Mid-range is the new flagship

Apple sells massive amounts of the SEs and Google hits a sweet spot with the 4a. Will the pandemic switch manufacturers’ focus to more budget friendly devices?

Manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei and LG have always had multiple options in the mid-range and budget categories. Now that Apple, OnePlus and Google are all pushing into the same space with their offerings, a budget-minded buyer has more than ever to choose from.

It takes years to make a smartphone from start to the shelves. That means that neither Google, OnePlus nor Apple has made their latest budget phones because of the pandemic. The current situation just makes the new budget phones much more interesting to larger audience.

Apple has supported their devices brilliantly with updates for more than five years. It means that there are a lot of people still using iPhone 6 to 7. Those devices are definitely starting to show wear and tear at this point. The new iPhone X era devices are a big step to the new swiping navigation and face recognition. The iPhone SE is a great choice for those who want to stick with the fingerprint scanner or just save money.

Pixel 4a in the other hand is the best smartphone main camera that money could buy. And the money needed is $350. That is a steal for those who don’t care about high refresh rate screens or gaming on their phone. I could easily switch to the 4a from my 4 XL today and be fine. I would actually be more than fine because I currently only have 64 GB of storage and the only 4a version is 128 GB.

OnePlus Nord is another of these great new budget phones. It’s what started OnePlus. Making sacrifices for the price. It has plastic body like the first one and it’s priced at half of the most flagships. Nord is a great option for those who can buy it.

Meanwhile, Samsung has a dozen of A-series devices on multiple affordable price points and they are selling decently. Nokia (HMD Global) only sells mid-rangers and entry level devices at the moment. LG is missing from the flagship game. Sony has the Xperia 10 II and a bunch of Chinese manufacturers are targeting the sub $500 price.

A while back, one could justify buying the flagship every two years because the price was $600 to $800. Now it’s doubled, starting from. I mean look at the price of the new Note 20 Ultra and it’s sibling Note 20. The Note 20 is basically a joke with a plastic back, 60 Hz and 1080p display at a thousand dollars. But the Note 20 Ultra, their actual flagship starts at $1299 with 128 GB of storage. Last year’s iPhone is at the thousand dollar mark with 64 GB.

With the current yearly price increase, the flagship phone will soon be a luxury item, not a normal person’s choice for the next two years. That brings us back to the mid-rangers. One can do almost everything with the $350 Pixel that one can do with a $1299 Note 20 Ultra. Now that we can’t go out and show off the mystic bronze, why would we buy the Note?

iPhone 7 quick review: an Android user’s perspective

The Apple iPhone 7 has gone through my demanding tests. Here’s what an Android user found out.

I’ve been trying to get used to my new iPhone for a few weeks now, and the experience has been quite mixed. First there is the price. Because of the outrageous price, I had to get the smaller non-Plus model with tiny 4,7” LCD. The display is bright and accurate but lacks the deep blacks of AMOLED and crispness of the modern high-resolution displays. Also, the battery life is very mediocre as the battery capacity is only 1960mAh or 7.45Wh.

Besides the display, the thing the users touch the most is the new solid-state home button. It doesn’t move but feels like it does. Navigating the iOS is difficult for Android users. That’s because of the lack of a back button. Apple generously offers us the option to double tap the home button to bring down the app to reach the inconveniently placed top-left back key of most apps.

One positive thing at this point, the Taptic Engine is amazing. It should be implemented to every new device for now on. It delicately taps my hand when I’m for example updating a feed or pulling down the notification shade. I’ve started changing my alarm time every night just to feel the perfectly executed ticking while scrolling through the minutes. Most Android phones have a vibrate engine that’s loud but lacks the actual vibrate. The Taptic Engine on the iPhone 7 is just the opposite. You certainly can feel the phone vibrating but can’t hear anything.

