I miss the Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Galaxy Note 7

The week the Note 7 was released I paid off my Galaxy S6 and ordered a Note 7 in blue online through AT&T. Most of the phones I’ve owned have been iPhones, but I ended up switching to Samsung with the S5 in order to try something different. The S5 wasn’t a terrible phone, but it was plastic and didn’t feel very great. That’s why I was more excited for the S6, which felt closer to an iPhone than ever. However, eventually the S6 started to slow down and give me issues, and nothing I did could get it working smoothly again. It would freeze often when typing, and apps would crash all the time. I assume it had something to do with a software update, but once I saw the Note 7 I knew that it was time to get rid of the S6.

The day the Note 7 arrived I was blown away. It was the most premium feeling phone I’ve ever held. It had weight to it and felt great in the hand. The screen blew me away, and I loved using it to watch Netflix at the gym. I upgraded to the new Gear VR so that I could use the Note 7 with it, and it did a lot better than my S6 did. It wouldn’t get hot and temporarily stop working like the S6 always did.

When reports first started coming out about the Note 7 catching fire I thought that I would be fine. Sure it was alarming to hear, but the numbers were so low compared to the amount of phones sold that even after the recall was announced I had intended to hold on to my Note 7. It never got hot, no matter how much I used it, so I wasn’t that concerned. Ultimately, however, Samsung pushed out the update to change the battery color to identify “safe” phones, and announced that they intended to use another software update to stunt the battery on recalled Note 7’s so that customers would have little choice but to stop using them. At this point I decided to return to the AT&T store.

The exchange process for my first Note 7 was not a pleasant process. Initially when I took it in to temporarily swap it out for a S7 until they got replacement phones in stock the AT&T employee told me that I’d be better off keeping the Note 7 until the replacement phones came in because it’d be an easier process. Nevermind that phones were continuing to catch fire, he advised me that it would be fine. He told me to come back next week, and that’s what I did.

Once I was notified that replacement Note 7’s were available I went back to the store, waiting behind four other customers, and was eventually helped. However, it turned out that they didn’t have any blue Note 7’s in stock, and that’s the color I was in love with, so they had to call around and find me a store with the blue phone in stock. I then drove across town, and was finally ready to exchange my faulty Note 7. Would this process go smoothly? Not a chance. When they started the exchange they tried to tell me since I didn’t have the box and everything included with the phone they couldn’t exchange it for a new one! It’s not like I expected to be returning the phone when I bought it! I told them that I talked to customer support and they ensured me I could return the phone without the box, and besides it was a safety issue to keep the phone. He didn’t quite believe me, and went into the back to talk to a manager before coming out and continuing the exchange process.

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Once the exchange was completed I spent the next few days restoring my phone, logging into all of my apps and accounts, and getting everything set back up how I wanted it. Less than two weeks later and the Note 7 is back in the news, this time with “safe” phones supposedly bursting into flame. Again, initially I planned to wait it out and see what would come, but with each passing day there was another report of an exploding replacement Note 7. At this point Ars Technica put out their article saying not to buy even a replacement Note 7, and advising everyone to return theirs. I called AT&T and was ensured that if I felt unsafe I could return my replacement Note 7, no questions asked.

The second exchange went smoother than the first, but was still painful. I had wanted to switch to an iPhone 7 Plus at this point, mostly out of frustration with Samsung, however no stores around had any in stock. I decided to settle with the S7 Edge as it was closest in screen size to the Note 7, but when I picked up the phone I was really put off by how cheap the S7E felt compared to the premium feel of the Note 7. Still, I had heard many good things about the S7 Edge, and used the price difference in the phone to justify upgraded my Gear S watch to the Gear S2. I really like the S2, especially since it feels less like a spaceship on my wrist and more like a watch.

