Friday, 10 June 2011

Samsung Galaxy S2 secrets

Whilst using the Samsung Galaxy S2 you may want to know what secrets the phone has and what little tricks we have to play with. Whilst the Samsung Galaxy S2 has a number of widely known features which are covered in the manual it also has a lot of hidden secrets that we can take advantage of.

Firstly the “Zoom” feature for the browser and gallery.
This is a trick that is featured in the manual and often comes up on the screen when we open a number of programs. To use it you need to place a finger on either side of the screen then tilt the phone up and down. This is a new function and one that is useful for some though using the “pinch” method is generally just as easy and a little bit more 
 “natural” to users.

Secondly is the “Print Screen” feature
This is a feature that has been carried over from some earlier Samsung's including the Samsung Wave. This is the method I get pictures for the site through and what you need to do is press the “menu” and the “lock” button at the same time. If you press them right the phone will vibrate then give a small message saying “Screen captured. Saved as image file.” These files will be stored in a folder called “ScreenCapture”.

The phone also had a shortcut to the "Task manager". The typical way of getting to the Task manager is through the application screen however if you hold down the "Home" button you get a list of the last few apps you've had open and an option to open the task manager. This saves a lot of time if you are wanting to find the task manager.

The phone also has a secret search function that appears if you hold the menu button on the homescreen and acts much like the "search button" on other android phones. This is something that very cleverly allows Samsung to take off the much maligned "Search" button and yet also have a search function. Clever lot these Samsung folk.


So some new things well...did you know that by using a tethered connection (guide here) you can actually use the phone as a Wi-Fi card allowing a computer without a Wi-Fi adapter to connect to a wireless hub inside your home!

If you slide your finger along the notification bar (the bar that has the clock and the signal bars on) you can change the brightness of the phone. If you slide your finger to the right you will make the screen brighter if you scroll it to the left you will darken the screen.

We've also found that the Samsung Galaxy S2 has a secret test menu that allows you to check if you're phone is in perfect working order with tests ranging from the Proximity sensor to checking the vibration and accelerometer.

And course we've also learned how to access that tricky to access 5.1. dolby surround sound now we've had a longer play with the phone.

Samsung Kies Air

One of the most useful things on the Samsung phones is the "Kies" system that Samsung have been using over the past few years. In the past it has been relatively limited and flawed though Samsung have completely re-done the system and for the Samsung Galaxy S2 they've implemented a new version. The "Kies air" system completely re-writes the system and turns it into one of the most useful tools on any Smartphone today. If we open it by clicking on the icon we get to use a PC to play with the files on the phone.



After we open the app we see this screen here which basically tells us what we need to know about the app. It's a program that doesn't require any computer software, it doesn't require any cables and as long as you have a wifi network set up you can access you entire phone via your laptop or PC.

To start you click start at this screen then get given an IP address to type into your internet browser.

 When the app has been accessed and you've got the IP address from this screen here you need to type it into your browser. From here you will know whether your connection is active and what network you are connected to. To stop the app at anyone point you merely need to click on "Stop".






When you've typed your address into the internet browser you will see something like this come up which effectively allows you to access all the files you've put on the phone. This allows you to download files to the phone or upload them from the phone as well as deleting files, calls, documents and texts. It really is such an amazing piece of kit that you will find yourself using a lot especially if you lose your USB cable...


The system is amazing and once you get used to it you'll realise just how revolutionary and how slick it is.

Cheapest places to get a Samsung Galaxy S2

After a very quick look on yahoo answers I recently found out one of the most popular questions about the Samsung Galaxy S2 was about the price. Although I can't guarantee that I've found the cheapest here are certainly some of the best.

Contract (direct with the company)
From Free with pretty much any network. The lowest tariff cost for the phone I could find was around the £30 marker.
3-The 3 network do the phone on a “TEXT 500” plan for £30 a month with 500 minutes & 1GB data
O2-The best deal from O2 seems to be their £29 tariff which comes with 600 minutes & 300MB data
Orange-The deals with Orange range from £40 (500MB data and 1200 minutes) though are far from the cheapest
T-Mobile-The cheapest “free” deal with T-Mobile is an odd one with a cost of £35.75. It includes 900 minutes, 500 texts and a 500MB data “streaming” allowance as well as a flexible booster (which will add unlimited texts)
Vodafone-The company I'm with actually offer what I regard as the worst direct deal with customers. They charge £41 for 1200 minutes and 750MB internet (deal only available online).

