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”]

Hands-On

Dyson Airwrap hair tutorial and real-life hold test

Is it hard to use? Does it really work?

Published

on

The Dyson Airwrap, ever since its announcement, has been the stuff of hairstyle dreams and legends. The high-tech curling iron revolutionizes the way we do our hair!

But, does it really work? Can a normal girl like myself actually get her hair to look as fab with this new-fangled hair gadget? I put it to the test.

In the video above, you see me doing my hair and the final looks. I try a total of two styles — curly and straight — and take my ‘do out and about to see if my hair would hold. And yes folks, this was only the second time I used the Airwrap on myself, ever.

The results impressed!

If you’re having trouble viewing this video, click HERE to watch

Stay tuned for the full review of the Dyson Airwrap on Her GadgetMatch. For similar topics and features, visit the website here.

Continue Reading

Deals

Plan for Black Friday early with these amazing deals

It’s time to ready your shopping list and wallet

Published

on

We’re midway through November already, inching towards Thanksgiving and one of the most awaited dates for shopping — Black Friday. To help you get yourself and your wallet ready, we scoured through the internet to find some of the best tech deals that’ll be popping up next week. Here are some offers that you might want to take advantage of on November 23rd.

17.3-inch ASUS TUF gaming laptop (US$ 999)

This ASUS Gaming Laptop will be going down by US$ 400, so if you’ve been wanting a gaming laptop, this might be the time to cop one. And if you have a more limited budget, you could also check out the HP Pavilion CX0056WM Gaming Laptop for  under US$ 600 with over US$ 100 worth of extra gaming software at Walmart.

HyperDrive USB Type-C Hub for MacBooks (US$ 69.99)

This would make a perfect gift for that person you know who lives the #donglelife. Check out the deal at Best Buy.

Sony PS4 1TB Slim Spider‑Man Bundle (US$ 199) and Xbox One S 1TB Minecraft Creators Bundle (US$ 299)

The best console deals come out this time of year, and next week, both the Spider-Man PlayStation 4 bundle and the Minecraft Creators Xbox One S bundle will be up for grabs!

Nintendo Switch Super Mario Kart Deluxe Bundle (US$ 299)

Another console being featured this Black Friday is the Nintendo Switch. Why not get the Switch with an amazing party game for your holiday gatherings? You can check the deal out at Best Buy or Walmart.

Pac-Man or Galaga Retro Arcade Machine (US$ 249)

For retro gamers or those who want to reminisce about the arcade days, this would definitely be a great item to pick up. Check it out at Target.

Amazon Echo Dot (Gen 3) (US$ 25) and Google Home Mini (US$ 25)

Get in the smart home/speaker game with the Amazon Echo Dot at half the price! You can also go with the Google Home Mini, if Alexa’s not your jam.

Microsoft Surface Pro 6 (128GB) with keyboard (US$ 599)

Why not get a powerful and portable device? The Surface Pro 6 will be US$ 360 cheaper on Friday, and it might be a good time to pick it up. The deal will be available at Best Buy.

65-inch 4K Smart Roku TV (US$ 398) and 40-inch Hisense 1080p TV (US$ 99)

This Walmart deal is probably one of the best TV deals we’ve ever seen. But if 65 inches is too big or you have a more limited budget, there’s also a 40-inch option that’s an incredible deal, as well.

Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones (US$ 99)

It might be a great chance to pick up a pair of wireless buds from one of the best audio companies out there for under US$ 100. If that’s still a bit too steep though, the Skullcandy Method Wireless Earbuds will also be available at Best Buy for US$ 25, and they’re good quality too.

Anki’s Cozmo (US$ 139.99) and Vector (US$ 199.99) Robots

Anki has been making their rounds on the internet with these two adorable little robots. They would make for a great gift for children and adults alike, and will be marked down at Best Buy this Thanksgiving weekend.

There you have it! Just a few sneaky bits we found ahead of all the ads. We’re sure there’ll be loads more amazing stuff to check out, but this is a good place to start. We hope you enjoy your holidays, and be careful if you’re planning to face the Black Friday mobs. Happy Thanksgiving!

Continue Reading

Features

Huawei, ZTE face ban amid 5G arms race: Weekend Rewind

It’s a security issue

Published

on

Here are this week’s top stories on GadgetMatch.

1. Huawei and ZTE facing more potential bans

Huawei and ZTE have had a relatively hard time breaking through the US and it looks like they’ll face similar problems in other countries. While the US has allowed both Chinese companies to operate in their soil, the likes of Australia, Japan, the UK, and Germany aren’t exactly eager to welcome these two.

The cause for concern is China’s newly implemented National Intelligence Law. This law forces Chinese companies and individuals to serve the Chinese government when needed. Other countries fear this could compromise security.

Huawei and ZTE are gearing up towards 5G but with this current development, it looks like they’ll need to look elsewhere to establish their infrastructure.

2. PLDT, Smart activates first 5G towers in PH

Speaking of 5G, the Philippines isn’t one of the countries that’s blocking China. In fact, the government may be too welcoming. Partnering with Huawei and Ericsson, telecommunications company PLDT along with its wireless arm Smart has activated two 5G cell sites in the country.

The first one is located in Makati City where the company’s headquarters is also found. The other is in Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, a neighboring region of Metro Manila.

3. MediaTek gearing up for 5G

Still on 5G, MediaTek is already hard at work in developing its 5G-capable chip. In a media tour in Taiwan, the company showcased the Helio M70 which does just that.

MediaTek says commercial rollout won’t happen until 2020 but they’re already prepared to showcase the chip at the next MWC (Mobile World Congress) in Barcelona, Spain.

 

Image source: LetsGoDigital

4. Apple patents holed iPhone design

Is Apple killing the notch? That appears to be the case if the latest patent they filed is any indication. LetsGoDigital reported that Apple is planning a holed smartphone.

According to the patent, the front-facing camera could be hidden underneath the screen through that hole. Whether or not this will be the case for the next iPhone remains to be seen. We all just have to wait and see.

5. PlayStation to skip E3 2019

PlayStation won’t be present when annual gaming convention E3 comes around in 2019. This marks the first time in the show’s 24-year history that Sony won’t be present.

In a statement sent to multiple outlets, Sony said, “As the industry evolves, Sony Interactive Entertainment continues to look for inventive opportunities to engage the community. PlayStation fans mean the world to us and we always want to innovate, think differently, and experiment with new ways to delight gamers. As a result, we have decided not to participate in E3 in 2019. We are exploring new and familiar ways to engage our community in 2019 and can’t wait to share our plans with you

It’s all very vague at this point but the company could be all hands on deck for an even more major reveal *cough* PlayStation 5 *cough* and they want the attention all to themselves instead of sharing it with other platforms.


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

Trending