OnePlus 8 Pro – More like one more broke bro

OnePlus 8 Pro specifications

OnePlus just announced their new OnePlus 8 flagship series. I think many would agree that it felt a lot like an iPhone launch. For the most part, the OnePlus 8 Pro is your typical flagship phone that checks all the boxes. There are 3 key features that stand out but it comes with at a disappointing price point.

Display

It’s clear that there was a focus on the material design of the phone. They claim that they’ve tested hundreds of colors, materials and finishings to develop a new matte-frosted glass in Onyx Black, Glacial Green and Ultramarine Blue. One of the best features of the OnePlus 8 is the 120Hz refresh rate that provides an extremely smooth scrolling experience. Other phones have this 120Hz display, but OnePlus offers it with their QHD (1440p) display turned on. In my previous post about Samsung’s new S20 series, I shared how they only offer 120Hz with the FHD (1080p) display. The OnePlus 8 has a JNCD (just noticeable colour difference) of 0.4 which allows for colour reproduction on the display to be apparently indiscernible from real life. It sounds a bit like a gimmick but DisplayMate, the industry standard of excellence for image and picture quality rated it very high in a wide array of tests in their recent article.

Camera

OnePlus 8 Pro Camera Modules

The 8 Pro’s 48-megapixel main camera and ultra wide-angle camera can shoot sharp, vibrant daytime shots and above average shots in dark environments. The hybrid zoom camera has 3x hybrid optical and 30x digital zoom (the max I would probably go is 10x for a decent quality picture). The color filter camera is fairly new – it allows you to swap out colours in your pictures on-the-go to supposedly bring out your inner creativity. This seems like an unnecessary gimmick so that they can say it’s the first OnePlus phone with four camera modules. Here are some of the unique camera features:

  1. Optical image and video stabilization on both the ultra wide and main camera
  2. Dynamic video that captures three different exposures and blends them together for the best quality
  3. Windscreen technology that aims to filter out wind noise from your videos
  4. Audio zoom technology that lets you zoom in to different audio sources (for your eavesdropping pleasure)

Warp Charge

Finally, an amazing feature you didn’t know you needed… warp charge. You can get up to 60% charge in 30 minutes when plugged into their warp charger and a never-before seen 50% charge in 30 minutes using their warp wireless charger! OnePlus’ whole reasoning for not supporting wireless charging until now was that previous technology wasn’t fast enough for them to support. It’s great to see they’ve really pushed the boundaries of current technology. Check out how fast the 8 Pro charges compared to the new Samsung S20 Ultra and Apple iPhone 11 Pro below.

Pricing

Pricing is not a highlight here, it’s actually quite disappointing considering the first OnePlus One phone was known for its “Never Settle” campaign, offering flagship specifications for a fraction of the cost. There’s no doubt that you’re still getting value – it’s just a shame it couldn’t come for less this time around. The OnePlus 8 doesn’t have all the features of the Pro model but comes it in at $200 USD less.

OnePlus 8 Pro pricing; $899 for 128GB and $999 for 256GB.
OnePlus 8 pricing; $699 for 128GB and $799 for 256GB.

What do you think of OnePlus’ new colour filter camera? Would you use it? The OnePlus 8 is a strong contender in the current market but to be honest, it’s hard to be excited when the world is at a halt. Good thing technology never sleeps, just like Technomuscle.

Company Estimote creates a new range of wearable devices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces

Estimote has been making wearable and programmable devices for a while now but with the current pandemic, they’ve adapted their technology to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces. Even though companies have social distancing and physical isolation measures in place, we all know there are times when we accidentally slip up. If there is someone that is frequently slipping up, this technology can help to identify them and find out why.

The hardware uses passive indoor GPS location tracking with proximity sensors powered by Bluetooth throughout a workplace facility, ultra-wide-band radio connectivity and built-in LTE to trace contact and provide data to employees and employers in real-time. Through a simple but powerful interface, employers can then track everything from frequency and length of individual close encounters to mapping the most troublesome locations in a workplace where multiple close encounters seem to happen. Companies can track and identify hot zones versus safe and pre-authorized zones.

wearable
Employers can then track everything from frequency of one-on-one close encounters to mapping the most troublesome locations in a workplace

On an individual level, the devices can warn you when you are too close to someone else who is wearing a device. Individuals can also indicate their own health status (e.g. “Quarantined”) with an app and display their workplace status publicly with built-in LEDs. Employers can then monitor those who are “Quarantined” and warn those that may have accidentally come in contact with them.

The wearable is constantly scanning for other wearables to register close interactions

*Technomuscle is in no way affiliated with, or supported by Estimote. However, we think this is a product worth sharing and investing in, especially during these challenging times. If you are interested in the product, feel free to reach out to the Estimote team by email.

Samsung Galaxy S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra 120Hz Display – Does it stand up to the hype?

The Galaxy S20 lineup has been touted for it’s new cameras but tech enthusiasts will probably not care to use their phone for photography. Luckily, they all come with one upgrade that many would consider as a huge leap – 120Hz displays.

New super smooth 120hz display

First, let’s get into how great this display really is – it’s amazing. The refresh rate of the screen has doubled from the original 60Hz to 120Hz which makes menu transitions, scrolling through websites, and enjoying supported media* and games impressively smooth. I say supported media and games because YouTube doesn’t truly support 120Hz yet and most games don’t have that option either but you can bet that they will catch up with this display evolution soon. The S20 lineup isn’t the first or only phone to have this either, the older OnePlus 7 Pro has a 90Hz display and the new Oppo Find X2 Pro has a 120Hz QHD (1440p) display.

The downfalls

120Hz means that the screen refreshes double the amount of times every second which takes a significant toll on its battery life. Testing from Tom’s Guide¬†shows the difference as the phone took a three-hour (or 25%) hit on their browsing test. That’s not to say that the S20 phones don’t last, because the S20 Ultra, with a 5000Mhz battery can last up to 14 hours a day with about 5 hours of screen on time on a single charge. It also has new fast charging, capable of a full charge in only 38 minutes!

Another main downfall that Samsung wasn’t very clear on announcing at launch is that the 120Hz display is only supported when using the FHD (1080p) display option. Ever since the S6, Samsung phones have supported QHD resolution. Some will argue that the 120Hz is worth the downgrade to FHD, while others prefer the higher resolution at 60Hz for an increased battery life.

THERE’S HOPE!

According to Max Weinbach, a well-known Samsung leaker, there should be a software update that will bring 120Hz to WQHD+ resolution in one to three months. Apparently, Samsung needs to test out the performance and battery life to ensure that it meets its standards before making the feature accessible. The 120Hz + WQHD+ resolution will probably reduce the battery life even further, but at least you will have the option.

Let us know in the comments if you are interested in the S20 lineup of phones. If you already have one, will you be using the new 120Hz refresh rate, or are you sticking with WQHD+ at 60Hz?

Samsung, Apple and Essential – The Race to the Ultimate Bezel-free Phone

The Current State of Bezels

Where 2016 was the year where phone companies raced to make the thinnest phone with the best cameras, 2017 was the year where they raced to reduce bezels. Three big players come up at the top for reducing bezels: Samsung, Essential and Apple*. Let’s compare what they’ve done and what is coming in the future using ratios, zoomed-in pics and all that good stuff!

*Don’t get me wrong, there are actually phones out there with better screen to body ratios like the LG V30 for example with 83.24% but I chose these three phones because they are popular (aside from the Essential Phone) and illustrate three unique approaches to achieving the bezel-less experience.

Samsung’s approach – sleek but less screen

Samsung S8 Plus Bezel

Samsung took the elegant approach and made regular cut-offs for the top and bottom edges in its most recent Galaxy S8 Plus but still managed to hit a high screen:body ratio of 84.26%** with a huge 6.2″ screen to work with. This is largely because of their infinity-edge display that makes the side screen edges actually curve over the side! Samsung was the first to kill off side bezels with the Samsung S6 Edge in 2015. That was 4 years ago and today, Samsung is incrementally getting better and perfecting its design by slowly eating away at those top and bottom bezels too. It has a very weird aspect ratio of 18.5:9 which can only be used to its full potential in optimized apps (your usual social media, web browsing, etc.). I doubt it will ever get fully used in mainstream media because no one is going to start recording in a new video aspect ratio just to please Samsung fans… right?

**Note that the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 boasts an 88.8% ratio which is inaccurate according to GSMArena. 

