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Nov 5, 2014


This year I was lucky to get a chance to attend Samsung UNPACKED Episode II in person which is an event that occurs every year in Berlin, Germany and I was one of the first people to check out the Note 4 in person way ahead of market release, during my stay in Germany I got two chances to get some 1-on-1 time with the Note 4 for about an hour or two which is great but not enough to form a complete opinion of the device. Now I've been using the device for a little bit over two weeks and I think I have a clear idea of what we're dealing with here so let's cut to the chase and jump right to it!


Design and size



At 153.5 mm tall, 78.6 mm wide and 8.5 mm think the Note 4 kept a close footprint from it's predecessor the Note 3, but when it comes to built material it's a whole different story. The Note 4 comes with a shiny metal frame all around the device with chamfered edges which combined with the fake leather on the back gives you quite a premium feel in the hand, in the back panel right under the camera you'll find a feature that came from the Galaxy S5 which is a heart rate sensor. 

the front panel of the device comes covered with a newly reintroduced type of glass called 2.5 D which is tougher form what we find on the usual suspects the Gorilla Glass 3, plus it looks pretty damn good with a slight curve to the edges, also hidden in the home key button is a figure print scanner. the Note 4 comes in at 176 grams which makes it a heavy league device but the matter of the fact is, The Note 4 is the most beautiful looking device Samsung has ever made.

Display


speaking of massive things, the Note 4 packs a display in the same size as the Note 3, a 57" super AMOLED screen but with a pumped up resolution of 2560 x 1440 which translates into a Quad HD display, these 3,000,000+ pixels give us a whopping pixel density of 515 pixels per inch, it's a screen so big and gorgeous you'll lose yourself staring at it, pixels are humanly unrecognizable which is what we should expect from any display with over 400 PPI and being a super AMOLED display takes it to a new level.

I'm no stranger to QHD displays I've been using the LG G3 for quite a while before I jumped to the Note 4 which packs a 5.5" QHD IPS+ LCD display but what makes super AMOLED displays so unique is that the fact that it generates a much larger range of colors close to Adobe sRGP colors and that makes whatever colors on the screen more saturated and more vivid, some don't like that others do. point two is that LCD displays need another layer of back light on the bottom of the pixel matrix to make colors led up, AMOLED screens don't need that, AMOLED screens have what's called "organic lighting" which is generated by the pixel itself to make colors appear on the screen, anyhow I don't wanna talk about this way too much you can always do some research or ask me on Twitter or Facebook if you want to know more about this.

Camera


The Note 4 has what I can comfortably call the best camera on a Samsung smartphone to date, it's an improved version of what you can find on the Galaxy S5 except the lens has been enlarged to get in up to 60% more light to the sensor which results in very satisfactory low light images, and a first time appearance feature if you disregarded the Zoom devices which is the optical image stabilization (OIS) which helps a lot in making your images look better and more stable without shakiness but where OIS truly shines is the video recording, I had a blast recording some pretty cool 4K clips with this device and the quality is so good that you can use the device as a handy-cam replacement if you're planning to start vlogging anytime soon. 

Images and videos produced by that 16 MP camera on the back are truly amazing. And before I forget the Note 4 also has a new and improved front facing camera which has been upgraded to a 3.6 MP selfies shooter with a wide lens that gives you some brilliant selfies you wouldn't dream of getting without using an external lens attachment, there's also some selfie-centric features that allow you take a panorama image with the front cam, Samsung call it "Wide selfie mode" and also another mode that allows you to snap a selfie with the rear camera when it detects a face in the image, but the back camera has less focal length so keep that in mind. 

Camera Samples:





Video Sample:


Performance

The Note 4 is powerhouse with the best specs you can find on the market, it packs a snapdragon 805 quad core processor or an Exynos 7 octa core processor depending on the market you're at, the Snapdragon comes with Adreno 420 GPU and the Exynos comes with Mali-T760 GPU both versions packing 3GB of RAM, so as we would expect the Note 4 packs the latest and greatest of all. Day to day use is seamless on the note 4, the specs can easily satisfy the most demanding users, Gaming on the Note 4 is very fluid especially with that Quad HD display, the device benchmarks at a little bit over 50,000 points making it one of the highest scores I ever got on Antutu benchmark.

