Features

Phablet Wars Episode 1: Galaxy Note 5

Published

on

There’s a certain cadence to tech reporting, a routine if you will, milestones and destinations that are plotted on a calendar like red letter days. Like holidays more than special events, affairs that you know will take place, come hell or high water.

And sure enough, as it has come to pass every year since the original large screen smartphone was invented back 2011, a new Samsung Galaxy Note is unveiled.


I’m here on my third year running, and there’s a comforting familiarity about things, but something is not quite right, something is messing up the expected sense of déjà vu.

The date and place are different.

Normally this event takes places in September, in Berlin, right before the start of a technology trade show called IFA. Instead we’re at the Lincoln Center in the Big Apple, in the middle of August.

Almost ironically, you have Apple to blame for messing up this rhythm.

JK Shin Unpacked 2015

Back in 2011, Steve Jobs mocked the original Note predicting that no one would want to buy a phone with a large screen. But Samsung was laughing all the way to the bank, and so last year, behest their departed founder’s wishes, Apple released the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus.

That super sized iPhone goes head-to-head with the Note, and Apple being Apple, can afford to be 3 years late, and still make a competitive dent in this growing space of smartphones that are larger than your usual phone and smaller than your usual tablets.

Each move now, is a play in these “phablet” wars. And that’s why we are here early.

Samsung wants a head start, away from any noise that Apple can generate. The Korean tech giant needs to wow the world like its never done before, and it needs to get the Note 5 to stores before Apple can say iPhone 6S Plus.

GLORIOUS

Note 5 in NYC

Behold the Note 5 in all its glory. The demo phone I’m given to take around town is gold, and it glistens under the New York sun, more prestigious than any Note I’ve previously had the privilege of using.

Its front panel is unmistakably Samsung with rounded corners and a glass face, as always a large Samsung logo is plastered just below the ear piece, and on the bottom center of the device, the capsule shaped home button.

The screen on this phone is as glorious as ever, similar to last year’s model, the resolution is twice that of a high-def display, with more pixels than the eye can see. Colors have the usual saturation and vibrance Samsung Super AMOLED displays are known for, and so far, its been holding its own against North America’s over zealous sun.

The only thing noticeably different about this screen is its bezel. One this phone, that border in between the display and the phone’s aluminum trim is reduced slightly, so the phone is not just thinner, but also a tiny bit shorter and slimmer.

But it is the phone’s back side that’s left me infatuated. 

Earlier this year, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S6 Edge – one of the most, I wanna say, fashion forward phones of the year, but in technological terms. Its edge display is curved on both sides, tapering down to fractions of a millimeter on both sides. This stunning specimen of a smartphone feels like the future.

In New York, Samsung unveiled a phablet version of the S6 Edge calling it the S6 Edge+ and I know it sounds like i’ve digressed, but if you can imagine what the screen of the S6 Edge+ looks like (I’ll make it easy for you, I’ve got a photo) that’s exactly how the back of the Note 5 is.

Curves on Note 5 & S6 Edge+

Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but this curvature adds to the phones “grippability,” matching the normal arc of one’s palms. After two years of experimenting with materials, I’m happy to see things come to this.

There’s a level of coldness associated with glass construction, it doesn’t embrace you, feeling more like a Porsche than a high-end mini van, but the Note 5 is the Porsche of smartphones, and in this case it hits the mark.   

EVERYONE HAPPY

It’s about time. I’ve complained about Samsung’s plasticky build for many years now, they’ve finally delivered on premium looking phones this year. Of course premium construction has come at the cost of waterproof features, expandable storage and replaceable batteries.

The first two, Sony with its Xperia line, has managed to accomplish so I see no reason why this can’t be done.

But I expect the latter to piss off some loyalists. I know of many Note users who carry around a spare battery, and even with fast charging as an option, swapping a fresh battery for a depleted one sure beats having to use a power bank.

And while I don’t feel the urge to complain about this as much, it’s one area of innovation I wish Samsung would look into. How to maintain premium construction, while providing this flexibility some users demand. Maybe something to look into next year.

Apple doesn’t get the same amount of flack, even when iPhones have never been water proof, have never offered expandable storage options, and have never let users replace batteries. Perhaps it comes with the territory, Android users demand more options, even though we don’t always end up using them

I for one have used a Note for many years, and don’t remember if I really needed more storage. I sure didn’t ever have an extra battery, even if that would have been a great idea.

NOTE TAKING

samsung-galaxy-note-5-stylus

I also din’t use my S-Pen much. Which is an aweful admission, considering this bundled stylus is how the Note gets its name.

