Category Archives: smartphone

OnePlus 8 Pro Hands-On Review



OnePlus typically announces new models in the spring and the autumn, and despite Covid-19 this year is no different with the launch today (14th April)  of the OnePlus 8 and the flagship 8 Pro. Fortunately, I was sent a pair of review handsets and in this article, I’ll be going over the flagship edition, the 8 Pro. As will be seen shortly, the Pro has a couple of new features that bring OnePlus back to the top of its game. Let’s take a look.

The 8 Pro comes in rectangular box, bathed in the usual OnePlus red. Inside the box, the phone comes initially clothed in a slightly opaque covering. Once unwrapped, the frosted glass Glacial Green on the back becomes apparent. It’s lovely, both to look at and hold. There’s a slight matte texture to the rear glass so it’s not super slippy to hold (unlike my 6T), but you’re going need a case, and OnePlus kindly includes a transparent bumper case in the box too. In terms of colours, the Pro will offer two colour options in the UK. Onyx Black which will have 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage, and Glacial Green with 12 GB RAM and 256 GB storage. A third colour, Ultramarine Blue, will not available in the UK. I know the rear looks blue in the photos but that’s the way the back reflects light under different conditions.

Physically, the phone is 165.3 x 74.4 x 8.5 mm and weighs in at 199 g, so it’s slightly taller than you might expect but this is reflected in the screen’s 19.8-to-9 aspect ration. More on the screen in a minute… Returning to the physical characteristics, it follows a similar layout to most OnePlus phones. USB-C port on the bottom, volume controls on the left, power button on the right, alert slider (yay!) on the right above power, cameras on the back. The SIM tray is at the bottom next to the USB port and supports two SIMS that are inserted back-to-back. A SIM ejection tool is included. There’s no audio socket and there hasn’t been for a couple of generations, but in an OnePlus first, the 8 Pro comes with an IP68 rating, meaning it will withstand water ingress at 1.5 m for 30 minutes. Perfect in case you have a little accident (but I didn’t test this).

For the screen, the 8 Pro has a gorgeous 120 Hz “fluid display” which scored the Best Smartphone Display accolade from DisplayMate, getting top scores in ten different areas. I can’t comment on that level of detail other than to say it’s pretty impressive. It’s very fast, it’s clear and the colours look fantastic. With a resolution of 3168 x 1440 pixels and a screen size of 6.55″/6.78″, it comes out as 513ppi. I can’t see the dots. The screen has rounded edges, hence the two measurements for size. It’s an AMOLED screen with 3D Corning Gorilla Glass on top keeping it safe. The display supports HDR giving blacker blacks and whiter whites, and the colour accuracy has been improved too with 10-bit colour representation. There’s an in-display fingerprint sensor which is impressively fast – it’s noticeably quicker than the one on my 6T.

Under the hood, there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 CPU, paired with an Adreno 650 GPU. The RAM is LPDDR5 which is both faster (30%) and more energy-efficient (20%) than the previous generation. Storage is courtesy of UFS 3.0 at either 128 GB or 256 GB, though there are couple of new tricks to improve performance. 5G is courtesy of the X55 chipset and WiFi 6 is supported. Performance-wise, after three runs GeekBench 5 gave average scores of 893 single-core and 3302 multi-core which comfortably beat last year’s 7T.

Unlike previous the previous two Pros, the 8 doesn’t have a pop-up selfie camera and instead has a discreet hole-punch 16 MP camera in the top left of the screen. Round the back, the 8 Pro has four other cameras; a 8 MP 3x telephoto with OIS, a 48 MP ultrawide with a nearly 120 degree field of view, a 48 MP main camera and a 5 MP colour filter camera. The front camera, the ultrawide and main camera all use Sony sensors. The cameras do stick out the back by a couple of millimetres, so a case of some kind is going to be essential. The camera app itself has been improved to take advantage of the cameras automatically and will sometimes suggest that a photo would be better taken in a different mode. If you want bokeh, the portrait mode does a good job blurring the background. I was really impressed by the level of magnification that was possible – I took a photograph of a horse and could zoom in on my PC to see the individual eyelashes round her eyes.

