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26
Sep

Camera Comparison: iPhone XS Max vs. iPhone X


Compared to the iPhone X, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max offer up an upgraded wide-angle camera with a larger sensor and new features like Smart HDR and Depth Control, all of which bring quite a few changes to photo quality on Apple’s newest iPhones.

We did an in-depth comparison between the iPhone X camera and the camera in the iPhone XS Max to highlight the feature updates and what you can expect to see in your images when upgrading from iPhone X to iPhone XS or XS Max.

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Both the iPhone X and iPhone XS Max feature dual-lens camera systems with an f/1.8 12-megapixel wide-angle lens paired with an f/2.8 12-megapixel telephoto lens that enables 2x optical zoom, but there are some notable differences between the two.

The wide-angle camera on the iPhone XS Max is just a bit wider with a 26mm focal length equivalent vs. the 28mm focal length equivalent on the iPhone X, and Apple has introduced a new image sensor that’s twice as fast and 32 percent larger with bigger, deeper pixels that bring out more detail in your photos.


Both iPhones use a TrueDepth camera system with a 7-megapixel front-facing camera for selfies, but the iPhone XS features a faster A12 chip with an upgraded Neural Engine and a new image signal processor, enabling several new features for both the front and rear-facing cameras.

A Smart HDR option offers better dynamic range, bringing out more detail in the highlights and shadows of your images, while a new Depth Control option for Portrait Mode lets you adjust the amount of background blur in your images after a photo is taken. Apple has also introduced improved bokeh, for more aesthetically pleasing blurring of the background details in a photo when using Portrait Mode.


In our experience, Portrait Mode with both the rear and front-facing cameras is improved in the iPhone XS Max compared to the iPhone X with the new features Apple has introduced. The camera is better able to distinguish between the foreground and the background of a photo so it doesn’t blur out as much detail as the iPhone X. It’s by no means perfect and there are still issues with some images, but it’s a definite improvement.


Apple’s Smart HDR feature brings out more detail in iPhone XS Max photos when compared to photos taken with the iPhone X. For example, in images of the sky, the iPhone X will blow out the details due to the variance in lighting, while the iPhone XS Max is able to provide a better photo with the Smart HDR. Smart HDR kicks in often, and paired with the larger sensor, it offers up images with more detail in most photos with low lighting.


Almost all iPhone X photos in low light or with areas where there’s a lot of difference between brightness and darkness overexpose photos or feature too much overcompensation for shadows, a problem that the iPhone XS Max does not have.


Unfortunately, in some situations, Apple’s Smart HDR and/or some heavy-handed noise reduction blurs or smooths out images, something that’s especially noticeable with the front-facing camera in lower light. There is, for example, an entire thread on Reddit filled with users complaining about the ultra smoothing Apple has introduced for the selfie camera.


The strange smoothing effect is primarily noticeable with the front-facing camera when lighting is not great, but it does also affect the rear-facing camera and can sometimes result in soft images that lose their crispness. The iPhone X, which does not use Smart HDR or the same noise reduction algorithms, does not seem to have this issue.


When it comes to capturing video, the experience is nearly the same, though we did feel stabilization was a bit better. The iPhone XS Max continues to be able to record 4K video at up to 60 frames per second, but audio is improved due to new stereo recording functionality.


All in all, iPhone XS Max photos are better than iPhone X photos with a noticeable difference between the two cameras, but there are quirks to be aware of, such as the Smart HDR and heavy noise reduction.

The images featured in the video and in the article can be found in a higher resolution in an Imgur album for clearer comparisons. What do you think of the camera in the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max? Let us know in the comments.

Buyer’s Guide: iPhone XS (Buy Now)
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26
Sep

Fight against trackers on the web with Brave Browser (Review)


With the increasing number of privacy scandals, leaks of information, and other creepy “features” implemented by websites, the average customer is increasingly worried about the data collected from them and what the companies decide to do with it. In these times 1984-esque times we live in, Brave offers a browsing experience without ads, trackers, and fingerprinting.

