First Impressions – Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Edge
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!
Samsung 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. 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 still 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
The S5 was one of the few 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
The 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
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!?!
First Impressions: iPhone 6 – It’s Pretty Awesome!
I’ll admit it right out of the gate, I love this phone. It’s simply awesome. And now I sound like the typical Apple fanboy who can see the iPhone do no wrong. But that’s not the case. I love (and hate) Apple and Android both equally. I’ve had both devices over the years. I just switched to the iPhone 6 from the HTC One (M8) which was an excellent Android smartphone. In my opinion, the iPhone 6 is simply better; and this is especially true for the casual user. And that’s who I’m most interested in.
Disclaimer: Many of the items I will discuss here are also available on the iPhone 6 Plus, which I’ve reviewed previously. I intentionally focused on what makes the “plus” different from the iPhone 6, as not to be too repetitive. So if you like what you see here, but would like the larger 5.5 inch screen, the iPhone 6 Plus might be a better choice. But read my review before dropping the coin!
It seems like Apple has always been mired in one debate: is the company revolutionary or evolutionary? Apple fans believe that their beloved company is truly revolutionary, creating new markets for products out of thin air (iPhone, iPad, iTunes). Others, mostly Android fans, would argue that Apple doesn’t “innovate” but is rather copying already existing technology while, arguably, evolving the devices along the way (iPhone, iPad, iTunes – see what I did there?). As a true tech junkie, I don’t have a horse in that race. Apple is both in my mind. And the rest is just marketing (which no one disputes they do better than anyone else). For the sake of this review, I will side with evolution, because that’s really what the iPhone 6 is all about.
The Cup Half Full
I’ve mentioned the amazing design in previous posts, but it can’t be overstated. The difference between the iPhone 5/5S and the iPhone 6 is stunning. And the most stunning is that it isn’t as revolutionary as it could have been. All sorts of “mock-ups” flooded the internet leading up to the announcement of the iPhone 6. Many showed a major departure from the previous model; truly revolutionary design. Apple didn’t go that way. And for a company dominating the US Market with millions of consumers using their devices, major shifts are usually not advisable. The iPhone 6 is bigger but skinnier. It has the same alumimum/glass construction, but the glass is rounded on the corner, giving the face of the phone an entirely different look and feel. So first and foremost the iPhone 6 is a brilliant evolution of the design of the iPhone. It fits perfectly in the hand. I have bigger hands, and always felt the iPhone 5/5S was actually a little too small for me. I think there’s a reason Apple went with 4.7 inches for the screen versus 5.0, and it’s all about how that device sits in your hand for one-hand use.
In addition to the form factor, the iPhone 6 has many new features coming with iOS 8. The inclusion of Near Field Communication (NFC) partnered with Apple Pay will only prove useful if retailers adopt the program. I, for one, like the idea of using my phone to make purchases. And if you are concerned about security, I suggest checking out this link to see how Apple Pay works, because if anything this system would be more secure than our traditional swiping credit cards (assuming it works).
iOS 8 also allows you to respond to text messages and emails directly from the notification as they come in (I just did this while writing this review). It’s all about fast interactions with your phone. The iMessage app has also been updated to allow for voice messaging with a single button push, and instant pictures and videos sent over iMessage. I’m in favor of anything that makes my tech interactions faster. While I love interacting with technology, I prefer to use time efficiently, and clicking through six screen when it could be one tap is a great evolution in speedy tech. Third party keyboards are now also available (via the App Store). If you’ve longed for the ability to swipe your words versus tap them, now you’ve got options. Swiftkey and Swype are two good places to start for keyboards.
The Cup Half Empty
Apple is a closed system, famously so. Coming from Android this time around there are things I can no longer do that I liked doing on my HTC phone. I’ve sung the praises of “launchers” that replace the Operating System with different hybrids. Nothing of the sort will be found in the App Store, no matter how deep you dig. You get the grid. Apple did allow for widgets in the Notification Screen, but widgets are easily the most confusing piece of the Android system, and so Apple has hidden them away to keep distractions from their clean ecosystems to a minimum.
HealthKit was supposed to revolutionize how we see mobile health, and it failed on the first day. Apple is quickly putting out new updates to iOS 8 to rectify this problem, but it’s still a problem. So if you planned to have the iPhone 6 be your one stop shop for fitness and health tracking, you’re gonna have to wait a bit longer. Though the pedometer element is currently working (my phone is tracking my steps just like my old FitBit Flex).
The Whole Cup Summed Up
I’m sure as my eyes come back into focus in the coming weeks after being star-struck by the iPhone 6, I will find more things to add to my “half empty” part of the cup. But at the moment there’s not a lot I can say that’s negative about this phone. It’s better than all of the current flagship Android devices. Granted, it’s only in that spot because they took many features straight from the Android ecosystem and added them as “innovations” to the iPhone (What’s App has had all of the functions of the new iMessage for some time now).
If you’re debating between the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, head to your nearest retailer (Target, Best Buy, Walmart, Cellular Carriers) and get both devices in your hand. I’m on the side that says the iPhone 6 Plus is simply too big for the casual tech consumer. But you’ll have to be the judge for yourself.
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 REVIEWS
Apple Watch Hands On – The Verge
Apple Watch Hands On – Engadget
Apple Watch Hands On – MacRumors
iPHONE 6 REVIEWS
iPHONE 6 PLUS REVIEWS
iPhone 6 Plus Hands On – The Verge
iPhone 6 Plus Hands On – Gizmodo
APPLE PAY REVIEWS
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) – iMore