Tag Archives: smartphone

Waka-Waka-Waka – OnePlus Announces Nord 2 x PAC-MAN



OnePlus have announced a new smartphone special edition and it’s a Nord 2 x PAC-MAN. Waka-waka-waka….Partnering with Bandai Namco, the upcoming Nord 2 will be heavily customised with PAC-MAN themed goodness to celebrate over 40 years of the yellow dot gobbler which first appeared in Japanese arcades way back in 1980.

The Nord 2 x PAC-MAN special edition is customised both inside and out. Round the back, there’s a dual-layer rear cover with the classic PAC-MAN maze on top and a glow-in-the-dark background on the bottom. Yes, this Nord 2 glows in the dark (but regrettably, there doesn’t seem to be a picture of the phone yet). Inside the phone, the OxgenOS UI has been tweaked with PAC-MAN references, and extra features such as games and challenges have been added too. There’s exclusive and hidden PAC-MAN content which will need to be unlocked to see it all.

The OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition will be sold in a single variant with 12 GB RAM and 256 GB storage for 529 €, UK£499 and IN₹37,999, so there’s a small price bump there over the standard price – £30 in the case of the UK.

And if that’s whetted your interest, there’s a chance to win a OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition of your own with some arcade action. Head to https://pac-man.oneplus.com and play PAC-MAN. It’s got the tunes and the waka-waka-waka but Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde aren’t quite the ghosts they once were.

Still, get a high enough score and you’ll be in with a chance of winning the new phone. OnePlus are giving away three phones along with a free pair of OnePlus Buds Z. Get gobbling – the contest for the phones runs from Monday 8 November to Wednesday 10 November. There are more details on the contest here and it’s only open to residents of Europe or India.


Big Discount on OnePlus 9 Pro in UK



OnePlus LogoIf you’ve been dithering over the OnePlus 9 Pro, this might help make up your mind. On Saturday, there’s UK£150 off via Amazon’s Treasure Truck online, and in person at Westfield Stratford in London over this weekend (16th & 17th October). The Truck will also be at the Arndale Centre in Manchester the following weekend (23rd & 24th October).

The offer is for the OnePlus 9 Pro 8GB / 128GB version which brings the price down to UK£659.99 which is an absolute steal for a top-end phone powered by the Snapdragon 888 and a glorious 120 Hz Fluid Display screen. It’s one of the best phones of 2021, with camera sensors co-engineered by Sony and tuned by Hasselblad. Even I can take decent photos. There’s super-speedy charging with Warp Charge 65T both wireless and wirelessly.

OnePlus fans able to visit the Treasure Truck in person in Westfield Stratford can try out the OnePlus 9 Pro in person and take part in competitions to win prizes including OnePlus merchandise such as the Urban Traveller backpacks and the much sought after OnePlus Watch Cobalt Limited Edition.

To sign up for Amazon’s Treasure Truck, go here: http:/.www.amazon.co.uk/gp/TTOneplus . The online offer is good until 9pm (21:00) on Saturday and there’s only one per customer.


The Nord 2. A New “Flagship Killer” from OnePlus?



OnePlus LogoOnePlus’ Nord smartphone has been tremendously successful in Europe and today the company announced its successor, the Nord 2. As is OnePlus’ style, the phone’s been comprehensively teased for several weeks with the tagline, “Pretty much everything you could ask for” and resurrecting the “flagship killer” moniker from the early days of the brand. Bold claims. Let’s see if they’re any way justified.

The Nord 2 sits atop OnePlus’ mid-range devices, below the OnePlus 9 but above the Nord CE 5G and N-series of phones, so I think we should be expecting a well-specified device with quality materials that most smartphone users will be pleased to use. That’s confirmed by OnePlus CEO, Pete Lau, who says, “The OnePlus Nord 2 5G reaffirms our commitment to sharing great technology with the world. With advancements in smartphone technologies even in the mid-range, we are now able to deliver premium experiences on more accessible devices. We are confident the Nord 2 is a worthy successor to the original OnePlus Nord.

Taking a look at the specs, the biggest news is that the Nord 2 has a MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI CPU inside. For those unfamiliar with MediaTek, it’s a Taiwanese firm and is the third largest fabless IC designer in the world with chips in thousands of products round the world. The Dimensity 1200 is MediaTek’s top of the line ARM chipset and the AI suffix indicates that this is special “artificial intelligence” variant for OnePlus. In terms of performance, OnePlus expect the Dimensity 1200-AI to boost CPU by 65% and GPU by 125% in comparison with the original Nord and to be on a par with the Google Pixel 5 and the Samsung S21.

