Samsung unveils midrange phones with beefed-up features

3 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

How Apple does big phones better than Android.

The Galaxy A3, A5 and A7 follow in the footsteps of 2014’s Galaxy A3 and A5 smartphones, and feature a premium metal and glass design similar to that seen on the Galaxy S6.Samsung is wasting no time in announcing phones for 2016: On Wednesday, the company introduced a trio of Galaxy A handsets that launch this month in China and later around the world with a starting price under $350. Back then, Apple was still trying to convince us of the benefit of thumb-to-screen ratio, and if I would have used the 4.9-inch Nexus 5 for a month, I’m not sure I would have switched my SIM back so quickly.

Various rumors of the devices have popped up online and latest reports suggest that the upcoming Galaxy A5 (2016) will have a 720p HD display, not a 1080p display as previously speculated. These two smartphones also come with Full HD displays, measuring 5.2in and 5.5in respectively, a 1.6GHz hexa-core processor, 2GB and 3GB of RAM and support for Cat 6 LTE speeds. They all run Google’s last-gen Android 5.1 Lollipop software to which Samsung has added its TouchWiz skin, giving the devices features such as the Samsung Knox business offering. J K Shin, CEO and head of Samsung’s IT and Mobile business, said: “At Samsung, we are committed to continued innovation, inspired by the feedback and needs of our wide range of consumers. “With the introduction of the Galaxy A (2016), we took the consumer feedback on our original Galaxy A models and made thoughtful and impactful improvements offering consumers a seamless convergence of style and performance for their everyday lifestyles.”

Android phones started the large-screen trend years before Apple jumped on the bandwagon, but over the course of my time away from my iPhone, it wasn’t my iPhone that I missed most, it was iOS. In fact, Huawei smartphone shipments increased 60.9% in the third quarter when compared to the same period last year, according to market research firm IDC. Its sturdy, metal enclosure isn’t entirely unlike a supersized iPhone 4 or a boxier iPhone 6, and being outside of the iEcosystem with my main device wasn’t nearly as crippling as I feared (though I missed getting notifications on my Apple Watch).

Huawei’s ability to price devices around $500, considered to be the consumer “sweet-spot,” is a contributing factor to the company’s recent success. To compete with the likes of Huawei in the mid-range smartphone market, Samsung needs to improve upon and differentiate—without significantly increasing the price—of its Galaxy A phones. It’s like using a 5.5-inch Apple Watch, and the day Apple figures out how to produce a couple hundred million of them a year can’t come soon enough.

Samsung Pay differs from similar mobile payment services from Apple AAPL -0.90% or Android in that it uses two different technologies to transmit payment information, making the service compatible with most payment kiosks used by merchants. Oddly, Marshmallow doesn’t include a native setting for home screen rotation, and I had to rely on the kindness of launchers to replicate the feature on my 6P. But Samsung can’t completely abandon the mid- and high-range markets; owners of the lower priced phones may want to move up the chain for more features, better pictures and faster performance.

It’s not an entirely uncommon phenomenon among Android flagships (my Nexus 7 tablet doesn’t have one either), but getting acquainted with the Nexus 6P after seven years of daily iPhone usage took some time. While having a fixed back button at the bottom of the screen is a nice change of pace, it comes at the expense of gestures or really any kind of navigational shortcuts of any kind. Apple is constantly tweaking iOS to make it easier to get around (and decrease reliance on the home button as a navigational aid), but Android seems very much tied to its navigational buttons—so much so that if an app freezes, I have to wait for its quit dialogue box to appear before I can continue. It might not seem like a major problem, but flipping your 5.5-inch phone a half-dozen times a day because you picked it up upside-down does increase the probability of dropping it. While the idea is intriguing, it forces me into a specific and somewhat uncomfortable grip, using my pinkie finger and palm to cradle the phone while I unlock it with my index finger.

On my iPhone, I have five fingerprints stored and I can unlock it any number of ways (including when it’s resting on a table, which is impossible to do with the Nexus), but I never added a second one with the 6P. The placement of the sensor is really only conducive to one type of unlocking, and oftentimes it’s just easier to revert the old-fashioned swipe-to-unlock method. Trusted places were a bit wonky in my experience—the reliance on location instead of Wi-Fi caused occasional issues—but it’s a fantastic feature for phones big and small, and it seems especially useful for one this big. Evolution may eventually make our thumbs elongated to compensate for the stretching we need to do now, but if portrait is going to remain the default mode for smartphones, one-handed operation is always going to be a thing. Apple didn’t increase the size of the iPhone without carefully considering this, but even with a several-year lead, Android doesn’t seem to get it.

Holding my 6P the same way results in a flurry of unintended taps and pinches, and when I think an app is lagging or frozen, it’s usually the result of too much flesh peeking over the edge. For all the pretty hardware it makes, none of it really matters if the foundation is broken. iOS is by no means perfect, but Apple has a clear plan for it. Part of that is the close marriage of hardware and software, but the reason I bought a Nexus 6P is because it’s a Google phone, and I expected all the parts to work together as one amazing whole. Early on, I chalked up my woes to inexperience (or rather, too much iPhone experience), but there are areas where iOS simply excels, and no amount of practice or study will change that.

It was nice to be able to enhance the functionality of my phone without waiting for Google to push an update, but most people just want their phones to work they way they want without visiting the settings, let along an app store. It’s finally become clear to me that iOS 7’s redesign wasn’t just about its modern design; it was about rebuilding the user experience to make iOS smarter, quicker and more intuitive.

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