Posts Tagged ‘Galaxy Note’

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Anker A-weigh: Battery woe to battery wow!

August 31, 2013

Vista busy cursor  It would not be a problem if the battery status indicator on my Samsung Galaxy Note (GT-N7000) were to be disabled. I no longer need it. After an overnight charge, the phone still has around 30-40% power at the end of the day, even after heavy-ish use, so I can be confident the phone will always get through the day without needing a battery top-up.

This is a great end to my search for acceptable battery life, which  started when my phone was upgraded to Jelly Bean (Android 4.1.2). Until the Jelly Bean roll-out the Note had nearly always made it through the day on an overnight charge. After the upgrade, I was having to put the phone on charge by late afternoon.

Worse than that, I believe Jelly Bean may have been implicated in frying the original Japanese-made battery (assembled in Korea) which came with the phone. It was not long after the upgrade that the battery more or less gave out completely and would barely hold charge for an hour. There is anecdotal evidence on the Internet that I am not alone in having that experience. I cannot immediately imagine how an OS upgrade could have that effect on a battery, but it does seem to be the case.

anker

I did have a spare battery, an official Samsung branded battery which I had bought some months earlier on Amazon. It sported the same part number and looked identical to the original except that it was made in China (and assembled in Korea). I had always wondered whether the spare was as good as the Japanese original; it never seemed to last as long. But I was only charging it up and keeping it with me as a spare in case the main battery ran out, so it was only getting occasional use. After the death of the original battery, the Chinese-made spare became the main battery, but by then battery life had been so badly mauled by Jelly Bean that it was hard to make sensible comparisons.

There was a breakthrough of sorts when I traced much of the post Jelly Bean battery drain to a couple of settings in Google Maps. At the time I thought I had solved my battery life problems, but it became evident after a few days that my phone was still not holding enough charge to last the day. It would look like it was holding up fine till around tea-time, then the battery charge would fall off a cliff leaving the phone dead by around 8 or 9pm. By then I felt certain that the Jelly Bean issue had been sorted with the fix to the Google Maps settings and that the poor battery life I was left with was squarely down to the disappointing capacity of the replacement battery.

All other things being equal, the capacity of a battery is proportional to its weight. And the Chinese battery is distinctly lighter than the now-defunct Japanese one.  It is disappointing that Samsung would produce inferior quality accessories. Maybe they changed suppliers for the battery innards at some point. Or maybe they have a policy of skimping on replacement batteries and suchlike to make a bit more money on them. After all, reviewers test battery life on newly released devices with original batteries, so there is no brand risk involved. Whichever way, I was stuck with an underperforming battery.

While investigating battery life issues on the Internet, I came across a post recommending Anker batteries. I had never heard of Anker but they seem to make replacement batteries for a range of popular phones. Some of their products are oversized extended life batteries which come with a new thicker back for the phone. The Note is quite large enough and I didn’t want it to become any bigger or heavier. However, Anker also make batteries which are the same size as the original, but with a modest increase in capacity. They offer such a replacement battery for the Galaxy Note which is rated at 2700mAh compared with 2500mAh for the Samsung branded equivalent, and the cost is not much more than the Samsung battery. So I bought one.

The advice on the ‘net was to put the battery through two complete charge/discharge cycles from the off to get the best performance out of it. The battery had arrived in the post while I was at work so I immediately installed it and left it to charge. It was fully charged (meaning the “fully charged please unplug” icon came up, not just 100% battery charge indication) by around 10pm.  I took  “two complete charge/discharge cycles” to mean uninterrupted charging followed by uninterrupted discharging, so I unplugged the phone and left it discharging overnight. I had business in London in the morning so it was a very early start and then the 6:43 from Stockport to Euston. I had the phone playing videos for nearly two hours solid on the train and the battery was holding up well. I started to worry that it might finally run out while I was on the train on the way home in the evening, so decided I needed to complete the discharge cycle during the day, allowing enough time to fully recharge the battery before setting off back North from my firm’s London offices. Well the battery refused to die. In the event I turned media volume right down, started up a long video with brightness up to maximum, and closed the cover so no-one could see a video was playing. Then I got on with my day’s work and meetings. I just about managed to kill the battery in time to get it recharged before close of play for the day.

