dimanche 31 décembre 2017

Xiaomi Mi A1 Android Oreo Update Now Officially Rolling Out

The Mi A1 is different from other Xiaomi devices, because of the fact that it is Xiaomi’s first Android One smartphone. It was also one of the first Android One devices to feature mid-range specifications, instead of being an entry-level device. Launched in September, the Xiaomi Mi A1 has decent hardware for its price: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 system-on-chip, 4GB of RAM paired with 64GB of storage, a 5.5-inch Full HD IPS display, dual 12MP+12MP rear cameras, and a 3080mAh battery.

The highlight of the device is its software: it’s powered by nearly stock Android 7.1 Nougat with a few additions such as the MIUI camera app. At launch, Xiaomi promised that the Oreo update would be released before the end of the year, and started looking for beta testers at the start of December. The beta update started rolling-out a week later, and it was found that it contained fast charging support (which was tested with the OnePlus Dash Charger).

Now, Xiaomi has finally fulfilled its promise, as the Android 8.0 Oreo update has started rolling-out to the Mi A1. The update is 1107MB in download size, and brings the December 1, 2017 security patch (and not the January 1, 2018 patch which some beta testers were receiving). It also has standard Oreo features such as picture-in-picture mode, smart text selection, adaptive icons, notification dots, and others.

Xiaomi Mi A1 Android Oreo Update

For now, it’s unknown whether the final stable build retains the fast charging support which was found in the beta build earlier. Xiaomi mentions that in order to install the update, users will need to be on the latest December update (7.12.19). Also, the update is currently being rolled-out in batches, so all users won’t receive the update notification at the same time. The roll-out will be completed in the near future.

This is welcome news for stock Android enthusiasts, although it’s worth noting that kernel sources for the device still haven’t been released. Regardless, the update increases the value of the device, which we found to be a pretty good investment already.

Source: MIUI Forums

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OnePlus 3/3T Owners on OxygenOS 5.0.1 are being warned by Play Protect to uninstall “FactoryMode”

The Android Oreo update for the OnePlus 3 & 3T started to roll out last month in the form of OxygenOS 5.0. Today, the company announced the broad availability of OxygenOS 5.0.1 which adds a support for Qualcomm’s aptX HD Bluetooth audio codec, a new Adaptive screen calibration mode, December security patches, and more. Since the update started to roll out, numerous users have been greeted with a message from Google Play Protect telling them uninstall a “harmful app” called “FactoryMode.”

Numerous reports from users over on the OnePlus forums and on Reddit show that this message seems to be widespread. The message states that the FactoryMode app “contains code that attempts to bypass Android’s security protections.” This is a rather vague message, but sounds pretty concerning nonetheless. So what’s going on?

OnePlus 3 FactoryMode Play Protect OxygenOS 5.0.1

Play Protect Warning Users to Uninstall FactoryMode. Credits: /u/speedlever

Apparently, the FactoryMode application replaces what was previously EngineerMode, the pre-installed system app that was exploited to gain root access. OnePlus ultimately removed the root methods which were only accessible to a user with physical access to a device and ADB enabled, and they also chose to remove EngineerMode and rebrand it as FactoryMode.

For whatever reason, Google Play Protect has determined that there is some code within the FactoryMode app that is potentially harmful to security. Google Play Protect works by scanning the code of apps and looking for fingerprints that match a known collection of harmful code. It’s not perfect by any means, but the database is ever growing and totally inaccessible from users so as to hide what Google is able to detect.

As such, Play Protect does not specify what code in an app is deemed harmful. Apps such as Viper4Android have triggered this message due to functionality related to changing the SELinux status to permissive. It’s possible that the FactoryMode app contains something similar which is used by OnePlus for diagnostics. Keep in mind that the FactoryMode app is a pre-installed system application, so it already has more privileges than a standard Android app.

For now, you can ignore the request from Play Protect to uninstall FactoryMode because it’s unlikely there’s anything that is actually harmful to the user in there. However, this does still lead us to question why Play Protect is flagging FactoryMode as a harmful application in the first place, and we hope that OnePlus will have an answer on that matter in the near future. We’ve reached out to OnePlus for comment and will update this article when we have received a response.

Uninstall FactoryMode

If you want to uninstall the application, then you can enter the following ADB commands (taken from our guide on uninstalling system bloatware) in order to get rid of it:

adb shell pm uninstall -k --user 0 com.oneplus.factorymode

adb shell pm uninstall -k --user 0 com.oneplus.factorymode.specialtest

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Hands-On Overview of Android Oreo-based OmniROM on the OnePlus 5T

One disappointing aspect of the OnePlus 5T was that it shipped with Android Nougat instead of Oreo. (Even the Oreo beta the company pushed Friday is only 8.0.) But if you’re interested in getting Android 8.1 on your 5T and you don’t mind going the custom ROM route, there are several options available in our forums. One I spent time with recently was the first one published in our subforum, OmniROM.

OmniROM Features

In addition to standard Android 8.1 goodies like the redesigned power menu, fading navbar buttons, and inverted navbar backgrounds, OmniROM offers a plethora of custom features such as advanced reboot, dual-column settings, dynamic notification drawer headers, and OmniSwitch (just to name a few). Below is a screenshot gallery showcasing a sampling of these features, along with a small description of them.

Check out the hands-on video by Miles Somerville, my colleague, for more:

My favorite feature of OnePlus 5T custom ROMs is the ability to apply system themes via OMS, which became a lot easier with the advent of Android 8.0. In the case of OmniROM, I use Substratum to apply my themes — you can see screenshots with the Valerie Substratum theme applied below.

Taking Pictures While Running OmniROM

One of the biggest caveats of custom ROMs on all devices (but particularly OnePlus devices) is that you usually can’t take advantage of the camera app and enhanced post-processing from the device’s stock ROM, since it requires dependencies coded into the OEM firmware. The OnePlus 5T is no exception, which means the quality of the pictures you take are often inferior to those captured with the stock camera app.

To measure the severity of the problem on OmniROM, I compared several pictures taken in daytime and in low-light conditions using my first-generation Pixel XL (using the Google Camera application with HDR+ activated) to  (1) the stock OmniROM camera app in HDR mode on my 5T, and (2) a Google Camera port with HDR+ activated. You can see the three-way comparison in daylight conditions here and in low-light conditions here. I highly recommend using the Google Camera port — pictures taken with it rival those taken from the Pixel XL in quality. The stock OmniROM camera app is no slouch in daylight, but there was a noticeable drop-off in quality under low-light environments.


While the number of Android Oreo-based ROMs for the OnePlus 5T has grown substantially in recent weeks, OmniROM has some unique features that you might come to prefer. If you’re looking for a no-frills, easy-to-configure ROM that won’t bog down your phone with bloatware, look no further.

Eager to flash it on your OnePlus 5T? Check out the official XDA Forums thread, where you’ll find step-by-step instructions on how to install it.

Source: OmniRom 8.0/8.1 [OP5T]

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Get Google Pixel 2’s Portrait Mode on the Pixel, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P

The camera on the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL is seen as one of the best smartphone cameras this year. Google put a lot of thought into how to tweak their camera software, and it really shows. Google Camera and its HDR+ algorithm is highly sought after, prompting some developers to go as far as porting it to other devices. Other Pixel 2 camera features such as Motion Photos and Face Retouching have also been ported to some devices, and now, the most popular camera feature, Portrait Mode, is now available on the first generation Google Pixel & Pixel XL, Google Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P.

This development is thanks to XDA Senior Member Charles_l who publishes Google Camera mods on his website Chromloop. His previous mods have brought features such as Zero Shutter Lag (ZSL) with HDR+, 60FPS video recording at high resolutions, and the aforementioned Motion Photos and Face Retouching features. His camera modifications have also brought the new Stranger Things and Star Wars AR Stickers to the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P without requiring any extra files, and now he has worked his magic to bring us Portrait Mode to the Nexus devices.

After announcing his success on our forums, he has made his modification available for everyone to install. His Google Camera mod, called Camera NX, is now at version 7.3 and is available over on his website Chromloop. He explains how he was able to achieve this modification over on his website, but the actual implementation is probably more complex than his short description lets on. Still, we’re sure that most of you are interested in the final product given the incredible shots that Portrait Mode can create.

pixel 2 bokeh tech

Portrait Mode on the Google Pixel 2. Source: Google

If that describes you, then you can go ahead and grab the latest update to Camera NX and get Portrait Mode on your Google Pixel, Google Pixel XL, Google Nexus 5X, or Google Nexus 6P right now!

