Australia

How to get new AirPods rival for free

Korean electronics giant Samsung has revealed the revolutionary new earbuds it hopes can topple Apple’s AirPods from the throne, and for a limited time you can get them for free.

Of course there is a catch – you’ll have to spend at least $1849 on one of the company’s fancy new smartphones – the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra it announced at its Unpacked event, lifestreamed from South Korea overnight.

The buds and the Ultra are among five devices the company unveiled during the event, although details about most of them were already leaked online in the weeks beforehand.

There is also a “normal” Note 20 ($1499, $1649 for 5G) and if you pre-order one of those you can get a pair of the Galaxy Buds Plus.

The Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra both pack 256GB in the base model, with the Ultra 5G ($2199) coming with 512GB.

In addition to the Note phones, the company announced a new wearable: the Galaxy Watch 3, as well as a new laptop-tablet hybrid to compete with Apple’s iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface devices.

There was also a follow up to last year’s much hyped Galaxy Fold, a phone that can hopefully avoid its revolutionary predecessors fate.

The original phones were certainly impressive but began breaking almost immediately and required a redesign. The ones that had already been made apparently ending up in the hands of dubious electronics resellers.

Details about the new version, called the Galaxy Z Fold2, are still pretty scant but Samsung claims to have learnt from its first two foldable devices and the people who bought them and has promised “meaningful innovations”.

One of those learnings was surely for a larger screen on the phone in its folded configuration, which is now 6.2 inches.

Of course, the whole point of the phone is that it unfolds into a small tablet, now clocking in at 7.2 inches.

We don’t know when that phone will come out or how much it will cost. You should be able to get one eventually but it will be expensive.

So with a lot to unpack from Samsung’s event, pardon the pun, here’s what you need to know.

GALAXY NOTE 20 AND NOTE 20 ULTRA

Android fans will know the Note already. It’s a device that is as beloved as it is niche and has built a stable fan base over the years for its huge size, focus on productivity, and included stylus (known as the S Pen).

The phone has been a favourite of business users, but it now has a new and somewhat surprising target: gamers.

Yes, the Note is now for play as well as work, with an adaptive refresh rate (up to 120Hz on the Ultra) for smoother gameplay and support for cloud gaming in the form of Xbox Game Pass.

But here we find another catch. The Xbox Game Pass is not available until September 15, and when it does arrive it might not work all that well in Australia.

While 5G networks should be able to handle cloud-gaming, the technology isn’t widely available everywhere yet, and it (is doubtful but) remains to be seen whether most people’s home Wi-Fi will be able to handle it either.

Elsewhere, the Note 20 devices are set to benefit from what Samsung said is the fastest processor to ever go in a Galaxy device.

The productivity focused features most Note buyers are after have been retained and improved.

The famed S Pen now boasts a lower latency for even less input lag (it’s practically imperceptible to begin with but now it’s even harder to spot a delay between writing on the screen and your words appearing on the display).

The Notes app has also been improved with machine learning to better recognise and translate your handwriting into neat text.

You can now highlight and annotate PDFs in the Notes app to easily mark-up work or sign documents, and record audio at the same time as you write a note (tapping on a word will also take you to that part of the recording).

There’s also better syncing and auto-save capabilities so you don’t lose your work (which fits into Samsung’s new “ecosystem”, more on that in a minute).

The camera will shoot video in the cinematic 21:9 ratio at 24 frames per second up to 8K resolution (great if you have a television that actually supports that resolution, in which case you might even be able to afford one of the new Note 20 phones).

Full HD videos can shoot up to 120 frames per second for smooth slow motion.

Sensor sizes have been increased for better low light photography and the Ultra will shoot up to 108MP images. Although these numbers should be treated with a grain of salt as the high megapixel counts phonemakers brag about is so the images can be “pixel-binned” for better results – which is better than having a massive image anyway.

Samsung has also included ultra-wideband technology, which, when you’re with someone packing a similar phone at least, will make it easy to quickly share files and photos by pointing your phone at theirs.

In the future Samsung hopes it can be used for other applications like unlocking your car or home.

The original Note kickstarted the trend of huge phone screens when it launched with a 5.5-inch screen back when the iPhone had a 3.5-inch screen, and that trend continues. The regular Note 20 packs a 6.7 inch display and the Ultra a slightly larger 6.9 inch.

The Note 20 will be available bronze, green and grey, while the Ultra comes in black, bronze and white.

Samsung’s computer-mimicking DeX mode also returns, letting you turn your touch-and-swipe smartphone experience into one more closely mirroring a desktop computer.

Pairing this with an external monitor and wireless keyboard or mouse essentially turns the Note into a computer, and could go some way towards justifying its massive price tag. But if you’re not ready to abandon your computer there’s another option in the Samsung “ecosystem”.

GALAXY TAB S7 AND TAB S 7+

Ever since tablets were introduced to the market they’ve been subject to debate (and expectations) about whether they could replace laptops, and more than a decade later that is now essentially the case.

“Galaxy Tab S7 is the ultimate productivity tool for Australians on-the-go,” Samsung Australia’s mobile vice-president Garry McGregor said.

“We have seen the tablet market evolve in recent years to where the tablet has become the go-to device to maximise the work-life balance,” he added.

The 128GB 11 inch Tab S7 ($1149) and its 12.4 inch sibling ($1549) combine the flexibility of a tablet with the functionality of a laptop, while also making use of the vaunted S Pen (sold separately but included with the Note 20 phones).

Samsung’s new slates are also going to be the first that can use 5G networks (though only on a 256GB Tab S7+ variant that costs $2049), providing always-on connectivity when we finally go back to commuting to and from work and travelling around the world on a whim.

The keyboard cover is sold separately but you can also use a keyboard of your choosing.

The Tab S7 range will be available in silver and bronze with pre-orders opening August 28.

WEARABLES

While still being almost excruciatingly nerdy, wearable technology is here to stay even if it hasn’t exactly caught on.

Mr McGregor is optimistic that “Australians are continuing to invest in wearable technology”.

The Galaxy Watch3 aims to be a premium (read: expensive) smartwatch but the focus is closer to a fitness tracker with advanced health features to justify the $649 it commands.

The Watch3 appears to be targeting the regimented fitness fanatic with reminders about your routine and prompts for workouts while also providing minute detail about your vitals such as blood oxygen, pressure and ECG measurements.

Given the interesting times we live in, the Watch3 also has more than 120 home training programs to guide you towards your fitness goals.

The Watch3 will be available from August 21.

Samsung has also announced the Galaxy Buds Live ($319) that it’s including in pre-orders of the Note 20 Ultra.

The jelly bean shaped buds bring a new approach to design that sits somewhere between the stem-pod design of the market-dominating AirPods and the circular pods of other brands.

The reason for this new shape is because Samsung wants you to be comfortable wearing them in your ear for a prolonged period of time, which is why they don’t go into your actual ear canal, though this will surely terrify some who are worried about their expensive new buds falling out of their ear.

As discussed, you can get them for free if you pre-order the Ultra, but the buds themselves will actually launch on Friday so if you’ve already got a phone you’re happy with you can pick up a pair before the weekend.

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