- The Mobiles Blog

May 22, 2018

Know Your Mobile Blog

Hey Siri, Here’s How Apple Can Make You A LOT Better In 2018

Michael Grothaus 22/05/2018 - 3:01pm

The voice assistant is expected to get a big iOS 12 update.

Siri is the iPhone’s, Apple TV’s, and Mac’s digital assistant. While one of the first modern-day digital assistants available, Siri has long fallen behind other digital assistants including the likes of Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa.

The good news is Siri might be set to get a big overhaul in iOS 12, which may first be previewed in just a few weeks at WWDC in June. Ironically, we know this thanks to Siri herself.

Several people have discovered that if you ask Siri to tell you about WWDC, she’ll now reply with several revealing answers including:

  • "I don't want to brag, but I'm getting a lot smarter. t must be all that late night studying I've been doing.”
  • "La, la, la, Siri is getting a brand new voice.”
  • "I'm gonna have a shiny new home. Well, not really shiny, more meshy and matte.”

The last tip no doubt refers to a new, most likely cheaper, version of the HomePod. But it’s the first two responses that should have Siri fans really excited: Siri may be getting better sounding AND much smarter.

But what else can Apple do to make Siri better? Here are our tips:

Detect Multiple Voices

When Siri was only on the iPhone it didn’t really matter that Siri couldn’t detect multiple voices. But now that Siri has made the jump to the HomePod–a device that is likely used by many people in the same house–it would be nice if the assistant could distinguish between who is speaking.

This would allow Siri to send messages from specific accounts or access the music libraries of different people in the house.

Celebrity Voices

While we want Siri to be able to detect multiple voices–and we’re happy she’s getting new voices herself–we’d love to see the option to have celebrity voices on Siri. Think Paul Bettany's voice ala JARVIS from Iron Man. Or Yoda…

Support For Deep Contextual Conversations

Right now Siri pretty much can only follow one explicit command at a time. Other digital assistants are moving into contextual conversations, however. This is where the assistant can follow a series of spoken commands and link them together to distinguish what you want.

For example, it would be great if you could say things like “Siri, turn on my living room lights. Wait, never mind. I mean, turn on my office lights and then order me my favorite pizza from Dominos and play my favorites playlist.”

Right now, Siri would just think you were speaking gibberish if you attempted to communicate with her using the phrase above.”

Workflow Support

Apple recently acquired the popular Workflow app, which allows users to create workflows similar to the way Alexa can handle skills. Right now Siri doesn’t have any kind of general workflow handling (which would be great, for example, for smart home control). So here’s hoping Apple is going to integrate Workflow directly into Siri.

Give Siri More Control Of Your Devices

Finally, we’d also love for Apple to give more control over our devices to Siri. How great would it be to say from across the room, “Hey Siri, lock my Mac.” Or “Shut down my Mac.” Or how about “Hey Siri, enable Bluetooth.” Or, “Siri, begin recording this conversation”.

Such commands would make Siri AMAZING. Please Siri, make it so.

by michaelg at May 22, 2018 01:46 PM

May 17, 2018

Know Your Mobile Blog

Best Nokia 8 Deals: The #1 Contract Deal For UK Punters (Updated: May)

Richard Goodwin 21/05/2018 - 11:45am

This is just about the best Nokia 8 deal you can get right now in the UK. It’s cheap AND there’s no upfront cost

Best Nokia 8 Deals

If you like stock Android and classic design, the Nokia 8 is hard to beat.

The handset is now widely available in the UK and it packs in a raft of innovative technology and specs.

Nokia was out the game for a good long while, but it is BACK now with gusto, boasting a solid array of handsets across a variety of price points.

Unlike the current crop of Android flagships, the Nokia 8 does not cost £1000; no, this phone is priced very competitively.

Even when compared to the likes of Honor and OnePlus phones.

And you get A LOT of bang for your buck. Especially with this Nokia 8 deal which nets you the handset for ZERO upfront.

If you’re in the UK and looking at picking up a Nokia 8, you need to check this deal out:

Nokia 8 (EE) | £22 Per Month | No Upfront Cost | 4GB Data | 24 Month | Unlimited Texts | Unlimited Calls | Free Next Day Delivery

Why Is This a Good Deal?

Best Nokia 8 Deals

Simple: it’s cheap.

Yes, the data isn’t great – but that’s basically what you pay for these days.

Bottomline: you’re getting a decent phone with great specs and features, as well as a very good camera, for no cost upfront and a monthly outlay of £22.

