Category Archives: smartphone

OnePlus 5T – Now in Sandstone White



In not-entirely-unexpected news, OnePlus has announced that the 5T will be available in Sandstone White. Teased by Carl Pei and harking back to the original OnePlus One, the new colour will be available from 10:00 GMT on Tuesday 9th January for a limited period. 10 am ET for those across the pond.

The phone won’t be completely white, though, with the volume slider picked out in red, as previously seen on the Star Wars limited edition. From the announcement and the options in the OnePlus store, it seems that this limited edition will only be available as a “top of the range” model with the 8GB / 128GB configuration. In all other technical respects the Sandstone White version is the same as the Midnight Black.

There’s no limited edition premium so it’s priced at GB£499 / US $559 which is good value whatever the colour. Form an orderly queue now….


Shoot-Em Up with the Bitmore AR Gun



Looking for a last-minute stocking filler? Take a look at the Bitmore AR Gun. It’s a Bluetooth-enabled toy gun for a bit of smartphone shoot-em up action. Let’s take a quick look….

The AR Gun is a bright blue wooden toy gun with a smartphone mount on the top. The idea is simple. Put the smartphone in the mount, load up the app, pair the gun with the phone over Bluetooth and start shooting aliens, planes, tanks, spiders, dinosaurs and sharks. What’s there not to like?

Working with both iOS and Android phones, it’s almost as straightforward as it sounds. The app is branded “Geekplay AR Gun” in the Google Play Store rather Bitmore but it’s not that hard to figure out and get it loaded. Mind you, it’s a big app at a little under 300MB.

The gun needs batteries and these aren’t supplied, so you’ll need to have 2x AAAs to hand but once inserted, you’re all set.

The AR Gun app takes care of the Bluetooth pairing within the app itself and the gun goes into pairing mode when the trigger is held down for a few seconds. Once paired, the app offers around a dozen games that are variations of AR and 3D worlds.Unsurprisingly, all involved shooting in some shape or form. A few of the games use the camera (AR) to show the room or space around you and superimpose planes, aliens and fish (not in the same game), whereas other games exist in their own world. Other than that the apps work in the same way: moving the gun moves your point of view or vehicle. Pulling the trigger shoots.

A few screenshots will give you the idea. Click on any of them for a bigger picture.

     

   

The graphics in most of the games are surprisingly good but the app seems to be a little bit of a work in progress. Two of the games didn’t work as they were under maintenance and there were a few features, such as a login screen, that seemed to be there for future developments. Some instructions wouldn’t go amiss too as I couldn’t work out what I was supposed to shoot in the aquarium game – sharks, lionfish, orcas, parrotfish? Who’s the baddy?

The AR Gun itself is a slightly odd mix of high and low-tech, being made from 3 mm sheets of wood, and while I like that the gun is wooden, the grip and the trigger could benefit from being rounded off to make it a little more comfortable to use.

But let’s not overthink this – it’s simply a fun toy. If shooting aliens is your thing, the AR Gun is priced under GB£20 and available direct from Bitmore or Urban Outfitters.

Thanks to Bitmore for supplying the AR Gun for review.


Adonit Pro 3 Precision Stylus Review



Geeks over a certain age will recall that smartphones and PDAs didn’t originally have finger touch interfaces and instead of using a digit to control the device, a stylus was used to tap and poke the buttons on the screen. Partly this was a limitation of the screen size – the original Palm Pilot 1000 only had 160 x 160 pixels – and the touchscreen technology, which was resistive and needed pressure to register a touch. The stylus was perfect for this kind of interface as the narrow point could accurately and forcefully tap an individual pixel. Today’s smartphones use a capacitive technology which senses electrostatic fields and the need for a pointy objected has faded in favour of fat fingers.

This doesn’t mean that the stylus has gone away but they certainly are a rarer. On my desk today is the Adonit Pro 3 precision stylus, which is the first quality capacitive stylus I’ve ever used. Yes, I’ve had a couple of those ones with the squidgy rubber tops, typically given away as freebies, but that’s like comparing a ballpoint with a fountain pen. The Pro 3 is a quality instrument. Let’s take a closer look.

