• Devices

    by Published on 07-20-2016 07:00 AM
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    This week German security research firm AV-Test published a report comparing seven fitness trackers and their Android apps. The Apple Watch got only a passing mention as it has no companion app for Android. That makes sense, but for some reason Fibit was also excluded from the test.

    It gets weirder: Pebble Time, a proper smartwatch, was one of the tested devices but Android Wear—which obviously has fitness tracking and works with Android—was nowhere to be found.

    The good news is that Pebble Time was found to be the most secure of the group. Woo-hoo?

    The seven fitness trackers that AV-Test looked at are as follows:

    Basis Peak
    Microsoft Band 2
    Mobile Action Q-Band
    Pebble Time
    Runtastic Moment Elite
    Striiv Fusion
    Xiaomi MiBand

    The purpose of their tests was to assess the security of local and cloud-saved user data for each device. To accomplish this they looked at three main areas:

    Tracker – connection, authentication, tampering
    The App – safeguarding and code check
    Secure online communication ...
    by Published on 07-13-2016 06:45 AM
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    Just yesterday J.D. Power released the results of a new survey, ranking the Apple Watch highest of all smartwatches in customer satisfaction. There's just one problem: another survey run by Quartz reports that nobody actually wants to buy one.

    Could they both be right?

    Here are the key findings from the J.D. Power 2016 Smartwatch Device Satisfaction Report. Note that customer satisfaction is calculated on a scale of 1,000 possible points:

    Apple (852) ranks highest in customer satisfaction with smartwatches and performs particularly well in comfort, styling/appearance and ease of use.

    Samsung (842) ranks second, performing well in customer service, display size and phone features.

    Overall customer satisfaction with smartwatches is 847.
    And here's a summary of the findings by Quartz:

    In early 2015, before the launch of the watch Quartz ran a survey asking iPhone owners if they planned to buy one. Only about 5% of owners thought it very likely they’d buy a watch in the next 12 months. A little over a year later, not too much has changed: Only about 8% of those surveyed this time said they owned an Apple Watch.

    The outlook for the next year isn’t much better: Less than 5% of respondents surveyed that didn’t already own an Apple Watch said they were either extremely likely or very likely to purchase an Apple Watch if a new version is released this year.
    The survey respondents, identified as a sample group of 534 US iPhone owners, singled out price as the biggest barrier to the purchase of an Apple Watch. Over 60% of them said that no new feature would justify the purchase of a new version at the launch price of the first. ...
    by Published on 07-12-2016 06:40 AM
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    Qualcomm has just released the successor to its high-end Snapdragon 820 processor, and it already has a place on a newly-announced phone.

    The Snapdragon 821 uses much of the same tech as the 820—the 600 Mbps X12 LTE modem, Ultra HD Voice, etc. In fact, the only significant change is a speed bump from 2.2 to 2.4 GHz for each of the chip's four cores. Thus, Engadget is advising users not to dump their 820 flagships just yet:

    "The 821 is designed to complement and extend the competitive strengths" of its current tech, Qualcomm says. In other words, it'll function as an interim chip for high-end devices until the next-gen processor comes along.
    In the meantime we already have our first Snapdragon 821-powered phone. Engadget's Hong Kong correspondent Richard Lai reports that a refresh of the top-tier 5.7 inch ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe will run the 821 chip, and will also feature 6 GB of RAM and a whopping 256 GB of UFS internal storage—expandable by an additional 128 GB via micro SD. ...
    by Published on 07-07-2016 07:00 AM
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    The OnePlus 3 was released last month to mostly favourable reviews. One of the few notable exceptions was AnandTech, who called out the screen as the worst display they had ever seen. The reason cited was the display calibration, and OnePlus was quick to address this with a software update that included an option for sRGB colour space in the developer options.

    I flashed that update on my OnePlus 3 this week, and thought it might be instructive to compare sRGB with OnePlus's default colour calibration. The catch? I'm not going to tell you which one is which; you're going to have to guess! ...
    by Published on 07-05-2016 03:30 PM
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    If there's one source I believe for Nexus leaks, it's Android Police. After posting specs for both upcoming devices—the smaller Sailfish and the larger Marlin—they've just posted a render that they say can be applied to the both of them.

