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As we transition more of our daily tasks from PCs to smartphones, the damage that can be done if our phones fall into the wrong hands only magnifies. Without a lock screen, anyone who finds your phone can check your email, access all of your social networks, and make purchases on Google Play or any shopping app that may save your credit card. Even if your phone is locked, that may not be enough to keep your data safe. A competent thief could pop out your SD card or plug your phone into their computer to copy data you thought was otherwise secure. The release of version 2.3.4 offers the ability to encrypt your Android phone. While the process may be intimidating, it’s pretty straightforward.Should You Encrypt? Pros
If you encrypt your Android phone, it provides an extra layer of security by creating an extra loop for intruders to jump through. Encryption can be cracked, but it takes deliberate effort and plenty of time. Unless someone specifically wants your data, they will probably give up and try to steal data from a more easily accessed device.
The average thief probably doesn’t care about your pictures or the contents of your email account. They simply want to wipe your device and sell it to someone else. Encrypting your device does nothing to prevent your data from being erased. If you are more concerned about maintaining access to your data rather than keeping people out, you should consider backing up your device.Cons
An encrypted device suffers a performance hit, and your phone may become noticeably slower as every file has to be decrypted before it can be accessed. Games that already put a strain on your phone may become more than it can handle. Encrypting your phone also disables pattern lock. You will have to rely on either a password or a pin. Depending on your preferences, this may make your phone less convenient to use throughout the day.
Lastly, if you ever decide to change your mind, you will need to restore your device to factory settings to remove the encryption. There is no way to decrypt your device and keep your data at the same time.Getting Started
Open the Settings app on your Android phone and scroll down until you see “Security.”
Under the Security menu, you will see the option to encrypt your device. Unless your phone is plugged in and its battery is adequately charged, the option will be dimmed.
If your phone has an SD card slot, you may find yourself faced with three options. You can encrypt both your phone and SD card, offering the most security. You can choose to encrypt just your phone, leaving the photos, apps, and other personal data on your SD card easily accessible to anyone who can pop out your card. Conversely, you can encrypt just your SD card, protecting the personal data that is saved on your card without causing your phone to take as much of a performance hit when running apps.
Note that encrypting anything other than just your SD card requires you to use either a password or pin. If you haven’t already set one up, you will be greeted by this error message.
From this point forward, the process will be largely straightforward. You will first be asked to confirm your password or pin. The encryption process can take over an hour, and you cannot use your phone to make calls or do anything else during this time. If you interrupt the process, you may lose some or all of your data. Don’t proceed unless you are sure you have the time.Conclusion
Your smartphone is now probably more secure than your computer. Combine encryption with the ability to remote wipe your device, and you’ve set up a pretty solid line of defense. Still, there are chinks in any armor, and if someone gets access to your PIN or password, it doesn’t matter if your device is encrypted. Unfortunately, Android uses the same key you lock your phone with to encrypt your device. This limits how long passwords can be, as who wants to type in a 16-digit alphanumeric code just to check email?
Bertel King, Jr.
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We’re currently at the peak of technological stability. Our smartphones seem to be more reliable than ever, and there’s technically no reason to be paranoid about our data. Yet, every now and again, a software update or ROM-flash goes wrong, throwing us in limbo. So, to be on the safer side, it’s better to backup our devices regularly, so that we always have something to fall back on.
If you happen to be a Samsung smartphone owner, there are a bunch of options to backup your device. And in this section, we’ll try to give you a comprehensive guide and help you pick the option that suits you best.
Samsung Smart Switch
Samsung has a handy little PC suite that makes the process of backup and restore feel like a breeze.
To get started, you’ll, of course, have to download and install the application. If you’re running Windows, you can download Smart Switch from here. The installation is pretty standard, but it’ll take a couple of minutes for the software to configure the USB drivers.
After all of that’s taken care of, you’ll get an azure-colored screen, asking you to plug in your device.
Upon hooking up your device, the welcome screen will give you the option of Backup, Restore, and Outlook Sync.
Choose Backup and follow these steps to create a successful backup of your device.
