Google might bring curved screens to its next Pixel phone

Google, which has taken a hands-off approach to Android hardware until recently, may be getting more involved in smartphone production. It’s reportedly investing up to $ 875 million in LG Display to develop a stable supply of flexible OLED screens for its Pixel phones, according to reports from Korea’s Yonhap News and Electronic Times (ET). That would help ease supply problems for the next-gen device, as the current model has been nearly impossible to find.

The search giant would invest a trillion won ($ 875 million) and possibly more to secure a production line dedicated to its own smartphones. It may also reserve some flexible OLED screens for other devices like a rumored pair of “Pixel” smartwatches. LG display is reportedly mulling the offer, which would be a strategic investment and not just an order deposit. If it signs on, curved screens for the Pixel would likely be built in LG’s $ 1.3 billion flexible OLED line in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province.

With its Nexus phones, Google let partners Huawei, LG and HTC control all aspects of the devices and hardware. However, with the Pixel and Pixel XL, Google actually took charge of the design and thus, to some level, the hardware. That was both a good and bad thing — the phone was generally acknowledged as the best-ever Google device, but was only released in the US, UK, Australia, Germany and Canada. Even in those nations, it was pretty damn hard to find.

If the news is accurate (and with supply rumors, that’s a big “if”) then Google would be playing favorites with one Android supplier, LG, over another, Samsung. On the other hand, Samsung might be quite okay with that, considering it’s about to launch its own curved OLED Galaxy S8 smartphone and possibly supply the flexible OLED display for Apple’s next iPhone 8. With OLED tech seemingly the only thing that manufacturers want, it makes sense for Google to cut a deal with LG, which isn’t faring so well with its own devices.

Via: Techcrunch

Source: Yonhap, ET News (translated)

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Huawei finally has a phone worthy of the Leica brand

From super-slow-mo cameras and bezel-less displays to banking on the power of nostalgia, smartphone makers have tried almost every trick they can to stand out. Huawei’s latest strategy is to partner with color authority Pantone to come up with a variety of eye-catching hues for its latest flagship. The Huawei P10 (and the slightly larger P10 Plus) will be available in a slew of colors and finishes. But while that’s nice for people looking to personalize their phones, it’s not particularly useful.

What’s actually useful about the new flagship is its powerful camera and reliable performance wrapped in an understated, elegant frame. And although the phones won’t officially be coming to the US for the time being (they’ll sell in Europe starting at €649), they’re still a tantalizing preview of what Huawei might have in store.

Huawei has already proven itself capable of building premium, good-looking handsets, and the P10 is further evidence of that. Its slim 6.98mm (0.27-inch) profile and gently curving edges aren’t just pleasant to look at, they’re a pleasure to hold as well.

Many of my friends have pointed out the P10’s resemblance to the iPhone. And indeed, that’s true of the basic white/gold version I tested. If you aren’t feeling the Apple-esque look, you can opt for one of the many customization options that Huawei offers. Pick a different color — there are seven hues to choose from, including Pantone-approved “Dazzling Blue” and “Greenery.” Or try a different finish. You can get a smooth, sandblasted back, a glossy coat or a gritty texture that’s reminiscent of ridged, holographic lenticular cards. That last option is popular with a couple of my coworkers, and it does help the P10 stand out. The colors and textures available vary between countries, though, so you might not be able to get the exact combination you want.

The P10’s 5.1-inch full HD display is sharp and colorful, and while it won’t wow you with richly saturated images or deep blacks like Samsung’s flagships do, it’s good enough for my Instagram and Netflix binges. The same can be said for the P10 Plus’ 5.5-inch WQHD panel, which offers more space for gaming and reading. I just wish both phones were a tad brighter so I could read more easily in strong sunlight.

While we’re on the subject, the P10 and P10 Plus come with screen protectors out of the box. It didn’t bother me but might annoy people who want direct access to the display. The trouble for these folks is that it appears the protector was applied in lieu of an oleophobic coating on the screen, which other phones have in order to avoid fingerprint grease and water damage.

When we asked about the reported lack of this coating, Huawei said, “The P10 is the world’s first smartphone with capacitive under-glass fingerprint sensor for seamless navigation.” In layman’s terms, that all but confirms that Huawei did away with the coating to prevent interference with its under-glass fingerprint sensor. The company also said, “For screen protection, we have used premium materials such as Gorilla Glass 5 and include a screen protector as part of the integrated product.” Basically, if you want to remove the screen protector (which, by the way, is incredibly difficult), do so knowing you risk damaging the display.

Below the screen sits a pill-shaped home key that houses the fingerprint sensor. Think of this as an etched-out touchpad. It doesn’t depress or click; it simply senses your touch. There aren’t separate Back and Recent Apps buttons on its sides; you’ll have to tap once on the sensor to go back, hold down to go home and swipe sideways to multitask. This takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s worth learning now, since Huawei is not the only company implementing this method (the Moto G5 uses a similar format).

