EDITOR’S COLUMN: After the buzz

Over my three-year tenure at the Torch, I have dabbled in many tech reviews. Before I leave these 12 pages for good, I wanted to look back and give you my thoughts after the buzz has worn off. From phones to smart home gadgets and more, let’s talk about how everything’s held up.

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In January I gave you my initial thoughts and review on picking up a used foldable phone to dip your toe into the new form factor. After three months, I’d be hesitant to continue the recommendation I made for most consumers. My unit is still holding up fairly well at the exterior with a simple, clear TPU case. The inside display is an entirely different story.

In my more minimal work usage in the not-so-long time I’ve had this, I have managed to put several deep scratches on the interior display’s mandatory screen protector. I also seem to have started to tear that protector at the right edge of the fold crease. For the three to five times a day I pick up this phone to check my email or field a call, I am incredibly disappointed with the durability so far. While I’m not worried for myself, as I’ll likely be able to get this protector replaced on an upcoming trip to a city with a Samsung store, you simply would not have that luxury here and would require mail-in service for just about any repair.

This is a big issue to settle with if you’re an acrylic wearer like me, or are just a little rough on your phone in general. If you’re someone that keeps your nails short and is willing to be a bit more careful with your phone, I can still recommend this to you. It’s still a cool phone that makes me smile just about any time I touch it. I can even look past the eccentricities of OneUI, Samsung’s skin for Android, because of just how quirky and shockingly useful the folding aspect actually was for daily tasks. Personally, though, if I had to do it over again, I’d likely skip this in lieu of something a bit more durable and have waited for science to catch up a bit more to my acrylics.

The smart home

In October of 2021 I brought to you my childhood dream of having the smart home. After living with it for nearly two years, I can confidently say that it was resoundingly not worth it due to the limitations caused by being a renter. I also forgot one key aspect of the puzzle in my execution: manual backup.

While having color-changing, voice-activated lights is awesome, you don’t always want them to be voice-activated or color-changing. The main issues I ran into with my renter-friendly setup revolved around poor Wi-Fi service and the want for simple, manual control that didn’t take the device offline. These problems were usually cyclical, as a Wi-Fi outage would lead to the breaking of voice control, which would lead to the usage of the physical light switch, lessening the chance everything would just sort itself out when things came back online.

The solutions to this? They’re either not renter-friendly, installing smart light switches; would be extremely expensive, mounting used iPads that are just smart home controllers; or further bog down our already challenged network that I can’t maintain myself. What I’d recommend today? A paired-down setup with equally paired-down expectations.

Until you own and can install smart light switches, a mesh Wi-Fi network or can commit to an even more deeply integrated system like that offered by HomeKit, I wouldn’t bother with more than a smart bulb you’ll control via Bluetooth here and there for some ambiance. Anything more within the conditions of a college apartment requires more attention than any one student has time for.  I will not be resetting my smart home at my next rental. I’ll be holding off until I can build the champaign smart home of my dreams.

iPhone 12

The iPhone 12 was my first tech review at the Torch, and one I treasure fondly. While I stand by what I said in my award-winning review of this phone, it simply was not the iPhone in that year’s lineup for me. After nine months of using the iPhone 12, I transitioned to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and that’s where I’ve stayed since for my personal phone.

While the iPhone 12 standard is still a wonderful phone, even two and a half years after its initial launch, its smaller battery was just not up to my power user standard. With Screen Time that would make your eyes water, I needed to step up to the phone with the biggest battery they sold that year. My original iPhone 12 does still live on to this day, though, as I sold it to a friend as her first iPhone ever.

If you’re in the market for a cheaper iPhone or just don’t want to pay for incremental changes, this is still a top buy if you can find one with good battery health used. Or better yet, check out carrier deals and see if you could score this for next to nothing or free, brand new in box. This phone has aged very well alongside its Pro, Pro Max and Mini counterparts and is worth another look if you’re not in need of the latest and greatest.

I am very thankful to have gotten an opportunity to report on these pieces of tech throughout my time at the Torch. I know as a college newspaper we are not the typical place for these types of stories, but I hope you’ve enjoyed my perspective, nonetheless. I also hope I may have helped you pick up a new piece of tech along the way.