Huawei is probably best known for its Leica-branded smartphones aimed at high-end users, but its e-commerce brand Honor has also been busy entertaining affordable markets with some surprisingly nice devices — namely the 8 and the Note 8. To wrap up the year, today the company announced the Honor Magic to showcase some of its latest goodies. “This is an experimental product of ours,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group. “This concept phone will help us pre-evaluate uncertain future technologies.” In a nutshell, the Magic is a mix of fresh design, faster charging tech, smarter assistant and interesting improvements on other aspects of user experience.
First and foremost, the device comes with a nice 5.09-inch AMOLED curved display with QHD resolution (577 ppi), and Honor took one step further by also curving the top side. These three round edges are mirrored to the phone’s glass back, so if it weren’t for the metallic chin and mid-frame, the Magic would resemble a piece of polished black pebble. And because of the moderate body size plus the curved back, the Magic feels nice in my hand.
To my surprise, the Magic is powered by an aging Kirin 950 — the same octa-core SoC inside last year’s Mate 8 — which is quite disappointing for a “concept phone.” That said, it still comes with 4GB of RAM plus 64GB of internal storage, the same set of cameras as the Honor 8 (a 12-megapixel f/2.2 dual-lens camera plus an 8-megapixel f/2.4 selfie camera), global LTE bands and dual SIM connectivity (but secondary SIM is limited to 2G). Gone are the usual Android navigation keys below the screen; they are all rolled into the multi-function fingerprint reader on the front: Press for home, double tap to show recent apps and swipe left to go back. I’m not a fan of this implementation, but it does free up some space on the bezel for easier holding.
The 2,900 mAh battery here may not sound so appealing when many of the latest flagship phones are offering an extra 300 to 800 mAh more juice, but the focus here is actually on the battery’s new graphite structure courtesy of Huawei’s 2012 Lab. According to internal tests, a 10-minute charge can already get a depleted battery back to 40 percent, whereas a 20-minute charge gets you up to 70 percent. Based on our quick percentage conversion, this appears to be breaking the record previously set by the Moto Z Force and its 30W charger. And for those who are wondering, Honor pointed out that there are protection mechanisms in the phone, the charger and even the bundled cable to keep you safe.
One less noticeable addition on the Magic is the infrared camera on the front, which makes use of Tobii’s eye-tracking algorithm. When you pick up the phone, the screen will automatically turn on only when you’re looking at it. This means you won’t have to find the power button while picking up the phone. On top of that there’s the FaceCode feature: The notification content on the lock screen is hidden by default, but it’s automatically displayed when the phone recognizes your registered face.
Things get even more interesting on the software side. Honor’s Magic Live UI is based on Android 6.0 and packs many situation-aware features. My favorite one is the lock screen shortcut key that’s automatically generated based on one’s daily habit. For instance, over time the phone will learn that when you go to work at 8AM you tend to listen to music, so it’ll show the music app’s icon in the bottom left corner of the lock screen around that time; at noon you tend to use a restaurant guide app to find a spot for lunch, so the shortcut will be there for you then; and so on. Another useful scenario is when you whip out the phone in the dark, that same spot will give you the flashlight button just in case.
The Magic’s lock screen also automatically brings up relevant information based on your location, messages and purchase history. Say when you’re off to pick up a parcel from the courier, the phone will load up your parcel’s tracking number as you approach one of the designated collection points. Likewise with electronic boarding passes when you’re at the airport, and the same goes for movie tickets when you’re at the cinema. Soon after booking a cab through an app — Didi Chuxing, in this case — the lock screen will also retain the driver’s details until your ride starts. All of this is a bit like Google Now but without having to unlock your phone (and besides, Google Now doesn’t work in China unless you use VPN).
The list of intelligent features on the Magic doesn’t stop there, so we’ll keep it brief: There’s driving detection to remind the user to switch to the driving interface (Motorola did this first with the Moto X back in 2013); when on WeChat, the default keyboard recommends an answer whenever you get a generic question — be it about the weather or an address; and long press the home button to toggle DeepThink on-screen keyword search (which is Huawei’s own take on Google Now’s screen search feature).
