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Posts Tagged ‘smartphone’

Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Octa Core Kryo 385 SoC to Power Premium Smartphones, XR Headsets, Windows Laptops

December 7th, 2017 9 comments

Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor was expected since May 2017 with four custom Cortex A75 cores, four Cortex A53 cores, Adreno 630 GPU, and X20 LTE modem. with the launch planned for Q1 2018. At least, that what the leaks said.

Qualcomm has now formally launched Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform and rumors were mostly right, as the the octa-core processor comes with four Kryo 385 Gold cores (custom Cortex A75), four Kryo 385 Silver cores (custom Cortex A55) leveraging DynamIQ technology, an Adreno 630 “Visual Processing System”, and Snapdragon X20 modem supporting LTE Cat18/13.

The processor is said to use more advanced artificial intelligence (AI) allowing what the company calls “extended reality (XR)” applications, and will soon be found in flagship smartphones, XR headsets, mobile PCs, and more.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (SDM845) specifications:

  • Processor
    • 4x Kryo 385 Gold performance cores @ up to 2.80 GHz (custom ARM Cortex A75 cores)
    • 4x Kryo 385 Silver efficiency cores @ up to 1.80 GHz (custom ARM Cortex A55 cores)
    • DynamIQ technology
  • GPU (Visual Processing Subsystem) – Adreno 630 supporting OpenGL ES 3.2, OpenCL 2.0,Vulkan 1.x, DxNext
  • DSP
    • Hexagon 685 with 3rd Gen Vector Extensions, Qualcomm All-Ways Aware Sensor Hub.
    • Supports Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine (NPE) SDK, Caffe, Caffe2, and Tensorflow
  • Memory I/F – LPDDR4x, 4×16 bit up to 1866MHz, 8GB RAM
  • Storage I/F – TBD (Likely UFS 2.1, but maybe UFS 3.0?)
  • Display
    • Up to 4K Ultra HD, 60 FPS, or dual 2400×2400 @ 120 FPS (VR); 10-bit color depth
    • DisplayPort and USB Type-C support
  • Audio
    • Qualcomm Aqstic audio codec and speaker amplifier
    • Qualcomm aptX audio playback with support for aptX Classic and HD
    • Native DSD support, PCM up to 384kHz/32bit
  • Camera
    • Spectra 280 ISP with dual 14-bit ISPs
    • Up to 16 MP dual camera, up to 32 MP single camera
    • Support for 16MP image sensor operating up to 60 frames per second
    • Hybrid Autofocus, Zero Shutter Lag, Multi-frame Noise Reduction (MFNR)
    • Video Capture – Up to 4K @ 60fps HDR (H.265), up to 720p @ 480fps (slow motion)
  • Connectivity
    • Cellular Modem – Snapdragon X20 with peak download speed: 1.2 Gbps (LTE Cat 18), peak upload speed: 150 Mbps (LTE Cat 13)
    • Qualcomm Wi-Fi 802.11ad Multi-gigabit, integrated 802.11ac 2×2 with MU-MIMO, 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 60 GHz
    • Qualcomm TrueWireless Bluetooth 5
  • Location – Support for 6 satellite systems: GPS, GLONASS, Beidou, Galileo, QZSS, SBAS; low power geofencing and tracking, sensor-assisted navigation
  • Security – Qualcomm Secure Processing Unit (SPU), Qualcomm Processor Security, Qualcomm Mobile Security, Qualcomm Content Protection
  • Charging – Qualcomm Quick Charge 4/4+ technology
  • Process – 10nm LPP

The company will provide support for Android and Windows operating systems. eXtended Reality (XR) is enabled with features such as room-scale 6DoF with simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), advanced visual inertial odometry (VIO), and Adreno Foveation. Maybe I don’t follow the phone market closely enough, but I can’t remember seeing odometry implemented in any other phones, and Adreon Foveation is not quite self-explaining, so the company explains it combines graphics rendering with eye tracking, and directs the highest graphics resources to where you’re physically looking, while using less resources for rendering other areas. This improves the experience, performance, and lower power consumption.