This year, many will speak about how the S-Pen got a face lift, and how its new spring loading mechanism ensures that the pen stays inside the phone when not in use. But it’s really the innovations built around S-Pen software that are huge for the Note.

Being able to scribble and draw on your phone is the value proposition of the Note. And in a sea of smartphones above 5.5 inches, it’s the first, and one of a handful, that actually bundle a digital pen — getting this right is justifying the phone’s existence.

Let me give you some concrete examples. Since the last two iterations, when you pull out the S-Pen it brings up a menu called Air Command. Do you want to scribble down a note, make a clipping from the current screen? All these options are a tap away from this pop-up menu.

But say you’ve moved on to other things, pen still in hand, summoning Air Command for another task isn’t as easy. It’s a meticulous process that entails pointing at the screen, close enough but without touching, and then a press of a button on the S-Pen.

Samsung’s fixed that on the Note 5. Air Command is now a small bubble that floats on your screen,  you can position it anywhere you want, so it won’t get in the way of business. Retracting the pen still enables it, but it stays there, awaiting your next command. It took just a few minutes with the device, before I got that aha moment, it makes perfect sense. Just with that small adjustment, I have a feeling I’ll be using my S-Pen more now.

Samsung has also made the note taking experience more seamless. Even if the phone is off, you can pull out the pen, scribble a note and save it for later. The whole time the screen remains dark,  giving you the impression that its still off. You can also save notes as minimized stickies that resemble app icons on your home screen.

I also think I’ll be using a feature called Scroll Capture. It saves you from having to take multiple screen shots of a webpage, or a lengthy chat conversation. When enabled, all you have to do is tap and it will scroll up one page. You can tap and scroll up to 22 times, on any app, and when you’re done it will save the screen grabs as one long image.

PHOTOGRAPHER’S BEST FRIEND

With all that the Note 5 has going for it, the camera feels like an aside, but traditionally all Notes have had some of the best smartphone cameras each year, and this one is no different. Although unlike previous years, this one doesn’t get an upgrade from last February’s Galaxy S6. It’s the exact same camera, and that really isn’t a bad thing – 8 months into the year, its still one of the best cameras we’ve seen on a smartphone this 2015.

Like the S6 you can double press on the home button to launch the camera, from any window, even with the display turned off. If you don’t have an S6, I promise you this will change your life, or at least give you the ability to capture even the most fleeting of moments.

So that the camera feels fresh, the Note 5 gets some nice-to-have features, but nothing really ground breaking. There’s an expanded “Beauty Face” mode for selfie-holics, a video collage mode that’ll elevate your Instagram or Vine posts, and for content creators the ability to livestream on YouTube from within the camera app.   

Here are a few sample photos taken with the Note 5.

Time Square by Note 5

New York Streets by Note 5

20150111_111044

PHABLET WARS

In a few hours I’ve got a plane to catch back to Manila, for the first time since I started covering these events I have a phone to take back with me and use for a couple of weeks, which should be enough time to let the hype die down, and see how the phone performs in the real world. My feelings may or may not change then. By that time also, Apple will be ready with its own iPhone announcements, at which point we shall continue this Phablet War, and maybe even, declare a winner.

[irp posts=”913" name=”Galaxy Note 5: BenCab Edition Unboxing”]

Features

Galaxy Note 10 photos leak, baby Switch: Weekend Rewind

Lotsa new hardware coming soon!

Published

on

Here are the top stories on GadgetMatch this week.

1. Samsung Galaxy Note 10 hype train is chugging 

A good indicator that a noteworthy smartphone is coming — pun 100 percent intended — is if its leaks start coming up on the web. That’s exactly the case with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.


The “official” leaked images showcases the front and back of the Note 10. There’s a punch-hole camera hovering over the middle top part of the display.

Speaking of the display, it looks absolutely edge-to-edge and while there’s no indication of it in the images, it might be nesting an in-display fingerprint scanner. The only buttons immediately visible are the volume rockers and the power button. This means it might not have the Bixby button which has been a staple on Samsung flagships in recent years.

Image from @ishanagarwal24 on Twitter

Lastly the renders also show that other than black, the Note 5 will also have a variant that has a gradient back reminiscent of the one we first saw on Huawei.

The Note 10 is launching on August 7 in New York and we’ll be there to give you the updates so make sure you’re following us everywhere on social media.

2. US gov’t can’t make up mind on Huawei ban

Here’s another chapter to the Huawei Ban saga.

