All posts by Andrew

About Andrew

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

Shoot Snowballs with the OnePlus Snowbots



OnePlus in a Red BoxOnePlus has always indulged in a few side projects and their latest publicity stunt efforts are remote-controlled snowball-shooting robots. Based in Lapland, the Snowbots will be controlled via OnePlus smartphones across the 5G network courtesy of Finnish telco Elisa.

The snowball-flingers will be taken into battle by OnePlus community members from all around the world, taking advantage of the fast low-latency connection that 5G offers.

The OnePlus Snowbot Battle, hosted in Ruka-Kuusamo area, Lapland, Finland, will start on 9th March at 1200 GMT with a special Human vs. Robots event, with preselected people joining in teams to play against the 5G-powered Snowbots. From the evening of 9th to 12th March, the Snowbot Battle will run 24 hours a day, allowing everyone to join a team in the ultimate snowball fight. Let battle commence!

There a four Snowbots in total, with two on each team, and it’s a basic snowball fight. Try to hit your opponents with snowballs without getting hit yourself and the winner is the person who hits their enemy more times than they get hit. Simples! Watch out though, there’s limited ammunition and only eight snowballs. Mind you, these are snowballs that go 120 mph / 190 km/h. 

In addition, OnePlus will host a special community contest on its social channels to select a few lucky users who will have the opportunity to travel to Lapland and join the OnePlus Snowbot Battle in person.

There’s a video coming soon showing the construction of the Snowbots, but for now there’s just a teaser trailer.


Gadgets Galore for 007



With only a month to go until the next 007 film, “No Time To Die“, there’s plenty of James Bond-themed goodies for the spyhunters out there.

Omega Seamaster Watch with mesh braceletAs Mr Bond’s watch brand of choice in the recent films, Swiss timekeepers Omega have the Seamaster Diver 300m 007 Edition which comes in a 42 mm titanium case on a titanium mesh bracelet, though a brown, grey and beige Nato strap more in keeping with the military is also available. You know that this isn’t going to be cheap so get your credit card out for this one at GB£7,390.

Swatch Q WatchStaying with watches but significantly reducing the price, Swatch have their Swatch X 007 collection. It’s a range of six watches based on different Bond films, one for each of the actors that has played 007.

  • Sean Connery – Dr No
  • George Lazenby – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  • Roger Moore – Moonraker
  • Timothy Dalton – Licence to Kill
  • Pierce Brosnan –The World is Not Enough
  • Daniel Craig – Casino Royale

A seventh Swatch model will be worn by Q in the forthcoming film and is pictured left – I quite like that. The Swatches are more reasonably priced at around £70-£80, though the price for the Q watch hasn’t been confirmed.

Stamps showing scenes from James Bond filmsMoving away from watches and over to stamps, the UK’s Royal Mail has James Bond special stamps featuring both the actors and the vehicles from the films. There’s quite a collection on show from a character set at £7.20 through to silver stamps at £199. The stamps have hidden features which are only revealed under UV light. Very spy.

There’s plenty of other James Bond tie-ins out there – these were just a couple that caught my eye. If you really want to get into the world of 007, check out Bond Lifestyle for links to all the clothes, sunglasses and real-world gear used in the films.


Android Display and Lock Screen Settings are a Mess



Android Green Robot LogoA few weeks ago Ambient Mode arrived on my OnePlus 6T and much as I love my phone, Ambient Mode took way too long to get working properly: Android’s settings for displays and lock screens are a complete mess. There are far too many complexities and inter-dependencies.

(For those not familiar with Ambient Mode, it’s a dark lock screen that shows information based on Google Assistant, such as travel information.)

If you don’t believe me, let’s take a look at the ways we can configure the phone’s screen to do something when not actually in use. Starting with a rummage through Display settings within the normal phone settings app there is…

Menu itemsSleep which can be configured from as short as 15 seconds to as long as 30 minutes. On the 6T, it first turns off the backlight. If the phone is charging, it will stay like this with apps still visible, albeit dimly, but if on battery, the screen will go completely black a few seconds later.

