Google’s first retail store opens this week

After years of pop-up experiments, Google is finally dipping its toes in the physical retail waters with its first store, located underneath its offices in the Chelsea neighborhood in New York City. It will primarily feature Google’s own hardware products, including Pixel phones, Nest smarthome gadgets, Fitbits, and assorted other devices. There will also be a selection of third party accessories and Google-branded swag like hats or T-shirts.

Google characterizes this as its “first” store, but in a call with press yesterday declined to say when, where, or even whether other stores could open. Presumably one might, but it’s no sure thing. The retail space here is a relatively small way for Google to get into physical stores, not a big splashy entrance into competing with Apple Stores. Microsoft closed all of its retail stores last July amid the pandemic.

The Google Store is designed more like a show room (or a brand activation experience) than a retail space intended to move lots of product. There are stools and chairs scattered throughout the main space as well as rooms that Google calls “sandboxes” with product-specific experiences. In one room, customers will go through a little skit of using a Nest hub to answer the door for a delivery person, complete with haptics in the couch to simulate a knock on the door. The room for Pixel phones will showcase their low-light photography feature.

The aesthetic of the Google Store is a sort of less antiseptic, more homey Apple Store. It’s filled with a lot of light, but also a lot of warm wood tones. Google emphasized how it worked with a local artist to design the cork and wood furniture. It’s also proud of the fact that it earned a platinum rating from Leeds for its environmental design. Much of the furniture and flooring are made from recycled materials, for example.

Along the outside of the store are diorama boxes featuring various Google products. There’s a Stadia room for gaming, another room meant to showcase Google’s living room products, and so on. Google also built a circular glass booth that it will fill with exhibits showing off its technologies — starting with Google Translate.

Google says that it will offer on-site repair for Pixel phones and product support for all of its hardware devices. It’ll offer some software support as well — though only for its consumer products, not for enterprise users.

The store opens its doors at 10AM ET on June 17th. You can see more photos from the space below.

  • The Google Store in New York City

    Google and Paul Warchol

  • The Google Store in New York City

    Google and Paul Warchol

  • The Google Store in New York City

    Google and Paul Warchol

  • The Google Store in New York City

    Google and Paul Warchol

  • The Google Store in New York City

    Google and Paul Warchol

  • The Google Store in New York City

    Google and Paul Warchol

  • The Google Store in New York City

    Google and Paul Warchol

  • The Google Store in New York City

    Google and Paul Warchol

  • The Google Store in New York City

    Google and Paul Warchol

  • The Google Store in New York City

    Google and Paul Warchol

  • The Google Store in New York City

    Google and Paul Warchol

  • The Google Store in New York City

    Google and Paul Warchol

  • The Google Store in New York City

    Google and Paul Warchol

  • The Google Store in New York City

    Google and Paul Warchol


Honor confirms Google’s apps will return to its phones with new 50 series

The Honor 50 series will be able to ship with Google’s apps and services, Honor officially announced today as it launched the Honor 50 and Honor 50 Pro in China. In a statement, Honor says its phones will go through Google’s security review and that “Honor devices will therefore have the option to have Google Mobile Services (“GMS”) preinstalled on compatible devices, in accordance with Google’s licensing and governance models.”

“Consumers will be able to experience Honor smartphones and tablets equipped with GMS,” the company said. A spokesperson confirmed that the “Honor devices” referred to in the statement include the newly announced Honor 50. The device will be available for preorder in China on June 25th and will come to international markets such as France, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the UK at a later date at a price that’s to be announced.

Honor hasn’t been able to ship Google’s apps and services, including the Google Play Store, on its phones since its former parent company Huawei was placed on the US’s entity list, forcing Google to pull its Android license. What’s changed with the 50 series is that Huawei sold off Honor at the end of last year, allowing the company to work with Google once again. Huawei, meanwhile, is still unable to use Google’s software and is positioning its own HarmonyOS as a replacement.

Reports about the return of Google’s software to Honor’s phones emerged last month, after the company’s German Twitter leaked the news in a now-deleted tweet.

Turning to the devices themselves, the most eye-catching thing about the Honor 50 and Honor 50 Pro are their rear cameras, which are arranged into a pair of circular bumps. The phones have four rear cameras in total, including a 100-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel wide-angle, a 2-megapixel macro, and a 2-megapixel depth camera. On the front, the Honor 50 Pro has a pair of selfie cameras, combining a 32-megapixel camera with a 12-megapixel ultrawide, while the Honor 50 just has a single 32-megapixel camera.

Both phones have a 120Hz display, though the Honor 50 Pro’s is slightly bigger at 6.72 inches compared to 6.57 for the regular Honor 50. Available colors include silver, bronze, green, and black. Internally, they’re powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G processor. The 50 Pro has a 4,000mAh battery that can be fast charged at up to 100W, while the regular 50 has a 4,300mAh battery and supports 66W fast charging.

The return of Google’s software to Honor’s phones is unlikely to make much of a difference in China, where phones typically ship without the Play Store. But their absence has made Honor and Huawei’s phones pretty hard to recommend elsewhere. When the Honor 50 eventually releases in the West, that could all change.

In China, the Honor 50 will start at 2,699 yuan (around $422), while the Honor 50 Pro will start at 3,699 yuan (around $578). Alongside the two flagship phones, Honor is also announcing the cheaper Honor 50 SE, which will start at 2,399 yuan (around $375).


Lincoln vehicles getting hands-free driving feature and native Android

Lincoln, Ford’s luxury brand, has announced plans to make its entire lineup either hybrid or all-electric by 2030 as part of its parent company’s new business plan. The brand will reveal its first all-electric vehicle in 2022, and it expects that half of its global sales will be zero-emissions vehicles by around 2025.

In addition, Lincoln vehicles are gaining a hands-free advanced driver assistance feature based on Ford’s BlueCruise system, though the luxury marque will call its version “ActiveGlide.” New Lincoln vehicles coming in 2023 will also feature Google’s native Android Automotive operating system, which is is being added to “millions” of Ford vehicles that same year.

Four of Lincoln’s electric vehicles will be built on the new flexible EV platform that Ford announced in May when it laid out its new $30 billion “Ford Plus” business plan. That platform can power vehicles with all- or rear-wheel drive setups, and it “allows [Lincoln] to reimagine the interior space, and deliver the power of sanctuary in a new way for our clients,” John Jraiche, the company’s global director for luxury vehicles, said in a briefing.

