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21
Nov

Instant: A must-have app for people who live for life logging (review)


Instant-banner

As smartphones become smarter, they are able to track more and more of our day. While some of us might start breaking out the tinfoil hats, worried about Big Brother tracking our every move, others are embracing all of the life logging that our pocket partners can offer.

In comes Emberify’s Instant, a life log app with more trackers than you can shake a stick at. If you’re at all interested in logging your daily activities or phone use, you need to give Instant a try.

  • Developer: Emberify
  • Price: Free, Subscription $2/Month
  • Download: Google Play and iOS

Setup

Instant is quick to get up and running, only requiring a few permissions to be able to access phone app usage and location, and it can be connected to Google Fit for some additional access to workout data. No further login is required; just a few taps you’ll be on your way.

Overview

Instant-homescrrenInstant starts off with tracking your phone usage. It records how long you use your phone for, how long you use specific apps for, and even the number of times you’ve unlocked your phone.

There’s also an alert you can set for total phone usage time. The default is 4 hours of use a day, at which time it will send you a push notification to let you know you have reached your limit. This is great for people looking to limit their daily usage.

All of this was especially useful for me because I’m constantly using my phone for work, which can digress to me flipping through Flipbook to see what’s new, or scrolling through my Twitter feed. Now, I know how long I’m using work and non-work apps for, which helps me know what apps to avoid in the middle of my day so I can stay on track. This is also neat to see what apps you really need and what’s just taking up space.

I am a self-proclaimed app pack-rat. If an app does something cool or unique, I download it — even if I’m not going to use it besides to show off to others. Thanks to Instant, I’ve managed to trim down a few apps after seeing a breakdown of the apps that I actually do use.

Instant also keeps track of a number of things right from your pocket. Steps taken, walking duration, and running duration are pretty standard in apps that track fitness, but Instant takes it a step further to include things such as the amount of time you’ve slept, and even time spent traveling to work.

If you set up your home and work location, it can even log how much time you spend at each location, useful for those who are looking to manage a good work/life balance. In my experience, location tracking is good for a general area but isn’t entirely reliable. I went to the gym this week and it listed that I spent time the next block over. It’s close, but not 100%. The app description says that it also has cycling integration, but unfortunately I was unable to try out this feature.

Instant makes charts and graphs even more fun by adding in interesting facts about your statsInstant makes charts and graphs even more fun by adding in interesting facts about your stats

The last feature of this app is the virtual Coach that’s. It provides you with a daily stat breakdown, and you can ask it for information about what you did on certain days or info about usage about previous weeks.

It works well for those specific things, but in my tests, it doesn’t seem to be all that intelligent. If I ask for things like last week’s phone data, it works, but even if I ask something like “What can you do?” to get a list of features, it answers back that it doesn’t understand. It’s still a work in progress and will surely get better with time, but for right now seems a little limited.

To get the most out of Instant, you will need a subscription to its service. Without one, you still have access to a large number of features, such as phone unlocks, total phone usage time, top three apps and usage, and basic fitness history for the day. Additional stats, such as what day you used your phone the most, your most used app of the week, travel time for the week, and how you slept all week are only available to paid subscriptions.

The current subscription price is only $2 per month, so for all the content you’re getting, it is really a great value. Features are also constantly being added, which is great. I would love to see some sort of meal tracker added, or integration with S Health, which is where I log my sleep and meals.

Conclusion

I promise, I was only using Facebook for work!I promise I was only using Facebook for work!

All in all, Instant is a fantastic app. It’s easy to use with beautiful animated charts and graphs that track daily and weekly phone use and activities such as walking, exercise, traveling, and even cool things like the amount of time spent places.

The small subscription fee is totally worth the amount of information you’re getting access to. I didn’t fancy myself much of a lifelogger before Instant, but after trying Instant out, I’m completely fascinated by all the details it provides about my life. This goes especially in areas I wouldn’t even think twice about normally. If you are at all interested in personal stats and lifelogging, this is the app you can not pass up.

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21
Nov

Wind Mobile rebrands Freedom Mobile, launches LTE network in Toronto, Vancouver


It’s Freedom Mobile time!

Canada’s Wind Mobile has rebranded Freedom Mobile as it looks to move into a new phase of maturity under new owner, Shaw Communications.

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The upside is this: while the orange-and-blue branding remains intact, Wind’s transition to Freedom Mobile decouples it from the often-controversial global Wind Mobile brand, and allows Shaw to move beyond the “new entrant” moniker into something that resembles a true competitor to the flanker brands of incumbents like Rogers, Telus, and Bell. It was no coincidence that Public Mobile (under Telus), Fido and Virgin have all been offering extremely competitive 4GB plans in recent weeks.

Freedom Mobile’s AWS-3 powered LTE network will launch in Toronto and Vancouver on November 27, rolling out the Greater Toronto and Vancouver areas by spring of next year. Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa will receive LTE by next summer, and Freedom’s entire network will be awash in high-speed wireless by the fall of 2017.

To start, the company is offering two phones that run on its LTE network, the LG V20 and ZTE Grand X 4, which is coming in the days ahead. A single LTE plan will also be offered, a $40 promotional piece that includes 6GB of LTE data, unlimited calls to Canada and the U.S., unlimited global texting, reduced roaming rates, and voicemail/call display.

