Google may be working on turning Android phones into a hivemind capable of finding lost devices, similar to Apple’s Find My network, according to analysis done by 9to5Google. A toggle for the feature showed up in a beta of Google Play Services, with code referencing the ability for phones to help locate other devices, potentially signaling that Android phones could soon become easier to find.
According to Google’s support page, the current Find My Device system can only find phones that are powered on, have a data or Wi-Fi signal, and have location services enabled. At this early stage, it’s unclear which, if any, of those limitations the relay network feature — apparently called Spot — would solve, but when you’re looking for a lost phone any advantage is good to have.
Google has other projects that involve using a network of Android phones — notably, its earthquake detection feature. While the implementation is different, the underlying concept is likely very similar: there are more than 3 billion active Android devices, which is a large crowd to source information from, be it accelerometer data, or the location of a misplaced phone.
9to5Google did find a setting that would allow users to turn off the feature, making it so their phone wouldn’t help locate other devices. Given the limited information, it’s unclear whether the Find My Device network will be able to find things other than phones, like Apple’s Find My network or Samsung’s Galaxy Find network are capable of doing. And of course, this being unpacked code from a Beta release, these changes may never see an actual public release.
Google did not immediately respond to request for comment about the prospective feature.
Every Friday, The Verge publishes our flagship podcast, The Vergecast, where co-hosts Nilay Patel and Dieter Bohn discuss the week in tech news with the reporters and editors covering the biggest stories.
In this episode, the show is split into three sections. First, Nilay and Dieter talk to Verge senior editor Tom Warren about this week in Microsoft: leaks of the Windows 11 UI, announcements from E3 2021, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella doubling as the company’s chairman.
Windows 11 leak reveals new UI, Start menu, and more
Microsoft Teams’ new front row layout arrives later this year
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella now doubles as the company’s chairman
Microsoft announces Xbox TV app and its own xCloud …
Microsoft is bringing next-gen Xbox games to the Xbox One with xCloud
Even the Xbox app has stories now
The Xbox Series X mini fridge will be available this holiday season
Microsoft Flight Simulator is landing on Xbox Series X / S consoles on July 27th
The best trailers of E3 2021
In section two of the show, Verge politics reporter Makena Kelly returns to explain the continuing push by the US government to enact antitrust legislation on tech monopolies — this week, five new bills were introduced and the Senate confirmed a new commissioner of the FTC.
Tech antitrust pioneer Lina Khan will officially lead the FTC
How Republicans and Democrats are gearing up to fight tech monopolies
House lawmakers introduce five bipartisan bills to unwind tech monopolies
Senate bill would make it easier to cancel a subscription online after a free trial
In part 3, Verge managing editor Alex Cranz joins in to chat about this week in gadgets and Google — the company is adding end-to-end encryption to their Messages app, Sonos officially announced their picture frame speaker, and Telsa’s Model S Plaid made its big debut.
Google’s first retail store opens this week
Google adds E2E RCS encryption to Messages, emoji mashup suggests, and more for Android
Google Workspace and Google Chat are officially available to everybody
Honor confirms Google’s apps will return to its phones with new 50 series
Beats Studio Buds review: big ambition, imperfect execution
Ikea and Sonos announce picture frame speaker, coming July 15th for $199
Watch the debut of Tesla Model S Plaid, the ‘quickest production car ever made’
The Realme GT lays claim to OnePlus’ ‘flagship killer’ mantle
Oppo’s rollable concept phone is pure potential lacking polish
You can listen to the full discussion here or in your preferred podcast player.
Apple has slashed prices of its AppleCare+ plans for MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro notebooks based on its M1 system-on-chips (SoCs) by $20 – $50 in the USA without changing terms and conditions, such as coverage and accidental damage fees.
Apple’s AppleCare+ plan for an M1 and Intel Core-based MacBook Air now costs $199, down from $249, whereas an AppleCare+ plan for a 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1 is now priced at $249, down from $269. Meanwhile, the price of an AppleCare+ plan for an Intel-based MacBook Pro 13 is still $269, reports MacRumours.