In April, Lincoln announced a concept car in China called Zephyr that the company said offers a good picture of what its future vehicles might look like, inside and out. It featured a dashboard-spanning screen and new user interface that Lincoln refers to as “Constellation.” Lincoln released a short video on Wednesday of what that new UI might look like. The company said its “designers and engineers are also experimenting with digital scenting techniques, exploring how warm, pleasant scents positively affect the mood and overall well-being of the passengers.”

Lincoln was previously working on co-developing its first all-electric vehicle with EV startup Rivian, of which Ford owns at least a 10 percent stake. But the luxury automaker announced last year at the beginning of the pandemic that the project was canceled. While it seemed at the time that Lincoln had said it was still working with Rivian on another EV, the company said this week that this was a miscommunication. Rivian is still working with Ford on a future product, but its involvement with the Lincoln brand ended last year.

In more near-term news, Lincoln announced that the 2021 Nautilus will receive its first over-the-air software updates starting this summer. Those will upgrade the onboard navigation system and improve the Apple CarPlay experience. Later this year, an update will add hands-free capability for the built-in Amazon Alexa digital assistant.


CD Projekt says Cyberpunk 2077 will return to Sony’s PlayStation Store on June 21st

CD Projekt says Cyberpunk 2077 will return to Sony’s PlayStation Store on June 21st, slightly more than six months after being removed. As Polygon notes, the news came in a regulatory disclosure by Cyberpunk 2077’s developer, CD Projekt Red’s parent company, saying Sony had agreed to reinstate the game.

A CD Projekt Red spokesperson declined further comment about Cyberpunk 2077’s return, including what potential bug fixes or other updates the new version offers. In a statement to Polygon, Sony confirmed the news but said that it still doesn’t recommend playing the game on PlayStation 4. “Users will continue to experience performance issues with the PS4 edition while CD Projekt Red continues to improve stability across all platforms. [Sony Interactive Entertainment] recommends playing the title on PS4 Pro or PS5 for the best experience,” a spokesperson said.

CD Projekt executives have said they frequently updated Sony on fixes for Cyberpunk 2077’s myriad bugs and performance issues since the game was pulled from the store on December 17th, 2020. The studio has released numerous patches for its console, PC, and Google Stadia editions; in late May, joint CEO Adam Kiciński told investors there’d been “visible progress” on stabilizing the game. But Kiciński said Sony would have to make the final call.

Cyberpunk 2077 was released in December to strong sales but severe technical problems. The game struggled to run on last-generation Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles, and players faced numerous (and frequently hilarious) bugs on every platform. Microsoft and Sony both offered refunds for the game, and Microsoft added a warning label for Xbox One owners on its Xbox store. Sony took the more drastic step of pulling Cyberpunk 2077 from its PlayStation Store entirely. Console owners could still buy physical discs, but CD Projekt has said that the digital version’s absence may have slowed down sales on Xbox and PC as well as PlayStation.

CD Projekt Red spent nearly a decade designing Cyberpunk 2077, and it calls the game a long-term investment that it can sell for “years to come.” The studio has backed away from plans for a standalone multiplayer mode, saying it would focus on adding online features to all its games instead. But it’s promised downloadable content for Cyberpunk 2077’s single-player campaign, plus a major upgrade for new consoles — including the PlayStation 5 — in the second half of this year.

Update June 15th, 2:00PM ET: Added comment from Sony via Polygon and response from CD Projekt Red.


Google announces starred messages, emoji mashup suggestions, and more for Android

Google has announced six new features for Android that it says will help improve accessibility and make Assistant Shortcuts more useful, among other things. The new features announced today are:

Google says its phone-based earthquake detection and alert system will be coming to Turkey, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The system, which uses Android phones to create an earthquake detection network that will warn people if they’re in a potentially affected area, originally launched in California, but it was made available in Greece and New Zealand in April.

Google says it hopes to bring the feature to more regions over the next year, but that it’s focusing on first making it available to countries that have a high risk of earthquakes.

If you get sent a text with important info and want to be able to quickly find it, you’ll be able to “star” it, which will place it in the starred category so you won’t have to scroll back through a conversation to find it. Google says the feature will be rolling out to the Messages app “over the coming weeks.”

Gboard will suggest your custom emoji creations based on your message.
Image: Google

Starting this summer, Gboard will contextually suggest stickers created in Emoji Kitchen, Google’s tool that lets users create mashups of two different emoji. The suggestions will show up in the Emoji menu for those writing a message in English, Spanish, or Portuguese.

Google uses Strava as an example for the widget view that will be available in Assistant.
Image: Google

Google’s Assistant Shortcuts let users jump to a specific part of an app, but developers will now be able to show users information in widget form right in Assistant.

You can tell Voice Input to ignore you if you’re not looking at your phone.
Image: Google

Google’s Voice Access app, which allows people to navigate their phones using their voice, is getting gaze detection so it can tell whether someone is talking to their phone or talking to other people. The feature, which is in beta, will stop taking commands if it detects that you’re not looking at your phone.

Voice Access is also getting improvements when it comes to entering passwords: users will be able to say words like “dollar sign,” and they’ll be translated into the symbol, instead of being written out literally.

Android Auto users will be able to use their phone to personalize the app launcher and manually manage dark mode. Google’s also adding the ability to quickly scroll to the top of a list, and the scroll bar is getting an A to Z button.

Google also says the messaging experience for apps like Messages and WhatsApp has been improved, making it easier to send and read messages.


Realme GT review: In the flagship fast lane?

(Pocket-lint) – It’s probably no surprise that the Realme GT’s international reveal happened just one day after the OnePlus Nord CE hit the headlines. Because, while the GT isn’t a direct competitor – it’s actually more powerful than OnePlus’ more budget offering – it’s certainly a handset that wants to lead the young brand’s charge on OnePlus’ ongoing dominance in the alt-flagship space.

It’s even pulled the same old-hat promotional tagline – “flagship killer” – which is rather cheeky. But that gives Realme a platform upon which to stand. It is a bit cheeky. It has previously released phones with eye-slapping phrases plastered on them – we lambasted the Realme 8 Pro for its ‘Dare To Leap’ slogan. It’s that bit different, that bit of fun.

