Huawei needs new tricks to differentiate its products from the crowd of Chinese phones permeating the US market, and it’s turning to artificial intelligence to set it apart. The Mate 9 is a new Android device that offers a “Machine Learning Algorithm” that purports to learn your habits over time and optimize performance so that the device is more responsive. The Mate 9, which is expected to arrive in the US soon (although the exact timing is unknown), also has one of the largest displays on the market. We don’t yet know how much it’ll cost in the US, but we expect the Mate 9 to sell for about the same as it does in Europe (€699), which would make it slightly more affordable than other leading big-screen flagships too. That, along with the promised performance boost and supposedly safer battery tech, might be reason enough to consider the Mate 9 as your next large-screen smartphone.
Huawei has proven in recent years that it is capable of crafting a gorgeous device. The Mate 9 is another example of this though its design is reminiscent of other Android phones such as the ZTE Axon 7 and Huawei’s own P9. The all-metal unibody, rounded corners, sloping back and shiny silver accents give it a premium, modern look. My review unit is silver, but gray, gold, white and black are also available.
The Mate 9 has a relatively large 5.9-inch screen, but the phone doesn’t feel much bigger than competing devices with 5.5-inch displays. There are no physical keys on the device’s front, and you’ll have to rely on software buttons to get around the interface.
On the Mate 9’s back sits a dual-lens camera, with the word Leica faintly printed in between the two sensors. Below that is a slightly indented pinkie-sized fingerprint sensor; the rest of the phone’s matte rear has a smooth texture. The phone’s left edge houses a dual-SIM tray, and one of the slots is also capable of holding a microSD card. At the bottom is a USB-C port for charging and data transfer, and on the top edge is (you can breathe a sigh of relief here) a 3.5mm headphone jack. Huawei didn’t make any drastic changes to its overall aesthetic; this handset looks a lot like its predecessor and the P9 and falls in line with what we’ve come to expect from the Chinese phone maker.
Now, if you want the Mate 9 in a fancier chassis, you should consider the Porsche Design version, which will be available for €1,395 in Europe later this month, and globally (except the US) in January. Despite having the same guts as the regular Mate 9, this model is slightly smaller, and its curved edges make it feel thinner. The all-black exterior and so-called graphite finish lend it a classy, mysterious air — like a phone James Bond would use. Other than its better-looking frame, though, the Porsche Design Mate 9 is no different from the regular, save for some included themes and Porsche apps.
Display and sound
Although it’s not as pixel dense as others on the market, the Mate 9’s 5.9-inch display still manages to deliver crisp, rich images. The screen’s colors are actually nicely saturated for an LCD panel, which usually lacks the deep blacks and high contrast of OLED displays. The pink furniture and orange flames in the music video for Britney Spears’ Slumber Party, for instance, looked vibrant and bold.
Viewing angles are generous too though darker backgrounds were slightly hard to see when the phone was tilted far away from me. The screen also gets very bright (a scorching 677 nits at maximum intensity), which makes the screen easy to view in most lighting conditions.
If, for some reason, you don’t like the display’s color temperature, you can tweak it through the settings, dragging a slider to make it as blue or orange as you’d like. I liked the original warmth of the panel, so I didn’t find this particular feature very helpful. In addition to the default setting, you can choose what Huawei calls “Eye Comfort,” which immediately gives the interface a warm, yellowish cast. This is similar to Night Shift on iOS and is designed to reduce the blue light that can interrupt your body’s circadian rhythms.
The phone’s bottom-mounted speaker is also loud enough to fill my apartment with sound, but certain songs, including my current earworm (Oh Lord by Mic Lowry), are lacking in bass. Tracks that are percussion-heavy, like Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic, also tend to get slightly tinny at top volume, but you’ll rarely need to crank it to the max anyway.
Like other Huawei handsets, the Mate 9 runs the company’s own Emotion UI 5.0 over Android (7.0 Nougat, to be precise). EMUI has several differences from stock Android, with the most obvious being no apps drawer by default (you’ll instead see endless home pages, similar to iOS). However, you can now choose in the settings to use a drawer if that’s more your speed. You’ll also find more options in the quick settings panel than were there before — stuff like Huawei Share, Floating Dock and Screen Recording.
Floating Dock is a new feature that, when enabled, places a penny-sized circle on the screen. You can anchor this to the left or right side of the display, and tap it to show the home, back and all apps keys that are also at the bottom of the screen. This makes navigating such a large device easier because you won’t have to stretch your finger all the way to the bottom to reach the buttons.