Developer: Brave Software
Price: Free

Overview

After accepting the Terms of Service and Privacy Notice, Brave takes you right into the action and shows you the homescreen. If you feel like the interface looks similar to Google Chrome, it is because Brave is also based on the open-source Chromium project. Brave tries to combine the simplicity, power, and speed from Chromium with security features such as an ad-blocker, tracking protection, enhanced security, and optimizations for consuming less data and battery life.

On the top bar, there is a home icon that (unsurprisingly) takes you to the home page. The address bar works exactly like in Chrome, acting also as a search bar. There’s also a button that lets you see your open tabs, taking you to a screen that resembles what you get when you tap on the Recents button on the navigation bar on your Android device (if you manufacturer hasn’t tampered with it).

The Brave Button

The one interface element that differs from Google Chrome is the Brave button. Upon tapping it you will get information about the additional security measures put in place by Brave. It will show you the number of ads and trackers blocked, HTTPS upgrades (explained in a moment), the number of scripts blocked, and fingerprint methods intercepted.

You can also deactivate all the previously mentioned shields, or do it separately. Block Ads & Tracking, Block 3rd party cookies, and Block Scripts are self-explanatory. HTTPS upgrades is a new functionality in which Brave determines if a site you are browsing under the HTTP protocol has the more secure HTTPS version available. If it does, then it automatically redirects you to ensure you are always navigating securely when it is possible.

Fingerprinting is a little more complex. The process involves taking information from several sources, such as your IP, country, hardware information, and other similar parameters, and making a fingerprint that allows companies to track your movements across different websites. Brave tries to prevent this by blocking well-known methods of fingerprinting, such as canvas and WebGL. You can read more about it here.

Inside the Overflow

An overflow button lets you go to a bunch of different options, which are all expected if you come from Chrome. Well-known features such as bookmarks, history, downloads, find in page, adding a site to the homescreen, and downloads are all available, thanks to its Chromium roots.

There is a private mode as well, in which the Brave filters and shields still keep working. Inside it, Brave prompts you to switch search engines from Google (which is the default) to DuckDuckGo, a safer alternative that does not track your movements.

Performance

Brave behaves and performs exactly like you would expect from a browser in 2018. Granted, I do all of my tests in a Samsung Galaxy S8, but I also have a Galaxy J5 2017 at hand and it performed wonderfully there as well. Launching the app is within the normal range of apps in both devices.

Sites load fast, scrolling is smooth, and content hardly suffers from any of the built-in protections. It even adopts the navigation bar coloring feature, in which it automatically changes colors based on the site you are browsing. There is no problem watching YouTube videos or streaming content. Because of the numerous shields that Brave has implemented, sites, in theory, should be even faster to load than other alternatives like Chrome and Firefox.

Settings

On the overflow menu, you will find the Settings button. Inside, you will find options to change the default engine, to save passwords, autofill, notifications, and accessibility. These are rather unchanged from Chrome. The one where the Brave team focused the most is in the privacy option. Here you will also be able to turn off a plethora of options that you can also do from the Brave button, such as tracking protection and ad blocking. However, this will do it on a browser level, not on a page level. There is also an option to turn off regional ads.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find a way of activating some kind of syncing of bookmarks between devices. With the big players such as Firefox, Chrome, and Opera offering syncing across devices, it is a glaring omission that could force some power users to look elsewhere.

Conclusion

In an era where every company seems to track your movements everywhere you go, Brave comes to the rescue and tries to mitigate the dangers of browsing the web. The fact that something like this exists is sad, to be honest. However, knowing that there are companies that are still committed to privacy give us a glimmer of hope.