With the Realme GT the company is looking to enter the fast lane – the ‘Grand Tourer’ name reference name says it all really – for this alt-flagship has top-tier Qualcomm processing power, a more grown-up looking vegan leather finish than earlier Realme devices, and arrives at a price point that could make you pay attention to this brand over better-established products such as, say, a Moto G100 or Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite.

Design & Display

  • 6.43-inch AMOLED panel, 1080 x 2400 resolution, 120Hz refresh rate
  • Colours: Racing Yellow, Dashing Silver, Dashing Blue
  • Dimensions: 156 x 73 x 9.1mm / Weight: 186g
  • Finishes: Vegan leather or glass back
  • In-display fingerprint scanner

With phones often gigantic slabs these days, it’s rather refreshing to hold onto the Realme GT – because it’s sensibly proportioned, not too thick even in its vegan leather finish, and is on the right side the 200g weight barrier (a limit that we’ve pretty much decided to impose having handled the all too heavy Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra).

Motorola’s new Moto G9 Plus is a stunner of a phone – find out why, right here

By Pocket-lint Promotion


That the volume control buttons are on the opposite side to the Realme GT’s power button – a rarity in most Android phones – is something you might not immediately love, but we stuck with it and it’s actually a sensible layout. Taking one-handed screengrabs is easier, as one beneficial example.

But it’s not the layout that’ll first catch your attention. It is, but of course, that bright yellow rear – which Realme calls ‘Racing Yellow’, keeping in theme with that GT name. It’s a bold, bright finish, almost like an exemplary Pantone shade card for what a true yellow should represent.

That it’s vegan leather is another standout point, but less for its apparent environmental kudos – although there’s an argument that processes for this material aren’t actually Thunberg pleasing – and more for its tactile quality. It’s nice and grippy. It doesn’t become smeared in heaps of fingerprints. It looks consistent – and the black stripe down from the integrated cameras panel helps to soften the look.


Why, then, Realme has decided to (literally) stick its logo onto the rear is a big question. This silvered stick-on will inevitably fall off over time – not that we’ve actively been picking at it. Maybe that’d be for the better though – we’re not fans of any brand sticking big logos onto its phones. Motorola used to, before realising it looks much better to be subtle. Still, Realme ought to deboss or emboss for added chic.

Flip the phone over to its front and the Realme GT houses a 6.43-inch AMOLED panel, delivering a screen that’s capable of deep blacks and strong colours. Sadly, however, its auto-brightness adjustment is so shy that you’ll often end up squinting at the dulled screen trying to find the manual brightness slider. At maximum brightness it can remain visible in outdoor sunlight though. At lowest brightness there’s some ‘black crush’ to visuals, which is fairly common – an issue other Oppo phones present (Realme is effectively under the same umbrella as that brand).


Interestingly this panel has some top-end features, such as a 120Hz refresh rate, to keep visuals extra smooth and easy on the eyes. You needn’t have the 120 refreshes per second active for the sake of battery life, though, as a 60Hz option is found within the menus – which is on by default anyway. In terms of resolution the Full HD+ span of pixels over the 20:9 aspect ratio panel delivers ample detail – these days you don’t really want or need much more, as it rarely enhances apps and mostly just squeezes the battery life.

Performance & Battery

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 platform, 8GB/12GB RAM
  • Realme UI (v2.0) software over Google Android 11 OS
  • 4,500mAh battery capacity, 65W fast-charging
  • Stainless steel cooling system
  • 5G connectivity

That the Realme GT can cope with a 120Hz refresh rate is no surprise given its top-end hardware under the hood. There’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, paired with 8GB or 12GB RAM (there are two variants, we have the lower spec 8GB model in for review).


It’s this “my processing power’s bigger than yours” angle that will garner the GT a lot of attention – especially for its asking price. And so it should, for this Realme performs really well whether you’re casually navigating between pages and apps, or digging deep into a gaming session.

Other than when recharging it doesn’t overheat either, which is impressive in the context of a faux leather-backed device with such a strong performance engine running things. The stainless steel cooling system designed within must be part of the reason for the apparent well-managed heat dissipation.

With mixed use we’ve found the GT’s battery life to be perfectly acceptable. Long days will see you finish close to the 20 per cent mark, after around 18 hours, but that includes some gaming so we think that’s pretty good innings. Besides, with a 65W fast-charging capability – no wireless to be found here – topping it up is speedy. It can even learn your typical charging pattern as to not refill the battery too quickly, which will help with long-term battery health.

We suspect the GT could last longer if various settings were activated to throttle the experience. But we’re glad that’s not the case. So often we hit a wall with, say, a Xiaomi phone because its software default controls the way in which apps respond – often causing notification issues or delays. Realme doesn’t have that issue; its Realme UI (version 2.0 here) is effectively a rework of Oppo’s ColorOS, which we’ve found in recent iterations to be generally pleasing.


  • Triple rear camera system:
    • Main (26mm): 64-megapixel, f/1.8 aperture, Sony IMX682 sensor, 0.8µm pixel size
    • Wide-angle (16mm): 8MP, f/2.3, 1.12µm
    • Macro: 2MP, f/2.4
  • Front-facing selfie camera:
    • 16-megapixel, f/2.5 aperture, 26mm, 1.0µm pixel size

Given the phone’s price point its camera setup is the one area to expect some compromise. Realme has gone down the “triple camera” route – but, really, it’s a main camera paired with ultra-wide that show their worth, while the low-resolution close-up macro camera isn’t even worth including in our view. It’s a trap so many makers have fallen into – to oversell their cameras.

Anyway, that’s not to say expect bad things all across the board. As a straightforward point-and-shoot camera the main 64-megapixel sensor – which uses six-in-one processing to deliver 12-megapixel results by default – is capable enough. For sharing snaps on socials and so forth it’ll deliver the goods.

That said, however, it’s not the most refined in terms of processing. Where detail lacks – subject edges such as buildings, or busier areas such as trees and shrubs – there’s oversharpening, often to the detriment of realism. Colour also can look as though it’s been washed over with a blue filter, while contrast is a bit punchier than needed.


