Category Archives: smartphone

OnePlus 9 Series Officially Launches with Hasselblad Camera for Mobile



In news that will surprise no-one, OnePlus has officially launched the OnePlus 9 series of smartphones. As expected there are two models for global distribution, the 9 and 9 Pro, plus a new product, the OnePlus Watch. In the end, there was no mention of the 9R which is expected to be an India-only release.

As much of the launch had been pre-leaked by the CEO, there weren’t really any surprises apart from some gaming finger triggers that sneaked into the tail-end of the presentation. Most of the presentation was about confirming, re-iterating, emphasising or extending what was already known. Reading that last sentence suggests the phones aren’t anything special but on the contrary, the 9 and 9 Pro are significant evolutions of the OnePlus portfolio.

OnePlus’ new partnership with Hasselblad is the most important change for the OnePlus 9 series, bringing Hasselblad’s years of experience to develop Hasselbald’s Camera for Mobile. OnePlus has always been good technically – the OnePlus 8 Pro uses the Sony IMX689 which was specially produced with sister company Oppo and Sony – but has perhaps lacked that extra know-how to take their smartphone cameras from good to great. If you are wondering who Hasselblad are and why they’re special, let’s just say that when NASA wants a camera to go into space or perhaps even go to the moon, they call Hasselblad.

This is a multi-year partnership involving millions of dollars and the deal is for Hasselblad to take OnePlus to the top of the game. The first part will be to get the best from the existing technology, as exemplified in the OnePlus 9 series. The next step will be to design hardware together to get that perfect synchronicity between hardware and software. Hasselblad’s approach is one “Natural Colour Calibration” so the goal is for the image taken by the camera to match the real-world. There’s no artificial enhancement to make colours pop out – the image sees what you see, not what would look best on the ‘Gram.

In terms of the smartphone cameras, there’s a quad-camera array on the back of the 9 Pro plus a selfie camera on the front. The main rear camera is a 48 MP Sony IMX789 sensor with a large 1/1.4″ sensor and OIS. The ultra-wide 50 MP uses a 1/1.56″ IMX766 sensor with a custom lens that corrects curvature at the edge of an image.. An 8 MP telephoto and a monochrome 2 MP unit fill out the rest of the rear camera selection. On the other side, the front-facing camera is a 16 MP Sony IMX471.

For the 9, it’s a triple-camera array with a 48 MP IMX689 for the main camera (same as the 8 Pro from last year) but shares the 9 Pro’s IMX766 for the ultra-wide. The third lens is a 2 MP monochrome unit for black-and-white fun. As with 9 Pro, the selfie cam is the same 16 MP Sony sensor. In many respects, the difference between the 9 and 9 Pro’s imaging is much smaller now than it has been in the past. Note the Hasselblad branding.

The camera app on the phones has been enhanced in a couple of ways to emphasise the relationship with Hasselblad. At a gimmick-level, the shutter button is now orange and the shutter noise is that of a Hasselblad camera. More practically, the camera app now has a Pro mode that gives the photographer much greater control over the photograph.

OnePlus’ burdenless design comes to both phones and if in nothing else, it’s reflected the colouring of the camera array to match the back. It’s a small touch but really looks good. In the hand, the OnePlus 9 feels great. The only edge I could notice was that of the screen protector.

While the camera’s the “big deal” in this iteration of OnPlus phones, there have been other improvements almost across the board. Both phones come with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G CPU, which in my testing gave a Geekbench score of around 1100 for the OnePlus 9, compared with around 900 on the 8. At face value that’s a significant power boost. The CPU is backed up with LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 memory for storage. Each phone comes with two variants, 8 GB & 128 GB, and 12 GB & 256 GB. Obviously, there’s 5G (3rd gen) connectivity but there’s also Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2 and NFC wireless.