Download Camera NX v7.3 with Portrait Mode

You can also enable the ARCore mod and get the ARStickers by installing the following files provided by Chromloop.

Download AR Core Mod for Nexus 5X & Nexus 6P

Download AR Sticker Mod for Nexus 5X & Nexus 6P

Source: Chromloop 

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Canceled Lumia Device Shown Off in Video with Pen Input

Currently, the mobile operating system market resembles a duopoly, with Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS in a league of their own. It wasn’t always this way, though. Smartphone enthusiasts will remember that at one time, Nokia’s Symbian was the most widely used mobile operating system in the world. Symbian couldn’t compete in the touchscreen era, but for a time, Microsoft’s Windows Phone looked to be a credible competitor to Android and iOS.

Microsoft acquired Nokia’s Devices and Services division in 2014, and Windows Phone was starting to succeed in the budget smartphone market in some countries. However, it all went downhill from there as Windows 10 Mobile — Windows Phone’s successor — failed to take off in the market because of various reasons. In 2016, the company discontinued the Lumia smartphone lineup, and we haven’t seen a new mobile device from Microsoft since then. It’s worth noting, though, that rumors are abound regarding a new ARM-powered Surface device codenamed “Andromeda”.

In the past, we’ve seen many phones leak after being canceled by Microsoft. Probably one of the most notable canceled smartphone leaks was the Nokia McLaren, which had 3D Touch functionality. Now, another prototype of a Windows Phone has shown up in a video, being used alongside the Lumia 950 XL and the Surface Pro 4.

The prototype was called the Lumia Hapanero, and the interesting thing to note is that it supports pen input via the Surface Pen. (It’s also worth noting that Microsoft’s “Andromeda” device is rumored to have note-taking capabilities.)

The Lumia Hapanero was supposed to be released at Build 2015. It had a Snapdragon 810 system-on-chip with 4GB of RAM. Microsoft was said to be testing two variants of the device: one with a Full HD display, the other with QHD resolution.

In the video, it’s obvious that the Surface Pen doesn’t work very well on the Lumia Hapanero, but it does indeed work. On the other hand, the Lumia 950 XL doesn’t recognize any pen input. (The prototype versions of the Lumia 950 and 950 XL did support pen input, according to leaks.) Of course, the unfinished nature of pen input support doesn’t matter as the device will obviously never be released in the market.

The prototype device is powered by an old version of Windows 10 Mobile. The unfortunate thing to note for Windows Mobile fans is that Microsoft has officially confirmed that Windows 10 Mobile won’t receive any feature updates in the future.

Seeing the Lumia prototype in a video also reaffirms the “what could have been” question for Windows on mobile. Although it had a lot of potential, Microsoft failed to make the mobile platform competitive against its rivals. Here’s hoping that the tech giant learns from its past mistakes to do better in the future.

Source: Windows Latest

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Become a Certified Network Engineer with this 11-Course Cisco Training

Being cut off from the outside world would be a disaster for any business. That’s why the average network engineer gets paid $88,000 every year to keep things running smoothly. This rewarding career is open to anyone, and certified experts can work anywhere in the world.

As with many jobs, putting a certificate on your resume can really improve your prospects. The Cisco Associate Certification Training Bundle helps you pass the internationally-recognized Cisco exams, with 11 courses and 153 separate modules for only $79. Plus, you can use the code BESTOF17 for an extra 17% off at checkout.

Cisco Systems is the world’s leading maker of networking equipment, so it makes sense that most companies value certified Cisco engineers. This bundle takes you through to Associate level, the second tier of the Cisco program.

Through hands-on videos, you’ll learn how to install, maintain and troubleshoot any small branch network. The introductory course also looks at WAN technology, routing and switching, and basic security concepts.

In later modules, you’ll discover how to handle complex enterprise networks — including tele-presence products and digital media — and meet professional IT standards. These skills can take you around the world, and being CCNA-certified instantly puts you ahead of the competition.

Worth $7,853, this professional training is now 98% off at $79 — order now and catalyze your tech education.

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OnePlus 5 Gets Face Unlock via Android Oreo-based OxygenOS Open Beta 3

If you have ever had the chance to play around with OnePlus’ latest smartphone, the OnePlus 5T, you might played around with its new Face Unlock feature. For me, personally, it is as convenient, if not more so, than the rear fingerprint scanner when it comes to unlocking the phone. Since it only relies on the front facing camera, owners of previous phones, like the OnePlus 5, have been hoping for the feature to be ported over to their devices.

Luckily, said user requests were finally heard when OnePlus announced that Face Unlock would, in fact, be coming to the OnePlus 5. And they soon followed through that announcement, as they are now rolling out a third Open Beta (based on Android 8.0 Oreo) shortly after the stable OxygenOS 5.0 release. Aside from bringing in December security patches, it also brings the long awaited face unlock feature to the OnePlus 5. It works just like it would on the OnePlus 5T: tap the power button, and the phone will immediately unlock and skip the lock screen as soon as it recognizes your face.

If you would like to try out Face Unlock on your device, you will need to be enrolled in the OxygenOS Open Beta in case you aren’t already. Download the update package from the OnePlus Downloads page when it becomes available and install it manually on your device by following the instructions listed on the OnePlus website.

Users on the stable branch who are not comfortable with beta software will need to wait until the official update with Face Unlock rolls out, presumably sometime in January. While it’s only coming to the OnePlus 5 as of now, Carl Pei has also teased that the OnePlus 3 and the OnePlus 3T may receive the feature, but there is no confirmation regarding any such update with face unlock for those devices as of now.

Source: OnePlus Forums

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OxygenOS 5.0.1 Adds aptX HD, Adaptive Screen Mode, and December Security Patches for the OnePlus 3/3T

Last month, OnePlus released OxygenOS 5.0 based on Android Oreo for the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T, and since then have continued to release incremental open beta upgrades for these devices. Now, the company has released OxygenOS 5.0.1 which upgrades the OnePlus 3 and 3T to the December security patch and brings some other improvements like support for the aptX HD Bluetooth audio codec, an adaptive screen calibration mode, and more.

You can view the full, official changelog below.

  • Added support for aptX HD
  • Added Wi-Fi hotspot device manager
  • Added “adaptive mode” screen calibration
  • Updated Android security patch to December
  • General bug fixes and stability improvements

The upgrade to OxygenOS 5.0.1 is being sent out in the form of a staged rollout, meaning users will be receiving it over the coming days. Rooted users will have to flash the full zip file which will be downloaded through the on-phone updater, but it will replace the currently installed recovery and remove root access from the device once installed.

As for the December security patch, you can read our article about the fixes that it brought here. Most of the fixes pertain to the Framework, Media Framework, System, and Kernel. The OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T received an earlier update which patched the WiFi KRACK vulnerability.

You can check out the official forum post announcement for the update to OxygenOS 5.0.1 down below.

Source: OnePlus Forums

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samedi 30 décembre 2017

The Ultimate Excel Bootcamp Bundle Helps You Master Spreadsheets and Work with Data

Microsoft Excel is one of the most powerful data analysis tools available. The problem is many of us are never trained to use the software to its full potential. As a result, you can waste frustrating hours on basic spreadsheets and end up missing all the best features.

With four in-depth courses and over 70 hours of instruction, the Ultimate Excel Bootcamp Bundle helps you crunch the numbers. It’s an essential learning library for anyone who wants to work with data, and you can currently get lifetime access for only $49.

The instruction starts with a grand tour of Excel’s basic features, before diving into specialist skills. For instance, the Business Analysis course helps you understand financial modeling theory and use forecasting tools like Moving Averages and Regression.

You can also learn how to use PivotTables to organize large data sets, while the Advanced Excel course looks at complex functions, advanced graphs, and powerful macros. Around 80 percent of jobs require you to work with spreadsheets, so these skills are valuable in any career.

The courses are worth $1,380 in total, but you can grab them now for only $49 and get lifetime access.

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Google Adds Brotli Compression to Deliver Faster OTA Android Updates

The size of an OTA update isn’t something that most people really think about, since updates generally automatically download in the background over WiFi, but it’s actually a big deal on the server back end. Saving even a few megabytes of data can make a huge difference since the gains are multiplied by potentially hundreds of thousands of users. To that end, Google has been working to bring its Brotli compression algorithm to Android for faster OTA updates.

What is the Brotli Compression Algorithm?

Brotli is a compression algorithm developed by a few Google employees that significantly improves the compression ratio over other algorithms such as GZIP while also demonstrating an impressive decompression speed. The downside is that compressing files with the Brotli algorithm is rather slow, so it’s generally avoided when compressing dynamic content.

