Month: August 2015

Galaxy Note 5 has best smartphone display ever tested, says DisplayMate


Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 5 has earned top marks for its display performance.
Josh Miller/CNET

Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 5 has the best performing screen in town, according to a new report from DisplayMate.

In a new round of lab tests analyzing the screens of both the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge+, DisplayMate President Raymond Soneira gave both phones high marks for their display performance. The Note 5 sports a 5.7-inch high-resolution Quad HD 2,560×1,440 pixel display. The S6 Edge+ offers the same screen size and resolution but with a screen that wraps around each side. Among the two, however, the Note 5 earned Soneira’s highest kudos.

Smartphone buyers may consider a variety of features when choosing a phone, but the screen performance should be one of the top factors. Size is important as consumers have been opting for bigger-screen phones. But the quality of the screen is critical as it determines the readability of the text, the appearance of photos and graphics and the ability to look good even in bright sunlight and other difficult conditions. Soneira refers to the screen performance as the “crown jewel of the smartphone.”

Samsung has been facing a rough time in the smartphone arena, with its once stellar sales and market share steadily dripping down for almost two years. Launched in March, the company’s Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge have failed to turn the tide, resulting in Samsung suffering its seventh straight drop in quarterly earnings for the quarter ended June 30. Battling Chinese vendors such as Xiaomi and Huawei on the low end and Apple on the high end, Samsung needs the Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ to help revive sales and recover some of that lost market share.

Which factors earned the Note 5’s screen its stellar grades?

Compared with the Galaxy Note 4, the Note 5 offers a much higher level of peak brightness, greater screen visibility and better readability under high ambient light conditions. Ambient light refers to the available or existing light surrounding an object. High ambient light is typically reflected on the screen, often washing out the image.

Further, the Note 5 is more power efficient than its predecessor, so it achieves its superior screen quality while slurping up less juice from the battery. The new Note also scored well for “including the best absolute color accuracy of any mobile display that we have ever tested, and delivering absolutely stunning and beautiful images,” Soneira said.

Based on the lab tests, the Note 5 is the “best performing smartphone display that we have ever tested,” Soneira said, earning it the crown from the previous record holder, the Galaxy Note 4.

Also offering a solid screen performance, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ was notable more for its curved display. Soneira called such displays “the wave of the future” as they improve display performance by reducing and even removing reflections from ambient light sources that wash out the screen. That capability enhances both readability and image quality and lets the display run at a lower brightness, helping to preserve battery life.

Both the Note 5 and S6 Edge+ use OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays, which are thinner and lighter than the LCD (liquid crystal displays) used in such devices as the Apple iPhone. In September 2014, Soneira awarded the iPhone 6 Plus for the best LCD display on the market. But he noted at the time that Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 4 were the top performers for OLED displays.

Samsung got a pat on the back from Soneira for its focus on enhancing the peak brightness and performance under high ambient light conditions instead of on bumping up the resolution. With other smartphone vendors continually trying to increase the screen resolution and number of pixels per inch, Soneira called that effort a “marketing wild goose chase into the stratosphere.” Instead, other vendors should follow Samsung’s path.

“With screen size and resolution already functionally maxed out, display and smartphone manufacturers should instead dedicate their efforts and resources into improving real world display performance in ambient light, something that every consumer will benefit from, and will also immediately notice and appreciate — providing a true sales and marketing advantage,” Soneira said.

Sorry, Galaxy Note 5, S6 Edge+ buyers: 128GB option was a flub

Sorry, that 128GB option is a mistake on Samsung’s part.
screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Looking for a high-capacity 128-gigabyte version of Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 5 or Galaxy S6 Edge+? Sorry, you’re out of luck.

At Thursday’s Unpacked 2015 event, in which Samsung unveiled its latest mobile devices and its new Samsung Pay payments system, Samsung pulled back the curtains on its Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ smartphones. The company discussed and revealed all the new features and specs of the two new phones, listing the available capacities for both phones at 32GB and 64GB.

