TechSummit Rewind 159: Sony at MWC 2017

Sony hopes to shake off a lackluster 2016 with three new smartphones

This is a special edition of the TechSummit Rewind, focusing on Sony at MWC 2017.

Xperia XZ Premium

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Sony hopes to bounce back from a lackluster 2016 with the introduction of the 5.5-inch Xperia XZ Premium with a number of world firsts.

The XZ Premium has the world’s first 4K HDR (2160×3840) display in a smartphone.

Besides the display, the phone also has the new Motion Eye camera system. Sony has embedded fast memory right into the camera stack, allowing it to produce super-slow motion of 960fps at 720p resolution. The rapid burst only lasts for 0.18 seconds however, so you’re technically only capturing something closer to 180 frames.

The addition of the extra memory also helps Sony start buffering shots as soon as the camera detects motion in the frame – so that there’s absolutely no lag when you press the shutter button, the camera just pulls the image it was already taking at that moment. This is the sort of system that’ll rely on good autofocus, and Sony is bringing back the triple-sensor system from the Xperia XZ: there’s laser AF, an RGBC infrared sensor for adjusting white balance on the fly, and an updated ExmorRS image sensor. The latter now has 19 percent larger pixels, stepping its resolution down to 19 megapixels. Sony’s Bionz image processing engine has also been updated with better motion detection and noise reduction.

Both colors (luminous chrome or deepsea black) are fingerprint magnets with Gorilla Glass 5 layered around the front and back, with metal antennas at the top and bottom of the device.

In terms of specs, Sony touts the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and won’t launch until the late spring or early summer because of it.

Other notable features include IP65 and IP68 water resistance, a thinner 7.9mm profile, and microSD card support. The phone’s battery is reasonable at 3,230mAh, and there’s the usual fingerprint sensor baked into the side-mounted power button.

Mid-range Xperias

Sony also unveiled three mid-range phones. The first and most interesting is the Xperia XZs, which features the exact same Motion Eye camera system as the XZ Premium.

However, the screen is bumped down to a 5.2-inch 1080p screen (with 2.5D curved glass running over the top). Instead of glass on both sides, the XZs has a metal back that saves you from the fingerprints and smudges on the XZ Premium.

It’s outfitted with a Snapdragon 820, and other Sony signatures like water resistance. The XZs will launch beginning in April.

Rounding out the lineup are the Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra. Both are powered by Mediatek Helio P20 processors and feature edge-to-edge displays (with sizable top and bottom bezels). The XA1 has a five-inch 720p screen, while the Ultra has a six-inch 1080p display. Both devices have a 23-megapixel f/2 rear camera lens, with differing selfie cameras. The XA1 has an 8-megapixel front camera, while the Ultra increases that to 16 megapixels and adds optical image stabilization for vloggers.

Both phones include Xperia Actions, a new software feature that Sony claims can learn user habits and automatically manage apps accordingly.

“When you go to bed, your Xperia can learn your bedtime routine and automatically adjust the screen brightness and call volume.”

-Sony, in a press release

The XA1 and XA1 Ultra will launch this spring in white, black, pink, and gold.

TechSummit Rewind 158: Samsung at MWC 2017

Samsung shows off productivity-minded tablets, a Gear VR update, and teases its next flagship smartphone

This is a special edition of the TechSummit Rewind, focusing on Samsung at MWC 2017.

Galaxy Book

Samsung Galaxy Book

Samsung has launched two new tablets that feature more improvements on the productivity tablet genre.

The new Galaxy Book 10 and Galaxy Book 12 both run Windows 10 and come with a S Pen and keyboard case. They both have slim, aluminum designs and will be available in both WiFi and LTE models. The Book 10 has a 10.6-inch 1920×1080 LCD display and an Intel Core m3 processor, while the higher-end Book 12 is equipped with a 12-inch Super AMOLED HDR display and Intel’s fanless Core i5 processor.

Both tablets have two USB Type-C ports, up to 10 hours of battery life, and fast charging features.

The keyboard case has been improved from last year’s Galaxy TabPro S with improved key travel, island-style keycaps, and backlighting. The trackpad is also 50 percent larger than the one included with the TabPro S.

The S Pen supports over 4,000 levels of pressure sensitivity, has a rubber 0.7mm tip, and never needs to be charged. It can be used to take notes, draw, or capture screen shots. Unfortunately, there isn’t a place to put the S Pen when it’s not in use so it can be easily lost.

Galaxy Tab S3

samsung galaxy tab s3

The most mainstream of these productivity-minded tables is the Android-toting Galaxy Tab S3. The 9.7-inch model is a direct substitute for 2015’s Tab S2 and features a similar design with an all-glass back and updated specs.

