Category Archives: Android

OnePlus 6T “Unlocks The Speed”



Never Settle LogoOnePlus has officially unveiled its latest flagship, the OnePlus 6T at a live event in New York. Announced a day ahead of schedule to avoid a conflict with Apple’s autumn event, the 6T’s features were in line with expectations based on leaks, both official and unofficial….but let’s follow along with the keynote.

Starting bang on time, OnePlus founder and CEO, Pete Lau, took to the stage for the first time at a OnePlus launch. He welcomed everyone to the event, thanked the community and reminded everyone of OnePlus’ history starting with the OnePlus One. He then announced that OnePlus is officially partnering with T-Mobile in the US and the 6T phones will be available through their 5,600 stores.

OnePlus 6T FrontPete then handed over to Kyle Kiang, OnePlus Head of North America Region for the big reveal. Before that, he thanked the OnePlus community that now has over 5 million registered users. Finally, the 6T specs….

– Screen unlock with in-display fingerprint sensor
– Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 CPU up to 2.8GHz with an Adreno 630 GPU
– 3,700 mAh battery with Fast Charge 5V @4A (note not “Dash” because of trademark issues)
– 20M+16M pixel cameras with both OIS and EIS
– 6.41″ AMOLED screen with 19.5:9 ratio and Corning Gorilla Glass 6
– 6 GB / 8 GB memory and 128 GB / 256 GB storage
– OxygenOS based on Android 9

The new screen unlock brings the fingerprint sensor in under the front display towards the bottom, which is great, because having the fingerprint sensor on the back of phone was a really stupid idea. Apparently the sensor was first tried out on the 5T but performance wasn’t good enough. On the 6T, the sensor will unlock in 0.34s – apparently it’s the fastest in-display sensor in the world – and it will learn your fingerprint better over time. For comparison, the OnePlus 5 fingerprint unlock takes 0.2s so there’s some penalty putting in under the glass.

The new 6.41″ AMOLED screen is 1080 x 2340 pixels, giving 402 pixels per inch. OnePlus give a slightly odd aspect ration of 19.5:9 which I feel ought to be 39:18 but there you go. At max brightness, it’s over 600 nits, and covers over 100% of the sRGB gamut. There’s a very neat notch at the top and the screen’s been extended at the bottom too.

The 6T will come in two finishes at launch, a ceramic Mirror Black and a metallic Midnight Black. The phone is 157.5 x 74.8 x 8.2 mm and weights 185 g. That’s nice. Memory options are 6 GB / 8 GB RAM and 128 GB / 256 GB storage. 64 GB is history….

OnePlus 6T Rear ViewFor photography, there are two cameras with 16 megapixel & 20 megapixel sensors, plus both OIS and EIS. You can do slow-mo at 480fps! The 6T addresses one of the main criticisms of the 6 – the low light photography wasn’t great – and comes with Nightscape, which is a proprietary HDR and post-processing algorithm to improve pictures at night. The demoed photos are very impressive. As there’s no change in the camera hardware between the 6 and the 6T, Nightscape mode is going to be available on the 6 as well.

Kevin Abosch, OnePlus Innovation Director and photographer took to the stage to talk about Studio Lighting, which improves portraiture photography by accentuating facial features in shadow. Looks impressive.

Kyle was then joined by Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm‘s President to talk about the relationship with OnePlus, flagship phones and the 5G future. Apparently the 5G future is already here, with first tweet sent by 5G last week…

Back with Kyle, the OnePlus 6T has been optimised for gamers with Smart Boost. This combination of hardware and software uses the 6T’s RAM as storage which allows gaming applications to load faster. It’s not insignificant at 20% faster load times.

The battery has been upped to 3,700 mAh battery from 3,300 mAh in the OnePlus 6. Along with software improvements, this translates to 23% improved battery life.

It’s not all hardware. Software in the shape of OxgenOS has been tweaked too with improvements across the board in stability, features and experience – it’s a mantra of “fast and smooth” with over 500 optimisations. Based on Android 9 (Pie), OxygenOS now comes with Full Screen Gestures 2.0.

Yes, there’s no 3.5 mm headphone socket, but OnePlus now has Bullet Type-C headphones (US$19.95) with a USB C connector and a Cirrus Logic DAC. Or else it’s full Bluetooth with Bullets Wireless (US$69), which have a special 5th Anniversary edition in red. 10 minutes charging gives 5 hours of listening pleasure.

The 6T will be available from the OnePlus on-line store from November 1 in the US, 6 November in Europe, costing US$549 / GB£499 for the 6+128 GB version. No invites required these days. If you are in the US and want to get on-board with T-Mobile, there are some fairly incredible trade-in offers especially if you have an older OnePlus model – $300 off with a OnePlus Two!

There are pop-ups round the world too if you want to get yours quicker. The London one is 31 October 11:00am – 7:30pm at The Music Room, 26 South Molton Lane, Mayfair, W1K 5LF, UK.

If you want to watch the keynote for yourself, it’s on YouTube. The presentation begins around the 30 minute mark.


