Sometime in the last few years, "plastic" became a dirty word in smartphones. The reasons for this — like evoking the kind of cheap and unpleasant designs that defined early Android phones — are probably less important the outcomes. A whole class of materials were re-branded as low-rent, and today even many relatively affordable phones have made the switch to fully aluminum or metal-and-glass sandwiches for the superficially premium look they impart.
But Google's newest smartphone bucks the trend, and in just the right way: the Pixel 3a stands apart with its genuinely nice, unapologetically plastic design. Read More
Six months ago, I was excited: The OnePlus 6T had just been officially announced bringing in-display fingerprint sensors to the mainstream US market. This was a genuinely new technology, after all, in a field of nearly-identical gadgets. It gave us all something to talk about as we anticipated all the ways it would change The Phone Experience for the better. But, six months later I've come to the conclusion that in-display fingerprint readers, as they stand today, were a mistake. Read More
For all the fanfare ultra wide angle cameras receive on the internet, it’s getting closer that has long presented the greatest frustration in smartphone photography. Digital zoom has been the stuff of tech-savvy humor for years, a feature reserved for those so illiterate in their usage of cameras as to not understand that it achieves the same end effect as cropping an un-zoomed photo with a simple editor. Why zoom at all, we say, when the camera isn’t able to gather any more data, but instead actually destroys it, and all for the sake of a noisy, blurry photo? While this has a strong ring of “technically true,” I also believe it fundamentally ignores and misunderstands why people use zoom in the first place - and also why I believe optical superzoom systems are the future of smartphone cameras. Read More
"It's the first generation." I heard it over and over during Mobile World Congress whenever the topic of foldable smartphones inevitably arose. Everyone is talking about foldables (which yes, that's not a word, except now it is), and everyone has a take. They're the game-changing future our ever-expanding screens require. They're going to be huge with [insert demographic/region/niche here]. They're expensive now, but they won't always be. They're not going to be very good now, either, but just wait - this is only the first generation.
But it isn't - not exactly. Take a closer look at that image at the top of the post - do you recognize that foldable phone? Read More
It's early, but my least favorite news story of 2019 so far is this awful garbage from T3, a tech news site from the UK, about the Pixel 4 potentially being "modular." I won't link to it (nice try, T3!), but I will give you the title and a synopsis. Read More
In 2019, the most talked-about feature of any new smartphones is not the camera, processor, modem, or software. It is the shape and size of the area reserved for the sensors and cameras on the front - and it is time to just stop it.
Notches, punch holes, screen cutouts - whatever the hell you want to call them - are part of phones for the time being. They’re part of phones because the companies making the phones are desperate to find ways to excite us with new visual elements that keep our historically low attention spans long enough to sell us thousand dollar glass and aluminum bricks. Read More
5G is either the biggest change to our wireless world in decades or the most overhyped marketing spin from carriers in as long - and it all depends on just who you’re asking. Cynical tech journalists like me have real reason to downplay the technology’s importance and relevance to ordinary consumers, but we needn’t get into all that here. Carrier and phone manufacturers, meanwhile, believe it will usher in a new age of devices and use cases we can’t yet fully imagine. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle - closer to the cynical end, I’d argue! - but I think regardless of how 5G plays out, it means very bad things for struggling phone manufacturers. Read More
As you may have noticed, this post originally appeared on Android Police earlier in 2018. As much of the AP team is away for the holidays this week, we're showcasing some of our favorite posts of the year. Enjoy!
Going into this series, I hoped I’d get back to the T-Mobile G1/HTC Dream and be able to romantically wax about where Android came from. How the G1, though dated, still held up the promises made by Google's first Android effort back in 2008. Analytically, it's all true, but time has not been kind to the phone, and using it has made for a pretty rough week, even by my recent standards. Read More
Every two years, we buy a smartphone. At least, that’s what we’ve been told is reasonable to expect of the Average Person. And while reality means that this figure varies widely between any given two people, we do know that the companies that make and sell smartphones have this expectation. That, once a smartphone is two years old, most people are probably ready to get rid of it for something better. But there’s a wrinkle: everything we know tells us that’s changing.
In the early days of the iPhone - when it was exclusive to AT&T - the carrier’s upgrade policy allowed you to buy a new device every two years at a substantial discount in exchange for locking yourself into another two years of service. Read More
Congratulations: You've finally developed your million-dollar app. You took a great idea, implemented it, built it into a polished UI, and tested it until you tracked down every last bug. Now it's ready for public release, so you can sit back, relax and ... earn just 70% of what users pay for your software? That doesn't sound right. Yet it's a position that mobile app developers everywhere find themselves in, one that's perched somewhere on the intersection between wildly unfair and mild extortion. Read More