Category Archives: smartphone

OnePlus 5 Incoming…



The OnePlus hype machine has been in full flow over the past few weeks, with a steady drip feed of news for the forthcoming OnePlus 5. It’s arguable that they’re third only to Apple and Samsung in the social noise OnePlus makes. Personally I’m a big fan, having purchased both the One and the 2, but I skipped the 3 and 3T, so I’m looking forward to the 5. There isn’t going to be a OnePlus 4 because 4 isn’t a popular number in parts of Asia. Bit like 13 in US and Europe, I guess.

OnePlus have all but confirmed the 5, but in preparation for its arrival, stock of the 3T is being run down and won’t be available in the UK and Europe from the end of June. Grab one for GB£399. For the curious, the 3 is long gone…

Teasing some of the new features, OnePlus have teamed up with DxO “to enhance your photography experience with our upcoming flagship, the OnePlus 5“. DxO have years of imaging experience and expertise, both for professional cameras and for smartphones, and perhaps are most well-known for creating the defining photography benchmark, the DxOMark. So the camera should be good then.

Since March, OnePlus have been running a competition for marketing students to plan and execute an exciting, on-brand marketing campaign to raise OnePlus’ brand awareness in the UK. The competition is entering the final stages and the public vote for the last five is on. There are 17 proposals to review and choose a favourite. Good luck to all the teams – the winners get to intern over the summer in the European HQ.

That’s the OnePlus news summary for now and I’m looking forward to seeing what the 5 brings.


JAM Card Gives People Time



It’s a fast paced world out there and you need all your faculties to keep up. Take too long, and it’s “Next please!” while you’re still standing there. Imagine how much more difficult it is if you do have a learning disability or condition such as Asperger’s and you just need a little more time.

To help people in this situation, the NOW Group has created an app that asks people for “Just A Minute”. The JAM Card app shows staff in retail outlets, transport and other areas of public life that the person needs “Just A Minute” of patience and time when interacting with them.

The smartphone app is based on the original concept of a plastic card and was the idea of people with a disability who said they often felt under pressure when they were out and about in everyday life. They wanted a discreet way of letting people know that they needed a little extra time.

The app is available for both Android and iOS (search for “JAM Card”). At present the app only caters for four specific conditions though they hope to extend it to more over time. The app also allows users to score retail stores and transportation for their helpfulness towards people with disabilities.

For more information, listen to my interview with NOW Group’s Jayne at NICON 17.  If you like what the NOW Group are doing here, you can vote for them over at Digital DNA and help them become a partner charity.


Wileyfox Pops Up in London



Wileyfox have opened a pop-up store next to Old Street station, London, for the next two weeks and it’s a good opportunity to check out this British company and their smartphones. Sitting in the “reasonably priced with decent specs” camp, the Swift 2 starts at GB£159 with their higher end Swift 2X at £219. The latter gets you a 5.2″ screen, 32 GB RAM, 3 GB ROM, Snapdragon 430 and expandable storage running Android Nougat 7.1. Not too shabby at all and there’s a selection of colours for the fashion conscious.

Details of the pop-up shop’s opening times and location below. There’s a contest at the store to win a trip for two to Paris as well.


iClever BoostCube 2-Port USB Wall Charger Review



USB chargers are two-a-penny these days but often they are cheap knock-offs with poor quality transformers that either pose a fire hazard or fail to deliver the required current to quickly recharge a smartphone or tablet. For not much more money, iClever offers a CE-marked UK spec wall charger with two USB A ports, delivering up to 2.4A from each. Let’s take a quick look at the IC-TC02.

The charger goes with the fairly standard design of a small cuboid connected to a power plug – I guess this is the BoostCube. This isn’t a travel charger (at least not in the UK spec), so there’s a three pin plug which doesn’t detach or fold up. Having said that, it does only weigh 82g. The charger appears well built and has a high gloss finish which makes some of the photos look a little odd because of the reflections. Hidden blue LEDs in the ports give off a soft glow.

The iClever BoostCube solves nicely the two device problem by having two charging ports. Many people have both a smartphone and a tablet so either two chargers are needed or one has to be charged before the other. Both ports will supply up to 2.4A each and iClever’s SmartID technology will ensure that the right current flows to the device.

I tried the charger with a couple of devices and encountered no problems. There was warmth to the transformer under full load but nothing close to being hot. Charging rates were as expected.

