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29
Mar

Eight reasons to buy the Samsung Galaxy S8 now


It’s finally been announced, the most anticipated phone of 2017. Available at Carphone Warehouse in the UK, here are eight cool features of the Samsung Galaxy S8 to help you decide whether or not you should buy the new flagship phone. 

1. Spectacular display

Samsung says it’s aiming for the perfect screen to body ratio and this time there’s so much screen there’s not even room for the Samsung name on the front! The result is that the Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch screen but fits the hand easily and the S8+ squeezes in a whopping 6.2in display without stretching your mitts. Part of the reason that’s possible is the screen ratio is longer than usual, 18.5:9 instead of the more usual 16:9. That means that you have more screen real estate on a narrower phone.

2. Iris and finger recognition

With so much screen, there was no room for a fingerprint sensor on the front of the phone so that’s now on the back, next to the camera sensor. But the S8 has a new, improved version of the iris recognition scanner found on the Note7 handset. And it’s fast.

So you can unlock your phone just by looking at it. The fingerprint sensor is still useful, of course, and if you have the phone in your hand, your index finger finds it easily enough by touch, you don’t have to turn the phone round to locate it.

3. Rear Camera

Samsung’s cameras have really come on in recent years and this one is exceptional. The rear camera is a 12MP model with a wide-open f/1.7 aperture to suck in as much light as quickly as possible, making for better shots even in low light. More than that, this camera shoots three images in very quick succession in a feature called multi-frame image processing. But where other multi-shot processes are only about improving detail levels in shadows and bright skies simultaneously (called High Dynamic Range), Samsung is also using the process to add extra sharpness to the resulting image. Blurry faces are history.

4. Front camera

The front camera – or the selfie camera as they might as well rename it – is also pretty potent on this phone. The sensor has a resolution of 8MP, more than many rivals, and an impressive f/1.7 aperture for grabbing maximum light. And unlike previous Samsung front-facers, this one has not fixed-focus but autofocus so image quality is improved.

5. Cool home button

If the display covers almost everything, and the fingerprint sensor is on the back, there’s no front home button, right? Wrong.

Where other phones that are normally sold at Carphone Warehouse have their home button (and the other Android control buttons) either below the screen or appearing on the display when you touch the screen, this has a better solution.

A special sensor sits buried inside the screen so that when you touch it, you feel a vibrating response which is so subtle it’s like you’re pressing a regular button. It feels good, works perfectly and is in just the right place.

6. The curves

Samsung’s had curved-edged displays on its flagship phones for three years now, but this is the best yet. It’s the gentle curves on the edge of the screen, matched with similar ones on the back of the phone, which help make it such a snug fit in the hand. It makes it superbly comfortable. And it doesn’t hurt the look, either – the curved display really makes the Galaxy S8 and S8+ stand out from the crowd.

7. Bixby

This is Samsung’s own intelligent search system. It is what the company calls a multi-modal search, so that when you press the dedicated Bixby button you can speak your request, you don’t need a key word to start your question. You can also search by text and it uses the camera too for something called Bixby Vision which analyses what’s in front of it to help you search. It’ll make calls for you when you say “Call Mother”, for instance, and works natively with around 10 Samsung apps. It’ll launch first in Korea, but expect it to reach the UK quickly.

8. Mobile HDR display

This is the first mobile phone to have the Mobile HDR Premium logo approved. All you really need to know is that it’s an HDR-ready screen which makes colours truthful and vibrant. Playing video, on this lush, long screen, looks fantastic. Not least because there’s so little phone furniture to distract you from the screen. It’s all screen, is how it feels. You can even pin the video you’re playing to just a part of the screen, so you can text while you watch, if you like.

For the best deals at Carphone Warehouse click here, and pre order to get your hands on an exclusive Bluetooth Speaker worth £99.99.

29
Mar

Best Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus pre-order deals, great offers from Carphone Warehouse


The Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus smartphones have been announced and are available to pre-order now, in preparation for a release date of 28 April.

Both devices are available on some great pre-order deals too, from Carphone Warehouse in the UK.

All S8 and S8 Plus pre-orders will come with a free Samsung Bluetooth speaker worth around £100.

There are also some great contract deals available, across several top networks for those looking to upgrade to the new flagship device. 

Here are some of the key deals on offer from Carphone for Vodafone, O2, and EE.

Samsung Galaxy S8 pre-order deals

– You can get the Samsung Galaxy S8 64GB in orchid grey or black: £79.99 up front, £45.99 per month on EE for 24 months, 5GB data, unlimited minutes and texts – get it here

– Those looking to go with Vodafone, can get the Samsung Galaxy S8 64GB in orchid grey or black: £100 up front, £42 per month on Vodafone for 24 months, 24GB data, unlimited minutes and texts – get it here

– If you prefer O2, the Samsung Galaxy S8 64GB is available in orchid grey or black. You pay £100 up front, and then £44 per month on O2 for 24 months, 5GB data, unlimited minutes and texts – get it here

Samsung Galaxy S8+ pre-order deals

– If you want to get the bigger of the two new Samsung flagship devicesEE has has the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus 64GB in orchid grey or black. You’ll pay £149.99 up front and then £45.99 per month on EE for 24 months, 5GB data, unlimited minutes and texts – get it here

– The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus 64GB is available on Vodafone in orchid grey or black for £169.99 up front, and then £42 per month on Vodafone for 24 months, 24GB data, unlimited minutes and texts – get it here

– The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus 64GB is available from O2 in orchid grey or black for £150 up front, and then £44 per month on O2 for 24 months, 5GB data, unlimited minutes and texts – get it here

For the best deals at Carphone Warehouse click here, and pre-order to get your hands on an exclusive Bluetooth Speaker worth £99.99.

29
Mar

Best Samsung Galaxy S8 accessories


You’ve just ordered your swanky new Samsung Galaxy S8 from Carphone Warehouse, and now you need some accessories to go with it. The UK phone retailer offers a range of extras from VR headsets to soft-touch cases, and better still pre-ordering from Carphone means you’ll also get a Bluetooth speaker worth £99.99 for your troubles. 

Here are some of the best Samsung Galaxy S8 accessories available. 

Soft-touch Cases

Protection for a gorgeous smartphone is always a good idea. And Samsung has a bunch of alternatives. There are deluxe, soft-touch models with a suede-like finish which offer an opulent, comfortable feel. Choose from pink, pale blue and dark grey. It’s made from a material called Alcantara, made of polyester and polyurethane.

When you have a phone like the S8 with its sloping edges, you need a cleverly sculpted case that supports the corners but doesn’t impede access to the curved display.

There are also funkier, rubbery rear protectors which may make you feel more secure if you drop your valuable handset. Samsung’s making them in white, black, turquoise, lime green and off-white.

And less conventional ones

As well as these cases there’s an unusual one called the 2Piece Cover. Samsung says it’s “playful and unique”. It’s made of two pieces, as you’d expect. One clips to the top, one to the bottom and it means that when you’re holding the phone, you can feel the handset itself, not the cover. It’s curious, but not unattractive. Other cases include one with a transclucent front so you can read the time through it when it’s closed and which folds up to make it easy to view video playback, for instance.

Pocket-lint

Keyboard case

If you do a lot of texting, a case like this is worth a look. The back part can stay in place all day but then when you want to send a message, clip the front section on. The screen recognises the keyboard is there and moves the content up so it’s visible and you can then type away. It feels good and the keys are responsive.

Fast Charge dock

There’s a new charging pad which looks like a padded pebble. The textured finish means you can plonk the S8 or S8+ onto it and it won’t slip off. But if that’s not quite right for you, say if you want to look at the display from a different angle, you can twist the pebble into an almost-upright position. In which case the phone is held in place by a handy ridge.

