Oppo’s clever, zooming dual camera was inspired by periscopes

The dual-camera craze is real at Mobile World Congress, but Oppo decided to break from the pack with its own, very clever implementation. Long story short: the company managed to build a 5x “lossless” zoom system for smartphones using two sensors and a zoom mechanism inspired by periscopes. The latter part is nothing new, of course: ’tis a feature which was once common on compact digital cameras, and ASUS even applied this to its ZenFone Zoom last year. Oppo’s implementation, however, takes things up a notch.

See, Oppo’s telephoto lens is actually mounted horizontally inside the camera module and moves sideways through the top of a phone’s body. When you’re taking a photo, light enters the module and gets reflected by a prism into that waiting lens. Oppo’s optical image stabilization is similarly impressive, the prism and the telephoto lens move around to compensate for shaky hands on the fly.

Just keep this in mind: much like the ZenFone Zoom’s camera, the telephoto lens itself is capable of 3x optical zoom, and Oppo blends the images from the telephoto lens and a wide-angle lens next to it between 1x and 5x zoom. After 5x, it’s just the telephoto lens and digital zoom kicks in at some point between 5x and 10x. One wouldn’t normally associate digital zoom with “lossless” quality, but Oppo swears up and down that the system works like a charm. We’ll be the judges of that, thanks very much.

(Update: I just tried a demo version of the 5x camera in a tester phone, and it was pretty damned great. Oppo had a blind taste test going on, and while the disguised iPhone 7 Pluses had the edge in colors, the 5x camera produced much clearer results throughout the test.)

Anyway, Oppo’s design — which it licensed from another company and worked on independently for more than a year — makes for a camera module that’s only 5.7mm thick. It takes up a decent chunk of space in modern, super-slim smartphones, but we’re told many other 2x optical zoom lens setups are slightly thicker anyway. If Oppo’s photographic results are as good as the company claims, smartphone junkies in the company’s native China will probably go nuts. (Don’t forget: Oppo currently holds the number one spot in Chinese mobile market share and fourth worldwide.)

Chances to such a camera making it to parts of the world Oppo doesn’t service — like, say, the United States — aren’t nil. After all, the company licensed the original design from someone else, so it’s possible a more globally minded smartphone maker could take the same route. Then again, Oppo has filed about 50 patents to keep this particular approach locked down, so who knows. Hopefully we’ll get lucky someday.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from MWC 2017.

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LG G6 ditches modularity in favor of essentials

LG’s handful of recent teasers for its new G6 flagship left us wondering if there’d be any surprises left for us at its launch event today. Back in early January, the company was rather frank about moving away from the G5’s modular design due to a lack of interest, followed by a promise of increased safety measures after the Samsung Note 7 mishap. While it may seem as if LG has taken a more conservative approach this time, it used three teasers to emphasize the G6’s unique 18:9 (or 2:1, if you prefer) “FullVision” display.

Upon seeing the G6 for the first time, I was impressed by how much cleaner and more premium it looked than its predecessor. What used to be a metallic back is now a shiny slab of Gorilla Glass 5, which gently curves down to meet a smooth aluminum frame on all sides. You’ll spot LG’s signature setup of a dual-camera module plus fingerprint reader, but unlike on the G5, these are now flush with the back plate. LG mainly achieved this by using slimmer camera sensors, but more on that later. The launch colors are “Ice Platinum” (like Samsung’s “Coral Blue” but with brushed metal finish under glass, silver frame), “Astro Black” (black glass, space grey frame) and “Mystic White” (white glass, champagne gold frame), with more options to follow in the future.

On the front, the 5.7-inch IPS screen packs a resolution of 2,880 x 1,440, along with a pixel density of 564 ppi plus support for Dolby Vision and HDR10 content. That panel is covered by a flat sheet of Gorilla Glass 3 which sits flush with the metallic frame — a design choice made to protect the display from scratches and drops. Despite the taller screen, its reduced bezel along the top and bottom sides has enabled a smaller body footprint than, say, the G5, S7 Edge and OnePlus 3T, thus letting the G6 fit a tad more comfortably in one’s hand.

Another notable feature here is that the display panel has rounded corners, a decision made for both aesthetic reasons and to offer better protection against corner drops — LG’s data claims a rounded corner allows for stress dispersion upon impact, as opposed to a sharp corner taking the full blow.

