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Gadgets Reviews Smartphones

Impact Shield – S6 screen protector review

On Monday I reviewed Tech21’s case for the Galaxy S6. Even the best cases leave the screen vulnerable to scratches and dirt, so to fully protect your phone, you need a good screen protector. Today I’m going to review Tech21’s Impact Shield screen protector for the Galaxy S6. Our thanks to Mobile Fun who provided the protector for this review.

Tech21 Impact Shield Screen Protector

Protection
Having use the Impact Shield screen protector for several years now, I’ve got a pretty good knowledge of the protection it gives. Whilst the screen protector itself does pick up scratches (which do very slowly fade with time) Tech21’s screen protector does a fantastic job of protecting the phone’s screen.

Over the course of 2 years, I replaced my screen protector twice, because it just collected too many scratches, however every time I pealed it off, the phone screen itself was fine. This newer version offers the same protection, just for the S6. The video below is made by Tech21 – it’s a drop test of a ball-bearing from six foot.

Application

Screen protector application widgetTech21 have added a useful widget to the pack to help you apply the screen protector. This widget (very snugly) slots over your phone, helping you to line up the screen protector to exactly where it needs to be.

Before you apply the screen protector you need to remove any dust from the screen. The microfibre cloth that comes in the packet is pretty bad, and just seemed to spread dust, rather than remove it. I ended up using a glasses cloth to give the screen a proper clean.

Once all the dust is off, you remove one layer of the screen protector, stick it to the phone and then use the cardboard provided (also not very useful) to remove any bubbles, before removing the upper layer. Then you’re done; screen protector applied!

Clarity and Use

There is no noticeable difference in the quality of the display once the screen protector has been applied. Some screen protectors make the screen look fuzzy or distorted, however Tech21’s does not. I have noticed that when using the screen with the protector applied, there is slightly more friction between my figure and the phone, meaning it doesn’t glide as smoothly across as it would otherwise. You do get used to it however.

Price

The Impact Shield screen protector currently costs £25, which is to the higher end of the price spectrum.

Rating

The Impact Shield does its job well: protects the screen without compromising on clarity or usability. The level of protection it provides is great, but I’m not sure the regular user would really need it very often. The self-heal feature is good to have, but it doesn’t work quite as well as you might hope or expect.

Four StarUltimately taking into account the competition and Impact Shield’s relative price and protection, I’m going to rate it a generous 4 stars.

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Gadgets Reviews Smartphones

FlexShock protection for the Galaxy S6

Two years ago I reviewed Tech21’s Impact Mesh case for the Galaxy S4 Mini. Tech21 are now using a new material called FlexShock, so having recently started using a Galaxy S6, I thought it would be appropriate to review Tech21’s latest Evo Check case for Samsung’s Galaxy S6.

Tech21 Evo Check Case

Protection
The main reason I use a case is to protect my device. Primarily from knocks and drops, but also from scratches, dirt and dust. The size of the S6 means that depending upon what you’re wearing, it wont always fit snugly in your pocket. This inevitably means that every so often it will fall out, at which point I will usually scrabble and scramble to try and catch it, but if I’m unsuccessful, I need to know the phone will be safe.

The S6, with its Gorilla Glass and aluminium casing, seems to be pretty resilient by itself. It would appear you can use an S6 to crack walnuts open with no ill effects, and this drop test video demonstrates the S6 (Edge) is a pretty tough cookie. WARNING: for S6 owners, this is a heart-in-mouth kind of video!

So how much protection does Tech21’s case provide? Well the answer is quite a lot. The case has a slight lip on the front meaning that even if dropped face down on a flat surface, neither the screen nor the home button would touch the ground – the case would absorb the impact.

My main concern when I first looked at the S6 was that the rear camera protrudes, meaning that it would be the first thing to contact during an impact. The case has a slightly raised rim around the camera, meaning that the camera is now recessed by about 0.5mm – giving it some much needed protection.