Powering the 9 series are 4,500 mAh batteries which give enough for a day’s worth of serious use. Both phones use Warp Charge 65T that will charge the battery from flat to full in only 29 minutes. Yes, 29 minutes. Both the 9 and 9 Pro have wireless charging now and the Pro has Wireless Warp Charge 50 that will transfer 50 W of power wirelessly and charge from flat in only 43 minutes. For the 9, it conforms to the 15 W Qi wireless charging standard. Not so fast but very welcome. And yes, there’s a mains charger in the box, but if you want the Wireless Warp Charger it will set you back GB£69.95

For the display, the OnePlus 9 uses the same screen as found in the 8T, so it’s a 6.55″ AMOLED display, 2400 x 1080 pixels giving 402 ppi. It’s broadly a flat screen, so while the front curves gently into the side of the phone, it’s not a curved display itself. The display’s refresh rate is switchable between 60 Hz and 120 Hz which is buttery smooth but at the cost of battery life. Previously the display had been rated A+ by the folks at DisplayMate when it was assessed in the 8T.

However, the OnePlus 9 takes the display technology to a new level, using LTPO (low-temperature polycrystalline oxide) which allows controls of the refresh rate from 1 Hz to 120 Hz. Simplistically the 9 Pro can adjust the display rate to suit the task. Reading a document, reduce the refresh rate down; playing a game, whack it up. Very clever stuff – OnePlus call this FluidDisplay 2.0. In terms of the numbers, it’s a 6.7″ AMOLED with LTPO display, 3216 x 1440 pixels giving an incredible 525 ppi. This screen is curved at the sides, and OnePlus reassures that lessons have been learned and improvements made to avoid ghost touches and colour bleeding.

Each phone comes in three colours – the 9 Pro comes in Morning Mist, Pine Green and Stellar Black, and the 9 has Winter Mist, Arctic Sky and Astral Black. The two “Mist” colours are a fade that goes from shiny to matte. In terms of size, the 9 Pro is 163 x 74 x 9 mm and weighs in at 197g. The 9 is 160 x 74 x 9 mm and tips the scales at 192g. Not much in it at all.

In one of the few things that hadn’t been leaked, OnePlus announced gaming finger triggers as “coming soon” but there wasn’t much detail – see pic on the left.

Let’s talk pricing….

OnePlus 9 
8 GB + 128 GB: US$729 / GB£629 / 699€
12 GB + 256 GB: GB£729 / 799€

OnePlus 9 Pro
8 GB + 128 GB: GB£829 / 899€
12 GB + 256 GB: US$1069 / GB£929 / 999€

Looking back to last year’s prices, there’s been a small bump of about £30 across the range. Pre-orders will open immediately with general availability from 31st March for 9 Pro, followed by the 9 on 26th April.

Not content with only announcing smartphones, OnePlus launched the long-awaited OnePlus Watch. With a 46 mm case, it might be a minimalist design but it’s a big watch that’s not going to be missed on anyone’s wrist. Coming as standard in Moonlight Silver and Midnight Black, there will also be a Cobalt Limited Edition. The Watch supports over 110 activities including a Parkour mode, though I think I’ll stick to swimming which is possible due to the IP68 water resistance rating. There’s built-in GPS so no need to carry your phone on a run.

The round display is a 1.39″ AMOLED display at 326 ppi and is protected by a sapphire glass crystal which is pretty hard. In a cool move, the Watch takes standard watch straps so it’s to switch them out for something more personal.

In addition to pairing and working with a smartphone, the OnePlus Watch acts as remote control for the OnePlus TV, and with about 2 GB of memory, there’s plenty of space for music. Battery life is rated at over 2 weeks (yep, two weeks) and even the most active athlete will get over a week. The Watch uses Warp Charging and about 40 minutes will get it charged up from flat.

The classic edition of the OnePlus watch will be priced at US$159 / GB£149 / 159€. Availability will be announced soon along with pricing for the Cobalt LE.


