Category Archives: smartphone

OnePlus Launches an Uninspiring 10T



OnePlus LogoAs expected, OnePlus launched the brand new OnePlus 10T from Gotham Hall (cue scary music) in New York. During the pandemic, the launch events have usually been relatively short, but for the first post-pandemic in-person event, they took their time: it was nearly two hours long. If you want to watch, it’s on YouTube. Frankly, I got a bit bored: there’s only so much we-took-our-inspiration-from-nature I can take. And as I watch the presentation, part of me is beginning to think that the 10T really isn’t much of an upgrade and that if you’ve got a OnePlus 9, you might as well stick with it. Let’s take a look at what OnePlus are promoting in the specs and how that stacks up.

At the heart of the 10T is Snapdragon 8+ Gen1 that gives a 10% improvement in performance and a 30% improvement in power efficiency for both the CPU and the GPU. This is matched with up 16 GB of memory and 256 GB of storage (there’s an 8 + 128 GB version as well). The large memory means that more apps can be held in memory before they’re swapped out and with OnePlus controlling both the hardware and the software, they’ve evolved together for that fast and smooth experience. Software tools, such as the AI System Booster, analyse performance to reduce loading times.

To handle all that performance, OnePlus has developed an ultra thin vapour cooling system that keeps the temperature down. In comparison with other phones, the 10T runs 3°C cooler. For even more cooling, OnePlus have developed a gaming case called the Glacier Mat Case that uses evaporation to dissipate even more heat. In tests, the 10T was 2.3°C cooler gaming with the Glacier Mat Case.

The large 4800 mAh battery is charged by 150W SuperVOOC (in Europe) which charges the 10T by 28% in just 3 minutes. Rather than one single battery, there’s two 2400 mAh batteries. There’s very much an emphasis on safety, with 13 temperature sensors, a special charging chip and the Battery Health Engine to make sure the charging is safe and keeps the batteries healthy over time. It’s rated at 1600 charging cycles which would last over four years, assuming a full charge every day.

Looking round the front, it’s a 6.7″ 120 Hz Fluid AMOLED flat screen with a resolution of 2412 x 1080 pixels. As expected, it’s Corning Gorilla Glass. No real surprises here.

Turning to the cameras, it’s a 50 MP Sony IMX766 with OIS for the main shooter and then two unnamed sensors for the 8 MP ultrawide and the 2 MP macro lens. Round the front it’s a 16 MP unit. As had already been announced, there’s no special sauce from Hasselblad, though the IMX766 is a pretty decent sensor. There are some new features – the Nightscape mode has been improved, there’s Ultra HDR and the new Image Clarity Engine will take multiple shots when the shutter is pressed and then chose the best one. Great.

OnePlus promoted work on the internal aerials and how the 10T reconnected faster after drop outs but by this time I was snoozing. Out of the box, the 10T will come with OxygenOS 12.1 with a water inspired OxygenOS 13 coming later in the year.

And at last we need to turn to what’s missing. First, there’s no alert slider and second, there’s no wireless charging. OnePlus must be confusing the 10T with the Nord phones.

In terms of price, there are two variants and colourways for Europe and the US:

  • 8GB + 128GB – Moonstone Black – US$649 / 699€ / GB£629
  • 16GB + 256GB – Jade Green – US$749 / 799€ / GB£729

Pre-orders start 3rd August / September 1 and will be available from 25th August in Europe and September 29 in the US (that’s a bit of a wait!). Purchase from OnePlus and other local partners.

