Is the Sony Xperia XZ Premium for humans?

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I’ve finally figured out Sony’s mobile strategy. The proud Japanese company understands that its competitiveness in the mobile sector is over. It knows it will never again speak the same language as US carriers, and it’s aware that European consumers have shifted their preference over to devices from Samsung, Apple, and a bevy of cheaper and better Android rivals. Ergo, Sony no longer gives a fuck and has decided to just go out in a blaze of glory. And that’s how we arrive at the newly announced Xperia XZ Premium, a phone that won’t be released for another four months and which was never designed to be used by mortals.

Start with the XZ Premium’s glaring exterior: a perfect mirror-finish chrome that’s at once distractingly reflective and upsettingly ugly once it’s been touched. Having handled it a few times this week, I get the feeling it magnetizes fingerprints to its surface, rather than the way you sometimes activate a touchscreen by hovering your finger above it. This thing’s been made to sit on a pedestal and look pretty. And sure, in those circumstances, it’s very pretty… More at The Verge.

A crazy product.

The BlackBerry KeyOne

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There isn’t much I can add about the BlackBerry KeyOne that hasn’t already been written in the past 24 hours.

It looks good in an ungainly kind of way that suggests the keyboard has been squeezed below the screen. However, if you spent some time with it, as per the article above, you may grow to like it. The ability to long-press a button to open a specific app is a simple and brilliant feature and there is still no doubt in my mind that a physical keyboard like this, once you have accustomed your thumbs to it, would be much quicker than a touch screen.

The price is a problem though for mid-range specs and in an Android world where specs still seem to matter to so many, the only differentiator is the keyboard. I really don’t think this is enough in 2017 and would have preferred to see BlackBerry try something completely different. A landscape device with a slide out / fold over keyboard would have been a much more interesting proposition.

LG Watch Sport vs. Apple Watch Series 2

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LG Watch Sport is one of the first Android Wear 2.0 flagships. The Apple Watch runs on WatchOS 3. One of the biggest differences? The updated Android Wear operating system has an on-watch version of the Google Play Store, meaning you can download apps directly to your watch without going through your paired smartphone. That’s not the case for WatchOS 3, which still requires you to download Apple Watch apps on your iPhone… More at New Atlas.

A really good comparison of the two. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel automatically drawn to a smart watch with a round face over a square one.

Google releases Android Wear 2.0

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Android Wear 2.0 is designed specifically to improve upon those simple things. It has better fitness-tracking features, including automatic workout detection, easier access to your notifications, and customizable complications on the watchfaces. It’s a pattern followed across the industry — Apple’s watchOS 3 update from last fall similarly focused on these specific functions.

Android Wear 2.0’s support for LTE also builds upon those existing functions. Most often, if you are wearing the watch and don’t have your phone with you, it’s because you’re out for a run and carrying around your smartphone is cumbersome and awkward. Android Wear 2.0 means you don’t have to give up any connectivity to do so, letting you track your run, receive notifications, look up a map, buy something at a store, and send a message or make a phone call all while your phone and wallet are back at home… More at The Verge.

In terms of practicality, I actually like Android Wear more than Apple’s watchOS because it offers more flexibility and the chance for watchmakers to tweak how the hardware interfaces with the OS. The Gear S3 frontier highlights that in its ability to use the bezel to navigate.

Despite the recent news reports that Apple is dominating the smart watch market, I am a) not convinced the market is that big and b) that Apple will come to be as successful in this area as it is with phones and tablets.

realMyst for Android

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realMyst is all-things Myst, but amazingly more real. You can explore anywhere, unfettered, and in realtime! Pick your own path through the forest on Myst Island. Look lazily upward into the Channelwood Age trees. Relax next to the rippling fountain as the sun sets in the Selenitic Age. Spin around for a full panoramic tour of Sirrus’ throne room. Seek shelter from the thunderstorm in Stoneship Age.

And what could possibly make that experience even more real? Now you can have all of that on your mobile device with nothing between you and Myst but the touch of your finger – the sheerest of interfaces between you and the surrealistic island adventure that will become your world… Download at Google Play.

Good to see this hit a second mobile OS.

Galaxy Note 7 Explosion Findings

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After months of confusion about the real cause of the Galaxy Note 7 explosions, Samsung finally provided some answers on Sunday, releasing a detailed report on its findings into the problem. In a micro sense, the explosions were caused by both design flaws and manufacturing errors. In a macro sense, they stemmed from Samsung trying to do too much too fast with lithium-ion batteries. This approach may soon change, and could likely impact the company’s phone designs and the regularity with which Samsung releases new phones… More at FC.

Amazing how many sites are not reporting on this. Seems they would prefer to just cover the original problems and not the detail behind them.

Donald Trump has surrendered his Android phone

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Donald Trump has given up his beloved Android phone ahead of today’s inauguration, the Associated Press reports, though it is unclear what type of device he will use in the White House. According to The New York Times, Trump is now using a more secure, encrypted handset that was approved by the Secret Service. He also has a different phone number, the Times reports, citing people close to the president-elect… More at The Verge.

Always knew he was an Android user… (joking!)

The HTC U Ultra

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The other big change on the outside is the U Ultra’s second screen, which is a thin 2-inch strip residing to the right of the front-facing camera and immediately above the Super LCD 5 screen. The 5.7-inch Ultra has what is now a pretty standard Quad HD resolution on its main display, and it maintains the same pixel density on the 160 x 1040 second screen. Exactly as with LG’s V10 and V20, this strip serves as a landing spot for notifications, reminders, shortcuts to frequent contacts, and music playback controls… More at The Verge.

It would be understandable to not expect a great new release from HTC, but the U Ultra looks different, in a good way.

Samsung making a folding phone/tablet hybrid?

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Samsung will announce a folding smartphone in Q3 2017, according to a report from The Korea Herald. Sources familiar with the matter told the Korean news site that Samsung is preparing 100,000 units of the device, which would also fold out to be used as a 7-inch tablet.

Samsung has been working on foldable smartphone displays for a number of years, with another display patent coming to light as recently as last week. Unlike many previous Samsung foldable phone concepts, however, the speculated device’s display would appear on the outside (as seen in the Lenovo prototype above) rather than the inside of the body… More at Android Authority.

I don’t normally link to rumours, but it is about time someone big in the industry experimented with the form factor of modern phones.