With 2017 in full swing and the launch of the Galaxy S8 mere months away, Samsung hopes to put to rest the case of the flaming Note 7 and the subsequent recall of what many considered to be the best smartphone ever built.
Today at a press conference in Korea, the tech giant announced the results of its own internal investigation and that of three other independent firms.
A lot of tech jargon was thrown around to explain what happened, but simply put, battery issues were discovered to be the root cause of the problem.
Here’s everything you need know about the Note 7 issue.
Samsung was relatively quick to respond, halting the sale of the Note 7 and announcing a replacement program.
Its initial investigation found that batteries from one of its two suppliers were faulty. To meet the demand for the Note 7 it ramped up the production of batteries from its other supplier. Recalled Note 7s were replaced and Samsung began selling the phones with the new battery.
More cases of exploding phones with the new batteries were reported.
Samsung pulled the plug on the Note 7 completely and issued a global recall.
As of today 96% of the 3 million Note 7s sold worldwide have been returned to Samsung.
Who did the testing?
700 researchers from inside Samsung tested 200,000 Note 7 smartphones and over 30,000 batteries.
Samsung also enlisted the services of three independent firms (UL, Exponent, and TÜV Rheinland) to conduct their own tests. Representatives from all 3 firms were also at the event to announce their findings.
What did the investigation find?
After months of tests, investigators didn’t find anything wrong with the Note 7 itself.
Instead all tests pointed to problems in the design and manufacturing of the batteries.
The batteries were manufactured by two different companies using designs and specifications from Samsung.
Two distinct battery issues from both companies were identified.
The batteries from company A had “an electrode deflection, an incorrect positioning of the negative electrode tip in the upper right corner of the battery.”
While the batteries from company B had “an abnormal weld spot (that) led to an internal short circuit.”
Were the Note 7’s other features a factor?
No. Tests found that the fast charging feature on the Note 7 had nothing to do with the problem. Neither did other new features added to the Note 7 including the iris scanner, water resistance and USB-C connectivity.
Samsung also says that contrary to speculation, there was adequate space inside the phone for the battery to swell and contract during charging. In fact, the company claims the Note 7 could have accommodated an even higher capacity battery.
Was the release of the Note 7 rushed? And was this a factor?
Samsung says the Note 7 was released in accordance with its annual roadmap. While Samsung has made a habit of announcing its Galaxy Note smartphone every September, the Note 7’s predecessor the Note 5 was also unveiled in August.
Samsung believes however that rushing its other battery supplier may have triggered the manufacturing issue discovered in Battery B.
So whose fault is it?
Samsung takes full responsibility for the incident. Not only were battery design and specifications from them, they also take the blame for failing to discover the issue which could have been avoided with more rigorous testing.
What is being done so this won’t happen again?
Samsung executives tell us they will continue to strive for an open corporate culture.
Following the results of their investigation Samsung has formed an independent Battery Advisory Council composed of academics from Berkeley, Cambridge and Stanford.
More importantly they have adapted a new 8-point checklist for testing new products. This includes what it calls an enhancement to existing processes like x-ray scans.
And new tests including ones that simulate a variety of use case scenarios.
Did Samsung push too hard? Will it stop innovating?
Samsung did push hard, but we expect nothing less from the world’s top tech brands. To truly innovate tech companies need to continuously push the boundaries of what’s possible. But the harder the push, the greater the need for more stringent quality assurance testing processes.
Samsung says it is committed to “innovation that redefines what’s possible in safety,” their way of saying they will continue to innovate but will be more involved and careful next time.
Mobile World Congress will be different in 2018
Setting the stage for the biggest smartphone show on earth! And how Samsung’s upcoming S9 will disrupt the whole show.
This year’s Mobile World Congress is shaping up to be quite different. And I have a feeling it’s in large part because of the Samsung Galaxy S9 launch, happening just one day before the show’s actual start.
Last year, the Korean tech giant chose a later time and place for its flagship launch, giving other brands the chance to share the MWC spotlight.
