Back in August you may or may not remember that Samsung came out with an interesting new promotion called the “Ultimate Test Drive”. The promotion is a 30-day “free” trial to use one of three 2015 flagships: the Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge+, or Galaxy Note 5. The biggest downside of this trial is that this promotion is only available to iPhone users, which is verified by interested parties signing up for the promotion via the Safari browser on the iPhone.
So, as an iPhone user who digs phones, I was interested in trying it out. (It’s probably important to note that although I write for PhoneDog, most phones I review or use are purchased on my own dime, so this seemed like a good opportunity.) There were, of course, risks associated with this type of promotion. While the promo is technically “free”, there is an initial $1 charge placed on the credit card that you sign up with. Additionally, if you fail to return the device within the 30-day trial you are then charged the full price for the device. You will also be charged for the device if it is broken or lost, so the risk is considerable when you realize that a lot can go wrong here.
When I first wrote an article expressing interest in the promo, the initial batch of phones had already run out and the promo was put on hold. I had hopes that it would return, but I had no idea of knowing if it would or not. As it turns out the promo does seem to be ongoing, and interested iPhone users can sign up to be notified via e-mail when a new batch of phones are ready to be sent out on trial. Last week I received an e-mail stating that more phones were in stock if I was still interested. Being that I’m quite interested in the anticipated Galaxy S7, I decided that this would be a good opportunity to give Samsung a test run to see if their software was what I want to use as my daily driver. As it stands right now, I’m actually quite happy with iOS overall.
I decided to go with the Note 5, being that I’ve never actually owned a Note phone and since every option was above that “comfortable” threshold for me (I prefer compact smartphones with sub 5-inch displays) I might as well go with the Note – go big or go home, right? Plus, I like the fact that it has a stylus.
So far everything seems ship-shape. The device arrived within 2 business days, and I’ve already received a call from Samsung asking if I had any questions or concerns (and to make sure the box arrived). The box itself contains all of the information you need to conduct what Samsung deems a “proper” test drive of their product, along with everything needed to ship the device back to them when you’re done. Samsung also includes 30 days of service on the phone, so there’s a SIM card with an attached number already inside the phone when you get it.
I also purchased a case to use with the device, because I don’t necessarily trust that it won’t break otherwise. I’ve mentioned before that part of the reason I prefer compact devices is because I have “tiny cabbage patch handlets” and my hands just aren’t meant to use these big phablets comfortably in one hand. As a result I tend to drop them, so the smartest thing for me to do was to buy a case, or further increase my risk of being out several hundred dollars for a broken phone.
The switch from my iPhone 6 to the Note 5 has been relatively painless so far. Samsung made it easy to transfer content directly from my iPhone to the Note with a direct cord connection and their Smart Switch app.
I’ll admit that it is nice to have the freedom to customize just about every aspect of my phone again - I just wish I had more time to completely customize it. I haven’t yet done it, but I intend to install a launcher on the device soon because I’m still not a big fan of TouchWiz. On the flip side, there are some negatives that I noticed right away. Being that I’m on AT&T, I feel like I’ve been double whammy’d when it comes to the amount of bloatware on the phone. AT&T and Samsung combined take up a lot of initial space on the phone. There are over 30 pre-installed non-necessary apps that I can’t uninstall, and since this is a trial device there’s no chance of me even attempting to root this phone to get rid of them. It’s not even that I mind so much that they’re included, I’m just annoyed that I can’t remove them. I wish that Samsung would take a hint from Microsoft and allow easy removal of the apps that I know I’ll never use.
Otherwise the phone is really fast and performs well, but I haven’t installed all of the apps I want yet and I have yet to take many videos and photos. The screen is big and beautiful, and although I’m still getting used to it there are perks of having a larger screen. I haven’t yet grown accustomed to the fact that I have a stylus at my disposal, so I’m still learning that it’s available to use if I so choose – and I also have to remember not to accidentally insert it the wrong way, as this breaks the Note (sort of). The few times I have used the Stylus, it has had a quick response time and is up to par with what I expect out of it.
So for the next 2 weeks or so I’ll be back in the world of Android, testing to see if the Samsung experience is actually worth trading my iPhone for. So far, the Ultimate Test Drive is going rather well.
Readers, what are your thoughts on the Ultimate Test Drive? Are you an iPhone user who hopes to participate, or are you an unwavering iPhone fan? Do you wish Samsung would open up their promotion to other smartphone users as well? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!