Category Archives: smartphone

OnePlus Extends Support and Shows Future of OxygenOS



OnePlus LogoAt a OnePlus’ community event in London, the company revealed its roadmap for OxygenOS 13.1 and beyond. For the first “Open Ears” event in two years, the Oxygen OS team shared upcoming changes and developments for both OxygenOS 13 and 14. As a bonus, OnePlus committed to offering four generations of OxygenOS and five years of security updates on selected devices launched in 2023 onwards. This brings it in-line with the Samsung’s policy and exceeds Google’s promises.

Before looking to 13.1, the company reviewed some of the new features in OxygenOS 13 which is currently rolling out to supported devices like the OnePlus 9.

  • AI System Booster
  • Homeland Always on Display
  • Spotify Always on Display
  • Spatial Audio developed in conjunction with Google
  • Private Safe 2.0
  • Aquamorphic Design

Although I’ve not yet seen it in action, I think the best one of these is the Private Safe feature which alerts you to instances when you might be taking a screenshot with personal information in it and auto pixelates the data. It can be overridden but it’s good feature to avoid embarrassment.

The System Booster works to keep everything buttery smooth, trying to keep the right apps loaded in memory while making sure that games and other high performance apps load swiftly. OnePlus has always had something like this, but certainly it’s changed visually when you start up a game.

The Homeland Always on Display is a little unclear but I think it’s supposed to alert you to the impact of climate change on animal’s habitats. Again, I’m trying to figure out how to use it on the phone.

And in contrast, really not sure what Aquamorphic Design brings to the party other than smaller icons and preponderance of blue. Fortunately, it can be changed back to good old OnePlus red.

For OxygenOS 13.1, which is expected in the first half of 2023, the team are expecting to build on Private Safe with additional privacy focussed features. Another area of focus is improved digital health and well-being with more accessibility features for users with disabilities. Inclusive design can often bring benefits to everyone, not just those initially targeted.

Gary Chen, Head of Software Products at OnePlus, and Crayon Hsieh, Head of OneLab at OnePlus presented at the meeting. Gary confirmed, “OxygenOS is an integral part of OnePlus, co-created by our community members, and as a user-oriented company, we do everything we can to enhance user experience. With more users keeping their devices for longer, we want to make sure we can offer that possibility. This new update policy will give users access to the latest security and functional features required to power OnePlus’ signature fast-and-smooth experience throughout the lifetime of the phone.”


Xiaomi October Global Launch – Smartphones, Vacuums, Tablets and Earbuds



Xiaomi Logo - an orange squircle with stylised white MI lettersReturning to an in-person event, Xiaomi‘s global launch took place in Munich, Germany with Abi Go, Head of Product Marketing, kicking off the event. Looking at the company, Xiaomi are now #266 in the Fortune Global 500, primarily through 160% growth in the premium smartphone category. The phones are no longer cheap and cheerful, and the Xiaomi 12 received some good reviews, including from myself. Xiaomi isn’t only about phones too – they’re rapidly growing in autonomous driving and robotics as well – but as you’ll see from the launches, Xiaomi is getting well established in consumer electronics.

First up was the Xiaomi 12T series, with the 12T and the 12T Pro smartphones. Both very similar in design, with a large main lens dominating the camera array on the rear. To reinforce this, the Pro comes with a whopping 200 MP main sensor and the standard 12T is fitted out with a still-fairly-big 108 MP sensor. Every part of the imaging system has been optimised, from the lens (8P) to the sensor (1/1.22″) and the software (advanced imaging processing). The new ProCut software uses AI to crop and frame images to make any scene look its very best, and the In-sensor zoom allows 2x zoom at the sensor level for clear portraiture. Both phones have an 8MP ultrawide, a 2MP macro and 20MP selfie camera on the front.

Inside the 12T Pro is a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 with a MediaTek Dimensity 8100-Ultra featuring in the 12T itself. Each chipset offers significant improvements in performance and power consumption over the previous generation. Both phones sport a 6.67″ 1220p resolution and 120 Hz CrystalRes AMOLED display covered by Gorilla Glass 5. The AdaptiveSync display will adjust the screen frequency for a fast and smooth refresh when needed and then revert to a lower power saving rate when not. Sound is by Harmon/Kardon and supports Dolby Atmos for a detailed and rich soundscape.

Keeping the power on is a 5,000 mAh battery with 120 W charging which will charge the battery from 0% to 100% in 19 minutes. With all the improvements to the CPU, the display and the battery, users can expect 13.5 hours of normal screen-on time and nearly 8 hours of gaming. That’s impressive.

