• Commentary and Analysis

    by Published on 12-21-2018 03:55 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers

    The CRTC released its 2018 Communications Monitoring Report yesterday (direct link to the 34 page PDF right here), and we already have an expert reaction to it, from Dr. Michael Geist:

    The data points to a market dominated by three big carriers, with retail pricing that creates all the wrong incentives for a country focused on innovation. Rather than encouraging data use, the current marketplace forces consumers to ration their data and to subscribe to cheaper data plans with the hope of not running into overage charges.
    He's not wrong; I had a quick look through the report myself, and found this graphic to be especially telling:

    I'm thinking that 5G is going to be a really tough sell in this country if over half of its mobile subscribers have a monthly data bucket of 2GB or less.

    It could be that we're just a nation of cheapskates, who simply don't see much value in mobile data. But the long lines at carrier stores for that 10GB holiday miracle this time last year would seem to suggest otherwise.

    Source: Michael Geist

    by Published on 12-19-2018 04:08 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. News,
    3. Commentary and Analysis

    As a third Canadian citizen has now been detained in China, in what is almost certainly a tit-for-tat response to the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver, I feel compelled to write something about this escalating and nasty situation we seem to have gotten ourselves into. It's a complicated issue, to be sure, so I'm going to try my best to stick to the facts.

    FACT: Canada is not America's stooge.

    The demands to free Huawei's CFO fail to recognize this country's rule of law. Canada has a long-standing extradition treaty with the United States, and we had a legal obligation to make the arrest on their behalf.

    FACT: Other parties have violated sanctions without facing arrest.

    Meng and Huawei aren't the only parties guilty of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. As discussed in a recent episode of the CANADALAND Short Cuts podcast, up to five financial institutions in North America have violated of these same sanctions:

    Bank of America
    JP Morgan Chase
    Toronto Dominion Bank

    At present I can only confirm HSBC and Iran. But if even they're the only other guilty party here, where are the arrests at HSBC? Just something to keep in mind when we get to the end of this.

    FACT: The feared "backdoor" in Huawei equipment has yet to be proven.

    The usually media-shy Chinese company has issued a public challenge to prove that there's a security risk present in their equipment. While it is true that Nortel was at least partly undone by corporate espionage at the hands of Chinese hackers, to my knowledge there has been no direct link to Huawei.

    OBSERVATION: We seem to have conveniently forgotten Snowden.

    Mising in almost every discussion of Huawei are the 2013 revelations of Edward Snowden. Whether you think he's a hero or a traitor, no one has denied the warrantless surveillance that he revealed to the world only a few years ago.

    I'm not saying that China's spying is better or worse, only that we've got some backdoor issues of our own.

    OPINION: This is as much about preserving the tech hegemony as anything else.

    If you're seeking for a wider perspective on this story I would recommend looking beyond Canada and the United States. Here, for example, is an instructive video from DW News:

    The gist of the interview presented here is that there is unquestionably a trade component in play. China continues to rise as a formidable tech power in the wider world, and the United States has a lot of its own interests to protect. Exactly how much this factored into the Huawei extradition request, that's the billion dollar question.

    Links cited in this post: Al Jazeera, CANADALAND, CBC News, National Post, The Guardian, Toronto Star, Wikipedia

    by Published on 12-02-2018 01:50 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Reviews and Hands-on
    Article Preview

    It doesn’t seem that long ago that you’d need a crowbar to pry a Blackberry out of an addicts hands. However, since then, most of us have grown accustomed to on-screen keyboards. Still, for some, there’s no replacement for a physical keyboard. Fortunately, for them Blackberries have managed to stick around and even better, the keyboards are still being refined with each new generation.

    These days BlackBerry OS is long gone so if you want a BlackBerry, it’s going to be running Android. While it says BlackBerry on the phone, it’s actually made by TCL who also makes phones under the Alcatel and Palm brand names.

