Posts Tagged Android 9 Pie

Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab review

Think back five or so years to when phone screens were pushing into 5-inch displays. Tablets were still popular and the larger screens were great to have for reading, editing, markups, and writing.

Today, as handsets routinely hover above 6 inches, it’s kind of hard to justify the need or money for a tablet under ten inches. Why drop a few hundred bucks on something that’s not all that different?

As tablet sales have seemingly plateaued, 2-in-1 devices and Chromebooks have picked up more traction. These offer a more unique experience — often one that lends itself to productivity and multi-tasking.

Devices are more appealing when they offer more than just a bigger display. Thankfully, we’re starting to see hardware makers play around with different designs again.

The Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab is the sort of product that puts Android and Google Assistant support in a body that’s more versatile than a traditional tablet. It might resemble a conventional 10-inch tablet on its face, but there are a few hardware designs underneath that put it in a slightly different space.

We’ve had the chance to spend time with a Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab and are happy to share our impressions and insight into the device.

What is the Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab?

Introduced in fall of 2019, it’s largely a 10.1-inch tablet with mostly mid-range hardware. It’s priced about $300 and looks to compete with the likes of the Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019).

Powered by Android 9 Pie, the Yoga Smart Tab has a 10-inch display at 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution. Internally, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 (octa-core) processor is supported by 4GB RAM with storage coming in at 64GB.

A 7,000mAh battery promises up to 11 hours of web browsing or up to 10 hours of 1080p video playback. In terms of cameras, the Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab has a rear 5-megapixel shooter with fixed focus; the front houses an 8-megapixel camera with autofocus.

Other traditional specifications include USB Type-C charging, a microSD expansion card slot (up to 256GB), Bluetooth 4.2, and a headphone/mic combo. A pair of 2W JBL speakers offer Dolby Atmos support

What’s so special?

As to what makes the Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab more unique, however, is the way it houses the hardware. Flip the device over and you’ll find the design isn’t the same platter you’ve seen time and again over the past decade.

The Yoga Smart Tab has a built-in kickstand that allows for four different ways to use it. Users can hold it, sit it so that you can read at a 45-degree angle, stand it on its side, or even hang it on a wall.

One orientation in particular makes it feel like a completely different product altogether. See, this device has Google Assistant support in it and comes with an ambient mode that essentially turns it into a smart display. Indeed, it’s not unlike how a Nest Hub or Lenovo Smart Display functions. It’s just that here you can pick it up and use it as a full-fledged tablet.

The unique design also gives Lenovo an opportunity to play with the placement of the speakers and audio experience. As such, there are dual JBL HiFi speakers, optimized by Dolby Atmos on the ends of the thick side.

How is the build quality of the Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab?

Imagine that you’re reading a magazine and want to hold it with just one hand. What do you do? You fold it over on itself and grip it by the thicker edge, right? That’s more or less what the design calls to mind. It might look awkward at first blush, but once you start to use the hinge/hook, you’ll appreciate it.

To be clear, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Lenovo employ a kickstand/hinge/hook. It’s been used in other tablets in the past, but never with the extra smarts that come with Google Assistant.

We found the Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab to be built with care and attention. The moving parts hold strong and don’t show any signs of slipping or weakening. In all other areas it resembles a traditional tablet. The buttons are exactly where you’d expect them to be and are quite responsive, with just the right amount of feedback and travel.

The speakers, while large in appearance, don’t get quite as loud as we’d expect. They’re definitely clear and provide an otherwise even audio experience, but you’ll still defer to a portable speaker if you’re looking to play music for a room. YouTube videos and short clips are great, but full movies might be better enjoyed with a pair of headphones.

One design choice we had a bit of a struggle with was the placement of the USB Type C port. While we’re really glad to see that port included here, it’s the physical placement that bothered us. As it’s located on the side, it makes hanging the Yoga Smart Tab a bit wonky.

How does the Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab perform?

More often than not, when we’re not using our tablet, they get powered off and put aside. This device works very well when you’re not actively engaging with it.

Because of its design, and the way it integrates Google Assistant, the Yoga Smart Tab wants to be seen and heard. Much in the way you occasionally glance at your Nest Hub or Smart Display, the Yoga Smart Tab’s ambient mode offers up Photo slideshows and waits for you to task it.

Use the hinge to prop it up on a table or counter and you’ll have a smart speaker and screen that’s ready to leave the house with you. But, getting back to that USB C port…

There may be stretches of days where we don’t need our device to function as a tablet. That’s where hanging it on a wall becomes convenient. It’s like having a digital picture frame in the office or next to the couch.