For existing iPhone users, the iPhone 7 design is easy to get used to. It’s exactly the same as iPhone 6 and 6S with stealthier antenna lines and different accent around the protruding camera. Even most of the iPhone 6 and 6S cases fit on the 7. One thing experienced iPhone users might miss is charging and listening to music at the same time. Fortunately, the charger is still the same 5 watts 1 amp one that barely gets the battery percentage going up, so the loss isn’t too big. Maybe 2017 is the year of charging for Apple as the upcoming Anniversary Edition and 7S/Plus are rumored to get wireless charging, maybe even fast charging.

Oh, did I go through all the negative stuff first? Maybe, but let’s talk about some good stuff. Updates. Whereas Google thinks that two years is enough updates for a flagship phone, Apple seems to update their phones for 4 to 5 years. The iPhone 5S from 2013 will get the iOS 11 update this fall. That’s impossible in the Android universe.

At the same time, the support works brilliantly. As a Nexus owner, I have had to make a call request for the support for a couple of times. Now, I just sent an email to Apple and the next day they answered. It was a problem with my bank and the credit card I tried to add to my Apple ID. The bank told me to contact Apple and I was genuinely surprised as they solved the problem with just a few emails. Superb customer service by Apple in that case.

The camera. The iPhone 7 is brilliant at cameraing. Slo-mo, OIS, live photos, Apple just doesn’t add features to the camera app. They also make the features much better than others. Slo-mo is brilliant. Android users can say what they want about the bitrate and other stuff but the fact is that slo-mo from an iPhone looks better than from an Android phone. The same can’t be said about still photos. After Google made changes to their camera app, the Pixel and the Nexus 6P have been unbeatable on the still side. My Nexus 6P still beats the iPhone 7 in a blind test I organized for my friends.

I am a full time Google user. Pretty much all the things I do are connected to Google somehow. For the basics, I use Maps, YouTube and Gmail. I also have all my notes at Google Keep. I use Google Photos as my photo and video cloud and I even use Allo sometimes. Trying to do all these things with an iPhone was surprisingly easy. Some problems I faced were some weird backup issues with Google Photos and the lack of features in the GBoard. However, I was really surprised by the overall compatibility.

Let’s jump to the conclusionish part of the quick review then. What’s it like to live in the iOS world? The start was difficult. Everything has to be changed from the settings, like camera settings and WiFi. Later, when everything is set up, one can appreciate the decision as all the unnecessary buttons are hidden in the settings app. The back button is completely unacceptable, and I’m playing the Steve-card for three things here. First, the back button with the larger displays. It’s unreachable and stupid. Just move it down or use the Touch ID swipe instead. Second, the protruding camera lens. “That doesn’t look like Apple.” Third, the lack of a headphone jack. Apple revolutionized the music industry, smartphone industry, app industry and now they are revolutionizing the cashing in industry by using only one proprietary port that provides royalty fees to the company. Steve would not have done this yet.

After the Steve-cards, let’s play some jokers. I’m using the iOS 11 beta. The new control center is much better than the old one. Simpler, yet more useful. The notification shade is weird. Sometimes it can be swiped up, sometimes only the home button works. The worst thing though is the network connection. It’s just bad. I’ve tried several WiFis and two different wireless carriers but the iPhone just can’t keep me connected. I really hope it’s a beta feature, not a hardware issue.

Overall, I can see why people love their iPhones. *Switching the SIM back to the Nexus 6P*

Nokia 3 review: Welcome back Nokia!

When a tech geek switches from a flagship smartphone to a $150 Android phone, the change could cause desperation and sadness. Let’s find out what feelings the new Nokia 3 causes.

A week ago, I switched my main SIM-card from my Nexus 6P to a Nokia 3 Android smartphone. I downloaded all the apps I use and added all the accounts I need to make the Nokia 3 my daily driver for a week. The first boot took 3 minutes and I already started to feel desperate. However, after smashing the quad core Mediatek MT6737 with all the installations and usual first boot stuff, the performance started to settle to a usable level.

Using the Nokia 3 is very familiar to a Nexus user. All the new Nokias use almost stock build of Android 7.0 and they are confirmed to get the upcoming Android 8 update that I’m already running on my Nexus as a beta release.

