Low Light Christmas Trees on 2019’s Best Phones (and an iPhone SE)

We have a little tree my wife and I put up every year and it’s a thing that is kinda hard to take good pictures of. There is quite a bit of dynamic range which typically means photos look overly darkened to compensate for the bright lights.

2019 has been a very good year for smartphone cameras, so I gave a few of them a shot last night to see how they’d do.

Samsung Galaxy S10e

Pixel 4

iPhone 11 Pro

And for fun context, the 2016 iPhone SE (with the 2015 iPhone camera)


Overall, I’m pretty impressed! Especially when you look at what we were using just 3-4 years ago, the differences in color and clarity are striking. Outside of the SE clearly being worse than the newer phones, the Pixel 4 is the outlier here in terms of color; it’s much cooler than the other images and is not an accurate representation of what the tree actually looked like. I think this has to do with Google’s new smart white balancing feature, which usually makes great choices, but sometimes results in crazy decisions1.


  1. Supposedly this was fixed in a previous update, so maybe this is a choice and not a bug, but either way I’d say this is not right. 

Galaxy S10e and iPhone XS Portrait Mode Showdown

You all know the drill by now, so I’ll just get into it. This is a comparison from a walk around town today, focusing on portrait modes on each camera. In every comparison, the iPhone is first and the Galaxy is second

Girl Statue

Right off the bat we see some big differences in processing. The iPhone has what I find to be a much more flattering focal length which the Galaxy S10e simply can’t match with its wide-only lenses. On the other hand, the Galaxy does a better job with the under-hair blur and has lighter shadows that maintain more detail. I prefer the look of the iPhone color, but the Samsung device holds its own here.

Selfie Time

This photo brings to light one of the weird things about the Galaxy camera that I apparently haven’t mentioned: it flips selfies to be reversed. There is no text in the photo, but if there was it would be like looking in a mirror on the bottom Galaxy shot.

That detail aside, we have similar results to the first photo. Colors are more saturated and contrast is higher on the iPhone, while the Galaxy spits out a flatter image with a very bright exposure overall. The Galaxy is also doing a bit more smoothing in my face than the iPhone, but there isn't a huge difference there either.

This one will also come down mostly to preference, as these are very different styles of photo.

Inanimate Object

This technically isn't what portrait modes are meant to excel at, but it's worth giving it a shot. The Galaxy wins slightly in edge detection, and colors follow the same patterns as above.

Fox in the Summer

Both do a good job grabbing the edges here, but for my money the iPhone smokes the Galaxy in terms of overall image quality.

Just Some Flowers

Interestingly, when you switch out of portrait mode, the Galaxy image is actually a bit more saturated. Overall clarity is similar and natural bokeh is nice on both, but I actually lean ever so slightly towards the Galaxy here. Maybe it's just because the focus landed on the white flower though.

Zoom!

The iPhone has a big advantage in this 2x zoom shot, but I have it a shot anyway. Colors are far more saturated and look better to me, and if you are looking at this on a big enough screen you'll be able to see the plan in the sky is far more defined on the iPhone shot.

Shutter Lag

I mentioned in my review that there was more shutter lag on the S10e than I was used to and this sort of shot displays that difference. The car is going about 30mph and I hit the shutter buttons at the same time. It's not major, and the Galaxy has done far worse for me, but it gives you an idea at least as to the difference.

Galaxy S10e and iPhone XS Camera Comparison

I took a few sample shots on my Samsung Galaxy S10e and iPhone XS this morning and wanted to share the differences. It's worth noting that none of these photos are of people, which is where the S10e I feel falls flat, but if you're taking pics of still objects, this comparison will be more useful.

Oh, and there are only a few photos here, so the same size is pretty low. If there are things you want me to compare more specifically, let me know!

In this first comparison, I think the Galaxy beats the iPhone both in terms of the overall image as well as the fine details, especially in shadows.

The first image in this set is not as interesting, but it does show how each camera handles colors. The iPhone is more  "friendly" here and the Galaxy makes the grass look more dead than it actually is. The real difference comes when we try to zoom in a ton on each image. This is at about 7x zoom on each and you can really see how much the iPhone XS benefits from having a telephoto lens.

This portrait mode shot is going to come down to personal preference, but I personally like the iPhone shot waaaaay more. Zooming in and we see the iPhone does a better job separating the subject from the background as well.

And that's it! This was just a small comparison, so let me know on Twitter what other types of photos you'd like to see me compare.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Review (or The AirPods Cage Match We’ve All Been Waiting For)

Samsung Galaxy Buds Review (or The AirPods Cage Match We’ve All Been Waiting For)

I recently published my Galaxy S10e review and made a point of making that article mention the iPhone as few times as possible. I’m taking a different approach here; this entire review is going to be a comparison to Apple’s industry-leading and pop culture phenomenon. Let just jump right in.

The “Experience”

Yes, we’re starting with the experience of using these, since that’s what makes AirPods special. People aren’t buying them up in droves because they sound amazing or have a billion features, they’re getting them because using them is an effing delight.

My overall feelings about my time with the Galaxy Buds are mostly positive. I think they look good and they have a nice charging case, and using them brings me a lot of the same “I don’t miss wires at all” feeling that AirPods brought me when I first got them. I’m a big fan of the touch surfaces on each earbud, which makes controlling media a breeze and easier than it is on AirPods.

That said, there are some fundamental issues that keep these from ascending to AirPod-level heights. Connection issues have plagued my pair, reminding me that wireless technology is an achievement, not something that magically “just works” like AirPods. Weird pairing issues and notification oddities also mar the overall experience and have lead to numerous cases of me troubleshooting my headphones when all I want to do is listen to some music.

Oh, and I should probably mention audio quality! Well, if you’re heard AirPods, you’ve heard these too. The only advantage they have is that they block out ambient noise better than AirPods.

Setup

Setup is pretty quick, and while it’s not the one-tap setup that AirPods have, it’s certainly better than most Bluetooth devices. You open the case and just like AirPods, your nearby, unlocked phone sees them and asks if you would like to connect.

Once you choose your buds the Galaxy Wearable app opens and lets you set some preferences for the buds and walks you through some of the basic controls. The experience is pretty smooth and was done within a minute.

Just like with AirPods, these work with any Bluetooth device, so you can use these with non-Samsung Android phones and iPhones as well, and the process will be slightly more traditional there. I never did this so I can’t speak to how smooth this is, though.

The Buds

Looks

The Galaxy Buds look good and fit pretty well in my ears. They also sound totally fine, but are nothing special. In terms of looks, well the picture above shows how they look and in my opinion, they look pretty good. I have the black ones and they are definitely a more subtle look than AirPods. I’ve never had a problem with how AirPods look, so it’s a wash for me, but I’m sure there are plenty of people who will prefer this look.