In the U.S., Apple’s MacBook laptops come with a one-year warranty and up to 90 days of complimentary technical support. With an AppleCare+ plans, the warranty is extended to three years (from AppleCare+ purchase date). Furthermore, AppleCare+ customers get up to two incidents of accidental damage protection every 12 months, each subject to a service fee of $99 for screen damage or external enclosure damage, or $299 for other damage, plus applicable tax. Also, AppleCare+ customers can access Apple experts via chat or phone 24/7.
Apple reportedly also slashed prices of its AppleCare+ plans in Canada too, but a quick check of Apple’s European stores indicate that prices remain unchanged.
Everybody loves the CG characters prominently used in ASUS ROG products’ marketing videos. Don’t they? Well, now the gaming brand is egging them on by teaming up with Taiwan TTL to stick its characters all over pots of instant noodles. This all comes from a Google translation of a Chinese news report noticed by back2gaming, so it may need a touch of soy sauce.
Unless the translation is very wrong, this is purely a packaging collaboration, and the noodles will not actually taste of motherboards and GPUs. Flavors, again unreliably translated using the Google Translate phone app, seem to be chicken for Angry Man With Gun, and beef for Angry Man With Sword, but whatever they are we’re sure we’ll be left wonton more.
Ready in three minutes, instant noodles are a staple food for gaming types across Asia, so far from ramen them down our throats this is quite a canny move by the hardware brand, making sure no one is left Nissin the point about its connection to gaming culture.
Taiwan TTL also sells liquor, and instant noodles might also be useful for sobering you up after a night on the town. The promotion runs until the end of July in Taiwan, and we don’t know if they will be available for export, though they do come in a convenient 2.4kg (5.3lbs) bulk box.
Nielsen, the nearly century-old research firm which produces the eponymous gold standard for television ratings, is taking a more serious look into how much Americans are streaming. The result of its labors: an ominously named rating system it calls The Gauge.
While Nielsen has tried to calculate the popularity of various streaming programs before (through audio analysis), The Gauge seems to hew closer to the ways Nielsen has measured TV viewership in the past: via a device which, according to TheNew York Times, “observes internet traffic that passes through a router.” Presumably, this device is attached directly to the televisions of the roughly 14,000 homes from which The Gauge currently gathers data, as the Times once again reports that the measurement does “not count what is watched on phones or laptops.”
The initial findings for May 2021, perhaps unsurprisingly then, skew in favor of regular old network and cable TV, which Nielsen predicts we spend about 64 percent of our living room screentime watching. Streaming, in total, racked up just 26 percent, with YouTube and Netflix making up 6 percent each, followed by Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Disney Plus with 3, 2, and 1 percent, respectively. But again, this is only measuring TV screen usage — not what’s happening on laptop, desktop, phone, or tablet screens — and even these metrics are difficult to put into perspective.
Without much information on how Nielsen’s device works, it’s impossible to say if The Gauge is counting streams that might come through a streaming set-top box or gaming console that has its own internet connectivity and a physical connection to the TV — or, for that matter, streams from a secondary device that are cast to a TV. (We’ve reached out to Nielsen for additional details.)
Still, streaming services have shown themselves to be guarded where audience metrics are concerned, releasing next to no data on how many eyeballs their in-house shows or the content they pay to license receive. Netflix in particular has a reputation for being extremely selective in which titles it presents audience data for, and even then rarely providing more granular information such as whether viewers actually finished watching the damn thing. In that sense, The Gauge is a welcome change for an industry that’s enjoyed a very long stretch without transparency.
One month ago, Amazon-first gadget brands Aukey and Mpow suddenly and mysteriously disappeared from the giant online retailer’s storefront, with almost all their electronics vanishing from Amazon’s shelves. Today, popular battery and charger brand RavPower has completely disappeared as well, as spotted by the WSJ’s Nicole Nguyen.
All of the company’s product listings have disappeared, leaving blank white spaces in RavPower’s Amazon storefront. Searches for “RavPower” don’t bring up any listings for products made by the company. Existing links to RavPower products either point to Amazon’s “Sorry, we couldn’t find that page” cute 404 dogs, or listings that read “Currently unavailable.”
