• Devices

    by Published on 08-29-2019 02:25 PM
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    2. Devices

    On the left, my cheap and cheerful Amazfit Bip; on the right, Amazfit's newer, more premium GTR. You can probably guess by the step count which one I prefer, but you would also be correct to say that this isn't even a fair comparison—the GTR is closer in looks, features, price and name to Huawei's GT.

    For my GTR I paid $199.94 CAD, a promotional launch offer from Gearbest. Here's how I got on with it...

    1.39 inch 454 x 454 pixel AMOLED display
    47.2 mm aluminum alloy case
    22 inch quick-release leather and silicone strap
    (unknown processor, OS)
    16 MB RAM / 40 MB storage
    410 mAh battery, 1.5 to 2 hours charging time
    Bluetooth 5.0
    5 ATM IP rating

    Battery Life
    Amazfit's bold claim of 24 days between charges doesn't seem all that far-fetched; in the 10 days that I've used it the battery has lost only 20% of its initial charge.

    There are two physical buttons on the GTR's right side but only one of them is remappable. The one positioned at two o'clock (with the red colouring under the pusher) can only turn the display on or off. The four o'clock button can be mapped to the app or function of your choice, but you'll have to press it twice to get there. This is because the first press will light up the display, just like the other button. So the point of the first button is...?

    The screen and default watch face are undeniably fetching, but can only stay lit for up to eight seconds at a time before adversely affecting battery life. And unlike Wear OS there's no option for an always-on display. This ended up bothering me a lot more than I thought it would.

    I also found the glossy notches on the bezel to be a bit distracting, but they do give you something to look at when the screen is blank. Which is often. There's a lift-to-wake function, at least.

    Fitness Tracking
    With onboard GPS and a heart-rate sensor fitness tracking is generally very good. Workouts are logged in the Amazfit app (for either Android or iOS), which seems to be an exact copy of the Xiaomi Mi Fit app. For some reason I can only use Mi Fit with my Bip, and only the Amazfit app with the GTR. Kooky.

    Music Controls
    You can use the GTR to control music or podcasts from your phone, with one big caveat: the OS on this watch doesn't seem to multitask, so if you're tracking a workout while listening to audio you won't be able to access music controls until your workout is done. I guess because battery life...?

    Notifications are similarly half-baked. With Wear OS or even my Bip they're always accessible from the main screen via a single swipe; on the GTR if you miss an incoming notification you'll have to navigate to where they live in the app menu, or assign a shortcut via the second hardware button. I feel pretty strongly that notifications are a critical function for smartwatches, and on this particular watch it doesn't seem like Amazfit gave enough thought to them.

    Also, like other Amazfit watches, there's no emoji support.

    Or widgets, or whatever you want to call them, the GTR's also got them. But they are limited in number to two: heart rate and step count. They live on either side of your watch face, an unnecessary redundancy. Wouldn't it be great if you could put a shortcut to, say, the weather on one side of your watch face instead? You can do this with the Bip, but not with the GTR.

    If you think the Bip looks like a cheap plastic toy but you don't want all the bells, whistles or the high cost of entry to Wear OS then you might be a good candidate for the GTR. I personally found too many missed opportunities in the UI to overcome the very basic OS. And maybe my expectations for smartwatches are too high but I 100% hate looking at dead screens, most of all on my own wrist.

    If you were still interested, the GTR is currently an online exclusive at Gearbest.com

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 08-28-2019 04:15 PM
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    2. Devices

    Versa users will have already seen this coming, as that device launched with Coach—the optional $7.99 USD per month service that put workouts on your wrist. Coach is now bundled into Fitbit's new premium service called (go figure) Fitbit Premium:

    Fitbit gives you general insights. Premium gives you personalized insights about your activity, exercise, heart rate and sleep that show how your actions impact your health—and get clear guidance on what you can do to improve.
    Fitbit is clearly playing to its strengths here—specifically the absence of native sleep tracking from either the Apple Watch or Wear OS. One of the hallmark features of a Premium subscription will be a nightly sleep score, yet another way for users to feel inadequate when ranked against their friends.