Coming in three colours: blue, black and silver, the phones look, and I imagine, feel the part. The Xiaomi 12T Series will be available for sale starting on 20th October via Xiaomi official channels. The Xiaomi 12T Pro (8GB+128GB) will have an RRP of GB£699, and the Xiaomi 12T comes in two storage variants, 8GB+128GB and 8GB+256GB, with an RRP of £499 and £549 respectively.

Next up were vacuum cleaners, starting with the Xiaomi Robot Vacuum X10+ which offers great cleaning for carpets with mop pads that lift up out of the way when the robot encounters carpet. S-Cross AI uses a pile of extra sensors to navigate the home and avoid hazards. X10+ comes with an all-in-one docking station that charges the robot, empties the dirt bag, cleans the mop pads and adds water to the X10+’s reservoir. Of course, the X10+ can be controlled by an app too. The vacuum robot is priced at 899€.

The W10 Wet Dry vacuum series are a series of wet and dry battery powered vacuum cleaners with a variety of features from assisted power, heated water rollers and base stations. Prices start from 599€.

The third set was for TVs and Xiaomi’s second generation TV Q2 series with QLED screens will come in 50″, 55″ and 65″ sizes. All the TVs support Dolby Vision IQ and Google TV is built-in. Prices start from 599€

Xiaomi’s been producing smart bands for several years and this time it’s the Xiaomi Smart Band 7 Pro. It’s a bit bigger than the previous bands but it’s much more stylish in a rectangular design that’s in keeping with current trends, i.e. it looks a fair bit like one of the market leading smart watches. The 1.64″ AMOLED screen is 84% bigger than the previous generation and the 7 Pro now has GNSS (GPS) built-in for route tracking so your smartphone doesn’t have to come along for the tracking. As before, the Band 7 Pro comes in a range of colours with two new vegan bands, pine green and moon grey, added to the selection. Battery life is around 12 days. All this doubles the cost and the Band 7 Pro will be priced at GB£84.99 / 99€.

Finally, Xiaomi announced the Redmi Pad, an all-in-one pad for fun. The Redmi Pad comes as a slim and durable medal unibody and is available in mint green, graphite grey and moonlight silver. At 445g it’s roughly twice to three times the weight of a phone but it’s easily portable. The screen is 10.6″ with 2K resolution at 90 Hz and the viewing experience is enhanced by quad speakers supporting Dolby Atmos. Inside is the MediaTek Helio G99 CPU along with an 8000 mAh battery. The camera is sensitively placed along the long edge to make video calls a little bit more natural (cf Samsung Galaxy Tab series) and FocusFrame tracks the users faces to ensure they’re in the picture. MIUI has been enhanced for the Pad and prices start at GB£269 / 279€ for the 3GB+64MB variant. I like this…

Although not covered in the presentation, Xiaomi also announced the Redmi Buds 4 Pro and Redmi Buds 4. Both offer noise cancellation and charging cases. The Redmi Buds 4 Pro offer 9 hours of listening on a single charge with a total of 30 hours when the charging case is used. The Buds 4 will go 6 hours on a single charge but offer 36 hours total when recharged from the case. Redmi Buds 4 and Redmi Buds 4 Pro available from £49.99 and £84.99 respectively via Xiaomi’s official channels. Available in the UK from 4th October.

The livestream is available here.


OnePlus Plants Trees for Trade-Ins with Ecologi



OnePlus LogoEcologi Script Logo on Green and Blue SplodgeTo help reduce the impact of its products on the planet, OnePlus has partnered with Ecologi to plant a tree every time a phone is traded in for a new one. Ecologi is a climate action organisation that helps both individuals and businesses offset their activities through the planting of trees.

Based on the current trade-in rate for new phones such as the 10T, Nord 2T and 10 Pro, OnePlus expects several thousand trees to be planted on its behalf. The trees will be planted in dedicated forest areas around the world and so far, Ecologi has planted over 50 million trees on behalf of its supporters and clients. This represents a reduction of 2.2 million tonnes of CO2.

At OnePlus we’re renowned for our community spirit, and looking out for our users. By giving OnePlus fans the chance to help the planet every time they get a new phone, we’re helping them make a positive difference to the planet,” said Tuomas Lampen, OnePlus’s Head of European Strategy. “By partnering with Ecologi as part of our wider environmental work we hope to continue to reduce our impact on the world and become a more sustainable business.”

