BlackBerry launches new Aurora smartphone – but here’s why you can’t get it

 

This is BlackBerry’s next phone – but you might not be able to get your hands on it
BlackBerry is back with its next smartphone release.Following the hype that surrounded the launch of the BlackBerry KEYOne at Mobile World Congress last month, the company has now revealed another new device.

The BlackBerry Aurora is the company’s first release in partnership with Indonesian firm BB Merah Putih, and looks to offer another affordable Android smartphone.

However for anyone based in the UK, getting the BlackBerry Aurora might not be as easy as expected.

At first glance, the BlackBerry Aurora looks like a fairly decent mid-range Android device.The device comes with a 5.5-inch 720p display, and runs Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box alongside BlackBerry’s own software offerings, including the DTEK security suite and BlackBerry Hub.

Inside, there’s a Snapdragon 425, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a microSD slot up to 2TB, and a 3,000 mAh battery that the company says will provide over 20 hours of battery life.

blackberry aurora android 7.0 nougat releaseBLACKBERRY

The BlackBerry Aurora combines Android 7.0 Nougat with some interesting hardware

The phone is also available in black, silver, and gold, and will go on sale for around $260 – or Indonesian RP 3,499,000.That’s because the BlackBerry Aurora will initially only go on sale in Indonesia.

The move is due to Indonesia actually boasting the world’s largest population of BlackBerry users.

There’s no news on a wider launch for the device just yet, but if the device proves a success we may yet see the BlackBerry Aurora in other markets at some point.BlackBerry is gearing up to launch its latest smartphone - here's everything we know so far about the new BlackBerry Mercury

If you’re still keen to get a new BlackBerry handset, the company is still gearing up to launch its KEYOne device soon.Blending classic BlackBerry design with new influences, the KEYOne retains BlackBerry’s iconic physical QWERTY keyboard, which has been given a major intelligence upgrade, with a stunning touchscreen display and metal body.

Inside, there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, with the device powered by a huge 3505mAh battery enhanced by Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 abilities that will allow the phone to go from flat to 50 per cent charge in just 36 minutes.

The BlackBerry KEYOne will cost £499 SIM-free. In the US, it’ll set you back $549, and in Europe, it’ll cost €599.

BlackBerry hasn’t confirmed an exact date in April for the launch just yet, so you’ve still got a few weeks to save up your pennies for the new device.

 

BlackBerry admits dying BB10 is in pain

 

BlackBerry has finally acknowledged problems with the much-delayed 10.3.3 update to BlackBerry 10 that users began to receive late last year.

In September 2015, as it announced the company’s first Android device, BlackBerry CEO John Chen promised that its home grown BB10 platform wasn’t dead. It had last received an update with new features in February 2015. Chen explained that BB10 users would receive two two further “platform updates focused on security and privacy enhancements”, the first coming in March 2016.

That was a way of saying that the BB10 platform was going into maintenance mode, and users shouldn’t expect any new features. As we explained, the Qt-based Cascades development environment needed significant investment to bring it up to date, and BB10 devices sales didn’t justify it. Since then BlackBerry Mobile has been created as a software and licensing unit, with partners, principally TCL, handling the design, marketing and logistics of selling BlackBerry-branded phones.Gold Plate My BlackBerry Passport

The promised update, which qualified for US National Information Assurance Partnership (NIAP) certification, only rolled out in December, and only initially for US users. (UK devices began to receive 10.3.3 last month.)

But even though 10.3.3 didn’t contain any new features*, it has caused users problems, BlackBerry acknowledges in a release note. These include:

  • Slow/poor performance
  • Menu items missing or slow to respond
  • Device temperature warmer than usual
  • Applications not opening
  • [The device being] unable to connect to wireless networks

The advice?

Walk away from your BlackBerry for 24 hours.

Users aren’t impressed, partly because it was typical for users to expect a “settling in” period after a fresh install, and partly because doesn’t acknowledge that 10.3.3 has brought new problems. See the comments under this story for a typical selection.

(Your reporter has updated two devices to 10.3.3, without experiencing the worst problems, but both were given a clean install.)

