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ANDROID’S AI FUTURE
4 Google launches Android O beta
7 Google reveals why apps aren’t on Chromebooks
10 Android founder’s Essential phone here
13 Control IKEA’s smart bulbs with Assistant
15 Google moves Android into the car with Volvo
18 Legend of Zelda may be coming to Android
19 Xiaomi Mi 6
35 HTC U Ultra
49 UMIDIGI C Note
58 Ulefone Armor
2 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
Google I/O 2017 69
Google preparing Android for an AI future 81
Google Lens: Six things we can’t wait to try out 85
Get Android O on a Nexus or Pixel phone 90
Make selfie stickers in Google Allo 94
Use parental controls in Android 98
Keep updated with all the latest Android
Advisor news, by following us on Facebook
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 3
android o beta
Tech giant’s latest operating system includes Google Play Protect
and helpful interface tweaks, writes Brad CHaCos
Android O has been available as a Developer’s
Preview for a while now, but at the Google IO
conference, Google took the wraps off some
new features designed to make the next-gen version
of Android more accessible, secure, and long-lasting.
Let’s start with ‘Fluid Experiences’, or aesthetic
design tweaks to the operating system. Android O
actually adds some handy new features on this end,
such as a ‘picture-in-picture’ mode that minimizes an
4 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
open app to a small window in the corner if you need
to multitask. Who says you can’t multitask on phones?
Another addition, ‘notification dots’, steals the look
of iOS’s notification bubbles on home screen apps,
but makes it more useful. A dot plopped on a home
screen app means you have a notification from it;
long-pressing the app’s icon will pop the notification
details up right there, over the icon.
Other Fluid Experiences take the hassle out of
everyday tasks. An opt-in autofill function taps
into Chrome’s password saving feature to help
you easily log into standalone apps, while a smart
text selection feature uses on-device machine
learning to automatically select the entire name or
address you’re trying to select. Even better? Those
smart selections come accompanied with relevant
contextual actions, such as the option to call a
selected phone number, or open an address in Maps.
Google is also focusing on your device’s core health
in Android O, via security enhancements and tweaks
to the core OS. Most noticeably, all Android O devices
that come with Google Play preinstalled will also ship
with a new app called Google Play Protect. Think of
it as a security hub for your phone, scanning your
apps for malware and generally making sure your
device stays secure. None of it is new, per se, but
it was handled in the background before. Google
Play Protect makes it obvious.
Operating system optimizations also help Android
O devices boot twice as fast as their predecessors,
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Google says, and apps load much faster as well. The
firm is also baking ‘wise limits’ into Android O to tame
apps that want to run wild in the background – saving
your precious battery life.
Finally, Android O marks the debut of an initiative
dubbed Android Go. This is designed to run better
on phones with limited hardware, in regions with
limited internet connectivity. It features streamlined
versions of Android and Google’s core apps, along
with a self-contained version of the Play Store, and
enables Google’s Data Saver feature by default. Look
for it on phones with less than 1GB of memory.
Curious? While Google didn’t reveal Android
O’s launch date – or what the ‘O’ stands for –
the company has released a beta version of the
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Google reveals why apps
aren’t on Chromebooks
The problem with Android apps? The windows. Ian Paul reports
Every time we open a Chromebook and see
that an update is available, we get a twinge of
excitement. Is this the moment that my Asus
Chromebook will finally get Android apps? So far, the
answer has been no, and it doesn’t look like that will
change anytime soon. Google didn’t have much to say
about the state of Android on Chrome OS during its
annual Google I/O conference. But the firm did run a
dedicated I/O session aimed at teaching developers
how to target their apps for Chromebooks and
larger screen devices.
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The big takeaway from the session is that Google
is grappling with the same issues we’ve been hearing
about for months. At the opening, Google showed
some of its own apps, including Google Maps and
Hangouts, that aren’t yet tuned for large screen
devices. The big issues that Android apps need to
deal with during the migration to Chromebooks are
support for wider screens; including a landscape
mode in addition to portrait; allowing for adjusting
an app’s window size; and tweaking input approaches
to suit a laptop with a keyboard and mouse.
The issues aren’t just affecting Chromebooks
either. Google said these optimizations can improve
the experience on Android-based laptops, as well as
newer Android phones that have a desktop mode like
Samsung’s Galaxy S8. Even if an app is lacking some
of these tweaks, they can still work well. The widerscreen
issue, for example, makes some apps look odd.
The image above is of Google Maps’ explore feature.