While it’s become a little trendy to bash OnePlus after their hook-up with Oppo, I’m beginning to see problems too. Let’s see how the 10T stacks up against the phone it replaces, last year’s 9. Yes, it’s faster with the Snapdragon 8+ processor when compared with the 888 but that’s kind of given as it’s a year on. You can get a bit more RAM (16 GB v 12 GB) at the higher end, but the screen’s pretty much the same. Battery is slightly bigger (4500 v 4800 mAh), there’s superfast charging but I don’t perceive that an additional 6% is going to make much difference and where is the wireless charging? It continues to go wrong with the cameras. On the OnePlus 9, both the main camera and the ultrawide are hefty 48 MP and 50 MP units blessed by Hasselblad but the10T has a feeble 8 MP ultrawide and no fairy dust from the experts. To cap it all, there’s no alert slider. Overall, it’s simply uninspiring. Maybe if you were a gamer you’d appreciate the speed and the cooling, but for me, I want the old OnePlus flagship back.


OnePlus 10T Launches Tomorrow



Never Settle LogoSticking with its biannual launch programme, tomorrow OnePlus is launching the latest iteration of the flagship range, the OnePlus 10T. It’s the first in-person event after the pandemic with the show coming from Gotham Hall in New York City at 10 am Eastern.

The new 10T will take the spot currently occupied by the OnePlus 9 (as there’s only a 10 Pro and not a 10). As per OnePlus’ MO, there’s been a steading drip of leaks and there’s not a massive amount to reveal tomorrow. Here’s what’s already been laid on the table.

  • Two colourways, Moonstone Black and Jade Green. It’s not perfectly clear but I think the Moonstone edition has a textured back like the original Sandstone Black.
  • The CPU is going to be the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 with 16 GB of LPDDR5 memory and 256 GB of UFS3.1 storage. I imagine there probably will be some options but it’s not clear right now what those will be.
  • The camera isn’t part of the partnership with Hasselblad but the sensor is still the very respectable 50 MP Sony IMX766 sensor. That’s the sensor used in the ultrawide camera on the 9 and 9 Pro. The camera arrays looks very similar to the one in the 10 Pro with what appears to be a triple array plus flash. The camera has some cool tricks to take multiple pictures and then choose the best shot.
  • There’s a larger-than-normal 4800 mAh battery that can be recharged with 150 W SuperVOOC which will charge the phone from flat in just 19 minutes with a cable. That’s pretty impressive and there’s some clever technology to keep the phone cool during charging. Sadly the rate will be reduced somewhat in US to only 125 W because of the lower mains voltage. That will increase the recharge time to 20 minutes. Strangely, wireless charging isn’t explicitly mentioned.
  • There’s no alert slider which I think is very disappointing. The alert slider is one of the things that makes OnePlus, well, OnePlus. Apparently it took up too much space that was needed for the battery and fast charging technology. Frankly, I’d rather have the slider.
  • Unofficially, its a 6.7″ AMOLED screen with a Full HD+ resolution and a 120 Hz refresh rate. Not exactly a surprise to be honest.

Overall, the 10T looks to be fair evolution of the OnePlus 9. It will be interesting to see what the price point is. I’m thinking some where around GB£750.

If you are interested in tuning in to the launch event, here are the timings for round the world.

  • 10 am Eastern Time (ET)
  • 1500 British Summer Time (BST)
  • 1600 Central European Summer Time (CEST)
  • 1730 India Standard Time (IST)
  • 2200 Hong Kong Time (HKT)

Nothing Launches Phone(1) from London



Carl Pei (and a parrot) launched Nothing‘s Phone(1) today in London. Starting in a café, moving to a theatre and ending at the after party, it was a surprisingly brief run through of the new phone.

The big thing is the glyph feature on the back. Glyph’s will be familiar to anyone who has played Niantic’s Ingress but simplistically it’s four shapes on the rear of the phone: a circle in the middle, a vertical line bottom centre, an angled line to right and an oval C round the cameras. The glyphs are multifunctional and can synchronise with ringtones, indicate who is calling, show charging activity or simply act as a light while recording video. There are videos of the glyphs in action over on Instagram.

Moving to the rest of the phone, the body of Phone(1) has an aluminium frame with a Gorilla Glass 5 front. Everything that’s touched is made of premium materials and where plastics are used, over 50% is either recycled plastic or a bioplastic. In what’s believed to be a first, any tin used inside the phone comes from recycled materials.

