Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

The Wrap – May 12, 2017

Can Samsung’s Galaxy S8 work as your new computer? Plus find out if you can use WiFi calling, why Vodafone has declared war on the 13th month, and HTC’s new offering. It’s a very phone heavy episode of The Wrap.


It’s the second weekend of May, and while we’re wishing your mum has a lovely weekend for Mother’s Day, that’s for Sunday. For now, for Friday May 12, you’re listening to Australia’s fastest technology round-up. This is The Wrap.

And we start The Wrap this week by looking at the state of computers, devices that we’re all still using. You may not lean as hard on a desktop these days, but there’s a good chance you’re still using a laptop on a desk, or even a tablet, because the simple truth is as amazing as our phones can be, they’re not a one-stop shop for everything just yet.

Samsung’s Galaxy S8 could just end up kickstarting that revolution, however, as one official accessory makes its way into our hands.

It has the rather unusual name of DeX which means “desktop replacement”, and this is basically Samsung’s interpretation of a smartphone dock. Unlike your conventional phone dock, this isn’t about playing music or videos, but rather doing work, connecting your phone to a keyboard, a mouse, and a screen and possibly wired network connection so you can be productive.

And this is more than just a USB port for your Android smartphone, because Samsung has thrown in some neat smarts in the DeX dock, essentially running a layer on top of its version of Android that turns Google’s operating system into something that will play nicely with a keyboard and mouse, in the desktop environment, so to speak.

Quite remarkably, in our few day testing, Samsung has even managed to clear up the problem new operating systems tend to have, because while there are bugs and a few teething issues, the very fact that you can run the apps that run on your phone in a desktop environment makes DeX very compelling, and it’s something we tested in a real working environment.

You may not know this, but at the time this podcast went to air, Pickr was not a full time job, and so we were able to test if DeX could work as an actual day-to-day product in our day job.

We need to note that much of this reviewer’s job requires working with web-heavy apps like Google Chrome, so we never felt truly limited because we couldn’t use Windows-specific apps, since we didn’t need them.

But if you’re not bothered by that and if you only rely on browsers and such, as well as the occasional app that does exist on Android as it is, you won’t be fussed at all, and the Samsung DeX can really stand up on its own two feet, with the $199 price tag making it well worth the gamble if there’s even a distinct possibility that you’ll be able to switch you phone for the day to day and only use that.

We’re giving it a recommended rating, and that’s a solid first effort for a phone-to-desktop replacement product, something that has basically been a failure for everyone else except what we’re seeing from Samsung, though you do need either the Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus if you want to try this out.

Now if you own an iPhone from the past few years and you’re a Telstra customer, there’s something else you might want to try out this week: WiFi calling

Yes, this week Telstra switched on support for folks that may not get the best mobile reception where they live or where they work, and are keen to share the mobile voice bandwidth with something else they use.

If you have a wireless network at home or anywhere else and you use Telstra on an iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus, 7, 7 Plus, SE — seriously, that’s pretty much every iPhone for the past few years — you can now update your phone and get talking using the WiFi network at home.

For Telstra and Apple, voice over WiFi is basically an extension to voice over LTE, the same sort of technology only you rely on home or work WiFi instead of a 4G connection.

Telstra isn’t the only company this week dabbling in something new on its network, with Vodafone using this week to declare war on the 13th month.

What’s that you say? There are only twelve months per year?

Well, you’re technically right, except for that if you’re charged monthly access for prepaid on most telcos in Australia, you’re being charged every 28 days, and that means you’re essentially paying for 13 months per year, not the standard 12 we all know it to be.

This is one of those little bit dodgy tactics that’s never quite worked its way out, but Vodafone seems keen to change things, and has this week unveiled 35 day expiries, which basically means if you’re on one of the new 35 day expiry plans, you’ll only need to charge your phone around ten times per year instead of the standard 12, and the more web-connected 13.

There is a catch, of course, and that catch relates to spend. For instance, if you spend $30 on a prepaid plan, you’ll still see the 28 day policy, but if you spend over it, Vodafone expands the four weeks to 35 days.

That will be incentive enough for many to buy the more expensive plans, but it’s something that needs to be said, a little like a public service announcement in case you end up missing out.

And finally, more phone news, because you’re probably keen to know everything about phones, and this week HTC has announced another mid-range mobile for the Australian market

This one is called One X10, a rather complicated name that takes a mid-range interpretation of last year’s HTC 10 and tried to give it a lease of life of its own. It’s a little bit thinner and a little bit flatter than HTC’s previous flag ship, and carrying as $549 price tag, it’s also less expensive , arriving with a massive 4000mAh battery and a rear fingerprint sensor, two elements we weren’t sure HTC still was doing.

More importantly, it appears to be an interesting handset going straight for Oppo’s throat, and given that Oppo is making a difference with inexpensive smartphones and even taking in the goal of the biggest Android phone seller in the Asia Pacific region, it’s an area HTC definitely has to be in, and at $549, we’d say it is with no worries.

And with that, we’ve reached the end of The Wrap this week, with no worries either.

Now Pickr is up for two IT Journo awards at The Lizzies, so wish us luck, and for everyone else, have a great mother’s day weekend. Take care and have a great week.

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