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Samsung Galaxy S10+: A quality new smartphone

This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.


My friends at Verizon sent me over a new smartphone to check out: the just released Samsung Galaxy S10+. I have always been a fan of Samsung and this phone is a good one. The Samsung flagship phone comes in two sizes, the smaller S10 and the larger S10+. I had the S10+ to play with.

Additionally, the phone comes in an S10e (even smaller) model which is less expensive and does not have all of the bells and whistles of its big sisters, plus there is an unreleased S10 5G that will be capable of using 5G service when it is available. I will not be comparing the S10e or the S10 5G as I do not have them on hand to write about.

The S10+ has a 6.4” Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED Infinity Display which wraps around the sides of the phone with curved edges. The S10 has only a 6.1-inch display but with the same features. The phone is wrapped in Gorilla Glass with Gorilla Glass 6 on the front and Gorilla Glass 5 on the rear, except on the S10+ there is also an option for a ceramic back; I had the all-glass model for testing.

The Galaxy S10+ has an ultrasonic fingerprint reader that is under the glass at the bottom of the front screen. I have heard nothing but good things about it, but in my experience it was not a good way to unlock the phone as it rarely read my fingerprints properly. Instead, I liked using the facial recognition to unlock, which worked quite quickly.

The phone does not have a notch at the top for cameras and sensors, which have become popular in the last year or so. Instead it has what is being referred to as a hole punch on the top right corner of the screen, but the wallpaper creates an illusion by filling that area with a dark color and you don’t even notice the hole punch area. The hole punch on the S10 is simply a round circle, but on the S10+ it is elongated in order to fit in the 8MP Depth Camera only available on Galaxy S10+.

The S10+ still has a headphone jack. This is starting to become uncommon, especially on phones with USB-C charging like this one. It appears that Samsung is not giving up on wired headphones.

On top of the USB-C charging, the device has wireless charging as well. Additionally, a new feature that it has allows it to charge other Samsung devices too, like the Samsung watch and earbuds, on the back of the phone as though it were a powermat.

This phone runs the Android mobile operating system and, as is common, the manufacturer adds their own flavor to this OS. For the most part it is a very clean design, but Samsung adds a lot of their own software that I don’t end up using like their email app, calendar app and web browser. I like using the Google variants and they work quite nicely on the S10+.

Samsung’s digital assistant Bixby is built into the phone, but I still find myself preferring Google’s assistant. The dedicated hardware button can be remapped to open up other programs if you find you don’t need Bixby to be that accessible.

For price, the S10 comes in at $899, while it is $100 more for the starting version of the S10+ at $999. These are not cheap phones, but that should be expected as they are flagship phones for Samsung.

To buy or not to buy … if you like Samsung’s phones, the S10+ is the way to go as it is one of the best Android phones currently available.


Paul Burnstein is a Tech Handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through or via email at

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iPhone Xs: Apple’s latest and greatest

This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.


I recently got to try out the iPhone Xs, Apple’s latest flagship smartphone. It is a great phone, and this is the phone to get if you are an Apple lover (or maybe the larger form factor iPhone Xs Max).

I really like almost everything about this phone. The only issue for me is that it is built on Apple’s ecosystem, and I prefer Google’s ecosystem built around the Android operating system.

The device is easy to use with a smooth operating system that uses simple gestures to navigate through the phone. The layout is basically the same layout that Apple has used for the past decade. All of your apps are always available on your screen, and there’s no app drawer, a feature common in Android to store apps that you don’t need to have on your screen.

More and more, I have seen that the Apple/Mac ecosystem makes it very easy to get used to the phone if one is already using an Apple laptop or desktop. You have similar apps on the mobile and desktop OS for mail, calendar and more. Using it on one provides a similar feeling for using it on the other.

The iPhone Xs uses Face ID to unlock and secure the phone; there is no option to use a fingerprint anymore. Face ID is fast and works well in low light so that I never really saw any problems using it to unlock the phone.

The only issue I have with Face ID is having to still swipe up to open the phone after Face ID recognizes your face. If Face ID doesn’t work, the fallback is to use the regular 4- or 6-digit passcode.

The phone uses a Super Retina display with HDR, which is Apple’s OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screen. The screen is sharp with nice colors and blacks.

Pictures look great on the phone. The display is 5.8 inches diagonally, while the larger iPhone Xs Max is 6.5 inches diagonally.

That leads us to the cameras.