Plug that power cable in, though, and everything goes off-kilter. The weight of the charging cable makes your digital frame hang crooked. That’s aggravating enough for us to largely avoid that type of usage.

If it’s short bursts, like a few hours at the office, that’s no problem. Come in to work, hang it up, and leave it alone. Or, if you’ve got a place over the kitchen counter, and you want to use it for recipes and walk through videos? Perfect. In our tests the battery was strong enough to consistently deliver 10+ hours of more of typical daytime usage without worry.

You’ll have to jump through a couple of tiny hoops to get the Assistant set up in a way that works best for you. Some of the default settings somewhat contradict other rules. Lenovo could do a better job of walking users through the process, making it a more proactive way of setting up the tablet.

When it comes to hardware prowess, the Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab isn’t designed with benchmarks and performance in mind. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 processor and 4GB RAM put it around the lower end of the mid-tier in 2020. With that said, it’s no slouch.

Gaming has never been all that interesting or fun on a tablet. Even with high-end hardware under the hood, tablets aren’t where we game. Casual stuff, and titles that work with occasional tapping, strategy, and turn-by-turn mechanics are fine. Suffice it to say, if there’s a game or app you’re using on a current tablet, the Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab will likely work.

Reading books, email, school papers, and browsing long-form websites and writing is how we find ourselves using tablets. Thanks to the physical design of this one, you can hold it for long periods of time without fatigue. Similarly, you can prop it up at the angle you want for viewing Netflix and other videos.

Conclusion

What do you do when you’re not actively using your Android tablet? Nothing, right? The Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab lets you place it on a night stand or kitchen counter and let it operate as a smart display. That’s pretty damn cool if you ask us.

Using the hinged kickstand you can also hang the Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab on a wall. It’s a perfect opportunity to add another smart display to your home or office. A display that works as a full-on Android tablet, remember.

As a full-on Android tablet it’s more than sufficient for everyday usage. Passive stuff, like reading and watching video requires very little hardware. But feel free to dive into a bit of casual and a more involved gaming as you should be fine here, too.

 

Could you get away with cheaper tablets? Sure, if that’s all you want, go for it. Heck, you can get a Fire HD 10 and likely be content especially if it’s a standard tablet experience you’re after.

The real draw here is the Google Assistant aspect that’s paired nicely with a unique design. You’d likely spend $100 or more for a decent sized smart display, right? Lenovo’s own Smart Display 8″ currently retails for about $90. Here, you get a 10-inch screen that’s not tied to a wall outlet.

Another factor that makes this stand out over Amazon’s offering is the full suite of Google apps and Play Store. There’s just something to be said about having access to anything and everything that Google puts forward.

Is the hardware unique or somewhat of a first-gen approach to something new? Sure. Does it feel like a gimmick or something that others might not embrace? No way. We could very easily imagine somebody else looking to replicate this experience.

The final question is whether it’s all worth the $300 asking price. As there’s no direct competitor in the space, its hard to compare it to what others are doing. But, taken as a whole, and given its intended usage, we have no issues recommending the Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab.

Availability

You can purchase the Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab for $300 at Lenovo’s website. Keep an eye open for promos over there as we recently saw it offered for $250 with an included Smart Clock. That’s a hell of a deal.

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Vivo Go debuts as Blu’s first phone with Android 9 Pie (Go edition)

Squeezing out one final model before the end of 2018, smartphone maker Blu is back with another new handset. This time we’re looking at the Vivo Go, the company’s first to launch with Android 9 Pie (Go edition).

Priced just $80, the Vivo Go is an unlocked phone that works with T-Mobile, AT&T, and their respective prepaid brands. For instance, if you’re a subscriber on Cricket, Metro, or Straight Talk, you’ll be able to use the new device.

What does one get for that sort of money? A fairly impressive set of hardware, actually. It won’t set any benchmark records by any stretch, but it’s enough for first-time smartphone buyers. That’s the exact demographic for an Android 9 Pie Go edition phone.

The Vivo Go has a 6-inch display at 720 x 1440 pixels with a 2:1 aspect ratio and curved glass. Internally, there’s a 1.5GHz quad-core MediaTek processor, 1GB RAM, and 16GB of storage space. Should more room be needed, a microSD card slot allows for up to 64GB of media.

