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    Nextbit Robin
    Nextbit Robin is a cloud-first smartphone

    In the order of the very best to the best, GrateNews round up the best of the best smartphones this year. In this year’s list, we have also included some of the lesser known brands that are making a big splash designing the device you use the most everyday. So, if you already own one of these great devices, a big pat on your back, if not, you have been informed.

    1. iPhone 7 Plus

    If you can get past the fact that the latest iPhone without a 35mm headphone jack, then the iPhone 7 Plus is the best phone launched this year. iPhone 7 Plus comes with a dual-lens element that combines a wide angle camera and a telephoto camera that have a 2 times optical zoom and and up to 10 times digital zoom for photos. The dual-lens camera will be able to shoot pictures with bokeh or “depth-of-field effect”, separating the background from the foreground for portraits. It is also one of the first water-resistant phone from Apple.

    2. Google Pixel XL

    2016 is the year of the Pixel. Discontinuing the Nexus series, Google’s latest phones, Pixel and Pixel XL, takes full advantage of the Android operating system and Google Assistant to offer an incredibly smooth performance. Although the phone’s battery is smaller than the Samsung Galaxy 7 Edge, the new Pixel XL comes with a fast charging feature that can revitalise your phone for up to 7 hours of usage from a mere 15-minute charge.

    3. Samsung Galaxy 7 Edge

    Although it is hard to ignore the exploding Samsung phones, Samsung still makes some of the best smartphones in the world. The Galaxy S7 Edge is one of them and features excellent performance, fantastic dual pixel camera and brilliant curve screen display.

    4. iPhone SE

    The iPhone SE is basically a very small iPhone 6s that packs Apple’s latest A9 chip, M9 co-processor, 12-megapixel rear camera and 5-megapixel front-facing camera. According to Apple, the iPhone SE two times faster than the iPhone 5s on performance, and three times faster on graphics, making it the fastest 4-inch smartphone ever.

    5. HTC 10

    We have friends that swear by phones designed by HTC. Well if you are a HTC fan, you will be glad to know that HTC 10 is created by fusing the great design elements from previous models as well as improving the not-so-good features. The result is a premium looking smartphone has a great camera, up to 2 days of battery life and sounds incredible with the HTC BoomSound and speakers.

    6. OnePlus 3T

    If you still haven’t heard of the the company OnePlus, they are known in the industry as the “flagship killer” for producing one of the most talked­-about smartphones of 2014. This year, their OnePlus 3T will probably repeat the feat. OnePlus 3T is a super sough-after smartphone that packs a ultra-fast processor, 6GB worth of RAM and a 16MP camera into a sleek metal body.

    7. LG G5

    Ditching its plastic casing for an all-metal enclosure for the LG G5 seems to have done the South Korean company some good. The new phone doesn’t feel cheap now thanks to its firm aluminium frame. The phone is also full of geeky add-ons like the LG Cam Plus, an attachment that turns the phone into a point-and-shoot camera, the LG Hi-Fi Plus, a DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) tuned by Bang & Olufsen to improved audio playback and removable battery slot. When was the last time you had a smartphone with a removable battery?

    8. Sony Z5 Premium

    The Sony Z5 Premium is the world’s first ever 4K smartphone. That means that Sony has successfully crammed 3,840×2,160-pixel onto the 5.5-inch display. Unfortunately, that’s is probably the only headlining feature for the phone. Although the phone also features a new fingerprint sensor on top of the on/off button, a 23-megapixel rear camera with 4K capabilities and waterproof design, its hefty $1,100 price tag can be a turn off.

    9. Nextbit Robin

    Calling it the “first Android phone that makes running out of space history”, Nextbit Robin integrates the cloud with your Android OS seamlessly. The project that started on Kickstarter, received over USD 1.3 million in funding and looks on its way to make their cloud-first smartphone a hit. The company’s first phone, Robin, intelligently backs up your apps, photos and other items and restores them when you need it.

    10. Huawei P9

    It is hard not to compare Huawei with OPPO. Both Chinese company are vying for the leadership position of offering value-for-money smartphones. This year, Huawei certainly made some people sit up with their collaboration with legendary optics makers, Leica. The P9 is the third dual lens smartphone on the list but it works a little differently than that of the iPhone 7 Plus and LG G5. Both rear cameras takes the shot at the same time with one capturing a colour image and the other a monochromatic shot, resulting in better contrast and details in the images. And having Superman Henry Cavill and Scarlett Johansson promoting the phone for them certainly doesn’t hurt (see video).

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      South Korean tech giant Samsung has unveiled its first round-faced smartwatch, the Gear S2, ahead of the IFA trade show as well as the highly anticipated iPhone 6s event next week.

