AppleCare+ Is Now Billed Monthly by Default and Costs More That Way


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As its iPhone sales have fallen, Apple has begun focusing on alternative sources of revenue, like its lucrative Services division. Much of the company’s presentation for the iPhone 11 was spent demonstrating games and projects related to Apple TV. Apple wants to be a major media provider and it’s hoping you’ll reward it with lots of content purchases.

One change to AppleCare+ flew a bit under the radar. Up until now, AppleCare was a 24-to-36-month extended warranty available from Apple on various iDevices like MacBooks, iPhones and iPads. The company has typically billed a single flat rate for the service interval, though many repairs still cost money, even if you’ve purchased AppleCare+.

Now, Apple is making a change to the program. The good news is, you’ll be able (in theory) to buy AppleCare+ for a longer period of time. The bad news is, it’s going to cost you more by default even for the period of time that the program normally covers if you choose to pay by the month.

AppleCare-Pricing-Watch-XR

Image credit: 9to5Mac

The screenshot above by 9to5Mac shows pricing for AppleCare+ for the Apple Watch Series 5 and the iPhone XR. Paying month-to-month (you’ll be re-upped automatically) is essentially a subscription, even if Apple isn’t calling it that. But if you do the math, you’ll see that the month-to-month program costs significantly more. Over two years, you’ll pay $95.76 instead of $80 for AppleCare+ if you slap it on the Apple Watch. As for the iPhone XR, the two-year fee comes out to $191.76, up from $150. That’s roughly 1.2x more over the same period of time. The up-front pricing on the iPhone 11 is $149, while up-front cost on the iPhone 11 Pro is $199.

Apple’s legal document states:

For Monthly Plans, your Plan Term is one (1) month. Your Plan will automatically renew each month unless cancelled as set forth in the “Cancellation” Section 9 below, including in the event that Apple is no longer able to service your Covered Equipment due to the unavailability of service parts, in which case Apple will provide you with thirty (30) days’ prior written notice of cancellation, or as otherwise required by law.

There’s no more option to buy a fixed-term service plan and then pay for it at a monthly reduced rate. Instead, you can pay for 24 months of coverage upfront at one price or simply go on the month-to-month program. While the end result of this is that people will be able to have AppleCare+ for longer periods of time on the same device, it’ll also mean paying Apple more money for the privilege of doing so.

If anything, we suspect this change is a nod to the fact that users often keep their devices for longer periods of time these days. Reports have suggested that Americans now only replace their iDevices closer to every three years, rather than every two. Converting customers to a small monthly fee for AppleCare+ gives Apple a steady monthly revenue stream that replaces some of the sales revenue it loses when it sells fewer iPhones. The fact that customers are being billed monthly would also help smooth revenue quarter-over-quarter — people only buy a new device every few years, but if they pay you $8 a month, that’s revenue you can count on. Multiply that by some millions of customers, and you’ve got a hefty chunk of reliable income. Apple, these days, is all about reliable income.

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iFixit gives Fairphone 3 a perfect 10 for repairability – gpgmail


Here’s something the hermetically sealed iPhone can’t do: Score a perfect 10 for repairability.

Smartphone startup and social enterprise Fairphone’s latest repairable-by-design smartphone has done just that, getting 10/10 in an iFixit Teardown vs scores of just 6/10 for recent iPhone models.

The Fairphone 3, which was released in Europe last week with an RRP of €450, gets thumbs up across the board in iFixit’s hardware Teardown. It found all the internal modules to be easily accessible and replaceable — with only basic tools required to get at them (Fairphone includes a teeny screwdriver in the box). iFixit also lauds visual cues that help with disassembly and reassembly, and notes that repair guides and spare parts are available on Fairphone’s website.

iFixit’s sole quibble is that while most of the components inside the Fairphone 3’s modules are individually replaceable “some” are soldered on. A tiny blip that doesn’t detract from the 10/10 repairability score

Safe to say, such a score is the smartphone exception. The industry continues to encourage buyers to replace an entire device, via yearly upgrade, instead of enabling them to carry out minor repairs themselves — so they can extend the lifespan of their device and thereby shrink environmental impact.

