Gary Steel finds clarity and makes a life-changing decision. Meanwhile, Samsung releases the latest two iterations of its Galaxy mobile phone, the S6 and S6 Edge.
SOMETIMES LIFE IS just like this. You traipse along to every technology launch going for 11-some years, and on one such occasion, just as day is dawning, you suddenly think: THIS IS THE LAST TIME.
I started doing this in 2004, when I was the newly appointed editor of NZ gadget glossy, Tone (RIP). It was a drudge from the start. Occasionally, launches can be fun. Or you walk away with some free toys when generosity is built into a company’s media strategy. But most often, it’s a desultory experience. Although to call it an “experience” may be a bit far-fetched.
This morning’s ‘Unpacking’ media event happened at the Member’s Lounge on the second floor of the Auckland Art Gallery at 6.15am. It was set for 6.45am, but someone got their international timing wrong. I live out in the wop wops, on the far flung fringes of the self-proclaimed Auckland Super City, so I had to get up at 4.30am to get myself together, take the 50-minute drive to the CBD, find a park and walk to the venue by 6.15am.
The event took place in a room with several rows of leather seating, turned towards a large Samsung flat-screen TV, presumably 4K, on which the live broadcast of the international announcement of the new Samsung product would beam at 6.30am. The international event took place in Barcelona, to which key personnel from Samsung NZ and presumably a few hundred really important technology journalists had been flown. We had the opportunity to interview our Samsung man on the ground via Skype during our function this morning, lucky us. I couldn’t really see the point, as it was unlikely that we would get anything more out of it than had been announced in the main presentation.
And that was my revelation. The utter pointlessness of these wee gatherings, and the waste of time and petrol that they impose on my life.
It’s not really Samsung NZ’s fault, or the fault of their PR company, that these kind of media events have become surplus to requirements. But the thing is, anyone anywhere who was tuned in to this live broadcast from Barcelona would have got the information straight from the horse’s mouth. This is precisely the thinking behind Apple’s lack of media interface: the very technology that circumscribes everything that they do makes the information available to the public first, so the only real role of journalists is to get hold of the information and review the supposed enhancements of this year’s model, and hopefully, to get their hands on the new toy for a bit of a play. [Speaking of Apple, at least that brand have English speakers enunciating the language clearly. Sorry, I know Samsung is a Korean company, but the Korean presenters speaking in English were at times terribly hard to understand – perhaps subtitles next time? Or was it just that the TV wasn’t turned up loud enough?]
Yes, the insanely early timing of today’s little fling could have been handled better. I wake up hungry, with the need for coffee imminent, so I was crushed to find that when I arrived at the appointed time, there was STILL no dark brown stuff in the offing, and that when it did arrive, it was measured out in small amounts from a kind of thermos. It was a relatively small gathering of maybe 15 to 20 media – couldn’t they have organised strong espresso? And there was food there: some kind of BAP-type sandwich, but the situation made it kind of awkward to eat. So I skulked off pretty soon after the presentation ended, and spent money I don’t have on a really nice coffee and breakfast at the highly recommended Kokako cafe in Grey Lynn.
But you know, I’m not being grumpy. All this finally made me realise that, like I said above, this was the LAST TIME I would attend a tech launch, unless the timing agreed with me or I was already in the city for some other business and (especially) there was some real enticement to attend, like a really great goody bag.
Hey, that might sound greedy, but try surviving on freelance rates sometime. We’re the new serfs, and tech companies are the new gentry, so we need a few crumbs thrown our way every now and then.
The gear? Should I care?
Well, the new Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge do look pretty cool, and they clearly mark an appreciable improvement on the previous model, but isn’t that now par for the course?
Let’s first cut to the last bit, just before I cut and ran. The bit where the more serious tech journalists were gingerly fingering the new devices, holding them in their awe-struck hands, and marvelling at the super-sonic processing speed and noticeably more detailed screens.
It was at that precise moment that I realised why the Edge was called the Edge, and that it was nothing at all to do with the U2 guitarist. (I would have been surprised; after all, U2 are an Apple/iTunes-affiliated band). The Edge is called the Edge because of the way the picture bleeds right to both sides of the phone, creating a cool illusion that’s at least as entertaining as one of those 3D bookmarks you see in stationer’s shops, but a lot more elegant.
Seriously though, the Galaxy S6 is a beautiful phone, so much as you can call any mobile device a thing of beauty. It also does a whole lot of things better than previous phones, but each year, it’s becoming harder and harder for Samsung (or Apple, or anyone) to make mobile phones and tablets that surprise with features that amount to anything more than “faster, better, more intuitive.”
If I had the desired income stream, I would probably get one, because I would enjoy using the camera that you can access without laboriously going through various apps to find (yay for that!), by which time you’ve missed the moment. I would relish the opportunity to enjoy a lens that lets in so much light that photos that otherwise would have been rendered extremely murky still come up with contrast and detail on human faces. And I would no doubt have a ball taking selfies with a second camera that is now better than some main cameras on bog-standard phones.
If I had an expendable income, I would also really dig the fact that the S6 and S6 Edge charge their batteries 1.5 times faster than the Galaxy S5, and can even get a maintenance charge wirelessly. Here we go: “With first-of-its-kind fully embedded wireless charging technology, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge are setting a new industry standard for universal wireless charging.” The phone also gives “two hours of HD video play after only 10 minutes of charging.”
It’s interesting that in their presentation, as on their press release, Samsung talks up the design of the phones before any of its other attributes. Priorities? Well, I guess they’re just being pragmatic: it could well be that more people will buy these devices for the style rather than the lightning-fast processing speed or general functionality.
So for the record, “the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge blend beautiful design with meaningful innovation and powerful features. The glass body is available in an array of colourful jewel tones, including White Pearl, Black Sapphire, Gold Platinum, Blue Topaz, and Green Emerald. This incredible design required unique glass holding technology and unmatched craftsmanship.”
The thing that pricked up my ears was the emphasis on business use, with Samsung’s “upgraded, end-to-end secure mobile platform Samsung KNOX, offering defense grade features for real-time protection from malicious attacks… Security is enhanced with a touch fingerprint scanner, super quick authentication and encrypted data saved in secure device storage.” With genuine concerns about the safety of information on mobile platforms, that sounds like a winner.
What else is important? They’re thin and lightweight, with the S6 measuring 6.8mm and 132g and the Edge 7.0mm and 138g. Samsung claims it’s “the world’s first 14nm 64-bit mobile processor technology in combination with 64-bit OS… users can undertake multiple tasks at the same time while enjoying significantly lower power consumption.” Oh, and the screens! Both phones have a 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED screen display “with an incredible pixel density of 577 pixels per inch.”
Lastly, the phones will launch with a new system of “simple and secure mobile payments”, Samsung Play, in the US, but it looks like we’re missing out on that. Instead, Samsung NZ has formed a partnership with “a groundbreaking NZ industry collaboration, bringing together Paymark and mobile network operators with banking partners to offer an integrated mobile wallet experience to Kiwis.” GARY STEEL
PS, Yes, I know, Samsung for some reason write ‘edge’ with a small ‘e’. I don’t approve of that kind of carry-on, so the Edge is intentionally bearing a large ‘E’ on this blog.
* The Samsung Galaxy S6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge are due here early April, but no pricing has yet been issued.