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Shaw is calling Freedom Mobile’s LTE network “traffic-free” because it runs on AWS-3 spectrum, which is completely unused across Canada right now. Indeed, only T-Mobile has rolled it out in parts of the U.S., and sparsely at that. To get a bit technical, Freedom’s LTE network is actually a hybrid of AWS-3 and AWS-1 depending on the location: the former in the GTA, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton; the later in Eastern Ontario, which needed to be re-farmed after Videotron purchased all of the AWS-3 spectrum in that area.

The company says that peak speeds will be 180Mbps at 64QAM, which isn’t quite as fast as the carrier aggregation-enabled LTE-Advanced speeds we’re used to seeing from Bell and Rogers, but it’s a considerable jump from Wind Mobile’s 3G days. Freedom says that it is still planning to upgrade its 3G networks across Canada to support its one million-plus existing customers. As promised, it says VoLTE and VoWiFi will also be offered at a future date.

Lots of good stuff here, especially for existing Wind Mobile customers looking forward to inexpensive LTE service in Canada. Those traveling from Wind’s LTE network to either Home 3G or Away 3G areas will still experience slower service, and the transition may be a bit awkward for a few months, but over time the situation should improve dramatically.

Are you a Rogers, Telus or Bell customer looking to switch over to the new Freedom Mobile? Let us know in the comments!

21
Nov

HTC denies rumors of mobile division sale


HTC is saying rumors of a forthcoming sale of their mobile division are false.

HTC is “strongly denying” rumors out of China that the Taiwanese tech manufacturer is reportedly planning a sale of its smartphone business. Rumor has it HTC would announce the deal for early 2017.

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But HTC has been adamant in its denials of the rumors. In a statement provided to Android Central, a representative from HTC strongly denied the reports, calling them false.

The rumors are entirely false, says HTC.

The rumor seemed to gain legs due to the struggles HTC has faced in 2016. The Taiwanese device maker has posted losses every quarter this year, due in part to the struggling sales of the HTC 10. It also recently released the HTC Bolt, an underwhelming Sprint exclusive that’s unlikely to win over many consumers or have an impact on the bottom line.

Given all that, and coupled with the relative success of its manufacturing partnership with Google to create the Pixel, many outlets have jumped on the rumor that the search engine giant would be interested in acquiring HTC’s mobile division. Other rumors have claimed HTC’s CEO Cher Wang has been getting in touch with collaborators to give them advanced notice of a sale in Spring 2017.

Considering the vehement denial from HTC we can see how these rumors could be more of an assumption than anything substantial, but in the next few months we’ll find out if anything moves forward.

21
Nov

Moto Z getting Daydream support with Nougat update starting this week


Nougat is starting to roll out to the Moto Z this week!

It appears the rumors were true: the Moto Z and Moto Z Force on Verizon are the first of the company’s newest phones to receive updates to Android 7.0 Nougat, and with it, the first non-Google phones to receive support for Daydream VR.

According to Motorola, the Nougat update will begin rolling out “this week” to Moto Z and Moto Z Play on Verizon, with other variants and countries to come shortly.

The other big announcement, which was also rumored last week, is that the Moto Z and Z Force will be the first phones outside of Google’s own Pixel products to be certified Daydream-compatible. This means that the phones will be able to slip into Google’s Daydream View VR headset and run any of the apps and games currently optimized for the new platform. Moto says:

These are the first smartphones from another manufacturer to be recognized by Google as Daydream-ready devices – a distinction given to phones that have been certified for the Daydream platform and are built for VR with high-resolution displays, ultra-smooth graphics and high-fidelity sensors for precise head tracking.

While this announcement will be of little comfort to those who purchased the unlocked Moto Z or any variant of the Moto Z Play — people like specific timelines! — it’s great news in general, not just for fans of Daydream, but for those of us who want to see more Nougat on more phones.

Moto Z, Moto Z Force and Moto Z Play

  • Our Moto Z review!
  • Moto Z Play preview
  • The Hasselblad True Zoom is a Mod to remember
  • Moto Z specs
  • Moto Mods custom backs
  • The latest Moto Z news
  • Discuss in our Moto Z forums

Motorola
Verizon

21
Nov

Dealing with Daydream Controller issues


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How do I fix my Daydream controller?

There isn’t a lot that can go wrong with Google Daydream, due in no small part to the way it gets used, but when something does happen it’s usually a problem with the controller. This tiny accessory is a Bluetooth controller with directional sensors so Daydream knows where it is positioned in space, and while that’s incredibly cool it also means Bluetooth bugs can mess up a gaming session.

Here’s how to deal with the most common Daydream controller issues, so you’re quickly able to jump back into your VR world!

Read more at VR Heads!

21
Nov

OnePlus 3T review: Rekindling a love story


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The best budget-minded flagship gets even better with a mid-cycle spec bump.

The OnePlus 3 is easily the company’s most complete (and well-received) product, offering a high-end experience at a fraction of what you’d expect to pay elsewhere. But the hardcore phone nerds that are so often potential OnePlus buyers are a fickle bunch, and they may not be interested in buying an “old” phone that was released six months ago. The answer? Bump the specs, add a couple important improvements and re-release the phone to reassure potential buyers that they’re getting the absolute best when they buy.

The result of that thinking is the OnePlus 3T. The “T” doesn’t really mean anything, per se, aside from the fact that some companies use an “S” to denote their follow-up models … and well, T is one letter more. But the name also denotes that you’re getting the new phone, and the OnePlus 3T does have a few points of distinction that are worth re-evaluating it as a phone worthy of your hard-earned dollars.

With the same great overall experience so many people enjoyed on the original OnePlus 3, the OnePlus 3T adds a little extra in the form of some new specs, a new storage option, a fresh color choice and the promise that a new software version is just a month away. Here is our full review of the mid-cycle OnePlus refresh.

