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19
Sep

Belkin Debuts 3.5mm Audio + Charge RockStar for Charging an iPhone While Listening to Music


Belkin today announced the launch of its new 3.5mm Audio + Charge RockStar adapter, which joins its existing Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar adapter to allow users to charge their devices and listen to music at the same time.

The Audio + Charge RockStar is designed for iPhones that lack a 3.5mm headphone jack, which includes the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and upcoming iPhone X.

A Lightning connector on the adapter plugs into the Lighting port of an iPhone, providing both a 3.5mm headphone jack for use with standard headphones and a Lightning port where you can plug in a Lightning cable to charge at the same time that you listen.


Belkin has built 12W pass-through charging into the Audio + Charge RockStar, so your iPhone will be able to charge at maximum speed. It supports any audio jack that uses a 3.5mm connector and is compatible with most cases.

Belkin’s 3.5mm Audio + Charge RockStar adapter can be purchased from the Apple Store for $34.95 or directly from Belkin for $34.99.
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19
Sep

Apple Releases watchOS 4 With New Watch Faces, Siri Improvements, Gym Equipment Integration, and More


Apple today released watchOS 4, the newest version of the operating system designed to run on the Apple Watch. watchOS 4 is a significant update that brings a whole host of new features from new watch faces to tools that will better motivate you to get moving.

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watchOS 4 can be downloaded through the dedicated Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General –> Software Update. To install the new software, the Apple Watch needs to have at least 50 percent battery, it needs to be placed on a charger, and it needs to be in range of the iPhone.


Apple has added three new watch faces in watchOS 4. There’s a Siri watch face that offers dynamic, personalized information that changes throughout the day, a Kaleidoscope face that uses your own photos, and a Toy Story face starring Jessie, Woody, and Buzz Lightyear.


In watchOS 4, Apple wants to motivate you to close your activity rings. There are new notifications when you’re close to meeting a goal, more exciting animations when you reach your fitness target, and personalized monthly fitness challenges based on your own activity history.


There are several interface improvements, including a new vertical dock, a Quickstart interface when starting a workout, a better interface and more options in Apple Music, access to Apple News, new gestures in Mail, new complications for unread messages and Now Playing songs, and more.


New workout options have been added, like High Intensity Interval Training and improvements for swim workouts, and the Apple Watch is now able to integrate with gym equipment over Bluetooth. The heart rate app is also getting some improvements that will give you more insight into what’s going on with your heart, offering up resting heart rate, recovery rate after exercise, and notifications if your heart rate gets alarmingly high when you’re not active.


A new Flashlight option is available in Control Center for running or walking at night, person-to-person Apple Pay is coming to the Messages app starting this fall, and third-party apps are faster than ever with better load times and a more responsive interface, plus developers have access to even more features like the heart rate monitor, accelerometer, and gyroscope.


watchOS 4 is compatible with all available Apple Watch models, including the original Apple Watch, Series 1, Series 2, and Series 3. For additional details on all the new features in watchOS 4, make sure to check out our watchOS 4 roundup.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)
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19
Sep

Apple Releases iOS 11 With Revamped Lock Screen, Fresh App Store, New Siri Voice, and Updated iPad Interface


Apple today officially released iOS 11, the newest operating system designed for the iPad, iPhone, and iPad touch. iOS 11 is available on the iPhone 5s and later, the iPad mini 2 and later, the iPad Air and later, and the 6th-generation iPod touch.

The update is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the update, go to Settings –> General –> Software Update. It could potentially take a few minutes for the update to propagate to all users due to high demand.

iOS 11 is a major update that brings a refreshed look and feel to both the iPhone and the iPad. It introduces subtle design changes to interface elements throughout the OS, like bolder text, a new look for apps, revamped icons, and a redesigned usage experience for the Lock screen and the Control Center.

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Apple has merged the Lock screen and the Notification Center, so a downwards swipe now brings up the Lock screen and notifications. The Control Center is now customizable and does more, and 3D Touch integration has been expanded.


Siri is smarter than ever and has a new, more natural voice, and Siri is now cross-device, letting the personal assistant learn more about you. Siri can also translate English into several different languages like Spanish and Chinese.


iOS 11 feels a lot different on an iPad. There’s now a persistent Dock at the bottom of the display that you can bring up anytime with a swipe, and there’s a new App Switcher that’s similar to Mission Control on the Mac, letting you see all of your apps — even those in split-view windows — at a glance. Apple Pencil does more on iPad Pro, and a new Drag and Drop feature lets you drag links, images, files, and more from one app to another.