 

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Compared to Snapdragon 835, the new processor is said to be around 25 to 30% faster, the Spectra camera and Adreno graphics architectures are claimed to boost power efficiency by up to 30 percent, and the LTE modem is a bit faster (1.2 Gbps/150Mbps vs 1.0 Gbps/150Mbps). Quick Charge 4+ technology should deliver up  to 50 percent charge in 15 minutes. Earlier this year when SD835 was officially launched, there was virtually no mention of artificial intelligence support in mobile APs, but now NNA (Neural Network Accelerator) or NPE (Neural Processing Engine) are part of most high-end mobile processors, which in SD845 appears to be done though the Hexagon 685 DSP. High Dynamic Range (HDR) for video playback and capture is also a novelty in the new Snapdragon processor.

One of the first device powered by Snapdragon 845 will be Xiaomi Mi 7 smartphone, and according to leaks it will come with a 6.1″ display, up to 8GB RAM, dual camera, 3D facial recognition, and more. Further details about the phone are expected for Mobile World Congress 2018. Considering the first Windows 10 laptop based on Snapdragon 835 processor are expected in H1 2018, we may have to wait until the second part of the year for the launch of Snapdragon 845 mobile PCs.

More details may be found on Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 mobile platform product page.

Google Introduces Android 8.1 Go Edition for Low End Smartphones

December 5th, 2017 13 comments

With Android 8.1 preview release, we already knew Google was working on optimizations for Android Go for devices with 512MB to 1GB memory, and a new Neural Networks API to accelerate on-device machine intelligence.

Android 8.1 will be released tomorrow, and Google has now officially introduced Android Oreo Go Edition that will be part of the release tomorrow.

Optimizations cover three main components

  • Operating System – Performance and storage improvements with data management features and security benefits built-in. The company now claims the operating system will take much less space, and actually double free space on a typical 8GB eMMC flash.
  • Google Apps – New set of Google apps designed to be lighter and relevant to people who are coming online for the first time. App size will be reduced by around 50% on Android Go.
  • Google Play Store – A tuned version of the Google Play Store that works with any apps, but also highlights the apps designed to work best on low-end devices.

Apps are said to be around 15% faster on average on low end devices running Android 8.1 Go Edition instead of Android 8.1.

Android Go also comes with Google’s data saver features turned on by default, and appears to include the same security as Android 8.1 including Google Play Protect. GMS apps have been optimized for Go, and will have “Go” appended to their name for example Google Go, YouTube Go, Gmail Go, Google Maps Go, and so on. The apps are smaller and faster to run on memory constrained devices, and consume less data. File Go is a new file management app which can help users clean up space and organize their files and folders, and I could install it on my Android 7.1 phone.

Android Oreo GO Edition will be launched tomorrow, but it’s unclear whether any current device will get the optimized OS at that time, and Google instead refers to partners that will soon ship the new release on their entry-level devices in the coming months. Visit Android Oreo Go Edition product page for more details.

Samsung W2018 is a Premium Android Flip Phone with Dual Display for the Chinese Market

December 4th, 2017 No comments

I can remember using Motorola Razr many years ago, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a flip phone. The must still be a market, as Samsung has just unveiled W2018 flip phone in China with many of the premium features found in their Galaxy S8 model such as Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor,  6GB of RAM, and up to 256 GB of storage.

Samsung W2018 is also said to be the first smartphone equipped with a camera that has an F/1.5 aperture allowing for better low light photo, and the camera can switch to F/2.4 during better lighting conditions.

Samsung W2018 (preliminary) specifications:

  • SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core Kryo 280 processor up to 2.4 GHz with Adreno 540 GPU
  • System Memory – 6GB RAM
  • Storage – 64 GB or 256 GB storage
  • Display – 2x 4.2″ Super AMOLED display with 1920×1080 resolution; Gorilla Glass 5
  • D-Pad & numeric keypad
  • Camera – 12MP rear camera with F/1.5-2.4 aperture, OIS; 5MP front facing camera
  • Sensors – Fingerprint scanner
  • Misc – Bixby button
  • USB – USB Type-C port
  • Battery – 2,300 mAh
  • Dimensions – 132.2 x 63.2 x 15.9mm (when folded)
  • Weight – 247 grams

The phone will run Android 7.1.1 with Bixby voice assistant software, and an update to Android 8.0 is expected next year. The Extreme Edition will come with 64 GB of storage, while the Collector Edition will include 256 GB of storage.

The smartphone will be available through China Telecom, and comes with a range of “exclusive services”, including pick-up service, concierge services at airports and railway stations, or 6-month free screen change. While Samsung did not disclose the price, estimates range from 10,000 to 15,000 RMB ($1,511 to $2,267). Various websites report Samsung W-series smartphones normally aim to raise funds for charity, so that explains it.

