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OnePlus policy that makes it a better buy than Samsung, HTC or LG

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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As a security technologist, the security philosophy of the OEM is a crucial determinant of my decision to buy or recommend a device. This is where Apple shines with it's iPhone update strategy. Every single iPhone receives updates (security and version) at the same time. 

This is why I highly recommend Google's Pixel devices. The Pixel line offers the same regular and speedy update schedule. The other Android manufacturer that has shown it cares about upgrades is OnePlus. Until this week, it did a great job delivering updates quickly, but it didn't formally commit to a software upgrade schedule. 

OnePlus Software Maintenance Schedule.png

All of that changes this week when OnePlus unveiled its new operating system (Android) maintenance schedule. It has copied the Google Pixel model and will deliver major upgrades for two years and security updates for three years. 

As per the maintenance schedule, there will be 2 years of regular software updates from the release date of the phone (release dates of T variants would be considered), including new features, Android versions, Android security patches and bug fixes and an additional year of Android security patch updates every 2 months.
— OnePlus OS Maintenance Schedule

Conclusion

OnePlus has always offered solid well-designed devices at competitive prices. This new software maintenance schedule commitment makes their offering that much more compelling. 

I can no longer recommend devices from manufacturers that do not regularly deliver security and version upgrades. This is why I only recommend Android devices from Google, Blackberry Mobile and OnePlus. 

OnePlus 5T: The good and the bad

Review, GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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There are hundreds of reviews on the internet explaining the specifications and showing performance tests. I won't rehash any of that information. Instead, I will provide my personal opinion on the phone. My opinion is based on a short usage window thanks to a friend that lent me the device.

This will be a short, easy to read  review that can help you make a purchasing decision (if you are on the fence).

The OnePlus 5T Screen

The OnePlus 5T moved to an 18:9 (tall and narrow display). I like this format of a screen. It gives you a tone of real estate when browsing the web yet remains easy to hold. Many have complained that it is "only" a 1080p panel but to be honest, that isn't an issue (as long as you are not using it for Virtual Reality). In most cases, at arms length, the display is clean, rendering is sharp and the colours pop. 

By using a 1080p (instead of QuadHD like the Samsung Galaxy Note8/S8, LG V30, Pixel2 XL), this screen is very battery efficient. 

Additionally, the viewing angles are excellent and there is no tinting or colour shifting when looking at it from an angle. 

For those new to the OnePlus game, I also want to note that the OnePlus 5T ships with a screen protector already applied. 

The OnePlus 5T Design

Remember that this is an iterative change (going from the OnePlus 5 to the OnePlus 5T). The design isn't revolutionary even when compared to the iPhone 8 or the Oppo R11. The truth is that it doesn't have to be revolutionary. It is a rectangular slab of glass and metal and is easy to hold, relatively light and durable. 

The curved back makes it easier and more comfortable to hold. 

The device feels premium in the hand. It feels like a $1000 flagship phone: solid and well built. Nothing creeks or crack. 

It comes in one colour: black. 

The OnePlus 5T camera

The camera on the smartphone has become one of the most important factors in my personal purchasing decision. In good light, the OnePlus 5T (like its older brother the OnePlus 5) takes fantastic pictures. In good light, pictures taken with the main camera a sharp, crisp with vibrant eye-pleasing colours. 

The OnePlus 5T got rid of the telephoto lens and replaced it with a higher megapixel sensor (same aperture) supposedly to take better pictures in low light conditions. This is were I found the OnePlus 5T sorely lacking. Low light pictures were soft and grainy (compared to an iPhone 8 or Note 8). I think OnePlus should have gone the LG V30 route and made the second sensor an ultra-wide one). I really think that is the route they will take next year with the OnePlus 6. 

OnePlus has said they will release software updates to improve the camera performance in low light but there is a hardware limitation. Going for a lower megapixel sensor with bigger pixels would have yielded better results.

The OnePlus 5T uses Electronic image stabilization instead of Optical Image Stabilization (which is mechanical). In my video tests, the EIS performed relatively well in most lighting conditions but I still find OIS better. EIS requires the video size to be cut a bit. 

