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Always On: Episode 39: Is the Samsung Galaxy S4 the right phone for you?
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Always On: Episode 39: Is the Samsung Galaxy S4 the right phone for you?

20:02 /

This week on Always On, three product testers try out Samsung's new 5-inch smartphone. We unbox the mother of all phablets, the Huawei Ascend Mate. Plus, Molly Wood goes through brain-training boot camp!

-You know what they say, a journalist plus numbers equals mistakes. This week on Always On,-- -Look at. -It's almost-- It's almost-- -Hello? Do I look weird? -How many times we'll be doing it? -[Foreign Language]. -There it is. -Generating my brain performance report. I'm a code cracker. Ooh. Welcome to Always On. I'm Molly Wood. -And I'm Jeff Cannata. -And this is the show where we take a look at the tech that's part of your life-- -And your future. -So, the Galaxy S4 has been out for a couple weeks now. It's getting great reviews. -That's right, but how is it faring in the real world? We gave it to a group of testers to find out. -That's right. It's a road test right now. Time for our road test of the Galaxy S4. It's your basic tricked out smartphone, but it does have kind of a couple novelty features that we are looking forward to getting the opinions on from our real world testers. We have Mossimo, Crystal, and Kyle. Now, each of you are gonna get this phone for a couple of days. I really want you to dig into it. Put your e-mail on there, it's okay, we'll check it out. Now, as you guys use this phone, I want you to focus mainly on design, features, and usability. Just try to evaluate those 3 categories as well as you can. -I'm Kyle Itani, Executive Chef/Owner of Hopscotch in Oakland and I'm really excited to see how the Galaxy S3 compares to the S4. -Hi. I'm Crystal Silva, the art director here at Big Fish and I like raise caterpillars in my free time. -I'm Massimo Prioreschi, VP of Sales and Marketing at Backroads. And this S4 test is gonna give me street credit with my teams. Oh my gosh, it's super, super, super light. This phone in my pocket for a pair of pants that are like this is fine. It's totally perfect. You don't even know it's there. It's so light. It's really easy to get to the battery and get another battery in there if you wanted to carry a replacement. It also has a micro SD slot right here. So, if you needed extra memory, easy to put that in as well. -[unk]. The screen itself given the size and the resolution is beautiful. I played some of our hidden object games on them and graphics are meant for tablet size screen and so everything looks amazing on here. The screen makes it awesome, but the actual hardware itself proved to be a problem. The position of the power button here, if I'm holding it like this, my thumb would cover and hit this back button, which had kept pausing the game. I was getting really frustrated. -I like the size of the screen face. And the color, the resolution is really impressive. The plastic material, I've heard some people wonder about that. I mean, we had her for a few days. I don't know how durable it would be over the long haul 'cause sometimes things get banged around in the kitchen a little bit. -How many times we'll be doing it? I was surprised by the eye tracking feature. I like it. So, looking at the screen and I look away for whatever reason and it paused, which was awesome. I looked back and in starts right up. So, it's useful for-- if I'm actually talking to somebody, but if I intentionally wanna pause it, I just-- that shift doesn't cause it to happen. That shift does. So, there is a spectrum that I have to make sure I turn my head enough to initiate that. I like this. It is actually really awesome. -[Foreign Language]. There it is. And we could just pop that into a text and away we go. The phone has this really awesome translate feature, totally picked up my Italian, translated it into English, but if you just wanted to use this feature just so that it picks up different languages and you can use them for texting, you can just go and grab this piece of text and drop it into a text. -Camera has a higher mexapixel than the S3. It also has a burst mode function where I can take multiple pictures at once and I just choose the best one for later. So then I can just toggle between each photo and see, you know, what is-- and focus the best. I wanna go with that one and I'll just save it. -Power button! It is pretty smooth to be doing video capture and be able to have the controls not stutter very much. You'd expect a lot of jitter when it zoomed in on video and there wasn't a whole lot of jitter. That's pretty good. -I really love the mapping feature. I mean, it's a Google Map, so that's fantastic, very accurate. You can get by [unk] on it, which is great. The only thing I didn't like was the advertising on it. It seemed to take up a lot of the screen, so that was kind of annoying, but other than that, it worked totally fine. -Hey, good morning, guys. -Hi. -Good morning, Chef. Hey Natalie, make sure you check the Google document from last night. The Google Docs are great. You know, I downloaded the drive app very fast