Alas, the problems are compounded by other evidence of decay in the BB10 world. For users to backup their mission critical phone logs, or migrate them to another device, BlackBerry’s desktop software Link needs to be used. But the combination of BlackBerry Link and 10.3.3 works only erratically, or not at all, with Windows 10 and Mac OS Sierra, and there’s no indication it will ever receive an update. To keep backing up that vital data, users need to keep their phone on 10.3.2 and an older version of Mac or Windows: preferably both.

Two years ago BlackBerry’s enterprise chief told us the company had “left people behind” in its migration to BB10 in 2013. Internal network data showed that millions were clinging to their older BlackBerry devices. Now it’s BB10 user’s turn to be left behind, too. ®

*For those who haven’t yet received it, some networks such as the UK’s EE have yet to authorise it.

LG Q6’s promotional video highlights the FullVision display, camera capabilities

 

LG Q6 gets a 5.5-inch FHD+ FullVision display with the same 18:9 aspect ration that we saw in LG G6.

LG Q6, a smaller version of company’s flagship G6 smartphone, was recently launched by the company. Now LG has put out an official promotional video highlighting FullVision display in Q6, its camera features, and the ability to use the device with one hand. LG Q6 is a part of company’s Q series, and the other two smartphones in the series are Q6+ and Q6α. The company has used the same FullVision display with  an aspect ratio of 18:9 in the Q6, like we saw in LG G6.

LG Q6 gets a 5.5-inch FHD+ FullVision display with the same 18:9 aspect ration that we saw in LG G6. It comes with a resolution of 2160 x 1080 pixels and a pixel density of 442ppi. The smartphone is being touted as a sleek phone that “comfortably fits in one hand.” The rear camera is 13MP, while the front shooter is 5MP with 100 degree wide-angle. The video highlights camera features such as Square Camera that divides the UI in two 1:1 squares, and Burst Mode that can be used to take multiple shots in sequence.LG Q6, LG Q6 features, LG Q6 specifications, LG Q6 price, LG Q6 launch

LG Q6 is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 mobile platform. LG Q6+ packs 4GB RAM and 64GB ROM, while the Q6 comes with 3GB RAM and 32GB internal storage. LG Q6α is the most affordable of the three smartphone, and it comes with 2GB RAM and 16GB ROM. The smartphone is backed by a 3,000mAh non-removable battery. The Q6 runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat.

LG Q6’s promotional video also showcases durability of the smartphone. The company, in a press statement, said that metal frame surrounding the Q6 is constructed of ultra-strong 7000 series aluminum. According to LG, the smartphone has been subjected to over 20 battery tests which include heat, penetration and shock conditions.

LG Q6 measures 142.5 x 69.3 x 8.1 mm and weighs 149 grams. Connectivity options include: Wi-Fi 802.11 b, g, n, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC and USB Type-B 2.0. LG Q6+ is available in Astro Black, Ice Platinum , and Marine Blue colour options. The Q6 comes in Astro Black, Ice Platinum, Mystic White, and Terra Gold colour variants. LG Q6α can be bought in Astro Black, Ice Platinum, and Terra Gold colour options. Other features of the Q6 include face recognition, and Google Assistant.

 

Motorola Moto X leaked photos show dual cameras

With the release of the Moto G5 Plus, Motorola’s 2017 seems to be off to a great start. Now pictures have surfaced of an alleged new Moto X, and if they’re the real deal, they suggest the company still has a few more cool things up its sleeve.

The pictures, which showed up Tuesday, show the front and the back of an alleged Moto X. Most notable is the dual-camera setup on the rear. While more and more phones are released with dual cameras, manufacturers treat them differently. Apple uses them for zooming and a cool portrait mode, while Huawei uses two Leica-branded cameras (one that’s black and white) for fast, accurate focusing. So if the next Moto X does indeed have dual cameras, it’ll be interesting to see how Motorola uses them.Image result for Motorola Moto X leaked photos show dual cameras

A photo shows iPhone-like antenna lines on the back of the alleged Moto X. Images of the front show a fingerprint sensor similar to the one on the Moto G5 Plus — and hopefully it uses some of those cool navigation tricks, too.

Another picture of the display shows the alleged specs: a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage.

Motorola didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but if any of these photos are accurate, the Moto X could be another promising phone.

 

HTC U ULTRA REVIEW: DISAPPOINTMENT BY A THOUSAND CUTS

In a season filled with almost endless smartphone hype and announcements, you’d be forgiven if you missed that HTC, once a major player in the Android world, announced and released a new, high-end phone. That phone, the $750 U Ultra, is the company’s current flagship, and the first major device released under its own name since last spring’s HTC 10.