A new Files app introduces improved file management, and many apps have new features. Notes offers searchable handwriting and document scanning, Maps has lane guidance and speed limit info, Apple Music lets you see what your friends are listening to, and there are a new tools for editing Live Photos.


HomeKit now supports speakers and AirPlay 2 adds multi-room functionality, while Do Not Disturb has been expanded to encompass driving. In a future update, Apple plans to add iCloud Messages and a person-to-person Apple Pay feature.

On the iPad, there’s a handy new “Flick” keyboard, while the iPhone has new one-handed keyboard options. You’ll see a completely different App Store after installing iOS 11, and a whole host of apps with new capabilities thanks to ARKit and other under-the-hood improvements.


Note: When iOS 11 is installed, all older 32-bit apps will no longer launch. These are apps that have not been updated for several years, and Apple has discontinued support. Only 64-bit apps are compatible with the new update.

For a full rundown on all of the new features you’ll find in iOS 11, make sure to check out our iOS 11 roundup.

Related Roundup: iOS 11
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19
Sep

Apple Releases tvOS 11 With Home Screen Syncing, Auto Dark Mode, and 4K Support for New Apple TV


Apple today released tvOS 11, the latest operating system designed for the fourth and fifth-generation Apple TV models. tvOS 11 is something of a minor update, but does bring some notable feature improvements to the tvOS operating system.

tvOS 11 can be downloaded over the air through the Settings app on the Apple TV by going to System -> Software Update. Apple TV owners who have automatic software updates turned on will be upgraded to tvOS 11 automatically.

The tvOS 11 update introduces full support for AirPods, AirPlay 2 support, automatic switching between light and dark mode based on local time, Home screen syncing options designed to keep multiple Apple TVs in a single household in sync, and new background modes and notification support.

On the more technical side, the update includes Focus API improvements, custom sound support, network-based pairing and development support, improvements to Mobile Device Management, and more.

For the fifth-generation Apple TV, aka the Apple TV 4K, the tvOS 11 update introduces support for 4K content. Apple’s new 4K Apple TV will ship with tvOS 11 installed by default.

Additional improvements to the TV app for Apple TV and iOS devices will bring support for live news and live sports following the release of tvOS 11 and iOS 11, and later this fall, tvOS 11 will gain support for the Amazon Prime Video app.

tvOS 11 is limited to the fourth and fifth-generation Apple TV models and is not available on earlier models.

Related Roundup: Apple TV
Buyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Buy Now)
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19
Sep

Apple Music for Android Updated With Support for Voice Search, Adding Friends


Alongside today’s release iOS 11, Apple updated its Apple Music app for Android devices to introduce feature parity with the new version of Apple Music in the iOS update.

Android users can now create an Apple Music profile to follow friends and see what they’ve been listening to. The same feature was introduced in Apple Music on iOS devices with iOS 11.

Today’s update brings a new Recently Played Widget, designed to let Android users show and play music on the home screen of their device.

There’s also support for Voice Search, so Android users can hold down the home button or say “Ok Google” to search for and play Music, and there are new home screen shortcuts built in. A tap and hold on the Apple Music icon will play Beats 1 or start a search.

Apple Music for Android can be downloaded from the Google Play store for free.

Tags: Android, Apple Music
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19
Sep

Edifier Luna Eclipse setup & unboxing: Get your new sound system in the groove


Edifier is something of an undiscovered high-quality audio manufacturer with a diverse catalog ranging from portable Bluetooth speakers to full home theater systems. We recently got our hands on a set of Edifier Bluetooth multimedia speakers — the Luna Eclipse HD — which offer a unique aesthetic and a few cool features. They’re great, but not always easy to get set up — especially if you’re pairing them with a TV.

With that in mind, here’s our quick Edifier Luna Eclipse setup & unboxing guide. Rock on.

What’s in the box?

The Luna Eclipse come boxed with a ton of cables and accessories, including:

  • A three-button remote, which uses a coin battery
  • A power supply brick and cable
  • A hybrid optical cable for digital connection
  • A 3.5mm auxiliary cable
  • An RCA-auxiliary adapter
  • A speaker connecting cable
  • A polishing cloth
  • Product literature (warranty, manual, and others)

There’s not much else you could possibly ask for. The speakers themselves even come in individual cloth bags to protect from smudges.

