Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0: How to ruin a good thing

As good as the Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet is, a software choice by Samsung makes using it a certain way infuriating.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
Galaxy Note 8 w keyboard
Note 8.0 with ZAGGkeys Folio Keyboard
Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

I like the Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet by Samsung, and think it's a great small tablet. It leverages the form and Android to good effect, augmented by good utilities Samsung has installed on top of the OS. Unfortunately, that's not the case when using the Note 8.0 with a physical keyboard, due to a silly implementation of the onscreen keyboard.

I use the Note 8.0 with the ZAGGkeys Folio keyboard. This keyboard is much like ZAGG's model for the iPad mini, my favorite keyboard for that tablet. The Folio makes it possible to write a lot of text through fast touch typing. At least, until Samsung gets in the way.

For some bizarre reason, Samsung has decided that its onscreen keyboard must be the default when a physical keyboard is connected. Even if you use a third-party virtual keyboard with the Note 8.0, which works fine, the moment you connect a Bluetooth keyboard to the Galaxy, Samsung's software automatically changes the default to Samsung's keyboard.

This means that you have to manually switch back to the keyboard of choice when you're finished using the physical keyboard, which is annoying, but that's not the worst of it. Since the Samsung keyboard is active in the background while using a physical keyboard, the app interprets long-pressed keys on the virtual keyboard as a signal that you want to type an accented character, and opens a bar with possible accented characters.

The way it works is when you want an accented character, you hold down the letter key on Samsung's onscreen keyboard and a bar pops up on the display. This bar grabs the focus, which interrupts the text entry if it pops up by accident, and you either wait for it to go away through inaction or you hit the back button. The problem is it's so sensitive that it pops up all the time unintentionally and kills productive text entry.

Sadly, this constant popping up of the special entry bar also happens when using an external keyboard. You're typing away, and then the bar is onscreen and text entry is stopped. You wait for it to go away or hit the back button, and then try to get back to the process of writing.

There is no way to set the sensitivity of the long-press (or turn it off) that invokes this bar, so you just have to live with it. It is so annoying that it makes writing on the Note 8.0 a royal pain. If there was a way to turn this accented character bar off, the problem would be solved. Or better yet, don't force the default onscreen keyboard to change to Samsung's app. Third-party keyboard apps don't interrupt text entry, so the situation with the Note 8.0 is totally unnecessary.

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Samsung, please get rid of this goofy situation. Stop changing the default virtual keyboard to your own with this horrible effect. Let the user change the keyboard and keep it changed, even with a physical keyboard connected. This is a case of getting in the user's way without a need to do so, so stop it.

I'm sure I'll hear from Android device users who will point out that I can root the Note 8.0 and install a custom ROM without this annoyance. I don't want to do that; I like all of Samsung's other augmentations to Android. I just want it to work the way it should.

For the record, this article was written using the Note 8.0 and ZAGG keyboard, and the dreaded pop-up stopped production four times.

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