• Devices

    by Published on 04-11-2018 10:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on



    Springtime in Canada... Time to show some skin!

    I'm sad to report that my brief affair with the Skagen Falster is over and done. It was indeed a fetching timepiece but all too quickly I was reminded of how terrible Android Wear is. And going back to Pebble is like wearing a ticking time bomb, set to go off on June 30th when Fitbit finally shuts down the servers forever.

    So instead I've been getting reacquainted with the Amazfit Bip. And honestly, the more I wear it the more I appreciate what Huami has accomplished with this little wrist-based gadget.

    I harp so much on the shortcomings of Android Wear/Wear OS because the hardware is so expensive; when you spend $500 or more on a smartwatch you can't help but notice its shortcomings. But with a price tag of less than $100 it's an entirely different story with the Bip; instead of being disappointed at what it can't do I find myself surprised and delighted at what it can.

    Here then, is a quick list of what the Bip does:

    Shows the time, all the time. When I'm out in the world and observe the dead screens of Apple Watches on people's wrists I can't help but shake my head a little bit. Like the Apple Watch, the Bip also has a touch screen. Unlike the Apple Watch the Bip is always readable, even in bright sunlight.

    Holds a charge. Amazfit's bold claim of a battery that lasts up to a month isn't too far off; I've had my Bip for two and with intermittent use the factory charge lasted until a few days ago. Tracking an hour-long walk with GPS on drains less than 4% of the battery, so it looks like it's going to be at least another 25 days before my next charge.

    Displays notifications. This is, after all, the raison d'ętre for smartwatches. You can't reply to an incoming message like you can on Pebble, Watch or Wear OS. But considering the always-on display and battery life I'm pretty okay with this.

    Tracks your health and fitness. The Bip itself has a heart rate sensor and, as mentioned earlier, GPS. For fitness tracking the heavy lifting is actually done by Mi Fit for Android or iOS, which syncs data from your watch every time you open the app.

    Gives you some useful utilities. The Bip has no official app store, but the utilities on board—including alarms, a compass, stopwatch, timer and local weather forecast—are quite handy.

    Holds promise for hackers. There's already a growing community of watch face designers, and some clever folks are dabbling with Tasker integration via unofficial Android apps. I honestly don't know too much about this, but the very fact that there's homebrew interest in the Bip bodes well for its future.

    Lets you BYOB (bring your own band). Forget Apple and Fitbit's proprietary crap; with the Bip you get a standard 20mm quick-release silicon strap, which can be swapped out for any other 20mm band. Just like a real watch!

    So there, in a nutshell, is a more in-depth look at the Amazfit Bip. It's far from perfect, of course—24-hour military time is currently the only available option. But for its display, battery life and sub-$100 price tag it's definitely worth a look.

    Links: Amazfit Bip on Amazfit USA, Gearbest, Geekbuying

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    by Published on 04-09-2018 07:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on



    I've always had a soft spot for slider phones, and seeing this Doogee Mix 4 made me instantly want one. Where the BlackBerry Priv hides a physical qwerty keyboard that slides out from the bottom of its big screen, the Mix 4 hides the selfie cam, earpiece and the usual sensors in a slab the slides out from the top.

    Why? Because more screen, that's why!



    Here's the Mix 4 next to a Samsung Galaxy S9+. The Mix 4 has a downright astonishing screen to body ratio of 97%, versus a relatively paltry 84.2% for the Samsung. As a reference, the screen to body ratio for the iPhone X is about 83%.

    To fully appreciate the Mix 4—which I should probably mention is only a prototype at this point—you should probably watch this unboxing and demo:



    A cursory check of XDA indicates that there are at least a couple of unofficial TWRP recoveries available for previous Mix devices; if this Mix 4 comes to market in its current form I'm betting it'll prove popular enough to get rooted soon after.

    Additional Sources: Android Police, The Next Web

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    by Published on 04-03-2018 06:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Rumors



    If this rumor turns out to be true then Google is going to have a grey market sensation on its hands.

