Review: Samsung Galaxy S8

Samsung Galaxy S8 is a focused, polished Samsung flagship that deserves to be at the top of heap when it comes to Android smartphones. This time Samsung has added a variety of biometric unlocking including, fingerprint unlocking, iris scanning and facial scanning.

Samsung has also emphasized the large, 5.8-inch Super AMOLED display which is designed to showcase videos in 18:9 aspect ratio. While little content is ready to take advantage of this new format, expect to see more and more added as the year goes on.

It’s true there are a few features that could be a bit better or more polished, but all-in-all this is one of the best Android smartphones that money can buy.

So come to one of our eight Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island locations to get yours!

Samsung Galaxy S8 – SpecsSamsung Galaxy S8 display

  • OS: Android 7.0
  • Screen: 5.8” WQHD (18:9)
  • Cameras: 
    • Rear: 12MP
    • Front: 8MP
  • Average download speed: check the map for the most up-to-date speeds
  • Fastest download speed:  check the map for the most up-to-date speeds
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
  • Battery: 3000 mAh
  • Storage space: 64GB upgradable with a microSD card up to 256GB
  • Weight: 155 grams
  • Size: 148.9mm x 68.1mm x 8 mm
  • Type of SIM Card: Nano SIM

Samsung Galaxy S8 – Pros

  • It has a big, 5.8-inch, beautiful, Super AMOLED display with all-new 18:9 aspect ratio for a more immersive video experience.
  • Samsung’s Dual Pixel camera is easily one of the best in the business. In some lighting it is the best, hands down. It’s difficult to complain about such a solid smartphone camera.Samsung Galaxy S8 iris scanning
  • Its rear camera is a 12 MP shooter with large dual pixels, f/1.7 aperture, optical image stabilization, phase detection autofocus, and an LED flash.
  • It now offers 1080p recording at 60 frames per seconds for smooth video recording. Video recording also sees the addition of manual controls in the Pro mode, including manual focus for finer control over the focus of your videos.
  • It has a great, long-lasting battery that can make it through a typical day with some charge to spare.
  • IP68 water resistant certification so it can withstand Wet Coast weather.
  • It offers the option of regular wired charging, fast-charging or wireless charging.
  • Finally, we have an Android smartphone that feels as fast and nimble as an iPhone. It has onne of the best and fastest processors in any Android smartphone. It also has 4GB of RAM, so it’s capable of handling anything you throw at it.
  • It has a responsive, pressure-sensitive screen with a virtual instead of a physical home button.
  • It best in-class out-of-the-box headphones.
  • Its front-facing camera has autofocus which can be useful for selfies.
  • It has a solid, curved build that fits comfortably in the hand and makes it feel like you’re holding a much smaller phone.
  • Samsung’s extra TouchWhiz features like:
    • Smart stay: Eye detection keeps the screen on as long as you’re looking at it
    • Game Launcher: A special launcher that can hold all your games instead of mixing them with apps in the drawer
    • One-handed mode: Swipe up from a corner to shrink the size of the screen so everything can be reached with one hand
    • Finger sensor gestures: Open and close the notification panel by swiping up or down on the fingerprint sensor
    • Quick launch camera: Double-tap the power button to launch the camera
    • Multi window: Open two apps on the screen at the same time
    • Smart alert: This feature makes your phone vibrate when you pick it up and have missed notifications
    • Video enhancer: This setting automatically upscales videos to enhance picture quality
  • USB-Type C charging port means it’s easier than ever to plug in and charge your smartphone.
  • In spite of USB-Type C charger, it still has a headphone jack.
  • Instead of silver it comes in new, gorgeous, rich, orchid grey colour.

Samsung Galaxy S8 – Cons

  • Bixby despite having its own dedicated button, is not really ready for the mainstream yet. It may become more useful in the future, but right now it doesn’t do enough to be worth using. But you still have access to Google Assistant to fulfill your digital assistant needs.
  • Starting at $250 on a 2-year plan starting at $90 per month or $490 on a 2-year plan starting at $80 per month or $990 to buy it outright.
  • Facial recognition unlocking is iffy, annoying and easily beat.
  • Iris recognition, fails to work properly if you wear glasses. Samsung warns you to remove glasses or contact lenses when setting up the iris recognition, but this means you’ll have to either look over the top of your glasses or lift them up for iris recognition to be useful.
  • Iris scanner can also be fooled by a photo.
  • Even after you’ve spent months with a phone and you know it like the back of your hand, unlocking a smartphone with a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner means blindly sliding your finger around the back before finding the scanner. It’s bad enough on phones with scanners that are placed on the center of the back, and it’s even worse with the Galaxy S8’s fingerprint reader, which is high up the back and off-center next to the camera lens.
  • Its battery isn’t replaceable.
  • Some users are reporting an unsightly red tint on their S8 smartphones, but there’s now a software update that should fix that.
  • Be warned the layout of the navigation buttons at the bottom of the screens is different. The back button is now on the right side, with the home still in the middle and recent apps now on the left. You can switch it back or you can just practice with it until you get used to the new layout.
  • New aspect ratio means that content not optimized for 18:9 ratio (which so far is most of it), means that you’ll see more black bars framing the video content.
  • The placement of its main speaker is less than ideal.

