Category Archives: Smartphones

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy
Images: Darren Orf/Gizmodo

In 2014, OnePlus arrived out of nowhere with a powerful idea: What if a phone could look good, be powerful, and not cost a crapload? The OnePlus One was a mic drop and the OnePlus 2 a successful sophomore follow-up, but the new 3 silences the haters—the OnePlus 3 is a “Flagship Killer” and at $400, with no more dumb invite system, it’s not just the best OnePlus phone ever, but one of the best cheap phones too.

No part of this phone sees a bigger evolutionary leap than its external design. Although admirable for sub-$400 phones, OnePlus never quite rivaled the design chops of its more expensive competition. OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei told Gizmodo that the original OnePlus used its famous sandstone finish because going all metal was just too expensive. For the 3, OnePlus ups the price a little to go full Terminator.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy
OnePlus One, OnePlus 2, and the OnePlus 3. This version is called “graphite,” and a “soft gold” version will be available later.

Machined from a block of anodized aluminum and borrowing heavily from design quirks popularized by competitors, the OnePlus 3 finally looks like the “premium” phone it’s always wanted to be. The 3’s camera placement and antenna design look incredibly HTC-inspired while the 5.5-inch AMOLED 1080p display bubbles up from the bezels much like the iPhone.

But it’s not just a soulless copycat.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy

Like the OnePlus 2, the 3 runs OnePlus’ own Android mod, called Oxygen OS. For smartphone nerds out there, that means the OnePlus has much more customization options than standard Android—dark theme, icon sizes, more multitasking options. Oxygen OS is basically Android Marshmallow, the current release of Android, but with some small tweaks to the user interface. To show you what I mean, here’s Android running on Nexus 5X and Oxygen OS running the OnePlus 3. Bonus points if you can guess which is which:

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy
Answer: Android left, Oxygen OS right

The 3 has a similar spec checklist like the rest of the very best recent phones. USB Type-C? Check. Latest Snapdragon processor? Yessir. Fingerprint sensor, high megapixel camera, and fast charging? Yep, yep, and youbetcha. Really the only thing you could try to put in the minus column is a 1080p AMOLED display instead of a pixel dense 2K screen found on most other phones (minus the iPhone). But unless you’re going to be strapping VR to your face, you’ll likely be just as happy with the OnePlus 3.

But a major departure is the amount of RAM packed into the OnePlus 3—6 GB. Six! That’s as much as a laptop—a shitty one—but still! This really allows Oxygen OS to shine. Like Apple and iOS, OnePlus has optimized its in-house software to work especially well on the OnePlus 3, so it can take advantage of all that RAM in ways other Android competitors cannot.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy
PDF Test, OnePlus 3 (right) versus iPhone 6s Plus (left)

In side-by-side testing, the OnePlus 3 easily keeps up with the iPhone 6s Plus. We opened the same giant PDF on both phones, and the OnePlus 3 just barely beat the iPhone. It even feels marginally faster when you consider Apple’s painfully slow animations.

When we tried to open the camera with over a dozen other apps running in the background the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge did so in a respectable 2.6 seconds. But the OnePlus 3 smoked it—opening in under one second.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy

Once the camera pops open, the OnePlus 3 clearly makes some impressive strides in terms of software and hardware. For one, you can use the 16 megapixel front camera to shoot in RAW—incredibly useful for saving badly exposed photos in post—and the updated camera app has manual control, so you can tinker with all the advanced camera settings that you want.

Sadly the ability to tinker can’t save optics that are just average. Here’s a comparison with the OnePlus 3 and three of its competitors—the Galaxy S7, LG G5, and the iPhone 6s Plus.

Although the photo captures the overall image even when shrouded in poor lighting, the details in Steve Jobs’ face (not Kutcher) are not as clear when compared to the Galaxy S7 and the 6s Plus. We’re not talking catastrophic differences, but possibly enough to deter someone looking for the very best mobile camera.

But it isn’t the slightly less-than-excellent camera that’s the OnePlus 3′s big flaw. It’s battery life. On at least two occasions during my week with the 3, it died late into the evening. At one point, it left me locked outside of my apartment unable to reach my roommates. I had to walk to a friend’s house, pound on the door, and beg him to let me sleep on his couch. It’s these moments where a phone that can last into the next morning (the Samsung S7′s battery life really is incredible) is immeasurably more useful than one that can’t.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy
OnePlus 3 comes with USB Type-C and quick charging with Dash Charge.

The 3 does come with its own blend of fast charging, called Dash Charge, which the company says offers a “day’s power in half an hour.” With the phone powered off and drained to zero, I was able to get 80 percent charge in 40 minutes on the 3′s 3000mAh battery. Good, but not astounding. OnePlus thinks people will just top off their phones periodically throughout the day, but that doesn’t fit my routine.

