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Android Circuit: New Galaxy Note 9 Feature Confirmed, OnePlus 6 Review, Radical Pixel 3 Design Leaks

Taking a look back at seven days of news and headlines across the world of Android, this week’s Android Circuit includes new Galaxy Note 9 leaks, release date thoughts on the Galaxy S10, OnePlus 6 reviews and waterproofing discussions, Pixel 3 design leaked by Google, HTC launching the massive U12 Plus, Nokia 1 going on sale in UK, and BlackBerry Mobile teases the KEY2. Android Circuit is here to remind you of a few of the many things that have happened around Android in the last week (and you can find the weekly Apple news digest here[1]). Latest Galaxy Note 9 Leak

Although the under-screen fingerprint may have been dropped, the upcoming release of the Samsung Galaxy Note9 is expected to showcase Samsung’s latest efforts in the AI space with an updated digital personal assistant. Gordon Kelly reports[2]:

Speaking to The Korea Herald, Gray G. Lee, head of the AI Center Under Samsung Research, revealed the Galaxy Note 9 will be the launch device for Bixby 2.0. This may trigger sneers given the Bixby smart assistant has been widely derided since it launched with the Galaxy S8 last year, but not so fast.

Lee says Bixby 2.0 will be more than just a personal assistant. Instead, it will be an “artificial intelligence platform” which enhances the performance and user experience across the phone. The Assistant itself will also have enhanced natural language processing, improved noise resistance capability and faster response times.

How much of an impact that will have on the day-to-day use of the phablet remains to be seen. More here on Forbes[3].

Is Samsung Accelerating Galaxy Release Dates If the Galaxy Note 9 is going to be released early (with indications that a late July launch is possible[4]) what does that mean for the rest of the flagship line up over the next device cycle? It could be the South Korean company is getting ready to launch three key devices over twelve months, as I speculated earlier this week[5]:

Perhaps the early Note 9 appearance opens up the window for the Galaxy S10 to make an early run – and if it did that’s going to provide a lot of sales in Q1 2019.

Of course, this only works if Samsung has a third handset that will wow the press with a new design, show off a new user interface, with a radical approach to new technology, that could be revealed at MWC in late February 2019 to go on sale at the start of the second quarter.

At which point I’ll point out the Galaxy X and the mythical Samsung folding phone. More here on Forbes[6]. Ewan Spence

OnePlus 6 (Ewan Spence) OnePlus 6 Reviewed

This week saw the OnePlus 6 go on public sale, and the first full reviews of the Shenzhen-based manufacturers latest device were published. You can read the highlights here[7], before I sum up the internet’s impression:

Although the camera has improved it still misses out on that certain something to push it into challenging the top-line handsets. There is no IP rating for water or dust ingress and while it should survive a quick immersion I would have liked to have seen OnePlus reach the by-now defacto IP67 standard.

And while the move to a glass-backed device brings it into line with other fashionable phones, it also robs OnePlus of the signature metal back. But it still has a headphone jack, it retains Dual-SIM capability, and the OnePlus ‘three way’ slider for muting alerts or vibrations remains present. This is a solid iteration on the OnePlus design.

It moves with the times, although it doesn’t seem to have questions if the times are moving in the right direction. Yet the handset offers an experience that is almost at flagship levels, but for £300 less.

More OnePlus 6 reviews here[8]. One point that every picked out is the lack of an IP67 rating for the OnePlus 6.

This has become a defacto standard in high-end smartphones over recent years, and while OnePLus has waterproofed the handset, it’s tough to compare it without having a standard rating[9]:

If OnePlus is about challenging the flagship offerings from other devices then a defined standard is the way forward. it offers confidence to the public, it offers a measurable standard for the manufacturer to aim for, and it allows easy one to one comparisons. Apple waterproofed the iPhone 6S, and the subsequent iteration saw the iPhone 7 gain an IP67 rating. The campaign for the presumptively named OnePlus 6T to get the same rating starts here.

More on the waterproofing here[10].

Pixel 3 Design Leaked By Google Sometimes it’s the accidental leaks and images close to the source that are the most convincing. Tucked away inside the Android P developer code resources and graphics used by the UI, lies one clear (albeit slightly abstract) look at a mystery Google-branded smartphone.

Has Mountain View leaked the Pixel 3? Gordon Kelly thinks so[11].