Alas, unlike previous Honor devices, the Magic doesn’t come cheap: It’s priced at 3,699 yuan which is about $530 — just a tad more expensive than Xiaomi’s very own “concept phone,” the Mi MIX. Not that it matters for most of us, anyway, as we understand that much like the Mi MIX, the Magic won’t be available outside China. But if all goes well, some of the aforementioned features may eventually end up on future Huawei-branded devices, so just sit back and let others be Huawei’s guinea pigs for the time being.
Twitter’s October announcement that it would be shutting down its popular Vine feature drew criticism from across the internet — and apparently that collective outrage worked. The company published a Medium post on Friday stating that while the Vine hosting service would still be going away, the ability to record and save six-second videos would not
— Vine (@vine) December 16, 2016
Beginning in January, users will be able to download Vine Camera — a pared down version of the previous app — for both iOS and Android. The new app will record six-second videos but, rather than post them on the Vine website, they’ll be saved to either the phone’s local storage or posted directly to Twitter. Vines that were posted to the Vine.co website before the October announcement will also be made available for download. What’s more, the company will also be making it easier for Vine creators to build their audience on Twitter (instead of, say, Giphy) through an upcoming “Follow on Twitter” notification.
Via: Vine (Twitter)
Israeli forensics company Cellebrite helped the FBI access the contents of a suspect’s iPhone 5c following the shooting in San Bernardino last year. Now India is in talks to buy the company’s tech that will allow it to unlock phones and other devices. The Economic Times reports that India’s Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) is purchasing the tool and should have it in hand within a month. What’s more, the FSL says India will be “a global hub for cases where law enforcement is unable to break into phones.” In other words, the India government will lend a hand to other countries that need to crack encrypted devices.
The Economic Times reports that the Indian government has already enlisted help from Cellebrite in “a few cases,” but now it will have the encryption cracking tech on hand to use as needed. Details are scarce on if the country will be the exclusive owner of the technology or under what circumstances it will make the resource available to other governments around the world. It’s also not a done deal yet, but FSL officials seem confident the government will complete the purchase soon. There’s no word on how much the transaction will cost, but the FBI paid Cellebrite over $1 million for its services in the San Bernardino case.
Source: The Economic Times
October 9th marked Hugo Barra’s third year at Xiaomi, and as its Global Vice President, he watched the company evolve from a China-centric smartphone e-tailer to an IoT ecosystem with a growing international footprint. Xiaomi’s recently entered Russia, Mexico and the Middle East, with Poland, Vietnam, Thailand plus a couple other Latin American markets next on the docket. But the long list is still missing one key region: the US. While the ex-Googler continues to stay mum on a launch date, he did reveal to Engadget that his team has already started testing phones in America. Such commitment is an important milestone ahead of the notoriously tough US carrier lab tests.
You see, US mobile networks use odd bands that aren’t widely adopted in most parts of the world. So, to ensure compatibility, the local major carriers are notoriously tough when it comes to testing phones that want to be deployed across their networks. The well-established mobile companies are happy to oblige, of course, because selling their devices through the big US carriers guarantees sales volume due to their channels and customer base. More importantly, they’re already familiar with the process and requirements; whereas Xiaomi, a relatively newcomer, is not.
A US launch may happen as soon as 2017.
This means Barra and his team have to practically start from scratch, in the sense that they have to learn everything about the testing methods and be physically set up shop in the US. The company has embraced the idea of going global under Barra’s guidance, and Xiaomi is finally willing to make the investment, but he reckoned it will take a year or two before the company is ready for the US. Barra didn’t reveal when exactly his team started this project, but based on his mention of a couple of test devices, my guess is that a US launch may happen as soon as 2017.
“Earlier this year we had a special version of Mi 5 that we made just for testing in the US, just so that we can start testing and doing small-field trials to sharpen our chops, if you will,” Barra said. “And now we have Mi Note 2 which is another device that we can use for some field testing in the US. That’s again just another small step in the right direction or in the direction of being able to launch full-on products there.”
