Insights For Success

Strategy, Innovation, Leadership and Security

Smartphone

Smartphone chargers just got a powerful upgrade

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
technology-2752109.jpg

This is NOT a sponsored post.

Anker Atom PD-1

Capture.PNG

At first glance, the Anker PD-1 may seem unremarkably normal looking. After all, it looks like the small wall charger that came included with your iPhone. It is almost the same size as that iPhone charger, but it delivers a full 30 watts of USBC power (it’s 35-40% smaller than the equivalent MacBook charger).

Ravpower 45W PD Charger

Capture2.PNG

Ravpower have taken the same technology to greater heights by designing a slim (14mm) 45 watt USBC charger .

Tell me how this is possible

The go to foundation for many electronic components is silicon. Silicon is in everything from computer processors to chargers, but we needed something better to improve charging speed and efficiency.

This is where gallium nitride (GaN) is making an entrance.

  • GaN has a theoretical ability to conduct electricity 1000x more quickly than traditional silicon.

  • GaN also doesn’t get as hot as silicon which means the electricity, not being lost to heat, is used to charge your device faster. It also means we can save 15-20% of worldwide power consumption if all electronic devices switched to GaN.

  • Since GaN chargers are smaller, they require less material, less packaging and are therefore cheaper to ship.

Why Anker and Ravpower?

What makes the Anker and Ravpower so remarkable is that they are the first major brands to release GaN-based chargers. These are first-generation products so we can expect much power powerful GaN chargers in the future, at a much lower price. Anker and Ravpower are charging a premium for these smaller and lighter devices. As the technology becomes more widely available, expect prices to drop dramatically.

Other uses

2019 should be the year where GaN chargers become commonplace. An optimized iPhone and a GaN charger could charge your device 6x faster than today, in a package the same size.

Like many of you, I travel a lot, and a battery backup is critical. Charging a traditional 9000 mAh battery can take 3-5 hours. I recently started testing the Apollo Pro from Elecjet which is a graphene-infused battery that is capable of fully charging in 20 minutes with a 60W USBC charger. Being able to charge your backup battery while you enjoy a coffee is incredibly freeing. Now imagine what will happen when smartphone manufacturers adopt faster charging graphene batteries paired with faster charging GaN chargers. It will be an unbeatable combo.

We likely won’t see any major brands adopting these two techs for their 2019 models, but I am willing to bet you will see a bunch in 2020, probably starting with the Samsung Galaxy S11.

What is a Progressive Web App

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
clement-h-544786-unsplash.jpg

Over the last 18 months, I have seen more and more sites prompting me to "Add to Home Screen" from websites I have been browsing. Then you add this site, it installs itself in the background and is now accessible like a native app from your smartphone.

Screenshot_20181015-071538.png

What I have just described is the wondrous workings of a fairly new technology called Progressive Web Apps. This technology (called PWA) works even when you are offline and behaves like a "normal" smartphone app.

What are progressive web apps?

PWAs were created by Alex Russell and Frances Berriman. The technology driving Progressive Web Apps isn’t new. What was required was a new recipe to make Progressive Web Apps behave like native apps. This means that a progressive web app will work (as long as the platform supports it) on an iphone or Androis smartphone, a chromebook or ipad, on Windows or Mac.

True cross platform applications without needed to join an app store with super restrictive controls (I’m looking at you Apple).

Why Progressive Web apps

Like many of you, I live in a world with abundantly fast internet. This simply isn’t the reality everywhere. Even in my own backyard of Ontario (Canada), there are communities where internet is delivered via very slow ADSL,

PWAs, once installed, cache the content locally which means they will respond quickly even for those on slow internet connections.

Statistics show that users still prefer native apps to web pages. There are a tone of reasons for this from convenience (single click from your home screen), ability to get push notifications, etc. The web simply doesn’t offer the same bells and whistles.