It took over 26 hours for the second discharge cycle to run its course, this time with normal use. I have now been using the Anker battery for over a week and it has continued to perform at that level. I genuinely no longer look at the battery icon on the status bar and have disabled the percentage indication. I am completely confident that with any sensible use of the phone I can rely on the battery to get me through the day with a comfortable margin to spare.

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Jelly Bean Battery Drain Traced to Google Maps

July 13, 2013

Vista busy cursor  Samsung’s official upgrade of my Galaxy Note (GT-N7000 on UK T-Mobile) to Jelly Bean 4.1.2 has not been a success, the worst aspect being the virtual halving of battery life. It had been the norm for the phone to manage a whole day on an overnight charge. After the upgrade to Jelly Bean I found myself forced to put the phone on charge throughout the afternoon or it would be dead by early evening. This annoying state of affairs has persisted for nearly three months. Happily, battery life now appears to be back to its Ice Cream Sandwich days best but it took a great deal of detective work to track down and remove the source of the power drain.

I had wondered if Google Now was implicated. After all, it is the single most obvious new feature in Jelly Bean which might be consuming more power. But I was loath to just plain do without it, and it did not appear to be the culprit per se. I tried any amount of fiddling with settings (without rooting the phone), attempting to cripple new bits of Samsung bloatware I imagined might be responsible and app/battery management apps, all to no avail. Neither did any amount of Googling or exploring the XDA Developers website produce an answer. I did though start to form the view that tracking down problem wakelocks might be the way to go.

I eventually found the problem thanks to an app called Wakelock Detector from UZUMAPPS. The app is for diagnosis only – it provides detailed stats about which apps are triggering an awakening of the CPU and how many minutes they are keeping it active using wakelocks. The accumulated data pointed an accusing finger at Google Maps. I tried delving into the Maps settings and came across a couple of suspicious items, “location reporting” and “location history” under location settings. They were both on by default. Switching them both off seems to have made all the difference.

I think these settings are new, although I can’t swear to it, and connected to Google Now. Having said that, the latter still works although maybe I’m not getting as many travel/location related cards as before. A price well worth paying.

So is it a case of all’s well that ends well? I have to say I’m not convinced. It’s certainly a relief to have my phone back to getting through the day without having to top up the battery. But there’s a certain annoyance that I had to put up with this. After all, this was an official upgrade. There must have been testing done by Google, Samsung and T-Mobile along the chain. Heaven knows it took them long enough between them to get the upgrade onto my phone. And when it got there it just appeared with no disclaimer, warning, any kind of communication. There was hype then the upgrade, then the consumer left literally to his own devices.

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Another day, another meltdown

July 3, 2013

Vista busy cursor  The laggy performance and rotten battery life I’ve suffered since “upgrading” to Jelly Bean 4.1.2 on my Galaxy Note GT-N7000 had been tempting me to try a backup and factory reset. There is anecdotal evidence on the Internet that resorting to this can sort out the lag, although maybe not the battery life. But all the prep is a chore – you need to find the time and there is always too much going on.

Well the decision was taken out of my hands yesterday while I was on an early morning train to London from Manchester. I had been building a spreadsheet to illustrate a talk I am due to give shortly, then needed a break and tried to watch a video podcast on the phone. Very soon the video started to flicker – lots of horizontal lines across the screen – then it died. I kept trying to reboot it and it kept working briefly but always crashing and dying. It took a while for the penny to drop that the phone was just out of power. It never occurred to me that a phone fully charged when unplugged at 6am would have drained the battery by 7:30. By then the damage was done. My repeated failed attempts at resuscitation had caused some loss of data and the phone had gone into “set up from new” mode. Another meltdown, then. It has been a while.

