Posts tagged “Android

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 First Impressions

Enter Galaxy Note 8.

There is a lot of chatter about this phone; however, one statement that is not being put out into the atmosphere is, “This is not a good device.”  The Galaxy Note 8 is a wonderful device through and through.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 8.


Hardware

The Galaxy Note 8 feels great in the hands and it is simply amazing that Samsung managed to package a 6.3″ screen into a body of this size (close in size to an iPhone 7 Plus).  Since the device has a glass front and back, it is very grippy and easy to hold — so although it’s size may be unwieldy to some, is easy to hold in one hand.  Additionally, although the screen is large, it is slimmer than most devices coming in at only 74.8mm wide.  We are looking at a smartphone that has 6 GB of RAM, 12 MP dual-camera system (OIS on both sensors), USB-C, a headphone jack (yes, I have to mention it), S-Pen (more on that later), IP 68 water and dust resistant, a bottom firing speaker that actually sounds really good, Fingerprint scanner (in the wrong place right next to the camera,  this is the only part of the design that is flawed, which ruins the look of the back of the device) along with a Super AMOLED display that is simply one of the best, if not best, in the business.


Performance

You can put the best specifications in the world, the most RAM the fastest processor and still have a terrible smartphone experience, many Android OEMs have been guilty of this in the past, including Samsung.

Not this year.

With my time spent with the device, the phone flat out screamed from the moment I picked it up, until I put it down.  One area of the operating system in Samsung’s “Samsung Experience”, renamed from TouchWiz that appeared to be much more optimized was simply opening the Camera app.  Nearly all Samsung phones of the past would experience a little lag when opening the app — yes, it’s a big deal a moment is exactly that, a moment and something that you do not want to miss out on one.  Opening apps, closing apps and multitasking were absolutely painless making  this phone very performant.  One of the only pain-points I saw in regard to performance was swiping to the Bixby page at the left of the launcher, nearly every time (even when it was loaded into RAM) it opened the phone was met with stutter and dropped frames.


Samsung Experience

Most Android OEMs add a few apps, launcher changes and more to differentiate their flavor of Android from it’s competitors and Samsung does it in a very tasteful and refined manner on the Note 8 with highlights on two in particular.

Edge Apps

Because of the Note 8 screen technology, wrapping over the edges to meet the bezel, Samsung makes use of this with “Edge Apps”.  Edge Apps allows to to select from certain “predetermined” apps on the device and create shortcuts to those from anywhere in the operating system.  Really love that Samsung Notes app?  Put it in the edge and you’ll be able to take notes from anywhere in an instant.  Additionally, we now have App Pairs, which were introduced with the Note 8 and this allows you to pair commonly used apps together in a “pair” that will be launched together in split screen mode (6.3″ screen here, really making use of the extra real estate).

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Samsung “App Pairs” shown, above. (Note: In my experience the device did heat up a bit when two apps were on the screen in App Pairs.)

S Pen

While it is unknown of the actual usage statistics of Samsung’s S Pen, it is certainly a valuable addition to the device and where it gets its “Note” name from.  The S Pen makes it easy to jot down notes quickly and efficiently.  The phone doesn’t even have to be awake.  Need to capture some info?  Pull out the S Pen from the device, and start writing on the screen with “screen off memos” — these will be saved to a new note ready for you to reference later.  The S Pen does have it’s drawbacks, as the input lag is real here when drawing lines on screen and is somewhat intermittent when swiping between homescreens.

Source: Tim Schofield


Camera

Since when have you ever known of Samsung to slouch in the camera department?  It started this year, kidding.

The Note 8 takes fantastic shots.  With my experience, under Best Buy lighting, the pictures were crisp, focused and contained plenty of detail.  Video capture was nice and smooth as well; however, playback appeared slightly choppy on the Note 8.  Check out this very thorough camera review below:

Source: Andru Edwards


Nitpicks

There is so much to like about this device; however, I’m yet to have a perfect smartphone experience (seen my rants on iOS 11 lately?).

Let’s get this over with:

  • Smaller battery than the smaller Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus (likely due to battery issues in the Note 7)
  • Some photos appear to be over saturated, while pleasing to the eye, these pictures are not the most “true to life”
  • Disappointing S Pen performance lag

TLDR

Right now, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is the best Android phone that you can go into a store and buy, period — no questions people.  The overall package of performance, camera quality and excellent build make it an all-around winner.

Your Guide to Instagram Carousel

In the latest update to Instagram, users are now finally able to upload multiple photos and or videos (up to ten) into one post, this is called carousel.  Let’s look at the good.  Not only can this help streamline your timeline of annoying friends, who like to flood your timeline and bombard you with post after post, it also gives you a solid view that will consolidate those multi posts.  However, this adds yet another gesture into Instagram’s once simple mobile application.
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Screenshot of the new carousel feature in Instagram.