Dutch startup Fairphone was set up to respond to the abject lack of sustainability in the electronics industry. The tiny company has been pioneering modularity for repairability for several years now, flying in the face of smartphone giants that are still routinely pumping out sealed tablets of metal and glass which often don’t even let buyers get at the battery to replace it themselves.

To wit: An iFixit Teardown of the Google Pixel rates battery replacement as “difficult” with a full 20 steps and between 1-2 hours required. (Whereas the Fairphone 3 battery can be accessed in seconds, by putting a fingernail under the plastic back plate to pop it off and lifting the battery out.)

The Fairphone 3 goes much further than offering a removable backplate for getting at the battery, though. The entire device has been designed so that its components are accessible and repairable.

So it’s not surprising to see it score a perfect 10 (the startup’s first modular device, Fairphone 2, was also scored 10/10 by iFixit). But it is strong, continued external validation for the Fairphone’s designed-for-repairability claim.

It’s an odd situation in many respects. In years past replacement batteries were the norm for smartphones, before the cult of slimming touchscreen slabs arrived to glue phone innards together. Largely a consequence of hardware business models geared towards profiting from pushing for clockwork yearly upgrades cycle — and slimmer hardware is one way to get buyers coveting your next device.

But it’s getting harder and harder to flog the same old hardware horse because smartphones have got so similarly powerful and capable there’s precious little room for substantial annual enhancements.

Hence iPhone maker Apple’s increasing focus on services. A shift that’s sadly not been accompanied by a rethink of Cupertino’s baked in hostility towards hardware repairability. (It still prefers, for example, to encourage iPhone owners to trade in their device for a full upgrade.)

At Apple’s 2019 new product announcement event yesterday — where the company took the wraps off another clutch of user-sealed smartphones (aka: iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro) — there was even a new financing offer to encourage iPhone users to trade in their old models and grab the new ones. ‘Look, we’re making it more affordable to upgrade!’ was the message.

Meanwhile, the only attention paid to sustainability — during some 1.5 hours of keynotes — was a slide which passed briefly behind marketing chief Phil Schiller towards the end of his turn on stage puffing up the iPhone updates, encouraging him to pause for thought.

“iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 are made to be designed free from these harmful materials and of course to reduce their impact on the environment,” he said in front of a list of some toxic materials that are definitely not in the iPhones.

Stuck at the bottom of this list were a couple of detail-free claims that the iPhones are produced via a “low-carbon process” and are “highly recyclable”. (The latter presumably a reference to how Apple handles full device trade-ins. But as anyone who knows about sustainability will tell you, sustained use is far preferable to premature recycling…)

“This is so important to us. That’s why I bring it up every time. I want to keep pushing the boundaries of this,” Schiller added, before pressing the clicker to move on to the next piece of marketing fodder. Blink and you’d have missed it.

If Apple truly wants to push the boundaries on sustainability — and not just pay glossy lip-service to reducing environmental impact for marketing purposes while simultaneously encouraging annual upgrades — it has a very long way to go indeed.

As for repairability, the latest and greatest iPhones clearly won’t hold a candle to the Fairphone.


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Audi’s off-roading electric concept would be perfect for Tatooine – gpgmail


The all-electric concept, which has a range of up to 310 miles, is about 13.5 feet long and 7 feet wide and is outfitted with beefy 22-inch wheels. And because it’s a vehicle meant to off road, designers gave it ground clearance of 13.4 inches. This concept, if it really existed beyond the showroom floor, can ford through water more than half a meter deep. The range of the vehicle does drop on rough roads to about 155 miles, which would theoretically (if this vehicle actually existed) make wilderness travel more difficult.

The battery unit is integrated into the floor providing a spacious interior that sits four people. Glass surrounds the cabin to provide unrivaled views of the environment, whether it’s an earthly vista or the binary sunset over the fictional Tatooine desert.

The remaining exterior body is made of a mixture of high-tech steel, aluminum and carbon fiber, giving it a total weight of 3,858 pounds.

The concept vehicle is equipped with four electric motors, systems for assisted and automated driving and all-wheel drive. What you won’t find are any screens for streaming video. This concept was designed for viewing the outside world.

The interior, which uses recycled materials, is scant. There are pedals, a yoke for a steering wheel, a few buttons, and a smartphone attached to the steering column as a display and control center for vehicle functions and navigation.

The second row features seats that are designed to function like hammocks — and can be removed and used as mobile outdoor chairs.