For video, the 8 Pro uses both OIS and EIS together for smooth video, and a technology called 3-HDR which enhances lighting in video. It’s impressive especially when there’s a strong backlight.

The two photos below were taken from the same spot at nearly the same time. The upper one is the ultrawide, the middle is the main camera and lower one is the telephoto.

The colour filter camera lets you do funky things with the colours. I haven’t quite figured out all the settings but here’s my shed. Yes, it’s in need of paint, but the one on the left is colour enriched and on the right, it’s erm, different. Perfect for standing out on Instagram.

And in big (but pre-announced) news, the 8 Pro will support wireless charging. The Warp Charge 30 Wireless delivers 30W of power and will charge the 8 Pro from 0% to 50% in 30 minutes. I wasn’t able to test this as wireless chargers weren’t provided, but wired charging worked as specified, boosting the battery by 50% in 23 minutes. The wireless charging conforms to the Qi standard for 5W and 10W charging: I was able to use an old Zens wireless charger successfully on the 8 Pro but it does charge much more slowly! A Warp Charge 30 charger and cable come in the box with the 8 Pro.

Inside the phone is a 4510 mAh battery which gives absolutely oodles of power. In what I think of as ordinary use, I got the best part of two days out of a charge, but yes, game playing is still energy expensive. The other new feature relates to battery longevity. The perceived wisdom is that keeping lithium-ion batteries at 100% is not optimal and that overtime the capacity of the battery degrades. The 8 Pro now has a feature (undoubtedly powered by AI) where the phone uses behaviour patterns to predict when 100% charge is needed and to charge to hit the target. For example, if you plug the 8 Pro in at night just before going to bed, it won’t start charging until say, 0530, knowing that you usually grab the phone while having breakfast at 0700.

Based on Android 10, OxygenOS has seen a few improvements here and there but retains its closeness to stock Android that is very much part of its appeal. The most obvious of these is dynamic backgrounds which swirl and morph when the phone is turned on or you swipe between launcher pages. It’s really fun. There’s also motion estimate and motion compensation (MEMC) to smooth video playback on the 120 Hz screen. It’s intended to interpolate frames, and reduce motion blur and ghosting, when watching films and videos recorded at lower frame rates. The feature can be turned off, but Netflix looked and sounded great.

Games play really well on the 8 Pro. I tried out Call of Duty, X-Plane and Galaxy on Fire for starters and they’re all great. The 8 Pro includes “gaming mode” and “fnatic mode” which lets you tailor the gaming experience by devoting resources and blocking notifications when you’re in the zone, as it were. It’s a super smooth experience. In addition, Google Stadia is coming to the One Plus 8 Pro and other OnePlus phones.

Pricing-wise…

OnePlus 8 Pro
8 GB / 128 GB – US$899 / GB£799
12 GB / 256 GB – US$999 / GB£899
The OnePlus 8 series will be available SIM-free from OnePlus.com, John Lewis and Amazon from 0900 on 21 April, with all John Lewis purchases also coming with Bullets Wireless 2 headphones while stock lasts.

Overall, this is a flagship phone with premium materials and high-end features. The feel in the hand is lovely, the cameras are impressive, the display is gorgeous. And the new features like 5G, IP68 and wireless charging are all very welcome. I’m not going to pretend the 8 Pro is cheap, because it’s not, but you are buying a great phone.

Thanks to OnePlus for supplying the 8 Pro for review.


No Surprises at OnePlus 8 Series Launch?



The new OnePlus 8 series will launch tomorrow but there have been so many leaks, both official and unofficial, that it makes you wonder what they have left to announce. Here’s what’s been revealed over the past week or so…

Display

There will be a new “fluid display” with a 120 Hz refresh rate which has received an A+ rating from DisplayMate and the Best Smartphone Display Award. According to DisplayMate’s analysis, the OnePlus 8 series display sets or matches more than ten smartphone display performance records in nearly all key categories for the best displays on the market, including colour accuracy, image contrast, display brightness and screen reflection, with four categories scoring visually indistinguishable from perfect. The full details of the award are under embargo but check here after the keynote.

OnePlus has quickly established itself as an industry leader in display performance, consistently providing among the best implementations of OLED technology on the market,” said Dr. Raymond Soneira, President of DisplayMate Technologies. “The OnePlus 8 series continues that tradition of excellence, improving on the outstanding results of last year’s OnePlus 7 series and keeping OnePlus ahead of the curve.

In other screen news, OnePlus has announced that the 120 Hz fluid display will feature technologies like motion estimate and motion compensation (MEMC) to smooth video playback and 10-bit colour for a more accurate display of colours across the spectrum.

Design

OnePlus teased the new design with a short YouTube video revealing a new Glacial Green finish. Don’t know if this the 8 or the 8 Pro…

OnePLus has talked a little about CMF – colour, material, finish – which embodies how a smart phone (or any product) feels in the hand. Pete Lau, CEO, talks about this and the impact of some of the materials over in the OnePlus community forums.

CPU and Storage

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 will power the OnePlus 8 series, giving significant improvements in both CPU and GPU performance (25%) while being more energy-efficient (also 25%). In addition, video recording processing is much improved with a similar reduction in power consumption.

The newest generation of smartphone RAM, LPDDR5, will be used too, with high-speed data transfer rates of 6,400 Mb/s. Woo-hoo. With a focus on improving battery life, LPDDR5 has 45% less power consumption compared with LPDDR4.

OnePlus already usings UFS 3.0 flash storage but two new technologies have been added to the hardware story – Turbo Write and Host Performance Booster. Turbo Write uses the upper section of the ROM’s storage as a high-speed read/write interval. In theory, each read/write will enter this high-speed buffer, and then proceed to the next command of data transfer. I guess what this means is that there is a fast cache that data can be shuffled into before being written into the main storage area.
In addition, HPB (Host Performance Booster) can further improve the random read performance after extended use.

5G

All the OnePlus 8 series phones will be 5G.

Wireless Charging

The new OnePlus 8 Pro will feature wireless charging using Warp Charge 30 Wireless, giving a 50% charge in just 30 minutes. OnePlus has been one of longest holdouts on the wireless charging front (Palm had it on the Pre in 2009…) so it was inevitable that to keep a credible flagship phone, it needed wireless charging. The technology has a power input of 30W, hence the 30 in Warp Charge 30. If a OnePlus charger isn’t available, the 8 Pro can be charger from any Qi wireless charger, albeit at a slower rate. Both 5W and 10W charging speeds are supported with Qi.

Going by the diagrams, there will be Warp Charge Wireless dock but as yet, no photos and no price.

Online Pop-Up

With everyone staying at home to keep Covid-19 at bay, the usual city pop-ups for the early adopters would illegal in most countries round the world. Previously, these events have been hosted in cities like Paris, Helsinki, London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Rome, Milan, Madrid, Barcelona and Brussels. As expected these days, the event is going on-line and anyone buying a OnePlus 8 device from the official website shortly after the launch keynote will get a special pop-up box that includes their new devices plus some OnePlus branded goodies. Limited quantities and first-come-first-served, just like the real world pop-ups.

Watch Online

If there’s still enough to keep you interested, the OnePlus Series 8 launch will kick off at 1100 EST, 1500 GMT, 1600 BST and 1700 CEST. Follow along at the OnePlus official website http://onepl.us/8serieslaunch or YouTube http://onepl.us/8SeriesLaunchEvent.

I’ll be bringing you the details of the new phones after the keynote launch…..whatever they are!


Xiaomi Mi Fan Festival Starts This Week



Given Huawei’s predicament, fans of Chinese phones might be looking for a new source of value-for-money hardware. In which case, look no further than Xiaomi which offers a wide range of gadgetry, from smartphones to smart homes, from luggage to scooters. There’s even a smart kettle that will heat water to a pre-defined temperature: of course, the desired hotness is set via an app.