If that’s too much trouble, you can still opt for a set of onscreen navigation keys, which is the default setting for the larger P10 Plus. This feels more intuitive, but it makes the physical sensor redundant and confusing, since I still keep hitting it instinctively to go to the home screen.

Just as it has with the recently released Mate 9, Huawei has integrated artificial intelligence into the P10’s system. Thanks to the company’s custom octa-core Kirin 960 processor, the smartphone can learn your habits over time and divert resources like RAM and power to preparing the apps it predicts you will next open. During my month of testing, I most commonly used the P10 for taking pictures, looking at them in the gallery, and sharing them either on Instagram or to Google Drive. Switching between these apps is zippy, which could be a sign that Huawei’s algorithm is working well here (or, you know, that the processor and RAM are more than adequate for how I used the phone). Like I noted when I reviewed the Mate 9, though, this isn’t something you’ll notice until it doesn’t work. And it’s not as if the phone stuttered when I pulled up apps I didn’t use as frequently; in general, the P10 is responsive and multitasks well.

Capable performance and pleasant aesthetics are important basics to nail, but Huawei has come far enough that their delivering those is no longer surprising. What I wasn’t expecting, though, was the P10’s ability to take stunning pictures. When Huawei first teamed up with Leica to co-engineer the P9’s cameras in 2016, the result was underwhelming. Now the collaboration finally seems to be paying off. I’d actually reach for the P10 over my iPhone 6s every time I want to snap a pretty picture (or a gratuitous selfie). The P10 Plus has newer Leica sensors and a larger f/1.8 aperture than the regular P10’s f/2.0 setup, but I didn’t notice a significant difference in image quality other than more-saturated colors on the larger handset. Both cameras performed similarly well.

The P10’s rear features a 12-megapixel RGB sensor and a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor, similar to the setup on a handful of Android phones from ZTE and Xiaomi. Together, the cameras capture crisp, colorful photos with pretty bokeh, thanks to software that applies an artificial depth-of-field effect to pictures. From my experience, though, the iPhone 7 Plus is more accurate when it comes to identifying outlines of faces, while the P10 tends to be more muddy with its boundaries. It causes parts of my head, like my hair, to be blurred out along with the background. Still, the pictures look lovely, and the accuracy is already an improvement over the P9. Plus, it could easily be fixed with a software update.

What the P10 does that the iPhone can’t, though, is apply that same soft focus to selfies. I was won over the instant I saw the results — they’re almost pretty enough to make me switch to Android. It sounds vain, but the front-camera integration makes getting the bokeh effect much easier, and is a bonus for anyone who wants better selfies.

The P10’s front camera also has a handy tool for group selfies that detects faces in the shot and zooms in or out to accommodate them. This feature was finicky in my testing and didn’t always work. When it did kick in, it did a good job of providing enough room for everyone in the picture, but it’s too unreliable right now to be useful.

Software is a big reason the P10’s pictures are superb. Its camera app features a trio of color profiles — standard, vivid and smooth — that let you take richer, more saturated images that are Instagram-ready without any edits. These sometimes result in slightly overexposed photos because of the high contrast, but you can always shoot in standard mode to avoid that. The P10 is also impressive in low light. Pictures of buildings at night displayed almost no noise — details were clear and colors were vivid. Portrait mode can introduce noise, but even there it’s minor.

There is very little to dislike about the P10 — even its battery life is satisfying. The regular P10 has a 3,200mAh cell, while the Plus packs a 3,750mAh one. During my testing, both phones easily lasted about for a day and a half of average use. But anytime I started playing games or watching videos on YouTube, that runtime dropped to a day at best. That’s still impressive, though, and recharging the phone is speedy enough, thanks to quick-charge support. I was surprised to see the P10 go from zero percent to 25 percent charged in a mere 15 minutes.

Ultimately, the P10 and P10 Plus are good-looking, responsive phones with excellent cameras. But they’re not perfect. I’m not a fan of the home key navigation, nor do I like the limited availability of Huawei’s unique color options. Plus, the handsets won’t officially be coming to the US. If you get your hands on one and stick an AT&T or T-Mobile SIM card in there, the phone will work, though you may not get full LTE speeds, since the radio isn’t optimized for US spectrums. Huawei has only just begun bringing its popular handsets stateside, so hopefully the P10 will make its way here soon.

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China says Apple isn’t cloning a local phone maker

Did it seem ridiculous to you that Beijing officials ordered a ban on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus over a dubious design patent claim? You’re not the only one. A court has reversed the ban (which was suspended during a dispute process) and declared that Apple isn’t violating the patents of Shenzhen Baili Marketing Services, which insisted that the iPhone 6 riffed on the look of its 100c smartphone. Regulators issued the ban without real proof of wrongdoing, according to the ruling, and the iPhone has traits that “completely change the effect” of its design versus its (frankly very generic-looking) rival. Customers haven’t had a problem telling the difference between the iPhone and 100c, the court says.