Fit

In terms of fit, this is almost needless to talk about in a review since it’s so personal, but these fit okay in my ears. I have gone for runs in them and they stayed securely in my ears, as do AirPods. They go into your ears with a kinda fun little twist motion and they really feel like they’re locking into place. It’s cool!

One serious disadvantage in terms of fit for me is that these really start to hurt my ears if I wear them for more than 30 minutes at a time. I don’t enjoy wearing in-ear earbuds in the first place, and that combined with the rubber fin that pushes into the top of my ear means they get very uncomfortable for me after a while. Again, this is a me thing, so take it with a grain of salt, but AirPods fit perfectly in my ears and don’t get uncomfortable even if I wear them all day. If you feel the same about AirPods, then this is relevant info for you, but if not, sorry.

Touch Controls

One big advantage Galaxy Buds have over AirPods is in how you control media. AirPods have an accelerometer that you need to tap to do things. Apple limits one action to each bud, so you can choose between play/pause, next track, previous track, and Siri. You may pick two and the rest need to be done with your phone.

Galaxy buds have touch-sensitive sides and use pretty standard tap patterns for media controls. on either bud you can tap once to play/pause, twice to go to the next track, and tap three times to go to the previous track. This means you can always perform all actions, even if you’re only wearing a single bud at a time.

In addition, there is a “tap and hold” action that can be assigned to either:

  • Voice assistant (Bixby in the Galaxy S10e’s case…shudder)
  • Volume controls (left can be set to down, right to up)
  • Quick ambient sound

That last option is the most interesting. If you want to hear the world around you better for a moment, you can tap and hold to have the earbuds use their microphones to amplify the sound around you and turn down you music.

What I chose to do is irrelevant because this tap and hold action basically never works for me. Maybe this is an issue with my buds, but the other tap controls work perfectly but this one almost never seems to kick in.

That said, I quite prefer these touch controls to AirPods’ “bang on my ear” interactions. Unlike Google’s Pixel Buds, which made me hate touch controls, these work very well…at least for taps.

Sound

And finally there’s the audio quality, which I found to be completely average in every way. I use AirPods every single day of my life and have for over 2 years. I know precisely what the things I listen to sound like in those earbuds. When I started playing things through the Galaxy Buds I honestly had to check my ears to make sure I had the right earbuds in. They sound exactly the same to my ears.

The only real advantage they have over AirPods in terms of sound quality is that they isolate you better, which is good for using them in noisy environments. For example, AirPods are almost useless on an airplane since all you hear is the plane noise, but these are a good amount better.

And if you don’t like the default sound, there are 5 total settings you can select from, ranging from tons of treble to tons of bass. I’m not one to mess with equalizers, but I thought everything besides the default setting sounded bad. These have very little bass (probably the only notable difference from AirPods, which has more bass than you’d expect), so the “bass boost” mode really just sounds like they are turning down the highs even though the bess stays exactly the same.

Notifications

One of the cool features of Pixel Buds was that they would read your notifications to you if you wanted. This was probably my favorite feature on those otherwise terribly flawed earbuds, and Samsung has a similar, but much less useful version of this on the Galaxy Buds.

You can turn on notification alerts in the earbud settings, and this will just call out the name of apps as they deliver notifications to you. Someone sends you a text message? Your music will drop out and Bixby will say, “Messages.” Get an email? Bixby will say, “Gmail.” There is no way I can see to get the content of these notifications, which I don’t find super useful. But it’s here if you’d like it.

The Case

A large part of what makes AirPods so great is the case that you use to carry them around. The case is tiny, fun to use, and provides plenty of recharges. Samsung’s case checks more boxes than most, but is not up to AirPods standards. Let’s hit them up one at a time.

The case is indeed small, and it’s the first headphones case I’ve used that fits in the little coin pocket thing in my jeans. The AirPods case slides in without effort, and the Galaxy Buds one takes a little more effort, but gets in there too. It’s quite a bit longer than the AirPods case, but not to a detrimental degree.

In terms of “funness”1 the Galaxy Buds case isn’t nearly there. It’s totally functional and works, but the AirPods case is a delight to spin around in your hand, open and close to hear that satisfying “SNAP” sound, and has super-satisfying motions for both placing the buds in the case as well as taking them out. Every action is fun and makes you enjoy them before they even get into your ears.

Galaxy Buds’ case technically has the same stuff, but the buds kind of just fall into place and I can’t help but fumble with them when I take them out of the case. The hinge on the lid is also very loose so it flops around as you handle the case. None of this is a deal-breaker, and it’s not something you really need from a case, but AirPods have raised the bar so high here that it’s hard not to notice the differences in user experience.

And then there is the charging aspect. You can plug these into a USB-C cable and charge them up, of place them on any Qi charger out there and they’ll charge up wirelessly. And as Samsung really wants you to know, you can use your Galaxy S10 to wireless charge them as well. This is really cool, and something I am glad I can now also do this with AirPods2.

The Buds case disappoints in how much charge it holds, though. AirPods get 5-6 hours of charge and the case holds about 4-5 full charges. This effectively means you can use AirPods for upwards of 30 hours before needing to top up the charge. The Galaxy Buds last the same 5-6 hours per charge, but the case only has a single charge in it, so you get 12 hours tops out of these before needing a charge. It’s not a big deal, and having wireless charging means I’m more likely to just drop it on a pad when I get home, but it’s still a pretty stark difference.

Technical Difficulties

My time with Galaxy Buds has been mostly smooth sailing, but there have been enough problems to warrant their own section in this review.

First and most common, is that the Bluetooth connection seems to be pretty spotty. I never lost connection completely, but I somewhat regularly have instances of the audio cutting in and out briefly when my phone is in my pocket. This isn’t great, and when it gets bad it makes it impossible to listen to anything. If I take my phone out of my pocket it goes away immediately.

Along those same lines, I’ve had a few times where only one earbud would connect to my phone. For example, the left one would connect and start playing audio, but the right one would just stay dead. The phone claimed to not see it and no amount of putting the bud in and out of the case would get it to connect. Each time this happened I had to reboot my phone, at which point it would connect immediately and work fine.

These buds have gotten two software updates since I bought them a few weeks ago and these are a bit of a pain too. I put them in once and my phone showed me a notification that I would not be able to use my earbuds until I performed the update. Having updates is good, but blocking me from using my headphones until I install them is dumb.

Also on the update front, the case needs to remain open while updates install. If you have the gal to close the case while it’s trying to update, your phone will show you a warning that says it is unable to connect to your Buds. You need to keep the case open or take the buds out of the case while the update is performed.

