Tagged: launch

Eyes-on with the Samsung Galaxy S III

So what do you do when you want to come up with the next version of one of the world’s most popular phones?

You start by not messing with a proven formula. Samsung’s Galaxy S III, unveiled today at a London, England event, is evolutionary not revolutionary and that’s just fine with us.

They’ve kept the large-but-not-too-large 4.8″ screen, they’ve used a variety of materials including metal to give the phone a more sophisticated look and up-market feel (Samsung says this is the first of their phones to be built from a designer’s perspective, not an engineer’s) but most of what sets the GS III apart from other Galaxy phones and indeed other Android smartphones in general, are the software enhancements.

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But before we get to that, let’s talk about the screen. As mentioned, it’s 4.8″ in size and has  720 x 1280 HD resolution. It’s the same Super AMOLED HD technology found in previous Galaxy devices, but they’ve managed to give the display better readability without sacrificing the vibrance that AMOLED screens are known for.

This isn’t a small thing. Some people have noted that while they love the incredible richness and saturation combined with deep blacks that Super AMOLED offers, this same brilliance can make it harder to read when compared to the IPS-LCD technology found in the current generation of iPhones and iPads. And while we didn’t get to spend a lot of time with the GS III, I think Samsung has found the right balance.

The rest of the hardware specs are almost exactly what you’d expect: 8MP camera with 1080p video, 4G LTE (with HSPA support), MicroSD, WiFi N, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and MHL.  What’s new here is the 1.4GHz Exynos 4 Cortex-A9 quad-core chip that’s powering the whole experience. When you hold the GS III in your hand and compare it to the current GS II HD LTE, they feel very similar. The GS III might weigh ever so slightly more, but that serves to make it feel more substantial (Galaxy phones have always felt a tad light in the hand for my liking). The back plate now has a smooth finish instead of the texture panel on the GS II. Again, you might like this more or less, but I found it pleasant enough.

The GS III is the first Galaxy smartphone to ship with Samsung’s interpretation of  Android 4.0  (the Galaxy Nexus which Samsung makes, is Android unadulterated, as it comes directly from Google), and this is where you find most of the differentiating features.

Unlike the Galaxy Nexus, which has only soft buttons, that take up screen real-estate and are embedded into the OS, the GS III uses hardware buttons – 2 soft-touch buttons and one central home button which is physical, slightly rubberized and has a pleasing soft-click action. Samsung indicated that this was done not only to increase the amount of available screen real-estate for actual content, but also because users like having physical buttons – we agree.

On a deeper level, Samsung has added their own touches to the Ice Cream Sandwich experience. Some are subtle – like the camera’s ability to automatically suggest the best picture from a series of rapid-fire shots. Others could end up being game-changers: a contextual calling feature lets you call the person you’re texting with by simply pressing a finger to the screen and then raising the phone to your ear – the GS III immediately places the call.

Physical gestures such as this are part of Samsung’s effort to re-make the smartphone interface into a more human and intuitive experience. Another great example of this is the option to have the GS III “read” your face when you’re using it: using the front-facing camera, the GS III can tell if you’re watching video, or reading a web page and automatically prevent the screen from slipping into power-saving mode.

Speaking of video – you know the picture-in-picture feature that most modern HDTV’s have? Well the GS III has it too. You can now keep a video window open on the phone, regardless what other task you’re involved with. This works for both local and streamed videos and you can reposition the window anywhere you want.

Whether you find these engineering tricks to be your cup of tea or not, Samsung is clearly hoping that they will help set the GS III apart from an increasingly crowded Android field where their current leadership is anything but assured. They might also be harbouring some hope that these extras will appeal to those who are contemplating leaving Apple’s juggernaut on their next phone refresh.

Obviously, Samsung wasn’t quite ready to let us spend some serious time with the Galaxy S III, but rest assured we will be doing so in the very near future, and will have all the details regarding price, carrier availability and Canadian launch dates – stay tuned!

May 29 is the European launch date, with the Canadian release slated for this summer.

