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SAMSUNG’S GALAXY TAB S4 IS THE FIRST ANDROID TABLET THAT GETS PRODUCTIVITY RIGHT

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DeX mode is actually usable for doing real work • Top-notch display • Long battery life • Comes with S Pen
The Bad

Book Cover Keyboard costs extra • Not many DeX-optimized apps • Fragile glass back

The Bottom Line

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S4 successfully juggles play and productivity with its special DeX mode, but the cost for the convenience is steep.

Mashable Score3.75
Cool Factor4.0
Learning Curve4.0
Performance4.0
Bang for the Buck3.0

Tablets are finally living up to the “post PC” promise.

After years of serving as our obedient couch and bed consumption companions, tablets are now leveling up with productivity-driven features. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S4 is a great example of this shift from play to work.

The Android tablet is good for kicking back and watching Netflix or checking Twitter. But its marquee feature is the built-in “DeX mode” that makes the Android software look and function more like a PC that sets it apart from Apple’s iPad Pro.

It’s also really nice to see an S Pen included with the tablet instead of sold as a separate accessory. Ahem, Apple.

There’s little doubt the $650 Tab S4 is gunning for the iPad Pro, which also starts at the same price. I mean, every tablet is nowadays. Microsoft’s Surface Go seemed like it had the most potential — it starts at only $400 and it runs full Windows 10 — but ultimately its puny Intel processor and poor Windows 10 optimization for a 10-inch touchscreen held it back.

The Tab S4 mixes the best of both the iPad Pro and the Surface Go. With the tap of a software setting, the tablet’s UI switches between your tried-and-true grid-based homescreen to one that looks like Windows.

Just want to casually browse the web, or watch YouTube, or play Candy Crush? Leave the Tab S4 as is out of the box.

But, if you want to work in a PC-like space with a task bar, multiple resizable windows, and mouse and keyboard support, you’re gonna want to turn on DeX mode.

Bigger screen and louder sound

The Tab S4's skinny at 0.27 inches (7.1mm) thick.

The Tab S4’s skinny at 0.27 inches (7.1mm) thick.

IMAGE: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Tablet trends are heading in the same direction as smartphones: larger screens and slimmer bezels.

For the Tab S4, Samsung went with a 10.5-inch Super AMOLED display (2,560 x 1,600). As you’d expect from a Samsung screen, it’s bright, vibrant, and crisp.

This time around, though, it’s not a blatant copy of the iPad Pro. The screen’s aspect ratio is 16:10 compared to the iPad Pro’s 4:3, which makes it a little taller in portrait mode and a little wider in landscape. I found it easier to consume and create content in both portrait and landscape orientations compared to tablets with more narrow 16:9 aspect ratios.

Though the bezels are thinner, there’s still enough of it for your thumb and inner palm to rest on without touching the screen.

Ooh, now that's a nice screen.

Ooh, now that’s a nice screen.

IMAGE: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

The Tab S4 also rocks clear and loud sound. Just like the Tab S3, there are quad stereo speakers firing out of the top and bottom of the tablet. The audio’s tuned by AKG and supports Dolby Atmos sound. They’re not front-firing speakers, but they still sound quite good for a tablet that’s so skinny.

Beyond these key tablet features, the Tab S4 is pretty standard for a Samsung slate. The rear is still made of glass like the Tab S3, which means it’s both a fingerprint magnet and more susceptible to cracking if dropped compared to aluminum or plastic tablets. Definitely pick up a case if you’re rough with your tablet.

There's a 13-megapixel camera on the rear, but seriously, dude? Use it for scanning documents, not at concerts.

There’s a 13-megapixel camera on the rear, but seriously, dude? Use it for scanning documents, not at concerts.

IMAGE: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Above the display is an 8-megapixel camera as well as an iris scanner. The camera has the same “Intelligent Scan” introduced with the Galaxy S9, which lets you unlock your device using both the less secure, but faster face unlock and the more secure, but hair slower iris scanner. In my tests, the Tab S4 recognized my face quickly and unlocked in both portrait and landscape orientation (not so much at angles, though).