When clicking the plus sign now, you simply click the “Select Multiple” option and grab all of the media you want. Simple, concise and easy.  How can you add this into your Instagram workflow?  Here’s a few scenarios that pass: going on a trip and you’ve captured the best photos of “insert museum here”, you’ve went to a sporting event the list goes on.  Here is how the carousel should NOT be used: “I’ve taken 4 shots of this thing and I don’t know which one is best….. “
No, please don’t.  This will make your followers hate you probably more than they already do.
TLDR: Instagram’s new carousel is a value add than can easily be killed by those who trash it and exemplified by those that use it in a more artistic manner.

Battery and Charging Issues in 2016

On the iOS side people complain that iPhone charges too slow — on the Android side the phones don’t charge fast enough, although we have “fast charging”, “dash charge” and more.  As usual, I say in instead of making phones charge faster than they should.. How about us maximize battery life and stop having rogue apps that utilize too many CPU cycles and exhaust system resources?  

All in all, battery technology has gone nowhere — fast.  Batteries have been getting bigger, but they still seem to drain and drain.  On the Android side Google has done a few things to try to make battery life suck a little less, such a Doze, which turns on when the phone is laying down or is in your pocket and helps to reduce the number of processes that are running that can drain your battery in the background.  But when you think about it, apps should occupy less space in RAM the longer that it remains unused, so it is certainly two sides to the coin here one side that raises into question the quality of the apps that are installed on the device.

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Example of an iPhone charging.

So, since our batteries seem to deplete so quick in this world, where we cannot manage to put our devices down for a moment, we invent quick charge “standards” — I use the term standard very loosely because NOTHING has been set in place by Google to be followed, which leaves these well-intentioned, but poorly executed plans laid out by OEMs to destroy devices left and right.  So what do we have on the Android side?  As mentioned above: fast, dash, rapid, turbo and quick — all are a different means to the same end.  (a full breakdown of these technologies can be found here: http://www.androidpolice.com/2015/06/12/quick-rapid-turbo-and-fast-charging-explained-what-you-need-to-know-about-charging-your-smartphone/).

Bottom line: Google and Apple, let’s tailor these mobile operating systems to run as efficiently as possible and last well throughout the day.  I will note that typically iPhones and the latest Android devices running more up to date versions of Android have no problems getting through a full day under normal usage.

Huawei Honor 8 Hands-on

A wonderful glass back and a crispy 5.2″ screen.  Can we ask for more?  Yes, but this phone just feels right.
Enter Huawei Honor 8.
Huawei Honor 8.

Huawei Honor 8.

While I was unable to put this phone through it’s paces, from what I can tell, the software experience isn’t bad.  Although this is a skinned version of Android the UI still feels snappy and most applications load swiftly after pressing on the icon.  Huawei does not feature the app drawer that is common to Android, instead, it places all icons and widgets on the homescreens that are offered.  This device could be a could entry into the ecosystem of iPhone users that are accustomed to this type of setup.  In addition, while the software features are light, Huawei seems to have executed these additions tastefully as with it’s take on the notification pane.
Key specs:
  • 5.2″ screen
  • 1080p resolution
  • 1.8 GHz octa-core processor
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 32 GB internal storage
  • 12 MP rear & 8 MP front cameras
Huawei Honor 8 notification pane.

Huawei Honor 8 notification pane.

 The camera, which is becoming more and more the most important feature of a smartphone, captures great shots and the front facing camera features a beauty mode that seemingly transforms the subject.  As with most manufacturer cameras, this was is not shy with throwing features in your face, which is this case are presented well to the user.
The budget sector of Android smartphones is quite competitive and this phone surely competes with the One Plus 3 and others.

Google Pixel First Impressions

Google’s latest flagship smartphones have been revealed with the monikers Pixel (5″ version) and Pixel XL (5.5″ version). Nexus is officially dead. You heard it here first folks. The Nexus team will still be providing support; however, these phones note the end of an era of vanilla Android goodness and Pixel will take it’s place.

Features:

  • Google Assistant built in with Android 7.1, first device with this software addition.
  • Camera bump gone with a unique tapered design.
  • Best scoring camera of any smartphone….ever.
  • Newly designed Pixel launcher to getting to your favorite apps quickly and accessing Google Assistant in a moment.

Bottom line:  The new Pixel devices from Google seem promising.  Another step at taking back Android from OEMs and making a solid entry into doing that.  With phones made by Google, users can expect a lot more from their devices such as quality support, updates when they are released and non-crippled experience that wouldn’t be bogged down by carrier and manufacturer bloat.