The Adonit Pro 3 comes in a simple card box and the stylus itself is a dark grey cylinder with a chunky cut-out for the pocket clip. Adonit call it black, but it’s definitely dark grey, but for something brighter, the stylus is available in silver, dark blue and rose gold. The body is all metal (aluminium) and weighs in at 18g. It’s pen size at 126 mm long and 8 mm diameter. There’s a little light texturing on the barrel where fingers rest. It’s stylish in an industrial kind of way. I like it.

To protect the tip, there’s a stylus cap which is kept in place with magnets and when removed can be stored on the bottom of the pen. The cap can be a little wobbly but it never came off accidentally. Returning to the stylus, it’s a little different from styluses of the noughties. Instead of a point, there’s a pivoting small circular disk which flattens onto the surface of the tablet and smoothly glides over the glass.

The Adonit web site and apps are very Apple-centric and I’m going to guess that you’ll probably need an iPad to get the most out of the Pro 3. I used the Pro 3 on a selection of Android and Windows touchscreen devices with a spectrum of success which varied from device to device. For me, the Pro 3 was most successful on a Pixel C, with the tablet responding positively to the vast majority of taps and draws. On a Nexus 9, it wasn’t quite as responsive, with the tablet sometimes failing to pick up the first touch in drawing apps. It worked surprisingly well with a Windows 8.1 laptop.

What lets the Pro 3 down is nothing to do with the Pro 3, but rather the lack of palm rejection on most Android and Windows apps. Simply, you can’t rest your hand on the tablet without disrupting the pen’s touch. As a result you have to hold your hand clear of the tablet screen. Apps on the iPad seem to have got this (more) sussed out.

Regardless, a clear benefit of the Pro 3 is the precision provided by the tip and the clear disk. It becomes possible to draw two lines with a millimetre between them. That’s simply impossible with a finger no matter how dainty your digits. A soft-tip stylus would be no better. I’m no artist but here’s a little doodle to show what’s possible.

If this looks like a nice stocking filler, the Adonit Pro 3 is currently GB£25.99 from Amazon.co.uk. US price is $29.99.

Thanks to Adonit for providing the Pro 3 for review.


OnePlus 5T Drops In NY



OnePlus has officially unveiled its latest flagship, the OnePlus 5T at a live event in Brooklyn, New York. In a change from the usual on-line reveal, the OnePlus team were live on stage to give an insight into their relationship with users, the benefits of OxygenOS and developing the 5T before the big reveal.

As expected, the 5T sports a large 6″ AMOLED screen with an 18:9 aspect ratio, face unlock and a secondary low-light camera. Compared with the OnePlus 5, the internals are largely unchanged – Snapdragon 835 and a choice of 6GB  RAM / 64GB storage or 8GB RAM / 128GB storage – and it still has a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Hurrah!

The new AMOLED screen is 1080 by 2160 giving 401 ppi. It’s a 6″ screen but the exterior dimensions (156 x 75 x 7.3 mm) of the 5T are only millimetres bigger than the 5 and its 5.5″ screen (154 x 74 x 7.25 mm). This has been achieved by moving the fingerprint sensor to the back which gives more real estate over for the display without needing to increase the phone’s size. Sadly, it’s the end of the line for the capacitive buttons.

While the fingerprint sensor will unlock the phone in under 0.2 seconds, new to the OnePlus range is the face unlock feature, which uses 100 identifiers to ensure that it’s really the right person holding the phone before it unlocks. Hard to say how it will stack up against another flagship phone.

Disappointingly the 5T will ship with Android 7 (Nougat), though Oreo is expected to arrive on both the 5 and 5T in early 2018.

However, the 5T isn’t without software tweaks. A new feature called “Parallel Apps” clones certain apps, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Skype, so that each copy can be run with a different profile, without needing to logout and then login as a different user. Think of being able to have personal and business versions of the apps. That’s pretty neat.

On the camera front, the OnePlus 5T has a high resolution dual camera system, with a 16 megapixel main camera supported by a 20 megapixel secondary camera for enhanced low-light performance and beautiful portraits.

Battery and power are unchanged from the 5, with a capacity of 3300 mAh and Dash charging, which will charge the phone in half an hour. In further good news, OnePlus have retained the alert slider.