The latest version of EMUI was streamlined to make it easier to get to common settings. Indeed, nowhere is that more evident than in the Settings app. The blue-and-white theme will take some getting used to, but the new search bar at the top makes finding specific tools more convenient. You’ll also get the so-called knuckle-sensing features as on previous versions of EMUI, which lets you knock on the display to outline screenshots or start screen recordings.
In place of the typical Android apps like Messages and Photos, you’ll find Huawei’s own offerings. These are mostly skinned versions of Google’s own apps though they give you some additional functionality. For example, the Contacts app has a tool that lets you scan business cards to create new listings. Huawei also threw in some helpful apps like Files, Notepad, Calculator and Phone Manager, the last of which optimizes the Mate 9’s performance by closing unnecessary apps and processes. That app also performs virus scans and lets you lock specific apps behind a password or your fingerprint.
Along with these useful tools, Huawei also included a small set of unnecessary apps like Booking.com and News Republic. But as far as bloatware goes, this is a relatively short list — and everything is stashed away in an unobtrusive folder too.
Ultimately, the biggest difference between EMUI 5.0 and previous iterations of the software is its machine-learning algorithm, and that’s not even something you can see. Weirdly, on that note, Huawei also doesn’t let you set your own macros, such as preparing to launch Facebook right after you close Messages. It’s not clear if this will ever happen, but it’d be a nice tool for power users. Still, the new EMUI offers a host of ways to customize your interface, which should appease people who want a less heavy-handed UI.
Huawei has once again teamed up with famed camera maker Leica to “co-engineer” its imaging system. Like the Huawei P9 that was unveiled in April, the Mate 9 has a dual-lens system on its rear that’s similar to the iPhone 7 Plus. One sensor captures 12-megapixel RGB data while the other records 20-megapixel monochrome information. Together, they’re supposed to deliver rich colors and fine details.
I was generally happy with the pictures I took; they were typically sharp though often overexposed. They also generally lacked the vivid colors you’d get from, say, the Galaxy S7 or one of the Google Pixels. Photos taken with the Mate 9 in low light were also grainier than what I got from the other two handsets. As on previous devices, Huawei is offering a Night Shot mode that’s supposed to take better images in the dark, thanks to longer exposure. This starts a 10- to 17-second recording session, during which any movement of phone blurs the scene. You’d either have to use a tripod, or sit extremely still for your photos to come out clean.
Still, thanks to a wide aperture mode on the camera, you’ll be able to achieve a pleasant depth-of-field effect on your shots. Though the rear lenses have fixed apertures of f/2.2, you can play with the software setting here to make it seem wider than that. The feature is also easy to enable and disable; a tap of the aperture icon on top of the viewfinder turns it on and off. This effect works well on pictures of people or food, but slows down the capture of landscapes as the camera struggles to find a foreground to keep in focus.
An example of wide aperture mode applied with maximum blur.
The nice thing about Huawei’s implementation here compared to Apple and Samsung’s is that the Mate 9 lets you decide how much blur you want before you take the shot. You can drag a slider on the screen to choose just how much background you want out of focus. Samsung’s All Focus tool only lets you do that after you take the picture, while Apple’s tool doesn’t let you customize the level of intensity.
Unfortunately, wide aperture mode does not extend to the front camera, where it would have made my selfies pop. Still, the 8-megapixel front camera captured sharp images with mostly accurate colors. Sometimes, when shooting indoors and with Beauty Mode activated, the Mate 9 tended to overexpose, resulting in garishly colored lips and excessive contrast. At its default setting of five on a scale of one to ten, Beauty Mode made people look artificial, with the rest of the image appearing blown out, to boot. Dialing down to level three and below alleviated the problem though.
Overall, the Mate 9’s cameras are capable of capturing decent photos that are clear and colorful, and that wide aperture mode is nifty, but they won’t impress you like the iPhone 7 Plus or Google Pixel will.
Performance and battery life
In a sea of phones powered by Qualcomm’s mobile processors, the Mate 9 stands out for using Huawei’s octa-core Kirin 960 processor. This allows the company to tweak both hardware and software to offer some extra features, like that Machine Learning Algorithm I mentioned, which promises smoother and more responsive performance. In other words, the Mate 9 will learn your behavior over time and optimize performance so it appears faster to you.
Say, for example, you habitually open Instagram right after you close Twitter. The algorithm will remember your behavior and eventually start diverting resources like part of its 4GB of RAM to prepare Instagram the next time you have Twitter open.