All the content is in the middle of a screen, while
the menu is stretched out across the entire display.
Similarly, not having a landscape mode just means that
an app feels cramped on a laptop, but it’s still usable.
The bigger issue is window resizing. Some older
apps become unstable when you try to resize them on
a laptop, because they weren’t meant to do anything
but display on a phone or tablet. To confront the
window-resizing issue, Google’s baked several tools in
its newest Chrome OS window manager. The system
scans apps to see which ‘era’ of Android they were
built for. If the app is not density-aware, for example,
the app will always display in a maximized window.
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Google Maps running
on a Chromebook
Pre-Android N apps, meanwhile, will switch
between a full-screen view and a fixed window size.
For Android N and later, most apps are freely resizable,
thanks to the windowing features built into Android
7.1. That said, some apps may not use the resizable
feature, in which case they would fill the screen.
The impact on you at home Unfortunately, this
still doesn’t answer the question of when all those
older Chromebooks slated for Android support will
get it. Currently there are just six Chrome OS devices
that support Android apps in the stable channel. Two
are in beta, and more than 80 are ‘planned’ to get
Android apps in the future, according to Google’s
Chromium site. Hopefully, this will all be sorted out by
the autumn, but at this point there’s really no point in
predicting when the great Android app revolution will
happen on Chrome OS.
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essential phone here
Andy Rubin’s handset offers a 360-degree camera and a nearly
bezel-less screen, reveals MICHael sIMon
After months of Twitter teases and hype, Android
founder Andy Rubin has finally unveiled his
latest project to the world. And as expected, the
vaunted Essential Phone is yet another Android phone.
But it’s also much more than that. While the specs
bear out a real-deal flagship competitor,
it’s clear that Rubin’s Essential
Phone is part of a new
to offer an alternative
to Google’s Android,
with a focus on design,
performance, and versatility.
Andy Rubin is the
godfather of Android, so any
move he makes is important.
However, while the Essential
Phone certainly looks great
in renders, it remains to
be seen whether it can
compete against Samsung,
LG, and even Google
itself in the increasingly
competitive phone market.
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The handset is slated to work with a 360-degree
camera accessory, as well as an external digital
assistant similar to Google Home, but at the core of
everything is the phone. Like other mid-2017 premium
handsets, it features a Snapdragon 835 chip, 4GB of
RAM, a 3,040mAh battery, and a 128GB hard drive.
The design is ultra minimal, with a nearly bezelless
screen reminiscent of the asymmetrical Mi Mix.
The 5.7in display stretches all the way to the top of
the device, leaving a small chin at the bottom that
should help with orientation.
Aside from an odd cutout in the screen for an 8Mp
front camera, there is nary an identifiable marking
to be found on either the front or rear of the device.
The glass and ceramic panels sandwich a piece of
titanium rather than aluminium. Essential says this
will hold up better to drops.
Rubin is also eschewing a company name or
symbol. While there’s plenty of room on the rear to
plaster Essential’s double-circle logo, Rubin is making
a statement with the phone’s unadorned glass:
“Just because we played a part in making it doesn’t
mean you should be forced to advertise that fact to
everyone in your life. Now you know why we don’t
have any logos on the phone.”
Above the space where a logo should be is a
fingerprint sensor and “the world’s thinnest dual
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camera system built for a phone.” You get a pair of
13Mp cameras, with one capturing in colour and
the other in monochrome to “capture up to 200
percent more light than traditional
Next to the cameras you’ll find
something that you won’t find on any
other phone: a pair of small magnetic
pins for modular attachments that
will purportedly keep your phone
“cord-free, future-proof, and
always up to date.” At launch, the
only accessory available will be a
360-degree camera, though other
mods are surely in the works.
While the Essential Phone was
designed to limit the amount of
adaptors you need to keep around,
there is one extra you’ll need: a
headphone jack dongle. The Essential
phone relies on USB-C and Bluetooth
for audio, though a dongle will be supplied in the box.
The Essential Phone is available for preorder for the
limited-time price of $699 (£TBC).
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Control IKea’s smart
bulbs with assistant
Broad AI support coming this summer, finds MICHael sIMon
We’ve been hearing a lot about how Google
Home and Amazon Echo can control our
smart appliances and devices, but for many of
us, they’re still out of reach. Spending a couple hundred
pounds on smart light isn’t an impulse buy, especially if
we’re just buying them to try out voice control.
