First Impressions: Sony’s WF-1000XM3 Earbuds Are The Real Deal

I am still on the quest to find the ultimate earbuds, and it looks like I at least came close this weekend. Sony’s new silver earbuds, which have earned a lot of acclaim, have finally come across my desk.

I’ve only used them for a couple of hours, so this is just a hands-on review. You can bet I’ll have a full review by the end of the week. For now, here are my first impressions:

  • The first thing one needs to do is download Sony’s Headphones app and set the Sound Quality mode to “Priority of Sound Quality.” It makes a huge difference. At first, I thought it was strange how Sony charge so much for sound quality that is so cheap, but found this setting and it made a huge difference.
  • Speaking of sound quality, it is top notch. I’ve been using these buds on the Galaxy S10+ and the warm bass-emphasized sound is almost as good as Sony’s over-the-ear WH-1000XM3 headphones.
  • It’s too bad that there isn’t a volume rocker on the buds, but that’s not a deal breaker.

Sony's earbuds come with a large charging case.

  • Speaking of the buds, the sound controls are touch-operated. This is a little difficult to get used to on a set of earbuds.
  • The noise cancellation on Sony’s new earbuds is shockingly good. I never expected the cancellation to match Sony’s flagship over-the-ear headphones, but it actually comes pretty close. These can almost be used as sleep buds.
  • Notice, I said “almost.” Although the buds don’t feel like they are going to fall out, they don’t completely feel like they’ll stay in, especially if you roll around on your pillow all night.
  • It’s unfortunate that the WH-1000XM3 buds aren’t listed as being sweat or water-resistant. I’ll test them in a workout and let you know if they still work. My prediction is that they will.
  • The battery life is great (six hours with noise cancellation, eight without), but the case this comes with is pretty large.
  • The setup on these was very simple. All I had to do is take them out of the case and the Samsung Galaxy s10+ did its thing.
  • I only made one phone call, and the person said I sounded okay. However, they could easily hear the background music playing outside of Starbucks. The WH-1000XM3 certainly aren’t known for their mic quality, but things have definitely improved from Sony’s previous earbuds.
We’ll see if I still like these earbuds once the honeymoon period ends. Stay tuned….
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Thoughts On Apple’s New iPhones

Apple will release three new iPhones.

On Tuesday, Apple unveiled their new iPhones. The announcement was actually rather uneventful, but that doesn’t mean that the new Apple smartphones are bad. Let’s take a look:

iPhone 11

Click to play in YouTube.

This could become the most successful iPhone since it is much cheaper than the others but still offers many perks. Starting at a reasonable $699, Apple’s entry level smartphone has a 6.1-inch 1792 x 828 pixel resolution screen, which sounds bad on paper but isn’t so awful in person. 

Unlike the triple lens camera on the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, this budget iPhone has a dual-lens shooter with lenses that bulge out a little too much. Still, the camera not only has a 2X optical lens, but it can also take ultra-wide photos.

iPhone 11 Pro

Click to play in YouTube.

The upgrade to the iPhone 11 Pro isn’t a huge upgrade, but it does improve on some aspects of the 2018′s similar iPhone XS. The biggest difference is that the 11 Pro now includes a triple-lens camera and a 5.8-inch “Super-Retina XDR” 2426 x 1125 pixel resolution OLED display. The screen is improved from the 2018 version in that you not only can get a blinding brightness of 800 nits but a contrast ratio of 2 million to 1 as well.

Then, there is Apple’s A13 Bionic chip that runs the 11 Pro. This new chip allegedly produces efficiency, performance, and graphics that are 20 percent faster while using less power. It will be interesting to see exactly how much faster this is than 2018′s A12 chip.