Via Liliputing, GizmoChina, and AndroidHeadlines

Prologium Lithium Ceramic Solid State Batteries Don’t Catch Fire, Nor Explode

November 23rd, 2017 3 comments

You must have read articles or watch videos showing laptop or smartphone battery explode, and Lithium-ion batteries are considered hazardous enough that they are banned from airplane without the proper paper work. Such batteries can catch fire or even exploded when overcharged, or physically damaged. We have protection circuits for the former, and physical damage seldom happens, so in most cases the batteries are safe, and that’s why they are still used in laptops and phones.

However, if you need maximum safety, Lithium ceramic battery (LCB) may be the way to go. Those are still Lithium-ion battery cells, but they replace the liquid polymer separator found in Li polymer battery (LPB) by a solid-state ceramic electrolyte, and you can mistreat them almost as much as you like with overcharge, cut them, bend them, and they won’t catch fire, nor explode.

One company that makes such batteries is Taiwan based Prologium Technology, and they explain:

…there is no leakage and no flammable material inside, no shortage will happen under the normal usage, physical impact tests, or electrical damage tests, either. The Solid-state Ceramic Electrolyte also has good thermal stability includes 200~260°C for 3~10 seconds. There is no thermal runaway at 350°C or salting out at low temp. It never melt as well (LPB will melt around 120~150°C). Therefore, even it’s damaged by folding, hitting, penetrating, heating (250°C, 5hrs), LCB doesn’t fire nor explode.

Their batteries were tested by what looks like an independent reviewer (If you know his name, or YouTube account, let us know in the comments section), who really mistreated the battery, and they never caught fire, while LiPo batteries could easily catch fire when destroyed.

The video was shot in 2015, so if LC batteries only had positive, they’ll be in many products by now. I’m assuming price might be the issue, the company also mentions that “the biggest natural difficulties of solid-state Li Battery are poor C-rate, and high inner resistance”, but they claim to have made improvements with the “best C-rate and lowest inner resistance than any other solid-state battery in the world”.

I had also heard about solid state batteries recently while listening to a financial podcast about TESLA and electric cars, which made the case that current Lithium batteries may be obsolete soon, as Toyota had developed solid-state batteries with higher battery density allowing for longer range or smaller batteries, and fast charging capabilities (~5 minutes for a car battery). If the chart above is to be trusted, all solid state battery should eventually have two to three times the battery density of current Lithium Ion batteries. We’ll have to see how it goes, as I’ve seen many over-hyped battery technology over the year, and the vast majority miserably fail, ending as money pits for investors… Other companies are also working on solid-state battery technology, so I’m hopeful at least some will get it right. It’s not only for cars, as there are reports Samsung will use solid state batteries in phones in 2019.

Thanks to Nanik for the tip

International Black Friday & Cyber Monday Deals in 2017

November 21st, 2017 32 comments

Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2017 deals have started to show up on some Chinese e-retailers website, so as every year, I’ll go through a non-exhaustive list with the most popular websites.

GearBest’s 2017 Black Friday event offers discount from 8% up to 15% for mobile phone, tablets & computers, and appliances. One example if Alfawise S95 TV Box with S905W/2GB RAM/16GB flash going for $29.99 shipped. They also offer coupons up to 20% or a just amount in dollars. You can purchase lucky bags with a surprise product, some flash sales will be organized, as well as a lucky draw to win Xiaomi Mi 6 smartphone.

Aliexpress is ready for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday with some games to win coupons, and deals per category. I have not found any specific yet, but while the games are on, the actual Black Friday sale will only take place between November 24 and 26, and Cyber Monday on 27-28.

GeekBuying’s Black Friday Sale will take place between November 22-29, with coupon from 8 to 20% for various category of products, or even specific products such as Yi M1 camera.Flash deals will also be launched at low price, but as usual with very low quantity – as on all sites for this type of offer – so you’ll have to be right on time to benefit from the offers.

DX Thanksgiving Sale has started and will run until November 27. $3 and $6 coupons are up for grab, and a Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 smartphone will be offered to one lucky winner. They have discount for various categories and products, and I did not see any specific deals for products I’ve familiar with. I’ve come across a $25 (not 3D printed) Nintendo NES case for Raspberry Pi which can be interesting to some people.

