• Devices

    by Published on 07-16-2019 02:50 PM
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    2. Devices

    Huami has announced a new smartwatch that's already for sale in China—the Amazfit GTR. At present I can neither confirm nor deny that these watches run a non Wear OS fork of Android, like the company's current Verge does. But based on the claimed battery life my hunch is a definite no.

    Published specs are as follows:

    454 x 454 pixel AMOLED display @ 326 ppi
    22 mm quick release watch straps
    410 mAh battery, good for 24 days of normal use
    aluminum alloy, stainless steel or titanium metal case
    brown leather or fluoro rubber strap
    CNY 1,000 - equivalent to about $145 USD / $190 CAD

    390 x 390 pixel AMOLED display @ 326 ppi
    20 mm quick release watch straps
    195 mAh battery, good for 12 days of normal use
    cherry powder, coral red, moonlight white or star black case
    black, pink, red, or white silicone strap
    CNY 800 - equivalent to about $120 USD / $155 CAD

    Both models:
    Gorilla Glass 3 with AF coating
    5 ATM water resistance
    PPG Bio-Tracking Optical Sensor

    An AMOLED screen is sure to suck up a lot of battery, so again like the Verge I wouldn't expect too much in the way of an always-on display.

    Source: Amazfit China via GSMArena

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 07-10-2019 02:00 PM
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    2. Devices

    Verizon is about to have a new smartwatch in their accessory portfolio, Mobvoi's TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE. The onboard eSIM won't be ready for activation until sometime in August, but early adopters can save $20 USD if they buy before then.

    Notable specs are as follows:

    1.39 inch AMOLED display @ 400 x 400 pixels
    FSTN LCD standby display
    Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor
    1 GB RAM / 4 GB storage
    Bluetooth / GPS / LTE (via eSIM) / NFC / WiFi
    IP68 water resistance (suitable for swimming pools)
    415 mAh battery
    22mm silicone quick release strap

    And here's a launch-day YouTube hands-on:

    While I personally prefer the FSTN displays on Casio's Pro Trek smartwatches, any transreflective display is a good thing to have on your wrist if you spend any time outdoors. And support for standard watch straps only sweetens the deal.

    Just don't expect too much in the way of battery life from Wear OS...

    Sources: Mobvoi via Android Police
    Image source: 9to5Google

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 07-02-2019 10:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices

    For any fellow Canadians who are in the market for a new Android device, OnePlus has just cut the price of their 7 Pro by $100-110 CAD. New prices are as follows:

    6 GB RAM + 128 GB storage: $899 (was $999)
    8 GB RAM + 256 GB storage: $939 (was $1049)
    12 GB RAM + 256 GB storage: $1009 (was $1119)

    Even better, OnePlus is offering a refund of the difference between the old and new pricing for all 7 Pros purchased between Friday, May 17th at 10am Eastern Time and Friday, June 28th at noon (also ET). Eligible buyers should have already received an email from OnePlus.

    It would seem that their first "pro" phone isn't selling as well in this country as OnePlus would have hoped. Some possible explanations as to why:

    1. OnePlus was too greedy with their pricing—the USD list price of the base model ($669) converts to only $878 CAD;
    2. They misread the market and didn't anticipate being undercut by the Pixel 3a and 3a XL;
    3. Peak smartphone.

    Whatever the reason, Canadians can now purchase a 7 Pro for less than a thousand bucks, at least before taxes. An even smarter move might be to import a regular 7 instead.

    Sources: Mobile Syrup, XDA

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 06-20-2019 12:45 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices

    Fellow smartwatch enthusiasts might already know that I'm a big fan of the cheap and cheerful Amazfit Bip. But what about the other devices in Huami's smartwatch stable? On a whim I tried out one of them, the Amazfit Verge.

    Before we proceed, a few caveats about this Canada-based review:

    1. If you're here for details about Amazon Alexa support, that feature is currently US-only, so I am unable to test it.
    2. If you're here for details about phone calls using iOS, that feature is also currently US-only. Fortunately, phone calls via Android are supported everywhere.