As websites constantly test the patience of its users and cram ads, pop-ups and auto-playing videos, ad blocking has become more and more popular. However, as a site that depends on ads as a source of income, we encourage you to turn them off for sites that you rely on and don’t annoy you. Regardless, if you are looking for a browser that gives you more control on the sites you visit, even with some omissions on their part, Brave is one of the top-notch alternatives on the Play store.

Download and install Brave Browser from the Google Play Store.

26
Sep

Mobile network growth drives new businesses, access to education, report says


The smartphone industry continues to grow, and according to a new report from the GSMA, the industry is having a massive impact on global infrastructure and the number of people with connectivity. According to the report, more than 5 billion people are now connected to mobile networks, and 400 million new subscribers have joined mobile networks since 2015. The GSMA is a trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide.

The report, called the “Mobile Industry Impact” report, highlights the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, of which there are 17. Not all of the 17 goals are related to technology, but mobile network access plays a significant role in many of the goals — especially SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure. The progress on that goal is the result of almost universal mobile network coverage of some kind, which is driving new business models and the adoption of mobile savings and credit.

“More than two-thirds of the people on the planet are now connected to a mobile network and, for many, mobile is the primary – sometimes only – channel for accessing the internet and life-enhancing services,” said Mats Granryd, director general of the GSMA. “Today’s report outlines how the mobile industry is playing a central role in accelerating delivery of the SDGs and leveraging the power of mobile networks and services to transform lives around the world.”

Thanks to the increased coverage around the world, it’s expected that more than half of the world’s population will be accessing the internet through their smartphones, which is up by 36 percent from 2015.

With internet access comes access to other technologies that could be helpful in developing areas. For example, the study highlights that around 250 million people have started using mobile money since 2015, bringing the total number of mobile money accounts to 690 million around the world. According to the report, this helps “expand financial and social inclusion.”

Education is another big advantage of increased connectivity. The report notes that there are now 750,000 education-related mobile apps available for smartphones, which is up by 62 percent from 2015. The result is that a massive 1.2 billion people are using their smartphones to improve their education or the education of their children. Not only does this help improve overall education in underserved areas, but making education more accessible also helps bridge the gender gap related to education access. Better and accessible education is SDG 4, while gender equality is SDG 5.

It’s likely increased connectivity will impact other UN goals, too. For example, SDG 3 is related to improved health and better access to health care, while SDG 7 relates to clean energy.

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26
Sep

Virtual reality breaks free as the HTC Wireless Adapter hits store shelves


Gamers can finally break free from the tethers of virtual reality (VR) as HTC’s Vive wireless adapter officially hits store shelves today, September 25. With models available for both the HTC Vive and Vive Pro, hardcore gamers and developers alike can enjoy stepping into VR without needing to worry about tripping over wires or becoming entangled in cables. The Vive wireless adapter marks the first significant step into the future of graphically intense wireless VR for consumers, starting at $300.

Offering flexibility to its users, the Vive Wireless Adapter removes the need to have data, power, and video cables running from the headset to a Windows PC. The T-bone shaped adapter sits atop either an HTC Vive or Vive Pro, wirelessly transmitting data between the headset and a supported Windows computer with Vive’s PCIe WiGig card installed — the card itself is included in the box with the wireless adapter.

Weighing in at only 129 grams, we don’t expect the accessory to be causing any neck strain. The Vive wireless adapter’s battery is a small pack that the user attaches to their waist and can provide up to 2.5 hours of charge at a time. Don’t worry though, if you need to jump back into the game quickly the pack does support Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 technology for refueling in practically no time at all.

HTC is currently offering two version of the Vive wireless adapter, one designed for the HTC Vive and the other for the Vive Pro. Each headset uses a different interface to communicate with a PC and requires its own solution. While the Vive uses three separate HDMI, USB, and DC connectors, the Vive Pro opts to use a singular cable to get the job done. HTC Vive users can pick up their addition for $300, while HTC Pro users will need to shell out an addition $60 for their version.

