OnePlus2 and OnePlusX, should you settle?

This year at the Dublin Web Summit, OnePlus were out on display showing off their two latest handsets, the OnePlus2 and the OnePlusX. Both phones are fantastic, to hold in the hand and play around with; they’re responsive and lovely. While the OnePlus2 looks almost identical to the OnePlus1 (which is no bad thing), the OnePlusX is unmistakably something different. It’s a lot slicker, a lot more sheen and a lot more premium.

Both phones are not only nice to hold, but in a year when handsets have gotten bigger, it’s refreshing to hold something which you can hold and type on with one hand. However, it’s not what these phones have which is of interest to me (the spec sheet gives most mid-high range handsets a good run), it’s what they don’t have.

image

image

2016 will undoubtedly be about two things; Mobile Payment and USB type-C. Both are in their infancy now, currently only a few select countries support Apple Pay, and Android Pay is US only. USB-C is even more rare, with only the Google Nexus range supporting this. It’s surprising then that neither OnePlus support NFC, or fingerprint sensors. Only the OnePlus2 supports USB-C, the X has dropped this.

While this is not a huge problem at the moment, it will become one. It’s unusual for new flagship releases to fall in any way behind for a young company hoping to make its stake in a competitive industry, particularly when it’s target audience is heavily geared towards savvy consumers, and tech enthusiasts.

At a basic level, if you’re not the kind to compare spec sheets for phones; if you’re in a region with Android Pay, you won’t be able to use your new OnePlus to pay for things. You also won’t be able to utilise fingerprint support, which more and more apps are beginning to integrate.

As to why these were omitted, the official reason boils down to price. With a limited user-base, and an extremely competitive price point of €399, it’s a question of whether you want the new high-end flagship, or you want something that doesn’t break the bank, but still has good specs. Speaking with their staff at Web Summit, in Dublin, their customers also just didn’t really use NFC, and didn’t really see the point in fingerprint sensors. It’s a fair reason on which basis to exclude it, NFC does have limited uses outside of payments at the moment, the same goes for Fingerprint sensors.

What I found interesting was the reason the USB-C was excluded from the X. It seems to come down to bulk, the Type-C connector is a little bigger than the traditional micro-USB, which again seems a fair enough point. While it means the X won’t support faster charging, the 2525mAh battery should charge just fine the old-fashioned way. Arguably this is the thing people will least miss from the spec-sheet. Cables take a long time to become obsolete and Micro-USB will be around for a while. The focus from OnePlus was very much to keep the X looking as sophisticated as possible – it’s something they’ve achieved very well, the X is a very good looking phone.

Price can often be a lazy explanation, so too can ‘bulk’ or wanting to keep aesthetics. You don’t have to look too far to see a competitor delivering on price and specs in one bundle, even if it misses out a little on aesthetics; Nexus 5X. Certainly the US price is extremely competitive and it’s able to integrate a very good fingerprint reader in there also. Apart from that, it’s not a terrible looking phone – but it’s certainly not as premium looking as the OnePl

image

image

usX.

Holding both handsets, it can be hard to believe they’re as cheap as they are. Well built and very premium looking, the screen, camera are all very sharp. They’re responsive and while not quite high-end, they’re definitely punching above the mid/low-end weight. Of the two, the X definitely had the edge for me. It was slicker, lighter and snappier than the 2, it also appeared to have a sharper screen and more responsive camera. The hardware is really great, sturdy and you could almost forget it’s as cheap as it is especially with that battery, which is strong.

The one thing that confuses me is the omissions. Granted price is a factor, but NFC is a fairly cheap technology, also the people had spoken, they don’t want USB-C, they don’t need NFC or fingerprint sensors, for now. While you certainly can’t argue the price, it could be seen as a cynical way to get people buying their 2017 model. Fit the moment though, if you want a cheap phone to replace next year, you could do a lot worse.

HTC One M8 – REVIEW

HTC One m8

The HTC One M8 is the latest attempt by the flailing smartphone manufacturer to shore up some of its recent losses in the face of growing competition from the likes of LG, Apple and particularly, Samsung – who have managed to vacuum up almost all of the former giant’s lead. Last year’s HTC One (M7) was considered a somewhat iconic design, and was the company’s best selling handset, ever. However, it didn’t buck the downwards trend that the company faces. The One M8 it is hoped will change all of that.

 

Released in Ireland, and the world earlier this week, the M8 is available on all major networks. The Dot View Case has not been released yet, however some sites now offer this on pre-order in five different colours.

 

But just what is the M8 like?