On the rear is a 13-megapixel camera with autofocus. It’s a decent camera for a tablet. The photos can’t compare to shots from a flagship phone like the Galaxy S9, iPhone X, or Pixel 2, but they’re not terrible when the lighting is good. Low-light photos, however, are awful.

Praise the gods, there's a headphone jack and USB-C port with fast charging!

Praise the gods, there’s a headphone jack and USB-C port with fast charging!

IMAGE: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

The Tab S4 also keeps all essential ports. There’s a USB-C port on the bottom with support for Samsung’s Fast Charging (a fast-charging plug is included in the box), a headphone jack, and also a microSD card slot for expanding the 64GB of internal storage.

For $650, there’s little room for cheap materials and poor build quality, and fortunately, Samsung doesn’t scrimp on the Tab S4.

Android transforms for work

The S Pen comes free with the Tab S4. It doesn't slot into the tablet, though.

The S Pen comes free with the Tab S4. It doesn’t slot into the tablet, though.

IMAGE: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Samsung’s marketing makes it clear the Tab S4 is all about productivity. But here’s the truth: Samsung’s been using productivity as a way to differentiate its devices from Apple’s for years. It’s not like Samsung’s just now realizing people want to be able to do work on their mobile devices.

Remember the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet? Samsung touted its S Pen Stylus and ability to run two apps simultaneously. Or how about the Tab S3? The company’s Galaxy Note series phones is an annual reminder of how much it cares about productivity. And let’s not forget Samsung’s efforts to turn its flagship Android phones into pseudo PCs with the DeX Dock.

The Tab S4 feels like a turning point for working on tablets. It essentially splits the difference between what Apple’s delivering with the iPad/iOS and the Surface Go/Windows 10.

This keyboard case is $150 extra.

This keyboard case is $150 extra.

IMAGE: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

At its core, the Tab S4 is still powered by a mobile operating system, Android 8.1 Oreo. However, the Tab S4’s ability to transform Android’s interface into one that resembles and works sort of like Windows makes it just a little more versatile than an iPad Pro in my opinion.

Despite all the work Apple has has done to make iOS on iPad better for productivity — Split View, Slide Over, and drag-and-drop (for some apps) — the software is still designed for touch. Likewise, Windows 10 and its full desktop experience is better with keyboard and mouse.

Android in “DeX mode” on the Tab S4 fulfills a space in the middle — its fully touch-compatible, but also supports keyboard and mouse (if and when you need it).

REGULAR ANDROID MODE
ANDROID IN DEX MODE

IMAGE: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

IMAGE: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

This DeX mode is the bridge between mobile and desktop I think many people have been waiting for. Connect the Tab S4 to Samsung’s $150 Book Cover Keyboard (sold separately) and it automatically switches out of its app grid homescreen into DeX mode, complete with desktop, task bar, and windowed apps.

The touchscreen still responds to your fingers or the S Pen, but because the Tab S4 runs Android apps, there’s none of the menu-heavy cruft found in Windows apps.

Pair a Bluetooth mouse — I connected a Microsoft Surface Mobile Mouse without any problems — to the Tab S4 and it really becomes PC-like. And if you really want to, you can buy a USB-C dongle to hook the Tab S4 up to an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse for an even more desktop-like experience.

Like with the Surface Go, I worried that the screen would be too small to display multiple apps or the last-gen Snapdragon 835 chip paired with 4GB of RAM would be too slow to keep things running smoothly.

But the Tab S4 surprised me. I was able to write the bulk of this review on it — with a handful of Chrome tabs, Spotify streaming music, and the Slack and Gmail apps open — without the Tab S4 slowing down the way the Surface Go did.

DeX mode is cool.

DeX mode is cool.

IMAGE: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Right now, DeX mode’s biggest weakness is that there aren’t many apps optimized for it — meaning tuned for keyboard and mouse with support for resizable windows and things like right-click functionality. Samsung tells me there’s “over 60 apps” that are optimized for DeX mode.