Once all the options have been set up correctly, I started to wonder about the build quality. As it says in the box, the Nokia 3 should have an aluminum frame. Unfortunately, the paint on my black model feels very plasticky. It almost never feels cold to the touch. Also, the back panel keeps plasticky noise, not least because it is made out of plastic. The buttons feel clicky, and according to my material detecting thumb, are made of metal. Other noticeable physical features are the non-protruding camera lens, headphone jack on the top and micro-USB charging port and single speaker at the bottom. One microphone is at the top and another at the bottom. HMD Global has placed a Nokia logo at the top right of the Gorilla Glass covered front panel, another at back and their address at Espoo Finland also at the plastic back panel. The capacitive Android navigation buttons are placed below the display under the glass.

That leads us to the first elephant in the room, the missing fingerprint scanner. Nokia 5 and 6 both have a fingerprint scanner integrated to the home button. The Nokia 3 doesn’t. This is one feature that is missed at the $150 category. Luckily the power button is just where my thumb comfortably sits and the 5” display easily allows drawing the lock pattern one handed. Speaking of the power button, this is the first phone I’ve tested which allows me to take a screenshot with just one finger. The volume rocker is placed on top of the power button and just close enough.

The display. Well, it’s bad. I mean compared to the brilliant high-resolution AMOLED panels I’ve been using lately. The 5” 720p IPS LCD panel is grainy and washed out. Colors and contrast are just average. Touch sensitivity, not sure about that one. Is it just lag caused by the entry level SoC or is the display slower than my thumbs. Especially often this happens with the outermost keys like A and backspace. I just can’t type as fast as I do on my Nexus. Although, it’s not just this Nokia, I had the same issue with the OnePlus 3T last winter.

A big part of my smartphone usage is YouTube. Obviously, I tested that then. Speaker quality is decent and volume range suits most situations. The display is very average as said, and one quite annoying thing is the fact that the YouTube app automatically selects 144 or 240p resolution regardless of the network speed. Then the 720p needs to be manually selected.

The lag is present with this device. Pressing the home button sometimes causes the Google Assistant to pop up. Also, the GBoard sometimes records the same keypress two or three times. This causes some quite funny typos. What makes the experience bearable it that the lag usually shows in the same situations and I’ve already learned to expect it. When typing on Facebook Messenger and getting a notification on WhatsApp, the keyboard usually takes the next key three times. The other way around I get just two of the same letters. Also, switching from YouTube app to camera and back can take 10 seconds and usually the YouTube app reloads forgetting the video that I was watching. This is probably due to the 2GB of RAM.

I’d like to talk about something positive at this point. Battery life is just magnificent. Last full charge I got 3 hours of screen on time over 24 hours and even had 38% of juice left after that. Compared to my Nexus with last stable build I used, 2.5 hours and 20%. The Mediatek SoC just sips through the 2650mAh battery. Also, the 720p display saves a lot of power. During this, admittedly short test period, I’ve had 15-40% of battery left in the evening. Not once have I run out of juice before the end of the day.

The 5W charger included in the box is slow but I was able to speed the charging up by using some leftover 2 amp Samsung charger. Note that the Nokia 3 has micro-USB charging port, not a Type-C one. This is quite weird choice as the Type-C has pretty much overthrown the old connector in new releases. Probably a cost-cutting choice.

One area, where the flagship phones really stretch their legs is camera quality. The Nokia 3’s main camera is very average. Sometimes even bad. In the optimal conditions, the main camera is capable of producing decent images with HDR on. The front facer does its job way better than the main camera. Especially with HDR on. Selfies are actually quite decent. Of course, I’m spoiled by my Nexus 6P and Google’s magical camera software. Video quality is pretty much what one could expect. Maybe a bit better than the still quality. Of course, there is no OIS to stabilize the videos but focus seems to be better than in stills.

Nokia 3 is not a bad smartphone. In fact, it’s brilliant. I can’t imagine any of the custom UI devices at same price point being even remotely as capable smartphones. Using the stock Android is a genius move by HMD Global. Why spend resources making software if Google already provides such a good one. Other manufacturers are using old Android versions and sluggish custom UIs as the new Nokias bring the relatively quick and responsive stock Android experience.