OnePlus 9 Series Launches Tomorrow To No-one’s Surprise



OnePlus‘ spring event usually heralds the launch of the company’s products for the year, with a further hardware refresh in the autumn – the xT models. This past year’s been a bit different on two fronts, and not just because of a global pandemic. To start with, the Nord series of mid-range phones was announced at a summer event and secondly, the CEO of OnePlus, Pete Lau, seems to have given away all the surprises in advance of the main event. For sure, OnePlus always did drop a few heavy hints as part of the publicity run-up, but this time I think they’ve outdone themselves. Maybe there will be a “one more thing” but who knows?

Here’s what we do know already.

  • There will be three phones, the OnePlus 9, OnePlus 9 Pro and OnePlus 9R for India. Colours are “Morning Mist”, “Pine Green” for the 9 Pro and “Winter Mist” for the 9 but I imagine there will be others. The camera array has moved to the top left and appears to be coloured as the back of the phone.
  • The display is LTPO, QHD+, smart 120Hz refresh, native 10-bit color depth (1.07 billion colors), 1300 nits brightness, MEMC and HDR10+.
  • The phones will be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G chipset.
  • There will be a 4500 mAh battery with Wireless Warp Charge 50 giving 50 W of wireless charging that will go from 0% to 100% in 43 minutes. Using the cable will take 29 minutes.
  • There’s a strong partnership between OnePlus and Hasselblad to co-produce the imaging on the 9 series with a focus on Natural Colour Calibration. The cameras will use the Sony IMX789 and IMX766 sensors. The latter is used with the ultra-wide lens for 50 MP images. There will be a new tilt-shift feature for that miniature model world look.
    From the pictures, it appears that the 9 will have three lenses with four on the 9 Pro.
  • There might be some interesting cases.
  • A OnePlus Watch will be announced with 110 workout modes. It’s going to have a round dial.

So, if after all that, you still want to watch the launch event, you can follow along at www.oneplus.com/launch with the event kicking off on 23 March at 10:00 am EDT / 14:00 GMT / 15:00 CET / 7:30 pm IST.


Xiaomi Mi 11 Launches in Europe



Xiaomi might be a recent addition to the USA’s naughty list but this hasn’t stopped the Chinese firm from launching its latest flagship, the Mi 11 5G with an impressive set of specs. The TL;DR version is Snapdragon 888 chipset, 6.8″ screen with 515 ppi, 8GB+128GB/256GB, starting at 749 euros.

The longer version is that Xiaomi has a top-tier phone with specs to take on the best, but it took 25 minutes of global launch presentation to get to the technical details, with the event’s focus on video recording and photography features. Aimed at social media aficionados, this is a lifestyle as much as a flagship device.

(And while Xiaomi were trying to move the conversation away from features, there were plenty of comparisons between the Mi 11 and Apple’s iPhones.)

The Mi 11 is a good-looking smartphone, covered in Corning Gorilla Glass front and back, with curved edges on all sides. The display side has the latest Victus glass giving enhanced drop protection. Two colours were announced at launch, Midnight Gray and Horizon Blue, but more were promised including a future Cloud White model.

The display on the Mi 11 is a 6.8″ WQHD+ display with 3200×1440 pixels giving 515ppi. It’s a 120 Hz AMOLED HDR10+ screen with AdaptiveSync to adjust screen frequency up or down depending on the app’s requirements. Lower frequencies use less power. DisplayMate have awarded the Mi 11’s screen the best smartphone display award along with 13 other accolades.

Under the bonnet is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G. The main octacore CPU is a 5 nm Cortex X-1 supported by new A78 cores and an Adreno 660 GPU, giving an Antutu score of 745,942 and top spot on the leaderboard.

Powering the Mi 11 is a 4,600 mAh battery with high power 55W charging. Using a USB C cable, the phone will go from 0% to 100% in 45 minutes. Wireless charging isn’t much slower, taking 53 minutes to fill the battery. A 55W GaN charger will come in the box.

Camera-wise, the Mi 11 comes with 108 MP primary camera with OIS, a 13 MP 123° ultrawide and a 5 MP telemacro lens. Round the front, it’s a 20 MP in-display camera. Xiaomi have worked hard on low light level photography with Night Mode available on all three rear cameras and Ultra Night Video for filming. Videos can be recorded at 4K HDR10+ and there are six AI cinema modes to give films a certain style. Xiaomi has partnered with cinematographer Reynald Gresset to show off the Mi 11’s features and the showreel is impressive.