But there’s little about the U Ultra, apart from its screen size (5.7 inches) and price (high), that makes it feel like much of a flagship. The way HTC is selling it — unlocked, through its own online store, and without any carrier involvement — isn’t typical for top-tier phones. Even more importantly, the U Ultra doesn’t have its own identity, instead recycling a pile of ideas first introduced by other companies. It’s a confounding device. At best, it feels like a phone that HTC needed to put out because it had been so long since its last phone was released, but not the real flagship that’s still coming down the road. At its worst, the U Ultra is a mess of bad ideas and even worse execution, as my colleague Vlad Savov highlighted after its announcement in January.

There’s not one single major failing to point to that befalls the U Ultra. Rather, it’s a combination of factors (and not the usual ones that you might expect) that keep it from being a phone I can recommend. It’s disappointment by a thousand cuts.


To start with a positive, the U Ultra is an eye-catching, attractive device. Unlike the all-aluminum designs that HTC has used for its high-end phones since 2013, the U Ultra has a new glass-and-metal design, not too different from Samsung’s recent efforts. The glass back slopes and curves into the metal frame in an elegant way, and the sapphire blue color of my review unit is deep and lustrous. It’s a head-turner, for sure.

But there are consequences to using a glass design: it’s a fingerprint magnet; it makes an already unwieldy device slippery and even more difficult to handle; and it increases the potential for damage, as glass is more susceptible to scratching and breaking than aluminum. The U Ultra may be beautiful out of the box, but after a few weeks or months of use, it’s likely to lose its shine. And if you’re hoping that HTC will go back to its aluminum roots after this device, don’t get ahead of yourself: the company told me that the U Ultra represents a “new direction” for its design language and we’re likely to see two or three generations of HTC phones that utilize this glass-heavy design.

In addition to being almost all glass, the U Ultra is a big phone, and that’s due in large part to its two displays: a 5.7-inch, Quad HD LCD for the main screen and a 2-inch secondary ticker above it. The secondary screen, or “Dual Display” as HTC calls it, is designed to show notifications, app or contact shortcuts, weather information, upcoming calendar appointments, and other bits of data while you view other content on the main screen. It also lights up whenever you pick up the U Ultra to display the current time and any recent notifications.

If this sounds familiar, it should, because it’s basically the exact same idea as seen on the LG V10 and V20. It’s also about as redundant and useless as LG’s version. Never once did I find that the Dual Display saved me time or was more convenient to use than the main screen, apart from telling me the time whenever I picked up the phone. Further, it feels unfinished: for example, the clock on the second display doesn’t respect my settings for the main screen, so it displays time in 24-hour mode, even if I set the device to display it with AM / PM indicators.

The Dual Display is a gimmick — a bad one. Some phone gimmicks you can just ignore, but here it has a serious consequence: the U Ultra is a bigger device than it would otherwise need to be to accommodate the second screen. Combined with the rather large bezels above and below the main display, the two screens make this phone a honker. In fact, the U Ultra is the biggest phone I’ve used in recent memory, bigger than even Huawei’s Mate 9, which has an even larger 5.96-inch screen.

HTC typically chooses color-accurate, if not class-leading, displays for its phones, and the U Ultra’s main screen is exactly that. The pixels are dense, the colors are punchy without being searing, and it gets bright enough to see outdoors (unlike last year’s HTC 10). But uncharacteristically, the display on my unit has a distracting light bleed underneath the front-facing camera and along the bottom edge. It’s something I’ve seen other reviewers report as well, so it’s not like my unit is unique, and it’s completely unacceptable for a $750 device.

There are other annoyances with the U Ultra’s design, such as the oddly low placement of the home button and capacitive keys for back and recent apps, plus the pronounced camera bump on the rear. Despite being a premium-priced phone, the U Ultra has no water resistance rating to speak of, so unlike an equally priced iPhone 7 Plus or Galaxy S8, you can’t get this phone wet without worry.