In terms of RAM and storage, there will be three variants (but not all will be available in all territories) – 6 GB+128 GB, 8 GB+128 GB and 12 GB+256 GB. The 6 GB+128 GB option is not expected to be available in the UK

On the screen front, the Nord 2 sports a 90 Hz Fluid AMOLED display measuring 6.43″ with a resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels (410 ppi) which matches the screen seen in the CE 5G but is slightly smaller than the one from the 9. There’s no substantial difference from the screen on last year’s Nord in terms of spec, though the new Dimensity 1200-AI chipset intelligently enhances the display of photos and videos to make them look their best.

As would be expected, the Nord 2 supports 5G offering nearly 3 Gb/s in perfect conditions and there’s the usual dual-SIM tray for those looking to have, say, separate personal and business SIMs.

Round the back, it’s an offset triple-camera array with a 50 MP Sony IMX 766 sensor for the main camera with OIS. This camera sensor was used in both the 9 and 9 Pro for the ultrawide, so it’s a top notch unit. In addition, there’s an 8 MP 119.7° field of view wide-angle camera with EIS. The third lens is a 2 MP monochrome unit for black-and-white fun. On the front, the selfie cam is a massive 32 MP IMX615 Sony sensor which will give some excellent selfie shots as it’s one of the largest front-facing cameras in the OnePlus range.

The camera app supports Nightscape for taking photos in low light conditions down to 1 lux and the Dimensity 1200-AI provides additional enhancement recognising 22 different photo scenes in order to adjust the settings for the best possible shot. The Nord 2 offers Dual View Video too, recording both the front and rear cameras simultaneously. Great for creative types or those wanting to indulge in a bit of adrenaline pumping action (though it might be a good idea to get a protective case first….)

Powering the Nord 2 is a 4,500 mAh battery which takes advantage of Warp Charge 65 and will charge 0 to 100% in 30 mins. Both battery size and charging speed are a step up from the original Nord. As expected, it’s a USB C port on the bottom, but while there’s no 3.5 mm audio jack, there are stereo speakers. Size-wise, the Nord 2 is 159 x 73 mm x 8.25 mm which is pretty much the same size as the original Nord and the CE 5G. It weighs in at 189g, give or take.

Speaking of the back, the Nord 2 has a lovely feel to it, with a cool glass texture. There are three different phone colours – Gray Sierra, Blue Haze and Green Woods. Sadly, the Green Woods isn’t coming to the UK but may be available in other countries. The Gray Sierra version is slightly different from the other two, with changes to the antiglare glass to make it feel thinner.

The Nord 2 comes with OxygenOS 11.3 which is based on Android 11 and OnePlus is now committing to two major Android updates and 3 years of security updates. I think that’s great to hear and in an increasingly resource-aware world, it means that you could be using the Nord for three years without worry. Being OxygenOS 11, the Nord 2 comes with many of the same software features as its older siblings, the 9 and 9 Pro.

Let’s talk pricing….

OnePlus Nord 2
8 GB + 128 GB: GB£399 in Blue Haze and Gray Sierra
12 GB + 256 GB: GB£469 in Gray Sierra only.

The Nord 2 will be available to pre-order now from both OnePlus and Amazon, with first deliveries expected from 26 July onwards. Orders from OnePlus will come with Google Stadia Premiere Edition bundled in as a free gift too. The Nord 2 will go on general sale in all channels including John Lewis, Three and O2 from 28 July.

So far, what I’ve seen looks good. The Nord 2 is a step up from the original and continues to slot in neatly below the OnePlus 9. With the 9 priced from £629, there’s clear water between the two in pricing and I’m struggling to think of the differences: 120 Hz screen, wireless charging, Hasselblad camera tweaking…there’s not much really. Is it a “flagship killer”? Not in the sense of having unbeatable specs, but definitely in terms of thinking about what’s really relevant in your phone and what it’s worth.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be sent a OnePlus Nord 2 for review: see below for an unboxing and early first impressions. I’ll follow the video up with a further review after I’ve used it for a couple of weeks.

Thanks to OnePlus for providing the Nord 2 for review.


