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Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini – small and fierce

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The Samsung Galaxy S3 is a run-away success, and now Samsung has extended its range with the S3 Mini. Is it just a smaller version of the S3? LIRON SEGEV, AKA the Techie Guy, finds out.

The S3 Mini looks identical to its larger S3 brother. You have to look closely to realise it is a smaller phone it even has the same high end marble white chassis the S3 has.

But, in your hand you will notice that it is indeed smaller as it measures in at 121.55 x 63 x 9.85 mm, and weighs 111.5 grams.

It is small enough that your fingers don’t have to do that hop-skip-and-jump to get to various sides of the screen that we have become accustomed to.

The perimeter layout is as we have come to expect from Samsung phones. It has the MicroUSB slot at the bottom and the same Home button and the soft Back & Menu buttons. On the right is the Power button, on the top is the headphone jack and on the left is a Volume rocker. The microSD slot is under the battery (so no popping that SD card in and out without switching the phone off first).

The Galaxy Mini is powered by a dual core 1GHz CPU and comes pre-installed with the Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean operating system.

Turn the phone over, and behind the cover is the removable battery. This might seem trivial, but its becoming more important as people have stated to carry two batteries if they know they will have a busy day on their phone. The Samsung Mini uses a standard SIM not a microSIM or nanoSIM used in most other new phones.

Getting around the phone

The Jelly Bean operating system is day to use and the 4.0‚” WVGA Super AMOLED screen is bright enough to see in daylight. Swipe down from the top and the Drawer opens with access to settings, network options, GPS, Bluetooth and a range of other configuration options.

To make a phone call, tap on the Phone Icon and the dialer opens up where you can access your contacts or start dialing.

Start typing the number you want to call and it instantly starts to make suggestions of all the contacts that have those numbers.

Finally, Samsung has not forgotten to include the ‚”turn the phone over to reject an incoming call‚” feature.

Using the Internet

These days, using the Internet is just as important (if not more) as making a call. The Galaxy S3 mini has all the connectivity you could want: HSPA 14.4/5.76 900/1900/2100 and EDGE/GPRS 850/900/1800/1900. It also connects to WiFi so no costs are incurred for those big downloads.

Because the Galaxy S3 Mini uses an Android operating system, you are able to install Chrome. Chrome logs into your Google account and instantly gives you access to your Google bookmarks, history and saved pages – letting you browse them offline.

The Camera

What self respecting Mobile Ninja doesn’t use their phone to share with the world everything they see?

The Galaxy S3 Mini has two cameras. A 5MP with LED Flash at the back and a VGA camera in the front.

It comes with most of the settings that the S3 has including Buddy photos share and Smile shot.

The quality of the pics are not on S3 8 MP scale, but are not bad at all. I especially like the fact tat you can place the focus on a particular part of the screen and not just the middle and the flash really does its job well.

Yes there are contrast issues between light and dark and some will find it an irritation, but for what I need and for what most people need on a day to day basis, this is perfect.

How’s the sound?

I downloaded my music collection onto the S3 Mini which was transferred with Kies with no problem. As soon as I plugged my headphones in, I noticed that the notification bar pops open with all the pre-installed media related apps including Music Player, Video Player, Video Hub, FM Radio, YouTube. This is pretty cool as you can instantly access these from one location.

Video Playback

The S3 Mini has the same features for video playback at the S3 which is just brilliant.

I always liked the pop-up player that you can view any video clip and overlay that on top of anything else that you are working with without missing a single second.

The Battery Power

With all these cool features, I was surprised to see that I managed to last an entire day of heavy usage. The main drain of the battery is usually the display assuming that since the screen is smaller along with Samsung’s battery-saving techniques, these all helps to keep the phone going.

Even when playing high intensity graphic games, the Galaxy S3 Mini just kept on going.

So in Summary

If you like the look and feel of the original Galaxy S3, then you will love the design and feel of the Galaxy S3 Mini.

The phone easily slips into your shirt pocket and you are are able to handle fully with one hand.

The Galaxy S III Mini is available at recommended retail prices starting at R3 999 for the 8GB version. It is also available on the Cell C website on contract for R279 pm over two years.

* Liron Segev is also known as The Techie Guy. You can read his blog at www.thetechieguy.com or follow him on Twitter on @Liron_Segev

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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Amazfit Bip – An unassuming smartwatch competitor

The Amazfit Bip has everything a smartwatch needs: notifications, heart rate monitoring and a month-long battery life, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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The Amazfit Bip is one of the most appealing devices in the smartwatch lineup from Huami, a low-cost brand backed by Xiaomi.