Those looking to pick up the headset will be gifted a two-month Viveport subscription for no cost. Just ensure that your PC meets the minimum requirements with an Intel Core i5-4590/AMD FX 8350 CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060/AMD Radeon RX 480 GPU, 4 GB RAM, and an available PCIe slot.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • HTC’s new wireless adapter for the Vive arrives in September for $300
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  • HTC ditches digital buttons for its midrange U12 Life
  • HTC U12 Plus review



26
Sep

Just like an eagle, this autonomous glider can fly on thermal currents


An eagle soaring may look majestic but in technical terms, there is some impressive physics happening “under the hood” when they do. Specifically, eagles and other soaring birds take advantage of the upward currents of warm air, known as thermals, to help them more easily sail through the sky. What scientists don’t know, however, is how these birds discover and navigate said thermals. It turns out that artificial intelligence can help — and it could offer an assist to drones as an added bonus.

“This is a big challenge, as it is very difficult to conduct controlled experiments with soaring birds,” Jerome Wong-Ng and Gautam Reddy, two researchers from the University of California, San Diego, wrote in an email to Digital Trends. “Our approach was to instead teach a learning agent to soar in a realistic environment and see if this tells us something about how birds soar.”

This teaching was carried out using a type of machine learning called reinforcement learning. This type of A.I. creates A.I. agents which learn behavior based on the results of trial and error experiments. In this case, the researchers kitted out a glider with a flight controller able to implement the reinforcement learning-based instructions. Soaring to heights of almost 2,300 feet, the glider was able to figure out how to navigate atmospheric thermals autonomously.

“On a technical level, reinforcement learning hasn’t been applied to train agents to learn in the field,” the researchers continued. “In the field, the number of training samples we have is really low, and we have to come up with ways of using all available training data. There were also technical advancements regarding how to measure the local wind environment near the glider using onboard devices.”

In terms of practical applications, the researchers think their new navigational strategy could be employed to develop unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) able to fly for long periods of time without needing to recharge. In addition, it might be useful for creating an autopilot-style “recommendation system” for novice glider pilots.

“In this work, we focused on how to find and navigate a single thermal,” Wong-Ng and Reddy said. “But migrating birds glide from one thermal to another, and how to do this efficiently is a line of work we plan to explore in the future. Another line of research is to track soaring birds and figure out if their navigational strategy is similar to the one we’ve found in our study.”

Along with the University of California, San Diego, other educational institutions involved in this research included the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy.

A paper describing the research was recently published in the journal Nature.

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26
Sep

How to navigate iOS 12 with the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR


This year, it’s out with the old and in with the new for Apple’s latest iPhones. Following the iPhone X, the company made a permanent switch to the same design for all its iPhones — an edge-to-edge display, notch at the top, and the removal of the Home button. While the updated design is a refreshing change, it might take some time to adjust to the new gestures and functions. To make the transition easier, we’ve put together a guide on how to navigate iOS 12 with the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR.

How to unlock the screen

Rather than using your fingerprint to unlock the device, now all you have to do is look at the screen. On the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR, Touch ID has been replaced with Face ID thanks to Apple’s TrueDepth technology.

You can set up your Face ID profile by going into your settings. It will then ask you to complete a series of movements, like rotating your head in a circular motion to capture all the angles of your face. Once it’s set up, you’ll be able to unlock your iPhone XS or XR by simply looking at the screen. With iOS 12, you can now add two different Face ID profiles to unlock your phone — for those who want to add another appearance.

How to switch between apps

Rather than double tapping on the home button to pull up all your open apps, you now have to use gestures. Prior to iOS 12, accessing the App Switcher required swiping up from the bottom edge of the device. Then, to close the apps you had to hold down on a specific app until the red minus appeared on the top left corner. Now, all you have to do is swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access all your open apps and switch between them. You can close apps by swiping up on each one.

