Samsung Galaxy S9 box leak hints at variable aperture camera

Sometimes leaks are obviously legitimate, and sometimes people go out of their way to dupe us with an elaborate hoax. And sometimes, you just can’t call it — say, when an image pops up on Reddit allegedly showing the box a Galaxy S9 will eventually be tucked up in. The gloves, the clinically white work space, the layout and font; nothing seems too suspect. And given we know the S9 and S9+ will be announced next month, this is when you’d expect the leaks to start flowing. Assuming this is, in fact, final Galaxy S9 packaging, then what does it tell us about Samsung’s next flagship? Well, that it’s much like the S8, but with a few new features thrown in.

Most of what’s listed on the box is completely believable: The 5.8-inch Quad HD+ AMOLED display, 8-megapixel front-facing camera, IP68 water and dust resistant rating, iris scanner, 64GB of storage, 4GB of RAM, wireless charging support and earphones “tuned by AKG.” If anything, they might disappoint those hoping for a bigger step change this generation — we can’t not mention the iPhone X here — since you’ll find all this written on the back of the Galaxy S8’s packaging. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that this is just one box, so who knows what other storage and RAM configurations Samsung is cooking up.

One rumor that’s been doing the rounds is that the S9’s camera will feature a variable aperture, which this leak seems to confirm, but otherwise it’ll be the same “dual pixel” 12MP shooter with optical image stabilization found on the S8. And Samsung’s already launched a pricey flip phone in China with a camera that can switch (mechanically, not digitally) between an f/2.4 aperture and a wider, f/1.5 aperture for improved low-light performance. No great stretch to assume the rumor is true, then.

The box also speaks of a “super slow-mo” feature little birdies have been chirping about. Apparently, the camera is capable of shooting slow-motion video at 1,000 fps, besting the 960 fps limit of Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium and XZ1. Otherwise, we’re apparently getting stereo speakers “tuned by AKG,” which would be new, and we can safely assume the S9 will feature a functioning FM radio chip, at least in North America, given the partnership with NextRadio announced just a few days ago.

There’s no mention of any face-unlocking feature; not on the box anyway. There’s been speculation the S9 could have iPhone X-like face authentication and possibly another take on animated emojis, because Samsung’s latest Exynos 9810 smartphone chip is geared for that kind of thing. Not all S9’s will carry the Exynos 9810 chip, though. In regions including the US, you’ll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 in its place, but that chip is capable of the same level of face mapping. Perhaps the feature isn’t ready yet, or Samsung is having trouble getting it performing comparably across both chips. Or maybe it just didn’t make the box.

Predictably, all Samsung had to say was it “is unable to comment on rumors and speculation.” But in between now and the S9/S9+’s official reveal next month, you can definitely expect more leaks either confirming or challenging what we think we’ve learnt from this little drip.

CES 2018: What the Gadget Fest Looks Like in ‘the Year of A.I.’

Yet the clear darling of this year’s show was not a gadget but the growing amount of artificial intelligence software helping these products run. The race between Amazon and Google to be the go-to service for integration of consumer products was on full display. In many booths, signs prominently advertised that products worked with Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa. The smart home, car and TV all seemed to have been touched by Amazon or Google.

“It’s the year of A.I. and conversational interfaces,” said J. P. Gownder, an analyst for Forrester Research.

Photo

Credit Roger Kisby for The New York Times

Zipping along the convention floor were robots yielding a host of skills. One robot, Loomo, top, doubles as a hoverboard and a companion that can take photos. Another robot, iPal, above, serves as companion to older and younger users. Designed by AvatarMind, the $1,500 humanoid robot can remind elders to take medicine or greet children at the door.

Sony’s new robot dog, Aibo, also stopped conventiongoers who took time to rub their hands on its hard-surface head.

Google’s presence was easily identifiable with activation centers, games and presenters walking around the convention floor, but Amazon dominated the arena by the sheer volume of products that worked with the Alexa voice assistant, like robovacuums, light dimmers and even mosquito zappers.

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Photo

Credit Roger Kisby for The New York Times
Photo

Credit Roger Kisby for The New York Times

This year’s event featured more than 4,000 exhibitors, including 800 start-ups, and covered more than 2.6 million square feet.