Hardware setup

The back of the right “control” speaker is where you’ll find three ports: One port that works with auxiliary cables and also with the hybrid optical cable; one port for power; and one port for the proprietary speaker cable, which provides power for the left “slave” speaker. Plug all this stuff in (if you’re using optical, make sure to remove the plastic caps), arrange the speakers where you want them, and you’re all set.

Features and design

The ovular, black-on-black speakers (also available in black-on-red and black-on-white) feature grippy silicone lining on the baffle, with a little guard over the tweeters to prevent children or pets from messing with the domes. The relatively small (2.5-inch) front bass drivers are supplemented by passive radiators cleverly hidden in a cutout at the rear of both speakers.

Along the left side of the right speaker, you’ll also find touch controls for power and volume. To power the speakers on via the remote, press and hold the power button; short presses will switch between inputs, which are denoted by a colored LED on the speaker.

Software setup

You don’t need to do much to get the Luna Eclipse up and running; if you’re connecting to a television via optical, though, you’ll need to head into the TV’s audio settings and enable PCM — the speakers don’t support digital surround sound.

If you prefer Bluetooth, you can do that easily. Once the Eclipse are powered on, they’ll automatically appear in your chosen device’s list of available signals. Select Edifier Luna Eclipse HD and you’re all set.




19
Sep

Our LG SJ9 soundbar setup and unboxing guide makes installation a cinch


Often when buying a soundbar, you’ll end up eschewing breadth and depth of sound in favor of value and effective space management. Not so with LG’s Dolby Atmos-enabled SJ9, which combines virtual surround sound with the distinctive Atmos ceiling-firing drivers, creating a massive, enveloping soundstage without requiring you to set up several individual speakers. Our LG SJ9 soundbar setup and unboxing guide will make installation a cinch, bolstering your home theater in no time at all.

What’s in the box?

In addition to the soundbar and the wireless subwoofer, you’ll get:

  • Wall mounts and a template
  • Cable management ties
  • An optical cable for digital connection
  • A remote with batteries
  • Some product literature

The power supply is built in, so there’s no need for an external cable. You won’t get an HDMI cable either, though at this point, most of us have enough of those bad boys lying around the house anyway.

Hardware setup

You’ll find all the necessary ports and jacks in the rear of the soundbar, in a centrally located alcove. There’s an aux-in jack (in case you want a second subwoofer), HDMI in and out, optical, and an Ethernet port for servicing only.

If you’ve got an HDMI ARC cable and a TV with an appropriate port, you’ll want to connect that way. If not, use optical instead — just make sure you take off the plastic caps before plugging anything in.

Once you’ve plugged the soundbar into a power outlet, allow it to fully power on before doing the same with the wireless subwoofer. That way, they’ll automatically pair.

Features and design

The curvy SJ9 is gorgeous, dressed in dark, silvery gray, with speaker grating that wraps around the front, as well as circular grates on top at either end. It features a scrolling digital readout across the front and some dedicated onboard control buttons (located on the front, near the left side) — though you’ll likely be using the remote instead.

The remote itself has all the basic controls you’d expect, plus a few unique ones. There’s automatic power and volume control, buttons to adjust bass and treble balance, and even a cool “night mode” function that compresses louder sounds when you don’t want to wake up the kids.

Software setup

Once everything is properly hooked up, head into your TV’s audio settings and make sure “audio out” is set to Optical/HDMI ARC, not “internal speakers” (and don’t select PCM in this instance).

If you have a newer LG television, you can select “LG Sound Sync/Bluetooth” to pair wirelessly, or “LG Sound Sync/Optical,” which will allow you to control the soundbar’s volume with your TV remote. Still, though, HDMI ARC should be your first choice. It just sounds better.

To connect with Wi-Fi, download the Music Flow mobile app (for iOS or Android), hit “Connect product,” and select the soundbar icon. It will walk you through the process to connect your SJ9 to Wi-Fi, after which it might prompt you to download an update — which you should do. After that, you should be good to go.




19
Sep

Meizu Pro 7 Plus review


When we reviewed the Meizu Pro 6 Plus earlier this year, we were very impressed by its excellent hardware. We made sure to note just how much Meizu’s Flyme 6 software helped the phone stand out amongst a sea of mid-range smartphones.

Four months later (our Pro 6 Plus review was admittedly a little late…) and we are ready to share our thoughts on Meizu’s most striking phone yet, the Meizu Pro 7 Plus. The Pro 7 Plus promises a signature Meizu experience with an added bonus: a secondary rear-facing display.