The 5T will be available from the OnePlus on-line store from 21 November for US$499 / EUR 499 / GB£449. No invites required these days. In the UK, O2 will be hosting pop-up events in Oxford Street London, Westfield Stratford and Manchester Arndale and, for the first time, one in Castle Lane, Belfast (Yay!) from 2 pm on Wednesday.


OnePlus 5T Coming Soon



In not-entirely-unexpected news, OnePlus have announced the 5T’s launch event in Brooklyn, New York for 16:00 GMT, 17:00 CET, 11am Eastern) on 16 August. Availability will follow on 21 August from oneplus.net.

The new Android smartphone comes five months after the original 5, which was shown off for the first time on 20 June. While differences between the 5 and 5T aren’t confirmed, a new design is expected, unlike the OnePlus 3T which only differed internally from the 3. The keynote is branded, “A New View” but it’s difficult to extrapolate anything from that.

In an interesting development, fans can buy tickets for the OnePlus 5T launch event, priced at US$40. There’s no detail on what the $40 gets other than a seat, but I would imagine there would be some swag involved. Ticket sales start at noon ET 8 November.

As it’s OnePlus, of course there’s a social media contest to win a trip to the launch event. Good luck.

For everyone else, the event will be streamed live. If you can’t wait, there’s the obligatory teaser trailer that seems to involve mechanoids. Maybe it’s a gaming phone?


High 5 Fashion from OnePlus Callection



Fashion designer Jean-Charles​ ​de​ ​Castelbajac is well know for his bright use of colours and smiling models, and he’s brought this fantastic sense of fun to a new limited edition of the OnePlus 5. Combining French chic with technology, the new OnePlus​ ​5​ ​JCC+ “is not a mobile phone! it’s a creative machine for fashion expert“.

Branded as “Callection”, de Castelbajac has created an exclusive range of ​ holsters,​ ​bags,​ ​caps,​ ​t-shirts and​ ​the​ ​limited-edition​ ​OnePlus​ ​5​ ​design. All ​reflect​ ​his​ ​signature high colour style. I love it!

We’re​ ​always​ ​looking​ ​to​ ​try​ ​new​ ​things​ ​with​ ​partners​ ​who​ ​embody​ ​the​ ​Never​ ​Settle​ ​spirit,“​ ​said OnePlus​ ​co-founder​ ​and​ ​Head​ ​of​ ​Global,​ ​Carl​ ​Pei.​ ​”It’s​ ​been​ ​great​ ​collaborating​ ​with​ ​an​ ​icon​ ​like Jean-Charles​ ​Castelbajac,​ ​who​ ​is​ ​continuously​ ​bringing​ ​game-changing​ ​ideas​ ​to​ ​the​ ​fashion industry.

I​ ​always​ ​like​ ​looking​ ​towards​ ​the​ ​future,“​ ​said​ ​Castelbajac.​ ​”To​ ​change​ ​the​ ​world,​ ​you​ ​always need​ ​to​ ​be​ ​creative​ ​and​ ​work​ ​with​ ​people​ ​who​ ​are​ ​ahead​ ​of​ ​their​ ​time.

Not entirely too sure I can rock the smartphone holster with confidence, mind you…

In addition to the clothes and phone, there are ten wallpapers drawn by Jean-Charles​ ​de​ ​Castelbajac. These are pre-loaded on the 5 JCC+ but if you can’t wait, they’re here for download.

Technically identical to the top end OnePlus 5, the Callection 5 JCC+ has 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage. While available, it’ll retail for the same price at €559 EUR​ ​/​ ​£499​ ​GBP from 2 October on OnePlus.net.

Can’t wait that long? There’s a pop-up event at fashion boutique ​colette in Paris at 11:00 CEST​ 22 ​September. Sadly, the colette retail store is closing in December so this could be your last chance to visit and Paris is lovely in the autumn….


Samsung DeX



The Samsung DeX Station converts a Galaxy S8 or S8+ smartphone into a desktop computer. Plop the S8 in the DeX, plug in a keyboard and mouse, hook up a TV, and you’re set with Android on the big screen. That’s the theory, what about in practice? Let’s take a look.