Like the iPhone 7, Moto Z, and a handful of other phones, the U Ultra does away with the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack and relies solely on its USB Type-C port for audio, charging, and data transfer. All of the problems you have read about, imagined, or experienced apply to the U Ultra as well. It’s annoying, limiting, and largely inexplicable. HTC tells me that removing the jack makes it easier to design a curved back that blends into the metal frame, but that logic falls apart when you notice that the USB-C port also disrupts the flow of the glass into the metal. If HTC can design around that, logic dictates that it can also design around a headphone jack.

You might think that all of this hand-wringing is for naught, since you can just buy USB-C headphones and use those instead. But the U Ultra is unique: it won’t support just any USB-C headphones or adapters, you have to use HTC’s own versions. The phone does come with a set of compatible headphones, which feature a system that tunes the audio to your specific ears for better quality. They sound fine, and I did notice an improvement when the tuning was enabled, but the earbuds tend to frequently pop out of my ears, making it hard to maintain the proper seal for good sound quality. They also don’t work with any other device I own or carry, making them just another thing I need to put in my bag when I’m on the go.

Frustratingly, even though the U Ultra costs $750, HTC does not include a 3.5mm headphone adapter with it. If you want to use traditional headphones with your U Ultra or plug it into any other audio system, like say a car, you’ll need to shell out $11.99 for HTC’s branded adapter. The obvious move here, should you decide to buy the U Ultra, is to just use wireless Bluetooth headphones with it, but that brings along its own set of costs and compromises.

Inside the U Ultra’s large frame is a respectable list of components. The device is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 processor, which is technically last year’s chip, but is perfectly fine and performs well. There’s 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and you can expand that with a microSD card. The U Ultra’s 3,000mAh battery appears small on paper — most phones in this size class have larger cells — but I haven’t had any issues with battery life in the few weeks I’ve been testing the phone. It lasts through a full day of use for me and charges up quickly, thanks to its support for Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3.0 technology.

The U Ultra’s 12-megapixel camera is largely fine as well, and is capable of taking good pictures outdoors and acceptable images in low light. It has optical stabilization, which it tends to rely on too much indoors, using long shutter speeds and making it difficult to take sharp images of moving subjects such as pets or children. HTC’s camera app is simple yet powerful with its various manual controls, though I wish HTC would utilize the second display for camera controls like LG does.

The U Ultra can take lovely photos outside, but indoors or in low light, it uses shutter speeds that are too long to freeze motion.

For selfies, the 16-megapixel front camera features an “UltraPixel” mode, which combines the data from multiple pixels down to one, producing a 4-megapixel image with greater detail in low light. Again, it’s fine and capable of taking perfectly acceptable selfies. If you zoom in close, you will see artifacts from HTC’s noise-reduction algorithms, but zooming in close on my own selfies is nightmare fuel for me, no matter the device in question.

The U Ultra being sold in the US is only compatible with GSM networks, so that means it will work on AT&T, T-Mobile, and their respective MVNOs and subsidiaries. It will not work on CDMA networks, so Verizon, Sprint, and US Cellular are out of the picture.

For software, the U Ultra is running Android 7.0 Nougat with HTC’s Sense interface. The Sense interface has been scaled back and toned down so much that only the most die-hard enthusiasts would be able to tell it apart from Google’s own version of Android, which is generally a good thing. As of this writing (early April 2017), the U Ultra has the January 1st, 2017 security patch, so it’s a little behind where it should be.

HTC’s interface shenanigans may be largely in the past, but it’s using the U Ultra as a platform to launch its own virtual assistant software called Sense Companion. It’s intended to provide suggestions throughout your day, such as how you can improve device performance, when you should leave for your next meeting, clothing suggestions for upcoming weather, or a reminder to bring a battery pack with you on a particularly busy day.

All of that is very familiar and, to be honest, simple stuff, and HTC says it’s being conservative with the Companion’s prompts to avoid annoying users and pushing them to just turn it off. It might be too conservative, however, as apart from the initial alerts explaining what the Companion can do, I haven’t gotten any pings from it in the multiple weeks I’ve been testing the phone. HTC says a number of factors can contribute to when you’ll see a Companion alert, and it may come down to the fact that I just haven’t been using the phone long enough. But my impression of the Sense Companion so far is that it’s mostly forgettable.

“Mostly forgettable” is a good way to sum up the U Ultra in its entirety: it has fine performance and battery life, but that doesn’t make up for its unfinished feel and odd design decisions. It even feels like HTC itself would like everyone to forget about this phone when its next major device arrives.