This is water under the bridge for Apple given that it stopped selling the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus a while back — it wasn’t going to lose much money even if the court upheld the ban. However, the win could serve as a shot across the bow of other Chinese companies that might try a similar move in the future. If they want future claims to stick, they’ll have to show that there’s more than a passing similarity between devices. Otherwise, they may not get much more than a brief burst of publicity.

Source: SCMP, Reuters

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This iPhone case is basically an Android phone

iPhones have a reputation for being user friendly, but ultimately, Android can do a lot of things iOS can’t. Aspects of Android could be useful to all phone users, but straying from the Apple ecosystem can be intimidating. Now, there’s a new way for iPhone users to easily access Android features like expandable storage and multiple SIM cards. Entrepreneur Joseph Savion and his company ESTI Inc. decided to (almost literally) strap an Android phone to the back of an iPhone. That sounds like a strange idea, but that’s basically what ESTI’s Eye phone case does.

The case, which is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, adds a 5-inch AMOLED display, a 2.3GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU, a 2800mAh battery, up to 256GB of microSD storage, dual SIM slots, a headphone jack and wireless charging, among other features. There are two versions of the case: one with cellular connectivity and one without. A comment from Savion on the Kickstarter page says that the Android device can make use of the iPhone’s internet connection. While there is some other integration between the devices — they share the iPhone’s speaker, microphone and cameras — they pretty much function as their own machines.

The case runs Android 7.1 Nougat, and if Eye is starting to sound more like a standalone phone than an iPhone case, well, it’s priced like one too. It’s expected to retail for $ 189 (or $ 229 for the 4G version), although early Kickstarter backers can get theirs for $ 95 ($ 129 for 4G). That said, $ 95 for a phone is pretty cheap.

The main question is, who this product is even for? Most iPhone users seem happy with their devices, and probably don’t need a product like this to “improve” it. Even for users wanting to test the Android waters, there are plenty of non-Apple devices available for under $ 100 that could satisfy their curiosity without adding bulk to their current phone.

Ultimately, Eye seems a lot more interesting than it does practical. As of this writing, the case has raised over $ 84,000 of its $ 95,000 goal with 32 days to go. So, it might not be necessary, but it will probably come to market anyway.

Via: The Verge, 9to5Google

Source: Kickstarter

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The hunt for Windows Phone

MWC — the world’s biggest phone show — is happening all around me. Nearly every new phone that’s been announced here in Barcelona is Android-powered, while the ever-influential iPhone keeps other halls filled with cases, add-ons and every color of Lightning cable imaginable. But where is Windows Phone? We know it still exists, somewhere between dead and living. If you browse through Microsoft’s Windows Phone store online, you’ll see HP’s Elite X3 take pride of place (with a tiny Lumia footnote) … but that’s about it. A Microsoft spokesperson told me that the company “remain[s] committed to our universal Windows platform. We will continue to support and invest in these types of mobile experiences for Windows 10.” But c’mon, this is MWC. There must be something here, right? Here’s what I could find.

Nokia has nothing to do with Windows Phone now


Yes, the return of the 3310 as nostalgia-bait scored some early headlines at MWC, but the company’s return as a global smartphone maker made one thing clear: It’s all-Android now. When I talked to Nokia and HMD execs about its new smartphones, they were careful to be diplomatic, saying that Android “is a brilliant mobile platform for us” and that it would be focusing on Google’s mobile OS at this time. Also, alternative options are scarce when it comes to phone operating systems. Just ask BlackBerry.

Niche phone makers are distancing themselves from Windows Phone

One of the last Windows Phones to appear, NuAns’ Neo came from Japan, a country with a strong tradition of businesses buying into enterprise hardware. The device was also one of the prettiest Windows Phones ever to surface, with interchangeable backs of various materials, textures and colors. Sure, it was a little chunky, but it also handled Continuum, one of Microsoft’s mobile trump cards. The phone is apparently still on sale, but its Kickstarter campaign failed to reach its funding target for an international launch last year.

That brings us to MWC 2017 and the company’s new phone: the NuAns Neo Reloaded. It sounds like a Matrix sequel, and it looks just as charming. The team behind the Neo has upgraded almost everything: There’s a faster Snapdragon processor, a 1080p 5.2-inch display, and dustproofing and water resistance as well as a faster, Sony-made camera sensor. The biggest “upgrade,” however, is Android 7.1. It also keeps the quaint recess under the two-tone covers for your contactless payment (or metro) card of choice.

It’s not for you

Late Monday afternoon, I got a lead. HP’s Elite x3 was the last big Windows Phone launch, built for power users and those tempted by Continuum. It launched at last year’s MWC, and this year it’s back. Well, kind of. HP has added a companion bump for its Windows Phone: a chunky high-end bar code scanner for … scanning bar codes. It’s an enterprise accessory aimed at health care workers and retail. HP teamed up with Honeywell to make a bar code scanner that, while useful, is unlikely to interest mainstream shoppers.