If you haven’t kept up, US President Donald Trump lifted the ban on Huawei but just as recently as last week, we learned that no policies were put in place to support the lifting. This week, the U.S. finally issued an official statement about the ban’s lifting. It says the U.S. will issue trade licenses to approved companies who do business with Huawei.

However, the licenses will depend on whether the product is deemed a threat to national security. There were no parameters provided on what entails being a “threat to national security” meaning the licenses is still subject to the government’s whim.

Essentially, Huawei isn’t out of the woods yet and their fate relies heavily on the trade negotiations between Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

3. Sony working on a rollable smartphone

Sony’s mobile phone unit is still alive and they’re looking to roll out something new.

Going beyond foldable smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X, the company is reportedly working on a rollable phone prototype. 

Tech leaker Max J tweeted a gif of a footage from a 2016 video by SlashGear to show what the tech looks like.

The tweet also mentions the following specs: a Qualcomm SM7250 chipset, a 10x zoom camera, and a 3220mAh battery. However, the final retail unit will likely have a Snapdragon 855 chip along with a Qualcomm X50 modem for 5G connectivity

Before you roll your eyes, note that rollable displays already exist. LG — the company Sony is working with — showcased the LG Signature OLED TV R. It’s a 65-inch 4K TV that quietly rolls into a sound bar base when not in use.

It’ll be interesting to see if Sony can translate that tech into a phone’s form factor. The company is planning a late 2019 or early 2020 launch.

 

Macbook Air

4. Apple fixes its MacBook lineup  

If you were confused about Apple’s MacBook lineup for a while, you’re not alone. Not to worry though as they have already applied a fix.

First, they completely axed the 12-inch MacBook — a sexy but underpowered notebook. Next, they refreshed both the MacBook Air and the base level MacBook Pro. 

The new MacBook Air now has True Tone display technology but the rest of the specs remain the same which means it will still be powered by Intel’s dual-core 8th Gen i5.

The MacBook Pro’s refresh brings the Touch Bar to the base model.  It now offers a 1.4GHz quad-core 8th Gen Core i5 chip — with an option to bump up to 3.9Ghz  from Intel’s Coffee Lake lineup.

So no touch bar means it’s a MacBook Air while having a touch bar means it’s a MacBook Pro. Simple, just the way it should be.

5. We’re getting a baby Switch!

Did you hold off from buying a Nintendo Switch? If you did, this new baby Switch might finally convince you to get one.

Enter the Nintendo Switch Lite. As the name suggests, it’s a smaller, less feature-packed version of the Switch. You can still play most of the titles available to the Switch but this one was made specifically for on-the-go gaming.

Unlike the bigger Switch, there’s no option to play on a bigger screen. It also doesn’t support the Joy-con controllers. Other than that, it’s everything the switch is but strictly for handheld gaming.

It’ll retail for $199.99 and will launch on September 20 so you have time to save up.


Weekend Rewind is our roundup of top news and features you might have missed for the week. We know the world of technology can be overwhelming and not everyone has the time to get up to speed with everything — and that includes us. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the rewind.

Continue Reading

Automotive

Four tips for driving in the rain

Safety first then teamwork

Published

on

It’s a given that every driver has to be alert at all times while driving. Although, when the weather gets in the way, things could get a lot trickier and also more dangerous. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re driving in the rain to make sure you get home to your family safe and sound.

Don’t turn your hazard lights on!

This is a pretty common practice that I see on the road. As soon as the downpour starts and visibility gets challenging, drivers ignite their hazard lights as a form of caution to other motorists.


Although the intention is well, this is not the appropriate thing to do when driving in the rain. Activating your hazard lights basically signifies to fellow drivers that something’s up and they should avoid you. These lights are commonly switched on when the vehicle is stalled at the side of the road. Also, having emergency lights activated eliminates the use of your signal lights. Hence, other drivers wouldn’t know when you’re changing lanes and might cause more accidents.

Instead of doing so, simply turn on your headlights. This will also ignite the brake lights at the rear and both the headlamps and taillights are designed to still be visible even under heavy rain or fog.

Watch your speed

It just makes sense to slow down when you’re not certain about the integrity of the road or when there’s low visibility outside the vehicle. Another main reason why you need to watch your speed is to be able to see and avoid puddles of water on the road as they could be covering a deep pothole or even cause hydroplaning.

Hydroplaning is when the vehicle’s tire runs above the water due to speed and loses contact to the ground. As a result, you lose traction of the vehicle’s tire which could potentially be dangerous both to you and other vehicles. If ever it happens to you and in a split-second you feel the loss of control, remember not to panic and suddenly step on the brakes as this will just make things worse. Instead, let go of the gas pedal, grip your steering wheel firmly and slow down until you gain traction again.

