Category Archives: smartphone

OnePlus 8 Series Launches 14 April



In news that’s unlikely to shock anyone, OnePlus has announced that their 8 series of smartphones will be unveiled through an online event at 11am EST on 14 April. If I’ve converted that right, it’s 15:00 GMT / 16:00 BST.

What can we expect? As usual, OnePlus will undoubtedly drip-feed little teasers in advance of the event but a few things are already out in the open.

  • There’s going to be more than one device. It’s a series, but is it two devices or three?
  • All the devices will be 5G. The press release says, “bringing a full series of 5G devices”.
  • There’s a new display with a 120 Hz refresh rate. That’s up on last year’s 90 Hz.
  • It’s not going to be purely iterative. From the release, “a handful of other new and exciting technologies”. Rumours abound for wireless charger and water resistance.

With the OnePlus 8 series, we’re excited to introduce our most powerful and beautiful smartphone series ever, combining blazing fast 5G capabilities, specially engineered high refresh rate displays and OnePlus’ signature powerful performance setup. The OnePlus 8 series will bring a truly ‘burdenless’ experience to all our users, who have come to expect nothing but the best all-around flagship smartphones from us,” said Pete Lau, Founder and CEO of OnePlus. “No detail is too small for us, as OnePlus always strives to deliver the best user experience possible with our premium flagship devices.

If you want to watch the event (and it’s usually done well), it’ll be live-streamed from the OnePlus at https://www.oneplus.com/launch and YouTube http://onepl.us/8SeriesLaunchEvent.


OnePlus Spring Cleans Logo



OnePlus and its slogan Never Settle have been on the mobile scene since 2014, and it’s become a well-known brand amongst aficionados. For sure, brand awareness isn’t up there with Apple or Samsung – my mum would have no idea who OnePlus are – but the logo’s recognisable from across the room. However, the OnePlus team have decided to give the VI (that’s Visual Identity in design-talk) a bit of a spring clean, changing the font, reversing the image, adjusting the plus. It’s nothing dramatic and I’m sure there will be both lovers and haters. I kind of liked the original blocky 1 as it had a bit of a retro vibe to it…cough, I notice that the web favicon.ico hasn’t been updated yet.

Here’s the old and new side by side.

Apparently it took over seven months to refresh the look and I’m pleased they retained the red, even if Pantone reckons that Classic Blue is the “Colour of the Year 2020”. Mats Hakansson, global creative director of OnePlus said, “OnePlus is not changing who we are, but to reinforce what we stand for – the true spirt of Never Settle. We always design for our users. We feel that these changes maintain the iconic elements of our brand that are beloved by our staff and our community, while injecting both excitement and balance into our visual identity.”

He went on, “No detail is too small. By starting from thousands of user data points, the team arrived at a new holistic visual language inspired by OnePlus’ burdenless philosophy. OnePlus has grown a lot from an idea to a major smartphone player. Introducing a fresh new look is just one example of how we continue to bring our Never Settle mantra to life.

Anyway, thrilling as this is, the benefit to consumers is that OnePlus are doing some discounts on the existing flagship, the OnePlus 7T. Starting today ’til 1st April, 2020, Europeans who purchase a OnePlus 7T from oneplus.com can use the code “SAMEONEPLUS” during check-out to get a £50/50€ discount. There’s also 20% off on the purchase of OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro accessories and 50% off the purchase of OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T accessories. There’s already $100 off for Americans, so they don’t need to feel hard done by the deal.


OnePlus Goes All In On 5G



OnePlus in a Red BoxAs the OnePlus publicity machine winds up in advance of their biannual smartphone release, CEO Pete Lau has announced that the new range of phones will support 5G.

This is a milestone both for OnePlus and our users. We’re proud to be among the first smartphone manufacturers to have full 5G line up for our next launch,” said OnePlus Founder and CEO Pete Lau. “OnePlus has achieved many firsts with 5G, and this time’s no exception.”

We believe that following the dawn of the 5G era, the smartphone experience will go through a dramatic development,” Lau added. “5G’s low latency and enhanced cloud services will undoubtedly help us achieve a truly interconnected experience, while also providing exciting developments in areas like gaming, which are vitally important for OnePlus’ tech-savvy users.”

As a OnePlus owner (6T) this sounds like good news, though I maintain a dose of skepticism on 5G – we heard much of the same noise when 4G launched. Anyway, I imagine the new phones will be one of the more cost-effective ways of purchasing a 5G phone. However, it’s likely there will be some kind of price bump over the 7 series. In an interview with CNET, he said, “Last year we launched the 7 Pro and the 7 together and there was a lot of excitement around this,” Lau said. “I think that this year again everyone should expect a lot to look forward to in 5G products with a reasonable price.

The new models weren’t confirmed in the interview but the expectation is that there will be an 8 and an 8 Pro. There are also persistent rumours about an 8 Lite which were neither confirmed or denied by the CEO and founder. From a subsequent tweet by Lau, it looks like the phones will be using the Qualcomm 5G chipset.

The grapevine has the launch pencilled in for mid-April. I imagine it will be an online event given the current spread of Covid-19.


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.


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.


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…)