During my time testing the Mate 9, the set of actions I performed the most were launching the Gallery app right after closing the camera, as well as checking a battery drain application after looping a video on MX Player. The thing is, I couldn’t really tell if the overall smoothness I experienced on the Mate 9 was due to artificial intelligence or simply thanks to a relatively new, speedy processor. It’s not as if there’s a way for me to A/B test that. Jumping from app to app was a lag-free experience, and I noticed no difference in smoothness whether I was opening programs I had previously used or those that I had never launched. I ran a screen recording app while loading up a game and scrolling up and down repeatedly on Engadget’s page on Chrome, and didn’t encounter a hiccup.
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
3DMark IS Unlimited
GFXBench 3.0 1080p Manhattan Offscreen (fps)
The Mate 9’s performance on synthetic benchmarks puts it in the same league as leading flagships like the Google Pixel and the Galaxy S7. It beat competing phones, including both versions of the Pixel, the Galaxy S7 Edge and the HTC 10, on the browser-based Vellamo but lost to the Pixel XL and the HTC 10 on AndEBench. The Mate 9 didn’t fare as well on graphics-intensive tests, falling behind the two Pixels on 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited. Even then, the gap wasn’t huge. The Mate 9 still outperformed the Samsung and HTC devices on that test too.
All of that horsepower is matched by a generous 4,000mAh battery, which Huawei promises will provide 20 hours of continuous video playback. On Engadget’s rundown test, which involves looping an HD video with the brightness set to 50 percent, the Mate 9 lasted an impressive 14 hours and 34 minutes. That’s 20 minutes longer than the Pixel XL, one hour longer than the Galaxy, and a whopping two hours more than the Pixel.
In the real world, that longevity meant I barely had to recharge the Mate 9 (except after battery tests) during my review period. After I left the phone in my purse for two days without using it, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it still retained 80 percent of its power. On a typical workday, too, during which I received notifications throughout the day, snapped a bunch of pictures and uploaded dozens of images to my Google Drive, it sipped power at a slow rate. At the end of the day, the battery life rating had dipped from 57 percent at the start of the day to 36 percent in the evening.
When it did need recharging, the Mate 9 got back up to 55 percent within an hour of being plugged in, thanks to Huawei’s SuperCharge technology. That’s fast, considering how large the battery is and how long 55 percent can last. Getting through the first 10 percent was slower, though; it took about 20 minutes to fill up.
In case you were worried that squeezing a big battery into a thin frame could make the phone susceptible to exploding (as was reportedly what happened with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7), Huawei promises its battery is safe. The company says it uses a five-gate protection system that monitors real-time temperature, voltage and current to “eliminate safety hazards and safeguard battery life.” Indeed, during my testing, the Mate 9 never got too warm, even during resource-intensive tasks.
It’s hard to find comparisons for the Mate 9 when we don’t yet know how much it’ll cost or when it will launch in the US, but perhaps we’ll find out at Huawei’s CES press conference early next month. But based on its European pricing (€699 or about $752), it looks like the Huawei phone will go up against the Google Pixel XL ($769 and up) and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (north of $760 through most carriers).
While both the Pixel XL and the S7 Edge offer ample, 5.5-inch screens, the Mate 9’s roomier 5.9-inch panel will appeal to those who need even more real estate to for easier reading, gaming or multitasking. The Mate 9 also has the longest endurance of the lot.
However, both the Pixel and the Galaxy have much better cameras than the Mate 9, while the Pixel in particular runs a cleaner version of Nougat, making it the best choice for Android purists.
Ultimately, what sets the Huawei Mate 9 apart is its large screen and excellent battery life. Although the company has been touting its machine-learning algorithm, it’s something that you won’t notice or think about unless performance starts to suffer. Either way, the Mate 9 is a perfectly capable device. That said, photography aficionados and stock-Android fans will still prefer the Pixel. Instead, the Mate 9 will mostly appeal to those who want a large canvas to watch videos or play games in a phone that’s not too hefty. If the handset’s US price is close to what it costs in Europe, it could be a slightly more affordable option than some rivals, making it a good value for the performance it delivers.
Remember the OnePlus 3? It came out barely six months ago and was the best phone you could get for $400. Well, it’s about to be replaced by a faster, slightly more expensive version of itself that the company is calling the OnePlus 3T. (The T doesn’t stand for anything; it’s a cheeky take on the typical “S” suffix denoting many flagship sequels.) The new $439 device uses the latest Snapdragon 821 processor to achieve even faster speeds, and packs a beefier battery and sharper front camera — improvements in areas where the original sort of fell short. I say “sort of” because other than battery life, the OnePlus 3 didn’t need much improving. But OnePlus made it better anyway, and now it’s one of the best phones on the market, especially at this price.
There isn’t much of a difference, at least externally, between the OnePlus 3T and its predecessor. Indeed, a lot of what I’m going to describe here was covered in greater detail in our review of the original. The most obvious physical change is the new “gunmetal” color, which is a slightly darker shade of gray-silver than the OnePlus 3. A “soft gold” option is also available, just like with the original.
Color aside, the 3T looks exactly the same as its predecessor, which itself is impressive, given that it has a larger battery. It sports the same 5.5-inch full HD Optic AMOLED display, which was sharp and bright enough to watch videos on indoors and outdoors. It also has the same single speaker at the bottom that was loud enough to fill my living room with sound, although it got tinny at top volume.
You’ll find the same fingerprint sensor, USB-C charging port and physical mute switch here as on the OnePlus 3. Just like the previous version, the OnePlus 3T has a dual nano SIM card slot, but no room for a microSD reader. Those who want more storage will have to opt for a new 128GB option, which costs $479. Neither phone meets widely accepted water-resistance standards, though the company says the handsets will survive wet weather. It didn’t rain during my review period, so I unfortunately wasn’t able to test that claim.
You probably won’t notice many differences between the OnePlus 3’s version of OxygenOS and its successor’s; the changes here are very subtle. The company resized its app icons so they’re consistent across the home, all apps and Shelf pages, and added some new gestures, such as three-finger screenshots and flip-to-mute, to make the phone more convenient to use.
The OnePlus 3T also gets new apps for weather and voice recording, and allows you to lock specific apps with your fingerprint. It also features a quick-settings panel that’s more similar to what you’ll find on Android Nougat. The changes here aren’t major, but they do make getting around the system slightly easier.
I don’t generally need an excuse to go on a selfie-taking binge, but I did appreciate having “testing the OnePlus 3T’s 16-megapixel front camera” as a reason to do so. The new setup is much sharper than the one on the OnePlus 3, which the company says makes for better low-light performance.
This was indeed true when I casually snapped dozens of portraits while traipsing around Manhattan one night, and the camera delivered several crisp images, despite all the motion. Not only were they sharp, but the pictures were also bright and relatively noise-free. I had to take a picture in a dark, poorly lit warehouse before I started to see any graininess. The one thing I wish the OnePlus 3T’s front camera had was some form of flash, for taking clear shots in near-darkness.
Just because they have the same megapixel count, though, doesn’t mean that the front and rear cameras are the same. They differ quite vastly on color quality, thanks to their different sensors and pixel size. The same scenes shot with the front camera looked washed-out and pale compared with those taken with the rear camera, which generally captured vibrant, richly colored images. OnePlus 3T also added a layer of sapphire glass to the back camera to protect it from scratches that could forever mar your shots.
As we mentioned in our review of the OnePlus 3, the rear camera is capable in most lighting conditions, but won’t impress the way the iPhone 7 Plus or many other smartphone cameras would. It delivered sharp, accurately colored exterior shots on sunny days, and rendered a respectable amount of detail in low light, but images looked flat indoors. Still, it’s perfectly adequate, and that front camera will please selfie fans like myself.
Performance and battery life
Most flagship phones released this year use the Snapdragon 820 processor, rather than the newer 821 chip that Qualcomm started offering later in the year. So, only the Google Pixel and LeEco Le Pro3 have it, which makes the OnePlus 3 slightly less competitive on specs (the LePro 3 costs the same as the OnePlus 3). I imagine this is one of the biggest reasons OnePlus decided to drop a new flagship so soon after unveiling its previous one, but still, it’s a smart move.
LeEco Le Pro3
3DMark IS Unlimited
GFXBench 3.0 1080p Manhattan Offscreen (fps)
The Snapdragon 821 processor makes the OnePlus 3T faster than the original, which was already pretty speedy. It’s hard to tell the difference in day-to-day performance, because I’m not a robot and can’t detect minute differences in app-launch times, but overall the 3T was very responsive. Its Vellamo score of 6,144 beat the OnePlus 3, the Samsung Galaxy S7, the HTC 10 and the Google Pixel and Pixel XL, while its AndEBench result trumped the OnePlus 3 and the Galaxy S7 but fell short of the Pixel phones and HTC 10. The OnePlus 3T also bested the field in graphics-performance tests.