 

The Box

An unboxing video is to follow, however – the box itself is pretty neat – larger than it really needs to be, but clearly taking a more Apple oriented direction – very slim, and very simple. With the phone, comes a basic rubber case, headphones, charger cable and standard plug.

 

The Hardware

When you first pick up, what looks like the rather sizeable phone, what strikes immediately is just how well built the device really is. The back is gently curved, not enough to offer much rocking, but it fits comfortably into the hand. The single aluminum slab feels great, the machine-drilled speakers blend in well. The device front looks a little more cluttered when you come from a Nexus device, which is blank on the front. It’s a little heavy, but not in an uncomfortable way, it feels weighty in a very solid sense.

 

The only irk I would have when it comes to build quality, would be the volume rocker – it’s a little flimsy by comparison and could be a bit more solid, same goes for the power button – but thanks to gesture controls, it rarely gets used.

 

The camera blends in nicely – it looks a little odd to have two lenses at the back, but it’s integrated well overall. Speaking of the camera, a lot of people (including myself) have been worried about the 4 ‘Ultrapixel’ argument – thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised, the camera is, in my opinion, better than the Nexus 4.

 

The screen to show off these pictures is gorgeous, it blends in with the overall device, you’d never even realize it was there – when switched on, it’s very sharp, text is crisp and pictures look just stunning – the extra real estate really helps.

 

Topping and Tailing the screen, is a pair of fairly gorgeous speakers. They’re loud, really loud and clear. Some music came across as a bit tinny, but overall the speakers were clear, sharp and a song being played in the living room, I could clearly hear in the next room.

 

Coming from the Nexus, a range which has been plagued by poor batter life, the M8 is simply amazing in terms of battery. It lasts well over a day on moderate – heavy usage, with the screen brightness up and the 3G/WiFi on. It charges nice and quickly, certainly tasks that would drop the Nexus 4 by 10%, only really use up 5% or less from the M8.

 

The Software

Turning on the phone, I was very worried. Previously using Sense had been somewhat of a disappointment especially when coming from stock. However I have to say, Sense 6 is slick. The gestures, such as lifting the phone to your ear to answer a call, are genuinely useful, rather than Samsung’s bloatware which gets ignored. Sense is definitely a nice overlay to the Android OS, It’s a lot more background and simple, making sure that it doesn’t intrude too much on how you interact with the phone.

 

Some things I really like coming from stock, is the greater flexibility of the notifications centre, there’s a lot more functionality when double swiping, the ability to easily drop widgets into any section or homescreen is quite nice. Blinkfeed is really quite nice also. Flipboard like functionality and easily accessible, it’s a nice feature to read while you’re waiting on something, aggregating items from several of your news sources.

 

The Camera

I wasn’t convinced by the ‘Ultrapixel’ argument at first, it seemed like quite an easy cop-out to have an amazing phone, with one major Achilles heel. However, having used it and taken quite a few snaps, the quality is actually pretty good. The screen doesn’t hide much, but images are sharp and crisp, certainly more than enough for social sharing and Instagram.

Filtered shot from the camera

The camera also features some pretty handy things, Zoe is a little bit of a gimmick, but it’s a nice touch to allow the creation of your own Vine like GIF, the ability to refocus an image after shooting is very nice, and it’s something I have been using a lot in pictures, especially if the object I want to capture isn’t the centre.

 

While the features are nice, I liked that Nexus allows you to browse your auto-backup images within the gallery by default.

 

Images though are really, lovely – the gesture of holding your locked phone in landscape and hitting the volume button is really a nice touch to snap a quick shot on the go.

 

Wrap up

Overall, I’m hugely impressed with the M8. The handset itself I would say almost surpasses the iPhone in design, it slips into the hand neatly, rather than a block working against it. The gestures and overall intuition are top notch, the camera is more than decent and the speakers are pretty powerful. While I do think I still prefer stock, just about – the HTC One M8 pretty much trumps it.

 

After having it for about four days, I wouldn’t even hesitate in giving this phone a 10/10.

The Nokia X; What to Expect

Nokia Android

There’s only a few days to go until the Mobile World Congress 2014 and among a slew of devices aiming to take the trophy as the gadget of 2014 will be an unlikely Android contender; Nokia.

It is now looking more than likely that in the coming days, Nokia will launch the X, or known internally as Normandy, to the market. This budget phone will be aimed at taking on the low-cost phone market currently dominated by the likes of Samsung, and is traditionally a market that the Finnish giant has been more than capable of taking on with products like its Asha range and lower cost Symbian powered phones which are still running in the wild.

But what exactly does Nokia’s first and (probably) only Android phone mean, and just what will it be like? There’s been plenty of speculation, but we know that at the very least, it’s not going to compare to the Lumia line, largely considered to be some of the best designed smartphones on the market, just lacking the critical app ecosystem.

We know for sure that that it will be running a forked version of Android, not unlike Amazon’s Fire tablets, giving it quite a lot of access to the Play Store and being able to support accessories and native services that many Android users have come to rely on from day-to-day. This goes some way to what many former Nokia enthusiasts had long sought, a decent smartphone from Finland which ran Android, helping to right a wrong from two years ago.

We also know that it’s going to be nicely multi-coloured, thanks to Nokia’s quite cute marketing and heavy use of green throughout most of its promotional activities, especially the recent duck vine. Something like this would be fairly brilliant, many have tried pushing phones in multiple colours, but so far only Nokia have really hit the nail on the head from a design point of view.

We also know that it’s going to be fairly low spec, not the worst phone on the market, but it should fall somewhere between Asha and Lumia – sporting a 5MP camera, MicroSD card slot, 4-Inch screen and potentially running Android 4.4 KitKat – if true it would already place it well ahead of quite a few Android phones on the market, some of which are still running Ice Cream Sandwich.

It’s been considered very odd that Nokia should choose this moment to launch their Android handset, something fans have been long hoping for, ever since Nokia decided to partner with Microsoft. The phone answers a question Nokia faced when it faced its great OS decision, before making, what many (including myself) consider to be the wrong one. In many ways this looks to be Nokia’s farewell to the world of smartphones – ultimately becomes just another division of Microsoft.

Pebble App Store is online, for iOS anyway.Android coming soon

Image

The Pebble is one of the nerdiest fashion accessories of the past year, following its massive Kiskstarter success, the device and fashion accessory is now launching its dedicated app store, something which many feel was the key block missing, from another wise perfect device.

Until now, the ability to download an app has been heavily fragmented, with each developer allowing you to download their applications on their own sites and platforms. The only thing you’ve really been able to do is to add different watch faces from Pebble itself. The lack of a dedicated app store has not exactly hampered innovation from developers, but it has meant that the average user might never find you.

Many people might wonder, what exactly can a watch do? The Pebble already notifies you of emails, phone calls, texts, etc. it even tells the time and there’s a certain beauty to that simplicity, it means you’re no longer hyper connected, constantly checking your phone and there’s a certain relief to this. Recently, however when questioned on my Pebble, I found people listed off things when wondering what exactly it could do. This left me with a certain wanting to play simple games, control my camera or even use GPS, things I can’t currently easily do.

Luckily, I won’t have to look too much further in a few weeks. While Android users will have to wait “A very, very short time”, iOS users can download the new app store today. The Pebble store will be laid out almost the same as the Play or App stores, with dedicated categories and sections to help easily navigate the different apps.

It’s not certain exactly how many apps the store will launch with, developers have had access to the SDK for quite some time now, and the more rudimentary interface allows for some truly retro (think Nokia 3210) style development, unlike the Galaxy Gear, there’s less need to be as flashy and feature full, which is a nice change – to a large degree, apps will have to be useful.

5 Things the Samsung S5 should have

With the release of the new iPhone 5S and 5C, all eyes have turned to Apple’s new arch-rival, Samsung to see exactly what they’ll pull out of the bag for their new flagship phone, the S5. Just as the headlines of Apple’s huge success in shifting their latest smartphone begin to ebb, reports have surfaced that the S5 will debut in January.

Continue reading

Why Apple making a watch would be the ultimate Shark Jump.

Image

There have been plenty of rumours flying around about Apple designing a new watch; sites up and down the web are suggesting that Cupertino may be about to shake up a market which has stood for over a hundred years. More than likely a massive Red Herring, these rumours have annoyed me; completely ignoring the nature of Apple, a company that traditionally doesn’t pander to flights of fancy.

Continue reading

[OPINION] Why Google have started the Real Tablet War

Since the launch of the iPad, about three years ago now, competition has been springing up from every corner. Sony lunched their tablets which, while elegant were certainly the more unusual in the design spectrum. Samsung also threw a half dozen tablets into the market, with names no one can really remember and no discernible strategy of formula (The Note seems unsure whether it’s a phone, or a tablet). Amazon was the first real competition to the market, with the Fire. A low price point helped it clean up the Android tablet market. But, enter Google and everything changes.

Continue reading