Aranez Leather Samsung Galaxy S4 Case [review]

Aranez Leather Flip Galaxy S4 Case (open)About 4 months ago my wife upgraded her phone to a Samsung Galaxy S4 (a very nice phone, by the way – and that’s coming from me as an avowed iPhone user!). Just after that, Arnold Aranez from Aranez.com offered to let us try out one of his premium leather phone cases. What follows are my own observations, and my wife’s feedback on the Aranez Flip Samsung Galaxy S4 case.

Style

The first thing that strikes you with the Aranez S4 case is the styling. It’s a simple, understated look but, at the same time, classy. The stitching adds a nice little highlight, while the embossed ‘Aranez’ logo is a nice touch.

The inside of the case is a rather nice suede material in light grey, which looks nice in contrast to the outside.

If there’s one complaint, it comes from my wife who says she would like to see other colours available.

Construction

Aranez Leather Galaxy S4 case (closed)The case is made out of soft cow leather, and it feels great in the hand. The flip cover is held on by two thin leather straps that, to be honest, both my wife and I thought might not last very long. Just today, though, she commented that she had been surprised that they had held up just fine and showed no signs of giving way. Why are there two small strips rather than one large one? Well, that means there’s still a space in the middle of the case to charge your phone without having to leave the case open.

There are 4 clips holding the phone in place, and they do so nice and securely without getting in the way of the phone’s functions. The hold the S4 by the corners, so all the buttons are left free.

One nice feature is the debit card / ID holder on the inside of the flip cover. This is perfect for when you want to head out to the shops but don’t want to carry too much with you – just stick your card in there and you’re good to go. It does have it’s downside when you remember you had something you needed in your purse but that’s more about planning than the case itself!

In terms of padding and protection – it feels as if the leather outer would give a good degree of protection in case of a drop, but at the same time the case doesn’t add too much in terms of bulk.

Price

Aranez Leather Flip Galaxy S4 Case (interior)Ah price – always the important question, isn’t it? We were provided with a free review sample but the full price of the Aranez S4 case is $59.95 at the time of writing. That comes in at £37 (again, at time of writing – remember the exchange rate may change) which, for a premium quality leather case, isn’t bad at all.

If you’re thinking you could get something similar more cheaply, you’re probably right, but what you’re paying for here is the material (premium cow leather) and some very nice styling.

Conclusion

Aranez Flip Samsung Galaxy S4 Case is a classy design and, so far, has stood well again the punishment of constant phone use and the daily ordeal of being kept in a handbag! It’s well thought out, and looks and feels good but, perhaps, could benefit from some additional colour options.

The price puts it outside of the “casual purchase” range, but if you’re looking for a premium case for your precious smartphone, I think this is well worth considering.

Find out more at Aranez.com.

Barbour Quilted Galaxy S3 Case Review

David Lumm is a professional programmer and all round geek with a passion for making technology simple.

Barbour Galaxy S3 phone caseThis review of the Barbour Samsung Galaxy S3 Case is the first of two reviews of cases supplied by the device protection experts at Proporta.co.uk.

I’ve never used a folio case before I started reviewing this particular model, in fact as I thought about that fact it occurred to me that I’ve never really protected a phone quite as much as I feel the need to now. I reckon I’ve owned a mobile phone for the last 12/13 years; and whilst some of those early models were adorned with the “leather”-edged, plastic-fronted and elastic-sided type cases that were the norm as the time, most have lived in my pocket without any additional protection. The S3 I’m currently using started out unprotected, but I found it made me feel nervous much more than any previous phone had done.

Given all of that, I started this review not expecting to be blown away by the product. It didn’t matter to me much that it was a brand name either. I did not expect to find myself actually liking it.

So let’s start from the beginning; I was really pleased with how the case arrived. It was well packed and in a good quality Barbour branded display box. But what really pleased me was the inclusion of a little gift of tea. I’d imagine the gift itself wouldn’t be up everybody’s street, but the fact it was included, even with a product for review, adds a personal touch which is welcome.

The case itself appears to have been made to a high standard, including real-leather panels and a style that wouldn’t look at all out of place on any of Barbour’s famous jackets. The inside is trimmed with a Barbour exclusive material.