However, don’t expect too quick of a return to the business market as the stock Android still doesn’t have a mobile device management program. Samsung and Apple will then keep their lead at business market. Hopefully Google changes this in the future so that the last companies using Lumias get to keep the same logo in their devices.

Nokia is rumored to launch a whole bunch of new Android phones this year. If that’s true, Nokia’s lineup going forwards looks absolutely fantastic. Nokia 3310, 3, 5 and 6 might get bigger brothers later in the year and HMD Global will bring the stock Android to all price brackets. Finally, some competition in the Moto-zone.

All in all, the Nokia 3 is very capable cheap smartphone. I can see it having its place in numerous pockets around the world, especially in countries where the Nokia name is still famous. The Nokia 3 is now the phone I suggest for the people who want a cheap smartphone. At this price point, there hasn’t been much of a traffic on my suggestion lists. Now, the stock Android is there and hopefully to stay.

So, did I survive the week? Yes, easily. But of course, I’ll switch back to my Nexus and wait for the upcoming Pixel 2 to really replace my Nexus. Display and cameras are the main reasons, fingerprint scanner and performance coming close behind. I have been spoiled by the flagships.

Welcome back Nokia! Hope you will succeed!

As a postscript, unfortunately, I must return to the weaker things, Nokia support. I discovered an annoying software bug in my Nokia 3 during the testing. However, Nokia doesn’t have any channels to submit a bug report. I tried their support chat app but they just politely asked me to get in touch with service because it’s a hardware issue. In their support website, Nokia doesn’t even have the Nokia 3 listed just yet, so no support there. The community forums are also still under construction. This will hopefully and probably change in the future.

LG G6 released


The MWC 2017 is live and LG is the one to open the game with the G6. 

As expected, LG is the first to adopt the 2017 trend to make longer displays. The LG G6 has 2880 x 1440p display with 18:9 aspect ratio, glass and metal design and no camera bump.

The 5.7″ display has rounded corners and uses IPS LCD technology. It also supports Dolby Vision and  HDR 10 technologies. Under the hood, the 3300 mAh battery provides juice to the Snapdragon 821 SoC, 4 GB of RAM and 32 or 64 GB of storage. The body is IP68 certified against water and dust. The physical size is 148.9 x 71.9 x 7.9 mm and 163g which LG claims is normal for a 5.2″ phone.

The rear cameras have 13MP sensors, one with 125° lens and F2.4 aperture and the other with 71° lens, F1.8 aperture and OIS. The front facer is 5 megapixels with F2.2 and 100° lens.

HTC U Ultra comes with two displays


HTC has just released two new smartphones, U Ultra and U Play. The U Ultra is the company’s new flagship.

The U Ultra moves away from HTC’s typical metal unibody designs. Sides are still metal but the back is now stained glass. The main Quad HD display comes at 5.7″ and the secondary display on top of the main has the resolution of 160 x 1040. The Super LCD 5 displays are covered under Gorilla Glass 5 with the exception of the 128GB model that gets sapphire glass.

Between the glass sandwich, the U Ultra has a Snapdragon 821 SoC with 4GB of RAM. The 64 or 128GB storage is expandable via microSD cards of up to 2TB. The battery capacity is 3000mAh. The main 12 megapixel camera has the aperture of F/1.8 and OIS. The front facer has 16 megapixels with F/2.0 aperture. The U Ultra will launch with Android 7.0.

The U Ultra does not have a 3.5mm headphone jack. However, the phone comes with decent USB Type-C headphones and BoomSound is back with the setup familiar from the HTC 10.

There are four color options, black, blue, white and rose gold.  Pre-orders will start mid-March at $749 for the 64GB option. The 128GB sapphire version will come later.


HTC also released the U Play mid range smartphone. It comes with 5.2″ Full HD Super LCD display, MediaTek Helio P10 SoC, 3/4GB of RAM, 32/64GB of storage and a 2500mAh battery. The U Play will be available at the end of Q1 2017 at $440 for the 3/32GB model.