Tech21 have ditched the D3O which they had previously been famous for using, in favour of FlexShock. This new material they claim does the same job as D3O – absorbing the impact – whilst it can be moulded into better shock absorbing shapes and it can be dyed different colours. FlexShock seems just as hardy as D3O – but with added flexibility and customisation.

Design

Galaxy S6 FlexShock caseI really like the metal and glass construct of the Galaxy S6, so for me it’s not about getting a snazzy case to conceal an ugly phone. The Evo Case is very minimalistic and whilst it does cover five sides of the phone (the top, both sides, the bottom and the back) it still gives the S6 a little room to showcase its looks. The beauty of FlexShock is that it can be styled in different colours. As such, I’ve gone for a smooth white, to match my white S6. It is obvious that I am using a case, and I have lost that plush glass feeling but as cases go, aesthetically the Evo Check does a pretty good job.

A good case has to give clean access to all the phone’s ports and sensors. The Evo Check case does this well, there is ample room around the speaker, power port, lower microphone and the headphone socket. On the top the infrared sensor and higher microphone are also able to operate without interference. The camera has plenty of room around it, as does the flash, and you can use the heart rate monitor without removing the phone from the case. You do have to remove the phone to get to the SIM-card socket, but who does that on a regular basis anyway?

White Tech21 S6 caseThe buttons (volume up/down and power) are covered, and to activate them you do need to press them firmly. I personally like this, as it gives the phone a quality feel and it prevents you from accidentally pressing them too. That said, (from watching endless YouTube reviews) I do know that some users would prefer the buttons to be uncovered, and dislike having to push them hard to get anything to happen.

Price

The Evo Check case is currently priced around £30, which is fairly mid-range (cheaper than many of Samsung’s own cases) considering (in terms of protection) it is a pretty high end product.

Rating

I’m a big fan of Tech21’s Evo Check case for the Galaxy S6. It covers the phone well, without obstructing any of the ports or sensors. It also looks great, even if it doesn’t feel as good as metal and glass.

Four and a Half StarThe protection it offers is hard to rival, especially amongst cases with a similar price tags, so I’m rating the Evo Case with FlexShock protection 4 and a half stars.

Our thanks to Mobile Fun – the mobile accessories experts – for providing the case for this review. If you want to find out more or buy one of your own, check out Tech21’s S6 case on their website.

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Gadgets Reviews Smartphones Technology

Smartphone battle: Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6 Plus

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 smartphone didn’t have the wow factor that we’ve come to expect from new smartphone releases. It was by no means a flop – with retailers ordering more S5s than they did S4s in the 25 days after both phones launched – however it didn’t impress as much as it could have.

The iPhone 6 PlusNow Samsung is back with a shiny new Galaxy S6 – it’s new metal and glass construct means it literally is shiny! – and it has clearly gone out of its way to set a new standard with the S6. For the first time, Samsung have released a phone which in terms of aesthetic build quality, is very similar to that of an iPhone. Also like Apple’s phone’s, Samsung’s latest Galaxy model does not have a removable back, meaning users cannot change the battery or add additional storage.

This is the first time that Samsung and Apple – the two giants of the smartphone world – have made devices which in terms of design and build, are actually pretty similar. That gives us a golden opportunity to compare the two phones spec for spec to determine which is truly the best.

The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are practicably identical in terms of tech specs, so for the purpose of this review I’ll be using the S6. Apple’s comparatively priced and sized phone is the iPhone 6 Plus, so that’s what I’ll be comparing the S6 to today – the iPhone 6 Plus versus the Galaxy S6!

Camera

You’d struggle to find a smartphone released these days which doesn’t come with a pretty competent camera. It’s a staple feature that most people have come to expect as standard from a new phone.