Connect Galaxy smartphone through USB cable.
Go to the tab Backup items.
Check the items you want to be included in your backup.
Here’s how to restore the backup file:
For the backup file source, you’ll find it under Samsung device data.
Android has a built-in feature to help you backup and restore without the help of any other external application. However, to get it working, you’ll need the Android SDK tools. And for that, you’ll need to download Android Studio. You can find the download link here.
While that’s being downloaded, you’ll have to enable USB debugging on your smartphone.
Here’s how to enable USB debugging and prepare your smartphone for the procedure:
Go to your device’s Settings.
Go back to Settings.
Now, back to your computer.
Install Android Studio.
Run the application and install SDK tools.
Your backup file will be saved as chúng tôi under AppDataLocalAndroidsdkplatform-tools
To restore the backup, here are the steps you need to follow:
Run CMD and navigate to UsersUsername(your account name)AppDataLocalAndroidsdkplatform-tools
Wait for completion.
Using device itself
If using your PC for backup and restoration seem like too much work, you can always turn to some reliable apps to save the day.
Here are four great Android backup apps which make this crucial task seem like a walk in the park.
It is to be noted that most of these apps will use your SD card to store the backup files, so, make sure you’re not running only on internal storage.
Backup Your Mobile
Download: Get Backup Your Mobile from Google Play
This app is root only, so, if you don’t have root access, it’d be better to sort that out first. But if you are an enthusiast, this free application could become your favorite in a heartbeat. From mainstream stuff like contacts and texts to pleasantly surprising features like screen DPI and preferred keyboard option, Migrate does it all. It creates a flashable backup zip file, which you need to flash just after installing your new ROM. The app is still in beta, so, there could be a couple of bugs here and there.
Download: Get Migrate from Google Play
Download: Get Resilio Sync from Google Play
Titanium Backup (Root)
If you’re familiar with custom ROMs and software, you’ve probably heard of this magnificent app. Titanium Backup has been around for a long, long time and has over 25 million users worldwide. The app is available for free, of course, but the Pro version —$5.99 — allows you to do stuff that no app in the segment will. From simple backup and restore to freezing even system apps and bloatware, Titanium does it all. It’s also probably the most stable app of the lot and receives regular updates. If you’re a custom ROM aficionado, this is certainly the app to get.
Download: Get Titanium Backup from Google Play
How do you view surveillance cameras? No doubt they help track crime but can as easily be misused to violate your privacy. Nowadays the going rate of CCTV cameras is very cheap with even HD 1080 models available for less than $20. This means anyone can afford to play cop with scant regard to your own preferences.
And when there aren’t any obvious CCTV devices, spy cameras can prove to be a real menace. Whether you’re in a hotel room, restaurant, conference room or even a cab, anyone can slip one of these tiny devices next to you. While there isn’t much you can do about other people, at least you can become more guarded by detecting hidden cameras with your smartphone.
Here are two Android apps to help you detect hidden cameras.1. Hidden Camera Detector App
True to its name, the Hidden Camera Detector app uses your smartphone’s magnetic sensors and infra-red sensors in the camera to detect hidden cameras. It uses electromagnetic fields (EMF) to detect the invisible camera and beeps when there is a positive match. With over 1 million installations on Google Play, this app is certainly very popular.
Most hidden cameras are invisible to the naked eye and remain on the objects which you are least likely to suspect. The infra-red camera helps you get a wide-angle view of your room, and you only have to keep an eye for white light.
One common complaint with this app is that it is sensitive to metals, so it might beep in unexpected places even when there is no lens near the object. However, as per app guidelines, you only need to calibrate the sensitivity of the magnetometer between 60 to 80 to remove false positives.2. Tiny SVR Came: Anti SVR Hidden Surveillance Finder
This app works on similar principles as the previous one and is highly rated within Google Play. There is a magnetometer and an infra-red camera which detects white light. Ironically, it works as your own personal CCTV camera capturing important video moments.