About this review

I (Andrew Martonik) am writing this review after 9 days using a gunmetal OnePlus 3T with 128GB of storage. The entirety of the review was conducted on the T-Mobile network in the greater Seattle, WA area. The phone’s software arrived on version 28_161027 (with the October 1 security patch), and was not updated during the course of review. The phone was provided to Android Central for review by OnePlus.

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Subtle internal changes

OnePlus 3T Hardware

The external hardware design of the OnePlus 3T is identical to that of the original OnePlus 3, so I won’t get into the minutiae of the hardware details yet again. I will point out, though, that even six months on, the design and in-hand feel still hold up. The aluminum feels great, the build quality is precise and I still love the Alert Slider for quickly silencing the phone. Up front the 1080p display (which remains unchanged) is still colorful and crisp, but its overall brightness leaves just a little bit to be desired — its aggressive dropping of brightness when set to “auto” doesn’t help, either.

The hardware absolutely still holds up, and outdoes other phones in its class.

For a 5.5-inch phone the OnePlus 3T is still plenty thin and compact, though the slick metal body doesn’t quite offer enough grip for me sometimes. I found myself putting it in a OnePlus sandstone case more often than not, which is a shame because I really love this new gunmetal color that’s a bit deeper and includes a hint of brown when compared to the old silver color. If you want something a bit different, the soft gold metal with a white front remains an option, and will be on sale shortly after launch.

Now to what OnePlus actually changed. There’s a faster processor, a larger battery, a new front-facing camera (more on that below) and a sapphire covering for the rear camera. You can also now option up to 128GB of internal storage for a very fair $40 more, which will help placate those still miffed by the lack of SD card slot.

The internal hardware additions are nice, and mean that you can rest assured that you have the latest and greatest inside, but right now the specs really just make sure that your OnePlus 3T will be good to use in another year more so than improving things dramatically today.

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(Patiently) waiting for Nougat

OnePlus 3T Software and performance

It’s a tad superfluous to spend all that much time talking about the software here, as by the time the first OnePlus 3T orders arrive they’ll be less than a month away from an OTA that will bring Android 7.0 Nougat. I absolutely have to say that perhaps holding off on the launch of the OnePlus 3T in order to ship it with Nougat out of the box would have been a real treat, but I also understand the desire to get the phone out in the market for the holiday season as well.

Nougat will be here soon, but for now the OxygenOS Marshmallow experience is excellent.

But as it stands, the OnePlus 3T will greet you with roughly the same “OxygenOS” experience built on Android 6.0 Marshmallow as you’ll find on the OnePlus 3, OnePlus 2 and OnePlus X today. The newly combined OnePlus software team has made a handful of small visual and feature enhancements, though — there’s a fresh look to the notification shade, a few tweaks to the stock launcher and under-the-hood file system improvements to provide even more speed.

The tweaks are relatively minor, and all build into the same great software vision — OxygenOS is still all about simplicity, respecting Google’s vision for Android and augmenting it with a handful of useful features and customization options. As I’ve said before, OxygenOS includes many of the features we rooted our phones for years to get, and it integrates them into Android as if they were meant to be.

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Though the OnePlus 3 was already one of the best-performing and slickest phones available, a bump to a newer Snapdragon 821 processor is always welcome. The OnePlus 3T is of course extremely fast and smooth, and I never experienced a slowdown in over a week of using it — and I’d expect it to hold up just as well as my OnePlus 3 has after months of use. And not only does the new Snapdragon 821 give you the confidence that you’re getting the latest and greatest mobile CPU when you buy the phone, but it also prepares you for the future — you just got a little extra runway for top-end performance a year or 18 months from now.

It isn’t uncommon to finish a day with over half of the battery left.

The same goes for the battery, which jumped over 10% in capacity to a hearty 3400 mAh. Together with the more efficient processor and already svelte software, the OnePlus 3T has offered me amazing battery life. My usual day, kicking off at 8 a.m., with lots of podcast listening, frequent app use, retrieving email, managing my social networking apps and taking photos left me with 40-50% battery when I headed to bed after 10 p.m. A lighter weekend day saw the OnePlus 3T end up with over 65% left when I went to bed. That longevity puts it in rare company already, and battery life is only set to get better when Nougat arrives.

Dash Charge fast charging is of course still included, though because battery life was so great I really didn’t find a need for it and regularly just used whatever charger I had laying around. Adding to that feeling is the fact that Dash Charge is proprietary to the OnePlus 3 and 3T, meaning I’m still going to lean toward carrying a different charger that’s better suited to powering all of my devices rather than tailoring to just one. But for those who just use a single phone, the ridiculously fast refill times from Dash Charge still can’t be overlooked.

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Cameras

OnePlus made an … interesting move to switch away from its previous 8MP front-facing camera, which had large 1.4-micron pixels, to a new 16MP sensor (different from the rear camera) with much smaller 1-micron pixels. Aside from the spec change the camera is still fixed-focus and offers 1080p video, if that’s your sort of thing.

This feels like an overall upgrade to the front-facing camera, but it’s still just average.

On the face of it (har har) this change should offer better image quality in daylight and a dropoff in low light situations. The camera does pretty well, actually, particularly in better lighting. Low light shots were understandably grainy, but no more so than any other front-facing camera I’ve used lately. The only issues I can find here is that the fixed focal distance can sometimes leave your face a tad soft (an issue with most front-facing cameras), and there’s no sort of front-facing “flash” mode that lights up the screen in dark situations. A move to an auto focusing front-facing camera would be more expensive, but a front-facing screen light when taking a selfie in darker areas should be standard particularly when you have a sensor with such small pixels.