There’s a 6.55″ AMOLED 2400×1080 pixel display supporting HDR10+ with a 120Hz refresh rate so it’ll be smooth too. There’s some clever trickery involving flexible displays to make the bezels even all round – now that’s an attention to detail.

Round the back, there are only two cameras but they’re both pretty good. Both are 50 MP sensors and the main camera is a Sony IMX766. The ultrawide is a Samsung JM1 with a 114 degree view. These sensors are widely used and should take decent photos. If you want to see some untouched photos from the Phone(1), there’s a selection here.

Inside is Snapdragon 778+ processor which provides stability whilst still being fast and smooth. Carl says, “Buttery smooth” – I think we’ve heard that somewhere else already but I’m sure it’s true. A 7-series processor fits nicely into the upper mid-range as per expectations. While it may be the current flagship for Nothing, it’s not going up against those £1000 top tier devices.

Powering it all is a 4,500 mAh battery. Wired charging is 33W so should charge from flat in a little over an hour. There’s wireless charging at 15W and reverse wireless charging is 5W.

NothingOS is obviously based on Android and Carl was keen to point out that Android is good with loads of natice apps. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel, as it were, so it stays close to the original. Nothing will develop software where they can add value, and in the first instance there’s extra software that works with Tesla Cars and NFTs. Both are hot at the moment, so quite understandable.

The Phone(1) is available in both black and white, and there are three RAM and storage combinations with prices to match.

  • 8GB + 128GB = UK£399 (this one seems to be only available in black)
  • 8GB + 256GB = UK£449
  • 12GB + 256BB = UK£499

There are some extras: a clear case is £25, a charger is £35 and screen protector is £19. The blurb suggests a screen protector is already applied to the phone in the box.

There will be open availability from 21st July but if you are really desperate to get one, hotfoot it round to the Nothing Kiosk in Convent Garden from 16th July.

Overall, The Phone(1) looks a good upper mid-range phone that’s priced a little below the competition: I’m thinking of the Xiaomi 12 and the OnePlus 9 though it’s a little more than the Nord 2. It will be interesting to see if the glyphs make interesting enough to stand out from the crowd.

Disclosure: I have a small shareholding in Nothing.


Save The Date for Nothing



Upcoming tech firm Nothing has announced the launch presentation for its new smartphone via a “Save the Date” invite for 12th July ’22 at 16:00 BST.

Not familiar with Nothing? Its noise-cancelling earbuds ear(1) went down a storm for the innovative design, sound quality and price, but the real interest in Nothing comes from its founder, Carl Pei, who previously started OnePlus way back in 2013 with Pete Lau. OnePlus’ close links with OPPO mean that some of the startup flair has gone and people have high hopes that Nothing will bring freshness to the somewhat stagnant smartphone market.

Nothing has some significant backers – Google Ventures, Casey Neistat (YouTuber), Kevin Lin (Twitch), Steve Huffman (Reddit) so there’s a good chunk of cash driving a respected team.

The new phone(1) will be Android (obvs!) and Nothing has released a teaser launcher that can be downloaded for many recent smartphones. It has a couple of cool touches and you could use it daily but it doesn’t offer anything very different just yet.

Personally, I’m very interested to see what Carl Pei’s team are going to produce with the phone(1). Sign up to be notified on the Nothing website.

Disclosure: I have a small shareholding in Nothing via community investment


OnePlus Refreshes the Nord Line



In today’s keynote “Speed Games” presentation. OnePlus announced two new handsets plus a set of earbuds for the Nord range. The Nord range has been a big hit with roughly half the OnePlus phones sold in Europe coming from the Nord product line: I’m sure OnePlus will be keen to continue the success.

