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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”]
Apple iPhone 14 Plus Unboxing & Hands On
Better late to the party than never
The iPhone 14 Plus may have come a little bit late in the party, but the new ‘Plus’ iPhone might actually be your best bet.
To cut the story short, it is iPhone 14’s bigger brother.
Apart from a bigger display, it also has the longest battery life in an iPhone ever.
But would you choose it over the more expensive iPhone 14 Pro Max?
And are you willing to trade-off the faster ProMotion display, Dynamic Island, and better cameras for a more “affordable” iPhone?
Watch our unboxing and hands-on of the iPhone 14 Plus to know more.
Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Carbon 2022: Freelancer’s partner
A glimpse of freelancing life
Being a freelancer means you have to stay conveniently connected on-the-go. Some people think it’s all carefree days and not much work. While sometimes, that can be true, you don’t get to enjoy that flexibility without putting in hard work first.
To shed some light on this and clear up common misconceptions, I want to share a sneak peek of a day in my life as a freelancer. I will be taking along the latest Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Carbon designed on the Intel® Evo™ platform. Hopefully, you’ll see why it’s the perfect laptop for those looking to elevate their freelancing career.
Power and portability made handy
Freelancing offers a very flexible lifestyle as long as you make sure all the work gets done. To get my creative juices flowing,I like exploring new places to get inspiration for fresh ideas. That means, portability is an important consideration for the gadgets I use for work.
The newest Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Carbonis ultra lightweight (968grams to be exact) and ultra-slim (14.mm thin), making it super handy. It also easily fits my 13-inch handbag along with my other things.
What’s most impressive is how much power it packs despite its petite frame. Like the earlier version of the device we reviewed nearly two years ago, this one’s also an Intel® Evo™ certified machine. The Intel® Evo™ badge signifies the perfect combination of features and technologies, tested under everyday conditions for an exceptional experience that lives up to its expectations. That means it’s been tuned to deliver the best of Intel.
The one I’m using is specifically powered by a 12th Gen Intel Core i7 2.1Ghz processor. It even has 16GB of RAM and 512GB of internal SSD storage. It literally has more power than I need in such an easy-to-carry body. Exactly how I like it.
Display that’s easy on the eyes
I find early mornings to be my least productive hours. So, to help me get through them, I check my email and phone messages while having a quick brunch. It helps that the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Carbon’s PureSight Display makes skimming through my inbox easy on the eyes. The laptop has the usual TÜV Rheinland low-blue light certification which the brand achieved through the Eye Care Mode feature that reduces the blue light emitted by the screen. This goes a long way in protecting our eyes.
The display also has a silky smooth feel and flow to it. The 90Hz refresh rate on the 2.5K (2,560 x 1,600) screen is just lovely to interact with. It really helps make scrolling through web pages and documents feel smoother. The aspect ratio (16:10) is just about the sweet spot for working, helping boost my productivity even further.
Practicality and the ‘lifestyle’ aesthetic collide
My energy usually peaks mid-day so this is when I usually set online meetings and presentations. I enjoyed the Yoga Slim 7i Carbon’s anti-glare matte finish display because even in bright sunlight, I experienced no issues with my face reflecting back at me. It also helps that it has up to 400 nits of brightness making the screen visible even in brighter environments.
The matte moon-white color is stunning and complements all my other things. I feel a little extra presentable during meetings because of its minimalist design.
While I typically stop working at 4:30PM, I don’t shut down my laptop just yet. I often check back in, respond to emails, and sometimes get back on the laptop to do a little more work before calling it a day. I’m stunned at how quickly Yoga Slim 7i Carbon switches on the moment you flip the lid with no need to press any button.While the device doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner, it is equipped with Windows Hello face-recognition using the webcam.
Having to work at different locations, it also helps that Lenovo has thought about privacy and security. One of my favorite features on the Yoga Slim 7i Carbon is the Smart Presence Detection. Essentially, it knows whether I’m still looking at the laptop or not. When I need to step away to get my refreshment fix, the display automatically locks and it also unlocks just as easily when it knows I’m done going AFK.