Here’s the full list of specs for the GS III:

Network

2.5G (GSM/ GPRS/ EDGE): 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz
3G (HSPA+ 21Mbps): 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 MHz
4G (Dependent on market)

Display

4.8 inch HD Super AMOLED (1280×720) display

OS

Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)

Camera

Main(Rear): 8 Mega pixel Auto Focus camera with Flash & Zero Shutter Lag, BIS
Sub (Front): 1.9 Mega pixel camera, HD recording @30fps with Zero Shutter Lag, BIS

Video

Codec: MPEG4, H.264, H.263, DivX, DivX3.11, VC-1, VP8, WMV7/8, Sorenson Spark
Recording & Playback: Full HD (1080p)

Audio

Codec: MP3, AMR-NB/WB, AAC/AAC+/eAAC+, WMA, OGG, FLAC, AC-3, apt-X

Additional
Features

S Beam, Buddy photo share, Share shot
AllShare Play, AllShare Cast
Smart stay, Social tag, Group tag, Face zoom, Face slide show
Direct call, Smart alert, Tap to top, Camera quick access
Pop up play
S Voice
Burst shot & Best photo, Recording snapshot, HDR

Google Mobile Services

Google Search, Google Maps, Gmail, Google Latitude
Google Play Store, Google Play Books, Google Play Movies
Google Plus, YouTube, Google Talk,
Google Places, Google Navigation, Google Downloads

Connectivity

WiFi a/b/g/n, WiFi HT40
GPS/GLONASS
NFC
Bluetooth® 4.0(LE)

Sensor

Accelerometer, RGB light, Digital compass, Proximity, Gyro, Barometer

Memory

16/ 32GB User memory (64GB available soon) + microSD slot (up to 64GB)

Dimension

136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm, 133g

Battery

2,100 mAh
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Apple to debut iPad 3 in March, 2012

Details are thin, but AllThingsD writer John Paczkowski is reporting that next iPad will be unveiled next month at a special event in San Francisco and the betting is that the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts will be the venue as it has been for previous Apple events.

The launch is expected for the first week of the month, and while no dates have been leaked for retail availability, based on Apple’s track record it’s conceivable that the first units will ship in early April.

In case you haven’t been following the non-stop trail of Apple rumours in recent weeks, check out Marc Saltzman’s post on the all of the features and specs the tech community expects to see in an iPad 3.

Will the next magical and revolutionary device from Cupertino be a must-have gadget? That will really depend on who you are.

As we’ve seen from the progression of Apple’s iPhone models, a certain leap-frog mentality accompanies each successive model. In other words, iPhone 4 owners for the most part didn’t see the iPhone 4S as necessary upgrade, but iPhone 3GS owners and those who had never bought an iPhone before were probably very enticed by the 4S’s features.

It’s very likely that Apple will continue this formula with the iPad 3 – it will have enough new features that an original iPad owner will feel the urge to trade up, but iPad 2 owners won’t feel that their tablet has just been rendered obsolete.

It’s a fine line, but one that Apple walks with unparalleled success.

[Source: AllThingsD]

Samsung Galaxy Nexus hits Bell, Virgin on December 8th

Given that it’s going to be the first device in Canada to come equipped with the latest version of Android – Ice Cream Sandwich to those of you in the know – it’s fair to say there’s a good amount of anticipation surrounding the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which was confirmed to be arriving on Bell and Virgin’s networks.

And now we know when and how much: December 8th is the date you’ll be able to take your place in line at participating retailers to grab one of these smartphones before the holidays and it will cost $159.95 on a new three-year term.

I know, I know – another line. I’m not a big fan of lining up either. Heck, I will intentionally wait weeks after a movie opens if it means I can avoid a line up for tickets.

So I’m a little intrigued by this new concept (at least I think it’s new) that Bell has cooked up called a “Bell Twitter line up.”

It works like this:

If you want the Samsung Galaxy Nexus on launch day, but you do not want to go and physically line up at a store, you can do your lining up a week earlier, and from the comfort of your home or office. But you’ll need a Twitter account and reliable internet access to do it.