Drones as headlights!

Perhaps the most interesting feature is the inclusion of five rotorless electrically operated drones, which serve a variety of purposes. The drones, which have matrix LED lighting, can dock on the roof to get more power with the inductive charging elements.

Audi calls these drones Audi Light Pathfinders because of their ability to fly and illuminate the path ahead. These drones, Audi says replace headlights altogether. When the vehicle is parked, the drones can be used ti light up the surrounding area.

Occupants control the drones through their smartphones in this theoretical use case. The on-board cameras can generate a video image that can be transmitted to the display in front of the driver via Wi-Fi, turning the Pathfinders into “eyes in the sky,” Audi says.


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Apple Unveils iPhone 11, Pro, Pro Max, With Heavy Emphasis on Cameras, Battery Life


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Apple unveiled its upcoming trio of new iPhones today, covering the iPhone 11 and the new iPhone Pro product family. The company is retiring the confusing “XR” and “XS” brands that it deployed last year, in favor of a simplified structure. The iPhone 11 is just the iPhone 11, while the professional model will come in two flavors: iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max.

As expected, these devices make camera features and technology a major component of their own value propositions. But the iPhone 11, at least, subtly nods to the fact that Apple’s price increases were anything but well-received last year. The base model iPhone 11 will be priced at $699, $50 less than last years’ iPhone XR. While this doesn’t make the device ‘entry-level,’ (new or not, $699 is not an entry-level price), it at least shows the company is responding to consumer’s refusal to buy its higher-end devices — at least, a little. The iPhone 11 Pro still starts at $999, while the iPhone 11 Pro Max is a $1,099 device. Pre-orders begin on September 13, with shipments to start on September 20.

The iPhone 11’s multi-colored hues.

The iPhone 11 has a 6.1-inch screen and will be offered in a variety of colors, including black, green, purple, red, white, and yellow. Features like haptic touch, a True Tone LCD, and a dual-camera are all standard. According to Apple, the new A13 Bionic will offer up to an hour of increased battery life over the iPhone XR, which already had the best battery life in the iPhone family.

As for the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, these two devices are 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch, respectively. They have what Apple is calling a “Super Retina XDR” OLED display with support for the P3 color space, which is a wider color gamut than a standard SDR monitor or phone display. Dolby Vision and HDR10 are both supported on the iPhone Pro family, and the display can handle up to 1,200 nits of brightness. Both the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro advertise features like Dolby Atmos support and supposedly offer better spatial audio performance.

The iPhone 11 Pro’s triple camera. It’s the best a man can get professional-quality camera ever integrated into a smartphone (according to Apple)

All of these new devices run on Apple’s A13 Bionic SoC, about which relatively little is known at this juncture. Apple claims the new chip offers up to 20 percent faster performance and its neural engine is supposedly more efficient as well. Apple claims the iPhone 11 Pro will get four hours more battery life than the iPhone XS, while the iPhone 11 Pro Max will last five hours longer than the iPhone XS Max. These claims seem unusually large, and I’m wondering about the workloads Apple used to test them. Battery life on smartphones is highly situational depending on what, exactly, you are doing. We’ve absolutely seen these kinds of battery life improvements before — but they’ve typically arrived when a workload that was previously being handled in software (like video decoding) is transferred to fixed-function hardware blocks (like a GPU’s onboard video decoder).

We’re not saying Apple can’t deliver a 4-5 hour battery life improvement, but that improvement may be very workload-dependent. A 4-5 hour improvement in battery life in all heavy use scenarios would be the equivalent of a major leap forward in battery technology. That’s a bit farther than we’re willing to go until device characteristics have been thoroughly tested.

Apple is clearly staking the iPhone 11 on its camera tech. When you visit the landing page for the iPhone 11, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d actually dropped into a product page describing the advances in Apple’s camera technology as opposed to the general landing page for the phone. The iPhone 11 has a new camera system with one 12MP wide camera and a 12MP ultra-wide camera. The first supports optical image stabilization, while the latter has a 120-degree field of view. The Camera app has been updated to allow you to you see outside the framing of the photo for when you need to take a shot in tight quarters.

