Watch Out – Samsung Galaxy Gear S2 is on the way.

Samsung is expected to make a triumphant return to the smartwatch category with its latest wearable device, the Gear S2 watch which will hit the market in New Zealand before the end of the year.

Reflecting the aesthetic of a traditional wristwatch, the Samsung Gear S2 features a circular display with customisable watch faces and a unique rotating bezel. It is designed with everyday use in mind, and integrates with any Android smartphone running Android 4.4 and above with 1.5GB of ram or more.

The Samsung Gear S2 comes in a versatile, circular design with an intuitive, custom UX and advanced features that enable users to enhance, personalize and bring more fun to their mobile experience. The watch has a unique rotating bezel, along with the Home and Back buttons, which ensures users will have a quicker, more precise method to comfortably access notifications and applications.

In New Zealand, the Gear S2 is schedule for launch in late October 2015 but the price is yet to be announced.

Website: www.samsung.com/nz

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LG G4 comes to New Zealand

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LG’s next great smartphone, the LG G4 has made it to New Zealand.  The cool smartphone with the natty, full-grain leather jacket comes with a bunch of distinguishing features including:

  • A 16 megapixel rear camera with an F1.8 lens for better pictures in low light situations.
  • An infrared-sensitive colour spectrum sensor that analyses and measures all of the visible light within a scene before a shot is snapped.
  • An IPS Display that produces high-contrast, vibrant images.
  • The G4 also comes with a selection of premium back covers that come in textured grey and full grain leather in black or brown.
  • Unlike competitors like the iPhone 6 and the Samsung S6 the G4 features a removable battery and a micro-SD card slot, something Android fans have long come to expect.

As you can see from the shots below the G4 has a larger screen.  At 5.5 inches it is the same size as the iPhone 6 Plus but not as large as the 5.7 inch Samsung Galaxy Note 4, my current phone of choice.

This particular selection of phones is quite interesting because of the difference in colour reproduction.  The G4 like the G3 before it has quite a clean but cool look about it.  The Samsung Note 4 with it’s Super Amoled screen has richer colours which puts people off (but I like it).  The iPhone is perhaps the Goldilocks phone because its colour rendering is just right.

The G4 display is Quad HD however and there’s no mistaking the detail and the quality of the image or video reproduction.

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From the front it is hard to tell the difference between the G4 and the other phones, but flip it over and you’ll notice the rear mounted on/off switch and volume rockers.  Of course you will also notice that distinctive genuine leather-skinned back panel.

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Summary:

I’m often asked which phone I would recommend and every month I find it harder and harder to pick one phone.  Todays consumer is spoiled for choice as the top notch phones just become more consistent and packed with features.

So what would I say about the LG G4?  It has a unique look about it which makes it stand out from the competition.  The rear mounted controls also give it a point of difference and you can’t go past the quality of the screen and camera.

I like the fact you can change the battery out (if you are one of those people who are paranoid about power and like carrying a spare battery) and the fact that you can add in an SD card.

If you definitely want an Android phone, and want to stand out from the crowd (a little bit)  then the G4 should be in your consideration set as it is one of the best high end phones on the market in 2015.

– New Zealand RRP: $1199

– Launch stockists: Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi & 2 Degrees
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Big is Good – Samsung’s 2015 SUHD TV Range

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Curved large screen TV’s are so hot right now, but the debate rages as to whether that curve adds to the viewing pleasure or is merely a gimmick.

One authoritative voice who should know about this is Netflix’s Chief Product Officer, Neil Hunt.  He published a post last week that essentially said curves are good because they help ensure that pixels are presented at right angles to the viewer, improving clarity. Well he puts it better than that (you can see his post here) but I think I’m convinced.

I’ve certainly become a convert with the Samsung SUHD curved TV I have been testing for the past month. The picture is amazing thanks to the nano crystal colour technology (Samsung’s term for what others call quantum dot) and the colour reproduction which is 64 times better than conventional Samsung TV’s.

This is after all a TV which retails for over $6,000 and with that price tag you can be sure of getting something much better than the average.  Beyond the stunning ultra high definition (4K) screen some of the other standout features are:

  • The minimalist and modern design which they say mimics contemporary art and architecture in a curved, stylish body.
  • The easy to use Tizen operating system which provides quick and easy access to TV functions.
  • The large range of apps which include Netflix, Youtube, TVNZ and Mediaworks On Demand for extra video content.
  • Rugby heads will love the Rugby Mode feature which allows viewers to stop, rewind, replay game highlights, zoom in on camera angles, and essentially be the referee in their own living room, just in time for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

I’ve tried a number of curved 4K TV’s in the past and I’ve found them pretty overpowering.  In the same way Family Guy’s Peter Griffin disliked the Godfather (“it insists upon itself”) I felt that the big screen curved TV’s demanded you noticed them and drew you out of the moment.