Software


The Note 4 comes with the latest version of Android 4.4.4 with Samsung's TouchWiz on top but Android 5.0 was announced little after it's release and the update will be arriving to the Note 4 ahead of all other Samsung devices, The OS was build around two main components, The S-Pen and that gigantic display, to take advantage of the big canvas on the screen, Samsung has added a long list of features that makes multitasking easier and smoother, the Note 4 allows for the usual split screen apps in addition to something we saw in devices like the G2 which is floating apps, except on the Note 4 there is no limits on it, on the G2 you were only allowed for up to 3 apps to work together but only the app you selected is the active one, on the Note 4 all floating apps are active, you can run a game in the background and have your camera ready for action just by clicking on it's icon which opens a small window on top of your game and both will be working simultaneously, this goes for every single pop up or "bubble" app you open.

 
 
 

The S-pen had it's share of updates as well, air command has four options when you slide the S-Pen out of the device or when you hover the S-Pen over the display and click the bottom on the S-Pen, these options are Action Memo, Smart Select, Image Clip and Screen Write; Action memo allows you to take notes on the go, you can even pin them to your home screen which is made possible by the humongous resolution, the device can recognize your hand writing to take action immediately if you wrote a number you can call it, send an email, convert to a text message or keep it as a note with a single click, Smart select allows you to extract text from anything on the screen whither a website or an image, Image clip allows you to collect images from anything on the screen to build a bank of ideas or to share it on social media and finally screen write is fun feature that allows you to take a screenshot and write/draw on it directly with a single click.

The S-Pen can be also used as a mouse to select text or to make a group select by holding the button on it and marking the area you want to select, it's an extremely hand add-on that you will get hooked on once you get used to using it and it's definitely no ordinary stylus.

Battery

The Note 4 is powered by a massive 3,220 mAh lithium-ion battery which under moderate use held up to a full day easily, under heavier usage the battery can last for up to 14 hours but have no worries, Samsung has added two new features to the Note 4 's battery which serve the more power hungry users.

The first is called fast charging which is done by making the charger that comes with the device operates at 9 volts instead of the usual 5 volts, this allowed for a 50% charge from 0% in less than 30 minutes, Samsung said 30 minutes but when I tested it out it took 25 minutes to reach 50% from 1%.

The second is a feature the Note 4 inherited from the Galaxy S5 which is the ultra power saving mode which is a mode you can turn on to save battery to an extreme level, it turns off the screen colors most of the cores and all the background data in addition to limiting number of apps you can run to a basic number of apps including calls, messages, internet, Whatsapp, Facebook, twitter, line and a couple of other apps.

Summery 

The Note 4 packs all the latest and greatest from Samsung as you'd expect since it's the latest flagship from the company, it's gorgeous design and material makes for a great feel and that QHD display is one of the best out there, the camera is a perfect 10 out of 10 and the specs are topnotch, Battery life is catching up to the rest of the hardware and the operating system makes for an awesome user experience.

Drawbacks are so small that it won't really matter, the speaker placement on the back of the device is the only annoying thing I can think of, and it would've been great if the device was waterproof but I guess you got to leave somethings for the next flagships.

Video Review [Arabic]




Video Unboxing [Arabic]


The Galaxy Note 4: The most beautiful smartphone Samsung has ever built [Review]

By: Salah G Hamed on: Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Oct 14, 2014


I've been a tech enthusiast ever since I can remember, I always had the habit of dedicating an hour of my day -at least- to check on tech news and read several of my favorite blogs, which now evolved to become Pocketnow, Gizmodo and ZDNet. I had a passion for technology and I was eager to involve myself in the community. Later on I discovered blogger and started writing about various things that weren't exactly related to technology, but after numbers started to go higher I focused more on Technology and I found it to be my true passion. I wanted to share my knowledge and opinion with others and in this process a pattern emerged, I was falling hard for Android OS and this is the short version of how "Android Basha" came to be.

