All posts by Andrew

About Andrew

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

Life In and After Lockdown



Although many of us still remain in lockdown, there’s light at the end of the pandemic tunnel with a number of countries now easing the restrictions. Painful as it has been for many, it’s also been positive in several respects. I spend more time with my children, there’s no hour long commute and I’ve been taking walks every day. Well, nearly every day…

And it looks like I’m not alone. LG Electronics commissioned research in UK to mark the launch of its latest portable and lightweight laptop range, LG gram, and found that

  • Just over a half of those questioned plan to continue with new habits like listening to podcasts, online fitness classes and regular walking once social distancing restrictions are lifted.
  • Two-fifths feel these new habits are better for their wellbeing.
  • More than one in four have found it easier to relax and keep a better routine.

Video calls have become a way of life and the main way to keep in touch with friends and family. In addition to calling for a chat, 25% have celebrated a birthday, 20% have taken part in a pub quiz and 7% have been to a stag or hen do. Frankly, I’d be asking for a do-over when things are more normal…

The study showed that the average person was spending nearly three hours per week on video calls, with half the nation (48%) expecting to continue with video calls after the lock down is finished. I guess what this shows was how much people felt that video calls were either unnecessary or difficult to do, but once people saw how easy the calls were and got past the initial awkwardness, it’s become ordinary. Thanks Zoom.

The poll of 2,000 conducted by OnePoll showed how integral technology is to our lives with laptops (54%), TV (57%) and mobile phones (64%) playing a key role for work and entertainment during the lockdown, allowing us to continue watching our favourite TV shows (51%), follow at-home workouts (19%), and learn a new skill or language (16%). If you include becoming a home school teacher as “learning a new skill”, then it’s three out of three for me.

When it comes to working-from-home this is where I think we will see lasting change. After experiencing working-from-home many will not want to return to long commutes in crowded trains or long traffic jams with the commensurate savings in fares or fuel. A quarter of the people (25%) questioned agreed that they planned on working from home more often after offices reopen. When asked what their ideal space to work from would be in the future, home was the most popular answer (30%) followed by a fixed office (23%) and then outside space (9%).

Hanju Kim, IT Product Director, LG UK said: “It’s both encouraging and uplifting to see some of the positive things coming out of this challenging period. The fact that many people are forming productive and healthy new habits is testament to the nation’s ability to adjust. The nation is working from home and has an appetite to continue working flexibly even after offices reopen. A big part of this can be attributed to technology keeping us connected.

And so to the product launch….the 2020 range of LG gram laptops is available in the UK now coming in 14” (from £1,199.99), 15” (from £1,299.99) and 17” (from £1,449.99) sizes, featuring a 10th Generation Intel Core processor with Iris Plus graphics and up to 24GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory. With the 14” model weighing under 1 kg and the 15” & 17” models allowing up to 17 hours of battery life, the 2020 range sets a new standard for portable computing. Available from all good UK retailers – Amazon, PC World, Argos and Costco.


Fortnite Teams Up With OnePlus 8



Battle Royale remains a tremendously popular segment of mobile gaming but these fast-paced action games need speedy systems to make them shine. Consequently, it’s no great surprise that OnePlus has partnered with Epic Games to create a new mobile experience for owners of the OnePlus 8 series of phones when it comes to playing Fortnite.

With the rollout currently underway, OnePlus 8 series devices are the first smartphones able to run Fortnite on the Unreal Engine at 90 fps, which is the fastest frame rate ever available for Fortnite on a smartphone and faster than some consoles can manage.

OnePlus and Epic Games have created one of the best Fortnite experiences ever on a smartphone. The OnePlus 8 Series delivers a smooth, high framerate Fortnite gameplay experience – that even current generation console game systems can’t match,” said Pete Lau, Founder & CEO of OnePlus. “OnePlus creates the best devices for mobile gaming through our industry leading display, speedy performance, and overall user experience designed with power-users in mind.

And this isn’t just about making the app “run a bit faster”. It took months of development to bring 90 fps to the OnePlus 8 phones even with the Snapdragon 865 and FluidDisplay. To make life easier for users, Fortnite will be made available through OnePlus’ “Game Space” application for a one-touch easy installation of the Epic Games app.

The rollout is starting in India with world-wide availability soon.

Owners of previous generation OnePlus 7 and 7T series phones will still be able to play Fortnite but sadly only at 60 fps. My personal experience is that even at 60 fps, the OnePlus phones play these games pretty well.


More Backgrounds to Hide the Clutter



The lockdown might be easing in your country, but it doesn’t look like working from home is going to go away anytime soon: VPNs, Office 365, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meet are all the new norms for the working day. With all the family at home, flat surfaces are at a premium and the kitchen table is now my office, though the view from my webcam is a less-than-professional untidy pile of cookery books, mismatched placemats and unfinished school homework. Unlike Satya Nadella of Microsoft, I don’t have anyone to dress the background.