Tinydeal is also taking part in the event with some deals on specific product, but I did not find much interesting there, maybe you will

If you’d like a piece of dying tech / history, SeeedStudio has a Thanksgiving sale with Intel Galileo ($35.95 – out of stock) and Intel Edison ($85.95) kits, as well as other DIY electronics such as UDOO NEO board ($59 going to $32.45 during the flash sales). The company also offers free shipping (excluding Fedex and DHL) for any order above $99 during their Thanksgiving promotion, until November 28.

For users in the US, PocketBeagle board is apparently (I’m blocked) sold for $19.99 on Micro Center website.

I’ll add further Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals  as I find / receive them in the comments section.

LEAGOO T5c Smartphone Features Spreadtrum SC9853i Octa-core Intel Airmont SoC

November 16th, 2017 7 comments

Intel is supposed to have left the mobile and IoT markets, but a few month ago, I wrote about Spreadtrum SC9861G-IA, an octa-core Intel Airmont SoC designed for LTE smartphones. Airmont is the microarchitecture used in Intel’s Cherry Trail and Braswell SoC, so the Spreadtrum SoC is not based on a new microarchitecture, but it still shows Intel decided to still use the technology, just not with their name on the processor.

The news was published in February, but so far I have not seen any phone based on the processor. Instead, a similarly specced SoC, namely Spreatrum SC9853i, is now found in LEAGOO T5c 5.5″ smartphone with 3GB RAM and 32GB flash.

LEAGOO T5c smartphone specifications:

  • SoC – Spreatrum SC9853i octa-core Intel 64-bit Airmont “Cherry Trail-T” processor @ up to 1.8 GHz (14-nm FinFET process)
  • System Memory – 3GB RAM
  • Storage – 32GB eMMC flash
  • Display – 5.5″ SHARP Full HD IPS display
  • Cellular Connectivity – LTE cat 6 and dual 4G networks
  • Camera – 13.0 MP + 2.0 MP dual rear camera with aufocus,  front-facing camera
  • Misc – Font fingerprint scanner
  • Battery – 3,000 mAh battery with 5V/2A “quick charge”

The operating system is not mentioned at all, but it’s probably safe to assume it’s running some version of Android.

The company claims SC9853i delivers 30% less power consumption, and is 25% to 39% faster than MediaTek MT6750 octa-core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ 1.5 GHz (Cluster 1) / 1.0 GHz (Cluster 2) for single core, multi-core and “CPU total” – whatever that means – performance.

Leegoo T5c retail price will be around $129.99, but they have a promotion at launch, offering the phone for $1.99 to 5 winners on December 4, as well as a $30 discount coupon to some of the participants, making it a $100 phone. For comparison, LEAGOO T5 smartphone based on  Mediatek MT6750T SoC, but with 4GB RAM/64GB storage instead of just 3GB/32GB, currently sells for $128 shipped.

Xiaomi Mi A1 Smartphone Review – Part 2: Android 7.1.2 Firmware

November 15th, 2017 10 comments

Google recently announced several Android One smartphones, which are supposed to get 2 years of firmware updates, including to the latest version of Android, such as HTC U11 Life and Android One Moto X4. Many of those phones are limited to some specific countries, but Xiaomi Mi A1 will be launched in over 40 countries, and thanks to Chinese online shops is really available worldwide. GearBest sent me the latter last month, and in the first part of Xiaomi Mi A1 review I simply went through unboxing, booted the phone, perform an OTA update, and ran Antutu 6.x on the phone for a quick estimate of performance.

Since then, I’ve had around four weeks to play with the smartphone running Android 7.1.2 (still), so I’m ready to report my experience in the second part of the review.

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General Impressions

In the past year, I used Vernee Apollo Lite smartphone powered by Mediatek Helio X20 deca-core SoC, which in theory is quite faster than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 used in Mi A1, but in practise, I did not feel much difference in performance for example while browsing the web or checking email, and in some games, performance of Xiaomi Mi A1 was actually much better than on Apollo Lite, as I reported in the post entitled “Mediatek Helio X20 vs Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 – 3D Graphics Benchmarks and CSR 2 Game“.