Adjusting the sensitivity of the camera allows you a clearer view of any suspected spy cam devices. You can detect hidden figures, hidden objects and other problems in the infra-red mode.
Are you not sure about the location where the cameras are lurking? The app provides a handy guide for each kind of room. For example, in a bathroom it suggests you look under the showerhead, vents, blow dryers and soap dispensers. It seems to be a useful checklist when you are in a hotel room that is giving you bad vibes.Conclusion
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), CCTV cameras pose a threat to locational privacy which refers to the freedom of an individual to move around without being tracked. By detecting the presence of cameras in your surroundings, you can make your movements less visible to those who believe you shouldn’t even have a say in this matter.
A word of caution: you might want to disable the app at the airport and in government buildings, as it might beep everywhere.
Sayak Boral is a technology writer with over eleven years of experience working in different industries including semiconductors, IoT, enterprise IT, telecommunications OSS/BSS, and network security. He has been writing for MakeTechEasier on a wide range of technical topics including Windows, Android, Internet, Hardware Guides, Browsers, Software Tools, and Product Reviews.
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Android 8.0 Oreo is here—and by “here,” we mean it’s rolling out only to Google-produced devices, phones that run the stock, unmodified version of Android. Essentially, only those who own Google Pixel phones, the recent Google Nexus phones, and a couple of tablets can access it easily.
Which is a pity, because Oreo offers goodies such as an improved notification system, picture-in-picture support for any app, and better battery life management. If you’re eager to install it on your own device and play around with the new operating system, you can take some shortcuts. However, your options will depend on the type of phone you own: This guide primarily applies to Pixel and Nexus users, but it does include a course of action for other phones.
Android 8.0 is on its way—for some devices. David Nield/Popular Science
Why can’t you access Oreo more easily? Unfortunately, new updates can take a long time to reach significant numbers of Android users. For example, at the time this was written, Android 7.0 Nougat, which launched last year has only been installed on around 13.5 percent of Android devices worldwide. Its predecessor, 6.0 Marshmallow, has reached 32 percent of Android users.
That’s because manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Sony, Huawei, HTC, and others all add their own tweaks and extras to the stock operating system before making it available on their phones. Before updating to the latest version of Android, they want to put their own stamp on it. Incidentally, that’s one of the reasons why Google has unbundled so many of its apps and features from the Android operating system. You can update everything from Gmail to the Google Play Store independently of the Android operating system, so Google is able to push the latest versions of its apps out even if the OS lags behind.Join the beta
Do you own a Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 5X, or Nexus 6P smartphone? Your update could be right around the corner: Carrier testing is apparently already underway, so Oreo may have already arrived on your device; if not, the update should be available soon. Head to the Settings app and tap About Phone, then System Updates, to see if your Android Oreo update has arrived yet.
If the update isn’t available yet, and you want to speed up the process, you can do so by signing up for the Android Beta program run by Google. This will give you early access to new versions of the operating system before everyone else—although the version you test may be slightly buggy. Once you sign up for beta, the program will also give you the finished version of Oreo before everyone else.
The Android Beta program offers speedy updates. David Nield/Popular Science
On the smartphone you want to upgrade, head to the Android Beta program’s sign-up page. If you’re on a compatible device, then you can simply tap the Enroll device button. After a short delay, you should receive a prompt to download and install Android 8.0 Oreo on that phone. Then you can start enjoying all the features of the new operating system.
Before you leap, there’s a caveat to consider: As Google develops Oreo further, you’ll continue getting beta updates. While most beta versions that Google pushes out work just fine, they will be more prone to crashes and bugs than the stable final versions of the software.
If the bugs get to you, you can remove your phone from the beta program using the same page from which you enrolled. However, that does require you to completely wipe your device before re-installing the more stable version of Android. So you’ll have to safely back up all your important data before you un-enroll.Perform a manual update
For Pixel and Nexus devices, you do have another option: a manual update. This involves downloading the full Android 8.0 Oreo code, which Google has published online (appearing publicly on the internet is what makes a new Android version “official”). Sadly, this code is optimized for certain devices (specifically Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P phones), so you can’t just slap it on a Samsung Galaxy S8 or an LG V30.