For anyone not already connected to a network 3 is the obvious choice if you want to deal directly with a network (as opposed to going through a retailer such as Phones 4 U or the Carphone Warehouse). I wouldn't advise actually taking up any of these offers to be honest. What is interesting, if you already have a contract with one, is just how much a company will try to keep you. In the case of Vodafone I know they bent quite a lot from their original price.

Contract (Via highstreet retailers)
Carphone warehouse-The deals with each of the networks are better than dealing directly with the providers, the best one I saw was with Vodafone for £30 which included 500MB data, 500 minutes and unlimited texts. 02's best deal cost an extra £2 for 100 minutes more than Vodafone one.

Although I think we all assume going directly to the networks is cheapest it turns out using 3rd party retailers is actually cheaper (as they get discounts). The differences are huge and as a result I'd recommend you check out the high street retailers before you get your phone.

PAYG
3-£499.99
02-£479.99
Orange-Not available
T-Mobile-Not Available
Vodafone-Not available

This was a surprise that only 2 of the big 5 networks actually retail them as a PAYG handset. It was also shocking that neither Phones 4 U or Carphone Warehouse offered them on a PAYG deal via their websites. Whilst we accept the cost will be high for the handset it's shocking to see just how much it actually costs.

Disclaimer:
Remember though these prices will change and are only accurate at the time of this blog going up. Any fluctuations are beyond my control

Connecting a Samsung Galaxy S2 Smartphone to Wifi

 Although you may not have a home screen that is identical to this is, we are using this screen as the starting place in this guide to connecting your brand new Samsung Galaxy S2 to a local wi-fi router, such as those you may have in your own home. In this particular example I'll be connecting it to my own home wi-fi which is a BT Home Hub.
 From the homescreen we want to open the settings menu and to do that we need to open up the menu on the phone. To get up the small menu which can be seen at the bottom of this picture you need to press on the phones "Menu" button then click settings.
 When you have opened the settings menu you will find a lot of options. Although you will no doubt by playing around with the options one day to connect to your wi-fi you need to quite predictably click on "Wireless and network".

 The wireless and network settings open up a screen like this, from here you need to go to "Wi-Fi settings". This will search for all the available wi-fi connections in the local area which include some password protected and some open connections. Although, again, you will be back on this screen down the line for a number of reasons, just concentrate on opening up the Wi-Fi settings for now.





As you can see here there is a list of connections available, some are password protected  (as indicated by a small padlock on the BTHomeHub connections) whilst others are open connections (in this case the BTFon and BTOpenzone connections which are a different kettle of fish themselves).
If you click on a connection for the first time this screen will come up where you enter your password. The password, on most "hubs" can typically be found on the back of the actual hub or with a card sent to the individual. After you enter the password you can connect that that connection and the phone should memorise all the details for the future.







When you are connected you you should see the icon of the network you are on change colour slightly and the message "Connected" appear under it. If your on your home connection you will be allowed to use as much of the internet as you wish to use (or up to the data allowance of your home ISP) for free. Though if you are connecting to a public connection a number of rules apply.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Whats in the box: Samsung Galaxy S2

When you get a new phone you want to know what you are actually getting. What else comes in the box along with the device? Some old Sony Ericsson's for example came with a USB memory card reader for the phones memory card (though I'm not sure which phone it actually was, I think it was the K700i as we certainly had one floating around the house).

With the Samsung Galaxy S2 what we find in the box is the handset, the battery, as well as a mains charger, a USB Mini cable, the manual, hands free kit and replacement heads for the hands free earphones. By it's self the boxed stuff isn't amazing in quantity and personally I'd say it misses out on a memory card (though the phones huge internal memory of 16GB means that this isn't as big a loss as it could have been with other phones) though what you do get is incredibly high quality. Also if you order your phone with Vodafone you currently get a Pirates of the Caribbean box set containing the first 3 films in the smash hit franchise, a lovely added bonus thanks to Vodafone.

Whilst I will have a proper review done in the coming weeks after a real play with the phone, what I've already found out from using it is that the handset is simply amazing. The phone is fast, it's responsive, it's clear, the camera is simply brilliant, the video recording ability is wonderful and although I had reservations about the TouchWiz interface it's been nothing short of a pure delight to use. Whilst the boxed stuff does perhaps lack one or two things you will really need to go some to fill the internal memory before you get the chance to get yourself a memory card and due to the wonderful Kies air system the phone uses there isn't an excuse to leave too much lingering on the phone.