    Fitbit Premium will cost $9.99 USD per month or $79.99 USD per year (or roughly the CAD equivalent) and should work great with the Versa 2 that was also announced today.

    Sources: Fitbit via The Verge (1) (2)

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 08-26-2019 02:15 PM
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    2. Devices

    Here's the latest collab between Twitter leaker Steve Hemmerstoffer and Indian tech blog Pricebaba: the OnePlus 7T, due for an official unveiling in India on Thursday, September 26th.

    Like the current non-pro OnePlus 7 it has a teardrop notch on its front display instead of a pop-up selfie cam; like the current OnePlus 7 Pro it also has three camera lenses on the back. A Snapdragon 855 processor and FHD+ Optic AMOLED display are also expected.

    No confirmation of a OnePlus 7T Pro just yet but everyone seems to think it will happen, along with a McLaren “Senna” Edition—which means there might be up to three phones upstaging the first OnePlus-branded TV.

    For more unofficial renders see the first link immediately below.

    Source: Pricebaba via XDA

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 08-22-2019 02:00 PM
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    2. Devices

    If you're in the market for a Galaxy Note 10 you should know that today is the last day that Samsung is taking pre-orders for it. More importantly, some notable perks that come with your pre-order are officially off the table as of tomorrow.

    USA-specific Perks:

    Americans can get a Samsung gift card worth $100 USD with their Note 10 or $150 with their Note 10 Plus / Note 10 Plus 5G. Also on offer is six free months of Spotify Premium (if you're not already a premium subscriber). The Verge is additionally reporting up to $600 off of your purchase with an eligible trade-in, and has published a separate post detailing available offers from carriers.

    Canada-specific Perks:

    Canadians can get a free pair of Galaxy Buds—a $200 CAD value—with any Note 10 order. Note (sorry) that the four months of ad-free YouTube is not directly tied to the Note 10, but is a separate promotion that runs under February 29th of next year (in this country, anyway). I'm unfortunately unable to confirm the availability window for Canadian trade-ins, or how much you can get for which device. And carrier deals? Yeah, good luck with that.

    Sources: Samsung Canada / USA, The Verge (1) (2), WhistleOut

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 08-20-2019 02:00 PM
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    2. Devices

    ... But not for long.

    Security researchers discovered over the weekend that Apple mistakenly unpatched a security vulnerability in iOS 12.4. What is now effectively a 100+ day exploit means that for the first time in years users can jailbreak their iPhones again—that is, those models running the A7 to A11 chipsets. If you wanted to jailbreak your iPhone XR/XS/XS Max or your 2019 iPad Mini/iPad Air then you can pretty much stop reading here, as those devices are all powered by A12 chips.

    As an Android user who insists on unlocked bootloaders and root access I am all for taking control of your technology, even if iOS isn't my specific area of expertise. This dude seems to know what he's doing, though:

    If you wanted to take the plunge yourself—and understand the risks—there's also this step-by-step guide on Lifehacker. If you were wondering why you'd even want to bother, here are some use-cases via the comments on iPhone in Canada:

    -Carbridge – for those with CarPlay, you get any app on your car screen. That means when I’m parked waiting for the ferry, I can watch movies. Note Netflix isn’t supported, but anything in the TV app works.
    -reddit no ads
    -YouTube tools (no ads)
    -Audio recorder – automatic recording of phone calls. Yes that’s legal in Canada. Why would I want that? If someone is telling me details I need to remember and I’m not able to write them down at that moment I don’t need to worry about it, I can just listen to the call again.
    Of course, if you didn't want to jailbreak and are just worried about your phone being vulnerable, hang tight for a few days. Apple will almost certainly release iOS 12.4.1 and re-patch the vulnerability.

