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Showing posts with label Android Authority. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Android Authority. Show all posts

Sunday, 25 June 2017

HTC needs more than great hardware to make a comeback

HTC has had a rough few years.

Back in the days of the HTC One, the company’s hardware was class-leading. No other manufacturer had made a phone quite like the HTC One, with a unibody aluminum design that looked just as great as it felt. The new Boomsound speakers blew away every hint of competition on the market, as no one had really seen dual speakers quite like this before. Though the company opted to iterate on this design for another three generations, other manufacturers began to catch up. Samsung moved from a plastic-y, cheap-feeling set of flagships to the all-glass unibody designs we see today. Even smaller brands like ZTE and Huawei started producing high-quality options at extremely competitive prices.

It’s no secret that HTC still produces incredibly interesting hardware. The Edge Sense feature present on the new HTC U11 may seem strange to some, but it is absolutely different than any hardware manufacturers have  put out in quite a long time. The company is working to step away from their all-metal unibody designs in order to differentiate themselves from the pack, but is interesting hardware enough to get customers to buy devices again?

 

While the industry was evolving to compete with HTC’s hardware, quite frankly, HTC hasn’t done much to improve its software. Many manufacturers have chosen to lean down their software offerings but still contribute great additions to Android, and HTC has joined them to cut down Android to a pretty extreme extent. In fact, HTC’s version of Android is pretty much as barebones as you can get on a non-Pixel or Nexus device. You may be fine with that, as quite a few of us have been asking manufacturers to slim down their customizations for a long time. But at a certain point, you need to ask – what makes these phones so exciting? HTC’s software trim happened almost four generations ago, and yet the UI has barely evolved ever since.

The gallery above shows screenshots from the HTC One M9, HTC 10, and HTC U11. Do you see what I’m getting at? Sure, there are a few differences here, but overall we’re getting an extremely similar look and feel here. Quoting our HTC U11 review:

Sense is still one of the cleanest takes on Android, but it is starting to feel a little dated and in need of a refresh. The U11 was a perfect opportunity for HTC to do that, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.

So what exactly does HTC need to do to make a comeback? The company’s hardware is definitely innovative, but it doesn’t excite people like it used to during the metal unibody days. Edge Sense is pretty innovative, but is is enough to attract customers that have moved on to adopt offerings from Samsung and others? There is so much amazing competition on the market these days, it’s becoming quite difficult for HTC to climb their way back to the top.

Price is a huge factor that HTC is going to need to consider moving forward. The company wants to be seen as a premium brand and prices their devices that way, but the public no longer considers them in that vein. Especially when you make anti-consumer moves such as getting rid of the headphone jack simply to follow the trend of the industry, your customers are not going to want to purchase your devices. When phones like the Samsung Galaxy S8 are cheaper than HTC’s flagship, that is going to be a strong point for customers to consider. Why would you buy a phone with less features when your largest competitor comes in cheaper?

And the competition isn’t only coming from Samsung. Companies like OnePlus are hitting the industry hard with more value-oriented options that continue to impress us. Heck, even HTC is competing with HTC. Now priced at $499 and even cheaper on sale, the HTC 10 continues to be a solid option which could be seen as higher quality and a better option than the U11 on many fronts.

See also:

HTC 10 revisited: one year later

May 10, 2017

HTC may need to take the value-oriented approach to move their way back to the top

HTC may need to take the value-oriented approach to move their way back to the top. Some might argue that it shouldn’t do that as it might tarnish its reputation, but offering a competitively-priced device with top-of-the-line specs could vastly improve sales. Sure, this would reduce revenue, but at least it would move more phones. Have you seen anyone out in the wild with an HTC 10, U Ultra, or U11? Probably not. Customers need a better reason to purchase these phones over offerings from Samsung and others, and pricing could be a great way to do that.

Last but not least, the company needs to make sure it can keep these things in carrier stores. The HTC 10 was and still is a fantastic device, but whatever spat they had with AT&T absolutely destroyed the sales of the device. Reviews were very solid on release, and the body was very reminiscent of original HTC One M7. Heck, the thing even had a DAC that many audiophiles acclaimed as one of the best ever included in a smartphone. I’m not sure what happened between AT&T and HTC that caused this thing to be unavailable from the carrier, but not offering a device on the 2nd largest carrier in the world is not good for sales.

The company hasn’t offered a flagship directly from AT&T since then, so it’s going to be more difficult for customers to actually purchase these devices. As much as the industry is starting to move towards buying devices outright, carrier subsidization is still alive and well. Most customers still buy their phones from physical stores, and HTC is going to have a hard time making their way back to the top if they can’t get these devices into consumer’s hands.