The DeX hardware is circular device, about 10 cm across, with a top surface that sweeps smoothly back and up to reveal the USB C connector for the smartphone.

Around the base are two USB 2 ports, a full-size HDMI socket, a 100 Mb/s network connector and a USB C for powering the DeX.

Getting setup is simplicity itself. Connect all the hardware up and slot the phone in. There’s no additional software to add as it’s all built-in to the S8 and the DeX itself. I used a wireless keyboard and mouse combo connecting to a USB transmitter. The TV connected to the HDMI port with a cable and I used the WiFi on the S8 for networking.

When the S8 is placed in the DeX, a prompt appears asking whether to start DeX or to only mirror the S8 screen. Choosing the former gets the DeX desktop in its full HD glory and it looks convincing. But what’s it really like?

  

Let’s start with the positives…the DeX desktop is what you’d expect an Android desktop to be like, using familiar apps in a windowed world. It’s fast and all the apps on the phone are available through DeX. Google Maps works and it’s perfect for YouTube and web browsing. Samsung promotes DeX-optimised apps via its app store.

  

But while many apps seemed to be quite happy with DeX and run in both full screen and windowed modes, some apps don’t like DeX and display as if they are on the S8 in portrait. This is frustrating and while this could be expected for games like Monument Valley, it seems odd that Netflix can’t cope – surely this would be seen as a “must have” by Samsung? Some apps don’t have all the necessary controls either – it’s tricky to pinch-to-zoom with only a mouse pointer.

  

Of course, games players and movie watchers aren’t the target audience for DeX. Samsung see this as a tool for business and promote the benefits of Microsoft apps and Office365 in the literature. For example, instead of a lugging a laptop for a presentation, take DeX, plug it into the data projector and you’re sorted. Need to do a quick bit of editing? Steal a desk, connect up DeX, fire up Word and you’re working.

Where DeX also scores well is with VDIs (Virtual Desktop Infrastructures) like Citrix. Connect through to your office backend to run a virtual Windows PC and you can be working as if you are at your own desk. From that point of view, it’s slick. While DeX isn’t going to replace a laptop on an extended business trip, it makes sense for a short visit when you want to travel light.

Pricewise, the DeX station has an RRP of GB£129, though it’s already discounted by £40 in several online stores. It’s still a percentage on top of the S8 and S8+.

Overall, DeX does what it sets out to do and the key question here is not about the technology. It’s whether Samsung’s vision and the DeX Station match your way of working. YMMV, as they say.


Macate Genio Coming To UK



US multinational Macate are coming to the UK with the intention of launching their secure smartphone here later in the year. Setting up in Kensington, London, the Genio smartphone is a mid-range Android device with an emphasis on security.

The bare specs are a 5″ HD screen driven by a 1.3 GHz quad core processor with 2GB RAM and 16GB storage, though this can be expanded with a microSD card. The Genio has two cameras: a 13 MP rear camera and a 5 MP front selfie shooter. For lovers of stock Android, it’ll run Nougat 7 out of the box.

The Genio is encrypted as standard (AES256) and comes with secure messaging app NetMe from Macate’s software development team Codetel. The NetMe supports all the usual features of text, audio and video messaging and attachment sharing. They’ve also an encrypting email app too which I imagine will be pre-installed too.

The new UK team will be headed up by Darren Gillan, previously of Vertu, and he said, “We’re excited to be adding a UK base to our growing global network. Mobile security is a big issue for many consumers; they need a device that operates seamlessly but also securely. At Macate we’re dedicated to the development of cybersecurity and we’re delighted to be bringing that expertise to the UK mobile market in the form of Genio.”

Once on sale, the Genio will come in four colours, white, light golden, black and (pink) champagne, and will retail for £249. Obviously at this stage it’s hard to tell what the phone will be like, but hopefully we will get more details closer to the launch.


OnePlus 5 Lands



After months of speculation, a trickle of teasing and a bucketful of leaks, the OnePlus 5 has landed. Much as expected it’s a strong evolution of the brand, following on thematically from the 2, 3 and 3T with a 2017 design makeover.