    Source: VICE via iPhone in Canada
    Image source: Lifehacker

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 08-14-2019 03:00 PM
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    2. Devices

    For anyone interested in the Apple Card, here's an FYI courtesy of BuzzFeed: Making payments on said card will require your iPhone, or at the very least some other iOS device. This will very much be an issue if you've got a payment due and your phone suddenly goes missing:

    According to Apple Support, your options are: 1. Use an iPad or other iOS device to access the Wallet app, or 2. Call Apple Support (not, presumably, with the phone you just lost) and a representative will connect you to an Apple Card specialist at Goldman Sachs, Apple’s bank partner. You’ll need your full name, date of birth, last four digits of your Social Security number, and the phone number associated with your account to make a payment over the phone.

    By comparison, Capital One, Citibank, and American Express Blue Cash cards have two online options—a mobile app or website—to pay your statement and monitor your account. With an Apple Card, you need an iPad as backup, or to get on the phone with a support rep ASAP.

    In other words, nearly every other modern credit card offers users a way to access their account with a browser on desktop, giving them the flexibility to pay bills from any device—and Apple Card, despite its titanium, numberless, futuristic veneer, does not.

    Source: BuzzFeed

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 08-13-2019 02:55 PM
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    2. Devices

    They're ba-ack... Snap, Inc. is now taking pre-orders for their third-generation hardware products. And they're not cheap: a pair of Spectacles 3 in either carbon (black) or mineral (rose gold) will set you back $380 USD or $500 CAD.

    What could possibly justify the more than 100% price jump over current models? The Verge explains:

    A Snap spokesperson said this year’s model represented a necessary investment in the platform. The company has to figure out a way to do AR computing right, the logic goes, before it can do it cheaply.

    The glasses’ marquee feature is a second camera, which enables Spectacles to capture depth for the first time. Snap has built a suite of new 3D effects that take advantage of the device’s new depth perception ability. They will be exclusive to Spectacles, and the company plans to let third-party developers design depth effects starting later this year.
    Details on technical specs are scarce, but according to Mobile Syrup they'll ship with 4 GB of onboard storage, good for 100 circular format videos or 1200 still images.

    Sources: Mobile Syrup, The Verge

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 08-07-2019 12:45 PM
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    2. Devices

    Unfortunately I'm going to miss the big reveal of Samsung's Galaxy Note 10 later this afternoon, so I'm posting some new leaks to give you a better idea of what to expect.

    First up is Droid Life, who apparently got the scoop on some official marketing materials. Two models (technically three) are now confirmed:

    Note 10
    6.3 inch screen
    3400 mAh battery
    $949 USD

    Note 10+
    6.8 inch screen
    4300 mAh battery
    $1099 USD
    5G version TBA

    As per the artwork above, all variants will offer an "immersive, nearly bezel-less cinematic display" plus a single hole-punch selfie cam. The S Pen now does air gestures and the onboard microphones have "audio zoom" to filter out extraneous noise when recording video.

    If it's official accessories that you're after, the German site WinFuture has posted an impressive gallery of first-party options. Silicone and leather covers will be available, along with the more unique LED and View covers.

    I'm hoping that some thoughtful YouTuber will edit and upload a supercut of the event; look for that to be included in tomorrow morning's news briefing, and in the meantime feel free to post your thoughts on the event here!

    Sources: Droid Life, Mobile Syrup, WinFuture

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 08-06-2019 10:30 AM
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    2. Devices

    Fossil has announced the first of their fifth-generation Wear OS-powered smartwatches, The Carlyle and Julianna HR (the former is shown above). Here's a rundown of what's new, courtesy of the Wear OS subreddit:

    New design;
    1 GB RAM, 8 GB storage (vs. 0.5 GB / 4 GB on Fossil Sport, Q Gen 4);
    Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor (vs. 2100 in Q Gen 4);
    Speaker for Google Assistant, calls, music;
    Multiple battery-saving modes (coming to older Fossil watches this fall);
    iPhone users can take calls on the watch, also coming in fall update.