Photo

Credit Roger Kisby for The New York Times
Photo

Credit Roger Kisby for The New York Times

Home appliances like coffee makers, vacuums, ovens and even the cat litter box also received an A.I. upgrade. Samsung’s smart refrigerator, which was on display, allows consumers to control other home devices with their voice and a large touch screen.

Photo

Credit Roger Kisby for The New York Times

The Mercedes-Benz User Experience, known as MBUX, one of many vehicle systems showcasing connected car technology, was a crowd favorite. The in-vehicle system includes a touch screen and understands voice commands

Credit Roger Kisby for The New York Times

On Wednesday, the power went out for a large portion of the convention center for more than an hour. Many attendees mocked the irony of a giant electronics show lacking electricity.

Credit David Becker/Getty Images
Correction: January 11, 2018
An earlier version of this article misidentified one of the robots on display at the CES trade show. It is Loomo, which doubles as a hoverboard and a companion that can take photos, not Nimbo, a different robot that works as an intelligent security system that can be programmed to patrol specific routes.

Hot advice: take a vacation and an underwater selfie

My family and I went to Mexico last week, and it was great. Sunshine until 7PM is a miracle and does wonders for your seasonal depression. Anyway, my dad recently bought the water-resistant Samsung Galaxy S8, and given that I didn’t pay for it, I asked him if I could take it into the pool with me to try and take a selfie. He ended up coming with me in an attempt to capture unique moments. I’m absolutely a believer in water-resistant phones now, to the point that I don’t understand why Samsung, Apple, LG, Google, and Sony haven’t marketed their new phones as gadgets designed to take unique vacation photos.

I remember buying disposable cameras covered in plastic as a kid. Those were fun, but I had to wait to get photos developed with no immediate gratification. Now, our everyday phones do an even better job. Granted, they aren’t designed to go scuba diving with you, but you can at least get in a pool and dip them below the surface to take a photo. The iPhone X can handle being submerged in up to a meter (approximately three feet) of water, whereas you can take your Galaxy S8 five feet under the surface.

I’ll admit that it feels wrong to stick your extremely expensive phone in a pool. You have to trust in the company’s water-resistance guarantee. But if you take the plunge, you’ll at least get a cool Instagram out of it. In a resort with nothing to do but eat, sleep, and drink, taking a break to goof around with a smartphone camera is a more than acceptable way to pass the time.

Ashley Carman / The Verge

Now, I do have some tips if you’re going to attempt these underwater pics. For one, don’t rely on your touchscreen shutter button. I used the volume shutter trigger on the S8, just as you can do on an iPhone. Be patient, too, because slipping your phone beneath the water sometimes triggers different actions, like filters and settings. It might take a few tries to get your shot.

As you can probably tell, I’m not the most graceful under water, but I do suggest wearing sunglasses because then you can keep your eyes closed, although my yellow ones are transparent. (My brother’s photos in opaque sunglasses look much better than mine.) I also suggest blowing out some air, just to keep things interesting with bubbles. You have to prove you’re really in water, and that yes, your phone really is that cool.

Amazon’s Alexa is now on the HTC U11

The HTC U11 is the best phone the company has made in years. It’s stunning to look at, very well made, as fast as any other phone you can buy, and has a top-tier camera. Even its gimmicky “Edge Sense” feature doesn’t tarnish the U11’s shine.

But the U11 also has another trick up its sleeve: starting today, it’s the first smartphone with an integrated, hands-free Amazon Alexa assistant. Other phones and apps have let you access Alexa on the go already, but they required opening an app and pushing a button before issuing your voice command.

That’s not necessary with the U11. You can just say “Alexa” and Amazon’s popular assistant will spring to life, ready to hear your request. It’s the first phone that provides a similar hands-free Alexa experience to an Echo or Echo Dot in your home.

That might sound appealing, but as I’ve tested the U11’s Alexa assistant over the past week, the practical use of it doesn’t live up to its promises. In addition, with Alexa in the mix, the U11 now has two voice control assistants and three virtual assistants (the Google Assistant that comes with every Android phone, as well as HTC’s own assistant called Sense Companion) on this one phone. If you think that might lead to confusion as to which one is the right one to use at any given time, you’d be correct.

