Category Archives: smartphone

The Nord 2. A New “Flagship Killer” from OnePlus?



OnePlus LogoOnePlus’ Nord smartphone has been tremendously successful in Europe and today the company announced its successor, the Nord 2. As is OnePlus’ style, the phone’s been comprehensively teased for several weeks with the tagline, “Pretty much everything you could ask for” and resurrecting the “flagship killer” moniker from the early days of the brand. Bold claims. Let’s see if they’re any way justified.

The Nord 2 sits atop OnePlus’ mid-range devices, below the OnePlus 9 but above the Nord CE 5G and N-series of phones, so I think we should be expecting a well-specified device with quality materials that most smartphone users will be pleased to use. That’s confirmed by OnePlus CEO, Pete Lau, who says, “The OnePlus Nord 2 5G reaffirms our commitment to sharing great technology with the world. With advancements in smartphone technologies even in the mid-range, we are now able to deliver premium experiences on more accessible devices. We are confident the Nord 2 is a worthy successor to the original OnePlus Nord.

Taking a look at the specs, the biggest news is that the Nord 2 has a MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI CPU inside. For those unfamiliar with MediaTek, it’s a Taiwanese firm and is the third largest fabless IC designer in the world with chips in thousands of products round the world. The Dimensity 1200 is MediaTek’s top of the line ARM chipset and the AI suffix indicates that this is special “artificial intelligence” variant for OnePlus. In terms of performance, OnePlus expect the Dimensity 1200-AI to boost CPU by 65% and GPU by 125% in comparison with the original Nord and to be on a par with the Google Pixel 5 and the Samsung S21.

In terms of RAM and storage, there will be three variants (but not all will be available in all territories) – 6 GB+128 GB, 8 GB+128 GB and 12 GB+256 GB. The 6 GB+128 GB option is not expected to be available in the UK

On the screen front, the Nord 2 sports a 90 Hz Fluid AMOLED display measuring 6.43″ with a resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels (410 ppi) which matches the screen seen in the CE 5G but is slightly smaller than the one from the 9. There’s no substantial difference from the screen on last year’s Nord in terms of spec, though the new Dimensity 1200-AI chipset intelligently enhances the display of photos and videos to make them look their best.

As would be expected, the Nord 2 supports 5G offering nearly 3 Gb/s in perfect conditions and there’s the usual dual-SIM tray for those looking to have, say, separate personal and business SIMs.

Round the back, it’s an offset triple-camera array with a 50 MP Sony IMX 766 sensor for the main camera with OIS. This camera sensor was used in both the 9 and 9 Pro for the ultrawide, so it’s a top notch unit. In addition, there’s an 8 MP 119.7° field of view wide-angle camera with EIS. The third lens is a 2 MP monochrome unit for black-and-white fun. On the front, the selfie cam is a massive 32 MP IMX615 Sony sensor which will give some excellent selfie shots as it’s one of the largest front-facing cameras in the OnePlus range.

The camera app supports Nightscape for taking photos in low light conditions down to 1 lux and the Dimensity 1200-AI provides additional enhancement recognising 22 different photo scenes in order to adjust the settings for the best possible shot. The Nord 2 offers Dual View Video too, recording both the front and rear cameras simultaneously. Great for creative types or those wanting to indulge in a bit of adrenaline pumping action (though it might be a good idea to get a protective case first….)

Powering the Nord 2 is a 4,500 mAh battery which takes advantage of Warp Charge 65 and will charge 0 to 100% in 30 mins. Both battery size and charging speed are a step up from the original Nord. As expected, it’s a USB C port on the bottom, but while there’s no 3.5 mm audio jack, there are stereo speakers. Size-wise, the Nord 2 is 159 x 73 mm x 8.25 mm which is pretty much the same size as the original Nord and the CE 5G. It weighs in at 189g, give or take.

Speaking of the back, the Nord 2 has a lovely feel to it, with a cool glass texture. There are three different phone colours – Gray Sierra, Blue Haze and Green Woods. Sadly, the Green Woods isn’t coming to the UK but may be available in other countries. The Gray Sierra version is slightly different from the other two, with changes to the antiglare glass to make it feel thinner.

The Nord 2 comes with OxygenOS 11.3 which is based on Android 11 and OnePlus is now committing to two major Android updates and 3 years of security updates. I think that’s great to hear and in an increasingly resource-aware world, it means that you could be using the Nord for three years without worry. Being OxygenOS 11, the Nord 2 comes with many of the same software features as its older siblings, the 9 and 9 Pro.

Let’s talk pricing….

OnePlus Nord 2
8 GB + 128 GB: GB£399 in Blue Haze and Gray Sierra
12 GB + 256 GB: GB£469 in Gray Sierra only.

The Nord 2 will be available to pre-order now from both OnePlus and Amazon, with first deliveries expected from 26 July onwards. Orders from OnePlus will come with Google Stadia Premiere Edition bundled in as a free gift too. The Nord 2 will go on general sale in all channels including John Lewis, Three and O2 from 28 July.