      Taking on the much-hyped Apple Watch in the fast-growing tech wearable segment, the device will come in 2 models – the Gear S2 and the Gear S2 classic. The Gear S2 classic is targeted at consumers that prefer a more ‘timeless’ watch design, offering a black finish with a matching leather band while the Gear S2 comes in a more sporty and modern design.

      Samsung Gear S2
      L-R: Samsung Gear S2 and S2 Classic

      The design of the round-faced smartwatch was first ‘leaked’ last week when Samsung’s head of design for America, Dennis Miloseski, posted an image of himself taking the Gear S2 out for a ‘test drive’ on to Instagram.

      Compared to previous smartwatches from the company, Samsung Gear S2 is less bulky at 11.4mm thick and fitted with a beautiful 30mm circular screen capable of a 360 x 360 resolution (302 ppi) output. Powered by a 1-GHz dual core processor, the Gear S2 runs on the company’s very own Tizen operating system instead of Android Wear. That means that it will only speak to Samsung devices and you will be missing out on a host of third-party apps available on the Google Play store which is not cool.

      As one of the few smartwatches in the market that can operate on its own without the need for a phone, the Gear 2 comes with a 3G connectivity option that allows you to check notifications, calendars, e-mails, news and send text messages from your wrist. The new Gear S2 is also expected to be able to make mobile payment, remotely control home appliances and function as a fitness tracker.

      “For the past several years, Samsung has pioneered and advanced the wearables category, bringing brave new concepts to the smart wearables market,” said JK Shin, CEO and Head of Samsung’s IT & Mobile Business.

      “The Samsung Gear S2 reflects Samsung’s most progressive innovation. It is the perfect complement for any occasion, easily taking you from day to night, from work to workout—and ensuring that you get more out of every moment in your day, by making it smarter and ultimately more personal and fun.”

      As for battery life, Samsung claims that the Gear 2 can last up to 3 days after fully charging it on the wireless charging dock that comes with the watch. The Samsung Gear S2 will be available in a Dark Gray case with a Dark Gray band and Silver case with a White band. The Samsung Gear S2 classic will be available in a Black case with a leather band.

      From the initial images, the Samsung Gear 2 certainly looks more promising than its curved-screen predecessors. Prices for the new smartwatch will be officially released later this month during the IFA trade fair in Berlin.

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        Samsung NX500

        Samsung’s latest camera, the NX500 is a powerful beast. Its features put more costly professional DSLR models to shame. The compact NX500 comes with a 28-megapixel APS-C sensor, a best-in-class DRIMeV image processor, NX autofocus system and even shoots 4K videos. Samsung basically shrunk the bigger, more burly cousin, the high-end Samsung NX1, into a tiny body and offer you a 50% discount for it.

        The compact mirrorless camera can shoot up to 9 frames per second and has an impressive ISO range of between 100-51200, which means you will be covered for action shots and most low-light situations. Its 3-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen can also be tilted upwards to easily record selfies. A ‘Mobile’ button located on the top of the camera beside the hotshoe mount allows you to quickly access the camera’s wireless connectivity options like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. An array of options are available for you to either email, backup or share the images directly on social media.

        Speaking about the capabilities of the new camera, Eugene Goh, Vice President, IT & Mobile, Samsung Electronics Singapore said, “We have recognized that taking a photograph has gone beyond just capturing moments for sentimentality and nostalgia – users want to share these moments instantly from wherever they are. That is why Samsung has built the NX500 in such a way that caters to everyday photographers. With its compact size, revolutionary shooting and focus speed, consumers enjoy superb image quality photos, capturing signature moments in every shot.”

        Samsung NX500 top view
        Samsung NX500 top view
        Samsung NX500 front view
        Samsung NX500 front view

        Other than shooting high resolution 28-megapixel pictures, the camera is also a capable video recorder, supporting both 4K and Ultra HD resolutions. One thing to note, the Samsung NX500 records only the centre 60% of the screen in 4K mode. Your videos will appear cropped as if you zoomed in with the lens when taking the video. So you need to keep that in mind when taking videos. The recorded video will also use a new video codec called H.264 HEVC Codec that compresses the videos to half the size without losing quality.

        The Samsung NX500 is available in black, white, and brown and is now on sale at all major electronics stores for an affordable price of S$1,159 (body only).

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          Samsung Galaxy S6

          Samsung has just announced their new Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge after a few weeks of teasing, and it’s everything we’ve been expecting so far.

          Many articles are talking about these rebooted offerings from the Korean electronics giant, so we’ve narrowed down the six most important points for your easy reading pleasure.

          1. These phones are Samsung’s most beautiful, ever

          Ever seen a Samsung phone made of metal, without its now-signature plastic look and feel? We haven’t either. And that’s a very big deal, considering that the Korean giant hasn’t had an upscale metal body for its phones since… not ever.