Last year, I remember being quietly thankful for Samsung’s almost absence from MWC (they unveiled tablets instead. The show then became a place where other brands could all take part in the conversation, and smaller brands were allowed a chance to be part of the narrative.
Perhaps strategically then, and completely within its own rights, Samsung is choosing to exert its dominance at MWC 2018, using it as the platform to launch its most anticipated flagship sequel.
With the Galaxy S9 expected to dominate the headlines, Samsung’s closest rivals will have to go big or go home.
We hope to be pleasantly surprised by HMD Global, whose nostalgia-fueled Nokia 3310 reboot was the unprecedented star of last year’s show.
Their launch event is also set for the 25th, the same day as Samsung’s. Expected are at least two phones: the Nokia 1 meant for developing markets, and a new midranger the Nokia 7+. Although the actual news-maker — if patent filings are to be believed, the Nokia 10 with five rear cameras — is being saved for a later date. But wouldn’t it be great if we saw another retro phone make a comeback?
Also on the 25th, Sony is expected to unveil its new flagship, the Xperia XZ2, but that’s all we know so far. It’s almost uncharacteristic of the smartphone industry to go without any leaks. We’ve got our fingers crossed that the surprises will be great.
Then on the 27th, ASUS will launch the ZenFone 5. A newcomer to MWC, reps from ASUS tell GadgetMatch their presence at the event will elevate the company’s stature in the smartphone space. The original ZenFone 5 from 2014 disrupted the smartphone industry, and their #BackTo5 campaign hints at a similar thrust.
Others have prudently decided to take a back seat and create moments of their own at a later date.
Unlike previous years, LG and Huawei will not be launching their 2018 flagships in Barcelona. Both brands will be at MWC with smaller announcements instead.
By not going with its usual launch schedule, LG will have the time to further refine the upcoming G7 (name not yet confirmed), secure the right parts, and prep to hit retail stores closer to the phone’s launch date. Factors that could have done last year’s phone some good. If last year’s V30 was any indication, and with LG’s new ThinQ AI announcements at CES coming into play, the G7 has the potential to be a runaway success.
Huawei’s is also pushing back its P11 (or P20) launch event to March. I have high hopes for Huawei, whose forward-thinking AI approach to smartphone computing set them apart last year. A later launch date for their next flagship launch will allow them to chart their own path and stand out as the smartphone leader they are quickly becoming.
At MWC, Huawei will be launching a line of new tablets. But we really look forward to sitting down with CEO Richard Yu to speak about the current roadblocks that stand in the way of their entry into the North American market.
Whatever the case, if this is how the cards fall, then 2018 looks to be a great year for smartphone enthusiasts, and for us journalists who cover them live. It all happens in Spain at MWC 2018. We hope you’ve got your seat belts fastened, because its going to be a thrilling ride.
OnePlus 5T vs OPPO R11s: Camera Shootout
Which phone has the better cameras?
We are here, yet again. Months after the release of the OnePlus 5T and OPPO R11s, we are left scratching our heads at how much these two phones from supposedly different companies look so alike.
Of course, this isn’t the first time, this happened. These two phones’ predecessors, the OnePlus 5 and OPPO R11, also looked confusingly similar.
And so, I had to ask: Despite looking like absolute twinsies, how do the phones’ cameras perform against each other?
Both phones are equipped with dual-rear cameras: A 16- and 20-megapixel combo. Both phones have ditched using their secondary cameras for optical zoom capabilities and instead champion having two shooters with f/1.7 apertures — to shoot better in low-light situations, they claim.
It’s on the front-facing cameras where these two phones differ. The OnePlus 5T sports a 16-megapixel camera with an aperture of f/2.0 while the OPPO R11s is fitted with a 20-megapixel camera with the same f/2.0 aperture.
Now, on to the shootout!
At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be a big difference between the two phones in terms of rear camera performance. In great lighting conditions, the OnePlus 5T and the OPPO R11s deliver great color and detailed photos.