Unfortunately, the promised (or at least heavily rumored) Apple Pencil support appears to be missing. Then, there’s the rumored 90Hz screen that didn’t make it to the final version. It looks like those will come on the 2020 iPhone. So, those who were on the fence about getting the Galaxy Note 10+ because of the iPhone with expected Apple Pencil support can go purchase the Note 10+.  But the smartphone camera is a priority, you’ll need to put down at least $999 for the iPhone 11 Pro.

iPhone 11 Pro Max

The iPhone 11 Pro Max is pretty much the same as the iPhone 11 Pro but with a 6.5-inch 1,242 x 2,688 pixel resolution OLED screen. It also has more battery life to deal with the extra big screen. Like all the other iPhones, it comes in several different colors.

The Pro Max is good for those who want to watch movies, play games, etc. However, it’s not as easy to hold as the regular iPhone 11 Pro. It has a starting price of $1099.

Conclusion

2019 is a boring year for the iPhone line. However, if you haven’t upgraded your iPhone since 2017, you may find the extra features on Apple’s three new phones useful.

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Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Vs. Apple Watch 5: Which Will Be Best Of 2019?

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 comes in two different sizes.

Five years ago, it was rare to see someone wear a smartwatch, despite all the hype. In 2019, it’s rare to see someone who doesn’t own a smartwatch, whether it be an Apple Watch, a Fitbit, or even a Samsung Galaxy Watch.

Apple and Samsung are at the top of the Apple Watch heap, and both manufacturers are releasing new smartwatches this fall. Let’s take a look at them.

Apple Watch 5

The Apple Watch 5 is going to be announced next week. There hasn’t been that much excitement, especially since rumors have the new Watch being only a minor upgrade. Last year’s Apple Watch 4 brought us a larger screen, a larger screen resolution, and increased health tracking. 

According to CNET, the Series 5 could bring us titanium and ceramic editions, which were present before the Series 4. Of course, those will cost over $1000. The basic version of the new Watch, without LTE, will still likely be priced in the $400 range. The LTE version will cost in the $430-$500 range. Will it be worth the cost?

The new Apple Watch will look very similar to the Series 4 Watch, released in 2018.

The Series 5 could add a sleep-tracking feature, which some will find useful. It could even offer glucose and blood pressure monitoring — something not everybody will want or need. We could also get a round version of Apple’s wrist device. However, it’s likely that a wrist cam, a feature many want, won’t make it on the watch until 2020.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

This blog positively reviewed the Galaxy Watch Active recently, and it looks like the Galaxy Watch 2, released in a couple of weeks, will be even better. However, the price tag will also increase by as much as $100, depending on the size. However, the extra pain in the wallet may be worth the price. 

One thing this blog complained about on the original Active was that the 40mm watch face is too small. The Active 2 will fix that by offering both 42mm and 44mm versions. Samsung’s new watch will also have an on-screen rotating bezel (unlike the physical rotating bezel on the regular Galaxy Watch) and it is said to work really well.

Click to play in YouTube.

Unlike the first Galaxy Watch Active, which was seen as a cheaper (but good) alternative to Samsung’s flagship watch), the Active 2 is seen as a competitor to the regular Galaxy Watch. There is said to be a version coming with 4G LTE capabilities, but it’s not known whether it will launch with the regular versions.

Which Watch Should You Buy?

If you are stuck on the Apple ecosystem, it’s almost a no-brainer to get the Apple Watch. While it’s true that Samsung’s new watch will be iOS compatible, not all features will be enabled. Unfortunately, the Apple Watch isn’t (yet) compatible with Samsung phones, so Samsung owners are forced to chose the Galaxy Watch Active 2. However, judging from early reviews, that’s definitely not a bad thing.

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Samsung Galaxy Watch Active Is A Perfect Smartwatch For Almost Everybody

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active

The Galaxy Active Watch 2 will be released in a couple of weeks, so I thought it would be a good time to review the regular Galaxy Watch Active, which was released earlier this year. Truthfully, I never had an interest in a “cheaper” version of Samsung’s regular Galaxy Watch, but spending two days with this “sporty” Samsung watch has changed my mind.

The most important reason to get the Galaxy Watch Active, which costs $199, is that it is not only $100 – $150 cheaper than the regular Galaxy Watch, but that it fits more comfortably and takes up far less real estate on your wrist. It’s missing the rotating bezel, but you will realize that the touch controls are actually pretty comfortable, and you won’t miss rotating anything to select your app.