There are two 12 megapixel cameras on the rear of the phone, one for wide-angles and one that works as a telephoto lens. The camera produces images that are considered among the best in the industry. Photos are sharp and crisp with rich colors and nice definition.

The front facing-camera has a wide-angle lens, and both cameras have a portrait mode that allows you to blur your background and focus on your subject. You can even adjust that blur after you have taken the photo.

The front-facing camera also has special light sensors that are used for depth mapping and Face ID recognition, as well as infrared dot projectors for Face ID.

The phone is splash, water and dust resistant with a rating of IP68, allowing the phone to be submerged in up to two meters of water for up to 30 minutes.

For charging, it uses Apple’s proprietary Lightning cable, but now also includes Qi wireless charging standard too.

Siri, Apple’s smart digital assistant, is still there to help with all of your needs. Siri works within the operating system well, but I prefer to still use Google Assistant on the phone for deeper searches.

With the latest iOS 12 release, Apple added new Siri integration with third-party apps, so a user can create special Siri commands that trigger actions in third-party apps.

The iPhone Xs is available from all major carriers and starts at $999 for the base model with 64 gigs of space.

All in all, this is a great phone. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, the only reason this is not the right phone for me is that it is based on Apple’s ecosystem and meant to use the built-in apps for mail and such.

For someone who is already immersed in the Apple ecosystem, or someone wanting to switch to it, the iPhone Xs is Apple’s latest and greatest smartphone yet. It offers high-end smartphone features that can definitely hold their own against other manufacturers.


Paul Burnstein is a tech handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through or via email at

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Samsung Galaxy Note9: A big screen and a stylus, too

Galaxy Note9This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.


The Galaxy S9 is Samsung’s flagship phone for 2018. The Note9 steps it up even more.

My friends at Verizon sent me a Samsung Galaxy Note9 to try out, and it is quite a phone. It is a very large phone with plenty of features and includes a stylus known as the S Pen for use with the phone. More on that pen later.

The Note9 is an Android phone running Android Oreo out of the box with Samsung Experience wrapped around it, giving a Samsung feel to the operating system. Samsung’s own enhancements seem minimal, and the operating system looks clean.

With a 6.4-inch diagonal screen, this is one big phone that takes two hands or a stylus to control. The screen is a beautiful Quad HD+ Super AMOLED display with rich colors and strong blacks. The screen is also edge-to-edge with very little bezel around it. The phone has an Always-On Display, or AOD, that displays the time, any music playing through the phone, notifications, calendar appointments and more.

The internal guts include an octa-core processor with 6 gigabytes of RAM and 128 gigabytes of storage (which can be upgraded to 8 gigabytes of RAM and 512 gigabytes of storage). It also has the option to expand storage via a MicroSD slot that can take an SD card with up to 512 gigabytes of additional storage.

Storage should not be an issue on this phone. This phone is fast and reacts quickly and responsively to actions.

According to Samsung’s website, the phone has an IP68 rating allowing it to be submersed in “up to 5 feet of freshwater for up to 30 minutes.” It has the capability of fast charging for both wireless and wired charging and the fast charging really does speed up the amount of time it takes to charge the phone.

Wired fast charging will always be faster than the wireless option, even for fast charging. For charging, the phone has a USB-C port. I found that the battery easily lasted all day long on a single charge. Plus, it still has a headphone jack.

The Note9 has three cameras: an 8-megapixel lense on the front-facing camera and two 12-megapixel lenses on the rear camera for both wide-angle and telephoto modes. The camera is fast to load and takes very nice pictures. I found colors to be rich and sharp with good detail in the photos.

The phone has Bixby, Samsung’s answer to Siri or Google Assistant, built in. Bixby can be called up via voice or a dedicated button on the left side of the phone. While I did not use Bixby much, it has matured and appears to be a solid digital assistant.

The S Pen, mentioned before, is a stylus that connects to the phone and pops out as needed to control actions on the phone. It can write on the screen for editing, drawing or note-taking.

The S Pen has a super capacitor that allows for 30 minutes of usage with just 40 seconds of charge time. (It gets charged inside the phone). New this year, the S Pen can remotely control phone actions via Bluetooth from a button on the stylus; these include taking photos by pressing the button or changing slides for presentations.

I liked using the S Pen for photos. I could hold the phone and press the stylus for capturing the pictures.

The phone’s retail price is $999.99.

Overall this is a great device as long as you can handle the size of it. It is not a one-handed phone, but the size helps enable a gorgeous screen and a large battery that will get you through the day.