What do you think HTC needs to do to make a comeback? Would better pricing be enough? Does it need to rethink its software? Let us know your thoughts. We’d love to see the company come back into the limelight.



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Dual camera optical zoom technology explained

Dual camera smartphone technology certainly isn’t new anymore, but we are seeing a new trend emerge whereby manufacturers are offering “optical zoom” capabilities inside their smartphones. Two notable models touting this feature are Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus and the new OnePlus 5. If you’ve been wondering exactly how this technology works and it these phones really offer optical zoom capabilities, then you’ve come to the right article.

The smartphone zoom problem

Before delving into the specifics of how this works, it’s probably best to recap why manufacturers have felt the need to offer optical zoom capabilities inside a smartphone. Unlike DSLR lenses with variable focal length lenses or point-and-shoot cameras with zoom lenses, smartphone cameras are stuck with small, fixed lenses. This means that a smartphone camera’s focal length is fixed, leaving no option but to rely on digital zoom to close in on details in an image.

However, digital zoom isn’t much good for more than minor zoom-ins, as we are stuck with a limited resolution and set field of view for near and far details, meaning that a pixel can only capture so much detail at a distance. This limitation is why images appear pixelated as you zoom in, and it’s exactly the same as simply magnifying the image in a gallery app post shutter.

Variable lenses, such as those found in DSLR setups, allow for an adjustable focal length and therefore field of view too. A longer focal length narrows the camera’s field of view, but this means that the same limited resolution image sensor captures its detail over a smaller area, so each pixel represents a finer point in space. So optical zoom doesn’t suffer from the same pixelation problems as digital zoom.

When it comes to measuring a camera or lens zoom, we need a reference or starting point for the camera or lens we’re talking about. To find any zoom level we divide the current focal length by the minimum available. So moving from 25 mm to 50 mm is equal to a 2x zoom, as is moving from 18 mm to 36 mm. Zoom is a relative term, but it has a direct relationship between two focal lengths.

Panasonic

Dual lenses offer a hybrid solution

When it comes to dual camera smartphones with a “telephoto” lens, we’re actually looking at two sensors, each with a lens pairing that offers up a still set but different focal length. For example, one may offer a 24 mm focal length and the other 36 mm, giving us 1.5x worth of optical zoom potential. The sensor sizes, pixel sizes, and lens aperture may also vary between sensors, which of course will have their own influences on image quality from each camera.

Optical zoom smartphones don't have a variable focal length, instead the two cameras have their own fixed focal length (zoom level).

Looking at the iPhone 7 Plus, Apple has opted for one 28 mm and one 56 mm lens, offering up a 2x optical zoom potential. This means that we can capture close up shots with a 28 mm 1x zoom, and then simply switch to the 56 mm 2x zoom lens and capture pictures with at greater distances without any loss in detail.

Not only that, but this second camera also improves the image quality of 4x and higher zoom levels too. Because we’re starting at full resolution at 2x (rather than already halving it as we would be if we digitally zoomed in from 1x), we only lose half the information where we’d normally be losing three quarters of it at 4x. In other words, we shouldn’t reach that horribly pixelated look so quickly as we have more resolution for distant details.

See also:

OnePlus 5 vs iPhone 7 Plus vs Huawei P10: The Portrait Battle

4 days ago

It’s a similar state of affairs with the OnePlus 5, which offers up 1.6x optical zoom capabilities on the second lens before cropping down a 20 MP image to achieve a 2x zoom, and then relying on digital thereafter. OnePlus says that this is part of its Smart Capture software that takes the best information from multiple frames and stitches them together, which clearly isn’t optimal but it’s an intriguing hybrid approach. Even though the camera is throwing away some data to achieve a 2x zoom, the quality should still be improved over the old digital zoom method.

As well as offering up more detail at a distance, these dual camera setups also allow for advanced HDR processing that we’ve seen from other multi camera configurations. Even if the exact image details aren’t being shared with the final image, additional light and dark data can be used to bolster dynamic range processing, improving the look of the final image regardless of zoom level.

The results aren’t perfect

You may have realized that this still isn’t a perfect solution though. We need digital zoom if we want to venture beyond the maximum focal length, but what happens when we want to use a midway zoom level, such as 1.2, 1.3, or 1.5x?

The obvious solution is to simply rely on a digital zoom for these minor levels, as the degradation in quality won’t be too notable in most circumstances. Eventually, it will be possible to switch over to the second camera’s fixed optical zoom level, but this has the downsides of meaning that the zoom levels just below the switch will offer the worst quality.