Apple’s approach – more screen? more notch…

Apple iPhone X Bezel

Apple instead tried to rid with as much screen as possible by jamming all the components they needed (they added a ton more for Face ID btw) into what has been known as the “notch”. Some aren’t too bothered by the notch and some absolutely despise it but I think everyone would agree that no one actually likes it. With the notch (which is only half usable), you get an even wider aspect ratio than the Galaxy S8 with 19.5:9 or an approximate 18.5:9 without the notch, matching the S8. Including the two “horns” around the notch on the iPhone X, the screen to body ratio is 81.49%. This is quite significant because that means the Galaxy S8 took the more elegant approach (no notch) AND has better screen efficiency.

Essential’s approach – more screen, mediocre camera indent

Essential Phone Bezel

The Essential Phone was released right in between the other two flagships and had some questionable problems with supply and advertising so it ended up not doing very well. However, It’s included in this comparison because I find that their solution is right in the middle of Samsung and Apple’s solution and doesn’t quite look as gaudy as Apple’s “notch”. Also, it comes in with the highest screen to body ratio of 84.9% with a screen size of 5.71″, aspect ratio of 19:10 and is the cheapest of the three by far at $499! However, note that the components (camera, sensors) on the S8 and iPhone X are much (like MUCH) better than the Essential Phone and needed the extra real estate to fit these MUCH better components in.


Below is a tabular summary of these findings with the top phone for each category highlighted. However, the findings do not suggest that either phone is better than the other. The iPhone X doesn’t shine in any category listed here but everyone knows paper specs are only a small part of the bigger picture in choosing the best phone. The release date was included because I did call this the “race” to the ultimate bezel-free phone.

 Samsung S8 Plus  Apple iPhone X  Essential PH-1
Visual Samsung S8 Plus Bezel Apple iPhone X Bezel Essential Phone Bezel
Screen Size  6.2″ 5.8″  5.71″
Screen:Body Ratio (screen efficiency – higher the better)  84.26% 81.49% 84.9% 
Aspect Ratio 18.5 : 9

19.5 : 9 (with notch);

18.5 : 9 (without notch)

19 : 10
Release Date April 2017  November 2017  July 2017
Base Price in USD (as of Jan 2018 – based on official website) $1114.99  $999 $499 

The Future of Bezels

Okay, so now we have an idea of the current state of bezels. Guess what the trend is for 2018? You guessed it; continue to reduce bezels and hopefully eradicate them completely! Below are a few rumors/ideas/patents that these companies have put forward to approach in the upcoming years and while the technology still has a way to go, it is quite exciting!

Samsung’s response to iPhone X’s notch

Samsung Bezel-free Phone Patent

Samsung has filed a patent for an approach that would get rid of bezels entirely while still being able to house the components like a front-facing camera. The phone would have holes in its screen for the camera and other components and the display will flow around those components instead of completely cutting the screen off like in current cases.

Companies have already been successful at integrating a fingerprint sensor into the display so it’s only a matter of time before all components are integrated and if any company were to do it, it would be Samsung as they have had a kick start in the display game for a while now.

Apple’s intentions for the future… maybe?

Bezel-less phone race-ApplePatent

Apple’s most recent patent filing is a little further out there. Earlier in 2017, Apple filed a patent for a translucent phone with a flexible array of OLEDs, arranged with minuscule gaps between them. This could allow for light which is needed for different components like the fingerprint sensor, camera, IR blaster for Face ID, ambient light sensor, etc., to transfer through the display without needing cutouts like the “notch”! This also brings forth other bizarre opportunities such as allowing the screen to act like a partial window, providing a whole new level of augmented reality where you can actually look directly at something in real life and get overlaid information.

Sources: technobuffalo, the verge

We’ve Learned More… RED Hydrogen Holographic Phone

Two months ago, we wrote a post about RED teasing it’s new holographic phone. Well, we are back with more information about their screen and it’s not as exciting as I hoped. The company is working with Leia Inc. to use their proprietary “Diffractive Lightfield Backlighting (DLB‚ĄĘ)”¬†solution which basically uses layers of LCDs with an underlying layer that acts as a directional backlight to manipulate your brain into seeing two different views with each eye of the same object , producing a 3D effect.

This sounds very similar to what Nintendo did many years ago with its Nintendo 3DS. I remember it had a lot of negative feedback regarding eye fatigue, so much so that the company is still selling and creating new Nintendo 2DS devices. Like the Nintendo 3DS, you can shut off the 3D and 4D capabilities to use a regular 2D screen like any other smartphone. If this is the case for Nintendo, you have to wonder if this type of a 3D display is really the future of mobile phone technology… Perhaps it will be a supplementary feature to current technology that is meant for limited use when playing new 3D/4D games or watching special content.