Windows 10 is an increasingly mobile OS

Here’s the rub: MWC had plenty of tablets running full-fat Windows 10. There were convertible, detachable Windows devices, and many of them had LTE radios built in (including the 12-inch Samsung Galaxy Book and Lenovo Miix). This is Windows 10’s current mobile form — even if the resulting devices don’t generally fit in your pocket.

The irony, of course, is that this new wave of devices reduces the need for the Microsoft faithful to invest in a dedicated Windows Phone. You’ll have less desire for Continuum and a completely portable desktop experience when your ultraportable notebook is thin and light enough to carry around everywhere anyway. Windows Phone as we know it is gone. What comes after this? Only Microsoft knows, but for its sake, it will have to stick the landing.

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

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Soon cops will search your phone just like your car

Imagine a routine traffic stop during which the officer has the legal right to search not just your car, but your phone too.

That’s where we’re likely headed: A Florida court recently denied Fifth Amendment protections for iPhone passcodes, saying suspects must now reveal them to police. The decision came after a previous court had ruled that a suspect couldn’t be compelled to give up the key to unlock his phone based on laws against self-incrimination.

A trial judge had denied the state’s motion to compel the suspect to give up his passcode, finding that it would be tantamount to forcing him to testify against himself, in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

But the Florida Court of Appeal’s Second District just reversed that decision. Judge Anthony Black said, “Unquestionably, the State established, with reasonable particularity, its knowledge of the existence of the passcode, Stahl’s control or possession of the passcode, and the self-authenticating nature of the passcode. This is a case of surrender and not testimony.

“More importantly,” he added, indicating future cases about passcodes and Fifth Amendment protections, “we question the continuing viability of any distinction as technology advances.”

The case tipping the scales in favor of the police comes by way of a total creep getting caught shoving his phone under a woman’s skirt and taking photos. It’s pretty hard to feel bad for the guy. Many people know that “upskirts” are illegal, and most know it’s also a really shitty thing to do to someone. But Aaron Stahl didn’t care. He followed a woman around a store, and when he thought she wasn’t looking, he crouched down, shoved his phone under her skirt to take photos and got caught doing it.

When she asked him what the hell he was doing, he claimed he’d dropped his phone. She yelled for help and tried to stop him from leaving. He ran. But the store had him doing everything on surveillance cameras and got a clear shot of his car’s license plates. When police caught up to Stahl and arrested him for third-degree voyeurism, he’d conveniently left his phone at home.

In a police interview, Stahl consented to a search of his phone, an Apple iPhone 5. But when police actually went to his house with a warrant and got the phone, he withdrew his consent before giving them his passcode. Basically, Stahl attempted to show he’s innocent by not being accountable for his phone.

And as we all know, without the passcode even Apple can’t pop open someone’s iPhone and hand the contents over to police.

That’s meant authorities have had to get a little creative about looking through people’s phones.

After much wrangling and embarrassment earlier this year, the FBI forked over $ 1.3 million to have the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone hacked into. Just a few weeks ago, Scotland Yard actually “mugged” a suspect. In that instance, British cops waited until their target was on a call before physically snatching the phone and continually swiping it to keep the screen unlocked while they apprehended their guy.

The Florida case shows a flip in the opposite direction from 2015’s ruling by a Pennsylvania federal court, which decided the authorities can’t force someone to surrender his or her phone’s passcode. Just as he opposed the Pennsylvania court decision, I’m sure law professor and SCOTUS blogger Orin Kerr would agree with Florida’s judges that a code isn’t in itself incriminating.

“For example, imagine the government orders you to turn over any and all crystal meth in your possession,” Kerr opined about Pennsylvania’s passcode ruling. “In response to the order, you hand over a plastic bag filled with some substance. Your response effectively testified that you think the item in the bag is crystal meth and that it is in your possession. That’s admitting to a crime — possession of crystal meth — so you have a Fifth Amendment right not to have to produce the item in response to the order.”

Here, the judge hasn’t asked Florida’s creeper of the year, Aaron Stahl, to turn over any and all upskirt photos. Just the passcode.

The decision will likely lead to further challenges, but different courts around the United States are tackling the iPhone-evidence conundrum. Judge Black’s opinion will no doubt influence how others rule.

“Providing the passcode does not ‘betray any knowledge [Stahl] may have about the circumstances of the offenses’ for which he is charged,” Black said, writing for the Florida court’s three-judge panel. “Thus,” he said, “compelling a suspect to make a nonfactual statement that facilitates the production of evidence for which the state has otherwise obtained a warrant … does not offend the privilege.”

This is a compelling argument for handing over Stahl’s passcode. But then again, it’s also compelling because he’s such a blatant scumbag about all of this. Maybe it’s a false equivalency, though I’m inclined to believe it’s the rest of us who’ll pay for this guy’s troll-like behavior. He brazenly violated a woman’s privacy and expects his privacy protections to be upheld so he can get away with it. He’s not all that different from the guy on Twitter claiming death and rape threats are protected free speech.