    Part of what initially drew me to the Verge was my ongoing desire for a smartwatch version of a Casio G-Shock. Like those iconic timepieces The Verge has a similarly chunky design but is also light on the wrist, and light on the wallet as well—at $207 and change on Amazon Canada the Verge is less than one third the current asking price of a WSD-F30. And while both offer onboard GPS the Verge also supports NFC wrist-based payments... that is, if you live in mainland China and/or have an Alipay account.

    On the bottom of the Verge you'll find the heart rate sensor, charging pins and quick-release silicone straps. Because of the lug design replacement straps will unfortunately be limited to those made specifically for this watch.

    There is a single button on the watch's right side (the big orange one) and a microphone port. Not shown in the photo above is the speaker on the left side of the device. More on that in a bit.

    Watch Faces

    Here's a closer look at the default watch face. The Verge runs on Android but not Wear OS—so while Google Assistant and Pay are unsupported you'll at least get more battery life out of this thing than your typical Fossil or whatever. With an hour or so of daily fitness tracking my watch lasted about four days between charges. That's notably better than Wear OS, but there's a catch: While the Verge has an option for an always-on display, it's so faint that it's effectively useless in anything brighter than a dark room.

    Here are the other watch faces that the Verge ships with, courtesy of the companion app for Android. If none of these pique your interest you can also try here.


    Here's another screen grab from the Amazfit Android app, and the easiest way to show you the available widgets for The Verge. Once activated they'll live to the right of your watch face, in whichever order you choose.


    The Verge doesn't have an application drawer like Wear OS; your list of installed apps instead live to the right of your watch face, after your widgets (if you've activated any) or via a single swipe in from the right (if not). Hey, is that a phone app I see?

    The Verge can indeed make (and take) calls directly from your wrist, thanks to its built-in microphone and speaker. Test calls I made sounded acceptable on my end, but my test subject complained that she could hear her own voice feeding back from the speaker into the mic. However, for checking your voicemail—or leaving a message for someone else—it's probably fine.


    Notifications on the Verge live below your watch face—like Wear OS but with no way to reply from your wrist. There is an available third-party solution that enables canned replies, but I couldn't get it to work.

    Also, I feel obliged to mention that when it comes to notifications the Verge is a bit of a nag. Weather and step goal progress is fine, but several times when I was on my way somewhere the watch would interrupt me with a notification to the effect of: "Hey, I noticed you're walking pretty fast... wanna start a workout?"

    It gets pretty annoying when I'm running behind, which is often.

    Control Panel

    Status panel? Whatever you want to call this it lives above your watch face. Going clockwise from the right the icons are: settings, power/reboot, brightness, speaker on/off, airplane mode and silent mode. That icon at the top (to the left of the battery) is an indicator for your Bluetooth connection.


    My fondness for the Verge began with its attractive styling and affordable price, but ended as soon as I saw (or tried to see) its unusable always-on display. If you reside in the US the Amazon Alexa support might be a selling point, and if you're signed up for Alipay you can probably activate that feature via a Chinese ROM. As for everyone else, unless you're a **** (Richard?) Tracy wannabe or never go outdoors I would give the Verge a pass, and maybe consider the Stratos instead. And don't forget the Bip!

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 06-14-2019 03:50 PM
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    2. Devices

    In honour of Father's Day Vox has posted a feature on the history of perhaps the most uncool mobile phone accessory ever:

    In the mid-’90s and early 2000s, the cellphone holster was an inescapable object of necessary evil for a very specific type of person: people who had to carry cellphones for professional purposes, who did not, for reasons likely having to do with strict gender expectations, have purses, and who also did not care that cellphone holsters are very dorky.

    In other words, dads.
    Here in Canada peak smartphone holster occurred during the BlackBerry era. If I'm not mistaken my own BlackBerry 8700 came with a hard plastic half-case (with a handy swiveling clip) in the box. It was so easy to holster and unholster my BlackBerry that I almost had to use it.

