Posts tagged Samsung
Posts tagged Samsung
I have quite the track record with Android.
Bought a HTC G1 aka HTC Dream in November 2008, a T-Mobile Vibrant (Galaxy S) at launch in 2010 and now a Galaxy Nexus, also at launch. I’ve been one of the G1’s numerous beta testers, (bravely) relying on a half-baked OS as a daily driver. I also witnessed Samsung’s many failings, mostly leaving the Vibrant stuck with Android 2.2 and shipping a very buggy OS, unstable and prone to bizarre behavior.
The G1. This was the definition of cool if you were a geek in late 2008
Still, I love Android. From the very beginning, Android offered me the same qualities of Windows Mobile (customization, flexibility, freedom) with none of its limitations (resistive interface, terrible browser, lack of apps). The Vibrant, warts and all, made me a believer. While deeply flawed, the performance was well-ahead of my first Android phone (the G1), a thoroughly modern “superphone” capable of running circles around the the barely adequate hardware found in Google’s first Android phone. And that screen… Super AMOLED rocked my world.
Which brings us to the Galaxy Nexus, Google latest halo device and the first Android 4.0 device in the world.
One of the wallpapers shipping with the Galaxy Nexus, a perfect showing of Super AMOLED power
The Galaxy Nexus is a beautiful phone. The design is clean, organic and devoid of any logos/trademarks above and below the (massive) screen. Monolithic-looking when off (think 2001: A Space Odyssey), the Galaxy Nexus is a black slab of high-grade plastic built around a rigid metal frame, giving it the feel of a premium device.
My phone stays inside a hard case, so I don’t really deal with the back cover. I hear it’s “plasticky,” like most Samsung phones, obviously far behind the chic glass in the iPhone 4S. The back cover is a non-issue for me.
Being a native Android 4.0 device, the Galaxy Nexus doesn’t have any physical buttons. Of course, it does have a power button and volume slider but no Back, Menu, Home or Search buttons like previous Android phones. The power button is more solid than the one on the Galaxy S. Same for the volume slider. In general, the phone feels great in the hand and it’s also very light.
Those looking for Galaxy S III-grade specs on the Galaxy Nexus will be disappointed. Nexus devices were never about specs alone; the Nexus One was the fastest Android phone in the planet for a whole month. Likewise, the Galaxy S II has a much faster GPU than the Galaxy Nexus, the Mali-400. In the Galaxy Nexus, the PowerVR SGX540 GPU found in the Galaxy S makes an appearance once again, albeit running at 384 MHz this time. The CPU on the other hand is among the fastest circa Q4 2011, an OMAP 4460 with two cores running at 1.2 GHz.
Then, the screen. Allegedly the first true HD display on a smartphone, the 720p Super AMOLED panel in the Galaxy Nexus is quite a sight. Bright, colorful and over-sized, the 4.65-inch display puts most smartphones to shame. The iPhone 4S looks like a toy next to a Galaxy Nexus at full brightness. However, this is a PenTile display we’re talking about. At low brightness grays get muddy, with a textured look, and vertical lines stretching from the top of the screen to the very bottom are easily observed. Some consider it a huge issue, going as far as returning the phone but it doesn’t bother me. I love it so far, with the added sharpness of 720 lines of resolution making reading ebooks and browsing the web easy on the eyes.
My home screen. I like how folders keep everything organized. Top notch icon design as well
But is it fast? I’m used to the typical Android slowness, where the OS fails to respond to touch, freezes or goes to sleep — never to return. Both the G1 and the Vibrant suffered from those ailments. Well well well… Consider it fixed. This phone is not fast… It’s insanely, back-pressed-against-the-seat fast. Smooth as butter, eerily similar to iOS devices like the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4S and oh-so-different from all Android devices before it. It has never kept me waiting and 1.5 weeks after buying it, I have never had to restart it. No SD card? No problem. If that’s the price for out-of-this-world performance, I’m all for it.
