Concluding a series on the S4 Mini

This is the conclusion article in a series reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.

Here we are at the end of another series. This was my most inconsistent series, which I should have ended in October, but here I am in January 2014 finishing it off!

In the first article I introduced my new purchase and started the series. I am still (very) glad I chose Android over Apple and a Samsung Galaxy over other rivals. I really like the (in the words of David) Disney layer Samsung add, having compared it to various other Android devices, not running the Samsung version of the OS.

D3O case for the S4 MiniWhilst I do like the S4 Mini, is hasn’t been an easy ride. Before I got my D3O case and Tech21 screen protector, I dropped my phone. The screen hit something and it bounced to the floor. This completely ruined the screen. I took it in for repair and £100 later I had my phone back.

Note to self: always get a really good case, as the cost of that is way less than the cost of a repair. Oh and try not to drop your phone.

A few weeks later my battery started playing up. It wouldn’t hold charge and depleted very quickly. I wasn’t sure if this was related to the earlier drop or not, but I took it back to the shop I bought it from and they said that as it was still within warranty (Samsung give a two year warranty) they would take a look and repair it for me. A few days later I got my phone back (again) and since then nothing has gone wrong.

I recently dropped it again (by accident) outside. It landed on the pavement and bounced to the ground. Luckily the D3O did its work and my phone is still perfectly fine.

Anker S4 Mini Screen ProtectorIn terms of screen protectors I would say the Anker one was much better than the Muvit alternative, however since that post I have purchased a Tech21 Impactology screen protector and I would rate this the best yet. It cost £20 which is five times the cost of the Anker one and I don’t think it is really that much better. Clarity, responsiveness and adhesion are pretty much the same, it’s only the level of protection that I think is probably a little better. Check out this video for more.

My final article reviewed the RoadWarrior car holder for my S4 Mini. Depending upon the car it can be awkward to place, and I am worried it might damage my phone (if I am not really careful when inserting/removing it) but the FM transmitter and spare USB port are great features that I value.

Overall I enjoy using my S4 Mini. It is a good little phone with great capabilities. The battery life could be improved and the OS could be made a little sleeker/easier to use in some places, but on the whole it is a very good handset to buy; it’s more affordable than it’s bigger brother – the S4 – whilst offering a similar experience, from a more conveniently sized device.

Four and a Half StarI think the S4 Mini is worthy of a 4.5 star rating. 🙂

Using the Galaxy S4 Mini

This is the third article in a series reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.

Last week I finished by saying:

“In the next post in the series I will be reviewing Tech21′s Impact Shield case for the S4 Mini. See you then. :-)”

I lied.

I haven’t had a chance to use the case as much as I would like, so have delayed the article a week, so I can write a better review.

In this post I am instead going to talk about my experience of using my S4 Mini on a day to day basis.

Organisation

One of the main features I have benefited from thanks to my ‘smarter’ phone is that it has improved my level of organisation. I was already a reasonably organised person before I got my phone, however having a calendar which comes pretty much everywhere with me and can create alarms and reminders, is pretty useful!

Because I always have my calendar with me, I am able to make decisions and plans more instantaneously, which can be advantageous. That said I am now heavily dependant on my phone and were I to be without it, I would struggle to keep track of my diary. Hopefully I would be able to retrieve my schedule from Samsung, as I do try and keep my contacts and calendar backed up with Samsung sync.

Battery

In June last year, (so 15 months ago now) Joe questioned (here on Technology Bloggers) if smartphone battery improvements were on the way. I can tell you now that they weren’t! Major improvements are yet to materialise. :-/

A BlackBerry Curve 8900 in its case

My BlackBerry Curve 8900.

I used to have a Blackberry Curve 8900 which would last around two to three weeks between charges. Despite using as many power saving features as I can, I am charging my phone pretty much every day. If I had mobile data, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth and Near Field Communications on all the time, with full screen brightness, and was using my phone a lot, I reckon I could drain it (from full) in just a few hours. The camera is a big drain on the power, as are all other processor intensive activities. That said, considering its size, the camera is amazingly good.