I can easily sleep with and wear the Active anywhere. Unlike its larger brother, the Galaxy Watch Active doesn’t nudge your stomach or different body parts when you turn over. It’s also much better for weightlifting and swimming since the small size makes it less intrusive.

It has almost all the features of the regular Galaxy Watch except a robust blood pressure monitor. The Samsung Health app is also not as complete, but it’s still very good. In fact, if you are looking primarily for a fitness tracker and don’t care about additional bells and whistles, the Galaxy Watch Active is the perfect choice.

Unfortunately, the Watch Active only comes with a 40mm watchface and can strain your eyes if you are trying to read emails or other notifications. It’s not a complete deal killer. If you are primarily buying a smartwatch to read emails and instant messages, the regular Galaxy Watch may be a better option.

The Galaxy Watch Active has a small watchface, but is still great for most tasks.

Still, the display is crisp and colorful with a 360 x 360 pixel resolution. It is also rounded with Gorilla Glass 3, which is supposed to prevent scratches. Still, you are safer buying a cheap screen cover somewhere or making one yourself. At least you never have to worry about swimming or running in the rain with the Active since it is able to withstand 50 meters under water.

You may want to wait for the Galaxy Watch Active 2. But the 40mm version of that will cost $279, while the the 44mm version costs $299. If you are looking for a comfortable smartwatch to use primarily for fitness or basic notifications (it works on Android or iOS), the Galaxy Watch Active is a smart choice.

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iPhone 11 May Be Most Boring iPhone Release Yet

iPhone 11 Camera Render

It’s new smartphone season. I just reviewed the Galaxy Note 10+ earlier this week, and will certainly be reviewing the iPhone 11 next month. Apple’s latest smartphone is set to come in three versions – the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and the iPhone 11R. Most sources seem to point to Apple playing it safe this year. Let’s take a look.

Screen

Apple will likely stick a similar 6.5-inch screen on the Pro model and a 6.1-inch screen on the mid-range and budget models. Only the 11R will have an LCD screen, while the other two will carry OLED screens.

Some believe that Apple could upgrade the screen on the 11 and 11 Pro with a 90Hz refresh rate, which would make scrolling more smooth. However, other sources point to the same 60Hz refresh rate as previous iPhone models. Most agree that the 2020 iPhone will have a 120Hz refresh rate just like the current iPad Pro models.

The current iPhone's screen has a 60Hz refresh rate.

Cameras

The biggest change to iPhone will likely be a three-camera system that will be available on both the 11 and 11 Pro. Unlike the vertical triple-camera setup on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10, the new iPhone will have a triangular setup that allows wide-angle shots and, possibly, more than 2X optical zoom.

Processor

Apple’s A12 Bionic chip that powers the 2018 iPhones is, perhaps, the best mobile processor on the market. It is believed that Apple will update the new iPhones with their new A13 Bionic chip. It”s hard to imagine a phone running faster than the 2018 iPhones, but leave it to Apple to break new ground. Let’s hope the new chip doesn’t affect battery life too much.

Apple Pencil Support

Apple may finally be adding Pencil support to the iPhone.

There are mixed reports on this. If Apple includes support for the Apple Pencil, it could convert users who own a Galaxy Note specifically because of its stylus. It’s important to note that there have been reports on a new iPhone’s Apple Pencil compatibility for years, but those have never panned out. Let’s hope things change this year.

5G Support

The iPhone 11 will not support 5G, but most won’t be upset since 5G is only at the beginning stages. However, it’s almost certain that the 2020 iPhone will have 5G capabilities. 

Conclusion

So far, the iPhone 11 upgrade sounds boring this year. However, if Apple’s new smartphone offers an improved camera, an improved 90Hz screen, and Apple Pencil support (all three, not just one of these) than the upgrade for consumers will be justified. 

