Category Archives: smartphone

OnePlus Nord to be Revealed in AR on 21st July



After some heavy hints and with limited pre-sales underway, OnePlus has confirmed that the new Nord smartphone will be revealed on 21st July in an AR (augmented reality) extravaganza. GNC readers with long memories will remember that the OnePlus Two was launched in VR – I still have the headset – so with Covid-19 still present in many countries around the world, it made sense to launch the Nord online and in the safety of their own homes.

OnePlus Nord represents a new beginning for OnePlus, giving us an opportunity to share our technology with more people around the world,” said Paul Yu, Head of OnePlus Nord. “For this launch, we want everyone to sit back, relax, and experience our new phone for the first time right in the comfort of their living room. We feel that introducing Nord in a more personal and intimate way perfectly reflects our ambition to make the OnePlus experience more accessible to users.

The OnePlus Nord AR launch can be experienced through the OnePlus Nord AR App available on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. The launch event will take place at 1600 CEST/ 1500 BST.

Download the OnePlus Nord AR app from your preferred app provider.

Install the app and accept the permissions necessary for the AR experience, then launch and follow instructions to set up your avatar and the app.

On the day, watch the Nord AR event using the AR App. Just open it up at launch time and make sure you’ve got a good fast connection.

For more details on the Nord and the second episode in the “New Beginnings” series, check out OnePlus’ dedicated Nord mini-site.

And while we’re talking OnePlus news, the OnePlus 8 Pro was voted the Best Smartphone 2020 in the European Hardware Awards. Way to go.


Go Nord with OnePlus



OnePlus have officially announced the OnePlus Nord product line today but details still remain remarkably thin on the ground. To start with, Nord is the name of a product range and not a specific device, though again OnePlus have confirmed that a new device will be launched shortly in Europe and India. Will this be a OnePlus Nord One?

Pete Lau, Founder and CEO of OnePlus, said, “Launching the OnePlus Nord product line marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for OnePlus. The ‘Never Settle’ spirit is centered around sharing the best technology and products with the world, but it is also about challenging ourselves and going beyond our comfort zone. We are immensely proud of our flagship products and will continue to create more tech-leading flagships for our users. Now we are excited to share the OnePlus experience with even more users around the world through this new product line.

OnePlus have been using Instagram this time round with a series of short documentaries on their journey to the new Nord product line. The first one was released today and pretty much suggests the phone was brought to market in only six months and will be priced below US$500. That’s a good bit cheaper than the recent 8 and 8 Pro models.

And if you simply have to have the OnePlus Nord first, you can (try to) pre-order the phone for a deposit of GB£20 at 1000 CEST on 1st July. For that £20, you’ll get some goodies and a code to pre-order the phone. At this point, no details on price or spec other than sub-$500. Nothing, zero, nada, but you’ll need to get in quick as there’s only 100 of the phones up for pre-sale.

With luck, we’ll find out more about the Nord over the next few days.


OnePlus Expands Product Range But It’s More Than Cheaper Phones



After much speculation in recent months about a new lower-priced phone with monikers such as 8 Lite, Z and Nord, OnePlus has confirmed a new two part business strategy to take the company forwards, including more affordable smartphones.

Firstly, OnePlus is intending to expand into new product categories. While existing products such as the OnePlus TV and the Bullets earphones are mentioned, there’s no confirmed market area. Presumably it will be some aspect of consumer electronics (and personally I’d love it to be a decent tablet device) but we’ll just have to wait and see. What OnePlus does usually gets done well.

Secondly, CEO Pete Lau confirmed that the price tag on recent phones was getting too high and that there needed to be affordable devices. The CEO was at pains to point out that this isn’t about going back to OnePlus’ roots, as the roots are in flagship smartphones, so this is a new product line altogether (although we mustn’t completely forget the OnePlus X). In order to get the product right, availability will initially only be in Europe and India. Once refined and production is scaled up, the smartphones will be offered in other territories.

Anyone who has any eye on the smartphone market will know that Huawei and Xiaomi have been putting out some pretty decent lower priced phones so it’s natural that OnePlus wants some of the market. For every person wanting to put $1000 into a flagship, there must be ten people want to spend a few hundred dollars.

Pete Lau said, “We’ve come a long way in the last 6 years, and now is the right time for us to bring you something new. I am really looking forward to this new beginning for OnePlus, and I hope you are too.

