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20
Jun

Honor 5C preview: Affordable phone of the year?


While big budget phones get launched on an international stage, following a long campaign of leaks and teases, it’s at the budget end of the spectrum where things are fiercely competitive.

Huawei was always an aggressive player when it came to price, and when it launched sub-brand Honor, giving its phones a personality For The Brave, it shook things up further. While companies like OnePlus look to undercut the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, it’s devices like the Honor 5C that offer entry-level prices, with mid-range specs. 

Where you once had to suffer with a poor build and display, now you’re getting a lot for your money at this end of the market.

Honor 5C: Design

The message we’re getting from Huawei and Honor is that metal is in, no matter the price point. Huawei has aggressively been pushing metal handsets and Honor is following suit. The Honor 5C comes crafted from aircraft-grade aluminium alloy, brushed and anodised to give it texture and a long lasting finish.

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The edges of the Honor 5C have a ridged finish, providing additional grip on the phone that measures 147.1 x 73.8 x 8.3mm and weighs 156g. That’s a fair weight for this handset: the HTC 10, which has a more substantial feel to the body work is only a little heavier at 161g, for example. If there’s one thing that perhaps makes the Honor 5C look a little budget, it’s the substantial bezel around the display. Where many offer a 2.5D curve at the edges, this is flat, so it’s more noticeable.

You can’t be too critical at this price point, however, as you’re getting a device that feels good for the price. We haven’t had long enough to fully assess it, but Honor says that it’s tested to Huawei’s 3.1 quality standards, involving a range of impact, drop, connection and environmental tests, which are getting progressively harder. 

Where you’ll feel some reflection of the price point is in the buttons. The standby button feels a little loose, rather than offering a distinct and precise click. Additionally, in a bid to keep the price in check, there’s no fingerprint scanner on the Honor 5C.

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Honor 5C: Display

Sitting in the front of the Honor 5C is a 5.2-inch display, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. That’s a good size, giving you plenty of space to play. This is an IPS LCD display and that resolution gives you a pixel density of 423ppi.

This isn’t as sharp as this year’s flagship devices, but there are plenty of phones with full HD displays at 5.2-inches (the Xperia Z5 for example) that are perfectly good. In many cases, such as watching movies or gaming, you won’t notice the difference in resolution anyway.

First impressions are good. There’s plenty of punch to colours and a good deal of vibrancy, but we didn’t have the chance to fully test this display. Although the viewing angles look good enough, we have no idea how it will cope in brighter conditions and so on.

The Honor 5C comes with a factory-fitted screen protector. This seems unobtrusive enough, although gives a plastic finish. If you’d rather remove it for a slicker touch of glass, it’s easy enough to peel off.

Honor 5C: Hardware and battery

The Honor 5C comes with a HiSilicon Kirin 650 chipset. This comes from Huawei’s in-house chip manufacturer, but boasts an octo-core 16nm 64-bit chipset. The idea, say Honor, is to give you a chipset that’s competitive with higher-spec phones, bringing with it the advantages of saving power over some of the older hardware out there. It’s backed by 2GB of RAM.

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Our initial play revealed fairly snappy performance, but we’d need to live with the 5C for much longer to fully gauge its performance in the real world, along with the graphic performance from the Mali-T880-MP2 GPU. 

There’s 16GB of storage internally, which is a little on the low side and will be quickly filled, but there is a microSD card slot. This is on the same tray as the SIM card, and here you have the option of either dual SIM, or single SIM and microSD. 

The battery is a 3000mAh cell, which Honor say will get you through a day and a half if you’re a power user, and 2 days if you’re more casual. Certainly it’s a decent capacity and the low-tier hardware and display should see you rewarded with greater endurance than some rivals. 

Some of the battery life will supported by power-saving measures on the software side, both from Android Marshmallow’s native features, as well as EMUI’s own power-saving additions. Again, we’d have to put it through its paces in the real world to fully assess it. 

There’s a Micro-USB connection on the bottom of the handset, sitting between the two speaker grilles. One of the elements that is included in the Honor 5C is a sensor core. This allows the phone to detect things like motion in a low-power state, so you’ll be able to keep track of your steps without draining the battery.

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Honor 5C: Cameras

Honor has impressed us with its cameras, as has parent company Huawei. There’s a 13-megapixel camera on the rear with an f/2.0 aperture and hybrid autofocus, which should give you nice quick focusing. Honor has coated the lens glass to try and reduce fingerprint smear so your photos always look good. It’s supported by plenty of features, like touch focusing, lots of shooting modes, HDR and so on. 

Our few test shots give some good results with rapid focusing, although we couldn’t take away the rather uninspiring images of the briefing room to share. One of the indicators of this phone’s budget position is that it doesn’t offer 4K video, instead limiting itself to 1080/30p. 

