Category Archives: Samsung

Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2020



At today’s Galaxy Unpacked 2020 online event, the South Korean firm unveiled updates to Samsung Mobile’s tech product line. Broadcasting live from Korea, the event showcased new Samsung smartphones, tablets, earbuds and smartwatch devices.

The Galaxy Note devices have always been big and the new phones don’t disappoint. With 4G and 5G variants, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 has a 6.7″ screen and the Note 20 Ultra has a whopping 6.9″ screen. Both have 120 Hz refresh screen and use the fastest processors in the Galaxy line-up. The S-Pen defines the Notes and the handwriting experience has been improved by reducing the latency between the pen moving and the line appearing on the screen to just 9 ms. The phones meet the usual expectations for high end devices in terms of cameras (12 MP ultrawide, 108 MP standard, 12 MP telephoto, 10 MP selfie) and charging – 50% in 30 mins. Pre-orders are open and prices begin at £849 for 4G and £949 for 5G.

Everything now matches in the Galaxy world and there’s three standard colours. Mystic Black, Mystic White and Mystic Bronze, which Samsung is clearly trying grab as “their” colour. The Note phones come in some extra colours too, Mystic Green and Mystic Grey.

Samsung’s tablets are some of the best Android tablets and the range has been updated with the new Galaxy Tab S7 and S7+ tablets. The S7 has an 11″ LCD screen and the S7+ is a 12.4″ AMOLED screen with the same 120 Hz refresh rate of the Note 20. The S-Pen works on the tablets with similar low latency and the Tab S7s come with three apps that are designed to maximise use of the S Pen. The note taking app looks impressive and has some great features. It works with the Note smartphone too. Prices begin at GB£799 for the S7+ and GB£619 for the S7. That’s the same price as the current S6. I’m currently in the market for a new tablet….hmm.

Working with Microsoft, Samsung now synchronises with Office tools like OneNote, To Do and Teams. There’s integration between Windows 10 and the Galaxy devices so that you can use the Android apps on the PC. Samsung DeX now works wirelessly, so there’s not need for a dock, and the smartphone can still do phone things when in DeX mode. It all looks pretty slick. It’s not all about the office though as XBox Game Pass is coming to the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 from 21st August. This brings cloud gaming to the phones for gaming on the go.

The new Galaxy Buds Live are bean-shaped wireless earbuds intended for all day use. Resting lightly in the ear and come in the new standard colours of Mystic Bronze, White and Black to  match the phones and tablets. The Buds come with active noise cancellation. Battery life is 6 hours and the case can recharge the earbuds for a total of 21 hours listening time. GB£179.

The new Galaxy Watch 3 comes in two sizes (45 mm and 41 mm), and you guessed it, three colours. There’s a high-end titanium version too. The watch comes with health monitoring blood pressure, ECG and blood oxygen level once regulatory approvals have been gained in each country. As you’d expect, the Watch 3 provides activity tracking for walking, running and other sports. There are over 120 fitness programmes that work with the Watch 3 and Samsung smart TVs. Watch 3 prices begin at GB£399.

And finally….The Galaxy Z Fold2 opens up from clamshell to a tablet. Thinner that the Fold, it has a 6.2″ exterior screen but once opened up it’s 7.6″ inside. The hinge has been analysed and improved. Regrettably, it’s only available in Mystic Black and Mystic Bronze. What no Mystic White…? Pre-orders begin on 1st September but price wasn’t announced.


Samsung Postponed the Launch of the Galaxy Fold



Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, the fancy smartphone has been called the world’s first foldable phone, has problems. The issues were big enough for Samsung to postpone the launch of the Galaxy Fold.

To fully evaluate this feedback and run further internal tests, we have decided to delay the release of the Galaxy Fold. We plan to announce the release date in the coming weeks.

In a statement posted in the Samsung Newsroom, Samsung said that the device “needs further improvements that could ensure the best possible user experience.”

Samsung said their inspection of reported issues on the display showed that they could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge. There was an instance where substances found inside the device affected the display performance. Samsung says it will “enhance the guidance and use of the display including the protective layer”.

CNBC reported that the screen on their Galaxy Fold test unit began flickering and then stopped working completely after just two days of use.

According to CNBC, others who had test units had the same thing happen after they removed the protective film on the top of the screen. However, CNBC stated that they did not remove the protective film. They also did not drop the phone, and did not expose it to any substances that could get inside the phone.

A flickering screen, that stops working shortly after the phone starts being used, is a problem. This is especially true on a phone whose main attraction is the gimmick of having two, foldable, screens. I think that customers who want to get a new smartphone in the near future will choose one that does not have the issues that the Galaxy Fold currently has.


Ikea Tradfri Outlet with Samsung SmartThings



Samsung’s SmartThings might be one of the smarthome market leaders but its branded sensors aren’t the cheapest by a long way. Savvy SmartThings specialists are constantly on the hunt for cheaper devices from other vendors but these often require custom code (device handlers) or strange steps to get them linked up.