This means you’re mostly going to see similar speeds across these phones. Considering the Pixels use the same chip (albeit with less RAM) but cost hundreds of dollars more, the OnePlus 3T really delivers on value here.
The OnePlus 3T has the same 6GB of RAM as the original, which makes for swift multitasking. OnePlus says it also improved the launch speed for large apps and games, so you won’t have to wait quite as long to open these programs. I also found call quality to be perfectly adequate. I called a friend who was in Queens (on T-Mobile’s network), and he was able to accurately repeat a string of numbers that I recited, despite his dog barking in the background, which I heard as well. Unfortunately, as with previous OnePlus handsets, the 3T works only on GSM carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile.
One area where the company says it received the most negative feedback about the OnePlus 3 was battery life. In addition to simply bumping up the battery capacity to 3,400mAh from 3,000mAh, OnePlus tuned the power efficiency of the CPU so that despite its faster speed, it sips power at the same rate as the previous handset.
I was expecting a slight increment on endurance and wasn’t quite prepared for the 3T’s epic stamina. It lasted 16 hours and seven minutes on Engadget’s battery test, which involves looping an HD video with the screen set to 50 percent brightness until the device conks out. That’s almost six hours more than the OnePlus 3’s runtime, and two hours longer than the Google Pixel XL, which has a 3,450mAh bank.
When the phone does eventually run out of juice, it charges back up to offer what the company says is a day’s worth of power in 30 minutes. After the OnePlus 3T finally died on Engadget’s battery test, I plugged it in and was able to take it on a quick video shoot just 15 minutes after, because it already got back up to 20 percent in that time. Not only is this fast, but that’s enough juice to last at least two hours.
The OnePlus 3T faces direct competition from the LeEco Le Pro3, which uses the same processor with less RAM for $400. But the Le Pro3 suffers from unintuitive software, has a less vibrant display and doesn’t last as long as the 3T.
Google’s Pixel phones also use the same processors, offering similar (if not better) performance in a premium frame. These handsets have better cameras and run the latest version of Android (7.0 Nougat), offering a cleaner interface and helpful new features like Google Assistant. But the Pixel lineup starts at $800, which is nearly twice the OnePlus 3T’s asking price. Indeed, the latest OnePlus handset is probably the best handset you’re going to find for around $440.
The OnePlus 3T improves things about the original that were slightly lacking, such as battery life, and amps up on performance and software, making it a strong option for power users. I particularly love the sharper front camera for its solid performance in low light. I’d also argue that the boost in endurance alone is worth the $39 price hike, but the previous iteration offered enough stamina for the average user who may not want to shell out for a few extra hours of juice. As a replacement for an existing flagship, the OnePlus 3T is a refinement that not only feels timely, but also well-planned and executed. You’d have a hard time finding a better phone for the price.
Blu Products, the leading seller of unlocked smartphones in the US, has revealed a serious security problem with a bunch of its products. It says a third-party app called “Wireless Update” has been “collecting unauthorized personal data in the form of text messages, call logs and contacts from customers” on some devices. While the app has been “self-updated” and is no longer siphoning data, Blu advises users to check their phones and call customer service if an older version of the app is still installed.
If you’re drawing a blank on Blu, it’s actually the largest manufacturer of unlocked cell phones in the US, having sold over 5 million of them in 2015, according to eMarketer. It sells even more in Latin America and elsewhere, with total sales of around 35 million in 40 countries, according to the company. Blu is based in Florida and the phones are manufactured in China.
Blu’s Advance 5.5 HD is $90 on Amazon
Even though only six models are affected out of dozens sold, the sheer numbers and nature of the breech obviously make it a serious issue. Needless to say, collecting private user info without permission is illegal and could let thieves access passwords or financial data. What’s worse, Blu is apparently still using “Wireless Update” as a core OTA app on certain models. We’ve reached out for more info, but you should check if your phone is affected and contact the company’s customer support line if so.
Source: Blu Products
Microsoft may have all but given up on Windows Phones, but rookies in the New York City Police Department are now getting them with their gun and badge. As CNET reports, the NYPD only started handing out department-issued smartphones and email addresses in 2015, and the official device of the largest police force in the United States are the Lumia 830 and Lumia 640 XL.
Those phones debuted in late 2014 and early 2015, respectively and the department reportedly passed on iOS and Android devices because the Windows Phone platform offered the best remote management and security features. The NYPD and Microsoft also worked collaborated on a suite of crime-fighting apps like a direct 911 line that goes to an officer rather than a dispatcher, a police records search, in-house messaging, a case management system and a media library for training videos and policy updates. According to the department, the ability to route 911 calls directly to officers has dropped the response time for crimes in progress by over 12 percent.
While those Nokia workhorse might seem a little bit out of date, CNET notes the department is looking into upgrading to Windows 10 devices by next summer. And, in any case, any smartphone at all is a vast improvement over the department’s previous policy — a downright archaic system of shared voice mailboxes.
It may be time to bid a sad adieu (sadieu?) to the beloved Nexus line and hello to Google’s new Pixel phones, but we’ve still got a whole slew of fresh hardware to look forward to. In addition to the higher-end handsets, Google also unveiled the Daydream View VR headset, the Chromecast Ultra, a WiFi router, as well as the official price and availability of its Home smart speaker. Tying all of the gadgets together is the company’s AI Assistant, which you can use on the Pixels and Home, and Google promises to make it available on more platforms in future. Our senior editors Nicole Lee and Chris Velazco break down what all this new stuff means for you, and share their impressions of the new products.
Click here to catch all the latest news from Google’s fall event.
Hot on the heels of rumors and whispers aplenty, Google is sending out invites to an October 4th event that’s expected to reveal, in full, new flagship Android phones, likely tagged with its Pixel branding. We’re sure the company has more than a new phone or two. Unfortunately those aforementioned rumors also suggest they may not be as handily priced as their Nexus forefathers. We’ll be there to tell you all the important stuff. That said, the teaser video (below) doesn’t show us much of anything. Maybe it’s a new vertical search box? Be still, my beating heart.
Starting August 9th, OnePlus will temporarily halt sales of the OnePlus 3 in select European countries as it is struggling to meet demands for the device.
According to a blog post by company co-founder Carl Pei, sales across mainland Europe have been “way better than we expected,” which is great news for the company, but possibly frustrating for those still looking to purchase one of the devices. It also has meant that sales would have to be halted to give the company time to replenish their stock of the smartphone.
Luckily, the ceasing of sales won’t extend to every country. The blog post notes that Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain are included. The OnePlus 3 will be unavailable between August 9th and September 12th.
For prospective buyers in the affected countries still looking to pick one of the phones up, there will be an in-stock notification service on the official web store in place where an email can be provided and one will be sent when the phone is back in stock.
Japan’s Softbank, which owns US carrier Sprint and many other firms, is set to buy mobile chip company ARM in a blockbuster £24.3 billion ($32 billion) deal. The UK company designs the processors used in virtually every mobile device, including most models from Apple, Samsung and HTC. While it doesn’t build them itself, it licenses the tech to Qualcomm, MediaTek, Samsung and others. If the deal goes through, it would be one of the largest acquisitions of a European tech firm ever, and a vote of confidence by Softbank in ARM’s business in post-Brexit UK.
Softbank has been freeing up cash lately through a variety of deals. It recently sold Clash of Clans maker Supercell to Tencent for a reported $8.6 billion, and cashed in $10 billion worth of shares in the Chinese retail giant Alibaba. The company owns US carrier Sprint, 28 percent of China’s Alibaba and the Japanese divisions of Yahoo and Vodafone. All told, it has participated in 140 deals worth over $82 billion in the last 10 years, according to the Financial Times.
Standalone VR headsets powered by ARM chips may flood the market over the next year.
ARM is a hugely important UK tech company, as over 15 million chips using its technology shipped last year. It became a tempting acquisition target following the UK “Brexit” vote to separate from Europe. That, in part, caused the UK pound to plummet 28 percent against the Japanese yen, effectively making the company cheaper. ARM is considered to be shielded from any potential Brexit fallout in the UK market, since it has customers around the world. However, there’s some concern that top UK engineers may flee to Europe and elsewhere once Britain’s EU divorce is finalized.
ARM was assured by Softbank that it would stay independent and keep its UK headquarters in Cambridge. The Japanese firm says it will also invest considerable sums into the business, “including doubling the UK headcount over the next five years.” It will also add employees outside of Britain. The deal would be an “all cash acquisition,” but is still subject to a number of conditions before it’s finalized.
Intel has often been seen as a suitor for ARM, but it’s now clear the purchase price may have been too rich for it to stomach. While ARM designs most of the chips used in mobile devices, it only had revenue of around $1 billion in 2015, and the purchased price is reportedly 70 times its net income. However, ARM has diversified from mobile and sells chips used in the “internet of things,” servers and network equipment and now, virtual reality.