Come on…

Finally, that notification feature mentioned above is crazy unreliable. Most apps don’t even seem to work with it, despite my settings saying they should work. For example, Gmail notifications get through to me, but Outlook does not. Messages works but Signal doesn’t. It’s totally random and the settings page where you can turn specific apps on or off doesn’t seem to do much at all.

Conclusion

I think that AirPods are a better earbud for Android, despite being made by Apple and losing a lot of their extra fancy features on Android. Enough of the experience is still superior that it makes it hard for me to personally choose the Galaxy Buds over them.

That said, Galaxy Buds are $129, while AirPods are $1993 so the price difference is pretty significant. Also, if AirPods don’t fit in your ears, there’s a good chance Galaxy Buds fit better. And if you want better media controls or more sound isolation, then the Galaxy Buds will be your best…er, buds.

This all comes down to personal preference, so take my opinionated review with a grain of salt. No, these are not as good as AirPods in the ways that matter most to me, but they are certainly good enough to make a lot of people happy. My biggest concern is not with the actual feature set but with reliability. If these didn’t have connection issues and pairing problems then I’d give these en enthusiastic endorsement. Given that I have gotten two updates already, I have high hopes that Samsung will keep plugging these holes and make these more reliable. There’s no guarantee of that of course, and I can only review these as they exist today.


  1. My writing app tells me that isn’t a word, but I’m sticking with it. 
  2. Well, as soon as I update my AirPods. My original ones are still fine so I’m holding off. My wife got the new case though since she managed to discolor her case quite a bit. Makeup spills in purses are not fun… 
  3. $159 if you don’t want the wireless charging case. 

Samsung Galaxy S10e: An iPhone Fan’s Review

Samsung Galaxy S10e: An iPhone Fan’s Review

A little over a year ago I said this about the Pixel 2:

If you’re looking for a change and want to see what Android is like, I don’t think there’s a better phone out there than the Pixel 2 to get the best that Android has to offer.

I still think the Pixel 2 is a great phone, assuming you can handle its massive bezels, which look downright shocking in 2019. But I also don’t think that’s the best Android phone to get anymore.

As far as I’m concerned, there are three phones most people should get if they’re choosing Android in the US this year: the OnePlus 6T, the Pixel 3 or the brand new Samsung Galaxy S10e. The OnePlus 6T is cheaper, runs more “stock Android” software, is really fast, and will get faster software updates than just about any non-Pixel phone. The Pixel 3 has the most up to date version of Android and a killer camera. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S10e has excellent construction, a better camera, top-of-the-line specs, and a software layer over Android Pie that enhances things instead of degrading things like their software has in the past.

Let’s talk about how the Galaxy S10e earns this recommendation1.

Oh, and this review will focus mostly on hardware and not software. I have fundamental issues with Android, so this review is not going to address those issues. I’m going to focus all software discussion around things Samsung does on top of Android.

TLDR Version

This review is over 5,000 words long and I know not everyone has time to read this, so my overall thoughts are:

The Galaxy S10e is the best Android phone I’ve ever used and excels in terms of display, raw performance, design, and yes, even software. The only serious downsides of this phone are battery life and the camera. The camera issue can be mitigated with third party camera apps, but the battery is really bare minimum for 2019.

The best thing I can say about this phone is that I’ve been using it for almost a full month and feel no real rush to run back to my iPhone. Considering how I’ve felt at this point in literally every other “Matt switches to Android” endeavors, that’s a major victory for this phone.

Why the S10e?

Why Samsung? The company really impressed me with their announcement event for these phones and I could not get them out of my head. The hardware looked excellent, and seemed like a meaningful upgrade over what had come before. I was also intrigued by One UI which looked to be a total rewrite of their custom skin over Android. I hated TouchWiz and the Samsung Experience, but this one somehow gave me hope.

Why the S10e? It was cheaper and the things it lacked didn’t interest me that much. After seeing other people’s reviews, it seems the in-screen fingerprint reader and curved screens are more hindrances than features, so this phone almost seems superior. I do miss the telephoto lens, though.

Build Quality

As an iPhone user, I’m someone who is more than willing to pay more for nice phone hardware. The Galaxy S10e is not quite up to the quality standards of my iPhone XS, but it’s very close in almost every regard, and really trades punches nicely with the similarly priced iPhone XR.

The Display

The S10e has an amazing display. With a 1080x2280 resolution on its 5.8” screen, it’s nearly identical to the iPhone XS screen. It also has HDR10+ which is great, but in my experience everything looks basically the exact same as the iPhone XS which has the standard HDR10 tech built in. For my money the only time I can tell them apart is when I’m outside on a sunny day. the S10e gets a little brighter and makes it easier to read in direct sunlight.

The curved corners on the display look quite striking as well, and compare well to the iPhone’s similar tech. I will say that the S10e has a slightly larger chin than the iPhone, which I don’t think is a big deal and is not something I ever thought about. I know it annoys some people, so it’s worth mentioning that indeed Apple has eliminated the chin better than Samsung here.

The Hole Punch

Where things get a little more divisive is in how Samsung handles the front-facing camera. They have gone with a “hole punch” method instead of the now commonplace notch. I made a video about why I prefer a notch, but my big complaint with this implementation is that it inherently pushes the cutout lower on the screen so it encroaches on more content than a notch that is as high on the screen as possible.

This is most visible when watching videos. Lots of content has a 16x9 aspect ratio, and that all looks good with the notch or hole punch, but the issue comes with any video that’s shot at a wider aspect ratio. Tons of YouTubers have converted to 2:1 (or 18x9) which takes advantage of most notched phones, but the lower hole punch on the S10e means that this overlaps on these videos. And you can’t zoom in or out to fix it. The same goes for watching basically any movie, since those are even wider most of the time.

I’m also put off by how they integrated the hole punch in the status bar. It looks fine in Samsung’s apps, but most third party apps (and some of Google’s) show a background color on the status bar and the hole punch is not center-aligned with that bar, it’s resting on the bottom of it. This isn’t the end of the world and I don’t know how else they could do this with the hole punch design, but it speaks to how awkward this hole punch is.

My overall feelings on the hole punch are that it feels new and fancy, and that’s cool, but I don’t think it added anything practical over a notch and actually made some things worse. This feels very much like it was developed by a team with “anything but a notch” written on a white board in the design room. It is indeed not a notch, but I think this phone would be better if it had one.

Hardware Details

I just wanted to call out a few small things about the hardware that I found notable.

  1. The buttons are all way too high on the sides of the phone. Why, oh why are they pushed all the way to the top?! This is more egregious on the power button which doubles as the fingerprint sensor, which requires me to reach way up to the top of the phone every time I want to use it.
  2. The USB-C port is inexplicably misaligned with the other holes on the bottom of the phone. Just a minor complaint, but why?
  3. The camera bump on the back is pretty small, and since it’s horizontal and centered, the phone sits very well on flat surfaces. This is way, way better than the iPhone XS without a case.