In addition to planting trees, OnePlus has worked to reduce the amount of plastic in packaging, extend product lifecycles and has established recycling schemes. The customer benefits as well, with a trade in bonus available throughout October. When customers trade in an old phone for new phones they’ll receive an additional GB£200 or 200€ back on top of the trade-in value of their phone.

Linda Adams, Head of Partnerships at Ecologi, added: “While there is still work to do in the consumer electronics industry, it’s great to see OnePlus taking important steps to reduce the environmental impact of its products through its trade-in scheme, alongside supporting reforestation projects. Given its global presence and huge customer base, we hope OnePlus can act as an example to other companies in the sector – inspiring them to join the collective fight against climate change.”

If you are interested in offsetting your own personal carbon footprint, have a look at Ecologi. As a social enterprise (they’re not a charity), they work with tree planting partners to reforest local areas with appropriate trees to encourage wildlife and biodiversity. You can take out a subscription to Ecologi to cover part or all of your carbon footprint and there are family options too that will even cover your pets. 85% of the subscription goes to funding trees and similar projects. There’s a bit about the company over over at TechCrunch.


OnePlus 10T Goes On Sale with Free Buds Pro and Trade In Offer



Never Settle LogoA few weeks after the original announcement, the OnePlus 10T is now on general sale from all the usual outlets including OnePlus and Amazon.

Recapping the specs, the 10T is a 6.7″ 2412×1080 pixels 120 Hz AMOLED display driven by a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, powered by 4800 mAh battery and recharged by 150 W SuperVOOC. Combined with a 3D cooling system, it’s a gamer’s delight and there’s a 50 MP main lens for the ‘Grammers and TikTokkers.

However, if you’ve been on the fence on whether to pick up a OnePlus 10T, this weekend’s offers might just persuade you to buy the new phone. If you buy direct from OnePlus, they’re throwing in their top end OnePlus Buds Pro for free and if you trade in an old phone, you’ll get an extra £150 on top of the value of your old phone. There are more details on the 10T page.

The SuperVOOC 80 W car charger goes on sale now too which will charge all OnePlus phones plus any devices with PD support including tablets and laptops.

In terms of pricing (excluding anything from a trade-in)

Device RAM Storage Colours Price
OnePlus 10T 8 GB 128 GB Moonstone Black GB£629
OnePlus 10T 16 GB 256 GB Jade Green GB£729
OnePlus SuperVOOC 80W car charger Black GB£59.99

The offer is for those who buy the phone via OnePlus.com between 25th and 29th August 2022.


Xiaomi Mi 12 Hands-On Review – Lots to Like



Xiaomi Logo - an orange squircle with stylised white MI lettersAccording to Counterpoint Research, Xiaomi has consistently taken the #3 spot in worldwide smartphone shipments behind Samsung and Apple over the past three years and that’s without even officially selling smartphones in the USA. However, there’s no such problem here in the UK and I’ve managed to borrow a Xiaomi 12 smartphone from their PR folks for a couple of weeks and put it through its paces. And you know what, I can see why it’s #3. Let’s take a look.

Smartphone resting on boxWhile the Xiaomi 12 looks like so many of the current generation of smartphones with a six-inch plus screen, gently curved sides, frosted back and camera array top left, overall it leaves a good first impression of quality with a bright clear screen, a smooth without being slippy back, a little weight to the device and a power button resting just under my thumb. This is not a phone to be embarrassed about even if the name’s a little hard to pronounce. The phone comes in three colourways simply described as grey, blue and purple without additional hyperbole. It’s the purple version in my paws.

Let’s check out the specs to see how it shapes up on paper. Physically, the phone is 152.7 x 69.9 x 8.2 mm and weighs in at 180 g, so it’s slightly smaller than some of the recent phones I’ve reviewed but it’s millimetres to be honest. In other characteristics, there’s a USB-C port on the bottom, power button on the right, volume controls a little above, stereo speakers top and bottom. The SIM tray is at the bottom next to the USB port and supports two SIMS that are inserted back-to-back and a SIM ejection tool is included in the box. Unsurprisingly, there’s no audio jack.