It appears that dual camera setups are using powerful ISPs to judge which camera will give the best results in any given situation. So digital zoom is being used for shots in between the two cameras' fixed focal lengths

So for example, 1.1x through 1.6x could be a digital zoom, then switching over to the second camera at 1.7x. This may explain why we’ve seen companies only opt for modest zoom distances, as the system is still reliant on digital zoom and too large a gap between lenses would produce a notable dip in quality.

See also:

How smartphone cameras work – Gary explains

May 8, 2017

To make this method a little smarter, the exact point of switchover doesn’t have to be set in stone. An image signal processor (ISP) could monitor the noise level of each camera and decide to make the switch to the secondary camera only if it will produce better results. We believe that both the iPhone 7 Plus and OnePlus 5 are using a system similar to this.

OnePlus’ Smart Capture method of combining data from multiple higher resolution images takes this one step further. By using multiple frames worth of higher resolution data, noise can be averaged out when zooming to those in between values like 1.2 or 1.8x. Although technically this can be done with just a single lens camera.

Simple camera switching isn’t really ideal though, and is clearly nowhere near matching the zoom capabilities insinuated by “optical zoom” advertising taglines. A possible solution is to turn to some more powerful image analysis algorithms in order to stitch up a picture from both cameras. Unfortunately this still has drawbacks compared with real optical zoom lenses though, as averaging and stitching is seldom as good as the real thing.

Today’s’ high-end ISPs are capable of merging together data from cameras with different focal lengths. This is already done for advanced HDR techniques and is taken a step further by ideas light the multi-lens Light L16 camera. This type of technique can take high frequency detail from the higher zoom lense and crop and stitch this information into the center of the picture that’s more zoomed out. So at 1.5x, the center on the image will contain extra detail, while the edges will be digitally zoomed in from the 1x standard lens. It wouldn’t be perfect, but your subject matter will look sharper and retain some extra detail when compared with single sensor smartphone cameras.

While this sounds simple enough in theory, such an algorithm would be highly processor intensive and would mean much longer times between clicking the shutter and viewing the final image, which is clearly no good for fast action shots or burst modes.

Furthermore, this type of processing would be further complicated by the different sensor pixel sizes and apertures between the dual cameras, which will alter the light capture characteristics. If the zoom camera isn’t capturing enough light, as it typically has smaller pixels, then it will suffer from more noise and would make image stitching a pointless task.

The inclusion of dual cameras is no guarantee of superior quality or better zoom results. This depends heavily on other camera specifications and the particular shot.

Based on the results we’ve seen so far, it’s unlikely that any smartphone OEM has achieved this level of complexity yet. The closest disclosed technology to this would probably be Huawei’s “Hybrid Zoom”, which takes fine detail data from the 20 MP camera and colors it using RGB data from the 12 MP sensor, allowing for superior 2x digital zoom.

In summary, making the most of dual camera potential is much more complicated than it first seems, and it requires a variety of sophisticated processing techniques… not to mention that the results are going to be heavily dependent on the shooting environment.

Wrapping up

Although dual camera technology represents a notable step forward for smartphone photography, we should be aware that there are some major caveats right now. The first being that even dual cameras are still limited to fixed focal lengths and are therefore incapable of offering up the true range of optical zoom capabilities that the marketing might lead us to believe.

That being said, there are notable benefits to this technology over a traditional digital zoom, including superior quality zoom at long distances. You also get the option to enable superior post processing effects, including digital bokeh and advanced HDR. And let’s not forget the creative freedom that these configurations offer photography enthusiasts.

See also:

OnePlus 5 vs Galaxy S8, HTC U11, XZ Premium, Pixel XL, LG G6: What’s the best Android camera?

5 days ago

This technology is still in its infancy, and we’ll no doubt see notable improvements to camera quality and zoom functionality after second-gen products hit the market. Do you highly rate dual camera technologies, or are you happy with your existing single sensor setup?



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Must read: top 10 Android stories

What a crazy week it’s been! The OnePlus 5 launched on Tuesday (in case you missed it), and you can find all the details on specs and pricing right here. We also got the chance to go hands-on with the Moto E4, told you our thoughts on Nokia’s 3310, and much, much more. Here’s the news of the week!

Hey! Pssst! We have tons more OnePlus 5 videos, comparisons, and features for you to check out. You can find it all right here.

Who wants to win a OnePlus 5?

The OnePlus 5 is sleek, fast, and sports an all-new dual-camera setup. Here’s how you can win one!

