BlackBerry Launches Security-Focused KEY2 Smartphone with Physical Keyboard

Subject: General Tech | June 14, 2018 - 03:05 AM |
Tagged: Oreo, encryption, dtek, blackberry, android 8.1, Android

BlackBerry’s upcoming KEY2 smartphone is a refreshed successor to last year’s KEYone that addresses most of the issues of its predecessor. At 151.4 x 71.8 x 8.5mm and 168 grams the KEY2 is slightly taller, but skinnier, thinner, and lighter than the KEYone with less rounded edges and no camera bump. The KEY2 comes in silver or black and features an aluminum alloy frame, soft touch non-slip back, and a 4.5” display and 35-key backlit physical keyboard around front. The smartphone runs the Android 8.1 Oreo operating system along with BlackBerry security features like a hardened kernel, secure boot, full disk encryption, DTEK security suite, Locker, and the privacy focused Firefox Focus browser.

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The 4.5” IPS display remains the same as the KEYone featuring a 3:2 aspect ratio and 1620 x 1080 resolution, but the BlackBerry KEY2 does feature an updated camera system and a tweaked keyboard. The dual rear 12MP cameras work with a dual tone LED flash and laser and phase detection auto focus (one camera supports a 2X zoom and supports portrait mode) to offer up high-resolution HDR images and 4K30 or 1080p60 videos. Around front, BlackBerry includes an 8MP camera for video conferencing or “selfies”. The keyboard has been updated with 20% taller keys and a matte finish while the right shift key has been swapped out for what BlacKBerry calls the Speed Key which allows users to hold in combination with any other key to open applications of their choice. The keyboard can be used as a trackpad with gesture support and hosts a fingerprint sensor in the space bar. According to YouTube vloggers at a BlackBerry event the keyboard feels more like the BlackBerry Bold keyboards of old which is a good thing. The keys are reportedly more clicky and less mushy as well.

The KEY2 features a headphone jack up top, power, volume, and convenience keys along the right edge, and a single speaker and USB-C port on the bottom edge.

Internally, BlackBerry has slightly updated the specifications to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660, 6GB of RAM, 64GB or 128GB of flash storage, and a 3500 mAh batter. While the Snapdragon 660 is still a solidly midrange part, it is at least a good bit faster than the SD620 used in the KEYone thanks to the move to Kryo 260 CPU cores. Specifically, the Snapdragon 660 has four Kryo 260 CPU cores at 2.2 GHz and four cores at 1.8 GHz along with an Adreno 512 GPU, Hexagon 680 DSP, and X12 LTE modem. Wireless I/O includes 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, LTE, NFC, GPS, and FM radios. BlackBerry claims that the KEY2’s battery is good for up to two days of mixed usage and it supports USB Power Delivery 2.0 v1.2 and 9V2A 18W along with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 for charging.

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This secure Android experience with physical key goodness comes at a cost, however. TCL’s BlackBerry KEY2 will be available later this month starting at $649 for the 64GB version (there is no word on the 128GB version’s price).

From my understanding the KEYone was a successful product for the company, and the improved KEY2 is sure to find a market among physical keyboard enthusiasts and security conscious business users even at the premium price.

Source: Blackberry

Huawei Unveils Flagship P20 Pro Smartphone With AI-Powered Triple Leica Cameras

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | April 4, 2018 - 01:59 PM |
Tagged: smartphone, p20 pro, Oreo, Leica, Kirin 970, Huawei, android 8.1

Huawei recently unveiled a slew of new smartphones and its new flagship P20 Pro is quite impressive and is the first smartphone to pack three rear cameras with Leica optics. The Huawei P20 Pro measures 155 x 73.9 x 7.8mm, weighs in at 180 grams (0.0275 lbs), and comes in black, midnight blue, pink gold, or gradient twilight colors.

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The P20 Pro is IP67 rated for dust and water resistance and features soft rounded edges and flat faces. The front of the smartphone is dominated by an edge-to-edge 6.1’ FullView OLED display with a resolution of 1080 x 2440 (408 PPI). a fingerprint sensor sits below the display and is the only hardware button on the front fact. While there is a notch (that is smaller than the iPhone X’s), Huawei offers a setting that will turn off the top of the display to the left and right of the notch to hide it if the notch is too annoying to you. The notch in the display is where the front facing camera with 24.8 MP CMOS sensor is located (the camera can be used for facial recognition to unlock the phone). External I/O includes a single USB-C port on the bottom (there is no 3.5mm headphone jack but Huawei does include the USB-C to 3.5mm adapter).

