Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Hits All The Marks

I reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active about seven months ago and was impressed. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the Watch Active 2. As they say — it’s better late than never. I’ve been using the Galaxy Watch Active 2 for the past four days and have enjoyed my time with Samsung’s latest wrist creation.

It took Samsung a long time to produce the (almost) perfect smartwatch. When reviewing the Gear S2 back in 2015, I had mixed feelings. However, in recent years, Samsung has updated their Tizen OS software and has even made it available for Apple users, thought the functions are limited.

The Watch Active 2 comes in sleek packaging.

The Watch Active 2 isn’t cheap — $249 for the 40mm version and $299 for the 44mm watch. I still believe that the 40mm version is too small, but the 44mm is just about perfect. Some important things have changed in the second version.

One of the things people love about the regular Samsung Galaxy Watch is the rotating dial that makes it easy to switch through screens, applications, and settings. On the Active 2, there is a digital haptic dial, which works smoothly. Some consider this feature to be only a “small” upgrade, but it’s a lot more than that when you use the dial a lot.

The Active 2 also has (or is supposed to have) an ECG feature that would measure the electrical activity of the heartbeat. This can detect heart attacks before they happen as well other heartbeat irregularities. It was supposed to be implemented during the first quarter of 2020, but yeah…coronavirus.

The Watch Active 2 has a solid design and screen.

Otherwise — and this is a good thing — the Active 2 maintains its simple sporty design. Because there is barely any bezel, a full round screen stares at you and displays needed information crisply. You may want to avoid setting it at a very high brightness level (I set it halfway) in order to save battery life.

Speaking of battery life, this is where the Active 2 completely conquers the Apple Watch 5. Those who claimed the Active 2 lasts two days per charge certainly aren’t exaggerating. And I’m not even a light user. Apple needs to take note; the Apple Watch 5 lasts only one day despite their claims of it lasting longer.

Besides tracking your exercises (which it does to varying levels of success), the Watch Active 2 also tracks your sleep. However, I’m not so sure how accurate it is, especially after telling me I fell asleep at 2 a.m. last night when I know I fell asleep way before that. I’ll test more of this in the next week and report my results.

Perhaps after all the updates, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 will fix its minor bugs. Even so, it’s important to stress that the bugs on this watch are actually only minor. It might not be a grand slam, but with the Galaxy Watch Active 2, Samsung has definitely hit a home run.

Posted in Review | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The New 2020 iPad Pro Doesn’t Seem Too Exciting

The iPad Pro 2020 has been released with minimal fanfare.

Don’t get me wrong — the 2020 iPad Pro, which is available now for purchase, looks like one helluva media consumption device. The spec bumps are minor — it has Apple’s new A12Z Bionic chip, a RAM update (from 4GB to 6GB), and a double-lens camera on the back for more professional pictures.

Best of all, it becomes more like a laptop in that there is an optional Magic Keyboard with a trackpad and keyboard that looks similar to the one on the new MacBook Air. Of course, that’s $300 to $350 extra. By the time you buy the whole iPad Pro buffet (don’t forget that an Apple Pencil 2 costs $129), you may be paying more than you would for a MacBook Pro.

Please click to play in YouTube.

The reviews so far have been glowing, with Wired claiming that the new iPad Pro has come closer than ever to being able to replace your laptop.

“But those who think that Apple has just capitulated, admitting defeat adding trackpad and mouse support to its tablets are missing the wider picture. In fact, this is a natural evolution of the product – the path it was always going to take.”

The Verge has given the new iPad Pro an 8/10 rating, with columnist Dieter Bohn praising the fast display, the speed, and the excellent trackpad support. He notes that Apple has been filling in the gaps year-by-year to make the iPad more of a computer than just a tablet.

If Apple really wanted to fill in the gaps between its flagship tablet and laptop, they would simply put macOS on the tablet instead of iOS. The iPad Pro can certainly handle macOS now, but Apple doesn’t want it to. Then, people would only have to buy one device instead of two. Apple is in the business of making money, and who can blame them?

There are rumors that Apple is going to be making a big upgrade to the iPad Pro this fall, so perhaps it’s not completely right to obsess over what the new iPad Pro doesn’t have. With 5G becoming mainstream, you can bet the new iPad Pro will have 5G capabilities. We can always hope it will have macOS as well.

Posted in Tech News | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Technology In The Age Of A Quarantine

Working from home has taken on a new meaning lately.

Well, the last few days have been…um….quite interesting. I don’t have to explain a thing. I just hope you have a great computer and a great internet connection. We have always taken our advances in technology for granted, at least until this week. And for other parts of the world, it has been several weeks.

All of this reminds me of being stuck in winter snow storms in Chicago during the 1980s and 1990s. There was television, but not much else. I felt completely disconnected from the world. But although there is frustration now, I don’t feel disconnected from the world. In a way, I feel too much connected. And other people are saying the same thing. Here’s why:

Social Media

Social media started off as a good thing, turned into something negative, but has turned positive again — for the most part — during this pandemic. It’s a way to help people get the latest news, keep in touch with family members, and find out who is in need.

For example, I found out how to get drive-through testings yesterday when I thought I might have contacted the virus. (Thank God I didn’t.) I also was directed on how to get emergency relief from SAG/AFTRA since some of my gigs were cancelled, and it looks like there won’t be any work in the entertainment industry for the next couple of months.

Conferencing

This fascinates me, because the younger me would have loved to have this. Students are now attending classrooms online though various video conferencing apps, and many in the workforce are attending work the same way. It’s not as productive as actually being there, but it’s pretty close. But I can’t imagine the toll it’s taken on kids, parents, and their spouses. The pets are certainly liking it.

Virtual Reality

Facebook Spaces is one of the many VR apps that allow virtual hangouts.

This is one situation where I really regret returning my Oculus Quest. I would love to join virtual 3D places and interact with others on apps such as Facebook Spaces and Rec Room. While movie theaters may be closed near you, it’s possible to attend a virtual theater with friends and family members from all over the world, just as long as they have a compatible VR headset.

Shopping

All of those who have ripped on Amazon in the past need to change their tune because Amazon has become a godsend for many during this pandemic. They have been decent in restocking anything you need — toilet paper, bottled water, food, and even video games that can be delivered to your door.

Of course, there is someone who has to deliver the goods (perhaps drones will be delivering in a few years). And you have to open the door. But compared to the risk of going out and shopping physically, this risk is very minimum.

The End…

While the coronavirus will likely be with us for a long time, the dangerous part that keeps us quarantined inside of our houses or apartments will be over with soon. After eight weeks, you likely won’t have to depend on technology as much, and you may even really get sick of your computer and smartphone. But there are many positive ways to use your devices now. Technology has saved lives this year. It will also save the economy.

Posted in Tech News | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Samsung Galaxy S20+ Is Best Smartphone Available

The Samsung Galaxy S20+ is worth its price tag.

Having to turn back my review unit of the Galaxy S20+ was painful. It’s simply the best smartphone I’ve ever played with. The love affair wasn’t instant; it took about five days for me to realize how much I love it. Part of my enjoyment was the fact that I live in an area where Sprint provides 5G service. So, imagine getting downloads at 256MB/s!

Let’s take a look at why the Galaxy S20+ is a great phone, even if it costs a wallet-crushing $1199.

Build and Design

The S20+ is a big phone. Its 6.7-inch screen takes up the whole phone since there is barely any bezel space. Because the screen is practically without a bezel, the entire smartphone is not too big for your pocket. It tests the limit of smartphone size, but doesn’t surpass it like the Galaxy S20 Ultra does.

The S20+ is built with curved glass (but not too much curved) on the front and back. I thought the cameras on the back would cause too much of a bulge, but that’s not the case. The Bixby button on the left is now gone, thank God. There is the volume rocker and the power button on the right. The phone feels just right in your hands.

Screen

The max resolution setting on the 6.7-inch screen is 3200 x 1440 pixels (525 pixels per inch). It looks absolutely gorgeous. However, at this resolution, you can’t set the 120Hz display mode, which makes everything flow more smoothly, especially scrolling on web pages.

Samsung does allow this mode when you set the phone’s display to HD+. To be honest, the human eye can’t tell much of a difference between HD+ and Quad HD+. Setting the phone at a lower resolution also helps save battery life.

Performance

The Galaxy S20+ uses Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 865 processor, which — combined with Android 10 — provides a very smooth and reliable experience. The 12GB RAM may seem like overkill for a smartphone, but it actually helps the phone with gaming and graphics, even if other apps are running in the background. The performance of the S20+ is right on par with that of the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Cameras

The S20+ doesn’t have the same 100X zoom camera of the S20 Ultra, but what it provides is good enough. It provides a main 12MP camera, a 64MP telephoto camera, and an ultra-wide 12MP camera. Samsung also provides software-enhanced 30X zoom pictures, which turn out decent if somewhat blurry.

The Galaxy S20+ has an incredible camera system.

There has been some controversy on Samsung’s new cameras. Some say that the pictures come out over-processed and over-smoothed. Many have said that the main camera hunts for auto-focus too long. However, I have not noticed all of this on the S20+, and perhaps it’s because I’m not a professional photographer. But when I compared the pictures of the same scenery on the S20+ with the iPhone 11 Max Pro, Samsung’s were usually as good, and — in some cases (Night Mode) — even better.

Battery Life

The 4,500mAh battery doesn’t last as long as I thought it would, but most of my tests have been done with the screen set to 120Hz mode. As a power user, the phone lasted me nine hours on two separate days. Now, keep in mind that this included watching Netflix, using the GPS, constant scrolling on internet pages, making a couple phone calls, and streaming from Spotify. 

The day I turned the phone back to the 60Hz mode (it’s punishing after seeing what 120Hz does), the phone lasted me about 12 hours. For most people, it’s a phone you can take out for a day and not worry about forgetting the charger. However, power users might want to carry that fast-charging plug with you.

5G

The Galaxy S20+ is compatible with newly rolled-out 5G networks.

It’s true that 5G has just come out, and — at least in Sprint’s case — the speeds aren’t always much better than LTE speeds. However, when I was in a good spot, the speeds were unbelievable. I downloaded a half-hour HD episode of the Simpsons in less than ten seconds!

Even if 5G doesn’t seem absolutely necessary in most cases right now, it defines the future. It will especially be excellent for streaming VR events, which are data intensive. 5G will also change the healthcare industry by allowing patients to stay home and have remote appointments. The list of 5G’s potentials is a very long one.

Conclusion

Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra has received the most attention out of the new Galaxy S series, but the Galaxy S20+ is the one that really gives you the most bang for your buck. It is not only completely worth the $1199 price tag, but it’s the best smartphone on the market you can buy right now.

Posted in Review | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Android Vs. iOS: Is Apple’s Mobile Operating System Really Better?

I’ve written several times in this blog how I wish there were a device with hardware by Samsung and software by Apple. I always thought Apple’s operating system was just smoother. As with everything Apple, “It just works.”

But after using the Samsung Galaxy S20+ for the past week (full review coming in the next couple days, I promise), I’m starting to change my mind. It all started when I wanted to make custom ringtones and custom alarms. I can’t tell you how much easier it is to do this with Android. I used the app GarageBand to create ringtones for the iPhone, and even that didn’t work smoothly.

The Galaxy S20+ and Android 10 work very well together.

I also love how much more customizable Android is. I love all the widgets that can be created as well as the screen backgrounds. And you can set your own default apps on Android for emailing, surfing the internet, maps, and so on. Speaking of maps, Google Maps on Android devices is a much better GPS solution than Apple’s struggling Maps app.

Then, there is the digital assistant. While Siri is good for basic tasks such as setting up appointments, choosing a song, etc., she’s nothing like Google Assistant, who not only listens to you, but reads your mind as well. She also understands your voice better and can do a lot of things Siri can’t. No offense, Siri, but you still need a little bit of work.

Steam Link is available on Android but not iOS.

Then, there are the apps. You have to hand it to Apple for having a strict hold on what they allow in the App Store; most of the applications work very well. But Google Play allows many third-party apps that wouldn’t be allowed on iOS. One is Steam Link, an app that lets you play some desktop games from your Steam collection on your mobile phone.

My favorite for Android is EasyTether, an app that lets you share your internet connection from your smartphone or laptop without eating up any data from your mobile hotspot allowance. Every time a tethering app appears on iOS, it’s gone within a couple of days. 

To be truthful, it’s not always sunny in Android land. For one thing, the iOS keyboard is smoother than any keyboard app in Android, though not by much. And in iOS, your notifications can pop right out on your screen no matter what app you are using. With Android, you have to swipe down to see the actual notifications, unless your screen is locked.

Still, it’s fascinating to see how far Android has come in the past ten years. Android 10 is almost as easy to use as iOS 13 is on the iPhone. Perhaps we’ll see Android completely outperform iOS within the next couple of years.

Posted in Tech News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

First Impressions: Samsung Galaxy S20+

The Samsung Galaxy S20+ goes on sale March 6.

The Galaxy S20+ has come across my review desk, and I’ve been playing with it for the past several hours. I can’t do a full review yet, but here are some of my initial impressions:

  • The packaging is generic, but packs everything nice and tight.
  • The iPhone is still easier to set up.
  • The lack of bezel is fascinating. It’s also fascinating that I’ve only accidentally touched the screen a couple of times.
  • Thank GOD the Bixby button is gone. How ’bout just getting rid of Bixby permanently.
  • The camera bump is not as big as people are making it out to be. It won’t matter at all once you put it in a case.
  • Speaking of a case, definitely get one. This phone can easily slip out of your hands.

Galaxy s20+ with clear protector case.

  • Samsung includes a legit screen protector. Apple should consider doing the same.
  • The stereo sound is incredible for such a small device. It’s even better than that of the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
  • The size of the S20+ is great, but it really tests the limits of pocket portability. That’s why the S20 Ultra may not be a good fit for many.
  • It’s best to keep the resolution at FHD+ (2400 x 1080) so you can get take advantage of the 120Hz refresh rate, which makes browsing the Internet and switching screens fun. It’s unfortunate that Samsung doesn’t offer this feature for the WQHD+ mode (3200 x 1440), but that would eat up a lot of battery life.

The Galaxy S20+ comes in three different colors.

  • Speaking of battery life, it seems excellent so far. I will have full tests when doing the full review.
  • The camera is fun to use, but it doesn’t necessarily take better pictures than the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
  • For some reason, my unit is having some trouble with screen rotation.
  • I prefer the one-hole punch selfie camera to the double one on the S10+. It’s also more practical than the iPhone “notch.”
  • The S20+ still doesn’t feel like a huge upgrade from the S10+ from 2019. It’s not a “must upgrade” device.
  • I miss the headphone jack on the S10 series! The S20+ does come with wired AKG USB-C earbuds that work very well.
  • So far, the S20+ works very well with the AirPods Pro.
I should have a full review of the Galaxy S20+ by the weekend. So far, it feels and operates very well. It’s just not the upgrade I originally thought it would be. 
Posted in Review | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Are You Ready For the 2020 iPad Pro?

The iPad Pro has been a success for Apple.

Five years back, many thought that the iPad was pretty much dead due to the rise of phablet smartphones and tablet PCs. Even this blog wrote an article titled “The iPad Phase Is Almost Over.”

“There is nothing wrong with the iPad. It’s we who have moved on,” the article (sort of) incorrectly stated, noting that the iPad had nothing on the Surface Pro 3, which could be used both as a tablet and a PC. I also talked about the Galaxy Note and the iPhone 6 Plus replacing the iPad. However, the future would prove me wrong.

The iPad currently isn’t the laptop replacement Apple claimes it to be, but it’s still a useful device that consumers still flock to, although maybe not as much as they did 10 years ago. The iPad Pro, especially, operates as a premium drawing pad and media consumption device in a way that the latest Surface Pro or Galaxy Note models can only dream of.

A lot of people still use the iPad. That’s why there is excitement for the 2020 iPad Pro. Here is what we know so far:

  • The iPad Pro keyboard might have a trackpad.
  • It may have a three-lens camera.
  • One of the lenses may be a 3D depth sensor.
  • It could have a mini LED screen, which is better than an OLED screen and allows screen to be substantially slimmer.
  • It will come in two versions — 12.9-inch and 11-inch.
  • Apple could announce the new iPad Pro models at the end of March.
To me, the screen is the most exciting part of the new iPad. I’ve seen mini LED screens and they are gorgeous. The current iPad Pro screen is already gorgeous, but it is still an LCD screen. Even Samsung’s tablets don’t use LCD screens anymore. 

The next ipad Pro could have an optional keyboard with trackpad.

Then, there is the trackpad. I’ve always wished the Type Cover had a trackpad. It feels incomplete without it. While it’s true that the iPad screen is meant to be touched, it still feels like too much of a task to touch the screen every time you want to move the cursor.

I still long for the day when the iPad operates macOS instead of iPadOS, but then that would cut into the sales for Apple’s MacBook series. The mobile processor in the iPad Pro is very good — even comparable to some high-end laptops. But the software still limits the device. Hopefully, the next version of iPadOS can change things for the better.

Posted in Tech News | Leave a comment

Coronavirus Slowing Down Production Of Oculus Quest

The Oculus Quest is almost impossible to find.

The Oculus Quest has been very hard to get since it has been released. Things got worse at the beginning of the year, and now the situation is almost hopeless for those wanting to get a new Oculus Quest. It is sold out at every store and every online retailer.

This blog was impressed with the Quest when it was released last May. It is a great standalone VR headset that offers an immersive experience. Perhaps the best experiences are watching movies or television shows in the Oculus movie theater. And the Netflix app is incredible.

There were some who complained that the Oculus Quest needed to be able to play games from the Oculus Rift desktop VR set. On November, Oculus made those VR dreams come true.

“At OC6, we introduced Oculus Link—a new way to access Rift games and experiences from a gaming PC on Oculus Quest. Today, we’re excited to share that Oculus Link software is rolling out in beta, so you can now enjoy AAA PC VR games like Asgard’s Wrath and Stormland on Quest.”

The announcement adds that one can now explore the richness of the Rift content library when connected to a PC, while keeping the portability of the Quest for VR experiences on the go. This helped sell many more units.

The Oculus Quest VR headset was originally released in May of 2019.

As others have noted, the Oculus Quest was the device that was needed in order to make VR mainstream. And it was fulfilling those duties. But thanks to the coronavirus, the Quest isn’t finding itself on the faces of consumers like it should.

According to USA Today, not only is Facebook (the parent company for Oculus) still behind in fulfilling orders, but the coronavirus’ effect on production and shipping in China has made things even worse.

As the article notes, one can buy the product on eBay but will have to pay significantly more for the device, which–at retail–started out at $399 for the 64GB version. One can also try other sites such as Craigslist or OfferUp.

The problem with buying a brand new Quest for $200 more is the fact that the item is almost a year old. Therefore, an Oculus Quest 2 should be coming along soon. And it will likely be even better than the original Quest.

Posted in Tech News | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Camera Has Amazing Specs, But Is It Necessary?

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Camera

Let’s face it – the camera on the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is the most amazing smartphone camera in existence. It even has more capabilities than the camera on the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

I’ve tried the camera several times at Best Buy and a T-Mobile store and am completely impressed. But I’m not envious of people who are buying the S20 Ultra (more on that in a little bit). But you may disagree, especially since the camera has a 128MP (!) main lens, a 12MP wide-angle lens, and a 48MP telephoto lens. Oh, did I forget to mention the 100X “Space Zoom” capabilities along with a DepthVision camera? What about the 8K video camera?

There are several who have been able to test the camera out for several hours in a variety of places. Jessica Dolcourt of CNET (click link to see her photos taken with S20 Ultra) is impressed, but not blown away. She found that although the Ultra’s photos look great when there is an abundance of light, the low-lit ones get a boost by Samsung that comes out somewhat unnatural.

Dolcourt likes the selfies, but thinks they may be a little too detailed (how can they not be at 40MP?). She also found that some of the closeup photos taken with the 108MP camera didn’t come out so well.

Please click to play in YouTube.

Tech Radar has done several comparison tests, and the S20 Ultra shows its strength in outdoor shots. It’s difficult to say if the camera takes better pictures than the iPhone 11 Pro Max does, though you can certainly crop the pictures that are taken with the Ultra more easily.

Like others, Chris Davies of Slashgear has found the 100X zoom capabilities frustrating.

“I don’t think we need to worry too much about Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G owners going “full paparazzi” with their phones. By the time you get into peeping-tom levels of zoom, the pixelated results are less like titillation and more like a Magic Eye picture.”

Davies notes that at 100X zoom, the pictures look like they were taken with one of the 1.3MP phone cameras of the 2000s — they are blurry, pixelated, and not really anything to show off. Like others, he believes that 30X zoom is the limit for high quality pictures.

The starting price for the Galaxy S20 Ultra is $1,399

My main issue with the S20 Ultra camera is that unless you plan to crop in on a certain area of a photo, why would you need a 108MP camera? The pictures will look no different on any screen, any print-out, or even a projection. Even the human eye can’t sense a difference between a 12MP and a 128MP shot. And it’s obvious the 100X zoom isn’t actually 100x optical zoom.

I guess one has to ask themselves if paying $200 extra is worth the big camera upgrade. Some may find that it is. However, most consumers will find that the Samsung Galaxy S20 and S20+ cameras are more than capable.

Posted in Tech News | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip Problems: The Honeymoon Is Over

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is now available for purchase.

I thought the Galaxy Z Flip was a decent, if not thrilling take at a second foldable smartphone from Samsung. Others seemed to like it as well, especially CNET’s Jessica Dolcourt, who gave it a very high 7.9/10 rating.

“The Galaxy Z Flip is the best foldable phone I’ve ever used. Considering this is still a new field with only the Motorola Razr, Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X for competing devices you can buy today, that might not sound like much. Don’t believe it,” she says, adding that Samsung has done most things right by creating a foldable smartphone that’s fun and practical.

But just as soon as the praises came in, so did the complaints. As Chris Hall from Pocket-lint notes, the display has a pretty significant issue.

“Having used the phone for a couple of days, we spotted a rippling in the display – not the surface – but in that actual display material itself. It wasn’t really noticeable until we got out in bright sunlight and looked at the display in standby, at which point it was more obvious.”

Hall notes that the issue is difficult to capture on camera since it exists beneath the surface. He theorizes that it could be heat damage since the processor is located directly under the display.

Then, there are those who are getting cracked screens.

Then, there are the scratches people are easily getting.

It appears that the Galaxy Z Flip is getting scratches like many smartphones in the 2000s, when almost all screens were made of plastic. Then, Gorilla Glass came and solved a lot of the scratching problems. However, it’s doubtful that gorilla glass can be put on a foldable phone. Amazon is selling some screen protectors for Samsung’s new smartphone.

To make thing worse,  iFixit, a site that tests smartphones by tearing them apart to test their durability, recently reported that the Z Flip is prone to dust exposure that can penetrate the hinge and prevent the phone from folding properly. They also note that the top layer of the display is plastic, which sort of defeats the purpose of a “glass display,” although the middle layer is glass.

To be fair, it’s important to note that Samsung does offer Galaxy Z Flip owners a one-time screen replacement for $119, although subsequent repairs will cost $499. Yikes! Perhaps consumers are better off waiting for Samsung to work out the quirks until buying a foldable smartphone. Then again, that’s just what everybody said one year ago.

Posted in Tech News | Leave a comment