and then I just have all my documents right there on me at all time throughout the day and I can just go from one document to the next and make sure that, you know, every cook knows what we're doing for the day and it keeps things really organized. -Up here, when you're wearing it for working out at the gym let's say, it's really, really huge. So, you'd have to wear down here and at least with the software that I'm using, you wanna look at it, so you'd be doing kinda this. So, it doesn't really work for me. -Oh, you're playing [unk] too. We have a lot devices here that we designed for Android and iOS and so we constantly, as developers, have to be testing their own games. The operating system took me a little getting used to coming from iOS. Considering I like a lot of Google products, it felt like that. And so, all that was really straightforward. -Time to find out what our testers got of their time with the S4. All right. Let's start with you, Massimo. What was your overall impression of this phone? -Oh, I love the size and I loved how light it was compared to the phone that I have right now. It's a little difficult to navigate, but I give it one thumb up and one over here. -Okay. Crystal, how about you? -The feel of it was really great. I was surprised given it's gonna be plastic and the resolution of the screen may aim to look beautiful, but it's just too big for someone-- size of pockets I typically have. -Okay, interesting. All right. And then Kyle, you were our potential upgrader. How did it sit with you? -I liked it a lot compared to the S3. Shape, the screen resolution, it's all an upgrade. I don't know if I'd really like just go out and get it now, maybe wait 'til I have to renew and then, you know, get the discount hunted or something but, yeah, it was-- it was good. -All right. So, give me your total breakdown. Buy or not buy? -Not buy. -Not buy right now until the upgrade, until the discount. -Yeah, yeah. -Okay. Crystal, what about you? -Not for myself, but maybe for my husband. -Okay, it's a good gift. All right. Massimo, how about you? -Yeah, not for me either in terms of size. I would go maybe if my eyes get any worse, I would buy it. But for now, I'm sticking with what I've got. So, that to me just shows how tough the smartphone market is right now. The S4 is definitely a premium phone, but if you don't have a reason to upgrade, or a reason to switch from iPhone, or a reason to go bigger, it's just gonna sit there on the shelves. We'll keep watching. Good luck, S4. Now, of course, we're not done with the Galaxy S4 yet. We've unboxed it. We've road tested it. And for those of you who are already e-mailing and tweeting, we're also gonna torture test it. -I think some of those e-mails came from you, Molly, 'cause I haven't seen anybody more excited to destroy the S4 than you. -I don't know what you're talking about. We're gonna take a quick break. When we come back, we'll be unboxing the mother of all phablets. -And then later, we have an awesome workout. This time, it's for your brain. -Welcome back everybody. Now, for today's unboxing, we've got something a little bit different. -And a little bit bigger. -Yeah. -Now, for today's Unboxing, you know how I love a big phone. -Yes. -This phone may attest my love of big phone. -This is the big of the big phones. -You could see-- -It's the big phone's big brother. -You could see there's a hand. We have a phablet and a tablet to compare it to. -It's going to fit somewhere in the middle, we think. -I think so. Inside this box is the Huawei Ascend Mate, which we first got eyes on-- Actually, I saw this at CES. -Yeah. I saw it at Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress. I really liked what I saw there. -I did too because I love a big phone. But this phone-- let me just put it this way. It's a 6.1-inch display. -That's right. -Yeah. -It's taking-- -That's half a foot of phone. -phablet-- Oh my God, that should be on the marketing. -Half a foot of phone. -Half a foot of phone inside this box. Uh! -Boo. -It's huge. -Here we go. Holy moly. -Oh. That's a really big phone you got. -That's a big phone. -Like-- -Look at that. -the phone takes up every square centimeter of space here. That's huge. -It's crazy. -Oh. I love-- -Look at that. -that. -Seriously, 5 years ago, we would make fun of people if they had that. You know what I mean? -Yeah. -That's like-- -Well, five years ago, we would like-- -your phone is so primitive. -like brutally mock this. Look at that, though. -Look at the difference. -The Note. You know, the Note 2 and the LG Optimus G Pro are basically the biggest phones on the market right now. -Yeah. -Intel. No! -Look at that. It's almost-- it's almost a full tablet. -Godzilla phone. I couldn't pay attention. Okay. So here, you take that. We'll see what else is in the box here. -Hello? -My God. -Do I look weird? -It's not for talking. How many times do we-- -Oh. Stop the talk. -have to do this? Okay. Oh look, they give us a little recycle-your-old-mobile-phone bag. Cute. -And we test that one? -Yeah. I know. That's the one-- that's the one you broke. Maybe you notice that. Okay. What else is in here? Yeah, take the plastic off. We have an appropriately "Higante" power brick. -Oh. It is "Higante." -We have some headphones, which also look comically oversized to me, but maybe it's just the thing. -You notice that at this point. -Not like, "I don't think it's huge. Look at this huge USB." No. It's so-- -I like the back. Go on. -Yeah. Micro USB charger and that is it. There's some politics about this phone that we're gonna get to in a minute. Before that, we're gonna turn it on and do some specs. The Huawei Ascend Mate runs Andriod 4.1 Jelly Bean. Although for reasons we'll get to later, you're probably gonna want to root it immediately and put stock Android on it. -It has a 1.5 gigaHertz quad-core processor and has a really big 4,050 milliAmp per hour battery. -The company says that this phone could go 2 days on a single charge. I would be astonished, but we will test it. -That screen really is huge, 6.1 inches at 1280x720. -It has 2 gigs of on-board RAM, a front-facing 1-megapixel camera and a rear-facing 8 megapixel camera. I'm thinking they could have just put some megapixels from the back on the front. The Ascend Mate has 16 gigs of on-board storage, but it's expandable via MicroSD card slot. -It comes in white and black and you'll probably only be able to get it unlocked at $600. -So, I have to say after playing with this for just a few minutes-- -You're not impressed. -I'm not that impressed. The keyboard seems laggy. The performance seems a little bit slow. And actually, all of that is fine because it's probably spying on me. -Yes. It seems that you're not gonna be able to get that phone because of concerns about the Chinese government's-- -Yes. -involvement. -This is really interesting 'cause we got all excited about the rise of Chinese phone makers,-- -Yeah. -but there are some lawmakers in the U.S. trying to ban these phones. They will not have U.S. carrier contracts, so there's no way you're gonna get it with a discount. And like I mentioned earlier, some people are saying online that even if you get one, you probably want to put stock Android on it, right? -Yeah. That's pretty surprising. -So, there's like a lot of barriers to jump through, but, you know, if you just have to have the hugest phone out there-- -The good news is they're not getting much information with that 1-megapixel camera on the front. -That's really true. They're getting nothing. You can't even deposit a check with a 1 megapixel camera. That is lame. Next up, your broken brain. -Yeah. Evidently, you can train your brain to be less broken-- -That's right. -and not be so dependent on technology. -I know. We need it. So, William Gibson talks about how our phones and internet have become this giant prosthetic mind, making our minds weak and flabby. I set out to find out how to make mine stronger. The thinking behind Brain Training, get it, is that playing scientifically designed games over time can enhance your memory, improve your attention span, and basically just make you smarter. -Do you wanna give this one a try? -No. What if-- What words start with J-I. That's like hilarious. Jicama. -Oh boy, these are hard. -We visited 2 San Francisco based companies on the leading edge of this research, Lumosity and Posit Science, to get a closer look. -So right now we're looking at your brain profile. -At Lumosity, neuroscientists have developed games that exploit the brain's plasticity or in other words its ability to learn new things. -So, every time you're seeing something or having a conversation, learning something new, there is a physical change in your brain that takes place. That's how our memory is captured, that's how you learn to get better at things. -A lot of us have been told that by 5 years old or a certain age we've done all the learning we can or our brain is sort of done developing. You-- -Yeah. -clearly don't think that's the case. -Yeah. It's not. I mean that was the basic understanding among psychologists and neuroscientists for a long time. The more recent science over the past couple of decades shows that brains actually change pretty fundamentally throughout your entire life. -So, by playing these games, the research suggests you're working out your brain kind of like going to the gym, but does it actually work? I put Lumosity system to the test. First, there's a baseline assessment test so I can measure where I am cognitively in areas like memory, speed, and attention. It did not go well. Oh no. Answer as many math problems as you can in 45 seconds. 1 + 7 - 8. Who can do that? 7 x 9. Oh, I don't. I got it. Correct. 