Now, a small gallery of selfies for you to judge (hopefully just the camera quality) for yourself — and no, these shots didn’t use the “beauty” mode.

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The rear camera is exceptional for a $440 phone, and competitive with $650+ phones.

Aside from the addition of a sapphire glass covering, the rear camera has remained unchanged from the OnePlus 3 — a 16MP sensor with f/2.0 lens that’s known to be a solid performer. The Snapdragon 821’s improved ISP (image signal processor) may be helping things a tad here, but I honestly couldn’t tell the difference in images taken with the OnePlus 3T versus its predecessor. In most situations the camera does a great job of quickly snapping a photo that’s accurate and colorful, though low light pictures still get a good bit of blurry chroma smoothing when compared to top performers like the Pixel XL. For a $440 phone the camera is beyond fantastic, and when compared to $650+ phones it’s competitive. Once again, things could improve further with the Nougat update.

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Still great

OnePlus 3T Bottom line

Whenever a company replaces a popular product with a new model less than six months after its launch, it has the potential to turn customers sour. Discontinuing the OnePlus 3 in favor of a spec-bumped and more expensive OnePlus 3T was always going to rub some the wrong way, but considering the overall minor extent of the upgrades and the continued software support for the original model I think we can all get past it. The original OnePlus 3 is still a great phone today, and nobody who has one should feel any different now than the 3T is here.

You still can’t find a better value than the OnePlus 3T.

Looking at the OnePlus 3T as a standalone device, available in late 2016 to compete with phones ranging from $400 to $700, it’s absolutely a fantastic total package. OnePlus took a proven platform that was already a crown jewel of “affordable flagship” phones, and refreshed it with a couple important improvements without removing anything that made it appealing when it launched the first time earlier this year.

Even with the modest price bump, the OnePlus 3T is an amazing value. It has great hardware, slick and responsive software, amazing battery life, strong rear camera and every internal spec you could want. Even its few weaknesses, like slightly low screen brightness, lack of waterproofing and questionable software update frequency, are minimal bad marks on what is otherwise an exceptional phone. At $439, you can’t find a better value than the OnePlus 3T.

See at OnePlus

OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T

  • OnePlus 3 review: Finally, all grown up
  • The OnePlus 3T is official
  • OnePlus 3 specs
  • OnePlus 3T vs. OnePlus 3: What’s the difference?
  • Latest OnePlus 3 news
  • Discuss OnePlus 3 in the forums

OnePlus

21
Nov

Instagram borrows from Facebook, Snapchat with live video, expiring photos


What’s old is new again with Instagram’s latest update.

Instagram is beginning to roll out some new features that will seem oddly familiar to Snapchat users and fans of Facebook live videos. In its latest update, Instagram has added live video to Instagram Stories, along with disappearing images and videos in direct messages to friends and groups.

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The update has yet to reach all users, but when it does you’ll find the new live video option by swiping right in the Stories camera mode. Your followers may receive a notification to let them know when you’re live, and you’ll be able to stream for up to an hour. When someone is live, you’ll see “Live” under their profile pic on the Instagram Stories feed. Simply tap their story to join their stream, where you can comment. The streamer also has the option to pin their favorite comments to the stream. Live videos will also be found in the Explore tab.

This sounds pretty much identical to Facebook Live, which was launched back in April to allow all of Facebook’s 1.79 billion users to stream live video right from the Facebook mobile app.

Meanwhile, Instagram has taken another page out of Snapchat’s playbook with it’s new direct messaging feature. With the new update, you’ll be able to send photos or videos directly to friends or groups that will expire as soon as they’re viewed. Take a silly selfie, slap a sticker on it and send it off to your Instagram besties. You’ll then be able to see if your snaps — I mean, direct messages — have been replayed or screenshotted.

Sound familiar at all?

Let us know if you’ve gotten the update, and what you think about Instagram’s ‘innovations’.

21
Nov

The MacBook Pro Touch Bar plays ‘Doom’ because of course it does


Doom is the rice of the video game world. It’s a staple of the industry and it works with everything, running flawlessly on ATMs, printers, pianos, calculators, e-readers, chainsaws and even on a terminal within Doom itself. This week, Facebook iOS engineer Adam Bell got Doom running on one more unlikely appliance: the Touch Bar of the latest MacBook Pro.

Playing the original Doom on a MacBook Pro isn’t impressive in and of itself, but squeezing those monstrous pixels onto the 2170 x 60 resolution Touch Bar is a notable accomplishment (even if the bar is basically a thin, elongated Apple Watch). Bell showed off his handiwork in a YouTube video published on Sunday, complete with classic sound effects, music and all.

Bell also configured the Touch Bar to display the Doom HUD, featuring health, ammo, weapons and other in-game stats at the top of the MacBook Pro keyboard, ostensibly while the game itself runs on the main screen.

Side note, as ridiculous (ly amazing) as Doom is running on the Touch Bar is… the HUD is equally great pic.twitter.com/RFwq7nJ7ae

— Adam Bell (@b3ll) November 20, 2016

Bethesda and developer id Software released a big Doom reboot this year and it’s just as gloriously gory as the series’ pixelated roots. It features multiple nods to the original game, including a level editor with classic assets. It’s nominated in multiple Game Awards categories, including Game of the Year.