You do get the Pro shooting mode, however, giving you plenty of manual controls for those who want to get a little more creative.

The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor, again with f/2.0 aperture, designed to give you great selfies. There are no less than 10 beauty modes. We had neither the time nor inclination to test them all out, but as this phone is pitched at the young and beautiful, we’re sure they will get plenty of use. 

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Honor 5C: EMUI Software 

The Honor 5C follows its Honor family devices, and those of Huawei in offering the EMUI software. This is a skin that sits on the top of Android Marshmallow, which this phone launches with. EMUI (emotion user interface) changes pretty much everything about Android, putting its own look on things. 

There isn’t a huge amount of duplication, but you’ll find that perfectly good stock Android apps are omitted in preference of EMUI’s own apps. That will leave you with some apps that we don’t think are as good, like the calendar or messages apps.

One of the big changes from stock Android is the removal of the apps tray. This is standard for Honor and Huawei, but moves the phone closer to an iPhone experience where all the apps are on home pages, rather than tucked away in a menu. That’s not the end of the world, however, because you can easily install your own launcher, like Google Now Launcher, if you want an apps tray back.

There are some things, like the rearrangement of the settings menu, which feels a little unnecessarily over-worked. The aim is to make Honor’s phones feel different to all those phones that are closer to Android, so Honor owns the experience. Whether that’s for better or worse is open to debate, and very much a case of personal preference. Fortunately, this being Android, you can easily change just about everything to get the experience and the apps you want.

There are also some benefits, however, like the camera, which is much more sophisticated than the basic Android camera. 

First Impressions

For the low asking price of £149, you really do get quite a lot of phone for your money in the Honor 5C. That’s the aim of Honor – giving good value for money without making too many compromises. 

The only real omission on the spec sheet is the lack of a fingerprint scanner. With most devices offering this technology, both in the top and mid ranges, it would have been more appealing if that had been offered. 

Honor’s play here is offering a good size of display, paired with hardware that should give you a slick experience, in a good quality handset, without breaking the bank. This end of the market is increasingly competitive, but the Honor 5C is certainly worth a more detailed look. 

The Honor 5C is available to buy online for £149 or €199. It will be launching exclusively on Three in August 2016.

20
Jun

Russia debuts the largest ever nuclear icebreaker


Russian cargo ships understandably have to wade through a lot of ice, and the country plans to deal with that frozen water in style. It recently floated out the Arktika, which it bills as the “largest and most powerful” nuclear-powered icebreaker in the world. At nearly 569 feet long and 112 feet wide, the twin-reactor boat can carve a gigantic path through some of the sea’s toughest obstacles — it can cut through ice roughly 10 feet thick. It can haul about 36,000 short tons, and there’s a helicopter to scout for any upcoming floes.

Arktika won’t go into service until near the end of 2017, when it’ll escort oil and gas ships through northern waters to their destinations in Asia-Pacific. However, there’s already a lot of pressure on it to succeed. The project behind the ship is estimated to cost the equivalent of $1.9 billion, so the vessel will have to work hard to justify its investment.

Via: Telegraph

Source: TASS

20
Jun

Acer admits hackers stole up to 34,000 customer credit cards


If you bought an Acer device from the company’s store in the last year, there’s a chance that your credit card info was hijacked. The Taiwan-based company informed California’s attorney general that attackers made off with the “name, address, card number, expiration date and three-digit security codes” of users between May 12, 2015 and April 28, 2016. It sent form letters to the 34,500 affected customers, all of whom are in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico.

The theft isn’t particularly large and no social security numbers were taken. However, it’s one of the few we’ve seen involving a major PC company’s online store. Acer hasn’t yet revealed how it happened, but such breaches are usually a result of employees opening infected email, not any fancy hacking. While the breach was still ongoing, Acer recently held an event to reveal its latest laptops and desktop computers. If you bought something from its stores soon after, you may want to ensure that your credentials weren’t stolen.

Via: ZDNet

Source: US Attorney General

20
Jun

Nike FuelBand designers bought by a consulting giant


Synapse, a key creator of the Nike+ FuelBand (among other gadgets), is moving on to greener pastures. Product development giant Cambridge Consultants has bought Synapse for an unspecified amount. As Cambridge’s parent company Altran says, this is all about giving Cambridge a product development foothold in the American West — it can design gear for partners ranging from the UK to Silicon Valley. It’s part of a plan to double the size of Cambridge by 2020.

This doesn’t mean that Synapse’s design chops (which has also shaped products from Microsoft and Samsung) will fade away. The team is staying put, after all. However, you might see it take on device designs from new clients, or getting more business from previous partners. If anything, its influence is more likely to grow — the Synapse crew could make a broad impact on the tech industry.