: Main cameraMain camera

Then there’s the wide-angle camera. Results from this aren’t consistent with the main lens – the colour looks different, for example – while detail lacks, and optically speaking it’s not particularly great. The benefit of having the wide camera is, of course, that it’s wide; that you can fit more into a shot, even if the edges are blurred and the contrast pushes image noise into greater visibility. You can compare the main camera and the wide camera – including 100 per cent zoom-in for each shot – in the gallery above.

The Realme GT might have wide-angle covered, but it doesn’t really cater for zoom. Well, it depends how you look at it. The camera app does offer 2x and 5x as part of the controls, but we’d strongly suggest avoiding using these as it’s nothing more than digital zoom. Given that the main sensor is 64-megapixels, however, the 2x ought to be better than it is. The 5x really pushes beyond what’s acceptable, with soft and unimpressive results. You can see the zoom stages from wide to main to 2x to 5x in the gallery below:


: Ultra-wide (16mm)Ultra-wide (16mm)

So while the zoom is one to avoid and the wide-angle isn’t great, the GT’s main camera is passable. It recognises backlighting to boost high dynamic range (HDR). It’s managed pretty well in low-light conditions, too, so if you’re shooting indoors at night then it can still focus and present enough detail – as we found out in a basement distillery at Edinburgh Gin.

That’s the long and the short of it: there’s not really much that’s “GT” about this Realme’s cameras. A “Pro” version might be able to rectify that – but it’d also come at cost, given the list price of camera components. And, really, that’s not the point of this phone. The GT is all about flagship performance for the day to day, not top-tier cameras – if you want that then you’ll have to pay out a lot more cash elsewhere.


From its striking yellow-colour vegan leather finish, to its impressive performance thanks to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 platform, the Realme GT is an impressive alt-flagship – but one that will depend on its eye-catching asking price to lure in a fan base.

As we said up top, this Realme has arrived at a time when OnePlus is no longer, well, “being OnePlus” – i.e. delivering flagship devices for considerably less cash. In that sense, then, the GT slots into the space that OnePlus once occupied in its earlier days, a tactic that’s as measured as it is a bit cheeky.

No, the GT doesn’t offer the greatest of cameras, its auto-brightness is shy to activate, and as a brand name it might not yet resonate with the masses.

But it’s hard to not see the GT’s specification for what it is: more powerful than a Motorola equivalent, such as the G100; and more software consistent than a Xiaomi device, such as the Mi 11 Lite.

In that sense, then, the Realme GT sure does enter the alt-flagship fast lane, overtaking some of the big competition that are also jostling for pole position.

Also consider


Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G

We love the Xiaomi’s colour finish and slender build – it’s a great alternative to the current glut of massive flagship phones. That said, it’s less powerful and the software brings its share of irks.

  • Read our review



Moto G100

It’s about the same price, but with a slightly lower-spec processor, equally so-so cameras, but a more established brand name and near flawless software.

  • Read our review


Writing by Mike Lowe.


Asus launches $499.99 Chromebook Flip CM5 with AMD Ryzen 5 processors

Asus has released its latest Ryzen-powered Chromebook, the Chromebook Flip CM5. The CM5 has a 15.6-inch screen, and Asus is pushing it as a device for cloud-based gaming. It’s available now at Abt and Newegg starting at $499.99.

The most exciting thing is that the CM5 supports both Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now. Of course, it only has a 60Hz screen and Radeon integrated graphics, so it’s far from a “gaming laptop” of any sort. Still, Asus has made a few design tweaks to better evoke the aesthetic. Namely, the WASD keys are outlined in orange, which Asus says “lets users stand out while enjoying quick, intuitive gameplay in cloud-based games.” Some Windows laptops have done bold things with their WASD keys, but this is the first Chromebook we’ve seen with that feature.

Asus also emphasized the Harmon Kardon-certified audio system and Wi-Fi stabilizer technology, which should likely help create a more immersive gaming experience.

Image: Newegg

The CM5 has a 57Wh battery, which Asus claims offers up to 10 hours of battery life. You can configure the device with up to 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage as well. You can choose a Ryzen 5 3500C or a Ryzen 3 3250C, both of which come with AMD Radeon integrated graphics. The chassis itself is made of an aluminum alloy, which Asus describes as “mineral gray” with an “obsidian velvet” texture.

I’ll keep you posted on how this device performs once I’ve gotten my hands on a unit. In the meantime, I recently reviewed its sibling, the Chromebook Detachable CM3, which you can read about here.


Beats announces $149.99 Studio Buds earbuds with active noise cancellation

Beats today announced its second pair of true wireless earbuds, the new Beats Studio Buds. Priced at $149.99 and available in red, black, or white, the Studio Buds have a much different, more compact design than the previous Powerbeats Pro. There are no ear hooks on these, nor any stems, and that results in a very lightweight, comfortable fit. Preorders start today in the US and Canada from Apple and other retailers like Amazon and Best Buy, and the earbuds will be available in stores on June 24th.

The Studio Buds include active noise cancellation, IPX4 water and sweat resistance, and can last for up to five hours on a charge. (If you leave noise cancellation off, they can eke out eight hours of continuous playback. They also use USB-C for charging — there’s no wireless charging, unfortunately — and either earbud can be used independently.

The Studio Buds have a sleek, lightweight design.
Image: Beats

Interestingly, Beats is supporting both iOS and Android features with the Studio Buds. On iPhone, you get the familiar, easy AirPods-like setup and Control Center integration. They can also do hands-free “Hey Siri” commands. On Android, Beats now works with Fast Pair and Google’s Find My Device features.

Beats came up with an all-new acoustic architecture design for the Studio Buds, which have 8.2-millimeter drivers, and the company claims you can expect “outstanding stereo separation and low harmonic distortion across the frequency curve so you hear every note.”

If you’re wondering how the Studio Buds might stack up to the AirPods Pro or other competitors, I’ve been spending some time testing the just-announced earbuds, and you can read my full review of the Beats Studio Buds here.


OnePlus Nord CE 5G review: Hardcore, you know the score

(Pocket-lint) – OnePlus has be on something of an exploratory journey over the past 12 months or so. Rather than delivering one or two phones at a time and launching them both globally, it took a more regional approach. 