Source: HTC U Ultra product pageHTC U Play product page (UK)

Google reveals Pixel smartphones


Google has announced the highly anticipated Pixel smartphones. Like previous Pixel devices, the new smartphones are made by Google.

Google is now a hardware company. The Nexus lineup is gone, and the Pixel smartphones take their place as Google’s showcase for new Android versions. The new Pixel phones run the latest Android 7.1 Nougat.

Both Pixel and Pixel XL have very similar specifications. Only the display size, resolution and battery capacity are different, obviously. Both have an AMOLED display, Snapdragon 821 SoC, 4 GB of RAM and 32 or 128 GB of storage. The Pixel has a 5″ Full HD display as the XL gets a larger 5.5″ Quad HD display.

Google wanted to point five things that differentiate the new Pixel phones from the competition.

  1. Google Assistant. The Pixels are the first smartphones to ship with Google Assistant.
  2. Photography. The Pixels have the best smartphone camera of all. Tested by DxOMark
  3. Storage. The photo and video storage on these devices is unlimited, thanks to Google Photos
  4. Communications. The Pixels ship with Google Allo and Duo preinstalled.
  5. Virtual Reality. The Pixels are the first Google Daydream capable smartphones.

Personally, I’d say that the camera is the biggest feature of these. You can read the DxOMark camera review here. The new Pixel phones got the score of 89, one more than Galaxy S7, HTC 10 and Sony Xperia X Performance. The camera hardware isn’t all that impressive, 12.3 megapixel F/2.0 camera. No camera bump btw. However, Google compensates the average hardware with very clever and powerful software.

The HDR+ is now always on, as it has no shutter lag. Also, the camera and the camera app are the fastest to open and take a picture of any smartphone. Google’s algorithm chooses the best photo of all the photos taken with the Smartburst. You can check the camera quality from the DxOMark review linked above.

The Pixel phones will be available for preorders today in some markets, US for example. Google has teamed up with Verizon in the US but one can also get the phone from Google Store. More markets will join later. There are two basic colors available, Quite Black with black front and back and Very Silver with white front and silver back. The Verizon exclusive Really Blue is really really blue with white front. Prices start at $649 for the 32 GB Pixel.

Source: Google

NVIDIA reveals GTX 1080 and 1070 graphics cards


NVIDIA has finally released the Pascal architecture to consumers with GTX 1080 and 1070 cards.

A few weeks ago NVIDIA launched their Pascal architecture with a Tesla computing card. Now, the company brings it to consumers with two new cards.

The GTX 1080 is the new flagship card. It easily beats even the Titan X and consumes way less power while doing so. The specs are impressive as well. The 1080 packs 2560 CUDA cores that run at 1607MHz base and 1733MHz boost clock. The 8GB GDDR5X memory speed is 10Gbps with the bandwidth of 320GBps. The card only uses 180 watts of power.

On the demo, the card was running overclocked at 2114MHz and memory at 5.5GHz. This promises very impressive overclocking capabilities.

The GTX 1070 was also revealed at the same event but the actual tech specs are not public yet. It performs 6.5TFLOPS compared to 1080’s 9TFLOPS. It also uses older GDDR5 memories but has the same 8GB of it.

On the software side, NVIDIA launched a bunch of new technologies to use the immense power of the new GTX 1080. The technologies are designed to improve VR, high-resolution and gaming experience.

The GTX 1080 will be available on May 27 with the price of $599. The 1070 will launch on June 10 and cost $379.

Source: NVIDIA

HTC 10 goes official


HTC has finally released their 2016 flagship, HTC 10. It tries to stand up from the competition with great software and good camera.

HTC 10 was leaked and teased for a while but now it goes official. The design is just like in the leaks, a premium metal chassis with huge chamfered edges. Gone are the Boomsound speakers and a fingerprint scanner is replacing the lower speaker. The scanner also acts as a home button and there are two capacitive navigation buttons on each side of it.