The 9.7-inch 2048×1536 Super AMOLED display now supports HDR video, and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. A microSD card slot also supports memory expansion up to 256GB. The tablet now has four AKG-tuned speakers and measures 6mm in thickness. Android 7.0 Nougat with Samsung tweaks provides the software experience.

Included in the box is Samsung’s signature S Pen, which is larger and thicker than the S Pens on prior iterations. It has a new 0.7mm tip and over 4,000 levels of pressure sensitivity, and supports all the features you’d expect: taking notes, capturing screen shots, and even recording GIFs from video.

However, there’s no place to actually put the S Pen like the Note line. Fortunately, the S Pen is flat on two sides, so it won’t easily roll away.

Further bolstering the productivity-minded approach ie s the optional keyboard case that attaches to the bottom of the tablet with a pogo pin. Because of this, it doesn’t need to pair to the tablet or be charged. The keyboard is made of plastic and doesn’t provide backlighting.

Gear VR controller

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Samsung’s Gear VR virtual reality headset has been refreshed with a physical controller accessory that provides “quicker selection and interaction,” according to Samsung. It still has a 101-degree field of view, but it’s emphasized by the Oculus-designed controller made for one-handed use, and features a touchpad for in-app gestures and a trigger that lets you “select, grab, take aim, and fire.”

According to Oculus, over 70 titles optimized for the new Gear VR controller are in development, and all existing content should also work fine since the accessory is essentially a souped-up version of the touchpad built into the headset. The one hardware difference for the headset is a strap that can hold the controller when you’re not using VR.

Galaxy S8 event

Usually, I’d be leading this recap with the Galaxy S8. However, the Galaxy Note 7 debacle has forced Samsung to rethink its approach and regain consumers’ trust. However, Samsung did close out its keynote by announcing its next one that’ll announce the Galaxy S8 on Mar. 29 in New York.

We’ll have full coverage of that event when it comes.

TechSummit Rewind 157: Huawei at MWC 2017

Huawei iterates with P10 smartphones, Watch 2 smartwatches

This is a special edition of the TechSummit Rewind, focused on Huawei’s MWC 2017 press conference.

P10, P10 Plus smartphones

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Huawei iterated on last year’s P9 with the P10 with a couple of extra tricks.

Like last year, the P10 comes with either a 5.1-inch 1080p display or the Plus model with a 5.5-inch WQHD display. Huawei’s Kirin 960 processor powers both with its EMUI 5.1 software on top of Android. However, the larger model has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage compared to 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage on the regular P10. Both phones support microSD cards and have large batteries: 3,200mAh on the P10 and 3,750mAh on the P10 Plus.

The Leica-branded dual camera system returns, with the P10 Plus benefitting from better lenses that give it a wider f/1.8 aperture than the P10’s f/2.2. There’s a 20- megapixel monochrome sensor for capturing sharper detail and more light and a 12-megapixel colored one for filling in the colors. There’s also a Portrait Mode that pretty much is a carbon copy of the iPhone 7 Plus’ feature of the same name.

Leica branding is migrating to the front camera as well this year with double the brightness and extended dynamic range. There’s also an “adaptive selfie” feature built in that directs whether you’re taking a selfie with one or many people and will automatically adjust the angle to match.

The P10 has the same curved discreet antenna lines as the iPhone with a similar look and feel. However, Huawei has a smorgasbord of colors (blue, graphite black, dazzling gold, rose gold, green, white, silver, and prestige gold) and a “hyper diamond cut” textured finish at its disposal to differentiate from the fruit-flavored phone. The latter is only available in blue and gold.

The new home button on the P10 shifts the fingerprint reader up front that takes in swipes and taps as an alternative for the Android control keys: One tap is back, a long press is home, and a swipe brings up your recent apps.

On the software front, Huawei has custom themes to match all eight exterior colors for the P10 and P10 Plus. However, the machine learning being used to accelerate apps is more intriguing. The company’s “behavior-based compression mechanism” will intelligently compress apps you don’t use very often, and the kernel has been modified to let the operating system recycle the phone’s memory faster.

The touch controller driver on the P10 is also faster, using predictive fingerprint tracking to convey a sense of snappier response to swipes around the screens.

The P10 and P10 Plus will begin shipping in March across Europe, Malaysia, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries. The P10 will be priced at €649 ($685), with the Pro starting at €699 ($738).

Huawei Watch 2

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Huawei was a significant partner for the launch of Android Wear, and it’s shaping up to do the same for Android Wear 2.0 with two new, sportier models.