Not too shabby, even more so when you consider you’d pay triple that for Apple’s iPhone X.

You also get unlimited calls and texts, which, again, is pretty solid.

Nokia 8 Specs

Here’s a quick breakdown of the Nokia 8’s key specs and features:

Best Nokia 8 Deals
  • Snapdragon™ 835 CPU
  • Nokia OZO spatial 360° audio
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 64 GB Storage 
  • 256GB MicroSD Card Support 
  • 13 MP front and rear cameras with ZEISS optics
  • 5.3” 2K Display

SIM-free, the Nokia 8 retails for around £296.99 – so for £22 a month, this deal is pretty darn sweet if you can’t stomach that much cash outright.

I know I couldn’t!

It also runs stock Android and will get Android updates in a timely fashion.

Nokia has been one of the best Android phone makers in this regard since its return to the space.

Best Nokia 8 Deals

Beyond this, the Nokia 8 is a handsome piece of kit that packs in plenty of power and a truly brilliant camera.

If you fancy something different, maybe it’s time you went back to the phone brand that started it all!

Here’s that deal again:

Nokia 8 (EE) | £22 Per Month | No Upfront Cost | 4GB Data | 24 Month | Unlimited Texts | Unlimited Calls | Free Next Day Delivery

by rgoodwin at May 17, 2018 01:59 PM

3 Ways To Stop Advertisers From Tracking Your iPhone

Michael Grothaus 21/05/2018 - 9:36am

iOS 11 features built-in privacy protections against ads.

You don’t think of an advertising company when you think of Apple, but the fact is, part of Apple’s business is selling ads. It does this through its iAds program and it sells these ads to customers who want to advertise inside of iOS apps.

iAds are a great and easy way for developers to make profits from their games without having to sell the ads themselves. Instead, developers just opt to place iAds in their games or apps and Apple takes care of the rest–matching advertisers with developers.

And though Apple doesn’t retain near as much information about you as Google–on of the biggest ad service providers on the planet, Apple does retain information about you it can use to sell targets ads to advertisers.

This information includes things like your location data, your installed apps and game, how often you use a particular app or game, what movies, TV shows, podcasts, or books you’ve watched, listed to, or read through Apple’s iTunes and iBookstore.

This information about you is then grouped with other similar iPhone users and sold to advertisers who target their ads to your demographics. Of course, all this information about you is anonymized–advertisers don’t know your name and can’t identify you personally.

Still, people have become leery of just how much data the big tech giants–and their advertisers–have about them. If you want to limit the ability for advertisers to track you on your iPhone, Apple, thankfully, has made that easy. Just follow these steps:

Block Websites And Advertisers From Tracking You In iOS’s Safari

iOS’s Safari, like any web browser, is capable of giving information about you to advertisers–whether they use iAds or other advertising solutions on the websites you view. But blocking advertisers from getting info about you is easy in iOS 11.

1. Tap the Settings app and then tap Safari.

2. On the next screen, scroll down until you see the “Privacy & Security” heading. Toggle the “Prevent Cross-site Tracking” option to ON. This will stop websites and advertisers from tracking you around the web.

Limit iAd Tracking

If you want to limit iAd tracking inside of apps and games, follow these steps.

1. Tap the Settings app and then tap Privacy.

2. On the Privacy screen, scroll to the bottom and tap Advertising.

3. Make sure Limit Ad Tracking is enabled.

4. You can also tap “Reset Advertising Identifier” to clear your tracking data from your personal advertising identifier.

Limit Location-Based Ad Tracking

You can also limit the ability for Apple to serve you iAds based on your current location. To do this:

1. Tap the Settings app and then tap Privacy.

2. Tap Location Services.

3. Scroll down and tap System Services.

4. Find where it says “Location-Based Apple Ads” and toggle that switch to OFF.

by michaelg at May 17, 2018 01:18 PM

May 16, 2018

Know Your Mobile Blog

OnePlus 6 Review (Hands On): Well, Hello.... You Sexy Thang!

Paul Briden 17/05/2018 - 10:28am

The OnePlus 6 is OFFICIAL. And Paul managed to snag a hands on with the new phone which puts the iPhone X firmly in its sights

After months and months of waiting, the OnePlus 6 is now official. And it was definitely worth the wait.

The handset, which is dramatically different to what came before, features key updates almost everywhere you look – the design, the display, the specs, the camera unit.

The OnePlus 6 costs more. But when you see it and hold it, you will know why. My initial reaction upon seeing it was, “Oooooooooo”. A couple of days later, it still has the same effect.