The phone’s speakers have been tuned by Harmon Kardon and there’s support for two Bluetooth headphones or a pair of speakers. Size-wise, the Mi 11 is 164.3mm x 74.6mm x 8.06mm and weighs in at 196g.

Up to this point, the Mi 11 has shown itself to be a competent flagship contender albeit with nothing particularly special. Interestingly though, the Mi 11 can use the in-display fingerprint monitor as heart-rate sensor.

Out of the box, the Mi 11 will come with MIUI 12 with a major update to 12.5 in Q2. Xiaomi have been listening to users and MIUI 12.5 will allow the user to uninstall pre-installed apps.

Let’s talk pricing….the Mi 11 will be sold in Europe in two versions, one with 128 GB for storage and the other with 256 GB. The main memory is 8 GB in both versions (though a 12 GB version appears to be available in China.)

  • 8GB+128GB – 749 €
  • 8GB+256GB – 799 €

Exact releases dates for different countries will be announced shortly.

The Mi 11 comes with 2 year warranty plus a 1 year one-time free screen repair, which is a nice touch, and for true fans, a Mi 11 Special Edition will be released later in the year in very limited numbers. Looking forward to seeing that.


POCO Launches M3 Smartphone with More Than You Expect



Spun out from Xiaomi, POCO Global today launched the POCO M3, the third generation of its POCO M-series phones. Aimed at the entry-level, the M3 has features that would have been unheard of at this price point even a year ago. The moniker for the presentation was “More Than You Expect” and I’m pleasantly surprised at what “entry-level” offers now – fast processor, large detailed screen, big battery, decent camera. For those new to POCO, their range goes M, X, F with F being the flagship models and X the mid-range units, and over 6 million phones have been sold.

Starting with the outside, the POCO M3 has a large 6.53″ Gorilla Glass 3 display on the front, and on the rear there’s an anti-fingerprint textured back for a secure grip. POCO isn’t hiding anything here with two brightly coloured finishes in POCO Yellow and Cool Blue, though there is an understated Power Black option. At this price point, a glass back isn’t realistic but for the target audience of young entertainment-on-the-move enthusiasts this isn’t a bad thing – it’s grippy and there’s no need to worry about smashing the back glass. The triple-camera array (with flash) is arranged in a wide POCO-branded camera bump (more on this later), and physically the smartphone is 162 x 77 x 9.6 mm and weighs in at 198 g. There’s a power button with a fingerprint sensor on the side.

Returning to the front, the display is FHD+ meaning 2340 x 1080 pixels, 395 ppi and a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. The screen to bezel ratio is 90.3% so the screen fills the phone, as it were. Inside the M3 is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 662, a 4G processor launched in 2020 which outperforms the Snapdragon 665 by 10%. The 662 comprises a Kryo 470 octa-core CPU running at up to 2.0 GHz and an Adreno 610 GPU. The POCO M3 will be available in two variants, 4GB+64GB and 6GB+128GB, and if that’s not enough storage, the phone can take a microSD card up to 512 GB – that’s quite a few films. There’s a dual 4G SIM tray too.

To keep the M3 powered up, the phone comes with a large 6,000 mAh battery which is expected to give 5 days of battery life for light use and 1.5 days under heavy use. Or to put it another way, that’s 196 hours of music or 17 hours of streaming video. The phone supports 18 W fast charging and wired reverse charging via USB C. It comes with a 22.5 W charger in the box.

Round the back, the POCO M3 comes with a triple camera configuration in a thin but unnecessarily wide camera bump. This design isn’t an accident and is intended to stop the M3 wobbling when lying on a table or desk. Returning to the cameras, the main lens is a 48 MP unit paired with a 2 MP depth sensor along with a 2 MP macro unit. On the front, it’s an 8 MP teardrop selfie cam. The M3 comes with some clever filters and effects including night mode, portrait mode, “movie frame”, time-lapse and color-focus, which removes the colour from the photograph except for the focal point of the picture.