Durability and flexibility assurance
The Yoga Slim 7i Carbon is a barely-there laptop, perfect for those who have to carry their laptop around all day. Lenovo says it offers military-grade toughness, too. This is based on the nine tests that the company has undertaken, including drops from a 76cm height, dust-resistance and the laptop’s ability to withstand extreme temperatures. Impressive stuff.
While bigger can be better for others, I prefer lighter. Even a well-designed smaller, lighter laptop has its struggles somewhat to shift heat over a well-designed larger one. So yes, there is at least a slight performance hit related to this laptop’s design.
With the 3-Year Lenovo Premium Care and 3-Year Accidental Damage Protection that also come with every purchase, you won’t have to worry about taking your device to service centers should you encounter problems since Lenovo offers 24/7 chat and on-site support.
Hassle-free, smooth workflow anywhere
The Lenovo Slim 7i Carbon seems like an ideal choice for those who want a reliable hybrid work computer. It’s small, lightweight and has plenty of power to let you complete most everyday work tasks.
On top of that, it’s also a stylish yet minimal device that fits nicely into most working (and non-working) environments. Based on my limited hands-on time with the device, it’s a solid machine for modern-day workers including myself.
It’s tiny but powerful and it’s perfect for my life as a freelancer. With its long battery life and innovative features, I’m not worried about my efficiency despite juggling multiple tasks.
This feature is a collaboration between GadgetMatch and Lenovo Philippines.
Samsung’s Flip Phone Innovation Over The Years
All before the Galaxy Z Flip craze took the world by storm
Admit it or not, most of us have become so used to smartphones looking a lot like one another. Some spec bumps, design refreshes, camera cutout changes, that’s about it. That’s all in a span of a year or as short as six months.
While smartphone designs won’t be as exciting as how it was before with feature phones, Samsung made jaws drop when their foldable prototype became a retail product as a result of years of R&D (research and development).
In a crowd full of slender glass and polycarbonate slabs, Samsung has created the Galaxy Z Flip not just to make a new breed of smartphone, but also to bring back what people miss — the excitement in phone design.
It started when people suddenly missed the weirdly-addictive feeling of clamshell phone clasps every time someone ends a call conversation. This 2022, it’s satisfying as it is on the new Galaxy Z Flip4.
It’s the nostalgia kicking
Back when I was in grade school, I’m quite different than kids of my age. While most 7-year-olds enjoy their time with crayons, coloring books, or games (either physically or digitally), my mind and eyes were focused on gadgets like phones. Whenever we go to malls, I collected a lot of phone brochures to the point where a salesman scolded me.
Also that specific period in time, most people prefer Nokia phones over anything else. Still, I dreamt of having at least one Samsung phone — a Samsung slider, not the flippy ones.
The phones above are just some of the Samsung phones I fantasized to have — i620, G800, E870, U700, S8300 UltraTouch, and most especially, the U900 Soul.
While I became more interested in tech due to Nokia and their XpressMusic plus N-series phones, Samsung’s slider phones were the game-changer for their classy and sleek designs that other manufacturers failed to bring to the table. It even came to a point when Samsung became obsessed with having the thinnest phone — the Samsung U100 Ultra Edition II at just 5.9mm.
But what about flip phones? If memory serves me right, the first Samsung phone I’ve ever seen in real life was my late aunt’s Samsung X640. It wasn’t as appealing to me but for a 2005 clamshell, it’s decently-looking compared to the Nokia 6101 with that bulging antenna that my third-grade professor in computer class flexed a lot. Albeit, that Nokia was a seller with its two displays.
TMI but I just thought that if my aunt is still alive, she would be rocking the latest Samsung phone — either the Galaxy Z Fold4 or the Z Flip4. Just putting this here since she contributed a lot to why I became a gadget nerd.
To All The Samsung Flip Phones I’ve Loved Before
Right before the foldable craze started, Samsung was already in the game for their fashion-forward feature flip phones. So why not take a trip down memory lane with me and mesmerize yourself with some collection of Samsung’s best-looking clamshell phones over the years.