Besides Samsung’s own suite of Android apps, Microsoft’s Office 365 apps and many of Google’s apps are also DeX-ready. As mentioned before, there’s also Slack and Spotify. Some games like Vainglory also work in fullscreen with keyboard and mouse.

Apps that aren’t optimized for DeX mode open up in non-resizable windows and keyboard and mouse support is hit-or-miss. For example, in Instagram you can scroll through the feed and click on posts with a Bluetooth mouse, but you can’t pull-to-refresh the feed unless you use the touchscreen.

The Tab S4 also lasts seemingly forever thanks to its huge 7,300 mAh battery. In DeX mode with WiFi on and brightness set to 50 percent, I got about 11 hours streaming YouTube videos at full HD resolution. For work in DeX mode with multiple apps open and multiple Chrome tabs, I got between 7-8 hours on a charge.

Samsung's Book Cover Keyboard is a bit cramped. But that S Pen holder is pretty dope (also removable!).

Samsung’s Book Cover Keyboard is a bit cramped. But that S Pen holder is pretty dope (also removable!).

IMAGE: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Samsung’s Book Cover Keyboard isn’t the best keyboard I’ve ever used with a tablet. The keys are a bit too small, making the whole experience cramped, despite the keys themselves having a good amount of travel.

My biggest issue with Samsung’s keyboard is that some keys, like the top row of number keys, are too darn narrow. I frequently found myself hitting the wrong keys because of their tiny size. Instead of the backspace button, my pinky would hit the bracket key below it. The tab and common buttons are also unusually narrow compared to the others.

Apple’s Smart Keyboard costs $160 and doesn’t have as many keys, but at least all of its keys are large enough to accurately hit. If you’re worried about a roomy keyboard, consider looking into a wireless one. It just won’t fold up and prop the Tab S4 the way Samsung’s Book Cover Keyboard does.

Cool, but hard to justify the cost

The Tab S4's pricey when you add on accessories.

The Tab S4’s pricey when you add on accessories.

IMAGE: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

I really like Samsung’s thinking with the Tab S4. It tries to have things both ways and mostly succeeds. I much preferred and succeeded in working on the Tab S4 whereas I couldn’t on an iPad Pro and didn’t want to continue on a Surface Go.

The Tab S4 reminds me of new Chrome OS-powered tablets (productivity) trying to get play cred with Android apps, only it’s the reverse. The end goal is still the same: a tablet’s that truly functional for both work and play.

But even though I mostly liked using the Tab S4, its pricing is hard to stomach — $650 for a tablet is already a lot to ask. Factor in Samsung’s Book Cover Keyboard and the cost balloons up to $800. Add a Bluetooth mouse and that price jumps even further. Compared to an iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil ($910 total), the Tab S4’s a better value, but it’s still pricey.

For the money, why not just buy a laptop or a Chromebook convertible like Google’s Pixelbook? The Pixelbook runs Chrome OS, which is a PC-like experience, supports keyboard and mouse, and also runs Android apps in windows. It also has a larger screen; converts into tablet mode; and has a built-in trackpad, more ports, and a more spacious keyboard. Sure, it’s not as portable, but you get a lot more bang for your buck.

If money is no issue, the Tab S4 is a versatile device that won’t disappoint. It’s both a great Android tablet for content consumption and for productivity. For most people, though, the price probably isn’t worth the sleek convenience. A slightly larger Chromebook that runs Android apps works just fine.

 

 

 

Source:  Mashable

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Hardwares

BEST IPHONE 2018: WHICH IS THE BEST APPLE PHONE?

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Best iPhone 2018: Which Apple phone should you buy?

Now isn’t the best time to buy an iPhone. Apple has just launched its latest flagship phones with the iPhone XRiPhone XS  and iPhone XS Max so the market’s about to get a massive shake up.

The soon to appear iOS 12 will further change the iPhone landscape when it appears later this year. The focus for the company with regards to the update has been performance, aiming to make phones as far back as the iPhone 5S feel faster in operation.