The camera on the Galaxy Nexus is a 5.1 megapixel unit. Sadly, it is not the second coming of Christ — the one on the Galaxy S II, an 8 megapixel unit, is still the king among Android smartphones. The camera is very fast, though: no startup lag, no lag between shots. On top of that, the built-in editing tools are easy to use and effective. Finally, uploading pictures to the cloud with Instant Upload and Google+ is a piece of cake. The camera could be better, yes, but I deem it good enough.
Starbucks in December. The camera is no slouch, but not “awesome” either
Since this is the LTE version, it would be a major omission not to talk about Verizon’s network and battery life. If you never tried an LTE phone, prepare to be amazed. It’s 2 to 3 times faster than my home connection, a 10 MB cable modem. Some have clocked it past 40 Mbps down and almost 20 Mbps up. It redefines “mobile connectivity” — sites load in an instant and streaming high-quality YouTube videos is never an issue. At the same time, however, the LTE modem requires a fair amount of CPU usage, resulting in reduced battery life when compared with the GSM version. I get about 6 hours of “screen time” (everything on, listening to music and browsing the web) and around 20 hours or so of standby. I’m a power user and play with the phone a lot, so others might see better performance from the battery. Still, it’s not like 4G is required 24/7. If I know I’ll be out for a whole day — or the whole night — I can simply turn 4G off and fall back to Verizon’s 3G network. It’s no speed demon, but more than enough for email/browsing and maybe even Google Music streaming.
ANDROID 4.0 aka Ice Cream Sandwich
The latest version of Android is old news at this point, with literally hundreds of blog posts dissecting the OS back in November (and a very detailed write-up on Ars Technica). I’ll approach Android 4.0 from the point of view of someone stuck in Android 2.2 instead, focusing on the main differences — and improvements — in Ice Cream Sandwich.
The Recent Apps button makes it easy to switch between applications with live snapshots
Android 2.2 was a milestone release for Android, unlike 2.1. FroYo featured Wi-Fi tethering for the first time, as well as Dalvik JIT compiling and proper Exchange support. It was much faster than 2.1. I know from experience because the Vibrant shipped with 2.1; the performance boost attributed to 2.2 was certainly there. In short, Android 2.2 was a great release, maybe the greatest before Android 4.0.
If my Vibrant had “stock” Android, maybe it would end there. But Samsung messed with it, added TouchWiz and, in short, broke a lot of stuff. As a result my phone was always a mess. Freezes were common, SD cards (two, one acting as internal storage) had to be “read” every time I deleted/added a file — and at every boot — or the phone would suddenly slow to a crawl for no reason. Occasionally — and often — it would crash when running Google Maps. I once had to do a battery pull while stuck in traffic (!)
Android 4.0, up to now, is a revelation. Streamlined, fast and stable, it’s very Apple-like without the annoying Apple limitations. It just works. No crashes, not a single one (I know I’m repeating myself, but it’s a big deal). Smooth scrolling, perfect multitasking — a big improvement over all previous Android versions — and Google apps redesigned to make things easier while giving the user more control. I really can’t put into words how much better Android 4.0 is.
Android 3.0 introduced true dual-core compatibility at the OS level. Android 4.0 made it perfect with hardware acceleration for the interface. Finally, Android is as responsive as iOS. I haven’t had enough “street time” with the phone (using it in public) but I’m already planning on showing it off to friends and family, particularly those carrying with fast-but-tiny iPhone 4S’s. No wonder Joshua Topolsky, editor-in-chief at The Verge, bought one.
The icing on the cake is the newly-added Data Usage feature plus goodies like NFC (near field communication) and Face Unlock. Android 4.0 is an embarrassment of riches for Android users.
This is the best Android phone ever made — period. As hard as I try, I can’t find anything wrong with it. Old Android annoyances have been fixed, performance is mind-boggling and the phone looks and feels great in the hand. It’s a tour de force, the new standard in smartphones and what they can achieve in software, hardware and design.
