Monthly Archives: January 2017

Galaxy Note 4

My Galaxy Note 2 is a fantastic phone; I’ve had it for 5 1/2 years. T-Mobile abandoned it years ago to Android 4.3, so I replaced the bootloader & ROM with TWRP and Cyanogenmod, going through versions 11, 12 and 13. I would keep using this phone, but for 1 problem. It doesn’t support 700 MHz Band 12 for LTE, which T-Mobile has been using to expand their coverage. Because of this, my 4G/LTE data coverage on this phone is not that great. It’s not bad, but it could be a lot better. That’s hardware, so to fix it I had to get a different phone.

But what I’d like in a phone isn’t readily available:

  • Support for all T-Mobile 4G/LTE bands (especially Band 12)
  • 5.5″ screen (+/- 0.25″)
  • Extra long battery life
  • SD card
  • Removable battery
  • Supported by LineageOS (aka Cyanogenmod)

Some phones came close: Moto X Play, Oneplus 2, Nexus 6P. But none met all requirements – except the Galaxy Note 4. But the Note 4’s CM support was abandoned at 12.1 (Android 5). But since CM died and was reborn as LineageOS, the Note 4 is on the list of devices planned for official support. So I got one on eBay, cost about $240. It’s in near-new condition, appears to be a demo model. There is some slight screen burn-in near the top edge – this is a common problem with the Note 4. In mine, it’s non-obtrusive and I’ve seen worse. I wouldn’t have noticed except for running apps with screen patterns designed to detect it.

I wouldn’t want the Note 5 – battery was not removable. The Note 7 was a disaster. The Note 4 is definitely the peak of the Samsung Note line.

Differences from the Note 2:

  • Better mobile data coverage: supports all T-Mobile bands.
  • Screen: higher res, brighter, wider gamut
  • Speed: at least twice as fast
  • Better camera: dynamic range, color, with image stabilization
  • bug fixed: Evernote pen input
  • bug fixed: MMS texting (multiple people or with attachments)
  • Dimensions & weight: about the same (within a few mm and grams)

Setup:

  • Update: the phone came with Android 5. After 4 updates totalling over 2 GB of downloads, I had the latest 6.0.1.
  • Root: Chainfire has an easy root for the Note 4, works with Samsung’s latest 6.0.1 ROM. Push it to the phone using Odin, reboot and it’s automatic.
  • GMD SPen: Samsung’s built-in pen support sucks. Configuration is a hot mess and it can’t do the things I want. GMD SPen works seamlessly on top of TouchWiz, or can replace it.
  • Titanium Backup: My go-to backup app, does it all as well as letting you freeze or uninstall “unremovable” crapplets.
  • Nova Launcher: Samsung’s home screen is not very configurable. You can’t even set how many rows & columns! Nova Launcher is similar to CM’s Trebuchet launcher with all those options plus more.
  • Stylus Beta: the best handwriting keyboard I have found. Better than Samsung’s built-in or Google’s. Plus an easy clean interface.
  • Solid Explorer: the best file manager, supports root and includes LAN, FTP connections. Not free, but better than Astro or ES File Explorer. It also has a really nice photo viewer (better than the standard Android gallery app) and built-in text editor. If you go to root mode and edit a system file, when you save the file it automatically mounts system read-write, saves it, then remounts read-only.
  • Folder Sync: the best cloud folder sync utility. If you want your Box, Dropbox, etc. accounts to sync to your device like they do on a real computer, and your device has the storage capacity to support it, this is the only way to fly.
  • Tasker: for all those random little tasks you want to do, like run a command at boot, kill/restart the mediaserver process if your camera dies, whatever. This does it all.
  • Jota: Jota+, the best all-around Android text editor. I’ve tried many over the years and this is the one. It also has a root connector.
  • GPS Status: the best GPS status utility, also keeps your AGPS data up-to-date for quick position locks in all apps.
  • Sygic Maps: does much (though not all) of what Google Maps does – search, map, route, dynamic re-routing as you drive. But does it all on-device, in-memory, so it works even in places that have no mobile network.
  • MX Player: the best Android video player. Better than any built-in player or VLC. I love VLC on Linux desktops, but the Android version is not as good.
  • Power Amp: the best Android music player. Better than any built-in player or VLC. VLC doesn’t do gapless playback of MP3 files and it intermittently gets noise in the playback.
  • Office Suite: the best Android office app for viewing & editing MS Office docs. I’ve tried  many office suites over the years; this one is the best.
  • Textra: the best Android SMS/MMS experience. Beautiful and seamless to use, supports several emoji sets – iOS, FB and others. Sure you can hack the iOS emojis into your rooted Android phone by replacing the system ttf file, but with Textra you don’t need to.
  • View Ranger: the best outdoor hiking/biking tracking/routing/navigating GPS app. Doesn’t have Strava’s social features, but it has a ton of far more useful features Strava doesn’t have. Besides, I hate social.

This is not only the best phone I’ve owned, it’s one the best phones available on the market today. It has a brilliant AMOLED screen, not only bright but also with wide, accurate gamut. It’s very fast (even on the stock Touchwiz ROM – LineageOS will be even faster), great camera, lots of storage, excellent battery life, and great mobile data coverage.