Category Archives: smartphone

OnePlus 8T Unveiled on 14 October



OnePlus have announced the launch event for the OnePlus 8T: 1500 BST / 1000 EST on 14 October. This isn’t entirely unexpected as OnePlus have long operated a biannual release strategy but with Covid-19 and the separate release of the Nord model, anything was possible in 2020. Fortunately, there is some stability in the world.

OnePlus is always looking for opportunities to bring the latest technology to our tech-savvy users as soon as we feel it meets our high standards,” said Pete Lau, Founder and CEO of OnePlus. “With the upcoming OnePlus 8T, we are once again raising the bar for ourselves in terms of the overall user experience, thanks to some new features that we are excited to introduce for the first time in a OnePlus device. I am confident that the OnePlus 8T will once again exceed expectations and deliver an unparalleled flagship experience.

Still, not all our questions have been answered. The OnePlus website refers to a special edition of the Nord, which could be for the USA. Who knows? The press release refers to the 8T as the newest flagship device. Are we to take from this that there will be no 8T Pro? Sounds like it. There have also been persistent rumours of a OnePlus smartwatch. Perhaps it’ll be “one more thing…” But whatever happens we can expect a couple of weeks of drip-fed details and titbits in advance of the big day. The event will be live streamed at https://www.oneplus.com/launch.

As with previous OnePlus launches, community members can enter a competition to get their hands-on an 8T in advance for a phone review. Details here. Good luck.


DOOGEE Adds S58 Pro To Rugged Line-Up



Hardly a day goes by at the moment without a new smartphone being announced and here we have DOOGEE, adding the S58 Pro to their rugged line-up. Unlike the average smartphone, the S58 would be entirely at home in a futuristic sci-fi thriller with its radical design, but closer to earth the S58 Pro is perfect for the great outdoors with advanced shock protection and IP68 water resistance.

For those unfamiliar with DOOGEE, the company is a Spanish-Chinese enterprise founded in 2013. The company claims to be the “world leading rugged phone brand” and their flagship tough phone carries IP68, IP69K and MIL-STD-810G certification. Sitting towards the lower end of the DOOGEE range, the new S58 Pro continues the tough tradition with IP68 certification and shock protection.

Let’s take a look at some of the specs. The S58 Pro is powered by a MediaTek Helio P22 octacore CPU with 6 GB RAM and 64 GB storage. For additional space, the Pro will take a microSD card up to 256 GB. The screen is a 5.71″ display with 1520 x 720 pixels giving 295 ppi. There’s a small pinhole in the top centre for the selfie camera.

Powering the S58 Pro is a 5180mAh high-capacity battery which supports 12V/2A fast charging, giving over 2 days of average use. In more detail, the phone will play video for 16 hours, games for 12 hours and music for 42 hours. That’s fairly impressive.

Returning the cameras, the S58 Pro a triple camera array on the rear, with a 16 MP main shooter using the Sony IMX298 sensor, a 2 MP ultrawide and a 2 MP macro camera. The selfie cam on the front uses a 16 MP Samsung unit. There’s nothing to write home about here, but it’s all perfectly acceptable for the price point. Also round the back is the S58’s fingerprint sensor which is easy to use while staying secure.

With the technical specs out the way, let’s look at what makes the S58 Pro a little bit special. On the outside, the S58 looks rugged right from the start. It’s protected by a high strength rubber more usually found in off-road tyres which helps provide 1.5 m drop-protection. The phone is certified to IP68 which means it can be used underwater or in humid environments and can be submerged up to 1m deep underwater for up to 24 hours or 1.5m depth for 2 hours. For the adventurous traveller, the phone copes with extremes of temperatures from 70°C to -55°C. That’s quite chilly. The S58 is available in Army Green, Fire Orange and Mineral Black.

Interestingly, the S58 Pro has an extra button on the side which can be customised to access seven shortcuts for apps. This can be changed by the user and includes turning on the torch, opening an SOS app, starting game mode, recording a voice memo, taking screenshots and turning on the underwater camera. I haven’t actually seen this feature in action but it sounds like it could be very useful if you’re trying to use the phone while wearing gloves or if you need to get at an app quickly.

