All posts by Andrew

About Andrew

Based in the UK - Phone: OnePlus 6T - Tablet: Huawei Mediapd M5 - Watch: Omega Seamaster

Homes Need Disruption and Innovation



I hate decorating. I really hate decorating. It’s not that I’m lazy or I don’t want my home to look good. It’s just so….primitive. There have been all these advances in science, technology and medicine but when it comes to our homes, we’re content to throw some paint on the wall like Stone Age cave art. Prefer wallpaper? It originated in China before becoming popular in Europe during the 15th century, and as for tiles, the Romans were a dab hand at mosaics 2,000 years ago. All modern innovations then.

Decorating’s a bit like putting lipstick on a pig as homes are so badly designed and built. Fundamentally, houses haven’t changed in over a couple of centuries but I’ll give you central heating and cavity walls if you really want. Let’s take a look at the average UK home and the ways they’re bodged to meet an acceptable standard.

  • plastering – a house can’t be built with straight walls or a good finish so we have to trowel plaster on top to make it look acceptable.
  • skirting boards – the walls don’t meet the floor neatly so we have to use skirting boards to hide the messy join.
  • tiles – they’re stuck on so permanently they have to be smashed to get them off and it’s back to plastering.
  • doorframes – all the fancy woodwork around a door because we can’t figure out how to put a hole in a wall without it being a mess.
  • central heating – a boiler heats hot water to 60C to pass through radiators to then heat the air in a room to 20C. How can that be efficient? – just heat the air directly, and there’s far less mess if there’s a leak.
  • light switches, light fittings and power sockets – can’t move them without specialists and then you have to decorate all over again once they’ve made a mess.

Domestic homes are junk. I’ve seen better designed Lego buildings. Businesses didn’t put up with the inflexibility and got air management, raised floors, suspending ceilings and trunking.

Of course, it’s all down to vested interests. For the UK, the British Coatings Federation reckons paint is a £3.2 billion industry of which 65% is decorative. The UK plumbing industry is £17bn. If ever there was a market ripe for disruption and innovation it’s the domestic housing market. Builders build as many homes as they can as cheaply as possible and there’s such a shortage of new homes in the UK that they can get away with it.

I’m not asking for a “smart home”, but a flexible quality structure that better meets the needs of people in the 21st century. How about it Apple? Design a better home….that sounds right up your street.


Merriam-Webster Goes Back in Time



2020 is unlikely to be remembered fondly but it’s brought new words and phrases into common use – pandemic, coronavirus, Covid-19, social distancing, bubble, lockdown, furlough. While not necessarily brand-new words, they’ve taken on different meanings and gained widespread usage throughout the year.

Language is always evolving and changing, and English does a particularly good job at creating, borrowing and morphing new words to suit the occasion. Etymologists are always interested in the first uses of words, especially in print, to see how words have developed and changed.

For the rest of us, it might just be fun to see what words came into use in the year we were born, in which case you’ll be delighted that Merriam-Webster’s Time Traveler lets you choose a year of interest and then shows the words first used then. Let’s go back forty years to 1980 and see what was new. Here’s A to F….

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I’m still surprised how now common words or phrases came into the language so recently. Some are clearly related to the technology of the time – BIOS, bitmap, DRAM, expansion slot – but air guitar, chill out and comb-over? Incredible that they are so recent. Ok, if you’re a millennial, it might not be “living memory”.

Merriam-Webster’s data goes back centuries and you can easily spend a few hours here.


The Bomb



During lockdown I’ve been listening to the BBC World Service’s seven part podcast series on the rapid development and first use of the atomic bomb by the US in the Second World War.

The Bomb is narrated by Emily Strasser whose grandfather worked on the project team as she seeks to understand why he contributed to production of the weapon. The story follows events through the eyes of Leo Szilard, one of the first to realise the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction and the terrifying opportunity for destruction, especially if the Nazis make the atom bomb first.

Through the history of the bomb, the podcast explores the ethical relationship between the scientists, their work and those who would use their discoveries as weapons, which remains as relevant today as it did 75 years ago.

