First Look: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip Impresses But Doesn’t Thrill

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is available starting February 14.

I was so excited to be able to play with Samsung’s new foldable, the Galaxy Z Flip, on Tuesday evening. I had recently tried the new foldable Motorola Razr, but it was so boring that I can’t even get myself to write about it. I can’t say that’s the case for Samsung’s foldable, but it’s just not as exciting as the press wants you to believe.

First, the good news: The Z Flip folds. And it folds well. It doesn’t creak, it doesn’t scratch (the screen is made of glass), and once I folded Samsung’s new smartphone open, I could barely notice the crease. I suppose the crease will show on each Z Flip after people open it a lot. However, folding the phone is definitely a two-handed operation; it’s certainly not as simple as unfolding the flip phones of the 2000s.

I like that you can fold it into certain angles, and the apps that work on two screens do well, though there aren’t a lot of them. But would you really want to fold the phone part way and work on two different screens? Honestly, it’s not that exciting. The most exciting part of the Galaxy Z Flip is when it folds all the way out and works like a regular smartphone. The AMOLED screen is just as gorgeous as it is on other Samsung Galaxy phones.

The Galaxy Z Flip is best when folded all the way out.

One thing I noticed is how easy my fingerprints registered on the phone casing. Of course, that wouldn’t matter if you get an external case. But the Galaxy X Flip is not the type of phone you get a case for, even though there are some that are available.

The Galaxy Z Flip certainly isn’t the most powerful of all smartphones — it runs on a 7nm octa-core processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, wireless charging, and eSIM support. The specs don’t really match the new Galaxy S20 series smartphones, but the phone is fast and powerful enough for most users.

Then, there are the cameras that seem to be taken straight from 2018. The main one is a 12MP sensor and is smaller than that on the new S20 series. There is also a 12MP ultra-wide sensor. The pictures I took in a slightly dark place were very good, but nothing spectacular. Others I talked to say the pictures taken in darker situations were, well, dark. Perhaps the next Flip will have it’s own type of night mode.

The Galaxy Z Flip isn't a revelation, but it's a step forward for foldable smartphones.

However, even though the Galaxy Z Flip isn’t as exciting as I hoped, I also realize it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Last year’s Galaxy Fold was one of the biggest tech flops in recent memory, and many thought foldable smartphones wouldn’t survive. The Galaxy Z Flip at least proves that the excitement for foldable smartphones is back on.

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Do You Still Have Cable Television?

Cable television as we know it may be on the verge of extinction.

I was shocked when somebody I know recently revealed that he “finally” got rid of cable television. He thought he was being groundbreaking. Being as tech savvy as he was, I thought he would have given up cable a long time ago. I haven’t had cable since 2012 and have still found ways to watch all my favorite shows.

Torrent Sites

There are sites where people upload television shows instantly after they air. With high-speed internet, you can download a high quality one-hour episode of your favorite show in less than five minutes. However, you have to be careful. Some of these torrent files come with viruses, and you put yourself more at risk for data hacking.

Streaming Services

This is the safest way to go without cable, but it will cost you just a little bit. Netflix is the most popular streaming service, and is worth every penny.

Currently, Netflix’s Standard plan for HD streams is $12.99. The Premium plan, which provides Ultra HD streams, is $15.99 per month. The Basic plan with non-HD streams is is $8.99 per month. Even though Netflix has recently raised their prices, their subscriber growth has been incredible.

Netflix is the most popular streaming service.

Then, there is Hulu, which gives you content within a day after it first airs on television. Hulu is the best for catching up on shows like This is Us, Family Guy, South Park, and even Saturday Night Live. Hulu hasn’t quite caught up with Netflix in producing quality exclusive shows and movies, but the $5.99 price tag ($11.99 without commercials) is completely worth it.

While Netflix and Hulu are the most popular streaming services, one should not forget Amazon Prime Video or Apple TV+.

Huge Savings

While the average cable television bill hasn’t risen much over the past couple of years, people still pay over $100 a month. And they are still usually tied to a contract. All streaming services allow you to end your services whenever you want. While cable companies are lenient with lowering prices, the cost is still higher than it should be. 