This phone is a MASSIVE deal. In every regard. OnePlus knows this, which is why the launch was so big.

It’s time the company joined Apple and Samsung at the top of the market, and this could well be the phone that makes that happen.

Read on for more details. My review will be coming next week.

OnePlus 6 Design & Display

A defining feature of the OnePlus 6 is the display, which much of the design is built around.

The screen is a 6.28in AMOLED with a 19:9 aspect ratio and a 2280 x 1080p resolution at 402ppi.

It’s a gorgeous screen to behold, with all the plus points of AMOLED including robust, punchy colour, pinpoint sharpness, strong black depth and contrast, clear white hues and plenty of brightness.

It’s also massive, but the footprint of the bodywork is the same as the OnePlus 5T.

The expanded screen real-estate pushes the bezels out further than the OnePlus 5T, particularly at top and bottom, and this is where we get one of the major design changes on the front fascia - the notch.

OnePlus’ apparent ethos on the notch appears to echo my own, which is that I don’t really care for the naysayers and accusations of Apple mimicry.

To me it’s a bit like complaining that most cars use the same style of brakes - it works, it’s the most direct solution, so of course they do. Who cares?

Apparently, some OnePlus fans do, which is why OnePlus has now added a software feature to change the UI and disguise the notch if you’d prefer - similar to what LG’s doing with the LG G7 ThinQ.

So you have options. Options are good; the more the merrier.

That way everyone can have their cake and eat it.

This goes as far as the colour and finish choices as well; there are three colour options for the OnePlus 6, though one will be released slightly later and will be a Limited Edition run - meaning once it is gone, that’s it.

The first two are Mirror Black and Midnight Black.

Why two versions of black? Because, sensibly in my view, OnePlus is catering to fans of both high-gloss and matte finishes.

Yes, this won’t be like the HTC U11 where our only options are insanely reflective, fingerprint-loving, mirror-shine gloss.

All of the OnePlus variants use an all-glass construction (aside from the metal bit holding front and back together, of course) with Corning Gorilla Glass for both the front and back - a first for OnePlus.

While the Mirror Black is shiny-shiny, the matte Midnight Black has actually been treated to perforated layers of glass which give it a slightly patterned sheen while still retaining an overall matte look (you can’t see the perforations).

The Limited Edition model is dubbed Silk White - this is also a matte finish similar to the Midnight Black, but incorporates a layer of crushed pearls to give a slight sheen to everything.

Utterly decadent, so of course I approve.

This model also features coppery or rose gold metal trim.

The colour option also does have some bearing on certain specs, as OnePlus is only making certain RAM and storage variants in certain colours.

The Silk White Limited Edition will only come with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, while the Mirror Black will be available with either 6GB RAM and 64GB of storage, or 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage.

The Midnight Black will come with 8GB of RAM and be available with either 128GB of storage of 256GB - this is the first time OnePlus has offered such a large onboard capacity.

Another feature of the design is water resistance.

OnePlus reps told us that the handset doesn’t have an IP water resistance rating, with the firm instead offering its own solutions to the problems that arise from the wet stuff.

The casing has several internal components sealed off by a combination of water resistant foam and silicone seals.

It’ll manage just fine in the rain, but OnePlus advises that if you drop it in water, provided you take it out straight away and put it somewhere warm it should be fine, but it’s not guaranteed the way an IP certification is in terms of immersion time and depth.

OnePlus 6 Specs & Features

Prior to launch, OnePlus was already teasing its big slogan for the OnePlus 6 - “the speed you need”.

The emphasis here is that OnePlus has massively focused in on offering a slick, flawless user experience.

The firm doesn’t want users to experience any lag or frustration, just pure, unadulterated performance.

As per the rumour mill, the power plant inside is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor coupled with an Adreno 630 GPU, which OnePlus says offers 30% faster performance than the OnePlus 5T, along with 30% lower power consumption.

Naturally, a big part of the ultra-optimised performance comes from extensive tweaks to the latest version of the Android and OxygenOS platform.

OnePlus has also added an extensive suite of gesture controls, many of which are dedicated to working alongside a new full-screen mode which hides the on-screen Android keys to maximise your view of films, games, and the like.

There’s also a new gaming-specific “do-not-disturb” mode which will ferret away notifications and interruption that could compromise your game - no-one wants to be playing a racing game only to crash into a wall because of a text message forcing its way into your view.

There are other optimisations with gaming in mind too; a toggleable gaming mode will also optimise application load-speed, tweak the resolution and framerate for best performance, and enable a gaming-orientated battery saver mode.

