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03 March 2016 ~ 1 Comment

Samsung S6 Edge wins best screen

Samsung S6 Edge 6

In its recent review of the top smartphones for 2016, The Week choose the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge as the handset with the best smartphone screen. This is an opinion shared by many technology critics who regard the Galaxy S6 and the S6 Edge as two of the best smartphones available at the moment.

The Samsung S6 Edge was declared the winner of the Best Phone in the 2015 TechRadar Phone Awards while the S6 was voted their best smartphone for 2016.

The design of the Samsung S6 Edge is undeniably beautiful. The fact that the curved glass looks good is already enough to make people want this phone. But the curve has a purpose too. It is an additional area for communication and this really makes it different from the rest of the smartphones on the market.

The technical specifications are excellent. The main display is 5.1 inches with an impressive QHD, 1440 x 2560 resolution which gives excellent clarity and sharpness. This married to Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology makes for a bright and vibrant display. The pixel density of 577 ppi is one of the best in its class. With Gorilla Glass 4 covering the S6 it should be less prone to cracked screens than its primary competitor the iPhone 6.

The real innovation in this phone is the fact that the curved side screen provides some pretty useful functions. If the main screen is off, a quick slide of a finger along the edge of the screen will reveal an overview of important notifications such as news headlines, sports scores, or updates on time, date and weather. Any new text message will also scroll along the edge screen in its entirety.

Another enjoyable feature of the screen is People Edge which manifests itself as five circles to which you can assign five contacts (“My People”). These are then easily available for texting, calling or emailing. Another useful feature is that when you pick the phone off a surface, it will notify you on the screen whether you have any missed calls, texts or emails from your My People contacts.

When you place the handset face down and you receive a call, text or email from you key contacts you will be notified by a discreet light on the side display. The colour of this light can be customised to match your key contacts. On receiving a call from My People, you are able to dismiss the call and send a pre-written text message to that person by placing a finger on the heart rate monitor for two seconds.

The Samsung Galaxy S6, White Pearl 32GB (SIM free) is currently available from a new low of just £360.

29 February 2016 ~ 5 Comments

New smartphone batteries could last a week

Upp Cartridge image via Intelligent Energy.

What is the number one item on the wish list of nearly everyone who owns a smartphone? Batteries that last longer than 24 hours! As phones become faster and more powerful, batteries are struggling to keep up with the increasing demands for power and this is the number one feature we’ve been campaigning for since we started reviewing handsets.

British company, Intelligent Energy has just announced that it has signed a £5.25 million ($7.60 million) joint development agreement with an unnamed “emerging” smartphone original equipment manufacturer to develop an embedded hydrogen fuel cell which could potentially power a smartphone for up to a week.

The Loughborough based company has been at the forefront of fuel cell technology development for over 25 years. Fuel cell technology offers possibilities which mobile phone users currently can only dream about. By embedding a fuel cell into a phone it would then be feasible to enjoy off-grid power for long periods without any reduction in the capabilities of the smartphone. In addition, overheating batteries would also be a thing of the past.

The fuel cell generates electricity from a chemical reaction that combines hydrogen with oxygen. The process generates energy and the only waste product is water – it’s the same science behind hydrogen cars work. It is not clear at this stage how the waste water will be discharged since this would inevitably require a vent of some kind which could feasible impact on some of the waterproof phone designs.

Intelligent Energy has already developed and taken to market a hydrogen fuel cell power pack for recharging smartphones off the grid. The Upp cartridge, currently available in the UK, is a fuel cell that provides a user around five smartphone charges and can then be exchanged for a refilled cartridge that the user must purchase. It is available online and in some Apple stores for £5.95 per cell.

As well as being a huge benefit for everyday users fed up of huge power-hungry screens and poor wifi battery performance, an integrated fuel cell will be a very desirable for heavy users or users who operate in remote regions away from convenient charging points. But a service fee, like the one currently needed to recharge the Upp cartridge, could make this an expensive way to keep your phone charged. Battery sourced power is hard to beat for convenience and low cost although it does have a tendency to lose its charge inconveniently quickly.

Will the fuel cell replace the traditional battery in the future? It’s a problem that desperately needs to be solved but at present, it seems unlikely until a cheaper option can be found to recharge it.

10 February 2016 ~ 1 Comment

Sony Xperia Z3+ is 2016’s best waterproof smartphone

Xperia_Z3_+_Copper_Waterproof

In a recent review of the best smartphones for 2016, as chosen by leading technology critics, the Sony Xperia Z3+ was chosen as the best waterproof smartphone.

It was hardly a surprising choice since Sony has been committed to waterproof phones since the release of the Sony Z in 2013. All their new phones have an IP68 rating meaning that they are both waterproof and dustproof.

The Z3+ is an upgraded version of its predecessor the Z3, with improved specifications, a thinner body and the Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system. It still retains the same 5.2 inch, 1,920 x 1,080 resolution display, but has a slimmer and sharper design at 6.9 mm which makes it the thinnest Sony handset, with the same thickness as the iPhone 6.

The new octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, clocked at 2 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 430 GPU and 3 GB of RAM, makes for a powerful package with excellent speed. Although not class beating, it certainly competes well with other premier range smartphones. But the processor is also a problem for the Z3+. It is prone to overheat, and at this stage, this means that the phone will often shut down in use when it starts getting to warm. Hopefully, this problem will be addressed in future software releases.

The Xperia Z3+ has 32 GB of onboard storage which can be expanded up to 128 GB via a microSD card. It has all the standard connectivity including 4G LTE support.

One of the features most critics were unanimous in approving was the dedicated camera shutter button. It makes taking photographs easier and the soft press to set focus is a welcome touch. The main camera itself has not changed in this model and is a 20.7 megapixel unit. Image quality, although good, is not exceptional. One feature where Sony stands alone is its commitment to high-quality audio. The Z3+ has unequalled high-res audio.

There are a few problems with the Xperia Z3+ which unfortunately tarnish its otherwise excellent features. The Z3+ is capable of recording video in 4K, but recordings often fail after about 20 seconds due to overheating. The battery is also not good enough for the device. It allows around 3 hours of screen-on time although with lighter use you might be able to eke out power for a day.

The UK version of the Sony Xperia Z3+ is currently available at a 45% discount on the recommended retail price of £549.99. At just £305 SIM-free, it is an exceptionally good phone which is both attractive and durable, as long as Sony can do something about the overheating.