Now with 4x more scene. Bangs, bracelets, and skinny jeans not included

The iPhone 11 Pro includes a triple-camera system with a 12MP wide camera with an equivalent focal length of 26mm and an f/1.8 aperture. There’s also a 12MP ultrawide camera (13mm focal length, f/2.4 aperture) and a 12MP telephoto camera with a 52mm focal length and an f/2.0 aperture. Much of Apple’s live event and its webpages are filled with glossy demonstrations of the kind of photos you can take with the new iPhone Pro and professionals extolling the benefits of the new device compared with previous models.

David Cardinal is our resident photography expert, so I’m going to defer to him as far as any professional comparison between professional DSLR cameras and the integrated models present in phones. I expect that this focus on the iPhone’s camera technology will at least help the device close the gap between itself and standalone DSLRs in some cases, particularly thanks to the new Night Mode, but that there will continue to be specific times and places where there’s an advantage to having a standalone professional product. It has been my observation that smartphones have gotten steadily better at providing a very good default, but there are intrinsic challenges to matching the benefits of a DSLR in such a limited amount of space.

The iPhone Pro, at least, includes a fast charger in the box. The iPhone 11 continues not to do so. All of these devices are rated for IP68 water-resistance, commonly referred to as being waterproof.

The iPhone may make photo and video editing on a small device easier, but you != Stanley Kubrick. Don’t feel bad. I am also != Stanley Kubrick.

The iPhone 11 Pro’s landing-page is even more photo and video-centric. It’s basically devoted to a demonstration of all the new device’s photo and video-editing features, or shots that claim to show the benefits of the new cameras. These sorts of claims will have to be evaluated to see how they hold up in objective testing, so I don’t actually have a lot to say about them, other than observing the fact that Apple is trying to push customers towards new products almost entirely on the basis of camera tech.

This may not be the worst approach. There are rumors that the company is planning a fairly major overhaul for the iPhone next year, with new features like 5G support set to be introduced at that date. Customers, meanwhile, tend to respond well to visual improvements — the original introduction of Retina displays was a huge win for Apple, and smartphone cameras are one of the few areas that have continued to improve at a fair pace even as overall device performance and battery life improvements have slowed.

There have been rumors that Apple will re-launch a new iPhone SE in 2020. If it intends to unveil such a device, it will do so at a later date. There was no mention of a new lower-end product. The iPhone 7 has been removed from sale; the iPhone 8 is now Apple’s lowest-end entry-level model at $449.

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Huawei’s Kirin 990 SoC Is the First Chip With an Integrated 5G Modem


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Huawei’s year has been anything but good, but the company has pushed ahead with new technology introductions and smartphone designs. The Chinese firm has now announced its latest SoC, the Kirin 990. The new chip will ship in two flavors — the Kirin 990, and the Kirin 990 5G. These two chips are based on the same SoC design, but there are some significant differences between them.

First, the Kirin 990 5G is built on TSMC’s 7nm+ process node, which utilizes EUV. The Kirin 990, in contrast, is a standard 7nm design. It seems as though Huawei will be the first customer to ship a part that uses EUV for manufacturing. Huawei’s stated reason for using EUV for the 5G variant is that it allowed for a smaller die. Die size on the 5G part is larger than 100mm2, while the LTE chip is less than 90mm2. Transistor counts are also significantly different, with the LTE chip at 8B and the 5G chip at 10.3B.

Kirin-990-Comparison

One interesting fact that Anandtech mentions is that the Kirin 990 was originally expected to use ARM’s Cortex-A77 CPU, not the Cortex-A76. Apparently the Huawei team didn’t like how the Cortex-A77 clocked on TSMC’s 7nm process node. The A77 had higher peak performance, but overall power efficiency between the A76 and A77 was practically identical on 7nm and the A76 design was capable of hitting much higher clocks. Supposedly the A77 tops out around 2.2GHz on 7nm at the moment and the design may not be used widely until 5nm CPUs are available.

The new ARM Mali-G76 implementation is substantially wider than the 10-core implementation used on the previous generation Kirin 980. GPU power efficiency can often be improved by using a wider GPU clocked at lower frequencies, and Huawei believes the new GPU design will still be more power-efficient than the old Kirin 980, despite being substantially wider.