Authentication

This is not something I would normally put so high in a review, but it’s worth mentioning here as it’s actually a little complicated. On iOS, all authentication methods (Face ID, Touch ID, PIN, or password), but the Galaxy S10e has more authentication methods and those methods have varying levels of security.

For example, I can use my fingerprint to unlock the phone, authorize payments in Google Pay or Samsung Pay, and get into password managers like 1Password. I can also use my face to unlock the phone, but not to authorize anything else. And then there patterns, PINs, and passwords which go from least secure (patterns) to most secure (passwords). This flexibility may be welcomes by some, but I personally find it annoying.

As someone who has gotten used to Face ID on the iPhone, I love that I can use it to authenticate anything I do on my phone. I don’t have to waste any brain power on remembering if I’m in a situation that requires my finger or face. I like the ability to use both, but I wish that the facial recognition was up to snuff for all authentication needs. I say this because I get so used to unlocking my phone with my face and then I get prompted to use my fingerprint and have to shimmy my hand up the phone to reach the side-mounted fingerprint reader.

All that aside, the fingerprint reader is nice and quick, although I really don’t like its placement. I’ve also reviewed the Nextbit Robin which had a side-mounted fingerprint which I hated it on that phone, and I don’t like it much more here. The sensor is nice and quick as you’d expect, but I find I have to put my finger on at specific angles for it to read it properly. This could just be a me thing too and will get better as I use the phone more, but it’s not a problem I usually have with fingerprint readers, so it feels like a regression to me.

The facial recognition is nice as well, and is what I use to unlock the phone almost every time. It’s pretty quick, and requires me to look more directly at the camera than my iPhone or OnePlus require, but I’m still quite happy with it. You can speed it up a little by going into settings and toggling the “reduce security” feature which promises to unlock faster, but also means it’s easier to trick with things like a photograph. Use this at your own discretion, but I left it on the more secure setting.

Battery Life

The S10e has a 3,100mAh battery, which is 17% bigger than the iPhone XS battery but delivers basically the same results in my use. I’m a pretty heavy phone user, and I don’t jump through any tedious hoops to make my battery life better2.

Here’s may battery life from two days where I did basically the same stuff on my phone and compared battery life with and without the always-on display:

So yeah, not amazing, although I was happy to see that using the always-on screen had negligible impact on the actual time I was able to use my phone. Coming from the iPhone XS, this is pretty much what I’m used to. It does sound like the S10 and S10+ get notably better battery life, so it might be worth spending more on one of those just for the battery if that’s important to you.

Camera Quality

The camera is the biggest letdown for me with this phone. I don’t think it’s a fault of the hardware either, as the sensors Samsung is using is top notch.

The Camera Hardware

Specs (thanks to GSMArena):

  • Main rear lens
    • 12 MP, f/1.5-2.4, 26mm (wide), 1/2.55", 1.4µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS
    • Video: 4k 60fps, 1080p 240fps, 720p 960 fps
  • Wide angle rear lens
    • 16 MP, f/2.2, 12mm (ultrawide), 1.0µm
  • Front facing
    • 10 MP, f/1.9, 26mm (wide), 1.22µm, Dual Pixel PDAF
    • Video: 4k 30 fps

These are all the specs I’ll get into, as I’m not a camera hardware expert and all I can really say is “these should be good.”

The Camera Experience

Samsung is among the many companies boasting about how much A.I. is going into their imaging systems and how they know what you’re shooting and optimize the end result for whatever you’re looking at. While I see this working wonders on my iPhone and Pixel phones, Samsung’s results are far less impressive.

The default camera app on the S10e is nothing if not feature-rich. There’s everything from 960fps slow motion video to portrait modes to professional settings with RAW capture to Instagram integration to even plain old still photos. If you want a default camera app that does it all, then this will have you covered. It’s a shame then, that the fundamental act of taking simple pictures is a bit of a letdown.

The problem here is inconsistency. The app is sometimes nice and quick, and sometimes it’s slow to load, slow to switch lenses, and most importantly to me, slow to take the photo when I hit the shutter button. This all adds up to be killer sometimes as I have missed a bunch of photos that I would have really liked to have because the damn photo took literally a second or two after I pressed the button. Worse, there have been a few times where I tap the shutter button and literally nothing happens at all. I have had to tap the button 3 times or more to get something to actually take. This is frankly unacceptable for a camera app in 2019.

When the camera does work, it seems to vary wildly in quality depending on what you’re shooting. Landscapes and objects look pretty darn good, and match up quite nicely with the best the iPhone XS and Pixel 3 can do. However, it’s people where the results are far less enchanting.

I have gone into the settings to confirm I don’t have any beauty modes turned on or anything, but the S10e just takes miserable photos of people. This is a problem, to say the least. I love me some landscapes, but the most important photos I take are of the people in my life, and I don’t think the Samsung camera app lets me take photos I’m happy with. My first warning sign was the very first selfie I took with this phone:

This was at around 5PM and the sun was going down relatively soon, but the lighting was still pretty decent. Still, the S10e made me look like a Ken doll and not a human being. Time and time again, people in my photos look unnatural and frankly a little unappealing compared to what they look like in real life3.

But wait, there’s hope! Since a phone is more than the camera app it ships with, I installed the Google Camera app for the S10e and the results were incredibly different.

Twitter link

Yes, the Google Camera app, which is effectively the same APK as found on Pixel devices, delivers shots that feel very much like the Pixel in terms of quality and processing style. Frankly, the photos I got from the S10e using the Google Camera app are pretty indistinguishable from the ones on my Pixel 2 and 3. Oh, and you do indeed get Night Shot, which takes photos you simply can’t get with other cameras right now.

This is a kind of annoying setup, but if you love the look of photos taken on the Pixel but want the S10e (or any S10 phone) then the Google Camera app will get you what you’re looking for. It’s annoying because the Google app doesn’t get access to everything you can do with the Samsung app, and more critically, the Google app treats the wide angle lens as the standard lens, so you always have to zoom in when you open the app to get the normal lens. Annoying and hacky, but sometimes worth it to get the photo you want.

And oh, that wide angle lens! I was most excited about this lens as it allowed me to take photos that were simply impossible on the iPhone. This lens is a little lower quality than the main lens, but it delivers such a wide field of view that this wasn’t a real problem for me. The shots this takes are just incredible!

There is some distortion around the edges, but this is a wide angle lens, there’s only so much that can be done here. All I know is that I was inspired to take shots I never would have tried before and ended up loving them more often than not.