But now there’s a much cheaper alternative for
smart home newbies. Thanks to IKEA, just about
anyone can install smart lighting in their homes and
manage them with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa,
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and Siri. The Swedish furniture company announced
in a press release that you will soon be able to
control its affordable line of smart lights with the
smart speakers and assistants you already have.
IKEA’s bulbs offer a no-frills approach to smart
lighting. Unlike Philips Hue (£49 from tinyurl.com/
y753y6tc) or LIFX(£47 from tinyurl.com/yaauL3f6)
bulbs, the Trådfri bulbs are only available in white
light, but with a starter pack that costs £69 from
tinyurl.com/yc4q7p3z and add-on LEDs that won’t
break your budget. IKEA might not be the first name
we think of when its comes to wireless tech, but
they’ve been in the lighting business for years, and it’s
easy to see it expanding into other smart home areas.
The Trådfri bulbs are available now and start
at just £15 from tinyurl.com/y8yLrLa7. A variety
of bulbs and kits are offered for sale, including
panels, doors for IKEA’s cabinets and furniture,
and dimmers. To get up and running you’ll need
to plug the £25 Trådfri gateway/bridge (£25 from
tinyurl.com/yctm6mu6) into your router.
Until the AI integration is offered later this
summer, IKEA offers its own proprietary app through
the Android and iOS app stores, or you can use a
physical remote control.
We talk a lot about the internet of things and how
smart devices are the next big thing, but high price
tags are preventing mass adoption. Most of the objects
that connect to our speakers are way more expensive
than the devices themselves, so IKEA’s solution is a
welcome addition. It might not be the thing that brings
smart lighting mainstream, but it’s a good start.
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Google moves android
into the car with Volvo
New system will let you control everything from car’s air
conditioning to its windows. MICHael sIMon reports
Android Auto may not get as much attention as
Waymo, Google’s more exciting and mysterious
self-driving car technology, but it’s chugging
along. While no cool new features were unveiled at
I/O – we’re still waiting for the Waze integration we
were promised at last year’s event – Google’s clearly
been busy putting Android Auto directly into cars.
Right before I/O, Google announced a partnership
with Volvo and Audi to integrate Android Auto right
into the navigation system, no phone required. We got
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to see the Volvo V90’s Android-powered navigation
system in action, and it’s a big upgrade from the
relatively small screens we use now.
The vertical-mounted giant display was similar
to the Tesla’s (though not quite as big). As soon as
you turn the car on, it comes to life with four tabs to
select from: Google Maps, the most recently used
app, Phone, and Studio. At the bottom of the screen
is a set of climate controls that let you adjust the
temperature or turn on the heated sets, but you don’t
have to touch the screen to operate them. Just say,
“OK, Google, turn up the air conditioning,” and your
car will start to get cooler.
Google Maps doesn’t require a phone to operate,
but if you bring one along, all of your searches and
trips will be synced. You’ll also be able to make calls
through your phone (iPhones too, of course). There’s
no dedicated messaging interface, though you will be
able to see and reply to notifications from your phone.
Available apps mirror those that work with
Android Auto (which means there aren’t too many
available yet), but popular services such as Spotify
and Pandora are represented. When you’re listening
to music, you’ll be able to adjust the sound using the
Studio tab, which gives you a standard set of speaker
controls, including a fader, and bass and treble.
Swipe right and you’ll see options for things like
the backup camera, the car’s fuel-saving ECO driving
mode, and cruise control. There’s a button on the
steering wheel to bring up Assistant (or you can say
“OK, Google”). Because the screen is resistive and not
capacitive, it’ll work when you’re wearing gloves, too.
16 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
The Volvo V90’s
display lets you
such as the air
maps and music
We asked about updates. While they technically can
be delivered over the air (OTA), the engineer we spoke
to said they were still figuring out the how to push
them out without disrupting the experience.
Our biggest takeaway from my demo was just how
much Android Auto has matured. It’s hard to see when
we’re running it in our cars now, but Google has given
its in-car OS an overhaul that should motivate other
car makers to climb onboard. It’s more elegant than
nearly every other navigation system we’ve used, and
having Google Maps built-in is a major selling point.
Just like regular navigation systems, car makers can
opt to allow for Apple’s CarPlay to be overlaid. That
would be tricky with the Volvo V90’s vertical screen,
while the Audi uses a more standard landscape display
that would faithfully adhere to Apple’s interface.
The built-in Android Auto looks so good, it’s hard to
imagine anyone opting to replace it, even if you’re
fully invested in the Apple ecosystem.