This ruling is supposed to be about the greater good, but there’s nothing that feels great or good about it.

We’ll probably wade through a hodge-podge of law-enforcement rules across the nation until this gets ironed out, while precedents are set that aren’t thought through. In the meantime, we can be sure bad cops will collect passcodes and see what else they can get into with them. Because, thanks to security fatigue, people reuse the same passwords and PINs wherever possible.

It doesn’t take the mind of a hacker to figure that someone’s four-digit cellphone PIN is probably the same as her ATM and voicemail PIN codes.

So look: It’s not that cops and border guards and probably stormtroopers can’t demand access to people’s phones and computers nearly everywhere else in the world, because they can. It’s just that here, we’ve been living in an arrogant fantasy that we were somehow immune to that type of control. Rest assured that countries on every other continent circling our shaky blue orb don’t live in this fantasy.

We might be inclined to think that the world has gotten more fascist. No. It’s just that we’re losing our virginity, and effectual consent is bad for authoritarianism. Welcome to the rest of the world. It’s time to quit whining about Android vs. Apple security, or how broken the password model is, and realize your cutesy privacy island never existed in the first place.

Laws like these might be what we deserve, after years of remaining relatively ignorant to the realities of how tech tools like cellphones and Facebook are used by authoritarian leaders and surveillance-happy police. We’re about to enter a future where our president embraces letting government off the leash when it comes to surveilling citizens.

I remember when Google’s Eric Schmidt said, “If you have something you don’t want anyone to know, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” And when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said that if you’re not doing anything “wrong” then you don’t have anything to worry about when it comes to losing your privacy. It’s starting to look like these weren’t just harmless words from eccentric tech billionaires.

All I’m saying is that this is all connected, and the road that led to cops being able to search your entire life during a traffic stop is one paved with greed, perverse ideals and nightmarish lapses of empathy. Of course, some of us tried to raise the alarm back then, but we were written off as bad people with something to hide because we wanted boundaries.

But this story, the one about the Fifth Amendment and passcodes, is supposed to be about fairness and justice. Except with bad guys like Aaron Stahl, it’s a fairness that feels so cynical we barely understand how we got here.

Images: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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OnePlus 3T review: A satisfying update to a fairly new phone

Remember the OnePlus 3? It came out barely six months ago and was the best phone you could get for $ 400. Well, it’s about to be replaced by a faster, slightly more expensive version of itself that the company is calling the OnePlus 3T. (The T doesn’t stand for anything; it’s a cheeky take on the typical “S” suffix denoting many flagship sequels.) The new $ 439 device uses the latest Snapdragon 821 processor to achieve even faster speeds, and packs a beefier battery and sharper front camera — improvements in areas where the original sort of fell short. I say “sort of” because other than battery life, the OnePlus 3 didn’t need much improving. But OnePlus made it better anyway, and now it’s one of the best phones on the market, especially at this price.

Hardware

There isn’t much of a difference, at least externally, between the OnePlus 3T and its predecessor. Indeed, a lot of what I’m going to describe here was covered in greater detail in our review of the original. The most obvious physical change is the new “gunmetal” color, which is a slightly darker shade of gray-silver than the OnePlus 3. A “soft gold” option is also available, just like with the original.

Color aside, the 3T looks exactly the same as its predecessor, which itself is impressive, given that it has a larger battery. It sports the same 5.5-inch full HD Optic AMOLED display, which was sharp and bright enough to watch videos on indoors and outdoors. It also has the same single speaker at the bottom that was loud enough to fill my living room with sound, although it got tinny at top volume.

You’ll find the same fingerprint sensor, USB-C charging port and physical mute switch here as on the OnePlus 3. Just like the previous version, the OnePlus 3T has a dual nano SIM card slot, but no room for a microSD reader. Those who want more storage will have to opt for a new 128GB option, which costs $ 479. Neither phone meets widely accepted water-resistance standards, though the company says the handsets will survive wet weather. It didn’t rain during my review period, so I unfortunately wasn’t able to test that claim.

Software

You probably won’t notice many differences between the OnePlus 3’s version of OxygenOS and its successor’s; the changes here are very subtle. The company resized its app icons so they’re consistent across the home, all apps and Shelf pages, and added some new gestures, such as three-finger screenshots and flip-to-mute, to make the phone more convenient to use.

The OnePlus 3T also gets new apps for weather and voice recording, and allows you to lock specific apps with your fingerprint. It also features a quick-settings panel that’s more similar to what you’ll find on Android Nougat. The changes here aren’t major, but they do make getting around the system slightly easier.

Cameras

I don’t generally need an excuse to go on a selfie-taking binge, but I did appreciate having “testing the OnePlus 3T’s 16-megapixel front camera” as a reason to do so. The new setup is much sharper than the one on the OnePlus 3, which the company says makes for better low-light performance.