Pocket-lint

Samsung Gear 360

Last year, Samsung released a 360 degree view camera with a fold-out tripod. This time the camera has a chubby stem which makes it easier to hold (available at Carphone Warehouse) and a rubber ring attachment like a little grey doughnut for extra stability when it’s standing on its own. The specs have been improved so that now it can film, and transmit its footage in 4K UHD and is capable of 360-degree live streaming. It feels much better in the hand than last year’s model.

Pocket-lint

Gear VR headset

The headset for virtual reality, where you place your Galaxy S8 or S8+ in the front as a display, has been significantly upgraded, especially in the way it feels. A soft, furry edge now fits to your head in a way that’s much better and more immersive. It also comes in a more attractive grey colour now, too. It also has a remote control which you can use to control certain VR apps and games. It’s backwards compatible with the Galaxy S7 and S6 handsets as well.

Fast Charge battery

This is one of the slickest-looking accessories Samsung has made. It’s a 5100mAh portable battery with a neat material handle at the top. Not only is it powerful enough to charge the phone multiple times, it’s even capable of fast-charging it. What’s more, it’s fast-charge-in as well as fast-charge-out so it doesn’t take as long when you’re recharging the battery itself.

Pocket-lint

Samsung DeX

This is intriguing. This dock has a USB-C connector in it so you plonk your phone in. The other end connects to a monitor and it creates a desktop computer environment. Add a mouse and keyboard and you have a way to use the phone as the CPU and a regular computer experience. Of course it’s not Windows but it has a series of proper Windows programs accessible. Worried that your phone might overheat from the work it’s doing? Don’t be, there’s a cooling fan built into the dock!

For the best Samsung S8 accessories from Carphone Warehouse, please click here

29
Mar

Samsung squeezed a smart home hub into a WiFi router


Samsung isn’t content with simply unveiling the Galaxy S8 today. In addition to its latest flagship phone, the company is also showing off a new Gear 360 camera, a desktop dock and, interestingly enough, a router. The Connect Home Smart Wi-Fi System is a mouthful of a name, but the device itself may actually reduce clutter in your home, since it removes the need for a separate SmartThings Hub. Samsung hasn’t shared information on price and availability yet, but we do know the Connect Home system will be sold on its own or in a three-pack. A so-called Pro version will also be available.

For the uninitiated, SmartThings is the home automation company that Samsung bought in 2014, and it makes hubs that oversee a host of connected devices in a household. The new Connect Home router will have a SmartThings hub built in, so it can communicate with gadgets over Bluetooth 4.1, WiFi, Zigbee or Z-wave. These include things like Philips Hue lights, Netgear Arlo security cameras or Samsung appliances. Once set up, you can control all the connected devices with a smartphone app.

The reason Samsung is selling the Connect Home router in packs of three is because, like most trendy routers today, the new device supports mesh networking. This means you can use one of the Connect Homes as a base to broadcast your signal and then use the other two in the bundle to extend that network throughout your house. Each unit has a range of 1,500 square feet, which is similar to Google WiFi but less than half that of the 3,500 to 4,000 square feet that Netgear promises with its recently released Orbi routers.

The Connect Home’s design looks very similar to that of mesh networking rival Eero, featuring the same rounded square silhouette and glossy white finish. Like the Eero, the Connect Home offers dual-band 802.11ac at AC1300 (866Mbps) speed, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. But Samsung’s option has a slower 710MHz quad-core processor compared to the Eero’s. The Connect Home Pro, however, uses a faster 1.7GHz dual-core chip and supports quad-band 802.11ac at a faster AC2600 (1.7Gbps) rate. The Pro version also has the same 1,500 square feet coverage as the original.

Both versions of the Connect Home sport two RJ-45 Ethernet ports on the back as well as a power socket. Without knowing how much the Connect Home system will cost, it’s hard to judge its value. There is plenty of competition from the likes of Google, Eero, Luma and established router brands like Netgear and Linksys. But the Connect Home is unique in its SmartThings hub integration, which is likely to command a premium. You’ll just have to decide whether that convenience is worth the extra money.

Click here to catch all the latest news from Samsung’s Galaxy S8 launch event!

29
Mar

The Galaxy S8 can double as a pretend desktop


The road to the perfect phone-desktop hybrid is littered with the carcasses of ambitious failures — just look at Microsoft’s Lumia 950 and Motorola’s Atrix. Still, that isn’t stopping Samsung from giving it a go with a new dock for the Galaxy S8 called Dex. Since the S8 packs a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 835 chip that was designed with VR in mind, the idea here is that the phone can do double duty as a desktop machine. I tried out the accessory with an S8 plugged in and was particularly impressed with the way Samsung has customized Android for bigger screens.

All told, the Dex has two USB ports, an HDMI slot, an Ethernet jack and a USB-C socket for power. With these connectors, you can hook your phone up to a display, wired keyboard and mouse for a complete desktop setup. You can also link accessories over Bluetooth, freeing up USB ports for external drives.

Slide up the top part of the dock when you want to connect your phone. The disc flips out to become a stand, and on its underside is a fan that cools down the phone in case it starts heating up from running heavy-duty programs. Stick the Galaxy S8 on the USB-C connector at the bottom of the stand and the phone starts transmitting data to the linked peripherals. During a demo earlier this week, the plugged-in S8 was already connected to a Bluetooth mouse before it found the display over HDMI, so for a few seconds I was moving a cursor around the phone’s screen.

Samsung has customized Android 7.0 Nougat for a bigger screen and added some Windows-esque touches that make for a more familiar experience. There’s an “all apps” button on the bottom left of the screen, similar to what you’d see on Windows and Chrome OS. Also at the bottom of the desktop is a taskbar that shows open apps, the time, and status indicators for things like WiFi, LTE and battery life. You can also pin favorite apps to this bar for easy access. When you launch Chrome or Samsung’s internet browser while the phone is docked, you’ll see desktop versions of websites by default as well.

This tweaked OS also offers multi-window support, and each window can be resized freely, meaning you can lay out as many panels next to each other as you like. There’s no hard limit on how many windows you can have open at once, Samsung says; you just might find the system slowing down depending on what you’re doing in each app. Too many windows running video side by side, for instance, will tax the S8 so much that it stops opening apps. I didn’t get a chance during my demo to really push the S8 beyond running three apps simultaneously, so we’ll have to wait till we get our hands on a review unit to see how far you can go before the phone stops responding.

When I tried writing in Word while having a Chrome window and YouTube open, the S8 ran smoothly — for the most part. I noticed the slightest bit of lag; characters didn’t appear on the screen as quickly as they would when I’m typing on a laptop or desktop. But a Samsung rep told me that this could be because of the keyboard’s Bluetooth connection.

Samsung also teamed up with Microsoft to optimize apps like Word, PowerPoint and Excel for Dex. What you’re basically getting is the tablet version of those apps, and the main difference here is their resizable windows and keyboard shortcut compatibility. Currently, only a handful of apps support this resizing, including Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop Express.

Oh, and if you really want an actual Windows system on the Dex, the S8 also supports desktop virtualization using VMWare, Amazon or Citrix.

To be clear, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen companies try to turn smartphones into desktop computers. Most notably, Microsoft’s Continuum feature for Windows 10 lets phone and tablet users convert their mobile OSes to fuller-featured PC-like setups. This debuted on the Lumia 950 and 950 XL handsets, and HP later attempted its own take with the Elite X3. But Microsoft’s option only lets you run Universal Windows apps in desktop mode, and you can’t freely resize the windows. Ubuntu also gave this concept a shot with its M10 tablet that doubles as a desktop, while ASUS did something similar with the PadFone — a handset that slides into a tablet shell. Neither of those devices was very popular, though.

