Tuesday, 3 October 2017

SAMSUNG, GOOGLE, ANDROID, ANDROID OEMS, APPLE & ME - SYNAPSE CIRCUIT

SYNAPSE CIRCUIT 
SAMSUNG, GOOGLE, ANDROID, ANDROID OEMS, APPLE & ME... ...POSSIBLY YOU TOO!
ARTICLE!

#Samsung #Google #Android #AndroidOEMS #Apple #GalaxyS8 #GalaxyS8Plus #GooglePixel2 #Pixel2XL #iPhone8 #iPhone8Plus #iPhoneX #GalaxyNote8 

IS THE SMARTPHONE THRILL GONE???

I don't know about you but I'm finding myself being a little bored of the smartphone industry. 

People keep asking me why I've been reviewing Samsung premium handsets more than any other manufacturer. The answer has always been that it's because the Galaxy S and Note ranges happen to deliver an all round performance for the money. All round performance has been a constant with Samsung. LG, Motorola and Huawei have come close with their flagship products but not close enough, 2017 could change all that...

GALAXY S8 AND S8 PLUS
As predicted, Samsung have delivered a stunning design married with great features and functionality. Yes, there are many beautifully designed Android handsets out there however, attributes such as the camera, screen and functionality are the casualties of these wonderful looking options.


The camera on the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are solid. While the HTC made Google Pixel XL and standard features highly rated cameras the discrepancies aren't strong enough to sway me - a Samsung fan - away from the Galaxy S8 Plus! Not to mention that the Google Pixel is not aesthetically pleasing to my - or anyone else's eyes for that matter. Who designed it, Jay Leno?


iPhone? Well, when you place the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus next to the current iPhone 7 and Plus there is simply no contest over the design - Apple has this renowned designer too! As per usual, the iPhone 7 performs a little better than the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus; this tells me that it is not totally down to Samsung where performance - raw processing power is concerned.


It appears to me that Google needs to develop a custom system on a chip for Android. Google needs a custom SoC that's specific to Android as the best of the best can't quite match the ultra slick iPhone performance - but we're talking in a macro of a second or two. Even budget handsets give a most satisfying performance these days. As great as the iPhone is, speed is not an issue. Yes, iOS apps look a little better than the Android counterparts but, again, there's not such a great difference for me to look over upon iPhone screens. I'm very productive on Android!


I have yet to come across any performance issues with the Galaxy S8 Plus. I don't know of anyone who uses their phones as we've seen in those hardware tests. I certainly don't. Still, those tests clearly gives credence to the Android custom SoC. C'mon, Google; sort it out!


The eyes have it…
… Certainty, the placement of the fingerprint scanner is awkward. Fortunately, there are other ways to unlock the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus - notably the iris scanner! After a while of using the iris scanner, I can say that it works remarkably well and in the dark too! Direct light (in the face) can prevent the iris scanner from working, it's not a big deal as I would then enter a 4 digit PIN code, or use the fingerprint scanner. With the flip case, the fingerprint scanner is easier to access; I have learned to pick it up in a certain way - back first. It's a reflex.


Let's face it, when a thief makes off with your phone it's game over. One hard reset and the phone has a new owner! It's that simple. So, if we drop/misplace our handsets we are at the mercy of the person who finds it.


A plea for decency: Be a good Samaritan and hand in that found phone. Think of the treasured memories encoded in pictures and videos of the owner. Good deed done.


Absolute power…
I've got to say that the battery life on the Galaxy S8 Plus is okay; it gets me through the day with about 20% left after moderate use. I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times and I'm sure I'll continue to say it: constant social media updates, media consumption - including gameplay - and camera usage will rapidly deplete the battery. If you're a heavy smartphone user you'll need to do the following: -


  1. Carry your fast charger with you at all times. The Galaxy S8 Plus charges up to 50% in 30 minutes from 10%.


  1. Invest in a charging power-pack. It's like having a spare battery.


  1. Get one of those power cases; as always I advise getting a Samsung branded power case. As of yet, I've not seen such a power case from Samsung - it's unusual. I'm sure it's on the way.


