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27
Feb

LG V30 at six months: The flagship stumbles with its display but shines elsewhere


With Mobile World Congress 2018 in the rear view mirror, it’s time to start looking ahead to new flagships. It’s the season of bigger and better. Now’s the time of year when that phone you’ve been eyeballing is set to get a price drop. It’s when the early adopters watch big name companies trot out their best drool with anticipation.

For every person who simply must buy the newest phone there are probably ten who don’t care all that much. Indeed, a lot of smartphone users are more content with buying the best deal, not the shiniest object. Often this means getting a phone that’s about to celebrate a six-month or one-year anniversary.

Take, for instance, LG and its V30. Launched in the fall of 2017, it was, and is, one of the strongest phones on the market. On paper, at least. We previously spent some time with a preview unit of the LG V30 back in August and were immediately pleased with it.

Here we are, some months removed and having spent considerably more time with the retail version. Read on for our review of the LG V30. While it certainly qualifies as a flagship device, it has a number of problems.

Display

Let’s start with the obvious. Much fuss has been made about the V30’s display, and how disappointingly it performs in comparison to other flagships. And that criticism is very much warranted.

It struggles in low light and low brightness, has problems rendering gradients and solid colors alike, and blacks that, while deep and rich, also bleed heavily in transition – a far cry from what LG has delivered in the previous V-series models. My review unit was a bit better off than many of the retail models, but the display’s problems are undeniable.

On paper, the V30’s display is a beast; a 6″, 18:9 OLED panel with QHD+ resolution and HDR10 support on a screen that covers 80% of the face of the phone. It sounds like a phone-nerd’s dream, right? Unfortunately, all dreams must end – and in reality, the V30’s display is a bit of a mess.

Build

The V30 is without doubt a beautiful phone. That big OLED display dominates its face and drapes elegantly over each side, creating a gorgeous silhouette that’s all curves.

In that aforementioned phone-nerd dreamland we wouldn’t need to cover up that beauty with a case. We’d have an indestructible, impact-proof phone that would never tumble from clumsy fingers; one we could admire for hours without having a panic attack about the all-glass body the guys over at LG decided to use.

Alas, we’re forced to take that lovingly crafted aluminum-and-glass body and wrap it in silicone and carbonate – lest we risk shattering it. Even then, glass – Corning Gorilla Glass 5, no less – is not known for its durability at thin densities. In the proverbial race to make the thinnest phones this glass is indeed quite thin.

Durability Concerns

Never Stood a Chance.

Even a Spigen full-body case couldn’t save my poor review unit whose back is hopelessly shattered like a first generation iPhone 5 after its first drop. The sad part is that the damage occurred in the case – and there’s a visible impact mark on the glass.

LG has an entire section on the product page singing the praises of the V30’s build quality. It raves about the phone’s IP68 rating, rightfully so as that’s something that consumers really desire in a modern smartphone. What’s more, its “Military Tested” durability, passing “14 different military-standard durability tests” using the MIL-STD 810G battery.

What LG neglects to mention though, is which tests the LG V30 passed, and which it didn’t. MIL-STD 810G is a Military Testing Standard encompassing 29 different categories, ranging from minor tests like sand and dust to major ones like gunfire and ballistic shock.

LG conveniently doesn’t tell us if the V30 passes the Method 516 (Shock) test, for example, which determines durability from impacts like drops and throws – I suspect, given the phone’s all-glass nature, that it didn’t.

Frame

Beyond the glass face and body, the frame of the phone is made of anodized metal in either silver or black. The silver is chromed out and shiny. It’s way too flashy for my personal taste, but gorgeous to some, I’m sure.

LG went with a fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone – a call back to, perhaps, the G-series, which saw buttons in the same place for easy manipulation – and volume buttons on the left side of the frame. Pretty standard. Interestingly, the glass on the rear panel of the phone also appears to cover the Flash and laser focus, resulting in a perfectly smooth back, save for a modest camera bump.

Internals

The V30 is a true flagship. From start to finish, its internal components were cutting-edge at the time of release and still stand up today. 

The Snapdragon 835 processor that powers the V30 is the most modern Qualcomm processor currently in a smartphone. We expect to see the Samsung Galaxy S9 feature the brand new Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip, but that doesn’t mean the V30 is any less powerful. The processor allows you to fly through tasks.

The V30 also features 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, the standard for flagships today. While some outliers may feature more, the V30 matches other flagship devices like the Google Pixel XL and Pixel 2 XL, the Samsung Galaxy S8, and the HTC U11. Devices in 2018 may have more RAM or more storage, but for right now, the V30 is well equipped.

