The iPhone SE was the best phone Apple ever made, and now it's dead - Canadanewsmedia
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The iPhone SE was the best phone Apple ever made, and now it's dead

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I only wanted one thing out of 2018’s iPhone event: a new iPhone SE. In failing to provide it Apple seems to have quietly put the model out to pasture — and for this I curse them eternally. Because it was the best phone the company ever made.

If you were one of the many who passed over the SE back in 2015, when it made its debut, that’s understandable. The iPhone 6S was the latest and greatest, and of course fixed a few of the problems Apple had kindly introduced with the entirely new design of the 6. But for me the SE was a perfect match.

See, I’ve always loved the iPhone design that began with the 4. That storied phone is perhaps best remembered for being left in a bar ahead of release and leaked by Gizmodo — which is too bad, because for once the product was worthy of the lavish unveiling Apple now bestows on every device it puts out.

The 4 established an entirely new industrial design aesthetic that was at once instantly recognizable and highly practical. Gone were the smooth, rounded edges and back of the stainless original iPhone (probably the second-best phone Apple made) and the jellybean-esque 3G and 3GS.

In the place of those soft curves were hard lines and uncompromising geometry: a belt of metal running around the edge, set off from the glass sides by the slightest of steps. It highlighted and set off the black glass of the screen and bezel, producing a of specular outline from any angle.

The camera was flush and the home button (RIP) sub-flush, entirely contained within the body, making the device perfectly flat both front and back. Meanwhile the side buttons boldly stood out. Volume in bold, etched circles; the mute switch easy to find but impossible to accidentally activate; the power button perfectly placed for a reaching index finger. Note that all these features are directly pointed at usability: making things easier, better, more accessible, while also being attractive and cohesive as parts of a single object.

Compared to the iPhone 4, every single other phone, including Samsung’s new “iPhone killer” Galaxy S, was a cheap-looking mess of plastic, incoherently designed or at best workmanlike. And don’t think I’m speaking as an Apple fanboy; I was not an iPhone user at the time. In fact, I was probably still using my beloved G1 — talk about beauty and the beast!

The design was strong enough that it survived the initially awkward transition to a longer screen in the 5, and with that generation it also gained the improved rear side that alleviated the phone’s unfortunate tendency towards… well, shattering.

The two-tone grey iPhone 5S, however, essentially left no room for improvement. And after 4 years, it was admittedly perhaps time to freshen things up a bit. Unfortunately, what Apple ended up doing was subtracting all personality from the device while adding nothing but screen space.

The 6 was, to me, simply ugly. It was reminiscent of the plethora of boring Android phones at the time — merely higher quality than them, not different. The 6S was similarly ugly, and the 7 through 8 somehow further banished any design that set themselves apart, while reversing course on some practical measures in allowing an increasingly large camera bump and losing the headphone jack. The X, at least, looked a bit different.

But to return to the topic at hand, it was after the 6S that Apple had introduced the SE. Although it nominally stood for “Special Edition,” the name was also a nod to the Macintosh SE. Ironically given the original meaning of “System Expansion,” the new SE was the opposite: essentially an iPhone 6S in the body of a 5S, complete with improved camera, Touch ID sensor, and processor. The move was likely intended as a sort of lifeboat for users who still couldn’t bring themselves to switch to the drastically redesigned, and considerably larger, new model.

It would take time, Apple seems to have reasoned, to convert these people, the types who rarely buy first generation Apple products and cherish usability over novelty. So why not coddle them a bit through this difficult transition?

The SE appealed not just to the nostalgic and neophobic, but simply people who prefer a smaller phone. I don’t have particularly large or small hands, but I preferred this highly pocketable, proven design to the new one for a number of reasons.

Flush camera so it doesn’t get scratched up? Check. Normal, pressable home button? Check. Flat, symmetrical design? Check. Actual edges to hold onto? Check. Thousands of cases already available? Check — although I didn’t use one for a long time. The SE is best without one.

At the time, the iPhone SE was more compact and better looking than anything Apple offered, while making almost no compromises at all in terms of functionality. The only possible objection was its size, and that was (and is) a matter of taste.

