SoftKinetic has recently unveiled DepthSense 544 3D depth sensing ToF camera for mobile devices, which they claim is the world’s smallest ToF camera, with the “highest level of efficiency available on the market, perfect for small form factors such as smartphones and wearables”.
That’s all nice, but what does ToF mean? ToF stands for Time of Flight, and ToF cameras calculate the distance by measuring the time the light signal travels between the camera and the object as explained by Wikipedia:
A time-of-flight camera (ToF camera) is a range imaging camera system that resolves distance based on the known speed of light, measuring the time-of-flight of a light signal between the camera and the subject for each point of the image. The time-of-flight camera is a class of scannerless LIDAR, in which the entire scene is captured with each laser or light pulse, as opposed to point-by-point with a laser beam such as in scanning LIDAR systems.
Time-of-flight camera products for civil applications began to emerge around 2000, as the semiconductor processes became fast enough for such devices. The systems cover ranges of a few centimeters up to several kilometers. The distance resolution is about 1 cm. The lateral resolution of time-of-flight cameras is generally low compared to standard 2D video cameras, with most commercially available devices at 320 × 240 pixels or less as of 2011. TOF cameras operate very quickly, providing up to 160 images per second.
Texas Instruments provides a more detailed technical introduction of Time-of-flight camera, and also compare time-of-flight techniques to the two other 3D imaging technologies, namely stereo vision and structured light.
Click to Enlarge
ToF has the advantage of having lower software complexity, fast response time good low and bright light performance, at the expensive of having a medium cost, low compactness (a problem mostly fixed by SoftKinetic module), and medium depth accuracy. It can be used for most applications include games, 3D scanning, user interface, and augmented reality, but is not suitable to shoot 3D movies.
A 2016 Allied Market Search report shows that among 3D cameras, most are using stereo vision technology, and such 3D cameras are still expect to dominate in 2021, but the market share of ToF cameras should increase at the expense of structure light solutions.
But let’s go back to Softkinetic DepthSense 544 ToF camera, which is said to have the following key features:
10µ pixel, ¼ inch sensor with micro lenses for high depth resolution
HDR sensor for both outdoor operation and extra close depth capture
MIPI interface for low latency
Innovative lens design for small form factor and high efficiency
The module is said to enable fast multi-point auto focus in extreme low light conditions, DSLR quality depth-of-field and background replacement, augmented/virtual reality natural hand interaction in games, indoor navigation and 3D scanning applications for mobile devices.
SoftKinetic DS541 is currently sampling, with mass production planned for Q3 2017. The company will also be showcasing the technology during a two-day DepthSense Workshop, taking place in San Jose, CA on September 26-27, 2016.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 is possibly the fastest mobile application processor available today, and a few smartphones have started to launch with the processor including Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe selling for about $575 in Taiwan, and the phone I’m going to cover in this post – LeEco Le Pro 3 – has just launched in China starting at 1799 CNY ($270) with 4GB RAM and 32GB flash, and up to 2999 CNY ($540) with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage.
LeEco Le Pro 3 smartphone specifications:
SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 quad core Kryo processor with Adreno 530 GPU and Hexagon 680 DSP
System Memory/Internal Storage – 4GB/32GB, 4GB/64GB (Zhang Zimou Edition), 6GB/64GB, or 6GB/128GB (Zhang Zimou Edition); Storage devices are all UFS 2.0 flash.
The phone runs Android 6.0 with the company’s EUI 5.8 skin. Just like previous LeEco devices, it does not come with a 3.5mm audio jack, and it’s also missing micro SD card support. There four memory and storage configurations with the two other models with 4GB/64GB and 6GB/64GB selling for respectively 1,999 CNY ($300) and 2,499 CNY ($375). The two more expensive models ($375 and $540) are “Zhang Zimou Editions”, but apart from featuring the name of a famous Chinese filmmaker, I could not find which features they add specifically (if any).
I often miss calls, and I may be slow to answer SMS on my Android phone, but I’m often in front of my computer, so I decided to look for solutions to show SMS and call notifications on my computer running Ubuntu 16.04. I first found LinConnect, but it does not seem to be developed anymore, and after some more research I discovered that KDE Connect should do the job. The developer just released KDE Connect 1.0 a few weeks ago with add encryption, the ability to reply to SMS from your computer and more… One person posted instructions for Kubuntu 16.04. There’s just a problem it won’t work with Unity desktop, only KDE Plasma, due to a lack of support for Qt 5.6.