    What probably killed the holster for good was the iPhone, in particular its most snobbish users—who would never dream of even using a case because it would ruin the aesthetics of their newfound status symbol.

    These days I keep my OnePlus phone in my oversized wallet, and my wallet in that other ultimate dad accessory, a fanny pack—which I bought in Japan and wear over my should, so that's still cool, right?

    Anyway, Happy Father's Day to all the dads reading this!

    Source: Vox
    Image source: Charm14

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 06-12-2019 03:00 PM
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    2. Devices

    Anyone who's read my previous posts on this subject will already know that I'm no fan of Wear OS. But as my last experience with it was almost two years ago I thought I should once again check in and see if it's gotten any better since. So I'm doing just that with a Fossil Sport, running the latest Snapdragon 3100 processor and latest version of Wear OS itself, known colloquially as the H update.


    First, some details about this particular watch... The one I've been testing is the 43mm model in "Smokey Blue". I read somewhere that this larger case has the same screen size as the 41mm version, just with more empty space around the perimeter of the display. I purchased mine from Amazon so I'm unable to confirm this, but it's something you might want to verify in-store before you commit to either size.

    The design of the case is an aluminum top on a nylon (plastic) base, giving the illusion that the watch is thinner than it actually is. It's certainly less chunky than the Android Wear watches I'm used to, and also much lighter. In terms of styling, though, I find it to be a bit on the bland side; if you're looking for something more stylish I'd recommend the Falster 2 by Skagen.

    The Sport is the first Android smartwatch I've used with a functioning crown, and I like it, a lot! Fossil's experience with traditional watches must have come into play in its design; the resistance when scrolling through notifications or the app drawer is just right, making for an extremely satisfying feel. Not so much with the other two pushers, though. They're alright, nothing more.

    The 43mm versions of the Sport ship with 22mm quick-release silicone bands (the 41mm version supports 18mm ones). You can easily replace them with other bands from Fossil, or with any other 22mm band from anywhere you like. Take that, Apple!


    According to the Wear OS subreddit this is the marquee feature of the H update. Tiles are basically widgets that live to the right of your watch face. On the Fossil Sport there are currently seven Tiles to choose from:

    Heart Points
    Heart rate
    Next event

    But for some unknown reason, I can only use five at a time. That's a bit stupid.

    There is some potentially good news on the way, though: XDA is reporting on undocumented code for a Tiles API—meaning that there might be a custom Tile on the way for your favourite Wear OS app.


    If Tiles are a ripoff of Galaxy Watch widgets then Google Fit is similarly "inspired" by Apple's fitness rings. This gamification of exercise is all fine and well, but I'd personally be fine with a simple step count. And I suspect that anyone serious about fitness will want something more than what Google Fit and Wear OS currently offer.


    Not much change here, as notification support remains generally very good.

    For me, the best part about notifications on Wear OS is that they're actionable—you can choose from a couple of usually relevant canned replies (great), attempt to draw an emoji on your tiny screen (good, so long as its a happy or sad face), attempt to type out a reply on a tiny virtual keyboard (awful) or speak your response and wait for Google to do the voice-to-text thing over Bluetooth. That last option is still, years later, slow as molasses in real-world situations, but credit must still be given for being able to reply from your wrist at all.


    Here's the thing: I don't use Google Assistant, nor do I care to. Thus, I feel like a significant part of Wear OS is wasted on me. If you have Google Home products already installed in your house then you'll likely be a good candidate for yet another device ready and waiting for you to yell at it.

    But if you're like me and prefer Google Tasks to Reminders then you might be surprised to hear that Wear OS natively supports the latter, but not the former. You will at least get notifications for tasks that are due.

    Google Pay

    To my surprise, this seems to work as advertised. I did the usual weekend grocery shop with the girlfriend and her mom, and was able to pay for everything with our supported card right from the watch. For security your Pay-enabled Wear OS device will lock as soon as you take it off your wrist—meaning that you'll have to unlock it (once) when you strap it back on. It's a bit annoying, but also a bit more secure.

