Phablet: Using Samsung GALAXY Note 8.0 as a phone for a week [Day Zero]

Samsung GALAXY Note 8 and Nexus

Wikipedia is grouping ‘phablet’ as a smartphone class with screen sizes ranging from 5.0 to 6.9 inches, which makes sense as tablets traditionally start at the 7-inch display size mark. Samsung however, has been spearheading the trend to include GSM voice capabilities for making calls on some of its tablets. Samsung’s not the only manufacturer to dabble into this though; we’ve seen Asus toying with this idea as well on its 7-inch Fonepad.

While the Galaxy Note 10.1 could indeed make phone calls, it has to be done either via a headset or on speaker phone. The largest tablet that actually has its own earpiece and able to make a self-sustaining cellular voice call is, to my knowledge, the 7.7-inch Galaxy Tab 7.7 (P6800).

That is, until the Galaxy Note 8.0 came along.

What drove me to finally ditch my beloved Galaxy Nexus (temporarily) lies in the inherent flaw of Android devices these days that use cheap NAND-based flash memories. Apparently all flash chips have a limited number of write and erase operations that could be executed before it’s no longer reliable. When that happens, the I/O controller has to do more error correction, taxing the read/write speed.

Manufacturers also opted for cheaper flash memories and I/O controllers to keep the device prices low and often it isn’t doing proper ‘TRIMming‘ or ‘garbage collection’ of the storage. Flash memory has to be empty or ‘0’ before new data can be written to it. If the empty sectors are not properly ‘TRIMmed’, future write operations will take significantly longer, as it needs to erase the cruft before new data can be written on it.

A year and a half later, my Galaxy Nexus is no where close to its initial performance when I first got the device. Android 4.1 with its ‘Project Butter’ actually increased fluidity of the UI a little, however I’ve never really did a full factory reset for almost a year already. For every new ROM I’m testing, a wipe was done from ClockworkMod Recovery, but that is not really a factory reset as is doesn’t touch the contents in the virtual SD card.

I need a nuclear option.

I need to completely do a factory reset from Android that will wipe out the SD card contents. I’ll need to also re-flash the device with a factory image to hopefully bring its performance back to how it was last year. In the mean time I have to find another Android device, preferably a phone, to transfer the contents to temporarily. All of our review units running Android like the Galaxy S4 have been returned, except one:

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0.

This is perfect, I figured, since the device has a GPS chip, 3G connectivity, could send/receive text messages and make voice calls. But this is not a phone; heck, it’s not even a phablet. At 210.8 mm long x 135.9 mm wide x 8 mm thick, this is one big honkin’ ‘phone’ to be carrying around all the time.

The concerns usually revolve around whether it’s culturally OK to have a tablet to the side of your face while you yak away in public, whether it is portable enough to be practical as a smartphone replacement, and whether it’s durable enough compared to smaller mobile devices.

Fortunately, as the specifications suggest, the Note 8.0 could totally be used as an Android phone, and since we don’t get this opportunity often, I decided to give it a shot to use it exclusively as my daily driver for a week. That way I could also free up the Nexus to test experimental ROMs or to install Ubuntu Touch like we did.

Follow the series:

Reuben Thum's love for technology dates as far back as the Sega Master System era when people are still rocking out on an 8-bit "Dixie's Land" chiptune. His gig as a bartender later did not douse his interest for tech one bit, as he then dedicated a few years of his life assisting users to achieve the same love, deep in the bowels of the tech support world. Currently, he just feels weirded out writing about himself from a third person's perspective.