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You may be asking yourself “but why?” Perhaps you’re curious about the display’s implementation and features. Or you might be wondering if the Pro 7 Plus is a good buy, regardless of the secondary display. Let’s answer all of those questions and more with our comprehensive Meizu Pro 7 Plus review!

Design

If we ignore the addition of a secondary display for just a second, the Pro 7 Plus design is quite similar to that of the Pro 6 Plus. That shouldn’t be taken as a drawback though. We really liked the Pro 6 Plus’ design and are happy to see a familiar design here.

The first thing you’ll notice is how well built it feels

The first thing you’ll notice when picking up the Pro 7 Plus is how well built it feels. That may sound a tad cliché, but the Pro 7 Plus truly shines in this regard. The choice of materials especially helps the phone feel premium.

The aluminum unibody isn’t just strong and sleek. It actually feels softer than you would expect too, which makes the Pro 7 Plus more comfortable in the hand.

Unfortunately, this softer aluminum also means that the Pro 7 Plus is quite slippery. The flat edges do help make the phone easier to grip, but you may still want to consider a case. Thankfully, Meizu includes a free plastic case in the box.

Returning to the design, the Pro 7 Plus is available in a number of attractive color options: matte black, space black, silver, and gold. There is also a smaller Pro 7 model that is available in a bright red. As you likely suspected, we are reviewing the matte black model. The other Pro 7 Plus color options feature brushed aluminum instead if you prefer a more showy look.

The matte black unit is definitely more minimal looking though. The curved antenna lines at the top and bottom of the phone are barely noticeable. Aspects like the flush, curved, and cornered secondary display glass along with the carefully chamfered edges help the phone feel like a single piece of hardware.

We would have liked to see more understated Meizu branding on the bottom right instead of the silver, tactile branding as it slightly detracts from the phone’s minimal look. With that said, we can appreciate the uniqueness of this approach this time around.

Smaller details like the integrated light and proximity sensors in the earpiece and symmetrical top and bottom bezels add some serious polish to the overall design. It was details like these that made us repeatedly admire our unit’s premium build during our time with it.

The Pro 7 Plus does not include any water or dust protection

Unlike many true flagship smartphones, the Pro 7 Plus does not include any water or dust protection. This is not very surprising given the cost of implementing such protection, but it’s something to keep in mind if you are also considering more expensive options.

One of the more controversial aspects of Meizu’s smartphones is their single-key navigation configuration. With the Pro 7 Plus and mTouch, you go home by physically pressing down on the button and go back by tapping the button. For multitasking, you just swipe up from either the left or right side of the bottom bezel.

Almost everyone is accustomed to a three-key layout, where every function is visually represented. Perhaps the fear of change is why some people dislike the idea of a single button, but other OEMs have also offered it. While it can take a day or two to get used to, you may well end up loving this setup for its clever simplicity.

Navigation isn’t all the Pro 7 Plus’ single key can do though — it’s also a fingerprint reader. Although it’s not as quick as the quickest out there, it is still very much comparable to options like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6.

Since the Pro 7 Plus is running the same Flyme 6 software as its predecessor, it also includes the same extra fingerprint reader features. App lock, for example, allows you to add an extra layer of fingerprint security on a per-app basis.

There are also some powerful per-finger features. For example, you can select certain contacts, apps, and files to only be available in privacy mode. You could then make it so that one finger gives you access to those items while your other fingers do not.

Primary Display

Similar to its predecessor, the Pro 7 Plus is sporting a 5.7-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display. We already declared the Pro 6 Plus’ display to be one of the best in this price category and the Pro 7 Plus’ display is even better.

The Meizu Pro 7 Plus has an all around excellent display

Color reproduction is excellent, the display is well saturated for punchy colors, and sunlight readability is fairly good. It’s an all around excellent display.

We also really like the size. While 5.5-inches is a great middle ground, it’s nice that Meizu is giving customers the choice between a smaller 5.2-inch display with the Pro 7 and a larger 5.7-inch screen on the Pro 7 Plus. If you watch a lot of videos and frequently browse the mobile web, this size is perfect.

Meizu has dropped their 3D Press technology with this iteration of the Pro line, which is understandable since it was never a very useful feature. If this is something you really want, the Pro 6 Plus is still available.

There’s also no Always On Display (AOD) feature this time around. That’s because there’s a new way to check the time: with the secondary display.

Secondary Display

The Meizu Pro 7 Plus’ secondary display is unmistakably its standout feature. It may even be the sole reason that you’re checking out this review. Its uniqueness makes it a very enticing feature.