That meant while some markets got the original Nord, others – like the US – didn’t, then OnePlus followed up with various models to suit different territories. It even continued this approach with the OnePlus 9 series, offering a 9R in India, but nowhere else.

This is pretty standard practice for most manufacturers, but wasn’t for OnePlus. At least, not until now. But obviously this transition to being a ‘proper’ smartphone manufacturer is working, because it’s back again with another Nord: the Nord CE 5G. 

Plastic fantastic

  • Dimensions: 159.2 x 73.5 x 7.9mm / Weight: 170g
  • No official waterproofing
  • 3.5mm headphone port
  • Blue Void, Charcoal Ink and Silver Ray colours

For a while there’s been this sense that when building a good smartphone, you have to start with the right materials. It had to be aluminium or steel and glass. Using plastic was as good as writing ‘cheap trash’ over the back of the phone in capital letters. But things have changed, thanks in part to the efforts of Samsung. 


With its Galaxy Note 20, S20 FE and this years S21, it showed you can use plastic materials in a way that doesn’t detract from the look and feel of the phone. OnePlus has taken the same approach with the Nord CE. Our unit in Blue Void has a lovely frosted/matte finish to it that’s very reminiscent of the Samsung approach, and we like it a lot. 

It has an eye-catching blue finish with just the slightest splash of purple up the edges. There are two other safer colours in Charcoal Ink (Black-ish grey) and Silver Ray. 

Being a frosted/matte finished plastic does have its advantages too. Firstly, it’s not at all slippery. So it’s not hard to keep a hold of one-handed, and it’s not likely to just randomly slide off the arm of your sofa. Secondly, it not as likely to crack or turn into tiny shards when it’s dropped or banged against something. It’s a very practical choice. 

Also, it just feels, well, nice. 


That’s not the only practical choice made by OnePlus with the Nord CE. It’s both slimmer and lighter than the first Nord, so it doesn’t feel like a huge phone in your hand. It’s not exactly compact, but it’s easy to hold and comfortable enough to use. And it has a 3.5mm socket for wired headphones and headsets. 

One choice that might not go down so well with long-time OnePlus fans is the removal of the alert switch. For years this simple slider button on the side has set the company’s phones apart from rivals, offering an easy tactile way to switch your phone to silent or vibrate. Apparently, that’s not considered ‘Core’ enough to make it on to a ‘Core Edition’ OnePlus phone. 

In case you were wondering: yes, that’s what CE stands for. 

Other core design choices include: not having a physical fingerprint sensor. Instead, there’s an in-display one so there’s nothing on the back, breaking up that glorious matte blue surface. The camera housing is a pretty basic pull-shaped protrusion and the display has just the one hole punched through it for a single camera. 


Sadly, one last feature not deemed essential to a Core Edition phone is a subtle haptic motor for feedback. That means, with it enabled, keyboard taps are accompanied by a nasty feeling buzz, rather than a subtle tap. We quickly switched it off. 

Display and software

  • 6.43-inch AMOLED 90Hz display
  • 1080 x 2400 resolution
  • OxygenOS 11

Screen resolutions haven’t changed much in recent years with most smartphones opting for some version of full HD. This particular flavour is 1080 x 2400, which is the same as on most other OnePlus phones. That means it’s plenty sharp enough for day-to-day tasks with individual pixels imperceptible. 

It’s AMOLED too, which means it’s a pretty punchy panel with vibrant colours and deep blacks. In its default ‘vivid’ mode the screen often over eggs the colours a bit, but with this being a OnePlus phone running OxygenOS, you get to customise its balance quite lot. Switching to ‘sRGB’ mode balances things out a lot more, but does make it a bit less exciting.  


The 90Hz refresh rate ensure that when you touch the screen, or swipe at something in the interface, the response is immediate and smooth. It doesn’t reach the heights of the OnePlus 9 Pro’s 120Hz, and doesn’t feature the advanced adaptive refresh rate tech that adapts it to the content, but it’s impressively fluid and smooth for a mid-ranger. 

That’s not the only element where you just about get the hint this isn’t a top tier panel. 

For instance, despite being AMOLED, when the screen’s off (or black) it’s not quite as dark as the black frame around the panel, so you don’t get that blending effect, you can see where the bezel stops and the screen starts. There’s also a slight colour shift when you look at a white screen from different angles. 

Just for a little perspective though, the fact we’re picking up on such non-issues as a slight negative shows two things: how competitive the mid-range market has become recently and how good this phone is for the money OnePlus is asking for it. 

Part of the joy of OnePlus phones over the years is the customisation on offer from the OxygenOS software. We’ve already mentioned the ability to calibrate the screen to your exact liking, but there are also modes like Reading Mode which turns the screen monochrome for when you load up your favourite e-book app. 

There’s not much new to report from a software side with the Nord CE. It’s the same as the software found in the OnePlus 9 series and OnePlus 8T that came before it. It’s OxygenOS 11 based on Android 11, which represented a major redesign when it first launched. 

While OnePlus was often seen as a manufacturer offering a stock-like Android experience with lots of customisation choices, it no longer feels that way. Oppo’s ColourOS offers far more customisation of elements like the fingerprint scanner animation, always-on display, icon styles and shapes. OxygenOS by comparison feels quite stripped back and bare. 

This does help it retain that feeling of ‘essentialism’ though. It has everything you need, presented in a clean and clutter free way. There aren’t any unecessary apps pre-loaded, and even core parts of the experience like phone, messages and software updates are now powered by Google’s own apps, rather than OnePlus’ own design. 

Power and performance

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor (8nm)
  • 6GB, 8GB or 12GB RAM – 128GB or 256GB storage
  • 4500mAh battery
  • 30W fast charging

Where the Core Edition OnePlus Nord gets it right is the feeling of speed and fluidity under your fingertips. A big part of that, as mentioned, is down to the high refresh rate of the screen and the software. OnePlus has always done a great job of optimising its software animations to feel speedy. 

That performance transitions well into games and apps too. Using it daily as a main phone, it never left us in any real need of more, despite ‘only’ having Snapdragon 750G. It’s not a top-tier platform, but just like the Snapdragon 765G that appeared in the first Nord, this one gets the job done without any trouble. 