Hands-On with the OnePlus Nord CE 5G



OnePlus LogoThe OnePlus Nord CE 5G drops into the crowded mid-range market where there’s no shortage of competitors wanting to take your money. OnePlus pitches the CE as “Core Edition” focussing on key features requested by its user community: “Heavy on features, light on price” says OnePlus. Obviously, there’s 5G in the CE, but what else does this new Nord offer? Let’s take a look…

Back view of OnePlus CE 5G smartphone showing sea green colourThe Nord CE 5G arrives in a black cardboard box with Nord branding picked out in reflective navy blue. There’s a clear contrast between the Nord’s black box and the red boxes reserved for the higher-end models. Opening the box reveals the CE 5G phone itself, along with a semi-transparent bumper case, a SIM tray tool, a few small manuals, a Warp charger and a USB charging cable.

Unwrapping the Nord CE 5G, it’s clear that it continues OnePlus’ current design cues which stretch back at least as far as the 7 series. There’s nothing unexpected here – flat glass front, pinhole camera top left, power button on right, USB C on the bottom, smooth curved back with attractive colouring, vertical triple camera array. It’s largely by the numbers. What’s different? There’s no alert slider but the 3.5 mm headphone jack makes a return to the smartphone. I think the restoration of the jack is a good move at this price point: my daughter prefers wired headphones as she’s less inclined to lose them and if she does, they’re cheaper to replace.

Sizewise, the CE 5G is within a millimetre or two of most recent OnePlus handsets at 159 mm x 74 mm, but it’s only 7.9 mm deep, making it the thinnest OnePlus since the 6T. Weighing in at 170 g, it’s lighter than the Nord by 14 g, though you’re unlikely to notice the difference day-to-day. The back of the CE 5G is polycarbonate rather than glass and it doesn’t quite feel as premium as I’d like but the Blue Void colour is lovely. It’s very similar to the Glacial Green of the OnePlus 8 but as you rotate the phone from the back to the front, the curved edge of the back takes on this lovely purple tone. There are other colours, Charcoal Ink and Silver Ray, but I’ve not seen them in the flesh. The Silver Ray version is only available with the large memory capacity (12 GB + 256 GB)

Front view of OnePlus CE 5G showing home screenTurning on the CE 5G begins to show off the lovely 90 Hz Fluid AMOLED 6.43″ display (2400 x 1080 pixels, 410 ppi). It looks good, it’s fast and it has the controls of its more expensive siblings – screen calibration, refresh rate, vision comfort, reading mode. I do like the dynamic wallpapers that OnePlus offers and the Nord CE 5G comes with a couple of new ones that show off the display when the phone is unlocked.

In terms of sound, I’ve mentioned the return of the headphone jack, which is a good thing for a large chunk of the possible purchasers of the CE 5G. For speakers, there’s only the one at the bottom next to the USB C port. “It’ll do” is about as best as I can muster. It’s quite loud but playing music above two-thirds volume will start to distort the speaker and don’t expect much bass.

Powering the Nord handset is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G 5G Mobile Platform to give it the full title. Simplistically, this is a perfectly acceptable workhorse platform that offers some improvements over the 765G in the Nord. In day to day use, it’s a fine processor and keeps up with most activities. Will it run Fortnite? Yes, it does run Fortnite reasonably well, but there are definitely times when it stutters and all you can do is pray that it’s not at an inconvenient time. However, I have won a solo Battle Royale on the Nord CE 5G so it’s not a big deal. For something a bit more gentle, Pokemon Go runs beautifully. For the nerds, the phone scored 639 single-core and 1798 multi-core on Geekbench 5, putting it in amongst the Pixel 4, the Xiaomi Mi 9 and the Samsung Galaxy A51.

Powering the phone is a 4,500 mAh battery which easily gave me a day of use as long as I wasn’t burning through it with non-stop gaming. Even the battery does get a bit low, the supplied Warp 30T Plus charger is supposed to get the battery from 0% to 70% in 30 minutes. In my test run, it didn’t quite hit the 70% mark in the half-hour, but it was literally only a few minutes behind. The charger itself has a USB A socket, so the charging cable is USB A to USB C.