How to activate Siri and open Apple Pay

To enable Siri, tap and hold the power button until you see the voice assistant appear on your display. Whenever you’re at the store and ready to pay for your items, you can conveniently pull up Apple Pay by double-tapping the power button.

How to take a screenshot

Taking a screenshot with the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR is easy — even with the absence of the Home button. Simply hold the power and volume up buttons at the same time. But make sure to only quickly tap the buttons — holding them down will pull up a window with options to power off your iPhone or use the Emergency SOS features. After taking the screenshot, you’re then able to mark up or edit the image before sending it.

How to open the Control Center and Notification Center

Getting used to the gestures on your new iPhone might be a little tricky, especially for those switching from any model that’s older than the iPhone X. For starters, accessing the Control Center requires swiping down from the top right corner on both the lock screen and home screen — rather than swiping up from the bottom as you normally would. The same goes for the Notification Center, but in this case you’ll have to swipe down from underneath the notch in the center or from the top left corner.

How to turn off the iPhone

Turning off the iPhone can be done by holding down the power button and the volume up or down button simultaneously. Don’t let go until you see the option to turn off the phone. You’re also provided with quick access to your Medical ID and Emergency SOS here.

How to use reachability

To use reachability on an older model of the iPhone, you’d normally tap the Home button twice, and this would allow you to pull the apps down from the top to the middle of the display — making it easy to tap on them.

With the iPhone XR’s 6.1-inch display and the 6.5-inch display on the XS Max, it might be even harder for those with smaller hands to reach certain apps. To use the reachability feature, you’ll have to make sure it’s turned on first. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Reachability and toggle the feature on. To access apps, swipe down on the horizontal bar at the bottom of the screen. To bring everything back into its place, swipe up about an inch above the bar or tap anywhere on the display.

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26
Sep

Apple Watch Series 4 Models Have Nearly 20% Less Battery Capacity Despite Same ‘Up to 18 Hours’ Battery Life


Earlier this week, iFixit completed a teardown of an Apple Watch Series 4 that said the 44mm model has roughly four percent more battery capacity, but that was compared to a 38mm-sized Apple Watch Series 3 model.

An eagle-eyed MacRumors reader has since pointed us towards Apple’s Product Information Sheet, which contains battery capacities measured in watt-hours for several products, including Apple Watch Series 4 models. Apple appears to disclose this information for legal and safety reasons.

Based on Apple’s document, Apple Watch Series 4 models actually have less battery capacity than the equivalent Series 3 models:

  • Apple Watch Series 3 (42mm): 1.34 watt-hours
  • Apple Watch Series 4 (44mm): 1.12 watt-hours
  • Apple Watch Series 3 (38mm): 1.07 watt-hours
  • Apple Watch Series 4 (40mm): 0.86 watt-hours

More specifically, the new 44mm Series 4 models have approximately 16.5 percent less battery capacity than the previous large-size 42mm Series 3 models. Likewise, 40mm Series 4 models have approximately 19.7 percent less battery capacity than the previous small-size 38mm Series 3 models.

Despite having smaller batteries, Apple says Series 4 models get the same all-day battery life of up to 18 hours that Series 3 models are rated for. We reached out to Apple in hopes of an explanation, but we have yet to receive a response.

What we do know is that Apple Watch Series 4 models use a new display technology named LTPO that improves power efficiency. The new Apple S4 system-in-a-package also has more efficient cores, so they presumably consume less power as well. Other components could be more efficient too.

In general, however, battery life is simply hard to predict. Different customers have different use cases. One user could be an athlete who is constantly working out with the Apple Watch, while another could be a more casual wearer who taps on a few notifications once in a while and not much else.

All in all, we wanted to clear up some confusion surrounding the Apple Watch Series 4 batteries. They pack less juice, not more, but seemingly without compromising battery life. Over time, we’ll see if that’s truly the case.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 5Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)
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26
Sep

Apple Seeds First Beta of macOS Mojave 10.14.1 to Developers


Apple today seeded the first beta of an upcoming macOS Mojave 10.14.1 update to developers, just one day after releasing the macOS Mojave update.

macOS Mojave introduces a new method of installing software updates, so after the initial beta has been installed using the appropriate profile from the Developer Center, additional betas can be downloaded through opening up System Preferences and choosing the “Software Update” option.