And in typical OnePlus fashion, the new phone is being teased via an account on Instagram called @onepluslitezthing. The release date is being hinted as July with a message in Morse code .— ..- .-.. -.– with more clues to come.


Xiaomi’s Flagship Killer…the Poco F2 Pro



Xiaomi have certainly been busy in the past few weeks, releasing updated versions across its product line – Redmi, Mi and now Poco, with the release of the F2 Pro. It’s a replacement for the Pocophone F1 and is now just branded Poco, which is a definite improvement over something that sounds like Pokemon. Having said that, this is not a brand new phone as the F2 is a variant of the Redmi K30 Pro. Whatever the label, this is is Xiaomi’s “flagship killer” and on paper, it’s definitely a worthy contender in the not-ridiculously-expensive-but-well-specced section. Let’s work round the details.

Looking at the phone, there’s a 6.67″ 2400 x 1080 FHD+ AMOLED “Ultimate Full Screen Display”. Unlike many high-end phones, this screen seems to be flat without a curved edge which might be seen as a good thing by some people. It’s an HDR10+ screen with a contrast ratio of 5 million to 1 and there’s an in-screen fingerprint sensor behind the Gorilla Glass. Physically the phone is 163.3 mm x 75.4 mm x 8.9 mm and weighs in at 218 g. It comes four colours – Cyber Grey, Electric Purple, Phantom White, Neon Blue.

Round the back, there are four cameras arranged on a disk. The main shooter is a 64 MP camera with a Sony IMX686 sensor. Second, there’s a 13 MP ultra wide-angle camera with a 123° field of view. Next is a 5 MP telemacro camera that can focus down to just a few centimetres and finally there’s a 2 MP depth sensor camera for when you want some bokeh. Round the front, there’s a selfie camera which pops up from the top of the phone. It’s a 20 MP sensor.

Inside there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 with a Kryo 585 CPU and an Adreno 650 GPU plus support for 5G and WiFi 6. At this point, it’s worth mentioning that there are two versions of the F2 available, one with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage and another with 8 GB and 256 GB. Oddly, the 6 GB version is LPDDR4X, whereas the 8 GB one is LPDDR5. There are dual SIMs but only one can be 5G (as I understand the specs).

Powering the F2 Pro is 4,700mAh battery with 30W fast charging via USB C. There’s no wireless charging here, but 30 mins boosts the phone from 0 to 64%, and you’ll get 100% in just over an hour.

Other features include an IR blaster (kind of a Xiaomi feature) and fan-favourite, a 3.5 mm headphone jack.

Price-wise the Poco F2 Pro comes in at €499/$499 for the 6GB/128GB version and €599/$599 for the 8GB/256GB storage version. The phone will be available in regions as the summer progresses but if you can’t wait, the phone is already available from GearBest.


LG Velvet Reveal in S Korea



Another week, another phone launch and it’s LG‘s turn with the new LG Velvet. For those keeping count, the Velvet is really the next iteration of the G8, so think of the Velvet as the G9, though it’s not quite as high-end as might be expected from the G-range. That’s not to say it doesn’t have a couple of tricks up its sleeve. Let’s take a look.

From the front, the Velvet looks like most of today’s smartphones: 6.8-inch 1080 x 2460 OLED screen with a 20.5:9 aspect ratio. No real surprises there, but round the back it’s a little bit different. Instead of a dark cluster of lenses, the Velvet has a raindrop effect, with a larger lens at the top, two smaller lenses below and a flash at the bottom, all spaced out . It’s a good look – check the picture. The cameras themselves are a 48 MP main sensor, an 8 MP ultra-wide camera and a 5 MP depth sensor. It’s a 16 MP selfie shooter on the front. As expected for a phone of this calibre, there’s an in-display fingerprint scanner.

Driving the smartphone is a Snapdragon 765G chipset with 5G support. There’s 8 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage and a microSD card slot which is always a welcome addition. The 765G might not be top of the range but it’s a strong performer and most people will find it very acceptable.

Keeping the juice flowing is a 4,300 mAh battery, and the Velvet offers both wired fast charging and 10 W wireless charging. I imagine that battery will keep the phone going for over a day. In terms of other features, the Velvet has IP68 rating for dust and water ingress, and there’s a 3.5 mm audio socket for the audio fans.