The OnePlus 6 features a 3,000mAh battery with fast charging, but does not support wireless charging.

There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack onboard and the handset supports Dual Active SIM, so you can take calls and messages from two seperate 4G SIM cards.

OnePlus 6 Camera

The camera has received a fair bit of attention.

The primary is a dual-sensor setup with the main sensor being 19% larger than the OnePlus 5T’s, meaning larger pixel sizes and more detail captured.

All the sensors on the OnePlus 6 are made by Sony.

The primary setup combines a 16MP f/1.7 with a 20MP sensor capable of advanced Portrait and bokeh modes.

The front-facing 16MP sensor pairs with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 and its built-in AI capabilities for selfies.

OnePlus has also added some pretty interesting video capture capabilities, in particular slow-motion for either 480fps at 720p or 240fps at 1080p.

In either case, however, longer-than-usual slo-mo capture is allowed for up to a minute, which when played back takes about six minutes at slo-mo speed.

To make things as easy as possible, there’s also a built-in video and photo editor which will let you loop, crop, or reverse slo-mo footage.

by rgoodwin at May 16, 2018 05:20 PM

Samsung Galaxy S9 LONG Term Review: 3 Months In… And I Still Kinda Dig It

Damien McFerran 21/05/2018 - 9:38am

It's been almost three months now... and I'm still pretty impressed with the Galaxy S9.

It's fair to say that we've become a little numb to smartphones.

Unless a new device has a truly groundbreaking and unusual feature, it's seen as boring or dull; everything from megapixel cameras to 18:9 screens has come and gone over the past decade, and it only seems to take 12 months for the allure of a new element to become stale and ordinary.

Many have suggested that because the Galaxy S9 looks so similar to its forerunner and doesn't offer any massive technological advancements, it's not worth getting excited about – but for me, refinement is often preferable to needlessly chasing the "next big thing".

That's not to say that Samsung hasn't tried with the S9; the camera's variable aperture system is genuinely clever, even if I'm not entirely convinced it will become as commonplace as the fingerprint scanner or waterproofing bodywork.

However, looking beyond this element, the phone doesn't really do a lot to distance itself from its immediate forerunner; the design is almost identical, save for the placement of the fingerprint scanner; placed side-by-side, it's genuinely tricky to tell the S9 apart from last year's S8.

For any self-respecting mobile buyer, that's a grave mistake – how will all your mates know you've upgraded if it looks like a dead ringer (no pun intended) for last year's phone?

Despite these first-world problems, I've fallen a little bit in love with the S9. Sure, it's not a revolution, but not every major phone launch has to be; in fact, as we've seen in recent years, chasing such an ideal can lead to unforeseen problems.

Better Than The iPhone X? Yeah, In Some Respects...

The iPhone X, as gorgeous as it unquestionably is, still feels like a half-finished product to me; although the opposite has been said by Apple's employees, I'm almost certain that the company wanted it to ship with an in-screen fingerprint scanner to back up the occasionally temperamental Face ID system, but the tech simply wasn't ready.

And what about the debacle with the Galaxy Note 7, where Samsung tried to push the boundaries of smartphone battery stamina and ended up with flaming phones on its hands?

You have to feel a little sorry for the guys and gals within the walls of Apple and Samsung who have the ultimately thankless task of dreaming up the headline-stealing features for a new phone every 12 months.

It's clear now that these companies are running out of ideas and that's when mistakes happen; technological dead-ends which are heralded as the next big thing before being quietly dropped in less than a year when the real next big thing comes along.

Samsung may have had a cheeky stab at marketing the S9's camera as a game-changer, but the rest of the phone is all about making last year's model even better, and it is here that it has succeeded.

The eye-catching design is enhanced by slightly smaller bezels and a more sensibly-located fingerprint scanner, but it remains mostly unchanged – which is no bad thing, as the S8 was designed by a company at the top of its aesthetic game.

Galaxy S9 Display Is Still The Best Around. Period

The display remains industry-leading and is even brighter this time around. The processor is naturally faster, and even the much-maligned AI assistant Bixby has a few more tricks up its sleeve (although you sadly still can't assign another function to that Bixby hardware button).

Sometimes, looking for the next breakthrough can lead companies to ignore the fact that they need to make phones which are easy to use, powerful, stable and – most importantly of all – actually make our everyday lives that little bit easier to stomach.

