Track Tech: Verizon Wireless' Samsung Galaxy Note Edge and Samsung Gear S Smartwatch

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Technology changes constantly, but sometimes the aesthetics of it are pretty predictable. It’s been awhile since a handheld device has really made us stop to look and ask, “Whoa… what’s that?!” And I mean really ask… not because of the size of the phone or the color of it’s backing… but because the device build was something genuinely NEW. I have received that question with legitimate curiosity, rather often in the past month of reviewing devices for this edition of Track Tech. There were two distinct reasons I garnered that attention: the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge and the Samsung Gear S Smartwatch.

LIVING ON THE EDGE

The beveled Edge screen de-clutters your main screen – providing you with the notifications you want without interfering in your current task. It was great being able to jump to different apps without having to close out of the one I was already in and search for the right screen or home page that housed that app icon. Very handy when needing to access the camera quickly at the racetrack or out with friends. You can customize what shortcut icons you want quick access to in your two “Favorite Apps” panels.

My Favorite Apps panels included shortcuts to email & social networks that I used the most, plus my camera, gallery & photo editing software. There is also a briefing panel that shows weather, missed calls, and app notification amounts. A quick calls contacts bar allows you to list a handful of contacts, essentially working as a speed dial option – just tap their name and the Edge calls them. A pedometer panel, trending topics on Twitter and an array of Yahoo! Panels from finance to sports also come pre-installed. You can add a music panel if you use the Milk Music app, available to all Samsung users. You can also download additional free Edge Panels – a planner, data usage notifications and browser bookmarks are a few examples. There is no limit to how many panels you can have active at any one time, just remember that an excessive number of them might have an effect on your battery life. I kept 5 panels active and I did not see any real impact on my battery in comparison to when I used the Galaxy Note 4.

LESSEN YOUR LOAD BY INCREASING YOUR EFFICIENCY

I found myself using the Create Note & S Note List widgets very often when at the track. During press conferences or just moments of inspiration, I would pull the S Pen from it’s corner of the Edge & jot down whatever thought I wanted to remember, quote I wanted to use from a driver, or points I wanted to make sure to touch on in an upcoming article. It’s not unusual for journalists to have a scratch pad on hand, but I loved having that much less to carry and the ability to still edit & change my notes as much as I would on a physical piece of paper. The user can type through the keyboard, write by hand w the S Pen, change the type of writing instrument you use (pencil, pen, marker), the width of the stroke, and even the color of the text – so I would type notes into the “notebook” during a presser, but then use a different color ink to scratch something out or write additional notes in the margin as things came up during the day that were related to said topic. That gave the S Note a tangible element, even though the actual notebook was all digital. You can add pages to the notebook or create as many separate notebooks as you want. I had one for each presser/event to help keep things organized.

I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW

20150328_122816The camera always gets love from me on my smartphones – I absolutely love capturing moments and memories via photographs, even if it’s not actual film. The front-facing, or “selfie” camera on the Note Edge leads the field with 3.7 megapixels. It was a lot of fun to use during the Indy Fans Tweet Up that I hosted at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 28th. I was able to quickly get shots with our special guests without having to bother passing folks with requests to take multiple photographs. The back-facing camera is even more impressive, with bragging rights to 16 megapixels! I found myself slack-jawed by how clear the imagery was when zooming in on a subject (a close up of Sebastien Bourdais preparing for practice in St. Pete’s is a perfect example) – this level of clarity on a zoomed image is uncommon with almost every other smartphone on the market right now. The images gave appropriate contrast, appreciating the light and shadows of the subject matter in frame, rather than washing it out with white balance or losing clarity in depth.

One feature I was particularly fond of, was the sequential photo-taking. By holding down the shutter button, the camera would take up to 30 photos in a row, creating a flipbook. This was very helpful when needing to capture a shot of a driver or car moving past quickly – I could look at the flipbook one image at a time in the gallery and pull the one that gave me the best angle, clearest view and encapsulated the subject in the way I had remembered seeing them through my own eyes.

MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK

The Samsung Galaxy Note Edge is available through Verizon Wireless on multiple payment plans. You can opt for the Verizon EDGE plan and pay an additional $33.33 a month, or commit to the standard 2-year contract, bringing the price of the device down to $399.99, a 50% savings from purchasing the phone outright for $799.99. The price tag is steep but as with most things in the technological world, you absolutely get what you pay – especially when you decide to partner with the Note Edge for all your telephone, texting, personal and professional tasks, plus social media and communication requirements.

WAIT… WHAT IS THAT?!

I was asked this question about the Samsung Gear S on a daily basis while reviewing it, which admittedly, I thought was pretty cool. I like getting the opportunity to explain the product to curious individuals, but it is basically its own advertising & marketing campaign simply by being on the user’s wrist. I had multiple people ask me if it was the Apple Watch or simply, “Hey… I don’t mean to pry, but what kind of watch is that?!” Once I showed it to them, the majority were thoroughly impressed. I even had a few tell me that they had been considering switching from Apple to Android and the Gear S just made the decision for them! I loved the excitement that surrounded this device and the positive responses I continually received.

Having used multiple phone wearables/watches, I have to say that I prefer the Gear S over others. It has one of, if not the largest screen of a wearable currently available on the market, yet the slim design and low profile feels extremely natural on the wrist. As someone that avoids wearing watches & bracelets due to the amount of time I spend typing on a keyboard every day, I was surprised by how much it did NOT interfere with my comfort. It simply became a part of getting dressed every morning and after only using it for a month, I notice myself missing it every day now!

FEELING LIKE JAMES BOND

The Gear S allows the user to do nearly everything they could do from their phone – make and answer calls, read and send texts, (calls & text interactions can be completed manually or by hands-free Voice S controls) check the weather, see notifications from social media apps & email accounts (all customizable on your main unit through the Samsung Gear app); features you normally don’t have with a phone, such as results of sleep analyzation, pedometer, heart rate check, and UV monitor. You can customize the font, the features, the wallpaper and even the home page apps on the Gear S as well. It is as personalized a wearable as you will find.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE…

Once you get used to having a pedometer, and the motivation to hit those 10,000 steps every day, it’s hard to live without it! The motivation I mention is actually a Gear S feature that I loved! If the user is sitting for more than 1 hour, the watch buzzes/rings/vibrates (depending on the way you have it set to notify you) and the screen text reads, “Inactive Time: 1 hour – How about going for a walk?” As mentioned earlier, I spend many hours a day in front of a computer for work, so having that notice made me more conscious of how fast 60 minutes goes by; it made me GET UP AND MOVE. I enjoyed racking up those steps and hitting my goals. So when I left in a rush for the IndyCar track in St. Petersburg one morning and forgot to put my Gear S back on after charging it up, I was completely bummed. I dealt with it how I deal with most things in my life… with a sense of humor:

STAYING SAFE & SAVING TIME

When I was driving to Indianapolis by way of Columbus OH last month, the Samsung Gear S gave me a traffic warning: there was a 17 minute back up about 22 miles in front of me. The Gear S synced up to the Samsung Note Edge and redirected me on a quicker route once I confirmed that I wanted one. I was able to exit I-71 sooner than anticipated, take an alternate route, and still arrive at my lunchtime break-point in Columbus on time!

I want to be clear, I would not have seen that warning pop up on the phone itself because I did not have it on a map app at the time and I was driving with it on silent. (I know this particular route like the back of my hand.) Because I had the Gear S watch on however, it vibrated to give me a heads up that there was a traffic notification and ended up saving me a ton of time and gas – all without having to take my eyes off the road or hands off the wheel thanks to the Voice commands.

DIRECT CONNECTION

Samsung Gear S, unlike other wearables, connects you directly to the Verizon Wireless network. Meaning, you can make calls and use your data from the Gear S, even when you disconnected from Bluetooth and away from your phone. When you select the Gear S as a member of your Samsung device family, it is included as one of your 10 allowed devices on the MORE Everything Plan. The Gear S retails for $399.99 and that price drops to $349.99 if activated through Verizon Wireless with the standard 2-year contract.

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