OnePlus News Round-Up



With only about a week to go before the launch of 6T, OnePlus have been busy keeping themselves in the news. Here’s a quick round-up of the latest tidbits on the smartphone front.

First up, OnePlus have brought forward their showcase event by a day to 29th October to avoid being overshadowed by Apple’s autumn announcement which was scheduled immediately after OnePlus’ original event. The location is unchanged and it’s still at 11am EDT/ 1500 GMT, Pier 36, New York City. Graciously, OnePlus has offered to cover the additional travel costs of ticket holders who need to change their arrangements.

Secondly, OnePlus have announced a slew of pop-up events in India, Scandanavia, Western Europe and North America. These start from 29th October and the 6T will be available for sale at the pop-ups.

Next, a leak on a German retailer’s website has confirmed that the 6T will come with a larger battery. The listed specs suggest that 6T will come with a 3,700 mAh battery rather than the 3,300 mAh of the 6. The listing mentions microSD for expandable memory which would be a first for OnePlus, so take that with a pinch of salt.

Finally, even though the 6T isn’t out yet, OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has been commenting on the OnePlus 7 which will be one of the first phones to support 5G in 2019…whatever that means.


OnePlus 6T Launch Event Announced



Right on schedule, OnePlus announced the time, date and place for the 6T launch event – 11am EDT, 30 October, at Pier 36, New York, USA. That’s 1500 GMT or 1600 BST for folks in the UK.

As usual, it’s a fan event with tickets available from the launch website. but you’ll need to get in quick. These typically sell out and are priced at UK£16 for early birds. Looks like you get a goodie bag and a free gift in the shape of Bullets Wireless (to complement the Bluetooth-only 6T).

Doors open at 9am, keynote starts at 11am and the event closes around 3pm.

Can’t get there in person? The event will be livestreamed, though I’d advise you to put your own reminder in the diary – the “Add to Calendar” feature seems to want to book 1/11/18 rather than 30/10/18.

And if that’s not enough, join the OnePlus 6T Launch Megathread.

Update: there’s a second launch site – 8:30 pm IST at KDJW Stadium, in New Delhi, India.


OnePlus Teases 6T on Twitter



OnePlus continues to build the hype ahead of the 6T smartphone launch with a teasing tweet on Twitter. Posted at noon GMT, the message simply says, “Check back in 24 hours for an exciting announcement. #OnePlus6T“, along with a photo showing the lower rear of the new smartphone. There’s not much to be gleaned from from the picture as it only shows the USB C port, a speaker grille, part of antennae and “Designed by OnePlus” written on the back.

Sticking to its biannual smartphone release strategy, OnePlus’ CEO Peter Lau all but announced the new device in an interview with CNET last week. The latest tweet reaffirms the new phone is expected to be formally revealed this month.

Ever since the 3 was followed by the 3T (which I currently own), OnePlus has followed a pattern of spring and autumn releases, with the later smartphone mainly being a boosted model with a faster processor. In 2018, it looks like the 6T will be arriving a month earlier and will be significantly different from the current 6.

Most notably, the 6T is coming with an in-display fingerprint sensor, Screen Unlock, but will be losing the headphone socket. After being a staunch support of the 3.5mm audio socket, it seems that this will be removed to make way for the fingerprint sensor. The headphone socket itself moved from top of the phone to bottom between the OnePlus 2 and 3 models, and with the fingerprint sensor moving from the rear of the phone to the display on the front, the space below the screen is needed. Goodbye headphone socket.

Diehards will be disappointed in the loss of the headphone socket but I moved to Bluetooth headphones at least a year ago and haven’t looked back. My latest tablet, the Huawei Mediapad M5 doesn’t have a socket either.

Fans of wireless charging won’t fare any better. OnePlus still haven’t included wireless charging in the 6T, claiming that the wireless charging needs to be on a par with their wired fast charging technology, Dash Charging. Lau says, “We’re working hard on this. When we get to the day that the wireless charging can get up to speed without the implication of heat that we expect, then I believe we can integrate the technology.

I think that’s a complete cop-out. Surely I can judge for myself whether I need slower wireless charging versus fast wired charging? I can’t believe that it’s been nearly ten years since the Palm Pre came out with wireless charging and it’s still not a standard feature on smartphones.

Flagship killer or not, the 6T can’t have everything and still be delivered at mid-range price, so it’s not unexpected to see some features left out. Nevertheless, the 6T is expected to see a small bump in prices, somewhere in the US$25 range, which still prices the smartphone very competitively. OnePlus is the now #4 smartphone OEM in Western Europe after Apple, Samsung and Huawei.

I’m hoping for a “just one more thing” moment and OnePlus introduces a decent spec tablet for half the price of the Samsung Tab S4!


How to Backup WhatsApp with Google Drive



An email from the Google Drive Team dropped into my inbox earlier this week to let me know that from November any WhatsApp backups won’t count against my storage quota on Google Drive. It’s welcome news especially for heavy WhatsApp users with the basic 15 GB Drive allowance.