    I do feel obliged to point out that after every wrist-based payment I was handed a paper receipt, which I immediately filed in my wallet, where my credit cards are. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


    The bad news about this Snapdragon 3100 is that it doesn't seem to accomplish much for battery life. Like just about any other Android Wear / Wear OS device I've tested you can probably squeeze about two days out of the Fossil Sport with passive use, much less if you're tracking exercise or holding your wrist against payment terminals all day.

    If you choose to go with an always-on display then your standby screen will look something like this (depending on your chosen watch face). It's legible enough in most lighting conditions, but the super-reflective Gorilla Glass screen most certainly doesn't help in direct sunlight. The lift-to-wake gesture is thankfully fairly quick but the transition to lit screen isn't particularly pleasant to witness, as I imagine it would be on an Apple Watch.

    If readability outdoors is important to you then I would definitely recommend something with a transflective display. Unfortunately in the current crop of Wear OS devices on the market I can think of only two with this added perk: the Casio WSD-F30 and the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro.


    Wear OS is a great choice if Google Assistant is your thing; even if it's not the many and varied traditional watchmakers who have embraced it will ensure a size and style that will appeal to you. As an OS, however, it also doesn't really offer anything that sets it apart from other smartwatch platforms. Apple Watch, Fitbit and Galaxy Watches all do actionable notifications and wrist-based payments, while my Amazfit Bip is currently breezing through its third week without a charge.

    So no, Wear OS isn't terrible, but for me it's not terribly compelling, either. It's just alright.

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 05-29-2019 10:00 AM
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    2. Devices

    This potato quality screenshot is from the official EU trademark application listing on the German registry DPMA. The trademark being sought is called 'Ark OS', and is widely believed to be Huawei's post-Google operating system for future mobile devices.

    I chose to post this particular sample over others in the filing because it shows compatibility with something called the Android Green Alliance. Translated from German, WinFuture explains:

    Among other things, the pictures repeatedly mention the Chinese "Android Green Alliance", which is an association of Huawei and some Chinese Internet companies such as Tencent and Alibaba. The association committed itself a few years ago to introduce standards in the quality and design of their apps for Google's mobile operating system.
    In the absence of any other facts I can only speculate that Ark OS will end up being a proper fork of Android (entirely possible under AOSP's Apache 2.0 License) or something entirely new, which just happens to be 100% backwards-compatible with existing Android APKs.

    I'm crossing my fingers for the second one... if Huawei were to license their new OS to other OEMS—or, better yet, open-source it—the smartphone racket could get really interesting...

    Source: DPMA via WinFuture

    by Published on 05-28-2019 12:35 PM
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    2. Devices

    The Moto Z4 has already been leaked but wasn't supposed to be available for purchase until Q3 of this year—that is until Amazon did an oopsie and listed the device way early. And guess what? Somebody bought it.

    The listing (which has since been taken down) included a free Moto 360 camera mod for a very reasonable $500 USD. Here's what the eagle-eyed customer got for that price:

    6.4 inch 2340 x 1080 pixel OLED display
    Snapdragon 675 processor
    48 MP quad-pixel rear camera / 25 MP quad-pixel selfie cam
    4 GB RAM / 128 GB of storage,
    3600 mAh battery
    Moto Mod support

    In addition to the hands-on video above this thoughtful person was also kind enough to share his thoughts on reddit and upload some camera samples to Google Drive. I'd be interested in this phone myself if I knew for sure that the bootloader was unlockable; unfortunately there's no listing yet for the Z4 (or even the Z3) on Motorola's support site.

    Source: r/Moto_Z via Liliputing

    by Published on 05-22-2019 11:00 AM
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    2. Devices

    Europe, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan.

    In a leaked PowerPoint slide it seems that these are the only four markets where Sony will be selling smartphones going forward. At the moment it's a bit unclear when Sony will officially exit North America—as an example, the Sony Mobile Canada site is still live, with at least one carrier still selling the Xperia XZ2. It's Bell Mobility, in case you were wondering.