That's the way of the flagship battery these days, which brings me to…


… Skin up!
One of the complaints against Samsung's flagships is its TouchWiz skinning of Android. Somehow, I don't think it's TouchWiz - it's now called “Experience” and it's version 8.1. No… I think it's more to do with the amount of functionality that Samsung packs into its flagships. I can't think of any other handset that has so much within. Can you think of a single flagship that contains so many features as the Galaxy S and Note ranges?


It's those features within the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus that can sometimes cause the interface to lag. So far, there's no lag that I can see. I don't play games and in general usage it's just fine; the Experience is very responsive and pleasing.


I'll probably succumb to using Nova Launcher or similar launcher to create the user experience that I've become accustomed to in due course. For now, I'm okay with the Samsung Experience. It may be worth noting that I've not used a third-party launcher on my Galaxy Note 4.


Picture perfect...
The camera is a 13MP main shooter and it doesn't disappoint.


This year it seems that most of the flagships - and even some budget to mid-range - have within a very good to great cameras, so much so, that there's not much between them. When have the Samsung flagships ever failed on the camera?


As a consumer, I know that I'm going to get a darned good camera with the Galaxy S and Note ranges. The camera is one of the main reasons why I go for the Samsung flagships; I have yet to be let down. I have one small issue with the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus camera; I can only record video at 10 minutes at a time. I should be able to record video until there's no space left on my micro SD card! Not that I ever have recorded video over 10 minutes long! It just would've been ideal to record video for longer if one day I had the inclination to do so.


At the moment, I cannot see a better all-round handset than the Galaxy S8 Plus. I'm quite sure that it'll be bettered by the Galaxy Note 8. You could say that the Galaxy S8/S8 Plus and the Note (8) can be viewed as Beauty and The Beast. It's hard, but not impossible, for other manufacturers to get a look in.


Anyone for Bixby?
Have you seen the recent Apple ad for Siri featuring The Rock, Dwayne Johnson? Do you know what that ad is about? Now, the penny drops… You've guessed it… This latest Siri ad is about the threat of Samsung's AI assistant, Bixby.


As per usual, the Tech Writer community have mostly misunderstood the purpose of Bixby. Samsung isn't competing with Google's AI assistant or any other such as Amazon's Alexa, etc. No! Bixby offers a means by which you can interface with the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus (presumably the imminent Galaxy Note 8 too). This update hasn't yet reached the UK; from what I've seen thus far, Bixby has great potential. I see Bixby working alongside Google's assistant.


The fixed Bixby button…
I've yet to hit the Bixby button accidentally. Would I want to be able to assign another aspect of the Galaxy S8 Plus to the Bixby button? Goodness, no! That's all I need, another bloody button to push! That said, considering you'll be able to launch Bixby with a voice command, “Hi Bixby,” maybe that's a minor - a very minor - design flaw to have a hard immovable button. Do I need to see Bixby cards, in a Google Now manner, to inform me of the weather? Not really. Still, it's handy. I can't complain.


Launching Bixby with a voice command and use it to interface with the Galaxy S8/S8 Plus and Note 8 is a boon!


The Desktop EXperience…
There are quite a few Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus centric accessories, the usual flip cases, keyboard cases, 360 camera, etc. Outstanding is the DeX unit that enables you to convert the Galaxy S8 /S8 Plus and Note 8 into a desktop computer! WOW!


AmbiDeXtrous?
You might be under the assumption that DeX is aimed at business users. If that's the case, can DeX be termed as an "accessory"? Hmmm… I don't think so…


As an owner of the Galaxy S8 Plus, Note 8 and several PCs, I would say that DeX would be an accessory that I don't particularly need but certainly want.


It should be clear as day that I love Tech and that I have to have DeX. I think most Tech Geeks who are into the Galaxy S8/S8 Plus and Note 8 would want DeX just because.