To learn more about this smartphone, check out its product page or come into one of our eight convenient locations.

Sources: TechRadar, CNET, Gizmodo, PCMag, The Guardian, AndroidAuthority, BGR, GSM Phone Arena, TELUS

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Friday app roundup: Ultra Edition

Welcome to the Ultra Edition of Friday’s app round up. What does “Ultra” mean in this context? I’m glad you asked, it means that to make up for missing writing a bunch of articles last week, this Friday we’re giving you almost four times as many apps in the roundup.

So we’ve got a lot to accomplish this lazy, Friday afternoon, so without any preamble, this week’s roundup includes: a prison simulator game a la Roller Coaster Tycoon; an alarm clock app for the deaf; TellTale Game’s take on the popular Guardians of the Galaxy movie; a communication app for the deaf that includes VRS; a mysterious, magical, musical sword RPG; a pointillist-effect photo editor; a dating app based on friends setting you up on blind dates; a photo editing app that turns your pics into pencil sketches; an eSport-type take on the puzzle game genre; an app to help you pick the perfect distinctive guitar amp sound; a stylish guitar songwriting app; an app of thousands of writing prompts; an addictive brick-breaking game about “ballz”;

App: Prison ArchitectPrison Architect app

OS: Android

What is it? Old school management simulator PC games like Roller Coaster Tycoon and SIM City already were a little bit dark, but this is the mobile game that stops sugar coating it. You are in charge on your own maximum security prison that you need to build and manage rom scratch. You’re in control of everything including prisoner morale, so be careful. Make sure they don’t go all Bastille Day on your ass.

Best review quote: Prison Architect: Mobile is a management simulator that lets you do what the title says it would – to build from scratch and manage your own maximum security prison. This means that you get to lay out the cell blocks and whatever facilities your prison might have for inmates. You also get to manage your staff, their pay, and the morale of the prisoners in your facility. – AndroidCommunity

Get it now: for your Android.

App: Deaf Wakedeaf wake iOS app

OS: iOS

What is it? This is really useful app for anyone who is deaf or hearing impaired. It’s an alarm clock based on more than just an annoying noise. Like the default clock app, you can create multiple descriptive alarms at once. You can even choose from a few different clock faces and it is compatible with Apple Watch as well.

Best review quote: The Deaf Wake clock app offers LED, vibration, and visual-based alarms. You can choose from a camera flash, flashing screen, vibration, or sound, plus you can use more than one at a time. The app lets you create descriptive alarms, so you can easily use it for reminders too. You can pick from different clock faces and you can use your Apple Watch to set alarms. – AppAdvice

Get it now: for your iPhone/iPad.

App: Guardians of the GalaxyGuardians of the Galaxy universal app

OS: iOS, Android

What is it? TellTale has long since mastered the art of graphic-novel-esque playable adaptations of popular TV shows and movies and this time is no different. So while you’re eagerly awaiting Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and it’s sure-to-be amazing soundtrack, this game can help tide you over. You’re on an adventure with the whole Guardians of the Galaxy team to take on the big, purple, gem-collecting baddie himself, Thanatos. Expect each episode to cost about $5 each though or choose to buy a “season’s pass”.

Best review quote: Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series is now available via the Google Play store. More specifically, Episode 1 is now available, the episode is called “Tangled Up in Blue”. If you’ve played any of Telltale’s episodic point-and-click (point and tap?) adventures before, you’ll know what to expect – a well-written story with great voice acting and twists in the plot that you won’t expect. – AndroidCommunity

Get it now: for your iPhone/iPad or for your Android.

App: Convo – VRS app by signersConvo - VRS universal app by signers

OS: iOS, Android

What is it? This is simply put the best communication app for deaf people. It was built by and for the deaf community and is compatible with the types tech tools that deaf users might need like video relay services (a video telecommunication service that allows deaf, hard-of-hearing and speech-impaired (D-HOH-SI) individuals to communicate over video telephones and similar technologies with hearing people in real-time, via a sign language interpreter).