Cable Television May Soon Become Extinct

You are probably laughing at this prediction, but it’s gonna happen. It could happen within five years, but it will definitely occur within 10. It’s time to embrace the new decade and realize that cable television is no longer relevant. 

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How To Avoid Having Your Smartphone Hacked

Phone hacking is becoming a common crime.

Yes, it can happen to you. It happened to Jeff Bezos, Jennifer Lawrence, and even Jude Law. You may think you will never become a victim of phone hacking, but so did the people mentioned above.

As The Verge notes Bezos’ phone was hacked all the way from Saudi Arabia, allegedly by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Salacious photos of Amazon’s boss with his girlfriend were stolen, and the FBI is investigating. However, don’t expect the FBI to investigate your phone being hacked.

There are steps you can take (and this should be done immediately) to avoid running into embarrassment or even theft. As the New York Times explains, Wi-Fi hotspots at hotels can expose you to hacking.

“Vacations, in general, are fraught with risk. The hotel Wi-Fi network should never be used, because it exposes your devices to hacking. Use the hot spot on your phone instead, and never log into your financial accounts on a public network.”

Another way to avoid having your phone hacked is pretty obvious — avoid jailbreaking your phone or installing unauthorized apps. As NPR explains, the types of hacks or apps that promise to let you watch a movie before its release can easily lead your phone to the exploitation of your phone.

The site goes on to note that one should install updates as soon as possible. Yes, operating system and app updates don’t always work perfectly, but many of them are updated because they close out vulnerabilities from previous versions. It is true that a new update might not work with an older phone, but that’s a risk you should consider if buying one, especially if it runs Android.

You should always set your phone to automatically lock.

One obvious thing many people do is have their phones lock after a certain amount of time. That way, if someone steals your phone, they will have a difficult time getting your information, unless you have a password that’s too simple. Avoid using passwords such as “password123,” your date of birth, or other simple things that people could easily guess.

This article could be summarized with two words: Be. Careful. Unfortunately, we live in a cruel world where your life can be stolen without you realizing it until it’s too late. However, if you take the above steps, the chances of your smartphone becoming hacked are very minimal.

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Apple Makes Unhelpful Update To Maps App

The new Apple Maps is the same as the old one.

Apple’s Maps is one of the rare missteps for the company in the past 10 years. In 2012, Forbes questioned if Maps was one of the biggest tech disasters of the year.

“Apple’s Maps app simply didn’t work correctly. Sure, it could get you from point to point – just about – but the level of detail included was poor and mapping information was frequently wrong. The list of cock-ups grew day by day as people realized that the application just wasn’t fit in any meaningful way.”

In 2018, the mapping was still frequently wrong as I was told to turn the wrong way down a one-way street in Agua Dulce, CA. That’s when I started using Google Maps. The only problem is that when you ask Siri for directions, she automatically opens Apple’s regular Maps app. This is okay when you are in an area you are generally familiar with. Otherwise, it’s worth stopping the car and launching Google’s app.

Now, Apple has made a major effort to get Maps up to par. On Thursday, the company said its revamped app is now available for US users and will arrive in Europe “in the coming months.” Apple Maps’ redesign makes navigation faster and more accurate and gives users “comprehensive views of roads, buildings, parks, airports, malls and more.”

“We set out to create the best and most private maps app on the planet that is reflective of how people explore the world today,” Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of internet software and services, said in a press release.

Apple Maps still has its issues.

I downloaded the new Maps app today and can say it’s just as useless as the previous one. I took a trip from Glendale, CA from Gus’s Fried Chicken on Glenoaks to 24 Hour Fitness on Brand. Unfortunately, like the previous Maps app, Apple took me through several side streets. It would have been far more simple to take me down Glenoaks to Brand. It would have also been shorter in distance and time.

I’m going to do some more tests with the new Maps app when I don’t have to be anywhere at a particular time. For now, to be safe, I’m going back to Google Maps. I suggest my readers do the same.

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Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Is Most Overlooked Nintendo Switch Game

The Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Switch Lite are top-of-the-line game systems when it comes to portability and, most importantly, fun. The games I have spent the most hours with are Super Mario Odyssey , Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, and Yoshi’s Crafted World.