Further, while the U11 can mimic an Echo’s always-listening capabilities, it can’t do everything Amazon’s device can. It also can’t do everything that Google’s bot can do, and many of the things it can do are already well handled by the Google Assistant.

The U11’s Alexa integration is a good start — it mostly works as you’d expect it to — but it still needs some tuning to be great. Here’s what I’ve learned over the past week:

  • Saying Alexa will open the assistant, but it’s clumsy. The big differentiator for HTC’s Alexa is its ability to hear you say “Alexa” and wake up, ready to lend a hand. This works about as well as “OK Google” to launch Google’s Assistant, or “Hey Siri” on an iPhone (read: you’ll probably have to repeat the command half the time to get it to respond), but saying “Alexa” doesn’t unlock the phone. So if the U11 is sitting on a table and you say “Alexa,” it will hear you and its screen will wake up, but you’ll have to manually unlock the phone before you say the rest of your request. Google’s Assistant is able to authenticate my voice and provide answers or perform actions without ever requiring me to touch the phone, providing a true hands-free experience. If you have the U11 already unlocked, saying “Alexa” will open the app just as you’d expect. You can also launch the HTC Alexa app manually from the app tray.
  • Alexa can’t do a lot of the things I want an assistant on my phone for. It’s obvious to me that Alexa is still thought of by Amazon as an in-home assistant, not an on-the-go one. It can’t send text messages or place phone calls, it can’t open apps, and it can’t provide navigation to a destination. For all of these common smartphone things, you have to use Google’s Assistant, which does every single one of them well.
  • Alexa on the U11 can’t do everything Alexa on an Echo can do. The Alexa assistant on the U11 can play music from Amazon, add things to my Alexa shopping and to-do lists, play my flash briefing, tell a joke, provide weather information, control smart home gadgets, use third-party “skills,” add events to my calendar, give me sports scores, or answer a host of other questions. But it can’t play music from any other services (I tried Spotify, iHeartRadio, Pandora, and TuneIn, all of which are supported on the Echo), cannot call other Echo devices, cannot send Alexa messages, cannot set alarms, cannot set timers, and cannot set reminders.
  • Alexa doesn’t know it has a whole screen to use. Unlike the new Echo Show, Alexa on the U11 doesn’t take advantage of the fact that the U11 has a screen that can display information. All of the Alexa interactions are audio-based: you say a command and Alexa’s generic female voice will respond. The only visual cues are the app that pops up in the bottom of the screen that displays a blue, glowing ring whenever the U11 is listening or processing a command, along with a notification that provides suggestions on things to ask Alexa. It’d be a lot more useful if Alexa displayed information, such as the weather or my calendar appointments, on the U11’s very nice screen, instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. HTC says that it expects people to go to Amazon’s Alexa management app to view more information when they want, but I don’t think that should be necessary.
  • You can squeeze the phone to launch Alexa instead of using a voice command. If you want to combine the U11’s two unique features, you can: it’s possible to launch Alexa by squeezing the sides of the phone through the U11’s Edge Sense feature. It’s a more convenient way to launch the assistant if the phone is already in your hand and you don’t want to say “Alexa” a bunch of times in public.
  • Voice shopping works, but why? Amazon has long touted the Echo’s ability to let you shop by voice, so you can reorder batteries or paper towels with a simple command. The Alexa assistant on the U11 supports this, but I don’t know why you’d use it instead of the Amazon Android app, which provides a much easier way to browse and select items to buy.

If you’ve been wanting to have Alexa with you at all times, just a voice command away, the U11 is the best way to get that experience right now. I’m a big fan of Alexa inside my house. I bark commands at my Echo devices to turn on lights, add things to my shopping list, or wake me up in the morning all the time. On a phone, however, my needs are very different. When I’m out and about, I want to be able to send a quick message to my wife, set a reminder for later, or look up directions using my voice — not order paper towels. Until HTC and Amazon figure out a way to make Alexa more useful on the go, I’ll be sticking with Google Assistant.

The U11’s Alexa feature is available from the Google Play Store for devices in the US starting today and will come to the UK and Germany later this summer.