With regard to charging I try and turn my phone off if I am doing a full charge, but usually just trickle charge. I have researched how to maintain the battery life and have found that modern smartphone batteries are designed to be charged little and often, and they don’t like being pushed to extremes (empty/full and also high/low temperature). Keeping your battery between 30% and 90% is the best area. My battery seems pretty healthy, so the trickle charge appears to be working. 🙂

Overheating

One thing I’m not impressed with is how my phone sometimes overheats, so much so, I have to remove it from its case and can’t hold it as the back gets really hot. Considering the storage space and processing power my 124.6 mm tall phone houses, I am frankly amazed that it doesn’t come with a huge fan attached to the back. My 67.98 cm³ (which sounds like a lot, but really isn’t!) phone houses two cameras, one of which is a brilliant 8MP, a HD screen, 1.5GB of RAM, and, among other things, a 1.7GHz processor!

It is no wonder when I put my phone under stress by using a lot of features at once (like for example SatNav functions, as these are quite processor intensive and uses mobile data, GPS and the screen) it starts to overheat. For the size it is, I can’t complain, however I think future phones should be slightly bigger to incorporate better cooling systems, in order to prevent internal component damage from overheating.

Apps

One of the main reasons I chose an Android phone is because of the huge range of applications available. Most of the apps for Android are free, which is a bonus! Some do take liberties however, and demand unreasonable privileges; like the Facebook one, hence I haven’t installed it, but Facebook were going to want to glean all they could from you, weren’t they.

I now have an app to wake me up at the best time in my sleep cycle, an app which can send an SOS message via the backlight, an app to scan barcodes, an app with the latest news, oh, and amongst others, Angry Birds (although I am trying not to use it as it is a real time zapper)!

I have often been known to say ‘there’s an app for that’ but that’s because it is true; almost anything you want to do, there is an app to help you!

Android

On the first article in this series, David from The Only Cog asked about what he called the ‘Disney layer’ that Samsung add to Android – i.e. their slight OS tweaks. He asked the following questions:

“Can it be turned off? How do you find it? What version of Android is it running?”

Google Android's LogoHere are my answers. I have looked into it, and as far as I can tell, Samsung’s altered version of Android is fixed, and you can’t downgrade to the standard OS. That said, I think the changes they make are just to make things look better and also to add a further level of control for users.

The second question therefore doesn’t apply. In response to the third, I am currently running Android 4.2.2 (which came pre-installed) although I think the S4 Mini will be among the first to get 4.3, (Android KitKat) probably just after its big brother the S4 receives the upgrade.

Slogan

Samsung’s slogan for the S4 Mini is “Minimalism Maximised”. I completely agree with what they are saying, the phone has the convenience of a small phone, but the power of a bigger one. I prefer “tiny but powerful”, maybe the S5 Mini will adopt that one. If so I want royalties Samsung! 😉

Next Week

As promised, next weeks article will be a review of Tech21’s D3O infused case. See you then.

The Samsung Galaxy S4

This coming Saturday, Samsung’s latest smartphone, the Galaxy S4, goes on sale.

Smartphone Battles

2009-2012 smartphone market by provider

Global smartphone market share by provider.

Like with most mass market technology, there is a war going on in the smartphone industry. In 2012, according to market analyst firm ICD, Samsung controlled 30.3% of the global smartphone market, 59.5% up on the 19% of the market it controlled the year before.

There is no doubt that Samsung is currently the dominant force in the smartphone market. The firm seems to slowly be winning its battle with Apple, and looks set to take on Google next, with rumours that it soon plans to ditch Google’s Android operating system altogether.

Nokia are predicted to make a comeback (how successful I am unsure) thanks to Windows RT, and makers of BlackBerry, RIM, are also looking stronger in 2013 after the release of BlackBerry 10 earlier this year.

Galaxy S4

Samsung are trying to steal even more of the market from its competitors with the Galaxy S4, so it has pulled out a few stops, maybe not all the stops, but quite a few, to make sure that the phone is a success.

So, the phone has loads of new features, to make it slightly better than its predecessor – the S3.