    Other slides leaked from the same presentation make it abundantly clear that the Japanese electronics giant is planning complete structural reforms of its smartphone business for 2019, aiming for a 50% reduction in operating expenses and a 57% savings overall by the end of 2020.

    Hopefully grey market imports from Hong Kong will still be an option for Xperia fans.

    Source: Xperia Blog via reddit

    by Published on 05-15-2019 11:00 AM
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    2. Devices

    With their latest phone OnePlus is moving very much upmarket, more so in Canada than anywhere else. The starting price for the 7 Pro here will be exactly one loonie shy of a thousand bucks. Before taxes. To make matters worse, users in this country will have no official carrier to subsidize their purchase.

    This isn't the case in other markets. I mentioned in yesterday's notes that in addition to the livestream from New York City there were simultaneous launch events in London and Bengaluru; audiences there were treated to a device we apparently won't be able to get here: the non-Pro OnePlus 7. It's the same size and comes with an FHD screen similar to last fall's OnePlus 6T, but adds an upgraded processor, better image sensor and stereo speakers.

    Here's a more direct comparison:

    Size and Weight
    7 Pro: 162.6 × 75.9 × 8.8 mm / 206 g
    7: 157.7 × 74.8 × 8.2 mm / 182 g

    7 Pro: Almond / Mirror Grey / Nebula Blue
    7: Mirror Grey / Red (China and India only)

    LTE Bands
    7 Pro:
    1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/18/19/20/25/26/28/29/32/66 (FDD)
    34/38/39/40/41 (TDD)
    1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/18/19/20/26/28/29/32 (FDD)
    34/38/39/40/41 (TDD)

    OnePlus 7 Pro: starts at $999 CAD / $669 USD
    OnePlus 7: starts at $32,999 INR / $632 CAD / $469 USD

    Unless I'm mistaken the non-Pro 7 supports all non-freak bands (ie. Freedom and T-Mobile) of North American 4G. And unlike the Pro it's similarly sized to OnePlus phones that came before it. Maybe the non-Pro version will serve as the fall update for North America this year?

    Links: OnePlus 7 Pro specs (Canada) / OnePlus 7 specs (India)

    by Published on 05-13-2019 03:00 PM
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    2. Devices

    Looks like OnePlus is ripping off Apple yet again, this time in the best possible way: they are now accepting trade-ins! Customers can either get a credit towards a new phone by sending their old one in for inspection, or get cash back at any time using the same procedure. The landing page for the trade-in program mentions some kind of promo happening tomorrow—which also happens to be the launch date for the OnePlus 7 and 7 Pro. But it seems like you're able to trade in your aging OnePlus device today.

    Here's how much you can potentially get for it:

    OnePlus 6T - up to $330 CAD / $250 USD
    OnePlus 6 - up to $300 CAD / $230 USD
    OnePlus 5T - up to $210 CAD / $160 USD
    OnePlus 5 - up to $200 CAD / $150 USD
    OnePlus 3T - up to $70 CAD / $60 USD
    OnePlus Three - up to $50 CAD / $40 USD
    OnePlus Two - up to $50 CAD / $40 USD
    OnePlus One - up to $40 CAD / $30 USD

    I guess the OnePlus X is officially worthless.

    OnePlus will also happily take in used phones from other OEMs—including Apple, Samsung, Google, Moto, HTC, Sony and LG. Hopefully your trade-in will be stripped for parts and repurposed, and not just dumped in a landfill somewhere. To clear out your used phone drawer use the appropriate link below.

    OnePlus - Trade in and Save: Canada / USA

    by Published on 05-06-2019 10:50 AM
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    2. Devices

    Some 20 states south of the border are currently considering right to repair legislation, but the province of Ontario could have beat them all in enshrining it into law. That is, if lobbying by big tech companies hadn't killed a proposed bill before it even had a chance.

    This is the bold claim of new reporting by Motherboard, and there seems to be credible evidence to back it up.

    The bill was introduced by Member of Provincial Parliament Michael Coteau last February, with the aim of putting manuals, tools and parts in the hands of independent repair shops and consumers. Here's what happened next:

    After proposing the bill, he was approached by Electronics Product Stewardship Canada (EPSC)—an industry group that represents Apple, Panasonic, and other major tech companies.

    The group’s collective position, Coteau said, was that the bill would compromise companies’ intellectual property rights and that home repair was a public safety issue, meaning “that it’s dangerous for people to open up electronic devices and fix it themselves, that it could harm them,” Coteau said.
    Last Thursday the bill had its second reading at Queen's Park and was stopped dead in its tracks, with strong resistance from Progressive Conservative MPPs—some of them parroting the exact same concerns as the EPSC.

    Mobile Syrup also interviewed MPP Coteau, who spoke of plans to introduce right to repair legislation federally. Unfortunately Canadians will have to wait until after the fall election for that.

    Sources: Mobile Syrup, Motherboard

    by Published on 04-29-2019 03:10 PM
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    2. Devices

    Just back from two weeks in Sapporo and Tokyo, and multiple visits to Japan's twin temples of tech: Bic and Yodobashi Camera. On every visit I find the shelf space for traditional keitai increasingly overrun by Android phones, all while the vast majority of locals are using hardware made by Apple. But a few hot handsets managed to stand out...

    INFOBAR xv

    According to The Verge, this 15th anniversary edition of au's iconic candy bar actually went on sale last summer. Like more recent models it runs Android; unlike recent models there's no Play Store installed—users instead have to make do with pre-installed apps. This probably isn't the phone to get if you have small children, as they might well try to put it in their mouth and suck on it. I've caught myself having that same thought.

    NTT DoCoMo KY-01L

    Launched last fall (says Engadget) this is Kyocera's answer to similar minimalist nouveau-feature phones like the Punkt MP-02. The DoCoMo version is quite a bit thinner, though:

    It doesn't have any cameras but it does have a (monochrome) web browser. And its e-paper display should give the user better than expected performance from the 380 mAh battery inside.

    Pocketalk Voice Translator

    Technically not a phone, but it does take a SIM card. Pocketalk was all over our hotel TVs and prominently displayed at Bic and Yodobashi as well. Here's the pitch:

    If you're suspicious of a dressed-up version of Google Translate you're not alone; Pocketalk does indeed run a custom version of Android OS. Interested parties in the USA can order one from Amazon and let the rest of us know if it actually works.

    Sources: au, Engadget, NTT DoCoMo, Pocketalk, The Verge

    by Published on 04-08-2019 12:55 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices

    Retromobe on Blogger is a worthy bookmark for the occasional trip down smartphone memory lane. I was caught a bit off-guard by this past weekend's entry: the OnePlus One, which was announced five years ago this month. Pictured above is the first of two SKUs for the company's début, with 3 GB RAM, 16 GB of storage and the silk white back. Marques Brownlee reviewed it in May, 2014:

    Of course, the more sought-after version was the one with 64 GB of RAM and the sandstone back. I finally got the invite to purchase mine that July—and yes, the invite system was definitely the worst part about being a OnePlus customer in the early days. Flash sales would have been a much more transparent way to move the company's limited stock.

    And the best part about OnePlus was, for me, the software experience. I was already familiar with CyanogenMod and the commercial version, CyanogenOS, added lots of eye candy to an already-capable Android ROM. That this new device was modder-friendly sealed the deal.

    Five years later I'm on my fifth OnePlus-branded phone, the 6T. I'm still grateful for that unlockable bootloader, and these days it's OxygenOS providing the superior Android experience. And as someone who likes to travel, the fast charging and dual-SIM support are welcome additions. In fact, starting Wednesday and for the next two weeks, it'll be a data-only SIM from Japan's DoCoMo occupying my usually empty second slot.

    Photo and video captures have been getting steadily better but there's still room for improvement. If I'm honest, though, it's really only when pixel-peeping photos on a desktop computer that I get Google or Huawei envy.

    So happy 5th birthday, OnePlus... and thanks for continuing to prove that upgraded memory and storage don't have to cost users an arm and a leg!

    Source: Retromobe

    by Published on 04-05-2019 10:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices

    Hot on the heels of last Friday's earnings report (direct link to PDF right here) BlackBerry stock shot up a whopping 47% on the Toronto Stock Exchange early this week. Granted, its stock price on both the TSX and NYSE is still nowhere near that of Apple or Google but, as Yahoo! Finance reports, they've managed what seems to be a very successful pivot into software and services:

    Take a look at some recent headlines and you’ll quickly realize this isn’t the BlackBerry of yesterday.

    For example, in November, BlackBerry partnered to develop new approaches for high-net-worth digital security. A few days later, BlackBerry announced that it had become a HIMSS Certified Consultant, meaning it can now integrate its service offerings into major healthcare initiatives around the world.

    Most importantly, BlackBerry acquired artificial intelligence and cybersecurity company Cylance for $1.4 billion in cash. Management noted that they will immediately integrate the Cylance team into its segment that makes software for next-generation autonomous cars.

    As you’ll see, these moves have helped build a reliable source of revenues for BlackBerry while positioning the company well to tap some of the largest growth opportunities of the 21st century.
    Now I myself don't own shares in the company, and I wouldn't ordinarily post about stock market blips here. But in this case I do think it's good news for fans of physical keyboards and security-hardened Android devices; if BlackBerry manages to stay in the black then there can only be more BlackBerries on the horizon for its loyal customers.

    Source: Yahoo! Finance

    by Published on 03-25-2019 01:45 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices

    Before moving forward there's one more story from last week that bears a closer look, a rather unfortunate one for HMD's efforts to revive the storied Nokia brand. To bring you up to speed, a site in Norway broke the news that the Nokia 7 Plus was sending personal user data—including the device IMEI, MAC and SIM ID, plus location information—to a server in China.

    Nokia was quick to respond, explaining that a single batch of the device in question shipped with an activation client "meant for another country". The issue has since been fixed via a software update.

    In a separate press release, Nokia goes on to detail what data they collect, along with why and how they do it:

    The what includes some location data, but cannot be used to identify you without your express consent—that is, only if you opt in to Nokia's User Experience Program;

    The why includes activating the device warranty, as well as improving user satisfaction;

    The how basically boils down to two servers, one in China for Chinese customers and the other in Singapore for everyone else.

    Oh, and if you own a Nokia 7 Plus navigate to Settings > System > About Phone > Build Number. If your device shows either of the following:


    ... then the fix has already been applied.

    Sources: NRKbeta via Ars Technica, HMD Global via GSM Arena

    by Published on 03-21-2019 01:20 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices

    Apple has officially refreshed their wireless earbuds, which now offer "Hey, Siri" support, a new H1 chip that promises better battery life and, perhaps best of all, a case that now supports inductive charging. From the product page:

    Lay it down, charge it up.
    With the new Wireless Charging Case, charging is as simple as placing the AirPods case on a Qi-compatible charging mat. That’s it. The LED indicator on the front of the case lets you know that your AirPods are charging. And when you’re away from a charging mat, you can use the Lightning port to charge.
    The case is also backwards-compatible with older AirPods, and can be purchased separately. Alternately, you can get the new earbuds with the old case, since Apple has yet to release a first-party wireless charging mat. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Pricing is as follows:

    AirPods with standard case: $159 USD / $219 CAD
    AirPods with wireless charging case: $199 USD / $269 CAD
    Wireless charging case: $79 USD / $99 CAD

    The new AirPods can be ordered online now, and will be available for purchase in-store next week.