Maybe HTC’s next phone (which is rumored to just be called the “HTC U”) will right some of the U Ultra’s mistakes, but until it arrives, the only HTC-made phone you should consider is the Google Pixel, which doesn’t even have HTC’s name on it.

 

Jio’s 4G VoLTE Feature Phone With Smartphone-Like Features Leaked in Video: Price, Specifications, Features, and More

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Details of the long-rumoured Jio feature phone have leaked once again
  • Features and specifications of the mobile have been tipped
  • The Lyf/ Jio 4G VoLTE feature phone is expected to launch on July 21

Jio’s 4G VoLTE feature phone with smartphone-like features is expected to make an appearance at Reliance Industries’ AGM next week, and a new leaked video reveals what might well be the mobile many have been waiting for. The leaked video shows a Reliance Retail’s Lyf-branded feature phone – which may or may not be the long-rumoured Rs. 500 Jio 4G feature phone that has been spotted before – but could well be the phone that the telco that’s shaken up the industry reveals next week. The video and an accompanying report reveal specifications, features, and software details of the upcoming Lyf/ Jio 4G VoLTE feature phone. Among the notable features of the mobile seem to be custom OS, and support for Internet tethering.

Jio 4G VoLTE feature phone specifications

According to a report by TechPP, the Reliance Jio 4G feature phone will be sold under the Lyf brand, the sister-brand of Jio, owned by Reliance Retail. As rumoured previously, the feature phone is said to have a 2.4-inch colour display, 512MB RAM, 4GB of internal storage, up to 128GB microSD card support, dual SIM functionality (Nano SIM + Standard SIM), 2-megapixel rear camera, and VGA front camera. The leak also suggests the presence of 2000mAh battery, FM radio, Bluetooth 4.1 + LE, and video calling on the Jio 4G VoLTE feature phone.

 Jio's 4G VoLTE Feature Phone With Smartphone-Like Features Leaked in Video: Price, Specifications, Features, and More

On the software side, the mobile is said to come with ‘KAI OS’, a customised version of the HTML5-based Firefox OS. It will reportedly have an app store named ‘KaiOS Plus’. It will also have an integrated voice assistant with support for Indian languages. In addition, a report by Telecom Talk claims the Lyf/ Jio 4G VoLTE feature phone will be provision for Wi-Fi tethering too, meaning a user will be able to connect multiple devices using the handset’s Internet connection. TechPP, on the other hand, says the handset will have app-specific USB tethering.

The leaked images only show the phone will have a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, without specifying the make. Previously, Qualcomm and Spreadtrum have been said to be supplying the chipset for the device. The Jio 4G feature phone is also said to come with access to Jio apps such as Jio TV, MyJio, JioCinema, and JioMusic.

Jio 4G VoLTE feature phone price

According to an earlier HSBC research note, the Jio feature phone price in India will be Rs. 500, after subsidising the manufacturing cost. Like we mentioned earlier, it’s not clear if the leaked mobile is actually the Rs. 500 Jio phone.

Reliance is said to have placed an order of 18-20 million units for the handsets with Chinese vendors such as Zhejiang Techain Electronics Technology Co., Shenzhen CHINO-E Communication Co, Crave and Megaphone. The  Lyf/ Jio 4G VoLTE feature phone is expected to be unveiled on July 21 at parent company Reliance’s AGM, but hit the market in August.

The upcoming Jio feature phone will be targeting the feature phone market, which has remained out of the company’s reach due to the prohibitory costs of smartphones. It will help the Mukesh Ambani-backed company increase its user base, whose growth was the slowest in April since it launched operation. This happened as the services went paid, even though the services remain extremely affordable due to the Jio Summer Surprise and Jio Dhan Dhana Dhan offers. More recently, the company revised its plans to provide more data and more validity at the same price, and launched a new plan that provides the Jio Dhan Dhana Dhan Offer benefits for another 84 days at Rs. 399.

HTC’s next flagship revealed in biggest leak yet

 

HTC released its U Ultra and U Play earlier this year, but we’ve known for some time the company still had something big in the works.

And while there’s been quite a few leaks and rumours about the upcoming flagship phone, known under the name ‘HTC U Ocean’ or HTC 11, we’re yet to see anything revelatory.