Samsung Gear Sport

For the past few years, the Apple Watch has dominated the fledgling smartwatch world. But while Google’s Android Wear platform has gone through fits and starts, Samsung has built an extensive wearable lineup running on its own platform with the Gear watches.

The latest is the new Gear Sport, a $299.99 smartwatch that works with both iOS and Android smartphones. The Gear Sport blends some of the features of last year’s bulky Gear S3, such as an upgraded display and interface, with a slightly smaller design that’s more reminiscent of 2015’s Gear S2. It’s also the first Gear watch that’s capable of swim tracking, and can withstand up to 50 meters of submersion. That makes it very similar to the Apple Watch Series 2, which introduced swim tracking itself last year.

As a whole, though, the Gear Sport doesn’t move the needle forward as much as I’d have hoped. Though it has a very intuitive interface, complete with a rotating bezel for navigation, many parts of the experience are still half-baked, whether that’s the pathetically anemic selection of apps or the hopelessly useless S Voice digital assistant.

As its name implies, the Gear Sport’s design and appearance are more appropriate for the gym or pool than the boardroom or a fine restaurant. Though it is smaller than the Gear S3, it is still a sizable watch, and sits larger on my wrist than I personally prefer while looking rather ridiculous on small wrists. The Sport is noticeably larger and less comfortable to wear than the Gear S2. The watch’s body is made of stainless steel and the rotating bezel and two side buttons have nice action.

The 1.2-inch, fully circular OLED touchscreen display is very good, with sharp resolution, vibrant colors, and easy visibility outdoors. It has a full-color always-on mode that I’m particularly fond of, which makes it easy to quickly glance at the watch to check the time.

On the underside of the watch is a heart rate sensor, making the Gear Sport capable of continuously monitoring your heart rate. But like any other wrist-worn heart rate monitor, the Sport isn’t going to be as accurate as a chest strap or other methods and should not be relied on for any clinical purposes.

The Gear Sport uses a standard 20mm watch strap with quick release pins, which makes it easy to swap out the strap on a whim. The included rubber strap is soft and comfortable on my skin, and it’s appropriate for the kinds of physical activity the Gear Sport was designed for.

Part of the reason the Gear Sport is slightly smaller than the Gear S3 is its lack of LTE connectivity. You can use the watch connected to your phone over Bluetooth or hook it up to a Wi-Fi network, but you lose all connectivity and many features if you leave home without your phone. The Gear Sport does have the ability to store music offline (there is 4GB of storage on the device), and you can even download Spotify playlists right to the watch for listening with Bluetooth headphones while running or working out. That’s one thing the Apple Watch, which currently only works with Apple Music, cannot do.

But outside of Spotify, the Gear Sport has an appalling lack of third-party apps. The Gear App Store, which you can browse with your phone, is filled with knock offs and poor copies of apps that you might find in other app stores. That means that if you don’t prefer Samsung’s own S Health for fitness tracking, or are looking to control smart home gadgets with your watch, the Gear Sport will likely let you down.

Samsung’s S Voice digital assistant will almost surely let you down, as well. It’s slow, lacks many of the features of Siri and Google Assistant, and basically doesn’t respond half the time. Voice control on other smartwatches is very useful for sending messages, setting reminders, or looking up basic information, but S Voice is best left unused.

Since it has Sport in its name, a lot of the Gear Sport’s watchfaces and features are designed for fitness tracking. As mentioned, it can now track swims, and it can automatically identify and track workouts. Like many other fitness trackers, the Gear Sport can count how many flights of stairs you’ve climbed, and you can manually start and stop workouts right on the watch. It also has GPS, so it can track your run or bike ride accurately.

All of that fitness data syncs to Samsung’s S Health app, which isn’t as popular or intuitive as other fitness apps. (Good luck finding any of your friends in the app to compete with.) You can sync the S Health data with a handful of other services, including Fitbit, Jawbone, Microsoft Health, Strava, and Runkeeper, but it won’t directly sync with Google Fit or Apple Health, which are probably already on your Android or iOS phone.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Gear Sport works best when it’s paired with a Samsung smartphone. I tested the device with another Android phone and had to download no less than six apps and background services to make it work. If you do have a Samsung phone, you likely already have a Samsung account, which is necessary for features such as S Health and Samsung Pay to function. But if you’re using a different device, be prepared to create yet another account when you pair up the Gear Sport.