As the week has gone on I’ve gotten a little more used to the S7 Edge, but I’m still sad that the Note 7 is gone for good. That phone felt so much better to hold, and even if the screen wasn’t that much larger I can definitely tell the difference with the S7E. At this point, I’m not sure what I’ll get for my next phone. I’ve never liked the design of other Android phones, and the Pixel hasn’t impressed me either. If Samsung can revitalize the Note series (probably under a different brand name) I’d be tempted to give it another try, but I don’t think I’d move on to an S8 or 9.

Have I lost faith in Samsung? Not entirely. I love the Gear S2 that I got last week, it feels like a premium product and performs great. We also got a Samsung 4K TV last month that I absolutely love, so I don’t think the Note 7 debacle has damaged their brand as much as the people making memes want to believe. Hopefully Samsung will thoroughly investigate what happened with the Note 7 and be as open with the public as possible during the coming months. As long as they don’t try to hide anything (and I’m aware of the text message suggesting they may have already tried), I think they’ll move on from the Note 7 disaster hurt, but not broken. I would hope they’ll use this experience to continue on more determined to ever and deliver a great series of phones next year.

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First day with the Samsung Galaxy Gear S

I was browsing Best Buy yesterday and was pondering picking up a Galaxy Gear 2 Neo when I came across the Samsung booth and saw the Galaxy Gear S for the first time. I was immediately in love with the design and screen quality and knew this was the watch I was going to leave the store with.

galaxy gear s

I didn’t know much about the Gear S at all, and was surprised to discover that in a sense it is a completely separate smartphone. What I mean is, the Galaxy Gear S has its own phone number and data connection and can function completely on its own when you’re away from your phone. You can also set up call forwarding, so that if you don’t initially answer a call on your phone it will be redirected to your watch. It may also come in useful in a pinch if your phone dies and you need to send a quick message or make a call.

galaxy gear s menu

There’s a lot I love about the Galaxy Gear S already. I love being able to read my phone’s messages and notifications on my wrist without ever having to reach for my phone. I found this feature appealing while at a casual lunch yesterday. I could just glance down at my watch and read a message without interrupting conversation or looking away for a significant amount of time.

galaxy gear s messages

I also found the on screen keyboard easy enough to use which was surprising. I didn’t expect it to work very well on such a small screen, but it is certainly functional.

galaxy gear s keyboard

I also love how the watch automatically displays the time when you lift your wrist. I know it seems silly, but being able to glance at the time without having to push a button on my phone is quite convenient.

galaxy gear s time

I’ve also enjoyed using some of the apps available for the device.
The weather display:

galaxy gear s weather

 

CNN:
galaxy gear s CNN
galaxy gear s CNN

Calculator:
galaxy gear s calculator

The media control lets you navigate the songs playing on your phone (this will be great while running!):
galaxy gear s media control

The S Health functionality is one of the device’s most appealing features to me. It’ll track your steps, heart rate, calories burned (based off of steps taken / activity), sleep and the UV index when you’re outside.

galaxy gear s health

To use the sleep tracker you have to first tell the device you’re going to sleep and then it’ll begin tracking. It was interesting to see just how restful I was while taking a nap earlier (I was 89% motionless over 4 hours and slept for three and a half hours.
galaxy gear s health sleep

The watch will vibrate and notify you if you’ve been too inactive over an hour long period which can be a nice motivator to get up and move. When this happens it’ll show you how many steps you’ve taken during the day and your progress toward your goal.

The Galaxy Gear S is $199 with a 2 year contract, and does require a data plan. I have AT&T and upon adding the watch to my account I had to switch from the 5GB data pro plan to a 6GB data share plan. As far as I can tell, this actually made my monthly bill cheaper, but I’ll have to wait until I’m billed for the first time to know for sure. I also now qualify for rollover data which is pretty cool!

If you don’t want to be locked in on a contract you can purchase the device for $329.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments!

 

Getting sucked into Clash of Clans

Clash of Clans became popular quite awhile ago, and I’m not even sure if many of those who first started talking about it still play it. I had always known very little about Clash of Clans and had convinced myself it probably wasn’t worth my time. From what I could tell it was just another take on the Simpsons: Tapped Out model where you’re trying to construct a cool town and the more you play the more you’re tempted to spend money on the game to expedite the building process (there’s not much to do while waiting for tasks to complete).

