Posts Tagged ‘smartphone’

Linux on Galaxy to Bring Linux Desktop to Samsung Note8, Galaxy S8 and S8+ with DeX Station

October 19th, 2017 5 comments

Earlier this year, Linux desktop mobile convergence took a serious hit when Canoncial decided to drop support for Unity and Mobile Convergence in their Ubuntu distributions, focusing instead on the enterprise and IoT market, and replacing Unity by GNOME starting with the just released Ubuntu 17.10.

Things started to look better with Purism Librem 5 Linux smartphone, which has now raised $1.8 million dollars, and partnered with well-known members of the Linux ecosystems like KDE, GNOME, and NextCloud. However, the phone will be based on a rather low end NXP i.MX 8M quad Cortex A53 SoC, is scheduled for January 2019 only, and being a crowdfunding campaign, failure is always a possibility.

But today, the outlook for Linux phones brightened even more, as Samsung unveiled plans for “Linux on Galaxy” at the Samsung Developer Conference 2017.

Samsung Dex with Android

The solution will leverage the company’s DeX (Desktop Experience) that relies on DeX Station – a dock for Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, and Note8 smartphone – that connected to a big display, as well as a special Android desktop mode that supports multi-window, comes with a start menu, etc…

Linux on Galaxy app will enable developers and users to leverage Samsung DeX hardware (station + smartphone) to run their preferred Linux desktop distribution(s) using the same kernel that powers Android OS. For example, developers will be able to code using their mobile on-the-go, and with Samsung DeX, continue their work on a larger display.

Samsung Linux on Galaxy is still a work in progress, and the project is still private. But if you are interested, you can register your interest in order to get notified when it goes public.

ZTE Axon M is a Dual Display Foldable Smartphone

October 18th, 2017 2 comments

We’ve seen smartphone in the past with two displays, such has Yotaphone 2 with a color front display, coupled with an e-Paper rear display that’s always on and consumes less power.

ZTE Axon M also comes with two displays, but it’s a completely different beast, as both are color displays, and foldable to create an extended display when needed, somewhat like a foldable tablet.

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ZTE Axon M (partial) specifications:

  • SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 quad core processor up to 2.15 GHz with Adreno 530 GPU
  • System Memory – 4GB RAM
  • Storage – 64GB eMMC 5.1 flash + micro SD slot up to 256 GB
  • Display – 2x 5.2″ @ 1920×1080 displays making a single 1920×2160 screen when opened
  • Audio – 3.5mm audio jack, microphone, dual speaker, Dolby Atmos support, AKM 4962 HiFi chipset
  • Camera
    • 20MP rear camera with f/1.8 aperture, PDAF, dual-image stabilization, dual LED flash
    • Up to 4K @ 30 fps, 720p @ 240 fps
  • Cellular Connectivity – NanoSIM card
  • Sensor – Fingerprint scanner (inside power button)
  • Battery – 3,180 mAh with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
  • Dimensions – 150.8 x 71.6 x 12.1mm
  • Weight – 230g

The phone currently runs  Android 7.1.2, but an update to Android 8.0 is expected.

The various modes are explained in ZTE developer forums. Basically you have an extra “M” button in Android which allows you to select one of four modes:

  • Single mode – The phone is closed, and you are just using one display.
  • Mirror mode – Both display show the same content vertically or horizontally, which can be useful to watch a video among a group of people.
  • Extended mode – Both screens as used as one so you’d get an “extended desktop” like you would on PCs. Some apps can also leverage this mode to show different content on both screens. For example, the Gallery app can be used to show a list of photo on the left screen, and display the select photo on the right screen, or YouTube apps is split to show the video on the top screen, comments on the bottom screen.
  • Dual mode – Both screens run independent apps

A side effect of having two displays is that you only need one camera for standard photos and selfies, so the front-facing camera is gone. The company launched the phone as a special event, where some bloggers could play with them for one hour or so, and a few ZTE Axon M hands-on videos have been uploaded to YouTube, such as the one below.

XDA Developers: reports that ZTE Axon M will sell for around $725 starting in to the US with AT&T at the end of the year, then with Docomo in Japan, China Telecom and will follow in China in Q1 2018, and Europe soon after. More details may be found on the product page.

Google Pixel Visual Core is a Custom Designed Co-Processor for Smartphone Cameras

October 18th, 2017 1 comment

Google unveiled their latest Pixel 2 & Pixel 2 XL premium smartphones powered by Snapdragon 835 SoC earlier this month, and while they are expected to go on sale tomorrow, reviewers have got their hands on samples, and one of the key feature is the camera that takes really good photos and videos as reported here and there.

You’d think the ISP and DSP inside Snapdragon 835 SoC would handle any sort of processing required to take photos. But apparently that was not enough, as Google decided to design their own custom co-processor – called Pixel Visual Core -, and integrated it into Pixel 2 phones.