And then there’s the video, which I found to be quite good. Not as good as the iPhone XS, which is industry-leading as far as I’m concerned, and far better than the surprisingly average video from the Pixel 3. I don’t have much to say here other than to say I trust this video camera just about as much as my iPhone XS, which is a high compliment. Even then, things like 960fps video is something the iPhone XS can’t do, as well as the super-steady mode which stabilizes video very well with a bit of quality loss, but nothing terrible.

Twitter link

Camera Odds and Ends

The camera app has a ton going on, with modes for basically everything you ever imagined. You have:

  • Photo
  • Video
  • Pro (manual controls for still images)
  • Slow Motion (240fps video at 1080p)
  • Super Slow Mo (960fps video at 720p for 2 seconds)
  • Hyperlapse (moving time lapses)
  • Live Focus (portrait mode)
  • Panorama
  • Food (enhanced colors)
  • Instagram (jump straight into Instagram after snapping a photo)

Thankfully, Samsung includes a settings page where you can trim these down to only the ones you use.

The biggest issue I had with the camera actually had nothing to do with image quality and everything to do with shutter lag. Coming from phones like the iPhone and Pixel that have effectively zero shutter lag, the S10e has upwards of a full second of lag at times, which feels like an eternity sometimes. It seems to have nothing to do with lighting or shooting mode either. Just taking a photo in broad daylight lead to noticeable lag.

Along the same lines, videos take a second to start recording and also lock up the app for a second or two after you stop recording. Presumably it’s saving the file to disk, but it really should not do this.

Samsung has a feature called AR Emoji which is very similar to what iPhone users are used to with Animoji. You can create an avatar that looks…sorta like you and put it on your face in real time and take pictures and videos as a cartoon-human hybrid. Here are a couple examples of what I was able to make:

So yeah, I didn’t do much more with this.

Oh, and this doesn’t really fit anywhere else, but I find important: the screen brightness it pushed to 100% whenever the Camera app is open, which I adore. I can’t tell you how often I’ve screwed up the exposure on other phones as I tried to adjust things based on the screen being dinner than normal and making the photo look underexposed. Some people may not have this issue, but it’s a real thing for me and I’m super happy that Samsung though to address it.

Performance

Smartphone performance is a hard thing to measure in a review because you don’t really understand this until a few months, or even year has gone by. Most phones these days perform well at the start, which is why every single phone review you read or watch says “and performance seems solid.” Samsung reviews often follow that up with the line “although last year’s Galaxy phone became sluggish within a few months.”

I have been using the Samsung Galaxy S10e for almost a month now and I can say that it seems to be a very quick phone for almost everything. It’s rocking the Snapdragon 855, the latest processor available, and easily the quickest available for Android devices, so it should be quick. But the big win here is that One UI does not make the phone feel slow at all.

Beyond simple app launch times, things like the face unlock and fingerprint readers are quick as well. The fingerprint reader is lightning fast, and is easily the fastest fingerprint reader I’ve ever used. Seriously, you just tap it for a half moment with your finger and it unlocks. And face unlock, while incredibly insecure, is just about as fast as Face ID in getting me into my phone. The OnePlus 6 is still king at face unlock speed, although again it’s worth noting how incredibly insecure that system is too.

And as I’ll get into in the next section, Samsung’s UI doesn’t do much to slow things down either, so you’re really getting best in class performance in all things besides the stock camera app.

Software

I don’t want to talk about software too much, since it’s hard for me4 to fully separate out my preference for how iOS does most things to Android from the phone itself. Still what is a phone without software, so I’m going to touch on a few notable things, of course with the perspective of someone who knows both OS’s very well and prefers iOS by a wide margin.

I have enjoyed the software on the Galaxy S10e more than any other Android phone I’ve used before. Yes, more than the OnePlus 6 and more than the Pixel 3. Since the very first Galaxy S phone, which I flashed “stock Android” ROMs onto almost a decade ago, I’ve always been a fan of the standard Android experience. OEMs simply were no good at enhancing the software, so leaving things as they came from Google was usually the best bet. One UI on the S10e is the first time I’ve used a heavily modified Android phone that I actually liked.

There a so many nice touches throughout One UI I’m relatively shocked it came from Samsung. Let me just hit a few of my favorites.

  • First off, they have a very tasteful always-on display feature that is highly customizable.
  • The lock screen can have a collection of photos selected instead of a single image, and it cycles through these every time you turn on the screen. I thought I would hate this, but I really love it.
  • Their launcher is quite solid, supporting easy gestures for opening the app drawer and notification shade. It also supports app shortcuts, which is pretty standard fare these days, but still worth noting. iOS users will be impressed with the level of customization, but Android enthusiasts will likely want something they can tweak like crazy.
  • The skin Samsung puts over Android Pie looks very nice and sports good typographic choices and silky smooth animations on everything. Android nerds will tell you to set the animations to 2x speed, but I say they are perfect.
  • Samsung did not follow Google’s lead with the “pill” multitasking, which I would normally criticize, but in this case is a good call. I really dislike Android Pie’s gestures, so losing them here is more a blessing than a curse.
  • The weather app looks excellent.
  • The dark mode is truly dark and looks slick. I prefer light modes, so I only use this at night, but it makes the UI and all of Samsung’s apps look great.
  • Bixby Routines are super useful. Yes, Tasker does this stuff and probably does more, but I hate-hate-hate that app and can’t stand using it (especially since it likes to show permanent notifications which are maddening. I should write something separate about this, but think of Shortcuts, but with far less functionality but you can have them automatically trigger at certain times/locations with zero input from you. It’s super useful for a few specific situations for me.
  • The Galaxy Store app was featuring wallpapers that played with the hole punch in fun ways, which I thought was kinda fun.

But not all is perfect, and there are some things that are pretty rough. While I don’t like Android Pie’s gestures, I do enjoy gestures over buttons, and Samsung really punted here. They have gestures, but they’re just swiping up in one of three places on the bottom of the screen to do exactly what the buttons do.

Bixby is more of a disaster than I expected5. Bixby Home tries to be something like the old Google Now, and sits on the left of your home screen, but if Google Now specialized in showing useless information and ads for apps you definitely don’t want in the Galaxy Store. And Bixby as a voice assistant is wildly useless. Here’s what it gave me when I asked it to navigate to the nearest Starbucks:

I could not for the life of me get it to select the right location with my voice, and the cards it gave me on screen were zero help in determining which store was the right one. Spoiler, neither was the closest and each were in totally different towns.

Oh, and even though Google Assistant works well when using the phone, any accessories, like headphones, that let you do something to pull up a voice assistant can only use Bixby.

Supposedly saying “Hi Bixby” should let me pull up the assistant at any time, but this worked maybe one in twenty times for me. Even then, the phone makes you unlock it to actually do anything (even things like checking the weather) so it felt useless and easier to just pick up my phone.