Smartphone face down on boxOnto the screen: the Xiaomi 12 has a lovely 120 Hz AMOLED display with slightly rounded vertical edges. These seemed to be a happy medium between a completely flat screen and some of the very curved screens on other phones. The glass itself is Gorilla Glass Victus which should provide some protection against scratches. With a resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels (FHD+) and a screen size of 6.28″, it comes out as 419 ppi, and I think the colours look great – bright and vibrant. The front-facing camera is a centre top hole punch, and there’s an in-display fingerprint sensor which I found accurate but perhaps not as nippy as the sensor in the OnePlus phones

Under the hood, and there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, paired with an Adreno GPU. The RAM is LPDDR5 and storage is courtesy of UFS 3.1 at either 128 GB or 256 GB. Naturally there’s 5G (it’s 2022!) Performance-wise, after a couple of runs with GeekBench 5, I had average scores of 1225 single-core and 3540 multi-core which puts it comfortably into the upper ranges of the scoring benchmark. The Snapdragon 8 is more than capable of playing Fortnite and there’s a selection of gaming tools to avoid interruptions and enhance play (Game Turbo), but the Xiaomi 12 didn’t seem to support video out over USB C.

Moving onto the cameras, there’s a 50 MP main lens, a 13 MP ultrawide with a 123° field of view and a 5 MP telemacro camera for close-up shots. The front camera is a 32 MP unit. The cameras do stick out the back by a couple of millimetres, so a case of some kind is going to be essential to avoid scratching. I thought the cameras took some good shots, though one thing I did discover is that night mode only works on the main lens. The photo app on the 12 is comprehensive with features like motion tracking, eye tracking focus and blur reduction on motion. Here are a few photos that I took around the neighbourhood – the two on the beach show the difference between the standard and wide-angle views, and those are the mountains of Mourne. Normally the beach would be deserted but there was a warm spell and the whole country went to the seaside. I’m no photographer but I was happy with the snaps: colours were good and the night shots came out better than expected.

Inside the phone is a 4500 mAh battery and 67 W charger, which I found charged the phone from 21% to 94% in 30 minutes. That’s very usable. The Xiaomi 12 has 50 W wireless charging – I wasn’t able to test high speed charger but it worked fine with my 10 W Anker wireless charger.
In terms of power consumption, I felt that the Xiaomi was better than average – I’ve no hard proof of this, but I often left work after an average day at the office with more than I would expect from my personal phone which as a similar size battery.

MIUI 13 is Xiaomi’s take on Android 12 along with a rich user interface. It’s definitely a bit more colourful than the stock Android experience and there’s some nice theming and wallpapers. There are a few special effects that look good, e.g. when an app is deleted, the icon explodes and the other icons jump in shock. There’s fair amount of customisation and settings aren’t always in where you’d expect them to be. For example, “Date and time” has been casually relocated to “Additional settings” along with settings like “Beautify for video calls and “Quick Ball”. Quick Ball itself is an interesting utility that provides fast access to a selection of shortcuts via a small ball on the screen. Xiaomi have lots of these little enhancements and it’s difficult to call out all of them. Sometimes the enhancements aren’t always an improvement, e.g. notifications are presented as individual bubbles rather than in a contiguous block. Looks good but there’s less info on the screen.

That largely wraps up this quick review of the Xiaomi 12. Any downsides? I have a few issues but nothing terribly serious.

  • The factory-installed screen protector is a dust magnet. I’ve seen this on other phones too.
  • Adverts. A couple of the factory-installed utilities display adverts. I think that cheapens the experience for a premium phone.
  • Placeholders for a couple of promoted games. Annoying but easily removed.
  • OEM versions of Google standard apps. For example, Xiaomi has its own version of Find My Device. Why?
  • Fingerprint scanner not quite as snappy as some other phones.
  • Notifications sometimes on the wrong side

Pricing-wise…

Xiaomi 12
8 GB + 128 GB – GB£749 (currently £649)
8 GB + 256 GB – GB£849 (currently £699)
12 GB + 256 GB – not currently available

The Xiaomi 12 is available to purchase from Xiaomi directly and a word to the wise…Xiaomi frequently has promotions where there’s sizeable discounts so if you aren’t in a hurry, watch out for those deals. The current deal at £699 for 8 GB + 256 GB seems good value.

Overall, what’s my opinion? There’s much to like here. The phone is well-designed and feels good in the hand. It’s fast with good battery life. The cameras hold their own against the competition. MIUI 13 might be an acquired taste but there is some significant value-add in there. Ignore the cruft. The Xiaomi 12 is a strong contender in the tier of not-quite-flagship-phone (there’s a 12 Pro) and this saves £300 off the bottom line. Obviously there’s some competition out there (OnePlus 10T comes to mind) but it’s definitely worth taking a look at the Xiaomi 12.


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)