For the classy
From 2008 all the way to 2019, flip phones with gold accents paired with faux leather or replicated diamonds are the classiest-looking phones ever — at least in Samsung’s phone-folio.
Samsung E500 (2006)
It may not be as popular as it looks in 2006, but it’s definitely one rare phone. It’s perfect for making a bold statement with gold and jewelries.
Samsung L310 (2008)
While it heavily reminds me of the Nokia 7390 from 2006, during this time, it’s already one of (if not the) Samsung’s classiest-looking phones ever.
Samsung i9230 Galaxy Golden (2013)
The first Android flip phone title probably goes to the Samsung W999 that came in 2011, but the Galaxy Golden still made huge waves overseas as an elegant-looking Android phone trapped in an old clamshell body. It may not be the best Android phone of its time but hey, at least you get twice the Super AMOLED display and a pseudo-premium leather feel and look.
Fun fact: Samsung is the only phone company that still manufactured more than five foldable phones past the “dumbphone” era. Thus, there were already Android-powered Samsung flip phones right before the debut of the Galaxy Z Flip line in 2020 — the W999, i9230, W2014, W2015, G9198, plus the W2016, W2017, W2018, and W2019 in the succeeding sections below.
Ditching the faux leather backs and trimmings, the W2016 and W2017 are the Flip phone versions of the ever-popular Galaxy S6 and S7. As evident as how the gold shines on their glass front and back up to the frame, these phones were popular in China that only a handful can afford — from CNY 9999 to a huge jump of CNY 20,000 (roughly US$ 1402~2804 / SG$ 2017~4034 / PhP 82,132~164,281).
Samsung brought back the black and gold combination with the W2018 and W2019 — which are also the Flip phone variants of the Galaxy S8 and S9 due to the similar hardware — such as the dual-variable aperture camera found both on the W2019 and Galaxy S9+.
The W2018 alone had a retail value of a jaw-dropping CNY 15,999 (US$ 2200 / SG$ 3227 / PhP 132,000 in today’s conversion rate). Fortunately, the first Flip (that made its debut a year after W2019 was launched) wasn’t as pricey and not limited to the Chinese market anymore.
For the quirky ones
Some may find them weird, others may think they are attractive. Either way, Samsung still sold these phones towards a niche market.
Samsung Nori F (2010)
The LG Lollipop (2009) took the interest of many young Asians because of how cute the phone is. Paired with the ever-eargasmic hit song ‘Lollipop’ is by 2NE1 and BIGBANG (which is also nostalgic to me as a veteran K-Pop fan), Samsung decided to create its direct rival with the Nori F.
Nori might mean “seaweed” in the Japanese context but 놀이 (nor-i) means “play” in Korean. Cool enough, Samsung made four playful colors, each highlighting one’s style while still showcasing the quirky three-array LED panel that can do sorts of pixelated, animated magic.
*It’s the loudest phone I have today as my alarm. The alarm works even if the phone’s off 🤯
Samsung P900/P910 (2006)
Feature phones during 2006 were either basic-looking or just plain “weird”. With swiveling phones becoming one of the go-to designs, Samsung has made a clever way to not just take and display landscape photos, but also to create a pocket-friendly product that can also broadcast TV shows directly.
Samsung Serene (2005)
One of Samsung’s most historic collaborations is making a phone with the popular audio company Bang & Olufsen (or commonly referred to B&O).
While Nokia continued to make waves with their XpressMusic phones and Sony Ericsson had Walkman phones, this particular venture resulted to the creation of Samsung Serene as a special-designed music device and flip phone in one. I’m just guessing the wordplay came from “Serenity” or the state of calmness and peace — which is also correlated to music.
Back then, it costed as much as US$ 1275 (roughly SG$ 1834 or PhP 74,692), a price tag no one would bat an eye due to the ever-growing list of affordable feature phones.
For the ultra-sleek and minimal
There are these clean-looking flip phones, too. You might have even seen them before but you just can’t tell because Samsung just had confusing phone names.