10 Android stories we handpicked for you

OnePlus 5 review OnePlus is back once again, this time with the new OnePlus 5. Does the “Never Settle” promise live on? We find out in this full review.


Camera shootout: OnePlus 5 vs Galaxy S8, HTC U11, XZ Premium, Pixel XL, LG G6 In this blind camera test, you choose the winner. What’s the best Android camera on the market right now?


Moto E4 hands-on: $70, really? We go hands on with the Moto E4 from Verizon. Considering how cheap this phone is, it’s amazing what $70 will buy these days.


Android O: How is this not Hiroshi Lockheimer messing with us again? Hiroshi Lockheimer is back at it on Twitter. He asked for a vote between three sweet treats: Peanut M&Ms, Milk Chocolate M&Ms, and…Orangina? Android O!


Meet the LG G6 Plus: 6 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage, and new colors LG has just launched a beefed-up new version of the G6. Dubbed LG G6 Plus (officially styled “LG G6+”), the phone offers more RAM and additional storage space.


What is the Nordic Thingy:52? The Nordic Thingy:52 is a BLE enabled microcontroller development platform for hobbyist and professionals to learn, prototype and develop IoT solutions.


LG’s extended warranty is a good first step towards restoring trust LG is offering US customers a longer 24-month warranty with the new LG G6, but could the company be doing more to restore trust?


A week with the Nokia 3310 reminds me how far smartphones have come My experience with the Nokia 3310 has been a frustrating one so far, and for good reason.


What is the problem with IoT security? The Internet of Things has been in the news recently following the DDOS attack on Dyn. It highlighted the real security problems with IoT. But what is the problem? Let me explain.


What LG needs to do to make the V30 a success We offer our opinions on what LG will need to do to make its next flagship phone, the V30, a success.


Don’t miss these videos

Watch more Android videos on our YouTube channel.

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Saturday, 24 June 2017

OnePlus 5 International Giveaway!

Welcome to the Sunday Giveaway, the place where we giveaway a new Android phone each and every Sunday!

A big congratulations to last week’s winner of the Google Pixel International Giveaway: Nhkomaiha. (Lebanon).

This week we are giving away a brand new OnePlus 5 courtesy of CaliCase Waterproof Floating Pouches.

Protect your phone this summer with the CaliCase Waterproof floating pouch. Take your phone up to 100 feet underwater thanks to it’s IPX 8 certified waterproof rating. Available in 15 stylish colors including the special edition American Flag edition which is perfect for the upcoming July 4 weekend.

Get $5 off a CaliCase only at CaliCase.com with coupon code: CCSUMMER5

The OnePlus 5 was officially unveiled this week, take a look at our OnePlus 5 review and other top content:

Enter giveaway

OnePlus 5 International Giveaway!

More giveaways

Winners gallery

Terms & Conditions
  • The giveaway is an international giveaway (Except when we can not ship to your Country.)
  • If we can not ship to your country, you will be compensated with an online gift card of equal MSRP value to the prize.
  • We are not responsible for lost shipments.
  • We are not responsible if your giveaway prize malfunctions.
  • You must be age of majority in your Country of residence.
  • We are not responsible for any duties or import fees that you may incur.
  • Only 1 entry per person, do not enter multiple email addresses. We will verify all winners and if we detect multiple email addresses by the same person you will not be eligible to win.
  • We reserve all rights to make any changes to this giveaway.
  • This giveaway is operated by AndroidAuthority.
  • The prize will ship when it is available to purchase.


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10 best Philips Hue apps for Android

featured image - best Philips Hue apps for Android
Philips Hue was one of the first truly mainstream smart lights. You can find them in a variety of styles, including bulbs and light strips. There are competitors in the space that may or may not do a better job. That’s usually up to personal interpretation. As it turns out, there are plenty of options when it comes to Philips Hue apps. Philips has left their stuff open for third party developers to play with. Here are the best Philips Hue apps for Android! Note, some of these also come with support for Lifx lights as well, one of Philips Hue’s larger competitors.