Xiaomi encompasses a number of sub-brands, including Mi, Redmi and Pocophone. Both Mi and Redmi have extensive smartphone ranges and prices starting from less than £100 going up to nearly £700 for the Mi Mix 3 5G. The latter comes with a Snapdragon 855 processor, 6 GB RAM, 128 GB storage and a 6.3″ AMOLED screen from Samsung.

Personally, I have no experience of the phones, though I’ve used some of the smart home sensors with my SmartThings setup. The motion sensors are cheaper, smaller and the battery lasts longer than the Samsung equivalents.

Each year, Xiaomi has a Fan Festival which offers deep discounts on a range of different products. This time, the four-day event runs from Tuesday 7th April to 10th April, with big reductions, some based on the number of “Likes” received. The one caveat is that there is limited stock so don’t dawdle if you see a bargain. In theory, you could get the aforementioned Mi Mix 3 for £239.

For Xiaomi’s latest, the new Mi Note 10 and 10 Pro (right) will be priced at £369 and £459, which is £90 off RRP for both of them. These smartphones have a whopping 103 MP rear camera, which is actually just one of five cameras, including telephoto and macro lenses.

For extra discount, there are three additional coupons; MFF20 for £20 off when spending £200 or more; MFF50, £50 off £300 or more; and MFF80 for £80 off when you spend £400 or more.

I imagine there will be other deals and bargains too, so keep your eyes peeled from Tuesday onwards.


OnePlus 8 Series Launches 14 April



In news that’s unlikely to shock anyone, OnePlus has announced that their 8 series of smartphones will be unveiled through an online event at 11am EST on 14 April. If I’ve converted that right, it’s 15:00 GMT / 16:00 BST.

What can we expect? As usual, OnePlus will undoubtedly drip-feed little teasers in advance of the event but a few things are already out in the open.

  • There’s going to be more than one device. It’s a series, but is it two devices or three?
  • All the devices will be 5G. The press release says, “bringing a full series of 5G devices”.
  • There’s a new display with a 120 Hz refresh rate. That’s up on last year’s 90 Hz.
  • It’s not going to be purely iterative. From the release, “a handful of other new and exciting technologies”. Rumours abound for wireless charger and water resistance.

With the OnePlus 8 series, we’re excited to introduce our most powerful and beautiful smartphone series ever, combining blazing fast 5G capabilities, specially engineered high refresh rate displays and OnePlus’ signature powerful performance setup. The OnePlus 8 series will bring a truly ‘burdenless’ experience to all our users, who have come to expect nothing but the best all-around flagship smartphones from us,” said Pete Lau, Founder and CEO of OnePlus. “No detail is too small for us, as OnePlus always strives to deliver the best user experience possible with our premium flagship devices.

If you want to watch the event (and it’s usually done well), it’ll be live-streamed from the OnePlus at https://www.oneplus.com/launch and YouTube http://onepl.us/8SeriesLaunchEvent.


OnePlus Spring Cleans Logo



OnePlus and its slogan Never Settle have been on the mobile scene since 2014, and it’s become a well-known brand amongst aficionados. For sure, brand awareness isn’t up there with Apple or Samsung – my mum would have no idea who OnePlus are – but the logo’s recognisable from across the room. However, the OnePlus team have decided to give the VI (that’s Visual Identity in design-talk) a bit of a spring clean, changing the font, reversing the image, adjusting the plus. It’s nothing dramatic and I’m sure there will be both lovers and haters. I kind of liked the original blocky 1 as it had a bit of a retro vibe to it…cough, I notice that the web favicon.ico hasn’t been updated yet.

Here’s the old and new side by side.

Apparently it took over seven months to refresh the look and I’m pleased they retained the red, even if Pantone reckons that Classic Blue is the “Colour of the Year 2020”. Mats Hakansson, global creative director of OnePlus said, “OnePlus is not changing who we are, but to reinforce what we stand for – the true spirt of Never Settle. We always design for our users. We feel that these changes maintain the iconic elements of our brand that are beloved by our staff and our community, while injecting both excitement and balance into our visual identity.”