Cameras….The Nord CE 5G officially has three cameras on the back and one selfie camera around the front. The smartphone uses the same camera app as all the other OnePlus phones as far as I’m aware and offers time-lapse, panoramic, slow-motion, video, photo, portrait and nightscape and pro modes. Starting with the selfie cam, it’s a 16 MP Sony IMX471 that OnePlus has used many times. I feel it takes good enough selfie photos with reasonably accurate skin tones. For the rear, there’s a 64 MP main camera, an 8 MP ultra-wide with 119° field of view and a mono 2 MP unit that’s mainly used for depth sensing (as far as I know). The brand of the camera sensor is not revealed in the specs.

To review the rear cameras, I took a few photos to see how they turned out. Overall I was happy enough with the snaps but there are a couple of issues. First, colour saturation could be stronger: here’s my cat on a red blanket. The red of the blanket is way stronger than it appears to be in the picture.

Next, on ultrawide shots, even with ultra-wide lens correction turned on, you get this kind of motion blur effect on the edges of the shots. You can see it in the picture below. Again the colours of the flowers could do with just being that bit brighter too.

These would be my main two concerns, but I did take some other pictures that I’m really quite pleased with. I thought it handled close up shots better than panoramic ones. That bee has some load of pollen…

 

 

I think it would be fair to say that the Nord CE 5G takes photos that are acceptable without being outstanding.

Lastly, the CE’s OxygenOS 11 is based on Android 11 with OnePlus keeping tinkering to the minimum but adding value where it can. That’s the OnePlus way and to extend that value, the company is committing to 2 years of software updates and 3 years of security updates.

Clearly, the Nord CE 5G has loads of other features that you’d expect as standard: Wi-Fi bgnac, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, GPS, in-display fingerprint reader, dual SIM slot and so on. Rather than review each in turn, I’ll simply confirm that everything is as you’d expect.

Let’s talk about covers…OnePlus sent four bumper covers with the Nord – black, blue, purple and creme. They’re flat colours with flecks of straw through them. Again, using my daughter for her opinion as a prospective purchaser, she liked the purple one but thought that golden glitter mixed in would’ve been much better. I’m with her on this one. These will be priced at GB£17.99 when they’re available.

For most territories outside of the Americas, the CE 5G is the fourth Nord device alongside the Nord, N10 5G and N100. If you are looking to understand where the Nord CE 5G fits in the OnePlus line-up, it’s below the Nord but above the Nord N10. In terms of base pricing, the Nord is GB£379, the CE 5G is £299 and the N10 is £249, though the N10 has slightly less memory at 6 GB rather than 8G.

The Nord CE 5G comes in two variants for the UK:

  • 8 GB + 128 GB: GB£299 / 329€
  • 12 GB + 256 GB: GB£369 / 399€

So does the Nord CE 5G meet expectations as a “Core Edition” focussing on what’s really needed without all the frippery? On the whole yes: 5G, great screen, powerful enough processor, day-long battery life, fast charging, 2 years of software updates, lovely colour. There’s plenty to like but there are some negatives: the rear cover could be better though once the phone is in a case, it’s not noticeable, and the camera does have some failings. Overall, the Nord CE 5G is a good all-rounder without being exceptional. The snag is that there’s plenty of competition to consider as well. If you like it, the phone is on sale from the OnePlus store.

Thanks to OnePlus for supplying the Nord CE 5G smartphone for review.


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.


Xiaomi Mi 11 Launches in Europe



Xiaomi might be a recent addition to the USA’s naughty list but this hasn’t stopped the Chinese firm from launching its latest flagship, the Mi 11 5G with an impressive set of specs. The TL;DR version is Snapdragon 888 chipset, 6.8″ screen with 515 ppi, 8GB+128GB/256GB, starting at 749 euros.

The longer version is that Xiaomi has a top-tier phone with specs to take on the best, but it took 25 minutes of global launch presentation to get to the technical details, with the event’s focus on video recording and photography features. Aimed at social media aficionados, this is a lifestyle as much as a flagship device.

(And while Xiaomi were trying to move the conversation away from features, there were plenty of comparisons between the Mi 11 and Apple’s iPhones.)

The Mi 11 is a good-looking smartphone, covered in Corning Gorilla Glass front and back, with curved edges on all sides. The display side has the latest Victus glass giving enhanced drop protection. Two colours were announced at launch, Midnight Gray and Horizon Blue, but more were promised including a future Cloud White model.