Brotli Compression Algorithm Android OTA Updates Brotli Compression Algorithm Android OTA Updates Brotli Compression Algorithm Android OTA Updates

Compression Benchmarks. Source: Jeroen Ooms

On the other hand, any static content such as web pages are suitable to be compressed via the Brotli algorithm. This includes application files downloaded from the Google Play Store. Since there are well over 2 billion Android devices out there, shaving off even small amounts of data when serving a patch file from the Play Store can result in massive gains for Google. The Brotli algorithm, when used for Play Store app downloads, saves users 1.5 petabytes (1.5 million gigabytes) of data each day.

Brotli Compression Algorithm Play Store

Brotli Compression Algorithm versus GZIP for Play Store Downloads. Credits: Google Student Blog

How will Brotli Improve OTA Updates?

Now, OTA updates aren’t served to users as frequently as a Play Store app update, but they do tend to be much larger in comparison. For example, a full OTA package before compression can be 2GBs in size. Just how much data can be saved from an OTA package?

A LineageOS developer for the Motorola Moto G4 reports that they were able to save 50 Megabytes on an unofficial build. Considering the fact that the average Moto G4 LineageOS build is about 350 Megabytes, that’s a pretty dramatic improvement. If even 10 MBs of data is saved on each OTA, then the overall reduction in bandwidth can be significant since Google needs to serve the update package to hundreds of thousands of users.

Furthermore, since Brotli also brings improved decompression speeds, that also means that OTA updates can be applied more quickly. OTA updates are sent to each device as an archive, so before the patches can be made via bsdiff, the archive needs to be decompressed. Since Brotli decompression is rather quick that means decompressing the archive will also be quick, resulting in faster patching of system files.

However, users on devices with A/B partition schemes such as the Google Pixel/Pixel 2, Essential Phone, Razer Phone, Moto Z2 Force, and Xiaomi Mi A1 probably won’t notice this particular improvement since the updates are seamlessly applied on the inactive partition in the background. Still, even for these devices, the smaller OTA update package due to Brotli compression will result in reduced bandwidth for the user.

Thanks to XDA Retired Forum Moderator/Recognized Developer cybojenix for the tip!

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TWRP now supports the Xiaomi Redmi 5 & 5 Plus and Razer Phone

Team Win Recovery Project (TWRP for short) is the custom recovery software of choice for Android users. Besides providing the ability to backup/restore, flash images, or wipe partitions, the recovery also has a built-in file manager, ADB integration, and more. Getting a working TWRP build on a device is often the first step towards fostering a custom development scene, since it’s risky to mess with your device without having a backup. And now, the custom recovery is finally available on the newly released Razer Phone, Xiaomi Redmi 5, and Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus.

TWRP for the Razer Phone

We’ve been following the development of the Razer Phone since its initial release. The Razer Phone is Razer’s first consumer smartphone and the first smartphone sold in western markets with a 120Hz variable refresh rate display. Though Razer’s products are typically marketed towards gamers, the Razer Phone’s specifications are also appealing to Android enthusiasts with its Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC paired with 8GBs of RAM, 64GBs of internal storage (with microSD support), and a 4,000 mAh battery.

The device’s kernel source code was released a little over 10 days ago which has allowed developers to build TWRP, but without official factory images, lack of a dedicated recovery partition, and unfamiliarity with building TWRP for A/B partition devices, few dared to mess with their device in case it wouldn’t boot anymore.

However, that didn’t stop dedicated members on our community from trying to figure this out. XDA Senior Member twelfth even went as far as buying a Razer Phone to send to the lead developer of TWRP, XDA Senior Recognized Developer Dees_Troy. Thanks to this, TWRP was finally made for the Razer Phone and it is now available at the following link, along with detailed instructions on how to install it.

Download TWRP for the Razer Phone

TWRP for the Xiaomi Redmi 5 and Redmi 5 Plus

The Xiaomi Redmi 5 and Redmi 5 Plus are a pair of budget smartphones that were unveiled earlier this month. The Redmi 5 has a 5.7″ LCD display with a 1440×720 (18:9 aspect ratio) resolution and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 SoC with 2GB RAM/16GB storage or 3GB RAM/32GB storage, and a 3,300 mAh battery. Meanwhile the Redmi 5 Plus has a 5.99″ 2160×1080 display with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC with 3GB RAM/32GBs storage or 4GB RAM/64GBs storage and a 4,000 mAh battery.

Both smartphones are pretty low end, but it’s their price that makes them enticing to buy. The Xiaomi Redmi 5 retails for around $120/$135 depending on the variant, while the Redmi 5 Plus costs around $150/$196. At those prices, you might have a decent experience provided you have the right software. These smartphones run MIUI 9 based on Android Nougat, but thanks to TWRP and hopefully a fledgling community, other options may be available in the future.

We don’t yet have a dedicated forum set up for the two phones, but we did notice that official support was recently merged in the TWRP gerrit, so that’s how we know that the custom recovery is available for these two devices. You can grab them at the official website from the links below.

Download TWRP for the Xiaomi Redmi 5

Download TWRP for the Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus

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OxygenOS Open Oreo Beta Now Available for the OnePlus 5T

An open Oreo beta for OxygenOS was released Friday for the OnePlus 5T, bringing picture-in-picture (PiP) functionality, Smart Text Selection, system-wide autofill, and the December Android security patch to OnePlus’s flagship smartphone. Though the open beta has been available for a while now for the OnePlus 5, those who got its newer, 18:9 display-touting sibling had to wait, since the two devices run different firmware despite having the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset.

If you want to join in on the Oreo fun, there are some caveats to note. For one, the beta might not be as stable as the standard over-the-air updates, and upgrading to a non-beta update won’t return you to the stable channel — you have to completely wipe your system and data (including pictures, videos, and apps) and flash a full OxygenOS stable ROM in order to revert from the beta. And if you’re coming from a custom ROM, OnePlus recommends you contact customer support before flashing the OxygenOS beta.

If none of that scares you, you can download the full ROM from the corresponding OnePlus forum post and flash it via the OnePlus 5T’s system recovery menu. If you have TWRP recovery installed, you might want to consider flashing the recommended stock recovery, which is also available for download from the forum post.

Source: OnePlus

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vendredi 29 décembre 2017

Xiaomi’s Yeelight Speaker Uses Alexa and Looks Like an Amazon Echo Dot

Smart speakers with voice assistants are becoming increasingly popular. Amazon leads the market with its Alexa-powered Echo lineup of speakers, and Google’s close behind with the Google Assistant-powered Google Home, Google Home Mini, and Google Home Max. Xiaomi, on the other hand, doesn’t sell a smart speaker internationally, but that won’t be the case for much longer.

In July, Xiaomi took the wraps off the Mi AI smart speaker. Now, its subsidiary Yeelight has launched a spiritual successor, the Yeelight Voice Assistant, that it looks a little like the Amazon Echo Dot — complete with volume buttons on the top and a blue LED ring.

Xiaomi’s calling the Yeelight Voice Assistant a “Dual AI” speaker: The Chinese model features Xiaomi’s AI voice assistant, and the global model has Alexa. The speaker packs six microphones, a single 2-watt loudspeaker, and responds to voice commands given within a five-meter radius. It’s powered by a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU with 256MB of RAM, and sports 256MB of internal memory, dual-band Wi-Fi connectivity, and a Bluetooth Low Energy-enabled radio.

The Yeelight Voice Assistant can control of home automation products like smart LED lamps, table lamps, bedside lamps, and ceiling lights, as you might expect. It currently only supports Xiaomi devices, but expanded compatibility’s said to be coming in an update.

The Yeelight Voice Assistant costs CNY 199 (about $30), which just about matches the price of Amazon’s Echo Dot. Units are expected to begin shipping January 31 in China, but there’s no word about the international release yet.

Source: MIUI Forums

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All 50 U.S. States Join FirstNet, a Nationwide Cell Network for First Responders

In the United States, firefighters, paramedics, police officers, and other first responders are at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to mobile communications. Congestion on commercial networks can impede their ability to communicate with team members, and local jurisdictions use technologies that aren’t always interoperable. Those were the motivations behind FirstNet, a nationwide mobile broadband network reserved for emergency services. It’s making progress: As of this week, all 50 states have opted into the program.

Congress passed the legislation that established FirstNet in 2012, and AT&T, which won the contract to build it, got to work, drawing funding from $7 billion in proceeds from a government airwave auction (funded by a 2015 FCC auction). The legislation didn’t force states to join FirstNet, but the deadline for enrollment ended this month, and all 50 states — including Washington D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico — decided to opt in.