At first I found the magnetic closure a little confusing, but this may be due to my inexperience with this type of case; it connects at the back of the phone rather than the front. Presumably this is so you can attempt to hold and open the case with one hand, but for me a phone this size is nearly always a two handed device.

Having now used the case for about two weeks I’ve found myself getting quite fond of it, not least because it impresses people. I’m genuinely impressed by the level of protection it offers, I’ve dropped the phone at least twice onto pretty hard surfaces and had no problems.

What I’ve also enjoyed is the fact that I tend to take the phone out of the case more, admittedly that is more to do with the type of case than this particular model, but it’s become a bit of a selling point to me. I generally take it out at work to place on my desktop stand and also at night, so that I don’t have to fiddle with the case if it goes off. What this means is that I get to enjoy the S3 as designed occasionally, whilst also getting the protection I require the majority of the time.

Even though I take the phone out at least twice most days, the case seems to be holding up well. I have seen some cheap cases start to show the strain after just a couple of attempts of taking a phone out and putting it back in again.

Overall I found myself really impressed with the quality and design of the case, in a fashion sense (something I’m not at all motivated by) it seems this would go with most outfits for most occasions. Some gel cases and the like can leave your top of the range phone looking a bit naff, not so with this premium product from a premium brand.

This wasn’t really a product I expected to like, not that I didn’t expect it to be high quality, but I wasn’t sure I would like the form factor. However I was pleasantly surprised and I’m a convert!

Galaxy Note 10.1 Ultra Thin Folio Case [Review]

Galaxy Note Folio CaseI’ve always said you can’t beat sitting down with a proper, old fashioned, paper book. There’s something about the smell of a new book, and the physical feeling of turning the pages that’s just missing from the current range of eReaders and tablet devices.

Having said that, I do find myself being slowly and irresistibly drawn to reading on my Galaxy Note tablet because the books are cheaper and quicker to buy than their physical counterparts. There are some books I just won’t buy electronically (like my collection of Terry Pratchett novels), but more and more of my reading is becoming electronic.

One of the books I bought recently was a technical manual, but every time I tried to prop my tablet up on my desk, it would fall over. That made it really difficult to have the manual open at the same time as trying to work on the computer, so I started to look around for a case that would hold my Galaxy Note upright,  and this is what I found: a Galaxy Note 10.1. Ultra Thin Folio Case.

I had a bit of a giggle when the package arrived and, written on the back was, “We are specializing in producing leather case”. It reminded me of some of the funny mistranslations I’d seen online, and sort of highlighted the fact that this case was made in China. Nothing wrong with that, I just mention it because I happened to notice.

The product description wasn’t kidding when it says this case is “ultra thin”.  It’s maybe 4 or 5mm thick, so it doesn’t add unnecessary bulk to your tablet. This matters to me – I travel quite a lot, so I don’t want something that’s going to take up too much room in my bag.

While thin, the folio case is also hard, so will offer a good degree of protection to your device. I don’t think it would fare too well if dropped – there’s not much padding – but if you’re just looking to protect against scratches and general wear & tear, this is a good bet.

The Galaxy Note 10.1 is attached to the case by means of a large sticky pad which, if I’m honest, I found quite difficult to use. If you don’t line your tablet up perfectly first time, you have to pull pretty hard to get it off again.  That’ll turn out to be important later on, but it was a real hassle at first. There are holes in the case for the microphone, camera, and headphone jack, and the best I’ve managed is to get two out of three of these lined up (the microphone lost out). You might say I just didn’t do it right, but I think the microphone slot is actually slightly out of place.

But how does this case do at what I wanted from it? Does it actually make it easier to read and type? Well, yes. Just fold half of the case up and it becomes a little stand that’s actually quite sturdy. The sticky pad that caused me some grief earlier now turns out to be well thought out and holds the Note in place while upright.

So, what’s the verdict? I think this is a good buy – the quality pretty much matches the £15 price tag. Let that guide your expectations – this isn’t a premium leather case, but represents good value protection for the money.  It certainly stands up well to other Galaxy Note 10.1 cases I’ve tried, and it fulfils my primary requirements of being able to prop my electronic books up while working.

The Galaxy Note 10.1 Ultra Thin Folio Case is available from GearZap.com for £14.95 at the time of writing.