    The Economic Times of India reports that Mountain View is planning a big sales push into the subcontinent—which, last time I checked, was the second largest smartphone market in the world. The initiative will include official sales channels for Google's high-end Pixelbook, Google Home and other home automation products and apparently a mid-range Pixel phone as well.

    SlashGear thinks that the phone will be revealed this summer, and cites the HTC Desire 12 as a reference for specs:

    5.5 inch, 720 x 1440 pixel display
    MediaTek MT6739 processor
    2 or 3 GB RAM, 32 GB storage + microSD
    13 megapixels rear-facing camera
    2,730 mAh battery

    While I agree that a mid-range Pixel would most likely be built by HTC talent, those specs seem a bit underwhelming in a market where overachieving OnePlus phones (for example) seem to do quite well.

    One thing's for sure: if there is to be a made-for-India Pixel it will almost certainly require dual SIM support, and will therefore never come to the Americas. At least not from your carrier.

    Sources: The Economic Times of India, SlashGear

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    by Published on 03-29-2018 07:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Rumors



    This is no leak; if you're looking for leaks, see below.

    The image above is the first official rendering of the OnePlus 6, shared with The Verge so that the Chinese Android OEM can explain their rather obvious homage to the iPhone X—that is, the dreaded notch. Apple wasn't actually first to market with this contentious design choice; that honour goes to Andy Rubin's Essential Phone. Apple's decision to go that same route, however, has legitimized it enough for Google to include notch support in its next version of Android.

    As for OnePlus specifically, here are Carl Pei's thoughts on the subject:

    In his mind, the question of whether to have a notch at all is a foregone conclusion. OnePlus, like every other phone maker opting to go this design route, sees it as adding more screen real estate instead of taking anything away. “What you are essentially doing is moving the entire notification bar up, giving users more content on their screen.”
    Fair enough. However... in exchange for a notched display Apple pretty much removed all other bezels from their iPhone X. If the leaked images below are legit, that doesn't quite seem to be the case for the OnePlus 6.



    OnePlus is nonetheless claiming a notch-assisted 90% screen to body ratio, compared to 80.5% for the OnePlus 5T. I'm not sure what's going on with the different finishes on the back; the glass version leaked on a Chinese site last February, and the textured back was tweeted by Evan Blass yesterday.

    Sources: Android Police, The Verge

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    by Published on 03-28-2018 07:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on



    Here's the latest Android Wear—sorry, Wear OS smartwatch beside my trusty Pebble Time Steel. Note the similarity in size. Similarities in thickness and weight are perhaps less apparent but trust me, they're closely matched as well. I think that's a pretty big deal; this Skagen Falster is the most reasonably-sized Android-powered smartwatch that I've ever worn.

    It doesn't look too shabby, either.

    Despite past nasty comments about Android Wear, there is a certain elegance in not having to rely on a third-party app to connect your watch to your phone. The Falster itself exudes a similar elegance. Such things are subjective, I know, but I'm definitely a fan of Skagen's minimalist watchfaces. The Falster seems to be geared towards the world traveller; support for multiple time zones is a recurring theme among the default face selection.

    This smartwatch is also practical. Those shiny stainless steel lugs will actually support any 20mm band, and the included leather or mesh strap has quick release pins for added convenience.

    A more in-depth review of the Falster by Android Police criticizes its small battery and big price. I can't really comment on the battery yet as I'm still on my first full charge; I guess that in itself is a good sign. I do agree that at $275 USD and $365 CAD it's expensive, but there are two ways to consider that. You could say that without a heart rate sensor or NFC for Android—sorry, Google Pay, Skagen is charging too much for too little. However, you could also say that you're paying a premium for a piece of wearable technology that's actually wearable.

    That's how I'm feeling about the Skagen Falster right now; I'm definitely smitten. Guess we'll just have to see how long that lasts.