Once at the office in London I decided I could no longer trust the state of the phone’s data. I saved what I could to the external SD card, removed the latter and invoked the factory reset. The phone is now fine but I concluded that the battery had reached end of life – it really showed no interest at all in holding more than a minimal amount of charge, but I had bought a spare some months ago so it wasn’t much of a problem. It is odd that a battery can die quite so suddenly and with so little warning, but that does seem to be the way of it.

melting-butter

I have not really tried to get the phone back to the way it was before the battery-induced meltdown. I decided to only reinstall the apps I really use daily such as Audible, Kindle, Doggcatcher plus a few other essentials such as Evernote, Arcus Weather, my banking app and a very few others. The idea was to see whether cutting down on the numbers of apps makes a difference to performance and battery life, as is sometimes suggested.

With this in mind I kept TouchWiz for once, rather than replace with a third party launcher that is closer to stock, such as Nova. I didn’t rush to install Tasker either, but I did need a quick way to switch between:

  • “night time mode” (ringer on but text/email notifications silenced),
  • “in the office mode” (all sounds on but at a non-embarrassing volume level), and
  • “out and about mode” (everything on loud).

The Simple Sound Profile Widget did the trick quickly and easily.

I’m now running with just 31 apps (including all the Google and Samsung apps I get no choice about because they are built into the ROM) compared with around 105 before the reset. It is too early to say whether the reset and/or lean running approach have fixed the lag and battery issues. At the moment the phone seems less laggy than before, but with occasional slow app launches and overall responsiveness still not on a par with my works iPhone. Project Butter could do with a few more lashings. And the jury is still out on battery life. Maybe it’s a bit better but  the battery which I am now using never quite seemed to match the capacity of the one that came with the phone (before its sudden and premature death, obviously).

I don’t think I’m going to get a complete answer. I was blaming Jelly Bean for the deterioration in battery life, and there was a definite big change at the time of the upgrade, but with hindsight the proximity of my battery’s death may have had some effect too.


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Samsung’s Jelly Bean is a Galactic Let Down

June 25, 2013

Vista busy cursor  For months I berated how long it took Samsung and my carrier to roll out the Jelly Bean upgrade to my phone, the original Galaxy Note. From the point where it had been promised, back in December, I found myself checking almost daily on-line for any news of an impending update.

There was no doubt in my mind that Jelly Bean was going to transform my phone. The evocatively named Project Butter was going to banish all trace of lag, delivering instant smooth responsiveness on a par with the iPhone. I would have Google Now anticipating my every need for up to the second information about weather, travel and my interests. Best of all, I would be able to multi-task thanks to multi-window, a feature Samsung had already introduced on the Galaxy Note II.

Well, about a month ago the long anticipated day dawned and Android 4.1.2 was finally rolled out via Kies to the UK Galaxy Note GT-N7000 on EE (T-Mobile). And my phone was indeed transformed, in every way for the worse.

I have no idea what went wrong with the implementation of Project Butter on the ROM that finally made it onto my phone. Project Sludge would have been more apt. My phone is now laggy and slow. I now have my own iPhone for comparison (my employer having issued one to me as a replacement for my work Blackberry) and find there is no comparison. The iPhone 5 is snappy and smooth. The Note on JB is a complete pig.

Google Now is OK. It is fine with local weather but not ground-breaking. It has utterly failed to get to grips with my travel needs. My commuting patterns are regular, albeit not trivial – for the last couple of months I have been working in London Tuesdays to Thursdays and at my office home base in Manchester on Mondays and Fridays. Google Now has not adapted very well. I am not always at the same hotels in London, which seems to confuse it. It is always giving me travel times to the hotels I was at the previous week. And it has not learned about my sporting or other interests. Overall not a complete failure but there is a lot of room for improvement and so far very little genuine added value.