Screen saver starts when the 6T is charging or docked, and the phone is sleeping. The phone will lock behind the scenes when the screen saver is running.

Ambient display  will display a clock and notifications when the phone is picked up or the screen is tapped, if your phone is already locked. It’s a dark (black) screen so won’t blind you in the night. Why is this even in Display settings when it’s a lock screen feature? It should be in with Security and Lock Screen.

Moving on, in the Security and Lock Screen settings, we have configuration for locking and unlocking the 6T.

Automatically lock after sleep gives the period of timing after sleeping before the lock screen kicks in. Varies from immediately to 30 minutes.

Power button instantly locks is a useful setting. Turned on, you can cut out some of the waiting around.

Smart Lock can be configured to not lock your phone in specific places, such as home. Normally this is useful when you’re safe at home, but if you want Ambient display or Ambient Mode to kick in when the phone is locked, it’s not so useful.

All of the above are in the standard OnePlus settings app. New kid on the block is Ambient Mode which replaces the standard lock screen with a Google Assistant-based dark grey lock screen. Turning on Ambient Mode takes a couple of screen taps. First, go to and open the Google app. Press More (the three dots), then Settings, then Google Assistant, next scroll down to Assistant Devices and finally choose Phone. Turn on Ambient Mode. That’s not hard to work out at all. Unbelievable.

Now, there’s one final “gotcha”. In the Developer Options, which is easily enabled by anyone, there is Stay awake which stops the phone from sleeping and locking if the 6T is charging. If this setting is turned on, none of the display or lock screen modes will kick in automatically. That’s Screen saver, Ambient display and Ambient Mode. If you are having problems in this area, check you haven’t got this setting on.

As I think you’ll see from the rundown above, there is plenty of scope for confusion and misunderstanding with display and lock screen settings. It took me a good twenty minutes to figure out why Ambient Mode wouldn’t kick in automtically before finally configuring it correctly. PITA.


Glass Backs Are Too Fragile



Smashed back of a yellow smartphoneSilvery Apple LogoA friend of my daughter called round the other day to proudly show off her brand new iPhone XR in yellow. As she pulled it from her bag, her face went from joy to shock, and when she turned the back of the phone towards me, I could see that it was smashed. She was totally gutted.

With hindsight, it was unwise not to have a case on the smartphone (she’d ordered one) but I really have to wonder about the practicality of a glass back on such an expensive phone. What is the point of having a material that breaks so readily that it’s essential to put a case on? An aluminium rear would look just as good and be a hundred times more practical. Certainly, Apple aren’t the only manufacturer sporting glass backs on the smartphones, but where Apple leads, many follow.

The iPhone XR starts at GB£629. Apple, being Apple, charges a premium for the repairs, especially without AppleCare+. To get the back replaced, it’s “up to” £396.44. Even if you have taken out AppleCare+ at GB£149, there’s still £79 excess so that’s £228 in total. Either way it’s pricey. An independent repair isn’t really an option as the phone is still in warranty.

Of course, the phone’s owner could have done things differently – put on a case, not swing her bag around – she’s not blameless. However, it is a factor that needs to be considered when purchasing a new phone: the fragility, the extra cost of insurance, the annoyance. Breaking the front screen is bad enough, but having to worry about the back is unnecessary.


Lighten Your Load with the Sitpack Zen



Sitpack LogoSitpack makesPerson leaning back against Sitpack Zen at railway station portable compact seats that transform telescopically from a small cylinder the size of a drinks can to a 90 cm tall T-shaped rest that makes waiting a great deal more comfortable.

I reviewed the first and second generations of the Sitpack back in 2017, and you can read my thoughts about these ingenious devices here and here. While I wouldn’t claim that the Sitpack 2 has seen daily use since then, it’s been taken out a couple of times when I’ve known in advance that I’d be hanging around and seating was unlikely to be available.

