Tag Archives: smartphone

OnePlus Teases 6T on Twitter



OnePlus continues to build the hype ahead of the 6T smartphone launch with a teasing tweet on Twitter. Posted at noon GMT, the message simply says, “Check back in 24 hours for an exciting announcement. #OnePlus6T“, along with a photo showing the lower rear of the new smartphone. There’s not much to be gleaned from from the picture as it only shows the USB C port, a speaker grille, part of antennae and “Designed by OnePlus” written on the back.

Sticking to its biannual smartphone release strategy, OnePlus’ CEO Peter Lau all but announced the new device in an interview with CNET last week. The latest tweet reaffirms the new phone is expected to be formally revealed this month.

Ever since the 3 was followed by the 3T (which I currently own), OnePlus has followed a pattern of spring and autumn releases, with the later smartphone mainly being a boosted model with a faster processor. In 2018, it looks like the 6T will be arriving a month earlier and will be significantly different from the current 6.

Most notably, the 6T is coming with an in-display fingerprint sensor, Screen Unlock, but will be losing the headphone socket. After being a staunch support of the 3.5mm audio socket, it seems that this will be removed to make way for the fingerprint sensor. The headphone socket itself moved from top of the phone to bottom between the OnePlus 2 and 3 models, and with the fingerprint sensor moving from the rear of the phone to the display on the front, the space below the screen is needed. Goodbye headphone socket.

Diehards will be disappointed in the loss of the headphone socket but I moved to Bluetooth headphones at least a year ago and haven’t looked back. My latest tablet, the Huawei Mediapad M5 doesn’t have a socket either.

Fans of wireless charging won’t fare any better. OnePlus still haven’t included wireless charging in the 6T, claiming that the wireless charging needs to be on a par with their wired fast charging technology, Dash Charging. Lau says, “We’re working hard on this. When we get to the day that the wireless charging can get up to speed without the implication of heat that we expect, then I believe we can integrate the technology.

I think that’s a complete cop-out. Surely I can judge for myself whether I need slower wireless charging versus fast wired charging? I can’t believe that it’s been nearly ten years since the Palm Pre came out with wireless charging and it’s still not a standard feature on smartphones.

Flagship killer or not, the 6T can’t have everything and still be delivered at mid-range price, so it’s not unexpected to see some features left out. Nevertheless, the 6T is expected to see a small bump in prices, somewhere in the US$25 range, which still prices the smartphone very competitively. OnePlus is the now #4 smartphone OEM in Western Europe after Apple, Samsung and Huawei.

I’m hoping for a “just one more thing” moment and OnePlus introduces a decent spec tablet for half the price of the Samsung Tab S4!


Delete Old Text Messages with R-Bot SMS Cleaner



Messaging is one of the killer apps for mobile devices and has followed the industry from first mobile phones through to the smartphones of today. It began with SMS, became notorious with Blackberry, integrated with social media and then became a battleground with law enforcement as end-to-end encryption kept conversations private.

Even with all these developments, SMS texting remains a popular choice as it simply works. Once you have someone’s mobile number, you can send them a text. There’s no need to check if they’re on WhatsApp, FB Messenger, Telegram, Signal, BBM…

I receive a handful of texts each day with the usual range of personal, work and spam messages. Some get deleted, some don’t, but by the end of the year, there’s probably over 1000 messages cluttering up the inbox. Texts don’t take up much space so there’s no imperative to have a clear out but eventually it has to be done.

Surprisingly, the standard Android SMS app Messages doesn’t have any management features at all and it’s not possible to delete messages in bulk. I want to be able to delete all messages more than two years old or, say, set a limit of 2000 messages. No can do, and it’s not a feature that I found in any other of the SMS clients that I downloaded.

Fortunately, I did find R-Bot SMS Cleaner which does delete old text messages. Hurrah!!!

To be clear SMS Cleaner isn’t a messaging app and all it does is find and delete old messages, but it does the one task pretty well. It has two modes, one called “Recommended” which deletes text messages older than a few months or weeks, and “Custom” which allows a more granular selection. With Custom, it’s possible to look for messages with keywords, specific contacts or in a chosen date range.

    

The “View” button shows the messages found by the search for double-checking before deletion. Once ready, deleting needs R-Bot to switch in as the default SMS app, which it politely requests, and then switches out when done. It’s a very well-behaved app. Adverts are displayed occasionally but there doesn’t seem to be a paid-for “pro”, which I would prefer.