Somehow Samsung have addressed this issue with the 2015 SUHDTV; you just enjoy looking at the beautiful content, and it’s only after you turn off the TV that you notice how lovely the screen’s form factor is.   It will certainly be missed when the review period finishes and we have to go back to “normal” high definition viewing.

Samsung are offering three new series of SUHD TVs – JS9500, JS9000 and JS8000 – in six screen sizes from 55-inches to 78-inches.

Here are some pics to show the TV in situ:

From the side you can really make out the arc of the curve.

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Head on, the effect of the curve is almost subliminal.  Here you can also see the operating system (based on the Tizen software platform). 20150628_095927

There are a number of apps preloaded (including Netflix) and hundreds more available to download when connected to the internet by ethernet or wifi. 20150628_095829

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Here’s more from Samsung about their 2015 SUHD TV Range:

Superior picture quality and technology

Samsung SUHD TVs demonstrate groundbreaking advances in contrast, brightness, colour reproduction, and detail to deliver an overall superior picture quality experience.

The nano-crystal semiconductor transmits different colours of light to produce the highest colour purity and light efficiency available today, providing viewers with 64 times more colour expression than conventional Samsung TVs.

The SUHD re-mastering engine automatically analyses the brightness of images to minimise additional power consumption. The engine can produce darker blacks, an elevated brightness up to 2.5 times brighter than conventional Samsung TVs, and twice the colour adjustment points for a more accurate colour display.

Sophisticated and improved curved designs

Taking cues from contemporary art and architecture, Samsung’s curved SUHD TV screens are inspired by modern and minimalist designs to provide an attractive and immersive home entertainment experience.

The JS9500 model will feature Samsung’s chamfer bezel design, adding more depth to the TV screen, and making the TV look like a piece of art. The JS9000 model has a soft, textured shirred design on the back, ensuring the TV maintains its stylish edge from any angle.

New Smart TV platform to make TV viewing easier

All of Samsung’s 2015 TVs, including the new SUHD TV, will be powered by Tizen; an open-source platform that supports the web standard for TV app development. Tizen provides intuitive access, a more integrated entertainment experience, and more choices for content than ever before. Key features include:

·         Intuitive user interface – simplified to one main screen, the TV displays the most recent content and tailored content recommendations for a faster and simpler user experience;
·         Automatic recognition of Samsung smartphones – enabling viewers to share video content from Samsung smartphones to Smart TVs easily and also watch TV through compatible mobile devices;
• Rugby Mode – allows users to watch live games while simultaneously replaying highlights;
·         Briefing on TV – Samsung Smart TVs now act as an alarm, syncing  with Samsung mobile devices to turn on and display important items such as the time, weather, and the upcoming schedule, with a large screen; and
·         The hub of the Smart Home – Tizen’s compatibility with other devices establishes Samsung’s Smart TVs as the control centre of any Smart Home.
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Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge launching in New Zealand on 11th April

Samsung New Zealand today revealed the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge phones on TVNZ Breakfast, confirming they will launch in New Zealand just one day after Korea on the 11th of April 2015.

S6 TV

Click image to see Breakfast’s first look at the phones on TVNZ.co.nz

The new S6’s do away with a number of features seen in the S5; gone are the plastic backs, removable battery and USB 3.0 connection; instead the S6’s feature a premium glass and metal form factor, a non-removable battery and a standard micro usb connection.

The touchwiz interface has been pared down to speed up the Android Lollipop experience, though customers can choose to download and install a range of Samsung apps if they wish.

The Galaxy S6 Edge, pitched as the more premium of the two, features slightly curved edges which can be used to show some notifications when the phone is placed face down.

I only had the phones for 30 minutes but here are the features I’m interested in delving into when I get a more thorough hands on experience.

  • Microsoft apps pre-installed – Onedrive and Onenote for starters
  • Wireless charging built in – works with most standard wireless chargers.
  • Low light lenses on the rear (16mp) and front (5mp) cameras.

Samsung badly needs a hit phone; they suffered from disappointing sales of the S5 and have had to sit back as competitors like Apple and Xiaomi have stolen market share from them in the crucial Chinese market.