You can still use the older version without encryption and other new features by “simply” running:
E:Sub-process/usr/bin/dpkg returned an error code(1)
An “apt install -f” did not help, so I uninstalled kde-l10n-th package:
sudo dpkg-r--force-depends kde-l10n-th
Ran “sudo apt install -f”, and the installation went through. It’s possible it’s an error specific to Thai language only. I’m unclear whether the bug is due to that package, or KDE Connect.
Now you can install KDE Connect Android app on your phone, and start KDE Connect Settings on your computer and enable the server in order to pair your phone.
KDE Connect Settings (Ubuntu) – Click to Enlarge
I could connect to the server, and set notifications for apps. You can also set several options in KDE Connect in Ubuntu 16.04, and the program seems quite powerful.
Click to Enlarge
Sadly, I only manage to get a notification once in the top right corner for an upcoming call (I was not fast enough for a screenshot), and after it I did work anymore. You can also open KDE Connect Monitor to have a look at notifications, but in the case of calls it will only show you the missed called, not when the call starts. The Blue button on the top right is used to make your phone ring in case you can’t find it.
It’s not really ideal, so I decided to go ahead and install the latest version.
The first step is to install the Kubuntu backport.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports
sudo apt update
sudo apt install kubuntu-desktop
Sadly I canceled it, because I went through many dependencies errors during installation, maybe I did something wrong.
In case it works, you can use the PPA for Kubuntu 16.04 / 16.10, and install KDE Connect 1.0:
ZTE launched CSX Project last month in order to design a smartphone or other consumer product based on input from the community. People submitted ideas last month, and voted for the best ideas at the beginning of September, and the results are now in. There used to be a popular proposal to make a ZTE Ubuntu phone, but for some reasonssince they may make one anyway, this has not been selected by the jury, and instead the three winning ideas are:
The first solution had by far the most votes, and the main purpose is to use the phone without touching it. Two laser-focused front cameras would track the eye movement to let the user scroll the screen with eye, while it’s been stuck to wall via its self-adhesive polymer back. The phone would also implement a split screen with a dual directional viewing LCD showing different content to the left and the right angles, except for the user himself, which would be protected from eavesdropping.
Powerglove would be a Bluetooth connected, programmable robotic glove to help users to learn tasks such as playing piano, or soldering, and if fitted with extra sensors, it could also be used for rehabilitation, or patient’s with Parkinson’s disease or/and arthritis.
The last project, a submersible virtual reality headset, would let you swim with sharks or see corals reefs while under water in your own swimming pool. There’s also a front camera, so it can be used for augmented reality application. Maybe chasing marine Pokemons?
Now ZTE expects the community to build on those three ideas, or even submit completely new ideas, with some concept images for the hardware and if relevant the user interface, and possibly some explanation about it could be built. The deadline is September 30, 2016, after two more round of voting will take place, and ZTE will start implementing the crowd-sourced idea by the end of October, and hopefully deliver a commercial product in 2017.
I’ve already taken pictures and shown Antutu benchmark in the first part of Vernee Apollo Lite review, an Android 6.0 smartphone powered by Mediatek Helio X20 deca-core processor. Now that I’ve had time to play with the phone for over 10 days, I’ve ready to report my experience and write the second part of the review about performance, features, and issues I encountered with the phone.
First, the build quality feel pretty good, the phone is light and slim. I’ve only called once or twice, and voice quality was good, but I mostly use my phone over WiFi to browse the web, check emails, watch YouTube, and access social networks. More rarely, I also use GPS while running and during trip, and play some games. To be honest, the first few days did not work as expected, as many apps would either be much slower than last year Iocean M6752 smartphone or failed to start entirely with the message “Unfortunately app has stopped”. Fortunely, I eventually found that Android 6.0 Adoptable Storage was the source of those two issues, as when I installed a 32GB Class 10 micro SD card I used as storage device, and most app would install on the micro SD card, which has very good sequential speeds, but terrible random I/Os performance. The latter explain apps were not always responsive, and some apps simply don’t like to be installed on an SD card – at least on Apollo Lite Android firmware – like Firefox or MAPS.me, while others lose the ability to access Widget such as Adsense. Once I found out about the issue, I moved most apps back to internal storage, and everything felt much faster, and I could run Firefox, MAPS.ME, and access Adsense Widget.
