The Samsung Galaxy Note after two months

I think two months is long enough to decide whether buying a Samsung Galaxy Note was a good idea or not.

I should preface this by saying that though I’m an early adopter, I’m also an early dissatisfied customer as well. I’ve owned many gadgets I grew not to like. So there’s nothing certain about this — I may very well have decided that the Samsung Galaxy Note was a bad investment.

But it wasn’t. I’m still actually delighted with it.

I should say right off that one of the things that is so great has nothing to do with the Note itself. I bought it from Three, and took their unlimited Internet package. Which means that I pretty much no longer care if I’m in a wifi zone, or if I’m in a wifi zone that charges money. I’m online all the time, on a bus, in the park, anywhere. This would be true of any smartphone offered with an all-you-can-eat data plan, but it has transformed how I use the phone.

Tablets like the iPad come with 3G options, but I – like many others – chose the less-expensive wi-fi-only option. So having Internet access all the time, everywhere, is a real difference and I’m loving it.

And I should say that of course the Note is not perfect, and I did find myself using an iPad recently when covering a conference. The iPad’s very large screen (relative to the Note) and the better Apple bluetooth keyboard (compared to the Freedom Pro folding keyboard which I use with the Note), made it a better tool for doing many hours of writing and reading at a desk. In that sense, the iPad became more like a desktop computer, and the Note more like a laptop.

Here are some of the things I’m starting to use every day on the Note and which are making it into the best gadget I’ve ever owned:

The camera. The HD videos are brilliant, and I’ve bought a connecting cable to allow me to show this via the HDMI port on my television. I saw this demonstrated in a shop and was duly impressed. The regular still photos taken with an 8 MP camera are also outstanding. I was able to take photos recently inside an art museum that are crystal-clear and sharp.

The e-reader. I’ve probably already read half a dozen books on the Note and am finding that it’s a great size for an e-reader — the iPad is not. I’ve played around with the font size a bit and was actually surprised when a friend asked me if the characters would be too small. Unlike a printed book, e-readers do allow us to choose the size of fonts.

The task list. I began using the Ultimate ToDo list as my task list, and it synchronises with Toodledo on the web. Other task lists I used on the iPad and other devices didn’t synchronise perfectly, and I’d sometimes have to delete duplicate tasks and events. This, on the other hand is working really well. It also synchronises automatically.

Notes. I thought I’d use Evernote more and more, but to be honest I find that the Notebooks in Toodledo, which are perfectly synchronised as Notes in the Ultimate ToDo List, work just as well for me.

Astronomy. I’ve tested out Google Sky Map and plan to take it with me during a visit to a dark skies island in July, and it works wonderfully. I was able to point out Mars — which really did look a bit red — to my son earlier this week, and watched Venus rise in the early evening sky over Geneva a couple of weeks ago.

Skype works very well — so well in fact that when I have found myself in an area with poor phone reception but decent wi-fi, I have been able to take advantage of the option to use Skype rather than the phone whenever I make a call. I have also used Skype’s videoconferencing on the Note and it worked really well. The first version of the iPad, you may recall, had no camera, making videoconferencing impossible.

Managing my money. I’ve been using the EasyMoney app for about six weeks now and it’s terrific. I record everything I spend and receive and periodically look at the charges to see where all the money is going. It’s giving me insights into my own personal finances that I wasn’t getting just using a spreadsheet and it’s quick and intuitive.

Birthdays. I couldn’t figure out a really good way to be reminded of birthdays as I don’t normally use a calendar (my to-do list is my calendar) so I’ve recently set up the Birthday Reminder app and it seem to work quite well. The first birthday it reminded me of was Bob Dylan’s on 24 May — happy birthday Bob!

Travel. The TripAdvisor app was indispensable during a recent visit to Bruges. In the comfort of a wifi zone, we were able to tell it to find restaurants in our area and pick good ones. I also used it to post my own reviews of our hotel, restaurants we ate in, and museums we visited (including the french fried potatoes museum — I’m not making this up).

PayPal. The PayPal app is considerably easier to use than the website, and I’m able to transfer money out of the PayPal account and over to my bank — something I try to do whenever there’s more than a few pennies there — with just a couple of clicks.

News. I rely as before on the BBC app, but have also installed and sometimes use France 24, CNN and the Guardian.

Disappointing apps include Instagram (not sure what all the fuss was about), Doc’s Diet Diary (useless – so I’m writing my own version), and Comics (way too expensive).

And one gripe: As with other Android phones (I owned a Sony Xperia before this), I don’t like using the touch screen to answer a call — would much prefer a physical button for this.

So overall, a fantastic device that replaces one’s phone, e-reader, camera, MP3 player, calendar, to-do list, and pet kitten. (One of these is not true.)