The S4 has a slightly bigger (5mm to be exact) screen, boasting a whole 5 inches of full HD display, which no doubt gives it amazing clarity. The new phone is also slightly thinner than the S3.

You can buy a Galaxy S4 in black and white, or as Samsung like to call them: black mist and white frost. I have never looked at a phone before (smart or not) and thought “that looks like frost” or mist, but maybe the S4 really does; or maybe it’s just marketing.

Touch and use even with gloves - Samsung Galaxy S4Samsung claim the latest edition of its Galaxy is usable even with gloves on, hopefully reducing the cases of zombie fingers – Jonny, you might be able to use it! 😉

The phone has various other new features, such as Samsung WatchON, which connects your phone to your TV, turning your phone into a remote control.

Another new feature is the multi-speaker capability – if you have more than one handy, you can sync them together to create a better quality of sound.

The S4 will also come with built in 4G compatibility, which the original S3 didn’t. If a fast internet connection is important to you when you are on the go, then the S4 is probably a better choice than the S3.

Eye-Tracking

Probably the most exciting new feature of the Galaxy S4 is the new eye-tracking technology. The phone uses its front camera to monitor the users eye movements, and uses can use this function for a host of different activities.

One of the features which uses the eye-tracking technology is video playback. If you are watching something, and then look away, the device automatically pauses the media for you. Furthermore, eye-tracking technology can be used to scroll up and down a page, without the need to even touch the screen.

Photos

There are two interesting developments in the photographic area of the phone, the first is that you can now add audio snippets to pictures, to enable you to catch even more of the moment. You can also merge video with picture, creating partially animated pictures – sort of like the photographs in the Harry Potter films.

The S4 can also use (and display) the front and rear camera simultaneously, which shows that its quad-core ARM processor is pretty quick!

Your Thoughts

So what are your thoughts on the S4? If you are getting one, do let us know!

Do you think that Samsung have done enough to fend off the competition from its closest rivals?

Personally I think the S4 looks like it is set to become the best smartphone on the market when it goes live at the end of the week.

Android Operating System Moving into Appliances

The Android operating system may be best known as an OS for mobile phones, but Google’s operating system is branching out and getting into your kitchen.

Google Android's LogoNever mind your smartphone or tablet; what about your fridge, or your oven?

Soon, Google Inc. is hoping to be controlling devices in your home from televisions to rice cookers.

There’s already Android-enabled TVs, with the Android mini 4.0 that turns your television into a smart-TV. You can get hold of these from places like Appliances Direct. Just with the dongle, you can connect to the internet via your Xbox or Wii U, or even hook it up with your tablet or smart-phone. It’s easy now to watch YouTube or browse the internet in the comfort of your own front room and thanks to Wi-Fi there’s no fiddling about with cables and wires.

The main hook with smart-TV is the apps available on your television, including the capabilities to make Skype calls on the big screen.

So what exactly is in store for your kitchen?

Appliances like fridge freezers could be operated by Google in the near future. Take Samsung’s T9000 refrigerator, which will be available to purchase shortly. It’s kitted out in full for the modern home, with a 10 inch Wi-Fi touchscreen and the option to download such kitchen-friendly apps as recipe-maker Epicurous or note-taking Evernote.

And what about a rice cooker? Able to determine the type of rice and exactly what cooking instructions to follow, gear like this will be able to keep track of your shopping habits, keep tabs on your favourite brands for research purposes and suggest new brands to try.

Soon you can have a kitchen full of appliances sending information to each other. With the Andriod OS in tow, products like LG’s ThinQ refrigerator can connect to the LG SmartOven, telling it when to start preheating and to what level depending on your choice of dinner that evening.

Most smart appliances are set to run by your instructions via text, too. Put your dinner in the oven when you set off for work and a quick text on your way home turns the oven on so you’re greeted with a cooked meal when you walk through the door.

With microwaves, washing machines, ovens, fridges and even coffee machines and getting smarter, how long will it be before your home is full intelligent stuff? The kitchen of the future is apparently closer than you’d think.