In terms of core specs, the G6 is largely on par with other recent flagships. It runs Android 7.0 (pre-loaded with Google Assistant) and packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipset (MSM8996AC), 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 32GB of UFS 2.0 storage, microSD expansion, dual microphones, USB 3.1, NFC and LTE downlink of up to 600 Mbps. The surprise here is that the G6 has a dustproof and waterproof rating of IP68, meaning it’s completely protected against dust ingression, and has been tested for continuous immersion under at least one meter of water. (Amazingly, LG said it tested its phone in salt water as well.) As such, the Nano SIM + microSD tray is the only removable part, and it uses a rubber gasket to seal properly.

For some, the trade-off here is that the battery is no longer removable, but you do get a much larger 3,300 mAh lithium polymer cell. With the bundled Quick Charge 3.0 power adapter and USB-C cable, I managed to go from a depleted battery to 34 percent charge in just half an hour, and then to full charge 72 minutes after that. But it isn’t just about a larger battery this time. Following the Note 7 fiasco, LG began testing batteries at higher voltages and with more recharging cycles as well. And, just to be safe, it also increased the thickness of the separators inside the G6’s battery, so that it’s better protected against short circuiting due to external forces.

On a recent trip to LG’s factory in Korea, the lab technicians proved their batteries’ durability by showing me a couple of crazy torture tests. The first one threw a thick steel rod right onto a fully-charged G6 battery right in front of me but nothing happened, whereas a non-LG battery blew up in the same test, but that was only shown in a video for safety reasons. The second test was rather painful to watch: An apparatus slowly pushed a large needle into another fully-charged G6 battery, but again, no boom. And yes, I also watched a video of a non-LG battery quickly exploding in the same test.

LG has a flame test as well, which the battery can supposedly withstand, but I didn’t have the opportunity to observe it in action. Just to be doubly safe, LG added a heat pipe to help lower the chipset’s heat, and it seemed to do its job well during my 20-minute N.O.V.A. 3 gameplay.

Now, this is where things get a little confusing: Some of G6’s special features will only be available in select markets. For instance, built-in wireless charging is only available on the US models, whereas the 32-bit Quad DAC previously seen on the V20 is only available in the Asian variants — bad news for audiophiles elsewhere in the world. Similarly, only some Asian markets will offer a 64GB model as well as a dual-SIM variant. Simply put, you won’t find a “perfect” model anywhere, which is a real shame.

On the software side, LG’s new “UX 6.0” takes full advantage of the G6’s 18:9 screen aspect ratio. Many of its native apps — namely Gallery, Contacts, Calendar, E-mail and Music — are designed with a dual-square grid in mind, making them more practical and aesthetically pleasing, to boot. The same applies to Android 7.0’s multi-window view, in which you can set a square window for both apps if you want. The feature-packed Camera app goes even further by offering a scrollable thumbnail bar, so that you don’t have to go into the gallery to browse recent photos.

Most of the major third-party apps I tried rendered just fine on the G6’s taller screen; the issues I came across were relatively minor and should be easy to fix. For example, the top bar in the Facebook app would double in height after a while for some reason. Then in Netflix and VLC, the full-screen videos were forced to one side as the hidden Android navigation bar left a blank space behind. YouTube and the native video player don’t have this problem, but only the latter offers a “zoom” mode to enable a true full-screen playback.

In case you’re wondering, yes, the G6 is intentionally skipping the Snapdragon 835, and for good reason. LG’s product planning team pointed out that due to the chip’s new 10nm process plus additional circuitry, it would take some time before production quality reaches a satisfactory level, and that’s on top of the time needed for LG to test the chip for the sake of reliability. Even though LG never said as much on record, it’s clear that it wants to beat Samsung’s Galaxy S8 to market by a wide margin, so it makes sense to stick with a chip that’s a known entity.

But not all is lost, as LG worked with Qualcomm to port the Snapdragon 835’s camera zoom transition feature to the G6 for both stills and video. This enables a smoother switch between the two cameras while zooming, and indeed, the switch delay is less noticeable than what I’ve seen on the iPhone 7 Plus.

Speaking of, the G6’s dual-camera module is powered by Sony’s 13-megapixel IMX258, with the f/1.8 main camera featuring optical stabilization plus a 71-degree field of view, and the f/2.4 wide camera looking at 125 degrees. On the other side, the 5-megapixel selfie camera has an f/2.2 aperture and 100-degree field of view. As with the G5 and the G4, LG is still sticking with the 1.12um pixel size for all three sensors, but the lower resolutions are inevitable given LG’s insistence on removing the camera bump. What’s more concerning is the lack of laser autofocus and color spectrum sensor this time, but LG believes its software optimization makes up for it. We shall see.