Fortunately, there are now loads of fun backgrounds that can be inserted into videoconferencing to hide the clutter. Over the past few days Nintendo, Lego, Studio Ghibli and Star Wars have all dropped suitable images, and don’t forget Disney Pixar has been busy too. Even if you aren’t chatting over the interweb, the images are great desktop backgrounds too.

Click through on the links to see more as there are many additional images on the web sites.

Nintendo

https://www.nintendo.com/wallpapers/

Studio Ghibli

http://www.ghibli.jp/info/013251/

Lego

https://www.lego.com/en-gb/themes/letsbuildtogether/backgrounds

Star Wars

https://starwarsblog.starwars.com/news/star-wars-backgrounds

Have fun and stay safe.


Xiaomi’s Flagship Killer…the Poco F2 Pro



Xiaomi have certainly been busy in the past few weeks, releasing updated versions across its product line – Redmi, Mi and now Poco, with the release of the F2 Pro. It’s a replacement for the Pocophone F1 and is now just branded Poco, which is a definite improvement over something that sounds like Pokemon. Having said that, this is not a brand new phone as the F2 is a variant of the Redmi K30 Pro. Whatever the label, this is is Xiaomi’s “flagship killer” and on paper, it’s definitely a worthy contender in the not-ridiculously-expensive-but-well-specced section. Let’s work round the details.

Looking at the phone, there’s a 6.67″ 2400 x 1080 FHD+ AMOLED “Ultimate Full Screen Display”. Unlike many high-end phones, this screen seems to be flat without a curved edge which might be seen as a good thing by some people. It’s an HDR10+ screen with a contrast ratio of 5 million to 1 and there’s an in-screen fingerprint sensor behind the Gorilla Glass. Physically the phone is 163.3 mm x 75.4 mm x 8.9 mm and weighs in at 218 g. It comes four colours – Cyber Grey, Electric Purple, Phantom White, Neon Blue.

Round the back, there are four cameras arranged on a disk. The main shooter is a 64 MP camera with a Sony IMX686 sensor. Second, there’s a 13 MP ultra wide-angle camera with a 123° field of view. Next is a 5 MP telemacro camera that can focus down to just a few centimetres and finally there’s a 2 MP depth sensor camera for when you want some bokeh. Round the front, there’s a selfie camera which pops up from the top of the phone. It’s a 20 MP sensor.

Inside there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 with a Kryo 585 CPU and an Adreno 650 GPU plus support for 5G and WiFi 6. At this point, it’s worth mentioning that there are two versions of the F2 available, one with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage and another with 8 GB and 256 GB. Oddly, the 6 GB version is LPDDR4X, whereas the 8 GB one is LPDDR5. There are dual SIMs but only one can be 5G (as I understand the specs).

Powering the F2 Pro is 4,700mAh battery with 30W fast charging via USB C. There’s no wireless charging here, but 30 mins boosts the phone from 0 to 64%, and you’ll get 100% in just over an hour.

Other features include an IR blaster (kind of a Xiaomi feature) and fan-favourite, a 3.5 mm headphone jack.

Price-wise the Poco F2 Pro comes in at €499/$499 for the 6GB/128GB version and €599/$599 for the 8GB/256GB storage version. The phone will be available in regions as the summer progresses but if you can’t wait, the phone is already available from GearBest.


LG Velvet Reveal in S Korea



Another week, another phone launch and it’s LG‘s turn with the new LG Velvet. For those keeping count, the Velvet is really the next iteration of the G8, so think of the Velvet as the G9, though it’s not quite as high-end as might be expected from the G-range. That’s not to say it doesn’t have a couple of tricks up its sleeve. Let’s take a look.

From the front, the Velvet looks like most of today’s smartphones: 6.8-inch 1080 x 2460 OLED screen with a 20.5:9 aspect ratio. No real surprises there, but round the back it’s a little bit different. Instead of a dark cluster of lenses, the Velvet has a raindrop effect, with a larger lens at the top, two smaller lenses below and a flash at the bottom, all spaced out . It’s a good look – check the picture. The cameras themselves are a 48 MP main sensor, an 8 MP ultra-wide camera and a 5 MP depth sensor. It’s a 16 MP selfie shooter on the front. As expected for a phone of this calibre, there’s an in-display fingerprint scanner.

Driving the smartphone is a Snapdragon 765G chipset with 5G support. There’s 8 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage and a microSD card slot which is always a welcome addition. The 765G might not be top of the range but it’s a strong performer and most people will find it very acceptable.

Keeping the juice flowing is a 4,300 mAh battery, and the Velvet offers both wired fast charging and 10 W wireless charging. I imagine that battery will keep the phone going for over a day. In terms of other features, the Velvet has IP68 rating for dust and water ingress, and there’s a 3.5 mm audio socket for the audio fans.

And for the Velvet’s party tricks…to start with there’s support for LG’s dual screen accessory, which I think is a great idea to increase screen real estate without the risks of a folding screen. But in addition to the dual screen, the Velvet also supports a stylus pen for fine editing and control. That’s something that I’ve only heard of on tablets and it’ll be interesting to see it in action on a phone. It’ll be even more interesting if the dual screen supports the pen too.

For now, the Velvet is only available in South Korea but an announcement is expected in mid-May regarding the rest of the world. Price-wise, it’s going to be ₩899,800 in S Korea, which is around US$730.


Xiaomi Reveals Mi Note 10 Lite



In addition to the Redmi Note 9 and 9 Pro announced last week, Xiaomi also unveiled the Mi Note 10 Lite. Based on the Mi Note 10 from last year which offers a whopping 108 MP rear camera, the Lite edition reduces the specs in few places to make the phone a little bit more affordable while still looking premium. As the Note 10 itself starts at GB£459, it’s definitely in upper mid-range territory, so it will be interesting to see what the Mi Note 10 Lite offers at a lower price point. Let’s take a look.

The Mi Note 10 Lite looks great with Gorilla Glass on both the front and the back of the phone. The display features a 6.47″ curved AMOLED FHD+ (2340 x 1080) screen on the front, with a tear drop 16 MP camera at the centre top. It’s a 19.5:9 aspect ratio display with HDR10. On the rear, there’s a quad camera setup, with cameras vertically aligned on the left-hand side. The main lens features a 65 MP wide-angle camera and is complemented by an 8 MP ultra wide-angle camera, a 5 MP depth sensor and a 2 MP macro camera. This is a very similar camera array to the Redmi Note 9 Pro.

Unlike the Redmi devices, the Note 10 Lite comes with in-display fingerprint sensor, and phone comes in three colours; glacier white, midnight black & nebula purple. Overall dimensions are 157.8 x 74.2 x 9.67 mm, and the Note 10 Lite weighs in at 204 g.

Powering the 10 Lite is the same chipset as its full fat brother, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G. This consists of a Kryo 470 octa-core 2.3 GHz CPU paired with an Adreno 618 CPU and X15 LTE modem. When it comes to RAM and storage, there are three combinations available – 6 GB+64 GB, 6 GB+128 GB, 8 GB+128 GB. It’s not clear whether there’s a link between memory configuration and available colours.

From the specs, it doesn’t look like there’s a memory card expansion slot which is disappointing. There’s a 5,260 mAh battery with 30W fast charge via a USB C port. That’ll charge to 50% from 0% in 30 mins or less, which is handy, although Xiaomi reckon on 2 days-worth of use from a full charge.

As expected at this price point, it’s 4G only, though it does take a pair of SIMs. There’s Bluetooth 5.0 and a 3.5 mm headphone socket, and unusually an IR remote which is good for controlling TVs and other AV gear.

Pricewise, the Mi Note 10 Lite starts at 349 € (euros) for the base model, which is a considerable saving over the big brother, so if you want a premium-looking phone for not much money, check it out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the Note 10 is coming to the UK any time soon, but the rest of the world can expect it to land in mid-May.


BBC Omits Central Database in Contact Tracing App Story



With the UK’s NHS Contract Tracing app being tested in the Isle of Wight this week, the BBC ran a story on how the app works in the evening news today. While the lovely graphics illustrated how the app worked, the story conveniently forgot to mention that all the contact data collected goes back to a central database.

Unlike much of the free world, instead of adopting the Google-Apple decentralised approach, the NHS has gone ahead with its plans to base its tracking on a central database – there’s more at The Register and The Guardian newspaper. Simplistically, while both versions use Bluetooth proximity to detect others nearby, in the Google-Apple model only the phones know with whom you have been in contact. In the NHS version, the contact data is passed back to a central server for contact matching. This is manna from heaven for a UK government which has a reputation for increasing levels of privacy abuse.

So it’s all very handy then that the BBC omitted to mention that all the app users’ contact tracing information, which will likely include location data, will be neatly shuffled back to a central server for review and matching by the NHS. Yes, it’s anonymised but it doesn’t take much to figure out who someone is if night-after-night they go back to the same address.

The programme is here but I’m not sure how long it will stay online for or if it’s available worldwide. Look at around the 7 minutes 45 seconds. There’s no mention of the central database in either the narrative or the infographics.

Sorry, NHS, I’ll not be downloading your app. BBC, stop lying by omission.

Update 4/5/20: The BBC has produced a more balanced article here.