Confessions of a Tech Blogger: Why I Stopped Writing

By: Salah G Hamed on: Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sep 30, 2014


October is here and one of the most anticipated events in the MENA region is approaching, MENA ICT Forum is only weeks away, it's the biggest annual ICT event in the region, last year the speakers lineup exceeded a whopping one hundred speakers, which were split into several panels and sessions that took place simultaneously during the two days of the event.


This year INTAJ, the organization behind the event decided to tune it down a bit, focusing more on one topic which is "Disruptive Technology", you can check out the forum's website at www.MENAICTForum.com and you can check out the panel discussions from last year's forum on their YouTube channel.


Events worth checking out: MENA ICT Forum 2014

By: Salah G Hamed on: Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sep 3, 2014


It's time for the event of the year! we're only hours away from witnessing uncovering the smartphone of the year, Today in Berlin, Germany the Note 4 will make it's first appearance, and guess what? I'm in Germany to cover the event live! Follow my social media accounts for hot exclusive content, I will upload several videos following the announcement but til then keep an eye on my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook page :)

For those of you who want to watch the event live, the feed below will go live when the event begins tomorrow. 

Samsung UNPACKED live!

By: Salah G Hamed on: Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Mar 30, 2014


The long anticipated Samsung Galaxy S5 finally touched grounds in Amman, Jordan in an event held by Samsung LEVANT to reveal the device, during the presentation of all it's new features I got to spend about 15 minutes with the phone so here is my first impressions of Samsung's latest flagship:


So first of all the new specs including the revamped Exynos 5 Octa 5422 processor (Quad-core 1.9 GHz Cortex-A15 & quad-core 1.3 GHz Cortex-A7), 2GB of RAM, AC WiFi and the 16 MP shooter... nothing too insane under the hood here but definitely in the top tier, after all this is a high end flagship phone! on the front it's rocking a slightly larger 5.1" 1080p AMOLED display -bigger than the 5.0" Galaxy S4 -, the back of the phone feels a lot like the soft touch on the back of the Note 3 but without the stitches around the edges and they added a dimples-pattern on the back and I'm sure how to feel about this, but anyway the device is going to be available in four colors; the back with the black front, the white which has white bezels, the blue and it has black bezels & finally the gold.


Despite it's removable back and totally expandable storage and swappable 2,800 mAh battery the Galaxy S5 is IP67 certified, the 6 means it's totally dust proof -no matter how small the grain- and the 7 means it's water resistant but not waterproof (Big difference) but what's really impressive about this is that as I said the main components are still removable which only leaves me to worry about the speaker quality but I'll get to that when I get a review unit.


It took me a couple of minutes before I actually noticed that the font buttons layout has changed so now it's Back, Home and Multitasking button (Right to left) no more capacitive mini button, all the mini buttons will be in the software now on the screen. Also Samsung has put a finger print sensor in the home button which you need to swipe to use and once you're setup, you can log into certain secured apps like PayPal or even unlocking the phone itself, I'm not sure if we can use the scanner to log into other apps we use like Facebook, Instagram or even your accounts on Chrome but I'll do more investigation about that also when I get a review unit to abuse in my free time.


The S5 packs a 16 MP sensor and a new dedicated image signal processor which makes this shooter faster than the one you can find on any smartphone currently available at an average of 0.3 seconds to focus and it does show when you snap a couple of pictures, playing with the camera it definitely did feel like a quality high end phone camera and this is no surprise coming from Samsung really, the Galaxy S4 had a great camera and the note 3 had an even better camera and it only makes sense for the one found on the S5 to be a step up from it's predecessors, it takes UHD video as well and it has an awesome HDR processing, selective focus modes and SUPER FAST burst mode that took 30 shots in about three and a half seconds and a whole bunch more features, as we know Samsung likes to throw every feature in the world into their camera, we will be putting the camera under the microscope (once more) when I receive the review unit.