“The future of personal communication, information gathering, holographic multiview, 2D, 3D, AR/VR/MR and image capture just changed forever,”¬†Red said. Let us know if you agree in the comments or if you think this is just a gimmick that won’t stick.

 

Think twice! Don’t pre-order the new iPhone X just yet…

If you are one of those Apple fans that line up in the middle of the night for the next greatest Apple product or MUST HAVE the new phone even though it starts at $1319+ CAD then this may not be for you. Don’t get me wrong, the new iPhones are beautiful phones with some amazing internals and new features but if you care about your wallet and can compromise some of the new features then check the phones below out because there are actually a lot of comparable devices out there, often at a much lower price point.

Xiaomi Mi Mix

xiaomi-mi-mix-ceramic-black-18k-gold-01-01_14542_1505201221[1]

The first comparable device that deserves a look at is the Xiaomi Mi Mix. This phone is not as expensive but is not cheap either at almost $900 CAD. However, it is a beautiful phone with a 6.4″ bezel-less display and no compromises. The particular model linked below has a Snapdragon 820 processor, 256GB of internal memory, 6GB of RAM, fingerprint reader (on the back), all of which are standard on most Android flagship phones this year but for a few hundred dollars cheaper.

The bezels are even more impressive than the iPhone X because you don’t get the top cutout from the front-facing camera and microphone etc. Some argue that the selfie video experience ¬†on the Mi Mix isn’t as good but I think it’s a small compromise for a beautiful bezel-less experience. You also get a unibody ceramic finish which is a premium material that is extremely durable compared to glass on the iPhone.

You can purchase the Xiaomi Mi Mix on Amazon.

Doogee Mix

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The Doogee Mix is the other end of the spectrum and it has not had a lot of media coverage which is probably the reason for its low price. They didn’t spend too much on international advertising.

However, this phone deserves more attention because it is such a beautiful phone for literally a fraction of the cost of our flagship devices today. For only $280 CAD off Amazon, you get a bezel-less 5.5 inch Super AMOLED display, 6GB RAM, 64 GB, dual rear-facing cameras, internal storage, and can be expanded by 128GB with external microSD. Sound familiar? These are basically the specs on the new Samsung Galaxy S8 except the S8 only has 4GB of RAM!

Don’t get me wrong, the picture quality is definitely not as good as the S8 or other flagships and the materials used to build the phone are not quite as refined but it is still a great phone for almost a quarter of the price! Definitely a device to consider before dropping insane amounts of money on a phone outright or financing through your carrier.

You can purchase the Doogee Mix on Amazon.

These are only two comparable phones I wanted to feature. One that has typical flagship pricing but is still much cheaper than the iPhone X and another that is literally less than a 1/4 of the price of the iPhone. I hope this post helped to shed some light that there are other options out there for phones that have flagship specs and still look great but don’t break the bank.

 

Current State of Virtual Reality Technology

Virtual reality technology is paving its way into our future. In fact many would argue that it is already among us and strong. The hype for this technology was arguably introduced by two companies that should come of no surprise; Google and Microsoft. The¬†first big introduction of Google’s launch into this technology was in June 2014 during Google I/O where they revealed Google Cardboard. At first glance, I thought it was a joke… It was a piece of cardboard! As they started explaining the use of it and how cheap it was to obtain one of these functional pieces of cardboard, I became intrigued.

1280px-assembled_google_cardboard_vr_mount

To this day, Google Cardboard announced on their official blog that they’ve sold 5 million Google Cardboard units so far¬†with 25+ million virtual reality apps downloaded! The top 5 of these apps include:¬†Chair In A Room, Vrse, Lamper VR: Firefly Rescue, Caaaaardboard! and Proton Pulse.

However, Google Cardboard isn’t the only thing hyping virtual reality these days. Microsoft announced the HoloLens¬†in early 2015 and when I first saw it, my eyes were wide open. Microsoft showed videos of using the¬†HoloLens to imitate “beaming” a television screen on any flat surface that you have a clear vision of! It showed capabilities that we thought were only found in sci-fi movies such as manipulating 3D prototypes in the middle of your living room and then printing them via 3d printer to show colleagues and investors! Finally, it brings a whole new meaning to mobile computing by being able to have a full-fledged¬†Windows 10 computer available to you¬†on any flat surface!