    Here's author David Ruddock with a quick tour:

    "On the front we see the single earpiece speaker, front-facing camera, a small sensor cluster, and that's about it. On the back, you've got some antenna bands on the bottom (horizontal) and top (vertical, off-center), with that big glossy pane likely serving as a window for NFC and other radios. The three holes next to the camera are a bit of a mystery at this point, but our guess is that two of them relate to the camera (auto-focus and perhaps a secondary sensor of some kind) and one is likely a secondary microphone."

    Also interesting is that both made-by-HTC devices will sport an all-aluminum body this year. And what's really interesting is a rumored (but not confirmed) "electric blue" version—perhaps to match the iPhone 7?

    AP gives this render a "confidence level" of 8/10. Assuming they're right, what do you make of the new Nexus(es)? ...
    by Published on 07-04-2016 06:48 AM
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    That's right, I'm observing the 4th of July with an external review of a Chinese smartphone.

    Not just any Chinese smartphone, mind you, but one that will almost certainly provide some serious competition to the already-popular OnePlus 3. Over the weekend, TechRadar got some hands-on time with it. Scheduled for a U.S. release any day now, ZTE's Axon 7 offers a significant bump in specs over the $399 OP3, for a rumored price of $450 USD—only $51 more. ...
    by Published on 06-27-2016 06:25 AM
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    Entirely believable and somewhat questionable.

    I'll start with the almost sure thing first. On Saturday Evan Blass tweeted this graphic, giving more weight to the rumours that Samsung will be skipping the Galaxy Note 6 and going straight to 7 this year, to better compete against the forthcoming iPhone 7 and fall in line with the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge.

    Some specs were leaked as well:

    • 5.7 inch, 2560 x 1440 pixel AMOLED display
    • IP68 waterproof design
    • Iris scanner
    • 12MP rear and 5MP front cameras
    • 64GB of storage
    • microSD card slot
    • black, silver, and blue color options

    The latest iteration of the original phablet is expected to be revealed on August 2nd. I think Blass may have leaked that too. ...
    by Published on 06-24-2016 06:00 AM
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    So you're probably getting tired of me writing about the OnePlus 3. Well, you know what? I'm getting tired of me writing about the OnePlus 3. So here's something a little different: a very early peek at one of the new Nexus phones coming later this year from HTC.

    It's been confirmed from multiple sources that HTC are on tap to be the next Nexus OEM, producing two different models for Google: the T50 "Sailfish" and T55 "Marlin". A trusted source has apparently provided Android Police with the specs for what would seem to be the smaller of the two devices.

    AP gives this leak a confidence level of 8/10. They have an excellent track record when it comes to Nexus leaks, so I likewise feel confident in reposting them for you here. ...
    by Published on 06-23-2016 08:29 AM
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    Just when I was wondering if Blackberry was going to release a Priv follow up, I got news of 3 new devices that they have in the pipeline; the Argon, Neon and Mercury. All run Android. Sorry no pics of these devices (that's a Priv in the picture).

    Blackberry Neon:
    • touch only
    • $0 (400 MSRP)
    • Qualcomm 8952 (a 617 like the Moto G4 Plus)
    • 3GB RAM
    • 5.2" 1080P display
    • 16GB storage
    • 13MP rear camera
    • 8MP front camera
    • 2610mAh battery
    • Quick charge 2
    • aluminum frame
    • soft touch rear casing
    • Cat 6LTE
    • 130g
    • aimed at consumers and enterprise
    • August 2016 launch


    Blackberry Argon:
    • touch only
    • $200 (600-700MSRP)
    • Qualcomm 8996 (a Snapdragon 820 "lite")
    • 4GB RAM
    • 5.5" 1440P
    • 32GB storage
    • 21MP rear camera
    • fingerprint reader (finally)
    • 8MP front camera
    • 3000mAh battery
    • Quick Charge 3
    • USB type-C
    • aimed at consumers and enterprise
    • October 2016 launch


    Blackberry Mercury:
    • design like the Blackberry Classic:
    • QWERTY keyboard
    • Qualcomm 8953 (Snapdragon 625)
    • 4.5" screen with 3:2 display ratio
    • 3GB RAM
    • 32GB storage
    • 18MP rear camera
    • 8MP front camera
    • 3400mAh battery
    • Quick Charge 3.0
    • "High precision & Craftsmanship"
    • aluminum housing
    • aimed at enterprise
    • February 2017 launch


    To me, 4 things stand out; first, the price point of the Neon and Argon seem very reasonable. While the Priv is a nice device it's just priced way too high and probably falls off a lot of people's shopping lists because of that. Traditionally you paid quite a premium to get a Blackberry logo but that looks like that's changing.

