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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Next MacBook Pro Looks Promising For Apple

The MacBook Pro will get a 16-inch screen update.

This blog gave the 2018 MacBook Pro a positive review. I don’t hate the Butterfly keyboard that Apple has implemented since 2015 as much as others do. However, there have been a lot of complaints and lawsuits regarding the keyboard. And, after using the HP Spectre X360 for the past several months, I don’t think I can go back to a compromised keyboard.

Apple has obviously been listening to its customers, and it appears that the next MacBook Pro will make some important changes. Mac Rumors has the news on the new 16-inch Pro.

“Last week, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said the 16-inch MacBook Pro will also feature a scissor mechanism keyboard, as Apple finally begins to transition away from its troubled butterfly mechanism keyboard design.”

According to the report, the keyboard isn’t the only thing Apple is improving. The 3,072 x 1920 pixel resolution display, made by LG, will be enclosed by very small bezels. The new Pro will be roughly the same overall size as the current 15-inch model. The new MacBook Pro is scheduled to be released in either September or October.

Meanwhile, the 13-inch MacBook Pro won’t see any refresh until 2020. And there are varying reports on whether or not the 16-inch Pro will permanently replace the 15-inch one. Still, the release of the new MacBook Pro this fall could be exactly what Apple needs.

Dell's XPS 13 has successfully challenged Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro.

In the early part of the decade, Apple had a strong hold on the notebook market, even if they didn’t offer touchscreens. I remember walking into places like Starbucks and seeing most people with some version of the MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. By 2015, Dell was gaining traction with the XPS 13 and the XPS 15. Microsoft had a rough start with the Surface Pro, but it was considered a MacBook equivalent when the third version was released in 2014.

Apple had hopes of revitalizing its market share when the new 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pros were released in the fall of 2016. However, many people were disappointed and thought that Apple had compromised too much in order to make a much lighter notebook. I remember some people saying that Apple should have called their new notebooks MacBook Air Pros. They certainly had a point.

There are some who believe that Apple needs to match Microsoft and release a notebook with a touchscreen and digital pen. However, most Apple users just want a notebook that doesn’t feel like an overpriced compromise. Perhaps they’ll get their wish in the next couple of months.

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Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 May Be Worth $399

Bose's latest wireless headphones cost $399.

I sometimes give my first impressions of a device, and they are negative.  Then, when I spend more time with the device, I admit my impressions were wrong. And this is definitely the case with the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, which — after three days of use — I find have some groundbreaking features.

Phone Quality

I cannot believe how clear-sounding the phone quality is. Bose’s new headphones are the first headphones I’ve ever tried where I don’t have to leave a loud-sounding environment to talk to someone. Not only do the mics cancel out ambient noise for me, but my friends (on the other line) say they can only hear minimal background noise when I talk.

I can’t explain how convenient it is to be able to stay at my table at Starbucks when making a phone call. I am able to talk without disturbing the rest of the store, which plays loud music. Perhaps the most annoying Starbucks customers are the ones who talk loudly on the phone without realizing it. With these new Bose headphones, one can talk quietly as if they are in an empty room.

The NC700s are groundbreaking when it comes to phone call quality.

Noise Cancelling

Last year, Bose was outdone in noise cancellation by Sony. However, with the Headphones 700, Bose takes the top spot again. The new headphones offer 10 levels of noise cancellation through the Bose app and three through a button on the left ear cup.

At the highest level, the NC700s block more sound than any other pair of headphones. Best of all, the ear pressure, which used to be prominent with Bose noise-cancelling headphones, is minimal. They aren’t significantly better than Sony’s XM3′s but enough to notice a difference, especially with high frequency sounds.

Comfort

The NC700s offer a comfortable fit.

In my initial impressions, I noted that the NC700s weren’t very comfortable. But after using them for a longer time, I really got used to the tight (but not overbearing) fit. Once your ears get used to the pads, they’ll feel more like pillows. Even  though the headphones are heavier than past Bose headphones, the comfort level is the same.

I initially didn’t like the stainless steel hinge since it prevented the headphones from being able to fold up. However, I realize the stainless steel hinge provides a device that’s virtually void of making creaking noises, which other headphones annoyingly do.

Other Perks…

Unlike headphones from Sony or other brands, you can pair the NC700s to two different devices at once. For example, I am able to enjoy a movie with the headphones on my laptop and answer a phone call  (with the headphones) from my smartphone without having to do any pairing. With Bluetooth 5.0, Bose’s headphones do this very smoothly.