PWAs offer most (if not all) native functions. They startup with a single click from the home screen and can hook into most native features. PWAs can even offer notifications (like a native app) and therefore remind the user to open and engage with the app.

What is required to build a progressive web app?

This is not a technical instructional article but you need 4 elements to build a Progressive Web App:

Google Firebase Web App Manifest Generator

Google Firebase Web App Manifest Generator

  1. Web App Manifest - It is a JSON file with meta data about the web app, It contains information such as the icon, background color, app name, etc.

  2. Service Workers - Even driven agents that work in the background. They perform tasks like updating the web app or its content.

  3. Icon - You need an icon to represent the Progressive Web App on the home screen

  4. HTTPS - The app and its content must be securely delivered over a TLS session.

Progressive Web app examples

You will find new PWAs every day but here are a couple of cool ones to get you started:

Freedom Mobile removes insurance coverage for lost or stolen phones

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
freedom1.png

Freedom Mobile's phone protection plan is removing coverage for lost or stolen phones. In exchange, they are reducing the monthly fee by $1 (down to $9). This change was first noticed on Reddit by user Alphalee and you can read messages from upset customers (obviously).

freedom2.png

This change will come into effect on August 2nd, 2018. Repair service is now listed at $99 (was unlimited in the past).  It looks like this is an attempt to limit fraud and reduce insurance costs for Freedom Mobile. Their coverage seems to be underwritten by Asurion (same provider used by Telus, Bell, Virgin Mobile and Koodo.

The existing Mobile Freedom coverage still protect's devices from accidental damage (such as a broken screen or liquid damage). 

OnePlus policy that makes it a better buy than Samsung, HTC or LG

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
7dde5baaa7509370f2b16982bfd0605d_260_0.png

As a security technologist, the security philosophy of the OEM is a crucial determinant of my decision to buy or recommend a device. This is where Apple shines with it's iPhone update strategy. Every single iPhone receives updates (security and version) at the same time. 

This is why I highly recommend Google's Pixel devices. The Pixel line offers the same regular and speedy update schedule. The other Android manufacturer that has shown it cares about upgrades is OnePlus. Until this week, it did a great job delivering updates quickly, but it didn't formally commit to a software upgrade schedule. 

OnePlus Software Maintenance Schedule.png

All of that changes this week when OnePlus unveiled its new operating system (Android) maintenance schedule. It has copied the Google Pixel model and will deliver major upgrades for two years and security updates for three years. 

As per the maintenance schedule, there will be 2 years of regular software updates from the release date of the phone (release dates of T variants would be considered), including new features, Android versions, Android security patches and bug fixes and an additional year of Android security patch updates every 2 months.
— OnePlus OS Maintenance Schedule

Conclusion

OnePlus has always offered solid well-designed devices at competitive prices. This new software maintenance schedule commitment makes their offering that much more compelling. 

I can no longer recommend devices from manufacturers that do not regularly deliver security and version upgrades. This is why I only recommend Android devices from Google, Blackberry Mobile and OnePlus. 

Samsung Note 8 review from an iPhone user

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
11 - Copy.jpg

You should take the time to read my article about why I am switching from an iPhone to an Android device. A summary of the situation is that I have had every iPhone since the very first one ten years ago and the spark isn't there anymore. I have been dual carrying Android phones for the last 5 years but my main personal daily driver has been an iPhone.

Looking at messages from readers, many of you are in the same boat and I will be reviewing a handful of phones for switchers with the requirements of an iPhone users looking to geek out.

The first phone I am reviewing is the Samsung Note 8 64GB North American edition. I mention this because my readers are global and you can find other derivatives (128/256GB storage, dual SIM, etc).

Last year I thought the Note 7 was the best Android phone I had ever used until it wasn't, because of the exploding battery issue. Until the recall, the Note 7 was in a league all on its own, even compared to the Galaxy S7. This year, not so much. The Gap between the Note 8 and the Galaxy S8 Plus has srunk dramatically. 