If you have an upgrade approaching, this is your next phone. If you have an iPhone 4, this is your chance to switch to Android without making compromises. The iPhone 4S might have the performance edge for now, but Android 4.0 is a game-changer on its own right, before even looking at the top-notch hardware assembled by Samsung.
The Galaxy Nexus is a must-buy and it gets a 9/10.
Before Apple versus Android there was Sony versus everyone else. Decades prior to Apple suing Samsung for copyright infringement, Apple was the one learning everything they could from Sony, from design to factory uniforms… and beyond.
We are now used to the idea that Apple offers the best product design, app store and mobile gaming on touchscreen devices. While the Cupertino powerhouse might sometimes lag behind high-end Android phones in the specs department (hello 720p and NFC), we can’t deny Apple’s commanding presence in the marketplace, from its passionate fan base to seemingly unbeatable design and usability.
Just like Sony in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
The Walter Isaacson bio on Steve Jobs tells us that Jobs was a huge fan of Sony. He went as far as trying to implement the uniforms policy seen in Sony’s factories back at Apple. Jobs recognized Sony as an engineering and design leader, the company to beat in consumer electronics. And he knew as far back as the mid-1980s that Apple’s future was not in personal computers but on consumer electronics. That’s the principle that dictated the design of both Apple II and, later on, the Macintosh. They were made to look like appliances – which explains the presence of oversized handles on both the Mac and the iMac G3.
The colorful iMac G3
Apple also witnessed Sony’s rise as video gaming giant. They saw the value of being in control of a single, far-reaching platform welcoming developers from all corners of the world. Sony was a trusted brand with a pedigree in electronics, which allowed it to leverage disruptive technologies like 3D-accelerated graphics and CD-ROM drives to dominate console gaming for a decade. Gaming was the last thing in Steve Jobs mind (Wozniak was the gamer after all) but he would soon realize how powerful gaming would be for the iPhone and, later on, the iPad.
Founded in 1946, Sony revolutionized three industries in a row: home video (the ill-fated Betamax VCR), music (the Walkman) and gaming (the PlayStation). Much like today’s Apple, Sony was lean, fiercely competitive, nimble and home for the best engineering in the world. Sony was “Master of the Analogue,” according to Sea-Jin Chang in Sony vs Samsung: The Inside Story of the Electronics Giants’ Battle For Global Supremacy.
Sony was able to develop and successfully market three waves of consumer electronics:
Betamax: while they lost the from a consumer point-of-view (and despite inventing home video recording as we know it), Betamax was a winner with professional users. Beta SP was the most popular format among broadcasters and production companies for decades.
Walkman: it was created on a whim, at the request of one of Sony’s founders. He wanted to be able to listen to music during long transcontinental flights and didn’t care for a built-in speaker like the ones found in transistor radios. The rest is history – the Walkman was the iPod of its generation.
PlayStation: launched in 1994 in Japan and 1995 elsewhere, Sony’s first game console forever changed the industry. While not analog by any means, the PlayStation’s high-end DSPs and audiophile-grade components owe their existence to Sony’s experience in the home. Fast three-dimensional graphics, a CD-ROM drive and low media costs allowed it to take the industry by storm and severely cripple Sega in the process.
The first Sony Walkman, model name TPS-L2
Sony was Steve Jobs’ role model for what a successful consumer electronics firm should be like. They believed in “betting the farm” on new technologies, investing millions in R&D and even moving ahead of the market if necessary (with the failed MiniDisc format). At the same time, Sony’s penchant for sci-fi-looking VCRs with menacing LEDs and an assortment of functions were clearly an example of misguided creativity. Sony VCRs were anything but simple; they were designed to impress consumers and mock VHS decks, not be friendly to the touch – or welcoming. Jobs would learn from Sony’s mistaken understanding of the need for complexity to revolutionize personal computing and, later on, smartphones and tablets.
A “simple” SuperBeta deck
Samsung Electronics is part of a huge conglomerate; South Korea’s largest, in fact.