Prices for the New Zealand market are yet to be confirmed but expect to pay over $1049 (estimate) for each off contract.

The full Samsung Press Release follows…

Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge define what’s next in mobility

 Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge – smart invents beautiful – the most advanced mobile devices in the market

 Auckland, New Zealand, March 2nd 2015 – Samsung Electronics New Zealand today announced its entirely redefined smartphones; the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge, creating a new and absolutely unrivalled global standard in design, craftsmanship and performance.

As consumers seek ways to be more informed, entertained, connected and free to spend more time doing what matters most, Samsung delivers unparalleled beauty, speed, and performance in two extraordinary smartphones that totally change the game. Both the Galaxy S6 and the S6 edge incorporate vastly enhanced processing power; a high quality super-fast loading camera to catch all the important moments; charging that’s 1.5 times faster than the Galaxy S5 for our ever busier lives and, what’s more, they come in an elegant glass and metal design; appealing to the most fashion forward.

“By listening to our customers, and learning from both our success and our missteps, we continuously push forward new technologies and ideas,” says JK Shin, president and head of IT & Mobile Communications Division at Samsung. “With a reimagined design, robust partner network and truly innovative services, the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge offer two completely differentiated products that deliver the ultimate in smartphone options.”

 Stefan Lecchi, Head of Telecommunications for Samsung Electronics New Zealand, says, “We set out to create a smartphone that could do more, faster, so that our customers can give more time to the people and things that make a difference to their lives – whether that’s work, play or just simply staying in touch. We’ve absolutely delivered that – and what’s more, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge also have a stunning look and feel. Smart has totally invented beautiful, and we’re excited to see how Kiwis will respond.”

 

Standout features deliver what’s next in mobile

 Beauty Meets Purpose

Crafted from metal and glass, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge blend beautiful design with meaningful innovation and powerful features. The glass body is available in an array of colourful jewel tones, including White Pearl, Black Sapphire, Gold Platinum, Blue Topaz, and Green Emerald*. This incredible design required unique glass molding technology and unmatched craftsmanship, setting the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge apart from any other mobile devices on the market. The premium aesthetics are complemented by a totally new interface that greatly enhances usability and functionality.

 Vivid Images with Fast, Bright Camera

The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge are equipped with incredibly vivid, bright and fast front and rear smartphone cameras. The bright (F1.9) lenses and high resolution sensors on both front (5MP) and rear (16MP) cameras provide superior image quality, even in low light. Auto Real-time High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) provide advanced light sensitive and crisp camera solutions. Further, the camera app launches in 0.7 seconds and a new “Quick Launch” feature give users fast, direct access to the camera in any screen by simply double clicking the home key button. These advanced camera functions enable users to capture their most precious and personal moments in uncompromising quality; however and wherever they want.

 Super Charging and Plug Free

The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge also offer incredibly fast charging that’s 1.5 faster than the Galaxy S5, giving 2 hours of HD video play after only 10 minutes of charging. With first-of-its-kind fully embedded wireless charging technology,  the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge are setting a new industry standard for universal wireless charging. Compatible with both WPC and PMA standards, the devices work with any wireless pad available in the market (WPC and PMA certified).

 Ideal for the business use – Enhanced Secure Mobile Experience

Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge are built on the upgraded, end-to-end secure mobile platform Samsung KNOX, offering defence grade features for real-time protection from malicious attacks. These new devices are also ready out-of-the-box for business – enabling instant access to partner environments that offer increased productivity and flexibility.  The devices work seamlessly with the likes of Mobile Iron, Airwatch, and Microsoft Office 365. As business works increasingly in the Cloud, security is enhanced with a touch fingerprint scanner, super quick authentication and encrypted data saved in secure device storage.

Samsung Exclusive Technology for higher performance and lower power consumption

The thin (6.8 mm/7.0mm edge) and lightweight (132g /138g edge) Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge integrates the most advanced Samsung exclusive technology available today. With the world’s first 14nm 64-bit mobile processor technology in combination with 64-bit Operating System, new LPDDR4 memory system and Universal Flash Storage (UFS) 2.0 flash memory, users can undertake multiple tasks at the same time whilst enjoying significantly lower power consumption.

Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge users can share and enjoy a clearer brighter viewing experience anytime and anywhere thanks to the 5.1” Quad HD Super AMOLED screen display which has an incredible pixel density of 577 pixels per inch (ppi). Outdoor visibility is effortless with display brightness reaching up to 600cd/m2 (candela per square metre).

