Sunday, 31 October 2010

Samsung Wave S8500 and Augmented Reality: Samsung Mob!ilers Mission #3

For our third mission, Samsung has asked us Mob!lers to give our opinion on one of their applications. If I’m being honest I’ve found this a little difficult as, given the number of excellent free applications in their app store, it’s been hard to choose the one I like the most! In the end I decided that it should be a game, as this is what I spend most of my “procrastinating time” doing on my phone, and most utility-type apps either do what they say in the title or don’t... there isn’t much more you can say about them! Until the weekend it was it was a choice between two fantastic free games: the fast pace action filled Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior and the focussed balancing Tightrope Hero.

However, tucked away in the bowels of the app store I discovered ARdefender. Although these other two games are absolutely brilliant fun, they don't even come close to the genius of ARdefender! It modestly describes itself as “an Augmented Reality Game, involving a tower, various weapons and nasty opponents bugging you on your desk”. It’s a little bit understated for what it is: an absolute gem, and a free one at that. I've not been able to put my phone down and I've become the envy of my friends who all wait in line to have a go. This is quality stuff!

Augmented reality the term given to real-time blending of virtual imagery into a video stream. For this to work the application has to have a point of reference so you have to print out a special design on a bit of paper (a “tag”) so the app knows where to place your defence tower.

In place of your scrap of paper a delightful 3D blue tower appears on your phone screen with a turret on top. The cool thing about this is the 3D: you can move your phone around the tower and view it from all angles! You are also presented with a crosshair in the middle of your screen which you can aim at the numerous little critters and beasties that pop up on. You can see from the screenshots I’ve taken that you can really do this anywhere... I have used my leg to demonstrate!

The big red button in the bottom right hand corner is the most important one: the fire button. It allows you to bombard the enemies with a choice of lasers, missiles or just a regular rail gun which you can select from the right hand side. On the Samsung Wave you can also use the camera button to fire at your enemies which is a very nice touch! The game concept is quite simple, there are a series of levels which get progressively harder with more enemies each time. What makes this game so much fun is the augmented reality; without it wouldn’t be half as fun! You can change you coffee table, your desktop or even your lap into a fully fledged battleground.

This is something I’m never going to get bored of and one of the best apps to show off to your mates! I confess to not being very good at the game but that’s not stopped me enjoying the easier levels... it’s just a marvel of technology and programming. The ease in which this virtual world sits onto reality is absolutely stunning. The screenshots I’ve taken here really don’t do it justice (I'll try and get some better ones during the week). You must try it for yourself!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A Day in the Life of Dom: Samsung Mob!ler Mission 2


For the second Mob!ler mission Samsung asked us to take a series of photographs or videos with our new smartphones. I decided to take my phone (the Samsung Wave GT-S8500) out with me for an afternoon and an evening a document my life for a day. I thought this would also be a good way to put the phone's camera to the test as I would be encountering different levels of light, shots at different distances and all sorts of other camerary type things! If you're interested in what the pictures are of, head over to my Flickr page for some more info! Essentially I start with a perambulate around York University campus before heading into town for some tea with a friend, a pint at York Brewery and then back onto campus for some night time photography tests. There are also a couple of (non HD) videos thrown in for good luck!

All of the photographs have come out really well, even ones where I was deliberately shaking the phone only came out a tiny bit blurry. The phone boasts an LED flash which is much brighter than you'd expect and a definitely does a good job! I've found the camera functionality of the Wave to be excellent and I've been surprised and impressed at how many features Samsung have managed to pack into it. My favourite has to be the "Panorama" feature, the way it does it is something I would never have thought of myself: the phone makes use of the G-sensor to automatically locate where the next photograph should be taken and automatically takes the picture when you move it to the right place. It's great fun and an impressive feature to show of to your friends. It's actually quite hard to explain, so you'll just have to try it yourself!

It also has a "Smile Shot" feature which takes a photograph when your subjects starts to smile, a "Beauty" feature which seems to recognise faces and smooth out any blemishes (though I suppose there's only so much it can do!) and a "Continuous" feature which lets you take up to 9 pictures in quick succession. All of these little extras lend themselves to a camera which is not only fantastic quality, but has a holistic element of fun about it making it great fun to play with and show off to friends.


This is also the case with the video part of the camera, which boasts HD recording at 1280 X 720 resolution. I can't say much more other than that it does really, really well... for a camera phone and such a compact one at that: this is very impressive stuff. Here's an example... not that interesting content i'm afraid, just a wall of my house, but it does give you an idea of the quality (make sure you watch it in full screen and full 720p quality!).

Samsung have also been clever in telling you not only how much time is left for your video, but also how much space the video is taking up on your memory

Perhaps the best thing about it though, and for entertainment purposes far better than HD recording is the "Slow Motion" feature! It does exactly what it says and allows you to take slow motion videos! Although video resolution is compromised, the overall effect is simply wonderful and my friends and I have had hours upon hours of fun with this... see for yourself!

Some conclusive thoughts:

I thought it would be a long time before a camera phone would encroach on the territory of a dedicated camera in terms of features, but the Wave comes impressively close. Of course the quality of the lens is never going be as good as an SLR camera... but to me this isn't important. All I want photographs for is for fun and for memories and I don't need the highest end camera to do that! I think this is the case for most of us. This phone takes superb pictures, in much better quality than I'd ever need them for and also provides a much needed element of fun!