Aside from that, it’s hard not to look at the OnePlus 3 and marvel at how this unknown Chinese company has so quickly and confidently made a flagship phone for so cheap. This is—in every sense of the phrase—a top-of-the-line device. Where previous OnePlus phones were marred with compromises, the OnePlus 3 makes almost none. For the price, the OnePlus 3 is the absolute best phone you can buy.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy

README

  • Thanks to in-house hardware and software—not to mention 6GB of RAM—this phone flies with ludicrous speed.
  • The camera isn’t the best available—but it has RAW support so you can shout “FIX IT IN POST” just like a real photographer.
  • No expandable storage, but 64GB means you shouldn’t be worried.
  • Although it looks like stock Android, it definitely isn’t, which means you’ll be waiting for Android N for months, like the rest of the non-Nexus world.
  • Battery life is the real concern. Charge your phone so you don’t have to sleep on a friend’s couch.

Report: Samsung’s bendable, unfurlable phones and displays due in 2017

(credit: Neilson Barnard / Getty Images)

Samsung may release two smartphones with bendable OLED screens in 2017, according to a new report. “People familiar with the matter” claim that one model is a flip phone that folds in half, not unlike Samsung’s China-only SM-W2016, while another will feature a 5-inch display that “unfurls” into a tablet-sized 8-inch panel. The devices could appear as soon as February 2017, when Mobile World Congress takes place in Barcelona.

While the report may seem a little far fetched, this is not the first time that Samsung has been linked to flexible displays. Reports on “Project Valley”—the apparent codename for the devices—date back as far as early 2015, although those reports initially claimed Samsung was aiming for a 2016 release. Instead, Samsung released the well-received Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, with the latter featuring a curved AMOLED display.

Samsung did, however, showcase its foldable display technology at SID Display Week 2016, with Slashgear capturing the display in action. According to the site, when fully opened the 5.7-inch 1080p display is just 0.3mm thin, and can be rolled into a tube with a 10mm radius. The display shown didn’t feature a touch layer, which would likely add to the overall thickness, as well as reduce its flexibility.

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OnePlus 3 Goes on Sale June 14th, No Invitation Required

OnePlus has been widely praised for their economical Android phones that don’t skimp on quality, but they’ve been hindered by their peculiar invite system that made them difficult to purchase. That’s about to change with their latest release on June 14th.

Their new phone, the OnePlus 3, is set to go on sale on June 14th, no invitation required. But there is a catch—OnePlus will be holding a “VR shopping experience” called the Loop at 12:30pm ET on the 14th, where the phone will be exclusively available. Otherwise if you’re not down to clown in VR, the phones go for sale at 3pm ET on the same day while supplies last. So if you’re eager to buy their latest release, you better get ready to dabble in VR.

The virtual reality experience requires an app, available here in the Play Store.(Presumably it’s designed for Google Cardboard or similar viewers.) Details on the new phone itself are scarce, but OnePlus CEO Carl Pei tells Wired it will cost around $300 and if you miss the first batch, the next orders will be filled two to three weeks after launch.

Let’s Talk About Invites | OnePlus via Wired

Google Maps Driving Mode Is Your Essential In-Car AI

You’re probably used to getting turn-by-turn directions to your next destination with Google Maps, but there’s also a pretty-well-hidden Driving Mode just for… well, driving. It alerts you to traffic problems, directs you to nearby gas pumps and stores, and is useful for those times when you already know your route or don’t even have a destination in mind.

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Nintendo may start selling “computer software”

An official Nintendo restaurant? We’d be down, if only to see more bento boxes as cool as this one made by a fan. (credit: Miki Yoshihito)

Nintendo’s most recent fiscal-year disclosure made headlines for announcing a release window for the new “Nintendo NX” console and yet another Zelda game delay, but it also included news of serious corporate restructuring. The short version: Nintendo will soon involve a supervisory committee in making top-level executive decisions.

The company has begun rolling out more details about how that restructuring will work, and in doing so, Nintendo’s Japanese arm has tipped its hand about possible new business plans. A Tuesday announcement included the company’s amended articles of incorporation, expected to be approved by shareholders this June, and it included three new entries in its “business engagement” list: restaurants, medical and health devices, and “computer software.”

Longtime Nintendo followers will recognize the second of those three entries, as Nintendo has publicly announced, then recanted, both a heart rate monitor (the Wii Vitality Sensor) and a sleep-tracking system. Meanwhile, a Nintendo-themed restaurant seems like a simple-enough expansion for a company that already operates physical businesses such as the Nintendo Store—though, clearly, we’d love to see an official Nintendo diner—and a pun-filled menu. (Kirby cream puffs, Sausage “Link”s, Moo Moo Meadows burgers, and on and on…)

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Get ready for Android N, VR and more at Google I/O 2016

It's that time of year again. Google's about to give developers a serious show at I/O 2016, which this year is at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View (also known as Google's backyard). We'll be there throughout the week bringing you thoughtfu…

How hackers eavesdropped on a US Congressman using only his phone number

A US congressman has learned first-hand just how vulnerable cellphones are to eavesdropping and geographic tracking after hackers were able to record his calls and monitor his movements using nothing more than the public ten-digit phone number associated with the handset he used.

