Category Archives: smartphone

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.


OnePlus Nord Launches Tomorrow



A reminder that there’s a launch event tomorrow (Tuesday) by OnePlus, with full reveals of both the mid-range Nord smartphone and new wireless headphones, Buds.

As ever, there has been a ton of leaks around the devices, some intentional, some less so. Many of the details have been disclosed already, such as the use of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G chipset, which means 5G, and that the Nord will include four cameras, two of which are for selfies. Of course, the big unknown is the price which is heavily hinted to be under US$500 for the Nord.

Regarding the Buds, it’s looking like there will be three colour options; black, white and a light blue with lime highlights. A total listening time of 30 hours is expected, but that includes three recharges in the battery case. From the leaks, Dolby Atmos could be on the cards too, which would be impressive at a price point of rumoured to be under US$100, based on the CEO teasing a price of $XX.XX for the Buds on Instagram. There’s more on the design of the Bugs over at the OnePlus forums.

As the world is still paralysed by Covid-19, OnePlus are going with an online AR (augmented reality) event to debut the new gadgets. If you want to watch the event at 10am EST / 1500 BST / 1600 CEST, there are two options.

  • Option 1: Livestream on OnePlus website at https://www.oneplus.com/global/nord/AR.
  • Option 2: Using the OnePlus Nord AR App available forAndroid or iOS. Install the app, then launch the app and follow instructions to setup your avatar and the app. You might need to accept a few permissions. Close to the launch time, launch the AR app and start the immersive AR experience.

Make sure you have a good internet connection to have a consistent streaming experience.

If you missed out on the Nord  pre-orders, OnePlus have confirmed that they will be continuing the tradition of pop-up stores, albeit again through a virtual on-line pop-up store.


Xiaomi Shows Off New Product Line Up



In a keynote online presentation today, Xiaomi showed off its upcoming new Mi products in a range of categories from smart bands to scooters. The company is 10 years old in 2020 and is ranked 24th in Boston Consulting Group’s 50 most innovative companies, with its smartphones ranked in the top 5 in over 40 companies. Xiaomi has built a large ecosystem of consumer electronics, wearables, TVs, scooters, smart home devices and smartphones.

Here are the new devices announced.

Mi Smart Band 5

Xaoimi’s fitness trackers have been previously well received (over 100 million sold) and I think we can expect the same for the Mi Smart Band 6. Available from tomorrow priced at only GB£39.99, the Mi Band 5 will come in six fun colours, including a bang on trend camo green (which is described as mint green in the presser – best to check). The Mi Band has a 1.1″ AMOLED display (126×294 px), Bluetooth 5.0 BLE and is water-resistant to 5 ATM or 50 metres for swimming and snorkeling.

In terms of activities, the Band 5 supports eleven exercise types, with five new ones including yoga, skipping rope and elliptical trainer. The heart rate tracking has been improved by up to 50%, there’s better sleep monitoring and brand new stress detection. Female owners can track menstrual cycles with helpful reminders.

There’s up to 14 days of battery life and is charged via a magnetic coupling. You can also use the Mi Band as a remote shutter for your smartphone camera.

Available from tomorrow (16 July) priced at €39.99 from mi.com/uk. UK pricing will be confirmed then.

Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 Basic

The Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 Basic provide 5 hours of listening time per charge with the charging case able to deliver three further charges. Charge time is about 90 minutes and the case is charged via USB C. Hurrah!

With Bluetooth 5.0 BLE and a range of 10 m, the Mi Earphones offer all the usual features including dual mic environmental noise cancellation, auto pause when removing an earphone and support for the SBC/AAC codec. The Earphones work with both Android and iOS. Availability is from 16 July for an extremely reasonable GB£49.99 from mi.com/uk.

Mi Electric Scooter 1S and 2 Pro

With rental electric scooters now legal in much of the UK, there’s hope that personal scooters will be usable soon too.

Xiaomi announced two new electric scooters, the 1S and 2 Pro for the UK. Powered by a 300W motor, the Pro 2 can reach speeds of 25 km/h with a range of 45 km depending on terrain, taking in slopes of up to 20%. Weighing just over 14 kg, it can be folded up in less than three seconds. The Pro 2 comes with lights, reflectors and disc brakes. The Pro 2 is priced from €499.

The 1S is a slightly less powerful model (250W) which still reaches 25 km/h. Range is reduced to 30 km and can only tackle 14% gradients hills, but the benefit is less weight at 12.5 kg. The 1S will cost €399.

UK availability and pricing to be confirmed.

Mi TV Stick

The Mi TV Stick is an AndroidTV 1080p media streaming with Chromecast built-in and a Bluetooth remote control. Prices will start from €39.99.

Mi Curved Gaming Monitor

It’s a whopping 34″ curved gaming monitor with a 21:9 WQHD display supporting a 144 Hz refresh rate. That’s big…Pricing starts at €399.

Redmi 9 Smartphones

Xiaomi updated its entry-level phone series, Redmi, with the 9, 9C and 9A. Some of these have been available in other countries but they’re now officially coming to Europe.

  • Redmi 9 – 6.53″ display with Helio G80 chipset, 5020 mAh battery, quad rear camera and NFC. 3GB+32GB version is €149. 4GB+64GB is €169.
  • Redmi 9C – 6.53″ display with Helio G35 chipset, 5000 mAh battery, triple rear camera. 2GB+32GB is €119, 3GB+64GB is €139.
  • Redmi 9A – 6.53″ display with Helio G25 chipset, 5000 mAh battery, 13 MP rear camera. 2GB+32GB is €99.

Overall, that’s a pretty impressive selection of products coming from Xiaomi in the next few months.


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.