REVIEW: Introducing the Samsung Galaxy Note

IF there is one thing I can say about Samsung, it's that they continue to impress me with their screen technology. I watched a video recently where someone tried to scratch their Samsung smartphone screen with a penknife (violently), which left behind very little carnage.  

The new Galaxy Note smartphone (launched this year) features the world’s first and the largest 5.3" HD Super AMOLED display. This is an expansive high-resolution screen, which is currently the largest screen size available with smartphone portability. The Galaxy Note was designed to combine core on-the-go benefits of various mobile devices while maintaining smartphone portability.

The HD Super AMOLED display offers quality viewing experiences for video, photo, documents, webpages, apps and e-books. The blacks are deep and the colours bright. The superior screen also offers a 180 degree viewing angle, allowing contents to be viewed and shared comfortably from all angles. It is also great for showcasing high resolution PowerPoint presentations and the screen is large enough to allow split-screen operation, which handles well thanks to its 1.4GHz dual-core processor.

Introducing the Samsung Galaxy Note

"The artistic freedom of a paper notebook is coupled with the benefits of Samsung’s smartphone technology and services, allowing users to create, edit and share with more style than ever before," says JK Shin, President and Head of Samsung’s Mobile Communications Business.

Samsung plans to release the S Pen SDK soon which will allow app developers to create new applications and services incorporating the pen functionality. Samsung has also included S Planner - a smart, professional planning tool that makes full use of the device’s large screen. The management planner integrates the phone’s To-Do list and schedule.

The Galaxy Note also features S Memo - a multimedia application designed to record all forms of user-created content. Pictures, voice recordings, typed text, handwritten notes or drawings can all be captured via a single application and converted to a 'memo', to be edited, annotated and shared as desired.

A good smartphone wouldn't be as such without good connections into the online world. Fast network speeds are enabled through the HSPA+ and LTE-enabled connection. This allows users to stream videos in real-time or engage with their friends through online gaming platforms.

This article has been sponsored by Samsung.

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SAMSUNG DIVE: Samsung gets smart with mobile security

AS Smartphones become ever increasingly sophisticated, more and more personal information is stored on them, and the loss of a phone can be far more than just an inconvenience. It is with this in mind that Samsung has launched Samsung Dive – an online access portal to address the security issues associated with a mobile lifestyle.

“If you’ve ever lost your phone, you’ll know it can be very frustrating and more importantly, it can be a huge security risk. We have responded to the security needs of our consumers as the Samsung Dive service will provide peace of mind by allowing you to not only see the details of your phone via the Internet, but where you last used it, and if you have lost it or it was stolen, you can wipe your personal information off the device.” - Paulo Ferreira, Head of Product and Software Solutions at Samsung.

Samsung Dive is in essence a free security assistant. When your device is lost you can lock your device via Samsung Dive and with the Mobile Tracker service you will be able to lock, wipe or see the location of your phone. Key elements include:

  • Ring my Phone feature: This service will use the Internet to send a message to the phone to ring and initiate a call whether the phone is on or off.
  • Receive notification when the SIM card is changed: You can be notified when the SIM is changed in the case that someone uses your phone illegally.
  • Remotely lock your phone: You can lock your phone to prevent people from using it and accessing your personal information.
  • Remotely wipe your phone: If you lose your phone and it hasn't been returned, you can initiate a remote wipe to protect your privacy.
  • Receive the location of your phone: To help you find your phone, the service will show the last location of your phone on Google Maps.

In addition to the above, Samsung Dive allows for the ability to pull up call logs remotely. This is certainly a practical function for parents as it allows them to monitor their child’s cellphone and stay in contact. If your child is out and isn’t answering, for example, not only can your track the phone, but you can also pull up the call logs and dial the last person they were in contact with.

  • Note: The Samsung Dive application is only available for the Samsung Galaxy SII (which will be officially launched locally within the next quarter) and the Samsung Wave II (locally available in-store). Further models will become available at a later stage. Samsung will keep you updated as to these additions.