Playing Mario Kart Tour was a hassle-free and smooth experience, as was browsing the web, scrolling through Twitter and any other app we came across in our day-to-day phone usage. 


Similarly, the 4500mAh battery inside is more than strong enough to cope with the most demanding of days. For the most part, with light usage, we’d finish the day with something like 40 per cent of the battery left over. That’s with the usual hour or so of web browsing and social media, plus a chunk of gaming. 

Once empty it fills up quickly, as is typical OnePlus style. It uses a 30W wired charger, which OnePlus has clunkily named ‘Warp Charge 30T Plus’. In actual fact, it’s almost the same as Warp Charge 30T, in that it can fill 70 per cent of the battery in abut half an hour. It’s been a mainstay feature for OnePlus phones for many years and something of a lifesaver when you’ve forgotten to charge your phone or when it drains unexpectedly. 


  • Triple rear camera system:
    • 64MP primary camera
    • 8MP ultra-wide (119-degree)
    • 2MP monochrome sensor
  • 4K recording at 30fps
  • 16MP selfie

Ah, OnePlus and cameras. It seems to be an age-old complaint of OnePlus phones having a not-quite-good-enough camera system. They’ve definitely improved the quality over the past couple of years, there’s no denying that, and for the most part the primary snapper on the Nord CE is decent. 


You’ll get sharp photos with good colours and depth of field from the 64-megapixel sensor. It pixel bins down to 16-megapixel images automatically, so isn’t using all 64 million of those pixels individually. Not unless you enable it. 

It has all the camera features you’d expect too. It’ll take portrait shots with excessive background blur, night mode shots, panoramas, timelapses, slow motion video and even has a ‘pro’ mode for adjusting ISO, white balance and shutter speed manually yourself. 

There is one major weakness we’ve encoutered on the Nord CE’s primary lens however, and that’s focus distance. It really, really doesn’t like focusing on anything closer than about 13 or 14cm, which means close up shots of flowers, bugs, berries and the like are near-on impossible. You can see examples that would normally be simple shots, impossible because it refused to focus. 

The only solution is either taking the photo from further away and cropping the photo in edit, or using the 2x zoom function to zoom in digitally when taking the photo. 

We don’t expect super macro skills from an affordable mid-range necessarily, but we do expect it to at least handle close up focusing a bit better than this. 

Without being too cricital though, having the 2x zoom and the seperate ultra-wide lens means you get enough versatility in shooting to make it useful in most situations. There’s a variety in focal lengths, but we do question the decision to put such a visually distinct different between them. 

What we mean by that is there’s a noticeable drop in quality when switching from the main to the ultra-wide. Images lose some crispness, and appear visually more contrast heavy and darker, losing a lot of vibrancy in the colours while adding more noise, even in daylight. At times it also adds a hyper-real element to the colours where they just seem unnaturally saturated. It’s not the most consistent of cameras. 

As for the third camera, that’s just a low resolution black and white sensor to act as a backup to the other two, bringing in some more light data. 

Motorola’s new Moto G9 Plus is a stunner of a phone – find out why, right here

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On the front, the selfie camera is decent enough with OnePlus’ HDR capability shining when it comes to balancing out heavy backlighting behind you when snapping pictures of yourself. So even if the sky and clouds look too bright to get a decent shot of your face, the system does well to make sure that it’s not over-exposed and washed out. 


OnePlus Nord ‘Core Edition’ is something of an unusual phone in its position. The first OnePlus Nord in itself was supposed to represent the core essentials of OnePlus phones. Stripped down, but without real compromise. So in essence, the OnePlus Nord CE is a Core Edition of a Core Edition phone. But that’s perhaps overthinking it a bit. 

What really matters is that for the money you’re getting a phone without any significant flaws. It’s fast and responsive, is well-designed, has a good camera and a good screen. It’s comfortably one of the best phones in its price bracket. 

We question the removal of the alert slider though. It was one of the few remaining fixtures that helped OnePlus phones stand out from its competition. Without it, it feels like OnePlus is doing more blending in with the environment. It’s transitioned away from standout phone maker, to just another phone maker and the CE is the culmination of that effort. 

Alternatives to consider


OnePlus Nord


The original Nord is still here, and still packs a punch. It’s fast, fluid, smooth and has a more premium glass back, slightly more powerful processor and is now discounted because it’s a bit older. 

  • Read the review


Redmi Note 10 Pro 


The Redmi Note 10 Pro is one of 2021’s best value smartphones. It boasts similar specs and capabilities to the Nord CE, but is cheaper. Crucially, it has a bigger battery, bigger display and is water resistant. 

  • Read the review

Writing by Cam Bunton. Editing by Chris Hall.

Google Workspace and Google Chat are officially available to everybody

Google is announcing some changes to its Workspace suite of apps and services today, including availability for anybody who has a Google account. Google says that there are over three billion users of its Workspace apps — though it’s probably a safe bet that Gmail accounts for a healthy chunk of that userbase.

A lot of people will soon have the option to switch over to Google’s more modern system for Gmail, Docs, and Chat. All of them can be integrated in a single tab more easily, for example with chats sliding over to the left to reveal a shared spreadsheet. It’s also related to the company’s new “smart canvas” push, which is also designed to interlink its various apps via “smart chips.”

To get started, Google is now officially offering the setting to turn on Google Chat to all users. It’s a new setting within Gmail.

With the switch, Google Chat messaging should be an option for all now, which can include direct messages and chat Rooms. But Google is also introducing a new terminology to go along with the announcement. It is announcing the “evolution of Rooms in Google Chat to Spaces.”

A Space is essentially the same thing as a chat Room, but Google wants to separate them out into their own top-level form of communication next to Gmail, Chat, and Meet. Google is layering on a few new features like improved message threading, more emoji reactions, user roles, moderation tools, and “discoverable” spaces. In that sense, it seems that Spaces wants to serve both as a Slack competitor and as a competitor for public Discord groups and, well, maybe as an optional replacement for email groups.

It’s a little confusing — but that’s par for the course for Google’s messaging strategy.

Google Spaces

The key idea, according to Sanaz Ahari, senior director of product, is that users can more easily switch between “modalities” of communication. The intent is to “keep the context,” Ahari says. “If you start something with an email and then you want to upgrade it into more real-time interaction between a group — or even for a project — you’re able to do that and you can keep the context. Then you can all seamlessly upgrade into a meeting at the same time.”