Overall messing around with the the Galaxy S5 I got the feeling that the performance is a little more smoother -as if the S4 wasn't that smooth already- but with 4.4.2 Android KitKat comes a lot of software changes, TouchWiz is now much much flatter and there are a bunch of tweaks here and there, yes it's still filled with Samsung's bloatware -which is not exactly a bad thing- but it's been tuned down a little.


Of course there is much more new stuff from Samsung but all to be covered in-depth in my full review (For the last time I promise) which I will get to when the review unit arrives, What do you think of the Samsung Galaxy S5? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Samsung Galaxy S5: First Impressions

By: Salah G Hamed on: Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mar 16, 2014


More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube and over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube - that's almost an hour for every person on Earth - and about 80% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US, and since YouTube is blocked in China amongst other Google services where does that leave us with the source of this enormous traffic? 


MENA region takes a big chunk off of that 80% and because of this huge and continuous growth a lot of people wanted to get in on that action whither it is entertainers, news networks or even a guy with a $300 camcorder that makes silly videos to post on YouTube, Startappz, In collaboration with some of the best resources on YouTube videos in the Middle East have recently published an infographic that details the latest status on the distribution of that traffic in the middle east, the source of this data was a combination of SkyScreen's (Previously Fatooosh) internal analytics, as well as a sample rate of a 100 -real-channels per country, enough talking, now let's take a look at that infographic!



Source: Startappz.

The Growth of YouTube Production in the Middle East [Infographic]

By: Salah G Hamed on: Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mar 13, 2014


LG has been slowly improving their line-up of Android devices, quietly enhancing their hardware over different models to the point where their flagship G line of phones are anticipated with much enthusiasm especially after the introduction of the G2 that we reviewed a while backSadly the review unite I received for the G Flex came without a box so I couldn't do an unboxing video or even talk about the curved box.

Smartphones have been a bit staid when it comes to design for quite a while so it’s been a lot of fun to play with something a little different. The phone attracts attention wherever you go, first with the massive 6 inch screen, then the curve, the flexibility and even still the rear mounted keys. With this phone, LG has thrown a lot of different design changes at the wall and will invariably be seeing what sticks.

Before we get started let's take a quick look at the specs:

Display: 
6.0 inch Plastic OLED HD Display at 1280×720.
Processor: 
2.26GHz Quad-Core Snapdragon 800 SoC with Adreno 330 GPU.
RAM: 
2GB
Memory: 32GB on-board Storage.
Camera: 
13MP Rear Camera with LED Flash with UHD(3840x2160) video recording and 2.1MP Front-facing camera.
Connectivity: 
Bluetooth 4.0), WiFi 802.11 b/g/n Dual (2.4/5GHz), GPS, NFC, IR Remote.
Radios: 
2G (900/1800/2100/2600), HSPA (900/2100), LTE (800/1800/2600).
OS: Android 4.2.2, Jelly Bean.
Size: 160.5×81.6×8.7mm @ 177g.
Battery: 3,500mAh Stepped Li-Po Battery.



Hardware




The G Flex is a purpose built phone, it’s been designed with focus on the main feature of the phone – that curved screen, LG have stressed that there have been no compromises in the design and build of the G Flex and that’s evidenced in the high level laundry list of components that will impress even the most power hungry hardcore user, from the Snapdragon 800 CPU to the 3,500mAh battery it’s a finely polished and well thought out device.

The G Flex is a really large phone to start with – with a 6 inch screen you can’t get away from it and it’s one of the first downsides that a large number of people will target when they see it, but personally I love phaplates and I consider the big screen a plus, The G Flex is deceptively comfortable to hold for such a large phone. Perhaps due to the curve. Yes, the physical buttons arrangement is pretty hard to get over especially with a big device like this one, but it also has it's upsides... we'll get to that in a minute.