Coming from the other direction, Swedish homemakers Ikea have their own smart home system called Tradfri. It’s currently more of a Philips Hue competitor as it focuses on lighting but it is expanding and has recently brought a smart plug to market….or as Ikea calls it, a wireless control outlet. It uses Zigbee for communication, and best of all, it only costs GB£9 compared with over GB£40 for the SmartThings variant. Let’s take a look.

 

The Tradfri wireless outlet isn’t going to be winning any design awards. It’s plain white plastic all round, with a hidden white LED at the bottom. Right underneath is a small pinhole for resetting the device with a paperclip. There’s no override button to turn the plug on or off, so keep a smartphone or tablet handy. The unit is rated at 13A / 3kW but not for inductive loads, i.e. no washing machines.

 

Enough of what it looks like…can the Tradfri smart socket work with SmartThings? It certainly can! It just takes a little care and some simple configuration via the SmartThings portal. There’s no need for device handlers or any advanced SmartThings tweaking.

The first step is to get the outlet paired with SmartThings. Fire up the SmartThings app (I’m still using Classic) on your phone or tablet and choose “Add a Thing”. The app will start looking for devices and there’s two gotchas here. One, the Tradfri device needs to be reasonably close to the SmartThings hub and two, the device needs to be reset via the pin hole on the bottom of the case. Just push in with a paper clip for a few seconds and the little LED will pulse at the bottom.

Within a few seconds, SmartThings will find a Thing but won’t know what type of Thing it is or what features it has. This is where the SmartThings IDE comes in at https://graph.api.smartthings.com/. You’ll need to login with either a Samsung or SmartThings account.

Once logged, in go to My Locations and choose your place. I’ve had to redact a few items for my privacy.

Now click on devices to get all the devices in the location. Scroll down through the list until you find the Thing. To make it easy, it’s in alphabetical order.

Click on Thing and then Edit to see the device’s current properties.

Change where it says 2015 Samsung Smart TV to ZigBee Switch and then hit the Update button.

The Thing’s revised entry now has ZigBee Switch and Local processing, which is a good thing. Simply it means that any activity by the sensor is processed locally by the SmartThings hub and isn’t handed off for cloud processing.

Returning to the SmartThings app on the phone, the system now knows that the Thing is a power outlet and has updated the functionality.

Tapping on the screen toggles the Tradfri smart plug with the relay clicking almost instantly. Of course, “Thing” can be renamed to something more sensible, like “Fish Tank Lights”.

And that’s it. The Tradfri wireless outlet is now an integrated part of the SmartThings setup and can be used in Automations and SmartApps, and all for only GB£9, which is a total bargain. As a further benefit, the outlet works as a Zigbee repeater which strengthens the Zigbee wireless network. The only downside I have found is that there’s no physical override button to turn it on or off, but that’s a minor quibble.

To summarise…..if you have SmartThings, the Tradfri wireless outlet works perfectly with it and costs GB£9. Get down to your local Ikea and get stocked up.

Or watch my video below for more details.


Samsung Updates its Windows VR Headset



Samsung announced a new advanced display technology for the HMD Odyssey+, bringing true-to-life visuals to its entry into the Windows mixed reality space through the Windows Mixed Reality Platform that delivers an improved life-like and immersive experiences.

To me, it sounds like the updated HMD Odyssey+ was designed to be physically comfortable. The headset weighs 1.3 pounds, and has a wide eye box measuring 146mm to help match a person’s facial features. The headband and display are adjustable.

The headset also has built-in volume controls that can be used to easily adjust the volume when needed. There’s even a anti-fog material on the the Samsung HMD Odyssey+’s face padding to ensure the eye box doesn’t mist up. It is possible to adjust the Inter-Pupillary Distance (IPD) wheel for a perfect fit.

I’ve read that some people experience nausea when using immersive gaming headsets. The Samsung Odyssey+ has exclusive Anti-Screen Door Effect (Anti-SDE) Display innovation. The purpose is to prevent the Screen Door Effect that can hinder immersion and make some people become dizzy or to feel nauseous after playing for a while.

Personally, I think it was very smart for Samsung to put effort into making gaming with the HMD Odyssey+ as comfortable as possible. It will encourage people to use their headset to play video games – and to spend more time playing.


Samsung DeX



The Samsung DeX Station converts a Galaxy S8 or S8+ smartphone into a desktop computer. Plop the S8 in the DeX, plug in a keyboard and mouse, hook up a TV, and you’re set with Android on the big screen. That’s the theory, what about in practice? Let’s take a look.

The DeX hardware is circular device, about 10 cm across, with a top surface that sweeps smoothly back and up to reveal the USB C connector for the smartphone.

Around the base are two USB 2 ports, a full-size HDMI socket, a 100 Mb/s network connector and a USB C for powering the DeX.