Via: The Verge

Source: @b3ll

21
Nov

OnePlus 3T review: Three cheers for the best mid-price phone


What do you do when you have an already-great smartphone and access to parts that can improve it? If you’re a traditional smartphone maker, you’ll more than likely wait around 12 months before putting those upgraded parts into a slightly newer chassis.

If you’re not and you like to think a little differently to the mainstream manufacturers, then you use them to make a great smartphone even better. Which is exactly what OnePlus has done with the OnePlus 3T – the slightly pricier, yet even more awesome, mid-price phone that’s good enough to take on the flagships.

How is the OnePlus 3T different to the OnePlus 3?

  • New Gunmetal grey colour
  • Camera is now protected by sapphire glass

From an aesthetic standpoint, there are no visual changes to the styling and design of the phone: the OnePlus 3T looks identical to the OnePlus 3.

OnePlus’ smartphone is carved from a single piece of high-end aluminium alloy. Its back has a comfortable and purposeful curved finish, with gently rounded edges to match. It feels both solid and comfortable in the hand, just as the OnePlus 3 does.

Pocket-lint

While the main body’s build and materials are identical, the glass covering the camera has been upgraded. We now have sapphire glass, which is harder and far better at resisting scratches.

The textured notification priority slider sits on the left edge, near the top, about a thumb’s width above the slim volume rocker. On the opposite side, the power button is joined by the dual SIM tray which, sadly, still doesn’t have the option of slipping in a microSD card to expand the storage.

One thing that must be applauded is the attention to how these buttons feel when they’re pressed. They have a solid click, giving great feedback in use.

Pocket-lint

There’s a Type-C port, speaker grille, microphone and 3.5mm jack all in a row on the bottom edge, while the top edge is completely port-free.

While the phone looks exactly the same as the OnePlus 3, the company did create a new Gunmetal Grey finish – which is noticeably darker than the OnePlus 3 in Graphite finish.

How large is the OnePlus 3T?

  • 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED display
  • Covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 4

On the front is a 5.5-inch 1080p full HD display, providing a window to all your games, videos and apps. Like its lesser-powered sibling, it’s OnePlus’ Optic AMOLED display. That means you get the same vibrant colours and really deep blacks.

To really see the strength of this AMOLED panel, it’s worth using the system-wide dark theme which changes the settings menu’s background to be completely black, offset with contrasting colours which are more pastel than the highlighter-neon found in the older software. It’ll probably help the battery life too.

Pocket-lint

Being Full HD (1920 x 1080) rather than Quad HD (1440 x 2560) does mean you don’t quite get the same level of detail as you would on some other flagship phones, like the Pixel XL. From arm’s length, everything on the 3T looks sharp and clear enough though.

Bringing it a little closer to your face reveals that rounded icon edges and curves in fine text aren’t quite as smooth as you’d find on a higher-resolution screen, of course. Still, things are smooth enough when using the phone normally, not pressed right up against your nose.

Being Optic AMOLED, the 3T also has the same dual polarising layers built in to help make it more visible in daylight. For the most part, this works well. The screen is relatively easy to see in most lighting conditions.

All this means that, for the average day made up of video watching, mobile gaming and watching all your friends doing the mannequin challenge on Snapchat, the screen holds up well. It’s a great canvas for all kinds of media, especially if what you’re viewing is colourful.

What software does OnePlus 3T run?

  • OxygenOS based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Enhanced Doze mode for better battery life
  • New Shelf is cleaner and more refined
  • Android Nougat is coming (before 2017)

OxygenOS is back yet again in a version of the software which OnePlus says is more refined. Building on the success of previous iterations, it retains its lightweight and fluid properties while maintaining the customisation choices.

The Shelf – OnePlus’ screen used to give you handy access to your favourite contacts, apps and widgets – has been updated with a cleaner look. The font at the top of the screen has been tidied up, and the cards showing various widgets are now all white for a more uniform look. You can still add all your most used apps and widgets here as you could before, it just looks a little tidier.

Other changes include the ability to customise which quick-access icons you want in your drop-down quick settings shade. You can also setup some apps to be private and only accessible by password or fingerprint scan – which is particularly useful if you don’t like kids checking through your personal messages, or if your work emails and calendar need to be kept private.

In an upcoming software update, OnePlus is going to include the ability to take longer screenshots. Just like some of Samsung’s latest phones, you’ll be able to snap a screenshot and then keep scrolling to get as much of an image, web page or text as you need. There are also updates to the voice over and weather apps.

A lot of what makes OxygenOS so great is its customisability, and that stays in the latest version. You can change many aspects of the phone’s appearance, and even download custom icon packs.

One small feature we enjoyed was that the software automatically normalises app icon sizes so that they’re all the same size, even if they’re not all the same shape. Although you can change them all to be round or square using the built-in icon packs.

While it’s disappointing that Android Nougat (version 7 and up) hasn’t been included in a phone launched so long after Google released the software, there is some relief in knowing that OnePlus has committed to pushing out the update by the end of 2016.

Does the OnePlus 3T perform better than a flagship?

  • 2.35GHz quad-core Snapdragon 821 processor
  • 64GB or 128GB storage options
  • 6GB RAM

On the hardware side, OnePlus has ramped things up a notch in the 3T by replacing the 2.15GHz Snapdragon 820 processor of the OnePlus 3 with an even more powerful 2.35GHz Snapdragon 821 chip.

More importantly, it means that – from a hardware perspective – OnePlus’ latest device could be capable of running Google’s Daydream VR system. Sadly, it doesn’t seem that implementing Google’s VR compatibility is high on the company’s agenda – that’s what we concluded after an interview with OnePlus’ co-founder Carl Pei.

