An­droid phone mak­ers try to stand out

Lesotho Times - - Business -

NEW YORK — It’s get­ting rarer for phone launches to gen­er­ate ex­cite­ment th­ese days — es­pe­cially in the An­droid world, where all mod­els use the same un­der­ly­ing Google soft­ware.

Ev­ery year, phones get rou­tine re­freshes such as faster pro­ces­sors, bet­ter cam­eras and longer bat­tery life.

But An­droid phone mak­ers haven’t given up try­ing to stand out.

Sam­sung, for in­stance, hopes to en­cour­age up­grades by giv­ing its new Galaxy Note 7 phone an eye scan­ner for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and re­lated security fea­tures. Other man­u­fac­tur­ers are look­ing beyond the phone en­tirely, pin­ning their hopes on in­no­va­tive ac­ces­sories. Mo­torola of­fers mix-and-match mod­ules that let you up­grade your phone on the fly, while Al­ca­tel is fo­cused on adding vir­tual-re­al­ity fea­tures, in­clud­ing a head­set. Just look ... for security

Fin­ger­print scan­ners are now stan­dard in high-end phones, fol­low­ing their big de­but in the 2013 iphone 5S. In the Note 7, Sam­sung takes the no­tion of such “bio­met­ric” security a step fur­ther, adding an iris scan­ner that de­tects pat­terns in your eyes to con­firm your iden­tity.

The fea­ture is easy to set up, and the iris de­tec­tion works well — as long as you’re not in di­rect sun­light or wear­ing glasses (much less sun­glasses). Sam­sung even warns that con­tact lenses might mess things up, al­though the scan­ner worked fine when this re­viewer wore them. To un­lock the phone, you need to turn on the screen and swipe; then you just stare at the screen. The fin­ger­print scan­ner works even with the screen off and glasses on, mak­ing it the far bet­ter choice un­less your fin­gers are wet.

Many An­droid phones of­fer a face-de­tec­tion fea­ture for un­lock­ing phones, but that’s all it does. With the Note 7, the iris or fin­ger­print can also un­lock a se­cure folder where you can stash sen­si­tive pho­tos, doc­u­ments and email ac­counts you might want to keep away from friends who bor­row your phone to look at baby pic­tures.

It’s a good con­cept, al­though in prac­tice it can feel like you’re us­ing two sep­a­rate phones. When brows­ing pho­tos in the “se­cure” gallery, all your other pho­tos are in­vis­i­ble. You need to go back out to the “un­se­cure” gallery to view those. And there’s no way to move text mes­sag­ing to the Se­cure Folder.

Beyond that, the Note 7 has a more re­silient screen, more stor­age and more ways to use the sty­lus — for in­stance, you can translate a phrase just by hold­ing the pen over a word. Sam­sung also brings wa­ter re­sis­tance and its ex­cel­lent Galaxy S7 cam­era to the jumbo Note 7, while of­fer­ing eas­ier ac­cess to cam­era set­tings us­ing swipes.

Noth­ing is rad­i­cally new, but the im­prove­ments are great if you’re al­ready look­ing to up­grade. The Note 7 comes out Fri­day in the US, depend­ing on the car­rier. It’s more ex­pen­sive than what last year’s Note cost at launch, but all mod­els now have a screen that curves over the sides of the phone, some­thing pre­vi­ously re­served for a more ex­pen­sive “Edge” ver­sion. — AFP

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