If all you’re looking for from a smartwatch is to relay phone notifications to your wrist and count your steps, the Gear Sport does deliver, and it does that well no matter what phone you pair it to. It has reliable battery life that easily lasted me a full day every day I wore the watch, with a little to spare when I went to bed at night. The display is vibrant and enjoyable to look at, and the rotating bezel is just fun to use. The Gear’s interface is the easiest to use of any smartwatch.

But all of those things also apply to the two-year-old Gear S2, which makes the Gear Sport far less impressive at the end of 2017. Perhaps smartwatches have matured enough that we shouldn’t expect massive leaps every year (this can certainly be said about the Apple Watch’s functionality, which has had annual, incremental improvements, but few radical new use cases) as they focus on delivering notifications and fitness tracking. But that also means that this year’s Gear smartwatch isn’t a whole lot different than last year’s, and if you haven’t been convinced to get one yet, the Gear Sport won’t push you over the edge either.

 

Android Wear with an iPhone still can’t compete with the Apple Watch

I am the guy who wears smartwatches because I like having a few things easily accessible on my wrist: the time, my notifications, my steps, and the weather. But more than anything, a watch is a habit, one I’ve kept since I got an E.T. watch when I was six years old. It’s part of the “Wallet Keys Phone Watch” ritual which signals that I’m ready to face the day, but it’s also a fashion accessory.

It’s not high fashion, mind you, given the look of most smartwatches today, but fashion nonetheless. And so I want some choice in the look of the watch. I prefer round over square, not too big, with a brown leather band.

Enabling that choice for people who want it is the motivating theory behind Android Wear. And now there’s a new version of Android Wear, 2.0, that, among many other things, is designed to make using an Android Wear smartwatch with an iPhone less of a compromise. Get the watch you actually want without losing out on too much of what the Apple Watch can do.

It’s a nice theory — but in practice Google hasn’t lived up to that promise.

Android smartwatches have worked with the iPhone for a year and half now, but with extremely limited functionality. Those limitations come mainly from Apple policies: no access to iMessage replies and difficulties getting third-party apps and faces on the watch. So with Wear 2.0, Google has just gone ahead and stuck the Google Play Store right on the watch.

What that means is that after some initial setup with your phone, smartwatches running the newest software can be more independent — they can track your fitness, stream music from Google Play, download apps, and all the rest directly over Wi-Fi or LTE. Basically, where the iPhone put up roadblocks to features, Android Wear 2.0 just runs around them and does them on its own.

After spending a week using an LG Watch Style (the little one, not the giant LG Watch Sport) with an iPhone, I came away from the experience unimpressed. Yes, there are a few things that are possible now that weren’t before. You can directly install third-party watchfaces now, a big benefit over the Apple Watch. You can install little weather widgets and fitness apps. And thankfully, you can do so by visiting the Google Play Store from your laptop’s web browser rather than trying to scroll the tiny little watch screen. There aren’t a ton of apps available yet, but that’s hopefully something that will improve over time. You can query the Google Assistant, which is often more accurate and helpful than Siri.

But for everything that works, there are several things that really don’t. Some of it is because of those Apple policies: there’s simply no conceivable world in which Apple is going to allow third-party smartwatches to access iMessages beyond seeing incoming notifications arrive, for example. You can reply to messages from some other apps — but only those that have reply options properly built into their notification on the phone. Even then, you won’t get the sort of rich message history you can get elsewhere.

I could be comfortable with those limitations — but there are dozens of others, most of them self-inflicted. Connecting to a Wi-Fi network to download apps is too difficult because you have to manually enter it in on an iPhone (and it only works with older, 2.4GHz networks). The watch itself sometimes just kind of bugs out, so things will slow down and random things fail, like scrolling with the digital crown.