    Sources: Apple Canada, Mobile Syrup, The Verge

    by Published on 03-19-2019 12:01 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices

    Wow, time flies... Five years ago today I posted about Wear OS (then Android Wear) for the very first time. A tip of the hat to Android Police for reminding me of this.

    As a fan of smartwatches I'm unfortunately not a fan of Wear OS. If it works for you, then great—for me, I've been spoiled by cheaper hardware that I don't have to charge nearly as often. Even the crew at AP seems to be struggling to find nice things to say about it; in an anniversary write-up offering five perspectives on Wear OS, two of the contributors have moved on to Tizen, while a third mirrors my own opinion of it:

    It has fitness and exercise-related features, but it isn't very good at it. It has app support and the full Play Store, but it's too small and fiddly to provide a very good UX. Devices include pretty high-end hardware with things like fancy round AMOLED displays and reasonably fast SoCs, but battery life is terrible. Every platform and hardware advantage comes with a corresponding and deal-breaking weakness.
    Even more telling is a recent AP round-up of Wear OS apps and watch faces. Scrolling through the article I immediately noticed two things: (1) most of the apps featured come from a single developer and (2) a surprising amount of watch faces are carry-overs from the Pebble.

    It's certainly encouraging that traditional watchmakers like the Fossil Group have embraced Wear OS, but I'm unsure if that's enough to call the platform a success. There's plenty of stock in stores but, from what I've observed, very few on people's actual wrists.

    Sources: Android Police (1) (2)

    by Published on 03-15-2019 03:15 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Rumors

    Huawei's forthcoming P30 Pro is expected to have a monster camera setup—not only will it have the requisite-for-2019 40 megapixel sensor, but also a 10x zoom, via a clever idea first demonstrated by OPPO at MWC in 2017:

    Huawei is using a similar periscope design and and doubling the magnification. The rest of the phone ain't too shabby, either; leaked specs (via Fone Arena) are as follows:

    6.47 inch 2340 x 1080 pixel OLED HDR display
    rear cameras: 40 MP OIS / 20 MP ultra-wide / 8 MP 10x "hybrid" zoom
    front camera: 32 MP
    Kirin 980 processor
    8 GB RAM / 128, 256 or 512 GB storage + NM card
    Hybrid dual SIM (nano + nano / nano + NM card)
    In-display fingerprint sensor
    4200 mAh battery with fast charging
    Android 9.0 (Pie) with EMUI 9.0
    Available colours: Aurora Blue, Black, Ice White, Orange
    Launch date: Tuesday, March 26th

    Expect a slightly-lesser (ie, no zoom) P30 to be announced alongside the Pro.

    Source: WinFuture via Fone Arena

    by Published on 03-14-2019 02:45 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices

    Vivo's APEX 2019 concept smartphone was announced in Beijing back in January, but for some reason is only this week making the rounds on western tech blogs. At first glance it seems like just another high-powered Chinese Android device:

    Near-bezel-less FullViewTM display
    Snapdragon 855 processor
    12 GB RAM / 512 GB storage
    5G modem

    But here, direct from the press release, is what makes it very different:

    Vivo’s first 5G smartphone offers an ultra-simple and uniquely recognisable design with Curved-Surface Waterdrop Glass and no openings, seams or bezels for a simpler user experience.
    Wait, did they just call us simple...?

    What's in it for the user when it comes to a design like this? It's waterproof, hopefully. And for the manufacturer? Less moving parts, less assembly required and therefore cheaper to produce. There isn't even a SIM slot for this thing—according to CNET it's compatible with eSIMs only.

    Which brings us to my big problem with this device. If you thought the removal of the headphone jack was user-hostile then Vivo's taking away of everything else is on a whole other level. It's not just that the power connector is proprietary (although that's also terrible) it's that there is no easy way to connect this thing to a desktop computer—making the APEX little more than an expensive toy. A piece of dumb consumer electronics. Unworthy of being called a computer itself.

    Fortunately, it's just a concept, and not at all guaranteed to represent the dystopian smartphone future for us all.

    Sources: CNET, Vivo

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