It is making the keyboard faster to open, camera faster to shoot and general performance better. There are new features, too, which include an option for grouping notifications together, an updated Stocks app and a brand-new Books experience.

Arguably, the most important feature is Screen Time, which will enable you to gauge how much time you spend on your phone each day. This data will be broken down into screen-on time, the specific time you spend in each app and so on, allowing you to set limits for certain apps. These limits can even be applied to your family members. If you feel you use your phone too much, this could prove a great addition.

Finally, Apple has updated its Do Not Disturb mode. You can now set it so you won’t receive any notifications at night, and its far more granular with its settings.

The soon to appear iOS 12 will further change the iPhone landscape when it appears later this year. The focus for the company with regards to the update has been performance, aiming to make phones as far back as the iPhone 5S feel faster in operation.

It is making the keyboard faster to open, camera faster to shoot and general performance better. There are new features, too, which include an option for grouping notifications together, an updated Stocks app and a brand-new Books experience.

Arguably, the most important feature is Screen Time, which will enable you to gauge how much time you spend on your phone each day. This data will be broken down into screen-on time, the specific time you spend in each app and so on, allowing you to set limits for certain apps. These limits can even be applied to your family members. If you feel you use your phone too much, this could prove a great addition.

Finally, Apple has updated its Do Not Disturb mode. You can now set it so you won’t receive any notifications at night, and its far more granular with its settings.

Source: https://www.trustedreviews.com/best/best-iphone-3501342

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News

IN KILLING INBOX, GOOGLE TAKES ANOTHER SWIPE AT ITS MOST PASSIONATE USERS

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For all its skill and dominance in artificial intelligence, Google can be surprisingly lacking in the natural kind.

In move after move, Google snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. And all because the company’s culture is blind to the value of passionate users.

I’m quite certain that Google watches user numbers and applies analytics to everything it can measure. A radically analytical approach is powerful, but it can blind you to the factors that cannot be measured. Factors such as user passion.

My favorite example is Google+. After an initial surge of usage in the first couple of years, the social network gradually fizzled — smothered by a reputation for low engagement.

That reputation was largely false. But over time it became a self-fulfilling prophecy as Google took repeated action to hide and suppress engagement.

It killed Circle sharing, the best way to discover high-quality active users. It added Communities, which reduced attention aimed at users. Its dumb algorithms flagged (and thereby hid from public view) high-quality comments, while simultaneously failing to flag obvious spam. (Eventually, Google’s algorithms got much better, but only after most users had already abandoned the platform.)

This is a great plan — if your objective is to minimize user engagement.

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Google+ was, and still is, the online playground for Google’s most loyal fans. Google could have brought a billion people into this playground, where Google fans could hold sway and persuade everybody else to share their enthusiasm for Android, Pixel phones, Pixelbooks, Google Search, Google Assistant, Google Home, Gmail, YouTube and all the rest.

Instead, it actively buried or suppressed user engagement until Google+ became a shell of its former self. It has robbed its own most passionate users of audience, demonstrating that it doesn’t understand the value of those users.

And now it’s doing something comparable with email.

Google giveth, and Google taketh away
Google this week announced the end of two email-related products.

The first is the experimental alternative to Gmail called Inbox. The other is a Chrome app for offline Gmail.

The Gmail Offline Chrome app, which Google introduced seven years ago and hasn’t updated for five years, will be removed from the Chrome Web Store on Dec. 3. It has been superseded in functionality by the web version of Gmail, which has supported superior offline capability for years. (You can turn on the offline feature by going into Gmail Settings, choosing the Offline tab and making sure the “enable offline mail” checkbox is checked.)

But nobody cares about the Gmail Offline Chrome app. Good riddance to it. Technically, it never even made it out of beta.

The termination of Google Inbox, on the other hand, is more problematic. Inbox will be killed in March, according to a Google blog post this week.

Inbox, which is officially and oddly branded Inbox by Gmail, was launched as an experimental app in 2014. And probably in a panic.

Back in 2013, Gmail was proudly text-based and largely devoid of significant interface design. The service was popular and growing, and it looked as if Google would rule the email roost indefinitely.