    And here's a quick video tour with Michael Fisher:

    If, like me, you find the styling of the Carlyle to be a bit... forgettable, fear not—this is but a first volley in the torrent of Fossil-branded devices to follow.

    Source: The Verge via r/WearOS
    Image source: 9to5Google

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 08-01-2019 03:18 PM
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    2. Devices

    We're going to have to put our trust in Android Police and The Verge on this one, as the source—notorious leaker Evan Blass—has started making his Tweets private. If Blass is to be believed, what we're looking at here is another update to the Fitbit Versa; notable changes include a new OLED screen (without a Fitbit logo on it) and support for Amazon Alexa (and therefore a necessary microphone port somewhere on the case).

    I guess the mic is the reason why Fitbit is ditching the buttons on the right side of the watch, like they've already done with the current Versa Lite. As a novice watch enthusiast I'm a bit perplexed by this design choice, unless people wear watches on their right wrists now...?

    Woven straps like these were reserved for the Special Edition first-gen Versas (Versae?), the ones with NFC chips for Fitbit Pay. I used an SE Versa for a weekend, and I don't remember returning it because it didn't have a voice-activated virtual assistant. But I do absolutely remember that notifications weren't reliable and the music controls didn't work at all.

    It also seems to me that most of the Fitbits I see out in the wild are the more discreet wearables like the Charge or the original Flex—that is to say that users get more value out of the fitness tracking/step counts than the actual hardware itself. Am I wrong on this?

    Source: @evleaks (protected) via Android Police, The Verge

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 07-30-2019 01:15 PM
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    2. Devices

    It's not the first attempt at a proper Linux-powered smartphone (anyone remember Ubuntu Edge?) nor is it likely to be the last, but in this current duopoly of Android and iOS the Librem 5 is at least worth a mention.

    The device was first announced by San Francisco-based "social purpose corporation" Purism back in 2017. Since its successful crowdfunding campaign the project has been slowed down by numerous delays, but as of this week the final specs for the device have been locked in:

    5.7 inch IPS TFT screen @ 720 x 1400 pixels
    1.5 GHz i.MX8M quad-core processor
    13 MP rear camera with LED flash / 8 MP selfie cam
    3 GB RAM / 32 GB eMMC storage + microSD
    Gemalto PLS8 3G/4G modem
    3.5 mm headphone jack
    3,500 mAh user-replaceable battery
    Availability: Q3 2019
    Price: $649 USD until July 31st; $699 from August 1st

    Unfortunately that's a lot of money for not a lot of phone—especially when you can flash Lineage OS on to select Android devices and get much of the same software freedoms. I'll keep an eye out for reviews when the Librem 5 actually ships.

    Source: Purism via OMG! Ubuntu

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 07-29-2019 01:20 PM
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    2. Devices

    Remember infographics? Gadgets Deck does, and they recently published what amounts to a love letter to the OG Android phablet. Even if you're not a fan of Galaxy Note Series you have to appreciate the impact that it's had on smartphones overall; remember that one of the best-selling iPhones so far has been 2014's 6 Plus—basically a Note-sized device for those who prefer iOS.

    So here then, is the evolution of the Samsung Galaxy Note:

    And yes, the Note 10/10+ haven't yet been made official, but the specs shown immediately above do align with previous leaks.

    Source: Gadgets Deck via SamMobile

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 07-22-2019 01:30 PM
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    2. Devices

    ASUS has announced the second iteration of their smartphone for gamers, the ROG Phone II. Its release date is scheduled for July 23rd in China and sometime in September for the rest of the world.