Source: Altran

20
Jun

New York criminalizes the use of ticket-buying bots


If you failed to get tickets for your favorite band, even though your finger was poised on the “buy” link the instant they went on sale, don’t worry — you never stood a chance. They were probably snapped up by bots that, in one case, bought 1,012 Madison Square Garden U2 tickets in less than a minute. The state of New York has declared that scalpers who use them could get fines and even jail time. “New Yorkers have been dealing with this frustrating ticket buying experience for too long,” says state assembly member Marcos Crespie.

Using such bots was illegal before, but only brought civil, not criminal sanctions. However, a three-year investigation by NY attorney general Eric. T. Schneiderman found that the practice was so widespread that the state had to take harsher measures. Ticketing outlets and credit card companies revealed that bots scoop up the best seats in seconds, which scalpers then resell at prices many times over face value. Scalpers who exploit such software could now face criminal, class A misdemeanor charges.

It may not be the end of new laws targeting scalpers. Schneiderman also singled out “event insiders,” including the artists, who in some cases reserve over half of the tickets for themselves. He also targeted the ticketing agencies that often tack on fees of over 20 percent, turning a reasonable $50 ticket into $60 –a dealbreaker for many folks.

Source: NY State Assembly

20
Jun

Zungle sunglasses double as bone-conduction headphones


Sometimes the worst names come attached to the best ideas. Take Zungle, for example. It had the bright thought to pair bone-conduction headphone tech with sunglasses, and then decided to call that product “Zungle Panther.” It’s currently on Kickstarter, and has already reached well over double its funding goal.

The Panther has everything you’d expect from a pair of wireless headphones. There’s Bluetooth audio playback, hands-free calling with a built-in mic and audio controls by way of a jog dial. Because the headphones use bone-conduction to transmit audio, they also free up your ears to hear everything your environment has to offer.

For all its benefits, bone-conduction has its drawbacks. Like similar headsets, battery life for the Panther isn’t fantastic compared to regular ‘phones. You’ll get around four hours of music playback from the sunglasses before you need to plug them in for an hour to get back to full charge.

We’re not going to tell you if these look good — beauty’s in the eye of the beholder and all that. But we can say that Zungle made sure its lenses are the same size as Oakley Frogskins, so if you’re into that look, you can easily pop any vivid shade you please into the frames. The Zungle Panthers are priced at $109 until the Kickstarter campaign ends on July 16th, but at the time of writing there are still a few earlybird packs available for $99. The estimated delivery is November this year.

Source: Zungle (Kickstarter)

20
Jun

Paris fears Amazon Prime Now will ‘destabilize’ its economy


Amazon has brought its one-hour grocery delivery service Paris, and the city is not happy about it. Prime Now is available to Premium subscribers who pay €49 per year (Prime is called “Premium” in France) with free two-hour deliveries and €6 for one-hour shipping. Besides groceries, the company will shop “thousands” of other products. However, it’s the food deliveries that have most unbalanced Paris and its mayor, Anne Hidalgo. “This service could seriously destabilize the retail balance in Paris,” she says.

PrimeNow launched in the US and parts of Europe without much fanfare, but France is known to be protective of local businesses, and has laws to back it up. Hidalgo says the biggest problem is that Amazon only informed city hall of the service several days before it launched, according to Le Figaro. France has clashed with the retailer in the past, and passed a law banning free book shipping to protect local shops. As a result, Amazon famously charges a single “centime” (penny) to ship books.

From a consumer standpoint, however, there’s a lot to like about it. As a Paris resident, I can get fresh, high-quality produce from the famous Rungis wholesale market (above), which normally sells only to restaurants and markets. I can also get croissants and other baked goods or even a laptop without having to leave my apartment. Best of all, the service operates until 10 pm every day, including Sunday, when most stores and supermarkets are closed.

That said, the city of Paris is also concerned about extra pollution and traffic in the city. It recently banned vehicles built prior to 1997, and by 2020, will ban pre-2010 vehicles from daytime driving. The city will ask the French legislature to “establish safeguards that ensure [Amazon’s] services don’t constitute unfair competition against retailers and craftsmen.” If that sounds like an idle threat, remember what happened to Uber.

Source: Le Figaro

20
Jun

watchOS 3: Bringing Attention Back to Apple’s New ‘Breathe’ App


During the watchOS 3 segment of Apple’s keynote presentation at the Worldwide Developer’s Conference last week, Apple introduced a new mindfulness-based app called Breathe.

The idea behind Breathe is to help Apple Watch owners better manage everyday stress, and works by prompting users to take a short time out to focus their attention on the simple act of breathing.