Of course, Xiaomi could just follow other Chinese brands and sell directly to US consumers. After all, Xiaomi is already offering its accessories and 4K Android TV box in its US online store (and also Walmart for the latter). But judging by Barra’s emphasis on the carrier lab tests, his company appears to have already made up its mind. To make his point, Barra brought up how a Chinese brand — no names mentioned here — launched a phone in the US almost a year ago, but “it ended up being a complete flop.” The reason was simple: It lacked Band 17 which is used on AT&T’s LTE network, but said brand wrongly assumed that it wouldn’t be an issue at the time (so it’s pretty obvious which phone that was). Had that company worked more closely with either AT&T or T-Mobile, it would have been a completely different story.
“We’re not going to launch something until we’re ready,” Barra said in reference to the technical preparation and team bandwidth required for a US launch.
We’re used to surprise announcements at Xiaomi events, but this time, it’s a rather special one. After showing off the Mi Note 2, the company unveiled the Mi MIX “concept phone” — one that’s headlining with a cool 6.4-inch, edge-to-edge 1080p LCD (even at the top two round corners, and without using the old optical illusion trick). The high-end device also features a glossy full ceramic body and buttons, with no earpiece or proximity sensor, allowing for a cleaner look on the device’s top edge. And, naturally, as flagship phone it has flagship specs. For a moment there, we were wondering why Xiaomi would spend so much time talking about a concept phone, but then, as a final surprise, we learned it’s something people will actually be able to buy.
According to Global VP Hugo Barra, the Mi MIX was kept under wraps before launch, to the point where CEO Lei Jun didn’t even use the relevant slides during rehearsal. It’s no wonder, then, that were no leaks about the device. The closest I got was a rumor — which turned out to be false — about Xiaomi launching two versions of the Mi Note 2: one curved and one flat.
Xiaomi’s collaboration with famed French designer Philippe Starck on the Mi MIX was another surprise. Barra said the project started in 2014, with Starck’s main contribution being that he helped set the high-level direction for the team. Later on, he was heavily involved in guiding the device’s look and feel. While sharing the stage with Lei, Starck took the opportunity to express his fondness of the ceramic edition Mi 5, which was Xiaomi’s first attempt at using this fancy-looking material. By comparison, the ceramic edition Mi 5 was apparently more difficult to manufacture than the Mi MIX, due to the body’s 3D curve.
Going back to the Mi MIX, you’ll see that the earpiece and infrared proximity sensor have been removed from the top to make way for the edge-to-edge display. It’s so expansive, in fact, that it occupies a whopping 91.3 percent of the available surface space. These features are replaced by a cantilever piezoelectric actuator behind the glass to produce both audible sound for phone calls. There’s also ultrasound for proximity sensing — a first for smartphones. The latter is powered by Elliptic Labs’ cunningly-named “Inner Beauty” software solution (because it contributes to the device’s outer beauty, get it?), but as simple as it sounds, this Norwegian startup has been working on this technology with Xiaomi since the end of 2014.
“Qualcomm tried to do this but they pulled out of this market,” Elliptic Labs CEO Laila Danielsen told Engadget. “We know that many other smartphone manufacturers have been trying to do that, but they’re not able to because it’s really difficult,” she added, referring to how you’d need a sophisticated algorithm to address the distortion when the signal travels through glass.
Danielsen believes that a Norwegian company like hers is more likely to succeed in this field thanks to the local expertise on ultrasound technology, which is used in the region for fishing, healthcare and seismic analysis. Now, with the launch of the Mi MIX, Elliptic Labs is apparently already 16 to 18 months ahead of the competition as it has the automatic testing tools plus scalability. Its next goal: to bring ultrasonic gesture control to smartphones as well.
The rest of the Mi MIX is just as impressive. This Android phone features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipset clocked at 2.35GHz, along with either 4GB or 6GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 128GB or 256GB of UFS 2.0 storage, a massive 4,400mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 support, a fingerprint reader, NFC, HD audio playback, a 16-megapixel main camera and a tiny custom-made 5-megapixel selfie camera (the module is half the size of conventional ones). Like the Mi Note 2, the Mi MIX also supports LTE Cat 11 with download speeds of up to 600Mbps using tri-carrier aggregation.