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The SD821 processor sits alongside 6GB RAM, which is more than enough to handle multiple tasks on a smartphone of any kind. It’s worth noting that this RAM isn’t all used for multi-tasking apps. A third of it (2GB) is reserved for a dedicated camera function which shoots multiple shots at once and chooses the best one whenever you snap a picture.

Overall, the OnePlus 3T is zippy and can load even the most graphically intense games without much trouble. While it’s hard to notice a huge difference between the OnePlus 3 and 3T in terms of speed, there does appear to be a slight increase in responsiveness and decrease in load times. Neither improvement is ground-breaking, though, and certainly not worth considering the switch for that reason alone.

How long does the OnePlus 3T last per charge?

  • 3,400mAh battery
  • Dash Charge

One notable improvement comes in form of a beef-up battery. Rather than stick with the same 3,000mAh capacity cell found in the regular OnePlus 3, the 3T has a more capacious 3,400mAh battery. In real-life use, that means the new flagship killer lasts even longer. Always welcome.

While the regular Google Doze mode – which puts apps to sleep when not in use for a given period of time, as launched in Android Marshmallow – was great at preserving battery when a phone was sat still and in standby mode, the new enhanced Doze mode performs the same function while the phone is in your pocket, purse, or wherever you happen to store it. The phone doesn’t have to be sat still. As long as it’s in standby, Doze does its thing and stops your phone from draining the battery when it’s not in use.

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We found with light use the OnePlus 3T made it to bed time with just under 50 per cent of its capacity remaining. With more moderate use (including a couple of hours worth of gaming), it had around 30 per cent left at the end of a day. It’s not quite a two day battery, but it’s close, and its Dash Charge capability means super quick top-ups at the plug.

OnePlus’ Dash Charge tech – which bears a striking resemblance to the VOOC charging offered by Oppo – can give you a full day’s battery from a 30 minute charge. Or, at least, that’s the marketing spiel from OnePlus. In real life, plugging it in for 30 minutes can easily get the battery from the dreaded 15 per cent level to around 70 per cent charge.

This kind of charging completely changes charging behaviour. Rather than plug the phone in over night, you can leave it off charge and then plug it in when you wake up, go for a shower, have breakfast, then take it off charge on your way out and be confident it should last you the day.

Is the OnePlus 3T’s camera good?

  • 16MP front and rear cameras
  • Upgraded EIS on rear snapper
  • Manual controls and RAW support

On the camera side, only the front camera has had a notable upgrade. OnePlus boosted the selfie cam’s sensor to 16-megapixels and introduced what it calls “Intelligent Pixel Technology”. In essence, when shooting in low-light conditions with the front camera, pixels join forces to bring in more light and give you a selfie with less image noise and more brightness.

What we’ve found with the selfies is that – and like so many other front-facing cameras – there’s a tendency to soften skin to excess and leave faces devoid of any detail. In low-light conditions, it does well at capturing as much light as possible, but that can mean some areas can become overexposed and washed out. 

On the back, it’s the same 16-megapixel sensor as before, but with some useful improvements.

First off, the stabilisation has been upgraded. Videos now seem more stable, thanks to the enhanced EIS (Electronic Image Stabilisation) algorithm. With OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) and PDAF (Phase Detection Autofocus), OnePlus claims you can capture crystal clear images in just 0.2 seconds.

In use, the camera is very fast and takes shots almost instantaneously, although results aren’t quite as detailed, vibrant or balanced as those from the Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy S7 or Apple iPhone 7 families.

That’s not to say the OnePlus 3T is not good, it’s still a very capable camera – especially considering the price of the handset. It does a fairly good job in low light, particularly when manual settings are chosen. In automatic mode, you will find some shots are a little blurry in these situations. 

Like the OnePlus 3, there are a handful of smart capture technologies built-in to the OnePlus 3T. Dynamic De-noise helps to reduce image noise in low-light shots by smoothing it out, while HQ Mode enhances details by sharpening lines. Auto HDR (high dynamic range) kicks in when the conditions call for it, and Smile Capture takes pictures automatically when it detects a smile.

Those who take mobile photography seriously will be pleased to know that the phone still supports Raw files. This means if you want to edit them on more professional software after taking them, digging deeper into the available adjustments without loss, then you now can.

The camera app also has a small selection of manual controls to adjust elements like the ISO sensitivity, white balance, focus type and shutter speed. Amazingly, the last of those can be set to be open for up to 30 seconds, which is enough to make night time almost look like day.

Verdict

Like its predecessor, the OnePlus 3T is a brilliant smartphone, regardless of the bump in price. Its build quality and design is up there with the best of them, it has a vibrant and punchy display and a battery that can last practically all day on a 30 minute charge. There’s very little to criticise.

If we were paying £600-£800 for a 3T, then we would be critical of its Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution display, or the camera not quite performing at the same level as some flagship phones. But the OnePlus 3T isn’t even £400 and, frankly, it’d still be a great buy at £500 or more.

It’s unavoidable that OnePlus will receive criticism from some for charging £60 for what is a marginally upgraded version of the OnePlus 3. But the 3T is a better, faster phone with an improved battery and front camera.

The OnePlus 3T retains OnePlus’ crown of offering the best mid-priced phone with flagship performance that money can buy.