Until now, that is, Prolific tipster Evan Blass, otherwise known as @evleaks, has posted a photo which he claims shows the new HTC flagship in all its glory.

Related: HTC 11

Yes, it seems the HTC 11 will be known as the HTC U, according to Blass, who also tweeted a photo of the new phone:

 HTC logo

The image reveals what looks to be glass on the front and back, but without the screen being switched on, it’s hard to tell exactly where the display begins and ends.

That said, it does seem as though there will be significant bezels on the phone, unlike recent flagship offerings from Samsung and LG.

It also looks like there’ll be a physical home button on the front of the device – so no rear fingerprint scanner as with the Galaxy S8, then.

Blass links to a previous article which lists some specs for the phone, seemingly confirming those specs as accurate – though there’s been no official word from HTC at this point.

Among the rumoured specs are a 5.5-inch 2560 x 1440 display, a Snapdragon 835 chipset, 4GB RAM, and a 12-megapixel rear camera.

HTC is also said to have included pressure-sensitive edges which allow for extra control, such as taking a photo, and scrolling.

Blass is generally one of the most reliable leakers, so while there’s no way to confirm the picture and specs as accurate, we’re fairly sure Blass is on the money here – but use the usual caution as this is still an unconfirmed leak.

 

Nokia plans comeback on back of virtual reality

Analysis The Nokia as we traditionally know it is no more, and the reborn company of today is pinning a core part of its future business strategy on emerging virtual reality (VR) technologies.

In the run-up to the National Association of Broadcasters trade show next week in Las Vegas, Nokia has announced the launch of OZO Reality – an updated set of technologies for supporting the delivery, creation and end user experience of VR content.

Nokia is hoping to propel uptake of its OZO camera, a $40,000 piece of kit with eight sensors and eight microphones, by bundling in its updated software packages to provide producers with a tempting all-round tool set.

The specs and partners look impressive, but perhaps OZO’s only serious challenger in the space at present is Facebook, which has just unveiled the second generation of its Surround 360 camera this week.

The creation side of the update includes OZO+, an upgraded version of Nokia’s VR camera solution, as well as the OZO Live 3D 360 stream and audio system. OZO Creator has also been given a revamp for VR image processing techniques and stereoscopic software, which now includes something Nokia calls mixed reality enablement – meaning the integration of features such as advertising and game engine elements. Delivery is a thorn in the side of the VR industry, so Nokia’s OZO Deliver software component claims to enable partners of the OZO Reality platform to ingest and manage immersive experiences – delivered at lower bandwidth to broader audiences.

A key feature is Nokia’s OZO Player SDK, which is being integrated by a number of partners to provide a single interface for all major VR and 360 video platforms and apps – which it says now includes depth rendering with occlusion to provide real-time integration of the aforementioned mixed reality elements.

Perhaps more significant and exciting from Faultline’s point of view is the technology vendors which have jumped into bed with Nokia for its OZO VR ventures as part of this week’s announcement; vendors with tried and tested expertise in specific steps of the OTT content delivery chain which bodes well for shaping the VR experiences of the future. Those vendors are Akamai, AWS Elemental, Harmonic, NeuLion, Youku, 3stage Design, Accedo, Haivision, Ideal Systems, Kaltura, LiveLike, Nibiru, Primestream, Ratio, Qello, and China Intercontinental Communication Center (CICC).Image result for Nokia plans comeback on back of virtual reality

Many of these are brand new names to collaborate with Nokia in VR, while Akamai and Elemental have been on board since OZO debuted in January 2016, and NeuLion first announced a partnership with Nokia and its OZO camera in September last year. Companies integrating the OZO Player SDK or OZO Reality platform into their existing suites of VR products or services are 3stage Design, Accedo, Ideal Systems, Kaltura, LiveLike, Primestream, Nibiru, and Ratio. More encoding technologies are being provided by Haivision, while Qello is supplying Nokia with a monetization platform, and CICC is planning to produce VR documentaries.

NeuLion’s involvement hints heavily at a collaborative effort to live stream a major sporting event in VR, but so far all Nokia’s live 360˚ events, including concerts, music festivals, sports and political events, have all been powered by Elemental. NeuLion is definitely in competition with Elemental and is emphatic that it does not need the Elemental encoding platform.