In terms of pricing, the DOOGEE S58 Pro sneaks in under the US$200 and GB£200 mark, making it good value for an outdoor-oriented phone. The S58 Pro is available now from Gearbest and AliExpress for US$199.99 and from Amazon UK for GB£189.99.


Xiaomi Launches the POCO X3 NFC



Xiaomi today launched the POCO X3 NFC, the third generation of its POCO sub-brand after the F1 and F2. Aimed at the value-conscious gamer, the X3 has a couple of flagship level features that unquestionably set the X3 NFC apart at this price point. The moniker for the presentation was “Exactly What You Need” and I think they delivered.

Starting with the outside, the the POCO X3 NFC has a large 6.67″ LCD Gorilla Glass 5 display on the front and a lovely curved back which beautifully reflects the Shadow Gray and Cobalt Blue of the two colour options. It’s a polycarbonate back, rather than say, glass, but given the number of smashed backs I’ve seen recently, this is not a bad thing. The quad camera array (with flash) is arranged in a circle at the top, and physically the smartphone is 165.3 x 76.8 x 9.4 mm and weighs in at 215 g. There’s a power button with fingerprint sensor on the side.

Returning to the front, the display is FHD+ meaning 2400 x 1080 pixels, 395 ppi and a 20:9 aspect ratio. It’s described as 2.5D which I think means the display has curved sides, and there’s a tiny 3.8 mm hole for the selfie cam at top centre. Stealing from the flagships, the X3’s display has a refresh rate of up to 120 Hz and can dynamically switch from as 50 Hz though 60 Hz, 90 Hz and on to 120 Hz as circumstances demand. The 120 Hz gives that super smooth screen refresh when needed, but if the screen’s only showing a static picture, the display can fall back to 50 Hz to save on power and extend battery life. That’s pretty clever stuff.

For the edge in gaming, the X3 comes with 240 Hz touch sensitivity – that means it can discriminate between touches down to 0.004s. That’s four thousandths of a second, but when playing games at a high level, it can give an edge over another player who plays on a phone with 120 Hz touch sensitivity.

Inside the X3 NFC is the first appearance of Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G. It’s an enhanced version of the 720G and 730G 4G chipsets, comprising a Kyro 470 octa-core CPU and an Adreno 618 GPU. The Kyro is able to boost a pair of “gold” cores to 2.3 GHz for gaming performance and the Adreno GPU includes Qualcomm’s “Elite Gaming” extensions to minimise jank and stutter for smooth movement. The POCO X3 NFC will be available in two variants, 6GB+64GB and 6GB+128GB, and if that’s not enough storage, the phone can take a microSD card up to 256 GB.

The gaming experience is further enhanced with a powerful z-axis linear motor for haptic feedback with 150 different “feels” available. There are stereo speakers too, which have a cool dust blaster feature than clears the cruft and debris out of the speakers. Worth checking that out in slow-mo.

Heat dissipation is always an issue with gaming phones: if the heat can’t get away from the CPU fast enough, the processor’s going to slow down to reduce heat output. The POCO X3 comes with LiquidCool Technology 1.0 Plus which is a fat heat pipe to spread energy through the X3’s internal frame and aims to keep the phone about 6°C cooler than without it. If that’s not enough, Xiaomi have partnered with Black Shark to offer the FunCooler and FunCooler Pro with the X3. Funky lights!

To keep the X3 NFC speeding along, the phone comes with a 5,160 mAh battery which is expected to give 2 days of battery life for an average user. But who is average? To quantify in more detail the battery life, it’s 10 hours of gaming or 17 hours of video. The phone supports 33 W fast charging and it takes just 65 minutes to go from 0% to 100% with the included charger.

Round the back, the POCO X3 NFC comes with a quad camera configuration. The main lens is a 64 MP unit using the Sony IMX 682 sensor, along with a 13 MP 119° wide-angle shooter. A 2 MP macro unit and a 2 MP depth sensor rounds out the rear. On the front, it’s a 20 MP selfie cam. The X3 comes with some clever filters and effects including “gold vibes” that brings out and enhances the yellows, and a “cyberpunk mode” which enhances blues and pinks – both effects look great. There’s also some clever AI effects to add night-time effects to day-time skies. Stars, auroras…

Although there’s a fairly big clue in the name, the POCO X3 NFC supports NFC for swiping those credit cards at the till. Fan favourites, the X3 includes an IR blaster and retains the 3.5 mm earphone jack. Out of the box, the phone will be running Xiaomi’s MIUI12 flavour of Android and POCO Launcher 2.0 and the company is committing to 3 years of consistent system updates.

