Note5 Perspective: Experiences and Thoughts on MicroSD & Removable Battery
The Note5 is a polarizing device for various reasons, and crucial ones include the lack of microSD support and no removable battery. We recently published a lengthy and in-depth Note5 XDA Review where we laid out many of our findings and test results.
However, the objective nature of the review didn’t allow me to go in-depth with some of my personal thoughts on the microSD and removable battery, and now that I’ve taken to rooting the phone and playing with it some more XDA-style, I want to report back with updates on my experience with the device’s most controversial hardware decisions.
I first must state that many of the Note5’s issues regarding multitasking and UI fluidity can be solved through XDA mods and tweaks, and in fact, solutions to the former have existed from day one. The Note5 also has root through a flashable Kernel, it has an official TeamWin Custom Recovery (GSM), and it can run Xposed for TouchWiz (ARM64). I’ve done all of the above and more, and I want to share some of those experiences in this article, as well as how these things perform on the Note5, and what the lack of features makes the experience like.
Flashaholism & MicroSDs
Most of the devices I’ve been a flashaholic on had microSD slots, with the Nexus 5 being a glaring exception. The S3, Note 3 and Note 4 had good storage speeds for their time, and while their base storage was not the highest, the microSD expansion always proved useful to remedy that. The difference with newer Samsung devices is that they use UFS 2.0 storage, which has faster speeds. However, it is reported that the memory handler of this solution is incompatible with that of traditional microSD cards, so Samsung had to opt for one or the other. Eventually, there might be a way around it and future phones might marry the standards. But I want to point this out because many blame the lack of microSD on the design of the phone, when in reality it’s a conscious choice related to actual storage.
That being said, the Note5 does lend itself to custom ROM development still, as expandable storage is only an advantage not all phones have. The forums for the Note5 are not exploding with actual original development just yet, but a few traditional tweaks caught my eye. You have the ability to lift 4K video recording limit, enable native call recording, and other typical Samsung tweaks such as making more apps available for multi-window. I am sure the future holds more to come, and I intend on writing a fully-fledged report on the state of Note5 development later on as well.
But going back to the hardware, and what the changes mean for your user experience as an XDA enthusiast: microSD is a treasured convenience that you will miss, at some point, if you are already using the feature. For most consumers – and those that Samsung targets – microSD primarily serves as a way to get more storage on your device. I can’t say if most users fill up the default 32GB of the Note 4, or if they can max out the 64GB of the more expensive Note5, but Samsung allegedly dismissed a 128GB option for this new Note because of the 128GB S6’s sales. From that one can infer that most people don’t need that much, and that 64GB is a comfortable number for them to stop at. After all, there are few phones out there that offer more than that.
MicroSD to enthusiasts is more important than it is for the average Joe, because it serves as a protected island for your media and important files that will not be affected by factory resets or other wipes on the internal storage. Things we do frequently. This allows us to backup photos, music, videos and apps in a pinch, without waiting times, in a compartment that is independent of the device itself. We can transfer those files to a computer or another phone simply by sliding that card in there. For those that flash a lot of ROMs, this is very, very useful. Saving pictures to your microSD card, for example, alleviates the fear of jeopardizing your precious files through a failed tweak, bootloop or brick. It even protects you from various kinds of physical issues that can unexpectedly render your device unresponsive, as your microSD can be salvaged from the incident with your media intact.
UFS 2.0 Personal Experience
My personal experience with the Note5’s storage and lack of microSD shows some of all of this. After I finished my review, I decided to try and fix all the things that I didn’t like about the device. Within 15 minutes of that decision, I was already rooted and had TWRP enabled. I shortly managed to reduce the resolution and solve the memory management issue, disable more bloat and squeeze out more battery life and performance out of my phone. The Note5 felt much better after that, but then a few issues arose. Story time:
After a few days of usage under this new setup, including plenty of extra media and files I hadn’t backed up yet, I decided to use MW Commander to make Slides compatible with multi-window while in class, so that I could multitask the on-screen presentation with the workbook I was writing notes on. After I promptly rebooted the phone, my Note5 was stuck at the T-Mo splash screen, with no way to simply turn off the phone. Instead, and because I had no removable battery, I had to reboot the phone, and within the initial splash screen time window, reboot into recovery. Annoyance aside, it worked, but the little unexpected error went deeper than I thought, and no amount of file-manager reversal I could squeeze in without the professor noticing could save the ROM.