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legend of Zelda may
be coming to android
Another Nintendo classic coming to phones, writes Ian Paul
Nintendo is charging ahead with its plans for
mobile by bringing yet another iconic gaming
series to smartphones. The gaming company is
reportedly working on a The Legend of Zelda title for
Android and iOS, according to The Wall Street Journal.
There’s no word on when the game would roll
out, but probably in the latter part of 2017. Pricing is
also unknown. It may be similar to Super Mario Run,
which offers the game as a free download with a
few complimentary levels. Anything more than that,
however, and you’ll have to pay £9.99.
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Xiaomi Mi 6
£381 inc Vat from fave.co/2sCQnua
Wow. That’s what comes to mind when you
consider Xiaomi’s new flagship Android
phone for 2017. The Mi 6 is around half the
price of more familiar flagships such as the Galaxy S8,
LG G6, Sony Xperia XZ Premium and HTC U11, but it’s
just as fast, just as beautiful, and just as much a musthave
for anyone serious about their smartphone tech.
A clear contender for snatching the crown for
best Chinese phone, the successor to the Mi 5 and
Mi 5s takes on design aspects from the Mi Note 2,
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adds a dual-camera and forward-facing features
such as USB-C audio, and tops it all off with faster
performance than anything we’ve seen yet.
While Samsung is still debating whether to add a
dual-camera or under-glass fingerprint scanner to its
Galaxy line, Xiaomi’s already done it. And though it
might lack the Quad-HD Infinity Display and curvedglass
edges, the Xiaomi has a great screen and is a
much more comfortable size to hold in one hand.
Buy the Xiaomi Mi 6 in the UK
The one drawback of the Xiaomi Mi 6 is that, unlike
those aforementioned rivals, it’s not available to buy
directly from Xiaomi in the UK, nor from any of our
major mobile operators. That means you’ll have to
import it from China, and pay for the whole thing
up front (though you can save some money with a
The up side of that is you’ll pay nothing like as
much for the Xiaomi Mi 6 SIM-free as you would a
flagship from the likes of Samsung, HTC, Sony and
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LG. You won’t get much change from £700 for those
phones, but with the Mi 6 you could almost buy two.
It’s incredible to believe Xiaomi is able to offer such a
great deal at what is in essence a mid-range price.
Our photo black Xiaomi Mi 6 is the ‘International’
edition with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. There’s
also a version with 128GB storage (neither support
expansion via microSD, though few people would
find themselves low on space at this capacity) and a
ceramic model with the same 18K gold detailing as
seen on the revolutionary Mi Mix.
It was sent to us to review by GearBest, which is
one of many Chinese companies offering to import
tech to the UK and elsewhere. Pricing is just £381.91
for 64GB and £429.65 for 128GB, though you’ll need
to also factor into your budget import duty. This is
usually calculated at 20 percent of the value printed
on the shipping paperwork, plus an admin fee of
We’ve reviewed many a Xiaomi phone sent to us
by GearBest, and we’ve never experienced any issues.
But we acknowledge that for some customers things
can sometimes go wrong, and when they do you
need to remember your rights are different when
purchasing goods from outside the UK.
Something else to consider is that different
cellular frequencies are used in different countries
across the globe, and these Chinese models may not
necessarily work in your country of residence. In the
UK what we typically see with Xiaomi phones is that
they don’t support the 800MHz/Band 20 frequency
which is relied on by O2, Giffgaff, Sky Mobile and
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others for 4G connectivity. These customers will not
receive anything faster than 3G connectivity without
connecting to Wi-Fi, while customers of networks that
support other 4G bands but also use 800MHz may find
4G coverage patchier than they have done previously.
Another thing that can make Xiaomi phones a
poor fit for UK customers is their lack of Google apps.
This is not true of all Xiaomi devices, and wherever
possible you should look to buy a ‘Global’ edition of a
Xiaomi phone which will include access to the Google
Play store and Google services out of the box. Some
‘International’ models also come with Google Play
preinstalled, or allow you to install Google Services
via the Mi App store.
Sadly, the International version of the Mi 6 we
have here does not come preinstalled with Google
apps, and there’s no obvious way to add them. We’ve
read that this may have something to do with MIUI
8.0, a custom version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow
that is preinstalled on the Mi 6, and if it is then
there’s hope there will soon be a fix.
Of course we’ve found a workaround, but it is one
that won’t appeal to less techy users. Something to
keep in mind before you rush ahead and buy what
looks to be the best-priced flagship of the year.
Add Google Services to Xiaomi Mi 6
Full credit for this workaround goes to Jaasir, a
Diamond Member of the MIUI community forums.