- Published on behalf of Samsung and Orange Ink.

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REVIEW: The Samsung S3500 Quad-band

Samsung S3500I’VE had the same brand of cellphone since I was 16, and that’s not because I’ve had the same phone since I was 16. On the contrary, I’ve been through about seven phones in the last eight years.

There was my first phone that drowned in a fishpond, another that committed suicide by jumping out of a six-storey window, a third phone that died in a freak electrical-induced accident, and a few others that were simply tossed aside because something sexier and more exciting had come to town.

But of all the phones I’ve had in my life, they’ve all had one thing in common — they all belonged to the same brand. My current phone is the same brand. I believe this is because of a fundamentally human thing — that we tend to resist change, especially in the technology department. There is something comforting about the familiar and we don’t want to have to faff about learning something new when we already have something old that works perfectly fine.

This brings me to the Samsung S3500, which was a pleasant introduction to Samsung mobile phones. This model seems to be marketed as a fairly up-to-date budget phone, because apparently we’re in some kind of merciless economic recession. It’s not a bad marketing strategy, although I would argue that what actually appeals to consumers the most is the idea of paying less for more.

And it’s not a bad bundle that you get for around R3 000 (prepaid).

It has one unique function called “fake call” which is a little strange. This function enables you to activate a bogus incoming call so you can free yourself from awkward conversations or dodgy situations by pretending to take a call.

It has EDGE connectivity capabilities, an embedded music player, FM radio, Bluetooth, a WAP browser and a camera, among other things. It also looks really slick and there is something very pleasing about a slider phone.

Let’s take a closer look (a full list of specs appear at the end of this post):

DISPLAY
The Samsung’s display, on the other hand, is great, with each of the main keys of the D-pad bringing up a different set of options. It is easy to navigate and all the functions are neatly displayed on the main menu. It has a nice selection of themes, the icons are large and the screen is bright. Top marks for presentation.

SOUND
One thing that cellphones today are really starting to perfect is the way they sound. Gone are the days of fake-sounding, mosquito-like noises emanating from phones as they ring. Most mobiles today sound so good that they make for great portable radios and MP3 players. The Samsung S3500 is both and they sound great.

KEYPAD
Until this year I had always been reluctant to get a phone on contract. The thought that yet another phone might drown or kill itself, leaving me with the responsibility of having to pay for it every month for two years, doesn’t really appeal to me.

However, one needs to consider that as long as you take good, vigilant care of your cellphone, having one on contract should be a lot cheaper in the long run. I am finally content with my current phone with the exception of its keypad, which is very similar to that of the Samsung S3500.

I find these newer, flat and hard keypads difficult to operate, especially when trying to type an SMS in a hurry. This does not bode well for someone who SMSes more than he/she phones.

My fondest memory of my very first phone was its spongy buttons, which almost massaged one’s fingers. With these flatter, more plastic-like keypads, such as that of the Samsung S3500, I find that I have to use my fingernail to type … if it hasn’t yet been chewed off from frustration.

GAMES
The Samsung S3500 has a large library of games, which tells me that this phone is really suited for the teenage market. The phone comes with seven free games with the option of downloading more. And these are not the standard, outdated games such as Snake, but classier, more challenging digitalised treats such as Harry Potter, Midnight Pool and Sudoku.

If mobile games are your thing, these should keep you entertained for hours.

INTERNET
As soon as I read “Quad-band” on the side of the Samsung S3500’s box I got rather excited as I expected to experience lightning-fast Internet speeds. However, if you have experienced ADSL Internet speeds, then connecting to the web using this phone (or most phones for that matter) is nothing special and can be painfully slow. To make matters worse, this particular model doesn’t have 3G capabilities, which can be a bummer.

CAMERA
Considering that most modern phones today have five-megapixel cameras, the Samsung S3500’s two- mega pixel camera is a bit of a disappointment. It’s fine for taking photos (and even video) to view on the phone itself, but if you are wanting to preserve your mobile memories by printing out your pictures from your phone, this one really isn’t quite up to the task.