Getting setup is simplicity itself. Connect all the hardware up and slot the phone in. There’s no additional software to add as it’s all built-in to the S8 and the DeX itself. I used a wireless keyboard and mouse combo connecting to a USB transmitter. The TV connected to the HDMI port with a cable and I used the WiFi on the S8 for networking.

When the S8 is placed in the DeX, a prompt appears asking whether to start DeX or to only mirror the S8 screen. Choosing the former gets the DeX desktop in its full HD glory and it looks convincing. But what’s it really like?

  

Let’s start with the positives…the DeX desktop is what you’d expect an Android desktop to be like, using familiar apps in a windowed world. It’s fast and all the apps on the phone are available through DeX. Google Maps works and it’s perfect for YouTube and web browsing. Samsung promotes DeX-optimised apps via its app store.

  

But while many apps seemed to be quite happy with DeX and run in both full screen and windowed modes, some apps don’t like DeX and display as if they are on the S8 in portrait. This is frustrating and while this could be expected for games like Monument Valley, it seems odd that Netflix can’t cope – surely this would be seen as a “must have” by Samsung? Some apps don’t have all the necessary controls either – it’s tricky to pinch-to-zoom with only a mouse pointer.

  

Of course, games players and movie watchers aren’t the target audience for DeX. Samsung see this as a tool for business and promote the benefits of Microsoft apps and Office365 in the literature. For example, instead of a lugging a laptop for a presentation, take DeX, plug it into the data projector and you’re sorted. Need to do a quick bit of editing? Steal a desk, connect up DeX, fire up Word and you’re working.

Where DeX also scores well is with VDIs (Virtual Desktop Infrastructures) like Citrix. Connect through to your office backend to run a virtual Windows PC and you can be working as if you are at your own desk. From that point of view, it’s slick. While DeX isn’t going to replace a laptop on an extended business trip, it makes sense for a short visit when you want to travel light.

Pricewise, the DeX station has an RRP of GB£129, though it’s already discounted by £40 in several online stores. It’s still a percentage on top of the S8 and S8+.

Overall, DeX does what it sets out to do and the key question here is not about the technology. It’s whether Samsung’s vision and the DeX Station match your way of working. YMMV, as they say.


Samsung announces Galaxy Book powered by Windows 10



If you are looking for a portable workspace and require Windows then you have a growing number of options beyond the Surface. These include many easily portable laptops and tablets. Now Samsung is looking to give everyone another alternative.

The company is unveiling its latest offering at Mobile World Congress. The big event takes place annually in Barcelona, Spain.

“Samsung announced an expanded strategic partnership with Microsoft that will help professionals use digital technology to work anywhere, with the release of the Samsung Galaxy Book powered by Windows 10 and improvements to Samsung Flow”, announces Microsoft.

The Samsung Galaxy Book is a new premium 2-in-1 that is designed for the enterprise. It’s a 12 inch with full Microsoft Office desktop integration. It “enables you to easily use Windows Ink or markup and draw on websites in Microsoft Edge, and the S Pen is equipped with the tilt SDK for Windows Ink, providing artists with advanced shading and brushstrokes”.

“Samsung improved Samsung Flow with Microsoft on the Galaxy Book. Samsung Flow allows customers to sync their Galaxy smartphone with the Galaxy Book for convenient login and Wi-Fi connection through the smartphone’s mobile hotspot when a data connection is not available, and the Samsung Flow app will display notifications from your smartphone”.

Pricing and availability are not yet available.


DOT Bans All Samsung Galaxy Note7 Devices from Airplanes



samsung-galaxy-note7The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued an emergency order to ban all Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone devices from all air transportation in the United States. This order is being done for safety reasons.

Individuals who own or possess a Samsung Galaxy Note7 device may not transport the device on their person, in carry-on baggage or in checked baggage on flights to, from, or within the United States. This prohibition includes all Samsung Galaxy Note7 devices. The phones also cannot be shipped as air cargo.

The ban became effective on October 15, 2016. The reason for this ban is probably obvious to those who have been following the news. On October 11, 2016, Samsung suspended the manufacture and sale of the Samsung Galaxy Note7 device after several incidents where the device has overheated and caught fire. Samsung has issued a voluntary recall on all Galaxy Note7 Devices.

This is something to keep in mind as we head into the holiday season. There could be people out there who are unaware that they cannot bring their Samsung Galaxy Note7 device onto the plane. One could reasonably assume that this would lead to delays.

The DOT states that passengers who attempt to travel by air with their Samsung Galaxy Note7 device will be denied boarding. Passengers who try to evade the ban by packing their phone in checked luggage are violating the ban and may be subject to criminal prosecution in addition to fines.

Interestingly, the DOT emergency order says: The Samsung Galaxy Note7 device is considered a forbidden hazardous material under the Federal Hazardous Material Regulations which forbid airline passengers or crew from traveling with lithium cells or batteries or portable electronic devices that are likely to generate a dangerous evolution of heat.