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Samsung announces the Galaxy XCover 5, four years after its predecessor
by João Carrasqueira
It's been four years since Samsung introduced the latest phone in its Galaxy XCover lineup, which consists of rugged devices designed for mobile workforces. We did get the XCover Pro last year, which is a higher-end model, but today the company is announcing the XCover 5, a true successor to the XCover 4 from 2017.
The XCover 5 comes with plenty of upgrades over the XCover 4, as you'd expect after a four-year wait period. It now has an Exynos 850 chipset, which has eight Cortex-A55 cores at 2.0GHz. The RAM has been doubled to 4GB and the internal storage is four times higher at 64GB, but both are the same as on last year's XCover Pro. There's also a 3,000mAh battery with 15W fast charging.
The display is a slightly larger 5.3-inch panel, and it's still a TFT panel with HD+ resolution. Since the phone is designed for harsh environments, there's a Glove Touch feature so you can use the touchscreen with gloves on. There's only one rear camera, clocking in at 16MP and f/1.8 aperture, while the selfie camera is 5MP and has an aperture of f/2.2.
As you'd expect, the XCover 5 is rated IP68 for dust and water resistance, and it also meets the MIL-STD-810H standard for durability. There's a set of Pogo pins for charging, facial recognition for unlocking the phone, and one programmable key on the side. It also supports NFC with EMV L1 certification. Finally, in terms of software, it's running Android 11.
The Galaxy XCover 5 will be available this month in markets including Asia, Europe, and Latin America, with other regions coming later. Pricing information wasn't revealed, though.
Nintendo reportedly preparing a new Switch model with a 7-inch OLED display
by João Carrasqueira
The Nintendo Switch rumor mill is turning once again as the console has just turned four years old. A new report by Bloomberg indicates that the Japanese gaming giant is preparing to launch a new revision of the console this year, though a good while later than suggested in previous reports.
This time, though, there's a bit more information, as Bloomberg's sources state that Nintendo is sourcing larger 7-inch displays from Samsung Display, as opposed to the 6.2-inch and 5.5-inch panels of the current Switch and Switch Lite. The biggest difference here is that these displays will be using OLED technology instead of the LCD panels found in the existing models of the Switch. The OLED display should offer better battery efficiency, more contrast, and potentially better response times, according to Yoshio Tamura, co-founder of consultancy firm DSCC.
One thing that some might find unfortunate is that the panel being sourced will still be 720p, so the larger size won't come with an accompanying increase in resolution, meaning the pixel density will be lower than the current model. However, the console will come with some form of 4K support when docked to a TV, meaning there will be an even bigger gap between the handheld and TV experiences. On the bright side, that should help the console's battery last longer and allow the chipset to run cooler.
The report also further clarifies that Nintendo is sourcing rigid OLED displays, as opposed to flexible ones as seen in most of today's smartphones. Flexible displays have been typically used because they make it possible to reduce the bezels around the screen to minimal sizes, but they're naturally more expensive. Still, it's expected that the new Switch model will use the same casing, so bezels will still be reduced from the current iteration.
As noted in the report, the partnership between Nintendo and Samsung would benefit both sides, as Samsung has seen prices for rigid OLEDs drop due to oversupply, while Nintendo manages to secure a partner during a time when display-related components are seeing supply shortages.
Samsung Display is said to be preparing the displays to be shipped to assemblers in July, so a launch in 2021 seems to make sense, and it would help prop up the Switch's appeal for the holiday season as the new consoles from Sony and Microsoft start to grow their audience after a full year on the market. Of course, it's up to Nintendo to make these plans official, so we'll have to wait until then.
By Jay Bonggolto
Samsung Galaxy A32 is now available to purchase in India for ₹21,999
by Jay Bonggolto
The launch of the Galaxy A12 in India last month marked the arrival of the first Galaxy A handset in the country this year, packing a MediaTek Helio P35 SoC, a 6.5-inch HD+ Infinity-V display, and more. Today, Samsung India announced the launch of another device from that lineup.