The touch controls on the NC700s work very well. There are also separate buttons for noise cancellation levels, Bluetooth pairing, and access to Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri. The headphones work perfectly with Google Assistant.

Some may balk at the 20 hours of battery life, especially when compared to the Sony XM3′s 30 hours. However, a simple 15 minute charge with the included USB-C cord will give the NC700s almost three hours of battery life. One simple touch of the Power button will turn the NC700s on or off.

Conclusion

The Bose 700 have it all — comfort, sound, noise cancellation, and excellent phone capabilities. They may not sound the best for those who prefer heavy bass, but those who purchase the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 will not regret their very pricey purchase.

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T-Mobile Will Not Carry Newly ‘Fixed’ Samsung Galaxy Fold

Samsung Galaxy Fold

The Samsung Galaxy Fold has been revamped, and it is almost ready for release in September. Samsung has the news.

“Earlier this year, we announced Galaxy Fold—Samsung’s first foldable device, and the beginning of an entirely new mobile category. Since then, we’ve made improvements to Galaxy Fold to ensure consumers have the best possible experience.”

Samsung adds that the product design of the Galaxy Fold has undergone some necessary improvements and tests in order to make the device solid. One of the important changes is that the top protective layer of the display has been extended beyond the bezel. This will help prevent the many scratches early testers have been talking about.

In addition, Samsung claims that they have not only strengthened the hinge area, but they have decreased the space between the hinge and the body of the Galaxy Fold as well — this will help keep out dust and other particles. But is the Galaxy Fold already doomed?

According to The Verge, one major cellular carrier has decided to skip out on the re-release. Here’s a quote from T-Mobile:

“T-Mobile will not carry the Galaxy Fold because we already offer customers a wide range of the latest smartphones. Please reach out to Samsung for any further inquiries.”

As The Verge notes, this is just PR speak for “We don’t want to have anything to do with this phone!” This is especially damaging for the Galaxy Fold since T-Mobile is one of Samsung’s biggest partners. Perhaps T-Mobile realizes that the Galaxy Fold isn’t worth tarnishing their brand over.

T-Mobile will not carry the Galaxy Fold.

It’s important to note that T-Mobile customers can still buy the Galaxy Fold unlocked, although that will probably cost a couple hundred dollars extra. Considering the phone is already priced at around $2000, this can be quite problematic. It’s safe to say that Samsung will have to lower the price of the Galaxy Fold if they want any consumers to purchase it.

So far, it’s not certain which other carriers will embrace the new Galaxy Fold. AT&T has not indicated one way or another if they will offer Samsung’s foldable phone to their subscribers. Perhaps this is just a “wait and see” approach. But if the Samsung Galaxy Fold is to make any major impact, it needs a major carrier. The next couple of months will certainly determine whether the Galaxy Fold makes some sort of impact in the marketplace.

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Samsung AKG Earbuds For Galaxy S10 Are Excellent

Samsung includes great wired earbuds in the S10 package.

I have a confession. Even though I’ve had the Samsung Galaxy S10 since March, I haven’t used the AKG earbuds that came with the phone. I’m tired of earbuds that are included with smartphones because they are usually of low quality. They are usually the kind of headphones that you can purchase for $10 or $15. This is especially the case with Apple.

However, the AKG-tuned wired buds that are included with the Galaxy S10 units are the type of buds you would want to buy even if you didn’t own a Samsung device: The sound is robust, the fit is great, and the phone call quality is absolutely fantastic. I would say that the sound is easily better than some of the wireless headphones that cost $200.

I really like the fact that the cords are wrapped in cloth; this makes it easier for you to put in your pocket without worrying about the wires cutting apart. The nozzles on the buds are angled, and this is bothersome at first. However, they end up feeling more comfortable than non-angled buds. And if you put the right-sized rubberized tips on, you not only get great noise cancellation but throbbing bass as well.

Samsung's earbuds are easy to put in your pocket.

The highs and mids of the sound spectrum are decent, but the separation of the frequencies is slightly blurred. At times, especially when listening to heavy-bass EDM, it’s hard to differentiate vocals from the throbbing beats. But it’s not a huge deal, especially since these buds are actually included with the Galaxy S10. Only die-hard audiophiles will be upset.

Furthermore, Samsung’s buds make the case for using wired buds instead of wireless ones. You don’t have to constantly worry if the Bluetooth connection is working, and you can easily swap the headphones from your smartphone into your computer. Most importantly, when you use the buds to make phone calls, the person on the other line won’t have to ask you to repeat yourself constantly.