Coming back to reality, the picture and video quality in regular everyday use will be great especially when you consider this is a $500 phone. 

OnePlus 5T Fingerprint reader

The bigger screen means OnePlus had to relocate the fingerprint sensor to the back. It is well located in a spot where your fingers will naturally go (unlike the horribly placed sensor on the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8 Plus/Note 8). The sensor on the back is super fast (faster than my Samsung Note 8).

The fingerprint scanner also supports gestures (e.g. swiping down to open the notification shade). 

They have also implemented a basic face unlocking feature which uses 100+ features to "authenticate" you and unlock the phone. It is crazy fast. I cannot explain how fast it is (think instant). 

The OnePlus 5T face unlock feature is not as secure as the fingerprint scanner or FaceID on the iPhone X. IT is good enought for everyday use for most people. You can enable (and should) the face unlock and  fingerprint scanning features. Face unlock uses a picture of your face (no Infrared blaster or reader) so it will not work in dark situations.

OnePlus 5T's Oxygen OS

Until I moved to a Note 8, all of my Android devices have been stock or near Stock (original Motorola, Nexus, Pixel 1 devices). Oxygen OS is not stock but it is as close to stock as you are going to get. 

Oxygen OS feels like using Android on a  Pixel 2 XL with some small improvement modifications. This near stock version means the experience is buttery smooth, no noticeable lags and it even helps with battery life. 

Things they have kept

Cool features I have liked from the OnePlus 5 they kept in the OnePlus 5T include:

  • Dash charging. Dash charging moves the charge control circuitry to the charger (instead of the phone) thus keeping the phone cooler and allowing for faster more efficient charging. In my testing, Dash charging has turned out to be the fastest charging available on any android phone but does require proprietary chargers and cables. 
  • Headphone jack: Without jumping into the headphone jack controversy, jacks are better. I love Bluetooth headphones but there are times when wired is better and cheaper. I love that they decided to keep it. 

Conclusion

Unless photography or virtual reality are your main smartphone decision drivers, this is now the phone to beat. As I write this, my top 3 Android smartphones for 2017 (in order) are:

  1. Samsung Note 8
  2. Google Pixel 2 XL (because of all the issues the phone still has otherwise would have been my #1)
  3. OnePlus 5T

Note that the OnePlus is a top contender in performance at a mid-level price. If you need a casual photo shooter and don't use VR (GearVR or Google Daydream), then the OnePlus 5T is THE number 1 phone of 2017.

OnePlus 5T specs and release date

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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It's time to upgrade my phone and I am waiting to see what OnePlus releases as their OnePlus 5T model. In the above photo (from GizChina.it) , we see that the launch will likely take place on November 16 (for India at least which is where we believe this slide was created for).

And everyone's favorite leaker, EVLeaks also confirmed a November release date.\

OnePlus 5T Specs

Everything we have so far is based on rumor. Remember that everything we have seen so far could be an elaborate misinformation campaign by OnePlus. With that caveat, let's dive in.

We believe the processor will be the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 found in the OnePlus 5 and all other 2017 smartphones.

We also expect the OnePlus 5T to be delivered in 2 common packages:

  • 6GB of RAM + 64 GB of internal storage
  • 8GB of RAM + 128 GB of internal storage

These options should be identical to what we have with the OnePlus 5.  Some of the leaks also suggest a larger 3300 mAh battery (according to AnTuTu benchmarks). It is also safe to assume the OnePlus 5T will come with their proprietary Dash speed charging technology, 

The OnePlus 5 had an excellent camera and OnePlus understands the importance of the camera. The latest leaks suggest that the OnePlus 5T will now include 2 20MP cameras. 

OnePlus co-founder (Carl Pei) recently tweeted this:

If the above picture is an indication of low light picture quality the OnePlus 5T will bring, I am very excited. 

OnePlus 5T design

OnePlus has always been a design-driven company and it is safe to assume they will deliver this time as well. It is safe to assume the new OnePlus 5T will adorn a 6" 18:9 screen with a resolution of at least 2160x1080. 

This new larger display will require a more "bezeless" front and we expect the fingerprint sensor to be moved to the back. 