Yesterday for some odd reason I decided to finally download Clash of Clans on my iPad. Now I’m once again stuck in the mindset that if I’m not constantly putting my builders to work upgrading my town (camp? not sure what Clash players refer to their home base as) I’m essentially throwing away time and leaving my home unprepared for a siege.

Clash of Clans ipad notification

A notification from Clash of Clans that’s 30 minutes old. That’s 30 minutes that builder could’ve been put to work doing something else!

So far the game is enjoyable, more so than I expected it to be. I’m a “noob” in every sense, I’m just getting my feet wet, but basically you build up your town and upgrade facilities that collect resources (elixir and gold) which you then use to upgrade more facilities, build new buildings or defenses and train troops.

Clash of Clans Elixir collector upgrade screen

 

It will take one hour and 1400 gold to upgrade this elixir collector to level 4, increasing its production rate by 200 per hour.

You use your troops to complete single player objectives where you can raid encampments in order to steal elixir and gold, and also earn stars based on how much damage you do before all of your troops are killed (3 stars if you completely destroy everything). You can also raid other player’s camps, however if you do so within your first three days of gameplay you also become vulnerable to invasion by other players (for the first three days you have a shield which prevents you from being attacked. You can also purchase additional shield time with gems).

I haven’t seen any of the player vs player combat yet since I’m still within my first three days of gameplay, so I can’t really comment on that, but I presume that’s where where real fun begins. I’m also not eligible to join a clan yet, so that’s another area of gameplay I can’t comment or speculate on.

clash of clans town

My humble little home

I’m interested to learn more about the game, but for now I’m just working on upgrading my town as much as I can to prepare for the moment I become vulnerable to invasion in two days.  I’ll admit I already spent $4.99 on the game to purchase 500 gems which were required to receive a third builder. Builders are what you use to construct and upgrade your facilities and I felt too limited with just the two builders you start out with. You can earn gems without spending any money, however it will take patience which I don’t quite have.

Clash of Clans treasure page

A look at Clash of Clan’s in app purchases

Do you play Clash of Clans? Have any advice for a newbie? How about the Star War’s version, Star Wars: Force Commander?

Bioshock is now available on iOS

Bioshock iOS

So I was browsing the App Store today and was surprised to find that Bioshock is now available on iOS for $14.99. I had absolutely no idea that it was even coming to iOS, and now here it is, ready to be enjoyed on the go on my iPad Air! I was quite excited when I saw it, so I just wanted to pop in and share the news in case anyone else was unaware that this was actually coming.

I’ll be sure to share my experience after I play it a bit. Most of the reviews are quite positive so I’m excited to dig in and enjoy this wonderful game yet again!

Civilization Revolution 2: I can’t stop

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Civilization Revolution on the Xbox 360 was my very first exposure to the Civilization franchise. The very first time I played it I was addicted. There was just something amazing about trying to set up the perfect defenses to keep your Nation alive before venturing out and engaging in little skirmishes to raise the experience levels of your armies as you advance your technology and eventually make a play to rule the world.

Going from Civ Revolution to Civ V on the PC was quite the shock. Not only is it a lot slower paced, there’s a lot more to manage and keep track of. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but it’s not necessarily a quick fix type of game. At first I couldn’t get a grasp on Civ V as it was just too different (for example, being unable to stack troops makes it very difficult to navigate into tight spaces and launch an attack). Now I love Civ V just as much as I loved Civ Revolution, it’s just very time consuming.

Enter Civilization Revolution 2, the $14.99 iOS exclusive (for the moment). Having such an amazing game available at any time on my iPad is amazing, and it’s worth every penny, if not more. The game looks and plays almost exactly like the 2008 console release, with a few additions and improvements.

Playing a Civ game on a touch device is easy, and intuitive. Tap a troop and tap where you want it to go. Everything comes naturally, I don’t think I could ever go back to playing Civ Revolution with a controller. It also runs quite smoothly on the iPad Air and looks great all the time.