Spotted by Slashleaks, I can confirm that buried within the current Android P beta settings (Settings > Sounds > Shortcut to Prevent Ringing) is Google showcasing the functionality using a new phone design which would be an absolute gamechanger. …the image shows a truly bezel-less device. No bottom chin, no notch, just the slender, consistent rim of the phone all the way around the display.

If this is the Pixel 3, then Google will be the first mass-market smartphone maker to essentially reach design perfection.

And it’s not like Google has made this graphical slip up before.

Kelly explains why this Pixel 3 leak feels genuine, here on Forbes[12].

Next: HTC reveals the U12 Plus, AndroidGo arrives in the UK on the Nokia 1, and BlackBerry teases the KEY2…

References

  1. ^ and you can find the weekly Apple news digest here (www.forbes.com)
  2. ^ Gordon Kelly reports (www.forbes.com)
  3. ^ More here on Forbes (www.forbes.com)
  4. ^ with indications that a late July launch is possible (www.forbes.com)
  5. ^ as I speculated earlier this week (www.forbes.com)
  6. ^ More here on Forbes (www.forbes.com)
  7. ^ read the highlights here (www.forbes.com)
  8. ^ More OnePlus 6 reviews here (www.forbes.com)
  9. ^ it’s tough to compare it without having a standard rating (www.forbes.com)
  10. ^ More on the waterproofing here (www.forbes.com)
  11. ^ Gordon Kelly thinks so (www.forbes.com)
  12. ^ here on Forbes (www.forbes.com)

Sony ZD9 KD-65ZD9 review: a TV that goes big, goes bright and offers true luxury

To cut a long story short, the ZD9 represents the current pinnacle of Sony LED LCD TV design. It combines class-leading HDR brightness and accuracy, courtesy of a full-array Master Backlight Drive, with top-flight imaging processing and design. As a result, even the ‘entry-level’ 65-inch model is not going to be cheap, but whatever the screen size, the ZD9 is a hell of a lot of telly for your money.

Those looking for more understated but equally excellent visuals might find themselves more swayed by its OLED sibling, the Sony KD-55A1 or its 65-inch big brother.

Sony KD-65ZD9 review: Design

The ZD9 is a bit of a show-off’s telly, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but Sony just about keeps it classy. The screen has an ultra thin slate bezel, trimmed with a faux gold strip, and unpretentious pedestal stand.

The rear panel sports a neat pattern which helps disguise the various pop-off panels used to hide connections and cable management. The set has four HDMI inputs, all HDCP 2.2 compliant; however only inputs 2 and 3 support 4K 60p, and 3 is also the ARC connection. This rather limits system options if you’re not coupling the set with a 4K AV receiver.

There’s also Scart and component if you really need them, a digital optical audio output and wired ethernet as well as Wi-Fi, for network matters. This premium vibe is only let down by the remote control, which is a fairly horrible, rubber-buttoned clicker.

The Sony ZD9 range

We’re featuring the 65-inch ZD9 here: Sony KD-65ZD9 to its friends.

Also on the shelves, so long as said shelves are big enough, are the 75-inch KD-75ZD9 and 100-inch KD-100ZD9. These can respectively be described as, ‘a tad pricey’ and ‘ouch’.

Sony ZD9 65-inch review: Performance

Sony ZD9 KD-65ZD9 review: a TV that goes big, goes bright and offers true luxury Hands up, the ZD9 is a breathtaking beast. When it came out in 2017 it was right on the cutting edge of what LED tellies can do, and a steady stream of firmware updates have kept it near there, even as 2018’s tellies start to appear in the shops.

The only down side to that is we’re still not seeing any amazing TV deals on the ZD9 at this point although the RRP has come down from its Alpha Luxe launch level. Capable of extraordinarily dramatic images, this 65-inch ZD9 pushes the envelope in terms of realistic HDR, while copious fine detail and texture is unlocked by Sony’s X1 Extreme HDR processor. The latest firmware update has added support for Dolby Vision from streaming services, and broadcast HLG.

They join the industry standard HDR10. The ZD9’s black level accuracy is largely due to its Backlight Master Drive. An unspecified number of precision calibrated LED lights, controlled by a unique lighting algorithm, allow the screens backlight to react with astonishing precision.