Then catastrophe struck.

In early 2013, a startup announced an app for iPhone called Mailbox. More than a million people signed up to try it before it even launched, based on the innovation and appeal of its user interface.

The key Mailbox innovation — common now but revelatory then — was the use of swiping left or right to move or snooze messages. Mailbox emphasized other interface elements as well, including the containment of elements into boxes or “cards.” The combination of Mailbox features facilitated the quick achievement of “zero inbox” — Mailbox made it easy to skim and process emails.

It’s possible that the interface of Mailbox, and the obvious appeal of it, shocked Google into rethinking its hyper-minimalist design and may have influenced the course of its design language, Material Design, which the company introduced in the summer of 2014.

Google announced Inbox — one of the first Material Design products — a few months later.

Google may have rushed Inbox to market to stave off the loss of users to swipe-centric, card-happy upstarts such as Mailbox and its subsequent imitators.

Alas, poor Mailbox never had a chance. Its fatal flaw was that it wasn’t an email service, but a front end to the email services owned by other companies.

The companies that did control email services, including Google, easily copied the most appealing user interface elements of Mailbox, making them ubiquitous and Mailbox, therefore, worthless.

Dropbox, having acquired Mailbox one month after its launch, killed it in December 2015.

Gmail itself gradually got a Material Design makeover, as well as many (but not all) of the features popular in Inbox, such as Smart Replies.

Gmail still lacks Inbox’s Reminders integration, mobile app inbox swiping to manage messages, message bundling, inbox pinning and what fans call a “cleaner” UI.

Importantly, the overall feel of Inbox and Gmail — and the muscle memory required to use each — are still very different.

Why killing Inbox is a mistake
Google probably has around 1.3 billion email users by now.

Most of them use only Gmail. A sizable minority uses only Inbox. And lots of people — including yours truly — switch back and forth between the two.

That switching is facilitated by a number of factors. One of these is that filters created in Gmail Settings function inside Inbox.

Many users prefer using Gmail in their desktop browser because they like the granular control over everything, but they prefer Inbox on mobile for the Mailbox-like ease of use.

Google’s thinking appears to be that:

One email system is better than two.
More people use Gmail than Inbox.
Gmail is close enough now to Inbox in interface and features,
And, therefore, it’s time to kill Inbox.

The problem with this thinking is that all users are being treated equally here. If Google were able to measure the passion of users, it would almost certainly realize that far more passionate users are using Inbox.

Which is not to say that passionate Google users don’t use Gmail. They do. Some power users love Gmail because it allows more user control.

Still, many users stick to Gmail because they really don’t care that much. They’re used to it and don’t feel like changing anything.

Inbox users are the users looking for the newest thing, the users who can more quickly adapt to a new way of doing things, the users who jump on all of Google’s newly launched innovations because they trust Google.

The most cynical summary of this history is that Google had Gmail and everybody was happy. Then Google created a more innovative alternative, and its best and most active and engaged users loved that alternative. Then it killed that alternative after its most loyal fans had dedicated countless precious hours mastering it.

This is a great plan — if your objective is to minimize confidence and loyalty among your most passionate users.

And that’s why killing Inbox is a mistake. It’s yet another slap in the face of the passionate minority.

What Google doesn’t understand is that not all users are the same. Passionate users are far more valuable to Google than indifferent users. They try new things. They buy stuff. They persuade the public in Google’s favor.

By mismanaging Google+, killing Reader and now killing Inbox, Google has been making passionate users less passionate.

If it keeps this up, its most passionate users are going to take their passion somewhere else.

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Mobile Phones

THE APPLE WATCH STOLE THE SHOW FROM THIS YEAR’S NEW IPHONES

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The most exciting announcement from Apple’s annual iPhone event on Tuesday was not a set of three new smartphones, but a smartwatch. The Apple Watch Series 4 — with its rounded corners, larger display, and built-in EKG scanner — became undoubtedly the most sought-after gadget in the aftermath of Apple’s fall hardware refresh. While many people have bemoaned having to choose between the iPhone XS and XR, or are simply forgoing a mobile upgrade entirely, the Series 4 stood out for how simple of a purchase it is for those who’ve been sitting on the sidelines of the wearable market.