And as for the multi-window feature I so longed for – the truth is I have never found any real occasion to use it. Firstly it is a pain to activate the multi-window mode if, as I do, you use a third party launcher to escape TouchWiz. You can leave the mode active but then get an annoying blue semicircle continuously planted halfway up the left side of the screen. But the real killer is that so very few apps are compatible with multi-window, and not in general the ones of value to me. Both Chrome and the Android stock browser are MW enabled but the only browser I can get on with is Dolphin and that is not MW compatible.

And that’s not the worst of it. Battery life has gone to hell. Before JB I could get through a working day without charging the phone something like 9 times out of ten. At the moment I can barely get to late afternoon before the phone is down to 15% charge or less. And it seems to be getting worse. It may be all the additional Samsung bloatware that came with 4.1.2 but I’ve eliminated the impact of that as far as I can. I’ve tried every battery consumption analysis app, every tweak, every trick. I am certain it is just down to the way JB has been packaged and implemented for the phone.

From an investigation on-line it looks like many others have had similar experiences. I don’t believe Google mistepped with JB. My money is firmly on this disaster being down to Samsung’s insistence on messing with JB to add their own apps and features, few of which are of any value or benefit. The only new feature which has been of use has been “smart stay” which stops the screen being turned off if the front facing camera detects that the user is looking at the screen. It is not infallible, but it is now rare for the screen to turn off when I’m looking at it.

As has oft been said, be careful what you wish for. Taken as a whole, JB has been a major setback for my enjoyment of my phone. As soon as I can find the time I shall investigate a suitable third party ROM.


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Note Upgrade Still Impending

April 8, 2013

Vista busy cursor  It is months since Samsung updated their micro-site for the original Galaxy Note promising an upgrade to Jelly Bean and adding key features from the Note II such as split-screen multi-tasking. I have the international version of the Galaxy Note, the GT-N7000, but so far no sign of any update.

I have no doubt at all that the fault lies entirely with my carrier, T-Mobile, latterly rebranded as Everything Everywhere following their merger with Orange. Nothing Anywhere would have been more apt, or perhaps No Upgrade to Anything.

I remember exactly the same thing happening with the Froyo upgrade to my previous phone which was the Samsung Galaxy S. There again T-Mobile kept users waiting for months, supposedly testing the ROM out before deeming it safe to roll out. It is almost enough to drive one to a Nexus device, but even then upgrades are not instantaneous. Also, I like the idea of some of the Samsung added in features, such as the split-screen multi-tasking, which are of course not available with a stock Android ROM.

If it comes to it I will install the Jelly Bean ROM for my phone manually. It has been available from say the SamMobile site for some time. All that is stopping me is the risk of bricking my phone. The detailed procedures are set out in detail and the danger of an irreversible disaster is probably quite low, but I still have the thick end of a year to go on my contract so sensible caution dictates that I allow T-Mobile just a little longer before I take the plunge.


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Impending Upgrade Noted

December 28, 2012

Vista busy cursor  Samsung have just updated their micro-site for the original Galaxy Note with details of a Premium Suite upgrade which incorporates many of the features hitherto only available on the Note II, for example multi-screen.

The upgrade details also confirm that the original Note will be getting Jelly Bean (Android 4.1). This is not really news – the original Note was one of the models slated for Jelly Bean a good many months ago. What is news is that there is at last some prospect of Jelly Bean arriving in the very near future, not that Samsung have promised anything around timing. They are in any event beholden to the carriers. My Note is on EE (T-Mobile) which does not augur well; they always seem to take far longer than anyone else to release updates.

All in all, the Jelly Bean upgrade for the Note has been a long time in coming. I will be lucky if it arrives within a year of my first acquiring the phone (mid-February). It probably comes down to Samsung deciding to package up Jelly Bean for the Note with a port of the multi-view, popup note, photo note and other features from the Note II which is very sweet (suite?) of them but has added considerably to the delay.