The NPU design is a homegrown Huawei effort. Where the company previously licensed an NPU from Cambricon, the new Kirin 990 uses Huawei’s Da Vinci architecture. Huawei intends to scale this AI processing block from servers to smartphones. It supports both INT8 and FP16 on both cores, whereas the older Cambricon design could only perform INT8 on one core. There’s also a new ‘Tiny Core’ NPU. It’s a smaller version of the Da Vinci architecture focused on power efficiency above all else, and it can be used for polling or other applications where performance isn’t particularly time critical. The 990 5G will have two “big” NPU cores and a single Tiny Core, while the Kirin 990 (LTE) has one big core and one tiny core.

Huawei’s Balong modem will support sub-6GHz 5G signals with a maximum of 2.3Gbps download and 1.25Gbps upload. Overall CPU performance improvements from the Kirin 980 to the Kirin 990 are modest — Huawei claims single-threaded gains of 9 percent and multi-threaded boosts of 10 percent. Power efficiency, however, has improved significantly. The top-end cores are supposedly 12 percent more efficient, the “middle” cores of Huawei’s Big.Little.littlest are supposedly 35 percent more efficient, and the low-end Cortex-A55 chips are 15 percent more efficient. Most workloads are supposed to run on the middle cores for maximum performance/watt.

It seems unlikely that these devices will come to the US market in any numbers, though you may be able to buy them from third-party resellers if the Trump Administration doesn’t take further action against the company. While devices are going to start carrying 5G modems from this point forward, I’ve yet to see a 5G phone I’d actually recommend. While it’s true that the first generation of LTE devices didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory, the first generation of LTE devices didn’t overheat and shutdown when summer temperatures rose above 85F / 29.4C. They didn’t require you to be literally standing underneath an LTE access point in order to see faster service, either. Verizon has already stated that outside city centers, its 5G network will closely resemble “good 4G,” which raises the question of what, exactly, consumers are paying all this money for.

The first LTE devices were the HTC Evo 4G, the Samsung Craft, and the HTC Thunderbolt. They sold for $200, $350, and $250, respectively, though this was in the era of two-year contracts. Apple’s first LTE device was the iPhone 5, which cost $649 if purchased without a contract. Assuming Apple and the other AndroidSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce manufacturers continue to offer 5G as a luxury feature, we’ll likely only see it on devices at or above the $1000 price point for the next 12 months. I wouldn’t pay $1000 for a phone under any circumstances, but I definitely wouldn’t step up to a $1000+ device to buy a feature that I’ve got no chance of using at any point in the next few years.

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Fairphone 3 is a normal smartphone with ethical shine – gpgmail


How long have you been using your current smartphone? The answer for an increasing number of consumers is years, plural. After all, why upgrade every year when next year’s model is almost exactly the same as the device you’re holding in your hand?

Dutch social enterprise Fairphone sees this as an opportunity to sell sustainability. A chance to turn a conversation about ‘stalled smartphone innovation’ on its head by encouraging consumers to think more critically about the costs involved in pumping out the next shiny thing. And sell them on the savings — individual and collective — of holding their staple gadget steady.

Its latest smartphone, the Fairphone 3 — just released this week in Europe — represents the startup’s best chance yet of shrinking the convenience gap between the next hotly anticipated touchscreen gizmo and a fairer proposition that requires an altogether cooler head to appreciate.

On the surface Fairphone 3 looks like a fairly standard, if slightly thick (1cm), Android smartphone. But that’s essentially the point. This 4G phone could be your smartphone, is the intended message.

Specs wise, you’re getting mostly middling, rather than stand out stuff. There’s a 5.7in full HD display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 chipset, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage (expandable via microSD), a 12MP rear lens and 8MP front-facing camera. There’s also NFC on board, a fingerprint reader, dual nano-SIM slots and a 3,000mAh battery that can be removed for easy replacement when it wears out.

There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack: The handy port that’s being erased at the premium smartphone tier,  killing off a bunch of wired accessories with it. So ‘slow replacement’ smartphone hardware demonstrably encourages less waste across the gadget ecosystem too.

But the real difference lies under the surface. Fairer here means supply chain innovation to source conflict-free minerals that go into making the devices; social incentive programs that top up the minimum wages of assembly workers who put the phones together; and repairable, modular handset design that’s intended to reduce environmental impact by supporting a longer lifespan. Repair, don’t replace is the mantra.