This was indeed true when I casually snapped dozens of portraits while traipsing around Manhattan one night, and the camera delivered several crisp images, despite all the motion. Not only were they sharp, but the pictures were also bright and relatively noise-free. I had to take a picture in a dark, poorly lit warehouse before I started to see any graininess. The one thing I wish the OnePlus 3T’s front camera had was some form of flash, for taking clear shots in near-darkness.

Just because they have the same megapixel count, though, doesn’t mean that the front and rear cameras are the same. They differ quite vastly on color quality, thanks to their different sensors and pixel size. The same scenes shot with the front camera looked washed-out and pale compared with those taken with the rear camera, which generally captured vibrant, richly colored images. OnePlus 3T also added a layer of sapphire glass to the back camera to protect it from scratches that could forever mar your shots.

As we mentioned in our review of the OnePlus 3, the rear camera is capable in most lighting conditions, but won’t impress the way the iPhone 7 Plus or many other smartphone cameras would. It delivered sharp, accurately colored exterior shots on sunny days, and rendered a respectable amount of detail in low light, but images looked flat indoors. Still, it’s perfectly adequate, and that front camera will please selfie fans like myself.

Performance and battery life

Most flagship phones released this year use the Snapdragon 820 processor, rather than the newer 821 chip that Qualcomm started offering later in the year. So, only the Google Pixel and LeEco Le Pro3 have it, which makes the OnePlus 3 slightly less competitive on specs (the LePro 3 costs the same as the OnePlus 3). I imagine this is one of the biggest reasons OnePlus decided to drop a new flagship so soon after unveiling its previous one, but still, it’s a smart move.

OnePlus 3T OnePlus 3 LeEco Le Pro3 Google Pixel
AndEBench Pro 14,399 13,841 13,354 14,941
Vellamo 3.0 6,144 5,202 6,559 5,343
3DMark IS Unlimited 31,691 30,058 31,753 28,645
GFXBench 3.0 1080p Manhattan Offscreen (fps) 50 48 30 46
CF-Bench 51,262 41,653 42,572 30,997

The Snapdragon 821 processor makes the OnePlus 3T faster than the original, which was already pretty speedy. It’s hard to tell the difference in day-to-day performance, because I’m not a robot and can’t detect minute differences in app-launch times, but overall the 3T was very responsive. Its Vellamo score of 6,144 beat the OnePlus 3, the Samsung Galaxy S7, the HTC 10 and the Google Pixel and Pixel XL, while its AndEBench result trumped the OnePlus 3 and the Galaxy S7 but fell short of the Pixel phones and HTC 10. The OnePlus 3T also bested the field in graphics-performance tests.

This means you’re mostly going to see similar speeds across these phones. Considering the Pixels use the same chip (albeit with less RAM) but cost hundreds of dollars more, the OnePlus 3T really delivers on value here.

The OnePlus 3T has the same 6GB of RAM as the original, which makes for swift multitasking. OnePlus says it also improved the launch speed for large apps and games, so you won’t have to wait quite as long to open these programs. I also found call quality to be perfectly adequate. I called a friend who was in Queens (on T-Mobile’s network), and he was able to accurately repeat a string of numbers that I recited, despite his dog barking in the background, which I heard as well. Unfortunately, as with previous OnePlus handsets, the 3T works only on GSM carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile.

One area where the company says it received the most negative feedback about the OnePlus 3 was battery life. In addition to simply bumping up the battery capacity to 3,400mAh from 3,000mAh, OnePlus tuned the power efficiency of the CPU so that despite its faster speed, it sips power at the same rate as the previous handset.

I was expecting a slight increment on endurance and wasn’t quite prepared for the 3T’s epic stamina. It lasted 16 hours and seven minutes on Engadget’s battery test, which involves looping an HD video with the screen set to 50 percent brightness until the device conks out. That’s almost six hours more than the OnePlus 3’s runtime, and two hours longer than the Google Pixel XL, which has a 3,450mAh bank.

When the phone does eventually run out of juice, it charges back up to offer what the company says is a day’s worth of power in 30 minutes. After the OnePlus 3T finally died on Engadget’s battery test, I plugged it in and was able to take it on a quick video shoot just 15 minutes after, because it already got back up to 20 percent in that time. Not only is this fast, but that’s enough juice to last at least two hours.

The competition

The OnePlus 3T faces direct competition from the LeEco Le Pro3, which uses the same processor with less RAM for $ 400. But the Le Pro3 suffers from unintuitive software, has a less vibrant display and doesn’t last as long as the 3T.

Google’s Pixel phones also use the same processors, offering similar (if not better) performance in a premium frame. These handsets have better cameras and run the latest version of Android (7.0 Nougat), offering a cleaner interface and helpful new features like Google Assistant. But the Pixel lineup starts at $ 800, which is nearly twice the OnePlus 3T’s asking price. Indeed, the latest OnePlus handset is probably the best handset you’re going to find for around $ 440.