For those like me who’ve had an older Apple Watch Series 0 or 1, it’s a no-brainer, and it was what I was most excited about when I decided to stay up on Thursday night to claim a midnight order. The disparity is best illustrated by the fact that, after less than half a day of orders, every single tier of iPhone XS available right now has a September 28th to October 5th shipping window. Nearly every model of the Apple Watch Series 4, on the other hand, won’t ship until October 12th to October 19th.

There’s a number of reasons why the Apple Watch is outshining the iPhone these days. The first and most obvious is that the iPhone has become boring, trapped by the diminishing returns Apple can wring out of the device year after year. It would seem, 11 years after the introduction of the first iPhone, that Apple’s marquee product has simply lost a majority of its luster. There are only so many upgrades and standout features you can add to a mobile product before its incremental changes are overshadowed by how much it costs.

Simply take a look back at the last four years of iPhones. In 2014, Apple introduced the Plus version of the iPhone when it released the iPhone 6, which helped cement the trend of ever-larger displays that Samsung and other Asian manufacturers had first promoted. In 2015, the phone was paired with the Apple Watch for the first time, giving diehard fans a better reason to incorporate more Apple hardware and software into their lives. The year after, the company removed the headphone jack and released the AirPods, kicking off a debate about how and when to force consumers and the industry toward a wireless vision for the future. Last year, we got the iPhone X. With its signature notch, bezel-less display, and FaceID, it became an industry trendsetter and facilitated a more interesting debate about smartphone design than we’ve enjoyed in years.

This year, which is admittedly an S upgrade year and so understandably less exciting, it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of room for the iPhone to grow. That leads to the second most obvious reason why it’s become harder to care about the iPhone: price. As the iPhone has stagnated in terms of new features, Apple has increased the average cost of its flagship device by more than $300, from around $775 to $1,100.

The company figured out last year with the iPhone X that customers would be willing to pay not for meaningful new features, but for design and aesthetic improvements. So it began using higher-quality materials, like OLED displays and glass back plates, and increasing the available storage tiers. This year, you can get an iPhone XS Max with 512GB of storage for $1,449, making it the most expensive iPhone ever made, just like the X was before it.

working out supply chain and manufacturing kinks.) There is an argument to make that the XR is the more interesting, mass market-friendly, and potentially successful phone of the three, but we won’t know that until later this year.

As it stands today, Apple’s flagship phone is the least exciting device it’s put out in a long time, and it’s easy to see why it’s being outshined by the Apple Watch. What started as an underdog product arriving late to the wearable scene, the Apple Watch has since become not only the world’s best-selling wearable, but the world’s best-selling watch, period.

Apple has achieved that by consistently improving its hardware and software with each new annual iteration. Just like the early days of the iPhone, each new Apple Watch adds something exciting and legitimately impressive, from the water-resistance of the Series 2 to the cellular connectivity of the Series 3. Now, with the Series 4, Apple has added a built-in EKG scanner and the first hardware design overhaul the watch has had since its inception.

There will be a time when the Apple Watch, like the iPhone, becomes a stagnant product that simply becomes more exorbitant and expensive. Ironically, Apple’s very first Apple Watch contained a line of now-discontinued models as expensive as $17,000. So there’s quite a lot of room for the company to grow its smartwatch brand and expand it back into the luxury market. But until then, we can expect quite a few more years of novel innovations and design overhauls.

Perhaps Apple overcomes engineering and design hurdles to create a round-shaped Apple Watch. Maybe the company figures out how to extend the battery life by more than 24 hours. There’s myriad ways the Apple Watch can improve and reach a more mass-market audience. But one thing is for sure right now: with the Series 4 out in the wild, it’s probably a more invigorating time to be developing the next Apple Watch than the next iPhone, and customers seem to be responding visibly to that shift.

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