    Links: Android Police, Best Buy Canada, Skagen USA

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    by Published on 03-26-2018 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Carriers



    I can still remember the early 2000s, those dark days before the arrival of the modern smartphone, when I could visit the magazine section of my local book shop and more often than not find some sort of buyer's guide for mobile phones. Some of these guides where imported from the UK, others from the US. And most of them are by now long gone.

    So it's with a bit of nostalgia that I present to you today the winners of a recent readers' choice survey conducted by PCMag. It's not a dedicated-to-mobile publication like the titles of old, but it's a buyer's guide nonetheless (for whatever that's worth). Here then, are the PCMag Readers' Choice Smartphone and Carrier Awards for 2018:

    Winner, Mobile Operating System: Google Android
    Available as the platform for nearly every non-Apple phone on the market, Android again earns the Readers' Choice Award, as it's done every year since 2014. Android users are more satisfied than their iOS counterparts with their platform's reliability as well as many other key measures of smartphone use.

    Winner, Smartphone: OnePlus
    Before you make your next phone purchase, you owe it to yourself to check out OnePlus. The company's phones may not have the most cutting-edge features, but they're solid, affordable phones that, according to our survey respondents, do one thing better than any other phone brand – thrill their customers.

    Winners, Mobile Carriers: Consumer Cellular
    This year marks the fifth straight year that Consumer Cellular has won the Readers' Choice Award. While the company targets its advertising towards seniors, anyone can take advantage of Consumer Cellular's competitively priced service.

    Winners, Mobile Carriers: Google Project Fi
    Project Fi's unique approach of taking advantage of multiple carriers' networks continues to resonate with its customers, allowing it to deliver excellent coverage and speed at competitive prices. If you enjoy using Android phones, you should definitely give Project Fi a close look.

    For more information, including the most popular devices for each American carrier, see the link immediately below.

    Source: PCMag

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    by Published on 03-22-2018 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. News



    2018 is shaping up to be a rough year for Huawei's U.S. operations. The Chinese company, widely recognized as the world's third largest smartphone OEM behind Samsung and Apple, was set to sell its Mate10 Pro through AT&T before that carrier backed out of the deal. Now they're about to lose another American retail partner; CNET reports that Best Buy will cease all sales of Huawei products over the next few weeks, and cancel any orders for new stock.

    Americans, like Canadians, tend to finance their smartphone hardware through their carriers, so you could certainly argue that the fallout with AT&T was a bigger deal. Also, you can still buy Huawei phones unlocked through the likes of Amazon and Newegg. What you can't do with either of those online vendors, however, is see and handle your potential Huawei purchase on a physical store shelf.

    Best Buy won't officially comment on their decision, but it almost certainly has something to do with security concerns expressed by the CIA, FBI and NSA over Chinese firms. Huawei, on the other hand, has lots to say:

    "Our products and solutions are used by major carriers, Fortune 500 companies and hundreds of millions of consumers in more than 170 countries around the world," said a spokesman. "We have earned the trust of our partners across the global value chain."
    In case you were wondering it's still business as usual for Huawei in Canada, though there have been some security concerns raised here as well.

    Source: CNET, Globe and Mail

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    by Published on 03-21-2018 08:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Apps



    It's been almost a week since Google officially rebranded Android Wear to Wear OS, and tech blogs are unimpressed. Today I'll highlight two recent editorials on the subject, one with helpful but misguided suggestions for Google, and the other with some shade-throwing that, quite by accident, pretty much nails what I believe to be Mountain View's master plan.

    Android Central: Android Wear needs way more than just a Wear OS rebrand

    AC's editorial has two recommendations for Google: overhaul Google Fit and make a Pixel watch.

    While it's probably true that Google Fit is somewhat lacking for the hardcore fitness enthusiast, the article conveniently ignores the existence of third-party apps like Endomondo, Runkeeper, Strava and many more—all of which work with Wear OS. Google Fit is perfectly fine for the fitness dilettante, like myself.