Here’s how FirstNet works, courtesy Axios:

  • Fast lane”: First responders get their own “fast lane” on the network to communicate during emergencies or large events. The core network will be built by Spring 2018, with the full network being complete over 3 to 5 years.

  • Boon for AT&T: The company gets access to a sizable swatch of airwaves, which are extremely valuable because they can travel decent distances and through obstructions like trees and buildings.

  • Sharing bandwidth: When the airwaves are not in use by public safety agencies, AT&T can use these airwaves to supplement their own commercial wireless coverage — a significant incentive to agree to the government requirements for building the network.

  • The catch: If first responders need to use the network, commercial applications will be slowed down or bumped off to give first responders priority access. This will also be a boon for cell-site tower companies that will be needed to build the nationwide network in both cities and rural areas.

  • App Store: FirstNet will have an app store with approved mobile apps that are optimized for public safety use.

  • Security: The network will provide full encryption of public safety data, and states will have access to a dedicated Security Operations Center.

No matter how you slice it, FirstNet’s progress is good news for emergency service workers. Here’s hoping it rolls out as planned.

Source: Axios

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Huawei PSmart Reportedly Packs Kirin 659 and Dual Cameras

Huawei’s Enjoy 7S went on sale in China last week, but it might be bound for international shores. Evan Blass, who has a reliable track record when it comes to smartphone rumors, said on Twitter that the handset will launch internationally under the name Huawei PSmart.

It’ll join the other devices in Huawei’s growing P series, which tend to be accompanied by low-end variants. The Huawei PSmart, though, will reportedly launch on its own, and in three colors: Black, rose gold, and blue.

The phone, which strongly resembles the Honor 7X and the Huawei Mate 10 Lite, is a good mid-range package. For 249 euro (about $299) — the MSRP leaked by online German retailer Otto — you get some pretty nice specs, including a HiSilicon Kirin 659 octa-core system-on-chip, 3GB RAM, 32GB storage, a MicroSD card slot, a 5.65-inch Full HD 18:9 screen, a fingerprint sensor, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The Huawei PSmart’s dual camera setup consists of a 13MP camera and a 2MP camera, and the front-facing camera’s an 8MP camera. There’s a 3000mAh battery inside, and the phone will reportedly ship with Android Oreo.

huawei psmart huawei psmart huawei psmart


The PSmart’s release date is still a mystery, but we’re expecting to see it launch in early 2018 in Europe — likely around late January.

Source: Otto Via: WinFuture

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Samsung and LG Confirm That They Haven’t Slowed Down Phones

Alcatel 5 Passes Through the FCC, Appears to Have an Aluminum Body

Alcatel (formerly Alcatel OneTouch), which TCL fully acquired in 2015, is perhaps best known for its affordable Idol smartphone series, and all signs point to a big refresh in 2018. One of the upcoming handsets in the lineup — the Alcatel 5 — recently underwent FCC certification, and documents made public this week give a glimpse at its design and features.

The Alcatel 5 looks to have a brushed aluminum back cover, and could be Alcatel’s 2018 flagship. (That’s compared to the Alcatel 1X, which is said to have a plastic body.) The FCC’s photos don’t give away much, but do seem to match previously leaked renders of the Alcatel 5.

What we can glean from the pictures, though, is that Alcatel 5 will have a single rear camera and a USB Type-C port, won’t have a 3.5mm headphone port, and looks to have a 3,000mAh capacity battery.

It was a little over a month ago we first heard rumors of the Alcatel 5. More recently, press renders for six of the Alcatel’s upcoming smartphones — including the Alcatel 1X, Alcatel 3, Alcatel 3C, Alcatel 3V,  and Alcatel 3X — leaked in earnest. Presumably, they’ll launch at different price points.

We’ll likely learn more at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, where Alcatel’s expected to announce the new Idol series.

Via: TekGenius

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More than 250 Android Games Use Your Mic to Track What You’re Watching

For years, people have accused companies of using their smartphones’  microphones to record conversations. We talked about the unlikelihood of corporate eavesdropping back in June, but paranoid delusions aside, some bad actors are actually listening in. And somewhat unsurprisingly, they’re middlemen for marketers.

Alphonso, a startup that sells media-viewing data, supplies a plugin that listens for audio signals in shows and movies. Roughly 250 mobile games and social applications in the Google Play Store use it to deliver targeted ads, according to The New York Times, a few of which include innocuous-sounding titles like “Pool 3D”, “Beer Pong: Trickshot”, “Real Bowling Strike 10 Pin”, and “Honey Quest”.

Even scarier, the software’s accurate enough to detect audio when your phone’s in a pocket or bookbag. Alphonso’s CEO, Ashish Chordia, told The New York Times that it worked with movie studios to analyze movie-viewing habits and with Shazam to collect music-listening data.

The company insists that it doesn’t record human speech, and that it discloses its software’s tracking capabilities in app descriptions and terms of service (ToS) agreements. It also says that users have to grant permission before Alphonso’s service can gain access to their devices’ microphones and locations.

But a number of Alphonso-enabled applications are geared toward children, according to the Times report, and many of their disclosures aren’t fully transparent.

Alphonso’s plugin far from the first of its kind. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission targeted developers who’d used Silverfish, an audio-recording service akin to Alphonso’s solution, in their applications.

With $70 billion of annual digital marketing money at stake, it doesn’t seem likely that Alphonso, Silverfish, and other like services will head the way of the dodo anytime soon. But here’s hoping that app developers are a little more forthcoming in the future about which ad-tracking services they’re using.

Source: The New York Times

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Grammarly Keeps Your Correspondence Typo-free and Suggests Improvements

Not all of us were born with Mark Twain’s gift for words. And, it’s unreasonable for others to expect you to match the great man on style points, but spelling mistakes and poor grammar can make a bad first impression when you’re applying for a job.

You could fix this problem by hiring your own writing coach, or you could just install Grammarly. This intelligent app hunts down your writing mistakes and helps you fix them with a couple of clicks. You can currently get a one-year Premium subscription, complete with the full range of checks, for just $69.98 — that’s 49% off the regular price.

Grammarly leaves other spell-checkers in the dust, thanks to an intelligent and innovative approach. The app follows the meaning of your words in order to make smart corrections. Along with spelling and grammar, Grammarly can spot punctuation errors and suggest areas for improvement. Students can also breathe easy — you can compare your work to over 8 billion web pages to spot plagiarism.

Whether you need to compose a great report or nail your submission letter, this app is your friend. One year of premium service is normally $139.95, but you can get started now for just $69.98.

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LastPass Authenticator Update Fixes a Serious Security Vulnerability

LastPass is one of the most popular password managers on Android, and for good reason: It’s incredibly secure. But the same couldn’t be said of LastPass Authenticator, its companion application, which made headlines when a security researcher discovered a serious vulnerability in its code. Luckily, it was patched this week.

LastPass Authenticator offers 2FA on LastPass accounts and other supported apps. It’s one of the few multi-factor authentication apps that gives users the option of using a fingerprint and/or PIN instead of a passcode, but the system had a serious flaw: Almost any app could access the app’s TOTP (multi-factor) codes.

It wasn’t too challenging, either. As detailed in a Medium post by a programmer in early December, an attacker could use a third-party app to open LastPass Authenticator’s settings activity and the settings menu, which exposed the 2FA codes.

In a blog post, LastPass announced an update for the Authenticator app that fixes the issue. The company says that now, users must provide their fingerprint or PIN code to view the one-time code, and that the one-time codes are useless without an associated username and password.

The company advises all users to update Authenticator to the latest version, and admits that “proper steps were not taken to escalate and resolve it in a timely manner” — the company was informed of vulnerability in June, it turns out. It adds that it’s “identified and resolved the procedural issue” to ensure that future bug reports are correctly handled and escalated.

LastPass recommends users not to reuse their LastPass master password, and to use strong passwords with two-factor authentication. Finally, the company states that it will “constantly evolve” its bug bounty program to make its product better.

Source: LastPass

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ASUS ZenFone 4 is getting Android Oreo via OTA

In early December, we reported that ASUS was planning to bring Android Oreo to its newest mid-range smartphone, the ZenFone 4, before the end of the month. On Friday, the company made good on its promise and announced that it’s issued a software update to the ZenFone 4 (ZE554KL).

