As more and more early reviews appear about Samsung’s new flagship smartphones, my comments about overlooking its obvious flaws are confirmed. Reviewers are clearly knocked out by the quality of its “Infinity” AMOLED display, and it stands to reason that Samsung can pull it off. After all, some of the best flat panel TVs out there are made by Samsung, but the handset’s flaws are being given short shrift.
That said, some of the reviews I read about its display are just plain dumb! So, for example, the fact that it has a higher resolution than an iPhone 7 and an iPhone 7 Plus supposedly means that it delivers a better picture. But Retina is Retina, which means that smaller pixels won’t provide a visible improvement. What does appear to be true is that Samsung tends to follow the Windows “ClearType” scheme, which means that the edges of fonts appear to be sharper compared to an Apple product. This is because Apple uses text smoothing, which supposedly makes it more readable on an LCD display.
But there’s no disputing the fact that OLED, when well done, will provide rich, vibrant colors with deep blacks and an infinite viewing angle. An iPhone uses a more natural color palette that may not be so striking, but is more accurate. But if you begin to move an iPhone towards its side, the image will dim slightly, the colors will be less rich. That’s a known shortcoming of LCD displays, however backlit, although technology advances have reduced the problem. You can see this symptom more easily on a large TV set, but if you view it from a normal distance, it probably won’t be much of a problem. My wife complained about watching our Vizio’s picture from an angle at our previous home, with a smaller master bedroom. But not since we’ve moved to a home with a little more space, because the effect isn’t as obvious at a longer distance.
In any case, rumors persist that Apple will use OLED at first on a high-end iPhone, presumably known as the iPhone 8 or iPhone Edition, or perhaps even iPhone Pro. Over time, it’s likely the technology will spill over to lower-cost gear. Some might wonder why it took so long to get with the program, but OLED production yields remain low. Samsung sells fewer flagship smartphones than Apple, so it doesn’t need as many parts. Besides, I’m sure Apple will explain in exquisite detail why its displays are better than the competition.
On the other hand, a smartphone can’t be judged based on the display alone. Android’s performance problems are still there in bold relief, and the iPhone is, according to published reports, still faster under real-world use.
I’m also really concerned that the S8’s shortcomings with its biometric features are not getting the attention they deserve. One review I read only mentioned the problems with using a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor.
But the S8 has a seriously flawed facial recognition sensor, easily fooled by a photo and is thus virtually useless except perhaps for photo matching. The iris sensor is brought down by darkness, eyeglasses and apparently hard contact lenses.
And the jury is still out whether the battery layout on the S8 avoids the problems that afflicted the Galaxy Note 7. Evidently the same batteries are being used, but one hopes Samsung worked harder to make sure there are no fatal flaws this time.
It remains true, however, that Samsung Galaxy smartphones are often rated as equal to or better than an iPhone. The are often considered potential iPhone killers, likely because tech pundits mistakenly assume that people just switch back and forth between Android and iOS based on the perceived quality of one smartphone or the other. Today it’s Apple, tomorrow it’s Samsung — and back again.
In the real world, we all know that such decisions aren’t trivial by any means. Even if you manage to import your data, and it’s not such an easy process when switching to Android unless you use Google’s services for both, things do not quite work the same. What works all right by default on an iPhone may require a fair level of customization on a Samsung or any other Android handset. To some, having more options may be an advantage, but to people who don’t want to mess with arcane settings when they just want to get things done, it’s just a needless impediment.
Still, Android is the leader of the pack, even though that advantage is largely confined to cheaper gear. Certainly if you want something cheap, or almost free month-to-month, you will probably do all right with one of the better Android handsets. But don’t expect to get the latest OS release, or critical security updates when you need them, although Samsung is allegedly trying to remedy the latter shortcoming.
Apple exists in its own space, however. The claims from the tech press that Apple has lots to fear from the latest Samsung or Google smartphone just never seems to pan out. Apple has had some sales problems with the iPhone, but profits remained high even when shipments fell for a few quarters. Sure, Apple has to keep innovating and the new iPhone must always be better than the previous one. Serious missteps, and they might have something to fear — but not now.
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