In terms of cameras, the phone has an dual configuration of 8-megapixel and VGA shooter on the back; a 5-megapixel sensor is found around front. A fingerprint reader is located on the rear of the handset. The Vivo Go has metallic plating finish on the battery cover and a mirror finish on the middle housing.

The Vivo Go carries a retail price of $79.99 at Amazon.

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HMD’s new Nokia 8.1 promises 2-days of battery life

HMD Global this week unveiled a new smartphone in the form of the Nokia 8.1. The new device will go on sale in Europe, as well as the UK for the affordable price of €399 / £379.99 (or $452). Interested parties will be able to place an order for it come January 14.

The Nokia 8.1 is an upper mid-ranger coming with great specs. Among its major highlights is the spacious 6.18-inch FHD+ display that comes with HDR10 support. The screen benefits from HMD’s PureDisplay screen technology which promotes richer colors and higher contrasts. It also includes a notch on top.

The Nokia 8.1 might have had all the qualities needed to be called an affordable flagship, save for the processor powering it, a mid-range Snapdragon 710. This is an octa-core 10nm chipset clocked at 2.2GHz, which albeit not being as powerful as the Snapdragon 845, will still do a very good job of keeping things working smoothly on board the device.

Furthermore, the Nokia 8.1 will ship out with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage (expandable up to 400GB via microSD).

HMD’s partnership with Carl Zeiss continues with the Nokia 8.1

In terms of photography, the Nokia 8.1 boasts a Zeiss-optimized dual-lens arrangement with a main 12MP (f/1.8) and a secondary 13MP sensor for portrait shots.  HMD has also included optical image stabilization on board, so you can get steady shots. Nokia’s popular Bothie feature that lets you shoot with both cameras is also supported here.




Rounding up the package is a 3,500 mAh battery with fast charge 18W. HMD boasts the phone will be able to support up to 2-days of use on a single charge.

Another big highlight with the Nokia 8.1 is that the device runs Android 9 Pie out of the box. Given the low number of phones launching with the latest version of Android on board, it’s quite refreshing.

Also read: 9 features we love from Android 9 Pie

As we mentioned above, the phone will go on sale next month in Europe in Blue/Silver, Steel/Copper and Iron/Steel color options. Unfortunately, HMD already confirmed the Nokia 8.1 won’t make it to the US.

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OnePlus 6T vs Honor View10: Which affordable flagship wins?

If you’re on the market for a premium phone, there are multiple options available on the market right now and you don’t even have to spend all your savings.

Instead of buying a Samsung Galaxy S9 or Pixel 3, consider maybe getting an affordable flagship. You’ll still get your top-notch specs and premium design, but the price in this case is much more wallet-friendly.

Perhaps the most notable player in this niche is OnePlus. The company recently released a new model, the OnePlus 6T which comes with a new kind of fingerprint-based authentication technology, a different style of notch and Android 9 Pie out of the box.

It’s hard to argue with the appeal of the OnePlus 6T, but as expected the company did raise the price for the phone a little bit.

But what if your budget is below $550? Thankfully, you still have options. For example, Honor’s View10 continues to be available in the US and between November 23 and 26, customers will be able to get it with a big discount.

So which one of these two affordable top-end smartphones would be a better match for you? Continue reading below to get an idea.

Notch vs no notch

The Honor View10 is a phone on the classic side of things. Yeah, it has a trendy 18:9 aspect ratio, but it’s 5.99-inch IPS FHD+ display is notchless, unlike most phones launching today.

What’s more, there’s also an old-school candy-shaped physical home button/fingerprint sensor living underneath the display.

So if you hate the notch, the Honor View10 could be the answer to your prayers. We should also note that the phone has a nice and sturdy metal construction. Albeit it’s nothing out of the ordinary, as the recipe has been tried and tested before. You get the integrated metal body and frame designed with rounded corners and antenna lines following the edges. Flashbacks to the OnePlus 5T.

As for the OnePlus 6T, it is a lot more modern when it comes to design. It features a new type of notch on top of the 6.41-inch display, a tiny one that’s waterdrop-shaped. In contrast to the Honor View10, the OnePlus 6T has glass on the front, as well as on the rear. The chassis is built of aluminum, with a finish that perfectly complements the color of the back glass.

The OnePlus 6T is the first OnePlus phone that comes equipped with an in-display fingerprint sensor. The technology uses an optical sensor underneath the display that shines a green light in order to read your fingerprint in full detail. OnePlus claims the system can unlock your phone in 0.3 seconds.

