Welcome to Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that weighs the merits and flaws of the most intriguing gadget announcements, all the while remembering that we're really just biding time until Apple reveals what it has up its sleeve at its latest product reveal.
In our pristine showcase this time around are Samsung's latest flagship phone, a way to brew tea through ultrasound, a fridge that comes to you, and, for some reason, a connected salt dispenser.
As always, dear friends, these are not reviews. The ratings indicate how much I'd like to try each product, and are not a guide as to their quality. In our case, the grades truly don't matter.
Back With a Bang
In 2016, Samsung's smartphone division wasn't so much on the rocks as dangling by a single fingernail, millimeters from plunging into a deep, dark chasm. The Galaxy Note7 had a terrible habit of exploding or catching fire. Not exactly the best look considering people prefer not to be injured while checking Instagram.
The Galaxy Note8 is free of those combustible foibles, we've been assured, which is unquestionably the most important development. Of course, it's also bigger, smarter and faster, with a premium price tag to boot.
Samsung almost wipes out the bezel here with its 6.3-inch, edge-to-edge Infinity Display screen. It packs in 64 GB of storage (which can be expanded through the micro SD slot), 6 GB of RAM, and the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor as in the S8 Plus. The handset is resistant to water and dust, and the new battery promises fast wireless charging.
Owners can use the new S Pen to write notes, mark up images, select text, and make animated GIFs from videos. It has a finer point and more pressure sensitivity levels than before. The S Pen is a key selling point for Samsung adherents, so it's good to see the company has given it some attention here.
For the first time in a Note handset, this model packs in dual rear cameras. The 12-MP lenses can capture wide-angle images and use telephoto features. There's a neat dual-capture feature that allows users to take close-up and wide-angle snaps simultaneously. The dual rear cameras are a welcome upgrade after the iPhone 7 Plus adopted similar hardware last year.
The price -- US$929 for an unlocked device -- might prove a stumbling point, especially when the imminent iPhone update is rumored to have a premium model retailing for about the same price. That may pull some Samsung customers away if they aren't overly impressed with the Note8's new features but want more of a luxury phone.
I'm curious to try the Note8. It's been a long time since I've used a stylus with any device, let alone a smartphone. However, I'm too invested in the iOS ecosystem, for better and worse, to seriously consider a switch at this point.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Smokes Without Fires
Teamosa wants to shake up how we make tea by heating the water through ultrasound.
Using loose-leaf tea or one of the company's compostable paper pods, the device draws water from the tank in its base to make a cup of tea within 3 minutes. Naturally, there's a companion app you can use to tweak the settings if your particular blend needs a different temperature.
As a heavy tea drinker, I like the idea of brewing as the water heats up, rather than waiting for a kettle to boil plus another few minutes for that perfect flavor.
At retail, Teamosa costs up to $399, but early bird backers can get it for $239 when its Kickstarter campaign starts on Sept. 13.
At those prices, I don't think Teamosa is something I absolutely need in my life, but if someone were to, I don't know, send one as a birthday gift, I'd welcome it. Thanks for reading all this time, Mom.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Tea Parties
Panasonic has created a voice-controlled fridge that will trundle to wherever you are in your home, bringing snacks and drinks on a whim. Never again will I need to get up from the dinner table for more wine because I forgot ice for the bucket.
It apparently can recognize the bottles you have inside and recommend a pairing for whatever you're eating or potentially place an order if you're running low on something.
Panasonic suggests Ku will be beneficial for the elderly or infirm, helping them avoid too many trips to the kitchen, or for me, helping me avoid too many trips to the kitchen.
It is, sadly, a concept at present, but Ku might be available to purchase within six years, affording me plenty of time to create a seamless, safe path for it to come to me while I'm lounging in my hammock.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Why Did No-One Make This Sooners?
I have two initial thoughts about Smalt, a connected dispenser that offers sodium consumption tracking, specific salt measurements via the Alexa voice assistant or companion app, ambient lighting, and audio through its Bluetooth speakers: Really? And no.
It's not a grinder, which seems like a wild misstep, but I suppose understandable since it would be harder to measure exact quantities. Smalt is hardly a Juicero-level laughing stock, but I'm saltier about it than the tomato sauce I made last week.
Oh, darn, maybe I do need it after all.
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