The Meizu Pro 7 Plus has a secondary 1.9-inch 240 × 536 AMOLED panel on the back

The secondary display is positioned on the top left area on the back of the Pro 7 Plus. The display itself covers a good portion of the glass below the camera configuration. In case you’re wondering, it’s a 1.9-inch 240 × 536 AMOLED panel. That’s a high enough resolution for what the display is.

So, what does it do? Well, there are three main information panels that you can swipe between: time, pedometer, and weather. These three panels provide some on-demand, basic information. The pedometer and weather panels have colorful animated icons, which is a nice touch.

The pedometer is independent of any app and appears to be very accurate when walking with the phone in your hand, but too liberal when walking with the phone in your pocket. The weather corresponds to what is shown in the system Weather app, which gets its data from Accuweather.

Here you can take photos…using the rear cameras!

If you swipe up or down on any of the information panels, you get to the viewfinder mode. Here you can take photos…using the rear cameras! This allows you to capture considerably higher quality selfies than if you were to use the front-facing camera (comparison under Camera).

There’s also no fussing around with unlocking the phone and getting to the camera app, which makes it easy to get a quick photo.

In addition to these on-demand core features, the secondary display also shows “new notification” for all notifications, music controls for the system Music app, event times and titles prior to an event, alarms, and the battery percentage when charging.

There seems to be some confusion surrounding how you activate the secondary display. To clarify, it is not an always on display. Instead, it activates when it thinks you turn the phone from front to back. If you have the Pro 7 Plus facing screen down on a table, picking up the phone is not enough to activate the secondary display. You have to turn the phone to the front first and then turn it around to the back.

Thankfully, there is an optional double tap to wake feature which lets you activate the secondary screen manually by just double tapping on it.

The secondary display only shows the time in a 24-hour format and the temperature in Celsius, even if you have 12-hour and Fahrenheit formats selected in the phone settings. We can forgive this since the phone is not intended for sale in the United States, one of the only countries still using 12-hour and Fahrenheit formats.

It’s one of the coolest smartphone features that we’ve seen this year

Overall: we are very pleased with the innovation by Meizu that brought us the secondary display. It’s one of the coolest smartphone features that we’ve seen this year, which is saying a lot. We are sure you can share our appreciation of Meizu’s successful attempt to differentiate.

With that said, we do feel that the secondary display could be improved. The hardware implementation is great, but the software could use some work. That’s absolutely fine given that this is the first try; I mean, can you imagine using Android 1.0 today?

Related: Smartphones features on the way out

On the top of our wish list are improvements to current features. We wish we could see actual notifications (or at least which app is sending them), be able to control third party music apps, and record video using the camera viewfinder. We believe that the secondary screen could use some new features too. We would like to be able to view our daily agenda, put the phone in and out of silent mode, and set timers and alarms.

Some good news: all of our wishes and likely most of yours can be fulfilled with future software updates instead of hardware changes. This is very promising, especially considering Meizu’s historical commitment to system updates.

At the moment, the secondary screen does not add much functional value

At the moment, however, the secondary screen does not add much functional value. It looks very cool, no doubt, but it’s not going to change how you use your smartphone a whole lot. As long as you manage your expectations, you’ll still enjoy this unique feature and all of the conversations that it helps start.

Performance

Meizu has chosen the 10nm deca-core MediaTek Helio X30 processor for the Pro 7 Plus. The Pro 7 Plus is actually the only popular smartphone to use the Helio X30, MediaTek’s high-end processor for 2017.

If you were to consider only benchmark test results, you would think the Pro 7 Plus would perform below average. Perhaps this is why our unit’s software blocks outgoing connections for benchmark apps to test and verify their results. Although we cannot confirm yet, it appears that there are some shenanigans going on here. Therefore, we cannot endorse the accuracy of these benchmark results.




In our experience, however, day-to-day performance on the Meizu Pro 7 Plus was excellent, although only marginally better than the Pro 6 Plus. There are a few big things that help pick up the processor’s slack though: 6 GB of RAM, fast UFS 2.1 storage, and well-optimized software.

Meizu’s One Mind AI optimizations combined with numerous nifty animations especially help smooth out the performance. When compared side-by-side to the Galaxy S8, the Pro 7 Plus often loaded apps and menus just a tad quicker.

Hardware

You can use up to two different nano SIM cards with the Meizu Pro 7 Plus. Since it is sold as an unlocked smartphone, you won’t have to worry about being restricted to any single carrier either.