Coming in at around R1500 depending on where you shop, the price point puts the Bip into the budget smartwatch space. Combined with a large set of offerings, it makes one wonder: “Why aren’t more smartwatches like this?”

Aesthetically, the rectangular face is similar to the Apple Watch but, on closer inspection, is more reminiscent of the Pebble Time smartwatch. Ergonomically, the Bip has a single button which mostly acts as an unlock button and a back button in menus. The watch strap is made of hypoallergenic silicone and is replaceable. 

The Bip has an always-on transflective colour screen with a backlight for darker situations. This kind of display is very similar to a 90’s Gameboy, and happens to be quite the power saver. The display is covered with 2.5D curved Corning Gorilla glass with an anti-fingerprint coating, giving that extra bit of knock resistance.

The unit is 18 grams without the strap and 32 with it on, making for an extremely light smartwatch that’s roughly half the weight of the Apple Watch. While the Bip is rated IP68 in terms of waterproofing and dustproofing (meaning it can withstand 30 minutes of being under 1.5 meters of water), Huami’s website says that it should not be used while swimming, diving or bathing, and should not be taken into a sauna. When the Bip we used got dirty from rock climbing, it was washed with a soap-free cleanser (as Fitbit recommends) and a soft-bristled toothbrush.

GPS tracking with a visual route of a run.

The number of sensors in the Bip is astonishing: heart rate sensor, accelerometer, geomagnetic sensor, barometer, and GPS. This sensor set is usually reserved for the premium smartwatch market but budget Bip packs all of these. Most interestingly, the geomagnetic sensor allows for compass readings (as well as assisting the GPS in locating the watch while it’s moving) and the barometer for measuring elevation by detecting changes in pressure. 

Battery life has been optimised to a month of regular use, with some reports measuring up to 45-days with the heart rate sensor off. Huami claims the smartwatch can last for 4 months with only step and sleep tracking on. The 190mAh battery was run down in 28 hours with the GPS, barometer and heart rate sensor set to permanently on.

The built-in software is basic and lacks app support but redeems itself in other areas. Firstly, the customisation of watch faces is limited but can be easily changed with a third party app. Notifications are handled well, available for viewing only, and require the phone for replying or other interactions. 

A notification from Telegram on the Bip with the backlight on.

The menu options become available with a swipe left, notification settings with a swipe down, past notifications with a swipe up and the weather with a swipe right. The menu has options for checking one’s current status (steps, heart rate, distance, calories), followed by quick activity tracking (running, cycling, walking weather (a five-day forecast with icons), alarms, timers, compass and settings.

The companion app, Mi Fit, is well-designed and syncs quickly with the Bip. Mi Fit is where the watch and sync settings can be fine-tuned. Mi Fit also gives very detailed sleep analytics, including showing how much time one spent sleeping compared to other Mi Fit users. 

Overall, the Bip is an attractive smartwatch for those who are looking to purchase a device that provides value for money while being highly-functional.

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Samsung A51: Saviour of the mid-range

For a few years, Samsung has delivered some less than favourable mid-range devices compared to the competition. The Galaxy A51 is here to change all that, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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It’s not often one can look at a mid-range phone and mistake it for a flagship. That’s what you can expect to experience when taking the Galaxy A51 out into the open.

Samsung went back to the drawing board with its new range of devices, and it shows. The latest Galaxy A range features some of the highest quality, budget-friendly devices we’ve seen so far. The Samsung Galaxy A51 is one of the best phones we’ve seen in a while, not just aesthetically, but in what it packs into a sub-R7000 price tag.

Looking at the device briefly, it’s very easy to mistake it for a flagship. It features a four-camera array on the back, and an Infinity-O punch-hole display – both of which are features of the high-end Samsung devices. In fact, it features a similar camera array as the Galaxy Note10 Lite but features an additional lens in the array. The cameras line up in an L-shape, clearly avoiding looking like a stovetop.

Apart from the camera array, the back of the handset features a striking pattern called Prism Crush, a pattern of pastel shades that come in black, white, blue, and pink. For the review, we used the Prism Crush Blue colour and it looks really great. The feel is clearly plastic, which isn’t too surprising for a mid-range device, but the design is definitely something that will make users opt for a clear case. It’s also great to see a design pattern that deviates from the standard single iridescent colours many manufacturers have copied from Huawei’s design.