Perhaps if the AKG wired buds weren’t so plain looking, more Samsung owners would give them a chance. Samsung certainly needs to up their marketing efforts to let people know these aren’t your ordinary wired earbuds. It’s not so often that a company includes such high-quality buds in a smartphone package. Once again, Samsung is ahead of the competition.

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Is Oculus Quest A Hit Two Months After Release?

The Oculus Quest VR headset was released on May 21.

The Oculus Quest has received good reviews from iReTron and other sites. It was released on May 21 and sold out almost instantly everywhere. Content for the VR headset has also been rolling out. So, is it safe to say that the device is a hit? Is it safe to say that the Oculus Quest has pushed VR into the mainstream? The answer is complicated.

Great Reviews

Nobody can deny the fact that the Oculus Quest is the best-received VR headset in existence. The device is universally loved — and not just by this site. CNET gives the headset four stars, with the reviewer claiming it is the “best thing he’s tried all year.” In another four-star review, Mashable calls it “a new milestone for VR.” TechRadar also has mostly fantastic things to say about the Quest. You will have a difficult time finding a bad review out there.

Good Sales?

The Oculus Quest is sold out at almost every location. However, it is not known exactly how much stock Oculus initially supplied. It’s no secret that companies often hype up a product by releasing limited stock, then building PR hype by saying it’s sold out.

The initial stock of the Quest sold out fast.

On June 11, Variety claimed the Quest was doing well, but not doing “blockbuster” numbers.

“Early indicators suggest that Facebook’s new Oculus Quest VR headset is seeing solid sales, but it doesn’t seem to be a blockbuster. Still, some estimate that Facebook could sell more than 1 million units in 2019.”

However, Jack McCauley, one of Oculus’s co-founders, claims that initial sales of the Oculus Quest indicates that VR won’t break through.

Oculus Quest Problems

As with almost any new product, there are bound to be quality control problems. One of the biggest issues with the Oculus Quest is screen flash/jitter. Viewers are bound to see screen static appear once in a while. It’s not enough of an issue to ruin the experience, but it is annoying. Oculus says there is a software fix coming for the issue, but many believe it’s a hardware issue.

The Oculus Quest has some minor quality control issues.

Then, there is tracking. This author and some others claimed there are tracking issues when using the headset outside. However, Oculus makes it clear that the Quest is not meant to be used in sunlight, which could ruin the device. Yes, it’s like a Gremlin! However, tracking issues appear to happen in normal scenarios as well.

A Hit, but Not a Home Run

It’s safe to say that the Oculus Quest is somewhat of a hit, especially since it has moved VR farther into the mainstream than any other VR device has done before. But, it’s not the home run — at least so far — that the VR industry has hoped for. Perhaps we need to give the device a little more time before we call it an absolute success or failure.

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Addicted To FaceApp

Yes, I know that FaceApp came out a few years back, but I didn’t pay attention to it. I thought that since I am somewhat of a Photoshop expert, there was no need for a smartphone app that manipulates faces to make people look younger, older, or the opposite sex. It can also give you anyone a beard, a different smile, etc.

The fact, as I discovered this week, is that FaceApp does this far better than Photoshop can. It uses a type of artificial intelligence that learns by analyzing up to millions of examples of images with several traits. When I transformed myself to an old man, it not only added red skin blotches to my skin, but gray hair (at least I won’t be bald) and deep wrinkles. It really frightened me. “I want to be dead before I look like this,” I joked. But there was truth to that statement as well. Just look at the picture!

Will I look like this soon?

Once the transformation of myself into several different versions wore off (and that took a couple hours), I decided to try it on others, including my brother or sister.  I didn’t have any vengeful feelings of making my siblings look bad — or at least what they might look like in twenty years. But I soon thought of people I didn’t like — former “friends” who screwed me over, former bosses who didn’t appreciate me, and even some celebrities I wasn’t fond of. And I couldn’t put down my phone.

My favorite was turning Tom Cruise (who I have nothing against) old and wrinkly. I have always been jealous of the way he keeps himself up (of course, Botox and plastic surgery help), so I decided to “unjealous” him. I’m sure Cruise himself would laugh.