Dreaming of Devices

David Lumm is a professional programmer and all round geek with a passion for making technology simple.

I can’t really remember when Samsung became the Android powerhouse it now clearly is. It wasn’t always that way, I don’t really remember Samsung being much of a player in this market at all three or four years ago; but now if you’re in the market for an Android device or at the very least anything not-Apple, you’d be foolish not to give Samsung a look.

I love my S3, despite it being so much larger than any phone I’ve ever owned (I’d wager it’s even bigger than the Sony Ericsson P900 I used for a while) it is just so useful. That’s partly to do with the incredible improvements to Android over the years and the great apps available, but of course the hardware has been a huge selling point of the Samsung range.

It’s the vast range of devices in their range that fascinates me, everything from basic Android handsets to the top of the range S3; then there’s the phablets (I think the S3 only narrowly escapes being a phablet itself) and tablets great and small. Whatever you need Samsung have a device that will suit.

I’m particularly impressed by the Note range; when I was looking for a new phone it was a toss-up between the original Galaxy Note and an S3, and the S3 won by a whisker. I like how you can use your fingers or the pen, I like how you can use it to do so much.

Right now I have the S3 that I use for most things and access to a first generation iPad that doesn’t get much use at work, I’ve also got a fairly ancient 7 inch chinese Android tablet that I bought before Android tablets were cool. It doesn’t get much use, but that’s mostly because of it’s age. Most of the apps I use just don’t work on it anymore.

One of these days I’m going to get myself a new tablet and it’ll probably come from the Samsung range. I like the size/shape of my 7 inch tablet, but the iPad has it’s uses too. Decisions, decisions. In my imaginary world I’d have one of each size, but that’ll never happen; so I think for me it’ll be the Galaxy Note 8.0. It just seems to be that perfect balance between usability and holdability.

The other good thing about picking a Samsung device is the wide array of Galaxy Note 8.0 accessories available, despite this still being a relatively new device! It certainly gives me confidence knowing that I’ll be able to protect it and make the most of it without spending as much on accessories as I spent on the device itself.

What’s your dream device at the moment? Tempt us in the comments.

5 Best Features of Samsung’s Galaxy S4

This is a guest post by Will Judd

Samsung Galaxy S4The Samsung Unpacked event has come and gone, and we’re left with the announcement of a new phone: the Samsung Galaxy S4. The phone has gotten a mixed response from critics – some have complained about the phone’s design, which is very similar to last year’s S3, but others have praised its boosted specifications and comprehensive software additions. In this article, I’ll share what I reckon are the new phone’s five best features.

5. Smart TV remote
The Galaxy S4 comes with an IR blaster and WatchOn software, allowing you to use your phone as a visual TV guide and universal remote. While the HTC One includes similar technology, Samsung’s app looks more fully featured and easy to use.

4. Gesture control
One of the coolest software add-ons included with the Galaxy S3 was ‘smart stay’. Basically, the front-facing camera watches for your face. Whenever you’re looking at the screen, the screen won’t dim or lock.

With the Galaxy S4, Samsung have upped the ante and included a wide range of gesture controls. There’s ‘smart scroll’, which allows you to tilt your phone in order to scroll up or down. ‘Air gestures’ let you swipe left and right in the air in front of your phone to skip songs or look through photo galleries. ‘Smart pause’ automatically pauses playing videos when you look away from the screen. There’s even an improvement on the Note 2’s ‘Air view’ feature – now instead of hovering a stylus over the screen to preview content, you can just use your finger.

I worked on gesture controls as my final year project in university, and I’m fairly convinced at this point that they’ll continue to become more mainstream as more use-cases are discovered.

3. Improved Hardware
I couldn’t really mention the Galaxy S4 without making some mention of its utter power – while it may be overkill, it looks like Samsung have crafted an industry-leading beast once more. The phone includes an octa-core processor (yup, eight cores) and a five-inch Super AMOLED 1080p display. That should translate into flawless performance, whether you’re whizzing around your home screens or in the most demanding game on the platform.