OnePlus_ChineseLEak.jpg

 

The above "leaked" image from a Chinse site supports everything we have heard so far. You can see the post containing this picture on Sina Weibo yourself. Keep in mind that all the leaks have come from unverified sources so they may simply be photoshop creations. 

OnePlus 5T Price

OnePlus has slowly increased the price of it's phone with every new release. We typically see a $50US increase each time and it is safe to assume OnePlus will stick to that model. The OnePlus 5 was $US479 at launch. I expect the OnePlus 5T to be around $US529.

Even at $529, it is almost half the price of equivalent flagships from Samsung, Google or LG.

Conclusion

And now we wait for November 16 to come. I am anxiously waiting for the OnePlus 5T to see if it is my next daily carry phone or if I will go with the Samsung Note 8 or Google Pixel 2XL. Did I mention I hate waiting? 

How Android N will save you money on your monthly data plan

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
Image by  Gord Webster   used under creative commons license

Image by Gord Webster  used under creative commons license

Android N (Nougat) has a handful of new very useful features but nothing catches my attention like a feature that can save you cold hard cash. This witchcraft is a result of a feature called Data Saver. 

One thing most mobile carriers are good at is charging you top dollar for any data overage you incur. This is true whether you are at home and especially abroad. It is true whether you are in Canada, the US or Hong Kong.

Most of the time users don't realize they busted their data cap until it's too late. Overage can happen because of excessive streaming (music or movies) but it can also happen because some apps aggressively update data in the background without you realizing it....

Google wants to help you tame the data monster intelligently. Instead of just reporting on data usage or cutting off data at a certain threshold, Data Saver can prevent background processes from downloading data when on a metered connection. 

Data Saver is a feature that users will have to enable but luckily it isn't an all or nothing option. By turning it on, it prevents almost all background apps from consuming metered data but you can add apps to a whitelist if you want.

There are some apps, by their very design, that must connect in the background to function (think of instant messaging apps, VOIP, etc). For these special cases, developers will be able to ask the user to be added to the whitelist during installation. 

Hopefully developers will make these Android N (Nougat) changes intelligently and modify the operation of their apps to minimize background data usage when they detect Data Saver is enabled but they are granted a slot on the coveted whitelist. Unfortunately we'll see some lazy developers just ask for the permission then continue as usual and hopefully users will uninstall those apps sending a strong signal to the developers.

As a Canadian, I am envious of my american friends on one of those beautiful Sprint or T-Mobile unlimited plans. They can ignore this new feature and continue guzzling huge amounts of glorious data.  For the rest of us, we should turn this feature on immediately. 

My main phone has been an iPhone since the iPhone 3G days (even though I always have other phones available). Until recently, IOS was still superior to Android but not anymore. With the latest changes introduced by Google in Android N (Nougat), I truly feel Android has become a more cutting edge platform and Data Saver is a clear example of that. Hopefully most of you are on devices that will eventually receive Android N. 

I can already see the emails flying in asking what devices will be upgraded. We won't know for sure until a manufacturer publishes a statement but here is my bet:

  • Samsung - Expect most devices since the Samsung Note5/Galaxy S6 to eventually get updated.
  • LG - LG G5 is probably the only one
  • Motorola - All 2016 devices will get upgrade and probably the 2015 Moto G
  • OnePlus - Expect the OnePlus 3 to eventually get updated but don't expect it soon. My guess is sometime mid next year.Don't expect other OnePlus devices to receive Android N
  • ZTE - The ZTE Axon 7 seems to be a huge hit (I'm trying to get one to review). I expect it to receive an Android N update but like the OnePlus 3, I wouldn't expect it soon

 

LG G3 Images leak and its gorgeous

technologyEdward KiledjianComment

LG will be announcing its updated Android smartphone lineup shortly (the G3) and leaks have started to appear in their secrecy ship. A tipster send PhoneArena images (link) which look like actual product shorts of this upcoming LG G3 smartphone. 

The rumors thus far have indicated the device will have a 5.5" IPS 2560x1440 screen and that the device will come in 3 colors (shown in the PhoneArena leaks).

Click on the image in the below gallery to cycle through the leaked pictures

Expect LG to make its official announcement May 27th.