Staring down the Smart Switch

Walking over the Pyrmont Bridge this sunny Sydney morning I make my last ever call on my old phone. It goes to voicemail. So much for nostalgia. But this isn’t about me tossing the device into the water below. Instead I’m on my way to the Samsung Experience Store in George St to upgrade my digital life to a Galaxy Note8.

“Do bigger things,” the sign says, appropriately big in the window, as I head into the Android universe. The Note8 is indeed a formidably-sized phone in every respect, but that’s not what I’m thinking as I step over the threshold.

What I want to be confident about today as I prepare for the transition is that my photos, videos, contacts, messages and everything else make it with me across the divide, unscathed and ready for immediate use.

My appointment is set for 11am as I meet my Samsung Smart Switch assistant instore. Brandishing a box cutter, he gets ready for the operation and swiftly unpacks the gleaming maple gold device. I agree to all the Ts and Cs as we fire up the Smart Switch app. It’s 11.10am when we connect the devices side by side and I step into the unknown with my trusty Samsung store guide.

“The easiest way to think about Android is as a personal PC,” he says. “You customise the phone to your own preferences through Android.”

One of the first decisions to make here is on security. I hadn’t used biometrics to unlock my devices before and decide it’s high time to give it a try. My last iris scan was several years ago at US customs in Los Angeles, under the watchful eye of the President. Today I give this new device my best Clint Eastwood stare. I’m confident it will register and let me in.

Happily, it makes my day, and all works out just fine.

Now that I’m here I get set to meet Bixby – Samsung’s voice activated personal assistant AI – and the Samsung Health app which will be tracking my steps and other vitals henceforth.[1]

The customisable “Always On Display” gives me the date, time and charge immediately. The screen also transforms into a writing pad to pin notes using the S Pen stylus contained in the discreet slot in the base. “Think of it like your mouse,” my guide says, as I try for the first time to tap my way through the array of features.

The impressive camera offers the SLR-style “Live Focus” option to create professional shots: adjust your depth of field and have a sharp subject popping in a softer, blurred background. And with the phone resistant up to 1.5m depth in fresh water for up to 30 minutes I start planning where I’ll be taking my first underwater snaps.

Then there’s Bixby Vision, which scans objects in the real world to analyse text or images, like when you have to decide on the right wine in your local restaurant or translate signs while travelling abroad.

The most immediate difference I notice on the home screen is the Samsung apps are not stored out in front. Instead you swipe up and grab whichever ones you need to customise in your dock.

It’s all fairly easy, but much like when I first tried a different operating system for my home laptop after using a PC for work, I know there will be habits to break and new muscle memory to build up.

As well as learning the appropriate stare to get past the iris security, there’s a back button and home screen button to master. It’s really a case of getting used to the subtly different ways of doing things – from making a call to binning a note – that I have been doing intuitively another way from years on a different device.

The great news is despite any initial trepidation about the data transfer, everything has come across effortlessly.[2] Each piece of content pops into the Samsung equivalent app ready for use. I’m told the process usually takes between 10 to 90 minutes depending on how much data you have to switch over. For me this was 6.57GB, with the whole process done in less than 30 minutes. It’s something you barely even notice as you learn about the new features you’ll be using each day.

One week in and I’m as intuitively comfortable with the Note8 user experience as I’ve ever been with other devices. Sure, the iris scanner can be a startling close-up selfie first thing in the morning. But the fast charging gets things powered up in less time than watching a movie and I’m still having fun exploring the multitude of features.

The only thing to really get used to now are those notifications that seem, uncannily, to know more about me than I do, popping up as I head outside for each new day.

[1] Samsung Health is for fitness/wellness information purposes and not for diagnosing, preventing, mitigating, curing, or treating disease or other medical conditions.

[2] Compatibility and transferrable data on non-Android OSs may vary. To find more, please contact Samsung.

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