Now Harmonic has thrown its encoding capabilities into the hat, just in case there wasn’t enough clout already – which just goes to show how exhaustive the encoding efforts for streaming VR content is. Harmonic is probably in the lead on encoding VR experiences as it has some University derived tiling encoders, which only encodes in full resolution the central screen of a nine screen potential view. Faultline reckons they are a step ahead of anyone else right now in VR.

NeuLion has built much of its own technologies to lead the way in live sports, but it has also amassed technologies from DiVX, for its HEVC SDK, and Saffron Digital’s SVoD software and electronic sell-through services.

Nokia’s previous live VR tests have involved an Elemental encoder for packaging at acceptable bit rates, installed with Akamai Accelerate Ingest software, which accepted the TCP POSTs from the local encoder and delivers them via UDP over the general internet to an Akamai Ingest server. Cisco hardware has also been used to offload video traffic and optimize stream quality to UHD VR headsets.

A collaborative drive in developing VR technologies will be key to getting VR viewing formats into the mainstream and living up to the hype of market forecasts. Faultline has identified the viewing platform as the major obstacle for take-off above the 100 million device level.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s new Surround 360 camera, for its Oculus Rift headsets, comes in two models, the x6 with 6 cameras and the more heavy duty x24 with 24 cameras – both capturing footage in 8K with six degrees of freedom (6DOF).

6DOF is a specialist method used by Hollywood special effects team, but Facebook and other VR firms are working on lowering the costs of this exclusive technology to broaden availability.

Facebook claims the new Surround 360 is the most advanced on the market today, and believes its hardware and software are easier to use than other technologies out there. Facebook has been keeping quiet about its VR partnership deals so far, as its developments go on behind closed doors at Area 404, but it recently teamed up with the South Korean government to cooperate in funding VR and AR startups in the country.

Paul Melin, VP of Digital Media, Nokia Technologies, commented on the announcement, “We are developing new innovations that work together to empower storytellers, enable audiences to participate in content anywhere on any platform, and deliver on the promise of transformative experiences that help the human family feel more together.

“As VR and AR fast approach a tipping point that will lead to explosive growth, OZO products and technologies are well-positioned to be key drivers for the future of an industry that could top $100bn in less than a decade.”

The $100bn figure comes from a revenue forecast by Digi-Capital and IDC’s Worldwide Semiannual Augmented and Virtual Reality Spending Guide.

Copyright © 2017, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week’s events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

Sponsored: What happens when your cloud-based security service goes down?

 

Review: Samsung Galaxy S8

SALT LAKE CITY — Samsung has suffered negative attention recently as it tries to recover from last fall’s Note 7 battery explosion debacle that led to an entire recall of the smartphone.

Critics will be watching closely this year to see if new Samsung models fall prey to similar issues. Fans have been anxiously awaiting new models and features and hope those problems are in the past.

Samsung is off to a very promising start with the launch of the Galaxy S8 and 8 Plus. I spent a few days with the S8 and look forward to testing the new Note.

Overall Grade: A-

Fit and finish

Samsung has made great strides in the past few years as it has moved away from light, yet less elegant, plastic-bodied phones. The aluminum and glass bodies used of late look amazing, though fingerprints and makeup leave the shiny rear surfaces almost permanently marred.

The S8 continues to push for design supremacy over Apple, and it will be interesting to see if the back proves fragile, as early iPhone glass backs were. I tested the arctic silver model, which had subtle blue hues and the glass finish, as noted, attracted smudges.

Some will find the phone slippery and Samsung will most likely face criticism for placing the fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone. I, however, have come to like LG phones with power and volume buttons located on the back, and it works well for one-handed use.

The fingerprint scanner, however, increases the likelihood of fingerprints and smudges on the glossy back and the nearby camera lens. This is the trade-off for having a smaller phone bezel, allowing for a larger screen. The phone is also taller and narrower than the S7, making one-handed use a lot simpler.Image result for Review: Samsung Galaxy S8

Courtesy of Samsung

Screen

The 5.8 inch Super AMOLED screen is not only a very good one but likely the best smartphone screen currently available. Color saturation is excellent, and the black contrast continues to improve with each new Samsung model.