It was the best object Apple ever designed, filled with the best tech it had ever developed. It was the best phone it ever made.

And the best phone it’s made since then, too, if you ask me. Ever since the 6, it seems to me that Apple has only drifted, casting about for something to captivate its users the way the iPhone 4’s design and new graphical capabilities did, all the way back in 2010. It honed that design to a cutting edge and then, when everyone expected the company to leap forward, it tiptoed instead, perhaps afraid to spook the golden goose.

To me the SE was Apple allowing itself one last victory lap on the back of a design it would never surpass. It’s understandable that it would not want to admit, this many years on, that anyone could possibly prefer something it created nearly a decade ago to its thousand-dollar flagship — a device, I feel I must add, that not only compromises visibly in its design (I’ll never own a notched phone if I can help it) but backpedals on practical features used by millions, like Touch ID and a 3.5mm headphone jack. This is in keeping with similarly user-unfriendly choices made elsewhere in its lineup.

So while I am disappointed in Apple, I’m not surprised. After all, it’s disappointed me for years. But I still have my SE, and I intend to keep it for as long as possible. Because it’s the best thing the company ever made, and it’s still a hell of a phone.

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Galaxy S9 update brings bad news for UK Samsung fans

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Galaxy S9 released back in March and was certainly more of an iterative upgrade than a substantial reimagining of flagship hardware.

That is because the device retained extremely similar aesthetics to the Galaxy S8.

However, the S9 did introduce a few design changes, such as moving its fingerprint reader below its camera module, to improve the user experience overall.

Instead of packing a host of visual changes, the S9 delivered a number of improvements internally.

That is because the flagship came with a rapid Exynos 9810 processor or Snapdragon 845 chipset depending on the region it was sold in.

However, the Galaxy S9’s showpiece was by far its camera sensor that could switch from f/1.5 to f/2.4 depending on light conditions.

Such technology meant the Galaxy S9 was able to take clearer photos with more detail than its predecessor.

Although the Galaxy S9 launched with Android 8 Oreo, Samsung recently announced its next-generation software skin called One UI that will run over Android 9 Pie.

The new firmware will arrive in an update for the Galaxy S9 next year, meaning Samsung fans have some huge changes to look forward to.

During its developer conference keynote in San Francisco, Samsung insisted it had designed One UI to make navigating on larger devices with one hand easier.

The South Korean tech giant showed applications such as messages displaying the majority of their content in the middle and bottom of the display, meaning the user would not have to stretch in order to reach certain functionality.

But ahead of its highly-anticipated upgrade to Android 9 Pie, the Galaxy S9 has been updated by Samsung.

The giant recently announced a new Ice Blue variant of both the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ that features a gradient finish.

The top of the device has a teal-coloured look, but the colour fades towards the bottom of the phone, presenting a white glow.

Such a design choice is reminiscent of the Twilight colour on both the Huawei P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro that ooze a slightly different gradients depending on which angle light is striking them.

However, Samsung’s latest announcement brings bad news for UK fans of the firm, as it appears the Ice Blue colour is only available in China.

Priced at 5,499 (£611.49) and 6,499 (£722.69) Chinese Yuan for the S9 and S9+ variant respectively, it is currently unknown whether the colour will ever arrive in other territories.

Samsung typically releases new colours of its flagship products after they have initially arrived on the market.

Some, such as the red variant of the Galaxy S9, have remained isolated to certain regions, rather than being available universally.

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Withings Pulse HR is the firm's first dedicated fitness tracker

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We’ve seen two new fitness trackers from Withings in two months, and the latest is called the Withings Pulse HR.

Following on from its latest hybrid smartwatch, the Withings Steel HR Sport, which was announced back in September, the company has unveiled its first fitness tracker that actually looks like a fitness tracker.

The Pulse HR has a rectangular design with a long screen, and is similar in overall style to the Fitbit Charge 3 or Huawei Band 3 Pro designs, rather than the traditional watch look we’re used to seeing from Withings.