    If you want the latest, there’s the upper midrange Key 2 and the midrange Key 2 LE which I’m reviewing today.
    by Published on 11-21-2018 12:34 PM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Reviews and Hands-on
    Article Preview

    LG has always had an interesting place in the Android marketplace. I get this feeling like they’re always trying to offer a slightly different take on the Android flagship. The G3 had rear mounted volume and power buttons and higher resolution display while the G4 retained a removable battery. The G5 also had this feature but also allowed you to expand it with attachable accessories like a larger speaker. It also included a second, super-wide angle camera. The G6 was more about bringing it in line with other flagship phones with a more premium feel.

    So what is LG’s take on the 2018 flagship? Let’s check out the G7 ThinQ. ...
    by Published on 10-18-2018 04:40 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis

    As this Canadian patiently awaits his Pixel 3 he cannot help but reflect on the other Google phones ordered in years gone by—and, to the point, what he paid for them.

    Here's what my loyalty to Google hardware has cost me over the past five years:

    January, 2013 - Nexus 4 (16 GB) - $359 CAD (+ tax)
    November, 2013 - Nexus 5 (32 GB) - $399
    August, 2015 - Nexus 6 (64 GB) - $649
    January, 2016 - Nexus 6P (64 GB) - $749
    October, 2018 - Pixel 3 (64 GB) - $999

    The one silver lining this year is that my almost-thousand-dollar phone comes with a free charging stand from Google Canada. Woo?

    Even before I started using Android I could already foresee what I thought was the inevitable commoditization of smartphone hardware. Just like the PC market, Moore's Law would see cheaper yet more powerful components with every passing year. And when I first flashed a custom Android ROM I immediately recognized what I saw as the mobile equivalent of a desktop Linux distro. So, yeah, the future of smartphones would be easy... Just pick a phone with an unlockable bootloader and official support for Cyanogen (now Lineage) and you'd be good to go. And if ever Google started being evil you'd still have F-Droid.

    There was just one impediment to this bright, open future: camera APIs.

    Ask a OnePlus enthusiast why they won't go near any custom ROM not based on that brand's native OxygenOS and they'll likely tell you that it's because of those proprietary camera blobs. It's not that OnePlus phones take the best photos; it's just that without those native camera APIs the photo captures would be even worse. Ditto for Samsung—plus whatever hell breaks loose when you trip Knox (which is apparently important). And even on Sony's stock ROM some Xperia devices will go ahead and bork your camera software when an unlocked bootloader is detected.

    On the flip side, Google's Pixel phones rely so much on computational photography that developers at XDA have ported Google's camera app for other devices (with varying degrees of success).

    If you don't care about photos or video on your smartphone—or, conversely, if you care enough about it to carry a standalone camera—then commoditization is pretty much here; just grab any Lineage-supported Motorola or Xiaomi and you should be good to go. Unfortunately for everyone else, whose best available camera is the one with the SIM card in it, it looks like we'll have to ride the wave of ever-increasing prices to get the best possible results.

    by Published on 10-18-2018 01:38 PM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Reviews and Hands-on
    Article Preview

    Sonos has been around for some time for a while it felt like they owned the whole home audio market. However, there are now alternatives and many of them are not exclusive to a single manufacturer. Google’s Home, Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s Homepod devices are marketed first as speakers that have microphones/voice assistants which can also provide whole home audio.

    With that in mind, Sonos has released the One, a Sonos with built-in microphones. Out of the box it has support Amazon Alexa’s voice recognition. Presumably it also has the capability to recognize Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri commands if Sonos can work out necessary licensing deals. ...
    by Published on 10-17-2018 04:00 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis

    Remember that ruling from the European Union last summer, the one where Google was to be fined the Euro equivalent of about $5 billion USD if they didn't unbundle Android's Google Play Store from its Chrome and Search apps within 90 days? Well, some 89 days later Google has revealed their rather cheeky solution:

    Android OEMs in the EU will soon be able to put Chrome and Search on their hardware for free, but for any other Google Mobile Services—the Play Store, Gmail, Maps, YouTube—they'll have to pay.