Around back is where things get interesting as Huawei has managed to pack three Leica cameras as well as an LED flash into the top corner. The rear cameras can be used alone or in combination and offer various forms of autofocus and depth detection along with bokeh portrait modes, improved low light and long exposure performance, and AI-powered image stabilization, scene detection, camera settings, and shot composition assistance. That's quite the run-on sentence, but in fact the P20 Pro managed to obliterate the DxOMark benchmark with an overall score of 109, a photo score of 114, and a video score of 98 which is very impressive! The NPU-powered AI is trained to recognize 500 scenarios in 19 categories and is able to assist the user in taking fast motion shots as well as night shots without flash using long exposures even when handheld, and looking at some of the night photos DxOMark was able to get seems to show it works well. Other camera features include 4D predictive focus, up to 102400 ISO, 960 FPS 720p video, and a 5-time hybrid zoom. Phase Detection Auto Focus is used in the main sensor and the cameras also support laser focus, deep focus, and contrast focus. Huawei claims that its "super snapshot" mode allows users to go from off to taking a photo in as little as 0.3 seconds.

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The three cameras include:

  • 20 MP Monochrome (1/2.78”) f/1.6 27mm equivalent
  • 40 MP RGB (1/1.73”) f/1.8 27mm equivalent (10 MP photos produced using quad bayer patterning)
  • 8 MP RGB (1/4.4”) f/2.4 80mm equivalent with optical image stabilization

Enough with the covers though, what's inside this smartphone? Well, Huawei has chosen the HiSilicon Kirin 970 SoC which features four ARM Cortex-A73 cores at 2.36 GHz, four Cortex-A53 cores at 1.8 GHz, a "micro core i7" NPU (neural processing unit), and Mali G72 MP12 graphics. The SoC looks to be somewhere between the Snapdragon 820 and Snapdragon 835 in performance (according to AnandTech) is paired with 6 GB of  RAM and 128 GB of flash storage. Connectivity includes NFC, GPS, and LTE (oddly, they don't list any Wi-Fi information on the specifications page) and the P20 Pro has the usual sensor compliment (e.g. gravity, proximity, ambient light, hall, gyroscope, compass, color temperature sensor). A 4,000 mAh battery with Huawei supercharging powers the device. As of the time of writing the Huawei P20 Pro comes with Android 8.1 Oreo for the operating system.

According to Hexus.net, the Huawei P20 Pro will be available across the pond in both dual and single SIM versions starting at £799 RRP (recommended retail price) which comes out to about $1,230.93 in US dollars for those curious. Needless to say, the Huawei P20 Pro isn't going to be cheap when (or if) it hits the US but at least you get a of hardware packed into it!

I am interested to see the reviews on this one though I just recently bought the LG V30 due to my G3 dying so I'll likely be holding onto it for as long as possible as well (heh). I can't lie that I'm a bit jealous of the camera though; guess I should have waited – my corgi photos could have been so much better! (haha) What are your thoughts on the Huawei flagship?

Source: Huawei

Huawei Announces Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro Smartphones

Subject: Mobile | October 16, 2017 - 10:23 AM |
Tagged: SoC, smartphone, phone, Oreo, mobile, Mate 10 Pro, Mate 10, Kirin 970, Huawei, Android 8, Android

Huawei has announced the successor(s) to the Mate 9 smartphone with the new Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, which feature a new "3D Glass Body" industrial design along with the new Kirin 970 processor and other improvements.

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The key features from Huawei include:

  • Kirin 970, the world’s first AI processor for smartphones with a dedicated Neural Network Processing Unit (NPU)
  • A 3D Glass Body featuring a barely-there-bezel, HUAWEI FullView Display and HDR10 supported technology for intensely vivid and brighter colors
  • TÜV Fast-Charge Safety Certified HUAWEI SuperCharge and 4000 mAh battery with AI-powered Battery Management
  • New Leica Dual Camera with SUMMILUX-H lenses, with both featuring  an aperture of f/1.6, and intelligent photography including AI-powered Real-Time Scene and Object Recognition and AI-powered Bokeh Effect;
  • An all-new, simplified EMUI 8.0 based on Android 8.0

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The Mate 10 Pro features an 18:9 OLED display

The Mate 10 is a 5.9-inch device with a 16:9 IPS display supporting HDR10, while the Mate 10 Pro offers an 18:9 OLED display (also with HDR10 support).

The new dual-camera system is again a joint effort with Leica, and combines a 12 MP color sensor with a 20 MP monochrome sensor, using lenses with a aperture of f/1.6 - and Huawei says this aperture is the "world's largest" for a smartphone. The digital zoom and bokeh effects are AI-powered, along with real-time scene and object recognition.

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The new Kirin 970 combines an 8-core CPU with a 12-core Mali-G72 GPU, and includes an NPU (neural processing unit) for AI-related tasks as well as a new dual ISP for the AI-powered camera features mentioned above.