The V30 also sports the trifecta of modern specifications: Bluetooth 5, 802.11ac WiFi, and USB-C version 3.1 (with Quick Charge 3.0). The V30 is in the top tier of smartphones on the market in this category. Bluetooth 5 offers better range, faster data speeds, and the bandwidth to connect two devices at the same time.

In terms of battery life, the V30’s 3300 mAh battery is underwhelming but still very much in the realm of the modern flagship. We always want better battery life from our phones and that’s no different from the V30. While I was able to get through a 15 hour day with the phone, battery life could certainly be better. For years, we’ve decried OEMs making their devices slimmer to the detriment of battery life. The V30 is a case study in this very practice.

Software

Android can be whatever you want it to be; that’s the beauty of the operating system. As such, I don’t normally talk too very much about the so-called “skins” that OEMs place over their respective phones. After all, what’s the point? If you don’t like it, download a new launcher or new apps.

But LG has really done a lot to deviate from Google’s core Android design, both in terms of adding features and its visual style. The V30 comes stock running Android 7.1.2 – no Oreo update yet, even months after release – and runs a heavily skinned variant that’s virtually unrecognizable as Nougat.

When first setting up the phone, we’re presented with an option of how we’d like our Home Screen set up: Home (with all apps on the screen at once – oddly, the default), Home with Drawer (Android’s standard), and EasyHome (which has limited space on the Home Screen, for use with children or elders). There are a number of themes that can be downloaded for use with the Launcher, though I didn’t find any of them to be particularly engaging.

Floating Bar

Floating Bar is a cute little feature that places a shortcut on top of everything on the screen. This allows you to access handy shortcuts like favorite apps, contacts, screenshot manipulation, and music playback control. It’s useful at times, but I also found it to be a bit cumbersome.

It always manages to be in the way at one point or another, much like Facebook’s Chat Heads feature. I haven’t ever found it to be critically useful. You can control music playback by simply pulling down on the notification shade and that’s definitely clever and a bit of value added.

LG V30 Floating BarThe Floating Bar.

Smart Settings

Smart Settings is something that should be integrated into Android’s AOSP, in my opinion. It allows you to customize the settings you want based on four parameters: At Home, Away from home, When earphones are plugged in, and

LG V30 Smart SettingsMy Smart Settings

When Bluetooth is connected. These settings can change your sound profile, Bluetooth, and WiFi based on the aforementioned conditions.

This is especially useful for saving battery by turning off Bluetooth or WiFi when you don’t want it on, or launching your favorite music app when you connect headphones or Bluetooth, automatically. Think of it as a less encompassing version of IFTTT – automating your smartphone, so you don’t have to micromanage it.

It’s certainly not perfect, but it is rather convenient.

Smart Cleaning

This is one of those redundant features I mentioned above. Task Killers haven’t been necessary on Android in many iterations, and that’s exactly what Smart Cleaning is at its core. It kills Idle Tasks and erases Temporary Files in an effort to clear up RAM for your use. But honestly, Android already does a pretty decent job of doing that all by itself. If you’ve managed to bog down the V30’s processor and RAM, it’s probably something you’re doing wrong; not something Smart Cleaning can fix.

Smart Bulletin

I’m torn on Smart Bulletin. It’s a decent idea in that it shows at-a-glance information that’s relevant in your daily life: Smart Settings, LG Health, Calendar, and Music. Unfortunately, the only apps that Smart Bulletin can pull from are LG’s versions of those apps. That means no Google Calendar, Fit, or Music. It’s all very Apple-like. Had LG simply given us the ability to choose whichever apps we wanted, that would have been wonderful. Instead, it limits us to using its own apps and no others.

Camera

LG’s V-series phones have always had ambitious cameras. From their software to the hardware backing them, the V-series was dedicated to giving a fantastic camera experience to the masses. And while it hasn’t always succeeded, LG has, at least, made that its goal. Unfortunately, the camera on the V30 is rather underwhelming for a flagship device.

Camera Modes.

With the Pixel 2, Note 8, iPhone 8/X, and HTC U11 all receiving DxOMark scores above 90 recently the V30’s 82 DxOMark score is rather disappointing. More than just a number though, the pictures the V30 takes are underwhelming as well. To clarify, they aren’t terrible. You’d be hard-pressed to find a modern smartphone that takes terrible photos, but in a world of amazing smartphone cameras, this isn’t one of them. The V30 has a number of modes to modify your pictures – some of them useful, others not so much.