The Android Oreo update (which the carries build number 15.0405.1711.76) is based on ZenUI 4.0, the latest version of ASUS’s custom skin. After updating, ZenFone 4 users can look forward to all the standard Android Oreo features and optimizations, including picture-in-picture mode (PiP), Notification Dots, a built-in password manager, improved Doze mode, faster boot times, and more.

Along with all the Oreo goodies, the update also packs a new version of the default application launcher. There’s a swipe-up gesture that pulls up installed applications, new customizable application icons, and a streamlined Settings menu.

For the uninitiated, the ZenFone 4 is a mid-range offering from Asus that packs a 5.5-inch Full HD IPS display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 system-on-a-chip (SoC), 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a 3,300mAh battery. It originally launched in European markets alongside the ZenFone 4 Pro and Max back in September, and subsequently hit U.S. retailers on October 31.

The update has begun rolling out over-the-air (OTA), and if you’re carrying a ZenFone 4, you’ll see it in the coming days. Alternatively, you can check for the update manually by heading to Settings > About > System Update. As is always the case with staged software rollouts, though, it might take some time for the update to reach your phone.

Source: ASUS ZenTalk Forums

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ZTE’s Blade V9 Marketing Materials Leak, Show 18:9 Display

ZTE first made waves in the smartphone market the Axon 7, an affordable premium phone that went head-to-head with the venerable OnePlus 3. Now, the China-based smartphone maker is gearing up to release a new budget phone, the Blade V9, and its Spanish-language website spilled the beans a little early.

The Blade V9 is a budget phone like its predecessors, but with a few features you might associate with high-end devices. It has a 5.7-inch Full HD display with a 18:9 aspect ratio, 2GB/3GB/4GB RAM (depending on the model),  16GB/32GB/64GB of internal storage, and a premium all-glass front and back.

ZTE’s upcoming smartphone also has a LED-equipped dual camera setup consisting of a 16MP, f/1.8 autofocus sensor and a 5MP fixed-focus sensor. The Blade V9’s front-facing camera is 13MP, and there’s a fingerprint sensor on the back, plus a hybrid dual SIM slot, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a 3200mAh battery.

But the Blade V9 won’t be the most powerful smartphone on the block. It’s rocking a Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 450, a low-end, 1.8GHz octa-core chip that’s commonly found in budget phones. It won’t tear through applications and tasks like, say, the Google Pixel 2 XL, but assuming the price is right, the Blade V9 could be a new budget device heavyweight.

According to the leaked marketing materials, the Blade V9 will launch in two color variants — black and gold — and it’ll ship with Android Oreo. We expect to see it officially announced at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

Source: Stuff

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Amazon Blocks YouTube on the Amazon Fire TV Before Google’s Deadline

In recent months, Google and Amazon have had what can only be described as a petty fight. Amazon prevented Google’s Chromecast from playing Amazon Prime Video and delisted Chromecast devices from its store. Google, for its part, blocked Amazon’s Echo Show speaker from accessing YouTube, and announced it would no longer support the YouTube application on Fire TV devices after January 1st, 2018. If all that wasn’t bad enough, Amazon this week disabled the Fire TV app before Google’s deadline.

Fire TV users who try to open the YouTube application are encouraged via a pop-up message to install web browsers like Amazon’s Silk or Firefox. It’s unclear if Google will attempt to block YouTube on Fire TV-optimized web browsers, but there’s precedent — Amazon’s workaround on the Echo Show, which used a browser to pull up YouTube videos, was disabled by the search giant earlier this month.

Things might not be as bad as they seem, though. Chromecast listings recently reappeared on Amazon’s store, and a Google spokesperson confirmed to Variety that the two companies are in talks:

“We are in productive discussions with Amazon to reach an agreement for the benefit of our mutual customers. We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon.”

That’s good news. Many people opened up an Alexa-enabled device this Christmas, if the uptick in downloads of the Alexa app on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store are any indication. Fire TV users, for now, can use the aforementioned web browser workaround to view YouTube, but here’s hoping that a more elegant solution’s in the works.

Source: FastCompany

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Alphabet’s Tacotron 2 Text-to-Speech Engine Sounds Nearly Indistinguishable From a Human

Alphabet’s subsidiary, DeepMind, developed WaveNet, a neural network that powers the Google Assistant’s speech synthesis, in October. It’s capable of better and more realistic audio samples than the search giant’s previous text-to-speech system, and what’s more, it generates raw audio — not spliced-together sounds from voice actors. Now, researchers at Alphabet have developed a new version, Tacotron 2, that uses multiple neural networks to produce speech almost indistinguishable from a human.

Tacotron 2 consists of two deep neural networks. As the research paper published this month describes it, the first translates text into a spectrogram, a visual representation of a spectrum of audio frequencies. The second — DeepMind’s WaveNet — interpret the chart and generates corresponding audio elements. The result is an end-to-end engine that can emphasize words, correctly pronounce names, pick up on syntactical clues (i.e., stress words that are italicized or capitalized), and alter the way it enunciates based on punctuation.

It’s unclear whether Tacotron 2 will make its way to user-facing services like the Google Assistant, but it’d be par for the course. Shortly after the publication of DeepMind’s WaveNet research, Google rolled out machine learning-powered speech recognition in multiple languages on Assistant-powered smartphones, speakers, and tablets.

There’s only one problem: Right now, the Tacotron 2 system is trained to mimic one female voice. To generate new voices and speech patterns, Google would need to train the system again.

Tacotron 2

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jeudi 28 décembre 2017

Multiple Verizon Google Pixel 2 Owners are Reporting their Bootloaders can be Unlocked

The Google Pixel 2/2 XL is my personal favorite smartphone of 2017, despite the fact that the custom development scene is rather sparse. The stock Pixel experience is enough to make many die-hard Android modders decide to forego running a custom ROM or kernel. However, there’s still a sizable group of users on our forums who prefer to unlock their bootloader, install Magisk, and flash various modifications. Those users who still go that route tend to avoid buying their phone from carriers because carrier phones tend to be locked down. This is true of the Google Pixel 2 sold on Verizon Wireless, where the bootloader cannot be unlocked, however multiple users on our forums are reporting tonight that they have successfully unlocked the bootloader of the Verizon Google Pixel 2.

An XDA member by the name of D3RP_ posted a thread on our Pixel 2 forum seeing if it would be possible to unlock the bootloader of the device. Last year’s Verizon Google Pixel and Pixel XL were unlockable thanks to an exploit, but no such exploit has been discovered for the latest generation Pixel 2 smartphone series. Yet, it appears that an exploit isn’t necessary at all. Simply sending a simple fastboot command on the Verizon Google Pixel 2 (sorry Pixel 2 XL owners!) appears to bring up the menu to unlock the bootloader.

Here are the steps to try on your own Verizon Google Pixel 2:

  1. Download the latest ADB & Fastboot binaries for your computer.
  2. Go to Developer Options and Enable USB Debugging
  3. Open a command prompt or terminal, and enter: adb reboot bootloader
  4. This reboots you to your bootloader. Now type: fastboot flashing lock_critical
  5. Use your volume keys to select the “UNLOCK THE BOOTLOADER” option.
  6. Press the power button to confirm. THIS WILL WIPE ALL DATA ON YOUR INTERNAL STORAGE.
  7. Once done, you can now flash TWRP and Magisk!

Thus far, we have confirmation from XDA Members D3rp_, zinchalk, enzyne, abs0lute, Lightn1ng, Ips1014, and Spaniard85 that this works. We have no idea why this works, but we presume that Verizon or Google may have accidentally forgotten to block this fastboot command from bringing up the bootloader unlock menu if OEM unlocking isn’t checked. This definitely shouldn’t be possible on the Verizon model, and we don’t expect this to last long.

So if you own a Verizon Google Pixel 2 and want your bootloader unlocked, now’s your chance! Try this out and let us know if it worked for you!

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Pixel 2 XL XDA Display Analysis: A Well-Calibrated Package with a Some Critical Mistakes

Smartphone Display Technologies and Terminology Explained: OLED, LCD, Strengths & Weaknesses

In light of recent conversations about smartphone displays, it’s important to take a step back and consider all the terms we keep reading about in context. Phones like the Google Pixel 2 XL have been criticized for their displays, but on the other hand, consumers have generally praised OLED panels. With such a robust ecosystem, there’s a lot to learn about our devices’ screens in 2017, and the more we know about their strengths and weaknesses, the more we can get to the root of these online debates.

What is the difference between an AMOLED display and a P-OLED display, or between a LTPS display and a IGZO display? What makes one smartphone display better than the other? Should we base our assessments on objective data or on subjective impressions? This is where the topic of smartphone display analysis plays a key role.