I’m going to eject from this feature before I start to really rant, but Bixby needs a lot of work and I truly wish I could just use Google Assistant instead.

There are small things like the fact that even after you’ve authenticated with your face or fingerprint, if you tap a notification on your lock screen, you need to make a second swipe up gesture to actually open that notification. Two actions to get into a notification is a small, but constant annoyance for something you do dozens of times a day.

Of how the notification bubbles can only be made like half opaque, so some lock screen wallpapers in the stock set make the text of these notifications a little hard to read.

Let’s also talk about dark patterns for a second. One UI is full of screens like this:

That bottom option sure looks a lot like it needs to be checked to proceed, but it’s actually completely optional and opts you into a bunch of marketing and analytics programs you probably don’t want to agree to. You may not see it from this screenshot alone, but even when I knew it was a thing I still tapped this button on a bunch of screens in numerous apps and almost agreed to a bunch of marketing stuff I certainly didn’t want.

Finally, there is the standard Android issue of relatively poor third party software. There are a ton of apps, but every single app I use on this phone has a better version on iOS. Fanboys, this is your chance to come at me, but the gulf in software quality for the things I use a phone to do is enormous.

Does Samsung Even Like Android?

One thing that’s really clear when using One UI is that Samsung is not that into Android. They really guide you through setting up a Samsung account, using their own document and photo storage tools, and push their own apps on you. On first boot, there are two app stores, two browsers, two messaging apps, two emails apps, and more on the home screen. Samsung has their app and then there’s a Google folder with a few of their apps if you’d prefer. I like the choice here, but it’s pretty clear that Samsung would prefer you use their apps, thank you very much.

This is fine, but it’s a little jarring when you go between Samsung’s apps and all other Android apps. Samsung is using entirely different UI paradigms for their apps, so their apps work one way and anything from Google or third parties on the Play Store works totally differently. Samsung has a pretty clear vision for that makes a good One UI app and nothing you download for your phone is going to follow those conventions.

It’s like Samsung set out to make the best operating system they could, and only built it on top of Android because they needed the Play Store. The Galaxy Store is okay, but there are far fewer apps there than the Play Store, and I would imagine everyone is going to need to go to Google’s app store to get everything they need. Microsoft has a bunch of apps in the Galaxy Store, but almost nothing else of note is there.

There’s just a bit of friction between Samsung and Google’s apps, and it’s something I feel all the time when using the phone.

All the Small Things

This was the first phone I’ve used Android Auto with in any meaningful way, and I have to say I’m disappointed. The car UI is pretty clunky and despite having the fastest phone money can buy, the UI is choppy. Also, the UI has noticeable jagged edges on a lot of elements, which is in part due to my car’s display (driving a 2018 Chevy Cruze), but is not something I noticed was an issue on CarPlay for iOS. I also got numerous instances of audio getting choppy, which makes no sense since all content was downloaded to the device and I was using a wired connection. I guess Android Auto was just a less reliable and weird experience for me than CarPlay. Not Samsung’s fault, but something I noticed.

What I do love is that I can run the Android Auto app on the phone itself, so I get the same UI without needing a car compatible. My wife drives the Cruze and I am in a 2013 Hyundai that doesn’t have any smartphone connectivity, and using this makes my car feel a little fancier.

The camera bump on the back of the phone is much shallower than the iPhone XS’s and it’s so much nicer day-to-day. I use my phones without a case most of the time and the reduction in wobble is welcome.

There’s a headphone jack on this phone! I never used it!

Samsung Health is pretty decent. It does automatic sleep detection (only track time asleep, not how you slept) that’s pretty accurate. It also does workout detection and gives you some decent data on your walks/runs. If you have a Galaxy Watch, then you basically need to use this app.

I love the little animation that plays around the camera cutout when it’s trying to read your face.

I hate how the hole punch is bottom aligned with the status bar. Nothing else does that and it feels unintentional. The only other option would be to bump the status bar even lower, but that would be worse from a usability perspective. It’s almost like they could have added a notch and avoided this whole problem…

I hated Samsung’s emoji set at first, but it’s really grown on me. I still think of Apple’s as the canonical set, but Samsung’s looks really good at small sizes. Certainly better than Google’s set in my opinion.

Conclusion

It’s not a slam dunk, but I think the Samsung Galaxy S10e is a killer phone and is easily my favorite Android phone right now. While I normally struggle to use an Android phone for most than a month before dying to get my SIM back into the iPhone, this time I’m quite comfortable sticking with this phone until WWDC this June (I’m a sucker for iOS betas, so iOS 13 will bring me back). That’s three months, which is pretty damn impressive.

I didn’t talk much about the other S10 models, but considering the big omissions are6:

  1. The in screen fingerprint reader
  2. The curved edges
  3. The telephoto lens

The first two are frankly things I’d rather not have on a phone. All accounts are the fingerprint reader is slow and unreliable and I don’t like how many accidental touches I’ve had on every curved Samsung phone I’ve used. I do miss the telephoto lens though, and that’s the only real thing that would get me to upgrade.

So all in all, $749 for most of the good stuff and none of the bad of the more expensive phones, this really feels like it’s the best option in the lineup. Unless you want a huge phone, in which case the S10+ will be more up your alley.

I think the S10e is the best Android phone for the most people, so long as they’re prepared to spend $700+ on the phone. If they want to spend less, I would point them to the OnePlus 6/6t, but that’s a more barebones experience. For nerds, that coupled with much faster software updates makes it more appealing, but One UI makes me feel like prompt Android updates are less meaningful on this phone. If you want the best camera, get the Pixel 3, but that’s really the only reason in my opinion.


  1. Worth noting here that I have found it hard to recommend a Galaxy S phone since the S2 or S3. Despite their financial success, I never liked their hardware and truly disliked their software. 
  2. I don’t think battery life is something we should need to aggressively manage. I could always install things like Tasker and try to set up things to shut down Bluetooth and Wifi all the time, but I have no interest in using my phone this way. I don’t want to “manage” my phone, I want it to manage itself. If you don’t think that’s reasonable, then I don’t think you have high enough standards for technology and have a fundamental misunderstanding of how the vast majority of people treat and think about this stuff. 
  3. My family and friends aren’t super keen on their photos being used in reviews like this, so you’re stuck my my ugly mug for most of these example photos. 
  4. Or more often, people who aren’t familiar with my extensive Android usage, coming in hard with “this Apple fanboy doesn’t understand Android” and trying to ruin my day. 
  5. And my expectations were very, very low. 
  6. It also starts with 6GB RAM instead of 8GB, and the screen itself is marginally lower resolution, but these are frankly unnoticeable for most people, and are specs I don’t feel move the needle at all in terms of how these phones are in daily use. 

