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First Impressions – Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Edge

SAMSUNG GALAXY PHONES_cropped If you aren’t a tech geek like me you probably had no idea that an annual conference is held ever year in Barcelona, Spain.  And at this conference many tech companies roll out their new gadgets.  Well that event is called the Mobile World Congress (MWC), and it started March 1st.  Two major smartphone companies announced devices on the first day: Sasmung and HTC.  Today we’ll look at the new Samsung phones, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Edge. We’ll focus on the S6 model, as the Edge is pretty much the same phone with the addition of having a screen that wraps around, you guessed it, the edge!

The Design

samsung phonesSamsung has long been known for putting out high-end phones in cheap looking cases.  The tendancy to focus on plastic has been the chief argument by their competitors that they are not good phones.  The Galaxy S5 last year found itself in those cross-hairs like never before because while the software was pumped up with new features (fingerprint ID, heart rate monitor, improved camera), the hardware itself still felt cheap; pic below – S6 (left) S5 (right).  The tech industry knew that Samsung had to change that approach with the Galaxy S6 and they did exactly that.Samsung Galaxy S6 vs S5 One review I read called the S6 the “love child of the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 6” and that’s pretty accurate.  The phone is now entirely metal and glass.  The metal edges look almost identical to the iPhone 6, and the glass back harkens back to the iPhone 4 and 4S.  Though Samsung is using much stronger glass, so the scratching issues that plagued those iPhones should be avoided.  This phone looks great!  It looks like the high-end phone that this line has always been.  Does it sgalaxy-s6-iphone-6-comparison-bottom-frontstill look a lot like the previous models?  Yep.  The dimensions are even the same as the S5.  The camera is the same (with improved optics).  The three buttons at the bottom (including those two that disappear when not in use) are still there.  But it’s an improvement, no doubt.  It’s evolutionary, not revolutionary, but after 4 models that looked virtually the same (little bigger each time), I think evolutionary is good enough for this year.  Let’s briefly breakdown what the new features are and what features are gone for good.

What’s New

samsung fingerprint sensor Fingerprint Access

Last year to use this feature you had to swipe your finger/thumb across the home button (making it useless, based on my experience with it).  Now it works just like the iPhone button.  Rest your finger on the button and you are unlocked.  The fingerprint will also pair for payments using Samsung Pay.

Improved Screen and Speaker

The screen is brighter and the speaker is louder.  Since the phone size didn’t change, those updates should be pretty noticable.

Isamsung galaxy s6 cameramproved Cameras

While the 16MP back camera is the same, they’ve added “optical image stabilization” which means your pics will look better, as it helps handle shaky shots (the iPhone 6 Plus uses this tech as well).  The forward facing camera is now 5MP, which means those selfies will be crystal clear!  You also can access the camera much quicker, with a double tap of the home button (they say less than a second).

samsung wireless charging

Battery Charging – This one is a mixed bag for hardcore Samsung users.  The battery is no longer replaceable (like most high-end phones these days), but they’ve added tech to the device that makes charging lightening fast (10 minutes of charge gets you 4 hours of battery!).  They’ve also made it possible for wireless charging with any of the many charging mats on the market.

What’s Gone

Replaceable Battery

While this means extra batteries are a thing of the past, you do get a slimmer phone in the process. And rapid charge is a huge move forward, making all those extra batteries rather redundant.

samsung no sd cardSD Card Slot

No more expandable memory for the Galaxy S Line.  Samsung has adjusted the memory tiers from 16/32/64 to 32/64/128 (those would be Gigabytes).  Most people would have to try and use 32 GB unless they are loading lots of videos or never cleaning out their camera roll.  This is just another example of the movement towards cloud storage.

Waterproofing

The S5 was one of the samsung galaxy s6 not waterprooffew high-end smartphones that was waterproof (meaning you could drop it in the toilet).  That no longer is the case.  So either get a LifeProof case for the phone, or be more careful when you’re at the beach this summer (not to mention those pesky toilets!)

The Edge – it’s trying really hard to be super cool

Tsamsung S6 Edgehe other phone Samsung introduced this week is the Galaxy Edge.  Last year the Note Edge was released, which featured a third screen along the edge of the right side of the phablet.  Now the edge is on both sides, but it doesn’t act like a third screen.  It just stretches the screen over the side.  There is still a “clock mode” so you can see the time on the phone’s edge when it’s laid flat.  The Edge definitely looks cool.  Its guts are no different from the Galaxy S6 though, so we’ll have to see how pricing works out, and if the “cool factor” is worth the cost.