On Thursday December 1st, hit Bell’s sign-up website between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. EST. If you’re one of the first 100 people to sign-in, you’ll be given a pre-populated tweet that you will then need to tweet from your account immediately. You must then check back in to the site every hour that day until 10 p.m. and repeat the process. This is how you will “stay in line.” At 10 p.m., if you’ve successfully tweeted the required tweets during the day, Bell will get in touch with you and arrange the shipping and payment.

Follow this process to the letter and your Samsung Galaxy Nexus will be shipped to the (Canadian) address of your choice and arrive the same day as the phone goes on sale (December 8th). No line ups, you don’t have to take the day off work or leave your kids or even miss your favourite TV show, and you’ll get your phone on the same day as those who had to line up. Not a bad option.

So Sync readers, does this idea of a virtual line up work for you? Or will you go the tried-and-true route and take your chances at a retail location?

Disclosure: Sync is owned and operated by Bell Media, a wholly owned subsidiary of BCE Inc.

In photos: Sony’s Android tablets, the S1 and S2

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Sony Canada confirms that these sleek-looking devices are indeed headed our way. No word on price so far, but they’re due to hit stores “in the fall,” but definitely in time for the holiday season. Obviously as soon as we get our hands on one (or both), we’ll let you know how they stack up against the iPad, PlayBook but more importantly, the other Android tablets beginning to flood the market.

Read the full story

Samsung Nexus S Google phone coming to Canada in April

Last year, Google broke new ground in the mobile space when they announced the “Google phone” which was to become known as the Nexus 1. HTC built the handset but Google took the unusual step of marketing it directly to consumers from their own e-commerce website.

And while this “selling direct” model didn’t last long (Google eventually stopped selling this way and partnered with Best Buy in the U.S. to sell the phone) the Google phone itself has continued to evolve.

And while Canada missed out on the first version The latest iteration is the Nexus S. This time around it’s built by Samsung (that’s the ‘S’ part of the name) and if you’ve ever used Samsung’s Galaxy S smartphone, you’ll feel right at home with the Nexus S. The two phones share much in common, including the dazzling Super AMOLED screen, which is incredibly vivid. But there are some significant differences too. The Nexus S has a slightly curved screen – curved from top to bottom, not side to side. Samsung claims this not only makes the phone more comfortable to hold as it matches the contour of your head and hand, but also helps to improve visibility by better handling reflections off the glossy surface of the screen.

The other big difference is that while the handset itself is 100% Samsung, the OS is 100% Google. Unlike other Samsung phones running Android and in fact unlike *any* other Android phone from other manufacturers, the Nexus S has no 3rd party software on it whatsoever. No TouchWiz or other manufacturer layer on top of Android, no third party app store like Samsung Apps, and no carrier apps (such as carrier-specific GPS apps) pre-loaded.

The whole user interface is unadulterated Android Gingerbread. Now, depending on your experiences with other Android devices this may or may not be a good thing. If you’ve come to enjoy the extras that TouchWiz or HTC Sense bring to Android, you won’t find them on the Nexus S. One of the biggest downsides to this in my opinion is the lack of the superb “Swype” application that gives users a whole new (and I think far more efficient) way of inputting text from the on-screen keyboard.

On the upside – and many folks will be delighted with this – there is no longer an middle man between you and upgrades to your mobile OS from Google. As soon as Google releases an update for Android, it will be available to Nexus S users.

This positions the Nexus S as the ultimate smartphone for those who simply must have the latest upgrades and can’t stand the idea of waiting while the manufacturer figures out all of the compatibility issues with their proprietary software. When you hear people refer to the Nexus as a “Google phone” – that’s why. The hardware might be Samsung, but everything else is Google.

Interestingly, both carriers and Samsung will provide first-line tech support for the Nexus S, only handing off to Google if they can’t resolve the problem themselves.