• Download the necessary files (RAR; Extracted), then
extract them to your PC or laptop’s desktop.
22 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
• Connect the Mi 6 via a USB-C cable and open an
Explorer window to view its contents (if you’re on
a Mac use the Android File Transfer tool).
• Browse to Internal storage, MIUI, Backup, AllBackup
(create that folder if it doesn’t already exist) and
drop the file here to copy its contents to the phone.
• On the Mi 6 open the Settings menu and go to
Additional settings, Backup & reset, Local backups,
then tap on the file you just added.
• Tap Restore.
• When the process has finished, restart the phone,
then launch the Google Play store icon on the
home screen. You should be prompted to enter
your Google account details.
It’s very rare (although not unknown – remember
the LG G5 and the Google Pixel XL) for a company’s
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flagship to look anything short of amazing. And so it is
with the mirror-finish Xiaomi Mi 6, though this phone
appeals for more than its basic good looks.
The Mi 6 is fitted with a 5.15in screen, features
very slim screen bezels, and is just 7.5mm thick with
almost slippery smooth, rounded edges at the rear
that make it feel ever so comfortable in the hand.
As manufacturers look to differentiate themselves
on screen size and quality, with flagships that get
larger with every new release, Xiaomi is sticking to its
ground. This is a relatively compact phone that will
be ideal for those customers who think the market is
beginning to outgrow them.
We still have yet to see a Quad-HD Xiaomi phone
– this Mi 6 has a full-HD panel with a 1920x1080-
pixel resolution and a density of 428ppi – but Xiaomi
is not alone. It’s funny that the company it is most
24 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
often accused of copying, and one that is perhaps the
biggest and best-known in the western world, also has
no Quad-HD smartphone in its line-up. (Hint: Xiaomi
is also known as China’s Apple.)
We have to say we’re inclined to agree with Apple’s
claims that you don’t need Quad-HD: though you
absolutely can tell the difference between full- and
Quad-HD, so don’t believe all that ‘Retina’ BS, the Mi 6
is perfectly clear at this resolution. This is not a screen
you’d find yourself complaining about.
With increasing screen resolutions also comes
increasing demands placed on the battery, of course,
and this is a standout area for the Mi 6, fitted as it is
with a 3,350mAh cell that supports Quick Charge
(but not wireless charging) and may even keep
going two days. So the full-HD screen is a trade-off
we’re more than happy to make – especially when
that display is as bright (1- to 600 nits) and vibrant
as this one, with great contrast, realistic colours and
excellent viewing angles.
Xiaomi claims the Mi 6 has four-sided glass, which
isn’t as amazing – or confusing – as it sounds. Really it
means it is curved on the corners as well as the edges,
and only slightly – we’re not talking curved in the
same sense as we are with the Galaxy S8.
The Mi 6’s design isn’t a huge departure from the
Xiaomi Mi 5s before it, which means you still get the
under-glass fingerprint scanner on the home screen
that sort of looks like the button fell off (we’re not
overly keen on it), but it has returned to the glass rear
of the Mi 5 that was upgraded to aluminium for the
5s. You still get a tough steel frame, and to be honest
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 25
we much prefer the Galaxy-esque glass look even
if it may be more vulnerable to accidental damage
and oh so many fingerprints.
Our photo black review sample looks very much
like a smaller version of the Mi Note 2, but with the
camera - sorry, cameras - found flush to the frame
in the top left corner. This is not the first Xiaomi to
feature a dual-camera (the Redmi Pro also had one),
but it is the first dual-camera Xiaomi flagship. We’ll
talk more about its photography credentials later on.
The Mi 6 is said to be splashproof, which is
something we’ve not seen before from Xiaomi. As
such it features a sealed SIM tray and lined ports.
You’ll find USB-C on the bottom, as before, and
the volume rocker in line with the SIM tray on the
opposite side of the device. This sits just above the
power button, while there’s an IR blaster (which is
becoming increasingly rare) at the top.
But something is missing here: the 3.5mm
headphone jack. Xiaomi is the latest phone maker
to drop the headphone jack in favour of USB-C
audio. Apple did the same thing with its iPhone 7 and
iPhone 7 Plus last September, which caused a lot of
complaints from users, although in the end everyone
just got on with it. That’s probably because Apple
supplied a headphone adaptor in the box, which
is what Xiaomi has also done here. Alternatively,
you can buy yourself a pair of wireless or USB-C
headphones, or rely on the phone’s built-in audio –
which isn’t bad, thanks to a pair of stereo speakers.