    Secondly, while the Neon and Argon are still a few months off, their specs will probably be more in-line with the rest of the market. Typically Blackberry specs lagged the market by about 6 months but these ones look to be much more competitive. I mean August isn't far off and they probably could have gotten away with just 2GB of RAM. Then again, while I didn't hear word of it I hope it shows up a fingerprint reader.

    While the Mercury is still way, way off it's good to know that the QWERTY only Blackberry isn't going away. A power sipping Snapdragon 625 coupled with a smaller 4.5" display and a large 3400mAh battery should make for some epic battery life too.

    Lastly, all 3 devices run Android. I guess there just isn't enough demand for a Blackberry OS device. ...
    by Published on 06-22-2016 07:20 AM
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    Yesterday I set up my OP3 and played around with its default launcher for a bit. Being an avid fan of Nova Launcher I'm quite used to ignoring the bundled alternatives on Android custom ROMs—Trebuchet, Launcher3 and the like—but since the only way you can currently use the OnePlus Launcher is with an actual OnePlus phone, I thought I should at least show you what it's all about.

    The OnePlus Launcher offers the user 16 unique backgrounds, plus some rather uninspired "live" wallpapers that date all the way back to the Galaxy Nexus. You can see some of the more artsy options on their designer's website. ...
    by Published on 06-21-2016 07:15 AM
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    I also have one, but it's still in the box.

    Rooting my better half's OP3 and transferring her app files via Titanium Backup took most of yesterday evening, giving me a chance to get to know the phone a little better.

    Unboxing a OnePlus 3 in 2016 doesn't have quite the same "wow" factor as the OnePlus One did in 2014, if only because an OP1 in 2014 was a lot harder to come by. It didn't help that our shiny white OP3 boxes arrived a bit banged up (thanks UPS); fortunately the phones inside were unharmed.

    Here, then, are some initial observations about the OnePlus 3. ...
    by Published on 06-17-2016 06:40 AM
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    I think it's fair to call this week's launch of the OnePlus 3 a success.

    This past Tuesday, after an exclusive (if ultimately unnecessary) product launch in VR, open sales of the device began a few hours later. Within an hour or so of that, reviews from big tech blogs and notable YouTubers magically appeared. And the very next day saw seven pop-up events around the world, with phones available for purchase at each and every one of them.

    Things like this are hard to pull off at all, let alone pull off well. But OnePlus managed to do it. And the phone doesn't seem to be too bad, either.

    Today I've assembled yet another YouTube playlist—this one looking back at the week that was for OnePlus. Enjoy! ...
    by Published on 06-14-2016 12:18 PM
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    When the Moto G came out in 2013, it was way ahead of curve. In terms of value it just blew its contemporaries out of the water.

    The follow up, the 2014 Moto G wasn’t received quite as well. It was a decent package but Motorola forgot to toss in LTE, at a time when it was starting to become a must-have feature.

    The 2015 Moto G received LTE but other than having water resistance, the rest of the package wasn’t all that different from the 2014 and thus it was passed by the rest of the market.

    With the Moto G4 Plus, Motorola looks to regain the magic that has seeped away from the G line. ...
    by Published on 06-10-2016 06:30 AM
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    Lenovo's Tech World trade show went down in San Francisco yesterday, featuring—among other things—the official unveiling of the Moto Z and Moto Z Force, plus the world's first Project Tango-powered smartphone, the Phab 2 Pro. See yesterday's news round-up for some introductory links.

    There's a lot to digest here, so I figured it would be easier to do with video. The playlist that follows will be arranged first by product, then in order from most to least watchable—that is, I'll put you first in the very capable hands of The Verge for a quick overview, then show you the official product videos and then, if you can stomach it, the on-stage presentations for said products from the trade show itself. ...
    by Published on 06-09-2016 06:20 AM
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    Here's the OnePlus 3's camera assembly, courtesy of an ad posted to Weibo by a Chinese case maker. You can see more OP3 images on GizChina, but today we're focusing specifically on the device's camera. Bad pun, sorry...