Some of my wishes in Vernee Apollo Lite included a better camera, and improved GPS accuracy, and Mi A1 is a big improvement for both as we’ll see in more details later on in the review. The build quality of the phone is good, and the design looks more stylish and thinner than my previous phone. The display is clear, and I like the wide brightness range, that is low enough not to hurt eyes in the dark, and high enough to use the phone in sunlight. It’s quite glossy though, so you’ll have reflect especially with black background, and it’s possibly to use it as a mirror without turning it on… I seldom call with my phone, but the couple of times I made or received actual calls, the sound was loud and clear. I spend most of my time browsing the web, checking emails, watching YouTube video, and playing games (mostly CSR 2) on my phone, and do so over WiFi connection, and the phone just works flawlessly for this with good performance, and no overheating (that I could notice) contrary to Vernee Apollo Lite, which does get hot in some cases, and slows down considerably.

I’m also happy about battery life, and with my use case of hour 4 to 5 hours use a day, I can still get around 30 hours on a charge. One of the downside is the lack of fast charging, so I can’t quickly top of the battery for 5 minutes before going out. A full charge takes around 1h30, so still not too bad, and since the battery lasts more than 24 hours, it would be possible to charge every day at the same time to avoid low battery charge while on the go.

The main selling of the phone is being part of Android One program, as you’ll get security updated once or twice a month, as well as bigger Android version updates for two years hopefully up to Android 9 / P.  You do pay a premium for this, so if regular security/firmware updates are not important to you, you’ll get better value with other smartphones.

Overall, I’m very satisfied with Xiaomi Mi A1 smartphone, I could not find any major flaws so far, so I can safely recommend it especially if having up-to-date firmware (for the next two years) is important to you.

Benchmarks: Antutu, Vellamo, and 3DMarks

Here are Antutu 6.x benchmark results for people who have yet to read the first part of the review.

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60,000 points is a decent score for a mid-range phone, but for example quite lower than the 85,840 points I got on Vernee Apollo Lite.

Next up… Vellamo 3.x benchmark. Comparisons are against older phone / Android version, so I should probably drop that benchmark in future reviews…

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Note that I could not run Vellamo with Chrome browser, since it would hang during CSS 3D animation. Firefox mostly worked, except for Pixel Bender test timing out… The number are all much lower than my Vellamo results on Vernee Apollo Lite.

So I also ran GeekBench 4. AFAIK, It’s however limited to CPU performance so it does not really give real world indication like Vellamo’s Browser test for example.

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We can see the single core performance is quite lower than more powerful Cortex A72 “class” processors, but multicore performance is close enough. You can find the full details here.

I also ran 3DMark Ice Store Extreme for evaluation 3D performance further. Vernee Apollo Lite would max out the test, but Xiaomi Mi A1 scored “only” 8,045 points.

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The interested part is that my real-life experience does not match the benchmarks at all, as I found Mi A1 to perform just as well as if not much better in many apps. We’ll find out one potential reason just below.

Storage and Wi-Fi Performance

I ran A1 SD Benchmark app to estimate storage performance of 64 GB eMMC flash, and Xiaomi Mi A1 has by far the best storage I’ve used on any devices.

With sequential read speed of 198.94 MB/s, and a write speed of 192.45 MB/s, the device is in a class of its down. Ideally, random I/O performance should be tested too, but it still gives an indication.

Read & Write Speeds in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Time for some WiFi testing. I did not have any issues, and felt web pages were always loading fast, and YouTube videos played smoothly even at 1080p. But let’s have some numbers to play using SAMBA file copy (278MB) over 802.11ac WiFi  with ES File Explorer, and placing the phone is the same test location as the other DUTs. Just like many recent devices SAMBA “download” is much faster than “upload”:

  • File copy SAMBA to Flash – 47.5s on average (5.85 MB/s)
  • File copy Flash to SAMBA – 2m10s on average (2.13 MB/s)

When we average both numbers, Xiaomi WiFi SAMBA performance is only slightly above average, but still outperformed by some 802.11n devices.

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Maybe that’s an Android Nougat bug… In order to have raw numbers, I also used  iperf for both upload and download

  • 802.11ac WiFi upload:

  • 802.11ac WiFi download:

Assymetry is gone, and Mi A1 is the best device in that test, but we have less data for comparison…

Throughput in Mbps

The main takeaway is that WiFi is working well, and performance is very good.

Rear and Front Facing Cameras

Beside being part of Android One program, another key feature of Xiaomi Mi A1 smartphone is the dual rear camera with optical zoom.