Tom Cruise "Before and After"

It’s day three, and I am still having a lot of fun. As a matter of fact, I’m having fun writing this article about all the fun. But is it really healthy fun? For one thing, this app makes me very self-conscious, and I often feel bad about myself using it. It also makes me realize what a fake world we’re living in as I realize a lot of people really use this app to present a completely different version of themselves. Finally, it shows how — especially in the digital age — we’re obsessed with what’s on the outside of the person, not the inside.

And as I type this, I’m thinking of whose face I can next terrorize. You may be laughing, but the next one could be yours!

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Sony Announces New WF-1000XM3 Earbuds

Sony WF-1000XM3 Earbuds

For the most part, Sony’s entry into the earbud era has been a disaster. In 2017, Sony released the WF-1000X earbuds, which I initially posted positive things about. It took me a couple more days to realize what a quality control disaster they were — short battery life, horrible phone calls, and poor connection consistency.

Last year, Sony released the WF-SP700N buds with some minor improvements. The voice call quality was still bad, but worked decently in quiet environments. The battery life remained awful, and the buds still had connection issues. But Sony isn’t known to just lie down and accept its failures; they went back to the drawing board.

2018's WF-SP700N buds were less than satisfactory.

The popular audio and video company has just announced the WF-1000XM3 wireless earbuds, and CNET refers to them as providing “the best-in-class true wireless sound.” At $230, Sony’s new wireless and noise-cancelling earbuds have a new design, new case, newly improved battery life (6-8 hours — incredible if true), and new noise cancelling microphones for phone calls.  They are also Bluetooth 5.0, which helps in terms of connection and, in some cases, sound quality. Basically, they are supposed to represent the fantastic over-the-ear WH-1000XM3 in a much smaller form.

The Verge claims Sony’s new earbuds are its best answer to the AirPods yet, and especially complements the noise cancellation.

“Sony says it has improved the active noise cancellation on the M3s compared to the original WF-1000X, and I can attest to that. Whereas the first model felt like it offered little over the noise isolation you get with a good earbud seal, here the effect is definitely more pronounced and noticeable.”

Click to play in YouTube.

The article notes that thanks to the new Bluetooth 5.0 chipset, each of the two earbuds makes its own connection to your phone without depending on the other. This means you can use one earbud to make a voice call while the other charges in the case. The new buds also cut down audio lag when watching videos — this has been a huge negative for Sony’s past two attempts at earbuds.

The biggest thing missing is some type of waterproofing. As someone who swims a lot these days, I am patiently awaiting for earbuds I can go swimming with. If I can’t go swimming with them, I’d at least like to keep them on in the shower. This blog will have an in-depth review of the WF-1000XM3 earbuds next month.

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Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Have Comfort Issues

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

I was looking forward to trying the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 for the past month. Since I wasn’t able to get an official review package, I did the next best thing — head over to Best Buy and try them out.

Please note that this is an “ears-on” analysis (like many of the hands-on reviews I’ve been doing here) and not an official in-depth review. Hopefully, that will come at a later date. But for now, I can only talk about my initial thoughts.

For one thing, Bose did change the design. These new headphones sort of remind me of the Parrot Zik 3 wireless cans. The stainless steel headband crunched against my head a little too much, making me feel like these would be uncomfortable to wear after a couple hours, unlike other Bose headphones that have a soft and cushion-like feel.  Bose went out of their way to redesign their headphones, but the old adage is still relevant: If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

Of course, what Bose is known best for is their slightly muddled bass sound, and those who like that won’t be disappointed with their latest. However, despite claiming that there are improved sound drivers in the new headphones, I really couldn’t tell a major difference between the sound on these and the QC 35 II cans. Of course, that’s not a bad thing either. But, like all of Bose’s wireless devices, the Headphones 700 don’t have the aptX codec for better wireless sound that so many Samsung phones are compatible with.

The Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 do have improved noise cancellation, which is hard to believe, especially since the NC on the QC 35 II headphones was almost perfect. There are three levels of noise cancellation, and the highest blocked out just about all the noise at Best Buy. This type of noise cancellation is great for being at a crowded place, but it’s not good for people who jog and encounter traffic.

The call quality, which I was only able to test for a minute, was great. My friend in San Francisco didn’t have to ask me to repeat myself once, even though I was talking to him in a crowded store. He said he couldn’t hear much of the background besides my voice. I could hear him perfectly as well.

All this makes the Headphones 700 very good, but not fantastic. For $399, Bose should have hit a home run. Instead, they hit a triple. Perhaps more time with these will change my opinion, but the excitement levels just didn’t hit me where expected.

 

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