None of those companies is the first to try and make PC substitutes out of phones, either. Back in 2011, Motorola came up with the Atrix — a smartphone that became a laptop or desktop with the help of a dock. When plugged into the accessory, the Atrix ran a limited hybrid OS called Webtop that used a Firefox browser to launch web apps, while keeping the phone’s screen open in a window. The company eventually phased out that feature, citing a lack of adoption. Samsung may very well run into that same problem with the Dex, and we have no way of knowing how popular it will be. The failures of the Atrix, Continuum and Ubuntu make us wonder if the format will ever succeed. From my preview, though, the customized experience here, plus the S8’s potential to deliver fast, stable performance, makes Dex at least worthy of a closer look.

Samsung hasn’t revealed how much Dex will cost or when and where it will be available, nor whether it will eventually be compatible with other devices. For now, Dex’s most compelling feature is its big-screen-friendly version of Android. I particularly appreciate that Samsung incorporated familiar desktop-inspired elements into the software, such as a taskbar, resizable windows and keyboard shortcuts. Dex still has its limits, particularly its small selection of compatible apps, but if this early iteration is any indication, it may provide a compelling way to bring Android to the desktop. The future of phone-desktop hybrids, however, is still uncertain.

Click here to catch all the latest news from Samsung’s Galaxy S8 launch event!

29
Mar

Samsung’s new Gear VR and controller arrive on April 21st for $129


While the VR war between the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive is getting most of the hype, the competition in mobile VR is a far bigger deal for most consumers. After all, you only need a phone and a cheap headset for mobile VR, not a powerful gaming rig and lots of spending money. Samsung’s Gear VR cemented itself as a pioneer in the market over the past few years, but Google’s Daydream View headset came out swinging last year with the inclusion of a small motion sensing remote.

Samsung is ready to fight back with a refined headset and mobile motion controller of its own. As part of its Galaxy S8 event today, Samsung announced that the new Gear VR will be available on April 21st for $129. Current Gear VR owners can also nab the controller separately for $39. While the Gear VR is still far less than the $600 you’d have to shell out for the Oculus Rift or Vive, it’s more than the $80 price for either the previous model or the Daydream View. But Samsung might be able to justify that premium with a slightly better mobile VR experience.

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I had a chance to try out the new controller with an older Gear VR, and I was surprised by how comfortable it was. The motion tracking felt fairly accurate, but mostly I was struck by how it felt in my hand. It has a slightly angle orientation, and your fingers naturally fall on the large trackpad on top and the trigger button on the back. That trigger, by the way, differentiates it from the Daydream View remote, which only has a trackpad and a few buttons. It makes the controller more in line with the Oculus Touch and Vive gamepads, and it’s a big help for most VR shooting titles.

Beyond the new hardware, Oculus also updated its Oculus Home experience for the Gear VR. It boots up much faster than before, so you’re not just left staring at a black screen when you put on the headset. You’ll also notice that Oculus Home looks much clearer than it did in the past. It’s now easier to read text thanks to a doubled pixel resolution. To show that feature off, Oculus also added a VR web browser, which was able to render Engadget and other major websites with no issue. Most importantly, the website text looked good enough to read within the Gear VR.

A new controller doesn’t mean much without software that supports it, though. Oculus says there will be 20 compatible titles next month, with 50 games to follow over the coming months. The company is also bringing over Oculus Avatars to the Gear VR along with the new Home update. You’ll be able to design and dress up your avatar, which will also carry over to the Oculus Rift if you ever upgrade. Similarly, if you’re a Rift owner who’s already designed an avatar, you should see that within the new Oculus Home experience.

Click here to catch all the latest news from Samsung’s Galaxy S8 launch event!

29
Mar

The new Gear 360 camera streams live video, works with iPhones


Make no mistake: Samsung has been really busy lately. Beyond the Galaxy S8 and S8+, the company also built a new Gear 360 camera that’s both cuter and more feature-rich than before. The new Gear 360, for instance, shoots video in true 4K. By comparison, last year’s model shot video at 3,840 x 1,920, which was so close to 4K we’re not sure why Samsung didn’t close the gap. And in an about-face from last year, this new model also supports iPhones right out of the box. Just make sure you have an iPhone 6s or newer (including the tiny SE) and that it’s running iOS 10. Though I saw the camera ahead of today’s launch event, however, I didn’t get to see this particular feature in action, so consider me cautiously optimistic.