It’s not yet clear what improvements the first update to macOS Mojave will bring, but it likely includes performance improvements and bug fixes for issues that weren’t addressed in the first release of macOS Mojave. It also likely re-introduces support for Group FaceTime, a feature that was removed during the beta testing period. Group FaceTime, which lets you chat with up to 32 people at once, is also present in the iOS 12.1 beta.

macOS Mojave is a major update that brings features like a systemwide Dark Mode, stacks for organizing messy desktops, new Finder capabilities, new tools for taking screenshots, a Continuity Camera option for easily transferring photo scans and documents from iPhone to Mac, and more.

Should we find new notable features in the first beta of macOS 10.14.1, we’ll update this post.

Related Roundup: macOS Mojave
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26
Sep

iPhone XS Max Component Costs Estimated at $443


The iPhone XS Max with 256GB of storage costs an estimated $443 to make, according to estimates shared by TechInsights in a teardown of the new device. At $443, the iPhone XS Max components are nearly $50 more expensive than the estimated $395.44 component cost of the 64GB iPhone X.

TechInsight’s component cost breakdown suggests the iPhone XS Max display is the most expensive component in the device at $80.50, while the A12 chip and modems are the second most expensive, at $72.

iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max internals, via iFixit
Storage, priced at $64 is the third most expensive component, while other expensive parts include the cameras at $44 and the housing and mechanical components at $55.

The iPhone XS Max housing, display, battery, and memory are all more expensive than similar components in the iPhone X, largely due to the size increase in the new 6.5-inch device. The housing, for example, is larger and heavier, while the display is also larger.

According to TechInsights, Apple cut down on display cost in the iPhone XS Max by removing some 3D Touch components that were previously included in the iPhone X, but that does not appear to have affected 3D Touch functionality in the new iPhone XS Max.

In a statement provided to Reuters, Al Cowsky, who oversees the cost analysis at TechInsights, said Apple took out components worth up to $10, cutting the cost of the iPhone XS Max display to $80.

TechInsights’ component cost estimates, click to enlarge
Apple is charging $100 more for the iPhone XS Max than it did for the iPhone X, with the device priced starting at $1,099, while the iPhone X, like the new iPhone XS, started at $999.

Component cost estimates from companies like TechInsights only took at the pricing of raw components and do not take into account other iPhone manufacturing expenses like research and development, software creation, advertising, and distribution.

TechInsights itself warns that its cost estimates are compiled using the information available at the time of the initial teardown, with “some assumptions” made where concrete data is not yet available. The company plans to continue to refine its estimate over time.

Last year, when the iPhone X was first released, TechInsights estimated the component cost at $357.50, a number that has now gone up to an estimated $395.44, so there can be quite a bit of variance in these early guesses.

While interesting, device cost estimates are not an accurate measurement of Apple’s overall profit margin for the iPhone XS Max, nor do they offer a clear picture of the overall cost of creating a new smartphone.

Back in 2015, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that cost breakdowns for devices are not reflective of actual costs. “I’ve never seen one that is anywhere close to being accurate,” he said.

Buyer’s Guide: iPhone XS (Buy Now)
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26
Sep

Xiaomi Pocophone F1 review: A $1000 phone with a $300 price tag?


Generally speaking, if a phone launches a Snapdragon 845 (currently the best mobile processor on the market) 6GB RAM (the gold standard of mobile memory) and most of the must-have amenities of modern smartphones, you’d expect to drop about $700 on it – like the Samsung Galaxy S9, or LG G7, perhaps. If you’re phone-savvy, you might even save a couple hundred bucks on a Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S or a OnePlus 6.

