Bay Area photography startup Polarr announced this morning that it has raised an $11.5 million Series A. The new round of funding, led by Threshold Ventures with participation from Pear Ventures and Cota Capital, brings the startup’s total funding to around $13.5 million, according to the company.
At the moment, the company is probably best known for its photography app for iOS and Android, which utilizes machine learning and AI to improve image editing. The company says it has around four million monthly active users.
This round of funding will go toward research and development, engineering and partnerships, the latter of which are starting to become a big business for Polarr. In fact, it’s using the news to highlight the fact that it was tapped to bring its technology to the Samsung Galaxy S10’s native camera app. Polarr has previously teamed with other big hardware names, including Qualcomm and Oppo.
“As deep learning compute shifts from the cloud to edge devices, there is a growing opportunity to provide sophisticated and creative edge AI technologies to mobile devices,” CEO Borui Wang said in a release tied to the news. “This new round of financing is a tangible endorsement of our approach to enable and inspire everyone to make beautiful creations.”
Polarr’s tech is becoming increasingly valuable as phone makers look to differentiate their handsets’ imaging outside of the hardware. Notable recent generations of handsets from top companies like Samsung, Apple and Google have leaned heavily on AI and ML updates to stand out from the crowd.
Super fast performance • Reliable physical fingerprint reader • Fun ultra-wide secondary camera
Bixby button only partially customizable • Wireless PowerShare feature was slow
Samsung’s Galaxy S10e costs less and has virtually every feature the S10 and S10+ have, including one they don’t: a physical fingerprint reader that works really well.
⚡ Mashable Score 4.75
As much as much as I like Samsung’s bigger and pricier S10+ — it’s only a couple of complaints shy of perfect — the smaller and cheaper Galaxy S10e, which starts at $750, is a better phone.
I missed nothing from the S10+ after testing the S10e for a week. If anything, I’m super annoyed that Samsung blessed the S10e with a fast and reliable fingerprint sensor and saddled the S10 and S10+ with an inferior in-display fingerprint reader.
I’m calling it now: small phones are back! Well, small for 2019, that is.
I get the appeal of larger phones: bigger screens, bigger batteries, and more cameras. But I miss small phones badly.
Apple’s iPhone XS and Google’s Pixel 3 were the only two small phones that didn’t scrimp with a slower processor or less storage or an inferior screen.
And now there’s the Galaxy S10e, and it is superb in every way.
No less feature-packed than S10 and S10+
Despite its size, the S10e is nearly as feature-packed as the S10 and S10+, with the same luxurious prismatic glass and metal design.
It’s nice to have a bigger screen, but bigger phones are harder to use with one hand. The smaller S10e is easier to hold and pocket. The phone is slippery and picks up fingerprints like any glass device, but let’s stop pretending like this really bothers us.
Samsung’s smallest S10 has the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, same 64GB of internal storage, same microSD card slot for storage expansion, same IP68 water and dust-resistance, same fast wired charging, same faster wireless charging, same headphone jack, same stereo speakers, and same new Wireless PowerShare feature for wirelessly charging accessories like the Galaxy Buds. The S10e also runs the same version of Android 9 Pie with Samsung’s fabulous One UI interface.
With so much being the same, you’re probably wondering what is different? They really boil down to four key things, none of which are dealbreakers in my opinion.
The first is the screen: It’s smaller at 5.8 inches, compared to the 6.1-inch and 6.4-inch screens on the S10 and S10+, respectively. The S10e’s display is also flat on the edges as opposed to generously curved on the larger models. And of course the screen’s resolution is Full HD+ (2,290 x 1,440) instead of WQHD+ (3,040 x 1,440).
But even though it’s smaller and the resolution isn’t as sharp, the screen is by no means inferior. The Dynamic AMOLED display with hole punch in the upper right corner is every bit as bright and vibrant as the screens on the S10 and S10+. And the screen still reduces the same amount of blue light as the other models.
The bezels surrounding the display will no doubt be the point of many heated discussions between tech nerds, but they’re thin enough to not bug me. Besides, the non-curved edges are actually a plus since they register fewer false touches from my palms. Really, there is nothing to not like about the screen.
The S10e also has a smaller battery: 3,100 mAh versus 3,400 mAh (S10) and 4,100 mAh (S10+). But don’t let its capacity fool you. I got very good battery life from the S10e. Most days I easily powered through email, Slack, Twitter, Instagram, and Spotify, and still had anywhere between 15-20 percent battery life. On heavier days, I topped off the S10e via fast wireless charging at work and had no problems making it late into the night.