If you’re an Amazon Prime member in the market for a new smartphone, you might consider one of these enticing offers. The retail giant is offering exclusive pricing on select unlocked Android phones, including the BLU R1 HD for $49.99 ($50 off its retail price of $99.99) and the Motorola Moto G for $149.99 ($50 off its normal price of $199.99.)
Both phone deals are exclusively for Amazon Prime members, but you’ll have to be willing to put up with ads displayed on your phone’s lockscreen, much like the “special offers” version of Amazon’s Kindle reader. That’s where the discount comes from, so if you’re looking for an unlocked phone on the cheap and don’t mind seeing ads so much when you lock your device, it’s a good deal.
You can preorder the BLU R1 HD and Moto G starting today, though the phones won’t be releasing until July 12th. If ads aren’t your thing you can always get a regular version of either phone for full price whether you’re an Amazon Prime member or not.
Picking the right smartphone can be tough. With Apple, Samsung, LG, HTC and plenty of other manufacturers releasing handsets at a steady clip, it can be difficult to keep up with each and every launch. We use our smartphones for work, play and everything in between, so it’s important to settle on the right blend of hardware, operating system and price tag that makes sense for you.
After all, you’re likely going to be spending anywhere from 18 months to two years of your life with your new handset, unless your budget allows you to upgrade on whim. Deciding between so many candidates can be a bit of a struggle, but we’re here to help with our guide to the best smartphones around.
Article prices are based on the RRP, but more up-to-date listings can be found in the buyers guide widget below.
Apple iPhone 6s
Apple’s follow-up to the iPhone 6 isn’t as much of an incremental update as some were expecting. The 6s is more powerful and carries a pressure-sensitive display, not to mention significant improvements in the camera department. As well as simply being another easy-to-use iOS device, new features include the “3D Touch” panel, which lets you “peek” inside apps, surfacing information and actions without opening the app fully. The upgraded 12-megapixel camera has a few tricks of its own, too, like the new 4K video mode and animated “Live Photos.” New Rose Gold option aside, though, the iPhone 6s is practically identical in looks to its predecessor. It’s not cheap either, so iPhone 6 owners might find it hard to justify an upgrade.
In a sentence: Apple’s iPhone 6s is a great phone and safe bet, especially for anyone moving from an older 5 or 5s.
Price: £539 and up
Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung’s Galaxy S7 takes everything that made the S6 great and improves upon it. The outcome is a flagship with a gorgeous Quad HD display, outstanding performance and subtle design tweaks that make the marriage of metal and glass that bit more appealing. Those already leaning in Samsung’s direction will be thankful for the return of expandable storage, with cards of up to 200GB capacity finding a microSD slot to call home. An IP68 water- and dust-resistant rating only sweetens the proposition. Only minor progress has been made in the imaging department, but the S7 has a capable and versatile camera nonetheless. A steep price is one of the only downsides of the device, but you’re paying for premium.
In a sentence: Easily one of the best Android smartphones available.
Moto X Style
Motorola’s made a name for itself putting out great devices at reasonable prices, and the Moto X Style is a perfect example of that philosophy. A fondness for larger displays is a must. If that’s the case you’ll get a pleasing 5.7-inch Quad HD display to poke at, and Moto Maker means you can customise an already expedient design with whatever colour and texture combination you see fit. Purists in particular will enjoy the vanilla Android build with a light drizzle of Motorola chocolate sauce on top. The Moto X Style has a great camera, too, even if it isn’t quite as good as those on some rival devices. Similarly, the handset offers flagship performance, but it’s not the most powerful device around. There are compromises, but none that should tempt you to overlook the Moto X Style considering its relatively low price.
In a sentence: An expert lesson in striking the balance between user experience and price.
Price: £369 and up
Apple iPhone SE
Many people felt left behind by Apple’s turn to bigger-screened iPhones, and the SE is an attempt to regain their favour. The 4-inch form factor feels both familiar and fresh in its design — like an iPhone 5s with softer curves — and the SE benefits from the inclusion of the same internals found in the iPhone 6s, meaning it’s lightning fast. The two also share the same, excellent camera, though the iPhone SE lacks “3D Touch” functionality and possesses an older, slower Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Still, it offers fantastic battery life and happens to be the cheapest iPhone Apple’s ever sold. Oh, and lest we forget: Rose Gold.
In a sentence: A no-brainer for champions of the 4-inch form factor wanting to upgrade from an older iPhone.