So far, what I’ve seen looks good. The Nord 2 is a step up from the original and continues to slot in neatly below the OnePlus 9. With the 9 priced from £629, there’s clear water between the two in pricing and I’m struggling to think of the differences: 120 Hz screen, wireless charging, Hasselblad camera tweaking…there’s not much really. Is it a “flagship killer”? Not in the sense of having unbeatable specs, but definitely in terms of thinking about what’s really relevant in your phone and what it’s worth.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be sent a OnePlus Nord 2 for review: see below for an unboxing and early first impressions. I’ll follow the video up with a further review after I’ve used it for a couple of weeks.

Thanks to OnePlus for providing the Nord 2 for review.


Hands-On with the OnePlus Nord CE 5G



OnePlus LogoThe OnePlus Nord CE 5G drops into the crowded mid-range market where there’s no shortage of competitors wanting to take your money. OnePlus pitches the CE as “Core Edition” focussing on key features requested by its user community: “Heavy on features, light on price” says OnePlus. Obviously, there’s 5G in the CE, but what else does this new Nord offer? Let’s take a look…

Back view of OnePlus CE 5G smartphone showing sea green colourThe Nord CE 5G arrives in a black cardboard box with Nord branding picked out in reflective navy blue. There’s a clear contrast between the Nord’s black box and the red boxes reserved for the higher-end models. Opening the box reveals the CE 5G phone itself, along with a semi-transparent bumper case, a SIM tray tool, a few small manuals, a Warp charger and a USB charging cable.

Unwrapping the Nord CE 5G, it’s clear that it continues OnePlus’ current design cues which stretch back at least as far as the 7 series. There’s nothing unexpected here – flat glass front, pinhole camera top left, power button on right, USB C on the bottom, smooth curved back with attractive colouring, vertical triple camera array. It’s largely by the numbers. What’s different? There’s no alert slider but the 3.5 mm headphone jack makes a return to the smartphone. I think the restoration of the jack is a good move at this price point: my daughter prefers wired headphones as she’s less inclined to lose them and if she does, they’re cheaper to replace.

Sizewise, the CE 5G is within a millimetre or two of most recent OnePlus handsets at 159 mm x 74 mm, but it’s only 7.9 mm deep, making it the thinnest OnePlus since the 6T. Weighing in at 170 g, it’s lighter than the Nord by 14 g, though you’re unlikely to notice the difference day-to-day. The back of the CE 5G is polycarbonate rather than glass and it doesn’t quite feel as premium as I’d like but the Blue Void colour is lovely. It’s very similar to the Glacial Green of the OnePlus 8 but as you rotate the phone from the back to the front, the curved edge of the back takes on this lovely purple tone. There are other colours, Charcoal Ink and Silver Ray, but I’ve not seen them in the flesh. The Silver Ray version is only available with the large memory capacity (12 GB + 256 GB)

Front view of OnePlus CE 5G showing home screenTurning 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 and the Nord CE 5G comes with a couple of new ones that show off the display when the phone is unlocked.

In terms of sound, I’ve mentioned the return of the headphone jack, which is a good thing for a large chunk of the possible purchasers of the CE 5G. For speakers, there’s only the one at the bottom next to the USB C port. “It’ll do” is about as best as I can muster. It’s quite loud but playing music above two-thirds volume will start to distort the speaker and don’t expect much bass.

Powering the Nord handset is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G 5G Mobile Platform to give it the full title. Simplistically, this is a perfectly acceptable workhorse platform that offers some improvements over the 765G in the Nord. In day to day use, it’s a fine processor and keeps up with most activities. Will it run Fortnite? Yes, it does run Fortnite reasonably well, but there are definitely times when it stutters and all you can do is pray that it’s not at an inconvenient time. However, I have won a solo Battle Royale on the Nord CE 5G so it’s not a big deal. For something a bit more gentle, Pokemon Go runs beautifully. For the nerds, the phone scored 639 single-core and 1798 multi-core on Geekbench 5, putting it in amongst the Pixel 4, the Xiaomi Mi 9 and the Samsung Galaxy A51.

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. Even the battery does get a bit low, the supplied Warp 30T Plus charger is supposed to get the battery from 0% to 70% in 30 minutes. In my test run, it didn’t quite hit the 70% mark in the half-hour, but it was literally only a few minutes behind. The charger itself has a USB A socket, so the charging cable is USB A to USB C.

Cameras….The Nord CE 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 mono 2 MP unit that’s mainly used for depth sensing (as far as I know). The brand of the camera sensor is not revealed in the specs.

To review the rear cameras, I took a few photos to see how they turned out. Overall I was happy enough with the snaps but there are a couple of issues. First, colour saturation could be stronger: here’s my cat on a red blanket. The red of the blanket is way stronger than it appears to be in the picture.