All the extra effort that goes into making a smartphone less ethically challenging to own is of course invisible to the naked eye. So the Fairphone 3 buyer largely has to take the company’s word on trust.

The only visual evidence is repairability. Flip the phone over and a semi-opaque plastic backing gives a glimpse of modular guts. A tiny screwdriver included in the box allows you take the phone to pieces so you can swap out individual modules (such as the display) in case they break or fail. Fairphone sells replacements via a spare parts section of its website.

Fp3sc

Despite this radically modular and novel design vs today’s hermetically sealed premium mobiles the Fairphone 3 feels extremely solid to hold.

It’s not designed to pop apart easily. Indeed, there’s a full thirteen screws holding the display module in place. Deconstruction takes work (and care not to lose any of the teeny screws). So this is modularity purely as occasional utility, not flashy party trick — as with Google’s doomed Ara Project.

For some that might be disappointing. Exactly because this modular phone feels so, well, boringly normal.

Visually the most stand out feature at a glance is the Fairphone logo picked out in metallic white lettering on the back. Those taking a second look will also spot a moralizing memo printed on the battery so it’s legible through the matte plastic — which reads: “Change is in your hands”. It may be a bit cringeworthy but if you’ve paid for an ethical premium you might as well flaunt it.

It’s fair to say design fans won’t be going wild over the Fairphone 3. But it feels almost intentionally dull. As if — in addition to shrinking manufacturing costs — the point is to impress on buyers that ethical internals are more than enough of a hipster fashion statement.

It’s also true that most smartphones are now much the same, hardware, features and performance wise. So — at this higher mid-tier price-point (€450/~$500) — why not flip the consumer smartphone sales pitch on its head to make it about shrinking rather than maximizing impact, via a dull but worthy standard?

That then pushes people to ask how sustainable is an expensive but valueless — and so, philosophically speaking, pointless — premium? That’s the question Fairphone 3 seems designed to pose.

Or, to put it another way, if normal can be ethical then shouldn’t ethical electronics be the norm?

Normal is what you get elsewhere with Fairphone 3. Purely judged as a smartphone its performance isn’t anything to write home about. It checks all the usual boxes of messaging, photos, apps and Internet browsing. You can say it gets the job done.

Sure, it’s not buttery smooth at every screen and app transition. And it can feel a little slow on the uptake at times. Notably the camera, while fairly responsive, isn’t lightning quick. Photo quality is not terrible — but not amazing either.

Testing the camera I found images prone to high acutance and over saturated colors. The software also struggles to handle mixed light and shade — meaning you may get a darker and less balanced shot that you hoped for. Low light performance isn’t great either.

That said, in good light the Fairphone 3 can take a perfectly acceptable selfie. Which is what most people will expect to be able to use the phone for.

Fairphone has said it’s done a lot of work to improve the camera vs the predecessor model. And it has succeeded in bringing photo performance up to workable standard — which is a great achievement at what’s also a slightly reduced handset price-point. Though, naturally, there’s still a big gap in photo quality vs the premium end of the smartphone market.

On the OS front, the phone runs a vanilla implementation of Android 9 out of the box — preloaded with the usual bundle of Google services and no added clutter so Android fans should feel right at home. (For those who want a Google-free alternative Fairphone says a future update will allow users to do a wipe and clean install of Android Open Source Project.)

Fp3f

In short, purely as a smartphone, the Fairphone 3 offers very little to shout about — so no screaming lack either. Again, if the point is to shrink the size of the compromise Fairphone is asking consumers to make in order to buy an ethically superior brand of electronics they are slowly succeeding in closing the gap.

It’s a project that’s clearly benefiting from the maturity of the smartphone market. While, on the cellular front, the transformative claims being made for 5G are clearly many years out — so there’s no issue with asking buyers to stick with a 4G phone for years to come.

Given where the market has now marched to, a ‘fairer’ smartphone that offers benchmark basics at a perfectly acceptable median but with the promise of reduced costs over the longer term — individual, societal and environmental — does seem like a proposition that could expand from what has so far been an exceptional niche into something rather larger and more mainstream.

Zooming out for a second, the Fairphone certainly makes an interesting contrast with some of the expensive chimeras struggling to be unfolded at the top end of the smartphone market right now.