The 12 “ultrapixel” camera is a little protruding even though the device is quite thick for 2016 at 9mm. The front facing camera is 5 “ultrapixels” and has its own OIS for steady selfies. The front facing speaker grill is still mentioned to provide excellent quality and it’s joined by another speaker at the bottom of the device next to the Quick Charge 3.0 certified USB Type-C port.


The 5.2″ display is still LCD but HTC calls it Super LCD5. The resolution is QHD 1440p with 565PPI. Under the bonnet, the HTC 10 has the typical 2016 flagship hardware. The Snapdragon 820 is joined by 4GB of RAM and 32 or 64GB of storage with microSD support for up to 2TB cards. The battery capacity is pretty lame for the 9mm thickness, 3000mAh.

The camera is said to be the best smartphone camera out there. It’s much said with HTC’s record of bad smartphone cameras over the years. The pixel size is 1.55µm, aperture is 1.8 and the whole thing is optically stabilized. The camera also records 4K video with 24-bit sound. Tests will show how good the camera really is.

This year HTC has some good news about their software. They have got rid of all the duplicate apps like browser, calendar and calculator apps and the phone only ships with Google apps. The HTC Sense is still very present in everywhere but luckily it has always been one of the fastest UIs out there and HTC has been good at updating their phones despite the skin.

The HTC 10 will be available in three colors, gray, silver and gold. Preorders were supposed to start already but at least we can’t get through. Price is $699 but the page doesn’t tell for witch model, 32 or 64GB. It sounds quite steep for 32GB model.

Source: HTC

Huawei P9 goes official with a dual-lens Leica camera


Huawei has revealed their much teased P9 flagship smartphone in London. The bigger P9 Plus is also quite impressive.

Huawei P9 is yet another flagship phone for 2016. However, to stand out from the competition, the P9 packs dual 12 megapixel cameras with Leica lenses. One of the cameras only takes monochrome pictures which sounds weird but actually has great benefits. The sensor doesn’t need the RGB filter which reduces the amount of light reaching the sensor. Working together these two cameras can therefore take pictures with much better contrast and color reproduction.

Other specs include a 5.2″ 1080p IPS display, Huawei’s own Kirin 955 chip, 3/4GB of RAM, 32/64GB of storage and a 3000mAh battery. The Kirin 955 isn’t the fastest SoC out there but there are still plenty of power coming out of those four Cortex-A72 and four Cortex-A53 cores. The front facing camera is 8 megapixels and if it’s the same sensor that’s in the Nexus 6P, I can personally recommend it for anyone looking for ridiculously high-quality selfies. The operating system is of course Android 6.0 with Huawei’s skin.

Design is typical Huawei. Absolutely brilliant materials and colors with a good build quality all around. The P9 is only 6.95mm thick with no camera bumps, an impressive thing to notice for other manufacturers like Apple and Samsung as well. Also on board is a USB Type-C connector with quick charging capabilities.

The bigger brother, P9 Plus picks up the same design but in bigger scale. The display is 5.5″ and still 1080p but picks up Super AMOLED technology. The battery capacity also grows to 3400mAh. The Plus model is only available with the 4/64GB configuration.

Availability starts from Europe and Middle East on April 16th and is supposed to spread worldwide soon. The 3/32GB P9 will cost 599€ and the 4/64GB model is 649€. The Plus model is priced at 749€. All prices include the European tax so expect lower prices in the States.

Source: Huawei press release

Intel reveals Broadwell-EP Xeons with a 22-core monster


Intel has updated the Xeon lineup to Broadwell to bring even more power to servers and supercomputers. 

The new Xeon processor lineup uses the 14nm Broadwell manufacturing process. The most powerful Xeon E5-2699 v4 processor has 22 cores and can handle 44 threads. It has massive a 55MB cache and uses 145W of power. The clock speed of this monster is only 2.2GHz to keep the temperature and power consumption low.

As the new feature of Broadwell, the Xeons can now handle up to 24 RAM DIMMs in dual CPU motherboards. Also in is the Intel Scalable System Framework architecture to improve High Performance Computing (HPC) performance.

There are 27 new Xeon processors. Full list of their specifications can be found in the Intel press release linked below.

Source: Intel press release