Hopes for a higher capacity arose Friday morning when Samsung’s websites for both the Note 5 and S6 Edge+ listed three capacities — 32GB, 64GB and 128GB. But the websites were in error and are in the process of being updated, a Samsung spokewoman said, who added that the two new phones will be available only in 32GB and 64GB and that there will be no 128GB versions.

The 128GB listing was most likely a placeholder or perhaps just a mistake on Samsung’s part.

Selling a 128GB version of both phones would have had its pluses and minuses. Apple offers 128GB versions of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. To compete with Apple for consumers who like plenty of online storage, Samsung could provide the same option. But buyers would have to pony up more money for the extra capacity at a time when lower-cost Android smartphones are in greater demand. Samsung has even stated that it plans to “adjust” the prices of its flagship Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge to “maintain” their sales momentum.

Carriers are also increasingly phasing out subsidies, which allow people to pay a lower price for the phone in exchange for agreeing to a two-year contract. Instead, consumers are being asked to pay the full retail cost for a phone, either all at once or on a monthly installment basis. Verizon announced on August 7 that it will do away with subsidies altogether, forcing new customers to pay full price for a phone. This trend means that new buyers would’ve gotten socked with the full higher cost of a 128GB version of the Note 5 or S6 Edge+ at a time when Samsung is aiming to lower prices on its premium phones.

Samsung does offer a 128GB option for its Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. The current Galaxy Note 4 is available only as a 32GB model, though you can up the overall capacity to 128GB by adding a 64GB microSD card. Neither the Galaxy S6 Edge+ nor the Note 5 offer a microSD card slot to expand the storage.

The new phones are currently up for preorder in the US through Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile and will go on sale Friday, August 21.

Stan takes on the man, gains 300K subscribers

Netflix may have the lion’s share of the relatively new streaming market, but local upstart Stan isn’t shying away from the battle.

At a media event this week, Stan CEO Mike Sneesby confirmed that the company was performing better than expected, with over 300,000 paying customers on its books.

That number isn’t a reflection of people who have trialled the service either – over 800,000 have kicked open a Stan app somewhere since the platform launched on Australia Day.

Platform progress

Stan isn’t sitting back either, planning on finishing 2015 with a bang. By the end of the year, the service expects its apps to appear on games consoles and smart TVs.

While they were a little cagey about which consoles and which brands of TV the service would appear on, we did get to see it working on a console that rhymes with Maystation Poor, and the app was an exact replica of the intuitive tablet app, rather than the Apple TV version.

Stan was also reticent to confirm dates for the app launches, aside from specifying it will happen this year.

• Looking for something to watch on Stan, check out this list of the 25 best shows on Stan

iOS 8 hits 85% adoption rate; Android Lollipop only at 18%

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Apple’s iOS 8 is now on most iOS devices.
Apple/screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

iOS 8 continues to rise up the ranks, albeit a bit more slowly these days.

Apple’s latest mobile OS is now on 85 percent of all iOS devices, according to Apple’s App Store Distribution page. That figure refers specifically to all iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches that visited Apple’s App Store on Monday, August 3. iOS’s adoption rate has actually been slowing down. In late April, iOS 8 was on 81 percent of all iOS devices, so in three months, the rate has risen only by 4 percentage points.

But 85 percent is still an impressive number, especially since iOS 8 got off to a slow start as it was plagued by a number of initial bugs. And iOS 9 is due for lift-off next month, so some iOS 7 users may be holding off on iOS 8, waiting to upgrade to the new version.

And what about iOS rival Android? The latest flavor, namely Android Lollipop, is on just 18 percent of all devices running Google’s mobile OS, according to the latest Android Developers Dashboard. Drilling down, Android 5.0 is nestled on 15.5 percent of all devices that visited the Google Play store during the seven-day period ending August 3, while Android 5.1 is only 2.6 percent of devices.