The first phone is the Nord 2T 5G, a refresh of the high-performing mid-ranger giving it “flagship killer speed”. I thought the Nord 2 was a great phone so I’m very interested to see what they’ve done here. The second handset is the Nord CE 2 Lite, a wallet-friendly version of the CE 2 and finally, we have the somewhat angular Nord earbuds. Frankly, I think they’d pair well with a Tesla Truck.

The OnePlus Nord 2T 5G, to give its full name, is powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 1300 chipset. That’s a step-up from the Demensitty 1200 of the Nord 2. No real surprises for the screen, coming as a 6.43″ 90 Hz full HD+ (2400 x 1080 pixels) screen with HDR10+.  Round the back, the handset comes in two colours, Gray Shadow and Jade Fog.

The selfie cam is a 32 MP Sony IMX615 with EIS and the main rear camera is 50 MP IMX766 unit with OIS. Both cameras have AI support to help get great pictures every time as the AI will recognise the scene and enhance it appropriately to help the pictures stand out. Low-light photography has been improved by 90% and there’s 960 fps slow-motion video capture for action shots.

There’s super-fast charging with 80 W SuperVOOC (same as OnePlus 10 Pro)  that will give a day’s power in only 15 minutes (67%) and will fully charge the 4500 mAh battery from 0-100% in 27 minutes. The phone will come with OxygenOS 12.1 which is based on Android 12. As with all of the OnePlus’ recent devices, the phone comes with two years of system updates and three years of security updates. Price is UK£369 (399€) which is actually £30 less than the Nord 2 was.

The original Nord CE was a big hit for OnePlus with over 80% of purchasers being first-time OnePlus buyers. Here we have the updated and affordable OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G. It’s a Snapdragon 695 with a slightly bigger 6.59″ 120 MHz FHD+ display. There’s also a bigger 5000 mAh battery but it’s “only” 33W charging which will give 1-50% in 30 mins.  If you need extra storage, the Lite will take a micro SD card up to 1 TB. There’s still the headphone jack for those who prefer wired headphones. Same 2 years of Android updates and 3 years of security ones. Still a little more than you’d expect.

The CE 2 Lite is priced at UK£279 (299€), so it’s £90 cheaper than the full Nord 2T.

Completely new to the OnePlus Nord lineup is the Nord Buds. These kind of look like boxier versions of the Buds Z2s and will definitely set you apart (in a good way) from the Apple sheeple. You get 7 hours listening per charge and as it’s a charging case, there’s 30 hours total listening pleasure. If you do run out, 10 mins of charging gives 5 hours of listening. Feature-wise the Buds support Dolby Atmos and several levels of noise cancellation. These are priced at an astonishing UK£49 (49€). Fifty pounds for noise-cancelling wireless earbuds!

Pre-orders for all the devices are open at oneplus.com.

You can watch the full launch event here. It’s a bit bonkers.


OnePlus Expands Nord Range with Two Phones and Earbuds



Never Settle LogoAfter a couple of leaks and a few heavy hints, OnePlus have announced that two new Nord phones and a set of Nord earbuds will be officially unveiled next Thursday afternoon (19th May).

On the phone side, there’s the OnePlus Nord 2T 5G, an upgraded version of the Nord 2 with the Oppo’s 80 W SuperVOOC charging system: that’s the same charge and battery tech as in the OnePlus 10 Pro. For comparison, the Nord 2 does 65 W and comes in at UK£369.

At the lower end, there’s the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G. This will bring fast charging and a large battery in at an even lower price point than the CE 2 which drops in at UK£299. I doubt either phone will make it to the USA, which has a different OnePlus portfolio.

For Nord’s first audio product, there’s the Nord Buds. And that’s about all we know, though there are a few early release videos and rumours that suggest they’ll be US$40 for a set of wireless earbuds.

In the meantime, I here are my reviews of the Nord 2, Nord CE 2 (also below) and the Buds Z2. Hopefully they’d tide you over until next week…

 

 


OnePlus Nord CE 2 Hands On Review



OnePlus LogoThe OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G updates last summer’s original “Core Edition” to keep up with the mid-range, or as OnePlus would like us to believe, “A little more than you’d expect.” As with the original, it takes the best of the Nord series, distils it down and sells it at a great price, so expect a focus on “fast charging, powerful cameras, smooth display, good battery and a headphone jack.” Round two…ding,ding. Who’s the champ?