Google is promising it will “launch a streamlined and flexible user interface” for Spaces this summer.

Those aren’t the only announcements getting bundled into today’s Workspace news. The company is launching a new tier called “Google Workspace Individual” at $9.99 per month, which gives users more Workspace tools without requiring them to set up their own domain or custom email address.

When Workspace users say yes to a meeting, they will be able to indicate whether they’ll be attending remotely or in the reserved meeting room. Google also provided a date for the Companion Mode feature, which encourages people in the meeting room to also turn on their cameras so that remote workers don’t feel quite as left out — it should be coming in September to desktop and “soon” to mobile.

Google also snuck in an announcement that it will finally offer a progressive web app for Google Workspace in September. In theory, it could make it much easier for Gmail users to have their email and other Google apps feel more like actual desktop apps and not just tabs in the browser. That’s possible now via various Electron apps and Single Site Browser windows, but it requires more work than it should.

Finally, Google is adding enterprise options that are going to be necessary if it really wants to have a shot at going after larger companies. Corporations will be able to use their own client-side encryption for data, add more “trust rules” for various Drive files to simplify access and permissions, and label files based on their sensitivity.

Google Workspace has been rapidly updating and iterating over the past few months, a sign perhaps that the company really does intend to seriously compete with Microsoft. Google’s strategy goes beyond just improving its products — it’s more tightly integrating them together. Gmail users will soon find more prompts than ever to bring them into Google’s other Workspace products — and some no doubt will be looking for ways to avoid all that. Putting buttons for Chat, Meet, and Rooms (soon to be Spaces) at the bottom of the most popular email app in the world is sure to raise usage — and potentially some antitrust eyebrows.

The biggest question mark is whether Google can coherently explain the switchover to Chat, why it’s worth it, and what this new Spaces thing really is. Now that Workspace is going to be available to over three billion regular people, the company is going to need to work hard to clearly communicate with all of them.


Google to work with UK regulators on its big ad-tracking shakeup

The UK’s competition regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), will collaborate with Google as it attempts to rework online ad targeting, the regulator and Google have announced. It comes as Google is attempting to phase out the use of third-party cookies for tracking and targeting users with ads and instead use a new set of technologies it’s calling Privacy Sandbox.

In its announcement, Google said this is the first time regulators and technology companies have worked together on new technologies like this. As well as the CMA, the UK’s data protection regulator (the Information Commissioner’s Office, or ICO) will also be involved. “The CMA is taking a leading role in setting out how we can work with the most powerful tech firms to shape their behaviour and protect competition to the benefit of consumers,” the CMA’s chief executive Andrea Coscelli, said in a statement.

The collaboration comes in response to the CMA’s announcement in January that it would be formally investigating Google’s proposals, which involve using AI to bundle users together into anonymised groups to target them with ads (you can read more about the proposals here). Google’s new approach is intended as a more privacy-orientated alternative to tracking cookies, which the company intends to phase out of its Chrome browser over the next year.

However, concerns have been raised that Google’s Privacy Sandbox could harm competition, and concentrate yet more power in the hands of the search giant. There have also been concerns raised about whether the proposals are compatible with Europe’s tough GDPR data protection regulation. Meanwhile, the plans are also facing antitrust scrutiny in the US.

Google has made a series of commitments to the UK regulator about how it will develop and implement the changes. It says it will develop the plans transparently, in a way that doesn’t give itself an unfair advantage, or discriminate against its rivals. It’s also making a commitment to not combine user data from Chrome browsing histories or Google Analytics with its ad products.

For its part, the CMA says these commitments address its concerns, but it’s opening up a public consultation to help it decide whether to accept them. If accepted, the commitments would become legally binding.


Watch the first trailer for Ubisoft’s gorgeous Avatar game

Ubisoft capped off its E3 keynote with a big surprise: a first look at Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. The next-gen take on James Cameron’s world looks gorgeous, and Ubisoft says it’s being built with its own Snowdrop engine at internal studio Massive.

Here’s the story premise:

In this new, standalone story, play as a Na’vi and embark on a journey across the Western Frontier, a never-before-seen part of Pandora. Explore a living and reactive world inhabited by unique creatures and new characters, and push back the formidable RDA forces that threaten it.

The game appears to be built with next-gen hardware in mind. Frontiers of Pandora is slated for release on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X / S, along with cloud services Google Stadia and Amazon Luna.

It also isn’t the only sci-fi universe Ubisoft is exploring: the publisher previously revealed that it was making an open-world Star Wars game, which is also been made by Massive.


Ubisoft’s extreme sports MMO Riders Republic is launching in September

Ubisoft’s upcoming extreme sports MMO, Riders Republic, will launch on September 2nd, the company announced at its Ubisoft Forward show on Saturday.

In a nearly five-minute trailer, Ubisoft showed off some of the sports that you can play, including biking, snowboarding, and even wing suiting. The game will have a variety of modes, including mass races (with more than 50 players on next-gen consoles) and six vs. six trick battles. And you’ll also be able to customize your player with all sorts of gear — in the trailer, I think I spotted a biker with a built-in ice cream stand on their bike, for example.

Riders Republic will be available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X / S, Google Stadia, Amazon Luna, and PC when it launches in September, and the game will support crossplay and cross-save across all platforms, Ubisoft says. You can register now for the chance to participate in upcoming betas for the game ahead of launch.


Like Google Chrome, Chrome OS will be moving to a four-week release schedule

Google will be adjusting the release cycle for Chrome OS later this year, moving to a schedule where it launches a new release every four weeks, the company announced on Friday.

“To deliver new features more rapidly to consumers while also continuing to prioritize the key pillars of Chrome OS – security, stability, speed and simplicity – Chrome OS will move to a 4-week stable channel starting with M96 in Q4,” Chrome OS release TPM lead Marina Kazatcker said in a blog post. For enterprise and education users who may not want that fast of a release cycle, Google also plans to introduce a new update channel with a 6-month cadence by the time of the M96 release.

The speed of Chrome OS’ release schedule will bring it on par with the Google Chrome browser, which will also be transitioning to a four-week release schedule. For the Chrome browser, that change will kick in starting in the third quarter of this year.