Released last September, iOS 8 did have a head start over Android 5.0, which launched last November. But that’s not a big head start. So why is iOS 8 on such a greater percentage of devices? The answer lies in the Android distribution process. Apple controls the entire process of rolling out a new version of iOS as well as incremental updates. Apple creates, tests, and then deploys a new OS so it’s easily available for all iOS users at the same time.

On the flip side, new versions of Android face a more difficult time getting into the hands of users. In a “too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario, Google must first create and test a new version of Android. Then the mobile device makers get involved by doing their own testing and certification. And unlike iOS, which includes just three devices — the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch — the world of Android is flooded with hundreds and hundreds of different devices from various manufacturers. Every manufacturer must test a new version or update on each of its devices. Finally, the mobile carriers step in to test and deploy a new version of Android. So a system that’s relatively quick and painless for iOS is relatively long and painful for Android.

The process also leads to Android fragmentation. Just as a mobile device maker or carrier is deploying an existing version of Android, a new version is usually already available. So the manufacturers and carriers are constantly playing a game of catch-up. This means that several different versions of Android are installed on users’ devices at any given time.

The latest Android Developers Dashboard paints a typical picture. Though Lollipop is catching up in adoption, the prior edition, KitKat, holds the lead at 39.3 percent. The version before KitKat, Jelly Bean, is still up there with a 33.6 percent share. Even older versions, such as Ice Cream Sandwich and Gingerbread remain in the game with shares of 4.1 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.

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Google’s latest flavor of Lollipop is still on a small percentage of Android devices.
Google/screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

This type of fragmentation frustrates Android users, who are always clamoring for the latest version. But it also frustrates Android app developers, who decide which versions to support.

In contrast, Apple’s iOS 7 is down to a share of 13 percent, while older versions of iOS are scraping out a mere 2 percent. There is no problem with iOS fragmentation since users can freely download the latest version of iOS as soon as it’s available and assuming their device supports it. And developers can design their apps for the current version of iOS and then gradually take advantage of any new features offered in the newest version.

Fragmentation certainly doesn’t affect the popularity of Android, which towers over iOS in market share and sales throughout the world. But the problem does make Android updates much more messy than those for iOS. So the whole update process is one that Google needs to find a way to streamline for the benefit of both Android users and developers.

Amazon reveals best-selling Kindle books of all time

Happy Birthday Kindle Store!

Amazon celebrates the Kindle store’s fifth birthday today by releasing a top 50 list of best-selling ebooks. Unsurprisingly, 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James makes the #1 spot of most popular book of all time, proving the Kindle allows for very private reading indeed.

Top 10 Kindle best ebook-sellers

1. Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James

2. Fifty Shades Darker by EL James

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

4. Fifty Shades Freed by EL James

5. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

6. Life Of Pi by Yann Martel

7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

8. Watch Over Me by Daniela Sacerdoti

9. Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

10. Thursdays in the Park by Hilary Boyd

Top 10 authors

Top-selling authors

1. EL James

2. Lee Child

3. Stieg Larsson

4. Suzanne Collins

5. George RR Martin

6. Gillian Flynn

7. Diane Chamberlain

8. James Patterson

9. Peter James

10. Sylvia Day

Have a look at our Kindle Paperwhite review to see what we thought of their latest offering in the Kindle hardware range.

TechRadar Deals: Best Amazon Kindle deals in August 2015: grab a cheap Amazon ereader!

Welcome to TechRadar’s dedicated page for Amazon Kindle deals. Here you’ll find the cheapest Kindle deals for all models, whether it be for the classic ereaders or the Fire tablet versions.

We cross check every model of Kindle with every retailer every day to pull in the best deals so that this page is always up to date with the cheapest prices.

What makes a good Kindle deal?

If this is your first Kindle, you’ll be wanting to know – how do you tell a good Kindle deal when you see one? Luckily, there are so many good ones out there it’s pretty easy!