The co-processor features a Cortex A53 core, an LPDDR4 memory interface, PCIe interface and MIPI CSI interface, as well as an image processing unit (IPU) IO block with 8 IPU cores. Google explains the IPU block will allow 3rd party applications to leverage features like low latency HDR+ photography, where the camera takes photos with different exposure very quickly, and “juxtapose” them to provide the best possible photo.

Each IPU core includes 512 arithmetic logic units (ALUs), and the IPU delivers more than 3 TOPS (trillion operations per second) on a mobile power budget. Pixel Visual Core allows HDR+ to run 5x faster using a tenth of energy required by running the algorithm on the application processor (AP). Programming is done using domain-specific languages: Halide for image processing and TensorFlow for machine learning, and a Google-made compiler optimizes the code for the hardware.

Pixel Visual Core will be accessible as a developer option in the developer preview of Android Oreo 8.1 (MR1), before being enabled for any apps using the Android Camera API.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 Delivers Up to 40% Better Performance Over Snapdragon 630, Supports FHD+ Displays

October 18th, 2017 No comments

Qualcomm has announced a new “Mobile Platform” with Snapdragon 636 that combines eight Kryo 260 cores, an Adreno 509 GPU, and X12 LTE modem for “high quality devices with top-level features at a low price point”, which must mean “mid range”.

The new Snapdragon 636 offers an update to Snapdragon 630 / 660 solutions released last year with up to 40% performance boost, 10% faster 3D graphics, and support for ultra-wide FHD+ displays (18:9 aspect ratio).

Key features for Snapdragon 636:

  • CPU – 8x Qualcomm Kryo 260 cores clocked at up to 1.8 GHz
  • GPU – Adreno 509 with support for OpenGL ES 3.2, OpenCL 2.0 full,Vulkan, DX12
  • DSP – Hexagon 680 DSP with All-Ways Aware Technology, Neural Processing Engine SDK, Caffe/Caffe2 and Tensorflow support
  • Memory I/F –  LPDDR4/4X, dual channel up to 1333MHz, 8GB RAM
  • Storage I/F – eMMC and UFS flash
  • Display – Up to 2160×1080 FHD+ resolution; DisplayPort and USB type-C support for external displays
  • Video – Up to 4K @ 30 fps playback and capture; up to 1080p @ 120 fps capture; H.264, H.265, VP9, VP8 codecs
  • Audio – Qualcomm Aqstic audio codec and speaker amplifier; Qualcomm aptX audio playback with support for aptX classic and HD
  • Camera – Up to 24MP single camera, up to 16MP dual camera; Qualcomm Spectra 160 ISP
  • Modem – Snapdragon X12 LTE modem: Cat 12 for downlink (600 Mbps max); Cat 13 for uplink (150 Mbps max)
  • Wireless Connectivity – Dual band 802.11ac 1×1 WiFi, Bluetooth 5
  • Location – GPS, Glanass, BeiDou, Galileo, QZSS and SBAS
  • Security – Qualcomm Mobile Security: smart camera,  application security, Qualcomm processor security
  • Charging – Quick Charge 4 technology

Snapdragon 636 is also pin-to-pin compatible with Snapdragon 630/660, so OEMs will have an easier time upgrading their models.

The Snapdragon 636 Mobile Platform is expected to ship to customers in November 2017. More info on the product page.

Snapdragon X50 5G Modem Makes it First Data Connection

October 17th, 2017 1 comment

5G technology is expected to launch in 2019, and Qualcomm has recently made a step towards this goal with the company announcing their first 5G data connection with Snapdragon X50 modem on on 28GHz mmWave Spectrum.

The demonstration took place in Qualcomm Technologies’ laboratories in San Diego, and achieved Gigabit download speeds using several 100 MHz 5G carriers.

Snapdragon X50 (Left); 26GHz mmWave antenna module (Right)

Snapdragon X50 5G Modem’s product page lists some of the key features of the chip:

  • Up to 5 gigabits per second download speeds
  • Initial support for operation in the 28 GHz millimeter wave band. It can connect using up to 800 MHz of bandwidth via 8×100 MHz carrier aggregation.
  • Supports advanced multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) techniques such as adaptive beamforming and beam tracking
  • Composed of the modem as well as the SDR051 mmWave transceiver

The modem can be paired with a Snapdragon processor to provide multi-mode 4G/5G capability, and the company expects it to be found in fixed wireless applications, with Snapdragon X50 5G modem to replace fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) installations with wireless 5G connections.

The company also unveiled their first mmWave 5G smartphone reference design, which they use to test and optimize 5G mmWave performance using a mobile form factor.  The Snapdragon X50 5G NR (New Radio) modem family is expected to be found in 5G smartphones and networks in the H1 2019. Whether you can use that technology that early or not will depend on your budget, your country’s  5G license policy, and launch of 5G services by telecommunication companies.