Based on my brief experience with the G6 so far, it’s safe to say that LG has taken a sensible approach. Here we have a solid device that’s tougher, more practical and better-looking than its predecessor, and its FullVision display is a much-welcome feature in a market where phones tend to struggle to stand out. It can perhaps be a little frustrating knowing that no matter where you get your G6 from, you’re still missing out on certain features, so it’ll be interesting to see how the consumers respond when the regional prices come out. There’s no word on availability yet, so until then, we’ll continue to fiddle with our G6 and let you know how we get on with it.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from MWC 2017.

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iPhone muggers turn to phishing to access the device

If your phone was stolen or got lost somewhere, keep an eye out for any suspicious texts or emails: thieves and muggers could have a high-tech trick up their sleeves. A Brazilian woman who got robbed began receiving phishing attempts not long after the event. Her husband told Krebs on Security that he located the device using Find my iPhone and sent it text messages asking if he could buy it back. After that, he began receiving texts telling him that his iPhone had been found — all he needed to do was click on a link to retrieve it.

Further, the link leads to exact replicas of Apple’s and Find my iPhone’s log-in pages. The couple even got a call from a Siri-like robotic voice asking them to look for the text message for more info about their “recovered” phone. Clearly, it’s a well-thought-out scheme by tech-savvy muggers: rob people and then phish them to get their passwords.

The victim’s husband wanted to get the word out, since the scheme can definitely dupe anyone who’s not that familiar with phishing attempts. It’s also a good reminder to switch on Find My iPhone, so you can lock or erase it remotely if anything like this happens.

Source: Krebs on Security

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Latest version of iOS solves iPhone 6’s shutdown issues

Some iPhone 6 and 6s devices have been randomly shutting down over the past several months. iOS 10.2.1 was designed to fix the issue, and Apple says it has successfully solved the problem for most people who’ve already installed it. Cupertino told TechCrunch that 10.2.1, which has already been downloaded by roughly half of all iOS users, has led to an 80 percent reduction of unexpected shutdowns in iPhone 6s and 70 percent reduction in iPhone 6. TC says the affected phones unexpectedly shut down due to sudden spikes of activity in older iOS versions that cause older batteries to malfunction.

A spokesperson told the publication:

“With iOS 10.2.1, Apple made improvements to reduce occurrences of unexpected shutdowns that a small number of users were experiencing with their iPhone. iOS 10.2.1 already has over 50% of active iOS devices upgraded and the diagnostic data we’ve received from upgraders shows that for this small percentage of users experiencing the issue, we’re seeing a more than 80% reduction in iPhone 6s and over 70% reduction on iPhone 6 of devices unexpectedly shutting down.”

Apple also told TechCrunch that it has given the older iPhones the ability to restart without needing to be plugged in. Before the fix came out, people had no choice but to plug in their phones whenever an unexpected shutdown happens. In addition, the tech titan will roll out another feature in the next few days. If the latest version of iOS deems your battery to be too old and worn down, you’ll see a notice in settings telling you that “your battery needs service.”

Apple didn’t give an advice on what to do if version 10.2.1 doesn’t fix the problem for you. But if you’ve been experiencing the same issue, try installing the platform update first before getting your battery replaced.

Source: TechCrunch

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Google’s Android texting app has a new name

Despite how common texting is, its integration on Android has always lagged slightly behind, as Google appeared to focus on other things. Sometimes it wrapped the feature into other services/apps like Google Voice and Hangouts, but lately, the main Android texting app has been getting some tweaks too. The latest one brings a new name, as it goes from Google Messenger (probably frequently confused with the bot-laden Facebook Messenger) to Android Messages.

If your iPhone owning friends hate seeing green bubbles pop up in iMessage, it probably won’t do much to change that, and even for Android users, there’s very little changed beyond the name. The styling and features of the app are exactly the same, but with MWC 2017 about to kick off, maybe it has more plans in store. In the changelog, it notes that there is “Simpler sign-up for enhanced features on supported carriers,” so there could be easier access to RCS-enabled enhancements that bring its experience up to par with iMessage.

Of course, if there’s anything we know about Google, it’s that the company always has another new messaging scheme around the corner.