A lot of features from the Withings Steel line have been carried over here though, with the tracker boasting up to 20-day battery life, according to the manufacturer.

It features a heart rate sensor that measures your beats per minute during exercise sessions, and at 10-minute intervals throughout the rest of the day. It’s water-resistant too, so you can track swimming as well as running and cycling.

There’s also Connected GPS here, so if you want to track your location when you’re running you’ll be able to, although you’ll have to take your phone out with you.

There are 30 different sports available in the tracker’s multisport tracking mode, ranging from skiing to ice hockey and boxing to yoga. We don’t yet have the full list of activities, but if yours is a popular sport there’s a good chance you’ll be able to track it with this device.

Finger on the pulse

The Pulse HR is also capable of sleep tracking, and will pair with the Withings Health Mate app to give you a full breakdown of your nightly data, as well as your steps and exercise. 

Most of your stats will also be available on the tracker’s OLED display, although we’ve yet to learn the specs of that screen.

The tracker has a stainless steel body, and the strap is made of silicone. It’s currently only available in black, although other color options – including the pink and grey options pictured above – will be available in January.

If you live in the UK, you’re able to pre-order the Withings Pulse HR now from the official Withings website and Amazon, and it’s due to start shipping on December 5. It will also be available in the US, but not in Australia.

The Withings Pulse HR price is £119.95 / $129.95, which is the same price as the Withings Steel in the UK.

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Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) India Launch Set for November 20, Price Tipped to Be Around Rs. 35000

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Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) is set to arrive in India on November 20. Samsung on Wednesday sent invites to the media to confirm the launch of the Galaxy A9 (2018) in the country. The smartphone was unveiled at an event in Kuala Lumpur last month with four rear camera sensors. It is touted to be the “world’s first rear quad camera” phone. The phone also features an Infinity Display with an 18.5:9 aspect ratio as well as include up to 8GB of RAM. The formal invite sent by Samsung confirms the launch of the Galaxy A9 (2018) in India. It reads “4X Fun” in a bold font to highlight the quad rear camera setup featuring Galaxy A9 (2018). In the meanwhile, a report cites industry sources to claim an approximate launch price.

Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) price in India

IANS cites industry sources to claim the Galaxy A9 (2018) price in India will be around Rs. 35,000. Interestingly, a previous report had claimed — using Samsung website code as the source — that the smartphone will be launched in India carrying a Rs. 39,000 price tag.

Globally, the Galaxy A9 (2018) price starts at EUR 599 (roughly Rs. 48,800) and GBP 549 (roughly Rs. 44,700). Official India price details of the smartphone are yet to be revealed. Moreover, it comes in Bubblegum Pink, Caviar Black, and Lemonade Blue colour variants.

Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) specifications

The dual-SIM (Nano) Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) runs Android 8.0 Oreo on top of Samsung Experience UX and features a 6.3-inch full-HD+ (1080×2220 pixels) Infinity Display Super AMOLED panel with an 18.5:9 aspect ratio. Under the hood, there is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC, with four cores clocked at 2.2GHz and four cores clocked at 1.8GHz. This is paired with either 6GB or 8GB RAM options. On the back, the quadruple rear camera setup of the Galaxy A9 (2018) includes a 24-megapixel primary camera featuring an f/1.7 aperture, a 10-megapixel telephoto camera featuring 2x optical zoom and an f/2.4 aperture, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera with a 120-degree lens and f/2.4 aperture, and a 5-megapixel depth camera with an f/2.2 aperture. There is also a 24-megapixel front camera with an f/2.0 aperture. The phone also has a Face Unlock feature as well as Bixby assistant and Samsung Pay integration.

Samsung has provided 128GB of onboard storage on the Galaxy A9 (2018) that is expandable via microSD card (up to 512GB). On the connectivity front, the handset has 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11ac (dual band, 2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth v5.0, USB Type-C, NFC, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Sensors on board include accelerometer, ambient light sensor, gyroscope, magnetometer, proximity sensor, and an RGB light sensor. The smartphone also has a rear-facing fingerprint sensor. Besides, it packs a 3,800mAh battery that supports fast charging.

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