The front of the phone is dominated by a 6 inch display, and it’s the first Plastic OLED (P-OLED) screen to launch on a smartphone. On the front, above the screen you find the various ambient light and proximity sensors as well as the front facing camera, like the LG G2, the G Flex continues their unique hardware key placement of placing the volume rocker and power key on the rear of the phone beneath the camera lens, they also moved the IR blaster to the back next to the camera which I didn't dig because you're going to have to hold the device in portrait when using the remote control instead of horizontally (like all the other phones). The downside to the rear key arrangement is difficulty in taking screenshots and lowering the volume while watching videos, nothing major but it’s really difficult with this rear-key setup.





Build Quality





The build quality is nice, the usual test of getting flex from a device to test the durability is null and void with the G Flex. But even in this respect, once you’re over the fact you’re flexing your phone, it feels like its meant to flex. There is a creak when it does flex, but flexing a phone through the range of flexibility that the G Flex has available will elicit more than a creak in any other phone.

From the curved screen, with a plain understated front with protuberances on the sides of the device, even the microSIM tray on the left hand side can’t be seen readily. Anyway you look at it, the G Flex is a striking, memorable design and overall one that’s very pleasing to look at.



Screen






That 6 inch screen is without doubt the crown jewel in the G Flex. Yes, The low resolution and low pixel density are not exactly there to blow you away but the ability of OLED to deliver consistent blacks works particularly well on the curved screen, especially when watching movies is one of the primary use cases for this phone. Though it still has issues with whites, it’s not as noticeable given the darker theme on the LG Skin used on the G Flex and rarely during playing a movie.

The screen on the G Flex is bright and with the curve, seemingly doesn't pick up as much glare as a more traditional flat screen will, with very little light reflected off it making it easy to read under most conditions. That’s overstating it, the only time I had issues with reading the screen was in the midday sun and I've had far more problems with phones with better screens than the G Flex.

Camera




The camera is one part of the G Flex I feel doesn't quite live up to the ‘no compromise’ stance that LG has projected when speaking of developing the G Flex. As grandiose a statement as that is, there’s really only one problem with the camera on the G Flex and that’s the lack of Optical Image Stabilisation.

For a smartphone camera the LG G2 was one of the best smartphone shooters I had the pleasure to use, the G Flex camera uses the same 13MP rear camera module, but just lacks the OIS that made the G2 a stunning shooter in low light conditions.

At the end of the day, you probably won’t be disappointed in the G Flex camera. As far as pictures on the G Flex are concerned you will get a beautifully true to life colour correct shot, as long as you’re in good to Ok lighting conditions. In low light... there's nothing you can do really.



(Click to enlarge)



 



 

 

While the phone video recording is acceptable – it’s nothing flash, but it will certainly get the job done – the exciting news from the US is that the Android 4.4 update for the G Flex will bring a new feature to the camera – 4K video recording, but exactly when will we see that internationally is not certain.

Connectivity

LG phones have traditionally come with most kinds of connectivity and the G Flex is no different, with the exception of 802.11 AC Wifi and a 900MHz Radio for 3G calls, there’s little to complain about in terms of connecting the G Flex to anything. Bluetooth accessories connect quickly and have a decent range. NFC is also present.

Sadly since I live in Jordan and we have no LTE nor our 3G is decent, I can't judge the device's performance in that area.

Sound


The sound on the G Flex is decent, the sound works well through a headphone/earphone setup, likewise with a Bluetooth headset. As usual with a phone speaker, it’s an Ok experience but nothing to blow you away with awesome sound that you can use to show off videos on your new curved screen beast.

The G Flex has a single rear facing speaker on the back of the device. While you can cup your hand around the back of the phone while holding it, to direct the volume, it’s just not ideal. Who wants to spend time consuming media with your speaker facing away from you? The majority of the time you will of course be listening through head/earphones but still, it’s one decision I hope they revisit in any possible sequel.