For a United States audience, please note that this phone is incompatible with US 4G LTE networks. When using the Pro 7 Plus with AT&T, you may get LTE in rural areas thanks to legacy Band 5 coverage, but you can really only expect 3G. With T-Mobile, you can expect 3G in only a few areas.

The Meizu Pro 7 Plus is incompatible with US 4G LTE networks

While the Pro 7 Plus is not intended for sale in the US, we want to make sure that those who might import the device understand this limitation exists.

Similar to its predecessor, there is no expandable storage option with the Pro 7 Plus. This choice was likely made to avoid mixing slow microSD card storage with the phone’s fast UFS 2.1 internal storage. The base model’s 64 GB of storage should be plenty of storage for most users and, if you think you might need more, there is also a 128 GB model available.

Meizu has removed NFC with the Pro 7 Plus

Strangely, Meizu has removed NFC with the Pro 7 Plus. Perhaps there wasn’t enough internal space with the secondary display to implement an NFC antenna, or perhaps Meizu has data on its lack of usage. Regardless of the reasoning, some users may really miss this connectivity and contactless payment option.

The bottom-firing internal speaker on the Pro 7 Plus is surprisingly very good and is a remarkable improvement from the Pro 6 Plus. It’s very loud with minimal distortion, which is not the case with the average smartphone these days.

There’s also 32-bit Hi-Fi audio through the 3.5mm headphone jack. It has a Cirrus Logic CS43130 DAC + AMP combo, which is the exact same chip that’s in the Galaxy S8. Audio output through the headphone jack is loud and clear, as we expected.

Battery life

Meizu has bumped the battery capacity from 3,400 mAh with the Pro 6 Plus to 3,500 mAh with the Pro 7 Plus. Overall, we experienced similar battery life. That’s good news as the Pro 6 Plus’ battery life was quite strong.









As you can see from the screenshots above, we averaged about five and a half hours of screen on time during twenty-four hour periods with moderate usage. Since our battery life tests were conducted while connected to HSPA+ instead of 4G LTE, however, we suspect that our results may be slightly inflated. We also note the higher standby usage this time around, perhaps due to the Helio X30.

We estimate that you’ll be able to comfortably get a full day of use with four and a half hours of screen on time with the Meizu Pro 7 Plus’ battery. With lighter usage, you could very well get one and a half days of use with this phone.

We were able to get a 65-percent charge in just thirty minutes

When you need to top off the Pro 7 Plus’ battery, you can do so with mCharge 4.0 fast charging. We were able to get a 65-percent charge in just thirty minutes, which is extremely quick. It’s even 12-percent quicker than Dash Charge on the OnePlus 5, based on capacity.

Camera

The Meizu Pro 7 Plus features the same Sony IMX386 12 MP f/2.0 rear camera as its predecessor. However, there have been some changes; there’s no more laser autofocus, the 10-LED ring flash has been replaced by two LEDs, and the camera is no longer optically stabilized.

Another Sony IMX386 12 MP f/2.0 camera has been added though, making this a dual-camera setup. The secondary camera captures monochrome images which supposedly helps produce higher quality images. We would have preferred that the secondary camera instead be a wide angle or telephoto lens, but this setup shouldn’t be brushed off.

Overall performance is about what we would expect at this price

Images look pretty similar to those taken by the Pro 6 Plus. Color reproduction is excellent, there’s a good level of contrast, and images are quite detailed. Overall performance is about what we would expect at this price. Unfortunately, the lack of optical image stabilization translated to some blurry shots when we didn’t have a perfectly steady hand.

Thanks in part to its dual lenses, the Pro 7 Plus also offers a dual lens blur mode. This mode works by isolating the subject from the background and then by applying an artificial background blur. Chances are that you have already seen something similar to this on other smartphones. Basically, the added bokeh is supposed to make images look more professional, like those shot from a DSLR.




The dual lens blur mode is pretty hit or miss

We tested the feature in a number of different situations and found that it’s pretty hit or miss. Sometimes it works almost perfectly with accurate edges on the subject and a gradual blur. Other times, however, the edges are inaccurate and the blur is too sudden.

This is Meizu’s first implementation of this feature, so we will cut them some slack. We are certain that the feature can be improved with future software updates.

As expected, low-light camera samples didn’t come out as impressive at daytime shots. Colors aren’t as punchy, there’s a loss of detail, and there’s a fair bit of digital noise in most of our sample images. We would still say it performs about average for an affordable smartphone.