Foldables like the Samsung Galaxy Fold — which clocks in at around 4x the price of a Fairphone and offers ~2x the screen real estate (when unfolded), plus a power bump. Whether the Fold’s lux package translates into mobile utility squared is a whole other question, though.

And where foldables will need to demonstrate a compelling use-case that goes above and beyond the Swiss Army utility of a normal smartphone to justify such a whopping price bump, Fairphone need only prick the consumer conscience — as it asks you pay a bit more and settle for a little less.

Neither of these sales pitches is challenge free, of course. And, for now, both foldables and fairer electronics remain curious niches.

But with the Fairphone 3 demonstrating that ethical can feel so normal it doesn’t seem beyond the pale to imagine demand for electronics that are average in performance yet pack an ethical punch scaling up to challenge the mainstream parade of copycat gadgets.


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The LG G8X Is the Company’s Latest Attempt to Make Dual-Screen Phones a Thing


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Smartphones have basically gotten as large as they can reasonably get without some sort of radical design change. Samsung and Huawei are working with foldable OLED technology to allow phones to transform into tablets, but LG is still pushing the dual-screen design. The new G8X is the latest phone with one of the company’s snap-on Dual Screen accessories. Even with some new design refinements, this is going to be a tough sell. 

As you might have guessed, the LG G8X ThinQ is a modified version of the G8 that launched earlier this year. It ditches the silly and almost inoperable motion controls, allowing for a smaller display notch. Inside, it’s a typical 2019 flagship phone with a Snapdragon 855, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. There’s also a headphone jack, which is something of an anomaly these days. 

The phone itself isn’t the interesting part; it’s how the phone interacts with LG’s latest Dual Screen case. The 6.4-inch OLED in the phone clocks in at 2340 x 1080 and the case has an identical OLED. This is a change from past Dual Screen accessories which didn’t always match the phone’s display. In fact, the case even has a fake display notch at the top for its non-existent camera. There’s another display on the outside of the Dual Screen case as well. This 2.1-inch monochrome panel lets you quickly check the time and notifications without opening the phone. 

Past Dual Screen cases also relied on pogo pins on the back of the phone for connectivity, but this one connects to the phone via the USB Type-C port. LG also says it’s less of a drain on the phone’s battery, which has grown to 4,000mAh from 3,500mAh in the previous G8. 

With the Dual Screen case connected, you can run two apps side-by-side on the G8X. Those could be two separate web pages or something more elaborate like a game and a video player. You can even turn the phone into a miniature laptop by pulling up LG’s keyboard app on one screen with an app in landscape on the other. 

At this point, you may think this sounds like a good deal. After all, flip cases for phones are not exactly a new idea and plenty of people like them. However, like all LG Dual Screen systems, this thing is bulky at about 15mm thick and 326 grams. For comparison, the Galaxy Fold only weighs 263 grams, and it’s about half a millimeter thicker when closed. App developers need to get on-board to enable advanced functionality, too. LG will have to move a lot of units to have any hope of significant support, and that’s far from a certainty. 

LG will ship the G8X ThinQ in the fourth quarter of the year. Specific market availability and pricing will be announced closer to release.

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Sony Is Back to Making Compact Phones With the Xperia 5


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It is traditional for Sony to launch two flagship phones per year, so naturally, everyone expected its big IFA 2019 announcement to be the Xperia 2. After all, it released the Xperia 1 earlier this year. Instead, Sony unveiled the Xperia 5. The numbering scheme is unusual because this phone is essentially a smaller version of the Xperia 1, and that could make a lot of people very happy. 

For years, Sony was the only smartphoneSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce maker that resisted the trend toward larger and larger phones. Companies that did make “mini” versions of their phones often hobbled them in some way to keep the price down. Sony simply made “Compact” editions of its larger flagship phones with all the same features and specs. It moved away from that as sales slumped, but the Xperia 5 could be a return to form. 

The Xperia 1 sports a 6.5-inch 4K OLED display, but it’s a 21:9 ratio. That makes it very tall and narrow. Thus, it was more comfortable to hold in one hand than a 16:9 or 18:9 phone with the same diagonal measurement. Although, the overall length made the phone somewhat awkward at times. The Xperia 5 has a 6.1-inch OLED at 1080p, and it’s still 21:9. At just 68mm wide, it’ll be easy to use one-handed, provided you don’t have to reach up to the top of the screen too often. By comparison, the Note 10+ is almost a full centimeter wider. 

