The Motorola Razr Is Back, And This Time It Folds

Motorola's new foldable Razr will be available on February 6.

The 2005 version of the Motorola Razr was groundbreaking: It was classy, thin, and reliable. It also had a 640 x 480 pixel resolution camera, which was considered good at the time. Many people could be seen carrying this phone around in the mid 2000s.

Motorola has done fine in the 2010s (remember the Droid?), but they haven’t been considered truly relevant in the smartphone industry for several years. However, that could change, as Motorola is bringing the Razr back.

This time, the Razr has a 6.18-inch AMOLED display with a 876 x 2142 pixel resolution. But the big news is that it folds out. And unlike other foldable smartphones (Hello, Samsung!) that have failed with horizontal foldouts, this smartphone folds vertically.

Click to play in YouTube.

The Razr will be available for pre-order on January 26 and will be exclusively available on Verizon. It will be sold at Verizon stores, Walmart, and Motorola’s own site. The phone will be shipped out for delivery on February 6, the same day it can be purchased at stores.

“The Motorola Razr 2019 does an admirable job of reviving an iconic design in a new foldable form factor that defines what it means to stand out – yes, the phone everyone had 15 years ago is now something to make you stand out,” claims TechRadar, adding that the price is too high and the performance is limited.

The Verge is impressed with the way the phone feels.

“With all of that out of the way, how does it actually feel to use the new Razr? The answer is great. It’s been years since there’s been a truly viable high-end flip phone, and it’s easy to forget just how enjoyable that flip phone experience is. Picking up the new Razr immediately brings you back.”

However, author Chaim Gartenberg doesn’t like the fact that the new Razr is difficult to fold with one hand and the fact that hinge is a little stiff — a problem that has plagued all foldable smartphones.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

Still, it looks like the new Razr could be a hit. One big obstacle for Motorola is the fact that Samsung is introducing the Galaxy Z Flip early next month. Its format is similar to the Razr, except it has more power. We’ll see who wins the foldable smartphone race within the next couple of months.

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Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Wireless Headphones Have One Huge Flaw

I’ve been testing the Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Wireless  on-ear headphones for the past week and am really impressed with almost everything. However, there are two flaws, one which is a major deal breaker (though others may not agree). Let’s take a look.

Design

As usual, Bowers & Wilkins has delivered an exquisite design that feels and looks good on your head. Not only are these headphones compact (too bad they don’t fold though), but the woven carbon fiber arms and plush pads make it easy for you to put these in your bag without constantly worrying about wear and tear.

The left earcup features a button to control noise cancellation, and the right has buttons to control everything else. I’m glad Bowers & Wilkins went with buttons rather than touch controls, which usually don’t always work like they are supposed to.

Sound

The PX5 headphones sound robust and natural.

As with the original P5 wireless, Bowers & Wilkins delivers a top-of-the-line sound experience that sounds natural and really brings out the details in songs. For example, when listening to “The Crying Game” (Boy George, 1993), I was able to hear cymbals and guitar strings that I hadn’t noticed before. The headphones also really brought out the pumping sounds for “I Love It” by Icona Pop.

Noise Cancellation

Unfortunately, the noise cancellation on these headphones proves to be inadequate. As with 2017′s PX Wireless headphones, there is some noise reduction, but it is far off from the levels of noise reduction you get with recent headphones by Bose, Sony, and even Beats. For some, this will be a major issue. For others who just need a little noise isolation, it won’t be a deal killer.

Phone Quality

Unfortunately, the phone quality on the PX5 can’t compare with that on recent on-hear headphones like the Beats Solo Pro when it comes to making calls. When you talk, the headphones will block out some ambient noise. However, your voice will sound like it’s being recorded on some mono voice recorder from the 1980s.

This isn’t all a deal breaker since, at the minimum, you can still make audible phone calls. Just don’t plan on having hour-long conversations. Hopefully, Bowers & Wilkins will offer a software update to make the mic more tolerable.

Battery Life

Bowers & Wilkins claims you can get 25 hours of playback while being able to get at least three hours of juice from a 15-minute quick charge. I found this to be true, although I never got to the exact 25 hour point. Still, these are the type of headphones that you can take on a trip for three days without worrying about having a charger in the bag.

Verdict

For those who mostly care about sound, the $299 price tag on the Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Wireless is worth every penny. However, those who want to use their headphones to not only listen to music but block out noisy environments, there are other headphones in the same price range that would be more worthwhile. 

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Samsung Galaxy S20 (Galaxy S11 ) Could Make Me Switch Back To Android

Leaked Picture of Samsung Galaxy S20 Devices

Samsung is still arguably the most innovative smartphone company in the world. And that isn’t changing in the new decade as reports of the Samsung Galaxy S20, formerly known as the Galaxy S11, are coming out. Let’s take a look at some of the new features.

120Hz Screen

A 120Hz screen can display up to 120 frames per second, twice as much as a 60Hz screen does. Apps, videos, and other content are mostly made for 60Hz screens, but that is changing.

If you used an iPad Pro, you understand how cool a 120Hz refresh rate is. Scrolling is so smooth that it almost feels like your finger is stuck to the screen as you move things around.

Huge Display

The Galaxy S20 will have a 6.2-inch display, while the S20+ will have a 6.7-inch display. However, the most shocking version is the Galaxy S20 Ultra, which will have a 6.9-inch screen. That’s a lot of real estate!

However, it may not be a great thing. I thought that the 6.8-inch display on the Galaxy Note 10+ was a little too big to be portable, but Samsung has slightly reduced the bezels on the new phone so that they are almost non-existent. I won’t completely judge until I see the phone in person.

Camera

It appears that the regular S20 has a regular triple-lens camera that has a 12MP main sensor, backed up by 64MP and 12MP ones. The Galaxy S20 Plus has a quad-lens camera with the same three sensors alongside one for depth sensing.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, however, appears to be a camera lover’s dream come true as it appears to have a 108MP main sensor that is backed up by 48MP and 12MP secondary sensors. It also has a depth-sensing lens as well.

Most realize that more pixels doesn’t necessarily mean a better camera. But 108MP? How did Samsung do this? We’ll find out soon enough.

5G

Yes, 2020 is the year of 5G, and it appears that all three versions of the Galaxy S20 will have versions with 5G released right up front. Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile are in the process of rolling out their 5G networks, so Samsung’s timing is perfect.

February 11 Launch Date

We’ll know even more about Samsung’s new flagship phone on February 11 during Samsung’s upcoming Unpacked event in San Francisco. The smartphone is expected to go on sale during the first or second week of March. 2020 could be an incredible year for Samsung.

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CES 2020 So Far: New TVs, New Headphones, New Laptops

I am not at CES 2020 this year. I haven’t gone in a couple of years, and I wish I can say I’m upset. But I’m not. And it’s not because my interest in technology is waning but more because there is a lack of interesting technology.

So far, CES 2020 seems somewhat interesting, even if the products being shown aren’t blowing me away. But they are causing me too look. And here are some of them:

New Television Sets: Welcome to the 8K Revolution

Click to play in YouTube.

If you thought 4K was a big thing, think again. Now, it’s 8K. Sony, Samsung, LG, and others have introduced new expensive 8K television sets that look dreamy. But remember, you will only get an 8K picture with 8K content, which there isn’t enough of yet.

Perhaps the most interesting 8K television set is Samsung’s Q950TS, which has a practically bezel-free QLED screen that goes right up to the edge. It sort of reminds me of a HUGE Dell XPS 13, except it’s not a laptop. Many claim that the screen is unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Of course, the picture isn’t the only appeal of Samsung’s latest television set. It also includes top and side-firing speakers, the ability to rotate 90 percent, and the fact that it comes in three sizes: 65-inch, 75-inch and an 85-inch version. There is no price information, but expect all three models to cost thousands of dollars.

Wireless Earbuds

After Apple stunned with the AirPods Pro a couple of months back, more companies are looking to follow the same type of hype in 2020. Like the Pros, most of these new earbuds have active noise cancellation.