The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

The closest competitor to the Samsung Note 8 is the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus. The younger sibling has almost all of the features of its big brother except :

  • Note 8 dual cameras
  • Note 8 Stylus - SPen
  • Note 8 has a 0.1" larger screen
  • Note 8 has 2 more GB of RAM

For all of these upgrades, you will have to fork over an extra $124 (USA retail based on the unlocked versions). 

The Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8 are both rated IP67 which means they are water and dust resistant (compared to the iPhone and Pixel 2 XL's IP 67).

12 - Copy.jpg

SPen

Ask any note fan and the first thing they will show you is the Note 8's ability to take notes using the SPen even when the screen is asleep. Then they will open a drawing app and show you how you can use the SPen to draw with pressure sensitive brushes.

Most iPhone users look at this and call this cute and they dismiss the pen as nothing more than a parlour trick. 

The truth is that writing on a device this size with a small pen just isn't comfortable to do for long periods of time. This isn't something you will likely do daily and this won't replace your notebook but...  the SPen is useful for specific in-field tasks.

For my day job, I sign letters (PDF) once in a while and being able to do this without having to print and scan is incredibly valuable. The SPen is also a much more precise mechanism to highlight text (compared to my chunky man-fingers). 

SPen works perfectly with Google Keep

SPen works perfectly with Google Keep

I found myself using the SPen to click on tiny touch-targets on web pages, to annotate screenshots or crop with more accuracy and to resize app windows when using 2 apps simultaneously. 

Regardless of all the negative comments made by SPen haters, the SPen is truly an indispensable feature of the Note 8. It is the defining feature of the Note 8. It is what makes the Note a Note and I now understand why. 

13 - Copy.jpg

Samsung Note 8 cameras

The Samsung Note 8 (like the iPhone 8 or the iPhone X) has a "standard" camera and a 2x telephoto lens (both 12 MP). The usefulness of the telephoto will depend on what type of pictures you take but most buyers should find this useful.

Yes, the telephoto camera is optically stabilized and the stabilization works well. In my testing, it worked as well as its main competitors. The only phone with better stabilization is the Pixel 2 with its Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS).

What about portrait mode you ask? It can create a fake depth of field effect that is adjustable post snap (aka you can change how much the background is blurred after the fact). Like the iPhoneX, this feature is driven by software and the performance is hit or miss. To be honest, this works as well as on an iPhone X but not as well as on a Pixel 2. The success of this feature will depend on appropriate lighting, the background and foreground, etc. 

20171117_113735 - Copy.jpg
Capture.PNG

Samsung calls it primary camera a wide angle but it only has a 77-degree field of view which wouldn't really make it a wide angle. For comparison, the LG V30's primary camera has a 71-degree field of view, while it's wide angle has a 120-degree field of view. 

How does the Samsung Note 8 camera compare to the iPhoneX? 

Most iPhone users expect a point and shoot camera that gives "good enough" pictures most of the time in automatic mode. The Samsung Note 8 will meet and exceed your expectations. The Note 8 camera will allow you to take pictures from sunrise to sunset, whether it is sunny or raining (since it is water resistant).  

The Samsung Note 8 camera won’t let you down. It is a beautiful combination of speed, reliability and performance.

 

The camera is good but not as good as the Pixel 2. 

The battery?

Die-hard Note fans love the line-up because the Note always pushed the technology boundaries. It meant Note users always had the best, biggest and flashiest toys to play with. This has always included the battery.

We all remember the issues with the Note 7 battery and looks like Samsung has taken the safe route by using a 3300 mAh battery in the Samsung Note 8. 

I have spoken to a dozen Note fan readers and every single one of them complained that the Note 8 felt like Samsung was "playing it safe" and this isn't why they became Note fans. Remember that the cheaper Samsung Galaxy 8 comes with a 3500mAh battery.

Samsung's official position is that the smaller battery was required because of a lack of space (due to the dual camera system and the SPen slot). 