For me, the clearest example of Google not doing the necessary work is Calendars. You are able to get your calendar information synced to Android Wear; you have your choice of either using Google Calendar or Apple Calendar. But that’s where the hassle comes in. If you opt for Google Calendar, you’ll only see events from your Google accounts. If you opt for Apple Calendar, you will get all of them, birthdays and holidays and whatever else is included with no way to filter which ones sync to your watch.

This is a solvable problem: Pebble smartwatches (pour one out) let you select which calendars you want to sync. What it shows is that getting a third-party smartwatch to play nice with an iPhone is hard — but there are ways to do it that minimize those limitations. Android Wear 2.0’s whole purpose is to enact those workarounds, but it doesn’t go as far as it could.

But the biggest issue with Android Wear 2.0 on the iPhone is that the only two watches it’s available on are bad. The LG Watch Sport is way too big, the Style is small and underpowered. The battery life on the latter is downright atrocious if you enable the always-on ambient display. Using it, I got as little at 10 hours, slightly worse than what I get when the same watch is paired to an Android device. Turn it off and you will get a full day, but you’ll miss out on one of Android Wear’s best features.

If you’re interested in a smartwatch paired to an iPhone, there’s only one question: why should you get something besides the Apple Watch? For Android Wear, the answer is the same today as it was 18 months ago: if you want a round watch instead of a square one.

That’s kind of it. The new features, independent apps, and new watches don’t add up to anything particularly compelling. I will happily grant that Google is facing an uphill battle trying to get Android Wear working with what is essentially a hostile platform — iOS — one that’s not at all interested in making life easy for third-party smartwatches.

But those challenges are all the more reason for Google to show that it can make something that overcomes them. I prefer round watches, but not as much as I prefer having a smartwatch that doesn’t remind me of its profound limitations every time I get a notification.

Moto 360 Sport

When Motorola announced that it would be making a new sport watch, it was not unreasonable to think that it might be an improved version of something like the MotoActv, a 2011 release that won over a small but rabid fan base of workout enthusiasts. The MotoActv was described by one popular fitness-gadget blogger as a device that “completely and totally changed the face of sports watches,” with its “immense suite of features and functionality.”

But the $299 Moto 360 Sport is not an iteration on the MotoActv. The Moto 360 Sport is instead a sportier, GPS-equipped version of the standard Moto 360 smartwatch, with its round face, touchscreen display, wireless charging capabilities, and the promise of all-day notifications from your smartphone. The idea behind the sport watch is that it can offer an “untethered” workout experience (read: you don’t have to carry your phone with you), and is something that you could wear from your workout to work and it would look okay in either environment.

Unfortunately, as a sports watch, the Moto 360 Sport falls short. Right now you can only use the watch to track running, and that’s it. And the software experience is somewhat hamstrung by Android Wear, Google’s operating system for wearable devices.

Moto 360 Sport

Ultimately the watch gets squeezed into a “useful for a certain subset of people” category: it’s a nice sport watch for people with Android phones who love the look and functionality of the Moto 360 smartwatch but wish it had GPS, and also, who really like running.

For other people, the Moto 360 Sport will offer far fewer features than something like a Garmin or a Fitbit Surge. The Apple Watch has more health- and fitness-tracking options, though it’s limited to iPhone users. Even the Microsoft Band is a more formidable fitness tracker.

Can GPS, a sweat-proof band, and a reflective display make a sport watch?

So what’s actually new or different about the Moto 360 Sport? It has a black, white, or orange silicone band that’s sweat-proof and water-resistant. This silicone extends to the case of the watch, where it meets a metal bezel. The upside of this rubbery material is that it feels soft and comfortable on the wrist, even enough to sleep in (even though the watch is not a sleep tracker). The downside is that it collects an inordinate amount of lint, dust particles, pet hair, anything that happens to be around. You also can’t swap out the band the way you can with the regular Moto 360 smartwatch.

Moto 360 Sport

The sport watch’s display is one of its most interesting features. It’s a cross between your usual backlit smartwatch display and a front-lit reflective display, so that you can see the display even if you’re out running in sunlight. It’s covered in Gorilla Glass, so it’s durable.

It’s not the most gorgeous display I’ve ever seen on a smartwatch, but I could see it well outdoors. It also has some battery-saving properties, because of the way it switches to reflective display mode when you’re outdoors rather than using backlighting. The biggest annoyance with the display is how quickly it dims — about five seconds after you’ve hit the home button, which for some people isn’t enough time to see all that workout data.