Combining these great specs with such an ambitious design, it’s only fair for Barra to call this phone the “Formula One” product from Xiaomi. Still, there’s no doubt that the Chinese company will also continue to serve the mainstream market — after all, it does have some catching up to do if it wants to gain Chinese marketshare. Even so, devices like the Mi MIX feel refreshing at a time when the market for phones — and the rate of innovation, for that matter — is otherwise slowing.
The Mi MIX will be available in China on November 4th. The base model costs 3,499 yuan (around $516), while the top-end model — which sports 18-karat gold rims around the main camera and fingerprint reader — is priced at 3,999 yuan, or about $590. These cost a good deal more than what Xiaomi usually asks for, but given the unique design and specs, the price is still reasonable compared to other phones, and will probably indeed sell well in a country where Xiaomi has already won many fans.
It was only last month when Xiaomi launched the Mi 5s and Mi 5s Plus, but the Chinese company is already back with yet another flagship model. What we have here is the Mi Note 2 which, as you can tell by the name, is all about its large 5.7-inch 1080p display and generous 4,070 mAh battery. If it weren’t for the missing stylus, you’d easily confuse the Mi Note 2 with the Samsung S7 Edge or Note 7: It comes in a familiarly gorgeous body design with curved glass on both sides, and yes, much like Samsung’s offerings, the Mi Note 2 features a flexible OLED screen that lightly wraps around the edges, though it’s just for looks for now. Not bad for a phone that starts from 2,799 yuan or about $413.
As a flagship phone, the specs should come as no surprise: Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 821 chipset (2.35GHz; same as the Mi 5s Plus), from 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, from 64GB of UFS 2.0 storage, NFC, Quick Charge 3.0 and HD audio playback (192kHz/24 bit). Xiaomi is pitching the Mi Note 2 as a “business flagship” so roaming support is obviously very important: It does LTE Cat 11 with up to 600Mbps downlink using tri-carrier aggregation, and its top model supports 37 bands (22 of which are LTE) which matches the iPhone 7 Plus and beats the Huawei P9 Plus’ 32 bands.
On the photography side, the Mi Note 2’s main camera has opted for a higher resolution — using the 22.56-megapixel Sony IMX318 sensor — instead of larger pixels like the Mi 5s series has. While it doesn’t have optical stabilization (nor laser auto-focus for that matter), it does offer electronic image stabilization for 4K video capture. As for the front-facing camera, we have an 8-megapixel f/2.0 imager with Sony’s IMX268 plus auto-focus — which is still a missing feature on many selfie cameras. Not only does this come with Xiaomi’s third-gen beautification software, it also has a cool feature which makes sure everyone in the shot isn’t blinking: This is achieved by taking burst shots, and then the software picks the best shot and also replace the faces of whoever blinked with the correct ones from other shots.
Due to the more complicated manufacturing methods for this design, the Mi Note 2 costs a little but more than Xiaomi’s typical price points. The base model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage is going for 2,799 yuan or about $413, then the next model up with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage costs 3,299 yuan or about $490, and finally we have the ultimate model with the same specs but also with global bands asking for 3,499 yuan or about $516. It comes in Piano Black and Glacier Silver, but the latter won’t be available for another two to three weeks. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to buy this phone in the US, but you’re bound to find one from online importers.
Hong Kong’s Sincere Podium is home to all manner of mobile devices — be it second-hand phones, imported handsets (mainly from Japan and Korea), spare parts and even prototypes once in a while. This time, the mall appears to be the last place in the city — if not the world — to still be openly selling the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 despite the worldwide recall. Over the weekend, I came across a shop with a glass cabinet full of boxes for the 64GB Note 7, with a bright sticker on one of them saying “Samsung Note 7 dealer goods: Special offer” in Chinese. I didn’t think much of it and simply tweeted a couple of photos, only to be surprised by the posts’ traction over the last two days.