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Two Days With The Samsung Galaxy Note 10+

I am really tempted at making the Galaxy Note 10+ my next smartphone. For now, I have a review unit and spent most of Friday and Saturday (literally — I didn’t do much of anything else) using it. There are only a finger-full of things I don’t like, but — overall — I think Samsung made an incredible smartphone/phablet. Here are some of the things that helped make my time with Samsung’s new phablet glorious.

Battery

The most annoying thing about owning a smartphone is worrying about losing all the juice and having to recharge it. If you do have to recharge the Galaxy Note 10+ during the day, the fast-charging capabilities are, indeed, fast. With the 25W charger that comes in the box (you can also purchase a 50W plug), the Note 10+ went from 13 percent to 63 percent in about 25 minutes. 

It’s very likely you won’t worry much about the 4,500mAh battery completely depleting during the day, even if you are a power user like myself. And this is with the screen brightness turned up almost 80 percent of capacity.

Screen

The screen on the Galaxy Note 10+ is glorious.

Speaking of the screen, the Note 10+ has the best screen that’s ever been put on a smartphone. The color reproduction is perfect, it works well outdoors, and there are many options to tune the screen to the greatest desires of your eyes.

I initially thought that a 6.8-inch screen would be too big for a smartphone, but Samsung proved this notion wrong. Since the bezel space is almost nonexistent, the phone is still pocketable. And if you find the 6.8-inch screen too large, you can always get the regular Note 10, which has a 6.3-inch screen.

Sound

The Note 10+ has wide stereo sound.

The rich, robust, and encompassing sound is the same as it is on the Galaxy S10+. You won’t need external speakers with the Note 10+ unless you connect it to your television set and want the whole room filled with sound. Of course, you’ll probably want to have headphones on if you are listening to music, but even that isn’t necessary if you want to play your music out in the open. 

S Pen

The S Pen has always been the Note’s distinguishing feature, but Samsung makes it more unique this time. Though the S Pen still feels cheap, it feels like more than a stylus since it can remotely operate the camera and other things. It has certain “flick” gestures that allow you to go though or rewind a presentation. It is also great to use with Spotify. Most importantly, it does what it was meant to — write well.

Phone Calls

The Note 10+ has everything but a headphone jack.

Phone quality has taken a backseat to other smartphone features over the past decade or so, but Samsung makes sure that your voice sounds robust and clear. Even when on speakerphone, my friends on the other end said I sounded clear. One couldn’t even believe I was on Speakerphone.

Camera

I need to spend more time with the camera before I can make any full-ranging judgments. Perhaps I will add my impressions to this article or write a whole separate one just on the Note 10+’s camera capabilities.

Summary

The Galaxy Note 10+ may cost $1099, but it is (gulp) actually worth the price for those who need a top-notch phone, camera, media player, GPS, internet browsing machine, and digital notepad in your pocket. Even if you think you don’t need all these things, you’ll change your mind once you spend time with Samsung’s latest Galaxy Note.

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Apple’s PowerBeats Pro: Pros And Cons

Apple's PowerBeats Pro

When discussing my first impressions of Apple’s PowerBeats Pro a couple months back, I liked but did not love the new earbuds. Now that I’ve been able to use them for three full days, I can say that my first impressions were mostly accurate. Here are some of the major pros and cons:

PROS

Fit and Comfort

The PowerBeats Pro are larger than your typical earbuds, and they have ear hooks. The trade-off for the size is definitely worth it; the Pro buds fit your ears perfectly. You can run with them, dance with them, and do almost anything else (but don’t swim since they only have an IPX4 water resistance rating). They never feel like they are going to fall out of your ears.

Sound

The PowerBeats Pro buds have very good sound.

Although Beats headphones have a history with heavy bass, it’s not so prevalent on the PowerBeats Pro — and the more balanced sound certainly isn’t a bad thing. The bass is still there for your hip-hop and EDM songs, while the treble is there for your classical music. The mids are minimized, but the overall sound is very good if not great.