Enabling simple and secure mobile payments in New Zealand

Today Samsung announces the launch of Samsung Pay; a new, easy-to-use mobile payment service.  Protected by Samsung KNOX, fingerprint scanning, and advanced tokenisation, Samsung Pay works with both NFC (Near Field Communication) and MST (Magnetic Secure Transmission) and Barcode technology.  Samsung Pay is not expected to be available in 2015 in New Zealand.

However, New Zealanders will shortly be able to enjoy the convenience of mobile payments.  Samsung has a partnership with Semble – a ground breaking New Zealand industry collaboration, bringing together Paymark and mobile network operators (2degrees, Spark and Vodafone) with banking partners (ASB and BNZ) to offer an integrated mobile wallet experience to Kiwis. The Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge and more than 700,000 Samsung devices will be able to make smartphone payments using Semble.  This is set to launch early 2015.

Release dates

Galaxy Zero and Galaxy Zero edge will be available globally starting in April 2015 with 32/64/128GB storage options available in White Pearl, Black Sapphire, Gold Platinum, Blue Topaz (Galaxy Zero only) and Green Emerald (Galaxy Zero edge only).
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Samsung reveals NZ product line up for 2015 but keeps some products under wraps

Samsung yesterday put their consumer electronics products on show, giving kiwis a glimpse of the technology they can expect to see in retail stores in the coming months.

While a great number of products where revealed at the Bangkok launch, including the stunning high-end 88 inch JS9500  SUHD television, there was no official mention of the upcoming Galaxy S6 smartphone.

Instead the media were shown the new Galaxy A range of ultra slim smartphones which are pitched more to the mid market as well as a plethora of digital home appliances.

Samsung Forum 2015 Key Announcements

SUHD TV:  Pitched as the next leap forward in UHD TV technology, Samsung showcased a range of SUHD televisions.  While UHD itself is still in the early stages of adoption, the new SUHD standard will deliver more than double the brightness and greater colour richness of the previous technology.

This is possible because of nano-crystals which transmit different colours of light depending on their size, producing higher colour purity with increased light efficiency.

Despite all of that, Kiwis will potentially be most interested in the Rugby Mode smart feature which enhances the look of a sports game and produces highlights of key match moments on the fly.  Prices and dates available for the 2015 televisions are yet to be announced.

Premium Audio: A new line up of home theatre audio solutions were revealed.  The WAM 7500/6500 speakers deliver a 360-degree sound from a stylishly egg shaped body.  The company also showcased its new Curved Soundbar 8500 series which complements their range of curved TV’s.

Digital Appliances:  The Dualwash washing machine drew a lot of attention due to a non-digital innovation.  The washing machine has a built in sink in the lid which allows users to pre-treat their laundry before tipping it into the wash.

Phones and Music:  The assembled media were hoping to catch sight of the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S6, but there were to be no leaks before its March reveal. Instead they were shown the mid range Galaxy A devices.  The Galaxy A7, A5 and A3 all feature a slim metal unibody design in a range of colours and sizes.

Beyond hardware, Samsung announced the arrival of Milk Music in the Asia-Pacific region with a rep confirming that it would launch first in Australia and New Zealand.  Optimised for mobile devices, Milk Music is Samsung’s version of an internet radio/music discover .

The “Listening TV” issue

Separately from the launch, Samsung New Zealand also put paid to the internet reports that Samsung Smart TV’s may be “listening in” on private conversations and transmitting the information to advertisers.

A press release issued just before the conference.  “Voice recognition allows the user to choose to control the TV using voice commands in addition to their remote control and is a Samsung Smart TV feature which can be activated and deactivated by the user.

It went on to say “If a consumer consents and uses the voice recognition feature, voice data is only given to a – voice-to-text conversion provider during a requested voice command search.  At that time, the voice data is sent to a server which searches for the requested content then returns the desired content to the TV. “

Delegates at the Samsung Forum that I spoke to seemed bemused that the voice search feature, commonly seen these days in smartphones, had received so much adverse publicity.
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Bright and Beautiful – meet the new Galaxy Tab S Tablet

If you’re in the market for a new top-end tablet, you’re going to love this news. Samsung has announced their 2014 flagship tablet for the consumer market – the Galaxy Tab S.

The Galaxy Tab S actually comes in two sizes, a 10.5-inch and 8.4-inch version, but both pack new Super Amoled screens.  The display resolution for the Tab S is an eye-popping 2,560 by 1,600 pixels and the rich colour saturation really impresses.