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active: An Apple Watch Fan’s Sorta-Review

Before we get going, let me just say that I picked up this watch 4 days ago and have used for 3 full days as I write these words. I normally would wait to pass judgement and write a full review, but I simply can’t use this watch anymore and need to return it before it fills me with even more…”rage” isn’t the right word…hmm…let’s just say this filled me with massive disappointment that no tech product has made me feel in recent memory.

Let’s go.

Design

This watch looks cheap and generally unattractive. I got the silver model and I might think better of it if I got the black one, but I was not proud to wear this on my wrist. Other people feel this way about the Apple Watch, so I get if people will disagree with this, but I personally almost wanted to wear long sleeves to cover this up.

The buttons on the side are nearly flush, but not quite with the body and are inexplicably different colors. They’re not bold colors either, just subtly different for no apparent reason. They do at least feel good to press. And the band it comes with is kind of like the Sport Band the Apple Watch uses, but has a metal clasp that again, is not very appealing to me.

The good news is that this uses a standard 20mm connector, so there are lots of regular watch bands you can buy to use with this.

First Impressions

Setup was seemingly simple, but my phone locked up and I had to wait about 10 minutes for it to reboot itself as the buttons and screen were completely unresponsive. Then setup was easy and kind of “just worked” like you would expect from a smart watch.

But then I saw this gem.

What the hell does this even mean? I'm pretty tech savvy and this confuses the hell out of me, so I can't imagine what less advanced users think. Anyway, I agreed to it since I kind of assume lots of stuff wouldn't work if I don't allow this.

Bixby

“Hi Bixby, what's the weather?”

Well, I don't know how I expected that to go 🤦‍♂️

Bixby is the only voice assistant you can use on this device; Google Assistant is not an option. I'll also note here that none of Google’s apps work with the watch either. Notifications work (more on these later), but they feel very much siloed off from your watch.

Watch Faces

The watch face is the most important part of a smart watch’s software and this watch has a collection of faces that I simply don’t like. The best watch face is called Breath, and is very similar to the watch face with the same title on the Apple Watch. Here’s the thing though, this is the best face on the Active and it’s one of the more ho-hum faces on the Apple Watch.

Here are all of the watch faces that come installed on the device out of the box:

None of these look good to me, with most of them being frankly unacceptable.

Not only do I think these look bad, but they are also shocking sparse on content. If you want your watch face to give you more than the time and the current temp, then these are going to let you down. Complications are sort of here, but most watch faces only let you change their colors to one of three options.

And then we need to talk about the third party faces. These are more of a dumpster fire than I ever expected. I strongly believe that the iOS development community can make some very nice faces for the Apple Watch, but the watch faces I see available for the Samsung line of watches makes me question that belief. This is the most popular free watch face on the Galaxy Store tonight:

And this ugliness is not alone, here are the featured collections of faces:

These are all basically the same ugly-ass style and I think they look abysmal. I don’t say that lightly and I hate to say that about something other people really enjoy, but these are rough and I would never be caught dead with these on my wrist. Watch faces should embrace their digital nature, not emulate $20 Timexes.

These were a massive disappointment and are one of the main reasons I can’t wait to get this off my wrist.

A Round Watch Face

I had little interest in a round Apple Watch before, and now I have zero interest in a round watch from Apple. I wrote this way back in 2015 about how round watches are wrong for digital watches and that they were just a fad. I underestimated how long this style would last on the Android side, but I think I was completely right about round being a bad shape.

The bottom line here is that none of the things I’m looking at on my watch are round. Text messages, Slacks, emails, news, and the rest are all much better displayed on a rectangular screen. I think Samsung knows this too because all content displays in a thin rectangle in the center of the screen. They do this to minimize the content that is cut off by the rounded screen, but it also means that everything takes up a ton of vertical space. Short headlines in my Inoreader notifications required me to scroll to see everything, and even further to see the actions I could take on that notification. The two below screens could effectively display the same amount of content that the Gear Active can:

This screen shape usually means tons of empty black space that takes up room on my wrist but provides zero value.

About the only things that are built with the round screen in mind are the native Samsung apps, most of which have some UI that wraps around the edge of the screen. These are fine and relatively well made, but most of them would work just was well on a square screen.

Performance

Let’s talk about something good to break up the bad stuff. Performance on this thing is actually quite good! Everything happens pretty quick and I almost never felt like I was waiting on the watch to do something. Considering where we started in 2014/15 with the first smart watches, this is very welcome.

I really have nothing else to say here other than I’m happy to see Samsung build an operating system around the hardware at hand and not throwing too much at this teeny tiny computer.

Workout Tracking

Another pretty good note is workout tracking itself, which is the main reason you should get this watch. Workouts start fast and there are tons of them available. My testing of this was quite limited due to my short time with the watch, but the app launches instantly and it does an incredibly good job of auto-pausing workouts when you stop for a minute. It paused a few seconds after I stopped walking during a dog walk, and started up almost immediately after I started walking again. This was fantastic.

They of course also have Samsung Health, which has you “fill your heart” instead of your rings, with goals for calories burned, minutes active, and hours standing.

The watch will also yell at you for sitting too long, but unlike the Apple Watch it will ask you to do a quick arm workout at your desk instead of making you stand up. It’s pretty cool, although not something I’ll probably do again.

Battery Life

Battery life has been good, with me getting almost 2 days with the screen off all the time (like the Apple Watch) and then a little less than 24 hours when I enabled the alway-on display. Neither of these are super exciting, but they definitely get the job done.

As for charging, it takes well over an hour to charge this thing up. I don't know the exact time, but it's slower than I expected. As a cool trick for those with a Galaxy S10, I love the ability to charge straight from my phone.

https://youtu.be/b4f1E12jXtY

It's worth noting that while it charges from the Galaxy S10, it does not work with any of my Qi wireless chargers, so it appears to pick and choose what devices may charge it, just like the Apple Watch.

Notifications

Hot damn, this is what made me quit this thing. This is the newest Galaxy Watch and I’m using it with Samsung’s newest phone, the S10e. By all accounts, I should be Samsung’s ideal customer and am using the optimal combination for this product.

I say that because the experience I had with the “smart” things this watch does feels terrible and almost acts like they’re products not really meant to work together.

https://twitter.com/mattbirchler/status/1105535909871665152

There is no way to authenticate yourself on the watch (no pin, not pattern, and no biometrics) and it behaves exactly the same whether it’s on your wrist or sitting loose on a table. This is convenient for YouTubers recording videos, but it’s possibly the worst software decision in this entire product.