Galaxy S6

The Galaxy S6 boasts a phenomenal new 16 mega pixel rear camera, and a 5 mega pixel front facing camera – great for selfies. Speaking of selfies, the S6 is super selfie friendly, as you can take a selfie in loads of ways – pressing the volume buttons, covering the rear facing heart rate monitor with your finger, tapping the screen, or pressing the capture button. The S6 can also film in 4K, which for those who don’t know, is four times better than standard, 1080p HD. The ability to capture up to 120 frames per second (only 60 in HD) is also a handy feature.

iPhone 6 Plus

The iPhone’s rear camera is only 8 MP and it’s front camera is just 1.2 MP. The iPhone supports face detection on both it’s front and rear camera’s – as does the S6. The iPhone 6 Plus can also video in sloooow mooootion (see what I did there?) at 60 frames per second in HD, but it trumps the S6 in terms of how slow-mo it can go – an amazing 240 frames per second.

Winner

Camera tests, such as this one, and this one, show that in terms of camera it’s really a no-brainer. The S6 wins hands down. It’s cameras are both able to shoot at higher quality and leave images looking sharper than those produced by the iPhone. So you can make good use of the camera, Samsung has sped the launch up to just over half a second. Double click the home button and within a second you could be taking shots or shooting video – way faster than the iPhone 6 Plus.

Speed

Now lets look at how fast each of the phones is.

Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphoneThe S6 has some very capable hardware behind it, with two physical processors (1.5 GHz and 2.1 GHz) each split into 4 logical preprocessors, the S6 packs a pretty hefty 8 core processor, which is supported by an impressive 3 GB of RAM. The S6 is running Android with Samsung’s (now significantly slimmed down) TouchWiz ‘Disney Layer’ integrated on top. This is much faster, and less bloated than the TouchWiz seen on the S5.

iPhone 6 Plus

The iPhone 6 Plus has slightly more modest hardware, with one dual core 1.4 GHz processor, supported by 1 GB of RAM. It’s packed with the latest Apple mobile operating system iOS 8.

Winner

In speed tests, the S6 obliterates the 6 Plus. Despite it’s inferior software, iOS 8 does a really good job of using the iPhone’s limited hardware to get the best performance out of the phone. Whilst it seldom wins speed tests, it’s usually not far behind the S6.

Battery

One of the most important feature’s of any phone is the battery life. There’s no point in having a flashy gadget if you can’t use it because it’s got a shocking battery life. Battery life doesn’t appear to be improving that much, or too rapidly either, and if I want a phone purely for battery life, I’d still use my old Nokia 3510i!

Galaxy S6
Samsung’s S6 has gone backwards in terms of battery life compared to it’s predecessor, the Galaxy S5. GSM Arena ranks the S5 the 16th best smartphone/tablet ever in terms of battery performance; comparatively the S6 with its 2,550 mAh battery ranks a pitiful 46th.

Something to consider regarding the battery of the S6 is that it can charge wirelessly and it supports fast charging and ships with a fast charger. It also supports wireless charging.

A classic Nokia 3510i
Better battery life than all smartphones!

iPhone 6 Plus

On the same GSM rankings the iPhone 6 Plus ranks much better, coming in at 25th position – way ahead of the standard iPhone 6 which ranked a shocking 90th! This is largely thanks to its much bigger 2,915 mAh battery.

Winner

You can talk for up to 20 hours on Samsung’s S6 before it runs out of juice, whilst with Apple’s 6 Plus you’d get an extra 4 hours of nattering. The Galaxy S6 comes in slightly better than the iPhone 6 Plus in terms of web browsing time and video playback however. Ultimately, despite the fact that it’s easier to charge the S6, the 6 Plus has a bigger battery and seems to last longer, so this one’s a win for the iPhone.

Size, capacity, screen and price

Finally I’ll explore a few of each phone’s other features.

Size

The iPhone 6 Plus has dimensions of 158.1×77.8×7.1 mm. The Galaxy S6 is slightly smaller in all dimensions, including depth, where it is 0.3mm thinner than the iPhone; its dimensions are 143.4×70.5×6.8 mm.

Samsung Galaxy S6 and Apple iPhone 6 Plus dimensionsCapacity

Samsung’s flagship phone comes in three sizes, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB. Apple’s alternative also comes in 3 sizes, a smaller 16GB, 64GB and a huge 128GB. As I mentioned earlier, neither has expandable memory.

