OnePlus2 and OnePlusX, should you settle?

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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.

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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

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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.

The Smart World only works, if everyone is a part.

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Nest, famed home automation company, recently acquired by Google are aiming not just to automate the home, but also transport. Speaking at the Dublin Web Summit Tony Fadell, Founder of Nest discussed the importance of home automation, not just being in the innovation of any particular product, but being firmly grounded in universal accessibility.

Speaking on the main stage of the summit, Fadell discussed the need for companies to constantly keep in mind, what the customer wants, and ultimately – what is best for them, rather than falling into the trap of many other companies; producing products which innovate, but which do not allow universal understanding and use.

Speaking based on years worth of learnings, gathered while working in Apple under Steve Jobs tenureship from 2001, working on the original iPod. He talked about the need for products which are accessible and usable by the average consumer, not just a niche category of technology fans and enthusiasts.

The thinking behind Nest, not too dissimilar to the iPod, is to enhance and innovate on an established idea. In this case; taking the thermostat and tackling the problem of a system which does not operate in a smart way, costing the average Irish household, up to €1,000 a year. Focusing on ensuring that customers are aware that the product is a simple, innovative and useful device, which puts them in greater control over the functionality of their own home.

Nest has managed to disrupt the home,opening the door for a greater internet of things, ensuring that data aware devices can better regulate a home, while being totally secure, building consumer trust and ultimately, allowing the householder greater control over their bills and the elements of their home which can often be easily forgotten.

With the smart home now being tackled, and smart devices now ubiquitous among the developed world, Fadell firmly believes that the next step is transport. While Google Self-driving car is the first step, the potential for smart transport doesn’t end there. Commuting and transportation form a huge part of daily life, the opportunity for greater interaction can once again free the consumer, putting more control in our hands to ensure that transportation isn’t simply a matter of getting on the bus, or train – but being able to consciously regulate what mode of transport, and how we utilise it for ourselves.
To help move the Smarter world a little further along, Nest Thermostats are now being given free to all new Electric Ireland customers, successfully planting the device in 1.5million homes.