To help alleviate the pain of a smaller battery, Samsung has efficient hardware and purpose-built software to help conserve power (where possible). In my 2 weeks of testing, the phone got through average days just fine but died when I was travelling (spotty reception and more media consumption). Either the battery should have been slightly bigger or their battery conservation model should have been more aggressive. 

If you need to juice up, you can use the built-in QuickCharge 2 or wireless charging now found in most coffee shops. Again I felt like the fast charging was good but not great. The Huawei Mate 10 Pro, Pixel 2 XL and OnePlus 5 all out-charge the Note 8. Why didn't Samsung go with QuickCharge 3? On a positive note, if you own a USBC PD charger (like the one that comes with the Pixel 2 or the Pixelbook), you will be able to fast charge the Note 8. This was a wonderful surprise.

Samsung does offer fast wireless charging but it costs $125CAD which seems a bit too rich for me, considering you have to buy a couple to make it really work (bedroom, office, kitchen, etc).

What about the fingerprint scanner?

The fingerprint scanner is located in the back next to the camera. This is a horrible location because:

  • it is not in a location where my finger naturally goes
  • I keep smudging the camera lens when my finger misses the scanner

The alternative is to use the "as secure" Iris scanner. The Iris scanner is wonderful when it works, but frustrating when it doesn't (e.g. outdoors under bright sunlight). 

Nothing more to say here.

The display

The display on the Note 8 is a thing of beauty and easily the best display on any smartphone (iPhoneX included). Its 6.3-inch display is bright, clean, clear and easy on the eyes. The Samsung Infinity Display stretches from one edge of the phone to the other. 

With all the Pixel 2 XL screen issues, it is refreshing to see Samsung release AMOLED screens that are so beautiful. Videos look crisp. Pictures look amazing. Web pages are easy to read.

The screen is everything you expect from the leader in screen manufacturing. The screen is bright, punchy and the size means you are drawn to whatever content you are consuming.

Phone calls

tempFileForShare_20171117-124443.jpg

My house is notoriously bad for cell phone reception and compared to other Android devices, the Note performed extremely well. checking cell phone signal strengh, the Note 8 consistently had a stronger signal and calls worked everytime. 

Call sound quality was excellent. The little dinky speaker did the best it could do but I wouldn't use this for multi-person conference calls using it as speakerphone. The phone supports the latest bluetooth 5 wireless technology so you can always pickup a fancy pair of wireless headphones or use wired headphones with its built in 3.5mm headphone jack. But bluetooth 5 isn't turned on yet. We expect this switch to happen with Android 8 (Oreo).

Bixby

I hate Bixby.I hate Bixby. I hate Bixby. I hate Bixby with a passion. I never wanted to use it but did press on the dedicated Bixby button a couple of times by mistake. With the latest updates Samsung will allow you to turn off the button but I would like to remap it for Google Assistant and I can't. 

Conclusion

I went into this review not knowing what to expect. Would this be a suitable replacement for a user switching from an iPhone to Android? Is this device worth the $1,000 price?

The Note 8 doesn't feel like a device built for geeks pushing the technology envelope. It just doesn't. The rowdy teenager has now grown up into a mature adult and more people want to be it's friend now. By becoming more mainstream, the target audience for the Note has grown significantly. In the last 2 weeks, I met grandmothers and other "normal" people that love their Note devices. Normies now love the Note because it is less jarring.

If you don't need the extra 2GB of RAM, the telephoto camera and the pen, the S8 Plus is a fantastic buy. But don't be too quick to dismiss the Note 8. Yes it isn't as special as it once was but it is a wonderful device.

My one major issue is the software. Android 8 (Oreo) has been out for 6+ months now, other smaller Android makers have already released their phone updates to it, but Samsung hasn't given us a release date yet. How can their 2017 flagship phone still not have Oreo? Additionally their custom launcher has dramatically improved but I still want the option to have a "stock" Pixel like launcher (similar to what Motorola does). These two issues may be what makes me switch back to a Google device next time.