• Reviews and Hands-on

    by Published on 08-23-2016 07:30 AM
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    Here's the girlfriend's OnePlus 3 capturing the action at Heskjedalsfossen, a photo opp on a fjord cruise to Mostraumen, Norway. This was the first big road test for our pair of OP3s, and they performed admirably.

    Usually when we go on vacation I pack a pair of small tablets for us to use at the hotel, while our phones are recovering from a long day of sightseeing. But with the OP3's Dash Charging and the big battery/HD screen combo those tablets lay dormant in my suitcase for the duration of the trip.

    This alone makes the OnePlus 3 a good choice for those who like to travel. But of course there's an even better reason to bring this phone with you abroad. ...
    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 07-04-2016 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 06-23-2016 05:50 AM
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    Time to see what that camera can do!

    Yesterday I took the OnePlus 3 with me on a photo walk in downtown Toronto's Graffiti Alley. Most of the photos you'll see here were taken in direct morning sunlight, and a few in the shade—I'll leave it to you to figure out which ones are which.

    Note that all the images here are embeds from this Flickr gallery—you can click/tap on each photo to see it in its native resolution and accompanying EXIF data. Perhaps more importantly, you can also compare the same subject matter photographed by the Nexus 5X and OnePlus One, among others.

    Enjoy! ...
    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 06-09-2016 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 06-07-2016 06:40 AM
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    A week from today the OnePlus 3 will be officially unveiled—in VR, of course—and to watch it I'll be using my old OnePlus One.

    I think it's fair to say that updates have not been kind to the first "flagship killer" from OnePlus. After a spectacular debut with a heavily-customized and optimized Cyanogen OS, OnePlus and Cyanogen, Inc. had a very public falling out. OnePlus eventually hired some key developers responsible for the Paranoid Android custom ROM, who quickly came up a new default OS called Oxygen.

    Problem is, OxygenOS for the OnePlus One is still on Android Lollipop. In fact, the only Marshmallow-based ROMs I've been able to find for the OPO are a snapshot build of CyanogenMod and a customized spin of it that I'll be showing you today.

    This is Sultan's ROM. ...
    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? ...
    by Published on 05-12-2016 10:30 AM
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    I remember when HTC was synonymous with Smartphones. While most of us were still pressing the “3” button twice to enter in the letter “e”, HTC was making Smartphones with HTML web browsers, email, MS office with WiFi and Bluetooth.

    However, their 2015 flagship, the HTC One M9 left something to be desired. If I was to describe it in one word it would be “underwhelming”. On paper it was an improvement over the 2014 M8, but in the real world, it was more of a sideways step rather than a step forward.

    The camera had beefy specs but it wasn’t really that great, the processor should have been formidable but wasn’t really any faster than last year’s model. It just didn’t stand out.

    Fortunately, HTC isn’t messing around with their 2016 flagship; the HTC 10 lines up much better with its competitors.

    In Canada, the HTC 10 is available unlocked from HTC’s website for an eye-watering $999 Canadian. Otherwise, it’s a Bell exclusive. At $349.99 Canadian on contract it’s $50 more than the LG G5, $50 less than the GS7 and $150 less than the GS7 Edge . Let’s check it out:
    ...
    by Published on 04-14-2016 02:43 PM
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    Since Andrew is off for a couple of weeks, I’m going to try to take over and share some thoughts each day. Recently, I’ve been playing with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and HTC 10 (LG G5 is coming but not here yet) so I figured I compare the 2. I’ll have full reviews for all 3 phones eventually but for now I’m just going to focus on specific areas.

    As a reviewer, one of my jobs is to figure out if newer models are better than previous ones. However, when it comes to features, once they’ve reached a point where they’re “good enough”, most people stop caring about them.

    A good example is screen size. Once phones breached 5.5ish inches most people stopped clamouring for bigger screens. It’s not to say that future phones won’t get bigger, just that the current crop of screens are large enough for most. If we find new ways to use our phones that require a bigger screen, this will obviously change.

    Another thing people don’t really about anymore is camera resolution. As long as you have more than 10 megapixels (enough to also capture 4K video) most people don’t really care about having more. It’s enough for Facebook/Instagram and thus enough for most.

    Still, there are still areas which can use some improving. Areas which I’ll be focusing more on.