Smartphone display analysis isn’t an easy field, and to accurately measure the properties of smartphone displays, reviewers need hundreds to thousands of dollars worth of equipment, including (but not limited to) colorimeters, spectrophotometers, color calibration software, luminance meters, and more. But having the equipment isn’t enough; smartphone display testers have to adopt stringent methodologies to ensure valid and replicable data that accurately showcases the differences across various panels. This is a field where tech jargon is used in abundance, yet often poorly explained, leaving most people who read reports from sites like DisplayMate a bit confused. That’s just the tip of the market’s iceberg of problems, though.

So why go to all the trouble of giving the smartphone displays a hard look? The reason is simple: Without their high resolution, high-quality touchscreen displays, modern smartphones wouldn’t have the same appeal as they do now. Screens are the medium through which we interact with and consume the content that millions of creators and developers work hard to produce, and screens should do that content justice.

We can see how smartphone display quality has steadily improved over the years along with the problems that displays face today. For the purposes of this article, we’re only considering display quality on touchscreen smartphones released on or after 2007.

You read the title, you know what this piece is about, so let’s begin!

Evolution of smartphone displays

Apple’s original iPhone, released in 2007. Source: Apple

The original iPhone had a 3.5-inch TFT display with HVGA (480×320) resolution. The first Android phone, the HTC Dream / T-Mobile G1, had a smaller 3.2-inch display with the same resolution. These displays were not IPS (an acronym for in-plane switching, which we ‘ll come back to later on), and they didn’t have a 16:9 aspect ratio — indeed, to most people, their old 3:2 aspect ratios look a little outdated. In terms of display quality, the screens weren’t usually calibrated for color accuracy, and brightness, contrast, and viewing angles were sub-par compared to today’s screens.

Smartphone displays have come a long way since then. In 2009, the first Android phones arrived with WVGA (800×480) displays and  15:9 aspect ratios. Then, in early 2010, the first OLED phones were released. Samsung’s AMOLED displays were used on the Nexus One and HTC Desire, with the same nominal WVGA resolution but a PenTile matrix pixel arrangement, which lowered the screens’ effective color resolution (more on this later). As these were the early days of this technology, the display quality on AMOLED wasn’t up to scratch yet.

Apple stole Samsung’s thunder with its Retina display, which debuted on the iPhone 4 in June 2010. It had a then-unmatched 960×640 resolution (326 ppi) with IPS technology, which was as good as the technology could get at the time.


Apple’s iPhone 4. Source: Apple

The iPhone 4’s Retina display was without equal in the Android world. But that didn’t discourage Samsung from attempting to one-up it. The Galaxy S, which was released around the same time as the iPhone 4, featured the South Korea-based company’s new Super AMOLED display technology. It was a newer generation compared to the Nexus One’s display, and it boasted better visibility in direct sunlight. Unfortunately, though, it used a PenTile pixel arrangement and its image sharpness fell short of the LCD competition.

But display quality on smartphones kept getting better over time. 2011 saw Samsung’s Super AMOLED Plus display with an RGB matrix pixel arrangement, the first and last of its kind. And it saw the rise of 720p HD displays both in LCD and OLED screens, which overtook Apple’s original Retina resolution and kicked off a new front in the display wars: Pixel density one-upmanship.

Displays have advanced at an ever-more-rapid pace in the intervening years. LCDs improved substantially, reaching 1080p Full HD and then QHD resolutions with RGB matrix technology; brightness up to 700 nits; 178-degree viewing angles (at the high end of the spectrum, thanks to IPS); and contrast ratios cracking 2000:1.

Samsung’s AMOLED displays improved so quickly, in fact, that the technology began to leapfrog LCD in 2014. For a few years running, every Samsung flagship has topped DisplayMate’s list of top smartphone screens — until the trend was broken with the iPhone X’s OLED display (a Samsung-made panel), which DisplayMate crowned this year’s best smartphone display.

For a time, Samsung Display was the only manufacturer of note in the OLED space, but that changed in 2017 when LG Display secured a high-profile contract to ship its P-OLED displays on smartphones.

So, we’ve seen the rise of sRGB and DCI-P3 color calibration in smartphones, and both major mobile operating systems support color management now. We’ve also seen the emergence of mobile HDR displays, and of adaptive screen refresh rates up to 120Hz. There can be no doubt about it: The future is bright for smartphone displays.

With all that in mind, let’s clear up and expand on some common display terminology.

Display terminology in Simple Terms


A comparison of several display technologies and pixel arrangements. Source: Wikimedia

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display): An LCD is a flat-panel display that’s based on the light-modulating properties of liquid crystals. Although LCDs are very thin, they are composed of several layers. Those layers include two polarized panels with a liquid crystal solution between them — light is projected through the layer of liquid crystals and is colorized, which produces the visible image.

The important thing to note is that the liquid crystals do not emit light themselves, so LCDs require a backlight. They’re thin, light and generally inexpensive to produce, and the most mature display technology used in smartphones.

Some of the advantages of LCDs include high brightness, consistent color fidelity at different viewing angles, better color sharpness thanks to the use of an RGB matrix, and longevity (LCDs aren’t susceptible to burn-in, though they can suffer temporary image retention). They also tend to exhibit lower contrast and response times compared to some OLED equivalents.


A diagram of in-plane switching technology. Source: SIIM

IPS (In-Plane Switching): In-plane switching involves arranging and switching the orientation of molecules of the liquid crystal layer between the glass substrates of the display. Simply put, it’s a technology that’s used to improve viewing angles and color reproduction on TFT displays, and that’s intended as a replacement for TN (Twisted Nematic) displays. It’s used on LCDs to get up to 178 degree horizontal and vertical viewing angles.

OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode): OLED, unlike LCD,  does not require a backlight, because the pixels contain light-emitting diodes that power on and switch off on an individual basis. The advantages of OLED displays include a theoretically “infinite” contrast ratio, and also a wider native color gamut, a lesser shift in brightness at different viewing angles, and better power efficiency with low APLs. The downsides include color shifting at different viewing angles, burn-in, and lower power efficiency in high APL applications.

APL (Average Picture Level): APL determines how much white content is on a given screen. Without knowing the APL of a piece of content, the true brightness of an OLED display can’t be determined, which is why we show typically see multiple measurements at different APL percentages. 100% APL is completely white, while 0% APL is a completely black screen without any trace of white. Brightness in OLED panels is variable — it increases in low APL scenarios and vice versa.


The benefits of LTPS. Source: Ubergizmo

LTPS (Low-temperature Polysilicon): This is a manufacturing technique in LCDs. It substitutes amorphous silicon for polysilicon to increase display resolution and maintain low temperatures. It is used to increase power efficiency and pixel density.

IGZO (Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide): A IGZO is a display made with an artificial transparent crystalline oxide semiconductor, first produced by Sharp. It is composed of indium, gallium, zinc and oxygen, and it’s mostly used in tablets, though some smartphone manufacturers are starting to use it, too. (A good example is the 120Hz displays on Android devices like the Razer Phone.) It promises large power efficiency improvements, but the downside is that some displays have reduced brightness and contrast compared to LTPS LCDs.

HDR (High Dynamic Range): HDR, or high dynamic range, is a display feature in some newer devices and future flagships that promises a more lifelike media-viewing experience. Here’s the simple explanation: HDR-capable displays have a high peak brightness, giving scenes more detailed shadows without sacrificing detail in highlights. On top of that, they can display wider color ranges and richer color depths, leading to a higher number of colors with more steps in each color gradient.

This is because HDR displays support wide color gamuts (DCI-P3 is currently the most widely supported wide color gamut), and also support 10-bit color (per the UHD Alliance). This theoretically allows HDR-enabled smartphones to display over 1 billion colors. As of now, flagship smartphones are starting to support the HDR10 and Dolby Vision standards.

Candela per meter square: Candela per meter square, also known as nits, is a function of the intensity of the light source, and it’s used to measure the brightness of any screen). The higher the cd/m^2 number, the brighter the display. You’ll find most display reviews for smartphones carry out measurements at around 200 nits.

Contrast ratio: This is the ratio of a display’s  peak brightness to its black level. OLED displays have a theoretically infinite contrast ratio because the pixels can be completely switched off, though in practice, ambient light prevents this from being realized except in a completely dark room. Thus, OLED panels can improve their contrast ratio by reducing screen reflectance.

Issues in modern LCDs

LCDs are the most popular smartphone display technology on the market. The vast majority of budget and mid-range smartphones have LCDs rather than OLED displays, mostly because of cost. In non-flagship smartphones, using LCD instead of OLED reduces the manufacturers’ bill of materials (BOM), which subsequently increases the profit margin and lowers the cost.