Wrap-up

The OnePlus 3T improves things about the original that were slightly lacking, such as battery life, and amps up on performance and software, making it a strong option for power users. I particularly love the sharper front camera for its solid performance in low light. I’d also argue that the boost in endurance alone is worth the $ 39 price hike, but the previous iteration offered enough stamina for the average user who may not want to shell out for a few extra hours of juice. As a replacement for an existing flagship, the OnePlus 3T is a refinement that not only feels timely, but also well-planned and executed. You’d have a hard time finding a better phone for the price.

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AT&T’s insurance plan will soon repair busted phone screens

If you have insurance on your phone and smash the ever-loving tar out of the screen, you normally have to file a claim, pay a deductible and wait for a replacement device. Bleh. AT&T and its insurance provider Asurion, however, are trying something a little different. As of November 15, people paying to insure their phones can shell out $ 89 to — schedule permitting — have a technician repair that display that very day.

Same-day repairs definitely aren’t guaranteed, but the plan could work well for people who can’t go without their phones or don’t have the time for the traditional trade-in process. You stand to save a little money, too: the usual deductible for a high-end smartphone fluctuates between $ 150 and $ 225 depending on what it is, so just under $ 90 doesn’t sound like a bad deal for potentially speedy service.

There are a couple caveats you should know about, though — for one, the new plan only applies to certain smartphones. If you have an iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus or SE, you’re in luck. Ditto if you own Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy S5 or Galaxy S6. You might notice some very popular omissions from that list, namely the most recent iPhone and Galaxy S devices, but that’s probably because the requisite parts are more pricey or tougher to come by. Beyond that, the screen replacement plan is only set to launch in 14 markets come November 15; you can check out the full list (plus markets launching down the road) below.

Via: AndroidPolice

Source: AT&T

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Allo brings Google’s ‘Assistant’ to your phone today

If you’re going to unveil a new messaging app, it had better do something unique. At this point, finding a place amongst entrenched options like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and iMessage is not an easy task. Google didn’t quite pull it off with Hangouts when it launched in 2013. Sure, it’s installed on basically every Android phone out there and anyone with a Gmail account has probably tried it, but Google’s messaging strategy never quite came together in a compelling or clear way.

So Google is rebooting yet again with Allo, a mobile-only messaging app that leverages the company’s biggest strengths in an effort to stand out from the pack. That strength is the vast amount of knowledge Google has about you and the world around you. It shows up in the app via the Google Assistant, a conversational chatbot that provides you and your friends with contextual info based on your chat history. The bot will show up across multiple Google products, including Google Home, but this is our first look at it in action.

It’s an outgrowth of what Google’s been doing for a long time with the Knowledge Graph and the info it serves you in things like Google Now, and that really is something no other app can do. I’ve been playing with Allo for about a week to see just how much the app can do — and where it still falls flat.

Getting set up is a simple affair: Once the app is installed, you create a profile linked to your phone number and Google account. From there, you’ll be able to see who in your phone’s contact list is using Allo to initiate a chat; you can also invite friends who don’t have the app to give it a shot. Then you can start a one-on-one chat, a group chat, an encrypted “incognito chat” or talk directly to the Google Assistant.

The Assistant is what really sets Allo apart from other chat apps, and it can provide you with a host of info depending on whether you’re in a private chat with it or bringing it into a conversation with other human beings. Probably the best way to sum up the Assistant is that it lets you bring info from around the internet right into your conversations without having to jump back and forth between apps.

If you’re planning dinner, for example, you can ask it to show you nearby Indian restaurants, and then tap on a specific result to get more details. Results from the Google Assistant typically have “chips” below them to prompt you to continue getting more info; you can pull up a map, call the location, see pictures inside and more with one tap. And because it understands natural language, you can follow up your query about Indian restaurants by saying “What about Chinese?” and it’ll know you’re interested in food, not the language.

This can be genuinely useful — it’s easy to share things like flight status, local weather and nearby points of interest with groups of people just by asking Google. And there’s lots of silly fun to be had as well. Google built in some games like “emoji movies,” where you have to guess the name of a film based on a series of emojis. You can also have it pull up pictures and GIFs from Google images, so it’s pretty easy to drop cute cat pictures to your group on the fly.

The downside to the Google Assistant is that it doesn’t quite live up to the promise of letting you do everything in the app, through the bot. Many times, tapping on various items will bounce you out to your browser, and while I can look up a bunch of restaurants with my friends, I can’t actually book one through OpenTable right in the app, for example. The Assistant doesn’t yet work with third-party services, so I can’t say “get us a table for four at 8PM.” That’ll come down the line, though.

When it can’t complete a task itself, you get bounced out to the web. Sometimes that makes sense — seeing a restaurant’s full menu is better in a browser than in a chat app, and getting directions to a location is a lot better in the proper Google Maps app. But the experience occasionally felt a bit more disjointed than I’d like. Google says the Assistant is considered only a “preview” right now, so it should become smarter and better integrated in time.

Chatting directly with the Google Assistant (rather than interacting with it in a chat with other humans) opens up more functionality. For the sake of privacy, it can do certain things only in private chat — you can ask it to get you directions to work, show you emails from yesterday, pull up your calendar agenda and more things based on your personal Google account. You can even have it pull images from Google Photos using natural language like “show me my pictures of dogs.”