It will have been worth it, and would have been for multi-view on its own. It almost turns the Note into a Note II. Let’s just hope EE don’t spin out the roll-out for months and months.


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Adding a YouTube show as a Podcast Feed

April 25, 2012

Vista busy cursor  The Sword & Laser podcast  is on the Frogpants network and features Tom Merritt and Veronica Belmont talking about sci-fi and fantasy books.  It was audio only for approaching 100 episodes, but recently a video variant was launched as part of Felicia Day’s Geek and Sundry YouTube channel.

I’m used to having the audio episodes delivered weekly to my Android phone over the air using the Doggcatcher podcast app, and hoped I might be able to get the video episodes in the same way. That is, I would like Doggcatcher to alert me automatically to a new episode and have it right there on the phone waiting for me to watch.  But the video episodes, being on YouTube, can only be streamed. They are not for download and not associated with any convenient RSS feed. On the face of it I can’t use Doggcatcher to help me at all. The best I can do is to subscribe on YouTube, to get email reminders. Worse, I am only offered the option to subscribe for the geekandsundry YouTube channel output as a whole, not just the Sword & Laser show.

The good news is that there is a solution of sorts.  Not a complete solution – there is no practical way around the inability to download the shows – but there is a way to use Doggcatcher to manage access to and consumption of the video episodes more or less in the same way as a conventional podcast.

The partial fix involves use of Yahoo Pipes. Yes, it still exists.  Thankfully, the implementation is trivial as explained below. And I didn’t even have to create a new Pipe –  I found an existing Pipe which does exactly what I need. The Pipe in question is “YouTube tags to RSS” by Eric. When the Pipe runs, it takes  a series of keywords as inputs, picks out only those YouTube videos having tags which match the keywords, and presents those videos as an RSS feed.

I found the first episode of the Sword & Laser show on YouTube and picked out all those tags which would not vary from episode to episode (I picked “Geek and Sundry”, “Sword and Laser”,” Veronica Belmont” and “Tom Merritt”), used them with the Pipe and selected “Get as RSS”. I used the URL of the resulting RSS feed to define a new feed on Doggcatcher.

This is the URL:

http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/pipe.run?_id=qLeMq8782xG2oyVwCB2yXQ&_render=rss&tags=Geek+and+Sundry+ Sword+and+Laser+Veronica+Belmont+Tom+Merritt

(If you copy and paste it make sure you eliminate any stray spaces)

All I can say is that it worked, and the exact same URL should work just as well for anyone. The tagging was clearly right because the only items in the feed were the pilot episode, first episode and bonus interview episode from the new Sword & Laser show, and the three episodes were added to the “downloaded video” queue where they appear together with the normal run of video podcasts.  The only difference is that the Sword & Laser video items are presented as stream only items, reflecting that they are on YouTube not actually downloaded to the phone.  When selected, they open automatically in the YouTube app and play.  This is nearly as good as if they were normal video podcasts except I have to be somewhere with connectivity before I can actually watch them.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that this approach somehow magically turns a YouTube show into a genuine podcast. What it does is allow me to use a single app to capture the availability of new material relating to both both true podcasts and YouTube shows, and to launch them both from that same app. This is far more convenient than the alternatives.

The same idea would work with any YouTube show that can be uniquely identified through tags.  You don’t even need to go into Yahoo Pipes as such. You just need to provide the podcatcher app with the right URL.

Start with the URL below:

http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/pipe.run?_id=qLeMq8782xG2oyVwCB2yXQ&_render=rss&tags=tag1+tag2+tag3

Replace tag1, tag2, etc with the relevant tags to identify the show.  You can use as many tags as you need.  Just paste the edited URL into Doggcatcher, or other preferred podcatcher app, when setting up a new feed. When it updates the feed, the podcatcher will run the Pipe and pick up any new items.


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