North Texas Daily

Big phones, watches, virtual reality, oh my

Big phones, watches, virtual reality, oh my

Big phones, watches, virtual reality, oh my
September 10
23:50 2014

Nicholas Friedman / Design Editor

Two of the biggest tech juggernauts had keynote conferences this week, giving the wide-eyed and salivating gadget-crazies a glimpse  at the next “Next Big Thing.” Turns out the next big thing seems just a little bit useless.

Both Apple and Samsung brought their goods, revealing the latest in their lineups of now gargantuan smartphones. This was to be expected, of course, as tech blogs and Twitter users have been speculating for months on whether or not the iPhone would finally get widgets (it will) or if Samsung would find a way to push out another odd user interface change (it also will.)

Samsung strikes first

Samsung took the leap of faith last Wednesday, Sept. 3, with the long-awaited announcement of the Galaxy Note 4. The new phablet sports a new and improved S-Pen, Samsung’s intuitive stylus, a better camera at 16 megapixels, and a really, really big screen. Instead of heading into 6-inch territory, the Note 4 stuck with the 5.7-inch screen that Note 3 users have come to enjoy. The phone is also a bit lighter, a bit brighter, and a bit faster than its predecessors. This announcement was expected though, and the front-row bloggers were thirsty for more, so Samsung brought more, though it really shouldn’t have.

The Note Edge was then introduced to the world, sporting a slightly modified 5.6-inch screen, S-Pen, and an extremely odd curve on just one side of the screen. What?

That’s right, just one side of the phone is curved, and Samsung said this will streamline notifications and make the user’s experience all the better. It’s weird, and if you saw a picture of it, you would agree. What is even weirder is the fact that Samsung’s goals for this curved edge are exactly those of its new smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear S, also announced at the conference. We’ll get to that later.

Also announced was the Gear VR, a virtual reality headset that for some reason only works with the newly-announced Note 4. Okay, so we are starting to understand that virtual reality is the future of technology, especially when it comes to gaming, but I’d really like a list of five reasons why giving a phone a virtual reality headset makes any sort of sense.

Not only does the headset require the Note 4 for processing and power, but the fact that it is only compatible with the device limits its possibilities. Why would I ever want to play Angry Birds in virtual reality when I barely play it now? This device also makes something like the Galaxy Gear S irrelevant, because the user wouldn’t be looking at their smartwatch anyway.

The interesting bit of this announcement is that the new device is backed by Oculus Rift, the company that had its innovative VR headset Kickstarted awhile back and was recently bought by Facebook for $2 billion. Opting to back Samsung’s device leaves the standard Oculus Rift to dominate the PC market and beyond. We’ll see how that turns out.

Overall, Samsung gave us what we wanted and then got a bit freaky, but coming from a company that had an operating profit of $7.7 billion in the last quarter of 2013, they’ve got a bit of breathing room to work with.

Apple answers back

On Tuesday, Sept. 9, Apple sort of just did the same thing it always does. This was a bit disappointing after all of the hype for this conference, but there are some exciting parts to it nonetheless.

Right out of the gate came the iPhone 6, sporting a slightly larger 4.7-inch display, followed by the iPhone 6 Plus, sporting an even slightly larger display at 5.5 inches. This is a big step for Apple, since the iPhone’s size really hasn’t changed all that much since the original, so all of the Android memes stating the they’ve “had these sizes for years” should just go away. A bigger screen on the iPhone means progress, and that’s good for everyone.

After announcing the iPhone with it’s new screen, user interface improvements and improved camera sensors, Apple finally laid rest to the iPod classic.

Devout click-wheelers cried out in agony and the one guy still using his Sony Walkman called out in victory with one tear scaling his cheek.

“We’ve finally won,” he thought to himself.

In all honesty, it was a beautiful ceremony accompanied by the announcement of a new way for Apple to leak your information to the masses: Apple Pay.

Actually, this thing seems quite cool. The technology takes near-field communication, meaning you can just touch your phone to stuff, and utilizes it to eradicate your wallet and credit cards in favor of your smartphone.

You may be thinking, “Hey, this idea has been done before,” or “My Android phone has had that for year-” stop. We know it has, but whether you like it or not, Apple is doing it now and that probably means it is about to become a lot more prominent.

That’s the thing with Apple. They don’t always have the biggest, best, cutting-edge technology, but they know how to make it sexy.

This leads us to the announcement that everyone had been waiting for: the Apple Watch. The watch, sporting a curved-edge square design, looks a lot like that iPod Nano that Apple sent out to die a few years back. Anyway, it’s a shame they didn’t go with a round face.

This thing has Siri, the NFC tech we talked about a bit earlier, and a new spin on an old watch feature – a digital crown.

The crown, located on the side of the watch, will assist the user, along with the touch-screen, in controlling the device. Reminiscent of the click wheel, the first reaction to this was “How the hell am I supposed to use this thing?” We all came to love the click wheel, so this will probably work out fine.

Compared to the Samsung Gear S mentioned earlier, there isn’t too much of a difference, really. They both streamline the smartphone experience for your wrist, and that’s super cool. Samsung has a leg up though, since you can actually make Dick Tracy-esque calls with the thing, just like all the coolest secret agents.

Lastly, Apple gave the new U2 album to every “i” device user for free. Wait, U2 has a new album? Wait, U2 is still relevant? Find out the answers to these questions and many more never, because I truly do not know the answers.

All in all, Apple answered well, and it’s nice to see two companies neck and neck in a race to take the wearable tech market.

One thing is clear: smartwatches, phablets and wearable virtual reality headsets are in our future. Let’s just hope Siri and Samsung’s S-Voice don’t team up to take us out before the next “Star Wars” movie comes out. That’d be a shame.

Featured Image: A personified Andy the Android prepares to fight with an Apple. Illustration by Jake Bowerman – Staff Illustrator

About Author

Nicholas Friedman

Nicholas Friedman

Nicholas Friedman is the Editor In Chief of the North Texas Daily. In addition, he's had his work published at The Dallas Morning News, GuideLive and the Denton Record-Chronicle.

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