2. Comprehensive Cameras
One fairly significant hardware and software upgrade is the 13 megapixel rear camera, which is backed with a host of software upgrades. Samsung’s Android-based camera, the Galaxy Camera, has made its influence felt here, with an on-screen mode dial and new scene modes. For example, there’s an ‘Eraser’ mode that takes a quick series of photographs, then allows you to remove any motion it detects in the background (for example, people walking past or photo bombers).

There are a whole bunch of other ways to take a picture too – from ‘DualShot’, which allows you to shoot pictures or video from both cameras simultaneously, ‘Drama Shot’ which makes a composite photo of someone in motion and ‘Cinema Photo’ which is basically Cinemagraph for Android.

According to The Verge, the camera experience remained fast and fluid throughout, which is hopefully a reflection of both well-tuned software and the powerful hardware at the core of the device.

1. S Health
The big surprise of the show – at least for me – was S Health. I’d been looking into getting a fitness tracking accessory and app for a while now, but Android seems to have been getting the short end of the stick in terms of support from the major manufacturers.

S Health seems to be a fitness app much more powerful than anything we’ve seen on the platform before, and doesn’t require a separate accessory. The Galaxy S4 has a built-in pedometer (which is just a simplified accelerometer, after all) as well as humidity and temperature sensors, allowing the Galaxy S4 to automatically track your environment and ‘exercise levels’. Of course, there are also options for inputting other information that the app can’t glean by itself – stuff like food you’ve been eating and how much sleep you’ve been getting. There are a host of health-oriented Galaxy S4 accessories too, from a wrist-band to a scale.

Ultimately, S Health could be a great app for Galaxy S4 owners, and may pave the way for other Android manufacturers to look at including similar features.

Conclusion
In writing this article, it was hard to pick just five features to distinguish the Galaxy S4 – for example, I wanted to include the S Translator app, which looks jolly useful for anyone that’s multilingual or travels.

Samsung’s presentation was certainly gimmicky in places, but I feel that there’s a lot of lasting value in the additions they’ve made to the Galaxy S4. While the IR blaster and gesture controls may be niche use-cases, the new camera software and the S Health seem like strong apps that I’d use many times a day, and just aren’t matched by the Galaxy S4’s competitors.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Samsung Galaxy S4 on the way?

This is a guest post by William Judd.

Samsung Galaxy S4 announcementWe last heard about it last week, and now we know it’s the truth: Samsung have confirmed that they will be unveiling the next version of their highly vaunted flagship smartphone series in just over two weeks, on March 14th.

Samsung mobile chief JK Shin spoke about the event to reporters at the Mobile World Congress, where Samsung is launching the Galaxy Note 8.0 phablet and other small products and charging Galaxy S3 covers. The timing is no accident either – Samsung will be wanting to take up as much of the coverage as possible during MWC, taking time away from competing products and companies.

Samsung also released a teaser on their official @SamsungMobile Twitter feed, posting an image that read “READY 4 THE SHOW” as well as the relevant details. That suggests that we will be seeing the Galaxy S IV, rather than a more different name.

The event will be taking place in New York, making for the first American launch of a Galaxy S smartphone since the original Galaxy S in 2010. The event is slated to begin at 19:00 Eastern Standard Time. As well as the numerous live blogs from our favourite tech blogs, you’ll be able to watch a live video feed of the event on Samsung’s own YouTube channel – a big improvement over Apple events, which tend to not be broadcasted conveniently (or at all).

So what do we know about the Samsung Galaxy S IV? Well, not much seems certain but we can make a good guess that we’ll see a 5-inch 1080p smartphone powered by one of Samsung’s Exynos mobile chipsets. The CPU will probably be quad-core, and could even conceivably be an eight-core design using ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture that pairs a quad-core A15 for heavy tasks with a quad-core A7 for lighter tasks. We’ll probably see a Samsung Galaxy S IV case with a built-in wireless charger, or we’ll see similar functionality inside the phone itself.

Beyond that, not much is certain – I guess we’ll just have to find out!

Are you excited for the launch? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading and have a good one!

SGP Galaxy Note 10.1 Screen Protector – Review

SGP Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Screen ProtectorI’m pretty much an Apple-only person. I’m writing this on my iMac. I use my iPhone daily. As a family, we bought a generation 1 iPad, which still does great service around the house. However, I recently decided I wanted to learn more about the world of Android, so I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet for use in my work as an IT consultant.