For the most part, the cameras are the same on the S10e as on S10 and S10+. On the front is a 10-megapixel camera with f/1.9 aperture that’s also capable of recording video in 4K. On the back, there’s a dual camera system with a 12-megapixel “main” shooter with variable f/1.5-2.4 aperture and optical image stabilization (OIS) and a second 16-megapixel ultra-wide shooter with f/2.2 aperture and no OIS.
The only camera missing from the S10e is the 12-megapixel 2x telephoto lens on the S10 and S10+. But take it from a guy who shoots tons of smartphone photos and videos (I’ve nearly filled up my 512GB iPhone XS with new photos and videos) when I say an ultra-wide camera is way more useful than a telephoto lens.
Ultra-wide photos still look a little soft compared to shots from the main camera, but they’re more than suitable for posting to Instagram or Twitter. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to shoot ultra-wide photos and videos. Previously impossible to capture photos are now easily possible — lens distortion be damned — with the ultra-wide camera.
I found no significant differences in image quality between the S10e’s cameras compared to the S10+, so definitely check out our in-depth camera shootout between the S10+, iPhone XS Max, Pixel 3, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, and OnePlus 6T for comparison photos.
I saved the best for last. The key difference on the S10e is its physical fingerprint reader. It’s embedded in the power button and is… so, so much better than the literal hit-and-miss in-display fingerprint reader in the S10 and S10+.
I still feel right in the middle of the back of a phone is the best place to put a fingerprint reader — your index finger falls right there very naturally when picking up a phone and it doesn’t matter if you’re a lefty or righty — but I’ll gladly take the S10e’s fast and responsive sensor over the wonky one on the larger S10 models any day.
Smaller is better this time around
When I reviewed the iPhone XR, I declared it “the iPhone” for most people — the Goldilocks of iPhones — because it made so few compromises despite being cheaper than the iPhone XS and XS Max.
The S10e is the perfect parallel to the iPhone XR. It’s the least expensive new Galaxy S10, is feature-packed, and costs hundreds less. The physical fingerprint reader even makes it superior to the S10 and S10+ in my opinion.
Honestly, I struggled to find anything to dislike about the S10e. It feels more complete than the S10 and S10+. I pray that small phones don’t become an anomaly.
At a time when smartphone prices are rising, it’s fantastic to see companies like Samsung squeeze so much value into less expensive devices.
March 12, 2019 / Comments Off on Samsung Galaxy S10e review: ‘Small’ phones are back
In-display fingerprint readers — biometric sensors embedded within the screens of many new phones — are garbage. They must be purged from all future devices unless they get significantly better soon.
There, I said it, and boy does it feel great to get that off my chest. Because it’s true.
As a tech reviewer, I’m in the enviable position of being able to test out new devices before they trickle down to everyone.
Sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s not. It sucked to live without a headphone jack on the iPhone 7, but was life-changing to use AirPods before anyone else could. It was really fun to use phones like the Vivo Nex S and Oppo Find X, with its motorized cameras, and even the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, with its fidgety sliding design.
But I can’t get behind the in-display fingerprint sensors that are being included in virtually every new Android phone.
They’re all terrible.
Unlike physical fingerprint readers such as Touch ID on the iPhone 8 (and older), the Pixel Imprint sensor on the back of Google Pixel phones, or the reader on the back of the Galaxy S9 and Note 9, in-display fingerprint readers are slower and less responsive.
For an in-display fingerprint reader to be considered an upgrade, it needs to succeed at two things:
Work as fast (or faster) than the physical one it replaces.
Work as as reliably or better than the sensor it replaces.
At the time of this rant, no in-display fingerprint reader meets both of these two requisites.
It was fine to give Chinese phone maker Vivo a pass for the wonky, first-gen in-display fingerprint reader inside of the X20 Plus. But that phone was the first of its kind to include the new biometric tech.
To shrug and give new phones launching in 2019 the same break for including half-baked in-display fingerprint readers simply because it’s new tech is not OK. It’s unacceptable to spend $1,000 for a Samsung Galaxy S10+ only to get a fingerprint reader that’s inferior to the one on the previous Galaxy S9.
I’ve tried just about all of the in-display sensors — Galaxy S10, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, OnePlus 6T, and even the one on the new Nokia 9 PureView — and none of them live up to the hype.
Tradeoffs are inevitable when it comes to new technologies, but when new innovation is a noticeable step backwards from what came before, we should stop and ask big tech companies why?