The Huawei Watch 2 and the Huawei Watch 2 Classic are loaded with connectivity and new features, including LTE (on the Watch 2), GPS, heart rate sensors, and NFC for Android Pay. Their designs are much chunkier compared to the first Huawei Watch, and are significantly thicker and bulkier, despite having a slightly smaller 1.2-inch screen compared to the predecessor’s 1.4-inch screen. They measure about 12.6mm thick, which is about two millimeters thicker than the prior version.

Both versions have two buttons and include microphones and speakers. According to Huawei, the 420mAh batteries inside both devices provide up to two days of battery life (double the first generation’s lifespan), and a new, low-power “watch mode” allows the watches to last up to 25 days with functionality reduced to just telling the time and counting steps.

The Watch 2 is made of plastic to support LTE (a WiFi-only model will also be offered), while the Watch 2 Classic has a metal chassis. Both versions have interchangeable straps, and the Classic model has a unique “hybrid strap” that has a leather top and rubber underneath to protect against sweat damage. Both watches are rated for IP68 water resistance.

The new heart rate sensor will continuously track heart rates, and both watches come loaded with Huawei’s Fit program that personalizes a training program based on goals and prior performance.

Both watches are distinctly masculine, but Huawei will keep its female-focused Watch Elegant and Watch Jewel from last year available for now.

A Porsche-designed version of the Watch 2 is also coming with a Porsche Design logo and special watch face.

According to the company, the Watch 2 will launch in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Germany, and China in March. In April, it’ll come to the U.S., U.K., Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Ireland, the Nordics, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, India, South Africa, Poland, Austria, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and UAE and Malaysia will see it starting in May. Pricing will begin at €329 ($347) depending on features and model.

 

LG goes “back to basics” with G6

LG has launched the G6 flagship highlighted by its display and wide angle cameras.

LG has launched the G6 flagship highlighted by its display and wide angle cameras. In essence, it’s a “back to basics approach to premium smartphones,” according to the company, after the missteps taken by the G5.

“LG will continue to lead smartphone innovation with a focus on convenience and reliability in order to exceed consumer expectations.”

-Juno Cho, LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company president

There’s a 5.7-inch QHD+ FullVision display (2880×1440) that features an 18:9 aspect ratio.

Sculpted from aluminum and glass, the smartphone features a minimalist design that comes in black, platinum, and white. The metal has a soft matte finish, rounded corners, and a flat back with no camera bump.

The G6 is the first smartphone to support the Dolby Vision and HDR 10 High Dynamic Range standards for a “wider range of color,” according to LG.

The company is offering the G6 Game Collection that provides up to $200 of in-game content for Temple Run 2, Spider-Man Unlimited, Crossy Road, SimCity BuildIt, Cookie Jam, and Genies & Gems on Google Play.

The smartphone has dual 13MP rear cameras, including a 125-degree wide angle lens and a 100-degree field of view on the 5MP front camera.

There’s a new Square Camera mode that shows recent photos in one window in film mode so users can review photos without having to resort to the gallery, and a Square Camera feature that divides the screen into two identical squares. The G6 can also take perfectly square photos in 1:1 aspect ratio, ideal for social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat. Users can also choose other ratios like 4:3, 16:9, and 18:9. You can also take pictures in 1:1 ratio in one window and then review, edit, and upload in another window immediately after shooting. GIFs can also be created by combining up to 100 images from the gallery.

The smartphone is rated for IP68 water and dust resistance that makes it safe to be immersed in up to 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes.

Here’s the rest of the spec sheet:

  • Memory: 4GB RAM, 32/64GB of storage, microSD
  • 3,300mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • Dimensions: 9 x 71.9 x 7.9mm, 163g

Source: LG

BlackBerry KeyOne brings back the physical keyboard

The enterprise-friendly smartphone has a physical QWERTY keyboard and dumps BlackBerry’s DTEK software on top of Android 7.1 Nougat.

TCL, the new manufacturer of BlackBerry’s hardware, has launched the KEYone at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The enterprise-friendly smartphone has a physical QWERTY keyboard and dumps BlackBerry’s DTEK software on top of Android 7.1 Nougat. This adds access to features like BlackBerry Hub, BBM, and other apps aimed at the enterprise.

The keyboard serves as a touch-sensitive control pad for adjusting the cursor in long emails and text documents. All 52 letter keys can also be programmed to launch specific apps when you tap or long-press them (F for Facebook, U for Uber, I for Instagram, etc.). Above those keys is a 4.5-inch 1080p display powered by a 3505mAh battery and a Snapdragon 625 processor, which can be topped up with the “Boost” fast charging feature.

The KEYone will launch in April for $549 (£499/€599) through various retailers worldwide and carriers in a business-friendly black.

Here’s some other specs:

  • 8MP front camera
  • 12MP auto-focus “large pixel” rear camera

Source: BlackBerry