A manual update requires some technical know-how, because you need to use tools designed for app developers. And if you make a wrong move, you risk bricking your phone. What’s more, this type of update will completely wipe your device in the process, so again, you need to back up everything that you want to keep. In short, we only recommend this option if you’re comfortable tinkering around with your device, and you have a spare phone you can switch to should the worst happen. Otherwise, just wait for the automatic update.
Unlock your Android phone in order to install the Oreo factory images. David Nield/Popular Science
Once you’ve saved the factory-image files somewhere on your hard drive, your next step is to set up the developer tools. First, you need to unlock your device so you can install new software. Essentially, you’re disabling the setting that makes your phone wait for a verified update from your carrier. Next, download the SDK Platform Tools zip file, and extract it to a folder of your choice on your hard disk. You might want to create a new folder for this specific purpose.
You also need to get your phone ready for action. Head to About Phone in Settings, tap the Build number seven times, and you should see a dialog box confirming your phone is now ready for some developer tweaks. Go back to Settings, find the new Developer options menu, and make sure to enable both USB debugging and OEM unlocking.
Once your phone’s ready to go, connect it to your computer with its manufacturer-supplied USB cable. Then open a command line or terminal window in the folder you’ve extracted the Platform Tools folder to:
If you run into difficulties or get stuck, Google offers a more comprehensive guide to performing manual Android updates.
The PowerShell or command prompt window in Windows lets you flash your device. David Nield/Popular Science
Finally, once you’ve checked to make absolutely sure you’ve backed up your data, you’re ready to flash Oreo to your phone—in other words, to copy the new operating system over the previous version. Open a new command prompt window, as described above, in the folder where you extracted the Oreo files, or navigate to it in the existing window. Then type “flash-all” to get the software on board. The installation may take a few minutes, so be patient.
This might sound like a lot of time and effort to get Oreo, especially if your phone is in line for a normal upgrade in the next few days. However, you’ll come out the other end knowing a lot more about how Android works and how you can modify it. Modders use the same procedure to put custom Android operating systems, such as the popular LineageOS, on their devices. You can learn out more about flashing Android operating systems, or ROMs, in one of the many guides available online.For other devices: Install the launcher
To be honest, if your smartphone isn’t a Nexus or a Pixel, then you can’t wave a magic wand and get Samsung, HTC, or any other manufacturer to release an update especially for your device. We’ve already mentioned the delays that happen when third-party manufacturers get involved in Android updates, and unfortunately, we can’t offer you any secret shortcut around those.
That said, you can make your phone look and work more like Oreo by installing an Oreo-style launcher, produced by Android developers. Launchers are programs that take over the whole look and feel of an Android device without touching the apps underneath.
Install the Rootless Pixel Launcher for that Oreo feel. David Nield/Popular Science
Before you download the launcher, head to the Security page in Settings and set the Unknown sources toggle switch to On. This lets you install apps from outside the Play Store. Next, visit the Rootless Pixel Launcher page on your phone and download the most recent APK file listed there. When you open it, the installer will run.
The next time you hit the Home button on your Android device, you’ll get the option to use the Launcher3 app as the default. If you agree, then your phone will behave as if it’s running Oreo. To go back to the default look for your phone, you can uninstall the app again. In Settings, go to Apps, find Launcher3, and then tap the Uninstall button. It’s not quite as good as having Android Oreo itself, but it might keep you going until version 8.0 arrives for your device.
Transferring files directly between your computer and your Android phone is annoying. Whether you want to add custom ringtones, organize your photos, or quickly delete files taking up too much space, the process involves connecting both devices through a cable, changing security settings on your phone, and more likely than not, being confused when the phone doesn’t show up in the file browser for some reason. And then, inevitably, the cable disconnects and you have to go through the entire setup process all over again.
Luckily, you can save yourself all that trouble and set up a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) server on your Android phone, instead. This sounds techy, but it’s actually simple—with an FTP, any computer (Windows, macOS, or Linux) on your WiFi network will be able to easily access the files on your phone without any cables. That way, next time you need to transfer files, you can do it easily just by moving documents from one folder to another.
This is particularly useful if you’re not a big fan of the cloud.Hot to set up an FTP server on Android
We know it looks a bit intimidating, but it’s incredibly simple.
Start by disabling anonymous access and setting up a user ID and password. This will make it so that people can only access the files on your phone with these credentials. Continue by checking Use FTPS. This option provides an extra layer of security and ensures that all your transfers are encrypted, which means that even if someone breaks into your network, they won’t be able to see what files you’re transferring. This probably doesn’t matter much if you’re only going to use it at home, but it’s nice to have if you ever have guests over or one of your neighbors cracks your credentials.
[Related: Wireless sharing with Apple, Android, and Windows devices made easy]
With that out of the way, go back to the main menu of the app and tap Start.
The next screen will show you all of the information you need to log in from another device. We’ll break it down for you: Server URL is the local address of your server, which you can think of as similar to a website URL. You’ll need this to tell your computer where to go fetch files. Userid and password are the credentials you chose earlier—you’ll need them to transfer files from another gadget. If turned on, Anonymous access allows users to access your phone through the network with no credentials. Enabling it is simpler but certainly less secure, so do it at your own risk. Finally, Root folder is the folder on your Android phone you’ll be able to access through other devices in your network. By default, this is set to the entire internal memory of the gadget, but you can change it so that you’re only sharing a particular folder while keeping the rest of your phone off-limits.How to access the FTP server from your computer
Your phone is now sharing files over the local WiFi network, meaning you can access those files on any device that’s also connected to it. To do this, you will need a file browser, also known as an FTP client.
Pay attention to the numbers on the Server URL—everything after the colon is actually the Port number, so make sure to type that in the right field.
[Related: How to share huge files online]
The Samsung Galaxy S III ($200 with a new two-year AT&T contract, price as of June 20, 2012) is one of the most hyped phones this year–and we’ve finally gotten a chance to spend some time with it. After Samsung’s splashy launch event, the lawsuit drama with Apple, and the announcement that this model would be coming to five U.S. carriers, we’ve had high expectations for this phone.
So is the Galaxy S III the next great Android phone? In terms of design, display performance, and features, I’d say yes. It isn’t perfect, however. S Voice doesn’t always work well, and some of the sharing features are useless if you don’t know other Galaxy S III owners.
Editor’s note: The Galaxy S III is coming to Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, as well. Other than the differences in networks, pricing, and storage capacities, the Galaxy S III is identical across the carriers. Although we received AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile review units, we did most of our testing on the AT&T version so that we could evaluate LTE speeds.Design
The Galaxy S III feels very much like the Galaxy S II: light, but a bit plasticky. It doesn’t have the durable, solid feel of the HTC One S or One X. Still, it is Samsung’s most eye-catching phone to date. The S III comes in two colors, “marble white” and “pebble.” The white phone looks nice, but the “pebble” color, which is sort of a bluish-gray, is much more attractive in my opinion. I’m getting tired of all-black phones, to be honest, so the “pebble” Galaxy S III is refreshing. It has a cool, brushed look on the back and on the front bottom panel, too.
On the Galaxy S III are two touch-sensitive navigation keys, menu and back. The phone also has a physical home key, which is a bit of a throwback to older smartphones and a departure from the all-software keys on the Galaxy Nexus. Initially Samsung hinted that the U.S. versions wouldn’t have a physical button, but here we are. It really doesn’t affect the way I use the phone, but some people might have strong feelings about it. I do like having the navigation buttons built into the hardware as opposed to their solely showing up on the bottom of the display, as we saw with the Galaxy Nexus. I could never get used to a phone that omits hardware keys entirely.Display
Back to the display: It is large, yes–but my, is it pretty. The S III has a 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display with a 1280-by-720-pixel resolution. This is the same display technology as on the Galaxy Nexus; according to Samsung, however, the Galaxy S III’s display is “more refined” than that of the Galaxy Nexus.