Modes

  • Match Shot: Allows you to take pictures of video using both cameras at the same time – and stitch them together.
  • CineVideo: Allows for point-zoom in video, something that isn’t particularly common in smartphones.
  • Grid Shot: Take four pictures and stitch them together into a single shot.
  • Food: Depressing mode that enables our obsession with taking pictures of our food.
  • Slo-Mo: Pretty self-explanatory. Slows down fast-moving objects.
  • Time Lapse: Takes a video in a slower time interval, then plays it back at regular speed. Makes time seem faster.
  • Snap Movie: Tap to record for 3 seconds. Touch and hold for up to a minute. This essentially lets you stitch together a series of clips into a single video. Add effects to make it shinier.
  • Popout: The subject of the photo is in focus and colorful, while the rest is cropped out with altered effects.

Value

At somewhere between $650 and $800, the V30 falls squarely in the premium price tier. While I personally am a fan of budget flagships – why pay more for a high-end brand name? Most consumers that like to buy Samsung, LG or HTC will find this price point to be acceptable. The V30’s processor and RAM will hold up for a long time, relatively speaking. The camera performs well, its storage (and the potential for a 2TB MicroSD card) is more than adequate, and its connectivity standards are more-or-less future proof out to two years. As such, the $700 price point is pretty bearable, assuming you’re in the market for a high-end, big-name flagship.

Buy the LG V30 from your carrier of choice:

Verizon | AT&T | T-Mobile | Sprint

Or, you prefer to get it unlocked – and for cheaper, I may add – get it from Amazon:

Unlocked LG V30

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27
Feb

Pop-out camera, in-screen speaker give the Vivo Apex a near bezel-less design


The smartphone bezel is slowly disappearing — but Vivo is claiming the smallest bezel yet in a concept smartphone called the Apex FullView introduced on February 25. The smartphone manages to squeeze a screen onto a mere 1.8mm top and side bezel by trading the front-facing camera for a retractable camera and building a speaker into the display — and even using half the screen for fingerprint scanning.

Vivo says the Apex’s bezel is the thinnest in the industry with 1.8mm on the top and sides and 4.3mm on the bottom of the smartphone. If that bottom bezel can be squeezed down to 1.8mm before the concept phone becomes a consumer product, Vivo says the screen would take up over 98 percent of the smartphone face.

Vivo packs three new design concepts into the Apex in order to shrink that bezel. First, that front-facing camera no longer takes up space at the front of the phone. Instead, the eight-megapixel camera pops out of the top of the smartphone and retracts when you’re not shooting selfies. The proximity sensor and ambient light sensor, the tools that tell the camera what auto settings to use, are also hidden, removing that traditionally larger top edge. Vivo says the camera pops out in 0.8 seconds.

The Apex also eliminates the traditional speaker — instead, what the company is calling Screen SoundCasting Technology sends out vibrations from the display itself. This isn’t the first method to permit makers to ditch the speaker for a larger screen, but Vivo says SoundCasting creates a more balanced audio while also requiring less battery compared to other audio options on smartphones with minimal bezels.

Vivo is also upping its in-display fingerprint sensor by using half the screen for fingerprint scanning. The change means the phone can be unlocked by placing a finger anywhere on the bottom half of the screen, Vivo says, while users could also add more security using a two-finger unlock option.

Besides the nearly bezel-free screen, the Vivo Apex uses a new design that requires less space dedicated to circuitry inside. The company says that design change could allow for more features, such as a larger battery.

The Vivo Apex FullView is currently just a concept — but a working one that Vivo has on display during Mobile World Congress. Watch for hands-on impressions of the concept phone as coverage of MWC continues.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Vivo Fingerprint Sensor hands-on review
  • Comparing smartphones to find the most bezel-less design
  • The Vivo Xplay7 could be an absolute monster of an Android phone
  • Synaptics’ Clear ID puts the fingerprint sensor under your smartphone’s display
  • Sony Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact hands-on review


27
Feb

What is variable aperture? A feature as old as film finally comes to smartphones


Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Samsung calls the camera on the new Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus “the revolutionary camera that adapts like a human eye” because of a new feature called dual aperture, a form of variable aperture. But what exactly is a variable aperture, and why is it revolutionary?

The variable aperture is “revolutionary” in that the feature has never been included on a smartphone camera before — but it’s actually an option that has been around since early film photography when variable aperture was added to a camera lens around the mid-1850s.

Variable aperture simply means that the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus can actually change the aperture of the lens. Aperture is a term that refers to how large the opening in the lens is — a wide-open aperture will let in more light, while a narrower aperture will let in less light. In dark scenes, a wide aperture will create a brighter image. Because of how small the lens is, smartphones use a fixed aperture — you can’t adjust the aperture like you could in a DSLR or mirrorless camera.

What the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus do that previous smartphones did not is allow users to change the aperture. The feature isn’t quite the same as the aperture adjustments on a film lens or a DSLR. While a dedicated camera offers a range of different aperture settings, the S9 offers just two settings: an f/1.5 and an f/2.4, the f/1.5 being the brightest or widest of the two. In comparison, the earlier Samsung S8 uses a fixed f/1.7 aperture.

While the smartphone can’t go from f/1.8 to f/22 and a few dozen settings in between like a DSLR lens might, the dual aperture lens allows the smartphone to switch between the two, with the widest used for a low light mode and the narrower option for the regular camera mode. (Along with automatically switching between the two based on how bright the scene is, the two apertures can also be switched inside a manual mode).

The dual aperture is available from the same lens thanks to a moving piece called an iris that adjusts the size of the lens opening, which means you don’t have to get the pricier S9 Plus and the dual lenses to get the variable aperture. On the S9 Plus, the feature is only available from the wider rear-facing lens, not the second lens with zoom. The feature may not be revolutionary for photography, but fitting moving aperture blades inside a tiny smartphone is no small technical feat.

So why not just use a brighter f/1.5 that’s wider than the camera on the older version? Aperture changes the amount of light that’s let into the photograph, but it also changes how soft or out-of-focus the background is. The effect is less drastic on smartphones because of their smaller sensor sizes, which is why dual camera smartphones use a fake computed bokeh, but the f/2.4 aperture in general will shoot sharper images than the low light mode f/1.5.

Along with the variable aperture, the S9 Plus also has a bokeh mode created from the dual-lens view that will adjust the shape of the out-of-focus lights. Like the variable aperture, this is a trick done before by changing the shape of the aperture using a special lens cap on a DSLR, though in Samsung’s case, the effect is from computational photography, not actually changing the shape of the aperture opening. The bokeh filters on the S9 Plus rear camera will change the out of focus lights in the background from circles to starbursts, snowflakes, butterflies, or a handful of other shapes.

Variable aperture has been around since photography’s early days — but for a tiny smartphone lens, the feature is a first.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • We spent an hour with the Galaxy S9 Plus to see what the camera is all about
  • Samsung Galaxy S9 hands-on review
  • The Samsung Galaxy S9 is finally here: Here’s everything you need to know
  • Flagship face-off: Samsung’s Galaxy S9 Plus vs. Google’s Pixel 2 XL
  • The best Samsung Galaxy S9 cases to keep your new phone safe, looking good


27
Feb

Nokia 6 (2018) hands-on review


Research Center:
Nokia 6 (2018)

When Finnish smartphone manufacturer HMD began producing phones under the Nokia brand in 2017, one of the first phones to make its way to the U.S. was the Nokia 6. As far as midrange phones go, the Nokia 6 was perfectly acceptable, if unremarkable. So, when we learned HMD was updating the Nokia 6 for 2018, we weren’t overly excited. Once we had a chance to try it out however, we quickly changed our tune.

The Nokia 6 is an absolutely delightful phone. Though the updates to this year’s Nokia 6 may seem modest, they greatly improve the overall user experience.

Improving an already beautiful design

At first glance, this year’s Nokia 6 looks a lot like its 2017 predecessor. When you look closer, however you’ll notice slight differences. The bezels are a bit smaller on the 5.5-inch IPS display, leading to an overall smaller form factor. While the bezels shrunk on the Nokia 6, by no stretch is this a bezel-less phone — HMD still held on to the 16:9 aspect ratio this year, which is a bit of a disappointment.

Steven Winkelman/Digital Trends

Steven Winkelman/Digital Trends

Steven Winkelman/Digital Trends

Steven Winkelman/Digital Trends

You’ll also find a similar aluminum case on the 2018 Nokia 6, but the stainless steel accent lines around the camera, display, and on the power and rocker buttons have been replaced with a very appealing copper. You’ll also find those copper accent lines around the fingerprint sensor, a feature that was unexplainably absent on last year’s Nokia 6.

Long story short, HMD refined an already good design. While the case update is definitely a conversation starter, the dated display may start an altogether different conversation.

Here comes Android One

A year after introducing stock Android on all new Nokia phones, HMD is upping the ante by joining the Android One program. With Android One, users continue to get a near-stock Android experience with the added benefit of monthly security updates, as well as quicker OS updates. The Nokia 6 will ship with Android 8.0 Oreo, but we would anticipate an update to 8.1 after its release since it is part of the Android One lineup.

You’ll find this year’s Nokia 6 to be quite a bit speedier than its predecessor. The phone packs a Snapdragon 630 chip, meaning you’ll see about a 60 percent performance improvement over the 2017 model. In our use, there was no visible lag nor problems when switching between applications, however we still need to test the phone with more apps installed to see if the performance holds up.

As for RAM and storage, you’ll find 3GB/32GB and 4GB/64GB storage options. While we’re assuming HMD created the 3GB/32GB option to keep the price of entry low on the Nokia 6, the 4GB/64GB option seems a better choice, as the RAM is a little anemic on the former. Luckily, both models feature a microSD slot allowing you to add up to 128GB of external storage.

Nokia 6 (2018) Compared To

Nokia 1

Sony Xperia XZ2

Nokia 8 Sirocco

Cat S41

Motorola MOTORIZR Z3

Jitterbug Dial

Samsung SCH-u620

LG VX9400

Sony Ericsson K790a

Nokia N93

Blackberry 8700c

Blackberry 8700g

Nokia N90

Palm Treo 650

Motorola RAZR V3c

In terms of battery capacity, the Nokia 6 comes in at 3,000mAh. While the battery capacity alone is pretty impressive for a phone in this price range, the low-power processor and inclusion in the Android One program means you should have no problem making through a day of moderate use. Unfortunately, we were unable to fully test the limits of the battery on the Nokia 6 during our hands-on.

A perfectly adequate camera

In terms of cameras, you’ll find a 16 megapixel rear shooter with Zeiss optics and dual-tone flash. The front-facing camera is 8 megapixels with a wide-angle lens that’s perfect for group selfies. While we didn’t have an opportunity to do a thorough camera test, both cameras performed well in bright light. We did notice a little noise on the front-facing camera in our low-light test shots. While the cameras on the Nokia 6 won’t rival those on the Pixel 2 XL or Galaxy S9, they perform well for the price point and shouldn’t have a problem getting a good shot.

The Nokia 6 will launch in April 2018. The 3 GB/32 GB model will sell for 289 euros ($356 U.S.); pricing has not yet been announced for the 4 GB/64 GB model. While a U.S. launch has not been confirmed, we’re fairly confident it will make a debut stateside, like its 2017 predecessor.

27
Feb

5 features that make crappy smartphone cameras a thing of the past


Smartphone cameras no longer produce the low-megapixel blurs of the past, but how exactly did they cross the line from simply being the most convenient to actually being good enough to shoot magazine covers? The camera-testing wizards at DxOMark have now been testing smartphone cameras for five years, and with that milestone comes five years worth of data on the tech inside our smartphone cameras. So what makes the smartphone camera of today so capable? DxOMark recently shared five technologies that have caused smartphone camera capabilities to grow exponentially in the last five years.

DxOMark

DxOMark

Better processors

An image sensor is nothing without the processor connected to it. This is the mini computer that turns the signal from the sensor into actual recorded data. Processors can do all sorts of things, but in general, the faster they are, the less noise (visual distortion) they will add to the image. The difference between the iPhone 5s and iPhone 6, hardware-wise, was only a change in the image signal processor — the sensor remained exactly the same — but that was enough for the iPhone 6 to capture images with less noise.

Noise is most apparent in low-light settings, but less noise also means more detail, particularly when digital noise reduction comes into play. Noise reduction is another thing the processor can do, but blurring away noise has the unfortunate side effect of blurring away detail as well. If a phone camera produces less noise, noise reduction can be dialed back, thus leaving more details intact. Not everyone agrees on whether less noise or more detail is better — for example, DxO says the Google Pixel 2 errs on the side of more detail with more grain, while the Samsung Galaxy 8 Note favors less grain but loses more details in the process.

DxOMark

DxOMark

Multi-shot HDR images

Phone cameras simply can’t fit the large sensors that DSLRs and mirrorless cameras use. Instead, they have to rely on software tricks to produce higher-quality images.

High dynamic range (HDR) imaging is a prime example of this. HDR requires multiple images to be shot at different exposure values and combined into one. For example, a camera may take three photos — one exposed properly for the shadows, one for the midtones, and one for the highlights — and then merge them into one photo that now holds detail across a wider range from dark to light. A process once limited to heavy-hitting desktop image-editing programs, many smartphone cameras today can now create HDR images automatically in the blink of an eye.

While HDR has been around in smartphones since 2010, DxOMark says the technology has accelerated over the last five years, leading to dramatic improvements. Facial detection is another feature that helps with exposure, as the camera now knows which part of the image to expose for. This feature was responsible for a big perceived jump in quality from the iPhone 5s to newer models.

Improved stabilization

Stabilization in a smartphone isn’t exactly new — but it has drastically changed over the last five years by integrating the smartphone’s gyroscope data into the feature. With that information, the stabilization algorithms require less processing and guesswork than using visual motion analysis alone. Another advancement, DxOMark says, uses an extra second of video as a buffer to actually expect the type of motion that will come next.

More recent phones also employ optical image stabilization, in which the lens or the sensor actually moves counter to the movement of the phone. This helps reduce shake from holding the phone, resulting in smoother video and sharper stills, particularly in low light where slow shutter speeds can otherwise lead to blur.

Faster autofocus

When DxOMark first started testing smartphones, the iPhone 5s wouldn’t adjust focus at all after a video started. Now, thanks to on-chip phase-detection autofocus — a more advanced focusing method that works without hunting back and forth — phone cameras can keep up with moving subjects much better and focus continuously.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 uses what’s known as a dual-pixel autofocus system, which is a form of phase detection that’s better for low light. (Most phones revert to the older contrast detection autofocus when there isn’t sufficient light for phase detection).

Google tried something even more unique in the first Pixel smartphone. That phone shines a beam of light on the subject and measures how long it takes for the light to return. This tells the camera how far away the subject is, and autofocus is set accordingly. However, a common complaint about this time-of-flight autofocus is that it doesn’t work well in bright light, so Google added in phase detection as a second autofocus system in the Pixel 2.

DxOMark

DxOMark

Dual lenses and computational photography

Many phones in recent years use not one, but two cameras — that is, two different lens and sensor pairs placed side by side. Using data from offset lenses allows software to fake an effect known as shallow depth of field, whereby the background is blurred by the subject is tack-sharp. While early attempts at this were decent, DxOMark says current-generation cameras do even better because they are more capable of producing better depth maps, thus reducing the amount of errors.

While the pace of the mobile imaging advancement is impressive, DxO says manufacturers are far from done adding better cameras to their phones. As phones grow faster and more capable, computational photography will likely improve, making phone cameras more powerful and giving users more control. We’re not there yet, but maybe one day, a smartphone really will be able to replace your DSLR or mirrorless camera.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Sharp shooters: The best camera phones you can buy
  • DxO One review
  • We rounded up every hot smartphone for an ultimate camera showdown
  • DxOMark crowns a new mirrorless champion — the Sony a7R III
  • The $500 question: Can the Honor View 10 beat the OnePlus 5T in a camera shootout?


27
Feb

5 features you may not have heard about on the Samsung Galaxy S9


At Mobile World Congress 2018, Samsung launched the highly anticipated Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus. While both smartphones aren’t too different from its predecessors when it comes design and specs, there are a few notable new features.

After having some hands-on time with the device, we got to test out what both phones had to offer. Here are a few of our favorite features of the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus.

Bixby Vision’s makeup filter

With the addition of Bixby Vision, the Galaxy S9’s camera offers the ability to try on makeup that you can then purchase through Sephora or Cover Girl. Using the front-facing camera and integrated augmented reality technology, you can try on a variety of different products by tapping through the categories. Samsung specifically uses ModiFace software to make it look realistic — which is the same company that powers beauty apps like Sephora, Estée Lauder, and L’Oréal.

When using the camera in Bixby, the makeup filters align on your face the way a Snapchat filter would, so you can experiment with a ton of different combinations without the commitment. There is the option to try a gallery of already-completed looks, or you can narrow it down to specifics — such as eyeshadow, lipstick, eyebrows, and more.

Create My Emoji

Similar to Apple’s Animoji, AR Emoji captures your facial movements and mirrors them through animated characters such as a bunny or a cat. In addition, Samsung has also partnered with Disney to include AR Emojis of classic characters like Mickey Mouse and the members of The Incredibles.

But with the Create My Emoji feature, you’re able to create AR Emojis of yourself. After snapping a selfie, you receive your avatar and can edit the skin tone, outfit, hairstyle, and hair color, and can add glasses. Once you finished perfecting your AR Emoji, you can then add it as a sticker pack to your gallery and share it to any app you want. That way, you will be able to easily send animated GIFs of your AR Emoji through text messages since it’s conveniently available on your keyboard.

Super Slow Motion and setting it as your lock screen

Super Slow Motion allows you to do slow down your video footage — about 32 times slower, to be exact. There are two ways you can apply the effect — manual and auto. With manual, you can control when the slow motion goes into effect whereas auto predicts the part of the video you will most likely want to slow down.

Additionally, the feature uses machine learning to apply music to the background depending on the theme of the video. Similar to Apple’s iOS 11, Samsung’s software will automatically convert the content into Swing, Loop, or Reverse GIFs. If you can’t get enough of your masterpiece, you also have the option of setting the slslow-motionideo as your lock screen. Although, we’re not too sure how much battery power that may drain.

Live Focus camera mode

While it’s not a new feature for Samsung, this is the first time Live Focus is included on a Galaxy S series. But you will only find it on the Galaxy S9 Plus since it has the dual camera setup.

Originally featured on the Note 8, Live Focus applies a blur effect known as bokeh around a specific subject. While the feature is similar to the iPhone 7 Plus’ Portrait Mode, Live Focus allows you to adjust how much blur you want in your shot before and after you take the photo.

Easily accessible fingerprint sensor

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

While the Galaxy S9 looks almost identical to its predecessor, there is one subtle design change — the placement of the fingerprint sensor. On the Galaxy S8, the sensor sat to the right of the camera lens which was uncomfortable and caused users to sometimes place their fingers on the lens. Its positioning on the smartphone also made it difficult to reach.

We were happy to see this year’s model has the fingerprint sensor directly underneath the camera, while the flash takes its place on the right instead. Even with the dual camera system on the Galaxy S9 Plus, the sensor is also placed in the same spot under the camera — making it feel far more natural to unlock your phone.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Samsung Galaxy S9 hands-on review
  • The Samsung Galaxy S9 is finally here: Here’s everything you need to know
  • Flagship face-off: Samsung’s Galaxy S9 Plus vs. Google’s Pixel 2 XL
  • An hour with the Galaxy S9 Plus reveals what the camera is all about
  • What is variable aperture? A feature as old as film finally comes to smartphones


27
Feb

A bike-sharing startup just quit France after the ‘mass destruction’ of its fleet


Jon Worth/Creative Commons

Bike-sharing schemes are everywhere these days, though some are evidently more welcome than others.

Take Gobee. The Hong Kong-based outfit has just quit an entire country — France — because of ne’er-do-wells regularly wrecking its fleet of bicycles.

“Over the months of December and January, the mass destruction of our fleet has become the new entertainment of underaged individuals,” Gobee said in a statement seen by the Guardian.

The dockless service had 2,000 bikes in Paris and operated until recently in two other French cities. Riders used the Gobee app to find an available bike nearby, and scanned a QR code to unlock it. But in the four months since its launch, the company said 60 percent of its bikes had been destroyed, stolen, or modified for private use.

Its decision to exit Paris comes just over a month after it ended operations in the French cities of Lille and Reims, and also the Belgian capital, Brussels, where Gobee said up to 90 percent of its bikes had been stolen or damaged. The company no longer has any schemes operating in Europe.

In a blog post (translated), Gobee said that destroying the bikes had apparently become “the new hobby of individuals, mostly minors, encouraged by content widely distributed and shared on social networks.”

The company said it was “difficult to admit that a generation of individuals could undermine this promising project. Today, this critical situation does not allow us to continue our activity, and we are therefore forced to end our service at the national level.”

Gobee promised to refund to its users all deposits and unused credit within the next 10 days. Despite the setback, it said it wanted to thank those who had made the effort possible “and seeing in our project the opportunity to raise awareness on a subject as important as the evolution of urban mobility.” The startup continues to offer its bike-sharing service in Hong Kong.

Goodwill and decency

Such dockless bike schemes rely heavily on the goodwill and decency of just about everyone in the cities where they operate. After all, it only takes a few individuals to cause ongoing and costly damage to the bicycles. For Gobee, it simply wasn’t worth the cost and hassle of trying to make it work — in France, at least.

But this isn’t the first story of a bike scheme facing such challenges. In the U.S., for example, Baltimore Bike Share had to temporarily halt its service because of ongoing vandalism and theft, with some of the bicycles torn from their docks and later abandoned in an unusable condition. Meanwhile, a scheme in Philadelphia has lost 50 bikes to theft in two years, while Capital Bikeshare, which operates in and around Washington, D.C., has lost 60 since it started operating in 2010, the Washington Post reports.

San Francisco’s bike-sharing efforts have also been dealing with vandalism issues, with reports last year of a backlash against the schemes by irate locals who claim the big tech companies are ruining their neighborhoods by causing a housing crisis and increasing income inequality.

The business is still relatively new, however, and backers are continuing to experiment with different approaches to discover what works best in terms of security, with built-in GPS and more resilient bike designs two such solutions.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Lyft follows Uber into bike sharing, beginning in Baltimore
  • Uber is getting into the bike-sharing game
  • Google has a problem with its campus bike-sharing scheme
  • Smoove and its hybrid ebikes may be taking over Paris soon
  • The best electric bikes


27
Feb

Flight Director for Bebop drones lets you create cool videos in a few taps


Anyone with a Parrot Bebop quadcopter now has an easy way to automatically create short and snappy videos with their drone footage.

For most drone pilots, the kicks come from taking the machine out, launching it into the air, and firing up the camera for some dramatic aerial shots of wherever you happen to be. What’s less fun is fiddling about with the footage in post, hunched over a PC as you try in vain to come to grips with the editing software. That’s where Flight Director comes in.

It’s available as part of the latest update for Parrot’s FreeFlight Pro app for Android and iOS. The good news is you can try Flight Director for free for 15 days. The bad news is you’ll have to pay $20 if you want to continue using the full version. If you don’t fancy forking out $20 for Flight Director, there’s a free tier that lets you create short, 15-second snippets, which sounds good enough if you’re planning on sharing the movies with friends and family on social media.

Compatible with the Parrot’s Bebop 1, 2, and Power drones, the entire editing process takes place within your mobile device so there’s no time wasted transferring the content to a computer.

Using advanced algorithms developed by Muvee, a company that’s been in the business of automatic video editing for the last 17 years, the software “analyzes the drone’s behavior and automatically identifies the optimal sequences of each flight, synchronizing the clips into a montage,” according to Parrot.

Parrot

You do have to make some choices, including selecting the duration of the final sequence (up to 180 seconds), the style of the movie (chronological, trailer, cinematic), its soundtrack, and most importantly, the clips you want to include. It’s then a simple case of tapping the preview button to let the app perform its magic.

In a demonstration showing how you might want to use Flight Director (above), Parrot released a video starring a rather clumsy skier called Greg, a guy who loves to use his drone to shoot his piste-based adventures. As you might expect, Greg uses Flight Director to eliminate all of his inelegant tumbles and falls to create a video sequence that makes him look like an absolute pro. Well, sort of.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • DJI Mavic Air review
  • Wish you could fly? Here are the best drones on the market right now
  • Controller? What controller? You fly this drone with your facial expressions
  • Watch a hybrid drone break records by hovering for more than four hours
  • Watch a drone lose control and crash onto Apple Park’s solar roof


27
Feb

Peanut’s new “Pages” feature brings moms together on one discussion platform


Peanut — the app for iOS and Android that connects moms with other like-minded moms — officially launched its new feature called “Pages.” It allows moms to ask questions, share their knowledge, and come together to help each other out all on one forum.

Available in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, Peanut uses a smart algorithm to match moms and moms-to-be based on common interests, values, the age of their children, to other moms in the area.

Users can also message each other whether it’s one on one or with a group of up to 20 other moms. There is also the option to create meetups that are easily integrated into your calendar.

The new Pages feature is meant to provide additional support under a wide variety of topics. Aside from motherhood, users can start different discussions on topics like love, sex, travel, health, work, and more.

After logging in, tap on the book icon on the bottom toolbar next to the discovery and chat features. From there, you will be able to add your own questions and photos by drafting a post, selecting the topic you want it under, and then publishing it.

Similar to the way you can start polls in Peanut to decide on the best times for meetups, you can also start different polls in the Pages feature and let others vote on the answer. That way, you can expand on the poll by starting conversations in the comments to hear a variety of answers.

For those who feel shy or embarrassed by their question, there is the option to post anonymously. Users can take comfort in knowing the posters and commenters are moderated as well, regardless of if they are posting incognito.

To make the experience more personal, Pages uses a smart algorithm to prioritize topics that are the most relevant to your life and your community. Users will also be able to see trending content based on location, in order to encourage moms to meet up and discuss the topics both on the app and off. The more you use the app, the more curated your content will be to your interests.

Users will also have a notification screen as well, which shows new connections made through the app and when someone “likes” or comments on their post in Pages. Additionally, users who are most active on Pages will be rewarded for sharing their experiences with special profile tags.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Peanut, the Tinder-like app for moms, celebrates an exciting first year
  • Instagram is changing your feed again, this time with ‘recommended’ posts
  • Apple TV 4K review
  • The best smart outlet deals to make your smart home even smarter
  • What is Litecoin? Here’s everything you need to know


27
Feb

Alexa voice controls now available for Sonos One in Canada


Canada finally joins the Sonos and Alexa fun.

Sonos has quickly risen up as one of the leaders in the smart speaker market, and today, its customers in Canada are getting a nice treat.

After launching in the U.S., UK, and Germany, the Sonos One in Canada is getting a free software update for built-in Alexa voice controls.

sonos-one-38-1rs6n.jpg?itok=GdicVSJg

Like we’ve seen in the above countries, Alexa takes the already great Sonos One and makes it even better. With the addition of Alexa, you can use your voice to control your favorite songs, check the weather, control smart home gadgets, and plenty more.

You’ll find full Alexa support for Amazon Music, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn, but you can still use basic voice controls for pause, skip, volume up/down, and asking your Sonos One what’s playing for any of the other services it supports (such as Google Play Music and Apple Music).

Alexa on the Sonos One in Canada currently supports English, and if you don’t have the speaker yet, you can buy it in black and white for $249 CAD.

See at Sonos

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