I like this phone a lot and appreciate its size, but I can’t quite figure out many uses for the S Pen.

Paul Burnstein is a tech handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through or via email at

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Samsung’s new galaxy

Galaxy S9This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.


Verizon Wireless sent me a brand new (not yet released at the time of my writing this) Android phone to test out recently, the Samsung Galaxy S9.

This is Samsung’s flagship phone for 2018, and it is quite a phone. I have been a fan of Samsung for years, and this phone shows why. Samsung also happens to be the largest mobile manufacturer in the world!

The specs are all state of the art with the newest chipset available for Android, the latest version of Android, expandable storage, wireless charging, waterproofing, headphone jack, Dolby Atmos sound with stereo speakers and more.

The 12-megapixel camera is great and has a variable aperture system that can seamlessly adjust the camera from f/2.4 to f/1.5 in low-light conditions. Colors are sharp and details are crisp.

There are neat features such as selective focus, which allows you to focus on a specific object and slightly blur out the background. When I tested the selective focus on some flowers, the photo came out great; the focus made the picture look like I knew what I was doing with photography.

For security, it has a fingerprint reader on the back. But more fun than that is the Intelligent Scan function, which uses facial recognition combined with iris scanning to unlock the phone. The only time I found that the Intelligent Scan didn’t work well was in a very dimly lit room with my glasses on; once I removed my glasses it worked fine.

While I think the Intelligent Scan is a very cool feature, it is slower than the iPhone X’s facial recognition and still requires a screen press prior to the Intelligent Scan before unlocking the phone.

Price appears to range from $720 to $800 depending on where you pick it up, but there are great trade-in offers from Samsung, Verizon and others as well. That is a great price point for a super-premium phone.

While I did not get a chance to check it out, I have read that the larger Galaxy S9+ model has more RAM (6 GB versus 4 GB), better cameras (the S9+ has the highest-rated camera ever, according to testing site DxOMark) and stronger Wi-Fi performance, according to PC Mag.

Both the S9 an S9+ have an OLED edge-to-edge “Infinity Display.” The Galaxy S9 has a 5.8-inch screen, while the S9+ has a 6.2-inch screen and dual rear cameras and costs about $120 more than the Galaxy S9. Both have a display with a ratio of 18.5:9.

I find the S9 to be a bit small for my liking. If I were to buy this phone, I would opt to pay more for the S9+.

I should point out, though, that I like large phones, and the S9 is small enough that it can be used with one hand. The S9+, like the Galaxy S8+ before it, requires the use of two hands to reach across the screen at times.

There are some innovative features — like the augmented reality stickers that you can make with your own face or the dual screen option that allows two apps to be open at the same time — but these are not features that I would use.

All in all, this is an excellent smartphone, albeit a bit small, with all of the bells and whistles you could hope for. The price is good and build quality is solid.

Paul Burnstein is a Tech Handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through or via email at

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LG V30: A lesser-known flagship phone

LG V30: A lesser-known flagship phone

This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.


For my column this month, I have a smartphone review for you.

The friendly folk at Verizon Wireless sent me the LG V30 to check out. This is a flagship phone from LG with solid reviews, and I was looking forward to playing with it. A couple of months ago I wrote about the Google Pixel 2 XL which happens to have been built by LG, so I was hoping for this to be a sort of cousin to the Pixel 2 XL.

LG is a major Android smartphone manufacturer, but they don’t do as well marketing their phones and tend to be eclipsed by Samsung, the 800-pound gorilla. They have the hardware and software to keep up and still provide solid phones, but their reputation could use some help.

While the size is similar to the Pixel 2 XL, the LG V30 is its own phone. The 6-inch design of aluminum and glass does not feel as big as it sounds and instead rests nicely in the hand with a large screen including the now common 18:9 dimensions. It has an OLED display with Quad HD (four times as many pixels as a 1080p full HD display). The screen looks sharp and vibrant.

It has some nice features, including waterproofing, wireless charging, expandable microSD storage and more, such as a headphone jack. The phone has all of the features that I would look for in a smartphone, so it definitely has that going for it as far as a flagship smartphone. Waterproofing is a great safety feature, wireless charging is incredibly convenient and expandable storage means you are not limited to the phone’s built-in storage.

Even though the trend is that wired headphones seem to be going away, the LG V30 is getting quite a bit of attention for including the jack along with QuadDAC (digital-to-analog converter). LG claims it “sounds louder, cleaner, and more accurate — like the original live performance with the 32-bit QuadDAC.”