The traditional Kindle ereaders don’t have LCD screens or powerful internal components which means they’re always going to be a lot cheaper than tablets and phones.

The top-end Kindle, which at the moment is the Kindle Voyage, normally has a price of about £170 so if you can get it for cheaper than that you’re onto a winner. After that, there isn’t a huge difference in features so it all depends how much you want to spend. If you can find the Kindle Paperwhite for under £100 you’re getting a good price, while the Kindle 2014 model has a fairly static price of £59 but every now and then it dips down below that mark.

For the tablets, the best thing to do is just work out how much you want to spend and pick up the model that sits closest to your budget. The HDX models are the good ones so do go for one of those if you can.

Here are the best Kindle deals currently available…

kindle voyage deals

Kindle Voyage deals

The top of the range Kindle is the most expensive

We’ll kick off with Kindle Voyage deals. If you want the best Kindle, this is the one. It’s probably the best ebook reader available right now. It’s more compact than the other Kindles on this page, the screen is sharper and it’s essentially a step up from any ereader Amazon has made so far. A flush display makes the device easier to keep clean and carry around, the screen’s resolution is the highest it has ever been, and it even comes with an ace origami-style case (at additional cost).

kindle deals

kindle paperwhite deals

Kindle Paperwhite deals

The best standard Kindle ever is a value-for-money winner

The 6th generation Kindle Paperwhite is the best standard Kindle yet, it’s the most cost effective ereader on the market and it easily beats the Kobo Aura on performance and design. Amazon has managed to create a fast e-ink tablet with inventive reading apps.

kindle deals

kindle deals

Amazon Kindle (2014) deals

The first touchscreen Kindle is now an absolute bargain

The Amazon Kindle (2014) is a very fine ereader. It was the first model to come with a touchscreen, a major change and it’s hugely beneficial. So much so that if you don’t currently have a touchscreen ereader it’s definitely worth upgrading to. You might think you’re fine with buttons, but everything is just so much easier and faster when you can tap the screen.

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kindle 8 9 deals

Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 deals

The premium version of the above two budget tablets

Amazon also does touchscreen tablet versions of the Kindle. The latest ones have dropped the name Kindle, but it’s still the same thing – a Kindle Fire which runs on Android software and has all the same Amazon features baked in by default. If you’re looking for a family tablet that everyone can share, and you’re happy to dive into the Amazon ecosystem and sign up for Amazon Prime, maybe even pick up a Fire TV as well, then the Fire HDX 8.9 is probably the best tablet for you.

kindle deals

kindle hd 6 deals

Amazon Fire HD 6 deals

The latest tablet version of the Kindle Fire

One of the most enticing tablets to come from Amazon, mixing efficient integration with the Prime services and a compact footprint that makes it easy to drop in your bag, this 6-incher is no tablet king, but it does what it sets out to well. It’s quite small though, so if 6-inches is too tiny you could have a look at the options below.

kindle deals

kindle hd 7 deals

Amazon Fire HD 7 deals

The 7-inch version of Amazon’s latest Kindle tablet

Sitting at the budget end of Amazon’s Kindle tablet range, the HD 7 is the same as the HD 6 only slightly bigger. In terms of a content delivery system, the HD 7 is absolutely perfect. Getting to your favourite TV shows, films or books couldn’t be easier and, if you’re prepared to pay for a subscription, you can get even more from it. Likewise, the ability to have different profiles – some for the kids – through Amazon FreeTime is really helpful.

kindle deals

kindle fire 7 deals

Kindle Fire HDX 7 deals

Last year’s main Kindle tablet, now available with some great deals

For the right kind of customer, the Kindle Fire HDX is the perfect tablet. And who is that customer? Someone who doesn’t want to do much more than consume content on their tablet. For the customisation you give up, you gain simplicity and ease of use. We’d like to call this the sort of tablet you give to someone who is less than tech savvy, but those devices don’t usually have such good hardware. There’s not single junk part on the Kindle Fire HDX that’ll spoil your experience with all of Amazon’s rich content. Features like X-Ray for movies, downloadable Prime videos and Mayday will have the most ardent Nexus fan feeling rather jealous.

kindle deals

hdx deals

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 deals

The 8.9-inch version of the tablet above is an excellent offering

If you just want to watch TV and movies, read books and listen to music, and you already have an Amazon Prime account and are into Amazon’s ecosystem, we have no doubt that you’ll love this tablet.