The OnePlus 6T it’s not the first phone to take advantage of this kind of tech, but it’s certainly the first to become more widely available.

Performance and battery

OnePlus’ second flagship for 2018 takes comes equipped with the same Snapdragon 845 that fueled the OnePlus 6. You can either have it with 6GB or 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage or 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.

As for the Honor View10, it’s based on a Kirin 970, which right can be considered a previous-gen flagship chip. The chipset currently fuels premium phones like the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro. But at IFA 2018, Huawei unveiled the next-gen Kirin 980, which can be found underneath the hood of the beastly Mate 20 series.

The Kirin 970 is the company’s first mobile chip featuring a neural processing unit (NPU), designed to perform the same AI computing tasks faster and use far less power in doing so.

Despite not being so new anymore, the Kirin 970 still does a great job at performing tasks, so you can be sure the Honor View10 will run without hiccups. Especially since it’s backed up by a hefty 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. There’s also a possibility to expand further via the microSD card slot up to 256GB. The OnePlus 6T doesn’t have a microSD slot.

The Honor View10 is powered by a 3,750 mAh battery, while the OnePlus 6T has a 3,700 mAh one under the hood. With the capacity being very similar, we expect both phones to able to sustain a full day of use without much hassle. Although, the OnePlus 6T might perform a little better given the light OxygenOS on board.

Cameras

The OnePlus 6T does not bring any dramatic changes in the camera department. Although you do get a few new modes to take advantage of.

So you still get the dual 16MP+20MP camera of the OnePlus 6. But low light shots and HDR have been improved with the help of AI.

There’s a new Night Mode which soaks in plenty of light for improved shots in low-light conditions. Then, there’s HDR in auto mode where the camera can detect harsh lighting conditions and adjust colors, contrast and such. What’s more, OnePlus has also introduced Studio Lighting, a post-processing software that lets you modify brightness and tonality of faces when you shoot Portraits.

The OnePlus 6T also gets a 20MP selfie camera with portrait mode.

Moving on to the Honor View10, the phone benefits from the services of one 16MP RGB sensor paired with a monochrome 20MP one, that can take pretty great shots.

Honor has packed a series of AI shooting modes on board including scene detection, monochrome shooting, wide aperture mode shooting, and of course Portrait.

On the front, lives a 13MP selfie camera that won’t disappoint when it comes to taking self-portraits.

Software

The OnePlus 6T is among the few phones which launched with Android 9 Pie out of the box so far. Along with Google’s latest, comes the company’s own lightweight and highly customizable OxygenOS, which brings some new and yummy navigation gestures.

Other additions include the option to use the power button to call up the Google Assistant. What’s more, users can now change the phone’s entire theme, complete with icon packs and more.

As for the Honor 10View, it might have launched with Android 8.1 Oreo on board, but since then the phone received the Android 9 Pie update which brings Huawei’s EMUI 9.0 overlay with GPU Turbo 2.0, a travel assistant, a password vault and more.

Pricing and availability

The OnePlus 6T starts at $549.99 for the 6GB of RAM + 128GB of storage version.

The Honor View10 is currently available for $479.00 on Amazon, but between November 23 and 26, you’ll be able to get the phone for only $349.99.

Verdict

The OnePlus 6T is indeed the newer and more appealing option, but the Honor View10 is still a very good phone. And at this price, it’s certainly a bargain.

However, if you’re budget is a little bit bigger, the OnePlus 6T is truly the most affordable, top-notch Android phone you can get right now. It has the latest specs, design and comes with new in-display fingerprint technology. And now you can get it in Purple too!

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World’s first foldable smartphone just launched, but it’s not made by Samsung or Huawei

While we’re still waiting for Samsung or Huawei to launch a foldable smartphone, it seems an obscure company has managed to beat the two iconic brands to the punch.

The Royole Corporation, a start-up based in California has announced the first commercially available foldable smartphone, the Royole FlexPai.

Royole officially launched the device in Beijing late last month, in an attempt to disrupt consumers’ traditional concept of a smartphone. The product is marketed as being a hybrid between a mobile phone and a tablet and is already available for pre-order.

The FlexPai is based on Royole’s second-generation ultra-thin, fully flexible AMOLED display that stretches to a full 7.8-inch in diagonal. The panel has 1920 x 1440 resolution in expanded mode and 308 ppi.