The Nord CE 2 arrives in the same black cardboard box with Nord branding picked out in reflective navy blue. No changes here and maintains the contrast between Nord black box and the red boxes reserved for the higher-end models. Opening the box reveals the CE 2 5G phone itself, along with a semi-transparent bumper case, a SIM tray tool, a few small manuals, the now rebranded SuperVOOC charger and a USB charging cable. We’ll come back to SuperVOOC later but as a green bonus, I think all the packaging is some kind of card so should be recyclable.

Unwrapping the Nord CE 2, it’s clear that this is not quite the same phone as last time and steps a little away from the expected OnePlus design. This phone is smooth, really smooth. There’s even a smooth chamfer up to the camera array. Why is this? Well, if you haven’t read any of the comments from other commentators, it’s because this isn’t a OnePlus designed phone – it’s really an Oppo Reno 7 with a few tweaks. Does it matter? Probably not – it’s still (as we’re going to see) a great value phone. But I can look at OnePlus 9 and a Nord 2 to see clearly that they’re from the same stable. Sometimes I think it would be really nice if phone companies designed the phone and stuck with it for a year or two, just upgrading the internals. You could use the same case as last time…

Moving on, it’s a polycarbonate back and in Gray Mirror: I think you can see why it’s “mirror” (the other colour is Bahama Blue). The CE 2 feels sturdy enough but I think it would be prudent to pop it in a case to avoid tears. Other than the total smoothness, there’s nothing to write home about – flat Gorilla Glass front, pinhole camera top left, power button on right, USB C on the bottom and triple camera array, though you can hardly see the third lens. As with the original, no alert slider and the 3.5 mm headphone jack remains. As I’ve mentioned before, I think the retention of the jack is a good move at this price point. Size-wise, the Nord CE 2 is thin too, at only 7.8 mm thick. The other dimensions are 161 mm x 73 mm, weighing in at 173 g, so it’s pretty much the same size as last time (but it won’t fit in the same case).

One other change that’s of note: the SIM card tray has been improved and now takes two SIMs and a microSD card (up to 1 TB). That’s definitely new to the CE phones and I’m fairly sure that it’s new to OnePlus phones. On the back of being able to add storage, there’s only going to be one variant in each territory and for most, it will be 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage. (There will also be a 6 GB version for some areas.)

Turning on the CE 5G begins to show off the lovely 90 Hz Fluid AMOLED 6.43″ display (2400 x 1080 pixels, 410 ppi). It looks good, it’s fast and it has the controls of its more expensive siblings – screen calibration, refresh rate, vision comfort, reading mode. I do like the dynamic wallpapers that OnePlus offers though I’m not sure there are any new ones this time round, just an expanded range of static ones (I could be wrong). Anyway, that’s diverting from the point that this is a fantastic screen.

In terms of sound, the audio through the jack is good. For speakers, there’s only the one at the bottom next to the USB C port, which is the same as last time. Also as last time, it’s fairly loud but distorts over about two-thirds volume and there’s limited bass. What did you expect from 7.8 mm?

Now we come to one of the major changes. Moving away from Qualcomm, a MediaTek Dimensity 900 octacore 9 nm CPU paired with an ARM Mali-G68 GPU powers the Nord CE 2. I’m told the 900 should deliver a 20% CPU performance improvement over the Snapdragon while increasing battery life by 20%. Is this true? I used GeekBench 5 to look at the Nord CE, CE 2 and Nord 2.

