Tech Spotlight: The Good, the Bad and the Recalled
Welcome to the new Tech Spotlight!
For those of you familiar with this column, I will still be reviewing new products. But here, there are no rules or regulations…so I’m tossing in a few bonuses. I’ll offer some news blips and my take on the latest tech talk, as well as reviews and opinions. So let’s get started.
Here’s something you don’t see every day…the CEO of Samsung took to the Internet to apologize for the deficiencies of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. For those who haven’t heard, the Note 7 phone sold prior to Sept. 15 has been recalled by Samsung and warned on by the government because of the risk of the batteries overheating and catching fire. Yes, they actually catch fire. Reports of them even causing homes and vehicles to burn have come to light. According to the Emergencyemail.org posting Sept. 21, Samsung had received 92 reports of batteries overheating in the U.S. 26 of those were associated with burns, and 55 with property damage.
So the CEO has apologized and promised repaired products would hit the market very soon (this week or next). While the situation is not a great one, it’s good to see a company stepping up and admitting to the error, rather than trying to sweep it under the rug. Especially a company that normally makes such great products. I’m not going to lie, I was very impressed with the S7 phone. The S7 Edge was nice, though I still think the Edge thing is a bit overrated.
Hopefully, they’ve built a better battery for the Note 7, as the new ones are rolling out as we speak. So if you jumped on the Note 7 purchases early, head to the store and find out how to trade up for a fixed phone. And major kudos to the CEO for stepping up. (OK, he stepped up after the government announced the recall, but it's still a step up from what most companies do.)
Speaking of better batteries, that brings me to this week’s review.
I will be honest, I’m coming off a hate/hate relationship with my iPhone 6. I had battery issues with the 5, and they weren’t improved much for the 6. For that reason and because, well, I was under contract, I passed on the 6S upgrade, though I hear they did improve things.
So the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus hit the market last week. Given the struggles with my iPhone 6 (which could partially be fixed with a compete restore, I suspect, but I was in no way enthused about that doing that nightmarish task anytime soon), I decided to jump on the Apple wagon and upgrade. Being a camera nerd as well as a tech nerd, I wanted the one with two lenses. Yes, I got the iPhone 7 Plus. Rose Gold, if you were wondering. i didn’t have the patience to wait until November for the Jet Black. Besides, I always keep mine in a protective case (we’ll get to those next time).
The first thing I wanted to check was the battery power. The phone actually came to me fully charged, which was a nice surprise. I hooked it to the computer, told it to restore from the backup of my old phone the earlier day, and voila, I was ready to go.
Well, mostly. For some reason, the backup left off all my playlists and some random apps. Very random. The 3,000+ photos I pulled from my old phone had no trouble reloading, though, much to my chagrin. I really hoping manually managing those would keep that from happen, but no go. So I have a few things to clean off.
Back to the battery. I didn’t charge it the first night, because it still was fully charged. I charged it a bit the next day, then left it. I ended up not charging it that night. It lasted through the next day, when I charged it again. In short, I’m getting nearly two days of use out of one charge. Granted, that’s mostly social media, streaming audio and email and Internet, which isn’t too harsh. Lots of video watching and use of LTE definitely has a bigger impact, but that’s expected. So far, the battery gets a thumb’s up. We’ll see if that holds true a year from now.
What about the rest of the phone? Well, the screen is gorgeous. Sharp, clear, bright, easy to see and navigate, it utilizes the pressure touch features introduced in the 6s and 6s Plus, only it works a lot better. The only issue I found was a slight lack of sensitivity in the bottom left corner, so I had to hit something more than once on occasion, but it may just be my particular phone.
The touch sensitivity has a lot more options now, especially with certain apps. Previous, adding pressure to your touch would do cute things like preview a picture or website. Now that developers have had time to really play with the option, it does a lot more. For example, you can not just open an app but navigate immediately to some of the app’s more popular features. Pressure touching the Fandango app, for example allows you to open the app or go straight to the Movies or Theaters section. A pressure touch on the Amazon app will allow you to track a package or start searching for a product right away by activating voice commands.
The pressure touch and screen aren’t the only things making this phone so much easier to navigate. The biggest factor is the speed. It’s so much faster than the 6, and faster than the 6s. The speed is evident, from loading apps to loading websites. It’s the real key to the phone’s improvement.
The camera is a nice bonus. It’s bumped to 12 megapixels with an F/1.8 aperture, which gives it a lot better look in low light. The camera also has optical stabilization, so you get less blur from your shaking hand. Even the front-facing camera has a boost, with the previously anemic camera bumping up to 7 megapixels. The iPhone Plus users get a bonus with a second camera built into the back - a telephone lens that provides 2x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom. The optical is nice. Digital zoom, of course, deteriorates the image by digitally blowing it up. While the new iPhone’s digital zoom is improved from the previous phones, it’s still not as good as an optical zoom. Still, it’s a nice feature to have.
So, that brings us to the big, noisy elephant in the room — the headphone jack, or in this case, the lack thereof. I’ve heard the “this is going to kill Apple” comments. Frankly, I heard the same thing decades ago when Steve Jobs introduced an iMac without — gasp! — a floppy drive. The gloom and doom came out then, as well. How many computers do you see coming out today with floppy drives? Exactly.
Let’s dispel a few things. First, yes, they introduced wireless headphones and, yes, they’re expensive ($159 retail) and, yes, they don’t come with the phone. However, the phone still comes with headphones, and they’re even wired headphones. The headphones connect with the lightning jack, so they’ll work just fine with the phone. The phone also comes with a lightning to headphone jack adapter. Yes, it’s small, and yes, I’m surprised I haven’t lost it yet. But it is available from Apple if you need to replace it, and it’s $9. Chances are, third-party manufacturers will soon have them out cheaper than that. Oh, and the phone still works fine with wireless headphones. Don’t panic. Really.
Luckily, the included headphones fit well and get great sound. The lack of a 3.5mm jack also allows room for a second speaker, so the sound from the phone is even better. Even phone calls sound better over the phone receiver. I noticed how clear it was when talking to a family member recently. On top of that, the phone is also splash and water resistant.
Bottom line, the new iPhone 7 is definitely a step up from the iPhone 6s and a MASSIVE upgrade from the iPhone 6. If you’ve been waiting to upgrade, this is worth it.
EmergencyEmail.org link to Samsung recall: http://www.emergencyemail.org/newsemergency/anmviewer.asp?a=6562&z=48
Keywords: Melissa L. Jones, Tech Spotlight, column, mobile, opinion, review, tech products, technology