That doesn’t mean, though, that LCD is free of drawbacks. While it’s regarded as a more mature technology than alternatives like OLED, LCD is inferior to OLED in several respects. Let’s take a look at them one by one:


OLED and LCD contrast ratios compared. Source: 4K LED TV Review

Contrast. Modern LCDs have up to 2000:1 static contrast, though manufacturers sometimes market a higher dynamic contrast. In that respect, LCDs fall far short of OLED’s theoretically infinite contrast, though vendors such as Apple and Huawei choose to forgo the infinite contrast rating. The reason? Blacks on LCD displays aren’t true blacks because of the screens’ backlight. Even the deepest blacks look like a  dark shade of grey, and this is especially noticeable in the dark.

There’s no real solution to this problem, because LCDs require a backlight to function — the screen wouldn’t be visible otherwise. Display manufacturers’ only recourse is reducing the luminance of the black levels — the darker they are, the higher the contrast.

In environments with a lot of ambient light, there’s actually very little perceptible difference between LCD and OLED displays (at least on this aspect), because the advantages of the latter are basically negated. However, when you’re watching a video or using a dark theme or wallpaper, LCD’s weaknesses are highlighted. The issue is also apparent in the displays’ viewing angles, as blacks tend to wash out as the angle shifts from left to right. This can make the media-viewing experience feel less immersive.

LCD displays’ contrast shortcomings also affect legibility in sunlight. In the past, LCDs used to be unquestionably superior to OLED displays in direct sunlight, but that’s no longer the case. OLED displays equipped with auto brightness boost modes and other technologies are able to take advantage of low reflectance and higher contrast to outclass LCDs.

Despite the fact that LCDs have higher sustainable brightness levels than OLED displays, sunlight legibility tends to be better on OLEDs thanks to the reflectance and contrast deficiencies in modern LCD panels. They might be mitigated in the future with brighter displays with higher native contrasts, but LCDs have lost momentum here.


LCD viewing angles compared. Source: Mitsubishi

Brightness fidelity in viewing angles. The best IPS LCDs are mostly free of color shift, which means that their colors don’t change or exhibit a tint at angle shifts. However, even a slight shift in angle unavoidably impacts the perceived brightness level. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s more palpable in budget and mid-range smartphones, which tend to experience a higher degree of color shift than premium devices.

OLED displays aren’t affected by brightness and loss of contrast  when their viewing angles are shifted, so it really comes down to picking the lesser of two evils: Can you live with color shift, or a loss in brightness? In case of the former, you should opt for an OLED display, and in case of the latter, LCD is your best bet. Higher quality panel (typically found in flagships) can essentially eliminate this dilemma.

Inferior response times compared to OLED. LCDs have been steadily improving on this front, with newer-generation LCDs suffering from less ghosting compared to older displays. However, this is another problem which can be mitigated but not solved. OLEDs are simply superior in this area, and that’s one of the reasons why Google’s Daydream mobile VR platform requires OLED displays.

LCDs in budget and mid-range smartphones are more prone to ghosting and lower response times. This can make the phones feel less smooth and responsive than competitors with OLED displays.

Overall, it’s tough to severely criticize LCDs because of how immensely they’ve improved in the past few years. It’s not uncommon for budget smartphones to have 5.5-inch Full HD IPS displays without color shift, which is measurably better than the flagship smartphones of a few years ago with inferior resolutions, brightness, and color accuracy.

But it’s in the flagship (and increasingly mid-range) devices that LCD’s limitations rear their ugly heads. The evidence from experts suggests that OLED, despite its relative immaturity, is overall better than LCD at the high end. That’s why LCDs are becoming much less common in flagship smartphones, despite the fact that they support wider color gamuts (such as DCI-P3), HDR standards such as HDR10 and Dolby Vision, and higher response times than ever before.

It seems likely that the current pace of improvement in OLED will ensure its superiority over LCD. But OLED isn’t perfect either. Let’s move onto its biggest issues.

Issues in OLED displays

Samsung has gone all-in with OLED since 2010’s Galaxy S. A multitude of OEMs now seem to prefer OLED displays in their flagship smartphones, and the technology is slowly permeating mid-range and affordable flagship devices. And although budget phones with OLEDs aren’t particularly common, that could change in a few years as the price of OLED displays continues to go down.

Just because a particular technology is popular doesn’t mean it’s free of issues, though. OLED screens are visibly imperfect, to the extent that the quality can start deteriorating in days, with some users noticing signs of burn-in not long after they began using their phone. The display tech also has long-standing issues that haven’t been addressed after multiple generations.


PenTile matrix OLED displays compared to S-Stripe. Source: SamMobile

PenTile matrix. PenTile matrix OLED displays fall short in image sharpness. Most LCDs use an RGB matrix, which means they have three uniform subpixels (red, green, and blue) per pixel. PenTile OLED displays have only two subpixels per pixel (red and green, or blue and green) in an uneven layout. Since the Galaxy S4 in 2013, PenTile OLED displays have used a subpixel layout that resembles the shape of a diamond —  hence the term “Diamond PenTile”. While the number of green subpixels in a PenTile OLED display are equivalent to the number of green subpixels in an LCD, the number of red and blue subpixels is smaller.

To be precise, PenTile OLED displays contain only half the number of red and blue subpixels compared to the number of green subpixels. That means that despite having equivalent nominal pixel density compared to LCDs, PenTile OLED displays are not as sharp because their subpixel density is lower.

Therefore, a Full HD (1920×1080) LCD display is sharper than a Full HD PenTile OLED display, though that difference varies depending on the content displayed on the screen. The effective color resolution of a PenTile OLED display is always lower than its nominal resolution. In case of a Full HD (1920×1080) display, the effective color resolution is 1357×763 (divide both vertical and horizontal resolution by the square root of 2).

That doesn’t mean that PenTile OLED displays are only half as sharp as their LCD competitors with RGB matrix pixel layouts. PenTile OLED displays feature a technique called subpixel anti-aliasing to cover up the pixel deficit. Though it doesn’t fully close the gap, it helps to mitigate the loss of effective color resolution.

The effect of PenTile arrangements are most obvious in text rendering. Because the subpixels have an uneven layout, the edges of the letters have a PenTile effect. In essence the text isn’t as sharp as RGB matrix LCDs, to the point where QHD PenTile displays are about as sharp in practice as Full HD RGB displays.

So is there a solution? In 2011, Samsung shipped an RGB matrix AMOLED display in the Galaxy S II called Super AMOLED Plus. In 2012, the Galaxy S III adopted a PenTile arrangement again to accommodate the HD resolution, but with the Galaxy Note II, Samsung tried something different.

The Note II had an S-Stripe display (on the basis of leaked marketing material) with a non-standard RGB matrix. Although the subpixel layout wasn’t as even as a traditional RGB matrix, the key point was that the display had three subpixels per pixel, overcoming PenTile’s sharpness issues while maintaining a relatively high resolution (HD).

But the S-Stripe display was short-lived as Samsung moved to diamond PenTile with the Galaxy Note 3, and while the company continued to use S-Stripe AMOLED displays in 10-inch tablets such as the Galaxy Tab S, the tech hasn’t made an appearance in other smartphones.

Even the iPhone X uses a PenTile display with subpixel anti-aliasing, proving that S-Stripe at high PPI (pixels per inch) remains financially or technically infeasible. (Blue subpixels age the fastest in OLED, which Samsung cited as the reason for its move back to PenTile with the Galaxy S III).


The iPhone X’s PenTile OLED screen. Source: The Verge

In summary, PenTile remains an issue with OLED, particularly at lower resolutions. PenTile HD displays are sub-optimal in sharpness. Things get better at Full HD range, but individual pixels may still visible at normal viewing ranges and in particular contexts. It’s not until QHD resolutions and higher that PenTile starts becoming less of an issue.

Color shift. This is the second fundamental problem of OLED displays. OLED displays traditionally have had excellent brightness and contrast, which means that the displays don’t lose their color contrast as viewing angles change. On the other hand, they suffer from color shift, meaning that the display’s color tone or tint shifts as the angle changes.

Some OLED displays are better than others in this regard. For example, Samsung’s AMOLED displays used to suffer from a high amount of color shift, but the company has worked to gradually reduce the effect. With each new generation, the color shift has become less pronounced — but it hasn’t been eliminated. Samsung’s latest AMOLED displays, seen in phones such as the Note 8, still suffer from slight color shift at oblique angles. It’s noticeably better than AMOLED displays from 2012/2013, but not dramatically improved from the Galaxy S7’s display, for example.