After spending almost a month in the company of the S9 I think it's a handset that does all of that and more, without introducing new features which are half-baked at best and borderline broken at worst. S

ure, the S10 will no doubt see normal service resumed – we're already hearing talk of an in-screen fingerprint scanner and Face ID-style scanning tech – but for the time being I'm happy that Samsung has polished its flagship device, rather than completely overhaul it in the name of progress.

Thanks to MobileFun for supplying the Galaxy S9 used in this feature. 

by rgoodwin at May 16, 2018 12:44 PM

Amazfit Bip Review: Meet China's £45 Answer To Apple Watch

Damien McFerran 16/05/2018 - 11:10am

How good can a £45 smartwatch really be?

Amazfit Bip

Amazfit isn't a household name, and neither is Huami, the Chinese firm behind the brand.

However, you may have heard of Xiaomi, the smartphone maker for which Huami produces many wearable products; it's perhaps this vital connection which has ensured that the Amazfit Bip has become one of the most notable contenders in the budget smartphone arena.

Available online for around £45, this low-cost device isn't really a smartphone as such as it doesn't run an OS like the Apple Watch or WearOS devices – you can't install apps or anything as fancy as that.

However, despite its limitations, the Amazfit Bip still manages to pack in a stunning amount of functionality, such as multi-event fitness tracking, heart rate monitoring, sleep monitoring, water resistance and app notifications.

Amazfit Bip Design 

Amazfit Bip

Before we move on to cover some of these elements in-depth, it's worth addressing the elephant in the room: the Amazfit Bip's startling similarity to the famous Apple Watch.

There's no ignoring it; this device is a shameless copy of Apple's product, right down to the basic shape of the casing.

However, while the Apple Watch is made from metal, the Bip is plastic, which makes it feel incredibly light and almost toy-like in comparison.

Amazfit Bip Display 

Amazfit Bip

The "always-on" 1.28-inch colour display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass and is controlled using touch input.

The button on the right-hand side wakes the screen, which might seem like an odd choice but prevents you from accidentally triggering the display with your finger.

Once this is done you can swipe through the UI to access settings, set an alarm or begin a running or biking session.

Alternatively, you can hold down the button to start a fitness tracking right away.

Amazfit Bip Features 

Amazfit Bip

All of this data is synced with Xiaomi's Mi-Fit smartphone application, which is also used with the Mi Band device.

From here, you can view your fitness data and see how you compare with other users – not just in terms of physical activity, but in how well you sleep, when you go to bed and when you wake up.

You could argue that all of this is largely pointless data, but it's heartening to know that you sleep more contently than 60 percent of other users, for some reason.

GPS tracking is also included, which is remarkable for a device in this price range.

It's also pretty decent, too – it sometimes takes a short while to get an accurate lock on you, but during the test runs we undertook it performed admirably.

As a fitness device, this really is stunning – the only genuine disappointment is that there's no way to track swimming, which is odd when you consider it has IP68 certification.

Outside of fitness-focused functions, the Amazfit Bip is a little less impressive.

Amazfit Bip Notifications

Notifications are disappointingly inconsistent; you can have things like text messages, WhatsApp messages, email alerts and Twitter notifications piped through to your wrist, but they seem to come through in machine-gun bursts rather than in real-time – you can't do anything meaningful with them when they do arrive, either.

It's just a reminder to remove your phone from your pocket and check them on there.

While you can't add new apps to the watch, you can load up new watch faces.

Amazfit Bip

There are several pre-loaded options – some of which display info such as battery life and your daily step total – but fans are creating their own options, too.

Our favourite is one which replicates the look of the watch in the Nintendo 64 game, GoldenEye 007.

The Amazfit Bip can't hold a candle to the Apple Watch in terms of pure power and versatility then, but one area where it stands head and shoulders above the competition is stamina.

Amazfit Bip Battery Life 

The Bip is advertised as having a 30-day battery life on a single change, and to be honest, we think that might actually be slightly conservative.

After two weeks of solid use, our review unit is still showing 50 percent in tank; in fact, as we type this, we're struggling to recall where we put the watch's charging dock, as we've only had to use it once since the device arrived.

It's amazing to think that there's only a tiny 190mAh power cell inside this thing.

While the Amazfit Bip may not be in quite the same league as a "proper" smartwatch when it comes to pure power, its low cost, attractive (if rather shamelessly stolen) design and downright incredibly staying power make it a solid purchase.

It works with both iOS and Android and, despite not being officially available in the UK yet, is easy to obtain online.

by rgoodwin at May 16, 2018 10:10 AM