Unaware that WhatsApp did backups? It’s worth checking out as it’s one of the app’s best features. It’s especially useful for moving to a new phone or if needing to do a factory reset as all the chats, photos and videos get restored to the new device. It’s also very straightforward to set up and once done, the backups happen in the background on a regular basis.

Here’s are the steps. On Android, to get WhatsApp configured for backups, hit the three dots in the top right and tap on “Settings”, then “Chats”.

    

On the “Chats” screen, it’s “Chat backup” and the “Chat backup” dialog is where all the not-very-hard work is done.

        

Choose how often the backup needs to happen, the account to use, whether to include videos and so on. I recommend daily backups over WiFi only with videos. Once configured, the green “BACK UP” button can be used to immediately send the chats to Google Drive. On Google Drive, the WhatsApp chats are stored in the “Backups” section – it’s blanked out because the mobile number is included in the name of the backup file.

When it comes to restoring a backup, it has to be done the first time the WhatsApp app is run after installation and WhatsApp will display a message about it. It’s not possible to restore to an old backup after using the app for awhile.

That’s it. Just do it now.


LineageOS Breathes Life Into Old Phones



Android smartphone and tablet manufacturers are notoriously bad at providing OS updates to their hardware, leaving owners without new features and vulnerable to security flaws. While several OEMs now guarantee updates for two years, most devices are still very capable well beyond this artificial obsolesence.  LineageOS, a flavour of Android built from Google’s AOSP,  continues to support devices that have been disowned by their makers.

When it comes to keeping older devices up-to-date with the latest versions of Android, some OEMs are better than others at pushing out updates. Samsung‘s well known for a lack of updates but even Google only commits to two years of updates for new features and three years for security updates. OnePlus has recently committed to a similar support schedule. Overall, that’s pretty bad when iOS 11 still supports the iPhone 5S from 2013.

My particular gripe is with the Nexus 9 from late 2014. Launched with Lollipop (5.0.1), the Nexus 9’s last update was to 7.1.1 back in 2016 and while it was never a great tablet, it has a very capable CPU in the form of the nVidia Tegra K1 which continues to cope well with today’s apps. The particular problem with the Nexus 9 is that the 7.1.1 release really wasn’t very good and the device became prone to freezing and random rebooting. I’ve previously written about my problems with the Nexus 9 on GNC and while my previous efforts did help in the short-term, the tablet was back to its old ways in a few months.

If the name LineageOS is unfamiliar, CyanogenMod might ring some bells. After Cyanogen Inc decided to closedown the CM distro, it was forked, rebranded and taken over by the community as LineageOS. It now supports nearly two hundred smartphones and tablets, with the vast majority on 7.1.2 but an increasing number on Android 8.

Converting a smartphone or tablet to LineageOS can be a little daunting and there’s always that niggling fear of bricking the device. However, there’s generally good instructions for each model and there’s an active online community. All the tools are available online for download – Android Studio or ADB Tools, LineageOS, TWRP, GApps…

After a particularly annoying day when I wanted to throw my Nexus 9 out of the window, I decided to convert the tablet from Google’s 7.1.1 to LineageOS’s take on 7.1.2. It was either that or buy a new tablet so I took the plunge….The key to a successful transition is preparation: read the instructions, download all the software and get it installed before doing anything at the command line. The Android device is going to be completely wiped so make sure everything important has been copied off.

It doesn’t take long to do the work but can be a bit nerve-wracking if you’ve never unlocked a bootloader. The worst bit is when you’ve done all the work and have rebooted the device for the last time. It can take several minutes to finalise the install and present the “Getting Started” screen.  Tense moments watching the boot animations.

The good news is that I’ve been using LineageOS for at least three months now and I’m very pleased with the change. The Nexus 9 is much more reliable than it was with stock Android. Yes, I still get the occasional random reboot but reliability is way better than the original. Weekly OTA updates keeps the 9 up-to-date with the latest patches.

And LineageOS isn’t only a port of 7.1.2: the distro has additional features not found in standard Android, including system profiles, app locking, PIN scrambling and custom button placement. Nothing strays too far from stock but there are additional benefits.

If you’ve got an older device that’s been left for dead by its manufacturer but you want to keep it alive for longer, I’d recommend you take a look at LineageOS.


OnePlus 5T – Now in Sandstone White



In not-entirely-unexpected news, OnePlus has announced that the 5T will be available in Sandstone White. Teased by Carl Pei and harking back to the original OnePlus One, the new colour will be available from 10:00 GMT on Tuesday 9th January for a limited period. 10 am ET for those across the pond.

The phone won’t be completely white, though, with the volume slider picked out in red, as previously seen on the Star Wars limited edition. From the announcement and the options in the OnePlus store, it seems that this limited edition will only be available as a “top of the range” model with the 8GB / 128GB configuration. In all other technical respects the Sandstone White version is the same as the Midnight Black.

There’s no limited edition premium so it’s priced at GB£499 / US $559 which is good value whatever the colour. Form an orderly queue now….