that doesnt work for you.
    theres your personal attack for the day you sheep.

  • SickHead

    I apologize, it does NOT natively show notifications in Jellybean, the notifications are much more granular and actionable but not on the lockscreen. Lockscreen notifications are a part of sense though. Which is strandard on HTC phones. Which is kind of my point. I have owned the note and currently own a onex. I returned the note because the American version was too slow, but I intend to get the note 2 mostly for the writing apps but also because the calendar app is insanely good.

  • mikwag

    You said it. Your problem is your ADD, and you are blaming the phone. Get a life. NO email/text is THAT important it can’t wait until the end of a reasonable length meeting – (and if it is over an hour, it isn’t a reasonable length). If I was running the meeting, I would confiscate your phone – if you aren’t paying attention to what the meeting is about, then you shouldn’t be there, and I would throw you out.

  • Daemon

    So you reject a solution because it contains the same name as the product you apparently just can’t part with? This doesn’t sound like an Android or even Samsung Note 2 problem, it sounds like a Hillel Fuld problem.

    I haven’t seen a single constructive comment from you so far. Just more ammunition to keep the flaming going. Congratulations on accomplishing your goal of writing a crap flame-bait article and getting comments.

  • Daemon

    Finally a response with some meat to it. Tasteless meat, but meat nonetheless. Define “work normally,” please. If “work normally” means “works the way the iPhone does” then you should learn to write more precisely. Please note that this statement is not a personal attack, it is an attempt at constructive criticism.

    If instead you intend “work normally” to mean “work exactly the way I want” then that makes more sense. I see your frustration that Google has not fixed what it admitted back in Gingerbread was a flaw. But as others have noted the other features you get should more than make up for this. If they do not, you still always have the option of rooting your phone – maybe more work than someone coming straight from iOS is willing to take on as the choices there are far fewer, it often simply works as the user wants it to out-of-the-box. In contrast, woe to the user who wants an Android feature moving to iOS, it’s just not going to happen. For your move it might be a fair amount of extra work but you can have all of the nice Android features plus the ones you enjoyed from iOS.

    Also, I find it interesting that you seem to believe Google made a deliberate decision to not include this feature. This is small beans compared to the other features they’ve been adding. Sure, they’re a corporate giant, but that doesn’t mean their development time is limitless. Let’s be real here – sometimes the pressure to get the new releases out the door precludes fixing something in a previous release that only a small minority of users will even notice.

    In regards to personal attacks, I have seen very little evidence of this other than one or two posts accusing you of being a fanboi (out of 165). Most of the comments have actually been people trying to be helpful, or angry that they read a terrible article. And it truly is a terrible article, make no mistake. Sorry, bad turn of phrase – you’ve made several mistakes in your article, as others have pointed out you have an inaccurate title, only cite one reason for disliking it which most people will not even notice or will actually take the time to fix, and form a personal attack on your entire readerbase by assuming that they will attack you first. Perhaps you consider preemptive strikes good journalism?

    Additionally, Android is open source, so of course other companies are going to try writing their own version of it. And some of them will suck at it (or certain portions of it, such as email vs. calendar as another commenter noted). It’s the beauty of open source, you pick the one you like. If there really are many other things you are dissatisfied with in the Note 2 then check out another Android device, there’s a good chance it will suit you better. Not performing your civic duty as a consumer and checking things out beforehand may not entirely be your fault, it’s why some Android users look down on Apple users as “sheep.” Your post certainly demonstrates their reasoning, but I feel they are too harsh in judging sometimes. You should have the opportunity to explore the brave new world you have stepped into.

  • Z A E E N T E C H

    May this thread over at Android Central could be of any help.

    Notifications on lock screen like iOS5 –

  • Speedbit

    Finally (much because of your review), today I bought my new Samsung GN2!

    I thought something so badly rated, by a so partial and bootlicker guy like you, should be certainly, a good choice for most people, with something in his head!

  • gvd1024

    I’ll take your Note 2 for $200 right now. Really! If you don’t like it, sell me your note 2 and go back to the iPhone. Someone has to pay all thier legal bills. I mean it can’t be cheap to litigate Samsung out of the USA. Cause lord know they can handle a little innovative competetion. Apple reminds me of that sore looser who complains to the ref after being seriously outmatched. But i digress, sell me your Note 2.