An Afterthought:

I also have to mention, as it is important, a comment about the battery life of the Wave now that I've had it long enough to know for sure: It is exceptional. Even after a day of heavy usage of HD filming, using the LED flash for camera tests reviewing media over and over again (especially the slow motion bits!), constant connection to the internet, Facebook, Twitter, emails.... the battery barely went down at all. In my experience smartphones don't have the greatest battery life even whilst doing normal things, and when it comes to using the camera they might as well not have a battery!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Samsung Wave S8500 Review

There is no doubt that this is a beautifully made phone; the sleek seamless design sits in the hand as though human anatomy were designed for it. The crisp 3.3’’ super AMOLED screen brings the most vivid vivacity to the footage you shoot with the tour de force high definition video and 5 megapixel camera whist extending battery life with its superior low power consumption.

This is clearly a company which understands the needs of the user, providing personalisation in all areas. Under the bonnet it kicks a powerful punch with a 1GHz processor, allowing much sought after multi-tasking for the readily available Apps. Perhaps most noteworthy is the slip-stream integration of social networking memes into the new “bada” operating system. I think they’ve got this right; phones are, after all, supposed to be a means of communicating and this is a phone which seeks and certainly succeeds in creating a platform for communication in the most modern of ways

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Samsung's Bada Operating System: My Thoughts

Hello! I'm Dom and I recently won a wonderful competition with Samsung which is allowing me to express my views on some of their techno-wizardry! I'm passionate about technology and I love how it is constantly evolving to help facilitate our needs for easy communication in the busy lives we lead. As part of the competition, me and 19 other lucky people will be set a series of tasks. What follows is the first of these. It's my opinion, or review if you like, of the Samsung Bada Operating System. Enjoy...


In the world of phones and technology in general, hardware is increasingly finishing second best to the presence of quality applications and operating systems. No one really cares how many GHz your phone has, how many invisible pixels might be on your screen or how many Gigabytes you have to store extortionately large photographs from your million megapixel camera. Today it's all about the software. If your phone can open an application 0.1 second faster than mine or you can take a photograph and print it off on an A1 piece of paper then pat yourself on the back because, and let's be honest with each other, it doesn't really matter!

We're already reaching a plateau, or dare I say peripeteia, with regards to technology: For the most part it's all good enough to do the job we need it to do and anything more these days is just an extra bell and a whistle which will never really be sounded. For me, the magic of being able to call anyone from anywhere in the world completely without wires hasn't and will never get old, but I suppose this isn't enough anymore. Almost everyone's got something fantastic and we only really need to get something new if we've broken our old one or because adverts convince us that we one that's a little better. Naturally, top-trumping each others' phones is an important social mechanism these days. Heaven knows I do it, but I understand that what really counts is how the operating system uses its resources and how it helps us do things efficiently. It's all about ease of use, not speed of use!

In a battle for what companies think consumers are actually interested in, for my money, Samsung has got it right. Allow me to present to you the Samsung Wave (GT-S 8500), one of Samsung's newest phones and flagship carrier of their new Bada Operating system. Perhaps more importantly for the purposes of this article, it's the phone I've been using to assess Samsung's Bada and the one which I've used or the screenshots throughout this article... just so you know!

Bada: An Operating System for Modern Communication

Named after the Korean word for "Ocean", Bada invites everyone in for a swim. First and foremost, it doesn't come across as trying to be something groundbreaking or market changing. But this is a good thing. It's a system for everybody and one which embodies today's needs in portable communication and entertainment. Most importantly, it delivers. These days we communicate in such a vast variety of ways it's sometimes hard to keep up with our own lives let alone our friends. We use social networking, we email and we text. Actually placing a phone call is often the last thing we use our phones for!

Samsung, being the clever company that they are, have realised this. Of course you can still call people... but they have created an operating system which amalgamates all forms of communication into one bundle: Emails, Facebook updates, twitter, Bebo, myspace... the list goes on. It synchronises easily and instantly with your social networking and email accounts, pulling down the relevant profile pictures, status updates, phone numbers... everything! Not only that, but if you've syncronised your contacts, Bada will give you their status updates alongside their contact details. Bada also makes the most out of the now must-have threaded text messaging which makes it easy to keep yourself in the know of the important who-said-what-when.

If you want your Facebook and Twitter to update constantly through the "Feed and Update" widget, then you can. But not everyone is on an unlimited data plan and can't afford their data allowance to be sapped while they're not using it. The same applies to emails: the phone cleverly downloads only a preview of the email, saving your data allowance but still letting you download the full message if it's important enough. 

Bonus, Fun and Entertainment:

I imagine that Samsung's App store will come under scrutiny from some because it doesn't have as many tens of thousands of apps as other markets might do. I've had a good browse of the app store, and trust me, there's plenty to be getting on with! I can't even envisage myself needing more than 100 applications on my phone: If I did I certainly wouldn't have time to use them all! The phone also comes pre-loaded with all the widgets and gizmos a normal person is going to want to use. The dedicated Samsung App store is undoubtedly in its infancy, but even at this young age it caters for a lot of interests and provides numerous utilities... from piano playing to kung-fu fighting: It's rife with potential.

Also worth a mention is Samsung's "Kies" software, which alongside the normal media and contact retrieval and calendar synchronisation offers the chance to save your data allowance and use your computer's internet to do the hard work and upload apps and media to your phone. Once again Samsung is thinking of the user and the limited data-allowances we're faced with... I like this! They also chuck in all the extras you'd expect from any modern phone such as multitasking and the ability to customise almost everything!

In Conclusion: Badass or Bad as?

All in all I've been really impressed with Bada. What I like most about it is that it doesn't feel like something too technical or out of reach. You don't have to learn how to use it. It's designed for everyday people with everyday needsI like this about Bada and it goes hand in hand with Samsung, a company which consistently gets things right, providing the right thing for the everyday consumer, not just the techno-snobs. It's understated and it's excellent, not bad or badass just excellent and consistent. And in my books, excellence and consistency is a winning formula. It doesn't sing from the rooftops or dance in the streets like some shallow, raucous idiot, it just does what you want it to, when you want it to. What more could you possibly ask for?!