Founded in 1969, Samsung Electronics built black-&-white TVs (it didn’t have the expertise to build color TVs), microwave ovens, air conditioning systems, etc. No “halo” products, no design/engineering masterpieces like a Sony Trinitron TV set or Walkman-like personal media device. In 1984, as VHS manufacturers were about to deal a final blow to Betamax (and almost 10 years after the introduction of home VCRs), Samsung finally launched its first VCR in the United States. However, due to quality issues it was often used as a loss leader.
An ancient portable TV set built by Samsung
The Korean behemoth was VERY strong on semiconductors, however. In the 1980s, the company decided to move towards developing and manufacturing DRAM modules for PCs. This move completely changed the game for Samsung; it now had a footing in the semiconductor business, which would explode in the 1990s thanks to Windows 95 and the Internet.
The move to digital devices, where SoCs (system-on-a-chip) replace sophisticated analog boards, took out Sony’s main competitive advantage, expertise in analog engineering, allowing Samsung to finally defeat long-time rival Sony.
Samsung versus Apple
Sony is a company in trouble. The latest financial numbers point to a Q2 loss of $1.6 billion. The only bright spots are the PlayStation division and mobile – which might also lose money next quarter due to the Ericsson buyout.
Apple learned from Sony and overtook it. Samsung is attempting to do the same to Apple. The battleground is smartphones, where Android manufacturers are now on a fight to the death with Apple over intellectual property. Samsung learned about the value of marketing, premium products and advanced product design from Apple. It embraced Android. It builds the beautiful AMOLED screens that power Galaxy class devices along with the A5 SoC found in both iPhone 4S AND iPad 2. Finally, Samsung has now overtaken Apple as the world’s top seller of smartphones with almost 30 million units shipped last quarter.
Apple knows Samsung’s goal is to dethrone it as the world’s most valuable company. After all, that’s what Apple did to Sony, even before its long-awaited “smart TV” is unveiled to the public. The iPod replaced the Walkman. Macbooks replaced VAIO laptops. The iPhone replaced Sony’s smartphones, PSPs and digital cameras/camcorders.
Apple and Samsung learned from the best – Sony – and are now on relatively equal footing on key areas: technology, marketing, market penetration. 2010 was a warm-up year for Samsung with the original Galaxy S. 2011 saw the first real gains, with the Galaxy S II taking the world by storm. The real battle will take place in 2012.
The Galaxy Nexus, Samsung’s not-so-secret weapon against the iPhone
Stay tuned — and make sure to share your thoughts in the comments :)
Yesterday, Network World shocked the Internet with a report that, allegedly, Samsung had installed a keylogger in its R series of laptops.
The whistleblower was a security researcher named Mohammed Hassan of NetSec. In the Network World piece, he explained how two computers he bought, both R series, carried within the commercial keylogger StarLogger. A company rep confirmed its existence on the phone after he called customer service to complain.
Needless to say, Network World’s scoop was quickly covered by many popular blogs like Engadget and ReadWriteWeb. It was about to go supernova today as consumer publications and daily newspapers joined the fray.
The opposite happened. A day after the original post went up, we finally found out it was a false-positive. It turns out Sunbelt’s Vipre (not mentioned in the original Network World piece) mistook a language-specific folder within Windows for an actual keylogger.
I’ve been thinking about this episode a lot. I would like to share some conclusions with you.
1. Why did Network World choose to publish Mr. Hassan’s findings?
2. Why did it take so long for Samsung to address the problem?
3. Why did the other blogs cover the story as well?
In the end, I think there were three main factors that made this into a story. They were:
a) Mr. Hassan didn’t scan his PC with a second security suite. He didn’t submit his findings to a tech support community forum either — including Sunbelt’s. I still can’t fathom how a security expert didn’t think it would be wise to seek a second opinion before accusing Samsung publicly.
b) If what Mr. Hassan wrote is true, a Samsung rep confirmed his suspicions. What probably happened was that the rep didn’t understand what he was referring to. If Samsung had put Mr. Hassan in touch with a high-level manager right away, maybe they would have avoided the whole thing.
c) Samsung PR failed to respond on a timely fashion. They should have gone back to Network World right away, literally a week ago. It would have been easy then to defuse the situation. There’s no excuse for not getting back to a member of the press immediately in a situation like this.