I have to say, I’m very pleased with it. I don’t think it will pull me away from the Cult of Mac, but I can certainly understand why people enjoy using Android devices so much. As with any new piece of gadgetry, though, my thoughts soon turned to how I could ensure it stayed in tip-top condition for as long as possible. So it lives in a neoprene pouch… many of the protective plastic films are still attached… and I thought I’d better just take good care of the screen.

See, I don’t like screen protectors. My experience has always been that they degrade the quality of the display and, often, change the physical feel of the glass. Given that tablets are mostly controlled by touch, the feel is important. All of which means, when I was offered an SGP Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Screen Protector to review, I was a bit skeptical.

The SGP is a rigid surface – it feels like a thin sheet of glass rather than the flexible plastic films I’ve seen before. That does two things for me: it gives me confidence that it will actually protect the screen against scratches, and it makes it much easier to get it stuck to my tablet in the first place. So long as you line it up properly along one edge (reviews suggest lining it up with the tablet’s camera lens), you’re pretty much guaranteed that it will fit properly. I did have to move it ever so slightly as I was a couple of millimetres out and had left an annoying lip, but that was easily sorted.

Any air bubbles are dealt with by a plastic squeegee. You can just push them towards the edge of the screen and they’ll disappear. Any particularly large or troublesome bubbles can be eliminated by gently lifting the protector back off the screen, and carefully reapplying it. I didn’t need to remove the protector entirely to do this, just lifted it on one side and used the squeegee to ensure I got a good fix when letting it down again.

Dust… dust is the bane of my life when it comes to screen protectors or skins. What you get with the SGP is a couple of little stickers. If you do get dust underneath the protector, lift it up again with your fingernail, and use one of the stickers to remove the offending particle. Doing that with your finger, even if you’d just washed your hands, would leave a print on the underside that, believe me, would get annoying. So having these stickers, which don’t leave any marks, is a great idea.

If you’re still with me, we’ve now got the SGP Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Screen Protector installed, but what is it actually like?

First, the feel. There’s a slight dragging feeling at first – it’s hard to explain but just just feels slightly more difficult to swipe your finger over the protector than it does when it’s just the ‘naked’ screen. That has faded quickly, though, so I’m not sure if it was a case of there being some chemicals that needed to rub off, or my skin putting down some sort of coating, or whether I just got used to it. Whichever it is, it now feels no different to how it did before I installed the SGP. Using the Note’s stylus is also just as it was before.

On to my biggest complaint – degraded visuals. Well, and I’m almost disappointed to say this, the SGP is excellent in this regard. Honestly, you wouldn’t know there was anything on top of the screen – it all looks just as it did before. In fact, the only reason I know I have a screen protector at all is that I missed one speck of dust at the edge and haven’t bothered to remove it as it isn’t actually on the screen part.

The SGP Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Screen Protector comes in at a shade under £30 at the time of writing, and you might think, “It SHOULD perform well at that price!”. Maybe you’re right, but I’d say that’s a fair price to pay for protecting your screen with no noticeable downsides. My verdict? Highly recommended.

Thanks to GearZap for the opportunity to review the SGP Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Screen Protector. GearZap sell a range of Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 accessories, as well as accessories for a number of other portable devices. 

Drawing on Water

Holding expensive tech over a fish tank - ooer. When I first heard that “creative technologist” Daniel Kupfer had done something that had never been done before, drawn on water, I was a bit doubtful. After all, we’ve created some great pictures using marbling paint and water before with the children. I wondered what was going to be so clever about Daniel’s project.

Well, it is actually pretty smart. Daniel has taken 400 submerged pumps, and used them to disturb the surface of a water tank to create water “pixels”. Then, by drawing on a Samsung Galaxy Note II, the individual pumps fire to recreate the drawing in water droplets. Have a look at the YouTube video below to find out how it’s done, and to see the effect:

There are several points during the video where I think, “Aaah! Electronics and water!”, most notably when Daniel is leaning over the tank holding his Note, but that’s just me worrying because I know I have a tendency to drop things! The vision and execution of the project is really clever, not to mention the engineering required to make it happen.