Performance

With its Snapdragon 800 SoC, 2GB of RAM and while brilliantly coloured and good looking but low resolution screen, there’s little issues here with speed at any part of the interface on the G Flex. LG’s ability to fine tune even their admittedly heavy skin to perform buttery smooth is an amazing feat for a company who was releasing some less than stellar devices a few years ago.

Playing games like Asphalt 8 will occasionally see a dropped frame or two, but it’s not something you notice hugely unless you’re very attentive and overall games will perform quite admirably.
Software

Software has always been the point at which LG phones continue to let me down. But it’s not that they released it with Android 4.2.2, a more than 12 month old version, nor is it due to their lack of features, integration of tools or overall functionality, because LG excels at including all of those things, no, what LG has consistently failed to deliver is a good looking interface….until the G2.

With the G Flex, LG has done what I thought impossible up till recently, they've made me like the look of their interface and they did it by making one very easy change – they made a dark theme. Whereas the LG skin on previous phones has been light and repeatedly called cartoonish, by simple dint of giving dark overtones throughout their OS, the phone feels more usable.

 

The notification drawer is similarly still asking for some work, but as LG use the Notification Shade to show off QSlide Apps you can forgive them somewhat, because given half a chance, QSlide Apps can be extremely helpful. Similarly, the Quick Settings toggles are ordered to show off Quick Memo first and foremost, but unlike the seemingly useless and un-configurable quick settings from stock Android, the order of all these quick settings can be changed easily.

Overall, LG has done a nice job with the Optimus UI on the G Flex by making that one change. The software has functionally changed very little from the LG G2, with a few exceptions. LG has added a few features to their software which enhance the user experience further for those wanting to experience video on the curved screen of the G Flex.

First and foremost of these is Q Theater, a function which is activated by holding the phone in landscape and using your thumbs to slide out from the centre, like sliding curtains across a theatre screen you’re then taken straight to a multimedia hub where you can view pictures, video or YouTube.


Next they've implemented a multi-tasking service on top of the floating QSlide Apps option that you normally get. Press and hold the back button and you can run a dual window setup with one App at the top and one App below. The Apps you can choose from are mostly, but not limited to, QSlide Apps, which can still be used in their capacity as floating Apps over any running App. This dual-App screen is certainly handy for multi-tasking and really shows off that gorgeous 6 inch screen and just how much real estate you have there.





LG has also made a change to the soft keys adding a notification key which you can add from the settings menu. Where as previously you could always add in which soft keys you want – except multi-tasking – and the order they display in, you can now add a soft key which pulls down the notification shade. A really useful option for using a 6 inch device for people with smaller hands, even with my larger hands I found it useful.

Lastly on the lock screen you will notice that the accelerometer is active to show off a cool feature that just looks neat on the curved screen. Tilt the phone up and the view on the lock screen animation scrolls up, likewise for down. It’s just a cool feature.



Battery life



If you want a phone purely based on battery life, you can not go wrong with the G Flex. The LG Chem division in charge of battery technology has outdone themselves, cramming a 3,500mAh battery into a platform that is not only not regularly shaped, but also curved and flexible.

With the G Flex I was comfortably using the phone with every application and function I wanted to for over a full day without even worrying about where I was going to find a charger. This kind of battery life and integrity is something I haven't experienced since using the G2 last year and the G Flex kicks it up a notch from what I thought was an exceptional battery life on that phone.



The Verdict

Pros:



Excellent performance.
LG's launcherSkin (Optimus UI) has become extremely usable.

Very long battery life.


Cons:

No SD card slot.
No Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) for the camera.
No Full HD screen.

Bottom line

The G Flex brings together a lot of cool, innovative and futuristic technology – the curved screen, flexible design, self healing back – This device is all in all an experiment that LG created to test out the waters in terms of customer feedback and industrial design, It's something quite unique and special... and I can't wait to see more. 

Gallery

(Click to enlarge)

 

 

 






Video Review [Arabic]

10 Days With The LG G Flex [REVIEW]

By: Salah G Hamed on: Thursday, March 13, 2014

 

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