Samsung introduced today the Galaxy A32 in India following the global debut of its 5G version earlier this year. The device is powered by an octa-core Mediatek Helio G80 SoC paired with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. It also sports a 6.4-inch Full HD+ Infinity-U Super AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate that should make your gaming experience smooth.
The front camera is a 20MP sensor housed in a waterdrop notch, while its quad-camera setup on the back comprises a 64MP main sensor, 8MP ultra-wide shooter, 5MP macro sensor, and a 5MP depth sensor. Other camera features include hyperlapse, night mode, slow-mo, panorama and pro mode.
Inside, the phone has a 5,000mAh battery that Samsung claims can keep it running for up to 20 hours of video, 93 hours of music playback, and 19 hours of internet usage. The battery also supports 15W adaptive fast charging. It runs One UI 3.1 based on Android 11.
If you're wary about your privacy, the Galaxy A32 features AltZLife that allows you to double-pressing the power button in order to swap between normal and private mode. This feature also recommends storing your private content in the secure folder right on your device.
You can purchase the handset in India via Samsung's online storefront, other online stores, and retail shops in India from today for ₹21,999 (~$302) in four color variants: Awesome Black, Awesome White, Awesome Blue, and Awesome Violet.
Samsung Galaxy S21 review: A flagship that has learned the right lessons
by João Carrasqueira
I got to review a few Samsung phones throughout 2020, and it has definitely taken some time for the company's hardware to really resonate with me. I was very underwhelmed by the Galaxy A51 mid-ranger about a year ago, and when I finally got to review a flagship - the Galaxy Note20 Ultra - the issues it presented were far too significant for it to be worth its massive asking price.
But then came the Galaxy S20 FE, a much cheaper phone that kept the essentials of a 2020 flagship while cutting corners in a few small ways to attain its price point. For what it set out to do, the S20 FE was a fantastic device, and it left me hoping that Samsung would take away some lessons from it and make future Galaxy S phones more appealing.
Samsung announced the Galaxy S21 lineup last month with a significant reduction to its starting price - now just $799, instead of the S20's $999 - as well as some of the sacrifices we saw on the Galaxy S20 FE. After a couple of weeks with the S21, I think it's safe to say that Samsung learned the lessons I was hoping it would and created a fantastic baseline for its flagships in 2021.
CPU Exynos 2100 (Octa-core) - one Cortex-X1 at 2.9GHz, three Cortex-A78 at 2.8GHz, four Cortex-A55 at 2.2GHz GPU Mali-G78 MP14 Display 6.2 inches, 1080x2400, 421ppi, 120Hz, Dynamic AMOLED 2X Body 151.7x71.2x7.9mm (5.97x2.80x0.31in), 169g (5.96oz) Camera 12MP main + 12MP ultra-wide + 64MP telephoto, Front - 10MP Video 8K - 24fps or 4K - 60fps, HDR10+, Front - 4K - 60fps Aperture f/1.8 + f/2.2 + f/2.0, Front - F/2.2 Storage 128GB UFS 3.1; non-expandable RAM 8GB Battery 4,000mAh Color Phantom White (as reviewed), Phantom Gray, Phantom Pink, Phantom Violet
OS Android 11 with OneUI 3.1 Price €849-€879/$799 Of course, this is the European variant of the Galaxy S21, which means it comes with an Exynos processor, but you'll be getting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 if you buy this phone in the U.S. I can't personally compare the two variants directly, but I will say that I don't think having an Exynos model is as much of a problem this year as it was last year. I'll get into that more later on.
When you look at it broadly, the Galaxy S21 is a fairly generic smartphone slab. It has a plastic back, one of the compromises it borrows from the Galaxy S20 FE, but it keeps the metal frame and overall feels more solidly built than that phone. It's also a very compact phone by today's standards, thanks to its relatively small 6.2-inch display and the minimal bezels all around. It's actually refreshing to have a phone that's this easy to handle nowadays.