The Moto 360 Sport continuously reads your heart rate from your wrist using optical sensors. And it has GPS for recording accurate distances — something that the Moto 360 smartwatch does not have. In fact, not many smartwatches do include GPS right now, with the exception of the Sony Smartwatch 3.

So, all of the components are there. But then there are the limitations.

Unlike many other smartwatches, the Moto 360 Sport works with both Android and iOS smartphones, because the Android Wear app now runs on both Android and iOS. But this is purely a technicality. To get any real fitness value out of the Moto 360 Sport, you need to be using it with an Android smartphone.

Moto 360 Sport

If you have an iPhone, you can still pair the phone to the watch,  receive notifications from your smartphone, and use the built-in Moto Body Running app on the watch. And you’ll still see your daily activity data on the sport-specific watch face. But the only way, currently, to see your workout data is to view it on the watch itself, with no options for sharing the data to iOS apps.

Let’s assume you have an Android smartphone. In general, Moto’s own apps offer the most optimal / least complicated experience with this watch. There’s the Moto Body app (also available on the non-sport smartwatch) that shows you a snapshot of your steps, calorie expenditure, heart rate, and more. The companion Moto Body app on Android gives a surprisingly granular view of your data, and with multi-colored check marks signaling whether you’ve met your goals in various categories.

Running watch,
not a sport watch

The Moto Body Running app is specific to the sport watch, and it’s really the main event. It’s what starts when you hit the shortcut “Start” button on the watch face, and it’s what shows you your total workout time, pace, lap time, heart rate, and heart rate zone during runs, all with a few easy swipes across the reflective display.

There are some options to run micro versions of third-party apps on the watch, like Strava, but they’re generally pretty limited on smartwatches, acting as little more than remote controls for stopping and starting activities. And through the Moto Body app on Android, you can opt to share data to Google Fit, Strava, UA Record, and Fitbit.

Moto 360 Sport

But — and you knew there was a but — right now the watch doesn’t track anything other than your overall daily activity, and indoor or outdoor running. Motorola says it will be able to do more in the future, but won’t give a timeline for when it might track things like indoor and outdoor cycling, or “other” workout sessions (like cardio machines, weight lifting, or yoga).

I found this to be the biggest downside of the watch in the week that I’ve been using it. Unless you’re a hardcore runner, there are just some days when you don’t feel like running, and would rather work out in another type of exercise. The watch will still calculate your caloric burn and track your steps throughout the day, but you can’t stop and start any other kind of activity aside from running.

Moto needs to roll out other fitness-tracking features

And then there’s still the issue of battery life, despite the battery-saving display. It’s a problem that plagues almost every smartwatch maker, so it’s not as though I had tremendously high expectations for battery life on the Moto 360 Sport. But you’re looking at about a day of battery life, and definitely less if you go on long outdoor runs using GPS.

The Moto 360 Sport in its current form it seems to be designed for a tiny sliver of people — if you have an Android phone and if you want GPS in your smartwatch and if you’re a runner. Could that change? It could, if Motorola is able to roll out more fitness-tracking capabilities, and soon. But considering that existing trackers already do so much more, it’s a tall order asking users to wait for that.

Samsung may fix the Chromebook Pro’s biggest problem with a backlit keyboard

For the most part, the Chromebook Pro has what you’d expect from premium Chromebook hardware. Samsung’s machine has a fantastic screen, high-end design, and it runs fast. But there’s one seemingly obvious feature missing from device: a backlit keyboard. It’s a strange omission, especially considering the Pro’s relatively high asking price, but it’s one that may be remedied in future iterations of the hardware. Chrome Unboxed has discovered details that point at the addition, though it’s unclear what form it might take. It may be added as part of a second run of the current hardware, or a feature included in a rumored beefed-up version of the Chromebook Pro. While it’s not official yet, the change would make the Pro a much more enticing option in the increasingly crowded Chromebook landscape.