By default, Breathe serves up a one-minute session which guides the user through seven breaths. The duration can be extended to up to five minutes by rotating the Digital Crown, while breathing can be slowed to four breaths per minute, or increased to ten per minute.

As the session begins, the app asks the user to “Be still, and bring your attention to your breath”. A mandala-like series of concentric circles then begin to expand and contract on the watch screen as a visual guide for the user to adjust the rate of their breath.

What’s not obvious from demos is that the app also makes use of the Apple Watch’s haptic feedback, by initiating a delicate tapping rhythm on the wrist that begins fast and gradually fades at the top of each breath, as a subtle cue to exhale.

The use of haptic feedback also means the user can close their eyes as the session takes place, while the intensity of the feedback can be adjusted in the app settings.

When the session comes to an end, the user’s recorded heart-rate during the session is shown, as is the total number of minutes that have been spent using the app that day. An option to retake the session and “Breathe again” also appears on screen.

The default setting for the app is to prompt a session every four hours, but prompts can be snoozed and their frequency can also be changed in the app’s settings.

Additionally, a Breathe complication can be added to watch faces, allowing users to start a session with a simple tap whenever they choose.


During the Keynote, Apple did not cite any scientific evidence to back up its claims that bringing attention to the breath can help decrease stress and alleviate anxiety. However, research does exist to support the claim.

Breath-based meditation has been shown to reduce activity in the brain’s “default mode network” (DMN), an area implicated in mind-wandering and the sense of self. Increased activity in this “resting state” network is known to be associated with conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Recent neuroimaging studies have also shown that daily meditation alters the functional and structural plasticity of the brain, and can increase cortical thickness in specific brain regions associated with attention-based tasks.

The Breathe app is part of watchOS 3, which will be released as a free upgrade this fall.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 2, watchOS 3
Tag: Breathe
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Caution)
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20
Jun

Bank of America Starts Offering ATM Withdrawals Using Apple Pay


Bank of America has begun rolling out support for withdrawing cash from its ATMs using Apple Pay.

Approximately 650 card-less ATMs were deployed in the San Francisco area in May, and the technology expanded to 2,400 ATMs, including eleven in the Raleigh-Durham region, in early June.

The new ability was also spotted by a Reddit user located in Redondo Beach, California, who took a picture of an ATM apparently featuring an NFC reader positioned to the left of the card reader (via 9to5Mac).

When a smartphone is placed on the NFC logo, the user is prompted to enter their PIN number, after which they are taken to a typical withdrawal screen, although the option to deposit money is disabled.

Bank of America is said to be highlighting the new feature on supported ATMs, but customers should note that the Apple Pay option currently only works with bank cards issued by Bank of America, and not all NFC-equipped ATMs support Apple Pay at present.

Bank of America has launched a website detailing the process of withdrawing cash using Apple Pay. The site notes that “Consumer Debit Cards, US Trust Debit Cards, Small Business Debit Cards (owner card only)” are currently supported.

News that Bank of America and Wells Fargo were working on implementing Apple Pay into their ATMs first appeared back in January. Rollout to Bank of America’s more than 16,000 ATMs was said to begin mid-2016, but no timeline was given for Wells Fargo.

Related Roundup: Apple Pay
Tag: Bank of America
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20
Jun

Ruling in India Clears Way for Apple’s Long-Awaited Retail Expansion


The Indian government today announced a few changes to its rules on foreign direct investments (FDI) within the country, which previously required 30 percent of goods sold by a foreign company to be manufactured or produced within India (via The Times of India). The rule stagnated Apple’s retail store growth within the country due to most of its products being created in China.

Now, Apple is going to be the recipient of a 3 year “relaxation” that India is introducing on its local sourcing rules, which was predicted earlier in the month, in addition to an extension of another 5 years on top of that if it can prove that the products it sells are “state of the art.” India has previously exempted companies who proved such quality over the last few years, which prompted Apple to file a new application with the Indian government in May.

Apple’s plans to open stores in the country had suffered a setback as the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), under the finance ministry, red-flagged a panel’s recommendation to relax the mandatory local sourcing norm for the Cupertino-based company to sell its products through the single-brand retail window.

The panel comprising representatives from departments of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) and information technology had recommended a waiver from the 30% sourcing norm on the ground that Apple’s products were “cutting-edge”, which allows for doing away with the domestic procurement rule.

If it gets the 5 year extension, Apple could open and run retail stores in India for 8 years without needing to source products locally. Last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss these issues and reiterate India’s importance to Apple’s global iPhone market.

Currently, Apple’s largest presence in India comes in the form of its Authorized Mobility Resellers program, which saw the Cupertino company partnering with third-party resellers to introduce an Apple presence in the country without directly installing full-blown Apple Stores.

Tag: India
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