Fan favourites, the M3 includes an IR blaster and retains the 3.5 mm earphone jack, along with dual speakers. Out of the box, the phone will be running the MIUI12 flavour of Android 10.

What about the price, or the value, as Xiaomi suggests? Impressively, even the 128 GB version comes in well under US$200. The two models are priced very competitively at

  • 4 GB + 64 GB is US$149
  • 6 GB + 128 GB is US$169

The POCO M3 will be available this week from 27th November. What day is that? Oh, yes, it’s Black Friday. As a special BF deal, there’s US$20 off both models at Amazon, Mi.com, AliExpress and Lazada but check local T&Cs.

The launch event is available on YouTube below. Skip through to about 29 minutes in.


Qualcomm Received License to Sell Chips to Huawei



Qualcomm Inc. has received a license from the U.S. government to sell 4G mobile phone chips to Huawei Technologies Co Ltd., Reuters reported. This decision means that Qualcomm has complied with a rule that the U.S. Department of Commerce unveiled in May of 2020 that requires licenses for sales to Huawei Technologies of semiconductors made abroad with U.S. technology.

In August of 2020, Qualcomm asked the Trump administration to roll back its restrictions on the sale of advanced components to Huawei Technologies so that Qualcomm could sell chips for 5G phones to Huawei. At the time, The Wall Street Journal reported that Qualcomm was telling U.S. policy makers that their export ban won’t stop Huawei from obtaining necessary components. The company also said the export ban risked handing billions of dollars of Huawei sales to its overseas competitors.

The request by Qualcomm came after a patent-rights dispute with Huawei was resolved. The settlement gave Qualcomm a $1.8 billion lump-sum payment from Huawei to cover previously unpaid fees. It also included a multiyear deal to license Qualcomm’s patented technologies for Huawei use.

Obviously, that part of the settlement would not have worked out for Qualcomm unless it obtained a license from the U.S. Department of Commerce. A Qualcomm spokeswoman told Reuters, “We received a license for a number of products, which includes some 4G products.”

Engadget reported, in August of 2020, that after September 15, 2020, Huawei would no longer have access to the manufacturing it needs to continue making the Mate 40’s Kirin 9000 processor. The result was that Huawei was running out of smartphone chips.


OnePlus Rounds Out Range with Nord N10 and N100 smartphones



As promised at the launch of the 8T earlier in the month, OnePlus has announced two new Nord smartphones, the N10 5G and the N100. These join the existing Nord in the smartphone line-up but unlike the original Nord (the N1?), the N10 and N100 will be coming to North America. Let’s take a quick look at specs and pricing but it’s perhaps more interesting to review OnePlus’ overall line up and the impact of that.

N10 5G

The N10 5G is unsurprisingly a 5G phone with a Snapdragon 690 octa-core CPU backed up by 6 GB RAM and 128 GB of storage. In a first for OnePlus, the N10 will take a microSD card up to 512 GB. The screen is a 90 Hz 6.49″ 1080 x 2400 (FHD+) display giving 405 ppi. Quad cameras round the back – 64 MP main lens, 8 MP ultra wide, 2 MP macro lens and 2 MP monochrome lens. 16 MP selfie camera on the front. And all this is powered by a 4300 mAh battery with support for Warp Charge 30T. It’s priced at GB£329 and will be available later in November.

Below the N10 in the range is the N100 though both phones are physically very similar. The N100 is not a 5G phone but it’s still powered by Qualcomm, only this time it’s a Snapdragon 460 octa-core CPU supported by 4 GB RAM and 64 GB of storage. Like the N10, the N100 will take a microSD card but only up to 256 GB. The screen is a 6.52″ 720 x 1600 (HD+) display giving 269 ppi. Triple cameras round the back – 13 MP main lens, 2 MP macro lens and 2 MP bokeh portrait lens. 8 MP selfie camera on the front. And all this is powered by a 5000 mAh battery with support for 18W fast charge. It’s priced at GB£179 and will arrive on 10 November.