Rear Camera

So I’ve taken a few shots with the camera, starting with an easy cat shot… The thing that surprised me the most at first was the speed at which the photo is taken. It just happens instantaneously. With older devices, I often had to wait around one second after pressing the button while it was doing the auto-focus and take photos. You can launch the camera app very quickly – without having to unlock your phone – by pressing the power button twice.

“What do you want?” Cat – Click for Original Size

Clear enough for a camera phone. Close up shots are sometimes problematic with phone, but I had pretty good results. The text book shot is close to perfect.

I used to Read that Stuff – Click for Original Size

Development board can be tricky to photograph because the camera can focus on the wrong part (e.g. top of Ethernet/USB connector), But Orange Pi One photo below is fairly good. I had to try a few times to get the right focus.

 

Best.Board.Ever? – Click for Original Size

You can press on the live view to set the focus point. It will help.

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Flower photos were also good with color matching reality.

Local Angel – Click for Original Size

Photos taken with good lighting are always good.

What year is this? Morning Shot – Click for Original Size

The photo above was taken in the morning with the sun in my back.

Dirt Road Genocide at Sunset – Click for Original Size

When it get a little dark, or in shots with different lighting conditions for foreground and background it helps to enable HDR function.

HDR Works in Temples Too – Click for Original Size

Night shots can be a little grainy, but I find they are still pretty good…

Smoking Bear with Pig and Hedgehog overlooked by Confused Panda at Night – Click for Original Size

Now some video testing, starting with the easiest of all 1080p30 day time video.

The video looks fine, but if you’ve watched it with audio, you may have noticed may not be quite right with the microphone/audio.

4K video can be recorded at 30 fps, but it does feel as smooth as the 1080p one while panning.

All videos are recorded using MP4 Quicktime container, H.264 video codec @ 30 fps, and MPEG-4 AAC stereo audio. If you plan to watch 4K videos from the phone on TV, you’ll have to make sure the player supports 4K H.264 @ 30 fps, as some 4K TV boxes are limited to 24 fps.

Slow motion recording is something that I did not have in my previous phone, and it’s working fairly well up to 720p30 (recorded at 120 fps).

Night time videos are the most difficult, and even at 1080p the results are quite poor with the video frame rate at 14 fps, auto focus being seriously confused, and and audio has a metallic component to it, even more than for the video I recorded during day time.

So I tried again to shot a video will taking to myself, and audio was just fine. So I guess the issue may be specific to far field audio or traffic noise.

Font-facing camera

The front-facing camera works pretty well for selfies.

Angel with Bra – Click for Original Size

Golden Necklace Beauty – Click for Original Size

Black “The Boss” – Click for Original Size

I also used it with a one hour long Skype call.

Camera App Settings

Let’s have a look at the camera app interface. In the preview window we have three icons at the top to change flash settings, enable/disable portrait mode (if enabled it will bur the background), and enable/disable HDR.

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If we tap on Options we’ll have the choice to play with Panorama mode, adjust timer and audio settings, set manual camera settings for white balance, exposure time, focus, ISO, lens selection (wide/tele), and more. Tapping the Settings icon on the top right corner will bring further camera settings.

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If you plan to share photos with strangers you may want to disable “Save location info” as otherwise your GPS location will be embedded into the photos’s EXIF info. Face detection is nice, but you may consider disabling “Age & gender”, as it will automatically detect whether a person is male or female, and estimate their age while taking a photo (although it won’t show on the photo itself). I’ve seen the phone misgender people, and age can always be a contentious subject 🙂

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If we switch to video capture we have much fewer options, mostly time-lapse or slow-motion, and we can select video quality (4K, FULL HD, HD, SD).

Battery Life

Xiaomi Mi A1’s ~3,000 mAh baterry provides enough juice for over 30 hours in my use cases (Web browsing / YouTube / Gaming 4 to 5 hours a day). I also like to turn off my phone automatically at night between 22:00 and 7:00, so it adds a little to the battery life too. A typical cycle for charge to charge looks as the one below.

I normally use LAB501 Battery Life app to test battery life from 100% to 15% for browsing, video and gaming cases, with brightness to 50%, WiFi and Cellular (no data) enabled, but for some reasons I cannot explain, the tests would always stop after a few hours – despite several attempts -, not drawing the battery down to 15%.

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However, the battery discharge on this phone, and Vernee Apollo Lite looks linear…

…so I’ll use linear approximation to estimate the actual battery life..

