Wednesday, June 08, 2016

How to: Fix the Color Balance (Yellow Tint) on the Galaxy S6

The Galaxy S6 includes 4 screen modes: Adaptive display, AMOLED cinema, AMOLED photo, and Basic.  Basic mode is the most color accurate with saturation significantly reduced but usually appears to have a yellow tint.  Our review of the Galaxy S6 noticed varying degrees of yellow tint in basic mode across several devices.  The Galaxy S7's color calibration is a lot better with most devices having a neutral white in basic mode.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Samsung Galaxy S6 Marshmallow 6.0.1 Upgrade

It's been a long time coming but Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow update is finally reaching most Galaxy S6 devices across the world. The Marshmallow update brings several UI and functionality changes at the system level for the Galaxy S6:

Core Marshmallow Changes
  • App permissions
  • WiFi hotspots can only be edited or deleted by the app that created it
  • Copy and Paste now floats by the highlighted text 
  • Separate volume for Ringtone, Media, Notifications, and System
  • Changed Android Update screens (flat white animated flat cogs or static Android mascot on a flat color instead of isolinear Android mascot on a black background)
  • Overall system response is faster
UI Changes
  • Updated notification pane quick toggles: support for full pull down and color changed to grey
  • Application Tray icon changed from grey to white
  • Clock time scrolling no longer scrolls in sets of 10 minutes but now varies 10-12 minutes
  • Colored icons on lock screen (a simple theme can do the same)
  • Home screen icons no longer have a shadow (a simple theme can do the same)
  • Option to put rounded semi-transparent white squares behind every non-Samsung icon in Display settings called "Icon backgrounds"
  • Download Updates Manually page updated to look better and include current software version (which you can find under Build Number in Software info)
  • No longer able to view headphone or charge counters through "Phone INFO Samsung" unless you root
  • Faster lock: Reduced time from cold boot

Fingerprint Scanner
  • Accuracy improved: Fingers at an angle no longer confuse it as much.  The Manage Fingerprints settings page even shows you which finger it matches when you lie your finger on the home key
  • Faster match: Match time quicker by about 25%

  • Saving to RAW added - only available in Pro mode
  • Shutter Speed: 1/24000 to 10 seconds in Pro mode
Battery Life

  • Idle Standby has improved to use about 50% less power
  • Display with WiFi on has decreased to use about 20% more power.  Battery life with my regular usage as dropped from a little over 4 days to 3 days

Samsung App Changes

If you've been avoiding the updates to Samsung apps then you'll notice the push of updates to you
  • Dramatically improved RAM management - able to run 8+ apps without them reloading.  Your experience may vary based on the app/game opened
  • On the dual SIM variant (Duos), the default SIM in the notification pane and dialing page are no longer available
  • Gallery App now automatically creates events
  • Music now defaults to the playlists page rather than the active playlist
  • Weather app now shows the hourly temperature in 4 hour blocks at the top and defaults to a minimized daily weather without the temperature when the current temperature is maximized.  You can swipe up to minimize the current temperature and show the Daily temperature
Should you upgrade

The Galaxy S6 Marshmallow update brings noticeable improvements to speed and idle battery life.  If you haven't already loaded up a different theme or switched the launcher, it gives the S6 a fresh coat of paint with flat icons and new notification pane (You can also do it with the [Kendi] TouchWiz 6.0 theme.  Overall it's a very stable firmware that doesn't change the S6 much from it's latest Lollipop firmware.  I upgraded and don't regret doing it.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Not all Apple and Samsung battery chargers built the same

If you've bought a few Apple or Samsung phones in the past few years you may have noticed different chargers bundled with your phone.  But what exactly is the difference?

Here is a comparison of the various current Apple power adapters:
ModelShort DescriptionConnectorPower OutputQuick ChargePackaged with
A12655W Small square iPhone charger (older model)USBDC 5V, 1 ANoiPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4
A135710W Block iPad chargerUSBDC 5.1V, 2.1 ANoiPad, iPad 2, iPad mini
A13855W Small square iPhone charger (newer model)USBDC 1V, 1 ANoiPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, iPhone 6S
A140112W High power large block iPad chargerUSBDC 5.2V, 2.4 ANoiPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad Pro

Here is a comparison of the various current Samsung power adapters:
ModelShort DescriptionConnectorPower OutputQuick ChargePackaged with
ETA-U90Blocky low end chargerUSB DC 5V, 0.7 ANoGalaxy S2
ETA0U61Cube low end chargerUSBDC 5V, 1.0 ANoGalaxy S3
ETA0U80Cube low end chargerUSB DC 5V, 1.0 ANoGalaxy Note 2
ETA0U81Cube low end chargerUSB DC 5V, 1.0 ANoGalaxy Core
EP-TA10Blocky charger USB DC 5.2V, 2.0 ANoGalaxy Note 3, Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 and Galaxy Note Pro 12.2
EP-TA12Blocky charger USB DC 5V, 2.1 ANoGalaxy S5, Tab 8.9, Tab 10.1
EP-TA20High end blocky charger USB DC 5V, 2.0 AYes, 2.0Galaxy S6, Galaxy S7

All this information can be found in small text on your power adapter. The output indicates the amount of power sent to the phone.  Both Apple and Samsung power adapters provide a USB connector to a microUSB cable.  Generally Samsung follows the Model number with "J" for Canada, US, Japan or "E" for Europe.

