Posts tagged “Smartphone

2018 Apple iPhone Event Full Recap

Coming off of the helms of the iPhones X, 8 and 8 Plus this year it was rumored that we’d receive a new Apple Watch alongside 3 new iPhones, which exact specifications and price we wouldn’t know.

Apple’s events are always touted as being “magical” and known for being master marketers, Apple is usually poised to have their onlookers shouting, “Shut up and take my money!”.

Does this ring true with the devices debuted today?


Apple Watch

Welcome, Apple Watch Series 4 a slimmer, fuller screen smartwatch.  The Apple Watch is not only the number one smartwatch on earth, it is additionally the number one watch in terms of units sold.  The amount of features in regards to apps and health propel it, easily, past other smartwatch offerings from Android’s virtually nonexistent WearOS and Samsung’s Tizen, which powers the company’s Gear line.

Source: Apple, YouTube

In addition to the Apple watch receiving a slight facelift (don’t worry all of our Apple Watch bands from the earlier generations will work) there are new features also packed in.

First, is EKG or electrocardiogram.  Apple Watch Series 4 is the first over the counter, FDA approved device that features this technology, it’s been rumored to be included in an Apple Watch and this is a phenomenal feature to have aboard.  EKG is the process of recording electrical activity of the heart over a period of time using electrodes placed over the skin [Source: Wikipedia].  Taking an EKG on Apple Watch is as simple as holding your finger on the redesigned digital crown for 30 seconds.  Including this in a smartwatch makes this item much more than just a companion device or as some view it, “a toy” — it makes it a first class wearable that is deserving of respect.  All of the health data is saved securely to your device in case a need arises to be shown to a physician.

AppleWatchSeries4

Apple Watch Series 4 with Cellular.

Second, due to the “edge to edge” screen of the Apple Watch Series 4, it will include more dynamic watchfaces and complications that can be used on the watch while keeping the same battery life as the previous generation.

Lastly, the Series 4 watch includes fall detection.  Fall detection is vital, especially for the older demographic and thanks to the latest addition from another alerting device may be able to go the way of the Dodo.

Overall, Apple Watch Series 4 is looking to be an excellent upgrade from last years model and although it is not a must buy for all Series 3 owners, if you have Series 0 through 2 — please proceed to your closest Apple Store.


iPhone

This is likely what you’re all here for; however, after seeing the release of Apple Watch Series 4 one could wonder if they could be pleasantly delighted any more.  iPhone X was Apple’s first attempt at a radical redesign of the iPhone, ever.  Not only was the home button no more, the orientation of the cameras changed and there were additions and subtractions made inside of iOS to account for the new display, including it’s hideous display notch — yes, it’s still there in 2018 devices, get used to it.

Enter iPhones XS and XS Max.

iPhonesXSXSMax

iPhones XS and XS Max.

Gone are the days of new “Plus” models.  When it came to the Plus devices, they each offered a different experience when compared to their smaller counterparts.

  • iPhone 6S vs 6S Plus — Camera differences, iPhone 6S did not have optical image stabilzation.
  • iPhone 7/8 vs 7/8 Plus — Camera differences, iPhones 7/8 did not have dual lens camera systems capable of producing portait mode shots with enhanced depth of field.

Now that we have the “Max” model there aren’t any apparent differences other than battery size and screen size 5.8″ versus 6.5″.

Source: Apple, YouTube

The new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max devices are powered by the latest SoC from Apple, A12 Bionic, which not only provide improved overall performance of the device itself, but faster unlocking using FaceID.  FaceID, while regarded as generally stellar, was often noted as being slower than TouchID, which is notably fast and seamless.  Additionally, because of this new chip we get camera improvements and can now adjust the depth of field of a portrait mode photo after it has been captured.  While there have been third party applications that could do that because the image data is readily available, this feature is now natively available within the Photos app itself. All of these features topped with the pleasant addition of IPS 68 water and dust resistance, up to 2 meters, comparable to devices such as Samsung Galaxy S9.

Just when we thought that all was done, there was….one…..more…..device.

Enter iPhone XR.