  • Browsing (100% to 15%) – 740 minutes (12h20)
  • Video (100% to 15%) –  598 minutes (9h58)
  • Gaming (100% to 15%) –  389 minutes (6h29)

…and compare it to the other battery powered mobile devices I’ve tested so far.

Battery Life in Minutes

Xiaomi Mi A1 wins hands down against the other (older) devices I’ve tested when it comes to battery life. The good news is that battery life seems to improve over the years, as the older devices fare the worse. So a few more years, and we can get a week of charge on our phones?

Charging is not as fast as on Vernee Apollo Lite since there’s no Quick Charge, and it takes 1h30 to 1h50 to fully charge the phone from 15% to 100%. Topping the battery from a low of 8% to 27% took me 23 minutes. For comparison, I could do a full charge in one hour on Apollo Lite with Quick Pump 3.0, and a 20 minute charge would add about 40% to the battery.

Miscellaneous

Bluetooth

No problems here. I could transfer photos between the phone and Zidoo H6 Pro Android TV box over Bluetooth, connect two different Bluetooth headsets to the phone, and pair with, and retrieve data from a fitness tracker using Smart Movement app.

GPS

GPS is also an improvement over all the other Mediatek phones I’ve had. GPS fix is super fast like on Vernee Apollo Lite, but while using Nike+ Running, GPS accuracy is much better on the Xiaomi Mi A1 smartphone, as you can see from the two screenshots below.

Xiaomi Mi A1 (left) vs Vernee Apollo Lite (Right) – Click to Enlarge

I ran two laps with the Xiaomi phone, and they almost exactly overlap. The downside is that I have to run a little longer to achieve the same distance on the app 🙂

Gaming

I tried four games: Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Bleach, Riptide GP2, and CSR Racing 2. All played very smoothly, to my surprise CSR 2 performed much better than on Vernee Apollo Lite, despite the latter having a more powerful ARM Mali-T880 GPU in Helio X20 SoC. As mentioned in a aforelinked post, I can see 3 potential reasons for the difference in that game: more optimization on Qualcomm SoCs than Mediatek SoCs, slightly lower level of details shown in the Qualcomm phone, better cooling for Xiaomi Mi A1 smartphone, which stays cool at all times, contrary to the Vernee phone which may require a cool pack to run smoothly…

IR Transmitter / Remote Control App

An infrared transmitter is built into Xiaomi Mi A1  smartphone, and can be control with Mi Remote app. I tried with LG 4K UHD TV, and it worked well.

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Air conditioners are always more challenging. So first I had to go through a process to detect which Haier aircon model I had, pressing poweroff button, and then other buttons, to find the right model among 158 options.

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It finally found mine, I gave it a name “Bedroom Haier AC” and realized on some functions would work, and some temperatures are not supported. So not so useful in that case.

Others

Multitouch app reports the touchscreen supports 10 touch points. The smartphone has a single speaker with mediocre quality when listening to music, but that’s not that big of an issue as Bluetooth speakers are now rather inexpensive, and in my daily life I mostly use wired or Bluetooth audio headsets. It’s good to have a 3.5mm audio jack, but I normally prefer when it’s placed on the top of the phone, rather than the bottom left, which can be an issue when using an armband, or while holding the phone.

Video Review

I’ve also shot a video review mostly summarizing the points above, showing the camera in action, playing Riptide GP2, a YouTube video up to 1080p, opening a large PDF files, etc…

Long Term Review / History

Since I’ve very satisfied with the phone, I’m going to retire Vernee Apollo Lite, and make Mi A1 my main phone. Since it’s also supposed to be upgraded for two years, I’ll keep this section to report the history of the phone, like a long term review, and report important events like firmware updates, or if something stops working. I got 3 firmware updates since I received the phone less than a month ago.

  • September 5, 2017 – Xiaomi Mi A1 announcement
  • September 12, 2017 – Official launch in India
  • October 16, 2017 –  Unboxing and September 2017 security update (1059.6 MB), Android 7.1.2 / Linux 3.18.31
  • October 21, 2017 – October 2017 security update (118 MB), Android 7.1.2 / Linux 3.18.31
  • November 3, 2017 – October 2017 security update (75.7 MB), Android 7.12 / Linux 3.18.31
  • November 15, 2017 – This review
  • November 22, 2017 – November 2017 security update (466.9 MB), Android 7.12 / Linux 3.18.31

Conclusion

I’m really pleased with my experience with Xiaomi Mi A1 smartphone, and to my surprise it’s an improvement over Vernee Apollo Lake with most features, except for fast charging that’s missing from the phone.