Before I go further, I should probably explain why the amusing sight was only tweet-worthy to me at the time. You see, Sincere Podium is also occupied by several scapler shops — stores that let people trade in their practically new, fully boxed devices (usually iPhones and flagship Samsung phones) for cash, and then the devices are smuggled into Mainland China, earning a profit by dodging the heavy import tax. It’s a shady but lucrative business, which is why smugglers try their best to walk naturally into Shenzhen with iPhones strapped around their waist and limbs; but I’ve heard crazier stories in the past too.
The shop in question was also a scalper. I can’t remember exactly how long it’s been around, but I know that it has always been the only shop in the mall that openly offered to buy up flagship Samsung phones (before the Note 7, the cabinet had boxes of S7 and Note 5 instead). In this case, the shop was clearly having a hard time getting rid of its stock of Note 7, but it was otherwise business as usual, as people kept coming over with their boxed-up iPhones asking for trade-in prices. These prices can fluctuate by the hour, by the way — it all comes down to demand in Shenzen.
Given everyone’s curiosity and amusement on Twitter, I had to do what was right. Today, I went back to said shop and asked how much the abruptly discontinued phones were going for. The answer? A whopping HK$5,980 or about $770 a piece, which isn’t that much of a “special offer” considering that the original off-contract price was HK$6,198 or about $799. It appears that the shop is keen to recover most of its money from these leftover devices.
I then walked around the mall and found two more shops that were also still selling the Note 7, albeit more discreetly — simply by way of a dummy Note 7 without the price listed on it. One shop was offering “brand new” Note 7 units for HK$6,298 — yes, HK$100 or about $13 more than the original price — while the other was asking for a more reasonable HK$5,200 (about $670) for the Korean Note 7, which only has 32GB of internal storage.
As I stood in front of the first shop, one of the guys behind the counter implied that since their Note 7 units come with their original receipts, you could take them to their original resellers for an exchange or a refund. But if that’s the case, why didn’t the shop just bring these devices back to their original shops for a refund? I suspect there are two reasons: One is that if the devices were bought with credit cards, then chances are the shops would simply refund with credit instead of cash.
Secondly, it’s likely that some of these phones were subsidized by local carriers, so even if these carriers were willing to give a cash refund, it would probably be of much less value than what the shop paid its trade-in customers. In other words, the shop is probably better off trying to sell these phones to clueless people (which is totally not OK) or to those who are seeking one as a collector’s item (I advise against this).
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything that Samsung can do about this gray market. In a statement to Engadget, the company’s Hong Kong division said it had already asked “authorised retailers” (note the use of “authorised”) and distributors to stop selling the Note 7 as of October 11th. It also stressed that “consumers should buy Samsung products only from Hong Kong and Macau authorized retailers / distributors / resellers,” and that “the Galaxy Note 7 should not be used nor purchased by consumers for their safety.”
As in most regions, customers who bought a Note 7 from an authorized retailer in Hong Kong are eligible for a refund or an exchange from its shop of origin, provided they have a receipt with a matching IMEI number printed on it.
Google announced via Twitter on Thursday that its forthcoming VR rig, the Pixel-powered Daydream View is now available for pre-order. The offer currently only extends to customers in the US, the United Kingdom and Germany. The Daydream will retail for $80 and can be ordered from either Verizon or Google itself. The headset relies on the new Google Pixel phone to generate VR images so you’re going to want to make sure you have one of those before plunking down your cash for this gadget. The headset is slated to ship in November.
The company also announced that its Chromecast Ultra is available for preorder. This 4K-capable streaming dongle retails for $70 at the Google Store. You can also pick one up from Best Buy, Wallmart, Target and Staples. It too is set to begin shipping next month.
Source: Google (twitter)
Sony debuted its latest handsets back at IFA and now the duo will soon debut in the US. The flagship Xperia XZ is slated to arrive October 2nd at Amazon, Best Buy and other retailers. Priced at $700 unlocked, the unlocked model supports GSM networks while packing in a 5.2-inch 1080p display, Snapdragon 820, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage that can be expanded via a microSD slot. The XZ also has a USB-C port to keep up with the times and features like 4K video and enhanced image stabilization for its 23-megapixel camera. It’s also IP65/IP68 dust-tight and water resistant for added protection from the elements and any unforeseen accidents.