Price: £359 and up
The HTC 10 marks the end of a few uneventful years at the company, defined by a series of unremarkable flagships. But what a return to form. The HTC 10’s sleek, all-metal design packages a 5.2-inch Quad HD display and internals that are almost unmatched in their performance. While its competent 12-UltraPixel camera isn’t the best on the market and battery life is distinctly average, HTC has cleaned up its Android skin and included a few attractive extras like hi-res audio support and AirPlay compatibility. HTC has again created a flagship handset that can hang with the best of ’em, but that means you’re looking at premium pricing to match.
In a sentence: On the podium as one of the top Android smartphones on the market.
Google Nexus 6P
The Nexus 6P is another device for those who prefer a larger-than-average screen. The 5.7-inch, Wide Quad HD display isn’t all the handset has to offer, though, with an abundance of processing power and impressive battery life. Being a Google device, the Nexus 6P also receives Android updates as soon as they become available, so you’ll always be on the latest version. Combine all these features with a solid camera, and you get a large-screen smartphone at a pretty competitive price. However, it’s worth bearing in mind the Nexus 6P lacks a microSD slot to expand storage, and its all-metal design is like the smartphone equivalent of Marmite.
In a sentence: A great option for people who like a larger screen that also benefits from the most up-to-date Android software.
Price: £449 and up.
When Motorola launched the first Moto G a few years ago, it immediately stood out as offering unparalleled value for money. Now in its third generation, the Moto G is still one of the best all-round smartphones for anyone on a budget, or those that would rather not pay for bells and whistles they’ll get little use out of. While it doesn’t excel in any one area and ignores flagship-grade components to keep costs down, there are no particularly uninviting compromises either. The Moto G’s outward appearance can also be heavily personalised using Moto Maker, at which point avid mobile gamers and users of more demanding apps might want to pay a little extra for more RAM and internal storage.
In a sentence: A decent, affordable Android smartphone that makes minimal sacrifices to hit its low price point.
Price: £149 and up.
OnePlus is in the business of making serious smartphones and selling them for a fraction of the price of competitors. Case in point: the OnePlus 2. It has all the guts and performance of a market-leading flagship, with style and build quality being far from an afterthought. Those features alone make the price tag easy to justify, and that’s without mentioning the versatile 13-megapixel camera. OnePlus has held back in a couple of areas, understandably, such as opting for a 5.5-inch 1080p display instead of a Quad HD panel. Other compromises include a lack of expandable storage and NFC, which are likely to be either deal-breakers or features you can easily live without.
In a sentence: A inexpensive, near-flagship device that prioritises performance and price.
LG has released some excellent flagship smartphones in the past, but this year the company has skipped an incremental upgrade in favour of something much more adventurous. Top-tier performance and fun, flexible dual-camera array aside, the bottom bezel of the device is completely removable, making space for a couple of modular accessories LG calls “Friends.” These include a hi-res audio attachment and a camera grip that also extends battery life, which is pretty average otherwise. At this point, however, you have look beyond the few accessories currently available and hope others will explore the potential of the modular design even further.
In a sentence: A powerful Android smartphone that dares to be different
Sony Xperia Z5
The Xperia Z5 is either another of Sony’s beautiful, polished products, or a slightly lazy attempt to tweak its tired “Omnibalance” design. Regardless of which side of the fence you find yourself on, you can’t dispute the build quality and high waterproof rating. The Xperia Z5 offers the kind of performance you’d expect from a genuine flagship, but pairs that with a 5.2-inch 1080p display. Gorgeous it might be, but it does fall short of competitors’ higher-resolution screens. What your money is primarily going towards is the 23-megapixel rear camera, which happens to be one of the best on the market. The Xperia Z5 isn’t cheap, but it won’t disappoint serious smartphone photographers.
In a sentence: Another lovingly built Sony smartphone with one of the best cameras around.
Fledgling British brand Wileyfox has made an extremely good first impression with the Swift. Like the Moto G, the Swift is all about crafting a low-cost smartphone that still provides an excellent user experience. With a relatively charming, all-plastic design, a bright 5-inch, 720p display and easily customisable Cyanogen software, there’s plenty to like. You also get a decent amount of processing power for an affordable device, though the 13-megapixel camera leaves quite a lot to be desired. However, aside from its underwhelming camera, the Swift deserves serious consideration if you’re after a good smartphone that doesn’t weigh heavily on your wallet.
In a sentence: An affordable Android smartphone that represents excellent value for money.