The only “bug” I found is that there is an option in “Recommended” to exclude texts from contacts, the idea being that it’s an easy way to get rid of spam messages which typically come from unknown numbers. Normally, it works well, but it did get confused by international dialling codes. If a number was prefixed by, say, +1, +44, +353, SMS Cleaner wasn’t able to recognise that as belonging to a known contact. Just watch out for that.

Overall, R-Bot SMS Cleaner is a handy app for keeping the SMS inbox under control. Try it out or if you’ve a better suggestion, let me know in the comments below.


How to Backup WhatsApp with Google Drive



An email from the Google Drive Team dropped into my inbox earlier this week to let me know that from November any WhatsApp backups won’t count against my storage quota on Google Drive. It’s welcome news especially for heavy WhatsApp users with the basic 15 GB Drive allowance.

Unaware that WhatsApp did backups? It’s worth checking out as it’s one of the app’s best features. It’s especially useful for moving to a new phone or if needing to do a factory reset as all the chats, photos and videos get restored to the new device. It’s also very straightforward to set up and once done, the backups happen in the background on a regular basis.

Here’s are the steps. On Android, to get WhatsApp configured for backups, hit the three dots in the top right and tap on “Settings”, then “Chats”.

    

On the “Chats” screen, it’s “Chat backup” and the “Chat backup” dialog is where all the not-very-hard work is done.

        

Choose how often the backup needs to happen, the account to use, whether to include videos and so on. I recommend daily backups over WiFi only with videos. Once configured, the green “BACK UP” button can be used to immediately send the chats to Google Drive. On Google Drive, the WhatsApp chats are stored in the “Backups” section – it’s blanked out because the mobile number is included in the name of the backup file.

When it comes to restoring a backup, it has to be done the first time the WhatsApp app is run after installation and WhatsApp will display a message about it. It’s not possible to restore to an old backup after using the app for awhile.

That’s it. Just do it now.


Wander the World with the Fonebud W at CES 2018



Mobile data charges abroad can be prohibitively expensive and tethering for wifi burns through the phone’s battery. The new Fonebud W wireless hotspot solves this problem for over 80 countries worldwide. Don chats with Dixon about the features of this new device.

Using your home SIM while in a foreign land typically ends with a large bill when you get back, though seasoned travellers will have a pocketful of SIMs for local telcos. Mind you, it’s still a pain making sure that your smartphone is unlocked and forwarding your calls to your new number (unless you have a dual SIM phone). A much better solution would be the upcoming Fonebud W personal WiFi hotspot which works in over 80 countries, particularly in Asia and China. The 10,000 mAh battery will run the Fonebud W for well over a day and can be used to wirelessly charge a smartphone. Yes, it has a wireless charger built-in, though you can still charge with a cable. The small LED screen shows details of connectivity and battery life.

The Fonebud W will be available in Q2 2018 and will cost US$129-$169 including 24 GB data which is valid for a year.

Don Baine is the Gadget Professor and gives lectures at TheGadgetProfessor.com.

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OnePlus 5T – Now in Sandstone White



In not-entirely-unexpected news, OnePlus has announced that the 5T will be available in Sandstone White. Teased by Carl Pei and harking back to the original OnePlus One, the new colour will be available from 10:00 GMT on Tuesday 9th January for a limited period. 10 am ET for those across the pond.

The phone won’t be completely white, though, with the volume slider picked out in red, as previously seen on the Star Wars limited edition. From the announcement and the options in the OnePlus store, it seems that this limited edition will only be available as a “top of the range” model with the 8GB / 128GB configuration. In all other technical respects the Sandstone White version is the same as the Midnight Black.

There’s no limited edition premium so it’s priced at GB£499 / US $559 which is good value whatever the colour. Form an orderly queue now….


Shoot-Em Up with the Bitmore AR Gun



Looking for a last-minute stocking filler? Take a look at the Bitmore AR Gun. It’s a Bluetooth-enabled toy gun for a bit of smartphone shoot-em up action. Let’s take a quick look….

The AR Gun is a bright blue wooden toy gun with a smartphone mount on the top. The idea is simple. Put the smartphone in the mount, load up the app, pair the gun with the phone over Bluetooth and start shooting aliens, planes, tanks, spiders, dinosaurs and sharks. What’s there not to like?

Working with both iOS and Android phones, it’s almost as straightforward as it sounds. The app is branded “Geekplay AR Gun” in the Google Play Store rather Bitmore but it’s not that hard to figure out and get it loaded. Mind you, it’s a big app at a little under 300MB.

The gun needs batteries and these aren’t supplied, so you’ll need to have 2x AAAs to hand but once inserted, you’re all set.

The AR Gun app takes care of the Bluetooth pairing within the app itself and the gun goes into pairing mode when the trigger is held down for a few seconds. Once paired, the app offers around a dozen games that are variations of AR and 3D worlds.Unsurprisingly, all involved shooting in some shape or form. A few of the games use the camera (AR) to show the room or space around you and superimpose planes, aliens and fish (not in the same game), whereas other games exist in their own world. Other than that the apps work in the same way: moving the gun moves your point of view or vehicle. Pulling the trigger shoots.

A few screenshots will give you the idea. Click on any of them for a bigger picture.

     

   

The graphics in most of the games are surprisingly good but the app seems to be a little bit of a work in progress. Two of the games didn’t work as they were under maintenance and there were a few features, such as a login screen, that seemed to be there for future developments. Some instructions wouldn’t go amiss too as I couldn’t work out what I was supposed to shoot in the aquarium game – sharks, lionfish, orcas, parrotfish? Who’s the baddy?

The AR Gun itself is a slightly odd mix of high and low-tech, being made from 3 mm sheets of wood, and while I like that the gun is wooden, the grip and the trigger could benefit from being rounded off to make it a little more comfortable to use.

But let’s not overthink this – it’s simply a fun toy. If shooting aliens is your thing, the AR Gun is priced under GB£20 and available direct from Bitmore or Urban Outfitters.

Thanks to Bitmore for supplying the AR Gun for review.


Adonit Pro 3 Precision Stylus Review



Geeks over a certain age will recall that smartphones and PDAs didn’t originally have finger touch interfaces and instead of using a digit to control the device, a stylus was used to tap and poke the buttons on the screen. Partly this was a limitation of the screen size – the original Palm Pilot 1000 only had 160 x 160 pixels – and the touchscreen technology, which was resistive and needed pressure to register a touch. The stylus was perfect for this kind of interface as the narrow point could accurately and forcefully tap an individual pixel. Today’s smartphones use a capacitive technology which senses electrostatic fields and the need for a pointy objected has faded in favour of fat fingers.

This doesn’t mean that the stylus has gone away but they certainly are a rarer. On my desk today is the Adonit Pro 3 precision stylus, which is the first quality capacitive stylus I’ve ever used. Yes, I’ve had a couple of those ones with the squidgy rubber tops, typically given away as freebies, but that’s like comparing a ballpoint with a fountain pen. The Pro 3 is a quality instrument. Let’s take a closer look.

The Adonit Pro 3 comes in a simple card box and the stylus itself is a dark grey cylinder with a chunky cut-out for the pocket clip. Adonit call it black, but it’s definitely dark grey, but for something brighter, the stylus is available in silver, dark blue and rose gold. The body is all metal (aluminium) and weighs in at 18g. It’s pen size at 126 mm long and 8 mm diameter. There’s a little light texturing on the barrel where fingers rest. It’s stylish in an industrial kind of way. I like it.

To protect the tip, there’s a stylus cap which is kept in place with magnets and when removed can be stored on the bottom of the pen. The cap can be a little wobbly but it never came off accidentally. Returning to the stylus, it’s a little different from styluses of the noughties. Instead of a point, there’s a pivoting small circular disk which flattens onto the surface of the tablet and smoothly glides over the glass.

The Adonit web site and apps are very Apple-centric and I’m going to guess that you’ll probably need an iPad to get the most out of the Pro 3. I used the Pro 3 on a selection of Android and Windows touchscreen devices with a spectrum of success which varied from device to device. For me, the Pro 3 was most successful on a Pixel C, with the tablet responding positively to the vast majority of taps and draws. On a Nexus 9, it wasn’t quite as responsive, with the tablet sometimes failing to pick up the first touch in drawing apps. It worked surprisingly well with a Windows 8.1 laptop.

What lets the Pro 3 down is nothing to do with the Pro 3, but rather the lack of palm rejection on most Android and Windows apps. Simply, you can’t rest your hand on the tablet without disrupting the pen’s touch. As a result you have to hold your hand clear of the tablet screen. Apps on the iPad seem to have got this (more) sussed out.

Regardless, a clear benefit of the Pro 3 is the precision provided by the tip and the clear disk. It becomes possible to draw two lines with a millimetre between them. That’s simply impossible with a finger no matter how dainty your digits. A soft-tip stylus would be no better. I’m no artist but here’s a little doodle to show what’s possible.

If this looks like a nice stocking filler, the Adonit Pro 3 is currently GB£25.99 from Amazon.co.uk. US price is $29.99.

Thanks to Adonit for providing the Pro 3 for review.