The iClever BoostCube 2-Port USB wall charger is available from Amazon UK for GB£8.99 at time of writing.

There’s an unboxing video below.

Thanks to iClever for providing the charger for review.


Dubleup Credit Card Power Bank



There’s a saying in photography that the best camera is the one that you have with you, and it’s a similar story when it comes to power packs for smartphones and tablets. The best battery pack is the one you have with you, and to make sure that you do have it with you, here’s the Dubleup Credit Card Power Bank, launching today on Kickstarter.

The Dubleup Credit Card Power Bank can be preordered on Kickstarter with a 15% discount for early birds. Coming in three different colours (black, silver, gold) and two connector types (Apple Lightning and micro USB) there should be a match for both colour preference and device type, though a USB C connector would’ve been cool. I’ve had the power bank for a fortnight and it seems well-enough made with no obvious problems – everything closes up, nothing catches, there are no rough edges. I think the top surface is metal and the back is a high density plastic but it’s hard to tell.

 

Physically the pack is 86 x 54 x 5.5 mm with curved edges and the connector is built-in, popping out when needed. On the back, there’s a power button and three LEDs showing the charge level in thirds. The height and width dimensions are genuinely credit card sized but the depth means it’s a little fat. To be fair, it was the thinnest one that I could quickly find on the internet from a vendor that I’d trust. The thinness comes at the price of capacity – it’s only 1,280 mAh which would about charge an average smartphone from 20% to full. Obviously it depends on the size of the smartphone’s battery! The charging current is 1A (not 2A) and in the box there’s a short USB to microUSB connector for charging the Power Bank.

 

I’ve done a quick unboxing video for the Dubleup Power Bank. I say quick but it’s five minutes but should give you a real idea of the size of the battery pack.

Overall, the Dubleup is a small solution to the everyday problem of not quite having enough power to get through the day. It is relatively expensive at AU$79 inc shipping, (US$60/GB£48), for the capacity but if the size means it’ll stay in your purse, wallet or bag when other battery packs get left at home, it’s probably worth it. YMMV. Delivery is expected in June and there are a few early bird discounts (AU$60) if you get in quick.

Thanks to Dubleup for providing the Credit Card Power Bank for review.


Shift from Qwertyfree Helps Visually Impaired at CES



For the visually impaired, typing on a smartphone or tablet keyboard can be tricky as the small keys can be hard to pick out. The team at Qwertyfree are developing a replacement keyboard with just five keys to help those with poor vision. Todd finds out more from Craig.

The idea behind the new keyboard is that in English eight letters are used over 60% of the time so why not focus on those and make those letters the easiest to use. Called Shift (as in shifting gears on a manual transmission), the app has a four areas; up, right, down, left, with a selection of letters in each – it’s a little like the directional pad on a remote. The user swipes once to get a primary letter and then swipes again to get a secondary one, with the keyboard reading out the selected letter. So just swipe left for E, or right for N.

The new Shift keyboard should be available by the end of the quarter, though it may be Android only. No news on price.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Olloclip Pivot Grips Smartphones at CES



Olloclip is well-known for its clip-on lens system for the Apple iPhone, though new at CES is the Olloclip Pivot, a grip for smartphones, cameras and GoPros. Todd finds out more from Patrick.

The Olloclip Pivot grip is a bit different from an ordinary handheld smartphone holder as it incorporates an articulating hub which provides 225° of rotation so that the camera can be positioned conveniently to capture the best shot, whether skating, boarding or simply at the beach. The Pivot is water resistant so can be taken swimming or snorkelling.

The Pivot holds smartphones between 4″ and 5.5″ wide, and also takes a GoPro. There’s an integrated cold shoe mount too for lightweight accessories like a light or microphone.  Priced at US$49.99, the Pivot is available now. I want one!

In addition to the Pivot, Olloclip have a new set of lenses for the iPhone 7, including wide angle, fish eye and macro. The core lens set is US$100.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Flavr Festive Phone Cases



flavr logoWith the departure of Hallowe’en, it’s socially acceptable to discuss Christmas in the UK, though I suspect the USA has to get past Thanksgiving before giving in to the seasonal traditions. Recent years have the seen the rising popularity of Christmas jumpers (sweaters) revelling in fun knitted patterns. Jumping on this kitsch clothing are Flavr with a range of festive phone cases, riffing on the jumper styling.

Flavr Festive Fone Cases

Available for iPhones and Galaxy S7s, these Christmas crackers cost GB£18 (inc postage) from Flavr’s Xmas Shop or only £9.99 from Carphone Warehouse stores.