Rather than having a separate Edge model, the S8 now comes with a wraparound “Infinity” screen standard. The home button is part of the screen, rather than located below, and provides haptic feedback when in use. The icon for the app drawer has also been removed and is located by swiping up from the area where the home icon is located.

The curved screen creates a smaller phone bezel and is beautiful to look at, but many apps are not configured yet to accommodate it perfectly. While text-based information looks great, some videos, maps and games won’t use the full screen and will leave black letterboxing.

Facebook, for example, has adapted its app to fit the new screens, and Samsung is working with app partners to improve the look of all apps on this and subsequent devices.

Camera

The rear camera is 12 megapixels, the same as the S7, and lacks a dual lens — which has been a recent trend among smartphone manufacturers. The front camera is now 8 megapixels instead of the 5 megapixels version found on the S7.

There is a pro mode for those who wish to take pictures with manual settings and shutter speeds. A selective focus allows photographers to focus on a single subject while leaving the background blurry.

Photos are sharp and colors are rich. In my opinion, recent Samsung cameras are the best available, and I was impressed to see low light photos are even better than on the Note 7 I reviewed a few months ago.

The speed of Samsung’s cameras is excellent and the lag that can ruin potentially great smartphone shots is nearly absent. I even had difficulty taking a poor shot in auto mode (except for fast-moving action). A quick setting adjustment fixed that.

The S8 is capable of 4K video and both 4K and 1080P video quality, which was excellent. Samsung continues to lead the way in focus, image stabilization, color and sharpness of smartphone video. Their cameras simply can’t be beat in terms of video quality.

A new feature called Bixby Photo also lets users take a picture of a product then shop for that product online. It will also translate text from a picture. I’ve included more on Bixby below.

Courtesy of Samsung

Performance and intangibles

The S8 and S8 Plus are the first phones available in the United States with a new Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor. The phone was fast and graphic performance was excellent. Comparisons with older phone models are pointless, as software and apps usually cause problems that can’t be blamed on hardware. I look forward to out-of-the-box comparisons with coming competitor models.

Samsung claims new modem technology that eliminates much of the difference usually found in phones configured for a particular carrier. Data speeds and reliability should be enhanced regardless of where in the world, or which neighborhood, the S8 is being used.

Android 7.0 Nougat runs the S8 and, of course, Samsung still adds plenty of its own touches to Android. Although perhaps too much in the opinion of some.

As with the S7, the screen is “always on” meaning the time, date and calendar can be seen without unlocking the screen. It’s also simple to see more notification details by tapping the notification without having to open the app.

The screen functionality is improved over the past Edge models and works very well. Users can swipe from the right to see app shortcuts and favorite contacts, for example. Multiple versions of the screen shortcuts can also be downloaded to further customize the phone.

In addition to the fingerprint scanner, face recognition and an iris scanner are available to unlock the phone, as well.

There is also a new button on the left side of the phone for Bixby, Samsung’s new voice assistant. Bixby has limited functionality so far, but Samsung plans for the intelligent assistant to rival Google and Apple’s.

The phone has 64 gigabytes of internal memory, which can be expanded via the microSD card slot.

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Conclusion

Samsung is producing phones these days that push the limits of both form and function. The camera and screen are both improved from last year’s S7 and the wraparound screen has gone from gimmick to truly useful in a short couple of years.

The new S8 makes rich, clear phone calls and has an extra volume button for use in loud areas or outdoors. The built-in speakers are excellent and the S8 is the first phone to support Bluetooth 5, which is supposed to expand range to nearly 120 feet and can support two headphones at once.

The S8 is not without blemish (literally), but the S8 is tough to beat in terms of everyday use and user friendliness.

 

LG Elec Says First Quarter Profit up 82 Percent From Year Earlier

 

FILE PHOTO: Models pose for photographs with a LG electronics’ new V20 premium smartphone during its unveiling ceremony in Seoul, South Korea, September 7, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo REUTERS

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s LG Electronics Inc <066570.KS> said on Thursday its first-quarter operating profit rose 82 percent from a year earlier to its highest in nearly eight years on the back of healthy sales for its appliances and television businesses.Reuters

LG said January-March profit was 922 billion won ($816 million) in line with its estimate earlier in April. Revenue rose 9.7 percent to 14.7 trillion won, also in line with the company’s previous estimate.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Richard Pullin)

Copyright 2017 Thomson Reuters.