The stalking of US Representative Ted Lieu’s smartphone was carried out with his permission for a piece broadcast Sunday night by 60 Minutes. Karsten Nohl of Germany-based Security Research Labs was able to record any call made to or from the phone and to track its precise location in real-time as the California congressman traveled to various points in the southern part of the state. At one point, 60 minutes played for Lieu a crystal-clear recording Nohl made of one call that discussed data collection practices by the US National Security Agency. While SR Labs had permission to carry out the surveillance, there’s nothing stopping malicious hackers from doing the same thing.

The representative said he had two reactions: “First it’s really creepy,” he said. “And second it makes me angry. They could hear any call. Pretty much anyone has a cell phone. It could be stock trades you want someone to execute. It could be a call with a bank.”

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Five Easy Ways to Add a 1/4″ Tripod Mount to Anything

Sometimes you have to get a little crafty when you’re on a photo shoot or filming a movie. Here are five clever ways to add 1/4" mounts to your camera equipment and accessories so they can go anywhere.

This video from youtuber thefrugalfilmmaker will show you how to get a traditional 1/4" tripod mount on almost anything. You can attach 1/4" dual nuts to a flat surface with epoxy or some double-side tape, use a spring-loaded phone or tablet mount that has a 1/4" mount for a small monitor or battery cradle, attach a ground clamp to a pole or extendable monopod to give your mounted devices more reach, set up a temporary 1/4" mounting point by adding a mini ball head to a spring clamp. Of course, you can also create a permanent mounting point anywhere by drilling the hole yourself and tapping it so it fits 1/4" hardware nicely. You can find links to all the tools he’s using at the link below.

http://lifehacker.com/the-pros-cons-…

DIY: Add a tripod mount to anything! | YouTube

HTC 10 hands-on: A return to form, or too little too late?

Hands on with the HTC 10 (video link)

Specs at a glance: HTC 10
Screen 5.2 inch, Quad HD (2560×1440, 564 pixels per inch) Super LCD 5 with curved-edge Gorilla Glass
OS Android 6 Marshmallow with HTC Sense
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad core up to 2.2GHz
RAM 4GB
GPU Qualcomm Adreno 530
Storage 32GB or 64GB, plus micro SD expansion
Networking 802.11 Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz)
Ports USB 3.1 Gen1, Type-C, headphone jack
Camera 12MP “Ultrapixel” rear camera with 1.55 micron pixels, OIS, laser autofocus, and f/1.8 lens. 5MP “Ultrapixel” selfie camera with OIS and f/1.8 lens.
Size 145.9mm x 71.9mm x 9.0mm
Weight 161g
Battery 3000mAh
Network Bands 2G: 850/900/1800/1900MHz, 3G: 850/900/AWS/1900/2100MHz; 850/AWS/900/2100 MHz (US), 4G: (EMEA/Asia): FDD bands B1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 12, 20, 28, 32; TDD bands B38, 40, 41 4G (USA): FDD bands B1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, 20, 28, 29, 30
Other perks Quick Charge 3.0 support, 24-bit DSP and DAC, RAW image support
Price £570 / $700 / €700

HTC has taken the wraps off its latest and greatest flagship, the HTC 10 (yup, the company has dropped both the “One” and the “M”). But it isn’t some grand reinvention of the smartphone—it isn’t even a reinvention of an HTC smartphone. Instead, what we have here is the result of years of refinement from a company that’s in sore need of a win. The HTC 10 is a phone that focuses on nailing the basics: the screen, the camera, and the battery life. And while that might not make for the most exciting of product launches, perhaps that’s exactly what the company needs right now: a solid, well-designed smartphone with mainstream appeal.

Inside, there are few surprises. The HTC 10, like nearly every other 2016 flagship, sports a Snapdragon 820 SoC with 4GB of RAM and 32GB or 64GB of storage. There’s an SD card slot that supports Android 6.01 Marshmallow’s adoptable storage feature. There’s NFC support, too. Wireless charging isn’t available, but Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 is, and a quick charger is bundled in the box. HTC says the charger can charge the phone’s pleasingly large 3000mAh battery to 50 percent in under 30 minutes. Promised battery life is up to two days thanks in part to the larger battery and improvements like a screen that dynamically changes its refresh rate based on the kind of app that you’re using.

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Blur an Image to Make Your Own Simple and Not Busy Phone Wallpaper

Blur an Image to Make Your Own Simple and Not Busy Phone Wallpaper

A lot of us don’t like having a busy wallpaper on our phones, but that doesn’t mean you have to seek out blurry wallpapers on Google. MacSparky’s David Sparks points out that it’s easy enough to make your own.

Spark’s has a guide to use Pixelmator to blur an image, but really any old photo editing app that has a blur function will do the trick (Pixlr seems like a solid option on Android). Sparks grabs an image of BB8, blurs it out, then sets it for his background. The end result is a wallpaper that’s not busy, but still expresses the image he wanted it to. If you’ve been struggling to find a wallpaper you like, this is a pretty simple way to make your own.

Blurring Photos for iOS Wallpaper | MacSparky