As I used the two phones more, however, I noticed a slight difference with the photos they produce.
In very bright or extreme lighting conditions, the OnePlus 5T’s photos had higher contrast while the R11s’ photos were usually brighter in terms of exposure.
With HDR on, the OnePlus 5T did slightly better. This handset was better at balancing the bright sky background and the shadowy flower foreground. The flowers on the R11s sample were visibly darker and less detailed.
Colors come out almost the same — bright and punchy, but not too saturated as other smartphone cameras have been known to do. But, notice that the R11s’ shot is a tad warmer than the 5T’s photo.
This warmth on the R11s photos is more apparent in the photo above. Again, OPPO’s photos are more exposed, though in this case, that led to a lack of detail on this particular photo.
That R11s brightness works for some instances, however. In the pictures above, the brightness on the OPPO R11s photo worked as it made for a more vivid photo of the flowers.
In low-light settings, both devices do good, though we’ve seen other handsets perform better. Colors are brighter and more solid on the OnePlus 5T; its contrast settings work better for scenarios like this.
The OnePlus 5T and the OPPO R11s both have portrait modes on their rear cameras. For the unfamiliar, this shooting mode just allows for a bokeh effect and slight face-filtering that ensures optimum photos.
On this mode, both devices did well. Bokeh cutouts looked good and natural. As expected and as observed from the other photos, the R11s had a higher exposure which meant less shadows on the face. There was also more airbrushing on the R11s photo with Joshua’s (the photo subject) freckles almost disappearing completely.
There’s also an extra setting on the R11s’ rear camera portrait mode that allows for a tighter portrait shot — I call this the “bust” or “full body” button. Toggling this will either crop into the photo like above, or give you a wider shot like the photo before that.
The same observations are applicable to this next portrait photo. Notice how smooth my skin is on the R11s picture — even golden hour’s great lighting wouldn’t have been able to get my skin to look that great!
Now on to selfies!
This first selfie batch was taken with the beauty mode turned off.
Look closer and you’ll notice subtle differences. The R11s’ photo exposure make it seem like my face is brighter, and even without beauty mode, there seems to be subtle airbrushing done on my face. On both photos, you see the detail on my skin, though I’d say that the OnePlus 5T photo is more true to life — not that I’m happy about that fact.
It should be noted, though, that there is no bokeh mode available on the OnePlus 5T’s front-facing cameras. Alas, you have to deal with crappy backgrounds when you’re on this phone as you can’t blur them out.
It’s really on the beauty mode that these two phones differ. The OnePlus 5T does have a beauty mode contolled by a bar that you can toggle for intensity. The OPPO R11s, on the other hand, has beauty mode settings with choices from intensities one to six, and artificial intelligence-powered beauty mode when set to “Auto.”
The OnePlus 5T’s beauty mode is noticeably mild compared to the R11s’. Even on the highest setting, OnePlus’ filters weren’t as strong as some of OPPO’s. Although OPPO’s filters run the risk of too much smoothing and plastic-y skin, the improved AI-beauty mode has me impressed with natural-looking selfie results.
Even in group selfies, the same results carry over. Again, there is no bokeh or portrait mode on the OnePlus 5T’s selfie camera, which is a shame especially for group photos like above.
The OnePlus 5T, slapped with a flagship processor, is aimed at power users who look at utility and value for money as primary priorities. Even this phone’s lack of portrait or bokeh mode on the front-facing camera, if it’s any indication, shows how selfies just aren’t a priority on this device.
The OPPO R11s, on the other hand, sticks to the brand’s selfie roots. It caters to an audience that puts importance on selfies and beauty modes, even going as far as installing artificial intelligence on said beauty mode.
To be completely honest, there isn’t much of a difference in terms of picture quality between these two handsets. It all boils down to preference. Unless you’re very particular about your beauty modes, either phone would work for you.
In this particular case, the cameras aren’t a tie-breaker.