On the other hand, LG’s P-OLED display tech, seen in the V30 and the Pixel 2 XL, suffer from much more obvious color shift. The displays develop a blue-tinted color shift even at minute angle changes, which is reminiscent of Samsung’s 2012/2013-era displays.

Is color shift a major issue? The prevailing opinion is that it’s a major issue on P-OLED displays, but “not a big deal” for most AMOLED displays. However, in our view, the next major step forward is completely eliminating color shift. Color shift reduces color accuracy if you don’t watch the display head on. Also, when multiple people are viewing a display at the same time, color shift prevents a consistent viewing experience.


Image burn-in on the Google Pixel 2. Source: The Verge

Aging. Another unfortunate characteristic of OLED displays is that they tend to age faster than LCDs. OLED displays suffer from two aging problems: Image retention (short-term) and display burn-in (long-term).

Image retention is temporary in nature, and occurs when part of the onscreen content is superimposed or “stuck” on the display. The problem is more common in LCDs (particularly in the Quantum IPS displays in LG’s flagship smartphones), but it occurs in OLED displays, too.

More commonly, OLED displays suffer from burn-in. It appears in the form of permanent discoloration in areas on the display, and it’s most commonly found in areas that remain static for a long time, such as the navigation and status bars on Android phones.

The time taken to develop burn-in is normally several months, and years in the best cases. However, burn-in is a highly variable phenomenon. Some users have reported permanent burn-in even after only a few days or weeks of use, even with smartphones that have the latest AMOLED displays from Samsung (such as the Galaxy S8). Users have also reported burn-in occurring after a short period of time on the P-OLED displays used in the LG V30 and the Google Pixel 2 XL.

Is there any solution for the burn-in issue? Again, manufacturers can mitigate it, but they can’t solve it — it’s an inherent characteristic of current-generation OLED displays. OEMs often mitigate it by using white navigation bars, dimming the navigation bar buttons, and making other software tweaks such as slightly-moving clocks in always-on displays. Samsung, Apple, and Google have all said that they’re using software to fight burn-in, but all three have stated that burn-in is unavoidable. Simply put, OLED display quality permanently deteriorates after a few months’ regular use (though not to substantial degrees in that timeframe).

One of the reasons why burn-in occurs is the organic nature of the LEDs in OLED displays — and the blue subpixel ages the fastest, as previously mentioned. MicroLED is a technology that can theoretically solve the issue by combining inorganic LEDs with OLED’s subpixel technologies, but it hasn’t been commercialized yet. In the near future, OLED will continue to be characterized by permanent burn-in unless in lieu of a  breakthrough.

Power efficiency at high APL. As explained in the terminology section, display brightness in OLED is variable, because it decreases with high Average Picture Level (APL) and decreases with low APL. Power efficiency in OLED is related to the APL of the content seen on the display.

At low APL (<65%), OLED is more power efficient than LCD, according to DisplayMate. That means that if the content on the display doesn’t have a lot of white backgrounds, it will draw less power. That’s important for media content such as videos which don’t have predominant white backgrounds, where more sub-pixels light up to combine into the resulting white light.

On the other hand, web content typically causes OLEDs to draw more power because webpages predominantly have white backgrounds, and thus high APLs. (It’s worth noting that the average APL in Android 5.0 Lollipop’s UI was found to be 80%, according to Motorola).

Here’s the deal: For tasks like web browsing, LCD will almost always be more power-efficient than OLED, despite the substantial emitter efficiency improvements in the most recent generations of OLED. OLED is closing the gap in high APL, and has already overtaken LCD in low APL. It’s not completely there yet, but it isn’t far-fetched to expect OLED to be more power efficient than LCD in high-APL scenarios in a few years’ time.

Now that we’ve taken a brief look at the issues affecting both OLED and LCD display technologies, let’s now consider the misleading specifications bandied about by OEMs regarding display quality.

Misleading specifications in smartphone displays


Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8.

According to DisplayMate, the Galaxy Note 8’s display can get as bright as 1200 nits. However, that figure only applies to the auto brightness boost in sunlight. At 1% APL, which means that the display is showing a full-screen, nearly-black background, the Note 8’s display can reach 728 nits with the brightness cranked up manually. Its true brightness, though, is 423 nits at 100% APL in Adaptive mode. There’s obviously a huge discrepancy between the two numbers, and it’s misleading to promote the 728 nits figure as a feature of the Note 8 without adding the necessary qualifying information.

In terms of contrast, manufacturers tend to advertise a deceptively high dynamic contrast. Static contrast is often lower than rated contrast, which is a problem that affects LCDs (thanks to their true blacks, OLEDs don’t have contrast issues). Dynamic contrast tends to be much  higher than static contrast, but that’s not of much use to the average user  Then there’s the fact that static contrast figures don’t account for environments with high amounts of ambient light. At that point, real contrast decreases to 100:1-200:1, a massive difference from the rated contrast of the display.

The supply side of the equation

OLED displays can achieve great image accuracy, and they’re increasingly in demand. But is the supply up to scratch?

The answer is: Not at this time. The display manufacturers of note in the LCD space are many, and they include Japan Display (JDI), Sharp, LG Display, Tianma, BOE, and others. However, when it comes to OLED technology, Samsung Display occupies a dominant position in the market. LG Display notably started selling P-OLED displays in 2017, and the Chinese manufacturers such as BOE are gearing up to manufacture OLED displays as well. But Samsung Display has the advantage of being multiple years ahead of the competition.

In the past, Samsung Display used its position to sell n-1 AMOLED displays to other OEMs and keep the best current-generation AMOLED panels for Samsung Electronics’ mobile division. Even today, few smartphones have 18:9 WQHD+ (2880×1440) AMOLED displays. Devices like the Huawei Mate 10 Pro and the OnePlus 5T have a 6-inch Full HD+ (2160×1080) 18:9 displays. Even though those displays are current-generation panels, they’re lower in resolution. If companies are willing to pay more for OLED panels, of course, Samsung Display will happily supply them with its highest-quality AMOLED technology. One example is Apple, which has significant leverage in the industry. The company demands top-quality displays from its supply sources, and the OLED display in the iPhone X is no exception.


Samsung Display’s revenue growth. Source: Display Daily

The iPhone X’s display is said to be a custom-built panel designed by Apple and manufactured by Samsung. It has a different aspect ratio (19.5:9), resolution (2436×1125), and pixel density (458 PPI) than the displays in Samsung’s smartphones.

Because the iPhone X is a high-volume product, demand for OLED displays is such that Samsung Display is nearly unable to fulfill it. The company supplied about 50 million OLED panels to Apple in 2017 for the iPhone X, and is expected to increase the number for the next iPhone. It could lead to a shortage in the OLED display market — most of the AMOLED displays being supplied are headed to Apple and not to Android OEMs.

Competition in the OLED is one solution. LG Display previously used P-OLED displays in its G Flex smartphone series, and entered the OLED display business again in 2017. Google signaled its interest by entering into a deal worth millions of dollars to use LG’s P-OLED displays. Apple, too, has shown interest in the past.

P-OLED displays aren’t competitive with AMOLED displays yet, but LG Display could close the gap in 2018 and beyond. That’d only be good news for the industry.

Final words

Over the course of this article, we have seen just how complex the field of display analysis is. Many display experts say that you should never judge any display subjectively. However, for most people, subjective assessments can still be useful — especially considering the fact that it’s very difficult to set up an objective testing workflow. The thing to keep in mind is that before passing judgement, users should have prior knowledge of smartphone display technologies in order to prevent misinformation from coloring their opinions.

Folks have different subjective preferences, of course, and that’s fine. Many prefer saturated colors that are objectively inaccurate. Others prefer accurate color modes that are calibrated with respect to the sRGB or DCI-P3 color spaces. Some prefer Quad HD resolution, while others are perfectly happy with PenTile Full HD resolution in OLED displays. Choice is good when it comes to smartphone displays, and both display manufacturers and smartphone vendors should respect it.

Here’s the takeaway:  LCD and OLED have their advantages and shortcomings, and both have progressed with different trajectories. It’s likely that OLED will remain the technology of  choice for smartphones in the next few years, but for now, issues such as PenTile, color shift, and burn-in hold the technology back from achieving a flawless user experience. The supply side needs to be improved, too, before it becomes viable at low-end device ranges.

We’ve come a long way from the first touchscreen smartphone displays in 2007, but there’s quite a way to go.


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