    Notable specs are as follows:

    6.59 inch FHD+ AMOLED display @ 120 Hz
    Snapdragon 855 Plus CPU / Adreno 640 GPU
    Dual rear cameras: 48 MP wide / 13 MP ultra-wide
    24 MP selfie cam
    12 GB RAM / 256 or 512 GB storage
    Dual SIM support
    Dual front-firing stereo speakers
    3.5 mm headphone jack
    6000 mAh battery / Quick Charge 4.0
    Colours: glossy black (China), matte black (rest of world)
    Price: expensive

    Here are some initial impressions from fellow Canadian Dave Lee:

    And from XDA here's a list of first-party accessories:

    AeroActive Cooler II (see photo above)
    Aero Case
    Mobile Desktop Dock
    Pro Dock
    ROG Kunai Gamepad
    ROG Lighting Armor Case
    TwinView Dock II
    WiGig Display Dock Plus

    There are so many accessories for this phone that reviewers are being sent this carry-on case with everything stuffed inside. If we get one to give away we'll certainly let you know...!

    Sources: GSMArena, PCWorld, XDA
    Image sources: Android Police, GSMArena

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 07-16-2019 02:50 PM
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    2. Devices

    Huami has announced a new smartwatch that's already for sale in China—the Amazfit GTR. At present I can neither confirm nor deny that these watches run a non Wear OS fork of Android, like the company's current Verge does. But based on the claimed battery life my hunch is a definite no.

    Published specs are as follows:

    454 x 454 pixel AMOLED display @ 326 ppi
    22 mm quick release watch straps
    410 mAh battery, good for 24 days of normal use
    aluminum alloy, stainless steel or titanium metal case
    brown leather or fluoro rubber strap
    CNY 1,000 - equivalent to about $145 USD / $190 CAD

    390 x 390 pixel AMOLED display @ 326 ppi
    20 mm quick release watch straps
    195 mAh battery, good for 12 days of normal use
    cherry powder, coral red, moonlight white or star black case
    black, pink, red, or white silicone strap
    CNY 800 - equivalent to about $120 USD / $155 CAD

    Both models:
    Gorilla Glass 3 with AF coating
    5 ATM water resistance
    PPG Bio-Tracking Optical Sensor

    An AMOLED screen is sure to suck up a lot of battery, so again like the Verge I wouldn't expect too much in the way of an always-on display.

    Source: Amazfit China via GSMArena

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 07-10-2019 02:00 PM
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    2. Devices

    Verizon is about to have a new smartwatch in their accessory portfolio, Mobvoi's TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE. The onboard eSIM won't be ready for activation until sometime in August, but early adopters can save $20 USD if they buy before then.

    Notable specs are as follows:

    1.39 inch AMOLED display @ 400 x 400 pixels
    FSTN LCD standby display
    Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor
    1 GB RAM / 4 GB storage
    Bluetooth / GPS / LTE (via eSIM) / NFC / WiFi
    IP68 water resistance (suitable for swimming pools)
    415 mAh battery
    22mm silicone quick release strap

    And here's a launch-day YouTube hands-on:

    While I personally prefer the FSTN displays on Casio's Pro Trek smartwatches, any transreflective display is a good thing to have on your wrist if you spend any time outdoors. And support for standard watch straps only sweetens the deal.

    Just don't expect too much in the way of battery life from Wear OS...

    Sources: Mobvoi via Android Police
    Image source: 9to5Google

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 07-02-2019 10:15 AM
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    2. Devices

    For any fellow Canadians who are in the market for a new Android device, OnePlus has just cut the price of their 7 Pro by $100-110 CAD. New prices are as follows:

    6 GB RAM + 128 GB storage: $899 (was $999)
    8 GB RAM + 256 GB storage: $939 (was $1049)
    12 GB RAM + 256 GB storage: $1009 (was $1119)

    Even better, OnePlus is offering a refund of the difference between the old and new pricing for all 7 Pros purchased between Friday, May 17th at 10am Eastern Time and Friday, June 28th at noon (also ET). Eligible buyers should have already received an email from OnePlus.