Oppo F3 Price in India Slashed

Image result for Oppo F3

 

Oppo F3 price in India has been slashed. The smartphone, which was launched at Rs. 19,990, is now available in the country with a price tag of Rs. 16,990. Gadgets 360 has learnt that the new price is applicable starting Friday, and offline retailers have already provided with the update. However, listings on Amazon and Flipkart were not reflecting the price cut at the time of filing this story.

Oppo launched the Oppo F3 back in May with an original price of Rs. 19,990. But earlier this year, the Chinese company dropped its price to Rs. 18,990 silently alongside launching a Diwali Limited Edition variant. The smartphone is a cheaper variant of the Oppo F3 Plus that was debuted in March.

The Android 6.0 Marshmallow-based Oppo F3 (Review) runs ColorOS 3.0 and features a 5.5-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) In-Cell 2.5D curved display with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection. The smartphone is powered by a 1.5GHz MediaTek MT6750T6 octa-core processor, coupled with Mali-T860 GPU and 4GB of RAM. It sports 64GB of onboard storage that is expandable via a dedicated microSD card (up to 128GB) slot. There is a triple-slot tray that accepts two SIM cards and one microSD card. Further, the handset has a 13-megapixel camera sensor and LED flash and a dual-camera setup with one 16-megapixel 1.3-inch sensor with f/2.0 aperture lens and an 8-megapixel secondary sensor with 120-degree wide-angle lens.

Oppo has provided its proprietary Smart Facial Recognition feature on the Oppo F3 that automatically suggests which lens is ideal for taking self-portrait shots. Also, the smartphone has features such as the Beautify 4.0, Selfie Panorama, Screen Flash,and Palm Shutter.

The Oppo F3 packs a 3200mAh non-removable battery. In terms of connectivity, the smartphone has 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth v4.0, GPS/ A-GPS, 3.5mm audio jack, and Micro-USB. It measures at 153.3×75.3×7.3mm and weighs 153 grams.

Importantly, the latest price cut makes the Oppo F3 a strong contender against the Honor 7X and Moto G5S Plus that both are among the top-selling smartphones under Rs. 20,000 price bracket. The smartphone also gives a tough competition to the Asus ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro that was debuted at Rs. 23,999 in India to deliver an enhanced selfie-taking experience.

Xiaomi Mi 7 to Sport Face Unlock Technology, Ditch Fingerprint Sensor

Xiaomi Mi 7 to Sport Face Unlock Technology, Ditch Fingerprint Sensor: Report

 

Mi 7, the 2018 flagship Xiaomi smartphone, may become among the first Android handsets to ditch the fingerprint sensor entirely in favour of facial recognition. New reports say the fingerprint sensor in the upcoming Xiaomi Mi 7 will give way to face unlock technology, similar to Apple’s phasing out of the Touch ID sensor to make way for its new Face ID authentication system on the iPhone X. Like the current Apple flagship, the Mi 7 is expect to feature 3D face sensing technology to map the users’ faces to unlock the device. On the other hand, another report contradicts this, saying the fingerprint sensor will be embedded in the display.

As we mentioned, the upcoming Xiaomi Mi 7 might be the first smartphone to follow in Apple’s footsteps, incorporating facial recognition instead of the earlier fingerprint sensing technology. The report from MyDrivers suggests that Xiaomi not showing interest in the upcoming in-display fingerprint sensor is indicative of Xiaomi ditching the technology completely. Vivo and Huawei are rumoured to use it in their upcoming products.

However, another report by GizChina has renders that reveal an on-screen fingerprint scanner on the Mi 7. This ascertains that nothing is confirmed and we will need to wait for further updates to get a clearer picture.

A few smartphones, including the OnePlus 5, OnePlus 5T, and Honor View 10 have already showed up with facial recognition, with a lot more expected to have the feature in 2018. Unlike Apple’s iPhone X, all of these Android smartphones are expected to have both fingerprint sensors and 3D face sensors.

The upcoming Xiaomi Mi 7 is said to sport a 6-inch bezel-less 18:9 OLED display and a rear dual camera setup. This rumour, if true, will make the Mi 7 a significant upgrade from the 5.15-inch LCD display on Xiaomi Mi 6. Additionally, the Xiaomi Mi 7 might also be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC, and be launched in Q1 2018.