The Galaxy Note on T-Mobile is as awful as it is great

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: April 6, 2012

If I hadn't made it clear enough already, the Galaxy Note is one of my favorite devices ... ever. I've been through more phones than most women have pairs of shoes (not to "genderize" at all, I also have a lot of shoes) looking for the perfect combination of hardware, software and wireless coverage for the past three years. I've found comfort in some, but have never been fully satisfied.

When the Galaxy Note was announced in October of last year, I chuckled at the thought of ever owning a 5.3-inch phone. Yet now it is the phone I carry, my phone of choice. It has been my number one choice every week since ou Official Smartphone Rankings launched.

Originally, though, I was upset. When it finally made its way to the U.S., it came as an exclusive to AT&T. That meant, at least for several months, that neither one of the carriers I use personally (T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless) would offer the Galaxy Note. Review after review, video after video, my envy grew. I looked high and low for months in search of a way to have a Galaxy Note work on anything but T-Mobile's EDGE network.

Then ... it happened. Someone discovered how to make the AT&T version of the Note work on T-Mobile 3G and HSPA+.

Within two days of the news, I had traded my Galaxy Nexus for a Note, rooted it, loaded a custom ROM on it and flashed the tweaked modem. For the next couple days or so, I had been using it mostly on Wi-Fi. T-Mobile coverage in the surrounding area is decent, but around my house is terrible. (I live at the bottom of a hill.) It wasn't until the next week that I got to really put it to the test.

When I did, I was disappointed, to say the least.

Above are some of the best speed tests I've had yet on the Galaxy Note since being on T-Mobile. All of these were taken yesterday after I finally flashed the Ice Cream Sandwich leak to it. The bottom result was from my hotel in Manhattan, the other three were taken shortly after I landed in Charlotte, NC, where I've consistently had much better T-Mobile speeds in the past. 7.0Mbps is the fastest down speed I've had yet, and the fastest uplink was 1.6Mbps. Anything over 1Mbps on the uplink, though, is pretty rare. Also take note of the ping, which ranges from 108ms to 461. The highest ping I've gotten yet was over 2,100, and I've scored a 1,600ms ping several times now.

I can't say that I wasn't expecting this. I knew there would be at least a hitch or two by buying a phone for another carrier and flashing unofficial, hacked modems to it. And this is not to rag on the developers who have been working diligently to make this happen. They have been awesome, churning out updates faster than I can keep up. And things are only getting better as they get to the bottom of the problems.

But I'm torn, honestly. I want the Note. I don't want any other Android phone. Not the One X, EVO 4G LTE or whatever sub-5.3-inch phone comes to market. This is the phone for me. As far as software goes, I've been super impressed with the TouchWiz version of Ice Cream Sandwich. Sure, stock would be better, but TouchWiz is actually bearable atop 4.0. But I need something consistent, reliable and fast. In terms of wireless connectivity, the Note is everything but these three things. It was completely useless to me the entire time I was in New York.

So I have a couple options. I can wait it out and hope that the developers make a huge breakthrough. I can open up an account with AT&T (which I've already been looking to do, although I don't really want to). Or I can settle with a phone that I don't really want and won't truly be happy with. (Once you go 5.3, you can never go back. Well, I can't at least.)

It's a shame, really, that a carrier and manufacturer would do this to such a great phone. Despite what is listed, the Note is compatible with T-Mobile's 3G and 4G networks, yet it has been software locked in an attempt to make the exclusive truly ... exclusive. They have made the experience with the device on another carrier nearly unbearable. And while the developers have triumphed with a mini victory over the locked-down device, it isn't quite suitable for me ... yet. (Seriously, did I mention how the few devs working on the Note are fantastic?)

I'm about to fall into their (AT&T) trap anyway, simply because I have fallen in love with the device and now long for a flawless, consistent experience with it. I can't even begin to explain how bad this gets under my skin.

Tell me, readers. Did any of you get a Note and try it on T-Mobile? Did you have the same problems as me? (There seem to be several people in the forums that have had a great experience out of the AT&T Note on T-Mobile. I'm clearly not one of them.) Have any of you been wanting the Note and not wanted to go to AT&T?

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