Best review quote: The Convo – VRS app by signers app was created by people who understand your communication needs. You can make VRS and point-to-point calls, use VCO, add contacts to your list, and connect with 3G, 4G, or Wi-Fi. The app also includes access to the Deaf Business and Community Directory for select cities. – AppAdvice

Get it now: for your iPhone/iPad or for your Android.

 

App: Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EPSword and Sworcery EP universal app

OS: iOS, Android

What is it? This is one of the best RPG games you can play on your iPhone. At its core it is an audiovisual marvel in which you (a wandering warrior monk) travel by moonlight and use a sword do battle and evoke sworcery to solve odd musical mysteries. You can even cooperate with your friends in the game using Twitter.

Best review quote: Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery is an adventure RPG game with a spooky story and a unique, rather intoxicating soundtrack.

It’s hard to go into too much detail without spoiling the experience, but here’s what I can tell you: Its 140-character story snippets are easy to toss on Twitter for co-op play. You can ask for help and lead your friends into the mystery of the Megatome and the Trigon Trifecta.

The pixel art and stick figure sprites work well to add to the atmosphere the game creates, because everything is supposed to be unclear. – iMore

Get it now: for your iPhone/iPad or for your Android.

App: PointillistedPointillised iOS app

OS: iOS

What is it? Make your photos stand out from the crowd by channeling Georges Seurat and his distinctive pointillist art-style. The app is a simple, easy-to-use way to up your Instagram game and become the envy of your friends.

Best review quote: Be an electronic Georges Seurat! The Pointillisted app generates pointillist artwork using images from the Photo Library, including those shared in iCloud. – DigitalTrends

Get it now: for your iPhone/iPad.

App: Wingman+Wingman+ iOS app

OS: iOS

What is it? This dating app’s gimmick to set it apart from the other dating apps is that it is based around the concept of a close friend introducing you to potential partners. As such, the app will not work without the cooperation of one of your close friends. They set up a profile for you, playing up your strengths (presumably with your full approval) and then select partners in the app that they believe match your values and the qualities you are looking for in a potential mate. It may seem like a tough sell, afterall you have to convince a friend to manage your dating matches for you, but my advice would be buy your pal a beer of their choice (for their hardwork and attention to this matter) and then hand them your phone. At the very least, you’ll find out what your friends think of your love life and your taste in romantic partners. Also be advised this app is still in beta testing.

Best review quote: Where most apps start by asking users to set up a profile and swipe their way to romance, Wingman lets friends weigh in on your best qualities. Think of it as a digital matchmaker where other people get to talk you up, then send you potential mates they approve. – TheVerge

Get it now: for your iPhone/iPad.

App: Pencil Photo SketchPicture Pencil Sketch Android app

OS: Android

What is it? This is another neat photo enhancing app. In this case photos you run through the app quickly become transformed into a nice colour sketch effect. So mix it up on your social media with some tastefully pencilled sketches of you and your photos.

Best review quote: Pencil Sketch is A powerful photo editor is also built-in within this app, which includes many useful and fast manipulations of your pictures. Pencil Sketch Photo Creates more attractive and beautiful photo. This app will automatically detect the picture content and apply the filter accordingly.In the next step it will apply a nice color sketch effect to your photo. – AndroidandMe

Get it now: for your Android.

App: BazooBazoo universal app

OS: iOS, Android

What is it? This is an action-based puzzle game where you need to hone your skills and then take on absolutely everyone else who plays Bazoo to become the high scoring champion. It’s a bit like a puzzle-based eSport of some kind. It’s both easy to learn and difficult to master. So dive in and prove your worth by besting online challengers.

Best review quote: Bazoo has three modes – Ladder, League, and Battle. The gameplay is simple, but pretty difficult to master. You will need to take down online challengers as fast as possible, solving puzzles, stacking up towers, hitting one combo after another. But not unlike all the arcade games you played before, Bazoo will reward you for skill – because each player gets the same number of blocks, in the same order. It’s now up to the player how to use them wisely. – AndroidCommunity

Get it now: for your iPhone/iPad or for your Android.

App: BIAS Amp for iPhoneBIAS Amp for iPhone app

OS: iOS

What is it? Are you an avid guitar player? Well, this app is professional amp designer, modeler and processor that gives you a stunning replications of 36 of the most sought -after vintage and modern amps in rock ‘n’ roll history. It’s another tool in your belt for you to play around with so you can help your band find its sound. At the very least it can help you decide what kind of amp to buy for your electric guitar.