Phone Quality

Unlike the latest critically acclaimed earbuds from Sony (as well as most other earbuds), the PowerBeats Pro work very well when making phone calls. People tell me that even when I am in a crowded place with noise, they can still hear me (although they can still hear a bit of the background noise as well). If call quality is one of your major concerns, these won’t let you down.

CONS

The Case

OMG is this case large! It feels like a miniature rubber brick, which is still too big for your pocket. Then, there’s putting these buds back in the case, which can be quite difficult. It gets easier to fit these for charging after a couple days, but it’s never as simple as it is with the AirPods and other buds.

Poor Noise Isolation

There is no active noise cancellation on Apple's latest earbuds.

The AirPods have no isolation whatsoever, and although the Pro buds block your ears, the noise isolation is not that good. Some may consider this a good thing since they wear these when jogging or even driving (be careful, please!), but you will notice the annoyance of all the ambient noise when you are at a gym or coffee shop. It would be nice for the next PowerBeats device to have actual digital noise cancellation.

Wind Noise

It’s expected that wind will affect any type of ear device that sticks out, but the PowerBeats Pro buds let the wind in even more than most earbuds. This isn’t a deal breaker, but it is annoying. I can’t imagine using these while walking down Michigan Avenue in Chicago during the month of January.

Summary

There are better sounding and better sized earbuds on the market. However, for those who exercise a lot and need earbuds that work well for making phone calls, the PowerBeats Pro may be worth the expensive $250 price tag.

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Can Apple Make Foldables Work?

Apple could make Samsung's concept a success.

This blog has discussed the problems with foldable phones. Samsung is finally delivering their Galaxy Fold next month, and Huawei is about to release theirs. Both releases come after several setbacks. However, it appears that Apple isn’t afraid and will eventually enter the foldables market.

According to CNET, Apple is looking to first launch a foldable iPad in 2021.

“According to an investor’s note from UBS cited by CNBC Apple is ‘steadily working on the technology,’ first for the iPad and then for the iPhone, but it likely won’t be ready for prime time until 2021.”

The article adds that this really shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially when based on many patents Apple has filed over the past couple of years. It’s just that most expected the iPhone to get a crease before the iPad. One can expect any foldable device that Apple releases to cost a fortune.

Apple will likely revitalize the iPad in the next few years.

However, anybody who frowns on Apple’s efforts doesn’t fully understand the history of the company. Remember the clunky (but cool) portable MP3 players in 2000 and 2001? Apple was late to the game in late 2001, but made the iPod one one of the most important devices in history. Apple literally changed the way music was purchased, consumed, and spread.

Remember the smartphones of the early 2000s? They were clunky, unreliable, and had terrible battery life. When Apple released the iPhone in 2007, they changed the course of communications history. Now, just about everybody has a smartphone that is either an iPhone or influenced by it.

Apple made the regular smartphone mainstream. They can do the same with foldable devices.

Remember how Microsoft failed with tablet? Their devices had poor battery life, and Windows didn’t quite work fluidly on a tablet in the 2000s. Apple released the iPad in 2010, and it became so successful that many now think Apple invented the computer tablet.

With the exception of the AirPods, Apple has certainly fallen behind the times in terms of innovation. The iPhone is no longer ahead of the pack, the iPad isn’t as popular as it used to be, and the MacBook Pro is no longer the premium notebook to own.

Despite not being the leader of the pack, Apple still remains the leader of quality. The Cupertino company doesn’t announce a product unless it has been well tested and ready for consumers. In 2019, Samsung and Huawei’s foldable devices likely won’t make a dent in the marketplace. But in the next decade, expect Apple to make foldable devices mainstream.

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First Impressions: Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ Hits Levels Of Smartphone Brilliance

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+

A few days back, I wrote about how disappointing it was that the Note 10 series does not have a headphone jack. Because of this, my excitement wasn’t huge when I went to go try the phone out. However, the good far outweighs the bad, and I would love to make the Note 10+ my future smartphone.

Rather than list bullet points about my initial thoughts, I’m going to concentrate on a few of the things I really liked about the Note 10+. I really think that despite the size of the screen, the Note 10+ is a better buy than the 6.3-inch Note 10.