OTHER FEATURES
With the exception of 3G and GPS, there seems to be very little that the Samsung S3500 is missing when compared to other cellphones of 2009. It has a standard phonebook and messaging interface, the usual call log, a separate folder for all your downloaded or produced content, an organiser with a clock, alarm, calendar, calculator and converter, a voice recorder, timer, stopwatch and numbered buttons from one to nine.

FAKE CALL
There is, however, one unique function called “fake call”, which is a little strange. Many of Samsung’s more recent handsets include this feature, which enables you to activate a bogus incoming call, so you can free yourself from awkward conversations or dodgy situations by pretending to take a call.

For added authenticity, you can record your own fake voice “call” that plays back when you answer. Potentially useful perhaps, but don’t be caught using it!

Apart from that, the Samsung S3500 is nothing too special but is a decent upgrade if you currently have on older Samsung model. I think I’ll stick to my particular cellphone brand for now and simply avoid getting too close to fishponds, hanging around high-rise windows, and make an extra effort to stay away from electrical experiments.

SAMSUNG S3500 SPECS:

  • GPS: No
  • Java: Yes, MIDP 2,0
  • Games: 7 + downloadable
  • Bluetooth 2,0 + EDR and USB
  • Messaging: SMS, MMS, e-mail
  • Size: 100 mm x 48 mm x 14 mm
  • 2-megapixel camera (1600x1200 pixels)
  • FM radio with RDS and recording feature
  • MicroSD card support with up to 8GB support
  • 30MB of internal memory • Phonebook: 1 000 contacts
  • EDGE: Class 10; 236,8 kbps • Browser: WAP 2,0/xHTML, HTML
  • 2,2-inch TFT; QVGA resolution (240 x 320), 16 million colours
  • Quad-band GSM/EDGE connectivity (850/900/1800/1900 MHz)
  • Standard Li-Ion 800mAh battery with talk time of up to 7,5 hours
  • Embedded music player supports MP3/AAC/AAC +/MIDIplayback
  • Video: Record 15 f/s QVGA video in MPEG4 and H.263 formats (playback in 25 f/s QVGA)

Related post: Jet-setting with the Samsung Jet

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MYWITNESS: Cheap & simple cellular services

ONLINE banking, mobile shopping, cellphone blogging and much more are all readily available via several services. Yet all of these become a headache for anyone who was not a part of the ‘cool crowd’ at school. Wouldn’t life be a little bit simpler if all of these were available via a single service? Gmobile has done just that with the release of MyWitness.

MyWitness (which is fully WAP enabled and thus fully accessible from your cellphone) is a server-based platform that provides a very cheap and very user-friendly way of performing a large portion of your online activity – all from your cellphone. It is purely server-based and operates independently from other networks. What this means is that it offers its own unique service and, more importantly, charges its own rates – which is far less than the 40% average that the major cellular networks charge. SMS’s can be sent at 25cents, MMS’s 65cents.

A popular ‘everyday user’ appeal of MyWitness is Gchat, which has the same functionality of Mxit minus the cost – it’s free. The only charge applicable is the 2cents per kilobit of data downloaded to your phone (i.e. being online via your phone), which is regulated by Icasa.

Usually when browsing the web from your mobile information is temporarily stored to your phone to increase speed etc., however the network(s) you use have weaseled their way into charging you for this according to their own rates. The advantage of platforms such as MyWitness is that you are only charged for the data that you actually choose to download. They are able to avoid the sneaky charges mentioned by simply providing access to data.

To put this cost-effectiveness into perspective: one user in Thailand chatted to his wife in South Africa daily using G-chat over the course of 12 days. His entire communication bill? Less than R1 - and that’s because he had to send three SMS’s to his wife (at 25cents each) to tell her to go online. Furthermore, G-chat is compatible with most major IM’s such as Google Talk, so others that you wish to chat to need not be G-chat users.