Samsung E870 (2006)
As said multiple times, 2006 phones are either basic-looking or just fascinatingly weird. But the Samsung E870 was compelling due to its cleaner, more minimal design with flat edges and larger, squarish keypad. Flip phones that time were nothing but bulging wedges with most having their thick antennas sticking out — Samsung neither an exception.
Samsung X520 (2006)
While the E870 is a clean slate, the X520 is more eccentric and irresistible due to its curves and a tempting color scheme that reminds you of wine and chocolate. Even the duotone keypad reminds you of a chocolate bar of some sort. I’m just guessing that their E-series stands for “Elegance” and X is for “Xtraordinary”.
Samsung U300 (2007)
And while already on the topic of Samsung’s past phone naming schemes, the U-series definitely stands for Samsung “Ultra Edition” series of phones — way before they used it on the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
The U300 stood out to me mainly because Samsung highlighted its thin form factor at a measly — you’ve guessed it — 9.6mm. If you’ve paid attention earlier, this is the flip phone that joins the Ultra Edition II series of Samsung: the U100 (5.9mm candybar), U600 10.1, and the U700 12.1 (the sliding phone I wanted to have) altogether.
Samsung S3600 (2008)
A year after, Samsung has released a flip that’s as classy as the U300 with its chic, brushed metal cover. But instead of the thin form factor and a “better” 3.2MP camera, you instead get a 1.3MP camera, microSD card slot, and a bigger battery at a more enticing price range.
Samsung Master Dual (2014)
For the record, 2014 was when Samsung launched the Galaxy S5 and the Galaxy Note 4 (also the year when the first GadgetMatch video on YouTube was released). But in South Korea, some people just can’t seem to adapt to the oddly-large smartphones — especially the elderly.
The Master Dual running Android was Samsung’s answer. It was then followed by the Galaxy Folder and Folder2, just without that nice external AMOLED display.
For the Fashion-Forward
F means a lot in Samsung’s vocabulary: Flip, Fashion-Forward, Female, or just those with utmost Fascination to anything Floral.
Samsung C3520 (2011)
This is the same year when the Galaxy S II and the first-ever Galaxy Note were released. Samsung launching this floral-studded flip phone is just a testament that large smartphones are really not for everyone — at least in 2011.
Samsung S5150 Diva Folder (2009)
Back in the time when companies wanted to catch the attention of female consumers, fashion-centric phones like the Diva folder would make the cut.
Love it or hate it, this clamshell phone is definitely made for the true diva. The ultra-reflective and glossy plastic material of this phone reminded me of the trending smartphone cases that looked puffed and inflated.
Samsung E420 (2006)
Another 2006-born phone that made it to this feature is none other than the Samsung E420.
During its launch, it’s one of the most affordable in the “La Fleur” line — which happened to be Samsung’s fashion-inclined line of phones. However, looks can really be deceiving as it only offered looks without support for Bluetooth and MP3 while its rivals considered them as necessities.
The new breed of Flip phones
Almost fifteen years apart, we are now in the time where smartphone technology is continuously evolving while the foldable technology is still in its young stage. Still, Samsung has truly paved the way in making the foldable dreams come to a reality.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip / Z Flip 5G (2020)
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip and Z Flip 5G are one of the pioneers in the clamshell-type foldable category. While the first Samsung foldable title goes to the Galaxy Z Fold line that cater the business-minded and professionals, the Z Flip was made with the youth in mind. However, its steep launch price of US$ 1380 / SG$ 1998 / PhP 79,990 isn’t really meant for the Gen Zs and borderline millennials (like me).
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 / Z Flip3 (2022/2021)
Ah, finally! The Galaxy Z Flip4 (together with the similarly-looking Z Flip3) are Samsung’s latest line of foldables, or rather, folding flip phones. With a more cutting-edge design, tougher hinge and display, longer battery, and better cameras all in a compact foldable form factor, the Galaxy Z Flip4 can surely stand out from the crowd.
Best of all? It’s more within the reach at US$ 999.99 / SG$ 1398 / PhP 53,990 — a lot cheaper than the Samsung Serene, W2018, and most definitely, the overly-priced W2019.
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