By and large, this is exactly what happened to Aukey, Mpow, and other lesser-known electronics retailers last month — except here, whoever did this has been a bit more thorough. You can actually still find a couple of Aukey listings on Amazon, while RavPower seems to have none. Another important difference may be that RavPower has its own separate online shop that ranks high in Google search, so it may not strictly need to depend on Amazon.
Amazon and RavPower didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment, but we’re not expecting much: Amazon would not tell us last month if it actually removed Aukey and Mpow, merely giving us a generic statement that suggested it generally suspends sellers that violate “the integrity of our store.” Then, Aukey and Mpow didn’t respond to requests for comment at all.
But it’s not hard to imagine what happened here: on Sunday, The Wall Street Journal’s Nicole Nguyen ran a story about how her new RavPower charger included an offer for a $35 gift card in exchange for a review, something that Amazon confirmed was a violation of company policy. Amazon banned incentivized reviews in 2016.
Following my fake review story, listings for Amazon-native electronics brand RAVPower are gone.
The company offered $35 gift cards for reviews on a product that was sold directly by Amazon itself. RAVPower acted as a wholesale vendor on that listing.https://t.co/6nazZZ5Wtb pic.twitter.com/znp9u48YHV
— nicole nguyen (@nicnguyen) June 16, 2021
Fake, inflated, paid, and other forms of scammy reviews run rampant on Amazon (and other online platforms, to be fair), and I get cards like these in my random Amazon purchases all the time. It’s weird to think that RavPower would need to stoop to this behavior, though: we’ve regularly featured good products that the company makes, including our favorite wireless charging pad.
Amazon is actively trying to clamp down on this kind of fraud, though it’s not always successful. In a Wednesday blog post that explains some of its enforcement efforts, the company says it “stopped more than 200 million suspected fake reviews before they were ever seen by a customer” in 2020.
Below, find some of our recent coverage.
Update, 1:46PM ET: Added a link to Amazon’s blog post on Wednesday that generically describes some of its enforcement efforts around fake and incentivized reviews.
(Pocket-lint) – The mid-range market is heating up. And in this instance, when we say mid-range, we mean the less expensive phones, not necessarily the low powered devices. That’s because in this comparison we’re looking at two fast, smooth phones that won’t leave you wanting.
Those two phones are the excellently priced Poco F3 and the OnePlus Nord CE. Both offer great features and capabilities for what you pay, but each takes a slightly different approach.
Nord CE: 159.2 x 73.5 x 7.99mm – 170g
Poco F3: 163.7 x 76.4 x 7.8mm – 196g
Nord CE: Plastic back and frame – no official water resistance
Poco F3: Glass back, plastic frame – IP53 splash resistance
Design could actually be one area that decides it for you, if only because of the difference in size. The Nord CE is noticeably more compact. At least, when it comes to width and height. There’s not much difference when it comes to thickness, there’s only a tenth of a millimetre between them, and both are generally quite slim.
The two phones each have their own practical benefits too. For instance, the Nord CE has a 3.5mm port for wired headphones and headsets, where the F3 doesn’t. Poco F3 has IP53 rating against water and dust, which means it’s basically splash proof. OnePlus doesn’t have that, but the company has told us it should survive splashes okay.
One thing we like, surprisingly perhaps, is the fingerprint sensor in the Poco. It has a physical reader in the button on the side that’s not just thin, but quick and reliable too. OnePlus’ we found was decent enough. It was reliable, just not as quick.
Then there’s the hole-punch cutout in each screen. Poco’s is much smaller, and so doesn’t interrupt as much of the available surface area. It’s also placed nicely in the centre, out of the way.
W love the feel of the Poco in two hands, typing away. It’s a great two-handed device, but the frosted plastic finish on the back of the Nord CE is really nice, and looks fantastic in the Blue Void colour.
What’s more, it’s nearly 30 grams lighter, and that’s something you can definitely feel when it’s in your hand. And the size makes a difference too. If you want something that’s easy to hold and carry around with you in your pocket, the Nord is the one.
One minor thing we noticed when typing – the Poco has a much more subtle haptic feedback than the Nord CE, which gives a nasty buzz when you’re typing.
Displays + Media
Nord CE: 6.43-inch – AMOLED – 90Hz – fullHD+ (1080 x 2400)
Poco F3: 6.67-inch – AMOLED – 120Hz – fullHD+ (1080 x 2400)
Nord CE: Single loudspeaker + 3.5mm port
Poco F3: Stereo speakers
Despite spec lists that look a different, there’s not a huge amount in this as long as you’re happy to go into the settings menu and adjust things. That’s because that while both have AMOLED fullHD+ displays at 1080×2400 resolution, their default settings are quite different.
OnePlus default vivid mode seems to boost reds, so white skin tones looks a lot pinker than they are, while the automatic mode on the Poco seems to over-saturate blues and make them unnatural. Thankfully, both have display settings that allow you to calibrate it to the way you’d like to have it.
Poco’s reaches refresh rates of 120Hz, which is higher than the 90Hz on the OnePlus. But to our eye, it’s really hard to tell the difference in daily use. Poco’s does feel fluid in the general interface, but so does the Nord. We wouldn’t suggest basing your purchase decision on this.
Instead, there are other factors, like the fact Poco’s screen is larger, making it a great immersive canvas, joined by stereo speakers to enhance that. Nord CE only has the single loudspeaker. The screen is also brighter. In that way, it’s a much better device for media consumption.
Nord CE: Snapdragon 750G – 5G
Poco F3: Snapdragon 870 – 5G
Nord CE: 6GB/128GB – 8GB/128GB – 12GB/256GB
Poco F3: 6GB/128GB – 8GB/256GB
Nord CE: 4500mAh battery – 30W fast charge
Poco F3: 4520mAh battery – 33W fast charge
As with any point of comparison on this list, you could easily make a judgement on performance and battery from just looking at the spec sheet and assume the Snapdragon 870 will give you much better performance then the Snapdragon 750 in the Nord CE, but that will depend on exactly what you use it for.
In truth, when it just comes to general day-to-day phone usage and casual gaming, both will run even the most demanding games pretty easily.
Where we did notice a difference was in load times for the bigger games like CoD Mobile where it took a second or two longer on the Nord CE. The Poco seems to render sharper images in those games with more demanding graphics, without stuttering and lag too. The Nord by comparison – while smooth and responsive – had more jagged edges and slightly less detail.
Technically speaking, the 870 is the more powerful chip and will benchmark way higher, offering better high refresh rate performance and you will see it in the more graphically demanding titles if you put them side-by-side.
As for battery life, both have very similar capacities. It’s 4500mAh on the Nord and 4520mAh on the Poco, both with their own fast-charging. 30W vs 33W.
That means each will get you a full battery in just under an hour, roughly. They’ll both even get you similar battery life. We lasted about a day and a half with both phones, using them for casual gaming, social media and such throughout the day.
Nord CE primary: 64MP – f/1.8 – PDAF
Poco F3 primary: 48MP – f/1.8 – PDAF
Nord CE: 8MP ultrawide – 2MP monochrome
Poco F3: 8MP ultrawide – 5MP macro
So Poco has it when it comes to performance and media, where we think Nord is a better phone is in the camera. Speaking about the primary lens here, it seems to take shots which have much more natural colours and depth.
The processing on the Poco phone is quite aggressive sometimes depending on what you’re shooting, making colours seem too saturated and contrast a bit dark at times. Often it didn’t produce great HDR effect either, completely bleaching out the sky on some shots, while just about getting it right on others. It was just a bit inconsistent in that regard.
Neither is particularly good at focussing on objects that are close to the camera, and both have ultra wide lenses with similar performance. But for the most natural processing of colours, detail and depth, we’d say the OnePlus is the one to go for here.
Nord CE: From £299
Poco F3: From £329
There’s little difference in price between these two phones. In fact, in the UK, the Poco F3 starting price is only £30 more than the Nord CE’s. It’s worth nothing that’s just the recommended retail price, and you could find it cheaper now that it’s a little older.
For those looking for more storage, the 256GB model Poco F3 is actually cheaper than the OnePlus Nord CE model with 256GB storage. So that’s also worth considering. In that instance it’s £349 for the F3 and £369 for the Nord CE in the UK.
So in the end there are a couple of things to consider. The OnePlus is more compact, lightweight and – we think – has a better primary camera. The Poco has a bigger display, faster performance and the stereo speakers for better media and gaming consumption. There’s a little difference in price, with the Poco being slightly more expensive.
So what matters most to you: multimedia and speed or practicality and cameras? If you can answer that, you know which is the right phone for you.
Elon Musk’s company was told SN8’s launch would violate its FAA license, but SpaceX launched anyway
Minutes before liftoff, Elon Musk’s SpaceX ignored at least two warnings from the Federal Aviation Administration that launching its first high-altitude Starship prototype last December would violate the company’s launch license, confidential documents and letters obtained by The Verge show. And while SpaceX was under investigation, it told the FAA that the agency’s software was a “source of frustration” that has been “shown to be inaccurate at times or overly conservative,” according to the documents.
SpaceX’s violation of its launch license was “inconsistent with a strong safety culture,” the FAA’s space division chief Wayne Monteith said in a letter to SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell. “Although the report states that all SpaceX parties believed that such risk was sufficiently low to comply with regulatory criteria, SpaceX used analytical methods that appeared to be hastily developed to meet a launch window,” Monteith went on.
Launch violations are rare in the industry, even as private contractors have taken over work that once was the US government’s alone. SpaceX occupies a particularly dominant position, as it is now NASA’s only ride to the International Space Station and the Moon. The documents exclusively obtained by The Verge show how SpaceX prioritized speed over safety when launching on its own private rocket playground. Ultimately, the FAA didn’t sanction SpaceX, and less than two months later, SpaceX resumed flights in Boca Chica, Texas.
For Musk, SpaceX’s CEO who was on site for SN8’s launch day, the violation is one of the latest tussles with regulators overseeing his companies. After settling with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2018 over an attempt to take Tesla private, Musk was told his tweets about the company needed a lawyer’s sign-off. Shortly after, he went on 60 Minutes to say no one was approving his tweets; the SEC brought him back to court, though Musk’s tweets have continued to raise eyebrows with no apparent consequences. In 2020, Musk’s Fremont Tesla factory violated local safety orders, defying the local government’s stay-at-home order to work through the pandemic. Musk taunted local officials, inviting them to come arrest him.
SpaceX emerged from the December launch violation relatively unscathed. The company has since won a $2.9 billion contract to put NASA astronauts on a Starship flight to the Moon in 2024 — the first and only such contract in a half-century.
Neither SpaceX nor Musk has publicly commented on the SN8 violation. SpaceX didn’t respond to a request for comment. The FAA confirmed the violation after a report by The Verge in January. But a confidential five-page report by SpaceX and letters between Shotwell and Monteith reveal what SpaceX employees knew before liftoff and detail how the company responded to its violation in the aftermath.
SpaceX first attempted to launch SN8 at SpaceX’s South Texas Starship campus on December 8th with FAA approval, but it scrubbed due to an engine issue. Launch day on December 9th, when weather conditions changed, was full of ad hoc meetings between company employees and FAA officials, who repeatedly rejected SpaceX’s weather and launch modeling data that purported to show SN8 was safe to fly, according to a five-page SpaceX report. It was unclear what role, if any, Musk himself played in the decision to launch SN8.
The FAA’s models showed that if the rocket exploded, its shockwave could be strengthened by various weather conditions like wind speed and endanger nearby homes. As a new launch countdown clock was ticking, SpaceX asked the FAA to waive this safety threshold at 1:42PM, but the FAA rejected the request an hour later. SpaceX paused the countdown clock.
SpaceX’s director of launch operations, whose name wasn’t provided in the report, restarted the launch countdown clock shortly after. The report said the director had “the impression that” SpaceX’s data was sufficient. But that wasn’t the case. As the launch clock was counting down, SpaceX staff in the meeting made little progress — 15 minutes before liftoff, “the FAA informed SpaceX that the weather data provided was not sufficient.” The same safety risk remained, and SN8 wasn’t cleared for launch.
SpaceX employees left the FAA meeting for the company’s launch control room ahead of SN8’s launch. Minutes before liftoff, an FAA safety inspector speaking on an open phone line warned SpaceX’s staff in the launch control room that a launch would violate the company’s launch license. SpaceX staff ignored the warning because they “assumed that the inspector did not have the latest information,” the SpaceX report said.
SpaceX launched the rocket anyway. The steel-clad SN8 prototype flew more than six miles over the company’s private rocket facilities on the coast of Boca Chica, Texas, and blew to smithereens upon landing. No injuries or damage to any homes were reported.
In one letter to Shotwell, Monteith cited SpaceX’s report and slammed the company for proceeding with the launch “based on ‘impressions’ and ‘assumptions,’ rather than procedural checks and positive affirmations.”
“These actions show a concerning lack of operational control and process discipline that is inconsistent with a strong safety culture,” he said.
SpaceX agreed to take over a dozen corrective measures but defended its own data and decision-making. The company criticized the FAA’s launch-weather modeling software. The software’s results, SpaceX said, can be intentionally interfered with to provide “better or worse results for an identical scenario.”
SpaceX has complained to the FAA in the past about the software, but “this feedback has not driven any action, contributing to the situation described above,” the report said. A “closer and more direct dialogue” with FAA officials would’ve smoothed the FAA discussions before SN8’s launch, SpaceX added.
SpaceX also proposed corrective measures: pausing the launch countdown clocks if an FAA inspector says there’s a violation and lowering the threshold for manually detonating an errant rocket midflight, before a more dangerous explosion occurs. The company also proposed to build at least four new launch and weather modeling tools with the FAA.
Monteith wasn’t happy with SpaceX’s response. He ordered SpaceX to reevaluate its safety procedures and launch day chain of command, and he urged it to go back and review the launch control room phone lines to spot any times SpaceX strayed from the license’s communication plan. He also required an FAA inspector to be physically present in Texas for every Starship prototype launch in the future. Flying inspectors from offices in Florida to rural Texas for each launch isn’t easy, so the FAA might base one in Houston for a shorter trip.
FAA investigators couldn’t determine whether the SN8 license violation was intentional, according to people involved in and briefed on the investigation, speaking on the condition of anonymity. That’s partially why the FAA review of the violation wasn’t a more in-depth investigation that could have resulted in fines or stronger consequences. FAA officials also believed grounding Starship and foisting a two-month investigation on a multibillion-dollar company focused heavily on speedy timelines would be a more effective penalty than imposing relatively trivial fines, the people said.
SN8 marked SpaceX’s first high-altitude launch outside of its other launch sites in Florida and California, where Air Force officials who monitor local weather conditions tell the company whether it’s safe to launch. Those government officials, formally called Range safety officials, don’t exist at SpaceX’s private rocket facilities in south Texas. SpaceX was primarily responsible for its own range safety during SN8’s launch, a responsibility in which it had very little experience. The company acknowledged in its report that the Starship site “was not mature enough” to function as a range.
SpaceX is moving ahead anyway. Since the launch violation, it’s launched four more rockets at the Starship site and even landed one successfully — all with FAA approval and a few changes to its operations. Unlike SN8, which launched on an automatic timer, other Starship launches now require a final “go” command from a human operator, Shotwell said in a letter to Monteith. And it is taking a stab at maturity, at least with its range safety tech.
At least one of the new launch-weather models SpaceX proposed, designed to bolster its range capabilities, has already taken shape. The company is building a database of wind patterns over Boca Chica to help inform its launch day weather modeling, using an experimental tool to gather wind speed data, according to a document the company filed with the Federal Communications Commission in April.
But new weather tools won’t change Musk’s Twitter presence, a concern for agency officials and lawmakers who worry the CEO’s candid tweets influence SpaceX employees and put unfair pressure on launch safety processes.
As the FAA’s review of SpaceX’s safety culture investigation was nearing completion in late January, holding up the company’s SN9 launch for a few days, Musk tweeted that the FAA’s “space division has a fundamentally broken regulatory structure” and that, under its rules, “humanity will never get to Mars.” An FAA spokesman replied, saying the agency “will not compromise its responsibility to protect public safety.”
The House transportation committee that oversees the FAA opened its own probe into SpaceX’s SN8 violation in February as well as “the FAA’s subsequent response, and the pressure exerted on the FAA during high profile launches,” chairs of the committee and its aviation subcommittee wrote to the agency’s administrator Steve Dickson. SpaceX’s recent launch activities raise serious questions about whether the FAA is under “potential undue influence” in making safety decisions, the letter said.
In March, after an onsite FAA inspector left town for the weekend following a week of anticipation for the company’s SN11 prototype launch, SpaceX emailed the inspector on Sunday to return for a Monday liftoff, according to a person familiar with the exchange. The inspector, taking the weekend off, missed the email at first but hopped on an early Monday morning flight back to Texas.
“FAA inspector unable to reach Starbase in time for launch today,” Musk wrote on Twitter, stirring up vitriol against the FAA in SpaceX’s fan base bubbles on Twitter and Reddit. The inspector landed in Texas, and SN11 launched the next day.
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.”
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’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.
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.
In April 2020, Twitter began sharing more of our information with advertisers. Notice came via a rather weird notification that said “your ability to control mobile app advertising measurements has been removed” — which basically meant that Twitter was now sharing data such as which ads you looked at or interacted with, as well as the tracking identifier for your phone. Previously, you could turn that off — no longer. (Unless you live in the European Union or the UK, where there are extra protections.)
While that protection has been removed, there are still a few privacy tools that are available that can give you at least some measure of say over how much of your data is shared with advertisers. If you’re concerned about privacy, it’s worth it to take a couple of minutes to find them and turn them off. For that, you need to go to the “Personalization and data” page.
Using the mobile Twitter app:
Tap on the three lines in the upper left corner.
Select “Settings and privacy” > “Privacy and safety” > “Personalization and data”
Using the web version of Twitter:
Sign in to your Twitter account.
Use this link to go to the Personalization and data page.
The rest of this article will assume you’re using the web version.
Disabling ad personalization
On the “Personalization and data” page, you’ll find several advertising settings that give Twitter permission to “further personalize” your advertising by using information based on your “inferred identity,” location, or other factors. (Go ahead and read all the descriptions — they’re worth knowing about.) You can choose to enable any of these settings if you wish, but otherwise, use the toggle at the top of the page to disable all of the settings on the page.
See your Twitter data
If you’d like to go a little further, and check the other data that Twitter knows about you (and possibly remove at least some of it), go down to the bottom of the “Personalization and data” page and click on “See your Twitter data.” Check all of these topics out; you may be surprised by some of the info that’s there. Here’s a short summary of each.
Account. This is all basic stuff, like your name, age range, whether you have a verified account, and what other languages you speak. (I was amused to find that Twitter thinks I speak German. Okay, Twitter, whatever.)
Account history. This contains two separate areas — a listing of other accounts that have access to your account and a listing of places you have been. It’s a good idea to check the former to see if there are any services that have access to your account that shouldn’t; you can revoke permission on the Connected apps page. If you don’t want Twitter to know where you are or where you’ve been, use Location settings to turn off access.
Apps, devices & information. There are two sections here. “Apps, devices & information” is where you might find some of the devices and browsers that Twitter gets info from — assuming you allow it to. This is what is meant when Twitter asked to “Personalize based on your inferred identity” on the “Personalization and data page,” and it is one of the permissions that can be revoked there. The second, “Connected apps,” is another way to access several of the pages already mentioned here.
Account activity. Thislets you see what accounts you’ve blocked or muted.
Interests and ad data. Here’s a section you may spend a lot of time with, especially with “Interests from Twitter,” which tells you all the various interests that Twitter has matched to you based on your activity. If you plan on reviewing this thoroughly, put aside a few minutes: one of my Twitter accounts had 742 interests listed, including quite a few weird ones. As someone who has no interest in sports, I’d love to know how Twitter came up with “NBA videos” as an interest of mine.
The other two categories here, “Inferred interests from partners” and “Tailored audiences,” can be disabled using the “Personalization and data” page.
Finally, “Download archive” lets you download the archive of your account history and activity.
Want to be really safe? You may want to just bite the bullet and delete your Twitter history entirely.
(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
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
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.
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
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.
(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.
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
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
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
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
By Pocket-lint Promotion
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
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.
Samsung has downplayed a report that claimed the company has suspended production of an upcoming phone called the Galaxy S21 FE. Korean publication ETNews alleged over the weekend that production of the unannounced phone had stopped because of a shortage of semiconductors, and that Qualcomm processors had been reallocated to foldable devices.
The report has since been deleted, and Samsung now says it hasn’t made a decision on whether to halt production. In a statement texted to Bloomberg, the company says “While we cannot discuss details of the unreleased product, nothing has been determined regarding the alleged production suspension.”
The Galaxy S21 FE — the FE stands for Fan Edition — was expected to be a cut-down, more affordable version of the regular S21. Last year Dieter Bohn gave the Galaxy S20 FE a positive review, noting that it had “a few high-quality components that will delight while the cheaper parts don’t hurt the experience too much.”
The S21 FE hadn’t been formally announced, but Samsung did say at an event last year that it planned to release Fan Editions of flagship phones going forward. OnLeaks posted alleged renders of the S21 FE back in April, showing a similar design to the well-received Galaxy S21.
While it’s noteworthy that Samsung didn’t deny ETNews’ report outright, it may take some time before the truth emerges. The S20 FE wasn’t announced until September last year and got a release in October, so even if Samsung is experiencing supply chain issues with its successor right now, a launch wasn’t necessarily imminent.
Have you ever wanted to make your iPhone your own, with your individualized style and flair? Sure, you can change your home screen wallpaper. But if you really want to personalize your phone, why not create your own app icons?
It’s doable, using Apple’s built-in Shortcuts app. You actually won’t be replacing the icons that the apps came with — rather, you’ll be creating separate Shortcuts that lead to the app. It’s a tedious and time-consuming process, but in the end, you can have a fully customized iPhone home screen.
Here’s how you do it:
First, find and tap on the Shortcuts app. It’s pre-installed; if you can’t see it immediately on your home screen, swipe left until you’re at the App Library and start typing “Shortcuts” into the top search bar.
Once you’re in the app, tap on the “plus” sign in the upper-right corner, and then on “Add Action”
There are a lot of interesting things to try out in Shortcuts. But right now, what we want to do is switch app icons. Type “Open app” in the search bar and then tap on the “Open App” link.
Tap on the word “Choose.” You’ll see a list of your apps; pick the one you want to customize and you’ll be taken back to the New Shortcut page.
Select the three dots in the upper-right corner. You’re now in the Details page. Give your shortcut a name and tap “Add to Home Screen.”
You’ll now see a preview of the icon (which will be a standard, uninteresting icon that Shortcuts automatically adds). Don’t worry, we’re going to make it better. Select Add in the top-right corner.
Now it’s time to find your substitute icon. There are a bunch of icon sources online (Flaticon, for example), or if you’re artistic and / or ambitious, you can create your own. Whether you use someone else’s or your own, save the image to Photos.
Now go back to the Shortcuts preview area. (You can find it again by going to the Details section and tapping on “Add to Home Screen.”) Tap on the icon under “Home Screen Name and Icon.” You’ll have the choice of either taking a photo, choosing a photo, or choosing a file. Assuming you’ve already saved an image in Photo, tap on “Choose Photo” and select the photo you want to use.
On the next screen, a highlighted area will indicate what part of the photo will appear as an icon; you can move the photo around until you’re happy with the section indicated. Tap “Choose” in the lower-right corner.
Now, you’ll see your new icon. Tap Add.
You should see your new customized icon on your home screen. Congrats!
There’s the possibility you may see two new icons on your home screen: one with the first boring icon, and one with your wonderful new icon. If that’s the case, just press and hold the icon that you don’t want, and then select “Delete bookmark.” Remember, this (and the other you created) is a bookmark / shortcut — not the original.
You can also hide the original app icon so you’ll just have the new one visible. (You don’t want to delete it completely, of course; that would delete the app.)
Long-press on the original app icon and select “Edit Home Screen”
Tap on the minus sign. On the pop-up menu, tap “Remove from Home Screen.” The original icon won’t be deleted, just hidden; you can always find it in the App Library.
One note: when you use your new icon to go to the app, you will occasionally get a small drop-down notice that tells you what the original app is called and to remind you of the fact that it is a shortcut. But the drop-down will only last for a second or two, so it shouldn’t be much of a bother.
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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.
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.
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.
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
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