And for the Velvet’s party tricks…to start with there’s support for LG’s dual screen accessory, which I think is a great idea to increase screen real estate without the risks of a folding screen. But in addition to the dual screen, the Velvet also supports a stylus pen for fine editing and control. That’s something that I’ve only heard of on tablets and it’ll be interesting to see it in action on a phone. It’ll be even more interesting if the dual screen supports the pen too.

For now, the Velvet is only available in South Korea but an announcement is expected in mid-May regarding the rest of the world. Price-wise, it’s going to be ₩899,800 in S Korea, which is around US$730.


Xiaomi Reveals Mi Note 10 Lite



In addition to the Redmi Note 9 and 9 Pro announced last week, Xiaomi also unveiled the Mi Note 10 Lite. Based on the Mi Note 10 from last year which offers a whopping 108 MP rear camera, the Lite edition reduces the specs in few places to make the phone a little bit more affordable while still looking premium. As the Note 10 itself starts at GB£459, it’s definitely in upper mid-range territory, so it will be interesting to see what the Mi Note 10 Lite offers at a lower price point. Let’s take a look.

The Mi Note 10 Lite looks great with Gorilla Glass on both the front and the back of the phone. The display features a 6.47″ curved AMOLED FHD+ (2340 x 1080) screen on the front, with a tear drop 16 MP camera at the centre top. It’s a 19.5:9 aspect ratio display with HDR10. On the rear, there’s a quad camera setup, with cameras vertically aligned on the left-hand side. The main lens features a 65 MP wide-angle camera and is complemented by an 8 MP ultra wide-angle camera, a 5 MP depth sensor and a 2 MP macro camera. This is a very similar camera array to the Redmi Note 9 Pro.

Unlike the Redmi devices, the Note 10 Lite comes with in-display fingerprint sensor, and phone comes in three colours; glacier white, midnight black & nebula purple. Overall dimensions are 157.8 x 74.2 x 9.67 mm, and the Note 10 Lite weighs in at 204 g.

Powering the 10 Lite is the same chipset as its full fat brother, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G. This consists of a Kryo 470 octa-core 2.3 GHz CPU paired with an Adreno 618 CPU and X15 LTE modem. When it comes to RAM and storage, there are three combinations available – 6 GB+64 GB, 6 GB+128 GB, 8 GB+128 GB. It’s not clear whether there’s a link between memory configuration and available colours.

From the specs, it doesn’t look like there’s a memory card expansion slot which is disappointing. There’s a 5,260 mAh battery with 30W fast charge via a USB C port. That’ll charge to 50% from 0% in 30 mins or less, which is handy, although Xiaomi reckon on 2 days-worth of use from a full charge.

As expected at this price point, it’s 4G only, though it does take a pair of SIMs. There’s Bluetooth 5.0 and a 3.5 mm headphone socket, and unusually an IR remote which is good for controlling TVs and other AV gear.

Pricewise, the Mi Note 10 Lite starts at 349 € (euros) for the base model, which is a considerable saving over the big brother, so if you want a premium-looking phone for not much money, check it out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the Note 10 is coming to the UK any time soon, but the rest of the world can expect it to land in mid-May.


BBC Omits Central Database in Contact Tracing App Story



With the UK’s NHS Contract Tracing app being tested in the Isle of Wight this week, the BBC ran a story on how the app works in the evening news today. While the lovely graphics illustrated how the app worked, the story conveniently forgot to mention that all the contact data collected goes back to a central database.

Unlike much of the free world, instead of adopting the Google-Apple decentralised approach, the NHS has gone ahead with its plans to base its tracking on a central database – there’s more at The Register and The Guardian newspaper. Simplistically, while both versions use Bluetooth proximity to detect others nearby, in the Google-Apple model only the phones know with whom you have been in contact. In the NHS version, the contact data is passed back to a central server for contact matching. This is manna from heaven for a UK government which has a reputation for increasing levels of privacy abuse.

So it’s all very handy then that the BBC omitted to mention that all the app users’ contact tracing information, which will likely include location data, will be neatly shuffled back to a central server for review and matching by the NHS. Yes, it’s anonymised but it doesn’t take much to figure out who someone is if night-after-night they go back to the same address.

The programme is here but I’m not sure how long it will stay online for or if it’s available worldwide. Look at around the 7 minutes 45 seconds. There’s no mention of the central database in either the narrative or the infographics.

Sorry, NHS, I’ll not be downloading your app. BBC, stop lying by omission.

Update 4/5/20: The BBC has produced a more balanced article here.