The thing that really makes me swoon over this phone's design is the camera module. I realize that's probably a weird thing to say, but the way it's made of metal and melts into the frame of the phone is just so nice and gives it such a distinct look that I can't help but love it. If you look closely, there is a bit of a ridge between the actual frame and the camera module, but it's barely noticeable and doesn't ruin the look at all. Samsung sent me the Phantom White model, and while I wish I had the Phantom Purple with its golden accents, this look really grew on me. It's classy without being too boring, and I'll definitely say I'm glad I didn't get the gray model.
Moving on from the back and going around the phone, it's all pretty standard. The left side of the frame has no buttons, but there are some antenna bands.
Over on the right side, there's the power/Bixby button along with the volume rocker, with all of the buttons feeling having a nice clicky feel to them.
The top edge is also fairly empty, featuring two microphones very close to each other, only separated by an antenna band.
Finally, the bottom edge has everything else you'd expect to find - a USB Type-C port for charging, a SIM card slot, and the bottom-firing speaker grill. There's one more microphone next to the SIM card slot, and if it's not obvious, you want to push the SIM ejection tool into the hole inside the SIM card tray cutout. You could damage the microphone by poking it with the tool.
Display and sound
Over on the front, of course, is the display. It's a 6.2-inch panel with Full HD+ resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate - another smart move by Samsung to cut costs, which we saw on the Galaxy S20 FE. Samsung phones have had Quad HD+ displays for a while, but I think it's the most obvious way companies can save money without hurting the user experience nearly as much. With the Galaxy S20, you'd have to choose between Quad HD+ resolution or the 120Hz refresh rate, and I would always have recommended the latter either way, so I endorse this change.
The panel is also using Samsung's Dynamic AMOLED 2X technology and it continues to be oh-so-great. Samsung's displays have long been known for looking great, and suffice it to say, that hasn't changed. The colors look absolutely fantastic, the color temperature is great, and of course, because it's AMOLED, blacks are truly black since pixels can be turned off on demand.
The display is only interrupted by a small punch-hole cutout in the middle of the top edge of the display, which houses the selfie camera. Bezels are getting smaller all the time, and they're very minimal here, even smaller than those of the Galaxy S20 FE. Samsung also seems to keep shrinking the grill for the earpiece more and more, to the point where I initially thought there was some kind of under-display sound system here.
But there isn't, and the sound from this phone is actually great. The stereo setup enabled by the bottom-firing speaker and amplified earpiece sounds crisp and clear, and it can get pretty loud without any significant distortion. The Galaxy S21 is truly a great phone if you want a good media experience.
The camera setup on the Galaxy S21 is one of the things that's changed the least from last year. There's still a 12MP main camera, another 12MP ultra-wide lens, and a 64MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom, with support for up to 30x zoom. It's not just the resolution either - the pixel size and aperture are all the same as last year's cameras, too.
The video features are also pretty similar here, with support for up to 8K video recording at 24 frames per second or 4K at 60 frames per second. You can record HDR10+ video as an experimental feature, but only at 4K 30fps or lower.
As for the actual results when using the camera, it really depends on the situation. In daylight, all of the cameras do pretty well in my opinion. Shots are bright and vivid, there's good contrast, and they're generally very clear, each object in the frame pops and looks great. There is a bit of oversaturation, per Samsung's tradition, but in general, I didn't mind it.
Gallery: Galaxy S21 samples
Things start to fall apart a bit when it comes to nighttime. Night mode kicks in automatically when it's deemed appropriate, but it's not that great, and the ultra-wide camera especially is evidently not as good as the others. Sometimes night mode doesn't activate for the ultra-wide camera automatically, so you can see major differences in the final shot, though you can always manually use night mode. Pictures, in general, degrade quite a bit in less than optimal lighting conditions, and that's even more true for videos, and while that can be said for all cameras, it seems especially not great here.
I do like the ability to switch between different zoom levels, though, and while the maximum 30x zoom Samsung advertises is pretty bad, 3x zoom is actually really nice, though not comparable to the 10X you can get with a periscope lens.
The phone also comes with the most recent version of Samsung's One UI, so there are some new features in the Camera and Gallery apps that I do find cool. The Camera app has a couple of new video features including multi-mic recording, which lets you record video with audio simultaneously coming from the phone's microphones and a Bluetooth microphone or earbuds. Of course, the quality of the audio will depend on the microphone you're using, but testing with LG's Tone Free HBS-FN6 earbuds, I did find it picked up my voice better while walking down the street compared to just using the microphone on the phone itself. There's also a Director's View mode, which lets you see video feeds from all four cameras on the phone at once and switch between the three rear cameras at will.
The Gallery app, for its part, has an interesting feature for photos called Object Eraser, which does exactly what you think. It does require a consistent background to look convincing, but if you had the perfect shot that got ruined by someone in the background, this can definitely help.
On a final note, while I rarely take selfies on any phone, I did give it a shot here and the front-facing camera is actually among the sharpest I've tried. Overall, the camera experience has some highs and some lows, but you probably already know what you're getting into if you've had a Samsung phone before.
Performance, battery life, and software
Battery life was one of my biggest complaints with the Galaxy Note20 Ultra, and that was almost certainly due to the poor efficiency of the Exynos 990 chipset. That phone struggled to last me through the day with a 4,5000mAh battery, but I'm happy to report that Samsung made great progress with Exynos this year. The Galaxy S21 has the new Exynos 2100 and even with a smaller 4,000mAh battery, it holds up much better. It's not fantastic, and when I push it with longer YouTube sessions or playing games, it doesn't quite last me until bedtime, but for my general use, it's been much more reliable. I have yet to review any phone with the new Snapdragon 888, but general impressions from other reviewers indicate that Qualcomm is still ahead here. Still, if you're in an Exynos market, this is a huge improvement.
I should note that, following in Apple's footsteps, Samsung did remove the charging brick from the box, and you only get a cable now. The idea companies are taking with this is that it's "environmentally friendly", and while I think that's true, it's no secret that companies are always trying to squeeze more money out of their consumers. I do think most users will already have a charger they can use at home, but this step highlights a major need for standardization in USB power delivery. The Galaxy S21 supports fast charging up to 25W, but my 65W charger from OPPO can't activate fast charging for it. Companies would usually ship the most adequate charger for their own phones, and we're going to be losing that. The Galaxy S21 also supports fast wireless charging at 15W and reverse wireless charging.
Moving on to benchmarks, the Exynos 2100 in the Galaxy S21 is overall a pretty solid upgrade over Exynos 990-powered phones. Let's start with AnTuTu, which is a general-purpose benchmark covering CPU, GPU, memory/storage, and overall user experience.
The Galaxy S21's score of 609,292 is a pretty big jump from the Note20 Ultra's 548,110, with improvements across the board. The biggest leap here is in the GPU tests, and to be fair, the Galaxy S21 ran games like Asphalt 9 beautifully. Compared to the Galaxy S20 FE 5G, which had a Snapdragon 865, the difference is less noticeable, but it's still an improvement on almost every front.
Moving on to GeekBench 5, which tests the CPU. The Galaxy S21 manages a 1,079 score for the single-core performance and 3,370 for multi-core.
As expected, the Galaxy S21 has a decent lead on both the Exynos 990 and the Snapdragon 865, especially in multi-core performance.
Finally, there's GFXBench, a series of tests focused on the GPU.
Results here are a bit mixed, with the Galaxy S21 pulling some punches on the Note20 Ultra, but also falling behind in some of the tests.
Overall, though, the performance on this phone is great and there's really not much to complain about. The phone does have a tendency to get warm more easily than others, but it's not a huge deal.
Not a whole lot has changed on the software side with OneUI 3.1, but there are some tweaks with the experience. You can now control smart home devices using the Devices button in the notification shade, assuming you have a smart home app like Google Home installed. Stock Android 11 brought smart home controls to the power menu, but Samsung didn't do that, which is a bummer to me. Some UI tweaks have also been made to the volume flyout and the long-press UI in the One UI launcher.