FlexPai is an experimental device with a price to match

The FlexPai is basically a tablet which you can fold in half to obtain a thick smartphone-like device. In its folded state, the gadget has a primary and secondary screen that can be used together or separately. The device has three aspect ratios: 4:3, 16:9 and 18:9.

Royole claims the display can be successfully folded up to 200,000 times before it’s likely to break, so you don’t have to worry about the mechanism failing. The device weighs 320 g and 190mm in width.

On the stub when folded, the FlexPai can display something like a screen side bar, where you can see notifications for calls, messages and other apps.










When it comes to internal specs, the foldable smartphone is based on Qualcomm’s next-gen Snapdragon 8-series flagship SoC. Built using a 7nm process, the chip can be upgraded to support 5G. Backing this up is either 6GB or 8GB of RAM and up to 512GB of storage.

The phone/tablet also includes a dual-camera setup comprised of a 20MP telephoto lens and 16MP wide-angle sensor. Royole says, the device can snap great pictures thanks to the unique bending angles. The camera features a Dual View Mode in which the subject of the photo is visible from each screen when folded or stretched.

To support this unique device, Royole has created Water OS, which is a forked version of Android 9 Pie. The whole shenanigan is kept alive by a 3,800 mAh battery.

Availability and pricing

As we mentioned above, the device is already up for pre-order. You can get it from Royole’s website in exchange for €1,388 / $1,578 for the 128GB version. It’s quite expensive, but such is the price of experimental tech such as this.

What do you think? Does the Royole FlexPai sound tempting to you?

Buy the Royole FlexPai

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6 things we like about the new OnePlus 6T

During an event in New York City earlier this week, OnePlus unveiled the much-anticipated follow-up to the OnePlus 6, which arrives with a number of new hardware specs and features.

The OnePlus 6T is set to go on sale soon, so with the imminent release here are six things we like about the new device.

If you’re still pondering whether you should get the OnePlus 6T or not, this article will hopefully help you in making up your mind.

New look

This past year, the notch has become the go-to design element for many top Android smartphones. But in many cases (see the Pixel 3 XL), the notch is wide and runs across a large portion of the top of the screen.

The OnePlus 6 also had a notch, albeit smaller compared to other flagships. But with the OnePlus 6T, the company wanted to offer even more display real estate, so it implemented a tiny waterdrop-shaped notch, which only contains the selfie camera.

The bottom bezel has also been shrunken down, thus ensuring the display is more expansive than it has ever been on a OnePlus phone. The screen takes up 86% of the front surface, and it’s covered with the latest Corning Gorilla Glass 6.

It’s a 6.41-inch AMOLED display, by the way, with FHD+ resolution. OnePlus has yet to make the jump to QHD+, but even so, we expect the panel to be excellent.

In-display fingerprint sensor

The biggest change brought by the OnePlus 6T is the in-display fingerprint sensor. The unlocking sensor no longer lives on the back on the device and has now moved to live underneath the display.

It’s an optical affair that shines green light to ensure every detail is captured when a fingerprint is registered. The company claims that the in-display fingerprint technology it uses it’s the fastest around, taking just 0.34 seconds to unlock the device.

The phone also offers face unlock, so users have a choice when it comes to unlocking the display.

Big battery

The OnePlus 6T arrives with one of the biggest batteries we’ve seen on a OnePlus device. Compared to the OnePlus 6’s 3,300 mAh power box, the OnePlus 6T gets a superior 3,700 mAh one.

Given how well optimized the OnePlus 6 was and how long the battery lasted, we’ll have to assume the 6T will perform even better. Actually, the company says users should expect to see a 23% increase in overall battery life, but we’ll have to wait for reviews to be able to actually confirm that.

What’s more, you also get fast charging which has been rebranded from Dash Charge to Fast Charge on the new model. The technology should users to juice up the device in no time. We expect the OnePlus 6T will be fully charged in about an hour an a half.

Android Pie with OxygenOS 9.0

OnePlus is among the few Android OEMs that jumped on board the Android Pie train very early on. The OnePlus 6 already received the stable update and now the OnePlus 6T comes with Android 9 Pie out of the box with the company’s own OxygenOS skin on top.

Obviously, you can expect a very clean and fast user experience. All the new features of Android Pie are to be found on board including improved navigation gestures. On top of that, you’ll also find OnePlus’ own set of exclusive features.

For example, there’s a new Smart Boost tool, which improves the app cold-start speeds by up to 20% by storing data from frequently used apps in the phone’s RAM.