However, I have to say it’s hard to really notice a big difference in terms of performance between my older Mediatek MT6752 octa-core Cortex A53 based Iocean M6752 phone, and Mediatek Helio X20 deca-core Cortex A72/A53 based Vernee Apollo Lite phone for most tasks, except for some 3D games, and handling large PDF files.
One big improvement over Iocean phone is the battery, since it’s much bigger on Vernee Apollo Lite, and usually last well over 24 hours with 3 to 4 hours of active browsing and/or YouTube watching per day. Charging is much faster too, and while Iocean would take over 3 hours to charge, I can charge Apollo Lite in just one hour from about 10% to 100% thanks it is fast Pump 3.0 charger. Overnight battery discharge rate is however a little high with WiFi and 3G (calls) enabled, as the charge goes down between 20 to 25%, meaning if my phone was fully charge before going to bed, I’d only get 75 to 80% charge in the morning.
Once I found a workaround for the issues related to adoptable storage, I was very happy with the phone, although a better rear camera, and slightly more accurate GPS would have been a bonus.
Benchmarks: Antutu, Vellamo, and 3DMarks
I’ve reproduced Antutu 6.2.1 benchmark results for people who have not read the first part of the review.
Click to Enlarge
A comparison with other models reveals Apollo Lite is right between 360 N4 smartphone (also based on Helio X20 processor) and iPhone 6 performance.
Vellamo benchmark shows Vernee Apollo Lite performance is roughly equivalent or even a little better than Samsung Galaxy S6 with Exynos 7420 Octa processor, or LG G Flex 2 with Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor.
Click to Enlarge
So far, I’ve always tested graphics performance using 3Dmark Ice Storm Extreme in my mobile and TV box reviews, but the ARM Mali-T880 GPU found in Mediatek Helio X20 SoC is a bit too fast for the task, and the score maxed out, despite frame rate not always topping at 60 fps.
The GPU also supports 3Dmark Sling Shot, the reference benchmark for OpenGL ES 3.1, and the smartphone got 995 points. Since there are less OpenGL ES 3.1 capable devices, or simply because this benchmark is less popular, Apollo Lite would be ranked in 68th position among phones powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor.
Click to Enlarge
Storage and Wi-Fi Performance
A1 SD Benchmark app was use to test the performance of the internal storage (32GB eMMC flash), and my micro SD card, and Vernee seems to have gone with a cheaper eMMC flash only capable of 36.25MB/s read speed, and 12.05 MB/s write speed. The Class 10 SD card I used has much higher performance with 92.76MB/s and 55.92 MB/s write speed. However, you must remember those are sequential speed tests, and for app IOPS also matter a lot, and based on my experience app installed in internal memory run much faster than the one installed in the SD card, so that’s something to keep in mind.
Click to Enlarge
You can see from the chart below with mobile devices (smartphones / tablets) with a green dot, that Vernee Apollo Lite does not exactly have the fastest storage.
Read and Write Speeds in MB/s – Click to Enlarge
I transfered a 278 MB file over SAMBA using ES File Explorer three times to test 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz and 802.11ac performance, and I placed the smartphone in the exact same location where I usually review TV boxes and development boards in order to have results that can be comparable.
Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge
The results are quite surprised because Vernee Apollo Lite has both one of the worst WiFi performance with 802.11n @ 2.4GHz averaging 1.4 MB/s, and one of the best 802.1ac performance averaging 6.5 MB/s in my environment. Download and upload speeds are similar with 802.11n, but there’s an asymmetry with 802.11ac, as downloads average 9.5 MB/s, and uploads only 5 MB/s.
Rear and Front Facing Cameras
I’ve taken photos with different focus points, and light conditions using “high quality” settings with renders 5376×3024 resolution JPEG images with quality set to 95. You can find 26 photo samples in the linked Google Photo album.
Click on the Image to Access the Photo Album
The way the camera focus works is a little weird, as it only relies on focus before you press the button, and once you press the button, it assumes focus is already done, and shots immediately. In my case, this led to many pictures looking a little blurry or washed out due to a lack of good focus.
I also shot two videos using the default settings (medium). The first one during day time.
So overall, the rear camera is clearly not the strong point of this smartphone.
I’ve also take a few pictures with the front camera, which can be found in a Google Photo album. The images native resolution is 2560×1920.