There are some interesting factoids in there too. I didn’t know that the Purple Heart medals awarded today were originally manufactured in WWII in preparation for the expected casualties from a US invasion of Japan. As Japan surrendered after the dropping of the two bombs, there was a large surplus of medals left over and these continue to be presented today to those wounded in battle.

Give The Bomb some space in your podcast queue.


OnePlus Officially Launches the 8T



After more leaks than a colander, OnePlus has officially launched the OnePlus 8T smartphone. As expected, this is an evolution of OnePlus 8 from earlier in 2020 and while there is no 8T Pro, there is a new Nord special edition coming to Europe.

Sticking with the 8T for now, there aren’t any great surprises from what was revealed in advance, though unlike the 8’s curved screen, the new 8T has a flat 6.55″ OLED screen, 2400 x 1080 pixels (402 ppi) with a 120 Hz refresh rate and HDR10+ support. It’s rated A+ from DisplayMate and it’s the first flat screen to be given this rating. I have to admit not being a great fan of curved screens, so I’m pleased to see this.

Inside the 5G 8T there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 supported by up to 12 GB RAM and 256 GB storage with UFS 3.1. Given the power on tap here, OnePlus have improved thermal performance to consistently deliver high-level gaming performance – Fortnite runs at 90 fps. In terms of electrical power, it’s a 4500 mAh battery and as pre-announced, it supports OnePlus’ 65W Warp Charge which will charge the phone by 60% in 15 minutes. That’s quick.

The phone comes in a choice of two finishes, Aquamarine Green and Lunar Silver but they are tied to the storage size of the device (at least in the UK). For Aquamarine Green, it’s the 8 GB + 128 GB version, and for Lunar Silver, it’s the larger 12 GB + 256 GB one. The Lunar Silver is a matte frosted glass finish, whereas the Aquamarine Green is a glossy finish, though it’s supposed not be a fingerprint magnet. I liked the Green of the 8 and 8 Pro.

Round the back, it’s a quad-camera array with the main lens rocking a 48 megapixel unit with optical image stabilisation. The other lenses include a 16 MP ultrawide with 123° field of view and there’s a 5 MP macro camera let’s you get in up close. Finally, there’s a 2 MP monochrome lens and the in-display selfie camera on the front is 16 MP.

There have been camera improvements for low light levels in this iteration. For still photography, Nightscape photo mode will automatically be engaged when it’s dark, and for video recording, there’s a new Video Nightscape mode which brings light enhancement to videos.

The 8T will come pre-installed with Android 11 in the shape of OxygenOS 11 which is optimised for one-handed use. They’ve partnered with Bitmoji to bring avatar digital experiences to OnePlus – “The Digital You” – and balance personalisation with privacy by using avatars to represent you in the digital world. I’m obviously too old to get excited by this…

If you’ve been a major museum recently, you might have come across Rewild, an AR app developed with Phoria, Netflix and Google to bring the natural world to life. The app’s been enhanced for OxygenOS and now delivers 4K content to the 8T.

Pricewise the OnePlus 8T will come in at 599€ / GB£549 for the 8 GB +128GB, and 699€ / GB£649 / US$749 for the 12 GB + 256 GB version. The 8T smartphone is available now for pre-order from OnePlus and wider availability from 20th October in UK. The full specs are here.

In other news, there’s a OnePlus Nord special edition that comes in Gray Ash with 12 GB RAM & 256 GB storage. It’ll be priced at 499€ / GB£469 and available from 15th October. Nord models for the US market will be announced later in the month.

The OnePlus Buds Z earbuds were also announced for those people who prefer in-ear headphones. With an IP55 water resistance rating, they’re perfect for getting sweaty at the gym. Steven Harrington has done a special edition but otherwise they’ll be available in white and grey options for GB£55 /  US$49.99 and available from 4th November. I think I might get some of those if I can snag a pair of the special editions.

There were also hints of a currently unannounced product, perhaps a smartwatch….Watch this space.

 


OnePlus Drip-Feeds Details Ahead of 8T



With not even a week to go before the full reveal of the OnePlus 8T, the company has been steadily drip-feeding teasers for the upcoming ‘phone. It’s OnePlus’ modus operandi but at times you wonder if there’s any surprise left for the big day.

Here’s what we know about the 8T so far:

  • It will come with OxygenOS 11 (Android 11) out of the box
  • The display will have a 120 Hz refresh rate.
  • The smartphone will have a Snapdragon 865 processor.
  • There will be improvements for low light images.
  • The main camera will be a 48M unit with OIS. See writing on the camera unit here.
  • The 8T is going to come in Aquamarine Green with a beautiful glass body. A Lunar Silver variant has been leaked.
  • Warp charge will support 65 W charging
  • There isn’t going to be an 8T Pro.
  • The back of the phone is going to look like the picture. Taken from this YouTube teaser.

It doesn’t look like the North American Nord models will be showcased next week as a further OnePlus reveal has been pencilled in for later in October.  But here’s hoping for “one more thing”. Rumours have been swirling for months about a OnePlus smartwatch…

In other OnePlus news, the company has created a virtual interactive experience in the OnePlus World, which offers a strange mix of games, activities and a musesum of OnePlus devices. It’s worth a visit….once.

If you want to follow along for the launch of the 8T, the follow the event online on https://www.oneplus.com/launch at 10:00AM EDT / 15:00 BST / 16:00 CEST / 19:30 IST on Wednesday 14 October. Stay tuned!


Xiaomi Launches Mi 10T Smartphone Series



Today Xiaomi has announced three handsets in the new Mi 10T smartphone range: the Mi 10T Pro, 10T and 10T Lite, along with Xiaomi’s first global smart watch, the Mi Watch.

2020 is Xiaomi’s 10th anniversary and it has some impressive stats for a company this young. 344 million smart phone users and it’s now the #3 smartphone brand in Europe behind Apple and Samsung. To be honest, when you see the specs and prices below for the new Mi 10T series, it’s not entirely surprisingly

Looking at the specs, the Mi 10T Pro is undoubtedly a flagship phone – 5G, fast processor, loads of memory and massive megapixel camera – and Xiaomi is focussing on the creative abilities of their phones with features like easy long exposures for fantastic looking effects and AI Skyscaping to add moving skies and effects to static photographs. There’s also some impressive effects merging photos and videos together so that one person can appear many times in a single picture or video, and Dual Video records from both front and back cameras at the same time. These are just a few of the features that #PowerYourCreativity.

Yes, there are some things missing that you might expect from a flagship phone, such as wireless charging and an in-display fingerprint sensor, but they’ve focussed on the things that matter and it’s priced much lower than the competition.

For the other phones in the series…the 10T Pro and 10T look identical with any differences on the inside with a lesser camera in the 10T. The 10T Lite shares the same design language but is clearly a different phone: the camera array on the rear is different and the pin hole camera is in a different position. All the new phones have refresh rates at 144 Hz for the 10T and 10T Pro, and 120 Hz for the 10T Lite. ActiveSync technology smartly matches content framerate to screen refresh rate to give the best possible viewing experience.

The full specs are available on-line for detailed examination but the main highlights are:

10T Pro

  • 6.67” FHD+ with 144 Hz AdaptiveSync display, 20:9 aspect ratio
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 (Kryo 585 CPU, Octa-core CPU, up to 2.84 GHz, paired with Adreno 650 GPU)
  • LPDDR5 RAM, UFS 3.1 storage with either 8GB+128GB or 8GB+256GB
  • 5,000 mAh  high-capacity battery, 33W wired fast charging
  • 108MP + 13MP + 5MP triple rear camera: 108MP ultra-clear primary camera with OIS, 13MP ultra-wide angle camera with 123° field of view, 5MP macro camera AF (2cm-10cm)
  • 20MP in-display selfie camera
  • Colours are Cosmic Black, Lunar Silver, Aurora Blue
  • Price starts at 599 €

10T

  • 6.67” FHD+ with 144 Hz AdaptiveSync display, 20:9 aspect ratio
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 (Kryo 585 CPU, Octa-core CPU, up to 2.84 GHz, paired with Adreno 650 GPU)
  • LPDDR5 RAM, UFS 3.1 storage with either 6GB+128GB or 8GB+128GB
  • 5,000 mAh  high-capacity battery, 33W wired fast charging
  • 64MP + 13MP + 5MP triple rear camera: 64MP wide-angle camera, 13MP ultra-wide angle camera with 123° field of view, 5MP macro camera AF (2cm-10cm)
  • 20MP in-display selfie camera
  • Colours are Cosmic Black, Lunar Silver
  • Price starts at 499 €