After just a few days of playing with it I've yet to find a single flaw with the phone and at the rate we're going I'm merely becoming more and more impressed. This really is a dream handset.

SoundHound

Here you can see the widget on the right
 So after playing about with the Samsung Galaxy S2 I decided to try out some new apps. I originally set about searching for “Shazam”, a song recognition app that has often been given rave review and you often hear spoken about. Whilst searching for it I managed to find an app called “SoundHound” a completely different song recognition program that was free and promised things such as unlimited tags. As it was free and very highly ranked on the Android market I decided to give it a try.

After downloading the app I tried it on a few tracks and quickly realised it worked well, it was recognising the tracks within 15 or so seconds and getting it right pretty much every time (the only failure it had was when it failed to hear the music due to it being too quiet). To use the app we really don't need to do much at all so here's a literal step by step.

1-When a song is playing we need to open the app, we can either do this by going through the app screens or using a shortcut/widget.

2-Press the large button on the app that says “Tap Here”

3-Give the phone a few seconds to take a sample

4-Wait for the reply from the app

The app will recognise a large number of tracks and often very quickly, though where the app really comes into it's own is it's ability to then find things like the lyrics of videos for the songs you have found. The app, whilst also available in a paid format, is one of the truly exceptional free apps on the android market and is also currently available on iTunes.


This is an example of the screen after it has recognised the track, showing the inbuilt google links to both the lyrics and YouTube, two of the features that make the App such an excellent one. If you've ever wanted to know what song it is you're listening to then use this free app, it's really an exceptional tool.

Reasons to download it:
Free
Large Library
Great additional links
Quick to recognise tracks
Easy to use

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

...excitement over the Samsung Galaxy S2...

With my handset arriving in the next 14 hours I've had to devise a small list of what I want to do with the device first...so here we go:
Film my beautiful girlfriend stripping in glorious HD- An obvious choice but also the best way to check out the video ability.
Watch bbc iPlayer- Yet to have a phone that's been able to do this so it's a feature I can't wait to use, and I'll be making the most of my 3GB total internet allowance!
Go to the beach and try out the camera- Living just 5 minutes walk from the beach this seems almost the best way to check out the 8mp camera.
Try out the office software- As a writer this was one of the most appealing things about the phone and allows me to work with out the need for my laptop

I'm sure there will be more but this is it for now.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

How to get the best upgrade deals

When it comes to mobile phones we all want the best deal we can get. When it comes to the end of a contract and we are being hassled by our provider to upgrade with them calling a few times a day we often don't quite know what to do. Do we snatch and take the first offer they provide and think that we've got a good deal with a network that have done well for us? Do we say no and wait for them to come back to us with an improved second offer? Do we we shop around and see the best offers available and take the best that's on offer through the general channels? Do we call the cancellation line and threaten to take our custom elsewhere?

Well the actual answer is none of them. What we need to do is look at the options that are available but don't try to jump the gun, don't take any offer until you've weighed all the options that are available. What you need to find is a deal that you like the look of, whether it's with your current network or not, you need to find a deal that is open to all customers. When you have found a deal like this you should wait for the sales team to contact you from your current provider and see if they can match it, usually they can unless you've seen a genuinely amazing deal. From here you can choose to take it, though if the company can match the deal you've seen then decline it, they can certainly under-cut themselves.

The following day you need to call up the cancellation line of the company you are with and request your “PAC” number. The PAC number is your Porting Authorisation Code, or the number you need to transfer your number to another network. When you request this you are generally passed to the “retentions” department, this is the section of the company that will be more flexible than the people calling you. The people that call you are the “Sales team” and are trying to sell you a deal, they aren't given a lot of flexibility the retentions team are trying to keep you and will often bend over a bit more. If when you talk to the retentions team they fail to offer a much better deal then just leave them with something along the lines of “I've seen a better deal”.

Over the following few days the company will generally call back again and now you will see the company offer some of their best deals. The company will beat the offers made by the original sales team though may not manage to match the retention offers, this is effectively them trying their hardest to keep you and will often be the most flexible that the company will offer.

Sometimes the company may also have a web relations team (most notably Vodafone who's team is really excellent and deserve all the praise they get). These are often worth contacting (before you request your “PAC” number) as they can often offer deals that are actually better than the retentions team. The team aren't on any sort of commission and aren't taking a cut for themselves so won't “hike” up the price to cover themselves so are worth a try. Again if you want to go this way you really must know what the competition are offering (and you may need to provide them with a link so make sure you're online whilst talking to them) to get the best deals.

Whatever you do, do not take the first offer from the sales team, they are often unable to, or unwilling to match the best offers available from some of the other companies. This is because they ARE on commission and will be trying to pocket some money themselves and won't be flexible with you. Just remember this when you try to upgrade and you will almost certainly save money via the retentions teams.

Some quick tips:
-See what the competition can offer
-Aim high
-Don't take the first offer
-See if the company has a web team
-Request you PAC number (but don't use it straight away)
-Check online, in store and in as many places as possible
-Only accept an offer YOU are happy with

The changing faces of Mobile phone deals

When I did my last article on the best deals available online for the top 3 smart phones I'll admit I didn't have a really great look around. What I did manage to stumble on was an awesome deal for the Samsung Galaxy S2 on allmobiles.co.uk, the deal (no longer available) was pretty much unbeatable and offered the following:
500mins, 5000 texts and 500mb all for £26 a month for 2 years. This deal gave you the phone for free and even the Web Relations team for Vodafone were unable to match it. The brilliance of the deal seemed to be too good to keep open and the deals gone now less than 24 hours later. They have been replaced by some other similar deals on the site but none are even close to it.

An example of the sites new deals include the following
500mins, 5000 texts and 500mb and an ipod shuffle all for £26 a month for 2 years...and a £89.99 up front payment. Although the free gift is nice it's actually only worth £39.00 (the price of the item from Tesco) meaning you will be paying £50 for the phone. This deal looks to be a noticeable disappointment considering the how good the deal had been 24 hours earlier. Another point regarding this deal...why would you want an ipod shuffle as well as the phone? The phone it's self has a pretty amazing media player and the shuffle is...well a bit turd.

If you are still looking to get a Samsung Galaxy S2 (and I can't see why you wouldn't want one to be honest) there are great offers available, some even come from allmobiles.co.uk though make sure you look through all the available options. As with all phone deals take a look through the likes of all the networks (Vodafone, O2, 3, T-Mobile, Orange and any small ones) as well as shops such as Phones 4 U, Tesco, Carphone Warehouse and the online retailers including allmobiles.co.uk, mobiles.co.uk and Dialaphone.co.uk.

If you a due an upgrade have a look at all the available deals and see if your company can match the deals that are online, sometimes they will attempt to beat them even if the offers themselves are short lived ones.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Some of the best mobile phone deals around

I'm currently looking at an upgrade of my phone contract and after spending the better part of 2 days looking for some of the best “normal” deals on the market here is what I've found folks.

iPhone 4
The phone that promised to reinvent the mobile industry is still one of the hottest handsets. Although 3 seem to have some of the best deals for the phone iPhones the one I liked the most was with Vodafone and was offered by the Carphone Warehouse. For £35 a month you can get 900 minutes, 3000 texts and 500MB of mobile internet as well 1 GB of Wi-Fi (through BT Openzone) and this comes with the phone coming for free for 24 months. This deal was possibly only surpassed by those offered by 3 which include a 5000 texts, 500 minutes and 1GB of mobile internet for £35 a month. This deal sees you needing to £29.00 up front for the handset though it's still a solid deal.

If you don't like the iOS then you are almost certainly going to be interested in the Android system. The top 2 current Androids are the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the HTC Sensation and although you would have though you'd have been paying an arm and a leg for them you can still get solid deals on both handsets.

HTC Sensation
The HTC Sensation is the next step forward for the HTC brand which is simply becoming one of the worlds leaders in the market. The cheapest deal I've seen this on is the £25 a month for 24 month deal that comes with 100 minutes, 500 texts and 500MB and is offered through Phones 4 U. The better deal however is their £30 a month deal for 24 months which has 600 minutes, 3000 texts and 500MB. The deal is usually £35 a month though for some reason Phones 4 U are offering it at a reduced price saving you £120 over the course of the contract. Both of these deals see the handset coming for free and so you are getting a top whack phone on a very good deal.

Samsung Galaxy S2
The new standard bearer for Samsung and Android is, like the Sensation, a really top quality phone and again there is a lot of good deals flying around. The best I could find was £30 a month for 24 months via Tesco in a deal that gives you 700 minutes, 5000 texts and 500MB of internet. Again the handset comes for free and the deal is an excellent one.

Depending on which of the three leading phones you want you should be able to get a solid deal on them. If you are looking to upgrade take these deals into account as they will almost certainly help you negotiate an upgrade deal.