1 June 2015

Migrating from the Samsung Galaxy S4 to the S6

I just bought a Samsung Galaxy S6 from Singtel as part of contract renewal. I had hoped to hold out till prices fell a bit but I learned about Smart Switch and it sounded great, sooo.. yeah. I have a new phone. I had liked the silver handset on the try-out counter, but apparently that's gold, not silver. I decided to go with black - traditional and no problems with colour recognition.

Warranty registration woes

Next thing up, registering the warranty online. This did not work. The Samsung website kept saying I had an incorrect serial number. This is a common situation for me, but still frustrating. There are only 2 numbers on the bar code sticker that Singtel provided. The IMEI as listed on the receipt, and one other number. Neither number works. So I was going to mail the warranty card, but the card is missing the dealer’s company stamp. I had to go back to the Singtel shop later to get that – more about that later.

MobileSwop or not?

Then I decided not to bring the phone anywhere till I had at least a bumper. Singtel has this offer where you pay a nominal amount a month as insurance. The MobileSwop service is only available to subscribers of getting a new line, or recontracting. It's available 24 hours; if you decide you want to swop your phone (cheaper) or replace it, there are no questions asked. Swops cost S$86 to S$181 depending on the original price of the phone, while replacements cost S$214 to S$532. Depending on the time of the request, you could get the new phone within four hours. The terms of the service are that a subscriber can make two swops or one replacement within 12 months of the delivery date of the last service request; there is an extra charge of S$85.60 per trip for trips on Sundays though. The guys at Singtel said people who subscribe take it up for a maximum of six months as the value of the phone depreciates thereafter. I thought it was a clever offer but said no. 

I shattered the screen of my iPhone 5, even with the bumper on, about three months in, two years ago – before they had this offer. I’ve since seen many people living with cracked screens because it costs so much to replace one. The thing is, my Samsung Galaxy S4 has lasted me roughly two years, and I have dropped it several times. So I might just have been really unlucky with the iPhone, and really lucky with the Galaxy, but to my mind the Samsung Galaxy phones are hardier and I probably wouldn’t need the  insurance. But I would need some protection.

Bumper shopping woes

There are several stores along the same corridor at Jurong Point which sell phone cases: Challenger, Gadget World, and Digital Style among them. The Samsung store is at one corner with the Singtel shop opposite it. I went to each one and there just aren’t many S6 covers on sale compared to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S. Admittedly the S6 is much newer but I had hoped for much more variety for cases. There were very few pink ones, and I settled on a Spigen in mint (it’s almost S$20 cheaper at Gadget World compared to the Samsung store, by the way). It's quite pretty, with a non-slip texture and feels solid enough to protect the phone, it's just that it's not pink. The nice cashier actually offered to put on the casing for me when I asked how it is used, but I didn’t have the phone with me.

Migrating takes time

Now I remember moving from the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 5 very fondly. When I keyed in my Apple ID, the brand new iPhone 5 simply asked me if I wanted to restore everything from my most recent backup, and that was it. I got my apps, my WhatsApp chats, and everything else off iTunes. I don’t recall how I migrated from the iPhone 5 to the Galaxy S4, but however difficult it was, I discovered how much better it is to swipe your finger along the keyboard instead of typing, and nothing on iOS mattered any more.

So when I saw that Samsung has an app called Smart Switch, I thought it would be the same type of migration. Smart Switch is a wonderful app. You download it on your old phone and on your new phone; choose a list of what you would like to migrate, then press ‘send’ on the old phone, and ‘receive’ on the new phone. Everything you select ends up on the new phone without a hitch. I got my contacts, all 27* of them, my SMS history, calendar, even my alarms, all activated exactly as before. 

The problem is that the apps don’t come over as well. Smart Switch will tell you which ones to download, which is very helpful, but you still need to download and configure each one before your new phone starts looking familiar again. This is assuming you were up to date with apps on your old phone; if you were not, then the updated app on the new phone can still look quite alien.

What, WhatsApp?

Of course I had been expecting all my WhatsApp conversations from the old phone to miraculously appear on the new phone. This did not happen. You start off with a blank slate, plus membership in any of the groups you were in before. According to helpful advice online, you’re supposed to back up the conversations onto your SD card and then insert the SD card in the new phone before you activate WhatsApp. WhatsApp will notice you have this backup and ask if you would like to restore, and voila! 

Of course I didn’t do this before I activated WhatsApp, and the S6 doesn’t have SD card capability. I believe there was a workaround for this, but once you have transferred your SIM card from the old phone to the new phone, you can’t use WhatsApp on the old phone – WhatsApp only allows one device to be used at a time. I can try telling WhatsApp that the old phone is actually where my WhatsApp life resides.. and then email backups to myself.. but at the moment I’m just making do without a WhatsApp history.

Deleting from Dropbox

Another shock was Dropbox. I had received 48 GB of extra space for two years as a Galaxy Gift when I got the S4. I had naively assumed that the subscription would continue if I continued with a new Samsung phone. It doesn’t. This means I have to make sure that my present Dropbox setup – which worked like clockwork, backing up the pictures taken on the S4 to Dropbox and making them available on my laptop – will still work even when that 48 GB expires, and that I find a new home for any extra files as soon as possible. To be fair, I subsequently discovered that Samsung has arranged a new Galaxy Gift with the S6, this time with Microsoft’s OneDrive – 100 GB for the next two years – but it is still a pain to move from one cloud storage service to another, and of course Google Photos has been launched and it’s unlimited storage for free. Dropbox, incidentally, starts reminding you of the expiry about two months before so that you have ample time to decide what to do. It also generously gives you 3 GB free - which happens to be about 1 GB more than my total usage for the moment.

Stymied by photo backups

When I then downloaded and installed Dropbox on the S6, it asked me if it should back up all photos. I couldn’t say yes. Remember, I had used Smart Switch to transfer all my pictures on the S4, over 3,000 of them, over to the S6. This meant that backing up the S6 pictures to Dropbox would in effect create a second copy of the S4 backup on Dropbox, plus any new pictures taken with the S6, of course. I could have done that and then deleted the files.. but decided to leave things alone, and send the pictures to OneDrive instead. I feel like I’m littering my way through the Internet with the same copies of pictures I might not want, but better safely stored than not at all.

An odd question

And then in the midst of the migration, Singtel sent me an odd SMS that it wanted me to reply 'yes' or 'no' to. Just like when banks verify that you made a big withdrawal or credit card purchase, Singtel wanted to check if I had actually purchased a Galaxy S6. One that I had gone personally to the Singtel shop to buy, and shown my ID to get since it was tied to a contract renewal. Maybe they think there are a lot of people wandering around impersonating others? Someone from Singtel did get in touch on Twitter to say that no offence is meant, but I wasn't offended, just disquieted at what possible motivations that can be for such a text message.

SIMplicity, not

So after downloading my previous apps, I finally decided to switch SIMs. I’m used to the sales guys at the shop doing it for me, but this time the ones at the Singtel shop didn’t (OK, I admit I was the last customer of the evening and they were probably tired). They showed me where my SIM was on the old phone and the pin that you use to get the SIM drawer open on the new phone, and sent me home to figure it out by myself. It was not easy. 

There are no instructions printed on the SIM holder on the S4 on what you should do. I didn’t know how to get the SIM card** out of the Galaxy S4. I tried scraping it out, looking for a lever to lift the holder up, and sticking the pin at this pin-sized hole on the SIM card holder (there is a hole there that's the right size..). It took a long while before I decided to try pushing the SIM card in to see if that would make it pop out. 

There are no instructions on the S6, either. You have to push the pin in quite a way and I was wondering the whole time if I was going to break something. When the drawer pops out, it doesn’t come out all the way, and I wasn’t sure at first which way to put in the SIM card. It was only after I’d realised that the entire drawer can be removed that I saw the (very small) outline of the card printed on the drawer, with the notch to one side to guide me.

Why, Wi-Fi??

So now that I have the SIM finally in the S6, the challenges continue. My Singtel Wi-Fi and my Wireless@SGx EAP-SIM connections don’t work. Wireless&SG does connect automatically, but the connectivity doesn't work out for me. When I went back to the Singtel shop to get my warranty card stamped (very quick, I didn’t even have to get a number to join a queue), I asked about the Wi-Fi. The nice Singtel service staff saw how Singtel Wi-Fi would refuse to connect properly. It would appear connected, and then cycle through and try to connect, over and over. He set the configuration manually, and then admitted defeat. I’m to call the customer service hotline at 1688 to ask them about that, because he says it’s not the phone at fault.

I’ve also been tweeting my challenges with trying to get EAP-SIM to work. The instructions are on a PDF that happily downloads each time I refer to the Singtel website. I must have downloaded this file six, seven times by now. The phone never asks me if I want to retrieve the existing file to read it, but does give me the option to replace the one I have already downloaded. There doesn’t seem to be any other way to read it, which is fine on Wi-Fi but not so fine when you have a mobile data limit and your Singtel Wi-Fi doesn’t seem usable (unlimited downloads till July 2015! FWIW when you can’t even get on it). 

Singtel has been very responsive on social media, asking if they can help – considering I didn’t hashtag them or mention them – so I have taken some screenshots to show how my screen doesn’t look anything like their screen and shared those. I've never actually had any follow-up beyond that initial question though.

Pros & cons

Having said that there are many things to love about the S6.
  • Longer battery life. The S6 probably has much fewer apps on it taking up processing power than the S4, but it lasts waaay longer. Batteries do run down more quickly over time too, of course. I actually watched Google's I/O Developer Conference 2015 through a livestream, which was approximately 2 hours worth of video. The battery life percentage went from 100% to 54% during that time.
  • It’s faster, probably for the same reasons. It’s also got more space, seeing as I got the 64GB version and no longer get complaints that apps can’t be updated because there is no space so possibly there is less juggling of memory space.
  • Faster network. I see a little 4G+ icon on the phone sometimes. It seems faster. 4G was already really fast compared to my home broadband with StarHub, which is still at the lowest speed possible (plus it’s a really old cable modem).  
  • The promise of Singtel Wi-Fi. I really like the idea of bundled Wi-Fi. I hope that I actually get to make use of this.
  • Better camera. I don’t take pictures at maximum resolution as I don’t need to print anything, but my snaps look lovely – nice colours, crisp edges and all.
  • Pink theme. I couldn’t get a pink case but Samsung has a cute pink theme, with cartoonish icons and hearts. It’s a big departure from the sleek organic lines that are used in the marketing campaign, but it’s pink so I’m using that for now. I also have a pink theme for SwiftKey – roses appear when I type.
  • Galaxy Gifts. There were a bunch of interesting offers but most of them are for free trials for a few months each, so I didn’t bother to download them. They’re worth quite a bit in total though. I’ve already mentioned the OneDrive offer, and I downloaded Kindle for Samsung as you get a free e-book every month, plus the privilege of buying the other e-books on offer at discounts. There were four e-books to choose from, but none appealed to me.
  • S Health. I didn’t use it on the S4 but later learned that phone apps are often just as accurate as health bands, so I’ve switched it on and it’s interesting to see how many steps I take from day to day.
  • Muting the phone by turning it face down. This feature may actually have been available for some time, but I never thought about using it till now.
  • Swiping the palm across the screen to do a screen capture. Again, this might be an old feature, but has only been activated now because screen captures using the power and the home button didn’t always work well on the S4. It seems to be much more reliable using the buttons on the S6 though, so I haven’t bothered to do a screen capture with the palm-swipe feature.

There are also a few things I dislike.
  • The lock screen has the numbers for the PIN squished into the bottom third of the screen. I haven’t seen any way to make them bigger. The screen also blacks out very quickly, which is a bit disconcerting.
  • The bottom left button, which often used to bring up the menu for the app, now displays a stack of which apps are currently open, with an option to close them all. I don’t really care which ones are open as I would just tap on the app’s icon to bring it up, and now I have to look for the app menu elsewhere. There is no consistency on where you might stash that.
  • It’s a bit wider than I would like. The screen is larger overall which is nice, but it was difficult to use the S4 with one hand before, and impossible with the S6. There is a one-handed mode that can be switched on through Settings, but I haven’t found it yet. It’s not under Display or under Motions & Gestures.
  • It’s heavier. Not appreciably so, but there is a noticeable difference between the S4 and S6 that I am still getting used to.

The list of likes are way longer and more about productivity enhancement than the dislikes, which will probably just need getting used to. So all in all, I still like the Samsung Galaxy series and consider the S6 a definite step up. I am open to using other Android phones and admit that some of the features for other brands have been extremely tempting. So who knows what my next phone will be?

*How did I get through life with only 27 contacts? I didn’t have a choice. I had very little space left on the primary memory, which was probably why the Galaxy S4 hiccupped one day, switched itself off, and when it came back on again, I didn’t have an address book any more. I hadn’t been able to back up my contacts for a long time because an Android update had limited what could be saved onto the SD card, including backups. It wouldn’t allow restoring from the stored backups, either. I did try importing from an old backup on Gmail, but I don’t think Gmail ever synced with the phone. I was very thankful I had a list of some 500 WhatsApp contacts and/or conversations, from which I could reassemble my life.

**There will be people who point out that the SIM sizes are incompatible. The Galaxy S4 uses a larger SIM card than the Galaxy S6. Remember I mentioned my iPhone 5? I’d been using the SIM card in the S4 with an adapter, so I already have a SIM card of the right size. So there.