Both phones include a 4000 mAh battery which offers "smart battery management" which Huawei states "understands user behavior and intelligently allocates resources to maximize battery life". The new TÜV-certified fast charging feature supports low-voltage charging of 4.5V / 5A, and Huawei states this will charge the phones from 1% to 20% in 10 minutes, or 1% to 58% in 30 minutes.

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The Mate 10 lineup

The Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro ship with Android 8.0 and a new "simplified" version of Huawei's EMUI interface. Pricing and availablity for the U.S. was not revealed, but the phones will go on sale internationally starting this month for the Mate 10, and mid-November for the Mate 10 Pro.

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The Mate 10 Pro lineup

While we don't have U.S. pricing yet, European pricing for the Mate 10 with 64GB of storage and 4GB memory is set at €699, and the Mate 10 Pro with 128GB/6GB will be €799.

Source: HUAWEI

Google Announces Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Smartphones

Subject: Mobile | October 4, 2017 - 04:32 PM |
Tagged: smartphone, pOLED, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 2, pixel, phone, Oreo, google, DxOMark, Android 8, AMOLED

Google has announced the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones, the second-gen versions of the Nexus-replacement Pixel which launched last October. We looked at that first Pixel phone, which was the premier Android device at the time, and these new Pixel 2 devices hope to place Google at the top of the heap again (with stiff competition from Samsung, of course).

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The Google Pixel 2 XL (image credit: Google)

The Pixel 2 arrives in a standard version with a 5-inch 1920x1080 AMOLED display, and an XL version with a new 6-inch pOLED display with 2880x1440 resolution. Both phones are powered by the 8-core Snapdragon 835 and feature 4GB of RAM and the option of either 64GB or 128GB of storage (no card slot on either phone).

While the design of the Pixel 2 is largely unchanged compared to last year, with large bezels above and below the display, the Pixel 2 XL comes closer to the ever-popular “all screen” look with its smaller top/bottom bezels.

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The Google Pixel 2 (image credit: Google)

Both phones offer dual front-facing stereo speakers as well, unlike iPhones which have to combine an earpiece speaker and bottom-firing speaker for their stereo effect. The battery capacities are a little different than last year with both Pixel 2 phones, with a 2700 mAh battery (down from 2770 mAh) in the Pixel 2, and a 3520 mAh battery (up from 3450 mAh) in the Pixel 2 XL.

It’s all about camera

Once again, Google is proclaiming the Pixel 2 camera as the best in the industry, and again this is based on testing from DxOMark which has it ranked #1 overall among smartphones. with an incredible 98 out of a possible 100 in their scoring system.

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Image credit: DxOMark

Both sizes of Pixel 2 offer a single 12.2 MP rear camera (sorry, no dual cameras here) with 1.4μm pixels, laser + dual pixel phase detection autofocus, OIS, and a f/1.8 aperture. Fans of simulated lens bokeh have no fear, as Google’s dual-pixel sensor design is said to allow for better portrait-style photos than the original Pixel. Video of up to 4k (but only at 30 FPS) is supported, and an 8 MP f/2.4 camera handles front-facing duties.

More on those new displays

Google has improved the display technology with the Pixel 2, as both versions now offer wide color gamut support (95% DCI-P3 coverage from the Pixel 2, and a full 100% DCI-P3 from the Pixel 2 XL). The displays are now ‘always on’, a handy feature that makes sense from a power standpoint when working with AMOLED panels (and hard to give up once you’ve grown accustomed to it as I did with the Galaxy S8+). Last but not least, covering these new displays is Corning Gorilla Glass 5, which is the most drop-resistant version to date (and is also found on the Galaxy S8/S8+ among other phones).

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A comparison of LCD and OLED technologies (image credit: Android Authority)

The Pixel 2 XL’s “pOLED” display designation suggests a polymer OLED panel, which has the advantage of being much thinner than traditional glass OLED substrates. (Read more about AMOLED vs. P-OLED here.)

The Pixel 2 phones ship with the new Android 8.0 Oreo, with the promise of “minimum” 3 years of OS and security updates. Vanilla Google phone owners (previously Nexus) have enjoyed being the first to new OS updates, and that should still be the case with these new devices. And if you are coming over from another platform - say, Apple, for instance - a “quick switch” adapter is in every box to help transfer data quickly between phones.

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The Quick Switch Adapter in action (image credit: Google)

Google is offering the (unlocked) phone for sale directly from their website, and have partnered with Verizon as the exclusive mobile carrier as they did with the original Pixel. The price? $649 gets you the 5-inch Pixel 2 with 64GB of storage, or double that to 128GB for $100 more. The Pixel 2 XL is available for $849 for the 64GB capacity, with the same $100 premium for a 128GB version. There are also four color options this year, with the whimsical naming fully intact from the previous generation: Just Black, Clearly White, Kinda Blue, and Black & White.

Oh, and one more thing: the 3.5 mm headphone jack is gone.

Source: Google