The Mi 6 is available in black, silver or blue, plus
there’s a ceramic version.
26 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
Well, what can we say about the Mi 6’s performance:
it’s breathtaking. The Xiaomi features this year’s
class-leading processor – the octa-core Qualcomm
Snapdragon 835 – but while its rivals pair this chip
with 4GB of DDR4 RAM Xiaomi specifies 6GB. It’s likely
to get some competition soon from the upcoming
OnePlus 5, which is also rumoured to feature this
setup, but for now this powerhouse is unmatched in
the smartphone world.
And that is proven by its extraordinary performance
in our benchmarks, as we will reveal below.
The Snapdragon 835 is a 10nm chip built in
partnership between Samsung and Qualcomm, which
meant no phone manufacturer was allowed to use
it until the Galaxy S8 had been unveiled. Thus the
LG G6, which would normally be a rival for the latest
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 27
Xiaomi, was forced to use last year’s Snapdragon 821
(as seen in the 5s). Its benchmarking performance is
therefore much lower.
Samsung doesn’t actually use the Snapdragon 835
in the UK – here you get the Exynos 8895 – but the
Xiaomi still beat its performance in our benchmarks.
The Snapdragon 835 is a 10nm chip, which improves
on Qualcomm’s previous 14nm chips with increases
of up to 30 percent in efficiency, 27 percent in
performance and 40 percent in power consumption.
It runs at a clock speed of up to 2.45GHz with a
big.LITTLE architecture, which means four of the
eight cores run at a lower 1.8GHz for efficiency.
We ran the Mi 6 through our usual benchmarks and
found some outstanding results. In Geekbench 4 it
recorded 6472 points multi-core (1940 single-core),
and it notched up a huge 170,709 points in AnTuTu.
In graphics benchmark GFXBench the Xiaomi
proved itself absolutely capable of all kinds of gaming
and media playback, with a very high 59fps in T-Rex,
52fps in Manhattan, 39fps in Manhattan 3.1 and 25fps
in Car Chase. It’s worth pointing out that we run the
on-screen tests since they are more closely related to
real-world usage, though other phone reviewers often
quote the offscreen results that are typically higher.
Mi 6’s 70 result is as good as it gets in the Android
world. Only iPhones have scored higher in our tests.
We touched on the fact that this Xiaomi phone does
not support 800MHz (Band 20) 4G LTE in the UK, but
28 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
that 2,100- and 2,600MHz 4G are covered, and that
those customers affected will still be able to receive
3G. However, something we left out was that the Mi
6 actually accepts two SIMs, operating in a dual-SIM
If you need to balance work and play and don’t
want to carry around two phones, or if you’re going
abroad and want to use a local SIM for data, this is a
useful – and very popular outside the UK – setup. The
Mi 6 accepts two Nano-SIMs. In common with other
Xiaomi phones one of these SIM slots can alternatively
be used to add a microSD card up to 128GB in
capacity, though with internal storage options of 64-
and 128GB you may find you don’t need one.
The Xiaomi supports Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, GLONASS,
NFC, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and even an IR blaster,
which are becoming increasingly rare but people still
like them for their ability to turn your phone into a
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 29
remote control. Bizarrely, this was taken off the Xiaomi
Mi 5s, making it even more apparent that this is an
update to the Xiaomi Mi 5 rather than the Mi 5s.
Something that is missing, though, is the
headphone jack, which has been swapped out for
a USB-C port in order to allow space for a highercapacity
battery. This may be a deciding factor for
you if you’re keen on audio.
The fingerprint scanner is exactly the same setup as
we saw in the Xiaomi Mi 5s, which is to say very good
- although we’re not personally keen on the way the
front of the device looks. The recessed area in which
you place your finger just looks odd, and we yearn for
30 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
the physical response pressing an actual button would
offer. But it is the future, increasingly so, and it actually
works incredibly well – fast and accurate.
The Xiaomi Mi 5s was fitted with the Sony IMX378, a
12Mp camera also used by the Google Pixel and one
that offers very good image quality. It’s improved
things further for the Xiaomi Mi 6, now fitted with two
12Mp cameras – one with a wide-angle f/1.8 lens and
the other a f/2.6 telephoto lens. Key specs include
a 10x digital zoom, 2x optical zoom, four-axis OIS
and PDAF. It can also shoot 4K video, offers various
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 31
shooting modes including manual, beautify, Tilt-shift
and group shot, plus real-time filters. After the photo
is taken there are also some decent editing tools.
We were impressed with the quality of our test
images, which were very well exposed and offered
very realistic colours. Detail was softer than we were
expecting, however. The front camera has also been
upgraded from 4- to 8Mp, which is plenty clear
enough for video chat and selfies.
The Xiaomi Mi 6 runs MIUI 8.2, which is a custom
version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow (the latest version
of Android is Nougat, and Android O is expected
within the next few months). The main differences
you’ll notice are the lack of an app tray – everything
is laid out on the home screen in an iPhone-esque
fashion – and you’ll find some changes in the Settings
menu. Fortunately there’s a search option at the top
that makes it easier to find what you’re looking for.
Oh and, of course, the lack of Google Play. Which
is a real issue for UK users (if you intend to use the Mi
6 only for calls and texts you don’t need a Mi 6). Until a
Global model is offered with Google Play preinstalled
we wouldn’t recommend the Mi 6 to UK users who
don’t know what they’re doing. Although we managed
to get Google Play and various apps installed as we
have outlined earlier in this review, we did still run into
the odd issue, including a Gmail error message that
said it was having trouble with Google Play Services.
You can, of course, use Xiaomi’s own apps for
such things as email – you don’t have to use Google
32 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
services at all. But if you’re already using them on your
current phone, it makes no sense to switch now.
MIUI 8 has some cool features of its own, including
Dual apps, which in essence lets you run two instances
of one app, and in a similar vein you can also et up a
second space on the phone – it’s almost like having
two phones. There’s a Child mode, too.
You can individually lock any app on the phone,
should you rather not lock the phone itself or you
want a second layer of security, and you can tweak
various things such as the theme and which side of
the home button your back and multi-tasking options
sit. You can make use of a Quick ball, which places
on screen a shortcut to options such as screenshot
and lock, although in common with the one-handed
mode (which shrinks the size of the screen to a more
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 33
manageable area) it is more useful for the larger
models in Xiaomi’s line-up.
This really is an amazing phone, and only the Chinese
software puts us off recommending it for a UK
audience. It is crazy fast, crazy beautiful and crazy
priced. If you know your way around Android go and
get one, and you won’t be disappointed. Marie Brewis
• 5.15in full-HD (1920x1080, 428ppi) four-sided curved
• MIUI 8.2 (Android 6.0)
• 2.45GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core chip
• 653MHz Adreno 540 GPU
• 6GB LPDDR4 RAM
• 64/128GB storage (no microSD support)
• Under-glass fingerprint scanner
• USB-C audio (no headphone jack)
• Dual-SIM dual-standby
• 4G FDD-LTE B1/B3/B5/B7/B8
• 2x2 MU-MIMO dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi
• Bluetooth 5.0
• GPS, GLONASS
• 12Mp dual-camera, 2x optical zoom, 4-axis OIS,
PDAF, f/1.8 and f/2.6 aperture
• 8Mp front camera
• 3,350mAh non-removable battery, Quick Charge
34 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
HtC u ultra
£649 inc Vat from fave.co/2s3s1gq
Okay, we know – we are meant to review every
smartphone in isolation, without relentlessly
comparing it to others in order to assess it.
But by summer 2017 we have already had great things
to say about the Samsung Galaxy S8, the Huawei
P10 and the LG G6. The HTC U Ultra was announced
before any of these phones, back in January at a
press conference. HTC has adopted the ‘U’ branding
because that’s who it says this phone is for – you. It
believes it has designed a highly personal device.
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 35
It’s definitely different enough to stand out, and
we truly wanted to love this phone. In everyday use it
does make a half decent argument for itself, but given
its obvious flaws, it’s impossible for me to say outright
that you should buy it. It simply isn’t good enough.
HTC considers itself ‘the master of metal’ but the
design mantra of the U series phones is ‘Liquid
Surface’, achieved with glass. Liquid surface doesn’t
really mean anything, but refers to the attractive depth
effect the glass takes on, as opposed to Samsung’s
method of placing colour sheets under a piece of
glass that gives a flatter, 2D effect.
Before you even turn it on, it’s a beautiful device.
With this break from metal phones, HTC has at
least made the U Ultra to the highest build quality
standards. But it’s just too big. Absolutely huge, in
fact. Now, we’re sure that many people out there
still prefer the presence of a bit of bezel. Bezelfree
devices may be the latest trend, but they are
debatably harder to hold (the Xiaomi Mi Mix in
particular is all screen and hard to grip without
registering erroneous touches on the display).