New camera modes

While the main camera hasn’t changed all that much since the OnePlus 6 in terms of hard specs, the 6T does bring some novelties to the table. We still have the 16MP+20MP sensor duo, both of which flaunt f/1.7 aperture. The main camera also has OIS (optical image stabilization) and EIS (electronic image stabilization).

On the OnePlus 6T, users will get two new shooting modes: Nightscape and Super Slow Motion. The latter allows you to shoot 1080p resolution video at 240fps. As for Nightscape, the feature lets you capture low-light photos with improved clarity, less noise and more accurate color reproduction.

What’s more, the OnePlus 6T also brings something called Studio Lighting, which is a feature that allows users to enhance the luminosity in portraits.

Readily available

You won’t have to wait long to be able to get the OnePlus 6T. The company will start selling the handset as soon as tomorrow via its official website.

What’s more, for the first time ever, T-Mobile will also be offering the device in the US. So the OnePlus 6T will be the company’s most widely available phones.

Not only that, but the OnePlus 6T is also fully certified to work on Verizon Wireless, unlike the previous iterations.

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Google Pixel 3 XL first impressions

Ah yes, here we are. It’s October, and that means it’s the time of year where we get to play with the newest phones from Google.

For 2018 we’ve gotten our hands on the Pixel 3 XL, the 6.3-inch flagship with all of Google’s exciting new features. Given we’ve literally only had the phone in our possession all but a couple of days so we are nowhere near ready to provide a review.

On the other hand, we have had enough time with it to get a feel for what’s going on here. What’s more, having used the Pixel family as our daily driver for much of the last two years, we can already draw a few early conclusions.

We’ll publish a full review later, but for now we would like to share the initial thoughts and first impressions.

We were provided with a 64GB Just Black model from Google.

Similar, but uniquely different

Although we’ve been there, done that with the black phones from Google, we couldn’t help but feel a little different about the Pixel 3 XL. It’s softer and more inviting than its predecessors.

There are curves everywhere and the phone is really fun to hold. It’s not a departure from the first two generations at all, and we weren’t excited about seeing “Just Black” on the box.

Taking it out, though, we immediately noticed it to be smooth and sturdy. In pictures this one looks like the same old utilitarian, and uninspired approach. In person it’s so much nicer. It’s softer to the touch but we do expect it might be easier to scratch.

Going through the initial setup is as easy as ever. Whether you’re new to Android altogether or migrating from another phone, Google makes it simple.

Looking through the box we find Google has thrown in a pair of USB Type-C headphones. These were not included with the predecessor and we appreciate that we don’t have to go wireless only. Well, there is that dongle adapter but nobody looks forward to toting one of those around.

Display

Big and beautiful. At 6.3-inches there’s not much on the market that’s going to be bigger, nor is it really necessary. We can distinctly recall 7-inch tablets feeling spacious and sprawling for reading, web browsing, and gaming. This isn’t far off, and it’s much more pocketable.

Yes, there’s a notch. And, yes, you probably feel a certain way about it, or them in general. While we were initially hardcore against the idea, and look, of them, we’ve since warmed up. Today it’s easier for us to see the top of our displays as having extra space for notifications instead of a chunk missing.

If you’re worried that you are forced to stick with the cutout around the camera, don’t be. It only takes a few moments to dive in and change the setting that removes it.

The picture is incredible on the Pixel 3 XL and we can see why DisplayMate awarded it with such distinction. Whether you’re just a casual user, 3D gamer, or VR fan, the image is great. Get up close and personal with it and you see the fine details.

Sound

We can already tell that the Pixel 3 XL is louder than the previous models. It takes all but a few songs and YouTube videos to understand things are turned up a few degrees — or is that decibels?

The dual, front-facing speakers promised to be 40% louder than their predecessors and we have already found it to be noticeable. Whereas we tend to watch most clips around 2/3 of the way up on the Pixel 2, we’ve stuck to about half thus far.

Camera

Google has done it again. We had maybe ten minutes with the camera out in the field before we understood this was something special. In an age where so many competitors are tapping dual-cameras and more, Google is sticking with one.

The auto-focus is incredibly fast and the shutter speed is instant. We’ve found that we’re getting the moments we hope for when tapping the button. What’s more, the camera grabs a handful of pics before and after you press the shutter. That, combined with AI, brings about a prompt which asks if we’d like to check for a better pic.