  • Khar00f

    I’m not sure if you just don’t know the OS properly or your trolling, but here’s the right info.

    What I will mention below is tested by myself as I have the Galaxy Note 2.

    Since the Note 2 is based on JellyBean there’s the expanded Notifications.

    From the lock screen directly, you can see in the notification that you have unread emails

    You can then swipe it down and it’ll show you how many unread emails each account has.

    If you want more details you can simply swipe down on the notification in question with 2 fingers (will be switched to 1 finger swipe in JB 4.2+) and it’ll expand it and show you the sender and the subject of each unread e-mail.

    all that from the lockscreen directly

    Thank you,

  • Joe Banks


  • jimmy

    how did you become a writer? wasting my 5 minutes. 0 value. if you really want to compare device, write thorough reviews. If you just want to complain about notification of Android, say so. why tie it to note 2? so your article can be associated with a hot search word on google to get extra attention? you should be ashamed of yourself.

  • Jorma Suomesta

    Upgraded from 4S to Note 2 and I couldn’t live anymore with the small screen and Apple’s dictatur OS. Just my opinion, for MY needs.

  • James

    Same here! iPhone then note 2 and android marketing malware.

    I think the note is great but enjoy the simplicity and security of iPhone.

    Will miss the big screen!

  • Stocklone

    4.2 adds lockscreen widgets with the ability for 3rd party development. Won’t help you now, but it should help for future devices or when the Note II gets upgraded in terms of getting information without unlocking your phone. Apple won’t even to be able to dream of 1% of what Android developers are going to be able to do with this new feature.

  • kf6nvr

    When an article starts with saying it will only talk about “Facts” and then the very first thing is just wrong (you can see how many unread messages there are, you don’t have to unlock the screen first (you just swipe down) and and then it shows a preview the top messages) I can’t help but comment.

    Problem is: Apple is much, much better about showing the world how to use their phones (their ads used to show how, but their press keynotes now do just as much for education). Google? Absolutely the worst at this.

    How is the author supposed to know what just works? Android isn’t iOS. Things are different. It can take months — or longer — to really get to know a new operating system. Going the other way is just as infuriating, too. And trying to use both a lot is frustrating because of all the little differences.

    Most people have agreed for a long time that Android notifications are way, way better than iOS notifications and find it the one thing that can really push people away from iOS because of how poorly implemented the iOS ones are. Jelly Bean made them better — with all the message preview stuff, and whatnot.

    But… to be fair, don’t get me started on the Samsung keyboard. It’s terrible compared to even the stock keyboard. And they don’t provide the stock keyboard as an option. And, in general, most of the add-ons just don’t improve things. Hardware stuff, like S-pen, has to be weighed against this. Is it worthwhile given the other problems?

  • DJF

    WELL WELL said. My children and their spouses are all I phone fans. I never understood it. I got my Note 2 yesterday and it ROCKS. WELL WELL said!!!!!

  • JayArby

    I think this article presents a legitimate complaint, but I also think it’s way overblown. It doesn’t sound like anything that would drive most people crazy. Hopefully this is just an issue that will shortly be worked out, and then we’ll all be happy. :)

  • Josh Mattox

    Android is not as business friendly as iOS or WP8. It’s built for power users for sure, yet I prefer the best of both worlds.

  • Ken Brown

    I’m sending my Note II back tomorrow and then getting either the Nokia 920 or 810. The voice dialing over bluetooth is totally unacceptable on the Note II. I came from a Lumina 710 and it was rock solid for voice dialing over bluetooth with my 1200 contacts in Outlook, but the Note II is slow in delivering a contact, and then wants me to choose from 5 or so different names on it’s screen, that the Lumina would have gotten right on the first go round. Sorry Note II, even though you are beautiful, your function is not up to par with Windows Phone, and I have never had an iPhone. Ken B.

  • Eddie G…

    The most important thing that you must understand is that nobody cares if you had a bad experience switching from iOS to Android and especially if you had a bad experience switching from an iCrap phone to the Note 2. We who have been with Android from the start couldn’t care less if you don’t get the same experience with Samsung as you did with Apple. We know how awesome Android is and that you have the temerity to slag of the Note 2 over things that can be configured with a little understanding on your part simply lets us all know what a little princess you really are. So metaphorically pick up your ball and go home. We already have a ball and our team’s full.