Using a lower output charger than the one included with your device may not work or charges your device very slowly.  For example the iPad Air charges very slowly with the A1385 and even drains faster than it charges if you're playing CPU/GPU intense games.

Using a higher output charger can charge your device faster such as charging an iPhone 6/6S using an iPad charger will charge from empty to full in about 2 hours.  However, be aware that using a charger that has a higher power output than the charger that
came with your phone may overheat your battery and may degrade the
life of the battery

Quick charging in newer devices make a big difference.  Charging the Galaxy S6 took 50% longer to charge with the EP-TA12 compared
to the bundled EP-TA20 with Quick Charge turned on.  So if you're looking for a phone that charges quickly make sure you get one that supports Quick Charge 2.0 or higher.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

How to: 5 Tips to Taking Great Photos with the Samsung Galaxy S7 / S6

Praised for its impressive camera, the Galaxy S6 and S7 take great photos even in fully automatic mode.  But a few quick tips will help you take better photos in difficult situations with your Galaxy device and the Samsung camera app.

Although most photos from this article are from a S6, these tips all apply to the S7 too.

1. Light and Shadow
Sunlight is a both a friend and a foe.  It helps light up subjects both can also cause overexposure.  As you probably know, you usually want the sun behind you to light your subject unless you intend to take a photo of the sun.

The Galaxy S6 and S7 have really good dynamic range avoiding overexposure in most situations but a few situations can occur when you have buildings blocking the sun.  There are 3 approaches to improve lighting in the shadows and they are: HDR, focusing, and camera flash.

I generally avoid flash as it's too weak to light distant subjects and produces a harsh bright light if your subject is too close.  Since the flash intensity is not variable (unlike professional camera flashes), it's best to keep your subject 1-1.5 meters (3-5 feet) away.  It's best for taking photos of people in dark situations.

If you're taking photos of objects I tend to favor HDR.  A very typical situation for using HDR is when you have a combination of bright light from a window and a dark interior:
HDR helps bring bring out the interior without overexposing and losing details from the stain glass window details.

Here's a photo of Quinta da Regaleira with a brightly lit palace and residence wall in shadow without HDR and with center weighted metering (default in auto):

Now if I focused on the dark wall it causes the palace to be overexposed when the metering also focuses on the dark wall:

And finally if I turn on HDR it lights up the wall without overexposing the palace but it looks artificial and lacks the dramatic look with HDR turned off.
So it's up to you which of the 3 photos you prefer.  I tend to prefer HDR off and switch HDR on if there is details in the shadow I want to bring out that I can't pull out without overexposing bright areas.

With the sun setting behind me, the Eduardo VII Park isn't lit well so HDR works well to bright up the scene without losing the details in the distance.
HDR offHDR on

Now if you intentionally want a darker scene and the auto mode keeps artificially brightening up the scene, you can switch to Pro Mode and reduce the ISO to 100-200 or play with the shutter speed (Marshmallow updated needed for S6).  Here's a dramatic dark narrow street:
I just played quickly played with the ISO so I should've held the camera much more still to avoid the motion blur.

2. Capturing action
Although the S6 and S7 camera are really fast, there's still a split second delay to when you see something you want a photo of, hitting the photo button, and the camera capturing the photo.  A good way to do this is to hold the photo button so it will take 10 photos in rapid succession as it will automatically increase the exposure time so it freezes the subject
It's also great way to capture birthday cake candle blowing as well.

3. Focusing on Small Things 
Small items in the distance are difficult to focus on as your finger is too big to pick out from the screen.  It's best to use digital zoom even though it will cause loss of detail so you can get a focused photo rather than a blurry one.  Unfortunately zooming back out would lose the focus lock.

Here I'm trying to capture cherry blossoms without zooming and tried using my finger to pick out the specific flowers I wanted focused.  I failed.
From the above un-zoomed photoZoomed in photo
Another approach to focusing on the flowers is to switch the camera app to Pro mode and manually adjust the focus.  That would take a few tries to take the full picture and zooming in to ensure you picked the right focus distance.

4. Wide Shots
The S6 and S7 can take fairly wide photos there are times when you just can walk back far enough to capture everything you want in a photo.  A great function on the S6/S7 camera app is the panoramic mode.  Photos are taken by holding your phone and panning horizontally or vertically to capture multiple photos and the software will automatically stitch them together to create one photo.

A 16MP 16:9 photo of Queluz Palace:

The 11MP panoramic photo of Queluz Palace:

If you're wondering why the panoramic photo is a lower megapixel count but captures more of the scene it's because the panoramic mode uses the video camera mode to capture the photos rather than taking stitching multiple 16MP photos together.  Panoramic mode will capture photos with approximately 5MP of detail.  The non-panned side of the photo varies in pixels depending on how steady you can hold the camera while panning.