Click on the Image to Access the Photo Album
I also made a 1h30 video call with Skype using the front camera, and the quality was perfectly satisfying.
I manually installed Antutu Video Tester 3.0 app in the phone in order to evaluate video playback, and Apollo Lite got 849 points, which remains acceptable, but still not reaching the best devices that achieve a little over 1,000 points.
The partially supported videos were so, because of failed audio playback of AC-3, DTS, and Flac audio.
Seven videos completely failed to play, but it’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason since for example, MKV files could be played, as well as videos with AVC codec, but a particular MKV + AVC video failed to play at all.
Vernee Apollo Lite battery is the most significantly improved over my previous phone. The large 3,180 mAh battery allows for well over 24 hours of use, with my typical use case being 3 to 4 hours a day browsing the web, watching YouTube videos, and checking emails. My previous phone, Iocean M6752, would barely last from morning to evening, but not quite reaching bed time.
Click to Enlarge
Another big improvement is that charging from basically 0% to 100% just takes one hour, while Iocean M6752 would take 3h30 to charge to 100% (one hour to 90%) while new, and 18 months, it’s even slower to reached an acceptable charge level.
In order to give a more formal evaluation of battery life, I ran LAB501 Battery Life app‘s web browsing, video playback (720p), and gaming tests. I started from a full charge until the battery level reached about 15%, with Wi-Fi & cellular (3G, no data) enabled, and brightness set to 50%.
Click to Enlarge
Vernee Apollo Lite results
Browsing (100% to 15%) – 467 minutes (7h47).
Video (100% to 15%) – 396 minutes (6h36), or about 3 to 4 typical movies.
Gaming (100% to 15%) – 261 minutes (4h21)
Battery life in minutes
Vernee Apollo Lite’s 3,180 mAh battery, compares to the 2,300 mAh battery in Iocean M6752 smartphone, and 3,550 mAh battery in Infocus CS1 A83 7″ tablet.
The only real downside about battery life is that “Phone Idle” may consume a little too much, as the battery level drops between 20 and 25% overnight. Some members of Vernee complained about this since “OTA-2” firmware update, so a subsequent firmware update may improve this.
I could pair the phone with other Android devices, and transfer photos and files between them. Bluetooth LE works fine too, as I could retrieve fitness data from my Bluetooth 4.0 smart fitness band using Smart Movement app. I also used a Bluetooth 3.0 audio headset successfully.
GPS fix is super fast, as test with GPS Test, and maps app such as Google Maps or MAPS.ME. Accuracy is not perfect however when using Nike+ Run Club, the new version of Nike+ Running. The screenshot above shows the map and running path as shown from the app when WiFi and GPS “High accuracy” are enabled, and when only GPS device is used with WiFi disabled.The latter was tested since I’ve previously found out that disabling WiFi could greatly improve GPS accuracy.
Click to Enlarge
I follow a road around a stadium, so it should be a nice regular ellipse like shape, and it’s not perfect both in “High accuracy” mode with GPS , WiFi, and Cellular network, and in “Device only” mode with WiFi disabled. It’s basically the same. The undulations are about 5 to 15 meters which may be within GPS accuracy (TBC).
One problem I have with Nike+ Run Club is that the screen will turn off after 30 seconds (or whatever settings are set in Android), while the old app Nike+ Running had no such issues. I’ve worked around the issue by setting Settings->Display->Sleep to 30 minutes in Android settings before I go for a run.
Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Bleach, and Riptide GP2 all played very smoothly as expected with an ARM Mali-T880 GPU. So I tried a more demanding 3D racing games with CSR Racing 2, and again it felt the game was rendered at 60 fps, or close to this framerate.
Multitouch app reports the touchscreen supports 5 touch points. The smartphone looks like it has stereo speakers since it has two sets of holes on the bottom side. However, I can mute the phone, by covering one of the hole… I’d say audio quality through the speaker is only average, and I recommend using headphones whenever possible, or external speakers. I also find myself often muting the phone inadvertently by placing my thumb right on the speaker location. It would have been much better to place the speaker on the back of the phone instead.
If you’d rather see the smartphone in action, I’ve shot a video showing some of the settings, benchmark results, the camera function, GPS fix speed, gaming with Riptide GP2 and CSR Racing 2, handling a large PDF, and show there are no stereo speakers, but only one speaker.