We check our Kindle deals every day to make sure they’re always up to date and available!

Use Google Maps to see where you’ve traveled

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Josh Miller/CNET

Google Maps has been tracking everywhere your phone has gone, and now it’s ready to share that data with you, and only you. Using a handy new feature called Your Timeline on the Web and Android, you can see all of the places you’ve visited to plotted on a map, plus detailed itineraries of your travels.

While the prospect of Google tracking your every move is sure to bother some people, I’ve found that Your Timeline is a really neat tool for keeping track of my trips and vacations, or simply remembering a random day in my life.

If this weirds you out and you don’t want Google following you, check out CNET’s guide to stopping Google Maps from tracking your location. However, if you’re intrigued by this automatically recorded log of the places you go, read on to learn how to make the best use of Your Timeline.

Get started

To protect your privacy, you first need to consent to have Google follow your travels. If at any point you turned on Location History in your Google account, such as setting up Google Now to remember where you parked or commute alerts, then the company is already tracking you.

Check if Location History is enabled for you with these steps:

  • Sign into your Google account on a computer.
  • Head to the My Account page.
  • Click Personal info & privacy and scroll to Places you go.
  • If the slider is blue, Location History is on and you’re good to go.
  • Click Manage Activity below the slider to view Your Timeline.

Look at your maps

True to its name, Your Timeline shows a daily record of every place you’ve been, the time you arrived and departed, as well as the approximate route you took between locations. If you use Google Photos, pictures you took at the particular place, date and time will show up in your timeline too.

Your Timeline shows the locations you’ve paid a visit to, day by day. Click to enlarge.
Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

All of that information appears on the Your Timeline page on desktop and in the latest version of the Google Maps Android app. However, you’ll get the most features from browsing on a computer. There you’ll see a world map with dots on the places you’ve gone. You can zoom into particular cities to get a more detailed view and click on dots to see the address or point of interest.

On the left side of the page, you can browse various dates to see your available timelines. In my experience, Google doesn’t seem to record data from every single day, instead it focusing on trips where you leave your normal area. One my account, I can see the occasional commute or trip to the store, but there’s more emphasis on trips that span several days and took me at least 50 miles from home. I also don’t have a timeline for every single day, despite having Location History turned on for the last several years. However, your data may vary.

The map view shows every place you’ve gone that Google has recorded. Click to enlarge.
Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Editing a timeline

While Google does its best to pinpoint the exact addresses, businesses and points of interest you’ve hit, it doesn’t always get it right. In that case, you can edit the incorrect places in your timeline and add places it missed altogether.

You can edit the places in your daily timelines. Click to enlarge.
Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET
  • Hover over the name of a place and click the arrow to pick a different option from the menu or search for a specific location.
  • To add a new place to your timeline, hover your mouse over the line on the far left until the plus sign appears and click it.
  • Search for a location and tell Google approximately when you arrived and departed, then click Save to add it to the timeline.

Though Google has faced a lot of scrutiny over tracking your location and showing it in Your Timeline, I think the feature is a neat way to automatically create a record of your travels. That said, I absolutely understand the privacy concerns that Your Timeline brings up, even though the data is only available for you to view.

If it makes you uncomfortable, simply shut off Location History to stop Google from tracking your locations. But if you’re willing to let Google stay on your tail, Your Timeline can be a neat feature to chronicle your daily commutes and bigger trips.