    As for a Pixel watch, that would be almost certainly be a gift from the heavens for Pixel zealots, and of no consequence to the wider addressable audience for wearables. Remember that Nokia-powered Android phones, barely available in North America, outsold their Pixel counterparts last year. Would a Pixel-branded smartwatch do any better? I don't see how.

    Gizmodo: Google's Smartwatch Program Is a Mess, and a Name Change Won't Fix That

    Gizmodo's anti-Ware OS screed spends a lot of time looking down its nose at Fossil Group and other traditional watch OEMs:

    Almost all of the big Android Wear device makers such as Motorola, LG, and Asus have given up on the platform, leaving Android Wear in the hands of fashion brands that neither have the vision nor the technological know-how to advance smartwatch tech.
    Well, there's certainly one thing that fashion brands know how to do: design a timepiece that doesn't look like a gadget. Looks are entirely subjective, of course, but put any of the aforementioned Asus, LG or Motorola smartwatches beside anything from a traditional watchmaker and you can immediately see which one was designed by an electronics company.

    I've said this before and I'll say it here again: the future of Wear OS is under the hood of a Casio, Fossil, TAG Heuer or whatever your favourite watch brand happens to be. For the present, it arms these watchmakers with an alternative to the Apple Watch; for the future, it gives every watch-wearer to ability to see notifications on their wrist. The Wear OS rebranding is ultimately just marketing, and that's fine with me. It's a less-geeky way to pitch the tech under that pretty watchface.

    Links: Android Central, Gizmodo, Wareable

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    by Published on 03-09-2018 08:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Rumors



    Famous phone leaker Evan Blass has, for the moment, turned his prying eyes to smartwatches and has come up with this, the Fitbit Versa. It's not the first time we've seen this newer, cheaper and less fugly version of the Ionic. Nine days ago Wareable posted a gallery of the then-unnamed device; they've since updated their post to include the new information from Blass.

    Available in black, charcoal, rose gold and silver, the Versa will run the same Fitbit OS as the Ionic, but in a smaller and more female-friendly form factor. It will be water resistant to 50mm and, like the Ionic, will include an SpO2 sensor able to monitor sleep apnea once Fitbit enables that feature. The one thing it won't have on its spec sheet is GPS.

    If you think the Versa bears more than a passing resemblance to the Pebble Time Steel you're not wrong. In fact, someone told Wareable that Pebble had a touchscreen watch in development before they were bought up by Fitbit.

    The Versa is expected to go on sale this spring, and will almost certainly retail for less than the $300 USD Ionic.

    Sources: Evan Blass via Android Police, Wareable

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    by Published on 03-07-2018 07:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on

    ... Which Apple in turn copied from the Palm Pre. And the cycle of tech "innovation" continues.

    What I'm talking about here is gesture-based navigation, currently all the rage on the latest fruit phone. As luck would have it, it's also an option on the latest Open Beta of OxygenOS for the OnePlus 5T—the one without the capacitive buttons and front-facing fingerprint sensor / home button. Here's a close-up of my current home screen running the beta:



    Notice the complete absence of software navigation buttons. It doesn't seem like such a big deal at first, but it very quickly makes my FHD+ screen feel bigger and the entire OS more modern. A few more examples:



    Here's what typing looks like with the navigation buttons enabled...



    ... And here's what it looks like without. To be fair, a dark background behind the navigation buttons would make them look a lot better, but still not nearly as elegant as not having them at all.The gestures themselves are intuitive enough that they'll very quickly become second nature. Here's all you need to know:

    Home screen - swipe up from bottom-centre and release;
    App switcher - swipe up from bottom-centre and hold;
    Go back - swipe up from bottom-left or bottom-right and release.

    If still unclear, here are the gestures in action, courtesy of Droid Life:



    I wouldn't yet call it perfect on the OnePlus. If you've never seen the navigational aid that Apple has on their iPhone X, it's a thin black strip at the bottom of the screen from which you can begin your swipe upwards. On the 5T there's no such aid, and swiping successfully can sometimes take a couple of tries. Yet I am convinced that this is a much better way to get around your phone. Hopefully this feature will make it to a stable build of OxygenOS, and to other Android phones as well.