Source: Android Messages

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Google adds voice typing, Doodles and more emoji to Gboard on iOS

Google’s powerful Gboard app might now be on Android, but it’s the iPhone version that is receiving most of the updates. As part of its most recent overhaul, the search giant has extended support to 15 new countries*, and also added a number of new features that make it easier to say what you have to say.

As of now, users have access to all of the latest emoji in iOS 10. If you don’t remember, one of the most useful Gboard features is the ability to search and find the perfect emoji, allowing you to decorate texts and emails without scrolling through endless lists of icons.

By incorporating search into its keyboard, you don’t need to visit Google.com to find what you’re after and share it. Keeping with this theme, the app now also hosts Google Doodles, notifying you of new additions via the animated “G” button. If it’s moving, hit the icon and Gboard will display more information about the Doodle on that particular day.

Perhaps the most useful feature is voice support. Like the native keyboard, all you need to do is press the microphone and talk. If you’ve used Google’s voice services before, you’ll know that they are pretty reliable, so it might come in handy when you have your hands full or need your eyes fixed on something more important.

*Supported languages include: Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, Catalan, Hungarian, Malay, Russian, Latin American Spanish and Turkish. They can be selected by opening the Gboard app and choosing “Languages”, then “Add Language.”

Via: Google Blog

Source: gBoard (App Store)

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The Morning After: Wednesday, February 22 2017

Welcome to your Wednesday. And maybe the future. NASA has a big announcement today, Qualcomm is promising phone chips that’ll gulp down data faster than your current fiber connection, and more immediately, your next iPhone might pack a depth-sensing camera. Yes, we all find excitement in different places.

Tune in to NASA TV at 1PM ET
NASA has a new discovery to announce

This afternoon, scientists will reveal a discovery “beyond our solar system.” The new findings have to do with exoplanets, aka planets that orbit stars other than our own. We don’t know what they’ve found — if it’s Earth 2 then can we all promise not to tell Mat Smith? — but all will be revealed in a live streamed press conference at 1PM ET, followed by an AMA on Reddit.

This plan doesn’t use them to replace drivers
UPS tests drone/truck delivery combo

The FAA still needs to approve the system before it can roll out, but UPS just showed off an idea to use drones to deliver packages. Using tech we’ve seen before from the Workhorse Group, flying machines take off from a delivery truck. While the driver continues to their next stop, the drone delivers its package and returns to the truck autonomously.

1.2Gbps, to be exact
Qualcomm’s new LTE chip is faster than gigabit fiber

The X20 chip is capable of simultaneously receiving up to 12 streams of LTE data. That’s good for bandwidth as high as 1.2Gbps for your phone or tablet when it arrives in 2018. Bonding 4G streams together (it can also upload at up to 150Mbps) is the best we can hope for until proper 5G tech arrives, assuming you can find a tower nearby ready to deliver that speed (and bandwidth caps it won’t instantly exceed.)

After losing a speaking gig and book deal
Internet troll Milo Yiannopoulos resigns from Breitbart News

There’s no need to waste any more of our valuable ink on the details. Wait, this newsletter isn’t printed in ink? It should be.

It could power a car while also capturing carbon dioxide.
Tiny ‘engine’ turns natural gas into hydrogen

The dilemma with hydrogen is that while fueling your car with the stuff is faster than charging an EV, making and distributing it is inefficient and polluting. A team from the Georgia Institute of Technology has created a four-stroke “engine” that converts natural gas (methane) into hydrogen from just about anywhere, while capturing the CO2. It could one day hook up to your natural gas line, letting you fuel your car from home in a non-polluting way like you can with an EV.

More G.Intel and Qualcomm are steadily gearing up for 5G

There’s still no unified 5G standard for the next generation of mobile communication, but boy, do some companies have plenty of ideas. Qualcomm and Intel are hoping to play essential roles in the 5G ecosystem, which is poised to be at least ten times faster than existing networks and offer features like near-zero latency.

Apple owns the company that helped build the original Kinect.
The next iPhone might have depth-sensing front camera

Rumors of what the next iPhone will be like are coming in hot and heavy. Last week, well-connected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo noted that the new handsets would nix the home button for a touch-friendly “function area.” Now, a KGI Securities report says that the upcoming OLED iPhone will feature a “revolutionary” front camera that’s capable of sensing 3D space via infrared. Intrigued?

Nothing is sacredThe Etch A Sketch got an LCD screen

So many feelings.

