April 20, 2014 1:27 pm

New Samsung Galaxy S5 phone, smart watches, and a great camera giveaway

*Steve Makris is a technology expert who does a weekly Tech Talk segment during Edmonton’s Sunday Morning News. You can watch his segment above.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 phone is in stores now with a selection of accompanying Gear 2 smart watches.

Let’s cut to the chase on the Samsung Galaxy S5.

The S5 pays attention to details

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The S5 will attract more iPhone users, especially older model users, than ever before. More than a third of iPhone users in the know that I run into are ready to switch to an Android, with the S5 in the lead.

Why?

Marketing aside, you have to pick this phone up and feel every curve and crevice. I panned its looks when I watched the launch from afar, but I changed my mind when my evaluation unit came in.  Samsung paid attention to fine details on the exterior design – with a dimpled back finish and a drop dead gorgeous full HD screen – beyond sharp, which truly looks like a plasma TV screen from any angle.

They have managed to get the best out of plastics for a nice looking device.

The S5 measures heart rate but the optional smart watch Gear 2 Neo and Fit do it better

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Many will ask how much better it is than its S4 predecessor. If you have one, wait out your contract unless you have the extra cash. If you have an older iPhone or Samsung, this is your time for an exciting new phone.

Samsung’s S Health programs are dead serious in making you a healthier person, or for me, hope to be so. At least I am now thinking about it.

The S5 is waterproof

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The heart rate feature, I first thought was a waste of time, made for free press. But having used it for the past week, it actually makes me more aware of my body, which for me is long overdue.

Fingerprint scanning is nice and keeps up with the iPhone 5S but I am totally impressed with the reworked 16 megapixel camera and Ultra HD video. Pictures, especially in dark scenes, are hugely improved over the S4 – big time. The Ultra HD video might not keep up with dedicated camcorders but it is demonstrably better than the current Full HD video all other phones have. Focus is faster, as is processing and the shooting modes are welcome, putting another nail in the point and shoot camera coffin. The faster USB connection, similar to the current Note 3 is there, for some pretty awesome quad video on quad TVs if they have the matching USB 3 connection.

That awkward looking USB 3 connection has a cover, for another reason; the S5 is water resistant, enough to make it worry-free “dip-able” around pools, lakes and the beach. Nice.

The S5 has an even wider selfie lens. Remember that famous Ellen DeGeneres Oscars selfie? If they had the S5, they could have added another row of actors.

The S5 is less gimmicky and worth a second look for well thought out features. And because of its health kick it becomes a closer companion over time. Nice to see the Download Booster feature, apparently missing in some US versions of the S5, is still here in the Rogers version I got. It makes for faster downloads by combining your WiFi and Data connection.

I like the battery saving mode where the screen goes to black and white.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is a refined version of the S4 with well thought out features and functions. It’s like giving Samsung two years to come up with a keeper, rather than the traditional one year rush.

Samsung will now have to put more energy, thoughts and refinements into its ever-changing wearable Gear smart watches. The Gear 2 is nice, I have the Neo, which is a definite improvement over the much rushed original Gear. But after I try the curvaceous Fit next week, I will talk more about it. My advice, hold off on smart watches until Samsung has all of its products out and written about.

THE SMART WATCH STORY

Samsung Gear 2 Neo left and Fit

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As a tech reporter, I dislike “exclusive” phone offerings by specific cell phone providers.

Sure, if one provider has an exclusive on a particular phone, accessory, or colour, you can decide if you want it bad enough to leave your other current provider.

But if one provider has an exclusive on a key phone option, but for a set time period like 90 days, then you can simply wait it out to get it from your current cell phone provider.

Such is the case here, with the Samsung new Gear smart watches, Rogers has a 90-day exclusive on the Gear 2 Neo, which in my opinion offers more features than the alternative Gear 2 Fit which the other cellcos now have. The Gear 2 Fit is less obtrusive, more comfortable on your wrist, but its smaller, narrow screen is more difficult to read unless you kind of look at it sideways. A tough choice of the Neo’s function and Fit’s style.

Although Rogers has a sweet deal on the Neo for only $49.99 more, no exclusive should make you switch a long service provider over “just” another phone, unless you simply aren’t happy with it.

Samsung’s S Health on the 5S and Gear 2 Neo watch make a powerful tracking assistant on heart rate, distance calories and more for even just a walk around the block. The last part of my walk was shoveling the driveway, yesterday!