Next, on ultrawide shots, even with ultra-wide lens correction turned on, you get this kind of motion blur effect on the edges of the shots. You can see it in the picture below. Again the colours of the flowers could do with just being that bit brighter too.

These would be my main two concerns, but I did take some other pictures that I’m really quite pleased with. I thought it handled close up shots better than panoramic ones. That bee has some load of pollen…

 

 

I think it would be fair to say that the Nord CE 5G takes photos that are acceptable without being outstanding.

Lastly, the CE’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.

Clearly, the Nord CE 5G 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…OnePlus sent four bumper covers with the Nord – black, blue, purple and creme. They’re flat colours with flecks of straw through them. Again, using my daughter for her opinion as a prospective purchaser, she liked the purple one but thought that golden glitter mixed in would’ve been much better. I’m with her on this one. These will be priced at GB£17.99 when they’re available.

For most territories outside of the Americas, the CE 5G is the fourth Nord device alongside the Nord, N10 5G and N100. If you are looking to understand where the Nord CE 5G fits in the OnePlus line-up, it’s below the Nord but above the Nord N10. In terms of base pricing, the Nord is GB£379, the CE 5G is £299 and the N10 is £249, though the N10 has slightly less memory at 6 GB rather than 8G.

The Nord CE 5G comes in two variants for the UK:

  • 8 GB + 128 GB: GB£299 / 329€
  • 12 GB + 256 GB: GB£369 / 399€

So does the Nord CE 5G 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. There’s plenty to like but there are some negatives: the rear cover could be better though once the phone is in a case, it’s not noticeable, and the camera does have some failings. Overall, the Nord CE 5G is a good all-rounder without being exceptional. The snag is that there’s plenty of competition to consider as well. If you like it, the phone is on sale from the OnePlus store.

Thanks to OnePlus for supplying the Nord CE 5G smartphone for review.


OnePlus Apps – Clipt, TagHost, WellPaper



OnePlus LogoOnePlus are well-known for their successful range of smartphones but what’s less well known is that they have a small but growing collection of handy Android apps – Clipt, TagHost and WellPaper – produced by their software development team, OneLab Studio.

Mauve Clipt LogoSelected TextStarting with Clipt, it’s a handy clipboard tool that let’s you copy’n’paste between your mobile devices and your PC’s Chromium-based browser. In addition to the Clipt app on the Android devices, you need the complementary Chrome extension, plus access to Google Drive to get it all working smoothly.

Clipt works with four different types of material – text, links, images and files – in slightly different ways but it’s really effective. For sending text and links from your phone or tablet to a PC, Clipt extends the built-in copy’n’paste function to offer a “Clipt” menu option which will push out whatever is highlight. For images, you use the Share to…..Clipt, and for files, Clipt works with the Files app to browse and find files.

On the browser side, the pinned Clipt extension brings in the transferred material almostly instantanously. I can get a picture I’ve discovered on the web on my phone into a Word document on the PC in three taps / clicks. On phone (tap 1) Share to… (tap 2) Clipt and finally on PC (click 3) Paste. It really is that simple.

You can go the other way too. Say you’ve found a funny clip on your PC but you want to send it via WhatsApp on your phone. Copy the link and Clipt will have it ready for you on your phone to simply paste into WhatsApp.

It’s brilliant if you’re one of these people who are constantly juggling PCs, Chromebooks, tablets and phones. I’d really recommend trying Clipt.

TagHost Hash LogoRanked HashtagsTagHost is tool for Instagrammers to see which hastags are the most popular in amongst lots of small but subtle variations. First, find a post on Instagram that’s of interest and then paste it into the TagHost app. The app will extract all the hastags from the post and any post comments below. Once the hashtags have been collected, Tag Host will show how popular the tags are so that you know which ones to use in your own posts. In the example to the right, #watchfam and #watchcollector are hot, #watchtime and #watchfreaks are not. It’s straightforward and keeps your ‘Gram posts tidy but effective.

Three coloured square filters at an angleSquares Show ActivityFinally, WellPaper is a live background which keeps track of your activities during the day and presents them as one of three different visualisations; Composition, Radial and Glow.

Composition is a Mondrian-esque wallpaper that uses rectangles to represent the relative proportion of time spent in each activity area. Radial is a soft blend of colour, almost like an artist’s palette, that morphs during the day. Last, Glow uses concentric rings to show busy-ness.

Concentric RingsWellPaper uses six categories: Lifestyle & Comms, Info & Business, Game, Social, Entertainment and Tools to track and show your use of apps on your phone. Each apps time within the category is further broken down but at present you can’t choose which category an app falls into. For example, Slack might be Social or it might be Business, depending on how you use it.

Regardless of which visualisation you like, you can quickly get an idea of your activity and if you’re over doing it when it comes to your social networking or gaming.

That’s three useful apps from the team at OnePlus. I’d particular recommend Clipt and I have WellPaper running on my OnePlus 9 as I write.


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.