CES 2020 has introduced us to Audio-Technica’s ATH-ANC300TW,  Panasonic’s RZ-S500W buds, Klipsch’s T10 buds, and Edifier’s TWS NB buds. Unfortunately, Bose hasn’t shown off their new wireless noise-cancelling buds yet, but it’s possible we’ll be hearing about them very soon.

New Laptops

This column’s obsession with the Dell XPS 13 continues, and this time, Dell has done a major rework with its flagship laptop. Not only are the bezels even thinner, but the keys are larger and the aspect ratio has changed from 16:9 to 16:10 to add more vertical space. The trackpad, which was nearly perfect with 2013′s version, is now nine percent larger. I can hardly wait to spend time with Dell’s latest masterpiece. 

Lenovo's ThinkPad Fold is a real geek magnet.

However, Dell isn’t the only company making waves at CES with new laptops. Lenovo also introduced the ThinkPad X1 Fold that has been talked about for the past year. It has a plastic OLED screen that allows you to fold it all the way out and use with an optional keyboard, fold in half (and use the other half as a keyboard), or just use as a tablet. Is it ready for the mainstream yet? Probably not, but it’s still fascinating and could predict the future of laptop-tablet hybrids.

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AirPods Pro: Apple Wins ‘Best Product Of 2019′ Award

Product of the Year

Okay, it’s now 2020, so this will be the absolutely last “look back at” post for a while. But we have to mention what was the best product of 2019, and that absolutely goes to Apple’s AirPods Pro.

In my first impressions review, I was more than impressed. And the feature that I liked the most was the noise cancellation.

“The biggest star of the new AirPods Pro is noise cancellation. It’s shockingly good given that these earbuds are so small. The noise cancellation is on par with that on Sony’s WH-1000XM3 buds, but feels a little smoother with your eardrums feeling less pressure.”

As the months have gone by, I appreciate the noise cancellation even more, especially after trying other noise cancelling or noise isolating buds. I just wish the battery lasted longer so I can sleep with them all night. When I need a nap or know I only have four hours to sleep, these Apple buds are absolutely wonderful, even if my ears end up hurting a little afterwards.

The AirPods Pro have great noise cancellation and sound quality.

I also appreciate the sound even more. While the sound can’t compare to a $300 – $400 pair of Sennheiser, Sony, or Bose over-the-ear wireless headphones, they come quite close and are about 1/10th the size. The bass comes in very clear and punchy when I listen to Post Malone’s new album, especially the song “Circles.” I also love using the AirPods Pro for podcasts.

I’ve also loved the simplicity of switching Apple devices with the AirPods Pro on. There are no buttons to press or restarts to complete. My Pros know when I’m changing devices. Sometimes, it takes more than 10 seconds to switch devices, but it’s not much of a disability since I expect it.

Apple's new earbuds come in a "Landscape Mode" case that is still very portable.

Then, there are the phone calls. While the Pros don’t cancel out as much ambient noise as the $400 Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, they are good enough. I’ve been able to have conversations in my car driving down the highway (and concentrating on the traffic, of course), at Starbucks (when loud music isn’t playing), and even in the locker room at 24 Hour Fitness (not in the actual exercise area).

Once again, Apple took a little longer to come out with a product than other companies (Sony came out with first noise-cancelling buds two years ago), but the wait was worth it. The AirPods Pro buds are the best thing Apple has released since the first AirPods in late 2016. Now, we’ll patiently wait for the Apple over-the-ear wireless headphones that are rumored to be released in 2020.

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Google Glass And Microsoft HoloLens: The Decade’s Biggest Tech Failures

The Google Glass defined failure.

There was a lot of technology to celebrate over the past decade. However, the 2010s were also overstuffed with gadgets that promised a lot and did very little. When the initial hype died down on several products, they turned into a joke. Let’s take a look at the two biggest tech flops of the past decade.