He went on, “No detail is too small. By starting from thousands of user data points, the team arrived at a new holistic visual language inspired by OnePlus’ burdenless philosophy. OnePlus has grown a lot from an idea to a major smartphone player. Introducing a fresh new look is just one example of how we continue to bring our Never Settle mantra to life.

Anyway, thrilling as this is, the benefit to consumers is that OnePlus are doing some discounts on the existing flagship, the OnePlus 7T. Starting today ’til 1st April, 2020, Europeans who purchase a OnePlus 7T from oneplus.com can use the code “SAMEONEPLUS” during check-out to get a £50/50€ discount. There’s also 20% off on the purchase of OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro accessories and 50% off the purchase of OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T accessories. There’s already $100 off for Americans, so they don’t need to feel hard done by the deal.


OnePlus Goes All In On 5G



OnePlus in a Red BoxAs the OnePlus publicity machine winds up in advance of their biannual smartphone release, CEO Pete Lau has announced that the new range of phones will support 5G.

This is a milestone both for OnePlus and our users. We’re proud to be among the first smartphone manufacturers to have full 5G line up for our next launch,” said OnePlus Founder and CEO Pete Lau. “OnePlus has achieved many firsts with 5G, and this time’s no exception.”

We believe that following the dawn of the 5G era, the smartphone experience will go through a dramatic development,” Lau added. “5G’s low latency and enhanced cloud services will undoubtedly help us achieve a truly interconnected experience, while also providing exciting developments in areas like gaming, which are vitally important for OnePlus’ tech-savvy users.”

As a OnePlus owner (6T) this sounds like good news, though I maintain a dose of skepticism on 5G – we heard much of the same noise when 4G launched. Anyway, I imagine the new phones will be one of the more cost-effective ways of purchasing a 5G phone. However, it’s likely there will be some kind of price bump over the 7 series. In an interview with CNET, he said, “Last year we launched the 7 Pro and the 7 together and there was a lot of excitement around this,” Lau said. “I think that this year again everyone should expect a lot to look forward to in 5G products with a reasonable price.

The new models weren’t confirmed in the interview but the expectation is that there will be an 8 and an 8 Pro. There are also persistent rumours about an 8 Lite which were neither confirmed or denied by the CEO and founder. From a subsequent tweet by Lau, it looks like the phones will be using the Qualcomm 5G chipset.

The grapevine has the launch pencilled in for mid-April. I imagine it will be an online event given the current spread of Covid-19.


Shoot Snowballs with the OnePlus Snowbots



OnePlus in a Red BoxOnePlus has always indulged in a few side projects and their latest publicity stunt efforts are remote-controlled snowball-shooting robots. Based in Lapland, the Snowbots will be controlled via OnePlus smartphones across the 5G network courtesy of Finnish telco Elisa.

The snowball-flingers will be taken into battle by OnePlus community members from all around the world, taking advantage of the fast low-latency connection that 5G offers.

The OnePlus Snowbot Battle, hosted in Ruka-Kuusamo area, Lapland, Finland, will start on 9th March at 1200 GMT with a special Human vs. Robots event, with preselected people joining in teams to play against the 5G-powered Snowbots. From the evening of 9th to 12th March, the Snowbot Battle will run 24 hours a day, allowing everyone to join a team in the ultimate snowball fight. Let battle commence!

There a four Snowbots in total, with two on each team, and it’s a basic snowball fight. Try to hit your opponents with snowballs without getting hit yourself and the winner is the person who hits their enemy more times than they get hit. Simples! Watch out though, there’s limited ammunition and only eight snowballs. Mind you, these are snowballs that go 120 mph / 190 km/h. 

In addition, OnePlus will host a special community contest on its social channels to select a few lucky users who will have the opportunity to travel to Lapland and join the OnePlus Snowbot Battle in person.

There’s a video coming soon showing the construction of the Snowbots, but for now there’s just a teaser trailer.