24 Hours in Phnom Penh with the Vivo V7
A hope-filled city with a horrifying history
Phnom Penh is such an underrated city. If you ask any tourist which Southeast Asian destination he or she would love to visit, the Cambodian capital will probably not even be on the list.
The more popular Siem Reap with its glorious Angkor Wat complex is usually what comes to mind first when talking about Cambodia.
But there’s something so special about Phnom Penh. Perhaps the fact that there are fewer tourists here, despite the history and similarities it shares with its French Indochina neighbors is what makes me root for it more.
Feel Good breakfast
Mornings are made for great breakfast food and coffee. Cold brew is still not as common in Southeast Asia as I’d like, but most cafes in Phnom Penh like Feel Good Coffee make their cup of joe the way they also do in Vietnam: with a metal drip and a splash of sweetened condensed milk.
Walking around the neighborhood gives you a quick feel of what modern-day Phnom Penh is like. It’s reminiscent of the bustling cities Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh and even Bangkok — lining every street are parked scooters and vendors selling iced beverages including my favorite Thai iced tea!
Choeung Ek killing fields
40 minutes from the city proper is the Choeung Ek memorial, a must if you’re visiting Phnom Penh. Tip: Hire a rickshaw or tuktuk to take you there and then back, although the newer rickshaws are cheaper, a lot more comfortable, and feel safer than the latter.
There are no words to describe how disturbing Cambodia’s history is — a very recent one at that. No more than 40 years ago, a quarter of the Khmer population — mostly people from Phnom Penh — were murdered by its own government for the promise of a utopian future.
Today, Cambodia tells the gruesome stories of the Khmer Rouge victims and survivors — some of them younger than my own parents — through memorials like the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center.
They are built to remind the new generation to not make the same mistakes and to embrace the freedom that they enjoy today.
Phnom Penh is home to a lot of good restaurants that serve local cuisine at a reasonable price.
While Khmer food staples lok lak and fish amok are easy to find, the noodle dish uy kuy teav isn’t exactly as popular. It’s not rare to see Vietnamese and Thai food in the menu as well.
If you must visit one temple in the city, it’s got to be the tallest one. Inside the Wat Phnom complex is also a huge park where you can relax and reflect.
Shopping at Central Market
Cambodia isn’t exactly known for the unique shopping finds unlike Thailand’s Chatuchak Market, but a lot of your favorite clothing brands have products made in Phnom Penh. So you’ll find good deals on quality overruns from Levi’s, H&M, and Nike in the different markets around the city.
Central Market, also referred to as Psar Thmei, is the biggest one, with stalls selling not just clothes, but also jewelry, kitchen tools, and of course, food!
The market is one of the few landmarks that will remind you of Cambodia’s colonial history. It was one of, if not the biggest market in Asia when it was built in 1937 during the French colonial period.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
If you still have time, visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum before sunset for more insight on the Khmer Rouge brutality.
The Tuol Svay Prey High School was converted into the largest detention center from 1975 to 1979 when Pol Pot’s army took over Phnom Penh and the rest of Cambodia; former classrooms became interrogation rooms, torture chambers, and prison cells.
Phnom Penh Riverside
Phnom Penh sits at the intersection of Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers. You can enjoy the view from the Riverside Park with a refreshing cup of iced Ceylon tea.
Across the park are restaurants and bars. Some of them have rooftops for a better view of the river.
Romantic dinner at Romdeng
End the day at Romdeng, a restaurant run by an NGO that trains locals in hospitality management and supports the marginalized.
Their version of Cambodia’s national dish fish amok is especially tasty!
Cambodia is on a long road to recovery from the horrors of its past, but its capital and people do not forget; they remember. And despite everything they have been through, they remain steadfast — filled with so much hope and kindness — and we could all learn a thing or two from them.
24 Hours is a series on GadgetMatch.com where we showcase our travels through a smartphone camera’s perspective. It’s also a documented guide on things to see and do in a city in case you happen to plan a trip there.
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