The Whole Cup Summed Up samsung galaxy edge 1

I like the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Edge.  Samsung has always made decent phones that came in cheap packages.  It’s great that the argument about the hardware can be put to rest (of course the lawsuits from Apple might start a whole new argument).  Now you have some clear choices regarding SOFTWARE.  Do you like Android or Apple?  Do you like the interface that Samsung puts on top of the Android system (it’s called TouchWiz)?  Do you like the grid design of Apple’s iOS 8?  It’s really all about preference.  All of these phones are premium hardware.  Metal and Glass.  They have similar cameras (though Apple remains the king for the moment at least there).  They do the same things.  They play the same games.  Support the same apps.  So head to the store when these phones come out and get them in your hands, and see what you think. I tend to jump between Apple and Android every six months (thank you T-Mobile Jump program).  I love the iPhone 6.  I think it’s the perfect phone, in terms of size, and functionality.  But the S6 has me tempted.  If it’s not too expensive the Galaxy Edge has me tempted too.  But I have till May to sort it out.  If you want either Samsung smartphone, your first chance will be April 10th.

Who knew that Samsung and Apple were cousins all along!?!

galaxy-s6-iphone-6-comparison-side-table

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First Impressions: iPhone 6 Plus

iPhone6 2
The newest iPhone is out and people are clamoring to get their hands on it.  The fact that Apple sold over 10 million units in the first weekend seems to indicate at least some level of consumer interest.  If you google iPhone 6 you will find no shortage of reviews about Apple’s newest phone offering.  You’ll see things about design and durability.  But, like many tech sites, many of these reviews can become quite technical.  What you’ll find here are my first impressions of the iPhone 6 Plus, and how I think it can make life easier, or harder, as the case may be.

iPhone 6 Plus – Disclaimer

The iPhone 6 Plus is BIG.  I’m saying that from the perspective of a guy who used a 5 inch HTC One (M8) for a period of time, and thought that was big.  If you are at all leery about having a huge phone, read no further, the iPhone 6 (with it’s 4.7 inch screen) is your best choice.  But if you are okay with a phone that won’t fit in your pocket (unless you bend it!) and a phone that will constantly require a second hand to use it efficiently, read on.

The Cup Half Full

So how does the iPhone 6iphone 6 size comparison Plus make the phone experience better?  First off is the design.  Compared to the Note4 or LG G3 (two competing phablets), the iPhone 6 Plus is a beauty.  It’s super thin.  It’s smooth aluminum back and rounded corners are an absolute delight to look at and it feels great in the hand (though I recommend a case to avoid it slipping out of your hand, here’s mine).  The long held design of the screen (with an app bar at the bottom, and stat information at the top) make much better use of the space compared to rivals, which only makes the screen seem larger and more useful.

The phone has a larger battery, which should allow for much longer periods between charges.  Only time will tell though.  The device also has an improved camera with image stabilization.  This could be a big deal.  In simplest terms, the camera in the iPhone 6 Plus is designed to help those of us with shaky hands.  Not a feature to underestimate.  Finally, the iPhone 6 Plus has some innovations in the way the screen works, taking full advantage of the larger screen.  This means that some apps (like email and messages) will actually look different than the apps on the smaller iPhone 6.  Also when the phone is in landscape mode, the “app drawer” will move from the bottom to the side.  Seems funny to me that the iPad Mini doesn’t even do that.   So there are no shortage of good things going on with the iPhone 6 Plus, but the pendulum still swings both ways, and this is where the device starts to worry me.

The Cup Half Emptyiphone 6 plus skinny jeans

While beautiful in design, the iPhone 6 Plus has one “big” problem.  This device is huge.  But here’s the trick; it’s supposed to be.  It’s a phablet, which is the horrid word somebody came up with to describe a device that is part Phone and part Tablet.  When the phablet device came into it’s own with the Samsung Galaxy Note, the device had a very specific purpose.  It was a device competing more with the 7 inch tablets than against 5 inch phones.  It was and is a device for “power users”.  You know the corporate types that used to live in their blackberry screens.  The phablet is trying to be more than a phone.  In terms of regular consumers, the phablet is a good choice if you don’t already own a tablet device (iPad, Nexus 7, etc.)  If you don’t want two devices, the phablet bridges the gap (which is even more relevant when cost is factored in).  And that’s what the iPhone 6 Plus is.  It’s a phablet.  But I worry that through a combination of factors, both on the part of Apple and consumers, people don’t realize this. And that could be a problem down the road.  I’ll explain.

By iphone 6 annoucement piclaunching both iPhones together, Apple made it look like they were selling two sizes of the same device.  When in fact they are selling the next iPhone (iPhone 6) and their first phablet (iPhone 6 Plus).  People jumping from the 3.5 inch screen of the iPhone 4/4S or the 4 inch screen of the iPhone 5/5S are in for serious culture shock when they try to wrap their hands around the case holding the massive 5.5 inch screen of the iPhone 6 Plus.  I believe that Apple set the precedent a year ago when they released the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C at  the same time.  The iPhone 5C was clearly the silver medal to the gold of the iPhone 5S.  So most people think the same is the case with the current generation of the iPhones. That reasoning would lead people to conclude the iPhone 6 Plus is the one to get if you want the “best” one.  And that’s why the backorders for the larger device stand at 3-4 weeks, where you can get your hands on the iPhone 6 in 7-10 days.   And after waiting all those agonizing weeks, these new iPhone 6 Plus users are going to realize that their new phone requires two hands for most of the things it can do.  And while we might think that’s a small thing, that’s probably because we’ve grown so accustomed to single handed cell phones we take that convenience for granted.

Reachability - iPhone 6 PlusBoth iPhone 6 models have a new feature to help address the increased screen size, and it’s called Reachability.  Basically you double TAP (not click) the home button and the screen lowers itself about 1.5 inches, bringing the top of the screen closer to your waiting thumb.  On the iPhone 6 this functionality works very well.  But based on my hands-on experiences with the iPhone 6 Plus, based on where we generally place our hand when holding the phone, the size makes it virtually impossible to reach either the home button (for the tapping) or the top of the screen (to pull down notifications).  You must either move your hand down or up, or use your other hand to tap the home button.  And that is a problem that “reachability” on the iPhone 6 Plus didn’t fix.

The Whole Cup Summed Up

So think carefully as you consider the iPhone 6 Plus, over the iPhone 6.  While you get increased batter life, a better camera, and a larger screen, you also must contend with a massive phone in your pockets and in your hands.  That’s my biggest beef with the iPhone 6 Plus.  It’s so much like the iPhone 6, just much much bigger.

Apple has designed a beautiful phone, no doubt, but I believe the 4.7 inch design of the iPhone 6  is the current sweet spot as far as comfort and usability.  But if you want the larger screen, the iPhone 6 Plus certainly has enough to offer to make it worth it.  Though one of these thumb extenders might come in handy…
iphone 6 plus thumb extender

Review Links – Apple Watch, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple Pay

By now you’ve probably heard all about the new products that Apple announced on Tuesday, and you want to learn more.  The internet can be a daunting place when you go looking for good reviews of new consumer technology.

Below you will find links to some of the product reviews I’ve read for each new Apple product and service, so you can evaluate any future tech purchases you might be considering.  Enjoy!

APPLE WATCH REVIEWSApple Watch2

Apple Watch Hands On – The Verge

Apple Watch Hands On – Engadget

Apple Watch Hands On – MacRumors

 

 

iPhone 6 together

iPHONE 6 REVIEWS

iPhone 6 Hands On – TechRadar

iPhone 6 Hands On – Engadget

iPHONE 6 PLUS REVIEWS

iPhone 6 Plus Hands On – The Verge

iPhone 6 Plus Hands On – Gizmodo

 

APPLE PAY REVIEWSnfciphone

Apple Pay Hands On – TechRadar

Apple Pay (How It Works) – Digital Trends

 

 

 

 

Apple also announced the release dates for the iPhone/iPad operating system iOS8 on Wednesday, September 17th.  It will be compatible with iPhone 4S, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad 2, iPad with Retina, iPad Air, iPad Mini, and iPad Mini with Retina.  If you have an iPhone 4, you’re out of luck.  There’s no cost for the upgrade.

iOS 8 REVIEWS (BETA VERSION)

iOS 8 (everything explained) – iMoreiOS 8

iOS 8 Hands On – Techno Buffalo