Vernee Apollo Lite has good firmware, fast and stable (after I moved apps to internal storage), with performance similar to Samsung Galaxy S6 or iPhone 6 according to benchmarks, 802.11ac performance is one of the best I’ve seen, and the battery life is much better (~ 24 hours) and charging times much shorter than my previous Mediatek phone.. However it’s not quite perfect, as the camera does not always deliver pretty pictures, which has probably more to do with the firmware than the hardware itself, the company has gone cheap with the eMMC flash, 2.4 GHz 802.11n performance is poor, despite being stable,
Fast Mediatek Helio X20 (M6797) deca-core processor
Plenty of memory (4GB RAM)
Good 1920×1080 display
Excellent Wi-Fi 802.11ac performance
Outstanding gaming performance
Long battery life, and short charing time (~1 hour)
Tomtop kindly sent Apollo Lite smartphone for review, and if you are interested in the phone, you could consider purchasing it from them for $209.99 including shipping with ApolloLite068 coupon. There are also several other sellers offering the phone including GearBest, GeekBuying, eBay, and Aliexpress for $227.99 and up.
Cellular Connectivity – LTE-A 3 Band CA; X12 LTE up to 600 Mbps LTE Category 12 with 3x Carrier Aggregation; single SIM slot
Wireless Connectivity – Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, NFC, GPS/A-GPS/GLONASS
USB – 1x USB type C port
Misc – Fingerprint scanner
Battery – 3,200 mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 support
Dimensions – 159.7 x 78.1 x 7.6mm (lightweight aluminum + AL6013 metal case)
Certifications – MIL-STD 810G military grade transit drop test
The phone runs Android 7.0 with LG UX 5.0+ mobile user interface, and support for multi-window.
The LG V20 will be available in Korea starting this month, with introduction in other markets planned for the coming weeks. Price has not been disclosed, but considering it is a premium phone, it should probably sell for $600 to $800.
Tizen has converged all Tizen SDK for mobile, wearables, and TV to Tizen Studio since the beginning of the month, and released Tizen Studio 1.0 for developers interested in developing app for Tizen smartphones, TVs and/or smartwatches such as the latest Samsung Gear S3.
So instead, you’ll now be able to select the targets platform and profiles within Tizen Studio. Some of the key changes made to the development environment in Tizen Studio 1.0 include:
Launching tools: Installer, Uninstaller, and Package Manager
Developing tools: IDE perspective theme, Project Wizard, Certificate Manager, and Menu and tool icons
UI tools: UI Builder, Component Designer, and EDC Editor
Testing tools: Emulator
Testing tools: Dynamic Analyzer for memory and CPU profiling
Other improvements in Tizen application development environment
Dynamic Analyzer in Tizen Studio 1.0
Tizen Studio is available for the 32-bit and 64-bit version of Windows, and Ubuntu, as well as for Mac OS with one version with the graphics IDE, and a smaller command line interface only version.
I’ve recently received a new Android 6.0 Marshmallow smartphone powered by Mediatek Helio X20 processor, namely Vernee Apollo Lite, and one of the issues I encountered is that some applications such as Firefox and MAPS.ME would crash when I tried to launch them. The problem was reproducible 100% of the time, and occurred from the very first time I tried to start the app. I’d get a message like “Unfortunately MAPS.ME has stopped” with two buttons: REPORT or OK.
So I asked on Vernee forums to report the issue, and see if other people had the same problem. One replied had the same problem, but a simple reboot would fix the issue, while the other proposed to clear the cache. I had not considered that option since the crash occurred from the very first time, but I tried anyway. Go to the App list, drag and drop the problematic app to App Info.
Click to Enlarge
Then tap on Storage to access the options to clear cache or data. MAPS.ME used 12KB data, and 12KB cache. I tapped on Clear Data, and tried to launch the app. Same issue. But then I also noticed the app was installed in the SD card, which I used a “device storage” also referred as “Adoptable storage” in Android 6.0. So I tapped on Change, and selected Internal storage instead.
It still failed, but I decided to reboot the phone to check whether it would work, and I could see the message “Optimizing 1 of 1 app” during boot, and tried launched MAPS.NE again and success!
I successfully repeated the same procedure, i.e. moving the app from SD card to Internal Storage and rebooting the phone, with Firefox. It’s possible that it might be a Mediatek Android 6.0 SDK bug, rather than a bug specific to my device, so hopefully it may help others too.