Screen

The iPhone’s screen is 5.5 inches, which is bigger than the Galaxy’s 5.1 inch display. Despite the iPhone’s bigger screen, Samsung wins in terms of pixel density, sporting an impressive 576 PPI, compared to the Apple alternative which has only 401 PPI.

Price

On the day of publishing, the iPhone 6 Plus costed £699 GBP from Apple’s website. This is for a SIM-free, 64GB version with the device. The Galaxy S6 costs slightly less with a SIM-free, 64GB version of the phone costing £640 from Samsung’s website.

The Winner

It has a better camera, it’s faster, it’s smaller, it’s got a better screen and it’s cheaper – how could I not choose Samsung’s Galaxy S6 as the winner. Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus does have a better battery, and it is a very good phone, but it is 6 months older than it’s Samsung rival and despite inferior technology it still costs more. No wonder Samsung has regained the smartphone sales crown.

Samsung have really upped their game with the S6 and that will no doubt cause Apple to up theirs when they release their next phone (expected to be the Apple iPhone 6S) in a few months time.

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Apps Reviews Smartphones

The cost of sending a Samsung emoji

A few months ago, my Galaxy S4 Mini (click this link to go to my series about it) updated to Android KitKat – from Jelly Bean. KitKat was released in 2013, but because Samsung like to fiddle with Android before they roll it out to users – or as I now like to say, apply their Disney layer – kudos to David – it takes a while for their handsets to get the updates.

Apart from a few minor interface changes – some good and some not so good – I didn’t really notice much of a difference with the KitKat upgrade. Some of my icons changed colour, my screen mirroring functionality seemed to stop working and GPS got renamed Location. There were a few other changes but at this moment they escape me.

Oh and how could I forget, that annoying emoji/emoticon button! KitKat added a terribly annoying button to my keyboard, a smiling face, which whenever you accidentally click on it, becomes the default extras button; that’s the lovely little button next to the space key that gives you the option of voice typing, pasting, visiting settings, and now also adding an emoji.

Samsung emoji keyboard
The emoji on my Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini keyboard

Now I’m not against emoji, some of them are pretty cool… 🙂

…what I am against is Samsung emoji. The super-duper Samsung upgrade to KitKat may have enabled me to send emoji – yay! – but it came at a cost: MMS. If I want to send an emoji, Samsung very kindly converts my text message (an SMS) into an MMS.

This isn’t a problem if you get a large number of MMS messages included in your contract, but most people (at least here in the UK) don’t. I’m not someone who does either, so when I tried to send a message (no bigger than one standard text message) with an emoji in it, I got charged 33 pence by my provider and worst of all the recipient was unable to receive MMS messages, so they didn’t even get to see my 33p text!

The BBC and Money Saving Expert are just two sites that have recently been warning consumers of the hidden costs linked to emoji usage.

Cue Textra.

Textra SMS

iPhone owners don’t suffer the same fate as I did, because Apple’s default messaging application doesn’t treat emotion icons as images. They may take up more than one character, but you can use them in SMS messages. Not wanting to be outdone, I went on the hunt for a better SMS app.

First I tried Google Hangouts. I have never got along very well with Hangouts, but when I started using it for text messages, I didn’t find it quite so bad. I could send emoji as text messages, and I could type as many characters I liked and it would just send multiple SMS messages; Samsung’s default messaging app converts messages larger than three texts into MMS messages too.

After a week or so, Hangouts’ lack of features and general design started to get on my nerves, so I was out on the hunt again for another alternative. After reviewing a handful of very viable alternatives, I decided to give Textra SMS a try.

Textra SMS quick reply
When you get a new text, Textra SMS enables you to reply quickly, without opening the full app.

To put it simple, Textra is fantastic. You can do pretty much everything you can with Samsung’s standard messaging app, and more. You can customise the look and feel, you can send as may characters as you like without it converting into an MMS, and you can send emoji!

One of the awesome features that got me hooked on Textra is the message preview. Say you are browsing the web and you get a text. Texra has the option of a notification which appears at the top of your screen; the notification is basically a message preview. If you ignore it, it disappears after a few seconds, but if you click on it and it opens a small version of the app over the top of whatever you were doing previously. You can type a reply and then as soon as you click send, it disappears and you are back to what you were doing.