    Links: Android Central, OnePlus Forums

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    by Published on 03-06-2018 07:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis



    If you frequent either Amazon.ca or Amazon.com you'd be forgiven for thinking that they were already here. But China's number two smartphone OEM has plans far beyond grey market imports; according to the Wall Street Journal they're planning to raise up to a hundred billion dollars in an IPO on U.S. markets, and shortly afterwards will start selling their Android-powered phones and other gear through an official North American sales channel.

    Based on Huawei's recent troubles I wouldn't expect any carrier partners for Xiaomi phones, either; fortunately there's not so much sticker shock when it comes to their hardware, so carrier financing and/or subsidies aren't as critical to sales. That's my big hope here, that Xiaomi will have enough success with sub-$1,000 devices that Samsung, Google and Apple will take notice.

    Apple in particular might also take notice of MIUI, the inspired-by-iOS ROM developed at a time when other versions of Android lacked polish. But there are plenty of other Android OEMs also blatantly copying iOS, and they haven't been sued yet. We'll have to wait and see, I guess.

    By the way, the WSJ source lives behind a paywall, and my Google search trick to break it no longer seems to work. Fortunately, a helpful redditor on r/Android has done us all a favour and copy/pasted the text of the article right here.

    Source: Wall Street Journal via r/Android

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    by Published on 03-05-2018 06:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis



    With another Mobile World Congress come and gone it's time to get caught up on other smartphone-related stories of note. Almost two weeks ago Computerworld took a deep dive into the muddled waters of software updates, grading six Android OEMs on their Oreo OTAs and communication with their customers. To quote the author, such upgrades are basically "a big, hot mess".

    Here's a summary of the report card, ranked from best to worst:

    Google: A (94%)
    Current flagship upgraded in 9 days (60/60 points)
    Previous flagship upgraded in 18 days (29/30 points)
    Mediocre communication (5/10 points)

    OnePlus: D (65%)
    Current flagship upgraded in 138 days (41/60 points)
    Previous flagship upgraded in 91 days (24/30 points)
    Poor communication (0/10 points)

    HTC: F (49%)
    Current flagship upgraded in 99 days (47/60 points)
    Still waiting for upgrade to previous flagship (0/30 points)
    Poor communication (2/10 points)

    Motorola: F (45%)
    Current flagship upgraded in 124 days (43/60 points)
    Still waiting for upgrade to previous flagship (0/30 points)
    Poor communication (2/10 points)

    LG: F (0%)
    Still waiting for upgrade to current flagship (0/60 points)
    Still waiting for upgrade to previous flagship (0/30 points)
    Poor communication (0/10 points)

    Samsung: F (0%)
    Still waiting for upgrade to current flagship (0/60 points)
    Still waiting for upgrade to previous flagship (0/30 points)
    Poor communication (0/10 points)

    You can read the whole story at the link below. And feel free to add your own upgrade experience with any OEM not listed here.

    Source: Computerworld

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    by Published on 03-02-2018 06:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices



    Our MWC 2018 coverage ends with this concept phone by Vivo called the Apex—or, to follow the letter of its press release, the APEX™ FullView™. Vivo is one of three brands owned by BBK Electronics, and while it's theoretically possible that we'll see this pop-up selfie cam on a future OnePlus device, it's more likely to be a feature for China-only phones. That camera assembly is motor-driven, by the way, and takes less than a second to lock into place.

    You'll recall that Vivo was the first OEM to market with an in-display fingerprint sensor on the X20 Plus UD; the Apex improves on that effort by making a full third of the screen fingerprint friendly. If preferred the user can also unlock the phone with two thumbprints simultaneously, for extra security.



    All this tech lives behind a display with an astonishing 98% screen to body ratio. You really need to see it in action to appreciate it, so here's a video overview by The Verge.