But wait, there’s more…

  • The reborn ‘MST3K’ will stream on Netflix April 14th
  • Alienware 13 Kaby Lake review
  • SodaStream recalls 51,000 bottles because they might explode
  • New brain-computer interface technology delivers faster and more accurate typing

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‘Complicit’ is an undercover look at the dangers of making gadgets

Even though Apple and Foxconn vowed to improve factory worker conditions back in 2012, life is still pretty rough for the people building the gadgets we use every day. Complicit, a new documentary from Heather White and Lynn Zhang, hopes to shine a light on what it’s really like for Foxconn factory workers, who produce devices for Apple and other companies.

The film, which was mostly shot undercover, follows Yi Yeting, a former Foxconn employee who was diagnosed with leukemia at the young age of 24. The cause? Benzene poisoning from a cleaning agent that was used while making the iPhone and iPad. Apple banned the substance, along with n-hexane, from its assembly lines back in 2014, following reports that it was leading to leukemia among factory workers. But Yeting is still fighting for Foxconn and other companies to acknowledge benzene poisoning and other issues.

Complicit will screen during the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in March, and hopefully it’ll be widely available soon.

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Next iPhone might have depth-sensing front camera

It’s that time of year, folks. Rumors of what the next iPhone will be like are coming in hot and heavy. Last week, well-connected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo noted that the new handsets would nix the home button for a touch-friendly “function area.” Now there’s another bit of info. In a KGI Securities report detailed by 9to5Mac, the analyst explains that the upcoming OLED iPhone will feature a “revolutionary” front camera that’s capable of sensing 3D space via infrared.

More specifically, the report explains that the newfangled camera can combine depth information with 2D images for things like facial recognition, iris recognition and, perhaps most importantly, 3D selfies. Given the previous report about the home button being put out to pasture, there will need to be a replacement for Touch ID. Rumors indicate that either facial recognition or a fingerprint reader embedded in the display would assist with unlocking the device. This new report would point more to the former method.

The report also explains a bit about how the 3D front-facing camera would be used in gaming scenarios. The camera could be used to replace an in-game character’s head or face with that of the user and those 3D selfies could be destined for augmented reality.

It’s no surprise to get word of potential depth-sensing camera tech from Apple. The company nabbed PrimeSense in 2013, an outfit that co-developed the original Kinect for Xbox. This latest KGI report says PrimeSense algorithms will allow the hardware to depth and location of objects in its field of view. An earlier report from Fast Company explained that Apple was working with Lumentum to use its 3D-sensing tech on the next iPhone.

While the 3D camera will only be on the front side for now, Kuo says Apple will eventually employ the tech on around back as well. The report also explains that the company is way ahead of Android as far as 3D algorithms go, so a depth-sensing camera would be a unique feature for a couple of years. Of course, if the early rumors are true, you can expect to pay $ 1,000 for the 10th anniversary iPhone when it arrives.

Source: 9to5Mac

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Report: Apple might be revamping its iPad lineup in March

Japanese website Macotakara reports that Apple’s upcoming March event will see the release of a new line of iPad Pros as well as 128GB iPhone SE and a new bright red color choice for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. The company is expected to unveil iPad Pros in 7.9-inch, 9.7-inch, 10.5-inch, and 12.9-inch models.

That could mean that Apple is replacing the iPad mini 4 with the 7.9-inch Pro, refreshing the 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch models. and introducing a whole new model, the 10.5. However there have been some conflicting reports as to whether Apple really will do that. Both Barclays and KGI Securities failed to mention the 7.9-inch model in their predictions so it could be that the 10.5-inch will actually replace the mini 4. As DigiTimes points out, the 10.5’s screen width would be the same as the iPad mini’s screen height and, with that rumored edge-to-edge display, would fit in the same overall footprint.

Still, Macotakara is saying that the 7.9-inch will use the Smart Connector, a 12MP iSight camera, True Tone flash and display, just like its larger counterparts. The 10.5 and 12.9 inch versions will reportedly run on A10X chips while the smaller models will use the A9X.

Macotakara’s report also states that Apple plans to release an iPhone SE with 128GB of onboard storage as well as red variants of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, potentially as a licensing tie-in with Product Red. We might see new Watch bands in March as well given that the company similarly refreshed those at last year’s “Loop You In” event.

And while Macotakara is generally trusted as a source for advanced Apple announcements, there is no guarantee that the company will actually announce all of this stuff. We’ll simply have to wait until March to find out.

Via: Macrumors

Source: Macotakara

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