Tag Archives: Android

Google’s Android 12 Includes Some Privacy Features



Google announced the release of the first beta of Android 12. It includes options for people to personalize their phone with a custom color palette and redesigned widgets. It also includes some privacy features, but not the one that I suspect Android users really want – Apple’s App Tracking Transparency.

Starting with Android 12 on Pixel devices, you’ll be able to completely personalize your phone with a custom color palette and redesigned widgets. Using what we call color extraction, you choose your wallpaper, and the system automatically determines which colors are dominant, which ones are complementary and which ones look great. It then applies those colors across the entire OS: the notification shade, the lock screen, the volume controls, new widgets, and much more.

There are also some new animations. For example, when you dismiss your notifications on the lock screen, your clock will appear larger so you know when you’re all caught up. Google also stated that Android devices are now faster and more responsive with better power efficiency so you can use your device for longer without a charge.

What about privacy settings? Macworld reported that you won’t find anything like Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature. “To be fair, Google does include an option to turn off ad tracking. In Settings, there is a toggle to opt out of ads personalization, which tells apps not to use your advertiser ID to create interest-based ads.” This, Macworld reported, is similar to Apple’s “Prevent cross-site tracking” toggle “and is a good thing to turn off.”

MacWorld also points out: “To get a similar level of granularity you need to go to the Google tab in Settings, then Manage Your Google Account, Data & personalization, and finally Ad settings. Inside, you’ll find a dizzying array of options and preferences for Google and its partners as well as an ability to turn off access for individual apps and categories. MacWorld notes that Android users may not know those features exist, or that Google routinely changes the access.

In my opinion, if the most important thing about a smartphone is the ability to customize the interface – then maybe you will feel comfortable with Android 12. However, if you consider the ability to prevent companies and advertisers from tracking you through apps and across the internet – I would recommend you get an iPhone.


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.


Google Really Doesn’t Care About Android Tablets



Android Green Robot LogoI’ve used Android tablets for nearly ten years, starting with the Motorola Xoom way back in 2011. I then adopted the Google Nexus series with the Nexus 10, 7 and 9 tablets over a couple of years. After those, I jumped ship to a Huawei M5 10″ before getting a previously-enjoyed Samsung Tab S6, which is a very capable piece of kit.

At times, I feel like I’m the last Android tablet user left. I do like Apple hardware, but I don’t like Apple’s walled garden, the holier-than-thou attitude and I find iOS / iPadOS is too rigid and inflexible for my liking. All too often I try to do something on my daughter’s iPad that would straightforward on my Tab S6 but turns out to be impossible. Go on, change the default app for opening a jpg.

I know that Google’s not been giving tablets much love since ChromeOS became the new poster child and ChromeOS-based tablets started to appear. Of course, ChromeOS runs Android apps but the problem with Chrome devices is the spec. ChromeOS doesn’t need much CPU and RAM to run fast, but that doesn’t mean the screen has to be cheap too. Almost without fail, Chromebooks come with screen resolutions more suited to a 6″ smartphone than a 12″ laptop.

For example, the Chrome device-of-the-year Lenovo Duet has a 10″ 1920 x 1200 display. Or take the Acer Spin with a 13″ 2256 x 1504 screen. Even the HP Elite X2 only has 1920 x 1280 on a 13″ display. And that’s a convertible that costs GB£1700. Are they crazy?

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is 2560 x 1600 in a 10.5″ screen. I love reading on mine and magazines presented in Zinio look great.

Google’s abandonment of Android tablets came home to me today when I tried to use the YouTube, sorry, the YT Studio app in landscape mode on the S6….and you simply can’t. YT Studio stubbornly refuses to even rotate away from portrait orientation, never mind present a more suitable landscape layout.

Frankly it’s embarrassing that Google can’t even be bothered to make its own apps tablet friendly and it’s no wonder that the best tablet apps are on iPads. Apple didn’t so much win the battle of the tablets as Google failed to turn up.


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.


OnePlus Rounds Out Range with Nord N10 and N100 smartphones



As promised at the launch of the 8T earlier in the month, OnePlus has announced two new Nord smartphones, the N10 5G and the N100. These join the existing Nord in the smartphone line-up but unlike the original Nord (the N1?), the N10 and N100 will be coming to North America. Let’s take a quick look at specs and pricing but it’s perhaps more interesting to review OnePlus’ overall line up and the impact of that.

N10 5G

The N10 5G is unsurprisingly a 5G phone with a Snapdragon 690 octa-core CPU backed up by 6 GB RAM and 128 GB of storage. In a first for OnePlus, the N10 will take a microSD card up to 512 GB. The screen is a 90 Hz 6.49″ 1080 x 2400 (FHD+) display giving 405 ppi. Quad cameras round the back – 64 MP main lens, 8 MP ultra wide, 2 MP macro lens and 2 MP monochrome lens. 16 MP selfie camera on the front. And all this is powered by a 4300 mAh battery with support for Warp Charge 30T. It’s priced at GB£329 and will be available later in November.

Below the N10 in the range is the N100 though both phones are physically very similar. The N100 is not a 5G phone but it’s still powered by Qualcomm, only this time it’s a Snapdragon 460 octa-core CPU supported by 4 GB RAM and 64 GB of storage. Like the N10, the N100 will take a microSD card but only up to 256 GB. The screen is a 6.52″ 720 x 1600 (HD+) display giving 269 ppi. Triple cameras round the back – 13 MP main lens, 2 MP macro lens and 2 MP bokeh portrait lens. 8 MP selfie camera on the front. And all this is powered by a 5000 mAh battery with support for 18W fast charge. It’s priced at GB£179 and will arrive on 10 November.

N100

So OnePlus is very much filling out the product range in areas that are definitely not flagship killers. Let’s look at the prices (all GB£) across the portfolio for phones that are (or will be) available to buy.

  • N100 – £179
  • N10 – £329
  • Nord – £379
  • 7T – £469
  • 8 – £549 / £599
  • 8T – £549 / £649
  • 8 Pro – £799 / £899

Looking at this, OnePlus has now got a phone for you whatever your budget (and I think the base price of the 8 is likely to drop by £50 soon). That’s quite a turnaround in six months from when arguably there were only two phones in the range – 8 and 8 Pro. I know that’s not strictly true with older models being on sale too, but it seems to me that there’s now a conscious effort to have phones at every price point. Let’s not forget that the 7T is only a year old and Apple has a similar strategy for its previous generation models too.

OnePlus still meet their value criteria as all of these look pretty well-specced for the price point, though some commentators reckon the Nord and the 8T are the best value devices given the specs. Personally, my smartphone budget is usually sub £500 and my last two mobile phone purchases were both “previously enjoyed” models, saving even more money. But that’s not the point here: OnePlus now have a full portfolio of products from £179 to £899 offering value-for-money smartphones whatever you have to spend.


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.


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]