Yes, I can see how DeX will be of use to business users… I can envisage DeX stations around the workplace as a means to engage in spontaneous or planned productivity. DeX works well with Microsoft apps; we'll get apps in a bit…


It would be very shortsighted to view DeX as just a business computer peripheral…


Non Technical People…
As someone who's a Tech enthusiast, it's hard to fathom that there are non technical people in this day and age. I've got to say that such non technical people happen to be women. More specially, friends of mine.


One such friend has a Windows XP PC that's struggling to open Google Chrome! It's driving her crazy! I've been trying to get her to upgrade her PC for ages, and most frustratingly to no avail! Well, she is due a phone upgrade soon. I'm encouraging her to upgrade to the Galaxy S8 and to get DeX while deciding on a PC.


My non technical friend will be able to do all the things she would do on her PC on a day to day basis: word processing, social media networking, media consumption, etc. DeX is perfect for her!  


In general…
DeX can certainly be a device that can negate the need for a PC/laptop - depending on your use. You can possibly declutter a personal space such as a bedroom with this small device.


If you're not a PC power user I would recommend that your next upgrade should be a Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus or Note 8 and to invest in a DeX station.


The downside of DeX…
At £140, DeX doesn't come cheap. On top of the initial expense of the handset, you may have to fork out for a monitor, keyboard and mouse. I'd go for a Bluetooth enabled keyboard and mouse. I can't stand wires all over the place.


You'll need Bluetooth speakers as the sound from the Galaxy S8/S8 Plus and Note 8 is compromised once placed in the DeX station via USB C.


Because of the angle of the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus front-facing camera when seated in the DeX station, you might find that it's awkward to use Skype for video calling. But you could position DeX to make Skype video calling possible.


Then there's the question of how many apps are compatible in desktop mode. Some apps won't scale to fullscreen, and/or cease to function as intended. Oddly, Samsung's own proprietary video editing app cannot, at the time of writing, go fullscreen! It's little annoying.


DeX, the conclusion...
I'm sure that there'll be more DeX compatible apps in the not too distant future. There are enough productivity apps that work very well in desktop mode. For me, the Microsoft productivity office apps are perfect for my needs. Even though the Samsung video editor doesn't scale up, I can still use it to create basic but good videos.


I think that DeX needs to come down to at least £65… Okay, £80 at the most! DeX deserves to be a computing staple for years to come. I think app developers will get behind DeX in a major way! This is a good opportunity for Android to step up its app game; if you've ever used an Android tablet you'll know how frustrating how some apps aren't able to take advantage of the bigger screen. Considering Android screens have reached 2k and 4k, apps should be malleable by now. Apple does not have the equivalent to DeX!

GALAXY NOTE8
Yes, it’s out! The Samsung Galaxy Note8 is out there as you are well aware! The Unpacked launch contained little or no surprises that I can’t remember it all in detail like I could past events. I am quite sure that these “leaks” are done deliberately to manage expectations.

I have gotten my Note 8 to complete my Samsung double whammy! I am the proud owner of the S8 Plus too!

What can I say about the Galaxy Note 8 that hasn’t been said before? Let me use my own voice…

Ouch!
The design of the Galaxy Note8 is so beautiful that it hurts - more so if I wasn’t able to get hold of one! How Samsung has made it possible for such a slim version of the Galaxy Note to retain the S Pen is truly a feat of design and engineering - bear in mind that it is dust and water resistant. I have the Midnight Black version… I would have gone for a Grey or Blue, but Gold??? NO! I can’t stand Gold; I think it looks gaudy for my tastes. I was kinda forced into a Galaxy S6 Edge Gold and I can’t say that I like it very much. Anyway…

It is early days and I may post up a review - if I think I can write something that you’ve not read or listened to via YouTube and/or podcasts.

One of my concerns is the battery; the Galaxy Note8 is sporting a huge 6.3” Super-AMOLED screen. As I keep saying, it only when you start using the devices is when you see how the battery fares.

Jaded?
To be honest with you, Dear Synapse Circuit Reader, I feel jaded with handset reviews. This is not me bashing Samsung or any other manufacturer, no! I think the smartphone industry is as great as it ever was, it’s just that I can get a good idea of how a phone functions just by looking at the spec. I bet you can too! I am never disappointed with Samsung premium handsets - again, Samsung handsets have an all-roundness to them. I love Samsung’s premium design aesthetics, cameras, and functionality. I find that on the competing manufacturers there are sacrifices made on the above features. I would have liked to have been able to check out an LG V30 but it is not out yet at the time of writing.

The Huawei Mate 10 has yet to come out too! Yes, all eyes are going to be upon Google for the next Pixel handsets. I honestly believe that we’re going to be reading, listening to and watching reviews of a similar nature to last year. I do not see anything outstanding apart from Samsung devices purely on the design to functionality ratio. I love the Sci-Fi look of the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 (and its predecessor) but, from the spec, I can’t see it having an all-round factor that the Galaxy Note 8, S8 and S8 Plus has. I tell you something... I do believe that Google with its Pixel 2 & 2 XL, and LG V30 and Huawei Mate 10 will put a massive dent in the sales of the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X. Some people don't like Samsung for the heavy skin and the lag associated with it - I can't say that I have noticed any major issues thus far - and as a result, people go for the pure Android experience as found on the Google devices; LG and the G6 and V30 are very similar to the Galaxy S8 and Note8; Huawei has made waves with the P and Mate ranges, it looks like the Mate 10 is going to present an alternative to the Note8 and certainly the iPhone X. More about the iPhone X in a bit!

Once in awhile we can get a few surprises from the budget to mid-range side of the smartphone equation. I think Motorola has blanded out somewhat, and some other manufacturers promise to deliver cost effective powerful handsets that aren’t good performers in actual useage. Trust me, I have tried the cost effective route and, while I don’t play games, I take a hit on the camera and social media front whereby the phone in question becomes too sluggish to enjoy to the max. When I upload photos taken on such low budget devices one can see the reduction in quality straightaway! The Alcatel Pixi 4 6” handset remains as one of the most outstanding low budget handsets of 2016 - 17. I think Alcatel have managed to surprise the smartphone world with its budget to mid-high ranges.

Let downs…
While we’re on the subject of budget Android devices…

Do you remember French manufacturer Archos? Well, the company made some big promises that they have failed to deliver on… I was all set to purchase a Diamond Tab 4G; if I remember correctly, this would be Android tablet would have smashed it! It had an 8” 2K screen (or something like that), an Octa Core SoC, 4GB RAM and 4G! Needless to say that the tablet did not see the light of day! I could have done with such a powerfully decked out tablet for my operations! Then there were a couple of premium handsets at mid-range price that could have put the cat amongst the pigeons… I have forgotten what they were called now, but I was all set to get them both! Today, what’s on the Archos site looks pedestrian to the rest of the market vendors, and about 80% of the smartphones on the site are currently “unavailable” just like the other Archos products that failed to manifest! I don’t know what Archos is playing at but it looks like they won’t around fairly soon at the rate it is going.

And finally…

APPLE
As you know, I am not an Apple fan by any stretch of the imagination. This is purely because of Apple’s weird stance where innovation, practicality and design are concerned. Again, it’s been my contention that Apple hasn't done anything that I can truly call innovative. I do not look at Apple products and say, “WOW! I want it!” The Windows PC will always be my weapon of choice. The Android phone and tablet are the better options for me than the iPhone and iPad.