Running through the main specs, it’s  a 5.5″ full HD 1920 x 1080 AMOLED screen with Gorilla Glass 5 powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octacore processor running at up to 2.45 GHz. There are two memory and storage configurations; one 6 GB RAM, 64 GB storage and one 8 GB RAM, 128 GB storage. The storage memory now uses UFS, which will give a significant speed boost over eMMC.

The OnePlus 5 is expected to have a 20% improvement in battery life over the 3T with a 3,300 mAh battery. Despite being only 7.25 mm thick, OnePlus have managed to retain the stereo audio jack and no-one needs to rush out and buy USB C or Bluetooth headphones. Phew.

The big news is the dual camera system developed in conjunction with Sony and DxO. A custom-made 16 MP sensor is supported by a 20 MP sensor with a telephoto lens which measures the distance between the OnePlus 5 and the subject of the photography. A large f/1.7 aperture allows for faster exposures and helps compensate for stuttering to improve image stabilisation. There’s even clever processing to eliminate noise from low-light photographs.

In a special portrait mode, the both sensors work together to create a focal separation between faces and backgrounds, while a custom software algorithm makes subjects clear and well-lit. This results in a the now well-know depth-of-field (bokeh) effect that blurs the backdrop while keeping the subject in focus. Even with strong backlighting, the OnePlus 5’s high dynamic range (HDR) reveals the subject clearly and avoids turning them into silhouettes.

The OnePlus 5 showcases our obsessive attention to detail and our focus on delivering the best user experience possible,” said OnePlus Founder and CEO Pete Lau. “We have applied this approach to all aspects of the OnePlus 5. For example, the dual camera provides some of the clearest photos on the smartphone market today and gives users more control to take stunning photos in all conditions.” I don’t think he’s kidding either, going by some of the images shown off in the launch video.

The fashionistas might be slightly disappointed as at launch there’s only two finishes, Midnight Black and Slate Gray. You can only choose the finish via spec too. For black, you need to splurge on the 8 GB / 128 GB version, whereas the gray finish comes with the cheaper 6 GB / 64 GB edition.

In welcome news, the increase in price has been nowhere near some of the rumours. The Midnight Black version (8 GB RAM / 128 GB storage) will sell for  US$ 539 / €559 / GB£ 499 / CA$ 719. The Slate Gray version (6 GB RAM / 64 GB storage) is US$ 479 /€499 / GB£ 449 / CA$ 649.  On sale via the OnePlus store.

The first shipments will begin on 21  June  though you’ll need a special code to get in on the first drop. The code’s in the launch video. General sales begin on 27 June. The OnePlus 5 will be available for direct purchase at one-day pop-up stores in New York on 20 June and in London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Helsinki and Copenhagen on 21 June.

Overall, the OnePlus 5 looks to be a great new flagship phone. Can’t wait to get my hands on one.


Kodak EKTRA Smartphone Now Available in U.S.



Kodak, a company that probably makes you think of cameras, has created the Kodak EKTRA smartphone. It is a photography-focused smartphone that recently became available for purchase in the United States at the price of $399.99.

The Kodak EKTRA is an open market unlocked GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) device, which means it is compatible and will work on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks in the United States. It is not CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) compatible, so it will NOT work with Sprint, Verizon, or US Cellular.

At the heart of the Kodak EKTRA smartphone is a 21-megapixel fast focus camera sensor with f2.0 aperture, and an industry leading 13-megapixel front-facing camera with Phase Detection Auto Focus PDAF and f2.2 aperture.

The custom-built camera app is controlled by an intuitive haptic touch, SLR-style Scene Selection Dial, where adjustments are made in real time via a range of settings including HDR, Landscape, Portrait, Macro, Sport, Night-time, Panorama, and Bokeh, alongside a Smart Auto mode which auto-selects the best conditions for your photographs. In Manual mode, more advanced users can adjust exposure, ISO, focus, white balance and shutter speed, with the results being visible on the screen as the changes are made.

The Kodak EKTRA Smartphone includes editing software from SNAPSEED, providing exceptional tools to edit images on the go without having to download any additional apps. This enables users to transform images for professional results similar to many popular desktop images editors. Sharing the results in real time is also easy with integrated social media apps and the Prints app is a simple way to select your best shots to be professionally printed.