Luckily, we happened to have a Galaxy Nexus in house to do a side-by-side comparison. I loaded the same gallery of photos on both phones. Colors on the S III looked brighter and more vivid than on the Galaxy Nexus. The Galaxy S III displayed a greater range of colors than the Galaxy Nexus did in our color-bar test, too. Unfortunately, I could still see some bleeding between the colors, which is a sign of oversaturation.Software and Features
The Galaxy S III runs Android 4.0.4 with Samsung’s TouchWiz 5.0 overlay. The latest version of TouchWiz looks and feels like the previous versions of the overlay: slightly cartoony, but easy enough to navigate. During the S III launch event, Samsung made a big deal about the Galaxy S III being “inspired by nature.” When you unlock the phone, you see an animation that mimics touching water, complete with a water sound effect. When you press one of the hardware keys, you hear a water drop. It feels very Zen–until it gets annoying. Thankfully, you can turn it off.
Samsung has added a few new gesture controls into the mix, such as tilt zooming (useful for Web browsing), shake to update, and flip to mute (useful for ignoring unwanted calls). One feature I really like–in theory, at least–is the ability to take a screenshot by swiping from right to left across the screen with the side of your hand. Whenever I tried to take screenshots, though, I ended up doing something else on accident. For example, I attempted to take a screenshot of a gallery image, and ended up enlarging the image instead.
I wasn’t really a fan of the Galaxy S II keyboard, and on this phone the keyboard seems not to have changed much. The keys are too narrow and small, and I made a lot of mistakes while typing a message. Swype is preinstalled, however, so that helps to make typing a bit less painful.
As you might recall, Samsung has released some strange marketing for the Galaxy S III, claiming that it “follows your every move.” Creepy? Maybe, but one of the phone’s features is its ability to track your eyes via the front-facing camera, which is pretty cool. When you have the phone in front of you, for instance, the screen stays lit and won’t lock after a few seconds. If you pull the phone away (or, say, fall asleep playing Angry Birds), the screen turns off. The feature works well, and is a useful tool for saving battery life.
Samsung has its own voice-activated assistant, called S Voice. The Vlingo-powered, voice-activated application works pretty similar to Apple’s Siri for iOS in that you can use it to look up answers (also via Wolphram Alpha), schedule appointments, call somebody, and more. You can also use S Voice to control some of the native apps on the Galaxy S III, such as the alarm clock, the Wi-Fi settings, the camera, and Maps. For example, you can say “Cheese” to snap a photo or “Snooze” when your alarm goes off.
I’m not fond of virtual assistants, mostly because I can never get them to work all that well for me. S Voice worked fine when I wanted to control the alarm or take a picture, but navigating with it was a pain. “Navigate to Umami Burger” translated to “Navigate to mommy burner” and “Navigate to Golden Gate Park” translated to “Navigate to Holden State.”Sharing and Multimedia
The Galaxy S III has a slew of sharing features built into the operating system. GroupCast uses Samsung’s AllShare application to help you share content such as PowerPoint slides, photos, or PDFs between your Galaxy S III and a DLNA-enabled TV. You can also share with other phones, but only if those other phones are Galaxy S IIIs.
Share Shot is another cool sharing feature that works only with other Galaxy S III phones. You can share full photo galleries with your friends by way of Wi-Fi Direct technology. You access Share Shot directly from the camera mode and press the ‘on’ button, after which your friends have to connect to Wi-Fi Direct to see the photos. Your photos then appear in their galleries. We tested this function between two Galaxy S III phones, and it worked quite well. I was surprised to see how quickly the photos loaded from one phone to the other.
S Beam uses Android Beam, a feature of Android 4.0, for sharing between phones via near-field communication. You can tap one phone to another and share photos, app download links, URLs, contacts, and so on. This feature works best with Galaxy S III phones, but I successfully shared some content with other NFC phones. I could share Web pages with the Galaxy Nexus, but when I tried to share a photo, I got only a link to the Galaxy S III’s directory path instead of the actual photo.
The video player offers an interesting feature that lets you pop it out into a smaller window and continue to watch video as you are doing other tasks such as browsing the Web or answering an MMS. Once again, though, this is a cool idea that doesn’t quite follow through in execution. In my tests, I’d accidentally close the video window while panning through a site, or sometimes it would close on its own as I switched to another app.
Video does look excellent on the Galaxy S III’s display. All of my test videos played smoothly, and the sound was quite good. You’ll definitely want to watch movies on this phone–just don’t try to pop them out of the player.
Since the Galaxy S III has a MicroSD slot, you can tack on more storage. Depending on the carrier, some Galaxy S IIIs come with 50GB of Dropbox storage for two years (the Sprint and T-Mobile versions both do, at least, and all of the Canadian versions will).Performance
We also tested page-load time over Wi-Fi for the Galaxy S III, using a page custom-built by the PCWorld Labs. The page has multiple JPG images, as well as text and tables. The Galaxy S III loaded the page in 11.5 seconds, while the LG Optimus 4X HD loaded it in 10.3 seconds and the HTC EVO 4G LTE loaded it in 6.5 seconds.
Call quality over AT&T in San Francisco was quite good. My friends sounded clear and natural on the line, with no static or hissing. My friends offered similar praise for the call quality. I did not experience any dropped calls during my hands-on time.
We tested AT&T’s 4G LTE speeds using the FCC-approved Ookla app. In the South Park neighborhood of San Francisco, I got an average download speed of 23.28 megabits per second, and an average upload speed of 8.66 mbps. Those are ridiculously fast speeds, and I could see the power of AT&T’s network when downloading apps (which took seconds), browsing the Web, and watching streaming video.
In my hands-on time, I found the battery life to be satisfactory. The Galaxy S III lasted through a full day of heavy use (lots of Web browsing, picture taking, and game playing) before I needed to charge it again. We’ll update this review with the Labs’ formal battery-test results once we finish our testing.Camera
Competing handset makers have made a big deal about the cameras on their phones, but Samsung hasn’t hyped up the Galaxy S III’s camera. Not that the company really needs to; in my experience using multiple Galaxy phones, I’ve always found the cameras to be good. The Galaxy S III’s 8-megapixel snapper is no exception.
Image quality was very good on the Galaxy S III. My outdoor photos looked gorgeous, and my indoor photos appeared sharp, though colors seemed a bit washed out. Details weren’t as clear as I would have liked, either. The macro mode worked well, but HDR looked strange and blurry. In my opinion, the iPhone 4S is currently the only phone that can get HDR mode to work well.
The TouchWiz camera interface is clean and simple. You get a nice variety of shooting modes, such as HDR, macro, and burst shot, the last of which lets you take up to 20 photos in succession. According to Samsung, the rate is almost three photos per second. Unlike HTC’s burst-shot feature, the mode on the Galaxy S III does not automatically choose the best photos for you.
Buddy Photo Share is a neat idea, but it didn’t work all that well for me. Theoretically, Buddy Photo Share can use facial recognition to match your photos with your contacts. It was able to match up a few of my friends, but most of the time it failed. I suspect that the more you use Buddy Photo Share, the smarter it will become.Bottom Line
Is the Samsung Galaxy S III worth all of the hype? I think it is. The Galaxy S III has a certain appeal that makes you want to keep using it. A friend of mine noticed it on my desk, started playing with it, and couldn’t put it down. “I need this phone,” my friend declared after 5 minutes. The display is irresistible, and the quickness of the phone can’t be beat.
The problem with Samsung phones is that sometimes the company goes too far in trying to stand out from the rest of the pack. Some of the Galaxy S III’s features feel like gimmicks, especially the sharing ones that let you share only with other Galaxy S III phones. S Voice sort of seems like a me-too feature to compete with Apple’s Siri. Really, though, these are just extra frills. At its core, the Galaxy S III is an excellent phone, and Samsung did the right thing in making it uniform across the multiple carriers. And who knows–maybe your whole family and your entire circle of friends will buy the Galaxy S III, so those sharing features will actually be useful.
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