Best review quote: […] with Bias you can make your own custom amp head.

These apps are [sic] perfect for practicing. You can throw on a pair of headphones and play all night, and these amps sound good! You have amp models like Mesa Boogie to Marshall, Orange, and much more. One of the best features of these apps are the ToneCloud presets. You can download famous guitar players sounds and use them for your own playing! – ChasingSound

Get it now: for your iPhone/iPad.

App: Chord! – Guitar Songbook, Chords and ScalesChords! universal app

OS: iOS, Android

What is it? This other guitar-centric app is about writing your own songs by simply dragging and dropping chords. You can transpose it in any key, generate the fingerings with any tuning and generate printer-ready PDFs of your tunes. You can also use it to import your existing songs in text format, link audio tracks from your music library and play them at the same time as adjusting their pitch/speed. Really, it’s a must-have for any aspiring rock stars out there!

Best review quote: If you remember any of the Guitar Grimoire series of books, Chord is very similar to having a chord, scale, and tuning dictionary right in your pocket. You can build complex chords or scales you’ve never played before, use it as a quick reference tool, and so much more. This app is an invaluable resource for every type of player. I also heard as beautiful as this app is, it may be getting an overhaul, so stay tuned! – ChasingSound

Get it now: for your iPhone/iPad or for your Android.

App: PromptsPrompts iOS app

OS: iOS

What is it? Flex your inspiration with these unique writing prompts. You can use these rando ideas as mini writing exercises to keep your creative juices flowing or as a jumping off point for a sprawling five-book epic. Either way, it’s a fun, resource to have to liven up your journal entries.

Best review quote: More than 300,000 unique writing starting lines and creative writing prompts to inspire you and give you ideas for creative writing. Whether it’s poetry writing, journal writing, storytelling, or anything else. – DigitalTrends

Get it now: for your iPhone/iPad.

 

App: Ballz

OS: iOS, AndroidBallz universal app

What is it? This is a highly addictive mobile game brought to you by the minds behind 2048, Stack, Escape and Light On. The game play is pretty simple, you’re swiping your finger to throw balls to break the bricks. You need to make as many bricks as possible before they move to the bottom. You can also collect items to gain additional balls. The level of bricks increases after each round that you throw balls. Remember that the hitting the right angle is the key to winning.

Best review quote: “Ballz” is similar to “Breakout,” where you use a ball to break through layers of tiles or “bricks,” but with a few twists: Each block has a number, and you must hit the block that number of times in order for it to break. – BusinessInsider

Get it now: for your iPhone/iPad or for your Android.

App: Sway

OS: iOSSway iOS app

What is it? Sway is a self-described “interactive meditation” app. It includes six unique levels designed to help you practice more mindfulness in your everyday life. Activities vary from the simple, moving your phone in your hand while sitting down or lying in bed, to gently swaying your body in place to slowly walking around the office. It gives you a series of activities to help you capture your ever-elusive bliss.

Best review quote: “Direct your attention to the movement,” the app Sway told me as I unconsciously sped up the rhythm of my languid to-and-fro. “You were going too slow,” it prompted me a few minutes later when I accidentally dozed off. After five minutes of this repetitive motion, a gentle chime sounded, and a notification popped up telling me I had met my meditation goal for the day. – WIRED

Get it now: for your iPhone/iPad.

Sources: AndroidCommunityAppAdviceAndroidCommunityiMoreDigitalTrendsTheVergeAndroidandMeAndroidCommunityChasingSound DigitalTrendsBusinessInsiderWIRED

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How to switch the position of the nav buttons on your Samsung Galaxy S8

Tomorrow is when the highly anticipated Samsung Galaxy S8 and Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, finally go on sale at all of our locations. You may not know this, but there is one minor change that will definitely throw some of you off.

After an adjustment period, you may actually come to appreciate this new feature, if you’re right-handed, but you may be too annoyed to give it a fair chance.

So if you can’t abide it, we’ll tell you how you rearrange the nav buttons at the bottom of your S8 or S8 Plus back to their expected positions. On both phones the back button will be moved the right side of the device, with the multitasking aka opened apps button on the left side. Thankfully the home button will remain in the middle where it belongs.Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus nav button rearrange

If you want to rearrange the order of your nav buttons on your Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus, here’s how to do it:

  • On your home screen, swipe down from the centre of the top of the screen to pull down your notification shade.
  • Then tap on the gear-shaped icon in the upper right corner to open up your Settings.
  • Then tap the section marked Display.
  • Then scroll down and tap on the Navigation Bar section.
  • Then tap Button Layout.
  • Then just tap to switch the button orientation to Back-Home-Recents.