    First up are the speakers. The 10 and Edge both have 2 speakers; one on the earpiece and a bigger one on the bottom. ...
    by Published on 04-12-2016 07:46 AM
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    I had a chance to play with the HTC 10 the other day. Here are some first impressions:



    While the 10’s predecessors, the M7, M8 and M9 all shared a common design language, the 10 takes a different approach. The speaker grill stickers are gone in favor of a more minimalistic all-glass front. I don’t know about you but the grills starting to get long in the tooth so this is a welcome change.



    That said, looking at the pictures I kind of wish the silver version came with a white front as the black front is a bit bland but maybe that’s just me. ...
    by Published on 04-01-2016 12:44 PM
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    Until last year, the previous couple of iterations in the Galaxy S lineup were pretty predictable. They were all plastic bodied phones with removable batteries and memory. Then last year, they took the Galaxy S line in a new direction. The GS6 had an all glass and metal body and they did away with the user changeable battery and MicroSD. The last change struck a chord with users because you had to decide how much storage you’d ever need when you bought the phone plus you’d have to pay an inflated price if you needed more than the base model - just like you do with an iPhone.

    Fortunately, the MicroSD is back with the latest version along with water resistance - a feature which took a hiatus last year.

    Otherwise, the GS7 is an evolution of the GS6. The look follows Samsung’s latest design language, the camera has been improved, you get a more powerful processor a bigger battery. That sort of thing. Is it worth the upgrade? ...
    by Published on 04-01-2016 12:42 PM
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    I’d never really cared much for the BB10 O/S, but I was most certainly looking forward to seeing what sort of Android phone Blackberry could produce. Clearly they needed to differentiate themselves from the rest of the Android rabble, but at the same time they couldn’t substantially change the O/S without taking away what makes it Android. They also wanted to reintroduce the physical keyboard, which has mostly disappeared from Android. As far as I can tell, the keyboard is there mostly to appease old Blackberry fans, who were used to typing on physical keyboards in older Blackberry devices. ...
    by Published on 03-22-2016 06:50 AM
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    So there's a new iPhone in town, the iPhone SE.

    To vastly oversimplify, it's Apple's high-end internals stuffed into an iPhone 5 case, albeit a case that now supports fingerprint authentication via Touch ID. Those internals include Apple's current A9 chip with embedded M9 co-processor, powering a 4 inch Retina Display and 12 megapixel camera that can shoot 4K video.

    How much will it cost? The 64 GB model will set you back a very reasonable $499 USD outright, or a somewhat less reasonable $709 CAD. Apple doesn't have much faith in the Canadian dollar, it seems.

    Anyway, the tech press was all over yesterday's launch event; iPhone in Canada rounded up some of the resulting hands-on videos—one of which I'll re-post here, along with two others I found on my own. ...
    by Published on 03-14-2016 08:46 PM
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    In the past, I’ve written about my new hobby, wearing ‘dumb’ watches. You’d think that a phone nerd like myself would be all over smartwatches but in fact, I was so annoyed by the ones I’ve tried, it actually caused me to start wearing regular watches again.

    Between the constant charging, the poor ease of use, questionable styling and finishes, and inability to do anything well, smartwatches in general left me wanting.

    However, they did remind me that I like wearing something on my wrist so I went from wearing nothing on my arm to wearing something again.



    Since then, I’ve picked up a few pieces - divers watches, pilot watches, chronographs, automatics, manual winders, radioactive (that’s right), military style, skeletons, etc.



    However, something happened. Getting all these watches made me more open to watches in general and thus more open to smart watches. Talk about drama!



    But that’s not all, the soap opera that is my left arm isn’t over yet. How do I choose which watch to wear? While my regular watches can sit in my watch box just fine for a few days here and there, it’s best to wear a smartwatch daily. What to do? What to do? ...
    by Published on 03-10-2016 01:21 PM
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    I had a chance to play with the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge the other day. Here are my first impressions.


    GS7 Edge

    First off, there are some changes in the lineup. Last year we had the 5.1” S6 Edge which was released in Q1 and then the larger 5.7” S6 Edge Plus in Q3.


    GS7

    They’ve simplified the 2 Edge phones and consolidated them into one model - you guessed it; the S7 Edge.



    While there are 2 S7’s, the regular and the Edge, the Edge has grown considerably and now sports a 5.5” screen, which takes it closer to the S6 Plus’ Phablet size. ...
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