Steve Makris

Both watches run on their own downloadable apps, and both can transmit data they collect when you are up and about walking, running or cycling. But only one phone can be connected at a time on the wireless Bluetooth mode.  They work well, have a lot of functionality, but also duplicate functionalities of the host Galaxy phones, like heart beat measuring. On that, the watches do a better job freeing your hands, and measuring your heart rate constantly on your workouts, compared to the S5 spot heart rate measuring. For some, it’s cool to simply glance at your watch for new emails, answer or make phone calls, check weather and more without touching your phone.

HOT CAMERA GIVEAWAY

The Fujifilm X-E2 is an exquisitely made camera with high quality picture taking for enthusiasts

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We have a great giveaway today from FujiFilm Canada. The X-E2 is an enthusiasts 16 megapixel mirrorless interchangeable lens camera with the same size sensor as many Digital SLRs.

The Fujifilm X-E2, valued at $1,400 with kit lens, is an enthusiast’s camera with premium high quality classic design and functionality.  Its 16MP X-Trans CMOS II Sensor, fast processing and speedy 0.08 sec auto focusing will leave any smartphone cam behind in a cloud of blurry dust. The ultra-sharp 2,360K-dot Organic EL Panel Electronic Viewfinder is perfect for outside daylight shooting in addition to the three-inch 1040K-dot LCD monitor. Just like typical Digital SLRs, you don’t miss a shot. It includes a built-in flash, seven frames per second sequential shooting, and “one touch” wireless transfer to your smartphone or PC lets you share high quality images on the spot. It comes with an 18-55mm aspherical zoom lens, adding more visual value than most starter Digital SLR cameras with typically lower grade kit lenses.

Visit the contest page to enter.

WORRIED ABOUT BEING FOLLOWED ON YOUR PHONE?

I was recently asked by a viewer concerned about strangers knowing where they are, because of their smartphone’s location GPS services and persistent calls from others with no display number.  There are also cases of getting persistent telemarketing calls, or people you may have known and don’t want to be bothered by.

What are the best ways to physically maintain your privacy on your smartphone?

Keep in mind that you need to balance your privacy needs against the great and sometimes life-saving services of a GPS enabled phone.

It’s all in writing, somewhere in help manuals, but once you start using a smartphone, it’s easy to download free or paid apps quickly, agreeing to allow them to gather information about you  like calling habits, locations of phone use, our contacts and more.

Here are some tips on how to keep your GPS, also commonly described as location services, under control:

- GPS  can be turned off in your phone’s settings, period. But that would defeat the purpose of useful applications. Many freshly installed apps will gladly help you turn your GPS on again.

-You can also specify in today’s phones which of your programs can use GPS – a monthly review of what you have installed and what it shares is a good idea.

-You can also turn your data service off your phone (something you commonly do when roaming outside Canada) which would also turn your GPS off. But that would turn off your email too,  so I go back to my first tip of being diligent on just turning your GPS off on targeted apps.

-The quickest way to quickly turn GPS off, if you have an immediate concern, is put your phone in Airplane mode. Of course that also turns off every communication on your phone – like emails, texts, notifications and again, 911 services.

-Social programs like Facebook can be set to report your status when you, for example, arrive at an airport. I don’t recommend sharing the fact that you have arrived or are leaving a city.

-For folks who simply can’t worry about deciding on settings, an old fashioned flip phone with no data plan –  just voice and text can get you by. A 911 service call would, however, be less accurate in determining your location using cellular triangulation – especially in rural country.

-Resetting a phone will wipe everything off, back to factory condition, including your apps and emails, but all smartphones today may re-install your previously downloaded and paid-for apps once you sign in to your account. You would have to create a new email and account sign-in to have a fresh start.

Cell phone providers can switch your phone number too, many at no charge.

Edmonton Police Service Sergeant Darryl Mahoney weighs in on under which circumstances folks should contact police on cell phone issues.

He said that annoying calls such as aggressive telemarketers can be stopped if you contact your service provider, who can guide and  help you and them track down using a *67 feature. Even a call with no number display can be tracked down.

“A harassing phone call issue is something you can report to the police. Of course if anyone threatens you over the phone or threatens your property or anybody you know over the phone with the expectation that you would pass that on is reason to call the police,” he said.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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