The display on the Mi 11 is a 6.8″ WQHD+ display with 3200×1440 pixels giving 515ppi. It’s a 120 Hz AMOLED HDR10+ screen with AdaptiveSync to adjust screen frequency up or down depending on the app’s requirements. Lower frequencies use less power. DisplayMate have awarded the Mi 11’s screen the best smartphone display award along with 13 other accolades.

Under the bonnet is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G. The main octacore CPU is a 5 nm Cortex X-1 supported by new A78 cores and an Adreno 660 GPU, giving an Antutu score of 745,942 and top spot on the leaderboard.

Powering the Mi 11 is a 4,600 mAh battery with high power 55W charging. Using a USB C cable, the phone will go from 0% to 100% in 45 minutes. Wireless charging isn’t much slower, taking 53 minutes to fill the battery. A 55W GaN charger will come in the box.

Camera-wise, the Mi 11 comes with 108 MP primary camera with OIS, a 13 MP 123° ultrawide and a 5 MP telemacro lens. Round the front, it’s a 20 MP in-display camera. Xiaomi have worked hard on low light level photography with Night Mode available on all three rear cameras and Ultra Night Video for filming. Videos can be recorded at 4K HDR10+ and there are six AI cinema modes to give films a certain style. Xiaomi has partnered with cinematographer Reynald Gresset to show off the Mi 11’s features and the showreel is impressive.

The phone’s speakers have been tuned by Harmon Kardon and there’s support for two Bluetooth headphones or a pair of speakers. Size-wise, the Mi 11 is 164.3mm x 74.6mm x 8.06mm and weighs in at 196g.

Up to this point, the Mi 11 has shown itself to be a competent flagship contender albeit with nothing particularly special. Interestingly though, the Mi 11 can use the in-display fingerprint monitor as heart-rate sensor.

Out of the box, the Mi 11 will come with MIUI 12 with a major update to 12.5 in Q2. Xiaomi have been listening to users and MIUI 12.5 will allow the user to uninstall pre-installed apps.

Let’s talk pricing….the Mi 11 will be sold in Europe in two versions, one with 128 GB for storage and the other with 256 GB. The main memory is 8 GB in both versions (though a 12 GB version appears to be available in China.)

  • 8GB+128GB – 749 €
  • 8GB+256GB – 799 €

Exact releases dates for different countries will be announced shortly.

The Mi 11 comes with 2 year warranty plus a 1 year one-time free screen repair, which is a nice touch, and for true fans, a Mi 11 Special Edition will be released later in the year in very limited numbers. Looking forward to seeing that.


The Apps On Your Phone Are Tracking You



We put apps on our phones for many reasons. Some apps are useful – they tell us the weather, the pollen count, and the latest news. Other apps allow us to post things from our phones to social media. The New York Times reported that the apps on your phone are tracking you. Or, more correctly, the marketing industry is tracking you through those apps.

The New York Times received a data set from a source who is being kept anonymous. The data set “followed the smartphones of thousands of Trump supporters, rioters, and passers-by in Washington, D.C., on January 6, as Donald Trump’s political rally turned into a violent insurrection.”

According to The New York Times, the data they were given included about 100,000 location pings for thousands of smartphones, revealing around 130 devices inside the Capitol exactly when Trump supporters were storming the building. About 40 percent of the phones tracked near the rally stage on the National Mall during the speeches were also found in and around the Capitol during the siege – which The New York Times said was “a clear link between those who’d listened to the president and his allies and then marched on the building.” There were no names or phone numbers in the data.

How is this happening? According to The New York Times, it is because of the unique ID that is tied to a smartphone.

The IDs, called mobile advertising identifiers, allow companies to track people across the internet and on apps. They are supposed to be anonymous, and smartphone owners can reset them or disable them entirely. Our findings show the promise of anonymity is a farce. Several companies offer tools to allow anyone with data to match the IDs with other databases.

No matter what your opinion of the people who converged at the Capitol, you should be concerned about how much data is being taken from your smartphone by the “location-tracking industry” (as The New York Times calls them). Location data can be deanonymized. The data set examined by The New York Times included information harvested from phones of “rioters, police officers, lawmakers, and passers-by”.

Based on this, it seems to me that there should be some legislative effort put into stopping the “location-tracking industry” from freely grabbing as much data as they desire. There is a risk that a police officer could wrongly discern this type of data to accuse an innocent person of a crime. According to the New York Times, some location data is accurate to within a few feet, other data is not.