    UK's The Register has what I think is the best analysis of Google's counter-proposal:

    Google knows weakness when it sees it, and is effectively challenging the commission to double or quit. The weakness in Brussels' approach is that it's the very opposite of "speak softly but carry a big stick".

    The commission barks loudly, but rarely follows through with anything effective. In July, it imposed a "record fine" of €4.34bn on Google, which grabbed the headlines for a day, but then invited Google to come up with its own solution. As we wrote at the time, the fine doesn't carry much threat, can be delayed for many years, and "a huge well-resourced company can use the European bureaucracy against itself". That's just what Google has done.
    While I get what the EU is trying to accomplish here, the way in which they've gone about it seems to have backfired. Hopefully this will all get sorted out before it adversely affects the Android experience for European users.

    Sources: Android Police, The Register

    by Published on 10-16-2018 09:24 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Reviews and Hands-on
    Article Preview

    Apple iPhone XS Max

    Here’s the Apple iPhone XS Max. According to Apple, “XS” is pronounced “Ten S”. However it’s hard for me to not see it as “iPhone Extra Small Max”. Silly name aside, the most striking thing about the Max isn’t its notched, large 6.5” display, dual cameras or even the cutting-edge 7nm A12 processor. No, it’s the Max’s breathtaking price tag; the 512GB variant costs a heart stopping $1999 Canadian before taxes. Let’s check it out. ...
    by Published on 10-01-2018 03:50 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis

    No, wait... that's not right.

    It is, however, the correct acronym for the United States Mexico Canada Agreement, which will replace NAFTA as the new trade deal between the three nations. So what exactly does it mean for Canadian smartphone enthusiasts? I've three ideas, to which I'd welcome your thoughts.

    1. No Tariffs on Gmail

    Let's be honest, this was probably never going to happen, yet Canada-U.S. relations never seemed so frosty as they were this past summer. I even saw—and subscribed to—a new subreddit promoting Canadian-made products. And yes, I'm aware that reddit is an American site.

    With this new trade deal in place Canadians should, for the foreseeable future, still be able to enjoy all the best services that the USA sends this way—Amazon Prime, Apple iCloud, Google apps and the rest.

    2. A Joint Committee on Telecommunications

    Mobile Syrup's Sameer Chhabra has all the details about a new committee that will oversee mutual concerns like roaming and 5G. TL;DR expect at least the same level of co-operation between the three countries as we've enjoyed thus far.

    3. A Decent Exchange Rate

    This could be a big one... Our loonie is already soaring on news of the new deal, and if it stays strong it could have a positive effect on new hardware pending release. It's possibly too late for the LG V40 ThinQ, which is set to be made official in only two days—but the Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL and OnePlus 6T might carry a more reasonable price tag thanks to a strong Canadian dollar.

    What do you make of the new USMCA?

    Links: CTV, Global News, Mobile Syrup, r/BuyCanadian

    by Published on 08-14-2018 04:15 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. News,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Apps

    By now you've probably seen some version of the AP exclusive about Google and your location history. In a nutshell, Google services continue to track your whereabouts, whether you want them to or not. And to be perfectly clear, this happens on both Android and iOS.

    Among smartphone users I can picture a spectrum of reactions, from a dismissive shrug to a tinfoil hat:

    "Who cares? I've got nothing to hide."

    I can't say that I 100% agree with this; to paraphrase Ed Snowden, dismissing privacy because you've got nothing to hide is like dismissing free speech because you've got nothing to say.

    But it does remind me of a chat I once had with a so-called security expert, who at the time insisted that his clients refrain from using any of Google's products. "Wouldn't that make you more suspicious?" I asked him, and he eventually came to agree with me that security through obscurity is a defensible strategy to protect one's privacy.

    "Granting Google access to some of my personal data in order to use their services is a fair exchange."

    This is where I currently find myself on this particular issue. Not only do I keep my location history turned on, but I share it with the girlfriend on an ongoing basis. That way both her and Google know if I stop in at Dairy Queen when I'm not supposed to.

    That said, if you do opt out of location tracking then it's a reasonable expectation that you shouldn't be tracked.