I decided to simply download a deodexed stock ROM I was planned on flashing anyway, and left it downloading on my OnePlus 2. I asked my friend for a cable and I was able to save some of the files to my computer, so I was ready to flash the ROM on my phone. I wanted to transfer the zip out of the OnePlus 2 but, surprise surprise…
Since then, though, I updated my recovery, flashed the deodexed ROM and Xposed and have made and restored several backups. There is something I absolutely love about the Note5 and that truly shines, and that is its storage speed. Simply put, anything done on the custom recovery is blazing fast on the Note5, and backing up ROMs isn’t painful at all.
The speeds that I showed on my review translate to the recovery and make things much less time consuming. Even the dreaded “first boot” of a new ROM wasn’t very lengthy at all on the various stock ROMs I tried. Rebooting in general is also faster than all of my other devices.
Battery and Experience
The removable battery doesn’t affect the XDA hobby itself as much as it affects actual usage, so I will briefly touch on both. Flashing and backing up ROMs can be lengthy procedures, and they can drain plenty of battery. You particularly don’t want to run out of battery during these processes. But the components of the Note5 are remarkably efficient and fast, and as previously said, getting a ROM or backup on your device is a speedy and efficient affair. The phone just doesn’t get too hot nor drains too much battery thanks to the new hardware.
The other advantage a removable battery solution gives you is, well, quick reboots. It’s certainly not the most orthodox way to turn off or reboot a device, but it does have its advantages in certain situations, and the Note5’s reboot-recovery-power off solution is not perfectly ideal either.
As far as battery life for enthusiasts goes, the fixed battery does a decent job carrying me through the day, as shown in my review. Not much has changed since then other than the fact that I’ve improved my stand-by time thanks to Amplify. Given that I run two or three phones at almost any time due to testing and dedicated uses, I don’t fear running out of battery nor can drain out the device anymore as it’s no longer my daily driver/main phone. But before that, with heavy usage, the Note5 typically clocked out after 14 hour charges with 4 to 5 hours of actual use. For those that need extra battery, the most practical solution is a power bank. I personally bought one and it’s a nice option to have, just in case, but I haven’t needed it yet.
Finally, wireless charging is nice to have and it can certainly extend the daily longevity of your phone. I still haven’t been able to try fast wireless charging, though, because Samsung’s compatible pad is still not available.
The storage of the Note5 is fast and noticeably speeds up various aspects of our hobby at XDA. It’s also remarkably efficient in terms of heat and battery drain, and it’s a marked step forward when compared to most devices. However, the lack of microSD does bring tangible consequences and understandable fears. If I had to choose, I would go for the ability to have a microSD slot simply for the additional convenience, modularity and transferring speed. At the end of the day, the storage of the Note5 might be fast, but I can access the microSD card files on various devices without needing to copy them there, and I can freely switch through microSD-supporting devices while keeping my media and adding to it as well.
I’ve always kept spare batteries for my Note 3 and Note 4, but I rarely used them. A battery bank works fine for me now, but I also realise that my use case has changed dramatically in the past few months and I now have multiple devices I delegate certain tasks to. Fast wireless charging is a nice and passive means of getting battery back, but getting 100% after a quick swap and reboot can not be beaten. Either way, both have their strengths and weaknesses and adjust to different contexts and use cases. I personally prefer the removable back and battery over the unibody design with wireless charging, because it lets me keep multiple full charges in my pocket and I can eventually replace older li-on (or in the Note5’s case, li-po) troopers for healthy ones. It also shouldn’t be ignored that popular battery cases like ZeroLemons’ are more effective on phones with removable backs as well.Check Out XDA’s Note 5 Forum >>