But $300? For those specs? All but unheard of.

We’d like to thank our friends at GearVita for supplying the device for this review. We’ve placed a link at the end of the review if you’d like to purchase the Xiaomi Pocophone F1 from GearVita.

At least, so we thought. The Pocophone F1 (from the aforementioned Chinese tech giant Xiaomi) crams flagship-caliber hardware into bargain bin pricing, while simultaneously cutting very few corners in the process. Released in August and starting at just $300 for the base model, the F1 features a very impressive spec-sheet worthy of a phone twice its price.

Pocophone F1 Specs At-A-Glance

  • Display: 6.18″, 1080p IPS LCD (82.2% screen-to-body ratio)
  • Platform: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 CPU, Adreno 630 GPU
  • Memory: 6+64/128GB or 8+256GB RAM/ROM (expandable)
  • Rear camera: 12+5MP, f/1.9, 1/2.55″, 1.4µm
  • Front-facing camera: 20 MP, f/2.0, 0.9µ
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5, WiFi 802.11ac
  • Audio: 3.5mm jack, “Stereo” Speakers (see below)
  • Battery: 4,000mAh battery
  • Build materials: Plastic Body, Gorilla Glass display
  • Measurements: 6.12 x 2.96 x 0.35 in, 6.35 oz

Display

The Pocophone F1 has a surprisingly solid display, under the circumstances. It features a 6.2″ 1080p screen, which is going to perfectly adequate for the majority of consumers. Indoors, the display is pretty bright. But outdoors, in the direct California summer sunshine, it’s just a hair dim.

If you compare it to other flagships on the market – most notably the AMOLED King itself, Samsung – it falls a bit short. But (and I cannot and will not emphasize this enough) you’d be hard-pressed to find a phone with a better display at this price point – or even double that – than this phone.

According to the good folks over at Android Central, POCO considered using an AMOLED display but decided on an IPS LCD instead. This concession helped keep the cost of the phone – and therefore the resulting price – down.

Hardware

When it comes to hardware, the Pocophone F1 features specifications normally reserved for a phone double or triple its price. At its core is the beastly Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 System on a Chip (SoC) complete with Adreno 630 graphics.

The rest of the F1’s specs are equally impressive – it packs 6 or 8 gigs of LPDDR4X RAM and 64, 128 or 256GB of UFS2.1 Flash Storage – more high-end gifts from Xiaomi. It features Bluetooth 5.0 and 802.11ac WiFi courtesy of its Snapdragon 845, as well as a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor and front-mounted InfraRed (IR) scanner.

The latter of these modules is sourced directly from Xiaomi’s Mi 8, along with the 20MP selfie camera (more on that later).

All of these fancy part numbers and buzzwords are great and all, but how does it run? In a single word; Great.

With a ridiculous 285k aggregate AnTuTu score, it lands squarely between the OnePlus 6 (286k) and the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (283k). That’s pretty great company to be in.

Granted, that metric only measures raw processing power and doesn’t take into account things like firmware and the performance of accessory modules. But my daily use over the past week and a half or so back up those numbers; this thing really cooks.

With far and above the best mobile processor on the market and better than average room and storage, it begs the question; how did Poco manage to pull it off?

How, Indeed

The answer lies in Poco’s parent company – Chinese tech super-giant Xiaomi. Poco’s Head of Product, Jai Mani, tells Android Central that Xiaomi is one of Qualcomm’s biggest purchasers of 800-series Snapdragon processors. As such, by ordering in large quantities and negotiating hard, Xiaomi is able to get a much lower price-per-unit than other OEMs. That, combined POCO’s adoption of Xiaomi’s policy to never making more than 5% profit on hardware sales, helps make that $300 unicorn-grade pricing a reality rather than a pipe dream.

This is a theme that’ll likely recur throughout this review – many of POCO’s hardware components are sourced directly from Xiaomi or, even more deviously, cannibalized directly from other Xiaomi phones.