If you are looking for an alternative texting app for Android, I would definitely recommend Textra.

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Gadgets Media News Technology

Mind Your Language in front of the TV

Samsung-F8500-plasma-review-smart-tv

Privacy

I have a friend who puts tape over the webcam on his laptop while he is working, because he believes that people can hack into his computer and watch what he is doing. I must admit I thought it was a bit strange at first, but then hunting information I discovered that it was not only possible, but a well known crime involving organized gangs.

The UK recently took down a Russian website that was showing live webcam, taken without the knowledge of the people that were taking the footage. The incident not only involved security cameras, but all types of baby monitors and practically anything that has a camera and transmits data wirelessly.

Check out this article here.

Smart TV

But this is small fry really when you read this week’s news. A large TV manufacturer which has a product that recognizes voice controls seems to have been transmitting everything said in front of the TV to a third party.

They do this so that said third party can sieve through the words used to see if a command has been given. But there are many unanswered questions. Who is the third party? What are they doing with my data? Is it secure? The list goes on.

But said company are not trying to hide what they are doing:

Voice Recognition

You can control your SmartTV, and use many of its features, with voice commands.

If you enable Voice Recognition, you can interact with your Smart TV using your voice. To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service that converts speech to text or to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you. In addition, ******* may collect and your device may capture voice commands and associated texts so that we can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features. Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.

I am not sure that everyone who buys a TV of this type reads the Global Privacy Policy – SmartTV Supplement however, and they might be giving away a lot more than they would like to without knowing.

The BBC carries an article about this news with all of the names included. I think it is probably true though that if one company do it, then so do all the others.

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Computers Smartphones Software

The stolen iOS

Apple are great at marketing. Well, Steve Jobs was at least. Apple are also great innovators, although that is more debatable.

A few weeks ago I came across a video of the Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone. I found it quite comical how the audience gasped and clapped at some of the features; the idea that you could use your finger on a screen instead of a stylus, the ‘amazing’ elastic band scrolling effect, and by far the most impressive, the iPhone could handle the web like a computer, not a mobile phone. Steve Jobs even mentioned that Apple planned to make 3G phones in the future.

The fastest network the original iPhone was compatible with was EDGE, which at the time would download at speeds of up to 473.6 kbit/s; that’s about 2,214 times slower than today 4G 1Gbit/s speeds!

%CODEYOUTUBEIPHONEKEYNOTE%

Apple, Google and Yahoo! all working together on one device – I doubt that will ever happen again.

How far Apple has come since it launched the smartphone that changed the world in 2007.

iOS7

The original iPhone was unique. There was nothing like it and it was undoubtedly the best smartphone on the market at the time. iOS7 on the other hand is arguably just a cheap imitation of Android OS. That is the extreme view of course, I would also argue that Apple are only learning from Samsung, see what your competitor does well, then improve it, repackage it and sell it yourself.

iOS 7iOS 7 came with a few bugs and hiccups, but then most new software does so I am not criticising Apple for that. Aesthetically, childish icons, illegible fonts (due to poor colour schemes) and the motion sickness some people complain of because of the whizzy new interface, are all problems that are down to bad design.

In terms of technical problems, the inability to downgrade to iOS6 and the battery issues many users of older devices are facing when they upgrade are also Apple’s fault. Whilst I say they are Apple’s fault, they almost certainly weren’t accidental. If you don’t let people to downgrade, you force them to use to your new OS.

Free Upgrades

Apple now offer free upgrades to the latest iOS which you could argue is good for owners of older iPhones, but not so good for Apple’s bottom line. However if you look at the tests, generally older phones perform better on their original operating system than they do on iOS7; for example the iPhone 4 loads faster on iOS 6 than it does when running iOS 7.

If you have an iPhone 4 running iOS 7 and your friend has an iPhone 5C or 5S and your phone runs like a dog but theirs flies, it kind of makes you want to buy the latest phone.

Free upgrades also give users the perception that sticking with Apple is a good idea, because Apple look after them. Additionally having access to iOS7 will mean more users are familiar with the interface, so buying a new phone isn’t such as big a jump.

Bad Now, Better Later

Here’s a thought, why have Apple failed to address the battery problem that plagues all smartphones? Old mobiles used to last for weeks between charges. I still own a Nokia 3510 which was released 12 years ago, yet if I fully charge it and leave it (switched on) it will last for a good few weeks – my S4 Mini can do about 60 hours tops. I believe many smartphone manufacturers are holding things in the bank for future. Better batteries are available, but it is more profitable to release better features gradually than to give consumers one fantastic upgrade every 3 to 4 years.

iPhone battery lifeMaybe Apple want iOS7 to look a little childish and have a few faults, so that when the next iPhone (or the one after that) comes out with a brand new OS, it looks so much better.

Time

When anything first comes out there is a lot of hype about it, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but often a mix of both. Those who ‘love’ the iPhone (or those who have been sucked in by Apple’s marketing) will stick with the phone for a long time to come. Those who are more critical won’t stop viewing things differently either. At the end of the day Apple is just a bunch of people trying to make money for another bunch of people – just like almost every other company.

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Gadgets Reviews Series Smartphones

Concluding a series on the S4 Mini

This is the conclusion article in a series reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.

Here we are at the end of another series. This was my most inconsistent series, which I should have ended in October, but here I am in January 2014 finishing it off!

In the first article I introduced my new purchase and started the series. I am still (very) glad I chose Android over Apple and a Samsung Galaxy over other rivals. I really like the (in the words of David) Disney layer Samsung add, having compared it to various other Android devices, not running the Samsung version of the OS.

D3O case for the S4 MiniWhilst I do like the S4 Mini, is hasn’t been an easy ride. Before I got my D3O case and Tech21 screen protector, I dropped my phone. The screen hit something and it bounced to the floor. This completely ruined the screen. I took it in for repair and £100 later I had my phone back.

Note to self: always get a really good case, as the cost of that is way less than the cost of a repair. Oh and try not to drop your phone.

A few weeks later my battery started playing up. It wouldn’t hold charge and depleted very quickly. I wasn’t sure if this was related to the earlier drop or not, but I took it back to the shop I bought it from and they said that as it was still within warranty (Samsung give a two year warranty) they would take a look and repair it for me. A few days later I got my phone back (again) and since then nothing has gone wrong.

I recently dropped it again (by accident) outside. It landed on the pavement and bounced to the ground. Luckily the D3O did its work and my phone is still perfectly fine.

Anker S4 Mini Screen ProtectorIn terms of screen protectors I would say the Anker one was much better than the Muvit alternative, however since that post I have purchased a Tech21 Impactology screen protector and I would rate this the best yet. It cost £20 which is five times the cost of the Anker one and I don’t think it is really that much better. Clarity, responsiveness and adhesion are pretty much the same, it’s only the level of protection that I think is probably a little better. Check out this video for more.

My final article reviewed the RoadWarrior car holder for my S4 Mini. Depending upon the car it can be awkward to place, and I am worried it might damage my phone (if I am not really careful when inserting/removing it) but the FM transmitter and spare USB port are great features that I value.

Overall I enjoy using my S4 Mini. It is a good little phone with great capabilities. The battery life could be improved and the OS could be made a little sleeker/easier to use in some places, but on the whole it is a very good handset to buy; it’s more affordable than it’s bigger brother – the S4 – whilst offering a similar experience, from a more conveniently sized device.

Four and a Half StarI think the S4 Mini is worthy of a 4.5 star rating. 🙂

Categories
Gadgets Reviews Series Smartphones

Using the Galaxy S4 Mini

This is the third article in a series reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.

Last week I finished by saying:

“In the next post in the series I will be reviewing Tech21′s Impact Shield case for the S4 Mini. See you then. :-)”

I lied.

I haven’t had a chance to use the case as much as I would like, so have delayed the article a week, so I can write a better review.

In this post I am instead going to talk about my experience of using my S4 Mini on a day to day basis.

Organisation

One of the main features I have benefited from thanks to my ‘smarter’ phone is that it has improved my level of organisation. I was already a reasonably organised person before I got my phone, however having a calendar which comes pretty much everywhere with me and can create alarms and reminders, is pretty useful!

Because I always have my calendar with me, I am able to make decisions and plans more instantaneously, which can be advantageous. That said I am now heavily dependant on my phone and were I to be without it, I would struggle to keep track of my diary. Hopefully I would be able to retrieve my schedule from Samsung, as I do try and keep my contacts and calendar backed up with Samsung sync.

Battery

In June last year, (so 15 months ago now) Joe questioned (here on Technology Bloggers) if smartphone battery improvements were on the way. I can tell you now that they weren’t! Major improvements are yet to materialise. :-/

A BlackBerry Curve 8900 in its case
My BlackBerry Curve 8900.

I used to have a Blackberry Curve 8900 which would last around two to three weeks between charges. Despite using as many power saving features as I can, I am charging my phone pretty much every day. If I had mobile data, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth and Near Field Communications on all the time, with full screen brightness, and was using my phone a lot, I reckon I could drain it (from full) in just a few hours. The camera is a big drain on the power, as are all other processor intensive activities. That said, considering its size, the camera is amazingly good.

With regard to charging I try and turn my phone off if I am doing a full charge, but usually just trickle charge. I have researched how to maintain the battery life and have found that modern smartphone batteries are designed to be charged little and often, and they don’t like being pushed to extremes (empty/full and also high/low temperature). Keeping your battery between 30% and 90% is the best area. My battery seems pretty healthy, so the trickle charge appears to be working. 🙂

Overheating

One thing I’m not impressed with is how my phone sometimes overheats, so much so, I have to remove it from its case and can’t hold it as the back gets really hot. Considering the storage space and processing power my 124.6 mm tall phone houses, I am frankly amazed that it doesn’t come with a huge fan attached to the back. My 67.98 cm³ (which sounds like a lot, but really isn’t!) phone houses two cameras, one of which is a brilliant 8MP, a HD screen, 1.5GB of RAM, and, among other things, a 1.7GHz processor!

It is no wonder when I put my phone under stress by using a lot of features at once (like for example SatNav functions, as these are quite processor intensive and uses mobile data, GPS and the screen) it starts to overheat. For the size it is, I can’t complain, however I think future phones should be slightly bigger to incorporate better cooling systems, in order to prevent internal component damage from overheating.

Apps

One of the main reasons I chose an Android phone is because of the huge range of applications available. Most of the apps for Android are free, which is a bonus! Some do take liberties however, and demand unreasonable privileges; like the Facebook one, hence I haven’t installed it, but Facebook were going to want to glean all they could from you, weren’t they.

I now have an app to wake me up at the best time in my sleep cycle, an app which can send an SOS message via the backlight, an app to scan barcodes, an app with the latest news, oh, and amongst others, Angry Birds (although I am trying not to use it as it is a real time zapper)!

I have often been known to say ‘there’s an app for that’ but that’s because it is true; almost anything you want to do, there is an app to help you!

Android

On the first article in this series, David from The Only Cog asked about what he called the ‘Disney layer’ that Samsung add to Android – i.e. their slight OS tweaks. He asked the following questions:

“Can it be turned off? How do you find it? What version of Android is it running?”

Google Android's LogoHere are my answers. I have looked into it, and as far as I can tell, Samsung’s altered version of Android is fixed, and you can’t downgrade to the standard OS. That said, I think the changes they make are just to make things look better and also to add a further level of control for users.

The second question therefore doesn’t apply. In response to the third, I am currently running Android 4.2.2 (which came pre-installed) although I think the S4 Mini will be among the first to get 4.3, (Android KitKat) probably just after its big brother the S4 receives the upgrade.