    As the hype machine spools up for the OnePlus 3's official reveal next Tuesday, camera and image quality are big concerns for prospective buyers. The OnePlus One could—somewhat amazingly—capture 4K video, but for stills it was merely average. The optics on its successor were largely the same, leading some notable tech blogs to wonder if the OnePlus 2 even had optical image stabilization as claimed. And the OnePlus X? According to GSMArena: not bad but hardly stellar.

    So yesterday OnePlus took the proactive step of posting some sample OnePlus 3 images to its Twitter account. Unfortunately Twitter strips out the EXIF data from uploaded photos, but you can at least get an idea of what the OP3 camera can do. ...
    by Published on 06-02-2016 06:30 AM
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    And the surprising news from OnePlus continues...

    On Tuesday Android Central reported that current OnePlus devices—the OnePlus 2 and OnePlus X—were now available for purchase through Amazon UK, with Amazon US listings on the way.

    Even bigger news than that, however, is that the company's new phone, the OnePlus 3, will be sold without invites from launch. In a post on the OnePlus forums yesterday co-founder Carl Pei wrote that open sales for the OP3 will begin at 3pm Eastern Time on June 14th. Prior to that it will be available only in The Loop, described as the world's first global VR shopping experience. Mmkay.

    Read on for the full text of the announcement. ...
    by Published on 06-01-2016 06:48 AM
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    It's customization.

    Sure, you can swap out the band on the vast majority of watches out there, but only a smartwatch gives you the ability to change the watch face to match the band. The pair of photos you see here were taken on the same day; you'd be forgiven for thinking that they're two different watches. Okay, it probably doesn't help that I'm using the same watch face with both bands, but it definitely helps that the watch face in question has a customizable colour palette.

    Notifications on your wrist may be the raison d'ętre for smartwatches, but changeable faces and bands are what elevate them from the lowly fitness tracker. ...
    by Published on 05-30-2016 06:00 AM
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    ASUS has just announced the successor to last year's popular ZenFone 2, with three different models right out of the gate—the budget ZenFone 3, the premium ZenFone 3 Deluxe and the gigantic ZenFone 3 Ultra.

    All handsets are now powered by Qualcomm chips, as the Intel Atom is no more; for more on that I recommend having a listen to the most recent episode of the LPX podcast. Each of the new devices also have cameras with optical and electronic image stabilization, dual SIM support and fingerprint scanners integrated into the volume controls on the back.

    The phones were announced on ASUS' home turf at the COMPUTEX electronics show in Taipei. Prices and dates for a North American release aren't yet confirmed, but the specs are; read on for a video introduction and breakdown of each device. ...
    by Published on 05-27-2016 01:36 PM
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    When it comes to the top end of the market, flagships are more alike than they are different. Of course, the devil is in the details, they’re what separates the has and the has beens.

    I mean, they all come with 5-ish inch quad-HD displays, SoC powered by the latest ARM cores, 3 or 4GB of RAM, that sort of thing.

    So what is different about the G5? For starters, LG is touting the G5 as a modular phone. The bottom part can be removed so that you can attach other accessories.

    It also has 2 rear cameras, no, they’re not for fake Bokeh or 3D or even black and white. The 2nd camera has a super wide-angle lens on it which, in the right hands, makes for some dramatic photos.

    Hmm, modular with a super-wide camera? It could just be what the doctor ordered for an shaking up a slightly stale flagship market. ...
    by Published on 05-26-2016 01:33 PM
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    Last year, instead of releasing one Galaxy S flagship, Samsung’s S line bifurcated into regular and curved versions with the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge. Later on, the Edge line split again with a Galaxy S6 Edge Plus.

    In 2016, Samsung merged the S6 Edge and S6 Edge Plus into, wait for it, the Galaxy S7 Edge.

    Last year, the GS6 and GS6 Edge weren’t all that different so I thought the regular version was the smarter choice. However, this time around, the difference between them is more pronounced. The screen size on the Edge has grown from 5.1 to 5.5” with a few other changes under the hood.

    Is the regular version still the one to get or has it been supplanted by the Edge? ...
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