Along the sides, it features a metal-like frame, but again, it’s plastic. On the left side, we find a SIM and microSD card tray while the right side houses the power button and volume rocker. The bottom of the phone features a very welcome USB Type-C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack, which isn’t too uncommon for mid-range phones.

On the front, the device is pretty much all screen, at an 87.4% screen-to-body ratio, thanks to a tiny chin at the bottom and the small punch hole for the camera. The earpiece has also been hidden inside the frame in attempts to maximise this screen-to-body ratio. When powered on, the 6.5-inch display looks vivid and sharp. That’s because Samsung opted to put a Super AMOLED display into this midrange unit, giving it a resolution of 1080 x 2400 (at 405 ppi) in a 20:9 format. This makes the display FullHD+, and perfect for consuming video content like Netflix and YouTube in HD.

Hidden underneath the display is an in-screen fingerprint sensor, which is very surprising to find in a mid-range device. While it is extremely accurate, it takes some getting used to because the sensor is so large that one needs to put one’s entire finger over the right part of the display to unlock it. Most other types of non-in-screen fingerprint sensors don’t mind a partial fingerprint. The display itself feels nothing like the back and that’s because it’s not plastic, but rather Gorilla Glass 3, to prevent the screen from shattering easily.

What’s interesting about this device is finding accessories which aren’t quite available in phone stores yet. When browsing online for screen protectors, one has to be on the lookout for screen protectors that are compatible with the in-screen fingerprint sensor. Make sure to check out the reviews of users before purchasing them.

In terms of software, Samsung has made a great deal of effort to make the experience slick. Gone are the days of TouchWiz (thank goodness) and now we have OneUI in its second version. OneUI makes the phone easier to use by putting most of the interaction on the bottom half of the screen and most of the view on the top part of the screen, where one’s thumbs don’t usually reach.

Out of the box, the device came with Android 10. This is a huge step forward in terms of commitment to running the latest software for major feature updates as well as for Android security patches to keep the device secure.

It also has most of the cool features from the flagship devices, like Samsung Pay, Bixby, and Link to Windows. Samsung Pay is an absolute pleasure to use, even if it still confuses the person taking your payments. From linking my cards, I have stopped taking my wallet out with me because all merchants that accept tap-to-pay will accept Samsung Pay on the A51.

Bixby is useful if you’re in the Samsung app ecosystem, especially for owners of SmartThings devices like Samsung TVs and SmartThings-enabled smart home devices. Otherwise, Google Assistant is still accessible for those who still want to use the standard Google experience.

Link to Windows is an interesting feature that started with the Galaxy Note10 and has since trickled down into the mid-range. It allows users to send SMS messages, view recently taken photos, and receive notifications from the phone, all on a Windows 10 PC. This can be enabled by going to the Your Phone app found in the start menu.

The rear camera is phenomenal for a mid-range device and features a 48MP wide sensor. The photos come out as 12MP images, which is a common trick of many manufacturers to achieve high-quality photography. It does this by combining 4 pixels into a single superpixel to get the best colours out of the picture, while still remaining sharp. It also performs surprisingly well in low light, which is not something we were expecting from a mid-range device.

The 12MP ultra-wide angle lens spans 123-degrees, which is very wide and also useful for getting shots in where one can’t move back further. It’s not as great as the main lens but does the trick for getting everyone in for a group photo in a galley kitchen.

The 5MP depth-sensing lens supplements the portrait mode, which adds a blur effect to the background of the photo – the same lens as its predecessor, the Galaxy A50. It features a 32MP wide-angle selfie camera, which is perfect for fitting everyone into a large group selfie.

The processor is an Exynos 9611, which is an Octa-core processor. It performs well in most situations, and there is software built in to give games a boost, so it performs well with graphically intensive games too. In terms of RAM, there are 4GB, 6GB, and 8GB variants, so keep an eye out for which one you are trying. For the review, we had the 4GB, and it performs well with multitasking and day-to-day tasks.

For storage, it comes in a 128GB model on Samsung’s website, which seems to be the standard size. This is extremely welcome in the mid-range segment and is the largest we’ve seen for internal storage capacity as a starting point.

At a recommended selling price of R6,999, the Samsung Galaxy A51 marks the beginning of a great era for Samsung, because it provides a feature-rich handset at an affordable price.

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