Google Glass

Oh, my! Where do we start with this one? Do you remember (especially if you lived in Northern California) going out and seeing people with a weird thing that looked like glasses attached to their head, except it wasn’t really glasses? If you don’t, you certainly didn’t miss much.

The Google Glass, which started out at $1500, had a square light prism that beamed information into your eye. It was supposed to help you while driving, but it actually was more of a distraction.

To make things worse (or better for perverted ones), you could easily take pictures of people without them knowing. I’ll never forget using these at 24 Hour Fitness, and people complained to the front desk. I was angry then, but I completely understand now.

Google’s Glass could be voice-operated, but one could only expect it to recognize what you say three out of five times. Whatever it could do, the Glass couldn’t do for long since the battery barely lasted an hour. If you charged it several times, the battery depleted. It was one of the most frustrating and useless things I’ve ever owned.

Microsoft HoloLens

Microsoft's HoloLens sold for $3,000

The best thing that could be said about Microsoft’s HoloLens is that it really did seem to have a purpose — at least when it was announced. The $3,000 price tag was very hefty, but one could take solace in the fact that they could sell it for more if they wanted. (I sold my HoloLens $4,300 after using it for a month.)

The HoloLens aimed to be the first major Augmented Reality device. Unlike virtual reality devices, which brought you into completely different worlds, AR put objects on top of your world. You could look at your wall and see an alien come out. You could even set up your own AR movie screen on your wall (the thing I did the most with my HoloLens).

The HoloLens actually ran on a 32-bit version of Windows, which really wasn’t nearly powerful for a lot of tasks. It ran on several different finger and hand gestures — all which worked to varying degrees of success. If you were doing simple things like displaying a dancing ballerina in the middle of your room, the flimsy hand gesture controls weren’t too much of a disability.

The fatal flaw of the HoloLens was the very narrow field-of-view. For example, If you placed an AR globe on your chair and looked directly at it, you were likely to see the whole thing. However, if you moved your face too much in any direction, the globe would be “clipped” and your immersive experience would be ruined.

At the beginning of 2016, everybody was talking about the HoloLens. At the end of 2016, nobody cared. The HoloLens is a rare hardware failure for Microsoft, who has otherwise done pretty well this decade.

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2010s: The Decade Of The Smartwatch

At the beginning of the decade, the idea of the smartwatch was laughable. We had smartphones and tablets already. Wasn’t it overkill? Apparently, not. But the smartwatch industry didn’t take off right away.

The decade started with failed (but somewhat innovative) smartwatch offers from Pebble. In 2014, Asus, Samsung, and Motorola released the first batch of mainstream Android smartwatches. However, it was the release of the Apple Watch in 2015 that had insiders believing that the smartwatch industry would take off. However, Apple’s first smartwatch received mixed reviews.

The first Apple Watch in 2015 was anything but a hit.

“Apple’s much hyped smartwatch is carefully crafted with a masterful design, but poor battery life and confusing software mean curious consumers should wait,” the Guardian claimed. However, this blog said the Watch certainly had potential, and it would soon be realized.

By 2017, Apple had finally created the smartwatch people had been waiting for — one with long battery life, cellular capabilities, and decent exercise tracking. After two years, you could finally see a good amount of people walking around with an Apple Watch.

Apple owns the biggest share of the smartwatch market, but Samsung is on their heels. They released the first Gear S smartwatch to mostly apathy in 2014, but the Gear S2 (which had 3G service), made consumers take notice. It ran Samsung’s own Tizen operating system and was just as productive as the Apple Watch.

Samsung's Galaxy Active is one of the most popular smartwatches this decade.

Samsung has expanded on their hero smartwatch, now known just as the Samsung Galaxy Watch. The sportier version of the Galaxy Watch, the Galaxy Watch Active 2, is one of the  best-reviewed smartwatches out there, and it is compatible with iOS devices. However, don’t expect to get the same sort of experience with the Watch Active 2 that you get with the Apple Watch.