The mid-range Xperia X Compact will go on sale September 25th in the States, a few weeks after making its debut in the UK. A smaller 4.6-inch device, the X Compact is priced at $500 unlocked with a 720p display and the same 32GB of storage, a microSD card slot and a USB Type-C jack as the Xperia XZ. The GSM-compatible X Compact also touts that 5-axis video stabilization that Sony offers on the larger phone. All of features are driven by a Snapdragon 650 chipset alongside 3GB of RAM and an Adreno 510 GPU. And yes, the same 23-megapixel camera that’s on the XZ is here as well. If you can’t wait an extra week for the XZ, the X Compact still offers some of the same features as its bigger and pricier companion.
Just because Xiaomi is selling Segways, drones, bicycles and rice cookers these days doesn’t mean that it’s forgotten what it started off with years ago: mobile phones. Today, the Chinese company announced the Redmi Pro which is the latest smartphone in its entry-level portfolio. As suggested by the name, this device packs some surprising features that make it stand out from its predecessors: This is the first time that Xiaomi’s featuring an OLED display plus a dual-camera setup on a device, which is a surprising move given that these are headed to the affordable Redmi line instead of the flagship Mi line. The price? From 1,499 yuan which is about $225.
The Redmi Pro comes in a gold- or silver-colored brushed metallic unibody — a real bonus at this price point — and packs a 5.5-inch 1080p OLED display (with full NTSC gamut), a fingerprint reader plus a 5-megapixel selfie camera on the front side. Flip it over and you’ll find a Mi 5-like curved back sans glass, along with a dual camera featuring a 13-megapixel Sony IMX258 main sensor plus a 5-megapixel Samsung assistive sensor for bokeh effects. Like many earlier dual-camera phones, here you can change the focus point on the image even after capturing; and there’s a dual-tone LED flash, too. There’s also a generous 4,050mAh battery inside — similar to the one in the very recent Redmi 3S — with fast charging via the USB Type-C port. Likewise, the Redmi Pro has the same IR blaster as the Redmi 3S which lets you control your TV and home appliances.
Given the base price point, it’s no surprise that the Redmi Pro is powered by a MediaTek chipset. The base spec starts with the 10-core Helio X20 plus 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM (1,499 yuan/about $225), followed by the faster Helio X25, 64GB of storage plus 3GB of RAM (1,699 yuan/about $255), and capping with the same chipset, 128GB of storage plus 4GB of RAM (1,999 yuan/about $300). As with most Chinese and Indian smartphones these days, the Redmi Pro is a dual-SIM 4G+ device (VoLTE supported), though you can also use the second SIM slot to add a microSD card instead.
1.21 Redmi devices were sold every second over the past three years.
For those who aren’t familiar, Xiaomi launched the Redmi line back in 2013 to tap into the low-end market, i.e. the sub-1,000 yuan or $150 price point. This was achieved with minimal advertising plus cheaper components, but without sacrificing build quality (and hopefully reliability). Unsurprisingly, the sub-brand has done very well in terms of volume — a total of 110 million Redmi devices have been sold as of July 11th, meaning 1.21 units were sold every second over the past three years.
The Redmi Pro marks a significant change for the sub-brand as it’s the first Xiaomi product to feature celebrity spokespersons (which obviously requires money) plus traditional advertisements across the country (I saw them at the bus stations and elevators in Beijing). Price bump aside, such move appears to be taking a page out of the books of local rivals Huawei, Oppo and Vivo — all of which beat Xiaomi in global shipment volumes earlier this year — who are well-versed in conventional marketing tactics plus offline retail in their home country. This works particularly well in the second- and third-tier Chinese cities, which are no doubt where the Redmi brand performs well.
Unfortunately, there’s no word on when to expect the Redmi Pro to hit the markets outside China, but we’re pretty sure it’ll eventually land in India plus other developing markets. Or you can just fly yourself to China for a quick shopping trip, if you don’t mind taking a break from Pokémon Go for a few days.