Category Archives: smartphone

OnePlus 5 Lands



After months of speculation, a trickle of teasing and a bucketful of leaks, the OnePlus 5 has landed. Much as expected it’s a strong evolution of the brand, following on thematically from the 2, 3 and 3T with a 2017 design makeover.

Running through the main specs, it’s  a 5.5″ full HD 1920 x 1080 AMOLED screen with Gorilla Glass 5 powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octacore processor running at up to 2.45 GHz. There are two memory and storage configurations; one 6 GB RAM, 64 GB storage and one 8 GB RAM, 128 GB storage. The storage memory now uses UFS, which will give a significant speed boost over eMMC.

The OnePlus 5 is expected to have a 20% improvement in battery life over the 3T with a 3,300 mAh battery. Despite being only 7.25 mm thick, OnePlus have managed to retain the stereo audio jack and no-one needs to rush out and buy USB C or Bluetooth headphones. Phew.

The big news is the dual camera system developed in conjunction with Sony and DxO. A custom-made 16 MP sensor is supported by a 20 MP sensor with a telephoto lens which measures the distance between the OnePlus 5 and the subject of the photography. A large f/1.7 aperture allows for faster exposures and helps compensate for stuttering to improve image stabilisation. There’s even clever processing to eliminate noise from low-light photographs.

In a special portrait mode, the both sensors work together to create a focal separation between faces and backgrounds, while a custom software algorithm makes subjects clear and well-lit. This results in a the now well-know depth-of-field (bokeh) effect that blurs the backdrop while keeping the subject in focus. Even with strong backlighting, the OnePlus 5’s high dynamic range (HDR) reveals the subject clearly and avoids turning them into silhouettes.

The OnePlus 5 showcases our obsessive attention to detail and our focus on delivering the best user experience possible,” said OnePlus Founder and CEO Pete Lau. “We have applied this approach to all aspects of the OnePlus 5. For example, the dual camera provides some of the clearest photos on the smartphone market today and gives users more control to take stunning photos in all conditions.” I don’t think he’s kidding either, going by some of the images shown off in the launch video.

The fashionistas might be slightly disappointed as at launch there’s only two finishes, Midnight Black and Slate Gray. You can only choose the finish via spec too. For black, you need to splurge on the 8 GB / 128 GB version, whereas the gray finish comes with the cheaper 6 GB / 64 GB edition.

In welcome news, the increase in price has been nowhere near some of the rumours. The Midnight Black version (8 GB RAM / 128 GB storage) will sell for  US$ 539 / €559 / GB£ 499 / CA$ 719. The Slate Gray version (6 GB RAM / 64 GB storage) is US$ 479 /€499 / GB£ 449 / CA$ 649.  On sale via the OnePlus store.

The first shipments will begin on 21  June  though you’ll need a special code to get in on the first drop. The code’s in the launch video. General sales begin on 27 June. The OnePlus 5 will be available for direct purchase at one-day pop-up stores in New York on 20 June and in London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Helsinki and Copenhagen on 21 June.

Overall, the OnePlus 5 looks to be a great new flagship phone. Can’t wait to get my hands on one.


Kodak EKTRA Smartphone Now Available in U.S.



Kodak, a company that probably makes you think of cameras, has created the Kodak EKTRA smartphone. It is a photography-focused smartphone that recently became available for purchase in the United States at the price of $399.99.

The Kodak EKTRA is an open market unlocked GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) device, which means it is compatible and will work on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks in the United States. It is not CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) compatible, so it will NOT work with Sprint, Verizon, or US Cellular.

At the heart of the Kodak EKTRA smartphone is a 21-megapixel fast focus camera sensor with f2.0 aperture, and an industry leading 13-megapixel front-facing camera with Phase Detection Auto Focus PDAF and f2.2 aperture.

The custom-built camera app is controlled by an intuitive haptic touch, SLR-style Scene Selection Dial, where adjustments are made in real time via a range of settings including HDR, Landscape, Portrait, Macro, Sport, Night-time, Panorama, and Bokeh, alongside a Smart Auto mode which auto-selects the best conditions for your photographs. In Manual mode, more advanced users can adjust exposure, ISO, focus, white balance and shutter speed, with the results being visible on the screen as the changes are made.

The Kodak EKTRA Smartphone includes editing software from SNAPSEED, providing exceptional tools to edit images on the go without having to download any additional apps. This enables users to transform images for professional results similar to many popular desktop images editors. Sharing the results in real time is also easy with integrated social media apps and the Prints app is a simple way to select your best shots to be professionally printed.


OnePlus 5 Launches on 20 June



Confirmed! OnePlus are launching their new flagship (killer?) on 20th June. As per usual for OnePlus, it will be an online event, though there’s no VR this time. Set your alarms for Tuesday, 20th June at 1700 BST, 1800 CEST,1900 EEST,1200 EDT. There’s more info on the OnePlus 5 launch page.

Looks like there are going to be some OnePlus 5 popup events in USA and Europe to celebrate, including New York, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen and Finland. Check the launch page for more details.

Can’t wait.

 


When Nature Calls



It’s rare that a week goes by without a press release dropping into my mailbox extolling the virtues of a new smartphone case – it’s stronger, it’s slimmer, it’s sexier, it’s sportier. Needless to say, they rarely feature on GNC.

This week, I got a release for a smelly…sorry…scented smartphone case, which was a first for me so I guess it’s worth a few column inches (although I did find Jelly Belly cases from 2011). Anyway…

MMORE have four scented cases for iPhone and Samsung in the new Organika range. There’s coffee, Alpine hay, rose and jasmine. There seems to be fifth, skeleton leaves, but I’ve no idea what that’s supposed to smell like.

The natural material is sealed within organic resin which doesn’t alter the look of the material itself, but provides the necessary durability and strength. The tough resin prevents the natural materials being broken or damaged but the texture of the material is retained and provides a good surface to stop the smartphone slipping out of hands.

Scent refreshers are expected later in the summer – they’re small bottles of perfume that can be applied to the material on the back of the case to ensure the smell of nature lasts even longer.
The cases are priced at GB£34.05 or US$43.89 on MMORE’s website.

And if smells aren’t your thing, MMORE do some lovely wooden-backed cases too.


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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