    It would seem that their first "pro" phone isn't selling as well in this country as OnePlus would have hoped. Some possible explanations as to why:

    1. OnePlus was too greedy with their pricing—the USD list price of the base model ($669) converts to only $878 CAD;
    2. They misread the market and didn't anticipate being undercut by the Pixel 3a and 3a XL;
    3. Peak smartphone.

    Whatever the reason, Canadians can now purchase a 7 Pro for less than a thousand bucks, at least before taxes. An even smarter move might be to import a regular 7 instead.

    Sources: Mobile Syrup, XDA

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 06-20-2019 12:45 PM
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    2. Devices

    Fellow smartwatch enthusiasts might already know that I'm a big fan of the cheap and cheerful Amazfit Bip. But what about the other devices in Huami's smartwatch stable? On a whim I tried out one of them, the Amazfit Verge.

    Before we proceed, a few caveats about this Canada-based review:

    1. If you're here for details about Amazon Alexa support, that feature is currently US-only, so I am unable to test it.
    2. If you're here for details about phone calls using iOS, that feature is also currently US-only. Fortunately, phone calls via Android are supported everywhere.


    Part of what initially drew me to the Verge was my ongoing desire for a smartwatch version of a Casio G-Shock. Like those iconic timepieces The Verge has a similarly chunky design but is also light on the wrist, and light on the wallet as well—at $207 and change on Amazon Canada the Verge is less than one third the current asking price of a WSD-F30. And while both offer onboard GPS the Verge also supports NFC wrist-based payments... that is, if you live in mainland China and/or have an Alipay account.

    On the bottom of the Verge you'll find the heart rate sensor, charging pins and quick-release silicone straps. Because of the lug design replacement straps will unfortunately be limited to those made specifically for this watch.

    There is a single button on the watch's right side (the big orange one) and a microphone port. Not shown in the photo above is the speaker on the left side of the device. More on that in a bit.

    Watch Faces

    Here's a closer look at the default watch face. The Verge runs on Android but not Wear OS—so while Google Assistant and Pay are unsupported you'll at least get more battery life out of this thing than your typical Fossil or whatever. With an hour or so of daily fitness tracking my watch lasted about four days between charges. That's notably better than Wear OS, but there's a catch: While the Verge has an option for an always-on display, it's so faint that it's effectively useless in anything brighter than a dark room.

    Here are the other watch faces that the Verge ships with, courtesy of the companion app for Android. If none of these pique your interest you can also try here.


    Here's another screen grab from the Amazfit Android app, and the easiest way to show you the available widgets for The Verge. Once activated they'll live to the right of your watch face, in whichever order you choose.


    The Verge doesn't have an application drawer like Wear OS; your list of installed apps instead live to the right of your watch face, after your widgets (if you've activated any) or via a single swipe in from the right (if not). Hey, is that a phone app I see?

    The Verge can indeed make (and take) calls directly from your wrist, thanks to its built-in microphone and speaker. Test calls I made sounded acceptable on my end, but my test subject complained that she could hear her own voice feeding back from the speaker into the mic. However, for checking your voicemail—or leaving a message for someone else—it's probably fine.


    Notifications on the Verge live below your watch face—like Wear OS but with no way to reply from your wrist. There is an available third-party solution that enables canned replies, but I couldn't get it to work.

    Also, I feel obliged to mention that when it comes to notifications the Verge is a bit of a nag. Weather and step goal progress is fine, but several times when I was on my way somewhere the watch would interrupt me with a notification to the effect of: "Hey, I noticed you're walking pretty fast... wanna start a workout?"

    It gets pretty annoying when I'm running behind, which is often.

    Control Panel

    Status panel? Whatever you want to call this it lives above your watch face. Going clockwise from the right the icons are: settings, power/reboot, brightness, speaker on/off, airplane mode and silent mode. That icon at the top (to the left of the battery) is an indicator for your Bluetooth connection.