PROS

  • Stable and relatively recent Android 7.1.2 firmware
  • Part of Android One program with promise of regular security and firmware updates for 2 years (including Android 8.x and 9.x).
  • Good & sharp 1920 x 1080 display; wide brightness range
  • Excellent Wi-Fi 802.11ac performance
  • Excellent eMMC flash performance (Best I’ve tested so far)
  • Long battery life (about 30 hours per charge for 4 to 5 hours active use per day)
  • Good front-facing camera and rear dual cameras for depth effect
  • Overall better app performance compared to my previous Helio X20 based smartphone, especially for some games
  • Support forums

CONS

  • Quick Charge (Fast charging) not available
  • Videos shot with the rear camera are not smooth in dark scenes, and audio is poor in some videos (metal sound)
  • SAMBA WiFi performance is average for transfer from phone to server
  • Mi Remote  app (infrared remote) is not working well with my aircon (Haier)
  • Display is quite glossy / reflective
  • Built-in speaker not really good to listen to music
  • Android One support may add about $30 to $40 to the price of the phone
  • GPL source code not released yet, but an article suggests Mi A1 Linux kernel source code may be released within three months.

I’d like to thank GearBest for providing a review sample. Xiaomi Mi A1 (Black) can be purchased on their shop for $219.99 shipped with coupon A1HS. Other shopping options include GeekBuying, Banggood, eBay, and others online shops.

Some people noticed that Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 smartphone has very similar specifications with a Snapdragon 625 processor, 4GB RAM, and 64GB storage, the same 5.5″ Full HD display, but no dual rear camera, and a bigger battery (4,100 mAh). It’s sold for on Aliexpress for about $190 (Black version) and around $180 (Other colors), so if we assume the battery / camera features cancel out (in terms of price) that means Android One support adds about $30 to $40. One way to look at it is that you pay a little less than $2 per month for 2-year support with regular security & firmware updates.

2017 Singles’ Day Promotions on Chinese Online Stores

November 1st, 2017 6 comments

Singles’ day (Guanggun Jie – 光棍节) is celebrated every year on November 11 (11.11) in China, and retailers launch promotions to attract young shoppers, especially online. Last year Singles’ day was even bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US terms of (online?) sales,with an estimated 20 billions dollars of goods moved.

Online Chinese retailers that cater to overseas market bring their promotions to the international stage, and like last year, I’ve gather some of the Singles’ day promos launched by the most popular e-retailers in China.

GearBest 11.11 Sale / Double Eleven promotion will span from November 1 until November 13, with Day 1-7 being the preheat period, abd 8-13 the formal time for the promotion. The event includes flash sales for all sort of items, “lucky bags” where you buy something cheap but do not know exactly what it is…, promotions for top brands (Vernee, Creality, Beelink, SJCAM, etc…) with discount coupons, exclusive offers for new buyers, and various other deals.

Aliexpress call the event “11.11 Global Shopping Festival 2017” and while the sale itself will take place on November 11 only, they’ve started events since October 27 with games to win coupons, and starting this Friday, you’ll be able to add items to your cart, and wait on November 11 before ordering at the discounted price.

Banggood‘s 11.11 Price Storm also started a few days ago, an every day you can try to grab 11% sitewide coupons, and other 10 to 15% coupons for other categories. The company appears to have started sales, but the “big deals” are only expected in a little over 8 days  (November 10) if the countdown clock is right.

GeekBuying‘s 11.11 Shopping Spree has also started with 24 hours deals, “gift rain” competition to win coupons or prizes like a Xiaomi A1 smartphone, “buy together” bundle discounts , and discounts for big brands and clearance items. If you share the promo on social media, the company will offer your 6 to 15% discount coupons for phone, toys, TV boxes, and home & garden items. Starting on November 8 and until November 15, you’ll also be able to get a $5 discount if you spend more than $50, and “buy 1, get 1”, but no details are provided for the latter.

DX (DealExtreme) event appears to be different, since not related to Singles’ day, but DX 11.8 Epic Carnival may offer some interesting discounts too with coupons offered every day until November 7, and the main even on November 8 with discount on specific items / method (5% on best items, 3% on new items, 5% on mobile app purchases),  as well as a buy 1 get 1 free gift promo.

I’ll add other promotions in this post, or in comments as I find them.