Other features of MyWitness include being able to ‘shop’ for airtime and cellular related products such as wallpapers and ringtones, Google search the internet, receive the latest news headlines via RSS feeds, share audio files, video and pictures, upload content to your MyWitness blog or website, and do online banking.

If you are not familiar with mobile banking yet it is basically internet banking via a mobile platform (i.e. you use a phone instead of a computer). Registration requires an ID number which automatically creates a personal bank (debit) account. The currency on MyWitness is measured in Goins, which is regulated world wide. In South African currency (ZAR), one Goin is equal to one cent.

If you find blogging sites such as Blogger or WordPress too much of a headache, MyWitness provides the simplest way to set up and maintain your own blog or website. The visual appeal of these sites are really not that bad by beginner standards, and the simplicity of the whole thing is by far the no.1 advantage about it.

Each MyWitness user is provided with 100megs of compressed storage space. This may not seem like a lot but what’s great is that the platform automatically compresses data for you while it travels through the network. In other words there is no need to worry about the technicalities of file sizes. Images (JPEGS & GIFS) for example, are compressed to about 6k - irrelevant of their original size. Also, the original file is restored to its full glory and size when it reaches the other side – without any loss in quality.

The cellphone is fast becoming the ultimate all-in-one tool. This is your chance to jump on the technology bandwagon simply and cheaply. Just remember to get up and exercise once in a while!

Signing up for a MyWitness account will cost you R1.50 and can be done online (from a computer) at http://go.mywitness.co.za. You can also watch a video demonstration online and find additional information and set up instructions at www.witness.co.za.

Video: MyWitness user's speak

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TECHNOLOGY: A whiff of the modern cellphone

THE cellphone has become one of the most widely used digital technologies in everyday life. However, current cellular innovations appear to be both exciting and potentially dangerous at the same time.

one smelly phoneThe Health Concept Phone (pictured) is equipped with eNose technology, which effectively allows it to electronically “smell” what you eat and keep track of your food intake. It is able to ‘recognise’ food (and other things) by its unique chemical signature. Recommended for people who have a habit of eating with their eyes closed. Similar cellphones have the ability to emit a whiff of your significant other’s scent every time he or she calls.

New cellular features (and what one can actually do with a modern cellphone) are taking the lead in incorporating the latest and greatest technical innovations. Interestingly, cellphones equipped with such state-of-the-art technology are becoming increasingly popular in countries such as South Africa as opposed to those who one might refer to as the 'digital elite'.

The most striking (and perhaps most frightening) ideas are to create cellphones that come closer to human nature than we might like to believe. Electronic giant Samsung is planning to create a cellphone that has “artificial chromosomes” built within, and will be able to ‘think’, ‘feel’, ‘evolve’ and even ‘reproduce’. The concept seems close to the earlier invention of the Tamagotchi – a digital creature that adjusts its ‘life’ according to the personality and actions of its owner.

Other companies have already customised the cellphone for social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, which they say “effectively allows you to carry your social life in your pocket”. No human contact needed.

The notion that we are living in an expanding visual and digital culture is becoming more apparent by the development of such technologies. Perhaps the most exciting modern cellphone feature that manufacturers are focusing on at the moment is video. Several companies are talking about making it possible for millions of people to simultaneously stream live video and TV channels via their phones. Music fans may receive the most recent music videos by their favourite bands instantaneously — a concept being coined as ultrareality.

As exciting as these developments sound, the luddites (technology pessimists) will tell us that this is not all cream and cake. And no, these are not all hippies that protest against technology, but clued-up intellectuals who know what they are talking about. An article published in the Washington Times describes how digital experts in the Middle East are making use of cellphones to trigger off road-side bombs. James Bond films also illustrate how the modern cellphone is, rather accurately, used in the spy industry for corruption purposes.

The pace that such developments are taking do have the danger of blinding one to their negative possibilities. However, the idea of getting a whiff of your significant other’s scent through your cellphone every time he or she calls is both crazy and exciting.

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