Travel with the Galaxy Note II

Ten days into my Samsung Galaxy Note II experience and it’s an interesting ride.

Having a local SIM card is fantastic – all the things I thought I’d need while traveling – totally need them.

Maps are a godsend for the traveller. You know where you are, can figure out where you’re going, can see where the closest subway or train station is, can identify buildings, can easily and painlessly navigate a city. Perfect. The big screen on the Galaxy Note II makes this even more fabulous – the maps are clear, fast to load and easy to use.

When I left the city to drive to another town the experience was mixed – once we had the right route planned it was good – but Google Maps only gave one route option and there was no way to select another one. The route Google Maps selected was definitely not the most logical or quickest one. Also the Maps don’t reorient as you move, so you need a lizard brain to be able to figure out which direction you’re going in.

There is often a difference between Apple Maps and Google Maps when it comes to being able to find a specific address – sometimes one has it and not the other, but not consistently –  each have gaps! The route info between the two was fairly consistent – although Apple gives route options which is nice.

One thing about buying a local prepaid SIM – if you get it from one country in Europe it won’t work in other countries. So driving between Austria and Germany, which is an easy and logical thing to do, means you suddenly lose all your data and phone functions, a bit disconcerting if you’re relying on maps to navigate and texts to make plans! The local SIM also means you can’t text international numbers – probably there are other plans that allow that, but the basic one I have doesn’t, and it’s a good thing to be aware of.

Chillies in the sunlight

Chillies in the sunlight

The camera is fantastic – both the still images, which come out beautifully even in low light conditions, and the video which is crystal clear. The video has a great pause feature – allowing you to stop and start filming with one clip which is actually really useful. Both are easy to upload to Facebook or Twitter. The feature which takes multiple bursts of photos if you hold down the shutter button is handy – once you realise that’s what’s happening! Sync to Dropbox is a great feature for photos – but it can hammer your data limit if you aren’t selective with your photography.

This video was taken through the windscreen in a moving car – while I’m sure there are all sorts of technical enhancements to make it better, it’s pretty nice quality I think!

Travelling in Thailand

A brief note about getting a local SIM in Thailand. A friend told me you could get prepaid 3G SIM cards at any 7-11 or DTAC store for about NZ $2 per day so I headed out to our local store to check them out. You can get these cards (Happy cards) at  7-11 but to get them up and running you need to go through a few steps and if you don’t speak Thai you’ll quickly have no idea what’s going on.

Getting the SIM set up in Bangkok

Getting the SIM set up in Bangkok

So I ventured further afield to find a DTAC store. These are quite large IT stores, usually inside a mall. This was a much better option – for NZ $10 I got a week-long 3G SIM with unlimited data as well as calls and texts. Even better, the people at the store installed it for me and got it all up and running.

It worked like a dream – a local number, very fast and reliable 3G everywhere, and a whole new window on figuring out where I was and what I could do in Bangkok! The apps for train and ferry times and travel forums were really useful – but particularly Google maps. I don’t remember how I ever traveled without Google Maps anymore!

Installing apps

Being slightly biased and in need of some productivity management, my first app to install was the personal productivity manager, Kanbanfor1. However my play store experience was hampered by getting no search results except for some high profile apps such as Facebook or, weirdly, Metservice. After a day of fluffing around trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, the helpful folks at Telecom suggested a restart – which, of course, fixed everything and I was back on track. Kanbanfor1 app installed I could get on with my life – and plan my travel.

For traveling I find Trip Advisor an invaluable assistant – looking up what to do in a new place and reading reviews of hotels or activities. I have had quite a few unanticipated pleasurable adventures courtesy of the global traveller hivemind and Trip Advisor.

AirBnB saved major family turmoil by providing us with a quick solution to unexpectedly needing somewhere to stay for our time in Vienna.

So far I’ve got banking apps (ASB, Xero,, Paypal) and travel apps (TripAdvisor, Language Learning, train timetables) pretty well sussed, but as yet have not had time for games or major exploration!

Installing apps is pretty straightforward – I’m not sure why there is a Play Store and a Samsung Apps place also for getting apps. Probably this is one of those things that makes sense to the manufacturer but from a user point of view is completely irrelevant and a bit confusing.

Organising apps into folders and moving them around is easy. I’d love to change the ones that show on the opening screen but I can’t figure out how to do that – I’d also like to get rid of some of the obligatory ‘suggested’ screens but haven’t found that either. Once I found the option to quit apps things ran a lot more smoothly – it was one of those things I stumbled on by accident though. To be fair I haven’t read the manual – but just I’m not that kind of girl :)

I’m not really sure what’s going on with widgets – there seem to be a lot of them that reflect things I’ve done without me setting anything up – and some that I have no idea about. More investigation required here I think.

Content Note: This post has been enabled by Telecom NZ , but the thoughts are my own. Scoop TechLab is a project of Scoop Independent Media You can find more on Scoop TechLab.

Brenda Leeuwenberg