          What’s most important on everyone’s minds is that fact that these Samsung phones finally feel as premium as the prices they command.

          2. Great design and good materials cannot be important enough

          We can probably all agree that Samsung has messed up pretty bad in the design side of things over the years.

          Despite flaunting a fantastic system under the hood over the previous Galaxy S phone models, critics and fans haven’t actually been as excited as they are right now about the launch of a phone that has a drastically-improved design and build.

          3. The S6 Edge is, quite literally, in a league of its own

          There’s that obvious metaphor that we’re tempted to use with regard to the Galaxy S6 Edge’s two curved screens, but we’ll spare you guys the face palms.

          Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge (photo: Android Central)

          Seriously though, there’s no other phone that looks quite like the S6 Edge (save for the larger Note 4 Edge). Although we’re still not convinced on the ergonomics of the phone’s curved design, we can’t deny that the S6 Edge gives a truly unique experience for users, with its useful Edge screens providing an additional display area for icons, notifications and/or live updates from some apps.

          We’re curious to see if any other phone maker actually picks up on this strange design.

          4. Samsung’s fear of Apple and other Android manufacturers is very, very real

          It’s pretty telling that Samsung has actually put design as a priority in shaping its flagship products; that has evidently not been the case over the course of the Galaxy S phone releases (either that, or Samsung’s designers ought to be sacked).

          This comes after their botched release of the Galaxy S5, where superpower features did not make up for its drab design.

          They’ve also adopted a few features that remind us of Apple: a payments function – unsurprisingly named Samsung Pay, a narrower body for easier one-handed use (something that Steve Jobs used to preach), and a fingerprint ID system that looks very much like Apple’s TouchID.

          5. Are the trade-offs worth it?

          Samsung’s new improvements to their flagship phones are all well and good, but will the trade-offs be worthwhile in keeping users happy? Gone are the removable battery, microSD card slot, and the S5’s waterproofing – features that hardcore Samsung users hold in high regard, and ammunition often used to fire bullet holes into the Apple products.

          6. Would this help Samsung recover from their massive profit slump?

          Whether it’s the emergence of  the long-awaited larger iPhones, or the constantly bloated software offerings from Samsung, or the incredibly cheap plasticky phones, Samsung’s mobile and IT division have seen 2014 profits slump by 40 per cent from 2013. That’s massive.

          This lineup of newly-designed phones are in no doubt an effort – or, depending on how you see it, a knee-jerk reaction – to that slide. Samsung obviously believes that the key to arresting the problem is to have an overloaded emphasis on design features. We’re not saying this may or may not work, but it will definitely be interesting to see how it helps.

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            Samsung Galaxy A series

            It seems to me that Samsung is pretty much all over the place these days. Shortly after launching their high-end flagship phablet Galaxy Note 4 and gimmicky Galaxy Note Edge, Samsung has now shifted its focus to the cheap smartphones segment by launching 3 new models under the Galaxy A line. Launched first in China in a bid to win over consumers in a market filled with affordable smartphone makers like Xiaomi, the A series is now available in Singapore.

            The 3 smartphones – Galaxy A7 4G, Galaxy A5 4G and Galaxy A3 4G, are slim, very slim. The thinnest of the lot, the A7, is a mere 6.3mm thick while the A3 and A5 are a tad thicker at 6.9mm and 6.7mm respectively. Colour options wise, the Galaxy A5 4G and Galaxy A3 4G come in a multitude of choices like Pearl White, Midnight Black, Platinum Silver, Soft Pink and Champagne Gold while the dual-SIM Galaxy A7 4G is only be available in Pearl White and Midnight Black.

            Baiting the younger selfie-loving market with its 5-megapixel front-facing camera, Samsung has provided some innovative tweaks to its software to make it easy for them to take all sorts of selfies. Having taken a few selfies myself, I think the palm selfie feature is a really great idea! Here are the various selfie modes available:

            • Wide Selfie: Pan and gather all your friends in one picture with the ultra wide 120° angle
            • Palm Selfie: Show your palm to the camera to have your picture taken after 2 seconds
            • Voice Selfie: Use voice control to capture your perfect moment
            • Animated Selfie: Take up to 20 pictures continuously and stitch them into a collage of animated GIFs that can easily be shared with friends on social media networks
            • Beauty Face: Retouch your skin, enlarge eyes and slim your face in real-time for that perfect selfie
            • Rear-Cam Selfie: Take high-quality selfies with the back camera and built-in selfie alarm

            “The GALAXY A Series, crafted exquisitely with a full metal body, offers superior hardware and the best possible social media experience for our young and trend-conscious consumers,” said Eugene Goh, Vice President, IT & Mobile, Samsung Electronics Singapore.