Additionally, for roads with puddles of water, you can also follow the tire trail of the car ahead as there are about 1-2 seconds that the water is set apart, reducing the chance of hydroplaning.

Maintain that distance

It’s a good rule of thumb to be about two to three cars away from the vehicle in front of you when moving at a constant speed. Although, that gap should widen when you go faster or when the road is wet. This is to have ample braking time for you when the car ahead suddenly stops.

Seeing more is always better

Remember, visibility is key to be able to plan your actions while driving, react to unexpected hazards, and lessen the chances of running into puddles —  therefore reducing the risk of getting into an accident.

With this in mind, be sure to always keep your wipers in great condition by regularly checking and replacing them. When rain occurs, fog buildup on the windshield is also a common occurrence so be sure to defog the windows.

Lastly, you may choose to mix specific products in your washer reservoir to make it repel more water on your windshield. These things are pretty inexpensive and help a lot during the rainy season.

We hope you picked up something from this article. Remember to always prepare your car ahead of time to ensure that you and your passengers have a safer trip.

Continue Reading

Features

Being connected isn’t what makes a smart home a dream home

Smart appliances have lasting impacts not just on the wallet but also on the planet

Published

on

“If money were no object…” is probably one of the most difficult sentences for me to finish. As I grow older my desire to own more things has slowly diminished, especially since I get to play with an enormous amount of new technology every day. If anything, my inclinations have shifted to buying things that will last at least 10 years or my entire lifetime — even if they cost more — especially if it means having less possessions, spending less money, generating less waste, and doing less harm to the environment in the long run.

I try to apply these principles in everything — from fashion, to coffee, to things for the home — whenever possible. Living an efficient and fully sustainable life is a long-term goal of mine so until I can fully realize that (read: afford), for now here’s a list of home appliances that can help me live that life today, if money were no object.


Refrigerator

A refrigerator is central to any household — it helps store and preserve food that would otherwise go bad after just a few hours. A good refrigerator though is one that not only lasts a long time, but also consumes less energy, and LG’s line of Slim French-Door refrigerators are some of them. It has what LG calls an Inverter Linear Compressor, which manages energy consumption so groceries can last longer and monthly electricity bill can be cheaper.

There are various models that have my favorite feature called InstaView Door-in-Door, which lets you peek into the contents of the refrigerator just by knocking twice, reducing the need to swing open its doors.

Air conditioner

Today’s air conditioners are some of the most environmentally-harmful appliances in the world. Until scientists and manufacturers are able to produce greener refrigerants at scale, energy-efficient alternatives will have to do on days that are unbearably hot. LG’s Dual Cool air conditioner is one such alternative as it cools 40 percent faster, and consumes 70 percent less energy than the usual air conditioner.

Washer and dryer

The accessibility of laundromats is probably one of the best and worst things to happen in our lifetime. Sure they are affordable and saves us so much time, but they’re also the number one culprits to our clothes’ shortening lifespans. If we’re not careful, our clothes either shrink, get completely destroyed, or get lost while we get on doing other things.

Practicing slow fashion is as much about buying clothes that were consciously made and don’t go out of style as investing in tools that help you preserve even existing ones. Thankfully it’s 2019 and there are washing machines that determine the characteristics and volume of each load to minimize fabric damage, like LG’s front-load washer with artificial intelligence direct drive (AI DD). With a feature called TurboWash 360, clothes get cleaner in less time, helping you save on energy, too.

For those who need it, there’s an LG MiniWash that you can put underneath the front-loader so you can wash two loads at the same time. This is great for separating delicates like lace, silk, or linens that require gentler cycles.

Dry cleaner

With great power dressing comes great responsibility. The pantsuits, gowns, and coats that you normally have to take to the dry cleaner 5 blocks away can stay and be cleaned right in your bedroom with the LG Styler, a personal steam closet system. Need wrinkle-free trousers for a town hall presentation while doing your skincare routine? The LG Styler can take care of that. Never burn your slacks or your favorite white button down again and make them last longer.

Home appliances sure make our lives more convenient and efficient, but these things come at a price. We may never fully understand how all the technology in our lives works, but what we have to understand is the impact they have not just on the wallet but also on the planet.

Being connected isn’t what makes a smart home the dream home. When the right time comes, invest in appliances that consume less energy, help generate less food and fashion waste and harmful chemical emissions, and take much longer to replace. That way, not only does our dream home last a lifetime, we can also help make this planet we call home last beyond our lifetime.

Continue Reading

Trending