    My fondness for the Verge began with its attractive styling and affordable price, but ended as soon as I saw (or tried to see) its unusable always-on display. If you reside in the US the Amazon Alexa support might be a selling point, and if you're signed up for Alipay you can probably activate that feature via a Chinese ROM. As for everyone else, unless you're a **** (Richard?) Tracy wannabe or never go outdoors I would give the Verge a pass, and maybe consider the Stratos instead. And don't forget the Bip!

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 06-14-2019 03:50 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices

    In honour of Father's Day Vox has posted a feature on the history of perhaps the most uncool mobile phone accessory ever:

    In the mid-’90s and early 2000s, the cellphone holster was an inescapable object of necessary evil for a very specific type of person: people who had to carry cellphones for professional purposes, who did not, for reasons likely having to do with strict gender expectations, have purses, and who also did not care that cellphone holsters are very dorky.

    In other words, dads.
    Here in Canada peak smartphone holster occurred during the BlackBerry era. If I'm not mistaken my own BlackBerry 8700 came with a hard plastic half-case (with a handy swiveling clip) in the box. It was so easy to holster and unholster my BlackBerry that I almost had to use it.

    What probably killed the holster for good was the iPhone, in particular its most snobbish users—who would never dream of even using a case because it would ruin the aesthetics of their newfound status symbol.

    These days I keep my OnePlus phone in my oversized wallet, and my wallet in that other ultimate dad accessory, a fanny pack—which I bought in Japan and wear over my should, so that's still cool, right?

    Anyway, Happy Father's Day to all the dads reading this!

    Source: Vox
    Image source: Charm14

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 06-12-2019 03:00 PM
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    2. Devices

    Anyone who's read my previous posts on this subject will already know that I'm no fan of Wear OS. But as my last experience with it was almost two years ago I thought I should once again check in and see if it's gotten any better since. So I'm doing just that with a Fossil Sport, running the latest Snapdragon 3100 processor and latest version of Wear OS itself, known colloquially as the H update.


    First, some details about this particular watch... The one I've been testing is the 43mm model in "Smokey Blue". I read somewhere that this larger case has the same screen size as the 41mm version, just with more empty space around the perimeter of the display. I purchased mine from Amazon so I'm unable to confirm this, but it's something you might want to verify in-store before you commit to either size.

    The design of the case is an aluminum top on a nylon (plastic) base, giving the illusion that the watch is thinner than it actually is. It's certainly less chunky than the Android Wear watches I'm used to, and also much lighter. In terms of styling, though, I find it to be a bit on the bland side; if you're looking for something more stylish I'd recommend the Falster 2 by Skagen.

    The Sport is the first Android smartwatch I've used with a functioning crown, and I like it, a lot! Fossil's experience with traditional watches must have come into play in its design; the resistance when scrolling through notifications or the app drawer is just right, making for an extremely satisfying feel. Not so much with the other two pushers, though. They're alright, nothing more.

    The 43mm versions of the Sport ship with 22mm quick-release silicone bands (the 41mm version supports 18mm ones). You can easily replace them with other bands from Fossil, or with any other 22mm band from anywhere you like. Take that, Apple!


    According to the Wear OS subreddit this is the marquee feature of the H update. Tiles are basically widgets that live to the right of your watch face. On the Fossil Sport there are currently seven Tiles to choose from:

    Heart Points
    Heart rate
    Next event

    But for some unknown reason, I can only use five at a time. That's a bit stupid.

    There is some potentially good news on the way, though: XDA is reporting on undocumented code for a Tiles API—meaning that there might be a custom Tile on the way for your favourite Wear OS app.


    If Tiles are a ripoff of Galaxy Watch widgets then Google Fit is similarly "inspired" by Apple's fitness rings. This gamification of exercise is all fine and well, but I'd personally be fine with a simple step count. And I suspect that anyone serious about fitness will want something more than what Google Fit and Wear OS currently offer.