What Apple announced a couple of weeks ago continued its tradition of weirdness… The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus look like last year's models and the spec is pretty much the same with the exception of the A11 Bionic chip. The A11 Bionic chip will no doubt be a very powerful one in keeping with Apple’s tradition of iPhone and iPad chips, however, it makes me chuckle that Siri is still far behind Google Assistant and that Samsung has managed to beat Apple to the punch where the virtual assistant is concerned in terms of being able to interface with the handset with voice commands! The A11 Bionic chip pertains to being able to read the face for its Face Unlock feature and other biometrics. Yes, “weird” because the Samsung Galaxy’s features Face Unlock, Iris Scanning and Fingerprint. Hmmmm… The camera looks good as always but the iPhone 8 - as with all previous incarnations - just don’t have the X factor for me. Speaking of the “X Factor”...

iPhone X
Don’t call it “X”! Call the iPhone X the iPhone 10! I guess there’s no 9 then… Okay, not to worry…

Just what were Apple thinking with that awful notch at the top of the iPhone X???? It is horrific! It’s as though Apple haven’t been paying attention to Android designs. C’mon, I prefer what Samsung and other manufacturers have done with the Bezeless Design concept. Oh my goodness! Why didn’t Apple make the iPhone X slightly more elongated and the bezel a tad thicker to house the camera and sensors??? Why??? WHY??? Look at what LG did with the G6!

Again, with the weirdness, the iPhone 8 sales have taken a great hit because of the anticipated iPhone X that may or may not be released later this year. I think that Apple may have problems with the manufacture of this one… The iPhone X appears to be problematic otherwise it would have been available at the same time as the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. I can only envisage two camps of iPhone fanatics: -

01. The practical user that will go for the iPhone 8/8 Plus wishing to save money and giving that notched X a miss!

02. The spec for specs sake fanatic who will wait for the iPhone X because it looks more powerful than the 8 and 8 Plus. The X version will appear to be the best and some people won't settle for less. So, why bother with the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus????

Gone are the days, at least in the UK, where people feel that they have to line up for weeks, days, hours to get the latest iPhone. There were no such queues for the iPhone 8! As stated above, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have not broken any sales records because I think the iPhone market has become deeply fractured! Fractured not just because of the imminently sketchy X release but because the premium Android handsets are better designed and there is not much of a difference in the camera stakes these days. Many manufacturers still have the headphone jack! And if Android OEMS have done away with the headphone jack they supply a USB C to headphone jack dongle in the package for free! Unlike Apple whereby the iPhone user has to purchase those awful looking earbuds and/or a dongle for iPhone headphone accessories.

In comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 devices get sold out regularly! Retail outlets are at the mercy of fresh deliveries of the Galaxy Note 8! It looks like Samsung are on the path for record breaking sales of the Galaxy S8, S8 Plus and Note 8! It is not surprising simply because of the design factor alone! The Galaxy premium offerings look like a slab of onyx; they are marvelous and look like something out of a Sci-Fi movie!

But the notch on the iPhone X??? I know that the Apple bought media are pretending that the hideous notch isn’t an issue when it is! Now you might be forgiven to think that I am laughing at iPhone fanatics but you are wrong! Technology is what it is: either you are onboard with the concepts presented or you are not. With the iPhone X, I can see that many who are devoted to Apple are deeply disappointed as it looks just wrong compared to some of the best Android designs. The iPhone 8 designs are pedestrian and safe to say the very least! It’s almost as if Apple is trying destroy its own market… It’s ironic that the latest announcements took place in a theater named after Steve Jobs.

I wonder what Jobs would have made of the iPhones and iPads - especially the Plus and mini variants since his passing… I don't think he'd be happy. There again, Jobs would have destroyed Apple in going "thermonuclear" in trying to sue Google for the Android operating system, etc. Mind you, with so much money at steak, Jobs would have almost certainly been thrown out of his own company for his personal vendetta against what is arguably the better operating system!

Catch you in the next one!
Thank you for reading! I may publish in-depth reviews of the Galaxy S8 Plus and Galaxy Note8 if I feel that I can add something that you haven't read before or in this very article. Watch this space... Oh, it's the Google Pixel 2 launch later on... I am looking forward! Stay tuned for my coverage on the Pixel 2 and XL launch! Synapse Circuit / Blue Gene