This weekend, I purchased Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and it may just be my favorite Nintendo Switch game yet. It’s shocking that this game hasn’t been talked about more. Many stores don’t even carry Tropical Freeze anymore, even though games released before it are easily available everywhere. And I’m certainly not the only one who absolutely loves this game.

Perhaps the most engaging thing about Tropical Freeze is the graphics. The colors vary, the nature pops out, everything about the game immerses you in a jungle-like atmosphere with creatures that are so cute that you want to grab them out of the screen. So far, my favorite character is the seal in the first boss showdown.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze looks gorgeous.

What originally hurt the game, when released on the Wii U, was the fact it was too difficult. However, when porting the game to the Switch, Nintendo added “Funky Mode” with Funky Kong, who makes the game much easier, but not too easy. Most players will still be challenged while playing in this mode, even if Funky has a magical skateboard.

The most difficult thing about Tropical Freeze is that the controls are a little hard to get used to as there are different controls for jumping, rolling, throwing, punching, double-jumping, etc. But after a couple games, you won’t even think twice. There are on-screen prompts that also help you control the movements of the characters.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze has many worlds with many levels.

Tropical Freeze presents you with six worlds and a handful of levels with varying levels of difficulty. Even if you beat one level on Tropical Freeze, you can always go back and find extra bananas, extra coins, or other extra bonuses you didn’t know were there before. It’s very typical of a Nintendo 2D platform game, except the action gets more intense at higher levels.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze hits all the marks for a fun video game, and you’ll find yourself humming along to the fantastic soundtrack in your dreams. You may even dream you are playing the game. Perhaps a better marketing strategy from Nintendo would have made this a bigger hit.

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Samsung Will Release Galaxy Buds+ Along With Galaxy S20 Series

Samsung's new Galaxy Buds+ won't look different from 2019 originals.

The Galaxy S20 series isn’t the only thing Samsung fans have to look forward to. Samsung is set to release an updated version of the Galaxy Buds, which this column gave a scathing review to last year.

“However, the biggest problem with the Galaxy Buds is quality. I’ve been pairing them (and the pairing is simple) with the Galaxy S10+. Unfortunately, the sound quality is quite mediocre. There is some good bass — even more than there is on the AirPods. There is also a decent amount of treble,” I wrote, adding that there wasn’t much of a separation of the sound spectrum.

However, others disagreed, and Consumer Reports even thought the Galaxy Buds were better than the AirPods. (This was before the AirPods Pro were released.)

“The Samsung Galaxy Buds don’t just sound better than the AirPods, they’re among the best-scoring Bluetooth headphones Consumer Reports has ever tested. They’re a little cheaper, too.”

The Galaxy Buds  have sold well, and it looks like the Galaxy Buds+ could be a hit as well. According to SamMobile, the Galaxy Buds will have a larger battery and an improvement to overall sound quality. However, the Galaxy Buds+ will not have active noise cancellation.

This has disappointed a lot of people, especially since the AirPod Pros have noise cancelling. Apple follows Bose and Sony in delivering earbuds that have good sound, good noise cancellation and decent battery life. As Android Central claims, Samsung may have a reason for skipping out on this feature.

“Compared to their predecessor’s 58 mAh battery, the Buds+ will include a much larger 85 mAh power pack inside. While you might be forgiven for thinking Samsung’s engineers came to the number by simply flipping the digits on the Buds’ battery capacity, you’ll be pleased to know the change will enable you to use the Buds+ for up to 12 hours.”

The AirPods Pro, unlike the Galaxy Buds+, offer active noise cancellation

Noise cancellation takes up a lot of battery power, and this is the reason it has taken three years for noise cancellation in earbuds to become mainstream. It also interferes with the mic quality, but Apple proves to be an exception when it comes to that. Samsung is adding another mic for better phone quality. 2019′s Galaxy Buds definitely had poor mic quality.

It’s important to note that if you have a Samsung Galaxy device, the Galaxy Buds aren’t your only choice. The AirPods and AirPods Pro work well with Samsung Android devices. Earbuds from Sony and Bose also work well on Android smartphones. In other words, don’t let the behind-the-times Galaxy Buds+ prevent you from getting a Samsung device.

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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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