What about the price? Impressively, even the 128 GB version comes in under GB£250 – I think that’s a good deal given the features on offer here.

  • 6 GB + 64 GB is £199 / 229 €
  • 6 GB + 128 GB is £249 / 269 €

The X3 will be available from tomorrow globally, but will be coming to the UK from 17th September on both mi.com/uk and Amazon UK. For early birds, there’s £20 off the 128 GB version bringing the price down to just £229. That offer will last until 8th October 2020.

This looks like a very compelling offering for the value-conscious gamer and I’m sure it’ll get plenty of attention.

The launch event is available on YouTube below. Skip through to about 35 minutes in.


Xiaomi Ecosystem Updates for the UK



Xiaomi launched in the UK back in November 2018 and has made considerable progress in brand recognition and product availability – I know a couple of people who have bough Mi phones or Smart Bands and say good things. Certainly there’s probably an element of benefitting from Huawei’s misfortune but I think that does a disservice to Xiaomi’s products which go from personal gadgets and personal transport to smart homes and smart phones.

Xiaomi continues to move forwards and recently revealed its plans for UK partnerships for electric scooters and smart phones, plus the availability of the latest Mi Smart Band 5. Checking out these scooters, I definitely need to get one of these in for review…

Motoring and cycling specialists Halfords will be stocking Xiaomi’s new scooters. At the top of the range is the Mi Electric Scooter Pro 2 at GB£599. This e-scooter has a range of 45 km and can reach speeds of 25 km/h (15.5 mph) with a 300 W motor, and folds up for easy storage. It’s available now from Halfords.

Also available is the Mi Electric Scooter 1S, a cheaper variant of the Pro 2 at £499, but still coming with a range of 25 km and a top speed of the 25 km/h (15.5 mph) from the 250 W motor. Both the 1S and the Pro 2 have double brakes for safety.

At the bottom of the range is the Mi Electric Scooter Essential at £399 which can cover a distance of 20 km at a speed of 20 km/h. This scooter comes with 8.5″ pneumatic tyres, E-ABS and disc brakes and will be available soon.

Please remember that currently electric scooters can only be ridden legally on private land. UK Government trials are underway using commercial rental scooters. For a bit of fun, check out this race between a Xiaomi scooter and a jet-pack. Really…a jet pack

On the phone side, Xiaomi has partnered with 3 UK to offer the Mi 10 5G and Redmi Note 9 smartphones from 28th August. These are phones at opposite ends of the handset market. The Mi 10 comes with 6.67″ 90 Hz screen with a Snapdragon 865 CPU, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB storage, 5G and a quad camera setup with a 108 MP main shooter. Photos are analysed and improved using AI to get the best possible image. Priced at £799, it’s not cheap but there’s plenty of value in the Mi 10. On contract, 3 are offering a number of deals, including some with six months half-price.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Redmi Note 9 is only £149 with a 6.53″ FHD+ screen powered by a Mediatek Helio G85. There’s an AI supported quad camera round the back, with a 48 MP primary lens, and comes with 3 GB RAM and 64 GB of storage. Again, 3 have offers on the phone if buying the phone outright isn’t your thing

Finally, the Mi Smart Band 5 has a large 1.1″ AMOLED colour display, tracks 11 different sport types and is water-resistant to 50m, which means it’s perfect for swimming. With a two week battery life and magnetic coupling, it can spend more time on the wrist and less time on the charger. Priced at only £39.95 it seems like a complete bargain!

If you want to see more on all these products, the UK launch video is on Twitter.


Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2020



At today’s Galaxy Unpacked 2020 online event, the South Korean firm unveiled updates to Samsung Mobile’s tech product line. Broadcasting live from Korea, the event showcased new Samsung smartphones, tablets, earbuds and smartwatch devices.