On the inside, the Xperia 5 has almost the same setup as the Xperia 1. There’s a Snapdragon 855, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of internal storage. The battery is necessarily a little smaller at 3,140mAh (3,300mAh in the Xperia 1), but the lower resolution display should more than make up for that. The phone runs Android 9 Pie, and Android 10 just launched a few days ago. It’s not uncommon for phones launched each fall to ship with a year-old version of Android, and Sony’s track record with Android updates is spotty at best. 

The Xperia 5’s triple-camera system includes a 12MP main unit, a 12MP telephoto, and a 12MP wide-angle shooter. Sony says the camera app uses the same autofocus technology found in its line of Alpha mirrorless cameras. Although, Sony’s software processing has fallen behind the likes of Google and Samsung. 

The Xperia 5 should be available for pre-order next week in Europe with shipping in October. We don’t have a price, nor confirmation of a US launch timeline just yet.

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Xiaomi has shipped 100 million smartphones in India – gpgmail


Xiaomi said on Friday it has shipped over 100 million smartphones in India, its most important market, since beginning operations in the nation five years ago. The company cited figures from research firm IDC in its claim.

The Chinese giant, which has held the top smartphone vendor position in India for eight straight quarters now, said its budget smartphone series Redmi and Redmi Note were its top selling lineups in India.

“It’s a testament to the love we have received from millions of Mi Fans since our inception. There have been brands who entered the market before us, yet are nowhere close to the astounding feat we have achieved,” said Manu Jain, VP of Xiaomi and MD of the company’s India business, in a statement.

As competition in its home market intensified, India has emerged as the most important market for Xiaomi in recent years. When the Chinese firm entered the nation, for the first two years, it relied mostly on selling handsets online to cut overhead. But in the years since, it has established presence in brick-and-mortar market, which continues to drive much of the general sales in the nation.

xiaomi india

Last month, Xiaomi said the company is on track to building presence in 10,000 physical stores in the country by the end of the year. It expects offline market to drive half of its sales by that time frame.

More to follow…


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Android 10 Code Confirms Pixel 4 90Hz Display


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We don’t even have to assume a new Pixel flagship phone is coming this year — for the first time, Google has announced features of its new phone before the big reveal. Google already showed off the back of the phone and talked about the Soli radar sensor, but we haven’t heard any official details on the screen. The next best thing after an announcement is code features from Google engineers, and XDA found some lines in Android 10 that support the report of a 90Hz screen. 

The standard for mobile device screens has long been 60Hz. It took a long time for Android to even hit 60 frames per second in the UI consistently, but Google has prioritized smoothness in the last few versions of Android, and it optimizes Pixel phones aggressively. Laptops and desktop monitors have long advanced beyond 60Hz with 100, 144, and higher refresh rates readily available for a small premium. However, computers have a lot more power at their disposal, and phones need to remain efficient and pocket-sized. 

It has only been in the last 12-18 months that high refresh mobile displays have become viable. Razer launched the original Razer Phone with a 120Hz display, but that was an LCD with serious efficiency problems. It ran at 90Hz out of the box, and even that drained the battery quickly. Asus improved matters with the ROG Phone, which had a 90Hz OLED panel. OnePlus launched the OnePLus 7 and 7 Pro earlier this year with a high-refresh OLED as well. 

Several weeks back, the first reports of the Pixel 4’s 90Hz “Smooth Display” appeared. Now, XDA has spent some time digging through the just-released Android 10 open source code and found supporting evidence. Android contains a service called SurfaceFlinger, which links apps and system UI with the display controller. Naturally, the SurfaceFlinger service needs to be aware of the display refresh rate. SurfaceFlinger in Android 10 includes a manual 90Hz toggle that wasn’t present in previous versions of the OS. 

In the current build of Android 10, the 90Hz mode exists as a temporary solution for testing purposes — a permanent version is already in AOSP, too. The code notes that the switch should only be used on “P19 devices.” Presumably, that means the 2019 Pixels, and not the Pixel 3a. Those budget phones launched last Spring, and they’re 60Hz. So, it’s a foregone conclusion that the Pixel 4 and 4 XL will indeed have 90Hz displays.

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