In March 2015, I was stoked to replace my iPad 2 with something that had more drawing power. My iPad was like an extra appendage and I used it for everything. It quickly replaced my Modbook or Wacom tablets. The iPad’s portability overshadowed its singular, but massive flaw—no palm rejection. I even found a stylus that worked well with the tablet and made the experience feel more like a Wacom product. What became evident was that it took me twice as long to draw on the iPad because I couldn’t rest my palm on the screen when I worked. You don’t realize how much you need to use your palm as leverage to steady your hand until you can’t use it.
Enter Android Note Pro 12”
I was following Android tablets and noticed that Samsung offered Wacom technology and built-in palm rejection for their Note tablet line. The 12” Note Pro got my attention but the almost $1,000 (USD) price tag made me a little weary. Years earlier, I spent over $2K (USD) on a Modbook that turned out to be a buggy and too heavy to really be a portable device. I didn’t want to spend that much money again and have a similar experience of hardware that doesn’t stack up to its “pro” status.
Samsung began offering reduced pricing for refurbished models on their site and on Amazon. For $429 (USD), I couldn’t resist the thought of working larger and with true Wacom technology inside. Plus, I was excited to start working on an OS that was at least a little more open than the completely closed iOS.
I quickly realized the strength of working on Android once I got the Note Pro in hand. There were tons of professional-grade apps that made the tablet feel less like a toy and more like a professional tool. Apps like Clover Paint and Medibang Paint made it possible for me to work in large format with many of features in line with desktop software. Having palm rejection increased my efficiency and reduced man hours.
The Samsung Note Pro 12” daily experience
You can’t fault the Note Pro on its hardware. The device is well made and a great piece of technology for the price. My Note Pro has been only an asset for my work. Having a tablet that I can sync up an additional 256 GB of storage makes it a powerful library of reference materials at my fingertips.
Plus, the wealth of art apps on Android makes the OS worth using—not to mention having a actual file system like a computer that you can easily copy and save files without tethering to iTunes. Android treats you more like an adult and I appreciate an OS that isn’t “child-proofed” like iOS.
Update waiting game
The only problem with the Note Pro, and it’s a HUGE problem, is the lack of Android OS updates. When I bought the Note Pro, I didn’t realize that Samsung is notorious for not updating their device OSes. If you do a quick Google search, you’ll see that Samsung is rated as one of the worst manufacturers when it comes to updating Android.
When I buy a professional device, I expect a professional experience, from the technology to the support. For a company like Samsung to only update the Note Pro once in its life cycle and not provide any further updates since June 2015 is unprofessional on their part. If Samsung can only update a pro device for one year after it’s released, they should rethink making professional products.
The device works fine even though the Tablet is currently two OS behind. My concern is any potential security issues. I don’t run two year operating systems on any other devices that I own.
iPad Pro and the root to upgrading
Now I never thought I’d say it, but Apple might be worth another look. The new iPad pro lacks stuff that I’ve grown accustom to like removable storage, but my iPad 2 is STILL supported by Apple. I just never thought that I would have to worry about things like attaining operating systems when buying a device. The apps have improved on iPad since the introduction to the pro line.
I would love to stay on Android but with this experience, I’m not sure that’s something that’s worthwhile. This week I’m going to ask an IT friend how difficult it is to root my Samsung Note Pro and install the new OS. My biggest concern is that I may lose the pen digitizer tech. I don’t know if that’s built into the basic OS. As far as the custom OS tools that were built in Samsung UI, I’ll be glad to get rid of all of that. I just want to make sure that the Wacom pen will still work.
An uncertain future for Android tablets, especially ones with styli
Over the holidays, I was looking at possible replacements for my Samsung Note Pro and was surprised to see that Android tablets are being replaced by WIndows devices. Overall it makes sense if this relieves manufactures from pushing custom Android OSes out for multiple products. It’s sad to see Android lose ground in the market because I’ve had such a positive experience using my Note Pro and much of that has to do with Android and the great apps that they offer.
Currently, The Samsung Tab A and the Asus Zenpad 3S 10 seem to be the only two Android tablets on the market that offer an S-pen. Having such a poor experience with Samsung with regard to OS support, I would never buy another device from them. The Tab A’s specs are definitely not professional by any stretch. The tablet has low RAM and the screen resolution is poor. The Asus Zenpad looks impressive, but I would hate to have another experience that’s similar to Samsung with regard to support. I couldn’t find any info online to substantiate if Asus is good at offering updates.
The end of an era
I’ve seen many things come and go over the years, but Android is an impressive OS and I wish manufactures would have been more reliant on Google for setting standards and pushing improvements. For years now I’ve been waiting for an Ubuntu tablet that has a tablet and runs software and scales to a desktop device. That dream may never come true, but I did enjoy Android as an alternative to Apple’s iOS. If I upgrade this year to the Apple Pro, I’ll be morning the death of Android tablets and companies like Samsung are responsible for their deaths.
A day after I posted this story, there was an security update available for my Samsung Note Pro. It was nice to see that they at least are trying to protect me as a user even though this tablet will never see another OS upgrade. If these shoddy practices kill Android as an option in tablets, it will be a sad day for all the developers who created such great apps for artists to use.