The Galaxy Note devices have always been big and the new phones don’t disappoint. With 4G and 5G variants, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 has a 6.7″ screen and the Note 20 Ultra has a whopping 6.9″ screen. Both have 120 Hz refresh screen and use the fastest processors in the Galaxy line-up. The S-Pen defines the Notes and the handwriting experience has been improved by reducing the latency between the pen moving and the line appearing on the screen to just 9 ms. The phones meet the usual expectations for high end devices in terms of cameras (12 MP ultrawide, 108 MP standard, 12 MP telephoto, 10 MP selfie) and charging – 50% in 30 mins. Pre-orders are open and prices begin at £849 for 4G and £949 for 5G.

Everything now matches in the Galaxy world and there’s three standard colours. Mystic Black, Mystic White and Mystic Bronze, which Samsung is clearly trying grab as “their” colour. The Note phones come in some extra colours too, Mystic Green and Mystic Grey.

Samsung’s tablets are some of the best Android tablets and the range has been updated with the new Galaxy Tab S7 and S7+ tablets. The S7 has an 11″ LCD screen and the S7+ is a 12.4″ AMOLED screen with the same 120 Hz refresh rate of the Note 20. The S-Pen works on the tablets with similar low latency and the Tab S7s come with three apps that are designed to maximise use of the S Pen. The note taking app looks impressive and has some great features. It works with the Note smartphone too. Prices begin at GB£799 for the S7+ and GB£619 for the S7. That’s the same price as the current S6. I’m currently in the market for a new tablet….hmm.

Working with Microsoft, Samsung now synchronises with Office tools like OneNote, To Do and Teams. There’s integration between Windows 10 and the Galaxy devices so that you can use the Android apps on the PC. Samsung DeX now works wirelessly, so there’s not need for a dock, and the smartphone can still do phone things when in DeX mode. It all looks pretty slick. It’s not all about the office though as XBox Game Pass is coming to the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 from 21st August. This brings cloud gaming to the phones for gaming on the go.

The new Galaxy Buds Live are bean-shaped wireless earbuds intended for all day use. Resting lightly in the ear and come in the new standard colours of Mystic Bronze, White and Black to  match the phones and tablets. The Buds come with active noise cancellation. Battery life is 6 hours and the case can recharge the earbuds for a total of 21 hours listening time. GB£179.

The new Galaxy Watch 3 comes in two sizes (45 mm and 41 mm), and you guessed it, three colours. There’s a high-end titanium version too. The watch comes with health monitoring blood pressure, ECG and blood oxygen level once regulatory approvals have been gained in each country. As you’d expect, the Watch 3 provides activity tracking for walking, running and other sports. There are over 120 fitness programmes that work with the Watch 3 and Samsung smart TVs. Watch 3 prices begin at GB£399.

And finally….The Galaxy Z Fold2 opens up from clamshell to a tablet. Thinner that the Fold, it has a 6.2″ exterior screen but once opened up it’s 7.6″ inside. The hinge has been analysed and improved. Regrettably, it’s only available in Mystic Black and Mystic Bronze. What no Mystic White…? Pre-orders begin on 1st September but price wasn’t announced.


DOOGEE Launches N20 Pro Android Smartphone



While in grave danger of being eclipsed by another smartphone announcement, DOOGEE have launched the N20 Pro smartphone, an entry-level Android 10 handset from a company usually associated with rugged waterproof devices that could do serious damage if thrown across the room. In this instance, the N20 Pro is a much more traditional design which is unlikely to generate a second glance.

For those unfamiliar with DOOGEE, the company is a Spanish-Chinese enterprise founded in 2013. The company claims to be the “world leading rugged phone brand” and their flagship tough phone carries IP68, IP69K and MIL-STD-810G certification. That’s hardcore.

Regrettably the N20 Pro is more likely to see the inside of mall than a rain-soaked jungle. There’s a 6.3″ IPS FHD+ display (1080 x 2280 pixels) of glass powered by a 2GHz Helio P60 octa-core processor. Inside, it’s 6GB of LPDDR4X RAM,128GB of storage and support for up to 512GB of additional storage with a microSD card, which isn’t bad at all.

There’s dual SIM support, though the second SIM slot is also home to the microSD card, so it’s one or the other.

Round the back, there’s a quad camera array: 16 MP main camera, 8 MP 130° ultra-wide camera lens, 2 MP portrait camera and 2 MP macro camera. On the front, there’s a tear-drop 16 MP selfie camera. Keeping the contents of the phone safe, the N20 Pro has a rear fingerprint sensor, with face unlock available for those too lazy to lift a finger.