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I’ve already sunk something around 10 hours into Civ Revolution 2, and I’ve loved every minute of it. The only problem I have is putting it down. Most people come to expect mobile games to be quick fix games, but mobile gaming has come a long way since Angry Birds. You now have full featured games on mobile devices as opposed to stripped down iterations. A few of my Civ Revolution 2 games have lasted three hours or longer and the time flew by before I realized it. I’ll tell myself ‘just one more turn’ and before long I’m 50 turns deeper.

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Beware Civ Revolution 2’s addictive properties. Recently after finishing a 3 hour Civ Rev 2 game I immediately jumped onto my MacBook and began a Civ V game.

If you have an iOS device I highly recommend purchasing Civilization Revolution 2. You’ll get countless hours of enjoyment out of it if you enjoy strategy games or Civ games. If the PC versions of Civilization have intimidated you I also suggest you check out Civ Rev 2 as it’s much easier to get into and you’ll be having fun before you know it.

Civilization Revolution 2 is available in the App Store for $14.99

Two issues I have with the Samsung Galaxy S5

This will be brief, but I feel the need to talk about a few annoyances I’ve had with the Samsung Galaxy S5. All of my previous smartphones have been iPhones and I enjoyed them, but for whatever reason I decided to try out the Galaxy S5. It’s not a bad phone, I like the screen size, the fact that it’s waterproof and the SD card slot, yet there are some annoyances I don’t feel you should have to put up with.

First of all when I have the charging port cover open and plugged in while I’m in the car and I’m trying to listen to music or a podcast via auxiliary I’m met with a major annoyance. As I’m driving the phone constantly pops up with a reminder that the charging port is open, and each time this happens it mutes the music. At the very least the notification pops every ten seconds and at most pops ever 3-4 seconds. Therefore it’s entirely impossible to listen to music while also charging the phone in the car.

Secondly, when I have the phone in my pocket at work with it set to swipe to unlock it somehow constantly unlocks and moves apps and creates widgets all over the place. Not only that, but apps and games start opening on their own, music starts playing and I somehow send texts filled with gibberish or create reminders and notes filled with long strings of random text. You would assume that setting up a lock screen would prevent this from happening, and while it does it also creates another issue.

With the phone set to a pin lock or even pattern lock I manage to pocket dial 911. I’ve pocket dialed 911 from work several times over the last week and keep getting return calls from the local police. I called them back and explained what happened, but I can’t seem to prevent the issue from continuing to happen.

Issues like this are what’s going to drive me back to Apple. I’ve never had anything even remotely similar happen with an iPhone and I think overall Apple builds a better product. Android is just too ‘wonky’, weird and unreliable for me.

Get healthier with S Health

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One of my favorite apps on my Samsung Galaxy S5 is Samsung’s S Health app. It has driven me to become more active and to be more aware of my daily physical activity and general health. It can track your heartrate, daily walking, running, biking, food intake and more through add on apps you can download.

My favorite feature is the pedometer. It challenges you to take at least 10,000 steps a day in order to meet the widely recommended amount of weekly physical activity. I’ve found that during a night of work I tend to rack up between 5,000 and 6,500 steps on average and I’ve since challenged myself to add an additional 3,000-4,000 steps to my daily routine by going on walks before work, and walking to the store rather than driving. The pedometer made it easy for me to challenge myself to walk more and challenge myself to reach a higher and higher step count every day.

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I love being able to glance at the widget on my home screen to get a quick look at my daily progress.

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I’ve also been using the run tracker within S Health, and it’s functional but I still prefer the Nike + app for running. The diet tracker makes it easy to track what you eat in a day and it’ll help you to hold yourself more accountable for what you eat. Once you see exactly how that snack will affect your calorie total you’ll probably be more likely to swap it for something healthier like a fruit.

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S Health will challenge you to increase your daily activity in order to meet whatever goals you, or the app, set for you. The app is a simple way to become more active and hold yourself accountable for your health.

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