It’s as easy and painless as that. Remember, after you purchase your new Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus from Open Connection, you are entitled to a free learning session to help you get comfortable using your new smartphone.

Sources: AndroidCentral

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Review: Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) – Redefining mid-range for the better

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) has redefined what it means to be a mid-range Android smartphone, for the better. It boasts two things you won’t find on another smartphone in this particular category: truly remarkable battery life and water resistance with IP681 certification.

It’s also undergone a posh makeover with a classy, metal and glass design. It has an always-on, 5.2-inch FHD Super AMOLED display, that once again does not negatively impact its long-lasting battery. It has also improved both its front and rear 16MP cameras, as well as adding some tweaks to improve your selfie game. All-in-all, it’s perfect for someone who needs a flagship feel without the price tag that comes with it.

So come to one of our eight Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island locations to get yours!

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) – SpecsSamsung Galaxy A5 (2017) IP681

  • OS: Android Marshmallow (6.0.1)
  • Screen: 5.2” FHD Super AMOLED (1920×1080)
  • Cameras: 
    • Rear Camera: 16 MP front and back camera, f/1.9 aperture
    • Front Camera: 16 MP front and back camera, f/1.9 aperture
  • Average download speed: check the map for the most up-to-date speeds
  • Fastest download speed:  check the map for the most up-to-date speeds
  • Processor: Exynos 7880 Octa-core 1.9 GHz
  • Battery: 3000 mAh
  • Storage space: 32GB upgradable with a microSD card up to 256GB
  • Weight: 159 grams
  • Size: 146.1mm x 71.4mm x 7.8mm
  • Type of SIM Card: Nano SIM

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) – Pros

  • For the first time ever, A5 has an IP681 certification, meaning it is water resistant and sealed against dust, so you can take it anywhere, even in the rain.Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) better selfies
  • It has truly impressive battery life, GSMArena’s testing reveals it lasts:
    • 21:39 hours on a single charge when used for voice calls in 3G;
    • 14:31 hours on a single charge when used for WiFi web browsing; or
    • 16:21 hours on a single charge when used for video playback.
  • Its 16MP front and rear cameras with Light+ Camera ensure your shots are clear and bright, even in low-light environments.
  • It also has a new Floating Camera Button to help you take selfies one-handed and the front flash ensures brightness, even when captured in dark settings.
  • The Image quality from its main camera is good – there’s sufficient detail, colors are nicely saturated, and dynamic range is pretty wide.
  • It also has a high quality metal and Gorilla Glass 4 build in shiny black with a sharp, 5.2-inch 1080p, Super AMOLED always-on display.
  • It includes decently fast NFC and fingerprint scanning to unlock. In fact, you can use the fingerprint scanner to fill in saved passwords online.
  • Its USB Type C charging cord means less fumbling when the time comes to plug it in.
  • It has a Secure Folder you can use to help protect your sensitive information.
  • If 32GB isn’t enough space for you, it supports microSD cards up to 256GB.
  • Its Exynos 7880 chip performs great if you take into account its efficiency.
  • Its Game launcher can help you alleviate any processing lags, by lowering the resolution at which games are rendered, so you still get all the special effects.
  • It has its own version of something like 3D Touch, which brings up a contextual menu, that includes basic app handling actions, when you tap and hold an app.
  • It’s easy to mistake it for a Samsung Galaxy S7 at a distance, all-in-all its revamped look and feel are excellent.
  • You can get it for $0 on a 2 year plan starting at $80 per month or $100 on a 2 year plan starting at $70 per month.

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) – Cons

  • No optical image stabilization for photos and its auto focus is less than polished.
  • The main speaker placement on the top right side of A5 is a bit odd.
  • You may be confused buttons at the bottom of the screen, the back button is now on the right and the recent apps button is on the left.
  • It doesn’t ship with stock Android or Android Nougat out of the box, so expect to see some app duplication.
  • Its glass back attracts fingerprints and smudges like nobody’s business, so be sure to put a case on it to keep it looking shiny and fresh.
  • You may still find it a bit price-y for your tastes, if you’re on a budget and looking to buy it outright.
  • You still may prefer the extra edge you get with Samsung Galaxy S7 or S7 edge, if you can shoulder the extra cost.
  • There is no 4K video recording option.

To learn more about this smartphone, check out its product page or come into one of our eight convenient locations.

Sources: TechRadar, GSMArena, Gizmodo (AU), TrustedReviews, TELUS

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