The N20 Pro is powered by a non-removable 4,400 mAh lithium-polymer battery with 10W fast charging, and comes in a choice of three colours – Streamer Purple, Fantasy Forest and Space Gray. The N20’s dimensions are 159 mm x 77.1 mm x 8.8 mm, and weighs in at 175 g.

Let’s not pretend these specs are anything like those of a flagship phone, but when the retail price is US$199 compared with $1000, it’s not surprising. And if you are interested in the N20 Pro, there’s a launch sale coming up on 10th & 11th August when the price will drop to $119.99, with a further $10 off using code N20PRO10.

I’ve never actually tried one of DOOGEE’s phones but hopefully I’ll be able to get one in for review soon.

[Update: a previous version of this post incorrectly gave the retail price as US$169]


OnePlus Launches Nord 5G Smartphone



In a pandemic-driven AR showcase, the new Nord smartphone arrived and returned OnePlus to the mid-range market with a phone sporting 5G, 90 Hz screen, 128 GB storage, dual selfie cameras and a very competitive price of GB£379. Let’s take a look and see what’s on offer for half the price of the 8 Pro.

As expected, the Nord is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G 5G chipset, driving a 6.44″ 90 Hz Fluid AMOLED screen with 2400×1080 pixels giving 408ppi. That’s going to look pretty sweet and there’s no curve on the edge of the screen – I’m already a fan.

The cameras are always of interest and the Nord has one big trick up its sleeve. Starting round the back, the phone features the same 48 MP Sony IMX586 sensor as the flagship OnePlus 8, complete with a large f/1.75 aperture for bright images, and optical image stabilization (OIS) to reduce blur and shake. In addition, Nord comes with an 8 MP ultra-wide angle camera, a macro camera and a depth sensor.

However, it’s round the front where the surprise is. The Nord is the first OnePlus device to come with a dual front camera setup for super selfies. Featuring a 32 MP main camera, the highest resolution front camera on any OnePlus phone, the OnePlus Nord is going to get some great selfies. The main front camera also supports high-quality video capture at 4K up to 60 fps. The second 8 MP ultra-wide angle front camera offers a 105-degree field of view for fantastic group shots. With an ultra-wide angle on both the front and the back of the camera, a whole new way of taking photographs is going to open up to Nord owners.

The Nord is 158 x 73 x 8 mm and weighs in at 184 g, which makes it a 2 mm shorter but 4 g heavier than the standard OnePlus 8. The new phone brings plenty of design cues over from the older siblings and shares technology too. The Nord comes with  Warp Charge 30T, which will take its 4115 mAh battery from empty to 70% in only half an hour. As with the 8 and 8 Pro, Nord learns your life patterns to reduce the amount of time the battery spends at 100% on charge to enhance battery health.

To brighten up the Nord, OnePlus are offering some funky cases to protect your investment, including one that has (pretend) X-ray vision, showing off the internals of the phone.

The OnePlus Nord is an important milestone for OnePlus, as we always look for new ways to share the best technology with more people around the world. We are excited to finally bring a more accessible OnePlus smartphone that confidently stands alongside other products in the OnePlus family,” said Pete Lau, Founder and CEO of OnePlus. “The OnePlus Nord combines a flagship camera along with our signature features such as the 90 Hz Fluid Display, OxygenOS, and Warp Charge 30T to deliver a best-in-class smartphone experience.”

Pricewise, the Nord will be available with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage for £379 / €399 or with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage for £469 / €499. The Nord will be dressed in two colours; blue marble and onyx gray, and there’s no messing around with colours and RAM sizes.

General availability from 4th August in the UK and rest of Europe but if you can’t wait, there are pop-up stores online and John Lewis on 31st July. Disappointment for cousins across the pond who will be restricted to a limited launch in the US of A.

Regrettably I wasn’t able to get hands-on with the OnePlus Nord, but it still looks like an exciting phone. The OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro are fantastic phones but even I balk at spending the best part of £1000 on a phone. While I might stretch to the 8 on a generous day, this very much looks like a phone I’d consider buying.

As for the much heralded AR launch, it was a complete fail for me. The OnePlus Nord AR app would recognise a surface but no amount of tapping made the stage appear. Unimpressed and uninstalled.