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Archive - December 2017

Samsung Galaxy S3 Gear Review

So. It’s Christmas, and being a nerd, I want some tech for Christmas and I’ve managed to persuade my significant other half to buy me a Samsung Gear S3 Frontier. And I’m wearing it 7 days early!

I was pretty excited to get this one in the post and so far I’ve not been disappointed. I bought it directly from Samsung, surprisingly one of the cheapest places to buy it at the time and by clicking through TopCashBack, I’ve also managed to get an additional 4% cashback. Free delivery too.

It comes in a nice snazzy cylindrical box, complete with the wireless charging unit and a spare strap for those with smaller wrists. Everything about this watch screams quality and craftsmanship. Very often I’m left disappointed with the look and feel of new technology so it is nice to be pleasantly surprised. It looks good on the wrist. It’s big and chunky and it weighs some and so the Classic version might suit others. It was definitely too big for my other half when she tried it on. There’s the option to buy other straps too and I quite liked the look of the chain-link one.

The instructions say it needs a charge before use but on placing it on the wireless charger, where it snaps in to place and sits snuggly, it lets me know it has 90% charge. This is my first look at the bright, clear screen. After a few minutes it is at 100% and I turn it on and it takes me through pairing it with my LG G5 phone. The phone requires 3 or 4 apps, I can’t remember exactly, but after a couple of minutes it’s done. I realise quickly that I can make changes to the watch from my phone, such as changing the clock display, even customizing each individual display such as the colour of the number or replacing the temperature readout with the date. I can change notification settings, such as turning on notifications for Android’s stock Mail app, and turning off notifications for Facebook – I can also block these from the phone. It doesn’t take long to learn how to use it either. The bezel rotates, there is a back button and a home button and you tap the screen. Simples!

I’ve since installed some apps, including Spotify, which I’m pleasently surprised to see allows me to play music from my playlists from the phone itself. I can pair the watch with a set of Bluetooth headphones too and stream from a WiFi network. There’s also internal memory of 4GB allowing me to save music to the phone. I think the watch is almost 100% compatible with the LG, and I’m not sure if updates to the Tizen OS has improved compatibility with non-Samsung phones. Certainly, I haven’t noticed any issues yet.

It’s not all sunshine and light however. The pre-installed S-Voice app, Samsung’s answer to Siri and OK Google, barely works half the time. If it doesn’t pop up an error then it gets what I say completely wrong. Apparently, according to the numerous forum discussions, things have taken a turn for the worse with the app since the latest Tizen version 3 update. I guess the only light at the end of the tunnel is that there are updates at all, so at least things can be fixed at a later date. However, the S Voice complaints go back years. This is disappointing as talking to your phone to make it do things, is a pretty integral part of what a smartwatch is all about. If you read the discussion boards, you’ll see that a lot of people are asked to send back the watch for another, but that rarely fixes the problem. I know the speaker and microphone are fine because I have used them with calls and playing music, etc. The problem can only be at Samsung’s end, so I hope that they very quickly improve the app. In the meantime, I’ll look around for an alternative from the 10,000 apps available.

That’s right! Over 10,000 apps. Out of the box, the S3 is already letting me know when I have sat too long in front of my work PC, it’s giving me reminders from my numerous e-mail calendars, it’s counting my steps (accurately, I’m not so sure), I’m replying to Whatsapp messages with stock answers like Yes, No, smiley face or typing out replies on the keyboard. I’m pressing a picture of my missus and calling her, speaking to her on my wrist like Michael Knight from Knightrider. And after using it constantly for 12 hours, I’m still left with 50% battery life.

Thankfully the S3 is resistant to water and dust, although I wont go swimming with it just yet. It’s resistant to being submerged up to 1.5 metres (that’s IP68 rating to those in the know) and will withstand being under water for up to 30 minutes. It has Super amoled gorilla glass too, so hopefully I’ll never crack the screen.

It’s early days, but I already love my new watch and I’m looking forward to seeing what else it can do in the coming days!

Samsung Galaxy Note8 Review

Following on from the Blackberry Motion and Blackberry Key One, I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a shiny new Samsung Galaxy Note8, along with a Dex Station, which I’ll get to in a minute.

The new Note interested me because I work alongside a lot of Lift Engineers and Technicians, who need both big screens, ideally a pen (not least so that they can get the customer to sign once they have serviced their lift) but it also has to be tough, because engineer’s phones are known to fall down a lift shaft or two once in a while. Often the latter is achieved by buying expensive protective cases.

The Note8 which comes in Midnight Black or Maple Gold boasts an impressive 6.3” dual edge Super AMOLED screen which curves round the display. The curved edges phone screen design is still growing on me but I can see why it appeals to many. It has an Octa-Core 2.3GHz CPU and with 6GB of RAM and the model I had came with 64GB available memory, although 51GB is left after the OS and pre-installed apps are taken in to consideration. The back camera is 12 Megapixel whereas it is 8 Megapixel at the front.

This was my first play with a phone with Face Recognition, which seemed to work well, was easy to set up and opened the phone quickly. Whether there are security issues as seen recently with the Apple iPhone X remains to be seen, but rumour is Samsung’s offering is more advanced and secure, yet there are still videos online of it being tricked by using a photograph. If security and piece of mind are important it might be worthwhile sticking to PIN, fingerprint or pattern. The Note8 allows you to lock it with Iris scanning too, however I didn’t delve in to that.

The phone itself is a nice weight and feels like quality. I like for a phone to weigh something, not as heavy as a brick, but a bit of weight to me means a bit of quality, at least with the build. It’s certainly quick and I enjoyed using the Pen to move around the screen and fill out the forms we use here in our office. The Android OS comes with Samsung’s Apps Edge, similar to that of the Blackberry Motion, where you swipe in from the right to reveal apps that you use the most.

Dex Station

Finally I come to the Dex Station that also came shipped with my trial Note8. The Dex lets you connect your S8/S8+ and Note8 to a monitor, mouse and keyboard providing you with a desktop experience powered by your phone. And all-in-all it worked well and I can see this way of working taking off in the future. Sure, the phone and the Dex together will set you back as much as, if not more than, a top of the range laptop. But who doesn’t own a high-powered laptop and then also own a mobile phone anyway.

After first realising that the Dex would not work with my own USB-C lead I soon had it up and running after first powering the Dex station with the Note8’s fast-charging USB-C cable and adaptor, an HDMI cable to my Dell monitor and then wireless mouse and keyboard using my Mircosoft Bluetooth dongle plugged in to the Dex’s USB slot, that took no configuring whatsoever. I finally plugged the phone in, which was slightly fiddlier than it needed to be. After a few seconds, after the Dex splashscreen, a 42” desktop popped up on my screen allowing me to access any of the apps on my Note8 phone on my monitor. I could easily browse the internet, set up my emails and even work on Word and Excel documents. Although I only tested Microsoft’s Remote Desktop software to connect to my work laptop, that only opened in a small mobile screen sized window, upon further investigation, there are alternatives to use such as Amazon’s AWS, who are one of the partners offering desktop virtualization services. It’s certainly an alternative to carrying around a laptop, or even a tablet, especially if you move from office to office. This way of working can only improve in the future.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised with the Samsung Galaxy Note8, and when it comes down in price over the coming months, I will certainly consider it for our engineers. But currently, it is far too expensive and much more than what they need. It’s certainly a clever phone and Samsung continue to lead the way with many of its features.