    Sources: Engadget, The Verge (1) (2), Vivo

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    by Published on 03-01-2018 07:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices

    You're likely to read a lot of derision from Apple fan blogs about the new ASUS Zenfone 5Z. It's the first of what's probably going to be a wave of Android phones from the Far East that mimic the infamous notch on the iPhone X. Somewhat hilariously, ASUS claimed in their Mobile World Congress event that their notch is 26% smaller than Fruit Phone X. That's a pretty bold claim; let's see how their trio of new devices spec out:



    ZenFone 5Z (ZS620KL)
    6.2 Full HD+ IPS display (19:9)
    Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor
    4 / 6 / 8 GB RAM, 64 / 128 / 256 GB storage + microSD
    12 MP + 8 MP wide-angle rear cameras, 8 MP selfie cam
    3,300 mAh battery
    Dual SIM
    3.5 mm audio jack, stereo speakers
    Android Oreo
    Available in Meteor Silver, Midnight Blue



    ZenFone 5 (ZE620KL)
    6.2 Full HD+ IPS display (19:9)
    Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor
    4 / 6 GB RAM, 64 GB storage + microSD
    12 MP + 8 MP wide-angle rear cameras, 8 MP selfie cam
    3,300 mAh battery
    Dual SIM
    3.5 mm audio jack, stereo speakers
    Android Oreo
    Available in Meteor Silver, Midnight Blue



    ZenFone 5Q / Lite (ZC600KL)
    6 inch Full HD+ IPS display (18:9)
    Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 / 630 processor
    3 / 4 GB RAM, 32 / 64 GB storage + microSD
    16 MP + 8 MP wide-angle rear cameras, 20 MP + 8 MP selfie cams
    3,300 mAh battery
    Dual SIM
    3.5 mm audio jack, mono speaker
    Android Oreo
    Available in Midnight Black, Moonlight White, Rouge Red

    ASUS also announced a new ZenFone Max M1 (ZB555KL), a cheaper device with a big 4,000 mAh battery as its big draw. Unfortunately they don't yet have a product page up for that, so I can't verify the other specs.

    Sources: ASUS (1) (2), Liliputing, NDTV

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    by Published on 02-28-2018 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices

    Sony has announced a new line of Xperia phones at this year's Mobile World Congress, with the most immediately striking thing being their new design. Both the XZ2 and XZ2 Compact feature a curved back that would suggest larger batteries than the previous XZ1 line—and they are! Also, the fingerprint reader is now on the back of both devices. Sony had previously built the reader into the power button, but had to disable it for the North American market due to legal issues (likely with Apple).

    Anyway, here are the notable specs for the new devices:



    Sony Xperia XZ2
    5.7 inch Full HD+ HDR display (18:9)
    Snapdragon 845 processor
    6 GB RAM, 64 GB storage + microSD
    19 MP rear camera, 5 MP selfie cam
    3,180 mAh battery
    IP65/68 water resistance
    Android Oreo
    Available in Ash Pink, Deep Green, Liquid Black, Liquid Silver



    Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact
    5.0 inch Full HD+ HDR display (18:9)
    Snapdragon 845 processor
    4 GB RAM, 64 GB storage + microSD
    19 MP rear camera, 5 MP selfie cam
    2,870 mAh battery
    IP65/68 water resistance
    Android Oreo
    Available in Black, Coral Pink, Moss Green, White Silver

    Sources: Sony (1) (2)

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    by Published on 02-27-2018 07:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices

    HMD Global announced no less than five new Nokia-branded devices at this year's Mobile World Congress. There's a lot to cover here so let's get to it!