20, incorrect 1. Actually for me that's pretty freaking good as far as math goes. Because you know what they say, journalist plus number equals mistakes. Next. No. I knew it. Oh. Dang it. I actually saw Celso shake his head out of the corner of his eye by the way. The camera guy knew it. Yes. I got that one. No. Oh, damn it. I like say one thing and then my finger does a different thing. Okay. Generating my brain performance report. I'm a code cracker. Ooh. As a code cracker, you are sharp, analytical and cunning like a wolf. They say that the average brain power score for my age range is 100 and mine is 96. Man, this is hurtful, my 96. It's all got a little share with friends button. I don't think so. The brain training trend isn't just about solving math problems or unscrambling puzzles really fast. At Posit Science, they're working on software that will help you develop better people skills like facial recognition, good for those parties where you kind of know the names of your guests or, and I like this one, identifying emotions. -To be able to click one and kinda get it going and do what we really wanna do is just take the core parts of the brain that are involved in this kind of task and we'll work them out, and strengthen them, and make them sharper. -To say like look. That's right. All right. Let's try it here. -There we go. -I'm gonna sad on that. -Sad. Yes. I'm really sure how it's the easy ones. Good. Neutral is an option also. Some people aren't making any expressions. -I was wondering if neutral is an option. -That one's happy. -That one is pretty easy. -Yes. -Smiles are pretty easy. -Hey, you're good at this. -Awesome. So, I've been brain training for about a week. I have a nice little streak going. I've probably put in about 5 hours of training since I first started and now I'm going to take the brain performance test over again to see if I've improved. The folks at Lumosity did say that I might not see an improvement in my score. I might just see improvement in my overall behavior in my life, but I can't lie. I'm hoping to see improvement in my score. That's why I'm going to start the test now, and this time I'm not talking to you guys. -Concentrating. -So, the moment of truth has arrived. Am I any smarter? Oh, I got the same score and it says my score is 96. Guess it hasn't changed. I haven't gotten any smarter. Now, to be fair, the researchers say I did need to brain train for at least 10 hours and I probably did about half that. However, I have noticed that the brain training used to make me really tired. When I would start playing the games, I felt totally exhausted and then one night I have this hour-long epic brain training session and I felt totally energized afterward and I actually cleaned up my whole house. So, if that's the improvement that I get, I will take it. The house is clean. There are skeptics of brain training including me. I mean if you do anything long enough you will get better at it. It's kind of like the outliers argument from Malcolm Gladwell's book. If you practice anything for 10,000 hours, you'll be an expert. So, for me, the verdict is still out on whether this brain training thing actually works or if I just practice hard enough I'll get better at games. 386, yes. I guess that's the victory all in its own. That sounds good to me. I can't say for sure that I'm way smarter, but I can tell you that brain training is a workout. -Yeah. -It's kinda tiring. -Are you ready to throw away your supplements and just go with the technological advantage? -No more fish oil for me. I'm all about tech. -All right. -Oh. All right everyone, it's time to check out some of your mail. So, next week, we're going on a road trip. -Oh yeah. -And I asked you guys to send us your worst road trip disaster stories and, you know, they varied. -Here's a good one from Archade. I hope that's how you pronounce it. He says it's not a disaster, just forgetfulness, which for some gadgets could turn disastrous. A friend of mine, for some reason, opened the hood of his car and when he closed it forget his Nokia cellphone, basic phone model, there right on the engine. -What? -Yeah. He remembered it only after 15 or so minutes of driving. Cellphone was still there. Really hot. -Really hot. -But eventually turned out to be okay. -Wow. Okay. I love that. I could see that. You're Googling like how to check the oil. -Yeah. You sit it down, close the hood. -Can I check the water while we're overheating? -What's that rumbling sound? -Oh wait, that's my phone vibrating. -You know what though? If it was one of those old Nokias, indestructible. -Yeah. -We gotta put one of those through the ringer. All right. This was a common refrain when I ask for road trip disasters. Patrick says driving through England with a GPS unit that did not have maps for England loaded. -Uh-oh. -Had to resort to paper, which none of us could make sense of. -No! -No! -And folding it, uh! -Okay. I seriously cannot believe how many of the e-mails or response to this question were related to GPS. -You don't understand. Paper is terrible. I don't wanna have to use paper. -You're on technology dependent world. -Are we cavemen? -You need some brain training, improve your navigation skills. That's right. All right. So, the road trip episode is next week. We will look forward to your feedback on that and any other topic. E-mail us at alwayson@cnet.com or leave us a message on Facebook, Google Plus, or Twitter. -And we promise no paper. -No paper ever. That's it for this week, everyone. Coming up next week, our first ever Always On summer road trip. We're road testing the Galaxy Note 8. -And torture testing the HTC One. -Say goodbye. -And maybe some throwing out of a moving vehicle involved. -Possibly. -Stay tuned for that and thank you for watching Always On. -See you next week.
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