Competing with Samsung and Apple is Fitbit, a company that — as USA Today notes — tracked out steps before Apple. In 2019, you have the Fitbit Versa 2, Fitbit Inspire, Fitbit Charge 3, and many others. In fact, Fitbit, whose watches work on both iOS and Android devices, has the most diverse selection of smartwatches available today.

So, where does the smartwatch industry go from here? Many are still waiting for LTE (or even 5G in the future) smartwatches that can be set up independently from a smartphone. You can currently use an LTE smartwatch, but it’s always connected to your smartphone through Bluetooth or cellular. The smartwatch that is actually a “phone on your wrist” has yet to appear. But that’s something that will likely change within the next three years.

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Sony Enters Wearable Speaker Market With SRS-WS1 Wireless Neck Speaker

Sony SRS-WS1 Wireless Speaker

Two years back, I was really enthusiastic about the Bose SoundWear Companion wearable speaker. I thought Bose ushered in a new era of wearable speakers. At the time, the device ran for $299, and I never saw anybody wear it besides myself. My SoundWear Companion was eventually stolen. I can’t say that I ever missed it.

Now, Sony is trying to give Bose a run for their money — at least it looks that way at first. Like most Sony products, the SRS-WS1 is well designed and looks comfortable. The speaker vibrates to provide a more immersive environment. You can connect it with your stereo, television set, or even smartphone. The big problem — you can’t connect it through Bluetooth! Sony apparently forgot that it’s almost 2020, not 2000. .

Devindra Hardawar of Engadget says Sony’s new device is baffling.

“It’s also astounding to me that a wireless product doesn’t support Bluetooth, the most widely supported wireless standard out there. You can use a USB-C cable to quickly connect the speaker to a smartphone or tablet, but you’ll still have to deal with the battery draining eventually.”

Hardawar goes as far as to say if you are even considering the SRS-WS1, you should have a friend try and talk you out of it first. Ouch!

Unfortunately, Engadget has been the only site to provide a full review. But I did some research and found out that the SRS-WS1 is anything but new. It has actually been out in Japan for the last two years. It apparently hasn’t been a huge hit over there, but the people who do own it like it.

Perhaps the only way wearable speakers can break though commercially is if they are put on things that people usually wear, such as sunglasses. About a year ago, I reviewed the Bose Frames, and thought they were good, but not for everybody.

Bose Frames fit comfortably.

The sound on Bose’s sunglasses is rather tinny, although not awful. But they fit very comfortably and even with the volume on them turned high, the audio leak is barely there since the speakers are aimed right into your ears. The phone quality was very good, even when compared to Bluetooth headphones.

It will be interesting to see how the wearable speaker market develops in the next couple of years. Perhaps we’ll see wearable baseball cap speakers, wearable headband speakers, etc. Anything is possible.

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The Decade In Smartphones: Samsung, Apple, and HTC

Samsung's innovative Galaxy S3 was introduced in 2012.

The main difference between January 2010 and December 2019: Everybody has a smartphone. That includes grandmas, grandpas, little kids, etc. The flip phone with the numeric pad is now an antique. And so are phones with thumb keyboards. Let’s take a look at the most important smartphone brands of the past decade:

iPhone

The iPhone has remained popular throughout the entire decade.

Apple’s iPhone was the biggest technology innovation of the 2000s, and it continued to be a popular smartphone throughout the 2010s. The iPhone 4, released in June of 2010, is thought to be the most defining smartphone from Apple this decade. Not only did it bring in the Retina display, but it offered a high quality 5MP camera on the front that could compete somewhat with digital cameras. It also was the first iPhone with a front-facing camera.

Of course, the iPhone 4 arrived with an array of problems. Antennagate occurred when Apple put the antenna on the metal rim of the iPhone casing rather than on the inside. This initially caused many dropped calls. Eventually, Steve Jobs offered iPhone 4 owners a free bumper case that would stop interference with a person’s grip and the antenna. By the time the iPhone 4S was released in October of 2011, the antenna was a non-issue.

Samsung Galaxy S3

Click to play in YouTube.