AutoHue (Tasker Plug-in)

Price: $1.29
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Task can do basically everything. It can also control your Philips Hue lights with this plug-in. Tasker has a bit of a learning curve. That means this isn't the best option for those who need something simple and easy. However, the customization is top notch. You can control brightness, color, blinks of various lengths, color loops, and custom JSON scripts. You'll have to learn how to use Tasker. However, it otherwise works very well. It's definitely one of the better Philips Hue apps.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY

Hue Disco

Price: $3.99
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Hue Disco is one of the better Philips Hue apps for parties. It taps into Hue's ability to change depending on sound. You just play loud music with the app running. The lights will then change color, get dimmer, or get brighter. It'll all depend on the music you're listening to. There are a variety of features and customization options. It'll even let you know if your music has hit the threshold of your lighting set up and can't go any further. You will need a Philips Hue Controller in order to make this app work.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY

hueManic

Price: Free / $2.99
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
hueManis is one of many Philips Hue apps that makes your lights more dynamic. By that, we mean that it'll change the colors more frequently. It has about a dozen scenes that you can use. The colors will change and keep pace with things like music, your mood, etc. It works really well on its own. However, there are some additional features for the super tech savvy like ADB commands. You can try this one for free if you'd like. The full version costs $2.99.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY

Hue Pro

Price: $1.99
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Hue Pro is one of the better basic Philips Hue apps. It comes with a lot of the same features as the stock app. That includes lighting presets, dimming and brightness toggles, a widget, music integration, and more. You can even control your lights away from home once you set it up right. Unlike most, the developers have a list of devices that they used to test this app. It should still work on devices that aren't on the list. However, it'll almost certainly work better on the apps that do. There's no free version of this one. You'll have to buy it and test it inside of the refund time to make sure you like it.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Hue Pro

Hue Switcher

Price: Free / $3.99
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Hue Switcher is another one of the replacement Philips Hue apps for the stock app. It has one of the most robust sets of features of any app on the list. It features over 40 lava-lamp style changing scenes. You can also control the lights through your phone. That includes color, brightness, and the usual on/off. It also has support for the Hue Tap, Dimmer Switch, and Motion Sensor products. It should work for pretty much whatever you need it to work for. You can download this one and try it for free. The pro version will run you $3.99.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Lumio (for Philips Hue)

Price: Free with in-app purchases
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Lumio is one of the newer Philips Hue apps for Android. It is also one of the simpler options. You can do the basic stuff. That includes turning the lights on and off, changing the color, and changing the brightness. It also boasts the ability to change the color with fewer taps than the stock app. It doesn't compete with the other Philips Hue apps in terms of features. At least, it doesn't yet. However, the interface is really nice and it does the basics pretty well. It may be a bit buggy, though.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Lumio (for Philips Hue)

MediaVibe

Price: Up to $2.99
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
MediaVibe is a developer on Google Play. They have released several decent Philips Hue apps. Their apps include Philips Hue profiles for a variety of events. They have one for Halloween, one for fireworks, and even Christmas. They also have unique ones like an app with profiles for the World Cup or Twister (the game). Each app is a little bit different. However, they all perform more or less the same function. They load in color profiles that match the event in their name. The prices vary, but none of them are more expensive than $2.99.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
MediaVibe

OnSwitch

Price: Free / Up to $9.99
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
OnSwitch is one of the more interesting Philips Hue apps. That's because it also comes with direct support for LIFX lights as well. Most of the features work for both sets of smart lights. That includes 30 light scenes, the ability to manage groups of bulbs, and the ability to control independent bulbs. It doesn't really have any more features than the stock app for those lights. However, this is still a great option for people who happened to have both types of bulbs and want one app to at least mostly control all of them. You can download it for free to see if it works. The pro version will cost money.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
OnSwitch

Philips Hue app

Price: Free
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
The official Philips Hue app really isn't as bad as its horrible Google Play rating would indicate. A lot of people use the Google Play Store to complain about all kinds of Philips Hue issues. Thus, a lot of the criticism isn't with the app, but issues with the entire product line whenever they have an issue with something. In any case, the app is actually pretty decent. It can do the basics like change colors, scenes, and brightness. They also have a very basic, but functional automation system to do things like change scenes or turn the lights on/off at a certain time. It also has support for Philips Hue accessories. It's not perfect and it is fairly clunky. We're not saying it's a five star app. However, it is better than its current 2.9 rating would suggest.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Philips Hue app

Scott Dodson apps

Price: Up to $2.99
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Scott Dodson is a developer on Google Play. His works are similar to MediaVibe. He has released several Philips Hue apps that have specific themes. Some of the themes include Firestorm, Thunderstorm, and Soundstorm. They work in a fun manner. For the Thunderstorm version, it'll emulate a thunderstorm by having bright flashes of light to simulate lightning. These apps also come with various customizations, settings, and even sound options. They're fun for what they are. The apps are around $2.99. There are also LIFX versions of these apps if you have those.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY

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15 Best eBook reader apps for Android

June 1, 2016

If we missed any great Philips Hue apps, tell us about them in the comments! You can also click here to check out our latest app and game lists!



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