Phone Single-Core Multi-Core
Nord CE 630 1807
Nord CE 2 726 2152
Nord 2 807 2677

Ok, so it’s not quite a 20% uplift but in use the Nord CE 2 is snappy. Frankly, no one really cares what’s inside as long as it does the job. Pokemon Go runs great and despite a warning that the phone isn’t officially supported, Fortnite is playable (a game controller is recommended though) with a few stutters at moments of high action. The phone has a Gaming Tools enhancement that provides quick access to WhatsApp and Discord, and keeps track of the phone temperature. As with the screen, there are no quibbles here – the phone is responds quickly to touches and it’s all very smooth.

Powering the phone is a 4,500 mAh battery which easily gave me a day of use as long as I wasn’t burning through it with non-stop gaming. Sadly Warp has been relegated to the past with the introduction of SuperVOOC charging from Oppo. I liked Warp and Dash charging. SuperVOOC just sounds cheap. Anyway….this 65W charging should take the phone from 0% to 100% in 32 minutes and in my tests, it wasn’t far off at all, taking 34 minutes and 10 seconds. The charger is in the box (hurrah) and has a USB A socket, so the charging cable is USB A to USB C. No, there’s no wireless charging before you ask.

Cameras….The Nord CE 2 5G officially has three cameras on the back and one selfie camera around the front. The smartphone uses the same camera app as all the other OnePlus phones as far as I’m aware and offers time-lapse, panoramic, slow-motion, video, photo, portrait and nightscape and pro modes. Starting with the selfie cam, it’s a 16 MP Sony IMX471 that OnePlus has used many times. I feel it takes good enough selfie photos with reasonably accurate skin tones. For the rear, there’s a 64 MP main camera, an 8 MP ultra-wide with 119° field of view and a macro 2 MP unit for close-ups. The camera app is enhanced by AI features that help with scene detection to help get the absolute best from the images. In particular, low-light photos should be improved as well and video performance has been enhanced. The Nord 2 introduced these smart features and they’ve been brought to the Nord CE 2 courtesy of the MediaTek CPU chipset.

In reviewing the cameras, there are definitely some improvements over the original Nord CE. One of the original problems was a kind of motion blur on the edge of wide-angle shots and I’m pleased to say that this has gone. Colour saturation can still be a bit iffy – the sky tended to come out over blue (it’s not the Caribbean, y’know) courtesy of the AI and but sometimes large areas of colour could be stronger. In the picture on the right, the tiles are green, not grey.

Having said all that, I did take some other pictures that I’m really quite pleased with. The basket with pine cones is a favourite. No editing to these shots other than resizing.

   

Overall, the camera has improved since the original CE and for the average person, there’s not much to argue with. The AI does it’s best to create a good photo and you can always turn it off.

Lastly, the CE 2’s OxygenOS 11 is based on Android 11 with OnePlus keeping tinkering to the minimum but adding value where it can. That’s the OnePlus way and to extend that value, the company is committing to 2 years of software updates and 3 years of security updates. Android 12 is promised later in 2022.

Clearly, the Nord CE 2 has loads of other features that you’d expect as standard: Wi-Fi bgnac, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, GPS, in-display fingerprint reader, dual SIM slot and so on. Rather than review each in turn, I’ll simply confirm that everything is as you’d expect.

Let’s talk about covers…the bumper covers are back to being sandstone which is a definite improvement over the previous generation.

On to the pricing….OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G 8 GB + 128 GB: GB£299 / 329€. Incredibly, there’s no price inflation, which is great to see.  Unfortunately, the CE 2 5G is a European and Indian release only so our American cousins will be disappointed.

So does the OnePlus Nord CE 2 meet expectations as a “Core Edition” focussing on what’s really needed without all the frippery? On the whole yes: 5G, great screen, powerful enough processor, day-long battery life, fast charging, 2 years of software updates, lovely colour. Considering there’s a jump of about £70 to the Nord 2, I think it’s good value. It’s not perfect but for the price, I’d have no hesitation in recommending it to friends and family.

Available now. See more in the video below.

Thanks to OnePlus for supplying the Nord CE 2 smartphone for review.