16153485657_6aaa71b4fd_o (1)

Some of the most incredible demos at CES this year include the ability to detect where on the screen you spend the most time looking. Microsoft calls this “gaze-data” and can be used in areas of market research to observe what things consumers pay most attention to in VR advertisements. I imagine it would be very useful in research¬†studies to determine biases inferred from what/who someone pays more attention to or notices first.

Now don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t think VR will replace any of the tools and technology we have today but it will definitely enhance our experience with computing and it promises to provide very useful tools for design and development. I look forward to the near future of VR and how it will incorporate itself into our everyday lives. Will it become mainstream or will it be another one of those “smart-gadgets”?

Sources: Google Cardboard, HoloLens

Wuvo Spot: The Worldwide Tracker

Many bluetooth tracking devices have been released over the years but few can advertise worldwide support. The new Wuvo Spot is one of the trackers that does in fact offer worldwide tracking at a very affordable price. I was able to get 10 through this Indiegogo campaign for $100. Quite the bargain compared to other trackers out there. They will make great gifts come Christmas!

Anyway, my experience with them was positive so far. I have kept 3 of the 10 for myself and attached them to my keys, wallet and headphones (things I commonly misplace in the house). They have all the regular features of trackers such as remote alarm, GPS locator and location history. I am able to track all of their locations on a simple and well-designed app on my phone.

The one negative thing I must say about it is the keychain it came with. When I was trying to attach it, the thread broke and I had to use some thread to fix it… It does come with a double-sided sticker solution for attaching to a flat surface on your belongings which was helpful for attaching to the inside of my headphones.

wuvo.JPG

Sources: Indiegogo, Wuvo

Bio Processing: Your Heartbeat May Be the Key to Your Car, Home, Bank Account…

What if your heartbeat was the key to your car, home, bank account… It turns out this may be coming in the future! Samsung Electronics has developed a Bio Processor (BioP)¬†which is able to constantly monitor one’s heart rate with a built in Electrocardiogram (ECG). This technology puts it far ahead of any current wearables in accurately detecting heart rate by being able to actually graph and record changes in electrical currents that cause heart muscle depolarizations. The applications for health informatics would be huge if this technology was affordable for the everyday consumer, especially for people with heart problems.

Aside from the obvious health applications, Samsung Electronics is looking to use the BioP’s technology to securely unlock car doors and homes. To do this, the BioP has an included bluetooth transmitter and flash-memory to connect to your phones and other devices and provide constant health-related information very similar to the smart wearables we use today. Due to its ability to constantly monitor one’s unique heart rate (which is very hard to copy), it provides a high level of security. The downside to the current iteration of the device is that it needs to be placed directly on your skin next to your heart. Samsung is working to make this chip smaller and hopefully more affordable.

As a side note, you may be wondering how everyone’s heart rate can be unique when one’s heart rate varies during different activities and that is a very good question. The uniqueness of one’s heart rate comes from the patterns of electrical currents within the depolarization of the heart muscle that generates the beat. So although you may have increased your heart rate substantially after running, the pattern of eletrical currents that causes your heart polarization, albeit at a faster rate, will still be constant and unique to you.

Sources: Samsung, EtNews

Apple Pencil Accessory Will Come With a Charging Adapter for Lightning Cable

picture of lightning to lightning adapterWhen the Apple Ipad Pro was teased and announced, one of my biggest worries was the fact that the Apple Pencil accessory would have to be charged by plugging into the Ipad Pro’s charging port. So many concerns arose… What happens if my iPad is already out of juice? What if my desk is relatively narrow and someone accidentally hits¬†the thin portruding Pencil as it hangs off my desk? What if I really just don’t like how the Pencil looks when it is plugged into the iPad?

Thankfully I can¬†still look forward to this promising device now! According to 9to5Mac, the Apple Pencil accessory will come with an adapter for our regular lightning cables that will allow the lightning cable to insert at one end and the pencil at another. Now, charging the Pencil through the charging port of the iPad is merely a bonus feature for convenience but isn’t absolutely necessary. Now what I am looking for next is a nice case (maybe even a keyboard case) that has effective storage for the Pencil.

Sources: 9to5Mac, TechnoBuffalo