OnePlus 3T: The alternatives to consider

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OnePlus 3

  • £329

Don’t want to pay more? The original OnePlus 3 has everything you need, but for less cash. The battery isn’t quite as good, but it’s still a great buy overall while you can still buy it. It won’t be available for much longer, so act fast if you really want one. 

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Vodafone Smart Platinum 7

  • £299

If £400 is pushing to the limite of your budget, but you still want as good an Android experience as you can get on a budget, the £300 Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 is a great choice. Its screen is as big as the OnePlus, but with Quad HD resolution. It is only available on Vodafone though and isn’t quite as powerful as the 3T. 

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Google Pixel XL

  • £719

If money is no object and all you’re interested in is the latest and absolute best Android experience around, you’ll struggle to get anything better than a Pixel or Pixel XL. They’re loaded with the brand new version of Android Nougat, have fantastic cameras and smooth snappy performance. 

21
Nov

Carl Pei: Smartphone’s big disruptor talks OnePlus 3T, Daydream VR and focus


Having recently announced the OnePlus 3T at a relatively private briefing in London, the company’s co-founder Carl Pei sat down with us to talk. In our interview we cover the device itself, the reasons for it and what the future holds for one of the most talked-about smartphone makers in the world. 

What were the reasons behind releasing the upgraded OnePlus 3, and increasing the price?

Like I said during the presentation, we made a lot of changes on the software. But you cannot keep just improving software, because some of the changes have to come from hardware.

We have some new things in place like the sapphire glass, because we monitor a lot of metrics like failure rates, customer support etc. And although it’s [OnePlus camera glass cover] within acceptable range, we still felt like the back camera needed to be strengthened. So we wanted to upgrade that.

We had a higher density battery that we wanted to use, and we didn’t want to wait all the way until next year to release these features.

Looking at the OnePlus 3, it is our best product by far, by MPS [customer satisfaction/likelihood to recommend] and basically we only look at MPS, or MPS is the most important thing to look at.

  • OnePlus 3T review: Three cheers for the best mid-price phone

It was pretty easy, the logic was just to take the best we have and improve it.

In terms of the pricing, here in the UK I think, our users might have seen the steepest difference. A lot of it is actually due to currency. So look at the dollar price, it’s not a huge difference compared to before.

But I think the reason why we increased in other markets as well as the US is we added improvements that actually cost us more money. The sapphire glass costs a few dollars more than the regular glass and the higher density battery costs more.

With the new price I really think it’s a very competitive product. Look at what’s available now, in late 2016 in this range, there’s not a lot of products that come close to it. So we’re still pretty confident.

In terms of the upgraded model and increased price, how do you think current OnePlus 3 users are going to feel? Do you think there will be many that upgrade or is that not what you’re aiming for?

If you were working at a traditional company, you wouldn’t expect your users to upgrade. And I spend a lot of time on Reddit, on the Android sub reddit and the OnePlus subreddit and I’ve seen a lot of people actually ready to upgrade.

Some people just – in Europe although we stopped sales and resumed sales – after we resumed sales still took a month to deliver. Some people have waited one month for delivery, and they’ve had the phone for a month before the OnePlus 3T, and a lot of people are actually selling their phones on second hand markets and various sites.

The only regret – if there was any regret – is the fact that some users had to wait too long to receive their phone. But if you looked at what options we had available, it’s either stopping sales or selling with a longer shipping time. I think the latter is slightly better.

The demand was larger than we anticipated. Seems like we’re saying that every year.

So that’s fine with OnePlus fans, they will buy it because they’re fans. How do you think it goes down with average consumers?

I think for most average consumers, to be honest, especially here in the UK, the OnePlus 3T will be the first product [of ours] they see.

Is that because it’s from O2, or do you think your brand is strong enough on its own now?

O2 is just a small part of it, or it’s a part of it. Starting from next week we’ll start our campaign in London Underground, then newspapers will come out. We’re also preparing a much larger push.

The way we think about it is, we sell to a lot of regions, but we’re not big in any region. So why can’t we pool the funds we have? If we make money in other regions, then we can focus on one region, and make it grow. So that’s what we’re experimenting in the UK. You’ll see a more aggressive campaign coming soon.

You’re growing as a company. People are starting to hear about you a bit more – because of the quality of your phones and how well-priced they are – do you ever find yourself thinking about adding to the range? Like with the OnePlus 2 and OnePlus X, do you see yourself going down the avenue of a small and a big phone again, like the iPhone and Pixel?

We talk about it a lot. And this is how we think: As an example I can give you – erm – a category example.

Some companies they start with a smartphone, and they struggle with a smartphone, so they will try and diversify. Thinking “I’ll make a whatever product where the risk is not as high.”

We think in the opposite way. If we’re not even successful with the smartphone, then how can we be successful in more than one category? Because our time is limited.

And it’s the same when it comes to the product sizing. Now we have one size. We’re at zero or half a per cent of the UK market, once we’re 10 per cent, then we can consider expanding our product line. But it’s not time yet. If we can’t even sell this one well, why make another one? That’s the way we think about it.

Does that mean that the OnePlus X didn’t sell very well?

The OnePlus X didn’t sell according to our expectations. The way we thought about it before was that the OnePlus X is a slightly cheaper product. And being slightly cheaper you should sell a lot more. But what we found was that given our current size, or our current company, is that most of our users are like tech enthusiasts and they want to get the best flagship products.

So I think if another company had sold the OnePlus X, they would have done a much better job, because they can reach out to more mainstream consumers. We’re learning, we’re trying to learn this time, but it wasn’t the right timing for us.