Although you can take selfies using the rear facing cameras thanks to the secondary display, there’s still a 16 MP f/2.0 front-facing camera. Selfies taken with the front-facing camera came out quite well.

You can record videos at up to 1080P at 30fps with the front camera and at up to 4K at 30fps with the rear camera. Videos recorded with the rear camera come out very nicely. Colors look pretty good and there’s a good amount of detail. Check out our video review at the top of this page to see a short sample clip.

Meizu has stuck with the new HEVC codec for video files. This codec retains video quality while offering smaller, more compressed files. The only drawback is that the files can be difficult to play on some devices. Don’t worry though, as you can easily convert the files if you have trouble.

The system camera app will feel very familiar if you’ve used a Meizu device in the past. Regardless, it offers an easy-to-use, intuitive shooting experience. There are multiple modes as well as some filters that you can play around with.

You can quickly access the camera with a double press of the home button. You can do this anytime the phone is on. So, even if it is locked, you can just double press the home button to quickly launch the camera. We really like this implementation.

Software

The Meizu Pro 7 Plus runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat, but the software is quite different from stock Android. Meizu has layered on its Flyme 6 skin, which we applauded in our Pro 6 Plus review. It’s not for everyone, but it’s great for those looking for something different.

Flyme 6 isn’t for everyone, but it’s great for those looking for something different

We maintain our assertion that Flyme 6 is one of the most well designed Android skins to date. Flyme’s polished user experience truly adds value to the Pro 7 Plus. You will love the clean design, fun animations, and extra features that come bundled with the Pro 7 Plus’ software.

The user interface design is especially remarkable. You’ll find that it’s colorful, bold, and responsive, which translates into an intuitive user experience. The design language is very consistent throughout the software, from the menus to the system apps.

We also appreciate the extra security features that Meizu has added on top of stock Android. The secure payment mode and Wi-Fi network security scanning, for example, help users stay protected against potential attacks.

It is slightly unlikely that Meizu will bring Android 8.0 Oreo to the global Pro 7 Plus

Just one more thing to keep in mind — Meizu’s system updates focus on changes to Flyme more so than Android versions. While it is slightly unlikely that Meizu will bring Android 8.0 Oreo to the global Pro 7 Plus, you should know that most new Android features are implemented into Flyme anyway. Still, we understand that this lack of software support might be a turn off for some.

Specifications

Primary Display 5.2-inch Super AMOLED display
1080 x 1920 resolution
423 ppi
5.7-inch Super AMOLED display
1440 x 2560 resolution
518 ppi
Secondary Display 1.9-inch AMOLED display
240 × 536 resolution
307 PPI
1.9-inch AMOLED display
240 × 536 resolution
307 PPI
Processor Meditatek Helio P25
Octa-core processor up to 1.6GHz
Meditatek Helio X30
Deca-core processor up to 2.6GHz
10nm manufacturing process
GPU ARM Mali-T880 IMG PowerVR 7XTP
RAM 4 GB LPDDR4X 6 GB LPDDR4X
Storage 64 GB 64 GB (UFS 2.1)
128 GB (UFS 2.1)
Cameras Rear: (x2) Sony IMX386, 12 MP, f/2.0
Front: 16 MP f/2.0
Rear: (x2) Sony IMX386, 12 MP, f/2.0
Front: 16 MP f/2.0
Battery 3,000 mAh
Non-removable
3,500 mAh
Non-removable
Ports USB Type-C (USB 3.1)
3.5 mm headphone jack
USB Type-C (USB 3.1)
3.5 mm headphone jack
Water resistance No No
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n dual band
Bluetooth 4.2, LE
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac dual band
Bluetooth 4.2, LE
Software Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Flyme 6
Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Flyme 6
Dimensions and weight 147.6 x 70.7 x 7.3 mm
163g
157.3 x 77.2 x 7.3 mm
170 g

Gallery

Price

The global version of the Meizu Pro 7 Plus will be available soon in matte black, space black, silver, and gold for around $530. The global Pro 7 will also be available soon in matte black, gold, and red for around $430.

Meizu is planning an official release in 17 different markets. We do not recommend importing this device from China though as you cannot use global firmware on non-global units.

Conclusion

The Pro 7 Plus is one of the most unique smartphones that we have reviewed this year. With it, Meizu has not only delivered a fresh software experience on top of a great overall package, but has also implemented a very cool looking secondary display.