Both tablets have a fingerprint sensor which owners of the Samsung Galaxy S5 will be well used to.  The cameras are a rear facing 8-megapixel and a 2.1 mp front facer.

Samsung spent a lot of time at the launch in New York focusing on movies and magazines, both of which are bound to look great on this screen.  We’ve heard a lot about tablets being used for “second screening” that is, used for snacking on internet content while watching TV.  With this release you feel that Samsung are trying to make the tablet the first screen; and when movies and TV programmes look this good you can only ask “why not?”

The tablets have a new smart feature built-in, SideSync 3.0.  This allows your S5 and the tablet to sync in real-time over wi-fi or wi-fi direct.  You can even see a pop up of your phone on the tablet and use all of the functions of the phone from the tablet screen.

Parents will love the multi user logins which allow you to set up limited device access for the kids. No longer will you have to search for icons on your home screen, only to find the kids have deleted them.

The Galaxy Tab S is designed to appeal to the premium consumer and both models will go on sale in New Zealand in July.

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The invitation to the Auckland event:

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Going hands on with the Galaxy S4 a day before release

After weeks of pre-release publicity and virulent excitement, the new Samsung Galaxy S4 goes on sale worldwide in just a few hours time.  Rather fortunately, I didn’t have to join a queue to get my hands on one; a press review unit made its way over to The Gadget Guy mansions late this afternoon.
Now, one afternoon and evening is not really enough time to properly review a phone. I find it usually takes a week or more of regular real-world use before you pick up on a smartphone’s real strengths and weaknesses.  So, this is a limited review, for the time being anyway, and one in which I’ll really only skim the surface and give you my first impressions after a few hours of playing with the S4.
Right-o, let’s have a look under a few main headings.

Look and Feel:

Compared to its predecessor, the S4 feels easier to hold.  While the S3 had a curved edge, the S4 has flatter sides which counter-intuitively makes it feel more comfortable in the hand. The shiny plastic back is still slick, or slippy if you prefer.  The first accessory I bought for my S3 was a sleeve which reduced its slipperiness. I feel the same solution will be needed for the S4.
It is nice and light, and despite having a larger display  than the S3 (5″ versus 4.8″) it feels marginally more compact.
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Image: A Samsung sandwich.  Photo shows from top to bottom Galaxy S3, the new S4 and a Galaxy Note 2.
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Image: Spot the family resemblance. From left to right, Note 2, S4, S3.

The Screen:

Big, bright, brash and bold, the screen reminds me of what I loved about the earlier S2. Not everyone is going to be fan of the saturated colour or the vivid brightness, but if you have a problem with it you can always turn it down or just choose a more sedate setting.
The HD screen is fantastic. Even with a strong magnifying glass (a recent purchase – these eyes ain’t what they used to be) its hard to see the pixels.
Jumping back to the physical attributes, it’s worth noting that the sides of the device form a slight ridge around the screen which should mean the screen itself won’t come in contact with any flat surfaces you place it on.
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Image: Hard to see in this photo but the S3 has a slightly dimmer output at full blast than the S4.

The Smarts:

With the S4 you get a great form factor, powerful processor, high spec camera and a hi-def screen. What more could you want?  Apparently you want a range of novel features that make the phone appear to have landed here from the future.  Following the instructions in the bundled handbook I took a tour of some of the S4’s smart features.  Yes, it’s interesting that you can hover your finger over content to expand or view it, but really, if your fingers a millimetre from the screen why not just touch it?  If I’ve got sticky fingers I probably won’t be handling my phone let alone getting it into a position where I can hover a digit over it.  I’ve been wrong about stuff before of course and there’s a chance I’ll grow to  use and maybe even value it.

There’s a function which allows you to nod to scroll down a web page.  This worked for me 50% of the time. With a bit more training (of me or the phone – I’m not yet sure which) this could be a feature I would use.

Finally, I tried to test the smart pause function which apparently pauses a video if you stop looking at it. For some reason I couldn’t get it to work but it’s not a feature I would consider compulsory.

So, my first impressions are good and there’s a lot of areas I want to have a better look at (the camera, the editable notifications, group play for sharing content, the S Health app for example) but that will have to wait.

In the meantime if you’d like a more comprehensive view of the phone’s features you can view this run down of the S4’s features from the local Samsung team. Either that or get in store and get your hands on one tomorrow for yourself.