Xiaomi Mi A1 Review – Part 1: Unboxing, First Boot, Firmware Update, and Benchmarks

October 16th, 2017 11 comments

Xiaomi Mi A1 hardware specifications are pretty much standard for a mid-range smartphone, except possibly for its dual rear camera, and what makes it stand apart is really Android One program that promises regular firmware update, including to the latest “pure” Android version, during a 2-year period from launch.

In my case, the phone is also interesting because so far I had only used smartphones with Mediatek SoCs, and Mi A1 is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor. SD625 should be slower than the Mediatek Helio X20 deca-core processor I’ve been using in Vernee Apollo Lite, but I’m curious to find out if some apps have been better optimized for Qualcomm processors. I’ll soon find out as GearBest sent me a review sample.I’ll start with an unboxing and first boot post, before writing the second part of the review in a couple of weeks once I’ve finished testing the phone.

Xiaomi Mi A1 Unboxing

I took a while to go through customs because local authorities did not know that model/brand, and at one point I understood there was no hope and I had to abandon the smartphone, since I could not provide the required paper work. So I was quite surprised when DHL showed up with the phone this afternoon.

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The exact model I got is called MDG2. It comes with 4GB RAM, and 64GB storage as all other Mi A1 models, but there may be differences in network bands since the device will be officially sold in around 40 countries.

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The phone comes with a short user manual in English, a 5V/2A power supply (no quick charge?), a USB to USB type C cable, and a SIM slot tool.

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One side of the manual has some useful information, including how to use the SIM card tray, but the other side is mostly useless legalese, except maybe for the frequency bands and power info.

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The front of the phone has the 5.5″ full HD display, camera, LED, and 3 Android buttons. The latter are a bit confusing to me, as the back and menu keys are inverted compared to my current phone.

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The back of the phone featuring the dual camera and LED flash, as well as the fingerprint scanner. Build quality looks good, and the phone feels a little lighter than Vernee Apollo Lite.

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Power and volume buttons are located on the right side,

The SIM card + micro SD slot on the left side,

and speaker, USB type C, and 3.5mm audio jack on the bottom side of the phone.

You can check the unboxing and first boot video below.

Xiaomi Mi A1 SIM Card / micro SD card installation

Today, I also learned how to use the SIM card tool… With my previous phone I insert the tool with an angle and pulled the slot. I found it was not very convenient, but it worked. But finally, I realized you had to insert the tool right inside the hole, push, and the SIM card adapter would just pop out… Facepalm…

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Xiaomi Mi A1 has a single slot that supports either two Nano SIM card, or one Nano SIM card with an optional micro SD card. It’s not really obvious you are supposed to do but just looking at the adapter, so for once, it pays to read the manual. I could install a micro SD card and a NanoSIM card as shown below.

Both were properly recognized in the phone.

Xiaomi Mi A1 First Boot, Firmware Update

The very first boot makes go go through a wizard asking for permissions, setup WiFi, Google Account, and so on. I did not take screenshot, but if you are interested you can watch the video above.

Some Xiaomi phones comes with MIUI launcher, but since the phone is part of Android One program it comes with a stock launcher. We have a folder for Google specific apps, and one for three XiaoMi apps.

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I logged into Google Play and install Antutu and CPU-Z, before taking the sscreen shot for the list of pre-installed apps. The phone has a 58.24GB internal storage partition with 9.46 GB used (48.96GB free), so I doubt I’ll use a micro SD card over the long term.The phone runs Android 7.1.2 on top of Linux 3.18.31. Also notice the Android security patch level is dated August 1, 2017. Soon after I could see a notifications about “Android System Update (Sep 2017).

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Clicking on it reveal it’s a security update from Google. Rather a large 1GB download, but no problem over WiFi. Once it is installed, you’ll be ask to reboot, and we can verify the Android security patch level is now dated September 1, 2017, the kernel is still 3.18.31 but has been updated too. That’s a nice change compared to my current Vernee phone. It was sold with Android 6.0, with a promise of Android Nougat update that never came. I still got 3 or 4 OTA updates, but nothing since January, and the Android security patch level is dated July 5, 2016, over one year old. That’s where Android One phones have a clear advantage, as I’m expecting updates until end of 2019 at least, and maybe even later for security updates.

Xiaomi Mi A1 System Info, Antutu Benchmark

CPU-Z reports the phine is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC with eight Cortex A53 cores @ up to 2.02 GHz, and an Adreno 506 GPU. There’s only 3593 MB shown out of the 4GB RAM, probably because of some hardware buffers, and 50.38GB internal storage. The phone – codenamed “tissot” – has a 5.52″ display with 1080×1920 resolution.

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I also included screenshots about battery, thermal sensors, and other sensors (partial).