Panoramic can capture some very dramatic interior photos too:

But panoramic mode does have some weakness and it occurs when you have moving subjects in your photo.  Here I started from the left of the scene and really wanted to capture the square while there wasn't anyone standing.

Unfortunately the right of the scene had people walking at about the same speed as I was panning right so it captured multiple photos with the same person which causes the problem below:
You can reduce the effects of this problem if you pan the opposite direction of people walking.

Another problem is exposure which is locked to the first photo taken during the panoramic process.

Here I started from the right so it locked exposure on the dark cliff but it caused the ocean to be overexposed

Now I started the panoramic process from the left so it underexposes the cliff but at least I don't lose as much details as the photo above

An alternative is to take multiple 16:9 16MP photos and stitch on a PC via autostitch.  It creates a huge impressive photo but needs a PC to pull it together so you won't be able to review the photo at the scene.

5. Stealth Photos
Almost as important as enabling Quick launch, using the volume key helps you take photos in places that do not allow photos such as some churches or museums.  Make sure you turn off the shutter sound if you try this.
This allows you to quickly pull out your phone, snap a photo without looking at the screen

Here are some sample stealth photos in churches:
Just be sure hold your camera still and take more than 1 photo as you probably won't have the opportunity to review the photos and some may come out blurry (either bad focus or motion).

I hope these tips will help improve your photos.  Let us know your photo tips in the comments below and we may just add them here

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How to: Disable Shutter Sound on Galaxy S6, S7, Note

If you're trying to take a photo with your Galaxy S6, S7, S7 edge, or Note in a quiet place like museums or some high end restaurants the loud shutter sound can annoy others around you.

Unfortunately Samsung hasn't always made it easy to disable the shutter sound in your phone.  But we've got you covered with several approaches depending on your region.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S7 Camera Shoot Out

The Galaxy S7 has big shoes to fill as its predecessor was highly praised for its 16MP camera and regarded as one of the best cameras on an Android phone when it was released.  Rather than increase the pixel count Samsung has actually reduced the  number of pixels in its camera but increased its sensor size.

Galaxy S6Galaxy S7
Megapixels (higher better)1612
Aperture (lower denominator better)f/1.9f/1.7
Sensor Type (for this review)Samsung ISOCELL S5K2P2Sony IMX260
Sensor size (higher better)1.0µm1.4µm
AutofocusPhase DetectionDual Pixel

Samsung has prioritized low light performance over daylight photos with an increase in the sensor size, higher aperture, and reduced megapixel count. But a majority of the photos I've taken with my phone have been in bright daylight, will the Galaxy S7 produce better photos than the Galaxy S6?

First thing you'll notice when taking photos with both phones is the framing is completely different.  As the Galaxy S7 takes photos in a 4:3 ratio in maximum size while the Galaxy S6 takes photos in a 16:9

The green is the scene framed by the S7 while the blue is the area that is framed by the S6.  The S7 can frame much more from the top and bottom of the scene while not losing much to the S6 on the left and right.

With that out of the way let's get into the photos.  All photos were shot entirely in auto mode
with the Galaxy S6 running on the last Lollipop software and the Galaxy
S7 Marshmallow launch software.  As I mentioned above, the Galaxy S6 unit in the test uses a Samsung sensor while the S7 has a Sony unit.  Your device may vary.

Galaxy S6 ISOCELL photo (left) vs Galaxy S7 IMX260 photo (right) the Galaxy S6 photo was scaled down to the S7 photo size

There is more noise in the shadows of the Galaxy S7 photo.  Text is sharper in the Galaxy S6 photo.

Galaxy S6Galaxy S7
SensorSamsung S5K2P2Sony IMX260
File Size5,101,334 bytes4,867,789 bytes

Galaxy S6 ISOCELL photo (left) vs Galaxy S7 IMX260 photo (right) the Galaxy S6 photo was scaled down to the S7 photo size:

There's more sharpening in the Galaxy S7 software with less noise in the grey counter

Galaxy S6Galaxy S7
SensorSamsung S5K2P2Sony IMX260
File Size4,596,250 bytes4,379,145 bytes

In the situation we photographed, the Galaxy S7 tended to shoot at a higher ISO level and reduced exposure.  From the above examples, the S7 produced photos with more noise, contrast, and sharpening compared to the S6.  There wasn't a noticeable difference in color between the cameras.

Final Thoughts
In this set of tests I prefer the S6 photos over the S7 photos but photo comparisons I've seen in GSMArena favored the Galaxy S7 as did my first impressions.  At this moment it's hard to say the S7 camera is better the S6 let alone best Android camera. I'm hoping future S7 software will reduce the noise and sharpening used and I get more hands on time with the S7 to compare low light photos.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Samsung Gear VR Review

The age of virtual reality is upon us.  Leading the charge are HTC's Vive and Oculus Rift.  Samsung and Google have joined the party by partnering with the Gear VR and Cardboard, respectively.  Unlike HTC and Oculus, Samsung's and Google's approach rely on the smartphone to serve as the brains and the display.  They lack the processing power of a full computer but offer a wireless experience.