The LG V30 does not come with headphones, and all that I have on hand are inexpensive earbuds, but in testing it out, the sound was crisp, clear and rich and would no doubt sound even better with good headphones. Even when recording audio and video, it uses three separate microphones to maintain true sound for videos.

How are the photos? According to LG, “similar to DSLR cameras, the LG V30’s standard camera features a wide f/1.6 aperture and a glass lens, resulting in impressive low-light performance and improved color clarity.”

I noticed that colors looked warm and rich. Because of the dual cameras on the rear, zooming allows you to zoom in on any area of the image, and then you can control focus from there.

One thing that bothers me on this phone is the lack of an app drawer as part of LG’s own flavor of Android. An app drawer is a slide up or menu item that lists all of your apps and then allows you not to have them all displayed on pages like your home screen. It’s common for Apple to do this, but with Android I am used to only putting out the apps that I use on screens and leaving the rest in the app drawer. Not a major issue, but worth writing about.

A nice little bonus is that on top of the manufacturer’s one-year warranty, LG provides a second year of warranty upon registration. That definitely says something for LG believing in its build quality.

Additionally, the price is well below some of the newer flagships. The list price is about $840, but there are big incentives from the major mobile carriers, and it can be found for under $700 online.

All in all, the LG V30 is a solid phone that has the features most would be looking for. I may well consider this for my next phone.

Paul Burnstein is a tech handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through or via email at

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Motorola Z2 Play: Playing with possibilities

This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.


This past month, Verizon Wireless sent me a fun phone to try out: the Motorola Z2 Play.

Overall, it is a nice phone to play around with. The phone itself is an upper mid-range phone, but the range of possibilities it offers is the fun part.

Let me explain. The phone’s functionality is all around solid. In my use, it was speedy, lightweight, had great battery life of more than a day and had a very nice looking display. But my primary focus in testing the device was not really based on the phone functionality itself. Rather, I was in it for the Moto Mods (think modifications). This is where the fun part comes in.

I got to try out three of the different mods: a speaker, camera and projector. The mods attach via magnet and easily snap on or off. Other available mods include a gamepad, extra battery, 360-degree camera and more.

The mod for the speaker was the Soundboost ($79.99) made by JBL. Once attached, the speaker mod made the phone quite a bit chunkier, but it was better than carrying around a separate bluetooth speaker. It has a kickstand, and when in use it adds a nice full sound to the music being played.

Using the mod over a standalone bluetooth speaker is a slight convenience — one less thing to carry with you — but I didn’t find myself taking the speaker mod out of the house, even, as I was not listening to music through a speaker on the go.

The camera mod was the Hasselblad 4116 True Zoom ($199.99). Hasselblad is a well respected camera company founded in 1841. Once you click on the mod, it transforms the phone into a digital camera with an expanding lens and dedicated zoom and shutter buttons.

A very nice feature is the 10x optical zoom. It provides much more clarity than a digital zoom, which is just software creating the zoom feature. The optical zoom is just like using a zoom lens on a film camera.

The pictures I took looked great when I saw the quick preview that pops up onscreen immediately after taking the picture, but when I looked at them later on the phone they did not have the vibrancy that I had seen before. This could be due to screen calibration and the fact that I viewed them later on a different device.

My favorite of the mods that I tried out was the Moto Insta-Share Projector ($299.99). Wow! This is a fun mod that allows one to project anything from the Moto Z2 Play screen (or other compatible Moto phone).

I tried it out on my ceiling and it looked great. I also took it camping and projected Moana on the side of an RV so the kids could enjoy a movie. (I am the Gadget Guy; of course I enjoy camping with technology!) The only complaint I had was that the sound was not robust enough for us to hear the soudtrack by the campfire. You can only attach one mod at a time, so the speaker mod could not remedy this.

In the future, I would know to bring a bluetooth speaker for the audio to work with the projector. The projector mod also has a built-in battery, so it extends the life of the smartphone battery while projecting.

My favorite thing to do with the projector was lay in bed and watch on my angled ceiling. It projects up to 70 inches and looks crisp with deep colors. My wife and I have avoided a TV in our bedroom, but on nights when we are exhausted (with young kids, that’s every night), it is a nice option to lay in bed and stream Netflix.

The projector is a must-have if you get the phone, but the mods only work with the Moto Z line. If you want flagship phones by Apple (iPhones) or Samsung (their latest being the Galaxy S8 and Note 8), you are out of luck using the mods.


Paul Burnstein is a Tech Handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through or via email at

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