You can say that this is the smartphone that made Android relevant. At first glance, Samsung’s Galaxy S3 was a mobile user’s dream come true — a large beautiful HD screen, a quad-core processor, 4G LTE, an extremely light casing (the plastic would become controversial in future devices), an eye-tracking camera, and a speaker that offered great sound.

By early 2013, Samsung had passed Apple in worldwide smartphone sales. Samsung would continue to innovate for the rest of the decade.

Samsung Galaxy Note

Samsung's Galaxy Note brought back the stylus.

When the first Galaxy Note was released in 2011, it received decent reviews. It offered a gigantic (for its time) 5.3-inch screen and a digital stylus for taking notes. Critics thought of it as a huge niche device. However, by the time Samsung released the Galaxy Note 2 in October of 2012, it was a huge hit.

The Note was basically a larger and more powerful version of the Galaxy S3 in which you can jot down anything at any time. It was also an amazing multimedia device. Samsung continued to develop the Note and hit a brick when the 2016 Galaxy Note 7 had a battery issue that caused the device to catch on fire. Samsung has slowly gotten their groove back, but the Galaxy Note device isn’t as popular as it was during the middle of the decade.

HTC

The HTC One didn't survive the competition.

In May of 2010, it looked like HTC would become the most innovative smartphone maker of the decade. The EVO 4G was the first mainstream 4G smartphone (though it only ran on Sprint’s WiMax network, which was very limited). With a high resolution (for 2010) display, an 8MP camera, and 720p video recording capabilities, the EVO 4G became the best phone Sprint ever had.

Unfortunately, the HTC EVO 3D came in 2011, and it was every bit of a gimmick as most 3D devices. But HTC did make the first innovative stereo speakers on a smartphone with the HTC One (M7) in 2013. Unfortunately, the smartphone maker just couldn’t keep up with Apple and Samsung.

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The Decade In Laptops: For A While, Apple Took Over

The MacBook Pro Retina came out in 2012.

As the new decade started, Microsoft looked like they were on the comeback trail with Windows 7 after the whole Windows Vista debacle. Still, the damage was done. And people who were normally hooked on PCs moved to Apple’s MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. The release of Windows 8, an operating system that confused the hell out of the average notebook user, didn’t help.

The MacBook Air really set the tone for the new decade. At first, people thought that a laptop without a CD or DVD drive would fail, but soon almost every laptop — PC or Mac — was the same. This made the laptops thinner and more portable. And who needs a DVD drive when you can stream or download?

Perhaps the most significant laptop of the early 2010s was the 2012 release of the MacBook Pro with Retina screen. The notebook, which carried a powerful Intel Core i5 processor, was just slightly heavier than the MacBook Air, which was still extremely popular the first half of the decade. The MacBook Pro Retina ushered in an era of laptops with high contrast ratios, making them great for viewing pictures or watching movies.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

The second most significant laptop (really a laptop/tablet hybrid) was the Surface Pro 3, released in 2014. As discussed in the recent article about this decade’s top tablets, the Pro 3 was the first real laptop/tablet hybrid that could be used decently as both. The Surface Pro 3 could be configured in versions that were as powerful and as fast as competing laptops from Apple or Dell.

Speaking of Dell, it was certainly a comeback decade for the manufacturer. They were previously known for making cheaper laptops that many schools and workplaces purchased. Even though the first arrival of the Dell XPS 13 was met with quality control issues, further versions solidified it as the PC laptop of the decade. The ultra-thin bezels, the bright and crisp screen, and the power of a desktop fit into an ultra thin laptop convinced people to switch from the MacBook Pro.

Dell's XPS 13 was a huge hit.

Speaking of the MacBook Pro, it didn’t maintain its dominance by the end of the decade. Windows 10 proved to a robust operating system that came close to the fluidity of macOS and allowed manufacturers to make many touchscreen or pen-enabled PCs — all while being cheaper.

However, don’t count Apple out yet when it comes to notebooks. Even if they don’t produce a touchscreen notebook, they’ll probably come out with something groundbreaking that we don’t realize we need yet. The next decade should be an interesting one when it comes to laptops.

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