The app also lets you set reminders and alarms as well as sign up for recurring “subscriptions.” You can search for a particular news item (I tried “Red Sox news”) and it’ll pop up every day at the time you specify. This is all well and good, but I don’t think a chatbot is the best place for a lot of these interactions. In fact, in a lot of cases, it’s easier to just say “OK Google” and ask your Android phone for this sort of help or info. Siri also does a lot of this on the iPhone at this point, as does the Google iOS app. Don’t get me wrong, the Google Assistant can be quite knowledgeable and useful, but in a lot of ways it’s just replicating things you can already do in Google search.

Beyond the Assistant, Allo has the messaging basics covered, but there are few surprises here. You can tap and hold the “send” button and then scroll up and down to increase or decrease the size of text — Google calls this “yelling” or “whispering.” It’s quite similar to the “loud” and “gentle” settings Apple added to iMessage in iOS 10, if you’ve checked that out. Google has also added in the “smart reply” feature that originated in Inbox. It’ll analyze the content of your chats or photos and offer suggestions. I found it to be pretty hit-or-miss; it’s handy to have it offer up a quick yes or no reply, but deeper replies don’t usually work out terribly well.

Naturally, Allo also has stickers; there are 29 different sets you can download, for starters, some of which are animated. They’re nice, and Google notes the name of the artist who created each set, but they’re not wildly different from what’s out there already. And as of yet, there isn’t a way to add more third-party options.

You can share your location or photos in Allo, but I ran into one surprising omission during my testing: On Android, you can’t see content from Google Photos and add them to a chat — you can access only images you’ve shot directly on your phone or downloaded to storage. There are work-arounds — you can go to Google Photos directly and share a photo to Allo from there — but it still seems like a strange omission. On Android, you can add text to photos and draw on top of them (a la Snapchat), a feature that’ll be coming to iOS down the line.

Allo also offers end-to-end encryption in “incognito” chats. The Google Assistant isn’t allowed here, and the participants in the chat can decide how long they want the messages to stick around for. You can set the chat expiration time as long as a week or as short as five seconds (you can also make it so messages don’t disappear). Most users probably won’t bother with this feature, but apps like Telegram made highly secure chat a feature of note, so it makes sense to see it pop up here.

Overall, there’s not a lot to make Allo stand out from the competition beyond the Google Assistant. And unfortunately, the Assistant feels a bit like it’s under construction, still. The breadth of information that Google has access to, both about a user as well as the world around him, is stunning, and it’s great to tap into. But Google has already given us a plethora of ways to do that; Allo is just another. The difference is that Allo makes it easy to bring that data into a conversation with other humans.

That’s the killer feature. But it’s not a simple one to explain, and it’s not something that becomes immediately useful. Some co-workers and I goofed around with Allo for several days, but the Assistant never elevated itself to a must-have feature. It was fun to show off and experiment with, but it didn’t feel like enough to keep any of us conversing in the app over the many other options we already have available to us. I’d like to keep giving it a shot, because it feels like it could be useful under the right circumstances. The trick is getting your friends to use it long enough for those situations to arise.

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Adobe Lightroom now lets you edit RAW files on your phone

Adobe Lightroom mobile users have been asking for the ability to edit RAW files in the mobile app, and now the company doing something about the request. In the latest update for the iOS version of the software, there’s a RAW Technology preview. This means that you’ll be able to import those hefty files to your iPhone or iPad, giving you a means of checking the images before you get back to your computer. Lightroom mobile for iOS will also let you edit the files just like you would in the desktop or web versions of the app, making changes to white balance, highlights and more for an uncompressed file. Those changes also sync across devices.

iOS users will also be able to adjust linear and radial selections inside the app. With those tools, you can add a selection, modify an existing one or use the features to emphasize certain parts of an image. If you fancy doing your edits with an iPad and a connected keyboard, you’ll now be able to use those handy shortcuts with the mobile app. The update is available from the App Store now for both iPhone and iPad, free of charge.

The Android version of the app is getting some new features, too. Earlier this year, Adobe added an in-app camera and “shoot-through” presets to the app. With this update, the company is adding manual controls to that workflow as well. When you’re taking photos with Lightroom mobile on Android, you’ll be able to leverage a new Pro mode that allows adjustments to ISO, shutter speed, white balance and manual focus. Adobe brought its DNG RAW format to the Android app a while back, and now the software has the manual controls to go along with it. What’s more, there’s also a new Lightroom Camera widget for easy access to those features, so you won’t have to launch the full app just to grab a few snapshots.

Android faithful also gain improved support for full-resolution files. If you have an image stored somewhere within the Lightroom ecosystem, you’ll be able to pull it into the full-res version, make your changes and export it. The latest version of the Android app offers those features and more for free, and it’s available now over at Google Play.

Source: Adobe

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