    Not much change here, as notification support remains generally very good.

    For me, the best part about notifications on Wear OS is that they're actionable—you can choose from a couple of usually relevant canned replies (great), attempt to draw an emoji on your tiny screen (good, so long as its a happy or sad face), attempt to type out a reply on a tiny virtual keyboard (awful) or speak your response and wait for Google to do the voice-to-text thing over Bluetooth. That last option is still, years later, slow as molasses in real-world situations, but credit must still be given for being able to reply from your wrist at all.


    Here's the thing: I don't use Google Assistant, nor do I care to. Thus, I feel like a significant part of Wear OS is wasted on me. If you have Google Home products already installed in your house then you'll likely be a good candidate for yet another device ready and waiting for you to yell at it.

    But if you're like me and prefer Google Tasks to Reminders then you might be surprised to hear that Wear OS natively supports the latter, but not the former. You will at least get notifications for tasks that are due.

    Google Pay

    To my surprise, this seems to work as advertised. I did the usual weekend grocery shop with the girlfriend and her mom, and was able to pay for everything with our supported card right from the watch. For security your Pay-enabled Wear OS device will lock as soon as you take it off your wrist—meaning that you'll have to unlock it (once) when you strap it back on. It's a bit annoying, but also a bit more secure.

    I do feel obliged to point out that after every wrist-based payment I was handed a paper receipt, which I immediately filed in my wallet, where my credit cards are. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


    The bad news about this Snapdragon 3100 is that it doesn't seem to accomplish much for battery life. Like just about any other Android Wear / Wear OS device I've tested you can probably squeeze about two days out of the Fossil Sport with passive use, much less if you're tracking exercise or holding your wrist against payment terminals all day.

    If you choose to go with an always-on display then your standby screen will look something like this (depending on your chosen watch face). It's legible enough in most lighting conditions, but the super-reflective Gorilla Glass screen most certainly doesn't help in direct sunlight. The lift-to-wake gesture is thankfully fairly quick but the transition to lit screen isn't particularly pleasant to witness, as I imagine it would be on an Apple Watch.

    If readability outdoors is important to you then I would definitely recommend something with a transflective display. Unfortunately in the current crop of Wear OS devices on the market I can think of only two with this added perk: the Casio WSD-F30 and the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro.


    Wear OS is a great choice if Google Assistant is your thing; even if it's not the many and varied traditional watchmakers who have embraced it will ensure a size and style that will appeal to you. As an OS, however, it also doesn't really offer anything that sets it apart from other smartwatch platforms. Apple Watch, Fitbit and Galaxy Watches all do actionable notifications and wrist-based payments, while my Amazfit Bip is currently breezing through its third week without a charge.

    So no, Wear OS isn't terrible, but for me it's not terribly compelling, either. It's just alright.

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 05-29-2019 10:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices

    This potato quality screenshot is from the official EU trademark application listing on the German registry DPMA. The trademark being sought is called 'Ark OS', and is widely believed to be Huawei's post-Google operating system for future mobile devices.

    I chose to post this particular sample over others in the filing because it shows compatibility with something called the Android Green Alliance. Translated from German, WinFuture explains:

    Among other things, the pictures repeatedly mention the Chinese "Android Green Alliance", which is an association of Huawei and some Chinese Internet companies such as Tencent and Alibaba. The association committed itself a few years ago to introduce standards in the quality and design of their apps for Google's mobile operating system.
    In the absence of any other facts I can only speculate that Ark OS will end up being a proper fork of Android (entirely possible under AOSP's Apache 2.0 License) or something entirely new, which just happens to be 100% backwards-compatible with existing Android APKs.

    I'm crossing my fingers for the second one... if Huawei were to license their new OS to other OEMS—or, better yet, open-source it—the smartphone racket could get really interesting...

    Source: DPMA via WinFuture

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