Social media buffs will also be thrilled to learn that the new 360 can finally livestream 360-degree video at 2K resolution, a feature that was sorely missing from the original. Samsung put together a quick demo for us prior to Unpacked, and while latency was an issue — it took about 10 seconds for changes to register on the Galaxy S8 watching the stream — the feature definitely worked.

These achievements are neat and all, but to get everything in place, Samsung reconfigured the Gear 360’s optics package in a big way. Whereas last year’s Gear 360 had two 15-megapixel sensors with their own lenses on either side of the camera’s round head, this year Samsung went with a pair of 8.4-megapixel fish-eye cameras. These yield 15-megapixel still photos when you shoot with both at the same time. That’s down from 30-megapixel max still resolution on the original Gear 360. In fairness though, I haven’t seen any still images shot with the new camera, so I can’t yet comment on how the photo quality stacks up.

While I’m glad more people will be able to use Samsung’s 360-degree camera, I’m not thrilled about all the changes. Since the battery is now stored in the camera’s body rather than the head, it’s a little smaller than the one on last year’s device. Think 1,160mAh versus 1,350mAh. It’s not clear what kind of hit the battery life has taken as a result, but suffice to say, I’m skeptical. And while the all-in-one body looks easier to hold, I miss the chunky tripod from last year’s model. If you want to prop up this new Gear 360, you have to rest it on a little inner tube-like ring that comes with it. That might technically allow for more flexibility with your angles, but the one I played with seemed to make for too precarious a setup.

So yes, I have my fair share of concerns, but the only way to allay them is to take a consumer-ready model for a spin. Hopefully Engadget will get a chance to do that sooner than later.

Click here to catch all the latest news from Samsung’s Galaxy S8 launch event!

29
Mar

The Galaxy S8 and S8+ pack big changes into gorgeous bodies


Samsung officially revealed the new Galaxy S8 and S8+ here in New York, and it seems safe to say that we got what we expected. The lack of a home button; the new AI assistant; the near bezel-less, curved screens; the rear-mounted fingerprint sensors — all the leaks were true. What ultimately matters more than the lack of surprises are ambition and keen execution, and Samsung clearly embraced both when building the S8s. It’s a good thing too: After the Galaxy Note 7’s rise and fiery fall, Samsung needed to prove that it could craft some flawless smartphones. Well, I’m not sure about flawless, but the S8 and S8+ are both gorgeous and full-featured — for now, the good certainly seems to outweigh the bad.

What makes them tick?

I can’t overstate how gorgeous the S8 and S8+ are. The former packs one of Samsung’s beautiful 5.8-inch “infinity displays” — that’s a Super AMOLED screen that wraps around the phone’s curved front to the point where it almost touches the metal band running around the device. As the name implies, the S8+ has a larger display; we’re talking 6.2 inches from one diagonal corner to another. Both run at what Samsung calls Quad HD+ resolution, otherwise known as 2,960 x 1,440, since these screens are longer than normal.

All the leaked renders and photos don’t do these phones justice: The look might feel understated, but the fit and finish are incredible. Remember how the front and back edges of the Note 7 melted into the metal frame running around the phone without a rough seam to be seen? Well, the effect here is similar but much more striking because of how round the phones feel now. I developed a bit of a crush on the Honor Magic for its sleek, curved lines, and the S8s have a similar vibe going.

As you might have already known, the US Galaxy S8 and S8+ will feature one of Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 835 chipsets, along with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. Versions available elsewhere will have one of Samsung’s octa-core Exynos chips in lieu of Qualcomm’s stuff, which will be a bummer for some people and old news for others. (The Exynos-equipped Galaxy S7 seemed to have a few advantages over the US, Snapdragon 820 model, but we’ll see if that shakes out the same way this year.) Both devices also have 12-megapixel, dualpixel rear cameras with an f/1.7 aperture, which, yes, are very similar to last year’s S7 cameras. That said, Samsung has apparently changed the way photos are processed, which should make for slightly better colors and clarity throughout.

More importantly for our uber-vain generation, the S8s have an improved front-facing camera: an 8-megapixel sensor with autofocus and the ability to shoot wide-angle selfies. In a nod to apps like Snapchat, Snow and countless others, Samsung has included goofy filters and stickers to festoon your photos. The stickers are fine, but some of these filters straddle the line between hilarious and horrifying.

It’s also nice to see that Samsung hasn’t given up on old fan-favorite features. Both the S8 and the S8+ still have headphone jacks, along with microSD card slots that take up to 256GB of extra storage for now. (There are bigger microSD cards, but Samsung has only certified cards as large as 256GB.) And all of you should be glad that the phone is still water- and dust-resistant, features that not all 2017 flagships have embraced. Depending on your taste, not every change here is a step forward from the Galaxy S7. The S8’s fingerprint sensors are on the back, to the right of the camera, and reaching them with your index finger can still be a little awkward.

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Chris Velazco/Engadget

Are the batteries going to explode?

For everyone’s sake, we hope not. Earlier this year, Samsung announced a slew of new testing methods and safety standards meant to ensure the Note 7’s failures weren’t repeated. Concerns over potential battery issues could partially explain why the S8s don’t have bigger batteries than last year’s flagships. In fact, while the S7 and the S8 both have 3,000mAh batteries, the S8+ actually has a slightly smaller 3,500mAh battery compared to the S7 Edge’s sealed 3,600mAh cell.

What are they like to hold and use?

The phones we played with weren’t final, but they were still impeccably crafted. There’s barely any bezel between the S8’s beautiful, mobile HDR-certified screen and the rest of the phone’s body. That’s a feat this device shares with LG’s new G6, but the approaches couldn’t feel more different. If the G6 is a flat slab of stone, the Galaxy S8 is a polished river rock, and it’s all the more comfortable as a result. The larger S8+ is as impressive to hold and feel, and it fits neatly into small pockets without trouble. Sure, this screen might not be quite as pixel-dense as the smaller S8s, but there’s no way most people would be able to tell. More importantly, this might be the most comfortable big phone I’ve ever held. The iPhone 7 Plus I usually carry felt like a whale by comparison.

The combination of Qualcomm’s new chip and a seemingly lighter new version of TouchWiz mean the S8 and S8+ feel incredibly fast. The updated interface, by the way, is pretty gorgeous; it’s not quite as loud as previous iterations, and the subtle new icons, fonts and widget choices make TouchWiz feel more mature. It takes a little more time to get used to the new home button. The physical key (and the capacitive keys that used to flank it) are gone. Instead, you have a small, pressure-sensitive strip of screen at the bottom that you can press while on any screen to jump to the homescreen. You just have to know the home button is there, even when you can’t see it.

Since both the S8 and S8+ have curved-edge screens, there’s no real need for an Edge model anymore. It makes sense that all of those Edge shortcuts, like app, contact and news panels, have been built into both versions of the S8. I’m still not sold on their usefulness, but it’s nice to know they’re around, waiting. I haven’t had the chance to benchmark these things, but even unfinished, I couldn’t get them to hiccup or stutter. For now, in terms of design and performance, the S8 and S8+ consistently impress.

What’s up with this Bixby AI assistant thing?

To tell the story of the Galaxy S8s is to tell the story of Bixby, the virtual assistant Samsung has been working on for years. You can invoke … him? her? it? … by hitting a button on the S8’s left side or saying its name aloud. Samsung’s plans are ambitious: You’ll eventually be able to control the phone with your voice as capably as you could by tapping the screen, a feat most existing assistants can’t pull off.

To be clear, there are some big differences between the version of Bixby I played with and the version you’ll see when the phones go on sale next month. When Bixby launches you’ll be able to ask it for photos from your last trip to Hong Kong or to open apps. Bixby will also live on your homescreen, tracking your steps and offering suggestions to you when it starts to understand your behavior. Do you call certain people at the same time every day? Expect Bixby to notice and remind you. The S8s I played with weren’t quite that far along, but Bixby Vision actually worked pretty well.

Long story short, Bixby will recognize things like products, restaurants and landmarks and offer more information about them. Let’s say you’re looking at a book someone is reading. You could use Bixby to learn more about the author or find a link to buy it. Even in these early stages, the visual recognition worked well: Bixby identified a bottle of Poland Spring water, a book and a friend’s Apple Watch. (That last time, it offered Amazon links to watch bands.)

Is that all?

In a way, Samsung is trying to make the new S8s the center of the connected home. A new application called Samsung Connect lets you control or monitor all of your Samsung connected devices (of which there are now quite a few). Same goes for any third-party, SmartThings-compatible device that’s tied into a network of smart home gadgets.

Additionally, Samsung cooked up a system called DeX. Tell me if this sounds familiar: You plop the phone in a dock; connect a monitor, keyboard and mouse; and get stuff done on a phone-powered desktop. I’ve seen so many other companies try this and frankly screw it all up, but I spent half an hour playing with the demo station Samsung had set up for me. Here’s a deeper dive on DeX for you, but Samsung’s hybrid approach to Android on the desktop seems surprisingly usable. Consider me cautiously optimistic.

When can I get one?

As of this writing, we don’t know how much the new Galaxy S8 or S8+ will cost. It won’t be long before we find out though: You’ll be able to preorder the phones in the US starting tomorrow, March 30th, with an official launch coming on April 21st. Oh, and you’ll get a free Gear VR and controller if you lock down a phone early. (We’ll update this story once we get firm pricing details.)

That even these non-final phones were oozing with polish and poise is a testament to how important Samsung believes they are. After all, these are Samsung’s attempts at redemption: It couldn’t afford to build anything less than excellent. We’ll have a full review for you soon, but this much seems clear: While memories of burning Notes still linger, Samsung seems to be right back on track.

Click here to catch all the latest news from Samsung’s Galaxy S8 launch event!

29
Mar

Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 9 is colorful and selfie friendly


Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 9 might not be as chic as the brand’s Michael Kors-designed model, but its color variants sure are pretty. The Flamingo Pink, Ice Blue and Lime Green versions of the instant camera will be out in April, while the Cobalt Blue and Smokey White variants will follow in June. It also takes after its predecessors and has a small mirror next to the lens that you can use to check your framing when taking selfies. Sure, that mirror’s no swiveling screen like the ones found in fancier digital cameras, but it makes the model more selfie friendly than those that don’t have one.

Instax Mini 9 ships with a close-up lens attachment that’ll make it possible to snap images only 14 inches away. Plus, it has new mode called “high-key” that adjusts brightness so you can take photos that look softer and brighter. It still prints credit card-sized photos, though, just like the other models in the line. The camera will set you back $70 when it comes out in the US and Canada this April — unfortunately, the company didn’t say if and when it’ll be released in other markets. You’ll just have to keep an eye out for announcements from your local Fujifilm branch.

Via: DP Review

Source: Fujifilm Instax Mini 9

29
Mar

Every Galaxy S8 comes with a pair of $99 AKG earbuds


Samsung’s newly announced Galaxy S8 and S8+ will come with a pair of $99 AKG earbuds, the company revealed at its Unpacked event in New York City today. Although Samsung didn’t say much beyond that, AKG is known for making products with great audio quality, so this should be an improvement over the earphones that have traditionally been included in the box with Galaxy phones.

Indeed, audio was clearly a big focus for Samsung with its new flagship device: One of the best features of the S8 is that it can stream music to two headphones at a time, as long as you’re using Bluetooth as the pairing method. It may not be something you use regularly, but at least you have the option to do so if you ever need to.

Click here to catch all the latest news from Samsung’s Galaxy S8 launch event!

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