Looking at the OnePlus 3T, you’ve got the Snapdragon 821 now, which is obviously a better version of the processor, but also it’s Daydream VR compatible. Was that any part of your thinking, in terms of making it compatible with Daydream VR from Google? Is that something you’re considering?

So to be very honest, you can even quote me on this, I don’t even know what Daydream actually is. I know it’s like this reference composite design, and we were paying a lot of attention to it before the OnePlus 3. But what we found was our intuition – and our gut – told us was that no one’s really going to use their smartphone strapped to their head for VR.

We’ve seen it as well; a lot of people were asking us if it was going to be Daydream compatible when we launched the OnePlus 3. But nowadays, no one is asking the same question.

So it’s not big enough that you consider it important?

One of our core values is integrity. And integrity is not the regular meaning like being trustworthy, and stuff like that. It’s defined by the core reason or core truth. So we wanted to remove all the distractions, like remove all the people nagging for Daydream, sit down and really think about it. Is it really useful right now?

That’s how we make a lot of our decisions. Not only when it comes to products, but also about our markets, our product lines and categories. So integrity in thinking maybe, would be a good way [to describe it]? But I don’t think Daydream today, in late 2016, is going to make or break our product.

Then what was the reason behind the VR thing earlier in the year, the Loop VR headset? Was that purely for the [OnePlus 3] launch, or was it something you cared about?Basically, one of my – I don’t know if it’s a vision or if it’s just one of my ideas – so after we released the OnePlus One we had a lot of fans that were really excited about the invite system. And I thought , what if we could – because our fans are so geographically spread – what if we could have a launch event where you go to a launch event in VR and other fans are sitting next to you. That would be really cool. But the tech is not really there yet so we simplified it, and that’s why we had the VR experience to make it a more fair way to be involved.

This time we’re trying a Facebook Live experience, so let’s see how that will work. But that’s more of a launch. A launch is more part of the marketing. So we can’t let marketing beat the product, product needs to be above everything else within our company. And that’s the way we decided, product is always number one.

You probably won’t tell me anything here, but – when you’re looking at the OnePlus 3T and you’re looking ahead to the OnePlus 4 – what do you see now already that you think “I can improve there, I can make that in to a better product for the next model of the handset”?

So I cannot say too much about this topic, but, one part is outward looking. We have this team that’s just focussed on researching the latest technologies, contact all the vendors, meeting all the vendors to see what’s available.

Another part of what’s really important is to be inward looking. Looking at what the feedback is from our users, then using that to improve. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but on our packaging it says “created together with our fans”.

It’s not something that we’ve just added as part of a marketing phrase, I do think now that Oxygen OS is actually made together with our fans. Even things that are not quickly iterating, like hardware, we actually look at a lot of feedback.

Then what are they telling you they want in the OnePlus 4?

(Smiles) We have to release the OnePlus 3T first, then see what they say.

Do you think it’s always going to be an O2 exclusive or will you become more like a traditional manufacturer and have deals with multiple carriers?

This goes back to what I was saying about focus. In India, we’re only working with Amazon, and it’s been more than two years. Everyone else that was exclusive is no longer exclusive with anyone else.

The way we see it is if we can’t make Amazon successful, we only have one partner, if we can’t make that successful, then why go to more partners?

So, if we can become 10 per cent [of the UK market] some day with O2, then we can consider our next step. So it’s kinda like turning it upside down, but I think it makes sense.

With O2, there’s no carrier branding and no extra software?

No modifications on hardware or software.

If you went to another network provider, like EE or Vodafone, do you think the pressure would be there to add that?

Maybe, or maybe not. The thing is, with O2, they really understood us from the beginning. They were like, “if we do this [add branding and software], OnePlus fans will revolt against us. We should not do this”.

But to be honest, there wasn’t a whole lot of interest when we started approaching carriers in the UK. Because, that was before the OnePlus X, that was quite a long time ago. That’s why we’re really grateful that Magnus [O2 chief] believed in us, that’s why we’re not going to give up on our partnership that easily.

After we launched with O2, then everyone else wants to launch it. That’s always the case.

And now you’re just telling them, you can’t physically do it? Due to the size of your team etc.?

Yeah, but that’s a good feeling. It’s like validation. They didn’t believe in you and now they want you.

Would you say that all the competitors have approached you now?

In the UK, I think most of them.

The big ones?

Yeah. But it doesn’t mean anything unless we can really grow together with O2. If we went to O2 and we’re still the same size as now, then in a few years, no one’s going to care about us.

O2 have had exclusives on other phones that haven’t turned out so well. I mean, thinking a long time ago, the Palm Pre range and the Amazon Fire phone…

They did the iPhone…They did the iPhone, which is obviously the biggest success story…And I think it’s our responsibility to make it work. We need to do the offline sales reps’ sales training, we need to start reaching out to more mainstream consumers.

So introspection is also important to us, it’s one of our core values. No matter who’s blame it is, just take the blame and try to fix yourself. So I think it’s our responsibility – no matter what – to make this work. We’re trying with marketing, offline retail management, and hopefully it’ll work.

Would you say that it’s working now so far?

I’ve been actually, around a few O2 stores speaking with the sales people, and the Gurus. They said that the demand is really, really good, but it’s always out of stock, and the all have a long waiting list.

So it’s inventory management that’s the issue, still?

Yeah, because O2 are launching a new product, they’re not sure how popular it’s going to be and don’t want to order too much. And if they change the order too fast, we can’t accommodate that change that fast.

We’re working it out. I think for the OnePlus 3T it’s going to be a lot better already.

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