This is Apple’s low-cost iPhone, let’s call it like it is.  When your devices start of at $999 for iPhone XS and $1099 for iPhone XS Max, there needs to be another device for the majority of consumers and emerging markets.  Face it, in 2018 you can get a solid smartphone for $500 (eg. One Plus), we shouldn’t have to spend a grand to get a solid phone.  While one could argue about reliability, long-lasting support and other premises that take Apple’s devices from good to great — the aforementioned argument is solely based on price alone.

iPhoneXR2018

Apple iPhone XR, shown in Product Red.

iPhone XR starts at $749 (in the buying options it doesn’t appear that this device can be purchased unlocked) and features a 6.1″ LCD display that forgoes 3D touch but doesn’t lack in many other areas.  It is notable that iPhones 6/7/8 all had LCD displays but all had 3D touch — seems to be an omission for the sake of differentiation.  Although it is LCD, Apple is touting it as the most accurate LCD display on a smartphone, which is likely true as Apple’s displays are individually calibrated for accurate at the factory and lead the industry in how accurate the representation of colors are.  XR also comes in a variety of colors to spice things up, while having only a single lens camera, which differentiates it further from the XS and XS Max.  Although there is only one lens here, the camera is still capable of producing portrait mode shots through the Google coined, computational photography, which Phil Schiller almost winced while saying.  Otherwise, the device could be confused with a X, XS or XS Max device as it features the same stylings and notch, which also houses the same True Depth camera and sensor array that is used for FaceID.

In short, Apple knocked it out of the park here, especially with pricing.  While iPhone XR could come in at an even lower pricepoint to shake up the market, $749 is a pleasant surprise, while $1099 for iPhone XS Max is as well as we are used to seeing a $150 or more markup for the larger devices year over year.  As of this event below is Apple’s new iPhone lineup:

  • iPhone 7/7 Plus
  • iPhone 8/8 Plus
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XR

iPhone X is no longer in the lineup and will not be sold going forward.

Of course, there were new updates to iOS, which will be pushed out in iOS 12, Monday, September 17th.


Notable Exclusions

With all of the hype surrounding an Apple event, there are always devices and services rumored to be released and/or updated that simply do not get the attention we thought they’d get.

Most notable is Apple’s AirPower mat, which was promised last year — STILL is nowhere to be found, without as much of a mention from Apple. Not only would this be a great companion to this iPhone lineup, which has Qi “wireless” charging support, it would show users that they’ve taken this product seriously.

Then, iPads, Mac Mini and AirPods. All of these items were longshots and will ultimately receive their own event when and if they are updated this year. This was an event all about iPhone and it’s number one companion, Apple Watch. Here’s to another fall or early winter event from Apple.


Wrapping Up

It is safe to say that Apple is once again firmly in the lead in many areas after this event.  When it comes to companion devices and Apple Watch, there is no question, while the iPhone XR gives premium features at a reasonable cost.

Good game, Apple — good game.

Hands on with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Samsung’s latest flagship device is here, the bold and beautiful Galaxy Note 7 and I’ve had the chance to spend some time with it.  Starting at $850 this is one of the best Android devices that money can buy.  With that being said, I will break it apart and highlight the good, bad and potential pitfalls that I see in the device.  We must remember, that no device is perfect, but it can be “perfect” for us.

Let’s get reviewing, shall we!?


Screen & Body
The first thing that you notice when you pick up the device is how sleek and sexy it is.  Yes, devices can be sexy too!  The curves on each side of the screen make it rest very well in the palm of your hands and does not appear to be too slippery without a case.  Looking around the outside of the casing you can admire the variety of colors that it comes in: Black onyx, blue coral, silver and gold.  In short, the blue coral is stunning to see in person — this version has a nice contrast with gold edges surrounding it while the black onyx color way follows up in a close second.  When you press the power button, you are greeted by one of the best displays, if not best display, that is on a smartphone.  This 5.7″ screen is packing a display at 1440 x 2560 pixels coming in with 518 PPI (pixel per inch) — this means the images you see on the device will be crystal clear with essentially no chance of you discerning pixels with your naked eye.  The screen technology is Super AMOLED, which gives you very rich blacks and Samsung usually tweaks their displays to be a little more saturated than others on the market, which will make colors “pop” a little more than usual.
Galaxy Note 7, retail in hand.

Galaxy Note 7, retail, in hand.