What good is using an in-display fingerprint reader for unlocking your phone if it’s constantly telling you it failed to recognize your fingerprint or to press harder into the screen?
It’s kind of mind-boggling when somebody needs to make a video showing how it makes no difference if you tap or tap-and-hold your finger on the S10’s in-display reader.
Another problem with in-display fingerprint readers: many screen protectors don’t play nice with them. Because some sensors, like the one in the OnePlus 6T, require light to illuminate your fingerprints before capturing an image of them, screen protectors can actually get in the way.
Same goes for ultrasonic fingerprint readers like the one in the Galaxy S10 and S10+. Only instead of blocking light, many third-party screen protectors can block the ultrasound waves emitted from the grooves of your finger when it touches the sensor. And the only one that seems to work takes like 30 minutes. No thank you.
Regular fingerprint readers don’t have issues with screen protectors because they’re not inside of the display.
Been doing this test over and over every day and pretty sure the OnePlus 6T’s fingerprint optical in-display fingerprint sensor is faster than the Galaxy S10+’s ultrasonic one #galaxys10pic.twitter.com/fadEDJr61q
But if in-display fingerprint sensors aren’t good enough yet, shouldn’t phone makers put more dollars into research and development to make facial recognition and face unlock systems more reliable and secure? Since face unlock is often touted as more convenient, anyway?
You would think yes. But the opposite seems to be happening. Whereas the Galaxy S8 and S9 both had secure iris scanners, the S10’s doesn’t. As a result, the face unlock feature on the S10 is wimpy — like comically easy to fool with a printed photo or video on your phone. Unbox Therapy’s Lewis Hilsenteger was able to bypass the S10’s face unlock with a YouTube video of himself. Another person fooled the face unlock on her brother’s S10 and they’re not even twins. Like, oh damn.
The reality is, you can’t get a notch-free display or screen with only a “hole punch” if you want a secure facial recognition system like Face ID on the iPhone X, XS, and XR. Unlike the 2D-based face unlock recognition on phones like the S10, the 3D-based Face ID on the latest iPhones requires many sensors (i.e. flood illuminator, infrared camera, dot projector, etc.) housed in the notch. Some phones like the Oppo Find X get around this by hiding the front-facing camera and its sensors inside of a motorized mechanism, but that introduces its own durability issues.
Using these crummy in-display readers made me realize one very obvious thing: Apple was right to go with Face ID instead of trying to put Touch ID in the screen. Face ID isn’t perfect by any means — for example, it doesn’t work well sideways in bed or at all if you’ve got a scarf or mask covering your mouth — but more times than not it does work quickly and reliably. The same just can’t be said for in-display fingerprint sensors.
So why did we want these in-display fingerprint readers again? Does anyone really want them if they’re so bad? So that we can get sleeker phones without a sensor on the back or on the side? Thinner phones? Give me a break. If this was true, the Galaxy S10e and its side-mounted fingerprint reader wouldn’t exist.
Until these in-display fingerprint sensors get significantly better, they’re going to be a stain on otherwise excellent phones.
March 11, 2019 / Comments Off on Crappy in-display fingerprint readers are ruining new phones
There are a lot of great TV events coming up over the next few weeks — like the final season premiere of Game of Thrones and NCAA’s March Madness — that you don’t want to miss. Upgrading your old HD TV for a new 4K one would greatly improve your TV-watching experience, especially if you’re going to have friends and family over to your place to watch Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow do their thing or to see how far Duke University will get in the college basketball tournament.
We found the best deals on amazing 4K smart TVs of various shapes and sizes for just about every room in your home. We looked high and low on Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, and PCMag Shop for the very best in 4K TVs.
Here are just some of our favorite deals:
Here are the rest of the best deals on 4K smart TVs from across the internet this week:
There are so many great TV shows out right now that you might feel overwhelmed if you only “watch TV” on the smaller displays on smartphones, tablets, or laptops. Just because you can watch TV on the go in just about any location doesn’t mean you can’t go old school (ish) and watch on a massive 4K TV too.
In fact, most modern TVs feature the same streaming apps as mobile devices, so you can start watching an episode of Stranger Things on Netflix on a big screen TV at home and finish it on a smartphone during your lunch break at work.
We found the best deals on 4K smart TVs of various shapes and sizes from the top TV makers like LG, Sony, Samsung, VIZIO, and more. We scoured Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, and PCMag Shop to make shopping for an amazing 4K TV easier for you.
Here are just some of our favorite deals:
Here are the rest of the best deals on 4K smart TVs for this weekend: