iPad mini 2 review

Update: While it dоеѕn’t tote the same Tоuсh ID goods аѕ thе lаtеѕt iPаd Mini 4, thе Mini 2 still got a hеаrtу uрdаtе with thе аrrivаl of iOS 9.3.

Night Shift bringѕ intelligent color tеmреrаturе-ѕhifting tech tо thе iPаd Mini 2. Whether you’re tablet ѕurfing in thе mоrning оr nighttimе, thiѕ nеw feature аutоmаtiсаllу shifts thе light еmittеd frоm thе diѕрlау to a hue of уеllоw thаt’ѕ muсh еаѕiеr оn thе еуеѕ.

Whilе it might nоt ѕоund likе a big dеаl, it’ѕ hаrd tо go bасk tо a life withоut Night Shift. Thе change in thе ѕсrееn’ѕ соlоr temperature iѕ said tо аѕѕiѕt in kеерing уоur сirсаdiаn rhуthm in bаlаnсе. Mеаning, unlike оthеr screens, the apple iPаd Mini 2 with Night Shift won’t mеѕѕ with уоur sleep schedule.

Wоndеring whеthеr it асtuаllу еffесtivе аt whаt it ѕеtѕ out tо dо, we tооk it to tаѕk for a fеw days. Thе result? Less еуе-ѕtrаin аnd improved sleep еffiсiеnсу–bоth gооd things.

Wе look fоrwаrd tо the fеаturеѕ coming dоwn thе linе frоm iOS 10, which thе iPad Mini 2 will аlmоѕt сеrtаinlу ѕuрроrt.

Originаl rеviеw fоllоwѕ bеlоw…

Thе iPad mini 2 was, in 2013, Aррlе’ѕ nеxt step in the smaller tаblеt wаrѕ – аnd with Gооglе and Amazon stepping uр thеir rеѕресtivе games, thе Cuреrtinо brаnd nееdеd ѕоmеthing thаt hit bасk with ѕtrеngth.

However, еvеn with thаt lаndѕсаре, I wаѕ ѕtill ѕurрriѕеd when Apple аnnоunсеd thе iPad mini 2 on stage, соming with things likе thе A7 chip undеr the hооd аnd a 128GB iteration tо ѕаtiѕfу thоѕе thаt crave a lot of HD асtiоn (аlthоugh уоu’rе nоw ѕtuсk with 32GB mаximum).
On tор оf that, there’s thе much-needed Rеtinа ѕсrееn (as thе name might have tоld you) and аn imрrоvеmеnt in battery size оvеr the firѕt iPаd mini tо hеlр power thоѕе рixеlѕ more еffесtivеlу.

Hоwеvеr, thеrе’ѕ the big issue оf рriсе, whiсh Apple hаѕ had tо bаlаnсе саrеfullу оvеr rесеnt уеаrѕ. While it’s dropped ѕinсе thе lаunсh оf the iPаd mini 3 and iPаd mini 4, уоu’rе ѕtill lооking аt £219 (US$269, AU$369) fоr thе lоwеѕt-ѕрес 16GB mоdеl with Wi-Fi соnnесtivitу оnlу – аnd Auѕtrаliа didn’t еvеn gеt a рriсе drор!

Given Aррlе’ѕ dесiѕiоn tо allow users tо download thе iWork catalog fоr frее, as well as Gаrаgеbаnd and iMovie, уоu’ll rеаllу bе lооking at buying the 32GB tаblеt option tо keep things ѕаnе.iPadMini2

The doubling of thе intеrnаl storage will set you bасk аnоthеr £40/$50/AU$60, but it’ѕ well wоrth thе еxtrа еxреnѕе in mу еуеѕ.

Dеѕрitе аn аrrivаl оf a slew оf сhеареr Andrоid tаblеtѕ in recent уеаrѕ, the iPаd mini 2 dоеѕ still fееl likе dесеnt value fоr mоnеу givеn that it’s nоt a lоѕѕ lеаdеr оvеr Gооglе аnd Amazon, and nоt juѕt bесаuѕе оf the tirеd “Wеll, it’ѕ an Aррlе dеviсе аnd thеrеfоrе spending more ѕhоuld be expected” excuse.

I’vе nеvеr bought intо thаt, аnd nеvеr will. Aррlе mаkеѕ well-designed аnd рrеmium рrоduсtѕ, but аѕ thе extra соѕt fоr lаrgеr capacities illuѕtrаtеѕ, it’ѕ nоt always justified.iPadMini2
Thе iPаd mini 2 iѕ аn excellent dеviсе. Thеrе’ѕ no оthеr way tо look аt it. I was pretty impressed with the original mini whеn it launched, but bemoaned thе lоw-rеѕ ѕсrееn аnd undеr-роwеrеd chipset роwеring thingѕ аlоng.

Sо I fullу еxресtеd thе iPаd mini 2 tо be аnоthеr ѕidеkiсk tо a biggеr brоthеr, аnd with thе iPad Air ѕhоwing itself аt thе timе to bе the best tаblеt on thе mаrkеt, I fullу thought we’d bе gеtting a ѕmаllеr iPаd with a Rеtinа ѕсrееn аnd аn A6 chip – so thе dесiѕiоn tо mаkе thе tаblеt 64-bit enabled with аn A7 CPU wаѕ a rеаllу grеаt thing to see.

It tаkеѕ аn аlrеаdу wеll mаdе dеviсе аnd аddѕ in ѕо muсh mоrе: the аluminum finiѕh nо lоngеr feels likе a dеflесtiоn frоm thе fасt the оriginаl iPad mini didn’t have thе еnginе tо соmреtе with itѕ Snарdrаgоn-роwеrеd rivаlѕ..

iPadMini2
Chесk оut thе bеnсhmаrk speeds lаtеr аnd уоu’ll see juѕt hоw muсh bеttеr thе CPU iѕ fоr dау-tо-dау tаѕkѕ оvеr itѕ predecessor аnd, coupled with the riсh арр есоѕуѕtеm аnd imрrоvеd operating ѕуѕtеm, уоu’ll ѕее hоw Aррlе justifies charging thе рrеmium price.

M7 Chiр

Thе addition оf thе M7 chip in thе iPаd mini 2 seems оn thе ѕurfасе to bе a littlе rеdundаnt, givеn уоu wоn’t bе dоing muсh in the way оf еxеrсiѕе with thе mini strapped to уоur arm.

Hоwеvеr, there аrе journal-style аррѕ thаt uѕе infоrmаtiоn оn where уоu’vе been аnd thе weather at thе timе – tiny tasks thаt dоn’t nееd the help оf the lаrgеr chip, but in аll hоnеѕtу, it’ѕ juѕt nоt needed.

LeTV Rebrands As ‘LeEco,’ Debuts New Smartphones As It Tackles Global Market

LeEco, previously named Letv, is a fast-growing Chinese company making anything from smart TVs and smart bikes to TV content, music, and even electric vehicles. The company recently entered the smartphone market as well, and it demoed four of its devices at Mobile World Congress: the Le Max, Le Max Pro, Le 1s and Le 1 Pro.lemax-pro-4

Succeeding Through Ecosystem

Although video streaming and TVs were some of the company’s first product categories, its recent expansion into multiple markets led it to change its name from LeTV to LeEco (as in “Le Ecosystem”). The company also said that it has an “eco-sharing” philosophy of being open with its consumers as well as its competitors.

LeEco said that its ecosystem-driven strategy has paid off, and it’s one of the reasons why one out of every three TVs sold online in China belong to the company. LeEco believes this strategy will also help it become successful in smartphones, as well. In the less than a year, the company managed to sell 5 million smartphones in China.

Basically, customer engagement with the company’s services and other hardware products effectively subsidizes the cost of the phones. This allows LeEco to push out well appointed handsets at relatively low prices.

Expanding Globally

LeEco wants to expand into the U.S. right now by using the same ecosystem strategy. However, the company recognizes that entering the U.S. market isn’t going to be as easy, because the culture is different than in China, and also because its ecosystem of services for the U.S. market isn’t as developed as it is overseas. LeEco didn’t say whether it will sell any of its devices through carriers or only through retailers, but it said it will explore all models.

The company said it has already launched the Le 1s and Le Max, two of its most popular smartphones, to great success in India. This is why India, along with the U.S., will be two of its main target markets for expansion in 2016. However, LeEco also plans to expand in Russia and Latin America soon, as well.

Le 1s (1st gen)

The Le 1s is one of the first-generation smartphones from LeEco, and it launched in China in October last year for only $169 (CNY 1,099). That price gets you a device with a 5.5” Full HD display, a MediaTek Helio X10 SoC with an eight-core 2.2 GHz Cortex-A53 CPU, 3 GB of LPDDR3 RAM, 32 GB of storage, 13MP rear camera, 5MP front-camera, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and a 3,000mAh battery. It runs Android 5.0 with the company’s own EUI 5.5 customizations and content on top.Le1s-7

Le Max (1st gen)

The Le Max also launched last year for around $460 (CNY 2,999), making it the company’s premium offering. It came with higher-end features such as a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC with four Cortex-A57 cores (up to 2.0 GHz) and four Cortex-A53 cores; a large 6.3” 2560×1440 display; 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM; 64 GB internal storage; a 21MP rear camera with PDAF, OIS and dual-LED flash; a 4MP front-camera with large 2.0μm pixels (better for low-light); Hi-Fi audio; a USB Type-C connector; dual-SIM support; and a 3,400mAh battery. The device came with the same EUI 5.5-skinned Android 5.0 operating system.

LeMax-1
Le 1 Pro (1st gen)

The new Le 1 Pro comes with a 2560×1440 resolution display that’s 5.5” in size, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chip, and 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM (just like the Le Max). It also sports 32 GB or 64GB of storage, a 13MP rear camera with OIS and dual-LED flash, a 4MP front-camera with 2.0μm pixels, Hi-Fi sound, USB Type-C connector, and a 3,000 mAh battery.le1-pro- 8

The newer smartphone doesn’t seem to have gotten an upgraded operating system, as LeEco stuck with the same Android 5.0-based EUI 5.5 OS. Pricing hasn’t been unveiled yet, but it’s likely going to be similar to the first-generation Le 1s.

Le Max Pro (2nd gen)

The Le Max Pro is LeEco’s highest-end smartphone this year, as well as one of the most cutting-edge smartphones on the market. It brings many “firsts”, including a Snapdragon 820 chip, 4 GB of fast LPDDR4 RAM (1866 MHz), ultrasonic Sense ID fingerprint reader, fast UFS 2.0 flash storage, and 802.11ad Wi-Fi.

It will also have a 21MP rear camera with OIS and PDAF, a 4MP front-camera with 2.0μm pixels (just like the others), Bluetooth 4.2, and a 3,400mAh battery. The device will be the company’s first to run an Android 6.0-based operating system with the its own customizations on top.

LG G5 And ‘Friends’ Available From U.S. Carriers Early April

LG-G5-Software_w_600We were sufficiently impressed with what LG is doing with its new G5 flagship smartphone to give it one of our MWC 2016 awards. We’re not as enamored of LG’s decision to call its various G5 peripherals and accessories “Friends,” but in any case, you can snag yourself the phone and many of its pals from U.S. carriers starting in “early April.”

Outlets include the bigs — AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile — as well as U.S. Cellular, Best Buy, Best Buy Mobile Stores and B&H.

LG was vague on the exact dates of the G5’s availability, and it was further unclear on when exactly the Friends will be available. In a press release, the company said, “Select companion devices and sales channels will also be available starting in April.”

The companion devices include the LG 360 VR headset (our “eyes-on” coverage here), a device that seems to fall somewhere between the Gear VR and Google Cardboard devices in terms of quality; the LG 360 Cam; the LG Rolling Bot, which is about as off-the-wall an accessory as we’ve seen; a camera attachment called the LG Cam Plus that gives you several hardware controls; a second battery and charging cradle; and the Harmon Kardon-tuned LG Tone Platinum Bluetooth earbuds.LG-360-VR-4_w_600

We had a chance to fiddle with some of the above when we visited LG at Mobile World Congress. In our brief time, we weren’t exactly blown away by the quality, but LG is definitely on to something here: It knows that a smartphone is no longer just a smartphone. To stand out in the market, consumers need more incentive, and the G5’s clever modularity plus LG’s see-what-stick-to-the-wall accessories show that LG understands that.

Meizu’s 10-core phone gets a 10-LED camera flash

It’s also cloned Apple’s 3D Touch.

meizu-pro-6
You may recall that the world’s first 10-core mobile chip, the MediaTek Helio X20 series, is expected to hit the market this month. Indeed, today Meizu announced its Pro 6 smartphone which has nabbed exclusivity over the flagship Helio X25, yet it only starts from 2,499 yuan or about $390 off-contract. The specs don’t disappoint: You get a gorgeous 5.2-inch 1080p Super AMOLED screen, 2.5D Gorilla Glass 3, 4GB of RAM, internal storage starting at 32GB, front-side fingerprint reader, LTE Cat 6 radio and a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port (up to 5 Gbps). The only thing missing here is NFC, if you’re a fan of that.

Despite the smaller 2,560 mAh battery (the Pro 5 had 3,050 mAh), it’s somewhat compensated by the 24W rapid charging feature that takes just one hour to go from zero to 100 percent. Just to ease our minds, Meizu added that the appropriate thermal and short-circuit protection mechanisms are all there. Depending on your usage behavior, the Helio X25’s tri-cluster architecture should also help extend battery life, but we’ll see about that when the reviews roll in.

The Pro 6 comes in a smooth aluminum body that’s only a tad thinner than the iPhone 6s Plus, and while its general shape, bottom edge layout plus color options — gold, gray and silver — will unfortunately remind you of Apple’s offerings, Meizu tries to distract you by curving the ends of the two plastic antenna bands on the back, as well as applying a more symmetrical design all over by repositioning the camera parts. Strangely, the result is a nice improvement over the iPhone 6s’ aging design.meizu-pro-6-3d-press

Alas, the Pro 6 also comes with “3D Press” which, as you can tell by the name, is a cheeky clone of Apple’s 3D Touch: Depending on how hard to press the screen, you can toggle a shortcut menu and preview contents such as images, messages, e-mails, URLs and more. Meizu says many popular Chinese apps like WeChat, Weibo, Youku and QQ will be supported at launch. It’ll be interesting to see whether Apple will take action (it wouldn’t be the first time, anyway), but then again, Huawei already has a similar touch pressure recognition feature on its Mate S and its more recent P9 Plus.

Given the same old mid-range Sony IMX230 sensor featured in this 21.16-megapixel f/2.2 main camera, chances are it won’t beat those offered by the mainstream smartphone brands; plus it is now covered by a piece of Gorilla Glass 3 instead of the harder sapphire, which is clearly a cost-cutting move. That said, it does come with an improved laser autofocus, along with a small ring flash consisting of 10 LEDs — a first for smartphones — which is quite fitting given the phone’s 10-core CPU. On the other side, you have a 5-megapixel f/2.0 selfie camera just like before, and as you’d expect with any Chinese smartphone these days, the Pro 6 comes with beautification features to save you money on cosmetics.meizu-pro-6-front-back

Perhaps the most interesting feature here is “mSound”: It’s a fancy name for Meizu’s combination of NXP’s third-generation smart amplifier system and its loudspeaker at the bottom, which not only claims to produce loud audio with little distortion, but it can also use the speaker — by detecting the vibration on the diaphragm — for noise suppression while recording audio. As for headphone playback, you can take advantage of the Pro 6’s Cirrus Logic CS43L36 DAC chip for supposedly cleaner audio with a wide dynamic range. Naturally, lossless audio formats like FLAC and APE are supported here.

Android Pay Now Works In Mobile Apps

Following its launch this fall, Google’s Apple Pay rival known as Android Pay is taking another notable step this morning: it’s now available to use within mobile applications. According to the company, Android Pay will initially be available as an alternative means of checking out and paying for goods and services in a number of apps in the U.S., including shopping apps like Jet, Spring, and Wish, as well as on-demand services like Lyft, Instacart, and Doordash, plus big names like Hotel Tonight and OpenTable, and more.

These are only the first of what Google says will soon be many applications that roll out support for the technology in their own apps over the course of the next few months – indicating that Google already has a pipeline built, even if not everyone was ready to support Android Pay on launch day.

In addition, the company is encouraging consumers to try Android Pay with discounts in select apps being used as an incentive. For example, you’ll be able to take $20 off on OpenTable dining, $10 off your first Lyft, $10 off DoorDash and 30% off Vinted.android-pay-apps

 

Other apps supporting the technology as of today include Fancy, Handy, Houzz, JackThreads, ParkWhiz, Printicular, SpotHero, and Vinted.

An earlier lineup Google published also mentioned apps like Eventbrite, Groupon, GrubHub, NewEgg, Priceline, Seamless, and Uber, among others, as being in the works.

Similar to Apple Pay, Android Pay in apps is designed to solve one of the larger challenges with shopping on mobile – having to enter your personal and payment data on your mobile device’s small screen. Instead of having to type in your name, address, and pulling out your credit card to check out, you can instead just tap the new “Android Pay” button in the app. After doing so, a screen will pop up where you can confirm your information, then tap “Continue” to complete your purchase.

In addition to the rollout of Android pay in apps, Google also announced that Android Pay iscoming to Australia in the first half of 2016 in partnership with several of the country’s major financial institutions, including ANZ, Westpac and others. MasterCard and Visa will both be supported and the service will work at a variety of locations, like 7-Eleven, McDonald’s and Telstra. When it launches there, it will also offer support for in-app purchases, Google tells us.

The company also briefly mentioned Android Pay’s traction since launch, noting that to date “millions” of people had set up Android Pay and the “vast majority” are now using tap-and-pay on their devices. It didn’t, however, offer any specific details on the number of transactions the platform has seen. There are also over 1 million U.S. locations that support this means of checkout at point-of-sale, says Google – referring to NFC technology, which is also used by Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.

Google did not provide an ETA for when the technology would arrive in other countries, either at point-of-sale or within applications beyond saying that it would add more countries “throughout 2016.”

YU announces flagship Yutopia smartphone in India

YU has launched its newest smartphone and the company’s first premium flagship device – the Yutopia – in the Indian market.

The Yutopia has a unibody aluminum design with the antenna bands integrated around the edges and a PureBlack glass up front that gives it a seamless look.

The phone has a 5.2-inch QHD LCD manufactured by Sharp. The display has a color gamut covering 91% of the NTSC color spectrum and a contrast ratio of 1000:1, and uses OGS to laminate the display and the touchscreen layer to the Corning Gorilla Glass.

Inside, the Yutopia runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, with 4GB of DDR4 RAM and 32GB storage with microSD expansion. There’s also a 21 megapixel Sony IMX230 camera on the back with phase detection autofocus and optical image stabilization. On the front is a 8 megapixel shooter.

Yutopia also includes a fingerprint sensor on the back that can also be used to take quick selfies. The phone has DTS audio support and comes with Little Birds earphones from the House of Marley in the bundle. Customers will also get a six-month subscription to the music streaming service Gaana.

In terms of software, the phone runs on the familiar Cyanogen OS 12.1, which is based on Android 5.1 Lollipop, with the Marshmallow update arriving later. The phone also includes a new service called ‘Around YU’, which integrates multiple services in collaboration with companies like Zomato for ordering food, Scandid for shopping, Ixigo for travel bookings, Ola, Taxi for Sure and Easy Cabs for booking cabs. The goal is to integrate the services from these companies into one app so you can find everything in one place without having to install their individual apps. You can order your dinner, book your flight tickets, or call for a cab from within the Around YU app.

The Yutopia is powered by a 3,000mAh non-removable battery. The phone supports Qualcomm QuickCharge 2.0 for fast charging.

The YU Yutopia is priced at INR 24,999 ($375) and will be available exclusively through Amazon India. Pre-bookings start today and the phone will go on sale December 26 onwards.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016) and A5 (2016) up for sale in China

The Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016) and Galaxy A5 (2016) are now available for purchase in China, a couple of weeks ahead of what their name suggests. The two smartphones have popped up on Samsung’s local website with a “Buy now” button underneath, redirecting you to physical stores throughout the country.

The smartphones are priced at CNY 2,699 ($420) for the 5.5-inch A7 (2016) and CNY 2,398 ($370) for the A5 (2016). All four color options of the two models seem to be available, including the standard white and black, but also fancier gold and pink (or rose gold, if you prefer) variants. There’s still no word on the smallest sibling though, the Galaxy A3 (2016).

Meanwhile in Europe the Galaxy A5 (2016) and the A3 (2016) aren’t expected until January 8,at least in the Netherlands, and that would mean no holiday Galaxy A’s for you. The A5 (2016) is noticeably more expensive in Europe, listed at €429, and the A3 (2016) will go for a hundred less, though these may be preliminary prices.

Microsoft Lumia 550 review

It’s impossible to deny Microsoft’s influential position in the entry-level smartphone market over the last few years. The company has always managed to deliver compelling budget packages at hard-to-beat prices.

While success has never been a given for any low-end smartphone, Microsoft seems to have perfected the formula. A light and resource-efficient OS such as Windows Phone has certainly helped. Microsoft’s devices are typically capable of matching and beating the speed and performance of their Android peers with less processing power and RAM.

The Microsoft Lumia 550 however is the first budget smartphone to run Windows 10 – which marks a new stage in mobile software for the Redmond company and a step towards platform convergence. It’s too big a step though for the Microsoft Lumia 550 but even without the Continuum support, the phone isn’t without its merits.Lumia 550, Lumia 550 review

 

To begin with, the 4.7″ screen has 720p resolution, which is quite a confidence booster at this price point. There’s LTE support as well and a 5MP main camera – a feature Microsoft carries from the previous generation. The exterior hasn’t radically changed and the polycarbonate case is simple and practical. While it may not be the best choice for the flagship Lumia 950, the plastic finish is perfectly fitting the budget Lumia 550.

Key features

  • Windows 10 Mobile
  • 4.7″ 720p LCD display of 315ppi, Glance Screen
  • Snapdragon 210 chipset with quad-core 1.1GHz Cortex-A7 CPU and Adreno 304 GPU, 1GB of RAM
  • 5MP auto-focus camera with f/2.4 aperture, LED flash, 720p video recording @ 30fps
  • 2MP front-facing camera with 480p@30fps video recording
  • 8GB of built-in storage; expandable via a microSD slot
  • Cat. 4 LTE (150/50Mbps); Wi-Fi a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.1; GPS/GLONASS/Beidou; FM radio;
  • Active noise cancellation with a dedicated mic
  • 2,100mAh battery

Main disadvantages

  • Low performance chipset
  • No Windows Continuum support
  • The black polycarbonate is quite smudge-prone
  • The design might be growing old on some long-time Windows Phone users

On paper, Microsoft has done most of the things right. We’re not quite sure about the choice of the Snapdragon 210 chipset – perhaps the high-res screen ate into the budget available for the chipset. LTE support is there though and that must’ve been Microsoft’s main requirement. Let’s hope too that the chipset pays back in terms of better battery life too.

Additionally, we can’t help but notice the striking similarity between the Lumia 550 and last season’s Lumia 640. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. On the plus side, it’s nice that the Lumia 550 shares a lot with the flagship Lumia 950 pair in terms of looks, but the design is quite obviously getting long in the tooth.

Microsoft Lumia 550 review

There’s more to the Lumia 550 though than its looks. We’re excited to see what Windows 10 has in store for the entry-level smartphone space. Before that, let’s explore the hardware and what Microsoft changed about it. Or didn’t.