Speaking of carriers, the Nexus S represents the first time a new handset will launch simultaneously on every provider in Canada. And I mean *every* carrier. In addition to the big three (Bell, TELUS, Rogers) there will be a version for WIND and Mobilicity too and Videotron in Quebec. This is unusual if only because most manufacturers release their GSM (or EVDO) versions first, and then only after an initial exclusivity period move on to the AWS version – that is if they do one at all.

I know you’re probably itching for a firm launch date and price point but Samsung wasn’t offering either up when I met with them today. All they would say is “early April.”
They did mention that in addition to the usual batch of carrier store locations, there would be a big retail partner too. Your guess is as good as mine.

I’ve got a demo unit in my hands as I write this, so you can expect a full review as soon as I’ve put the device through its paces. In the meantime, here are some images to keep you entertained as well as this link to Engadget’s review of the U.S. Nexus S.

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iPad 2 launches in black and white, along with iOS 4.3

image courtesy of AppleOnce again, and despite being on medical leave from Apple, Steve Jobs took the stage to debut the latest iteration of the iPad – the device that single-handedly started a gadget category which it has since come to dominate.

Our very own Marc Saltzman was at the event and got some hands-on time with the iPad 2. Here’s his initial impressions:

And here’s the rundown on what was announced at the event in San Francisco today:

Apple's optional digital AV adapter which enables HDMI output from i-devices

” iPad 2″ officially announced (starting at $499 USD avail. March 11 for U.S., March 25th for most other countries including Canada)

  • A5 dual-core processor
  • “Dramatically faster” says Jobs
  • 2x faster CPU
  • 9x faster Graphics
  • front and rear cameras with the same specs as the iPod Touch (VGA front, 720p rear)
  • same gyroscope as the iPhone and iPod Touch
  • 8.8 mm thick – that’s thinner than an iPhone 4, 1.3 lbs vs. iPad 1’s 1.5 lbs
  • comes in white and black (yes white is actually available this time)
  • same price points as first iPad
  • optional HDMI accessory that enables 1080p output. Good news is that this cable is apparently compatible with a host of iDevices and not just the iPad 2.
  • specially designed magnetic case available which has a microfiber inner lining to clean the screen. Also sleeps and wakes the iPad 2.

iOS 4.3 officially released:

  • Faster web browsing
  • Improved home sharing
  • AirPlay improvements: Photos get all slideshow options, audio and video can be done from all apps and websites too.
  • Personal hotspot for iPhone 4 users
  • Lock switch can be customized: rotation lock or mute function
  • New PhotoBooth software for camera-equipped devices
  • FaceTime now supports the iPad 2, iPhone 4, iPod Touch and any Mac with an isight/facetime camera
  • available March 11

– iMovie for iPad ($4.99, March 11)

– GarageBand for iPad ($4.99 March 11) lets you plug in a guitar and turns your iPad into an 8-track recording studio. It also has a wild selection of virtual instruments you can play, most of which have “magic” options that help you out if you don’t know how to play a single note.

There you have it. Now for some initial impressions while we wait for some hands-on video from Marc…

Is this a must-have upgrade for current iPad owners?

No. In typical Apple fashion, the iPad 2 represents a logical yet incremental set of improvements on an already very well thought-out device. Making it thinner, lighter and faster were must-have improvements in order to make sure that anyone thinking of buying a competing product would keep the iPad at the top of their wish list. Same thing with the dual cameras. Given that every other tablet maker has these features, Apple had to ante-up. But none of these improvements should be driving current iPad owners to list their devices on eBay. Instead, the iPad 2 should be seen as the iPad for those who decided to hold off on the whole tablet space when the original iPad was announced.

The new magnetic case that Apple has designed specifically for the iPad 2

Here in our office, there was a lot of consensus that the lack of cameras was a problem on the initial iPad. Now that they’re included, I think a lot of people who didn’t buy in the first round and have been quietly envying those who did, can now jump on the bandwagon and smugly declare “See? I told you you should have waited” while current owners can equally say “Yeah, yeah, I’m waiting for the iPad 3.” which, given the pervasive rumours, might just be the next big thing from Cupertino.