Since the watch can never trust that it is indeed me who is asking it to do something (without authentication how can it know someone didn’t just steal it off my wrist and is now sending nasty texts in my name?), it needs to confirm every single action I take on notifications by asking me to use my phone to authenticate the request. Pardon my French, but how in the Sam hell is this acceptable behavior for a smart watch? The point of the watch is to let me do things without the phone! Even mundane things like archiving emails resulted in a message on the phone that said “check your phone” and the action would not take place until I authenticated with my face of fingerprint.

Seriously…

It was at that moment, after asking my watch to archive an email and confirming it on my phone that I decided to return this thing.

On the plus side, there is a cool feature you can turn on (off by default) that makes it so that if a notification comes in, you raise your wrist to look at it, and then unlock your phone, the phone will open up to the content of that notification. This is clever in that the feeling of “oh, this is something I should handle on my phone” is a relatively common experience when using a smart watch, and being able to instantly get you into the thing you were alerted by is clever. I would love to see this added to the Apple Watch.

Conclusion

There is probably more to say and I likely didn’t cover everything about this watch, but if you’ve made it this far in the review I suspect you are not planning on getting this watch. If you are, please know that it’s going to be better for a workout tracker than a full on smart watch. If that’s what you’re looking for, then this might be a decent solution. It’s $199, runs well, has pretty good health tracking tools, and works with Android and iOS. It also supports Samsung Pay so you can make payments with NFC from the watch, which you won’t get on most fitness-focused bands.

On the other hand, if you are using iOS I simply can not recommend this when the Apple Watch exists. Best Buy currently has the Apple Watch Series 3 for $199 which eliminates the price difference, and even at the normal $279 price point, I truly think the additional functionality would be worth the extra cost to just about everyone.

My “review” has certainly not been comprehensive, but hopefully you at least understand my feelings towards this device. I truly dislike it at a very core level. I went in with high hopes and had them dashed in fantastic fashion. This watch might be right for some people, and I hope they do enjoy it greatly, but it is certainly not for me, and I think if you are used to the Apple Watch’s form, functionality, and attention to detail, you will feel the same.

Video: My First Impressions of the Galaxy S10e

https://youtu.be/H4WOzi91KW8

I feel like I got lucky in getting the Samsung Galaxy S10e a couple days early and took the opportunity to put together a quick(ish) video about some of the things that stand out to me right off the bat. This video was produced over a couple hours this morning and afternoon, and of course was done entirely with the iPad (all footage was shot on the iPhone XS, Galaxy S10e, and OnePlus 6).

If you like the video, please share it on Twitter or throw it a like on YouTube. I would say to subscribe, this this site is a way better way to keep up with me than my sporadic YouTube channel.

The Galaxy Brand is Dead

I'm positive the Note brand is dead. If Samsung has the gal to bring out a Note 8 next year, the tagline has to be "it won't explode, we promise...again...seriously this time." That's not a great pitch.

The death blow may have already been thrown weeks ago, but for me it was when the FAA announced that Note 7's were going to be straight up banned from going on any domestic aircraft. Not just turned off, not just checked and in the luggage are, but not on the plane at all. Here's a bit from the Washington Post:

“We recognize that banning these phones from airlines will inconvenience some passengers, but the safety of all those aboard an aircraft must take priority,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement. “We are taking this additional step because even one fire incident inflight poses a high risk of severe personal injury and puts many lives at risk.”

And then there's this:

SNL did a Galaxy Note 7 joke, but they didn't specify the Note part. The "Samsung Galaxy 7" is all they called it, and that's what I see a lot of late night hosts saying in their punchlines as well. It's the "Galaxy 7" that's blowing up, the "Note" part of the name just doesn't fit in. Whether that's a good or bad thing, it does push this impression that Samsung Galaxy phones are dangerous.

15 years ago we freaked out about phones giving us cancer (they won't), now we're talking about a phone that might explode next to your head. This is stunningly bad PR, and I don't know if the Galaxy brand can bear it.

The iPhone is the strongest brand in smartphones, and it would be hard to argue that Galaxy isn't the second strongest. These brands can take a lot of abuse and come out ahead, but the extent that the Galaxy brand is being dragged through the mud is unprecedented. This is a particularly mainstream recall, and I would be you there are more people who can tell you what phone brand is blowing up than can tell you who both vice president candidates are.

People have short memories, so maybe Galaxy is sticking around, but if I was at Samsung I'd have my marketing team working overtime to find a new brand we can transition to quickly.

Just Reboot Your Phone Once a Day

Samsung's official advice to people is to reboot your phone once a day to ensure it's performance stays solid. Here's a screenshot in case that link breaks:

I'm beside myself, I really am. How is it 2016 and Samsung's advice for keeping your phone running smoothly is to restart it every damn day? When was the last time someone told you the best way to get your computer to run best was to reboot once a day? 1998? Earlier?!

Typically, I (and I would guess most iPhone users) only restart my phone when an iOS software update comes down the wire. Meanwhile, my Mac only gets updated for the same reason, and even my Windows PC at work hasn't been rebooted since I upgraded to Windows 10.

How trashy is your software if the best way to get it to run as expected is to reboot the device it's running on every single day? I'm truly baffled by this suggestion and think it's a wonderful illustration of the poor performance and trashy software that Samsung has been shipping for years. This sounds exactly like the myth that closing your apps on your iPhone saves battery life and makes your phone run faster. That suggestion is BS, and Apple will tell you so, but to have this coming straight from Samsung is…it's just sad.


I should note that I wrote a piece last week about blindly saying Samsung phones suck, but this has nothing to do with being anti-Samsung because I like Apple. This is about an absurd expectation of users for any tech device in 2016.

Samsung Firing on All Cylinders with the Galaxy S7

Mobile World Congress is happening this week and there have been plenty of interesting announcements made by a bunch of differnet companies, but nothing has impressed me more than Samsung's Galaxy S7 line. But why? The LG G5 is a modular smartphone with fancy friends and the VR stuff looked so cool! You know, except when it wasn't.

I'm impressed with Samsung's S7 line because they made what seem to be unversally positive changes to last year's phone. I was not impressed around this time last year when Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S6 line, which I felt elimiated most of the things that differetiated Samsung from the iPhone. I was able to get a unit to review later last year and I was not impressed with it. I thought the S6 was a beautiful phone full of questionable UI decisions and hardware limitations.

But the 2016 phones look to have fixed a lot. Water resistance and expandable storage are back, and the design has been subtly improved, ensuring that this remains on the best looking phones on the market. I still don't think the Edge models are something I'd ever persue again, but the standard Galaxy S7 would be a top contender if I was in the market to buy a new Android phone this year.

Out of curiosity, I seeked out some Geekbench test scores to see how Samsung's flagship stacks up against my phone, the iPhone 6s Plus. Apparently it's better, but not as much better as you'd expect, considering how loud and proud Samsung was about these specs.