Picture modes are many and varied. You can choose from Vivid, Standard, Custom, Cinema Pro, Cinema Home, Sports, Animation, a trio of Photo modes, Game and Graphics. The Standard setting is ruthlessly revealing, and as such my recommended go-to setting.

Of the two Cinema modes, Home pulls out more detail than Pro, and is generally the better option. For example, when Electro goes nuclear in Time Square on The Amazing Spider-Man 2, UHD Blu-ray, the lens flare, billboard lights and the blue-man himself are ravishing. But the ZD9 doesn’t just look dandy with native 4K.

It does a cracking job with HD sources too, using Object-Based Remastering to give an HDR-style lift to SDR content. Motion handling is above average. Of the various Motionflow settings, Clear is our choice for fast-moving sports, while True Cinema keeps movies looking suitably filmic.

Unlike the A1 range, Sony’s flagship LED set makes no clever provision for audio. That said, the two downward firing stereo speakers have enough volume and clarity to satisfy everyday viewing.

Sony KD-65ZD9 review: features

Sony ZD9 KD-65ZD9 review: a TV that goes big, goes bright and offers true luxury Recently updated to Android Nougat, the set’s TV OS is still something of a mixed bag.

The platform remains cluttered and prone to weird error messages, but functionality is high. Integrated streaming services include Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, both with 4K HDR streaming support, plus Youtube and lesser options. A YouView overlay opens the door to a full complement of mainstream catch-up, accessed via the rollback programme guide.

The ZD9 has a generous 8.2GB of internal storage for app and game downloads. There’s also voice interaction with Google Home and Amazon Alexa. The screen remains one of the few to still offer 3D.

Two pairs of active shutter glasses ship in the box, and 3D effects are excellent. Dimensional pictures offer pronounced depth with minimal ghosting and no flicker. Great news if you have a collection of 3D Blu-rays you want to continue to enjoy.

Sony ZD9 review: The verdict

I rate the Sony ZD9 as a 4K HDR TV for picture quality connoisseurs. Firmware updates continue to keep it at the forefront of image performance, enabling it to more than hold its own against the very best from rival brands. If you want HDR brighter than anything available from OLED, then it literally demands to be seen.

Aside from the cheap remote control, it’s also beautifully built and finished, as it should be: being the jewel in Sony’s LED LCD crown, the ZD9 is seldom going to turn up in T3’s list of bargain buys.

Viewed as a premium, flagship screen, however, the ZD9 – at least in its ‘smaller’ 65- and 75-inch guises – offers good value for your admittedly large sums of money.

The OnePlus 6 shows you don't need to splash out for an iPhone or Samsung to get a good phone

If you’re in the market for a brand-new smartphone, but don’t necessarily want to splash out upwards of £1,000 for the latest phones from Samsung or Apple, there’s never been a better time to buy a more affordable device. OnePlus, the phone-maker with ties to a massive but relatively unknown[1] Chinese consumer electronics company, has been cranking out impressively built and relatively low-cost phones for years[2]. Its latest offering is the OnePlus 6, which starts at £529, EUR519, or GBP469, depending on your region. Like many of the company’s offerings before it[3], the OnePlus 6 can go toe-to-toe with phones from more established manufacturers, although some compromises have to be made along the way to keep the price down.

Are the trade-offs worth the savings? Here’s a quick run-down of our thoughts after using the phone for a couple weeks:

What’s good

Decent battery life. The first weekend I had the OnePlus 6, I forgot it at work on Friday when it had about 50% battery, and came back on Monday to see it still had about 35%. It can last well through a day’s usage, and the quick-charging technology built into the phone means it should have enough juice to last an entire day from just a half-hour charge.

It’s a OnePlus. There are many little delightful design features OnePlus has introduced over the years. It was one of the first phones to have a function to tap to wake up the screen. It run a clean, almost untouched version of Android.

It has a three-way rocker button that toggles between silent, vibrate, and ring. It’s big. The phone features a massive 6.28-inch AMOLED display, meaning you won’t go blind using the OnePlus 6 as your only screen on commutes, trips, or even on the couch. It still has a headphone jack. Unlike most other major phones on the market these days, OnePlus still puts a regular headphone jack in its phones.

The company also recently released a decent[4], if slightly awkward, pair of wireless headphones, which does seem to suggest that it may eventually kill the headphone jack too.