The secondary display helps the Pro 7 Plus truly stand out…

The secondary display helps the Pro 7 Plus truly stand out from the countless other smartphones out there. It substantially adds to the phone’s aesthetic while also serving as an excellent conversation starter.

But don’t buy this phone just for the secondary display. While the screen can definitely be useful at times, it’s still very much a first generation concept. It’s chic, yes, but you should think of it as a bonus item rather than a sole reason for a purchase.

…but you should think of it as a bonus item rather than a sole reason for a purchase

That’s not to say that the Meizu Pro 7 Plus isn’t worth the money. Its well-designed software and excellent hardware make it a very serious competitor to the Xiaomi Mi 6 and the OnePlus 5 – if you live somewhere you can take full advantage of what it offers.

If you’re looking for something genuinely unique and can get past its quirks, the Meizu Pro 7 Plus is an excellent choice. We are confident that future software updates will only improve the secondary display and overall experience.

As always, please feel free to leave any questions or comments in the comment section below!

19
Sep

This giant QR code needs regular pruning to keep it scannable


Why it matters to you

In the unlikely event that you find yourself flying over Xilinshui anytime soon, have your smartphone at the ready to test out this unusual QR code.

Promoting your local area to attract tourists from across the country is clearly a tricky proposition for some Chinese cities, with one turning to the humble QR code in a bid to boost its profile.

No, it hasn’t placed thousands of the codes in national newspapers and magazines that link to a website showing off what it has to offer, nor has it stuck them on billboards in the hope that a passing person will scan it with their smartphone.

Instead, officials in Xilinshui village in the city of Baoding, about 60 miles southwest of Beijing, have created a living, growing QR code consisting of around 130,000 juniper trees, the South China Morning Post reported.

Running nearly 230 meters along each side, its designers hope that folks flying overhead on their way to and from the capital will spot the giant QR code, whip out their smartphone, and scan it to find out what on earth it’s all about. And then, perhaps, pay the place a visit.

QR codes are used a lot in China, so Xilinshui officials hope that when people see its effort from up high, their automatic reaction will be to grab their phone to quickly scan it … though it does, of course, need a cloudless sky for the code to get proper exposure.

While some commentators have noted that a regular photograph of the code is hard to scan, Mashable found that a brightened image does the trick, taking you straight to Xilinshui’s official Chinese-language tourism page on WeChat, the country’s hugely popular messaging app.

It’s not clear how many window-seat airline passengers have been scanning the code, but the global publicity generated from the mere existence of the unusual code will no doubt have put a smile of satisfaction on the faces of the local officials who dreamed up the initiative.

QR codes have been around for years. Their popularity in the West has fluctuated, where they have yet to take off in the same way as they have in China. However, Apple appears to believe there’s life in the ol’ blocky black-and-white images yet, with iOS 11 — the latest version of its mobile operating system that launches on September 19 — incorporating a QR code scanner for the first time.




19
Sep

Best iOS app deals of the day! 6 paid iPhone apps for free for a limited time


Everyone likes Apple apps, but sometimes the best ones are a bit expensive. Now and then, developers put paid apps on sale for free for a limited time, but you have to snatch them up while you have the chance. Here are the latest and greatest iOS app deals available from the iOS App Store.

These apps normally cost money and this sale lasts for a limited time only. If you go to the App Store and it says the app costs money, that means the deal has expired and you will be charged. 

Remote Control

Turn your iPhone or iPad into the ultimate remote control for your Mac. Use your iOS device as a trackpad and keyboard or launch any app from anywhere within your home.

Available on:

iOS

Thunderspace

During the day, Thunderspace won’t let you focus on all the noise around you. And at night it will make you very sleepy. Do not use while operating a machine, vehicle, or star destroyer.

Available on:

iOS

Tadaa SLR

Now you can shoot SLR-quality photos wherever you are, all with your iPhone. Use this app and just point, focus, and end up with a high-quality photograph.

Available on:

iOS

RadOnc Reference

This is the first comprehensive iPhone reference application for Radiation Oncologists. This project is intended to be a collaborative effort. Feedback and suggestions from the RadOnc community will directly inform new development efforts.

Available on:

iOS

Orderly

Orderly is designed based on how the human-mind visualizes to-do lists. It is an incredibly easy-to-use to-do list app that features a user-friendly interface, seamless cloud sync, and location based reminders.

Available on:

iOS

Grab for Dropbox

This app downloads all the photos and videos from a Dropbox link or shared folder. You can either paste in a link without signing into Dropbox, or sign in and pick a shared folder.

Available on:

iOS




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