As a showcase for the Galaxy Note, it’s genius. When you see the Note in the shops now, one of the things that comes to mind will be this video and, no doubt, you’ll at least decide to go and take a second look at it. I haven’t played with the Note II, but I do have a Note 10.1 tablet, and can say that’s a great piece of kit. If the Note II is anything like it’s larger brother, it’s well worth a look too.

Find Samsung Galaxy Note II on Amazon.co.uk, or on the official Samsung website.

UltraGlass – protection for your smartphone

UltraGlass Screen Protector

There’s a bit of a dilemma to be had with modern smartphones. They look lovely, but using them without any sort of protective cover is a quick path to scratches.

I’ve got a slimline case on my iPhone 4S that protects that back and sides without being too intrusive, but that does leave the front open to the elements. Am I bothered? Well, I know the iPhone 4S’s glass is pretty tough, so I haven’t been worrying about it, but I did notice a scratch recently that made me realise having an open-front case is far from ideal.

I really don’t like most of the cases that offer full enclosure, so I guess we’re looking at some sort of mobile phone screen protector.

The UltraGlass screen protector is a thin sheet of tempered glass that adheres to the front of your phone. It’s thin, and it comes in colours and finishes that allow it to blend in with white or black iPhone 4s and Samsung Galaxy S2s. Because it looks like the face of the phone, it maintains some semblance of the phone’s “naked” look, while offering some protection.

How much protection are we talking? Well, the graphics I’ve seen show people attacking their phone with a drill, but I can tell you I won’t be testing that! I can see it offering a little protection from drops, but the main thing will be protection from scratches. I’ve had my iPhone in the same pocket as my car keys this week (deliberately) and so far there have been no scratches on the UltraGlass.

Application is very easy – just clean the phone, peel the backing off the UltraGlass, line it up, and press it down. Because it’s quite rigid, there’s no worrying about getting bubbles under it.

If there is something I’m not happy about it’s that, under extremely bright light (like a very sunny day) there are little dots visible on the UltraGlass. I think these are how the electrical conductivity of your finger is transmitted to the phone’s touchscreen and, in most conditions they aren’t visible, but they do become a little annoying when you notice them.

Overall, though, I’m pretty impressed with the UltraGlass Protective Screen Cover. It’s easy to apply, feels sturdy, and does allow you to use your phone as normal. And it’s nice to know there’s just that little bit of extra protection in place, without making my phone look ugly in the process.

A review unit of the UltraGlass screen protector was provided free of charge by Mobile Fun.

Samsung to try and block iPhone 4S sales in Europe

Samsung vs AppleThis article was written by William Judd. William writes for MobileFun.co.uk, the UK’s largest online retailer of Samsung Galaxy S2 accessories.

Samsung announced today that they will be filing patent infringment claims against Apple in European courts. These claims will seek to ban the newly announced iPhone 4S from being sold in France and Italy, ahead of their planned release dates of October 14th and October 28th, respectively.

The claims are on the basis of Apple’s alleged infringement upon the Wideband Code Division Multiple Access standard, better known as W-CDMA. Samsung has announced that it will attempt to prevent the sale of the iPhone 4S in other European markets later, but has chosen France and Italy first as these countries allow bans of products before they have begun to be sold, and are also key markets for the iPhone 4s.

While Samsung has claimed that the move is because ‘Apple has continued to flagrantly violate our intellectual property rights’, in reality it’s a response to Apple’s continuing legal attacks elsewhere – to date, Samsung and Apple have sued one another in twenty cases in ten countries this year.

Most recently, Apple was successful (at least temporarily) in blocking the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 from sale in the EU, following an injunction from a German court. In that case, Apple was found to have doctored images in order to make the Tab and the iPad 2 looks more similar than they were, and the ban was restricted only to Germany.

Having the iPhone 4S being blocked from sale in Europe would be a great blow to the company, which is expected to see its shares fall further following news of the death of Steve Jobs yesterday. Shares in Samsung, on the other hand, rose 1.7% the day after the iPhone 4S announcement.

With the lacklustre announcement of the iPhone 4S, Apple will be looking to prevent their Android rivals from gaining ground, and the legal battlefield is one in which they must not lose. As Samsung and Apple continue to compete in the smartphone market and seem unwilling to settle their differences, expect more legal action between the two companies across the world.