    Nokia 8 Sirocco
    5.5 inch QHD POLED display with 3D Corning Gorilla Glass 5
    Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
    6 GB RAM, 128 GB storage
    12 MP wide + 13 MP telephoto rear cameras with ZEISS optics, 5 MP selfie cam
    3,260 mAh battery with Quick Charge, wireless charging
    (no audio jack...?)
    Android 8.0 Oreo



    Nokia 7 plus
    Qualcomm Snapdragon 660
    6 inch IPS LCD full HD+ display (18:9)
    4 GB RAM, 64 GB storage + microSD
    12 MP + 13 MP rear cameras with ZEISS optics, 16 MP ZEISS selfie cam
    3,800 mAh battery with fast charging
    audio jack
    Android 8.0 Oreo



    New Nokia 6
    Qualcomm Snapdragon 630
    5.5 inch IPS LCD full HD display
    3 or 4 GB RAM, 32 or 64 GB storage + microSD
    16 MP rear camera with ZEISS optics, 8 MP selfie cam
    3,000 mAh battery
    audio jack
    Android 8.0 Oreo (Android One)



    Nokia 1
    MediaTek MT6737M processor (quad core 1.1 GHz)
    4.5 inch FWVGA IPS display (854 x 480 pixels)
    1 GB RAM, 8 GB storage + microSD
    5 MP rear camera with LED Flash, 2 MP selfie cam
    2,150 mAh battery
    audio jack
    Android 8.0 Oreo (Go edition)

    Oh, and one more thing. Remember last year when Nokia resurrected the legendary 3310? Well, they're at it again...



    Nokia 8110
    Curved 2.4-inch QVGA display
    Qualcomm 205 Mobile Platform (MSM8905 Dual Core 1.1 GHz)
    512 MB RAM, 4 GB storage
    2 MP rear camera
    1,500 mAh battery
    audio jack with FM radio function
    Kai OS

    Sources: Android Police, HMD Press, Mobile Syrup

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    by Published on 02-26-2018 06:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices

    Samsung has once again kicked off the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona with the big reveal of their new flagships for 2018, the Galaxy S9 and S9+.

    The world's largest smartphone OEM hasn't yet figured out the under-screen fingerprint sensor, but they have at least moved the rear-mounted one to a better position, under the camera assembly rather than beside it. There's some new tech in those camera assemblies as well; both the S9 and S9+ feature a new variable aperture rear camera that can open up to f/1.5 or stop down to f/2.4, plus capture slow-motion video at up to 960 frames per second at 720p.

    Here are the specs for both models:



    Galaxy S9
    5.8 inch 2960 x 1440 pixel sAMOLED display, Gorilla Glass 5
    Snapdragon 845 or Exynos 9810 processor
    4 GB RAM, 64/128/256 GB storage + microSD
    12 MP variable aperture rear camera, 8 MP selfie cam
    3,000 mAh battery with wireless charging
    IP68 dust and water resistance
    3.5 mm audio jack (!)
    Android 8.0 Oreo with Samsung Experience 9.0



    Galaxy S9+
    6.2 inch 2960 x 1440 pixel sAMOLED display, Gorilla Glass 5
    Snapdragon 845 or Exynos 9810 processor
    6 GB RAM, 64/128/256 GB storage + microSD
    12 MP variable aperture rear camera + 12 MP zoom lens, 8 MP selfie cam
    3,500 mAh battery with wireless charging
    IP68 dust and water resistance
    3.5 mm audio jack (!)
    Android 8.0 Oreo with Samsung Experience 9.0

    Depending on the carrier and/or market, available colours for both models will include Coral Blue, Lilac Purple, Midnight Black and Titanium Grey.

    In Canada, the S9 will start at $960 CAD, and the S9+ at $1,100.

    In the USA, the S9 will start at $720 USD, and the S9+ at $840. Additionally, 24-month financing will be available directly from Samsung.

    Sources: Mobile Syrup, XDA

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    by Published on 02-23-2018 06:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis



    If memory serves me correctly I first introduced the concept of "peak smartphone" last October, when I linked to a story about someone who had tracked Google searches for Apple and Samsung devices and found that interest in both of them had, well... peaked.

    This week TechCrunch is running a story with further evidence of slowing smartphone sales worldwide. A new report by Gartner claims that Q4 numbers were down 5.6% from the previous year; Apple moved 5% less iPhones and Samsung 3.6% less units over the holidays. And if you thought the world's largest smartphone market would be safe, think again: recent research by Canalys suggests that sales in China dropped by 4% in 2017, and were down 14% in Q4 alone.