    "Of course Google is spying on you. Don't you know they're funded by the CIA? Wake up, sheeple!"

    That's certainly possible, but... I dunno.

    What mostly concerns me about surveillance in this part of the world is that it's not at all transparent. Everybody knows that WeChat shares user data with the Chinese government, yet it takes a Snowden to reveal it here. I'm not saying that China is better, only that North America seems to be about as bad.

    So that's my two cents. What do you make of this latest revelation about Google and location tracking?

    Source: Associated Press

    by Published on 08-01-2018 07:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis

    A new report from IDC claims that Huawei has surpassed Apple in global smartphone shipments, and is now second only to market leader Samsung.

    The bad news is a 1.8% decline in overall sales compared to the same period last year, the third consecutive decline for the global smartphone market in as many quarters. The good news for Q2 2018, however, is all Huawei—here are some numbers to help you make sense of the chart above:

    Samsung - 20.9% market share
    2017 Q2 shipments: 79.8 million
    2018 Q2 shipments: 71.5 million
    Year-over-year change: -10.4%

    Huawei - 15.8% market share
    2017 Q2 shipments: 38.5 million
    2018 Q2 shipments: 54.2 million
    Year-over-year change: 40.9%

    Apple - 12.1% market share
    2017 Q2 shipments: 41 million
    2018 Q2 shipments: 41.3 million
    Year-over-year change: 0.7%

    For further insights into the current state of the global smartphone market, see the links immediately below.

    Source: IDC via The Next Web

    by Published on 07-23-2018 09:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis

    Ars Technica's Ron Amadeo has written an in-depth post about Google's iron grip on Android. Despite its open source nature the world's dominant operating system isn't at all the same beast if you strip out the proprietary Google bits, as the screenshot above illustrates.

    Oh, and I should probably mention, the article is actually from 2013. So why republish it now, five years later? From Ars:

    In light of the $5 billion EU antitrust ruling against Google this week, we started noticing a certain classic Ars story circulating around social media. Google's methods of controlling the open source Android code and discouraging Android forks is exactly the kind of behavior the EU has a problem with, and many of the techniques outlined in this 2013 article are still in use today.
    Over the ensuing five years Google became a Platinum Member of The Linux Foundation, but has also pulled Android even further away from AOSP. Some examples:

    1. The camera app for Pixel phones uses proprietary algorithms for its enviable results;
    2. Gboard has built-in search, GIF support and the ability to toggle language inputs;
    3. Google's recommended solution for SMS has gone from Hangouts to Allo to Android Messages with RCS.

    In fairness, there is one wildly-successful fork of Android out there. Last spring Xiaomi announced carrier partnerships in Europe and the UK, but Mi-powered devices sold outside of mainland China tend to also ship with Google services on-board.

    Sources: Ars Technica, Engadget, TechCrunch

    by Published on 07-19-2018 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers

    OpenSignal has just published another report on mobile network speeds in the USA. Here's the brief:

    The U.S. mobile industry has gotten a jolt of bandwidth in the past year, causing average 4G download speeds among all four operators to climb. T-Mobile and Verizon have now crossed the 20 Mbps threshold for average 4G download speeds in our measurements—a milestone that seemed quite distant a year ago.
    And here are the numbers, from over 8 million measurements on almost four hundred thousand devices, collected between mid-March and mid-June:

    4G Download Speed
    T-Mobile - 21.57 Mbps
    Verizon - 20.56 Mbps
    AT&T - 15.08 Mbps
    Sprint - 14.46 Mbps

    3G Download Speed
    T-Mobile - 3.64 Mbps
    AT&T - 2.77 Mbps
    Sprint - 0.98 Mbps
    Verizon - 0.85 Mbps

    Overall Download Speed
    T-Mobile - 20.57 Mbps
    Verizon - 19.23 Mbps
    AT&T - 13.69 Mbps
    Sprint - 12.57 Mbps

    4G Upload Speed
    T-Mobile - 7.45 Mbps
    Verizon - 6.94 Mbps
    AT&T - 4.51 Mbps
    Sprint - 2.52 Mbps