Interestingly, the original iPad is no longer for sale on Apple’s U.S. site. Yet you can still buy one in Canada and the prices have dropped: It’s now $419 for the base 16GB Wi-Fi model

Curious how the iPad 2 stacks up in the specs department compared to its closest competitors? Engadget has you covered.

What about iOS 4.3?

As a current iPad / iPhone 4 owner, this announcement is almost more exciting. I’ve known for a while that the new OS will enable personal hotspotting on the iPhone – something which I have been eager for. See, I decided to buy the Wi-Fi only iPad, based on the logic that I would be using it mainly at home or at the office, both places where I have Wi-Fi. But there have been times when I’ve regretted that decision. Now, all I need to do is turn on the hotspot on my iPhone and voila – instant connectivity for my iPad or any other Wi-Fi device. Nice! I am however a little confused by Apple’s press release on the enhancement: “The new Personal Hotspot feature in iOS 4.3 lets you bring Wi-Fi with you anywhere you go, by allowing you to share an iPhone 4 cellular data connection with up to five devices in a combination of up to three Wi-Fi, three Bluetooth and one USB device.” I’ll have to check this out when it gets released to see if this really means only 3 Wi-Fi connections. Most other devices that have this feature including the Palm (HP) Pre 2, allow up to 5 Wi-Fi connections.

Also, letting apps and websites run audio and video through AirPlay is a huge improvement. AirPlay lets you stream content from your iOS device to your Apple TV, but until now, the only apps that could do this were the embedded audio, video and photos apps. Want to stream any other app? You were out of luck. Great improvement here.

Hot rumour: iPad 2 to be formally announced March 2

We sincerely hope we’re not just spreading an unsubstantiated rumour here, but we just can’t resist: The next Apple iPad will be given its formal unveiling at an event slated for March 2.

Our source is none other that the Wall Street Journal, specifically Kara Swisher reporting for her column Boomtown.  In her article she claims the information comes from “multiple sources.” Is this news you can take to the bank? Probably – the tech blogosphere certainly seems to think so. My own “sources” tell me that Apple has been discretely asking tech journalists about their availability and willingness to travel around March 2, and while that’s no proof of a second iPad, it means something is going down.

What are the pundits expecting Apple to announce? Here’s the laundry list of possible enhancements to the world’s favourite tablet:

  • A faster processor
  • thinner, lighter frame/chassis
  • dual cameras (front and rear-facing)
  • support for both HSPA+ and CDMA networks in the 3G model
  • SD card slot
  • built-in video-out capability via a micro DisplayPort or micro HDMI
  • higher resolution screen (possibly based on the Retina display technology that Apple debuted in the iPhone 4 and iPod Touch last year)

Personally I think the odds are very good on the cameras as these have become standard on every tablet to emerge since the first iPad. Thinner and lighter would be good bets as well. I would LOVE to see an SD card slot, but I’m on the fence as to whether I think Apple will deliver on this. The least likely feature in my opinion is the higher-resolution screen. It was bad enough that Apple made developers re-code their apps to make them iPad-friendly the first time, and then again on the iPhone 4. Another resolution change will drive them nuts. That said – if Apple does add some kind of built-in video output, it wouldn’t surprise me if they enabled 720p playback via this port. The current iPad is limited to 540p via the dock connector and Apple’s component cable. Here’s hoping that if they do go this route, they use HDMI as the interface and not DisplayPort. DisplayPort is ideal for running external monitors from a laptop or desktop PC, but the iPad isn’t being used for that. It’s a movie, web and YouTube device and as such, it needs a consumer standard for audio and video. regardless how Steve Jobs feels about HDMI – it’s the standard everyone runs at home.

So readers, are you excited by this news? Couldn’t care less? And which features are you hoping for on the next edition of the iPad?

Update, Feb 23, 5:50 p.m.: Well now there’s no doubt is there?  Invitations have officially gone out. Here’s the teaser… complete with an iPad reference…