Finally, I would like to do a mea culpa here: when I tweeted about this yesterday, I should have made it clear it was alleged — that Samsung was being accused of something, not that they were automatically guilty. That was my fault and I apologize.
We all have much to learn from this. Let me hear your thoughts in the comments!
I love it when engineers leave easter eggs behind. Even better when you need an electron microscope to see them.
[BTW, the chipworks blog is seriously awesome. Make sure to visit them from time to time]
The first tablet to actually rival an iPad. You can quote me on that :)
I am now the proud owner of a Samsung Vibrant, a Galaxy-S phone on T-Mobile. Thanks to an early upgrade, it’s replacing a G1 bought in November 2008, roughly a week after launch. This blog entry will go over the 1-week experience with the phone, both good and bad :)
The original T-Mobile G1, the world’s first Android phone:
I truly loved my G1. However, it was quickly moving into the “collectible” category — not a good place to be if you’re a smartphone! The Samsung Vibrant that replaced it:
My Vibrant was bought at launch - July 15, 2010. I was the very first to buy a Vibrant at that particular store (the one on Wilshire Blvd and 4th in Santa Monica). Incidentally, it was the same store where I bought my G1 in 2008. Here’s the picture taken by my salesperson, Daniel:
Samsung Vibrant top specs:
This phone is a beast. Super-fast, beautiful screen, killer gaming performance thanks to the late-gen GPU. Very light, too. On the other hand, the GPS is useless and badly in need of a firmware update. Avatar for free and built-in support for divx, xvid and DNLA doesn’t hurt either.
(source for pics: IntoMobile’s review of the Samsung Vibrant)
This was a major upgrade from someone coming from a G1. My G1 was a slug with its outdated 528 Mhz processor and 192 MB RAM. It had a whopping 256 MB of ROM, *total*, resulting in less than 200 MB for app storage. The ROM size was also responsible for the G1’s addiction to Android 1.6 :)
I LOVE the screen. Never seen anything more beautiful. Even direct sunlight doesn’t faze it. In general, the phone is a dream come true as far as gadgets go, especially if you’re an early adopter like me. Battery life is great, giving me well-over a day of use (contrary to what Engadget says). I actually think it’s feasible to go TWO days on a single charge.
At the same time, the issue with the GPS is a serious one. Even after the famed GPS fix, it still lost signal at least four times in a quick getaway to Ojai. My wife’s iPhone 3GS had a strong, stable GPS signal the whole time. I also ran into trouble with a media server app that slowed things to a crawl — and made me fear (and consider) a factory data reset.
The latter is the price we pay for freedom in Android: the risk of defective (or malicious) apps single-handedly crippling the phone. As devices become more powerful — keep in mind that the Vibrant is faster than an editing rig bought in 2000, a screaming PC in its own right — users will tend to push them harder and harder. We’ll install desktop-class apps — or something “really cool” we found on the web. This particular episode was the only time, ever, that I longed for Apple’s closed garden approach. Thankfully, I uninstalled the app, the operating system sorted itself out after a couple of reboots and the problem disappeared on its own.
In the end, I think the Galaxy-S line fully realizes the potential of the platform. My phone makes me immensely happy — way more than the G1. If this is where Android is going, I can’t imagine what a Gingerbread phone w/ 1 GB RAM and a dual-core CPU can do. Apple doesn’t stand a chance :)
How about you? Are you getting any of the Galaxy-S phones? Did you buy a Vibrant — or Captivate on AT&T? Are you waiting for the Fascinate (Verizon) or Epic 4G on Sprint? Share your thoughts in the comments section!