    4G Latency
    AT&T - 54.05 ms
    T-Mobile - 56.42 ms
    Verizon - 61.92 ms
    Sprint - 64.29 ms

    3G Latency
    T-Mobile - 85.05 ms
    AT&T - 98.46 ms
    Sprint - 131.01 ms
    Verizon - 139.6 ms

    4G Availability
    T-Mobile - 93.67%
    Verizon - 93.67%
    AT&T - 88.43%
    Sprint - 87.74%

    Note that these numbers are national averages; for regional results, consult the link below. And don't forget to add your device to the test pool with the OpenSignal app for Android or iOS.

    Source: OpenSignal

    by Published on 07-18-2018 09:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis

    Blancco Technology Group, apparent specialists in mobile device diagnostics, have released a report naming and shaming the least reliable smartphones and smartphone brands. The report includes both Android and Apple devices, and all results are based on data collected during the last quarter of 2017.

    Top 10 Android Models by Failure Rate

    Xiaomi Redmi 4 (9%)
    Moto G5 Plus (6%)
    Lenovo K8 Note (5%)
    Nokia 6 (4%)
    Samsung Galaxy S7 (3%)
    Samsung Galaxy S8+ (3%)
    Samsung Galaxy S7 Active (3%)
    Xiaomi Redmi Y1 (2%)
    Samsung Galaxy S6 (2%)
    Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (2%)

    Top 10 Android OEMs by Failure Rate

    Samsung (34%)
    Xiaomi (13%)
    Motorola (9%)
    LG (7%)
    Lenovo (6%)
    InFocus (4%)
    Nokia (4%)
    Huawei (4%)
    OnePlus (3%)
    ZTE (2%)

    Keep in mind that the top two offenders also have the lion's share of the global Android market.

    Top 5 Android Issues Worldwide

    Performance (27%)
    Camera (5%)
    Microphone (4%)
    Headset (4%)
    Speaker (3%)

    Top 10 iPhone Models by Failure Rate

    iPhone 6 (26%)
    iPhone 6S (14%)
    iPhone 6S Plus (9%)
    iPhone 7 Plus (9%)
    iPhone 6 Plus (9%)
    iPhone 7 (8%)
    iPhone 5s (6%)
    iPhone SE (6%)
    iPhone 8 Plus (2%)
    iPhone 5 (2%)

    It's unclear from the report whether Apple's failure rates are compared against just other iPhones, or all devices tested.

    Top 5 iOS Issues Worldwide

    Bluetooth (3%)
    WiFi (3%)
    Headset (2%)
    Mobile Data (2%)
    Reception (1%)

    Failure Rates by Market

    Apple (26%)
    Android (21%)

    Android (40%)
    Apple (36%)

    North America
    Apple (12%)
    Android (9%)

    Feel free to add your own anecdotal observations below!

    Source: Blancco PDF via TechSpot

    by Published on 06-20-2018 09:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Apps

    As of this morning Google has no less than four Android apps for music, podcasts and video, with more than a few redundancies between them. The most confounding of the lot has to be YouTube Music, but its existence is more easily understood if you know your recent Internet history. Here's a quick and dirty refresher.

    Google Play Music

    GPM was launched in late 2011, and was part of the reason behind the Android Market's re-branding as Google Play. Google's app store (now Google Play Apps) was joined by an ebook store (Google Play Books) a video store (Google Play Movies) and GPM, likely an answer to the growing popularity of Spotify.

    Like Spotify, GPM users could pay for a premium subscription to stream specific albums and tracks on-demand, or listen for free and endure the occasional ad. Unlike Spotify, GPM users could also upload tracks from their own music collection. In 2016 GPM added podcast support, presumably to lure users (and their listening habits) away from the more popular Pocket Casts app.


    Wait a minute, YouTube isn't a music player... It is, however, the key to understanding YouTube Music. Open for uploads in 2005, YouTube predates GPM by 6 years, and during that time it became a popular practice for YouTubers to upload playlists or entire albums (legal or not) as video files, with high quality audio tracks and either a static graphic or simple animation for visuals.