Build

One area a $300 flagship-killing phone would struggle, one might correctly guess, is in its build quality. The Pocophone F1 features a polycarbonate body – a purely cost-saving measure that’s significantly cheaper than making the body from glass, ceramic or aluminum.

POCO also opted to use Gorilla Glass 3 rather than a more modern standard for its display, which is nearly three generations old at this point.

In the short time I’ve used the Pocophone F1, it’s picked up more scratches than any of my phones in the past few years. Whether that’s simply bad luck or the fact that POCO used an outdated material, I don’t know – but it’s definitely one of two disappointing spots in my time with the F1 – an otherwise stellar device.

I won’t sugar coat it for you, the “Stereo” speakers on the Pocophone F1 are not great. In anything other than a quiet room you’ll struggle to hear it even on max volume – and I use “Stereo” in quotes because while the phone has two speaker grates on the bottom, there’s only one speaker in there.

Covering up the right one makes sound all but muffled, while covering up the left one doesn’t impact sound in the least. It’s a fake speaker grate, and marketing the phone as having Stereo speakers is rather disingenuous of Xiaomi.

Connectivity

The other of these disappointments, unfortunately, the F1’s connectivity standards and performance. The skinny of it is that neither the Indian nor International versions of the phone support the LTE bands that US carriers use to power their LTE networks.

It supports most GSM bands for 3G networks here in the states – including the oft-labled HSPA+ “4G” ones – but none of the true LTE bands. In practice, this means that US-based consumers won’t be able to make use of the fastest speeds available to T-Mobile or AT&T customers.

It’s a huge bummer.

And unfortunately, LTE bands aren’t the only problem with the F1’s connectivity. Despite its Bluetooth 5.0 chip, it does not appear to support the Enhanced Media aspects of the Bluetooth 4+ series.

It struggles to both pair and stay connected to my ’15 Honda Fit, as well as my Jabra Elite 65t earphones, the latter of which does not display its battery life as it does with other devices.

These problems can – and may – be fixed with firmware and software updates, but at the moment it leaves a lot to be desired. I’ll be sure to update you if that changes.

Camera

As with its build, one might guess that in order to achieve that wildly-competitive price point, POCO would sacrifice camera performance. But – unlike Build – one would be wrong, in this case. The Pocophone F1’s rear camera is adopted from the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S – which is to say, it’s quite good.

The front camera is the same 20MP sensor you’d find on the Xiaomi Mi 8, which – combined with the aforementioned IR sensor from the same phone – makes up that now infamous notched display.

As you’d expect from a sensor adopted from the Mi Mix 2S, the Pocophone F1 shoots excellent still shots, in all shooting conditions. Video doesn’t perform quite that well, but is still very much above average – especially for the price.

As is typical of a Xiaomi-made phone, the Pocophone F1 has a plethora of shooting modes and options, many of which will never be touched by the average consumer.

Pocophone F1 Sample Shots Album

Value

Do I really need to push this point home further? It’s a $300 phone. With $1000 guts.

It’s an absolutely amazing value, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Google’s Nexus line of phones. It’s got a couple warts, sure. But, as a whole – and perhaps representing the first effort in a new line of value phones – the Pocophone F1 is stellar.

Verdict

As it stands right this second, the F1 is worth a buy if you live anywhere not named the U.S. of A. Its lack of support for LTE bands really puts a damper on its usability in the States; but if you live in a supported country, it’s honestly an unbeatable value.

Buy it.

Again, we’d like to thank our friends at GearVita for supplying this device for review. If you’d like to pick up a Pocophone F1, head over to GearVita and pick yours up today.

Make no mistake, though – if this experiment by Xiaomi is a success, and POCO decides to release an F2, or add a F1 North American Edition to its lineup, the Pocophone F-series could explode onto the phone scene in a way we haven’t yet seen from a Chinese OEM.

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