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Review: Samsung’s new Galaxy strong contender to iPhone


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— The iPhone has Siri, the virtual assistant that hears your voice commands and talks back.

The Galaxy introduces a voice assistant, but she’s best described as Siri’s forgotten stepchild. The Galaxy couldn’t find an Indian restaurant just a block from me, and she gave me the name of a doctor when I asked for Thai restaurants. The Galaxy also lacks Siri’s attitude and sense of humor.

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Me: "What is the best smartphone?" Siri: "Wait, there are other phones?"

The Galaxy replied with the grammatically incorrect and boring, "Opinion vary but I think Samsung Galaxy is the best of them all."

Here’s where the Galaxy prevails:

— As with other Android devices, the Galaxy syncs well with Google services. By signing into a Google account, names, emails and phone numbers from my Gmail contacts are automatically transferred to the phone. The same happens with calendar entries. Apple uses a separate contact and calendar system, not the one I already use through Google.

— You can remove the plastic back cover to switch the battery or insert a microSD card for additional storage of up to 64 gigabytes. The iPhone’s battery can be replaced only by a technician, and there’s no slot for more storage.

— Both devices have two cameras, including an 8 megapixel one in the back. The Galaxy’s front-facing camera does more than take pictures: When you’re reading something, the camera will see your eyes glued on the screen, so your phone won’t switch to power-saving mode. The iPhone’s screen will start to dim if you don’t touch it periodically.

— If you’re texting a friend and find it easier to discuss something by phone, the Galaxy will automatically call that person when you put the phone by your ear.

— When watching video stored on your device, there’s a "pop out" feature that lets you watch in a smaller window while doing other things such as email and Facebook on the phone.


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— The Galaxy’s near-field communications technology offers a preview of the future. One day, it could be common like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. With it, I’m able to share photos and video simply by tapping the backs of two Galaxy phones together. I’m also able to make purchases at a handful of stores by tapping the phone to the merchant’s NFC reader, as long as I have credit cards set up through the Google Wallet app.

Alas, Google Wallet isn’t so useful until more merchants accept it, and the app is only available on the Sprint model of the Galaxy.

Basic sharing features, which let you swap small files, work with some other late-model Android phones. If you tap two Galaxy phones together, you can quickly transfer really big files, such as videos and photos.

All Galaxy models except T-Mobile’s will be able to use so-called fourth-generation, or 4G, networks. T-Mobile doesn’t have a 4G network, but its 3G network is almost as fast as a 4G network (and indeed, it calls its network "4G").

Current iPhones don’t work with 4G technology, though the AT&T version says it does because it uses an upgraded 3G network, much like T-Mobile’s. The iPhone coming this fall is likely to support "real" 4G, using a technology called LTE.

The next iPhone will also have an Apple-designed mapping service with turn-by-turn directions spoken aloud. It’s one of the rare instances where the iPhone will play catch-up to Android, which has had Google’s voice navigation app built-in since 2009.

If you’re an iPhone owner looking for a new phone, I’d wait a few months and make a comparison then.

If you’re an Android user looking to switch to an iPhone, the Galaxy offers enough reason to stick with Android. You’ll miss out on the cachet of owning an iPhone or the joys of chatting with Siri, but you’ll get a solid device with the latest technologies.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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