    In many markets and demographics YouTube is far more popular as a music platform than Google Play Music. This, along with the added pressure of rights holders angry over pirated music streams, inevitably let to the creation of—you guessed it...

    YouTube Music

    At Google, everything is supposedly driven by user data; in that context it makes perfect sense to apply their video brand to a music streaming service. But if the goal is to replace GPM (and it should be) Google's still got some work to do. Tracks uploaded to GPM are not yet available on YouTube Music. Even worse, unless you have a paid subscription the YTM stream on your phone will immediately stop the moment your screen goes dark.


    Instead of focusing their efforts on a better YTM experience Google has decided instead to release a standalone podcast app. Again, if the goal is to migrate users away from GPM (and again, it should be) this makes sense. But with the current state of YTM no one is going to stop using GPM anytime soon, so a dedicated podcast app is a bit premature.

    And that, in a nutshell, is Google's current music (and podcast) mess, and how I believe it came to be.

    by Published on 06-14-2018 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. News,
    3. Commentary and Analysis

    One of the new features coming to iOS 12 is USB Restricted Mode, designed specifically to lock out attackers with physical access to a phone or tablet. It will be enabled by default, requiring the user's passcode when anything is connected to the device's charging and data port, starting one hour after it was last locked. For convenience sake the phone or tablet will still charge; any other accessory will require a passcode to work.

    Not everyone is thrilled with this new feature. From The New York Times:

    Such a change would hinder law enforcement officials, who have typically been opening locked iPhones by connecting another device running special software to the port, often days or even months after the smartphone was last unlocked. News of Apple’s planned software update has begun spreading through security blogs and law enforcement circles—and many in investigative agencies are infuriated.
    Police say they need access to phones to catch criminals; Apple argues that vulnerabilities can be exploited by good and bad actors alike.

    Currently law enforcement has two paths to access an Apple device: they can ship it off to Israeli forensics firm Cellebrite, or purchase a $15-30,000 box from a U.S. startup called Grayshift and access the device in-house. One police force boasts that they've been able to crack 96 phones with a Grayshift box.

    I myself am not entirely convinced that USB Restricted Mode is going to be a success. It might just prompt an attacker (police or otherwise) to change their target, either to a user's iCloud account or even data directly from their carrier. But even if not 100% foolproof, protecting a user's privacy is never a bad idea.

    Source: New York Times via iPhone in Canada

    by Published on 06-12-2018 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis

    Could the insane lens array of the Light L16 Camera be making its way to a future generation of smartphones? If the arms race for multiple phone cameras continues, it certainly seems possible.

    With the P20 Pro Huawei has made triple smartphone cameras a thing, and rumours suggest that at least one model of this year's iPhone 9 series will also have a three-lens camera system on board. But why stop at three? In an interview with Android Headlines DxOMark is convinced that quadruple-cam smartphones are inevitable.

    On the one hand, multiple lenses are an ingenious use of a large but relatively thin surface area. The Light Camera, for example, uses its 16 lenses simultaneously to capture a massive 52 megapixel image with post-capture depth of field controls. On the other hand, Google's Pixels seem to do pretty well with only a single lens.

    I guess my biggest concern is copycat Android OEMs adding a whack of cheap cameras to their phones' backsides instead of one or two decent ones. That, and not being able to hold a device without smudging up multiple lenses.

    Source: Android Headlines

    by Published on 05-17-2018 08:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis

    The OnePlus 6 was officially revealed yesterday. There's a video from Michael Fisher—aka Mr. Mobile—in yesterday's news round-up, along with some other links. Basically we're looking at an incremental upgrade from late 2017's OnePlus 5T. Major specs are as follows:

    Snapdragon 845 processor
    6.28 AMOLED display (with notch)
    6 or 8 GB of RAM / 64, 128 or 256 GB of storage
    16 MP OIS and 20 MP rear cameras
    16 MP selfie cam with EIS
    3,300 mAh battery with Dash Charge
    3.5 mm audio jack (!)
    OxygenOS (Android Oreo 8.1)
    Colours: Midnight Black, Mirror Black and Silk White
    Starting Price: $529 USD / $699 CAD

    Now if you'll indulge this current OnePlus user for a few moments, I'd like to offer my perspective on the latest from Carl Pei and company.