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Finally I ran Antutu 6.x, and Xiaomi Mi A1 scored 60,161 points. Vernee Apollo Lite got a much higher score with 81,623 points. I’ll have to see of I can notice any differences between the two during use.

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I’d like to thank GearBest who kindly provided the smartphone for review, and if you’re interested you could get one for $233.90 including shipping. Coupon XMA1GJ and MI5A1FS should bring the price down to respectively $229.90 (golden version only) and $218.90 (Rose Gold). Other options includes GeekBuying, Banggood, eBay, and others online shops, as well as your local shops if the phone has launched in your country.

Cloud Media Openbook is Another Smartphone Laptop Docking Station (Crowdfunding)

October 12th, 2017 6 comments

Cloud Media (previously Syabas) is better known for their OpenHour and HourPopcorn Hour TV boxes, but the company also has a close relationship with Pine64 company, and helped them make Pinebook laptop powered by an Allwinner A64 ARM processor.

They’ve now used their experience, and likely some parts, from the ARM laptop to create Openbook, a 14″ laptop dock for Android smartphones.

Openbook specifications:

  • USB Monitor SoC – DisplayLink DL-4000 Series USB 3.0 to LVDS/eDP SoC
  • Storage – micro SD card slot
  • Display – 14″ TN LCD with 1366 x 768 resolution
  • QWERTY Keyboard + Large Multi-Touch Touchpad
  • USB – USB 3.0 host port, USB port to connect to mobile phone
  • Audio – Headphone Jack, stereo speaker, microphone
  • Battery – 10,000 mAh Lithium Polymer Battery
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A (DC Jack: Type H 3.5mm OD/1.35mm ID barrel ‘coaxial’ type)
  • Dimensions – 329mm x 220mm x 12mm (W x D x H)
  • Weight – 1.26 kg

The dock works with smartphones equipped at least with a quad core processor @ 1.5 GHz, 2GB RAM, 50MB free storage, USB type C or micro USB OTG port, and running Android 5.0 or greater. Since stock Android does not exactly offer the best desktop experience, the company has patterned with LeenaOS, multi-window launcher that brings the desktop operating system experience to your mobile device.

Openbook is not exactly the first smartphone laptop dock, which also started with Motorola LapDock (now defunct), as new players have entered the market place including NexDock and Mirabook. Just like the two aforementioned products, Openbook also launched on a crowdfunding website, specifically Kickstarter with the goal of raising at least $30,000 for mass production.

A pledge of $129 should get you a white Openbook with a power adapter and a custom USB-OTG cable. Shippings adds from $22 (Hong Kong) with several other prices depending on destination up to $88, and delivery is scheduled for December 2017. The people behind Cloud Media are highly experienced in bringing products to market, so failure is very unlikely.

Purism Librem 5 Open Source Linux Smartphone Meets its 1.5 Million Dollars Funding Target

October 10th, 2017 3 comments

Back in the summer, we reported about Purism Librem 5, a privacy-focused, open source Linux smartphone. The hardware has not been developed yet, at the time the company was still considering either i.MX 6 Cortex A9 processor or i.MX8 Cortex A53 processor for the phone, and asked for 1.5 million dollars in their self-managed crowdfunding campaign to get the phone delivered in 2019.

The project was interesting but with the current status for the project, amount to be raised, and delivery timeline, it was a long shot. But it turns out there’s some demands for smartphones outside of Android and iOS ecosystem, and since then, KDE and the GNOME foundation have joined the project leading to more coverage & people getting involved, and Librem 5 phone is now fully funded with 13 days to go.

The processor will likely be NXP i.MX 8M Quad  quad core Cortex A53 SoC, as they’ve found it to be working with Etnaviv open source graphics driver in a development board. It should be combined with 3GB RAM, 32GB storage, and a 5″ display.

The GNOME Foundation is said to be “committed create hackfests, tools, emulators, and build awareness that surround moving GNOME/GTK onto the Librem 5 phone”, while KDE will help with porting Plasma Mobile – a free, open and full-featured graphical environment for mobile devices – to Librem 5. That means you should be able to choose between GNOME/GTK or Plasma Mobile envrionments.  Librem 5 will ship with Purism PureOS distribution by default, but the company will work with other GNU/Linux distributions willing to bring support to the device.

Now that the funding target is reached, the phone will happen, unless something goes really wrong. A pledge of $599 should get you Librem 5 Phone with charger, but if you’d like to use the phone as a PC too (convergence!) you could pledge $1,399 for the phone plus a 24″ display, keyboard and mouse, or $1,699 with a larger 30″ display. The other good news is that the $80 shipping fee is gone, and the company has now enabled worldwide free shipping.

You’d still need to wait until at least January 2019 to get the phone, but developers can pledge $299 for a development kit with board, display and accessories that will be shipped in June 2018.