Friday 21 July 2023

Samsung's S-View Flip Cover

I'm testing this Samsung original case here with my Galaxy S22 Ultra, but there's also a version for the S23 Ultra that I know of, and maybe more models. It's certainly an impressive sounding piece of kit, but I've always hated flip-cases and wallet cases! What sort of chance will it stand with narrow-minded me?! Will the smarts on offer outsmart my tiny brain?

This premium-feeling case is soft and velvety to the touch but is actually hard plastic underneath. Like most of these kind of 'flip' cases there's a firm plastic shell inside where the phone is placed, though in this example the case colouring (in mine, Burgundy) continues around that shell. Many feel like a glued-in afterthought. It needs to be pushed/clipped in there and it does so reassuringly firmly. There are no 'gaps' for volume/power buttons but supplied plastic ones which also feel premium, firm to the touch and clicky.

The cutouts on the back for the camera elements are perfect and even protect the 'naked' edges, making the phone lie flat on the desk - no more rocking! The soft, velvety feel continues around the curves, edges, bottom and top. On the front there's a 'slot' cutout for the top speaker/earpiece so that you can take calls and listen to music, unimpeded.

When I first picked it up, I thought that the 'front' cover was sloppy. It kind of slides around when moved. I thought I wasn't going to like this, because of that. However, the reason for this becomes clear soon enough as you realise it's designed so that the 'flap' is 'loose' enough to sweep right around the back (like a Kindle Cover) so it doesn't get in the way if the user wants to use the phone with it around the back, getting the 'flap' out of the way. There's also another benefit to this arrangement and design, which I'll come to.

Unlike many Kindle cases, the 'flap' doesn't come together when closed with any kind of magnet. It will just open with gravity, though it's nicely 'weighted' and 'snaps' closed with gravity, when you go past the 90-degree angle. When this happens, the phone knows it's happened. It knows that you have an S-View on, and shuts down the screen. Well, most of it. Another tease!

On the bottom, there are oversized cutouts for USB-C cables to connect and to get the S-Pen out. They both work well for me, taking all sorts of sizes of charging cable-ends into the former and allowing my fingers to get the S-Pen out easily enough with the latter. The whole case in the hand feels like a premium outfit and easily justifies the £45 RRP (though shop around as it's often cheaper of course). And we haven't even got to the primary function yet!

OK then so we've got here - yes, in the top-right (portrait) corner of the front of the case, there's a cutout. An oblong one. It's about and inch wide and two inches high. When the case is closed is when this leaps into action driven by a menu item in Settings (Cover Screen) which pops up when the case is fitted, becoming very similar to the one which adorns the Galaxy Z Flip-series phones. And the similarities don't end there - the resulting 'virtual' window which appears behind the oblong 'gap' in the front of the case produces a bunch of functionality not dissimilar.

By default, you get a battery icon and percentage readout above a 'tall' digital clock (so 2 digits above another 2), under that, day and day of the month and top-left, an orange 'dot' to tell you if you have Notifications waiting. Like the Flip, if you double-tap it (or press the power button on the side), the virtual display leaps into action. If you single-tap it or try to swipe it without double-tapping first, again like the Flip, nothing happens. I shall get fed up with saying "like the Flip" so perhaps from now on I'll just point out when it's different to it! One last word though, that clearly unlike the Flip, it's in portrait, not landscape.

By default, if you (after double-tapping) swipe right, you get a list of Notifications waiting which you can scroll up and down. If you tap on any of them you are invited to open up the phone to read further details or there's a 'clear' button. So no chance of any reply by voice or tiny keyboard! Leave the display alone for a few seconds with any of these actions and it returns to the base-clock etc. Swipe left instead of right and (by default) it gives you the Music Player (when first invoked it asks you which you'd like to use - much like Samsung's Edge Panel for Music Player). You then get information about what's playing - artist, title and service being used, with Pause/Play and Skip forward/back a track buttons. Unlike the Flip, you can't swipe down to get various Brightness, WiFi, Cellular, Bluetooth (and so on) Quick Toggle controls.

Before I dive into Settings and menus, I'll go back to the design for a second and highlight the other feature invoked because of that 'floppy flap' cover. The oblong, when flipped around the back, lines up perfectly with the whole of the camera array, so unlike many, many of these 'flip' or 'wallet' cases which completely prevent to use of the camera (when open/flapped back), this makes it work brilliantly well. Fiendish. Anyone would think it had been designed for the purpose!

If you open the flap up and head into the phone's main Settings, you'll now see, as mentioned earlier, a new item called Cover Screen which is where all the rest of the fiddling around can be done to make the exterior display how you want it. Most of the action is in the Clock Style option, where you can choose from 12 different clock faces and within each one, customise how it might look/behave. Depending on which one you select there are different levels of customisation, colours, text, movement of daft-looking cartoon creatures and so forth (I'm getting too old for this)! If you want to change the background colour, you can select that from any of your photos on the phone, too. The usual Samsung-style playground, though this doesn't appear to have been opened up to people to 'theme' like AoD on the main screen, via the Galaxy Store.

There are also some baseline toggles - one to tell it to open the phone's screen up when you open the flap (which will work in collusion with whatever other biometrics you have in place), show Notifications on/off (though I can't imagine why you'd want them off) and to turn on the mini-screen (brighten it up) when Notifications come in (or not). I can't find any controls for anything further, like for someone who doesn't want Music Player to the right - or like with the Flip phones, a further choice or Weather, Calendar, Agenda or the whole bunch of stuff supplied there. So yes, it's a dumbed-down version of what you get on the Z Flip phones.

In my testing here, wireless (and reverse wireless) charging still seem to work through the case, even when the flap is folded back but I guess that your mileage may vary depending on the strength/quality of the charger.

The S-Pen doesn't interact with the Cover Screen at all - you can't write on it, even if you extract the pen when the case is closed. However, if you take the pen out, then open the flap, you will then be presented with the Note Taking screen (assuming that's how the phone has been set up to have done that when there's no cover in place). Furthermore, if you scribble a note and close the flap back up, the Cover Screen will go back to doing what it always does but the screen underneath will retain your scribbled note (unless you had saved or deleted it previously). So yes, on the fly note taking on the flip of a flap!

Timers, alarms and phone calls can be handled by the system too. If you have a timer or alarm set, you get a control up to stop/restart/snooze by 'swiping' one of the icons up across the screen. However, there is a caveat here - you have to use Samsung's own Clock app! All you get with, for example, Google's Clock App is a link to the App pop up and no other option but to open up the flap and deal with it on the phone's screen in full.

As for phone calls, you can receive calls by long-swiping the green 'answer' circle, or reject them by swiping the red 'end call' circle but there's way to make calls that I can see. But, you guessed it - the caveat is the same. The coding for the control of the outside screen only works if you use Samsung's own Phone app, not Google's Phone App. Incoming text messages if using Google Messages really confuses the display, which starts flashing around(!), but using Samsung Messages it works fine like any other Notification.

So yes, if you want to make full use of all the functions, use the Samsung apps! I'm used to working with Google's Apps as default, so are the rest of the functions still worth the money for me? They certainly are. It's a super case with lots of great functionality. For someone who is happy to make even more use of it by using Samsung's communication Apps, it's a no-brainer. Go and buy one!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Dentistry - Look away if you're queasy!

I said I'd feed back after my dentistry, so I am now. It all happened yesterday. Wuss that I am, I found it all very traumatic really th...