    The Price

    I certainly agree with Michael Fisher that OnePlus isn't the bargain that it used to be. Here in Canada a fully-loaded 6 will set you back a whopping $839 CAD, perilously close to the current $899 sticker price of a Pixel 2 from Google. You lose the tall screen and headphone jack, but you gain what everybody seems to agree is the best smartphone camera currently on the market.

    I think a better comparison would be against the iPhone X. With a similar 256 GB of storage one of those would set you back an egregious $1,529 CAD, making the OnePlus 6 seem a bit more reasonable.

    The Notch

    2018's biggest fad will be yesterday's news as soon as OEMs figure out how to put fingerprint sensors underneath their displays. Had OnePlus gone the route of Samsung the 6 would age far more gracefully, I think, but at least its notch can be hidden with a software toggle. I'm not sure how well that's going to work, but given the AMOLED screen at least the pixels won't be lit.

    The Camera

    The return of optical image stabilization is most welcome, but what's up with that other lens on the back? Carl Pei barely mentioned it in his presentation, and I can't help but think there would have been significant cost savings with one decent camera rather than two mediocre ones.

    Should You Upgrade?

    At this point I think the smartphone market has matured enough that everyone has found an OEM to call their own. If you're on Team Samsung or Team Pixel then OnePlus has really only its low cost of entry to lure you away. If, however, you're thinking of upgrading from an earlier OnePlus phone I believe I can offer some advice...

    I'm currently using a 5T and don't see enough reasons to upgrade. If the 6's glass back supported fast wireless charging it might be a different story, but I'm perfectly happy with my current phone. But if you're coming from a OnePlus 5 or below then I'd say the 6 is a worthy upgrade—it's tall screen, especially with gesture navigation enabled, makes any 16:9 smartphone seem ancient by comparison.

    ... Or you could just hold out another six months for the inevitable OnePlus 6T

    Here are the OnePlus 6 online stores for Canada and the USA.

    by Published on 05-14-2018 08:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. News,
    3. Commentary and Analysis

    This Canadian won't pretend for a moment to be an expert on U.S. politics, yet I feel obliged to report on the latest bizarre twist in the story of the growing American ban on Chinese smartphones.

    A quick refresher: This past January, AT&T abruptly pulled out of an agreement to be the exclusive American carrier for the Huawei Mate 10 Pro; Verizon also announced that it would no longer carry Huawei products. In February, the heads of six U.S. intelligence agencies expressed "deep concerns" about Chinese-made telecom products to the Senate. In March, Best Buy halted all sales and any future orders of Huawei hardware. In April, the Department of Commerce banned U.S. companies from exporting components to ZTE for seven years. As a result, ZTE ceased its main business operations earlier this month.

    And then yesterday, President Trump suddenly and unexpectedly tweeted that he was working President Xi Jinping of China to get ZTE "back in business". But why?

    I believe the answer lies within the nature of the ZTE ban. First there are the specifics: the ban was initiated because ZTE failed to punish employees who violated trade controls against other nations. Second are the political stakes: The New York Times reports that China is acting as an intermediary in talks between North Korea and the USA. Reversing policy on ZTE might help secure China's continued involvement.

    But here's what's most telling to me: According to Reuters, ZTE paid over $2 billion to U.S. exporters last year, including $100 million each to Qualcomm, Broadcom, Intel and Texas Instruments. So banning ZTE would adversely affect not only Chinese jobs, but jobs in the USA as well. Huawei, on the other hand, has its own Kirin chipsets, and is therefore far less reliant on Qualcomm, at least.

    Which makes me wonder whether this whole China scare is less about security and more about trade. What do you think?

    Sources: New York Times, President Trump on Twitter, Reuters

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