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Tech Lab Plus

Samsung serves up a worthy iPhone rival

Galaxy S III smartphone by Samsung Corp.

$199.99at Sprint.com,Verizon.com,and ATT.com;$279.99 at TMobile.com

If you’re determined to buy the iPhone 5 whenever Apple Inc. finally gets around to serving it up, you might want to stay far away from the local cellphone store. This remarkable beauty from Samsung just might steal your heart.

The Galaxy S III is one of the best-selling smartphones in the world right now, and that’s no surprise. It’s a sleek, gorgeous little powerhouse. Its dual-core processor moves things along nicely. Its organic light-emitting diode screen displays lush, rich colors. And its eight-megapixel camera takes superb photos.

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The S III’s on-board software is full of welcome surprises. For instance, there’s a system that uses the phone’s front-facing camera to detect whether you’re looking at the screen. If you are, it remains illuminated. But look away, and the phone goes dark after a few seconds to save battery power. It also has a sharing feature that lets you network with the mobile devices of your nearby friends, so you can instantly send them the photos you’ve just taken. And in a marvelous display of multitasking, the S III lets you run videos in one corner of the screen while you’re checking e-mail or doing other mundane tasks. I’m not sure exactly how useful this is, but it’s mighty cool.

The Galaxy S III isn’t as elegant as the iPhone. Indeed, its case feels a little plasticky and cheap. But under the skin, you’ll find one of the best Android phones yet.

Rukus Solar Bluetooth sound system by Eton Corp.

$135.39at Amazon.com

We’re in for it now — weeks of blazing summer sun. So you might as well put all that solar energy to good use, with a handy outdoor boombox that runs on daylight.

The Rukus doesn’t have the greatest set of speakers I’ve heard. But it’s adequate for small outdoor gatherings. Just sync it with your smartphone’s Bluetooth wireless network, and you can beam songs from the phone to the speakers. If your gadget lacks Bluetooth, there’s an audio jack that’ll do the trick.

The Rukus runs on a built-in battery that promises eight hours of continuous play. You can charge up with the included AC adapter, or just leave it in the light; the front of the device is one big solar panel. Eton says about six hours of direct sun will fully power the battery. The same charging system will work for your phone or other portable devices; simply plug the gadget’s charging cable into the Rukus USB port.

The Rukus seems a relatively pricey listening option, considering that audio quality isn’t exactly sterling. But you’ll probably save quite a few bucks on batteries.

All-in-One Mobile Companion by D-Link Systems Inc.

$69.54at Amazon.com

Here’s the most frustrating product I’ve tested in quite a while. D-Link’s Mobile Companion is a pocket-sized wireless router that can connect to a wired or wireless Internet connection and create a private Wi-Fi network for friends or business colleagues. It’s an interesting concept, but poorly executed.

In principle, the Mobile Companion seems simple enough. It comes with an Ethernet connection, a USB port, and of course, Wi-Fi wireless networking. I tried an Ethernet link to the Globe’s network, to see if I could share it wirelessly with my laptop. I could just as easily have plugged the Ethernet into the laptop, but with a Mobile Companion, I could let some Wi-Fi-equipped buddies share the fun.

Only there wasn’t much fun. The automatic setup procedure failed utterly. I had to phone tech support to get instructions on how to do it manually. Still, the Mobile Companion worked well enough as a personal wireless router, once it was properly rigged.

But it’s also supposed to let you plug a phone, hard drive, or other device into its USB port and share the files over the personal network. I spent another hour on the phone trying to manage it. A tech told me I needed extra software to access this feature through a laptop. But the software was not included; the user manual didn’t even reveal the need for it. And when I’d tracked down and installed the software, it didn’t work. If this is D-Link’s idea of a Mobile Companion, I think I’ll keep to myself.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at bray@globe.com.
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