            Samsung Galaxy A5
            Samsung Galaxy A5

            The 4.5-inch screen A3 and 5-inch screen A5 are both running on a quad-core 1.2GHz processor, while the largest 5.5-inch screen A7 is equipped with a multicore processor combining two separate quad core processors for more processing power. All 3 Android smartphones supports 4G LTE connectivity, comes with a built-in 16GB storage and a microSD slot that takes up to 128GB.

            So, are the new Samsung phones ‘affordable’ enough to cut a slice of the lower end market? Judging from the prices for the A3 ( S$448) and A5 (S$598), the A series is right smack in the mid-range zone rather than the low-end. No pricing details yet for the A7 but it is expected to go on sale later this quarter. It’s a tough road ahead for Samsung if their A series is aimed at phone makers like Xiaomi, whose 5.5-inch quad-core Xiaomi Note 4G with a similar front-facing 5-megapixels camera and a rear 13-megapixels camera is only going for S$229.

            Not quite out-pricing the competition or offering better specs, Samsung is sweetening the deal (literally!) by giving out sticky candies and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream from now till 8 February 2015 if you buy a phone from the Galaxy A series. While stocks last.

            Check out local telcos like SingTel, M1 and Starhub for more details.

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              Shortly after Apple’s unveiled its “phablet-class” smartphone, the iPhone 6 Plus, the “king of phablet” Samsung fights back with an exciting lineup of large-screen smartphones and a host of accessories. Introducing two new smartphones to join its flagship Galaxy Note series, the GALAXY Note 4 and GALAXY Note Edge, the Korean conglomerate also showcased the Samsung Gear S smartwatch and a virtual reality headset at the recent World Tour event held in Singapore. We look at some interesting features on these new smartphones from the originator of the phablet.

              Samsung GALAXY Note 4 4G+


              Screen size

              Similar to its predecessor, the GALAXY Note 4 comes with a 5.7” screen which Samsung says is an optimum size for large screen smartphones. The Quad HD Super AMOLED display has a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels and is capable of producing clearer and more vivid images.

              S Pen

              By doubling the pressure sensitivity of previous stylus, writing on the Note 4 using the new S Pen feels a lot like writing on paper. You can launch the Air Command function simply by pressing a button along the S Pen to use features such as Action Memo, Screen Write, Image Clip and a new Smart Select feature, that allows users to “collect” content from multiple webpages and share it.


              Samsung has also refined the way you multitask on the Galaxy Note. Because of the larger screen and the S PEN, you can minimise applications, drag and drop content and navigate between different tasks like calendar, website and messaging apps easily. If you are new to Note, it will take a little bit of getting used to when it comes to managing the full, split or pop up views on the Note 4.


              Not to be outdone by Apple’s new iSight camera, the GALAXY Note 4’s 16 megapixel shooter also comes with an optical image stabilizer they call Smart OIS. The front camera however is an impressive 3.7 megapixel with f1.9 aperture. We were impressed with the ease of taking wefie (wide selfie) shots with the new Note.

              Quick charge

              One of the main gripe of larger screen phones is its battery life. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 sought to solve this issue with its fast charging ability. You are able to gain 50% battery simply by charging it for 30 minutes. Great for getting some power back onto the phone while having a cuppa.


              Samsung GALAXY Note Edge 4G+

              One of the most immediate things you will notice about the Note Edge is it’s unusual curved screen on the right hand side of the phone. Although we feel that our fat fingers are almost always going to accidentally touch the curved screen and launch some apps when holding the phone, the qimmicky Note Edge might still have some uses.


              Quick launch for most used apps

              The curved screen can be used as a dock for apps you use most frequently. Housing your favourite apps there will save you some time from sieving through pages of apps.

              Check your messages on the stealth

              You know how bosses sometimes give you the death stare when you pick your phone up to check for messages. Well, now you can check them without even shifting from your seat as the Note Edge displays your messages on its curved screen.

              Breaking news

              If you are a news junkie and need to constantly know what is going on in the world, the curved screen can be customised to display breaking news headlines and sports scores. Currently, Yahoo! seems to be the only provider to make use of the Note Edge’s additional real estate but we are sure more media companies will hop onto the bangwagon if the Note Edge takes off.

              Use it as a ruler

              Finally, if you have no use for any of the above, use the Note Edge as a 10cm ruler!

              The GALAXY Note 4 4G+ will be available at $1,088 from 11 October 2014 in Charcoal Black and Frost White at local telcos, consumer electronics stores, authorized retailers and Samsung Experience Stores. No release date yet for the GALAXY Note Edge but it is expected to go on sale later part of 2014.

              To pre-order the GALAXY Note 4 or register your interest for the Galaxy Note Edge, check out the following local telcos for more information: