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23
Jul

Sony announces industry-first 48MP smartphone camera sensor


The sensor is also the world’s first to support a 0.8 μm pixel size.

Although their smartphones may not be well-known in the U.S., Sony’s the industry-leader when it comes to crafting mobile camera sensors for phones all around the world. On July 23, the company announced its all-new IMX586 sensor that features the highest megapixel count and smallest pixel size we’ve seen on a mobile sensor to-date.

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More megapixels don’t always translate to great-looking photos, but they do result in much more detail being captured. In this case, the IMX586 is the first phone sensor to support an impressive 48MP.

Sony says this will allow the IMX586 to “capture beautiful, high-resolution images even with a smartphone.”

In addition to this, Sony’s also shrunk the pixel size down to an impressive 0.8 μm. However, using its Quad Bayer color filter array, you’ll be able to take photos in low-light scenarios that are the equivalent of a sensor with a larger 1.6 μm size. According to Sony, the Quad Bayer does this in which “adjacent 2×2 pixels come in the same color, making high-sensitivity shooting possible.”

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12MP image (left) vs. a 48MP IMX586 one (right)

Add all of this together with a dynamic range that’s four times greater “than conventional products”, and it sure does sound like Sony’s got a winner on its hands.

Sony hasn’t said when we’ll start seeing the IMX586 used in smartphones, but it’s likely handsets will start to make use of it at some point next year.

Sony Xperia XZ2 review: Too much phone, too little value

23
Jul

Philips Hue Outdoor Range Gaining New Weatherproof LightStrip


Philips Hue first announced a range of outdoor lights at CES in January, and then a few months later confirmed the fixtures and bulbs would launch in July. Now that the Philips Hue outdoor collection is out in the U.S., a new accessory has been discovered on the company’s Netherlands website called the Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance LightStrip Outdoor (via HomeKit News).

Similar to the existing indoor LightStrip, the outdoor product is a flexible diffuse light that the company says works for both direct and indirect lighting situations. Available in 2m and 5m, the LightStrip Outdoor lacks a sticky backing like its indoor counterpart, and instead can be attached to a wall, ceiling, or fence with included clips and screws. Customers can also place the light on the ground and bend and shape it to provide lighting along a path.

Like other products in the outdoor range, the LightStrip Outdoor is “completely weatherproof” and can withstand rain, small puddles, and water jets from any direction, according to the company. The accessory also supports hues in both the white and color ambiance spectrum, so customers will be able to light their outdoor spaces with “16 million colors and all shades of white.”


Other Philips Hue Outdoor accessories include the PAR38 bulb, Calla pathway light, Ludere security light, Lucca wall lantern, Inara wall lantern, and an extension cable. Like all other HomeKit-compatible products, Hue’s line of outdoor devices can be added into Apple’s Home app so users can control them in existing HomeKit scenes, automations, and by using Siri.

For the LightStrip Outdoor, it’s unclear when Philips plans to expand availability for the accessory across its website in all territories, but even on the Netherlands-based website the rope light doesn’t appear to be available for purchase at this time. According to a Philips representative, more details about the LightStrip Outdoor should be emerging towards the end of August.

Tag: Philips Hue
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23
Jul

Fast Chargers May Require USB-C Authentication to Work at Full Speed With 2018 iPhones


Rumors suggest Apple will bundle a faster 18W power adapter with its next-generation iPhones, expected to be unveiled this September, but third-party fast charger compatibility may be limited.

Japanese blog Mac Otakara, citing information from suppliers, claims that third-party fast chargers may require USB-C Authentication [PDF] certification, or C-AUTH, to charge the 2018 lineup of iPhones at full speeds. Otherwise, the iPhones may display a warning, and limit charging speeds to a max of 2.5W.

USB-C Authentication is intended to protect against non-compliant USB chargers and to mitigate risks from maliciously embedded hardware or software in USB devices, so core to Apple, this seems to be all about extra security.

Apple is one of over 1,000 member companies of the USB Implementers Forum, so USB-compliant fast chargers are available from a wide variety of brands. Before purchasing a random fast charger from the likes of Amazon, though, it may be a good idea to check the list to see if the company is in fact a member.

Related Roundup: 2018 iPhonesTags: USB-C, fast charging
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23
Jul

How laser projection is taking IMAX even further over the top



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There really is nothing like the sheer grandeur of IMAX.

Soaring on the wing of Tom Hardy’s RAF Spitfire above the emerald Atlantic ocean, courtesy of the 80-foot screen stowed within IMAX’s Toronto, Ontario headquarters, was a stirring reminder of just what IMAX can do to your senses.

Prior to my Toronto trip it had been several years since I’d experienced IMAX (and “experience” is surely the right word), a 3D viewing of Avatar being my last pilgrimage to the mega screen. Thanks in no small part to the company’s latest advancements in laser projection technology, the format has only gotten better since, and Christopher Nolan’s 70mm tour de force, Dunkirk, was definitely a proper reintroduction.

Spectral highlights along the water and cloud-patched sky sparkled with vivid realism.

The plane’s Rolls Royce engine buzzed with guttural, muscle-car force, spectral highlights along the water and cloud-patched sky sparkled with vivid realism, and the film grain, magnified by the monstrous screen size, added just the right mixture of new tech and old-school movie magic to pull me in. The Dunkirk clip was part of a 20-minute demo handpicked by IMAX’s higher-ups to pitch its new laser projectors to mega theater chains like AMC and Regal/Cineworld. Suffice it to say, it’s an impressive presentation.

The battle for eyeballs

With 50 years of experience in the business, screens in over 1,300 theaters, and its new laser projection technology rolling out into multiple theaters, IMAX seems as vital today as it’s ever been.

This, despite the fact that the company is under siege on all fronts: There’s Dolby Cinema’s own dazzling new laser projection technology, an encroaching new emissive LED Cinema screen from Samsung hoping to disrupt the industry altogether, a cornucopia of high end home theater products – from Dolby Atmos to OLED TVs – and the languid seduction of streaming, all seeming to beckon would-be IMAX viewers to other corners of the entertainment universe.

IMAX CTO Brian BonnickIMAX Chief Technology Officer, Brian Bonnick Lucas Oleniuk/Getty

Yet, to hear IMAX’s exuberant Chief Technology Officer Brian Bonnick tell it, when it comes to competitors, IMAX has no fear.

“We live the niche.” Bonnick says. “They don’t.”

He has a point. While not all of IMAX’s theaters boast mega screens like the one in its headquarters, even in its smaller theaters, IMAX’s curated sound and projection systems, its wrap around screens, and its stringent regulations and 24/7 support make it among the most sought-after theater experiences in existence.

Bonnick’s cool demeanor also seems to stem from the fact that IMAX has been leading — and redefining — the cinema landscape for its entire five decades now, continuously reinventing and refining its own technology. The theater veteran compares the company to a hotrod, always retooling and tacking on new parts for a more thrill-inducing ride.

Because, lasers

IMAX’s latest retool, and the subject of our visit to the company’s Toronto-based research and development center, is the company’s new laser-powered projectors, specifically its new single-projection laser system. Lasers aren’t new for IMAX – its dual laser projection system, called the GT, has been in select theaters for a few years now. But this latest creation is the first to use a single projector that provides the full “IMAX with Laser” experience on smaller IMAX screens (where an 80-foot tall screen still counts as “smaller”), making it less expensive and easier to implement in more theaters.

Laser light provides myriad improvements over traditional xenon projector lamps, including brighter images (IMAX’s laser projections gets about 60 percent brighter than standard projectors), more colors, and perhaps most importantly, better contrast.

Laser projection provides myriad improvements over traditional xenon projector lamps.

For its new projectors, IMAX has essentially miniaturized its laser tech to cut costs for smaller theaters, where IMAX uses wrap-around screens placed closer to the audience to keep its all-important peripheral immersion. The system offers a 1.9:1 aspect ratio (as opposed to the GT’s 1.43:1) and requires less maintenance than dual-projector systems, which must be calibrated and digitally enhanced to meet IMAX’s rigorous specifications for a perfectly synced image.

Part of the secret to the new system is what the company calls “dual-coupled” lasers, which look like thick cannisters set beneath the projector’s lens. These offer a more direct injection of laser light that allows the projectors to be housed in smaller projection rooms, among other benefits. In contrast, the dual projection system uses fiber-coupled lasers, which winds the laser light through fiber optic tubing, slightly degrading the light.

The projectors are made using space-age materials, including Invar, a nickel-iron alloy which Bonnick claims is one of the most thermally stable materials in existence, as well as another mystery material that’s stronger than steel and made of materials IMAX doesn’t divulge to us media types.

imax with laser tour projector

Both projection systems are powered by the same laser-light engine which uses IMAX’s patented prism-less lighting tech, developed in part thanks to a haul of around 120 patents IMAX scrapped from the wreck of what was once Kodak, scooping up 30 engineers in the process. Instead of forcing laser light through glass prisms like traditional xenon projectors (and even Dolby’s laser projection system), IMAX’s laser projectors send red, green, and blue lasers directly to each of three modulation chips (called Digital Micromirror Device chips) mounted on an Invar frame, which reduces the amount of optical glass the image must pass through.

According to IMAX, the Invar design provides a steadier image thanks to better cooling of each of the three chips, along with improved contrast, and a sharper image for better accuracy in detail, measured down to the micron. As we said, these guys are serious about this stuff.

The projectors are made using Invar, one of the most thermally stable materials in existence.

Bonnick also claims only IMAX’s laser system can create true black on screen, in spite of the fact that Dolby’s system offers incredible contrast and better brightness, reaching 38 foot-lamberts compared to IMAX’s 22. Bonnick even admits that Dolby’s system can offer more striking contrast when it comes to images with less color, such as a star-littered sky – something I can account for thanks to a recent viewing of The Force Awakens in Dolby Cinema, where I was consistently blown away by the shots in space.

On the flipside, Bonnick says when it comes to “interframe contrast” where multiple shades of whites and blacks are shown on screen at once, IMAX’s system has the advantage because it’s actually creating a black image. “When Dolby goes black, they are actually turning off two of the chips,” Bonnick says. He claims this makes IMAX’s laser system better at showing realism, whereas Dolby Cinema, he admits, wins with some sci-fi content.

To play off Bonnick’s car reference, you can think of it a bit like comparing a Ferrari to a Lamborghini – both have their fortes, and you’re going to have a hell of a good time taking a seat in either.

Serious sound

Of course, while laser projection was the plat du jour of our tour, we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about IMAX’s balls-to-the-wall sound system, which again, differs from Dolby’s ever-encroaching Atmos system, but has plenty to crow about. Unlike the object-based, 3D sound delivered by Atmos, which allows for as many as 64 individual speakers in a theater to deliver singular placement of “sound objects,” IMAX’s system is a more old-school.

The company uses massive, horn-loaded speakers developed in-house to create a 12-channel sound system, and unlike every other surround system in existence, it also allows for full-range  audio signal delivery to the bass channel. Frankly, when it comes to ultimate surround immersion, we’ll still take Atmos, as it simply has more speakers to work with, and therefore, more options.

imax speakers IMAX Corp

That said, IMAX’s speakers have some real advantages. Developed and curated to IMAX’s exact specifications in three different sizes — including towering monstrosities that look like something you’d see in the bat cave — the system offers room shaking power, gorgeous midrange and treble detail, and deep musical bass. In fact, the system we heard in IMAX’s Toronto theater, which included 8 (count them, 8) subwoofers, and utilized the company’s “proportional point source” system, was among the most gorgeous we’ve ever heard.

This aided by IMAX’s impressive acoustic treatment, which cupped our ears in solemn, reflection-less silence the moment we entered the Toronto theater. And, to Bonnick’s point, while Dolby and other theaters rely on third-party speakers, IMAX not only hand-tailors its speakers, but the company’s 24/7 help desk – which handles 94 percent of all technical issues remotely – can do things like instantly compensating for a dead speaker by boosting power to the rest of the system via computers, all from halfway across the world.

The future?

There’s no denying that IMAX’s laser projection offers the kind of experience that’s hard to match anywhere else in cinema. But can the company stay viable in the ever-changing entertainment landscape?

After experiencing it myself, and speaking with the company’s leadership, it’s evident that IMAX isn’t clinging to its past glories like some aging theatrical dinosaur. In fact, IMAX seems as well-positioned to capture the cinematic zeitgeist today as it was when its first mondo-sized screens started showing … well, dinosaurs.

It’s evident that IMAX isn’t clinging to its past glories like some aging theatrical dinosaur.

“Our biggest group is fanboys,” Bonnick told us, and they’ve been ready and willing to pay up for IMAX’s grander theaters. This is the “experience first” generation, after all, where 20-somethings are much more apt to go out for a good meal or hit a club than spend money on possessions or clothing. When younger audiences do get off their phones to go to a theater, Bonnick said, they want a premium experience. That fits IMAX to a T — especially when it comes to its biggest and brightest screens — and the company has also been exploring other experience-based entertainment avenues, such as VR.

Bonnick sees a future where the 24-theater multiplex is slowly replaced by 10 or 12-theater venues, with an IMAX screen at one end, and a feature-tied VR parlor (or something similar) in the lobby.

As for Samsung’s new, ultra-bright LED Cinema screens? IMAX is keeping its eye on the tech, but Bonnick thinks it’s a long way off, claiming it’s still way too expensive to create. Even if they could, Bonnick thinks they wouldn’t know what to do with it to create a “film-like experience.”

Wherever the entertainment landscape turns, IMAX expects to be there, with the latest technology in tow. And we, the movie-going public, will be better off for it.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Samsung’s 34-foot Onyx LED TV looks to change movie theaters forever
  • IMAX with laser will bring a major visual upgrade to theaters starting this year
  • The best home theater projectors
  • Optoma UHD50 Projector review
  • How do you re-create the air-ripping launch of 11,000-hp dragsters? Dolby Atmos



23
Jul

SpaceX just landed another of its reusable Block 5 rockets


The only thing more impressive than SpaceX blastoffs may just be SpaceX landings. Early this morning, July 23, Elon Musk’s extraterrestrial focused company managed to land a rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean after launching a satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

The first stage of the rocket landed on the drone ship, which is named “Of Course I Still Love You,” (because why not) at around 2:00 a.m. ET, less than nine minutes after liftoff. The landing is significant not only because it’s the first in quite some time for the startup, but also because it’s one of the very first launches or landings of the newest Falcon 9 rockets, the Block 5.

Part of the reason we’ve gone so long without seeing a SpaceX landing is that the company has been trying to get rid of its excess Block 4 rockets by refusing to land them back on Earth. That has historically always been the way that satellites and other spacecraft are launched — it’s rather inefficient, and certainly expensive and unsustainable. But SpaceX offered a real game changer to the space exploration industry with the debut of the Block 5 launcher, which is both recoverable and reusable. As such, SpaceX should be able to cut down on the expenses related to getting into space.

For this particular trip, the rocket sent the Telstar 19 Vantage communications satellite into orbit, which is tasked with providing broadband internet service for folks in the Americas. Back in May, SpaceX launched Block 5 for the first time, during which it carried Bangladesh’s very first satellite, the Bangabandhu-1. The goal is for Block 5 to allow SpaceX to complete more than two flights with the same Falcon 9 booster, which could help cut down on costs, as well as the time required between launches.

Thus far, SpaceX has not yet relaunched a Block 5 rocket, which makes sense, given that only two successful launches have been completed thus far. However, in the coming weeks and months, we can expect Musk and his team to begin putting the real capabilities of this latest rocket to the test. We’ll be sure to keep you abreast of the latest happenings.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • SpaceX nails another launch, but fails to catch the fairing
  • SpaceX makes rocket launches look easy, nails 25th Falcon 9 landing
  • SpaceX wins confidence-boosting Falcon Heavy contract with U.S. Air Force
  • Prepare for liftoff: Upcoming important SpaceX rocket launches
  • Here’s everything you need to know about the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket



23
Jul

These are all the Android Go phones available today


Entry-level phones from the cheap to the… very cheap.

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Android Go is Google’s latest effort to make the experience of owning an entry-level Android phone less frustrating. The $100 price point is overrun by phones that come with outdated versions of Android and underpowered hardware, and Android Go is designed to fix these shortcomings. Aimed primarily at markets like India and Africa — where hundreds of millions of users are projected to make their way online for the first time in the coming years — Android Go aims to offer an uncluttered software experience.

Android Go is a barebones take on Android that is designed specially to run on low-powered hardware — devices with 4GB of storage and 512MB of RAM. Google created lightweight versions of its apps that work better on entry-level hardware, and the OS takes up a mere fraction of the space as a full-fledged Android install. Sure, the hardware isn’t the fastest around, but you’re getting the promise of quick updates and a markedly better user experience.

There are nine Android Go phones currently available in various regions around the world, and Samsung is set to announce its own product in this series shortly. There are hardware limitations in place for a device to be certified for Android Go, so a lot of the phones in this list share a similar set of specs. That said, you’ll see a lot of variety in terms of the design.

Alcatel 1X (U.S., UK)

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Screen 5.3-inch 18:9 IPS LCD (960×480)
SoC 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6739
RAM 1GB
Storage 16GB
Camera 8MP
Front Camera 5MP
Battery 2460mAh
Security Fingerprint sensor
Dimensions 147.5 x 70.6 x 9.1mm
Weight 151g
Colors Black, Blue
Price $99

The Alcatel 1X is one of the few Android Go devices that offers an 18:9 display. That isn’t saying much as there are considerable bezels up front, but it is better in comparison with the rest of the phones on this list.

You also get 16GB of storage and an 8MP camera at the back, and the 2460mAh battery is more than adequate to last an entire day without any issues.

With Android Go phones tailored at the $100 price point, one of the features that manufacturers have had to abandon is the fingerprint sensor, but that isn’t the case on the 1X. The phone has a fingerprint sensor located at the back, and it’s perfectly serviceable.

Best of all, the Alcatel 1X is up for sale in the U.S. for $99 unlocked.

See at Amazon

Nokia 1 (Global)

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Screen 4.5-inch IPS LCD (854×480)
SoC 1.1GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6737M
RAM 1GB
Storage 8GB
Camera 5MP
Front Camera 2MP
Battery 2150mAh
Security PIN
Dimensions 133.6 x 67.8 x 9.5mm
Weight 131g
Colors Warm Red, Dark Blue
Price ₹4,850 ($70) | £79.99 ($105)

The Nokia 1 is widely available across the world, making it the default option for those looking to try out Android Go. The phone has a vibrant design with colorful polycarbonate back covers that can be easily switched out — like Nokias of old.

The phone has large bezels at the front and there isn’t a fingerprint sensor, but at $70 the Nokia 1 is one of the most affordable devices on this list.

See at Amazon UK

Nokia 2.1 (Global)

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Screen 5.5-inch IPS LCD (1280×720)
SoC 1.4GHz quad-core Snapdragon 425
RAM 1GB
Storage 8GB
Camera 8MP
Front Camera 5MP
Battery 4000mAh
Security PIN
Dimensions 153.6 x 77.6 x 9.7mm
Weight 174g
Colors Blue/Copper, Blue/Silver, Grey/Silver
Price $115

At its core, the Nokia 2.1 is an entry-level phone with a massive battery. The 720p 5.5-inch display paired with a 4000mAh battery allows the phone to deliver at least two days’ worth of battery life without breaking a sweat.

The Nokia 2.1 is one of very few devices on this list to feature a Qualcomm chipset — there’s a Snapdragon 425 under the hood with four Cortex A53 cores clocked up to 1.4GHz.

Elsewhere, you’ll find an aluminum mid-frame, which adds rigidity to the device and makes it one of the sturdiest Android Go phones available, and there’s a plastic back that feels great to hold.

You also get stereo speakers up front, FM radio, and Gorilla Glass protection on the panel. The Nokia 2.1 is set to go on sale very soon for the equivalent of $115.

See at Nokia

Moto E5 Play with Android Oreo (Go Edition) (UK)

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Screen 5.3-inch 18:9 IPS LCD (960×480)
SoC 1.4GHz quad-core Snapdragon 425
RAM 1GB
Storage 16GB
Camera 8MP
Front Camera 5MP
Battery 2100mAh
Security Fingerprint sensor
Dimensions 151 x 74 x 9mm
Weight 150g
Colors Flash Gray, Black, Dark Lake
Price €109 ($125)

Motorola unveiled the Moto E5 Plus and E5 Play back in April, and has now rolled out an Android Go variant of the Moto E5 Play that’s slated to make its way to the UK.

Whereas the standard variant of the E5 Play comes with a 5.2-inch 16:9 screen, the Moto E5 Play with Android Oreo (Go Edition) features a 5.3-inch 18:9 panel.

As it is running Android Go, the device now comes with 1GB of RAM (instead of 2GB for the regular model).

The phone will launch in the UK shortly, and will make its way across Europe and Latin America in the coming months.

Huawei Y3 2018 (South Africa)

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Screen 5.0-inch IPS LCD (854×480)
SoC 1.1GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6737M
RAM 1GB
Storage 8GB
Camera 8MP
Front Camera 2MP
Battery 2280mAh
Security PIN
Dimensions 145.1 x 73.7 x 9.5mm
Weight 175g
Colors Gold, White, Gray
Price R999 ($75)

The Huawei Y3 is primarily sold in African countries, with the phone making its debut earlier this year in South Africa. The phone has a clean design, with Huawei focusing on the single loudspeaker located at the back — the company says it’s one of the loudest in this segment.

There’s also an 8MP f/2.0 camera, and the 2280mAh battery is good enough for a day’s worth of use.

Interestingly, the phone features the F2FS file system over the more conventional EXT4, and Huawei says it is better-optimized for the Y3’s intended use case.

See at Huawei

ASUS ZenFone Live L1 (SE Asia)

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Screen 5.5-inch 18:9 IPS LCD (1440×720)
SoC 1.4GHz quad-core Snapdragon 425
RAM 1GB/2GB
Storage 16GB/32GB
Camera 13MP
Front Camera 5MP
Battery 3000mAh
Security PIN
Dimensions 147.3 x 71.8 x 8.2mm
Weight 150g
Colors Space Blue, Rose Pink, Shimmer Gold, Midnight Black
Price $105

The ZenFone Live L1 marks ASUS’ foray into Android Go, and the phone is now available in Indonesia — with other Asian markets set to receive the device shortly.

When it comes to specs, the Live L1 is the most interesting phone yet in this space. The phone has a 5.5-inch 18:9 panel with an HD+ resolution, and like the Nokia 2.1 and the Moto G5 Play, it is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 425.

It also has a 13MP rear camera, and ASUS is selling the device in two variants — one with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, and a model with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.

The hardware combined with the variety of color options on offer make the Live 1 a great choice in this category.

See at ASUS

Micromax Bharat Go (India)

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Screen 4.5-inch IPS LCD (854×480)
SoC 1.1GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6737М
RAM 1GB
Storage 8GB
Camera 5MP
Front Camera 5MP
Battery 2000mAh
Security PIN
Dimensions 136.5 x 67 x 9.6mm
Weight 130g
Colors Black
Price ₹4,299 ($65)

Indian manufacturers like Micromax have faded to relative obscurity over the last two years, but the Bharat Go is a decent option for those looking to pick up an Android Go device.

For one thing, it is one of the most affordable phone on the list, selling for the equivalent of $65. The Bharat Go is exclusively sold offline — part of Micromax’s broader push to focus on the retail sector — so you won’t be able to find it on an e-commerce store.

That said, the phone is available at thousands of retail stores across the country, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get your hands on a unit if you’re living in India.

Lava Z50 (India)

lava-z50.jpeg?itok=JW6XZQoz

Screen 4.5-inch IPS LCD (854×480)
SoC 1.1GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6737М
RAM 1GB
Storage 8GB
Camera 5MP
Front Camera 5MP
Battery 2000mAh
Security PIN
Dimensions 135 x 66.6 x 9.7mm
Weight 140g
Colors Black
Price ₹4,299 ($65)

Indian brand Lava Mobiles has been a long-time Google partner, so it stands to reason that the manufacturer team up with the search giant over an Android Go phone.

The hardware on offer is identical to what you get with Micromax’s Bharat Go, but there’s a slight variance in design, and you’ll actually be able to buy the Lava Z50 online.

And just like the Bharat Go, the Z50 is available for what amounts to $65.

See at Flipkart

General Mobile GM8 Go (Turkey)

gm8go-home.jpg?itok=YbopGTCn

Screen 5.5-inch 18:9 IPS LCD (1440×720)
SoC 1.5GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6739
RAM 1GB
Storage 16GB
Camera 13MP
Front Camera 5MP
Battery 3500mAh
Security Fingerprint sensor
Dimensions 150 x 70.5 x 8.59mm
Weight 152g
Colors Gold, Space Gray
Price $180

Turkey’s General Mobile has been making Android One handsets for some time now, and the GM8 Go is a lightweight version of the GM8.

It doesn’t miss out on any essentials — you get a 13MP rear camera, 18:9 screen up front, and the 3500mAh battery should deliver two-day battery life with ease.

There’s also a fingerprint sensor at the back. The phone offers serious hardware (for this segment), and it has a hefty $180 price tag to boot.

See at General Mobile

More to come

There’s no shortage of choice when it comes to Android Go phones, and with Samsung set to make its debut in the coming weeks, this category is only bound to get interesting.

Are you planning to get an Android Go phone? If so, what device are you eyeing? Let us know in the comments below.

Android Oreo

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  • Join the Discussion

23
Jul

Which unlimited plan should you buy: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon?


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All four major carriers in the U.S. offer unlimited data plans. But which is the best?

The big four networks in the United States (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon) all carry an unlimited data plan (or several). That’s important for power users as well as anyone who uses their mobile broadband internet as their sole way to stay in touch or for entertainment. The cost of data overages means that unlimited data is a must for many of us.

tmobile_970x350_1.jpgAdvertisement

But just because everyone offers unlimited data doesn’t mean that all plans are equal. Pricing is important as are “extras” like tethering and the hidden data cap that pushes you back to slower 3G speeds when you reach it. And of course, zero-rating means we have to pay attention to what unlimited means when it comes to the quality of streaming media as well as the source.

We took a look at what each carrier has to offer so we can decide who delivers the very best unlimited data package. Let’s start with a look at the details for each carrier.

AT&T

Unlimited &More Premium

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data
  • Subject to data throttling after 22GB
  • 15 GB mobile hotspot (tethering)
  • Full 1080p video streaming when Stream Saver is turned off
  • Unlimited calls and free roaming in Mexico and Canada
  • Send unlimited texts to 120 countries
  • WatchTV included for free ($15/month value)
  • Your choice of HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz, VRV, Amazon Music, or Pandora Premium
  • One line of service on an AT&T Unlimited &More Premium plan is $80
  • Two lines of service for $150
  • Three lines cost $170 while four will set you back $190

Unlimited &More

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data
  • Subject to data throttling after 22GB
  • Standard definition video streaming (480p)
  • Streaming speeds are capped at 1.5Mbps
  • Unlimited calls and free roaming in Mexico and Canada
  • Send unlimited texts to 120 countries
  • WatchTV included for free ($15/month value)
  • One line of service on an AT&T Unlimited Choice plan is $70
  • Two lines of service for $125
  • Three lines cost $145 while four will set you back $160

Everything you need to know about AT&T’s unlimited plans

Sprint

Unlimited Plus

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data
  • Unlimited data for streaming video up to 1080p
  • Unlimited data for gaming up to 8Mbps
  • Unlimited data for streaming music up to 1.5Mbps
  • 15GB LTE mobile hotspot
  • Unlimited talk, text, and 10GB of LTE data when in Mexico and Canada
  • Global talk and text in over 185 countries
  • Hulu included for free ($7.99/month value)
  • Tidal included for free ($9.99/month value)
  • One line of service is $70
  • Five lines costs $42/month per line (total monthly cost of $210)
  • For a limited time, bring your own devices and pay just $22/month per line (total monthly cost of $110)

Unlimited Basic

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data
  • Unlimited data for streaming video up to 480p
  • Unlimited data for gaming up to 2Mbps
  • Unlimited data for streaming music up to 500Kbps
  • 500MB LTE mobile hotspot
  • Unlimited talk, text, and 5GB of LTE data when in Mexico and Canada
  • Global talk and text in over 185 countries
  • Hulu included for free ($7.99/month value)
  • One line of service is $60/month
  • Five lines of service is $32/month per line (total monthly cost of $160)

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Everything you neeed to know about Sprint’s Unlimited Freedom Plan

T-Mobile

T-Mobile ONE

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data
  • Video streaming capped at 480p
  • Unlimited talk, text, and 5GB of LTE in Canada and Mexico
  • One hour of free Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi and unlimited texting on enabled flights
  • Unlimited data and texting in over 210 locations
  • Netflix is included for free ($9.99/month value)
  • One line of service on a T-Mobile ONE plan is $70 (including taxes and fees)
  • Two lines of service for $120 (including taxes and fees)
  • Three lines of service for $140 (including taxes and fees)
  • Four lines is $160 and each additional line adds $20 to the total (including taxes and fees)

T-Mobile ONE Plus (add-on)

  • Includes 720p video streaming
  • 10GB of LTE data and then unlimited 3G speeds
  • 2x data speed when traveling (supported in 210 countries)
  • Unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi on Gogo-enabled flights
  • Voicemail-to-text
  • Name ID
  • Costs $10 more per month per line

T-Mobile ONE Plus International (add-on)

  • Unlimited international calling to landlines in 70+ countries and mobile numbers in 30+ countries
  • Unlimited 4G LTE in Mexico and Canada
  • Plus all of the other benefits of T-Mobile ONE Plus
  • Costs $25 more per month per line

Everything you need to know about T-Mobile’s unlimited plans

Verizon

Above Unlimited

  • Unlimited talk and text
  • 75GB of Premium Unlimited 4G LTE data
  • Video streaming at 720p
  • Unlimited mobile hotspot (first 20GB at LTE speeds)
  • Unlimited tak and text in Mexico and Canada
  • 5 free TravelPasses per month that offer 512MB of LTE data per day (usable in 130 countries)
  • 500GB of Verizon Cloud
  • $95/month for one line
  • $180/month for two lines
  • $210/month for three lines and $240/month for four lines

Beyond Unlimited

  • Unlimited talk and text
  • 22GB of Premium Unlimited 4G LTE data
  • Video streaming at 720p
  • Unlimited mobile hotspot (first 15GB at LTE speeds)
  • Unlimited talk and text in Mexico and Canada
  • $85/month for one line
  • $160/month for two lines
  • $180/month for three lines and $200/month for four lines

Go Unlimited

  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Unlimited 4G LTE data (your speeds will be throttled more often compared to Beyond Unlimited and Above Unlimited customers)
  • Video streaming at 480p
  • Unlimited mobile hotspot (max speed of 600Kbps)
  • Unlimited talk and text in Mexico
  • $75/month for one line
  • $130/month for two lines
  • $150/month for three lines and $160/month for four lines

Everything you need to know about Verizon’s unlimited plan

The best unlimited data plan

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The best plan is the one that works where you need it to work, not the one that’s the cheapest. And we can’t tell you which that one is because it’s different for each of us. Paying more than you need to for phone service is a bad idea, but so is paying for service that doesn’t work.

Generally, if you live outside of a metropolitan area that means Verizon. A look at live, user-generated coverage maps from Open Signal shows there are significant gaps in T-Mobile’s coverage outside of metro areas. You will pay more for Verizon service when compared to T-Mobile (especially once taxes and fees are applied) but chances are Verizon will have the best coverage if you’re in a rural area. There are exceptions, so be sure to investigate before you give any company your money.

If you’re part of the 90% of the U.S. population who lives in a large town or city, your choices are expanded. T-Mobile is a great choice, as even with the One Plus add-on fee of $10 per month you’ll still save money because they include taxes and fees in the cost.

Sprint’s pricing offers a good value, but there are some very valid concerns about their network footprint. These can’t be ignored when talking about “the best”, though. Sprint has taken great strides to improve their coverage, and if Sprint works everywhere you need it to work, you should definitely take a look at what they have to offer.

Of course, none of this includes any customer-loyalty offerings or legacy plans you might be using. In those cases, you might want to stick with the carrier you have now instead of switching because of new pricing or new promotions.

All this makes it very difficult to make a one-size-fits-all recommendation about which plan is the best. If you need nationwide coverage in places that might be a little out of the way, Verizon is a better value than AT&T and generally has a better network according to independent studies from sources like Root Metrics. If you stay on the beaten path, T-Mobile offers the better deal.

We can’t tell you which carrier will be the best for you. But we can tell you what to look for and where to start. Talk to your friends and see what service they are using and how well it’s working, and call each company to see exactly what they have to offer. Most carriers have plans they don’t advertise and one may fit your needs better than the default unlimited plans.

We just want you to enjoy the service you’re paying for!

See plans at AT&T

See plans at Sprint

See plans at T-Mobile

See plans at Verizon

Your turn

What carrier do you subscribe to? Are you happy or are you looking for something new? Add your experience to the comments and help sort this mess out!

Updated July 2018: This article has been updated to reflect changes to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon’s unlimited plans.

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23
Jul

Nokia 3.1 review: A great small budget phone with performance problems


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Nokia nails the core hardware and features, but comes up short in specs and performance.

We often talk about “cheap” Android phones in reference to devices like the Moto G6, which typically cost about $225. But many people don’t even want to break the $200 barrier when they’re looking for a phone, whether it’s because they just broke their flagship device and don’t want to spend $800 again, or they simply don’t want to budget out that much for a device in the first place.

For these people, the options are numerous — but they’re all pretty bad. Down around $100, you’re getting into the territory of horrible one-off prepaid phones with bad software, old specs and missing features. At best you’re going to get an Android Go phone, like the Alcatel 1X, that at least has good software but is still horribly hamstrung by its internals. But sitting just a little bit higher, at $159, there’s a cheap phone that still follows the recipe of a device that’s more expensive: the new Nokia 3.1.

Nokia 3.1



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Price: $159

Bottom line: For an affordable price, you can get a phone that gets all of the basics done pretty well. It has a good quality screen and nice hardware, and is a compact option among lots of big budget phones. Its slow performance and lack of a fingerprint sensor are disappointing, but you get good Android One software in return.

The Good

  • Better-than-expected screen
  • Solid materials and good styling
  • Android One software
  • Full-day battery life
  • MicroSD slot for adoptable storage

The Bad

  • Slow performance
  • 2GB of RAM is disappointing
  • No fingerprint sensor
  • Micro-USB charging

See at Amazon

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Small but strong

Nokia 3.1 What I like

The Nokia 3.1 is immediately appealing because of its hardware quality and size. The lightly grippy flat plastic back is handsome, and the curved glass on the front running into the sides is classy for a $159 phone. Getting a nicely coated metal frame is also treat, and it really gives the feeling of a phone that’s built to sell for twice the price. Frankly the whole phone feels overbuilt for the money — I’m not sure how much it costs to make it this nicely, but Nokia could’ve easily skimped on the materials and build quality here and still been ahead of the competition’s flimsy thin plastic phones.

Nokia’s strength remains in its hardware, design and core features.

Unlike so many of the competitors in the segment that are trying to give you the largest screen for the money, the Nokia 3.1’s 5.2-inch 18:9 display gives the phone a refreshingly “just right” size that’s easy to handle. Even though the larger-than-usual bezels make it even taller than usual. The display itself is very good for a sub-$200 phone. 1440×720 resolution is more than enough for this size, and the viewing angles and brightness are actually above what I was expecting. The only two downsides are that it doesn’t get particularly dim for late-night viewing, and curiously there’s no night mode.

The rest of the hardware features round out well. A headphone jack is a welcomed sight, especially because it also enables a proper FM radio app on the phone. The speaker is also surprisingly loud — it doesn’t sound good, but for podcasts and spoken word radio it gets the job done for short periods. If it’s not going to offer a great sound experience, you might as well have it be loud enough to give you something to enjoy. The 3.1 also has an extremely strong Bluetooth connection over distance in through walls, in some cases better than my flagship phones. That’s likely thanks to the plastic backing, but whatever the cause it’s a surprise to experience in such a cheap phone (even though it’s only Bluetooth 4.2).

I don’t think any $159 phone deserves much mention of the camera performance so long as it works and is consistent. The Nokia 3.1’s 13MP camera gets the job done with an incredibly simple interface. Like the Nokia 6.1 it’s a bit slow to capture, but it’s manageable in this case … and you’re more willing to give it a pass at this price. With HDR and a steady hand, the photos are colorful but struggle with dynamic range and crispness in details; the only big issue I found was with slow focus speeds that sometimes took a few attempts to lock on a subject. Aside from that, nothing big to report — just keep your expectations low here, especially in low light where the photos get very bad very quickly.

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Android One is a nice experience at the low end, and the battery life is good.

Nokia made a decision to go all-in on Android One software, and the 3.1 is a perfect example of the type of phone that benefits from it. With extremely low-end specs, so many of these inexpensive phones are burdened with superfluous bloatware and extra features that they simply can’t handle. That’s not the case with the Nokia 3.1, because it’s stripped down and simple just like every other Android One phone. The interface is clean and simple, and the Google apps shine here as they do on the Pixels. Android One should also give the Nokia 3.1 a better chance at future software updates, though at the time of writing it’s stuck on Android 8.0 with the May 5 security patch — I wouldn’t expect it to stay that way for long.

The simple software and relatively small display lead to really good battery life in my testing, even though I wasn’t expecting it with the 2990mAh battery capacity. I had absolutely no issue going through a full day of use and ending with 20% battery, and the Nokia 3.1 is particularly stellar with standby battery life — if you’re not using it, it’s hardly draining. It’s disappointing to be charging up over Micro-USB on a phone launched in mid-2018, but I understand that this is also what the competition is using still.

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Performance in question

Nokia 3.1 What I don’t like

The achilles’ heel of the Nokia 3.1 experience is poor performance, which is brought on by a set of inferior specs across the board. An octa-core Mediatek MT6750 processor runs the show here, which is ostensibly comparable to the Snapdragon 425, and just isn’t fully up to the task. Particularly because this U.S. Nokia 3.1 has just 2GB of RAM, which is incredibly tight for a phone in 2018 that has any thought of being smooth and quick to switch between apps. After the system takes its allocation, there’s less than 1.8GB remaining — and somewhere around 400-500MB available during normal use. That can easily be chewed up by just a couple of apps, and you really notice when apps are dumped from memory during regular use.

The specs simply don’t offer enough performance, particularly when multitasking.

Between the processor and limited RAM the Nokia 3.1 just isn’t as smooth and consistent as I’d like. It’s good enough. It’s about average. But it definitely isn’t smooth or what I’d consider quick. You notice the amount of time it takes to open apps, and you really notice the sluggishness when you’re trying to multitask. Start listening to music or a podcast in the background while swapping between other apps, and you’ll be waiting multiple seconds for each app to open in some cases. This phone really is only built for uni-tasking.

I’m cautiously optimistic that the model with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, sold in some markets, will have performance that’s acceptable — but this particular model being sold in the U.S. is disappointing as it stands. Especially when you consider that some of the competition offers 3GB of RAM alongside a faster processor for similar money.

The model with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage should be the standard worldwide.

Speaking of storage, yes the Nokia 3.1 has just 16GB to offer. After letting my Google accounts sync to the phone and my standard set of apps restore from the cloud, I was sitting at 95% capacity — that was an unpleasant sight. That’s because the system itself uses 8.8GB … so you realistically only have about 7GB to use for yourself. With your standard app landing at 50-100MB, and some apps breaking the 200MB barrier, you quickly run out of storage unless you’re incredibly diligent about what you download.

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The one saving grace is the Nokia 3.1’s SD card slot, which offers the option of adoptable storage to let you integrate that card into the system as an indistinguishable part of the internal storage. I put in a 32GB Samsung microSD card I had laying around and it quickly grabbed 2GB of data to ease the stress on the internal storage, and I think just about everyone will need to do the same — if not right out of the box, in short order after getting it set up. (One reminder for adoptable storage: be sure to get a high-quality card, because the speed of the card is incredibly important to overall system performance.)

Best microSD card for Android in 2018

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Nice little phone

Nokia 3.1 Review

Let’s break it down simply. The Nokia 3.1 has really solid hardware befitting a much more expensive phone. It’s just the right size for anyone who wants to be able to use their phone in one hand, and the display is really good as well. It has all of the basic hardware features covered, including a good screen, average camera and full-day battery life. Android One software is a bonus, right now and going forward with updates. But it has the critical flaw of just being underpowered — its processor, when paired with 2GB of RAM, doesn’t enable smooth performance or consistent multitasking even for simple uses, and that’s disappointing. Add in the substandard 16GB of storage and the lack of a fingerprint sensor, and you’re missing out on some of the core things that we like to see on all phones today.

3.5
out of 5


You won’t feel short-changed paying $159 for the Nokia 3.1, but you’ll be frustrated by performance not meeting the hardware quality.

At $159, the Nokia 3.1 doesn’t have a lot of good competition, but it does have two phones that make the decision to buy it pretty tough. For the same $159 price, you can get a Moto E5 Plus that has a larger display, massive 5000mAh battery, a fingerprint sensor, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage — the only rub is that it’s currently only available directly from a few prepaid carriers in the U.S. But buying unlocked, for $30 more at $189, the Moto G6 Play is available with a bigger (and better) display, faster processor, a fingerprint sensor, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.

The Nokia 3.1 is a great choice for its size, hardware, display, software and core features. But it isn’t the choice for anyone who needs a bigger screen, fingerprint sensor or fluid daily performance for powerful apps and multitasking. You won’t feel short-changed paying $159 for the Nokia 3.1, but you will be slightly frustrated by its software performance not meeting its hardware quality.

See at Amazon

23
Jul

HomePod OS 12 Beta Software Said to Support Multiple Timers, New Phone Call Features, and More


A new HomePod firmware update due to be released in the fall could include some significant new features for Apple’s smart speaker.

French tech blog iGeneration reports that a beta version of the software currently in internal testing enables HomePod users to make calls and answer them, ask Siri to Find My iPhone, and set multiple timers on the device.

Currently, HomePod owners who want to use the built-in speakerphone feature must make or receive a call on their iPhone and then switch the audio output to the HomePod when the call connects. With the beta software, however, the HomePod appears to have access to the user’s contacts, allowing them to initiate the call directly on the speaker.

In addition to the above, the report suggests HomePod users could soon be able to listen to voicemails and search their call history over the speaker. Improvements to Siri’s general knowledge are also hinted at, including specific enhancements to the virtual assistant’s food and nutrition knowledge base.

Lastly, the report mentions a new Wi-Fi feature that appears to allow HomePod users to switch the speaker to another wireless network as long as a paired iPhone knows the password. As it stands, users can only choose which network to connect their HomePod to during the initial setup.

As with all beta software, these features may be changed, delayed, or removed completely by the time the firmware is officially released.

The last software update for HomePod came with iOS 11.4.1, but it was limited to stability and quality improvements. We’ll know more about what’s in store for HomePod in September or October, when Apple releases iOS 12, along with watchOS 5, tvOS 12, and macOS Mojave.

Related Roundups: HomePod, iOS 12Buyer’s Guide: HomePod (Buy Now)
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23
Jul

Apple Singapore Investigating Multiple Fraudulent Charges to iTunes Accounts


Apple is investigating dozens of cases of fraudulent iTunes account charges in Singapore, according to local news reports over the weekend.

Channel News Asia spoke to two people in the Southeast Asian country who said they had both lost several thousand dollars through fraudulent transactions processed through their iTunes accounts.

Apple Orchard Road in Singapore (Image via Strait Times)

Two people told Channel NewsAsia that they lost at least S$7,000 each to iTunes purchases with one saying she was billed on her HSBC credit card. She added that she only realised something was amiss when she received a text message from HSBC that she had less than 30 per cent of her credit limit left. She realised the extent of the issue after speaking to a customer service operator.

The affected customers had reportedly been banking with Singapore banks including UOB, DBS, and Oversea-Chines Banking Corporation (OCBC). OCBC alone confirmed 58 similar cases of fraudulent charges.

One iTunes user who banked with DBS also told Channel News Asia that six fraudulent transactions had “completely wiped out” their account. As a result of the cases, UOB said that it was stepping up monitoring of all iTunes spending over recent weeks due to increase in cases of fraudulent activity.

Apple Singapore told the news organization that it is looking into the charges and had already cancelled many of the transactions identified as fraudulent. We’ll update this article if we hear more.

Tag: Singapore
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