I will point out that I've been trying to use Dex more in my Samsung reviews, and it's a really cool feature to have. Like I've said before, it's pointless if you have a PC on you, but if you don't, it can turn your phone into a PC easily, though you won't be doing certain things like advanced photo or video editing on it. You need to relearn some shortcuts if you're used to Windows, but it's otherwise an effective productivity tool - I even used it to write a good chunk of this review. Also, if you're wondering, you can't use the Windows 10 Your Phone app (or the Link to Windows feature) while running in DeX, though I don't see why you would want to.
I have to conclude this review in the same way that I started it - by saying that Samsung has learned the right lessons with its phones this year. What stands out the most to me is the inspiration Samsung drew from the Galaxy S20 FE to make its flagship phone way easier to justify. Removing the Quad HD display and swapping the glass plate for plastic are the perfect sacrifices to make, and the $200 you save compared to last year's Galaxy S20 make this so much easier to recommend.
I also love the design, specifically thanks to the meta camera bump Samsung has used, and also because it's one of the most compact phones I've had the chance to try out. And for users outside of North America, the Exynos 2100 is a huge improvement in both battery life and performance. You're truly getting a lot more phone for your money this year.
Of course, there are downsides, battery life still isn't as great as it could potentially be, and the camera experience isn't consistently amazing, especially in situations with less than optimal lighting. And the lack of a charger, while not a huge deal to me personally, might be a problem for some people.
Still, those are relatively small blemishes on a phone that otherwise improved so much on its predecessor. If you haven't upgraded in a while, or if you're simply looking to upgrade and you're already familiar with Samsung, the Galaxy S21 is definitely worth a look. You can buy the Snapdragon variant in the U.S. on Amazon, where it's currently discounted to $699.99, making it an even better deal. In the UK, the Exynos variant (the one we tested), is available starting at £735.80 depending on your color of choice.
By Abhay V
One UI 3.1 for the Galaxy Z Fold2 brings multitasking and ease-of-use improvements
by Abhay Venkatesh
Samsung recently detailed the new features brought by the latest One UI 3.1 update to its flagship tablets, the Galaxy Tab S7 series, and the Galaxy S20 lineup. While the update for the tablets brought with it improved cross-device usability with the company’s flagship phones, the release for the Galaxy S20 line introduced a bunch of camera features from the S21 series. Today, the company highlighted the improvements that the latest update brings to the Galaxy Z Fold2.
For its foldable screen-sporting device, which is now receiving the latest Android 11-based OS update, the South Korean giant is focusing on multitasking and ease-of-use enhancements. The first of the improvements come to the task switcher, or as Samsung calls it, the “Recents” tab.
Users can now directly switch to previously opened ‘Multi-Active Windows’ at once from the task switcher, meaning that if three apps were opened in a multi-window setup on the main screen and the user navigates to another app, the task switcher will let them return to the multi-window setup as is. The feature also lets users move two out of the three apps from the main screen to the cover display.
Additionally, One UI 3.1 on the Z Fold2 adds the ability to drag an app from the notification shade and drop it into Multi-Active Windows. For example, users can drag a messaging app into a split view right from the notification shade, draft a response or add multimedia content and send it, and then dismiss the app. This negates the need to break away from the current app and helps make better use of the screen real estate.
As for the ease-of-use improvements, the firm is adding a new ‘Palm touch to turn off screen’ feature that lets users use a gesture or double-tap to turn off the device’s screen. This makes it easier to lock the device in instances where your hands are full and you can't reach the power button – especially considering how you would not want to try juggling with an expensive foldable.
The other usability enhancement comes in the way of the choice to move the camera controls in the Camera app when using Flex mode – a mode that adapts the UI of the device when it is partially folded –, giving users more control over where they want the shutter button or other options situated on the massive main display. The firm has also added Delete and Share buttons in image previews in Flex mode.
While the changes aren’t massive by any means, these simple additions further improve the user experience on the Z Fold2. In addition to these, One UI 3.1 brings a host of other features such as Eye Comfort Shield, app continuity improvements, and much more. You can head to our detailed rundown of what’s new with the update here. One UI 3.1 has begun rolling out to the Galaxy Z Fold2 this week, so all users should begin seeing the update soon.