Person holding telescopic portable seatUnlike me, Sitpack haven’t been hanging around and the Sitpack Zen is the latest design iteration, with two lightweight models. The black aluminium tube version weighs in at 555 g, while the even lighter carbon fibre tube edition tips the scales at 455 g. Although the Zen might be light, it’ll handle people up to 136 kg.

Person holding folded up Sitpack ZenThe new versions look better too. Folded up, it’s less “drinks can” and more “light saber” which definitely doesn’t hurt. The Zen models have a different mechanism over the Sitpack 2 for the seat, using ballistic nylon straps under tension to provide a little more comfort. The straps do double duty for carrying the Zen as well.

Sitpack is not all about portability though – it’s about health too as it’s designed to ensure users rest with the right posture. Correct resting increases blood circulation, soothes a tired back and leaves only 30% of the body weight on the coccyx (that’s the remains of your tail at the bottom of your spine).

Lightness is one of those things you pay more for less, so while the polycarbonate Sitpack 2 is €47, the anodized aluminium Zen XI is €99 and the carbon fibre Zen XII is €189. Both are available from the Sitpack shop with worldwide shipping.


A Beast of a Battery Pack from Chargeasap



Battery packs are ten-a-penny on crowdfunding websites but this one from Chargeasap caught my eye. It’s a total beast of battery pack, packing in a beefy 20 000 mAh of charge and delivering power to four devices simultaneously at a total rate of up to 150 W.

The Australian team behind Flash are using advanced batteries developed by Tesla, which provide 20% higher energy densities, lower temperatures (50°C max) and four times the product life. For the battery geeks, Flash’s power bank is made of four 21700 Tesla Lithium Polymer Graphene Composite Battery Cells manufactured by Panasonic. The other advantage of these batteries is that Flash can be recharged from empty to full in an hour. At 20 000 mAh it’s not the largest pack on the market but it’s going to be plenty for most people.

Feature-wise, the Chargeasap Flash has a single USB C port which will deliver 100 W, two USB A ports and a wireless charging pad on the top. It’s not the first time there’s been a battery pack with wireless charging – I reviewed the Mugenizer N11 way back in 2013 – but it’s a great add-on and really expands the usefulness of Flash. And unlike most other chargers, Flash is going to support a wide range of charging protocols including Apple Fast Charge, Huawei Supercharge, Oppo Flash Charge, Vivo Flash Charge, 10W Wireless Fast Charge and Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0. Phew!

Manufactured with aircraft grade aluminium with anodised finish in black or space grey, Flash is available on Indiegogo now. Prices are beginning at US$139/GB£107 with a 2 year warranty, and it’s selling like hot cakes. As of writing, it’s already achieved over 3000% of its goal in about 2 days, so there are only a few of the early bird prices left.

Deliveries are expected in from April onwards and Chargeasap has a track record of delivering with six previous campaigns.

(It’s hard not to write The Flash as the product name…)


OnePlus ConceptOne Goes On Tour



Like all good rock stars, the OnePlus ConceptOne is going on the road with a short US, European and Indian tour. Kicking off in Paris on 5 February,  the show will visit Seattle on Feb 6, take in three cities in India on 8 February before finishing in Copenhagen on 19 February. Each event will give people the opportunity to experience the ConceptOne for themselves, seeing the electrochromic glass in action and feeling the Concept One’s premium leather finish. Full details of the Tour are here including details of how to attend the events.

And if that’s not enough, OnePlus and McLaren are offering the chance to win one of sixteen tickets to the MCL35 car launch. On 13 February, the iconic McLaren Technology Centre will host one of the most exclusive events of the year, as McLaren reveals the MCL35 which will compete in the 2020 Formula 1 season.

In addition to trying out the new OnePlus Concept One, winners will get an exclusive seat to witness the MCL35 reveal before anyone else in the world, along with a guided tour of the McLaren HQ to introduce the history of the McLaren brand. That’s one top prize.

More details on the contest are here. Good luck!