N100

So OnePlus is very much filling out the product range in areas that are definitely not flagship killers. Let’s look at the prices (all GB£) across the portfolio for phones that are (or will be) available to buy.

  • N100 – £179
  • N10 – £329
  • Nord – £379
  • 7T – £469
  • 8 – £549 / £599
  • 8T – £549 / £649
  • 8 Pro – £799 / £899

Looking at this, OnePlus has now got a phone for you whatever your budget (and I think the base price of the 8 is likely to drop by £50 soon). That’s quite a turnaround in six months from when arguably there were only two phones in the range – 8 and 8 Pro. I know that’s not strictly true with older models being on sale too, but it seems to me that there’s now a conscious effort to have phones at every price point. Let’s not forget that the 7T is only a year old and Apple has a similar strategy for its previous generation models too.

OnePlus still meet their value criteria as all of these look pretty well-specced for the price point, though some commentators reckon the Nord and the 8T are the best value devices given the specs. Personally, my smartphone budget is usually sub £500 and my last two mobile phone purchases were both “previously enjoyed” models, saving even more money. But that’s not the point here: OnePlus now have a full portfolio of products from £179 to £899 offering value-for-money smartphones whatever you have to spend.


DOOGEE S96 Pro Sees in the Dark with IR Night Vision



DOOGEE claim to be the “world-leading rugged phone brand” and their flagship phones have the capabilities – dustproof, waterproof, shockproof – with the certifications to back it up – IP68, IP69K, MIL-STD-810G. Today, DOOGEE add another string to their bow with the introduction of night vision in the new S96 Pro smartphone. Yes, night vision.

As part of a rear quad camera array, the S96 Pro has a 20 MP night vision camera using a Sony IMX350 sensor chip with an 80° field of view. The IMX350 is an ultra-low-light sensor but for those really dark nights, the camera is supported by four infrared night vision lights and four LED lights providing both invisible and visible light. Regrettably, DOOGEE haven’t provided any sample photographs but the S96 should be able to provide some amazing images at night.

For the rest of the quad array, the S96 Pro sports a main 48 MP sensor, an 8 MP wide-angle sensor with 130° field of view and 2 MP macro camera. Don’t worry, selfie lovers aren’t left out with with a waterdrop 16 MP front-facing camera. The screen is a 6.22’’ HD+ waterdrop screen made from Corning Gorilla Glass with a 1520×720 resolution giving 270 ppi.

In terms of the CPU, it’s a MediaTek Helio G90 octa-core processor chipset running at 2 GHz, backed up by 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of UFS storage. It should be pretty nippy with plenty of space for apps and media. This is all powered by a whopping 6350 mAh battery, which is possibly the largest battery I’ve seen in smartphone in some time. DOOGEE reckon on two to three days between charging in normal use, but if it needs topped up, this can be done wirelessly or via 24 W USB C fast charge.

Maintaining DOOGEE’s rugged standards, the S96 is waterproof and dustproof to IP68 and IP69K. The depth rating isn’t just for accidental immersion in a puddle or sewer as DOOGEE offer an underwater camera-mode for photography up to 5 m deep in short dips. For prolonged underwater, it’s 30 mins at 1.5 m.

There’s no 5G here but frankly, there is unlikely to be 5G in the back end of nowhere. The S96 Pro does have 2G, 3G and 4G all well covered along with 11acbgn wifi and support for all four satellite positioning systems (GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou and Galileo).

Pricewise, the S96 Pro is US$299.99 or GB£237 and is available now from AliExpress. International delivery and customs duties can be avoided by waiting until December when the phone will be stocked by Amazon.

The S96 Pro is the definition of a tool smartphone. Rugged, waterproof, dustproof, shockproof, night vision, huge battery. This the phone to buy when any other phone would fail and you need it to work, no questions asked.