Camera Technology
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Samsung stuffs some of the best camera technology into a device and the Note 7 is no slouch here.  The rear camera comes in at 12 MP with F1.7 aperture.  The camera features optical image stabilization, RAW image capture, HDR (High Dynamic Range, just leave this setting on or at least on Auto) and more effects within the app itself.  The front-facing camera is a respectable 5 MP shooter that can create a clear image and looks great through the on-screen viewfinder.  Through the tests performed, shutter speed is quite fast (note: some Android devices struggle here, the Note 7 is more than capable of taking many pictures in succession).  The only issue that could arise is if you are trying to quickly open the Samsung camera app quickly after closing another app, there were a few instances where it stuttered to open from memory; however, once open it performed like a charm.  Saved pictures and video look fantastic on the 5.7″ display.  Video is also smooth with OIS certainly aiding in any handheld shots that you get.  Colors are very vibrant and make any image or video captured look fantastic.  If a camera on a device is any driver for a purchase, then go ahead and get that credit card ready my friend.
User-Experience
Samsung is calling the iteration of TouchWiz on the Note 7 “Grace UI” and for the most part it is graceful.  Samsung has been scaling TouchWiz back more and more over recent years because of customer complaints and dreadful performance over time.  Having a lighter user-interface makes the device perform quicker and usually those performance increases come with a lighter overall “weight” on the outward facing interface.  Grace UI is light on it’s feet and light in colors that are easy on the eye.  One of the best parts of the Note 7 and it’s UI are the built in “edge apps”.  With a quick swipe in from the edge of the screen (can be repositioned in the settings) the user can access apps, contacts, news and more from a pull out on the edge of the screen.  If any of you are familiar with the Android app SwipePad, think of it on steroids.  Great innovation here by Samsung that makes the Note 7 experience that much better than another rival smartphone and can certainly help to drive the purchase decision — yes, they are that good.
Galaxy Note 7 displaying Apps Edge, which house many unique features to the Note 7.

Galaxy Note 7 displaying Apps Edge, which house many unique features to the Note 7.

The reason that we buy smartphones are to increase our productivity and applications built into the edges of the display do that and more.  The S-Pen, as usual, is fantastic, easy to use and feels great once it hits the screen.  Samsung has done a few good things here to ensure that S-Pen use is easy, from making it virtually impossible to put it in in reverse and making the screen detect it’s location mere millimeters away.  All writing and drawing with the S-Pen is lag free and keeps you focused on the task at hand.
Another important part of the user experience is going from one app to another in our day to day lives and this smartphone gets the job done with minimal stutter, there is some to be found when opening certain memory-intensive games, opening the camera app, or swiping into Flipboard briefing (which is just awful and should be disabled) from the home-screen, which should be noted.
Take a look at this full review of the Note 7 from Android Authority:

Overall Impressions
Pros:
There are not many bad things that one can say about the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.  The device is beautiful inside and out with power, grace (Grace UI) and plenty of features to keep you happy.  If you are coming from a Galaxy S5, Note 4 or lower — I’d be confident to say that this is a must upgrade for you.
Cons:
The $850 price tag can serve as quite the significant barrier to entry for some buyers, especially with other high-performing Android smartphones like the Nexus 6P, One Plus 3 and others coming in at $400.  Remember that this device comes with a lot of extra features that are useful — IF you make use of them.  If you’re looking for just another “big screen device” you can get that elsewhere.  Additionally, if you are looking for a lag free device, the Note 7 is not it.  While Samsung’s latest flagship offers minimal lag, the weight of the skin and additional apps can show when opening the camera app or opening memory-intensive games.
Bottom line:  If the Note series has a feature-set that you enjoy and you are due for an upgrade, this is a no brainier.  With a camera, screen, companion apps and set of hardware specifications that are almost second to done, it’s easy to see why this device will sell.  Additionally, if you’re just looking for a powerfully monstrous device that will last for years, look beautiful and perform with the best of them look no further — just be ready for your bank account to take a hit.

A Smartphone is a utility device (Rant)

What do you use for smartphone for?  Gaming, social networking or just texting and calling — perhaps a plethora of all of the above?  Well, for whatever it is worth a smartphone, in my opinion, is only a utility device and when and if it stops making my life easier, I will have to find another device that can do so.  I don’t game and I do not spend endless hours on social networks. Today, there are so many people that have smartphones that do not utilize any of the following:

  • Social networking apps
  • GPS Navigation
  • MP3 player qualities
  • Use of anything requiring data in general

For those that meet this criteria, my question to you is:  Why do you have a smartphone to begin with? For those that simply want to talk and text and simple feature phone or flip phone (although a bit archaic at this point) can fully meet your needs.  Smartphones come at a cost — a learning curve albeit, that learning curve to technologists is small or non-existent, let’s not forget the older generation or people who simply do not enjoy the technology that these devices have to offer. Bottom line:  The next time someone wants a new phone and asks for suggestions remember that a smartphone is a great device and fits the requirements for many if not most people in this technology driven world; however, for some, easy of use and simplicity is key.