    Back to Gartner, here's what they think is going on:

    Gartner says two main factors led to the Q4 sales drop: A slowing of upgrades from feature phones to smartphones due to a lack of quality “ultra-low-cost” smartphones; and existing smartphone owners selecting quality models and keeping them for longer, lengthening the replacement cycle.
    I would add that smartphones are getting too expensive, and that customers are passing over models without headphone jacks, but what do I know...?

    Sources: TechCrunch (1) (2)

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    by Published on 02-21-2018 07:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Apps



    In an unexpected blog post late last week the Rebble team kind of blew my mind.

    Based on my previous research I had thought that the project was to be a replacement for Pebble OS, the operating system on Pebble hardware. This never really made sense to me; full ROMs for each Pebble model are freely available for download, and it seems to me that what Pebblers are going to be missing most when Fitbit shuts down the Pebble servers this summer are the services that they currently provide to users—voice dictation and weather complications are the two that immediately spring to mind.

    What Rebble is actually planning is a complete end-to-end solution, including an app and watch face store, a phone app for Android and iOS and (eventually) a new operating system for the watch. Here's the TL;DR from their blog post:

    We will be providing replacements for almost all Pebble services;
    Most things will work just fine when you switch to the Rebble servers;
    We will have a Patreon page for you to donate to keep the services running;
    We will require that you pledge around a couple of dollars a month for weather and dictation. All other services will remain free;
    Fitbit are our friends.
    You can read the finer details of Rebble's grand plan at the first link below, and the ensuing discussion from the Pebble reddit community at the second. Comments posted there so far suggest that Pebblers are happy to pay for continuing access to voice dictation and weather; if Rebble can get everything up and running in time then that June 30th deadline might not turn out to be such a big deal after all.

    Source: Rebble via r/pebble

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    by Published on 02-14-2018 07:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on



    Yesterday this Canadian received his Amazfit Bip from a grey-market reseller. With shipping, taxes and duties the final cost was about $100 CAD—pretty much the same price that I paid Amazon for the Pebble 2 SE on the left. How do the two compare? Let's break it down...

    Buttons / UI

    Every late model Pebble has four buttons with four programmable long press actions. The Bip has only a single button on its right side. A short press unlocks the screen; a long press can start or stop the workout of your choice, or turn the watch off. The Bip does have a touch screen, though, and while there are no fancy animated transitions it's still likely to be a more intuitive UI for most users.

    Advantage: Draw

    Notifications

    The two devices handle notifications very differently. Once granted access through your phone (on Android anyway) a Pebble will send through all notifications by default, with the option of blocking certain ones through the Pebble app on your phone.

    With the Bip notifications are opt-in, meaning that you have to manually enable notifications on a per-app basis through the Mi Fit app on your phone. Perhaps more importantly, you can't take any action when a notification comes through on a Bip. You can't even customize the vibrations on the watch.

    Even without the Pebble servers you can still use Gadgetbridge to build a list of customized canned responses for incoming messages. Advantage: Pebble.

    Watch Faces



    The Bip has 10 built-in watch faces, and room for one more that can be sideloaded from the Mi Fit app—the included selections are shown above. Just don't expect anywhere near the breadth or depth of what's available for download (or to archive) from the Pebble app store. Advantage: Pebble.

    Fitness Tracking



    Here's where the Bip pulls ahead. With its long battery life, built-in heart rate sensor and GPS, plus an easy shortcut to start and stop your workout, the Bip makes a compelling case for a cheap and cheerful exercise companion. The Mi Fit app is no slouch, either; it was able to chart all the above data from an hour-long walk yesterday afternoon. Advantage: Bip

    As a fitness tracker I think the Bip is a fantastic buy. But if it's a Pebble replacement that you were looking for then I'm sorry to say that you might have to keep looking.

    Link: Amazfit Bip on geekbuying

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