Flavr Festive Phone Cases

So bad, they’re good!

 


Honor 8 Flagship Smartphone Revealed



Huawei LogoThe “competitively priced” flagship smartphone market got a little hotter today with the launch of Huawei’s Honor 8 smartphone in Paris. Priced at GB£369, the Honor 8 is moving into OnePlus’ territory and whatever you prefer, it’s good news for consumers buying unlocked phones who want power and style for less.

Honor 8Regardless of price, the Honor 8 is one good-looking phone. It’s a glass finish and appears stunning in the sapphire blue which all the hero shots and promotional videos use. Of course, there’s a midnight black and pearl white if you prefer something plainer.

In terms of spec, the Honor 8 is an octacore HiSilicon Kirin 950 CPU with four 2.3 MHz cores and four 1.8 GHz cores, supported by 4 GB RAM, 32 GB storage and a microSD slot. The display is a 5.2″ full HD screen (1920×1080) with very slim bezels on the left and right. On the back there’s a fingerprint scanner which can unlock the Honor 8 in less than 0.4s. In addition, two SIMs can be installed if needed

The Honor 8 is powered by a 3000 mAh battery which Huawei say will deliver over a day and a half of normal use and still over a day with heavy use. There’s fast charging too which will charge to 47% in 30 minutes, though it’s not terribly clear if this is a proprietary fast charge system or not.

Cameras are impressive on paper with a twin 12MP cameras on the rear and an 8 MP camera on the front for selfies. The Honor 8 has a wide aperture mode that allows the focus to be adjusted after the picture has been taken.

Connector is USB C (but only USB 2 .0). The audio socket is retained too but the slight surprise is the inclusion of an IR blaster to control TVs and other AV. Takes me back to the days of the Palm III. Wifi comes in all the current flavours – 802.11ac/a/b/g/n, 2.4/5 GHz, and there’s also NFC.

That’s it for now – the Honor 8 product video is below and the launch event is over on Facebook. Pre-orders are being taken at vMall and there’s a voucher offer worth GB£69.99.

With luck, I’ll be getting my hands on an Honor 8 for a hands-on review, so more information then.

 


Bluetooth Versus Wired



Coloud The Snap Active EarbudsFor some months now, persistent rumors have been flying that the next iPhone will do away with the 3.5mm wired headset port. There have been plenty of people arguing both against and for this idea. Some people say that the demise of the wired headset port is inevitable.

As an over-the-road truck driver, I’ve been using Bluetooth devices for years. To be perfectly honest, the majority of Bluetooth headsets suck, regardless of price. They typically suffer from poor audio quality, especially those intended for phone calls.
I have yet to find a Bluetooth microphone that produces anything approaching acceptable quality for anything other than phone calls.

Bluetooth stereo is great for certain uses, such as in the car or for use with certain Bluetooth speakers intended for casual listening.

With this in mind, let’s examine how a smartphone would work without a 3.5mm wired jack for the way people use these devices today.

I see plenty of people using wired headsets, day in and day out. That tells me that, unlike the floppy drive, which was dropped because most software was being shipped on CD-ROM’s, the wired 3.5mm headphone jack is NOT obsolete. The 3.5mm headphone jack is NOT falling into disuse. There are still millions and millions of people using wired headsets with their smartphones on a constant basis. Wired headset use is NOT dropping off.

Modern smartphones are also extremely good high-definition video cameras. While they have built-in microphones, because of the 3.5mm headphone jack it is also possible to plug in a wired microphone. Wired microphones on traditional consumer camcorders have either been absent or an option for costlier prosumer models. Take the 3.5mm wired headphone jack away and the option of plugging in a superior wired microphone goes away with it.

If Apple takes the 3.5mm wired headphone jack away, it doesn’t matter to me, because I don’t have an iPhone and don’t want one. There will be plenty of remaining Android models to choose from that keep their senses.

In fact, there have already been Android smartphones available on the market that leave out the 3.5mm wired headphone jacks. The Chinese company LeEco released three jack-less phones in April of this year. Ever heard of them? Me neither, until I did a search. I don’t get the impression they are burning down the barn with popularity.

I make extensive use of Bluetooth as well as the 3.5mm jack on my phone. I will never buy a phone that doesn’t offer a 3.5mm jack any more than I would buy a phone that doesn’t offer Bluetooth or WiFi.