OnePlus’ distinctive red charging cable. (OnePlus)

It’s still quite cheap. The OnePlus 6 is more expensive than previous models. The OnePlus 3, for example, started at[5] £399. But it’s well below many comparable phones, like the £850 Google Pixel 2 XL[6], the £700 LG G7 ThinQ[7], or the £800 Sony Xperia XZ2[8].

Quick unlock. The sensors included in the front of the phone offer a face-unlock function that’s like a boiled-down version of the FaceID feature on Apple’s iPhone X. It’s not quite as reliable as Apple’s technology, nor as secure, but still pretty speedy when it works. It looks kind of like an iPhone X. I don’t know if this is necessarily a good thing, but perhaps you’re the kind of person who wants people to think you’re fancier than you are.

It seems like a trend[9] in phone making right now.

What’s not so good

No wireless charging. The OnePlus 6 has a smoothed glass back. But that feature is not, like the back on the iPhone X, iPhone 8, or Samsung Galaxy S9, to enable wireless charging–instead it’s mainly just because the designers thought it looked and felt nice. The phone is potentially a fair bit more breakable than its predecessors (which mainly had sturdier, plastic backs) and there’s no added benefit of wireless charging.

For some reason, even the matte black finish has a glass back. (OnePlus)

It’s not waterproof. Many of the competing phones are water-resistant, and OnePlus has not figured out for the 6.

Unlocking can be annoying. The fingerprint reader on the back of the phone seems to only work when I place my finger in a very specific way, and although the face unlock works quickly, I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable relying on it to secure all the information in my phone. Which leaves you with the standard Android pin or pattern inputs to lock the device. Copycat design. As much as OnePlus likes to tout its uniqueness as a differentiator in crowded markets[10], there isn’t a whole lot about the design that feels unique.

The front looks like an iPhone X, and the back of like a Samsung Galaxy S9+:

You vs the guy she told you not to worry about pic.twitter.com/JnGvIbnzGQ[11] — Mike Murphy (@mcwm) May 24, 2018[12]

It’s big. Although having a large screen is lovely, the OnePlus is a cumbersome device to keep in your pocket, as all the larger smartphones are. But OnePlus doesn’t offer multiple sizes for the 6, unlike some of its competitors.

The camera is fine. One a clear day, the photos the OnePlus 6 can take look very good, as you’d expect from any decent modern smartphone at this point. But the dual 16- and 20-megapixel rear cameras aren’t as sharp as many of the cameras their competitors offer.

A few shots taken on the OnePlus 6 pic.twitter.com/oiF1pOwPvZ[13] — Mike Murphy (@mcwm) May 24, 2018[14]

But the camera sometimes adds odd coloration[15] to photos, and the portrait function wasn’t as sharp as what other dual-camera phones can do:

Consider how much having the absolutely best smartphone camera[16] means to you, instead of just a quite good one.

Should you get one?

The OnePlus 6 is a great phone for its price in 2018. But if you have the ability to shell out more, there are better phones out there. And if you’re looking to save some cash, there are other phones, like Nokia’s, that are even cheaper and provide a very fine smartphone experience.

This phone isn’t likely to win over any Apple converts.

But if you have a budget of about £500 and you’re after an Android phone, there’s not much better out there for the price.

Read this next: OnePlus says it beat Apple and Samsung in India through word-of-mouth[17]

Read full story

References

  1. ^ massive but relatively unknown (qz.com)
  2. ^ for years (qz.com)
  3. ^ Like many of the company’s offerings before it (qz.com)
  4. ^ a decent (www.theverge.com)
  5. ^ started at (qz.com)
  6. ^ Google Pixel 2 XL (qz.com)
  7. ^ LG G7 ThinQ (www.theverge.com)
  8. ^ Sony Xperia XZ2 (www.cnet.com)
  9. ^ seems like a trend (qz.com)
  10. ^ crowded markets (qz.com)
  11. ^ pic.twitter.com/JnGvIbnzGQ (t.co)
  12. ^ May 24, 2018 (twitter.com)
  13. ^ pic.twitter.com/oiF1pOwPvZ (t.co)
  14. ^ May 24, 2018 (twitter.com)
  15. ^ odd coloration (twitter.com)
  16. ^ absolutely best smartphone camera (www.dxomark.com)
  17. ^ OnePlus says it beat Apple and Samsung in India through word-of-mouth (qz.com)

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