Click here to see a gallery of pictures taken with the Google Pixel 3 XL

We took the Pixel 3 XL to a high school cross country meet on a somewhat dreary Ohio day. Lighting was less than ideal and the subjects literally run past the camera. Nevertheless, we were impressed with how quickly pictures were taken and how clear they were — especially when compared to pictures grabbed by other attendees.

Playing with the various modes is a blast and we find ourselves using the portrait mode quite often. Given we’re not using any add-on equipment, lenses, or special apps, we were really pleased with the results. Look for more feedback on these options in the full review.

Performance

The hardware hasn’t changed much from last year’s model so we aren’t looking for a huge step forward in terms of performance. We’ve slowly begun adding our accounts and daily apps to the review unit as it’s our goal to make it the daily driver.

With much of the difference coming in the form of software, things shouldn’t too unlike what we’re getting with the Pixel 2 and Android 9 Pie. To that end, the year-old flagship runs just as good today as it did when it arrived. Thus far the Pixel 3 XL handles everything we’re throwing at it without so much as a stutter.

As much as we like to personalize our phones and customize them with apps, configurations, and effects, we relish the opportunity to start fresh. Rather than cloning our current phone and its suite of apps, we like to push the reset button.

Starting fresh on a Pixel gives us a chance to see what Google has in mind and find out how things are set up. One thing we noted from the first Pixel, and which continues to the Pixel 3 (XL) is the cohesive feeling. It’s an excellent blend of hardware and software.

One of the biggest gripes we’ve had for the last two generations, wireless charging, has been addressed. In other words, there’s one less box left unchecked when it comes to creating the perfect phone.

Our team was provided with a Pixel Stand which we’ve left at the office for the first few days. It’s really refreshing to have wireless charging and the new Google charger is actually quite cool. Cool enough, really, that we’d like to have them in other places like the kitchen counter or bedside stand.

Early Conclusion

It’s really hard for us to justify spending upwards of $1,000 for a phone, regardless of the brand. Not from Samsung, not from LG, and not from Google. Having the luxury of testing other “flagship” models from different brands that run a fraction of the cost tells us we can certainly live without the big-name stuff.

On the other hand, we have a very difficult time walking away from the Pixel line. Once you’re in, you’re in. We really like what we see in the Pixel 3 so far and expect to it will stake its claim for best of the year.

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Android Pie Review: The reason why I gave up my iPhone X

It’s August which means that we were greeted with a new version of Android. This has been Google’s MO for the last few years, and Pie is now available on your Pixel devices, along with the Essential Phone.

Android Pie made its debut after being unveiled at Google I/O 2018 and then came to handsets through Google’s beta program. Then, in a move that surprised most, Android 9 Pie was officially made available.

Read Later

For the purpose of our review, we have been using Android Pie for the last month through the beta program and final release. This is also the reason why our review is a bit later than others, because we wanted to spend some time with Google’s final product.

What’s new?

At first glance, you probably won’t think that there is much packed into this latest release. But the real fun comes when you start diving deeper. Here is a list of some of the features coming with a “higher profile”:

  • Adaptive Battery
  • Adaptive Brightness
  • Digital Wellbeing
  • Gesture Navigation
  • Notch Support (up to 3)
  • App Actions
  • New App Switcher

These are just some of the new features, and while that’s all fine and dandy, you probably want to know about the important ones. So let’s get started with the most surprising one – Battery Life.

Battery Life

Android Pie has provided a pleasant surprise in the battery department. In my usage, I was seeing all-day battery life with around 15% left with at least 4 hours of screen on time (SOT).

In fact, there were a few nights where I forgot to plug in my Pixel 2 XL, only to find that the battery drained just a little bit. Most recently, I went to bed at 1 AM with around 50% remaining, and woke up with 42% battery remaining.

This is no doubt in part to the new Adaptive Battery features. Google explained that this new functionality was intended to learn which apps you use, when you use them, and when to shut them down.

It seems that Android Pie really takes things into overdrive, as my battery life has just been incredible. From time to time, I noticed that an app (like Twitter) was closed when it had been a few hours, but notifications continued to come through.

Adaptive Brightness is another feature that is undoubtedly helping with the battery life race. The only issue that I found came when I was looking at my phone at night. The dark light of my room seemed to cause confusion with my device, as the brightness would fluctuate randomly and annoyingly.

What is making these new battery tweaks exciting is Google’s initiative to integrate Artificial Intelligence into its software. This is nothing new, but it will be interesting to see how everything holds up over time and with newer devices launched with Pie.

How are the gestures?

The next biggest change that users will be able to see is the removal of the good ole’ navigation bar. Instead of having three buttons to tap at the bottom, you are now greeted with a “pill”, which acts as the navigation for your device.

Android Pie ‘pill’ button

As someone who switched from an iPhone X to the Pixel 2 XL with Android Pie, the learning curb was not all that bad. Here are how the gestures work:

  • Tapping the pill button will take you home
  • Swiping to the right once will take you to the previous app
  • Swiping and holding will allow you to scroll through your open apps
  • Swipe up once to reveal the multi-tasking drawer
  • Swipe up twice to reveal the App Drawer

In practice, this makes quite a bit of sense, other than the whole App Drawer debacle. You can do a slow drag to reveal the drawer, but having to swipe up twice to reach all of your apps is rather annoying.

Android Pie Multi-tasking

To help combat the issue, I resorted to placing more apps on my home screens. My home screen has turned into folder-central and it is rather annoying for someone who doesn’t want a whole lot going on.

One extra feature that has been added is for those who make use of rotation lock. If you are using rotation lock but want to view one specific app in landscape mode, a new icon shows up in the navigation bar. This will allow users to view content how they want to, with just the tap of a button.

Visual enhancements in Android Pie

Something else that you may notice when you start poking around Android Pie is some slightly redesigned panels. Most notably, there has been a slight redesign to the notification tray, as the toggles are a bit brighter and more vibrant.

Additionally, since more devices are launching with notches, the clock has been moved from the right side to the left. This is to help make sure that you can see all the necessary notifications, while still seeing the time.

For some reason, Google has placed a limitation of three notches for Android OEM’s to be able to use with Android Pie. Hopefully, this doesn’t mean that Google knows something that we don’t and a phone is incoming with too many notches.

Notifications for messages have also been slightly revamped, as there are new quick reply features. You may remember an app called “Reply” which surfaced earlier this year that added smart replies to your favorite messaging apps.

This has been integrated into the system of Android 9 Pie, making it possible to quickly respond to your friends or family. The API has been also opened for developers, which hopefully means more apps will take advantage of this in the future.

The fight to improve your “Digital Wellbeing”

At Google I/O 2018, during the Android P introduction, a new feature/app was announced called Digital Wellbeing. Google stated that the purpose of this app was to help provide users with a way to see exactly how much you are using your phone.

Not only can you now see that you are spending way too much time on Twitter, but you can also limit yourself. This is done with the help of App Timer, which is a setting that you set up for your “problematic” or “time-wasting” applications.

As someone who has no penchant for restraint, app timers seems like something that could be really useful. However, I ended up being more annoyed that I couldn’t access the app I was trying to view on my smoke break.

It was also a bit alarming to see just how many times I unlocked my screen or how many notifications that I received. Suffice to say, Digital Wellbeing really has given me a different look at how I should be staying off my phone when I don’t need to be on it.

READ MORE: What is Digital Wellbeing and how to sign up for it

The odd thing here is that it’s not automatically built into Android Pie. Instead, you have to sign up for a beta program and then wait for it to auto-magically appear in your settings menu.

As a side note, Chris Lacy (of Action Launcher fame) developed an app that allows you to view Digital Wellbeing as an application. It creates a direct shortcut, so you won’t have to dive into your settings to see what is going on.

Download Pixel Shortcuts

What’s next?

For owners of the Pixel, Pixel 2, and Essential Phone, you likely have already been enjoying the fruits of Android Pie. However, the real question remaining is when are other OEM’s going to jump on board.

As much as I would like to sit here and give you a rundown of what each manufacturer will be doing, I can’t. We have seen failed promises time and time again, and it just wouldn’t be fair for us to convey those failed promises to you, the readers.

So instead, I will say that it’s time to just sit back and play the waiting game.

Final Thoughts

Android 9 Pie is one of, if not the best, iterations ever released. My personal excitement drove me to pick up a Pixel 2 XL of my own, and put my iPhone X in a drawer.

In the time spent with Pie, I really fell back in love with Android and enjoyed all of the new features. I can safely say that once Pie arrives on more devices, it will be a joy to just about everyone to use.

Sure, gesture navigations may be annoying, but I feel that this is the way to full experience bezel-less devices. Google is making all of the right moves, and the Pixel 3 will be interesting to see how the latest version of Android works with the latest hardware

We want to hear from you. Sound off in the comments below and let us know what you think about Android Pie. Have you been using and enjoying it? Have you run into any issues? Let us know if you have any questions!

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