Slogan

Samsung’s slogan for the S4 Mini is “Minimalism Maximised”. I completely agree with what they are saying, the phone has the convenience of a small phone, but the power of a bigger one. I prefer “tiny but powerful”, maybe the S5 Mini will adopt that one. If so I want royalties Samsung! 😉

Next Week

As promised, next weeks article will be a review of Tech21’s D3O infused case. See you then.

Categories
Gadgets Reviews Series Smartphones

A series reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini was launched on the 1st of July 2013. Six days later (on Sunday the 7th of July) I bought the phone on a 24 month contract.

A Series

Having owned an S4 Mini for a few weeks now I have decided to write a series reviewing the phone.

In this series I will be looking at the phone as a whole, as well as comparing it to its brothers and cousins from Samsung’s Galaxy series. I will also be giving my verdict on various accessories and cases that I have tested.

The series will post every Tuesday.

Introduction over; lets get started!

Why S4 Mini?

Anyone who has chosen a smartphone will know that it isn’t an easy decision. Most people have a personal favourite brand, however there is a lot of choice which makes it difficult to decide which device is right for you.

I have to admit, I had been bitten by the Apple bug. Apple are very good at marketing, and my experience of their products had made me think they were the best.

However when visiting phone shops, I asked staff whether they would buy the Galaxy S4 or the iPhone 5, and every single one said the S4; most also agreed that the iPhone is overpriced for an inferior gadget.

Apple’s magical effect started to ware off and after asking my friends which phone they would have, I decided that I would be going for a Samsung device. I also considered Blackberry, HTC, Nokia and Google devices, but non really wowed me.

The thing I don’t like about the S4 is its size. I think a big screen is great, but the phone is huge! The S4 Mini is almost the same in terms of technical specifications, however is slightly less powerful and much smaller. The S4 Mini is pretty much exactly the same size as the iPhone 5.

Samsung's S4 Mini, S4 and S3 Mini

I feel that Samsung’s slogan for the S4 Mini perfectly describes the phone ‘Minimalism Maximised‘. It is a super powerful, high spec phone, packed into a pretty small case. The S4 Mini has the spec of the S3, but the functionality of the S4.

Android

In the past Android had a reputation for being an over complicated operating system for the technically minded, however major advancements in the last few years mean that now it couldn’t be easier to use.

Something I love about Android is the home screen. Apple’s iOS only lets you store app shortcuts on your home screen, which is a huge limitation when you consider the features Android offers. On my home screen I have the weather, a handful of apps, and a search box. Scroll to the left and I have the news and to the right my calendar. No need to open anything, it’s just there; one of the reasons why I love Android.

The fact that it is open source really shines through, as everything is built with users in mind. For example, with iOS, you have to stop every app individually, however with Android you can close all your apps at once. Weather, news, your diary, alarms, music, messages and loads more are right their on Android, without you having to load anything. Data usage, battery status, free memory, you name it, Android will tell you. I think you get the picture: I love Android!

Next Time

Next week I will be looking at a FlexiShield Case for the S4 Mini.

Categories
Business Technology

See you in court! The biggest tech lawsuits in history

An infographic on technology court cases

Infographic from first4lawyers.

Tech is a very competitive sector of the global economy, with the biggest firms constantly trying to out-muscle each other in order to be top of the technology tree. The likes of Apple, Samsung and Microsoft have tried to pull out all the stops to make sure their latest gadget or console is the most popular with consumers, but when making a wrong turn, they occasionally find themselves in court!

As this infographic by the guys at first4lawyers reveals, when tech giants are summoned to the court for being on the wrong side of each other or the authorities, they can end up paying a huge amount in damages. The most recent of all these cases involved an epic courtroom battle between Apple and Samsung over patent infringement.

Court short

The Korean firm were asked to pay Apple over $1bn, a fee which they have tried to bring down in order to minimise the impact on company profits. Other cases listed here involve firms trying to improve profitability at the expense of the consumer and smaller rivals, something that Microsoft in particular have been accused of.

To stay out of court in the future, the biggest tech firms should try to play fair, while also taking into account the needs of the consumer. The amount of money fined is substantial, so the incentive to stick to the rules is there!