10T Lite

  • 6.67” FHD+ with 120 Hz AdaptiveSync display, 20:9 aspect ratio
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G (Kryo 570 CPU, Octa-core CPU, up to 2.2 GHz, paired with Adreno 619 GPU
  • LPDDR4X RAM, with either 6GB+64GB (UFS 2.1) or 6GB+128GB (UFS 2.2)
  • 4,820 mAh  high-capacity battery, 33W wired fast charging
  • 64MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP quad rear camera: 64MP wide-angle camera, 8MP ultra-wide angle camera with 120° field of view, 2MP macro camera FF 4cm, 2MP depth sensor
  • 16MP in-display selfie camera
  • Colours are Atlantic Blue, Pearl Gray, Rose Gold Beach
  • Price starts at 279 €

Moving away from the Mi 10T smartphones, the Xiaomi Mi Watch is the company’s first global smartwatch. Unlike the rectangular Mi Band, the Mi Watch has a round 1.39” AMOLED display with a 454 x 454 pixels supporting over 100 different watch faces.

The Mi Watch has 117 fitness modes and offers 24/7 monitoring of many physiological measures such as  heart rate tracking and  blood oxygen level monitoring, with additional indicators on sleep cycles, stress levels and energy levels.

The Mi Watch has GPS, a compass and a barometer for outdoor pursuits that cover large areas or height changes, and with 5 ATM water resistance it’s ready for any weather, surface watersports and swimming.

Powered by a 420mAh battery, the Mi Watch gets up to 16 days of battery life on just two hours of charge and there’s a magnetic charging dock to make charging easy. As expected, there’s a complementary app that records all the data from the Mi Watch and there’s voice control courtesy of Amazon Alexa.

The Xiaomi Mi Watch is priced at just 99 €.


Roku Streambar Coming to UK



In good news for Roku fans in the UK, the company has announced the Roku Streambar will be coming to the country towards the end of October. The Streambar incorporates a Roku streaming player into a soundbar, hence the name, meaning all those movies and TV shows will sound a whole lot better, given the speakers in most flat TVs are pathetically bad.

This is a great addition to the current Roku line-up in available in the UK which includes the Streaming Stick+, the Premiere and the Express: you can catch my unboxing and setup videos below for these products. Priced at GB£129, the Roku Streambar delivers pictures in HD and 4K with HDR support, the same as the Premiere and Streaming Stick+, just with better sound.

In terms of the audio, the Streambar has four 1.9″ full range drivers and has built-in Dolby decoder for great sound while watching films. Roku OS has a few clever tricks up its sleeve too, enhancing speech clarity. Going by some recent films where the speech audio has roundly criticised, that’s not going to go amiss.

Looking at the ports round the back, there’s a socket for optical input, so it looks like you’ll be upgrade all your TV viewing (as long as the TV has an optical out). That’ll be a great upgrade for all TV programmes, not just those coming from the Roku itself.

The Streambar works with Spotify Connect and there’s a Spotify app on Roku so you can fill your living room with high quality sound. There’s Bluetooth connectivity as well if you need to stream from a smartphone or tablet. The Streambar will be good for BBC Sounds as well, which was recently announced for the Roku and offers “live and on demand radio from the BBC’s 18 national and 40 local stations, music mixes curated by experts, artists and special guests, and a wide range of award-winning podcasts.

Alexa and Google Assistant aren’t built-in to the Roku Steambar, but as with other Roku players, the Streambar can be controlled from an Echo or Home device. If Apple is more your walled garden, Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit capabilities will be coming some 4K Roku devices later in 2020. This integration will provide better content sharing from iPads and iPhones, and control of the Roku via either the Home app or Siri. Nice.

Overall, this looks like a great upgrade for anyone with a less-than-smart TV – a streaming player and better sound. Good job.

See below for an unboxing and review of the UK versions of the Roku Express and Premier.