The Note 10+ has everything but a headphone jack.

The Note 10+ is all screen and minimal bezel. The bezel is slightly thinner than it is on the Galaxy S10+, which I thought couldn’t be possible. When I put it next to my Galaxy S10+, I barely saw a size difference. However, the most important thing about Samsung’s new phablet is that it is still a portable device. It is still pocketable (though you should get a sleeve and a screen protector if you put it in your pocket). Unfortunately, the back is also still a fingerprint magnet.

The back of the Galaxy Note 10+ loves your fingerprints.

The Note 10+ is a fantastic portable media machine. I watched some YouTube clips on it and not only did the colors pop out, but the stereo sound was even more enhanced than it is on the S10+. Without hardly any bezel, it looks like you are watching a video screen that is floating in space.

Then, there is the S Pen, which is now more like a magic wand that can perform various gestures. I was able to use it in order to switch between the front and rear cameras. But it is still an excellent writing device, though I didn’t get to test it yet with my favorite note-taking app, OneNote. The only thing missing on the S Pen is a camera, but it’s not something that you really need (but would be incredibly cool).

The Note 10+ is the perfect digital notepad.

I didn’t get to test out the camera that much, but did notice it was better at focusing than the camera on my S10+. The video camera not only offers Live Focus while shooting, but also allows for a bokeh effect. For now, it’s the best camera offered on a smartphone, but that may change once Apple releases the new iPhone.

It’s still a shame that the Note 10+ doesn’t have a headphone jack. However, in general, the device feels like a mini computer that can do just about anything while the features don’t feel gimmicky. You may think that the Note 10+ isn’t for you until you actually play with it in person.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10′s Lack Of Headphone Jack Is Disappointing

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 comes in two different sizes.

I’m a little excited about the Galaxy Note 10. It’s definitely more exciting than the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, which was announced last year around the same time. I’m especially interested in the “+” version of Samsung’s latest smartphone. Here are some of the Note 10+ features.

  • 6.8-inch 3040×1440 (OLED) display
  • Snapdragon 855 processor
  • 12GB RAM, 256GB or 512GB internal storage
  • 4300mAh battery
  • 45W wired quick charging
  • microSD card slot (not available on the smaller version)
  • S-Pen with six-axis motion sensor
  • In-screen fingerprint sensor
  • Triple-lens rear camera
  • Dual-pixel front camera
  • IP68 Water Resistance
All of this sounds great, doesn’t it? Though I haven’t tried the new Note out myself (that comes in the next couple of days), here are some great videos I found. 

I know some people who think that the 6.8-inch screen is too large for a smartphone, but those who have tried it say it’s still pocketable. If it is too large, there’s always the 6.3-inch Galaxy Note 10. You’ll likely be happy with either version of Samsung’s new phablet. However, it looks like I may stay away from the Note 10 even though I can easily upgrade without paying too much.

So, what’s my biggest issue with the Galaxy 10 and 10+ announcement? Samsung, who once made fun of Apple’s headphone jack dongle, is now requiring a dongle itself since the headphone jack has been deleted on the new 10 series. Apparently, I’m not the only one who is upset. This could be a huge mistake on Samsung’s part.

One of the greatest benefits of switching from the iPhone XS Max to the Galaxy S10+ five months ago is that I have been able to use any wired headphone with the exception of those made specifically for iPhones. I have written about how much better wired headphones sound several times. Yeah, there are dongles one could buy. However, anybody who has tried to carry a headphone dongle with them at all times knows how easy it is to lose it.

The headphone jack is one of the features that gave Samsung a head start over other brands like Google and Apple — at least to audiophiles. I know at least two people who still buy Samsung phones over iPhones specifically because of the headphone jack. To say I’m disappointed in Samsung is really an understatement. But the lack of headphone jack never stopped Apple from selling iPhones, so perhaps it isn’t too much of a big deal for Samsung. We’ll find out soon enough.

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