Samsung Galaxy A32 5G review: 5G on a budget

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If you’re looking for a 5G Android phone and want to spend as little as possible, you can stop right here. At $279, the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G is your best bet right now, especially if you’re in the US where such options are scarce. It offers good 5G support (including the all-important C-band!), a huge battery, and four years of security updates. That’s a compelling package for under $300.

That’s not to say it’s perfect. The A32 5G’s screen isn’t great, performance is a little laggy, and though capable, its camera is limited. If you can spend just a bit more, you can get a phone that does better in at least one of these areas. And if you can hold off on your phone purchase for even a few more months, we should see many more very affordable 5G phones on the market to choose from, like the OnePlus N200. But if you don’t have time to wait and can’t spare the extra cash, I can’t find a good reason to talk you out of the A32 5G.

The A32 5G is a big device, housing a 6.5-inch screen and a large 5,000mAh battery.

Samsung Galaxy A32 5G screen, performance, and design

The A32 5G features a big 6.5-inch 720p LCD panel that’s best described as nothing special. Colors look a little flat and washed out, and though it gets bright enough to see in direct sunlight, the screen’s reflective plastic protective panel makes it challenging. It’s also a low resolution to be stretched across such a large screen, so you’ll see a little pixelization if you look close.

The phone uses a MediaTek Dimensity 720 5G processor that compares well with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 690 5G chipset for budget 5G phones, used by OnePlus Nord N10 5G. The Galaxy A32 5G combines the MediaTek processor with 4GB of RAM (decent) and 64GB of storage (skimpy but just enough to get by, and you can throw in a microSD card to expand it), and it performs well enough for its class.

There’s noticeable hiccuping with media-dense pages, brief pauses when diving into a demanding task like starting Google Maps navigation, and noticeable camera shutter lag. For the most part, though, I just didn’t notice slowdowns as I jumped between apps, scrolled through Instagram, and just generally went about using the phone normally. That’s about all I’d ask for from a sub-$300 phone.

The phone’s headline feature, 5G, still isn’t something we’d recommend you run out and buy a new phone to get. But the A32 5G has a couple of features that make it worth your time, even considering that good 5G is still a year or two away in the US. Crucially, the A32 5G has been cleared by the Federal Communications Commission to use C-band frequencies that Verizon and AT&T, in particular, will be utilizing for 5G in the coming years. Not all 5G phones can use C-band, so that’s a big ol’ checkmark in the A32 5G’s favor. There’s no mmWave support here, which is the fastest and scarcest flavor of 5G, but that’s no great loss.

The second factor here is that you can reasonably expect to keep using this phone for enough years to actually see 5G that’s meaningfully better than LTE because Samsung will keep offering security updates for four years. Many budget devices only get about two years of security update support, but the A32 5G’s lengthy lifespan should see it through to the actual 5G age in a few years.

Battery life is one of the A32 5G’s strengths. Its 5,000mAh capacity battery is big indeed, and I had no trouble getting two full days of moderate use out of it. My usage was more battery-friendly than someone else’s might be, with battery optimization on and the bulk of my time spent on Wi-Fi, but even the most power-hungry user would be able to get a full day — if not more — out of the A32 5G.

With a 6.5-inch screen, the A32 5G is a big phone for sure. It’s a little too bulky and awkward-feeling in my hand. What I dislike even more is that it feels slippery to me — the back panel plastic feels hard to get a decent grip on. On one occasion, I set the phone down on a softcover book, and it somehow shimmied itself across the cover and off of a side table when I wasn’t looking. (There’s a happy ending, though: it only fell about a foot into a box filled with hand-me-down baby clothes waiting to be put away, so there’s a good argument for keeping clutter around your house.) Anyway, get a case for it if you buy this phone, and know that if your hands are small, it won’t be very comfortable to use.

There’s a decent-quality 48-megapixel main camera on the A32 5G’s rear panel.

Samsung Galaxy A32 5G camera

There are two cameras of consequence on the A32 5G’s rear panel: a 48-megapixel standard wide and an 8-megapixel ultrawide. There’s a 5-megapixel macro camera that’s not very good and a 2-megapixel depth sensor that may or may not help with portrait mode photos. There’s also a 13-megapixel selfie camera around front.

  • Taken with ultrawide

  • Taken with ultrawide

Considering the phone’s price, the A32 5G’s main camera performs well enough. Like most any other phone, it takes very nice pictures in good lighting. That’s no surprise, even for a budget phone. But it reaches its limits quickly in less-good lighting, like interiors. That’s where optical stabilization or more sophisticated image processing would come in handy, neither of which the A32 5G offers. Instead, you may find some of your photos indoors are a little blurry, and you’ll be very challenged to get a sharp photo of a moving subject in anything less than bright daylight.

The ultrawide camera shows its shortcomings if you look close — there’s some distracting flare in direct sunlight, and some noise visible in shadows of high-contrast scenes. There’s no telephoto lens here, with shortcuts in the camera app to jump to 2x (acceptable), 4x (eh), and 10x (don’t use it) digital zoom.

The Galaxy A32 5G’s generous security support timeline means it’s a phone you can plan to use for the next few years.

It’s tough to say how the Galaxy A32 5G compares to the competition because it doesn’t have much yet. It’s among the least expensive 5G phones you’ll find anywhere. Its closest competition at the moment is the OnePlus Nord N10 5G, which is a little more expensive at $299 but offers some worthwhile hardware upgrades, like a nicer screen, a bit better camera performance, and faster charging. It’s a nicer phone in a lot of ways, but it’s only slated for two years of security updates.

Of course, if you only plan to hold on to your phone for a couple of years, then the N10 5G is worth strongly considering. If that’s the case, then 5G becomes a less important feature, too. If there’s room in your budget, consider the $349 Google Pixel 4A, which will get you a much better camera, cleaner software, and timely updates over the next couple of years, albeit without support for 5G at all. It’s a much smaller device, though. So if a big screen is part of the A32 5G’s appeal, you might want to look at something like the $279 Motorola Moto G Stylus.

If you’d like to avoid the hassle of phone shopping again in two years and you want a future-proof choice that’s easy on the budget, then the Samsung A32 5G will do the trick.

Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge