Poll results: The smartphone edges out the PC

The latest flagships from Samsung and Huawei both feature methods to connect them to PC peripherals and use them as a PC. We asked our readers if they felt comfortable ditching the desktop and using their smartphone for all their computing needs. 

Modern flagship phones are becoming more powerful with each successive generation, and are now more than capable of taking care of most people’s daily computing needs such as web browsing, multimedia and word processing. Now that the best of them can also connect to your keyboard and desktop monitor, it seems like they are even closer to usurping the traditional home PC.

Samsung uses its DeX dock to connect the S8, S8+ or Note 8 to PC peripherals, and the Huawei Mate 10 Pro doesn’t even need a dock to perform quite effectively as a desktop. We asked you whether you would use your smartphone as your main computer and the results surprised us.

pollresultpc A divisive topic. / © AndroidPIT

A narrow majority use their smartphone as their main computer, with people chiming in to confirm that they either very rarely or even never use a desktop PC. This phenomenon isn’t just limited to users with the latest high-end phablets either, but some enthusiasts have barely touched a PC in years.

For the majority of users, a best-of-both-words situation may be approaching where phablets are powerful enough for all day to day tasks, and easy connection to desktop peripherals and smart home devices may render the classic old PC tower obsolete. Even laptops may find themselves in a disappearing niche as mobile powerhouses catch up to the mid-range notebooks in hardware.

Of course, many users that require powerful tech, such as hardcore gamers, video editors and so on, won’t be able to fit all the hardware they need into their hand. At a near 50-50 split even among a community of mobile enthusiasts, it looks like the handset still remains more of a companion for the personal computer, but it is increasingly the main focus of the ordinary person’s tech use. With devices like the Mate 10 Pro being easily able to connect to monitor, keyboard, and other peripherals, we could see the home PC sidelined even further.

What do you think? Are smartphones that can adapt to desktop use the future?

Android News + App Reviews + Hardware Reviews – AndroidPIT

Poll: Which recent smartphone release excites you the most?

There have been a ton of new smartphone releases lately, and we’ve been busy reviewing them over the past few weeks. While all our editors have certainly got their own opinions and favorites picked out, we want to know what you think. What’s the most exciting recently released smartphone for you?

A ton of exciting phones have been released lately. The OnePlus 5T announcement was just yesterday, and we’ve already published our preliminary hands-on review. Plus, there’s the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, which we’ve covered the ups and downs of extensively lately. One certainly can’t forget the new iPhones either, from the show stealing iPhone X to the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus which deserve a closer look. Then there’s the gamer-friendly new Razer Phone, and the enticing Huawei Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro and HTC U11+ phablets. There’s a lot of variety in this recent batch of headliners.

Which one do you want to know more about? Are you considering one as your next smartphone purchase? Or, are you instead more interested in a past or upcoming release? Vote in our poll and discuss your thoughts with us in the comments! Thanks for participating!

Android News + App Reviews + Hardware Reviews – AndroidPIT

To jack or not to jack: all about smartphone audio

Ever since Apple famously removed the headphone output jack, HTC, Google, and now Huawei have followed the lead, giving ol’ jack the boot. Whether you’re a bona-fide audiophile or just happy that your pair of Beats works with whatever came in the box of your latest smartphone, you wouldn’t be alone wondering what’s the best way to listen to your favorite tunes on your phone considering all the options currently out there.

Smartphones now offer a variety of different ways to handle audio for music listening but it all comes down to two main cases: wired using the 3.5mm headphone jack, or wireless via Bluetooth and in some cases over WiFi. Yes there are wired Lightning and USB-C headphones but for the sake of simplicity (and sanity), I won’t be adding those in the mix here as these aren’t as widespread and likely interim solutions for big tech’s wireless agenda. Before even deciding what headgear to use though, there’s a bunch of variables you’ll need to consider that play a role in your listening experience.

Lossy vs lossless

When deciding what headphone solution works for you, it’s important to think about your listening habits first, and how they can affect overall quality. Digital audio starts at the quality of the source, so if you listen to music from .mp3s or through streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, remember your source is already ‘lossy’ or ‘compressed’. This means the audio’s file size is smaller and optimized for fast data transfer.

Compressed audio tends to remove a lot of the music’s dynamics and ‘body’ as opposed to ‘lossless’ audio formats like .wav, .flac, and .alac, but compressed audio is also quite ‘plug-and-play’ for the casual listener—the formats are ubiquitous and actually capable of sounding great for everyday listening.

Know your DACs and your dongles

Now to get any music heard, your audio falls into the hands of the all-important DAC or ‘Digital to Analog Converter’. Fun fact: DACs are everywhere and they’ve been with us since the CD player came out. They’re the component that processes information from a digital audio source into an analog audio signal that speakers or headphones can reproduce.

Every smartphone has a DAC built-in. But now, some dongles do as well. If you have an iPhone 7 for example, you might still be using the ‘courtesy’ Lightning to 3.5mm audio jack adapter that came with the phone to connect your wired headphones. The adapter translates the audio signal because there’s a special DAC on the Lightning side of the adapter.

AndroidPIT headphone jack vs wireless audio 3859 The onboard DAC on your phone makes this connection possible. / © AndroidPIT

Even the most basic DACs are well suited to playing compressed or ‘lossy’ music so if you aren’t exactly an audio nut, there’s no reason to complicate things by looking at this spec when buying a phone and might as well use the Lightning wired headphones that came with that iPhone 7 instead of the dongle. But if you simply like better than average sound, smartphones like the LG V30 and HTC U11 are good examples of manufacturers going the extra mile to please music fans by integrating better DACs and software features in their flagships.

AndroidPIT headphone jack vs wireless audio 3793 Dongles are cumbersome and can get lost easily so smartphones like the HTC U11 include USB-C headphones. / © AndroidPIT

The V30 in particular prides itself in housing an ESS Technology ES9218P Quad DAC with a 32-bit interpolation filter when listening through the headphone jack. And Both the LG V30 and HTC U11 feature advanced software features to customize and enhance the listening experience.

AndroidPIT headphone jack vs wireless audio 3844 The LG V30’s Quad-DAC offers on-board EQ(Equalization) and filtering options to adjust the output dynamics / © AndroidPIT

The promise of wireless

So if you don’t like the idea of carrying around dongles, should you go wireless? If you ask Apple or Google, the answer is a definite yes. But you knew that would be their answer already. Sure, Bluetooth audio is improving with new high definition codecs like Qualcomm’s aptX HD and Sony’s LDAC now making their way into devices. But it’s still got a ways to go to match the diversity (and convenience) of possibilities available with standard wired setups.

AndroidPIT headphone jack vs wireless audio 3886 Bluetooth headsets are offering better and better lossy audio quality and there’s no wires to get tangled. / © AndroidPIT

Bluetooth enabled devices work by emitting short-range radio waves that receive or transmit digital data—such as an audio signal. What you might not know is that no matter what level of audio quality the input is, any Bluetooth audio codec will always output lossy audio—even aptX HD which confusingly enough, is technically “near lossless”.

These limitations we currently have with Bluetooth are probably because it was never designed specifically for music. It has its roots in military voice communication but as we know, it has grown past it’s single use case and now used to transfer all sorts of data wirelessly.

That doesn’t mean the wireless headphones already available aren’t good though. Major headphone brands like Sennheiser, Bose, Sony, Bowers & Wilkins, and more have already begun releasing premium and mid-level wireless models. So if you’re not particularly attached to the headphone jack and want standard or above standard lossy sound from your smartphone, you already have some pretty impressive options like the Sony MDR-1000XM2, and the Bowers & Wilkins PX.

Bluetooth headphones: No strings attached?

But as with any transitional moments in tech, there is an adjustment period. And when it comes to wireless audio, there are already some points you need to bear in mind. On a convenience level, wireless headphones may seem like a dream. Just turn on the cans, put them on, and listen right? The reality right now though is that you’ll have to deal with a lot more variables in the setup.

For one, you’ll now have two batteries to keep an eye on instead of one—keeping the headphones battery charged will be essential unless the headset (and your smartphone) has ‘backup’ wired connectivity options.

Opinion by Gerald Ortiz

I’d rather risk a tangled wire than worry about running out of battery.

What do you think?

9 participants

And depending on a host of different factors that can cause interference, you may occasionally find yourself at the mercy of choppy streaming or fickle connectivity as any wireless connection would. Not to mention that even if your phone is already paired with some wireless headphones, there’s always the possibility interference would cause some delay in establishing the connection.

And if you’re excited about being able to listen with a newer high-quality Bluetooth codec, just because your smartphone supports the desired format, doesn’t mean all wireless headphones do as well. Sony’s LDAC codec is incredibly performant firing up to 990 kbps of data transfer. But until Android Oreo came out, it was only available on other Sony devices and the core tech is still very hush hush under Sony’s control. LDAC in particular also has three connection modes that dictate the level of streaming quality—adding another level of complexity. See where this is going?

The future is wireless—whether we like it or not

We mere mortals may not have much stake in the eradication of headphone jack from smartphones, so it’s likely there’s no use in fighting it unless brands like LG continue cultivating a nested niche by including the 3.5mm headphone jack as a new ‘premium’ for their flagships.

AndroidPIT headphone jack vs wireless audio 3847 LG’s V30 prides itself on including the headphone jack among other state-of-the-art audio perks for music lovers / © AndroidPIT

And let’s be honest, for the first time in ages tech companies are truly interested in advancing audio for every kind of listener so there’s surely better in store for the future of wireless.

But it’s clear that lines have been drawn in the sand. Until now, the little 3.5 mm stereo jack was the emblem of a truly democratic audio universe. Any audio device with the analog input or output could be interconnectable. That meant any product across consumer, hi-fi or pro audio industries would be interchangeable in a truly universal way.

Given the intricacies of audio streaming and their dependence on active control from a smartphone’s OS, wireless headphones may be most appealing if you’re already a tech-savvy listener who doesn’t mind tinkering with settings and following something of a ‘process’ no matter how minimal.

Nevertheless, you’d still be hard pressed to find anything more simple and instant as plugging in a wire, putting your headphones on, and hitting play.

What’s your current preference? Are you totally sold on wireless audio or are you sticking with the dongle solution for the time being?

Android News + App Reviews + Hardware Reviews – AndroidPIT

How much should I pay for an unlocked smartphone?

Purchasing a smartphone is an experience that virtually everyone has gone through, but the nagging question remains: Do I purchase an unlocked handset or do I end up with a far cheaper price (for free at times) for the desired smartphone model through a mobile carrier? Let us take a look at the former today as we figure out just how much should I pay for an unlocked smartphone. For context, I will concentrate only on flagship models since the entry level and mid-range tier will continue to sell well. 

Modern day smartphones do seem to be able to do everything. While it is our primary communications device, it also serves as a portable media player, a GPS navigation tool, an impromptu camera, and of course, a portable computer, boasting a slew of apps that make life far more enriching. This has turned the smartphone into an indispensable tool that we use every day, making it extremely difficult to live without one in connected areas. When it comes to unlocked smartphones, the iPhone X has breached the psychological $ 1,000 price point barrier. Is forking out ten Benjamins justified?

Many of the flagship smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, Galaxy S8 and LG V30 all cross the $ 700 mark easily. While we understand that top of the line models should always maintain a premium price point, the sticker price tag has seen a slow and steady increase with each new iteration released. 

AndroidPIT HTC U11 LG V30 Galaxy Note8 Pixel2 plus Huawei Mate10 pro 1988 How much does that pretty unlocked smartphone in the window cost? / © AndroidPIT

While an increase in price can be expected in order to keep up with the inflation rate (not to mention the hardware manufacturers tend to have to answer to shareholders when it comes to generating more profit), is there a tipping point in how much a consumer can expect to pay a reasonable amount when it comes to an unlocked smartphone? 

I would dare venture that anything more than $ 600 is actually extremely expensive. The cost of an unlocked smartphone should not cost more than a month’s salary in developing countries, and neither should it cost you the price of an old yet functional second hand vehicle in developed countries. 

In fact, the BOM (Bill of Materials) would show that most of the parts and components used to manufacture a smartphone do not cost that much. However, I understand that manufacturers will have to factor in other costs such as research and development, marketing, advertising, etc. Still, economy of scale and more efficient manufacturing systems in place should offset the overall cost to a degree.

It was virtually unheard of to have a mobile phone breach the $ 500 mark until Nokia released the luxurious looking Nokia 8810. From there, newer innovations from Sony Ericsson like a high resolution color display, followed by PDA phones from Palm and HP continued to push the unlocked smartphone price upwards. However, the price has been dependent more on large leaps in innovation as compared to today’s small steps in between flagship smartphone generations.

This has not stopped manufacturers from increasing their price, but the buck has to stop somewhere eventually or consumers will simply vote with their wallets and settle for more affordable options upon realizing that unlocked flagship smartphones are not worth the dollars paid for. Eventually, the price for an unlocked smartphone will have to bend to the law of diminishing returns, and market forces will dictate manufacturers to perform a rethink.

Do you think that the $ 600 figure I put forward is reasonable, or would you settle for less (or more)?

Android News + App Reviews + Hardware Reviews – AndroidPIT

Poll: Would you use your smartphone as your main computer?

The latest flagships from Samsung and Huawei make much of the fact that they can be connected to PC peripherals and used as a desktop. But who’s really excited for this?

Modern flagship phones pack some seriously powerful hardware for mobile devices, more than enough to take care of the average person’s daily computing needs such as web browsing, multimedia and word processing. So it seems only logical that our smartphones try and usurp the traditional home PC.

Opinion by Nicholas Montegriffo

Most people don’t really need a computer more powerful than a smartphone.

What do you think?

3 participants

There’s certainly something appealing about replacing the clunky box PC with something easily portable, especially if you do a lot of work on the go, or you get frustrated with having to switch between your home and mobile device. 

AndroidPIT samsung dex dock 4075 DeX brings the Samsung mobile experience to your desktop. / © AndroidPIT

The main solutions on offer come from Samsung, with its DeX dock that can connect the S8, S8+ or Note 8 to PC peripherals, and the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, which doesn’t even need a dock to serve as your desktop computer. We’ve been excited about the possibilities offered by these powerful devices, and have tested out Samsung’s DeX with both the Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy Note 8. We’ve also tried out the Huawei Mate 10 Pro as desktop.

In all cases we’ve been impressed by the possibilities, although it still feels like this kind of functionality needs more development, especially when it comes to apps. But this kind of development will follow if there’s enough user interest, so we ask you, the AndroidPIT community, what you think:

Obviously, for hardcore gamers, video editors, and other power users, even a powerful flagship smartphone as a home PC would be out of the question, but for most people it could be very convenient.

Could you see yourself using your mobile device as your main desktop too? Do you already? Tell us the reason for your answer in the comments!

Android News + App Reviews + Hardware Reviews – AndroidPIT

How to give your smartphone a Pixel 2 makeover

Do you own a flagship Android smartphone like the Galaxy S8 Plus or the LG G6, and want the cool interface look of a Pixel 2? If you want to replicate the style of Google’s newest smartphones on your own device but don’t know how, then this guide is for you. Alternatively, you can download the original APK file directly from the Pixel 2 with its Live Universe screen background, or use the new Nova Launcher update.

Highlight recent changes

Prerequisites

Before starting, you’ll need:

Action Launcher 3 Install on Google Play Zooper Widget Pro Install on Google Play

Procedure

After downloading Action Launcher and accessing the Pro version, you’ll first have to configure it:

  1. Open the Action Launcher Settings.
  2. Tap on Quicktheme:
  3. Choose the Clean Material theme.
  4. Tap on Quickbar:
  5. Choose your Search Box style (dock).
  6. Choose the Color option and modify the transparency to 15%.
  7. Move the cursor over the Corner Size option and change to 100%.
  8. Tap on Logo search, select Change icon and then choose the Google G (color) option.
  9. Tap on Icon pack and choose the Pixel Launcher theme (or whatever theme you like)

By adding the Oreo’s Adaptive Icons plugin, you can make the most of the Adaptive Icons feature that Android Oreo introduced on the Pixel devices that changes the format of all icons.

Choose Icon Appearance and Application shortcuts:

  1. Set Icon Indicators to None.
  2. Set Unread Badges to Mark.
  3. Make sure that Smart Icon Resizing is activated.
  4. Tap on Application Shortcut Style and choose Android O.

Now, go to Application List:

  1. Select Pixel Style.
  2. Set the grid’s value to 5×6.

In Settings, deactivate the Quickpage option.

  1. In Dock, choose Pixel Style.
  2. In Files & Shutters, choose the Pixel Style again.

Finally, now go to Shortcuts:

  1. In the Gesture section, open the Sliding to top option.
  2. Activate the one finger option for the Contacts application.

Action Launcher has many options for personalizing your Android. © AndroidPIT

Finally, the last stage of the installation setup: widgets. After downloading and opening Zooper Widget Pro for the first time, you can copy the Google Pixel 2 widget to your phone’s internal memory.

Place the. zw file in the “ZooperWidget/Templates/” folder.

Place the .zw file in the “ZooperWidget/Templates/” folder. Afterwards, you can place the widget on the main screen. Then follow these steps:

Hold your finger on a blank space on the home screen:

  1. Tap on Widget.
  2. Scroll through the list until you find Zooper Widget Pro and place one of the widgets on the home screen by holding a finger on it (I recommend sizes 4×1 or 4×2 but don’t worry about that right now, you can always change the size later).
  3. You’ll notice that the widget is dark in color and that it asks you to click on it to start. Do that.
  4. Then choose the SD card option.
  5. Finally, choose Pixel 2 Calendar Widget.

pixel 2 xl vs s8 plus The resemblance is truly impressive when you follow the guide on a S8 Plus. / © AndroidPIT

The first official APK files originating from the Pixels will of course be available and I’ll inform you when that is the case. For now, it’s still the only way to replicate the appearance of the new Google Pixel 2 on your smartphone, even before its arrival to the market.

Nova Launcher is also updated and crushes the competition

Even the most popular Android launcher has been updated with the exclusive features from Google’s Pixel phones and has placed itself in top spot of the competition by introducing these new features:

  • Google search bar in the dock: Nova Settings – Dock – Search bar in the dock – Above or below the icons.
  • Android 8.1 style shortcut menu: Nova Settings – Appearance – Shortcut Menu – Blocks (even though we need to point it out to the Nova Launcher creator, Android 8.1 still doesn’t exist).
  • Adaptive animated icon during the drag and drop on the home screen.
  • Much faster after the theme change or the modification of adaptive icons.
  • Many improvements under the hood.

How to download the APK file for the Pixel Launcher and Live Wallpaper Living Universe.

In the meantime, the folks over at XDA Developers have already found a way of sharing the APK file to install Pixel Launcher, extracted from the new Pixels. It includes the At a Glance widget which contains information on traffic and the calendar, and you’ll also gain access to the Google Now screen on the left hand-side without rooting.

The XDA Developers community have also found a way of bringing the Google Pixel 2’s animated wallpapers to other devices thanks to the APK file.

http 2F 2Fi65.tinypic.com 2F2k1taq The stunning animated backgrounds from the Google Pixel 2 devices can be used on other smartphones and launchers. / © Xda Developers

What do you think? Do you like the new look of the Pixel 2 home screen with the search bar at the bottom?

Android News + App Reviews + Hardware Reviews – AndroidPIT

Kirin 970: The reason behind Huawei’s new smartphone 'brain'

Qualcomm no longer wants us to use the term ‘processor’, and this term would also be unsuitable for Huawei’s new chipset generation—the Kirin 970. This new core component increases the chipset’s complexity and prepares it for new tasks. That means artificial intelligence will be calculated more efficiently on the smartphone. And this is where the new NPU comes in.

What’s so special about what the NPU does?

This new sub-unit will perform tasks such as image recognition up to 25 times faster than the CPU—and consume 50 times less energy while doing so. This makes the NPU faster and more efficient than the GPU, which would bring four times the performance with eight times the efficiency according to Huawei.

But anything that sounds quite powerful must also have practical use cases and to that end, Huawei is still working diligently on additional software implementations. A few of them will be widely available shortly in the new Huawei Mate 10 Pro.

Image recognition: Use NPU and training data for that perfect food porn shot

If you take a look around at a restaurant, you’ll often see foodies taking pictures of their food and immediately sharing it online with friends or family. To make food look even more scrumptious, the image should look sharp, clear and beautifully saturated with color. But if the typical restaurant lighting conditions are not right, you can still make a last-ditch effort to save it with Instagram filters.

AndroidPIT huawei mate 10 pro 9989 The camera app detects the subject: here it’s a person. / © AndroidPIT

Inside the Mate 10 Pro, Huawei uses a somewhat larger aperture, but otherwise hardware that is very similar to what we have already seen in the Mate 9. The difference is now it is boosted by the NPU. Huawei has gathered 100 million images to form a database with its artificial intelligence. The NPU detected known patterns and hardwired the training results into the new smartphones. Using this ‘training’ with its virtual mind, the NPU in the device can detect in real time what the searcher is actually capturing.

People, animals, nature, architecture, or spaghetti bolognese: The Kirin 970 detects subjects even without sending an inquiry to a home server, and uses this knowledge to set the right lighting values to process it accordingly. Skin can be smoothened, pimples are removed, everything behind faces or flowers is blurred. The red in strawberries is truly accentuated. You get the idea. The NPU can obtain more information from the raw material.

mate 10 pro npu contrast photos The neon writing shows that the NPU can obtain more information from the raw material. / © Huawei

Exceptionally complicated lighting conditions like streets at night with powerful artificial lighting are the bane of current cameras. Thanks to the NPU, the optics capture the scene, mix different lighting and finds a compromise between sharpness and brightness. As a result, dark and bright areas are depicted with greater details than before.

Offline translations: Text only at first, but speech will come soon afterwards

Together with Microsoft, Huawei has implemented some prolific offline translation features. You can download 40 language packs that you can use to download text blocks. Text can either be copied from other apps, typed in or you can scan it from your surroundings with your camera. As a result, you can read Chinese street names, decipher bus lines or read the menu at a restaurant. Of course, it would also work without NPU, but the system works three times as fast with neural support.

Unfortunately, translation is limited to text only, although it’s only a matter of time until it works with spoken speech as well. Then the translator can pronounce the phrase for you, so that you can also properly understand the native speakers of the language in question. Looks like a competitor to the Pixel Buds is also coming.

NPU takes the burden off the CPU

Apart from the applications optimized for it, the NPU’s performance is currently underused, which is a shame because many apps could take advantage of it. Not only would they be faster, but their battery consumption would also be significantly reduced. What Huawei needs here is support from the wider ecosystem, and this is where Google’s machine learning framework effort, TensorFlow Lite, should be taken advantage of.

Its optimizations will make their way into many apps by the time Android P comes around. Huawei’s NPU will then recognize those apps and accelerate them accordingly by 10 to 100 percent. App developers would not need to make any additional optimizations.

Enthusiastic developers can in theory, produce a ten-fold acceleration. But this would require additional adjustments with Huawei’s proprietary HiAI in addition to machine learning optimizations (with TensorFlow or Caffe). Huawei estimates that the required work would occupy an employee for a week. It remains to be seen whether HiAI is of use outside of Huawei’s domestic market, where it operates its own app store.

Neural Outlook

The NPU is extraordinarily good at detecting patterns, although the training data is often in the cloud only. The interplay between cloud and offline AI is not yet balanced well, and we will only truly feel the benefits when the ecosystem has adapted to the new hardware.

Voice and handwriting recognition are beneficial in translation, image detection helps in automatically tagging and finding photos later, and distinguishing voices from background noises is useful in phone calls—the latter is already available in the Mate 10 Pro.

Opinion by Eric Ferrari-Herrmann

The biggest advantage is that smartphones will no longer have to ‘phone home’ for every little thing

What do you think?

5 participants

Many tasks that until now seem quite complex and for which dedicated hardware had to be used, such as hearing aids, can now be accomplished with properly equipped smartphone and an app, and the best part of all is that they no longer have to query a central server for these tricks.

What do you think of the Mate 10’s AI functions? Will you increasingly focus on AI features when deciding on your next purchase?

Android News + App Reviews + Hardware Reviews – AndroidPIT

In depth: Is the LG V30 the perfect smartphone for video?

In the run-up to IFA 2017, we attended an exclusive LG V30 presentation which heavily focused on the smartphone’s video quality and functions. According to the presentation, the LG V30 will achieve the same dynamic range of real film cameras, and allow for video recording with log, as is common in the professional field.

lg v30 cameras LG has tailored the V30 to the needs of video producers. / © AndroidPIT

Where log video requires extensive editing of the footage on a computer, there is the option of performing color correction directly on the LG V30. In Cine video mode, certain styles will be available, such as ‘noir’, ‘pop-art’, ‘thriller’, ‘historic’, or ‘summer blockbuster’.

After a brief look at the hardware specs, I’ll first touch upon its image processing filters and styles. Fair warning for anyone not deep into video—the last part will be rather technical so we can get as deep into examining the log video function as possible.

Hardware overview

The image sensor is at the heart of every camera. For its standard camera, the LG V30 uses a Sony IMX351, which is not exactly the cream of the crop of smartphone sensors when going by technical data alone.

With a size of 1/3.1 of an inch, the light-sensitive chip is roughly 30 to 40 percent smaller than the sensors in most Android competitors. Accordingly, the sensor only has a pixel pitch of roughly 1 µm at a 16 MP resolution. In any case: The f/1.6 lens directs a relatively large amount of light to the smaller chip, and there is an optical image stabilizer.

Opinion by Stefan Möllenhoff

Both of the LG V30’s image sensors are too small when compared to the competition

What do you think?

36 participants

The second lens covers a viewing angle of 120 degrees and also has a relatively fast aperture at f/1.9. Nevertheless, LG integrates an even smaller Samsung sensor behind the wide-angle lens, which also provides a one-micron pixel size at 13 MP. You can blame the missing optical image stabilizer on the wide-angle lens—after all, vibrations are much less apparent at low focal lengths.

The tech specs alone lead us to cast some doubt on the promised “professional video quality”. You wouldn’t expect a golf cart with a standard engine to perform 10-second quarter-mile runs either.

AndroidPIT lg v30 camera log video 9079 LG V30’s camera app offers a complete range of recording functions. / © AndroidPIT

Cine Video styles

Of all the V30’s recording functions, ‘Cine Video’ looks the most exciting at first glance. You can choose from several styles for videos that truly provide beautiful results. ‘Thriller’ makes videos look as if they were recorded at night for example. ‘Flashback’ gives shots a beautiful sepia look, and ‘summer blockbuster’ attempts to provide that flashy gradient found in Hollywood blockbusters.

There’s also ‘point zoom’, which allows for easy zooming not only into the center, but also in any part of the image. However, this kind of zooming isn’t possible from the wide-angle module to the telephoto, rather only from the standard focal length of the telemodule. So in other words, the wide-angle camera is unfortunately not available in cine video mode.

AndroidPIT lg v30 camera log video 9087 In Cine Video mode, the V30 offers a series of pre-defined styles. / © AndroidPIT

While quality is still great in proper lighting conditions, the results in semi-darkness are not nearly as remarkable. When it comes to the small image sensor, other flagships already have bigger than the V30, so this is rather limiting and tends to spoil the fun here. Furthermore, the manual settings in cine video mode are also very limited—the most you can tweak is exposure correction.

There is also a fully automatic video mode without any manual settings accessible whatsoever. It can be activated only by starting to record by hitting recording button while in general ‘automatic’ camera mode. The advantage here though is you can also record with a super wide-angle lens here. Funny enough, there’s no point to zoom function in this mode. According to LG, a noticeable jerk would be unavoidable when switching between both image sensors.

Manual video mode

There is also a manual video mode, where LG’s engineers crammed as much of a real movie camera as you possibly could into a smartphone. There’s a 24p option for that cinematic look, along with useful manual settings for white balance, exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity, shutter speed, and even manual focus with a peaking function. And the auto focus in video mode works wonderfully.

Opinion by Stefan Möllenhoff

The LG V30’s manual video mode settings are unbeatable.

What do you think?

36 participants

I would even say LG has been quite generous with the audio settings as well. There’s a gain control for adjusting the volume, a limiter to keep audio from distorting, along with a wind filter, and even an adjustable low-pass filter. I generally think the quality of the stereo sound is pretty good. But you do need to make sure that you don’t cover the phone’s microphone. And on the other hand, the V30 can pick up breathing noises clearly if you hold it too close to your face.

Finally, the manual video mode settings contain a switch that activates the essential log video recording mode. Sadly though, the wide-angle lens is not available for use in log mode. According to LG, the reason is due to the lack of HDR capability in the sensor of the wide-angle module.

AndroidPIT lg v30 camera log video 9091 Manual video mode provides some much-welcomed settings, even for sound. / © AndroidPIT

Log video in 8-bit 4:2:0

LG’s Korean camera specialists confirmed with us that the LG V30 takes log videos specifically in 8-bit 4:2:0. Am I just about to lose you? This next bit is even more techy, so feel free to skip the next four paragraphs directly to “practical use”. For everyone else, you’re probably asking: What does log video in 8-bit 4:2:0 mean?

Let’s start with the easy part: the bit number. An 8-bit recording means that 256 different brightness values are available per color channel. Practically all smartphones and even many professional cameras record in 8-bit. High-end models cram up to 12 bits in memory, which is equal to 4,096 brightness values. The more information available, the better the quality.

4:2:0 refers to what is called chroma subsampling. Chroma subsampling determines how much color information is saved in an image. The human eye can perceive colors less accurately than brightness, so this is good for compression. Here, again, the LG V30 uses standard equipment that is common across all consumer and many professional cameras as well. 4:2:0 also means that color information is saved in the MP4 codec for every second pixel, and that no color information is present for every second pixel row.  For example: At 4:2:2, every second pixel would be paired with color information in every row. At 4:4:4, every pixel in every row would have a full color value.

There is also a second log video type in contrast to the linearly coded videos that you would find in non-professional cameras. The ‘problem’ with linearly coded videos is that brightness does not work in linear fashion as a measurement for light particles per image sensor area. For linear measurement, half of the 256 brightness values available at 8-bit are available for the upper 50 percent of the brightness spectrum, which nonetheless only includes a small percentage of the actual dynamic range.

There is also no space in the video codec for dark image areas and that makes subsequent editing difficult, not to mention diminishes dynamic range. A log video means it records logarithmic distribution, even in the video file, ensuring that space in the file is utilized much better all around.

lg v30 log In this screenshot of a log video from the LG V30 many details are still preserved, but I had problems correcting the yellow in this scene. / © AndroidPIT

Nevertheless, one drawback of log videos is that they look extremely low in contrast since the image’s dark areas have been moved up substantially in the brightness spectrum. Thus, there is no way to avoid doing further color correction and grading. To correct the logarithmic brightness distribution for the human eye, look-up tables (LUTs for short) are available. LG would also like to make them available to a series of video editing programs.

Professional video quality V30?

As was to be expected from the V30’s small Sony IMX 351 image sensor, the image quality quickly degrades in bad lighting conditions. Shots afterwards exhibit pronounced chroma noise, which cannot be easily removed. Furthermore, I sometimes found it very complicated to correct the colors of the log videos without the correct LUT.

But on a positive note, the videos’ dynamic range in log mode is exceptionally good for a smartphone. Washed-out skies only happen in very sharp contrasts. However, I truly had trouble getting somewhere with the color reproduction. The log videos’ color correction or grading was unsatisfactory without the right LUTs both using Adobe Premiere CC and Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve. As soon as the LUTs are available on the Smart World site when the LG V30 launches, we’ll take a closer look at the log videos and hope that some things are improved with the final firmware as well.

lg v30 luts Adobe Premier offers many different LUTs but alas, none yet for the LG V30. LG has said it will soon make the V30 LUTs available for download though. / © AndroidPIT

Summary: Does the iPhone X do better?

Apart from the log video capabilities, the V30 offers an array of exciting features for video fans, among them point zoom and the many different video styles in cine video mode. Furthermore, I am a major fan of the wide-angle look, which delivers beautiful results when you have little space for large image subjects.

But it is truly a shame that LG has not managed to neatly organise these gorgeous features. Each of its various functions are scattered throughout many different modes, and this means that each of the many different recording methods entail its own set of limitations.

It’s worth noting that Apple has also introduced new video functions for its iPhones, and it would never expect its customers to put up with such a messy user experience. The moral of the story is very clear: Whatever it packs must be absolutely consistent and work like a charm.

Despite all the general enthusiasm about log video, etc., I simply can’t believe LG’s ‘professional quality’ claim about the LG V30. Although there are many more features than all other competitors, they always involve a bit of hassle to some degree.

In short, any photo enthusiast must decide for him/herself whether LG or Apple is the better option.

So now the big question over to you. What camera do you think wins: LG V30 or iPhone X? Looking forward to hearing what you think. Just keep it clean, people.

Lowest price: LG V30

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Can you use an Apple Watch with an Android smartphone?

Despite its late arrival to the smartwatch market, the Apple Watch is currently the best-selling smartwatch in the world. What’s even better is that Apple could even become the top watch manufacturer in the world according to Tim Cook, CEO of the company. It’s not unusual for many Android users to be interested in this product. But can you use an Apple Watch with an Android smartphone? The answer is in our article.

Does the Apple Watch work with an Android smartphone?

In theory, no. Apple didn’t plan for any official compatibility between their smartwatch and an Android smartphone. To use the Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + 4G), you need an iPhone 6 or a more recent model with the latest version of iOS. To use the Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS) or the older models of the Apple Watch, you need an iPhone 5s or a more recent model, with the latest version of iOS.

Apple didn’t plan for any official compatibility between their smartwatch and an Android smartphone

Why isn’t this possible?

No official Watch application is available on the Google Play Store for Android users. It’s not possible to synchronize your Android phone with the Apple Watch. To reinforce the incompatibility, Apple encrypts information shared between the iPhone and the Apple Watch, which can be achieved through a simple Bluetooth connection.

Why doesn’t the latest Apple Watch Series 3 with 4G LTE work with an Android smartphone?

Unfortunately, the launch of the Apple Watch Series 3 with a GSM modem/4G LTE still hasn’t resolved the compatibility issue between the Apple smartwatch and Android phones. Apple doesn’t offer a nano-SIM slot on the new smartwatch. It’s up to the operators to offer services allowing the watch’s integrated SIM to link to your smartphone.

AndroidPIT iPhone X 15 Apple Watch Series 3 © AndroidPIT

So, of course, there’s a possibility that you could sync your Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular with an Android smartphone but this solution is reserved for tinkerers. Be aware that you must have an iPhone (or that someone you know must have one) to insert your SIM card to set up the Apple Watch and then connect it to your Android smartphone. The compatibility isn’t perfect and seriously harms the battery of the connected watch. If you’re determined, you can follow the tutorial by iMore.

Will there always be incompatibility between the Apple Watch and Android smartphones?

The race of the connected watches is in full swing. While Apple is in the lead, it won’t be long until the Cupertino firm faces competition from Samsung, Garmin, Fitbit or even Fossil. One of the reasons for this is, in fact, the inability to correctly use an Android smartphone with an Apple Watch. Apple would have everything to gain by offering compatibility with Android in order to gain more users. However, nothing is to be won when the brand is only focused on encouraging more users to buy an iPhone and an Apple Watch.

Opinion by Pierre Vitré

The Apple Watch will face real competition soon due to its incompatibility with Android phones

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What are the alternatives?

Finally, if you’re really interested in buying a smartwatch, know that there are other smartwatches available from brands other than Apple. There is a vast range available nowadays. I advise you to take a look at our list of the best Android smartwatches.

What smartwatch is your favorite of the moment? Do you want the Apple Watch? Discuss with us in the comments.

Android News + App Reviews + Hardware Reviews – AndroidPIT

Honor V10: An AI-enabled smartphone coming in December?

At this years’ IFA conference in Berlin, Honor President George Zhao spoke openly with us about an upcoming Honor flagship smartphone featuring artificial intelligence (AI). After an image of the display for the phone currently known as the Honor V10 recently leaked online, Honor has officially invited the world to meet their newest handset yet.

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Honor announces December 5 release event

The wait will finally be over on December 5 when Honor will unveil its latest model(s?) at an event in London. We just received word from Honor’s press that all will be revealed this date. Dubbed ‘Max Your View’, the event looks set to introduce their new smartphone in line with wider bezel-less designs that are currently all the rage.

Honor Save the Date New Honor phones confirmed for December 5, 2017. / © Honor

We can’t wait to see what exactly is in store but it’s no surprise that as Huawei’s sister brand, Honor has smartphones largely made up of Huawei components. It also makes sense, that Honor can save a lot of money in hardware and software development thanks to this. Of course, it results in better prices for the end consumer. 

This strategy isn’t going to change in 2018, so Honor smartphones will return featuring Huawei’s hardware and software. At a meeting with George Zhao at IFA 2017, the President of the Chinese company spoke very openly with us. I had a burning question: Will there be an Honor Magic for the international market this year? Or will it even have a successor? Why this smartphone fascinated me at the end of 2016, you can see in our article on this smartphone

The Honor Magic could be described partly as a smartphone with contextual intelligence, because it “recognized” its owner by the face and hand that were scanned during set up. It could provide information, with the help of the sensors installed in the smartphone, such as the next movie showtimes for the films you wrote about in a chat. It can also tell you what route to take, and when to leave. Everything you saw in the Honor Magic, you can see is pushing the limits of what’s possible in a smartphone.

AndroidPIT Huawei Kirin 970 9449 The Kirin 970 won’t just be powering the Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro / © AndroidPIT

Honor V10 front panel leaked

An image of the Honor V10 front panel was recently leaked online, giving us the first impressions of what the upcoming device will actually look like. 

androidpit honor v10 front panel leak Leaked photo of the Honor V10 display / © Anzhuo

Going from the above photo, the V10 looks like it will follow industry trends by doing away with side bezels almost entirely and keeping just enough top bezel to house the smartphone’s front-facing camera, light sensor, LED flash and ear piece. This gives us a screen ratio of 18:9. 

Opinion by Shu On Kwok

Honor is stuck in the past with that physical home button

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The cut out section along bottom bezel indicates that Huawei has decided to use a traditional physical home button on their device. The home button is also likely to pull double duty as the device’s fingerprint sensor.

Honor V10 will come with a Kirin 970 and EMUI 6

Back to the conversation with George Zhao and his answers to my burning questions. Amazingly openly and directly, he told me that the successor of the Honor V9 will use the Kirin 970 and EMUI 6. Both will be, as we know, launching with the Huawei Mate 10 and the Mate 10 Pro, so it is only natural that Honor will also reveal a smartphone with this combination of SoC and EMUI.

AndroidPIT Honor PC 2 At a meeting with the president of Honor, we already heard talk of the next flagship smartphone. / © AndroidPIT

Back then we found out a bit about the phone’s release timing from George Zhao and maybe it has not changed. The Honor V10 is expected to be available in early 2018, if not sooner. But take note, because George talked about the V10, and in the past, V smartphones from Honor were flagship smartphones available just in China. Although the Honor V9 for the Chinese market is hardly different from the International Honor 8 Pro, it took at least two months to sell the international version. But given there’s now a launch event in London, this may signal an international version of the Honor V10 is on its way sooner than the March-April 2018 release as we initially expected.

What do you think will pop up on December 5? Do you think Honor will use this as a chance to refresh or harmonize their product line conventions to a more global model? Let us know!

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