Well until last year it seemed the world of smartphones had come to a standstill. It seemed smartphones weren't moving forward, or rather, they weren't moving fast enough. A lot of the smartphones that we were seeing were mere incremental updates, and not breakthrough products capable of challenging the status quo: capable of making potential buyers go weak in the knees. An upgrade was therefore just not exciting enough.
Smartphone manufacturers were quick (enough) to realise how things were shaping in the market. Selling incremental updates in the name of new phones wasn't enough anymore which is why they started to look for other things. In 2017, a lot of these other things, revolve around big bezel-less screens and dual cameras. Going forward there will be more, but, for now bid bezel-less screens and dual cameras seem to be the growing industry trend.
Technology, at least in the initial days, isn't always full-proof and perfect. The same is true about technology that's inside a smartphone. The Google Pixel 2, the Apple iPhone X and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 represent the pinnacle of high-end technology in the world of smartphones right now. But are they perfect? Not really.
Last year's Pixel phones were more like proof of concept to show off Google's hardware manufacturing prowess. Barring some bearable issues here and there, there was nothing really out of line with the Pixel and the Pixel XL. In fact, the Pixel and the Pixel XL were so good - especially in the camera department - they gave the iPhone 7/iPhone 7 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy S7/Galaxy S7 Edge quite a run for their money. Well until the Pixel and the Pixel XL happened, Apple and Samsung seemed to be the only hardware majors vying for consumers' attention. With Google they now have a third option, and more the options more the merrier it is for consumers.
But while the first-generation Pixel's biggest challenge was meeting demand, this year's Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL's biggest challenge is meeting expectations. Sadly, the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL aren't exactly shaping to be an Android fan boy's dream gadget. Although the new batch of Pixel phones have garnered rave reviews from reviewers across the board - especially for their outstanding cameras and AI-backed vanilla software - real world usage case scenarios have shown, all isn't well the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL.
The bigger Pixel 2 XL seems so bad -- according to multiple reports -- it wouldn't be surprising if Google decides to pull it back in the days to come. Of the number of scathing issues being reported, the display of the Pixel 2 XL seems to be the biggest cause of concern. The Pixel 2 XL, for your reference, comes with an LG-made 6-inch 2K+ P-OLED display, and is said to boast of rather average viewing angles with a prominent blue tinge visible every time you view the screen at an angle other than straight-up. Secondly, even though the P-OLED panel on-board the Pixel 2 XL can support the P3 wide color gamut, Google for some reason, has decided to limit it to the sRGB color spectrum probably to maximise its color accuracy. This should technically entail in dull, often inaccurate colours in comparison to even the AMOLED-toting Pixel 2. Moreover, there have also been some reports that the Pixel 2 XL display is leaving screen burn in leaving a faint shadow of the back, home and multitasking buttons behind even after they've disappeared.
The Pixel 2 has its own set of issues. A small number of Pixel 2 users have taken to Google's official forums reporting a faint, low-frequency "clicking" or "ticking" noise from their top and bottom speakers. If that wasn't enough, YouTube channel JerryRigEverything has found - via his usual stress-testing theatrics - that the Pixel 2 may well be in line of a possible bendgate. This is because Google has apparently put an antenna band at the weakest part of the phone.
It must be understood that not all of the problems mentioned above are deal breakers. At least one of these issues - switching the button on P3 wide color gamut -- can be solved via a future software update while the clicking and ticking issue can be solved by temporarily turning off NFC even as Google investigates the matter. Problem is, the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL, represent the high end of the Android spectrum: they are supposed to be nothing short of the best because Google has supposedly built them that way. Also, the company is charging a bomb for them. While the Pixel 2 starts at Rs 61,000 the Pixel 2 XL starts at Rs 73,000. That's a lot of money, and yet, the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL are far from perfect.
Apple says the iPhone X is the future of the smartphone: a future wherein all smartphones would be long continuous sheets of glass with an edge-to-edge display and no physical buttons. While companies like Samsung and LG and Xiaomi have already embraced the future, Cupertino major Apple just joined the bandwagon of all screen and no bezel phones, with the iPhone X: a phone that also marks an important milestone in the history of the company in question. The iPhone X -- pronounced as iPhone ten -- exists to commemorate ten years of the iPhone. It's safe to say that it's as gorgeous as gorgeous gets. It's got style, but it's got lots of substance as well.
Only it doesn't have a fingerprint scanner. The iPhone X is notably the first iPhone ever to ditch Touch ID in favour of Face ID. Facial recognition technology on-board the iPhone X is aided by a TrueDepth camera system consisting of depth-sensing hardware: a dot projector, an infrared camera and a flood illuminator that apparently makes Face ID a whole lot secure than Apple's tried and tested Touch ID.
The iPhone X's Face ID, according to Apple, has a one in one million chance of being fooled by a random person's face. In contrast, there's a one in 50,000 chance that a random user could fool Touch ID, according to the company. Just to ensure added security, Apple has also worked with professional mask makers in Hollywood to ensure that Face ID can't be fooled by synthetic faces.
Apple isn't known to toil around with new technology if it isn't one hundred per cent sure about it. Over time, the company has ditched a lot of things -- quite recently, the headphone jack -- some that many have considered a fundamental right all their lifetime before finally giving in to Apple's starry tantrums. But while you could still live without a headphone jack -- the dongle life could be hard to pull off, but certainly not impossible -- I am not too sure how many -- but fans -- would be able to live without a fingerprint scanner. A fingerprint scanner may not be as secure as facial recognition, according to Apple, but it sure is a lot more convenient.
A fingerprint scanner, like Touch ID, also allows you to safely store more than one fingerprint which means you can have one of yours and maybe one of someone who's really close to you -- your child for instance -- so they can use your phone even when you're not around. You can of course limit them from using certain apps by fingerprint/password protecting them, but, on the whole the phone won't be exclusive to you. In the case of the iPhone X, because your face is your password, you'll always have to be around for someone to be using your phone, unless you're fine giving them your secure password as well.
Convenience is, at the end of the day, all a matter of choice and perspective though. The thing that will really matter to everyone will be how safe and secure Apple's new unlocking mechanism will be when put to actual test. That is something only time will tell.
The iPhone X will cost Rs 89,000 in India for the 64GB variant. The top end version with 256GB RAM will meanwhile cost Rs 102,000. A phone that costs as much as the iPhone X does, well, a fingerprint scanner should have made the cut.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is a gorgeous piece of infinite gimmickry. But, more than anything, the Galaxy Note 8 marks an important chapter for Samsung. Samsung is in pursuit of redemption, it's in pursuit to salvage its lost glory. The way the Galaxy Note 8 has shaped up, well, Samsung might just be half way there already. That's probably what gave Samsung the confidence to engage in a bit of tongue in cheek promotion aboard a Spanish airline recently.
The success of the Galaxy S8/Galaxy S8+ has a lot to do with it. There's so much to love about this year's Galaxy S8/Galaxy S8+, they'll make you want to forget everything about last year's colossal disaster, the Galaxy Note 7. Just to ensure, the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ -- batteries -- don't suffer the same fate as the Note 7, Samsung has invested a great deal of research into these phones. In addition to the standard tests, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ batteries have been pushed through 8 other tests to meet the highest level (ever) of safety standards. The Galaxy S8/Galaxy S8+ have worked well so far.
The Galaxy Note 8 has been given the same treatment. Also, Samsung unlike last year, hasn't tried to bite more than it can chew with respect to the Galaxy Note 8's battery. The Galaxy Note 8 is backed by a 3,300mAh battery which is bigger than the 3,000mAh battery inside the Galaxy S8 but still smaller than the 3,500mAh battery inside the Galaxy S8+. The Galaxy S8+ has been safe so far. Hopefully, the Galaxy Note 8 will follow suit.
As for the phone itself, well, the Galaxy Note 8 is as noteworthy as they come. Then again, it's not perfect. The Galaxy Note 8 has one flaw, the criticality of which would depend upon how you perceive your ideal smartphone to be. The Galaxy Note 8 has an insanely weird fingerprint scanner. It's on the back and in a rather awkward position.
Rear mounted fingerprint scanners aren't new. Google's Pixel is the most classic example of a high-end phone with such a set up. Nobody panics when Google puts the fingerprint scanner on the back. But everyone loses their minds when Samsung does something similar. Everyone has a point though. You see, in the case of the Pixel, the fingerprint scanner has a central placement, while in the case of the Galaxy Note 8, it lies adjacent to the camera module up top. Reaching out to it to unlock the Galaxy Note 8, would be a nightmare for users with even the biggest of hands.
The whole point of the Galaxy Note 8 -- and its USP feature, aka the Infinity display -- was to build a phone that was big on paper and smaller in the hands. The Galaxy Note 8 may seem huge on paper but it's actually quite reassuring when in the hands. All, but the fingerprint scanner. Rather, the fingerprint scanner on-board the Galaxy Note 8 sticks out like a sore thumb on an otherwise much sought after device. For a phone that costs Rs 67,900 well a soar thumb like that could be a deal-breaker for some.