The U Ultra has a big old bezel at the chin, and
what appears like a bigger one at the forehead. The
chin houses a responsive fingerprint sensor and
capacitive Android navigation buttons that look
oddly too small for the design.
It appears HTC has copied this set up from
the HTC 10, but because the U Ultra is so much
bigger, there’s tons of unused space and the design
36 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
looks wrong, almost like a manufacturing error,
as there’s no good reason why there should be so
much unused space. This is not good on a highend
phone, and we frequently missed the back and
recent apps buttons because they are tiny and don’t
stay backlit (though you can change this in settings
to the detriment of battery life).
Once you turn it on, you see that the large
bezel at the top houses a secondary display that is
operated separately to the 5.7in main display (with
more bezel to spare, by the way).
The U Ultra’s size means that it is undoubtedly
a two-handed device. Even scrolling through
Twitter with one hand on the train is perilous
such is the unwieldy nature of the phone.
Maybe it’s our nostalgia for the brand, but
despite these niggles it’s still nice to see HTC do
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 37
something different and the U Ultra is certainly that.
While HTC’s phones have typically been variations
of grey with a sleek brushed finish, the U Ultra is
altogether more striking.
Whether it’s striking in good way will depend on
your personal taste. There are four colours to choose
from, the Sapphire Blue and Brilliant Black options are
best and the latter has a slightly green tint. However,
the pearlescent Ice White and Cosmetic Pink colours
are more garish but perhaps that’s what you’re after.
Our white review sample did grow on us though,
with a slight pink glint in the right light.
The curved glass makes for a comfortable fit in
the hand and although the material may be strong
and harder to scratch, it has various downsides.
The lack of friction makes the device slippery, it’s
a fingerprint magnet and, we suspect, prone to
shattering if you drop it.
A clear case is included in the box to help with
some of these issues but of course makes the
phone even bigger and heavier.
Everything else is in check, with USB-C and a
speaker on the bottom, SIM tray with two slots
(though one gives the option for microSD up to
256GB) on the top, a textured power button and
volume rocker on the right edge and nothing on the
left edge. The power button is nicely textured but
after this reviewer dropped the phone once, it lost its
tactile click and is now mushy.
Painfully, there is no headphone jack on the U
Ultra so HTC is following in the footsteps of Apple and
Motorola on this front. It’s a straight up crime that a
38 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
The HTC U Ultra is a
magnet for fingerprints
USB-C to headphone jack dongle is not included in
the box, and has meant we were immediately put off
listing to music or podcasts on the phone.
You do get a pair of USonic headphones that utilize
the reversible port though, but there aren’t the best.
More on that further into this review.
The U Ultra retains HTC’s BoomSound stereo
speakers but like the flagship 10, only one faces
forward. There are four microphones on the handset
too for the capture of better audio in videos.
Overall the design is bold, different but frustrating
after extended use. I use a lot of phones and the initial
good impressions of the U Ultra are suddenly dulled
when you hold a better designed phone (in one hand)
and realise the U Ultra is a step backwards from the
marvellous HTC 10.
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 39
In 2017 as we see bezels shrink and screens get taller,
the HTC U Ultra has gone full traditional phablet – it’s
a big old device at 162.4x79.8x8mm, housing a 5.7in
Super LCD display with a 2560x1440 resolution and
513ppi. The screen produces colours excellently, and
we have no complaints when viewing video, web
browsing or playing games.
Then there’s also a small, thin strip screen at the
top of the device like we saw on the LG V10 and V20.
It’s two inches with a resolution of 1040x60.
We can’t say that this is a feature we ever hankered
after, and in fact now that we have it on the U Ultra,
it’s kind of annoying. Not because it makes an already
large phone even bigger, but because it also isn’t very
useful. You can scroll through customisable panels
for weather (the best one), app shortcuts, reminder,
calendar, favourite contacts and music controls.
40 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
The weather auto updates with forecasts, which
is cool, and the reminder panel is good for ‘get milk’
and other temporary mind jogs. But the app shortcuts
are redundant when you can hit home and tap the
app anyway, and the whole display is only on when
the main screen is.
With both screens off, raise to wake shows the
time, date, notification icons, battery and weather
on the secondary display. You can then scroll
through all the normal modes, with an additional
quick toggle menu for access to Wi-Fi, flashlight,
Bluetooth and more. Bafflingly this handy option
is only available when the phone is locked.
A secondary screen is not high on the list of
consumers’ must-have features on a phone, and
the way it has been hurriedly implemented on the
U Ultra is disappointing. Okay, you can read the first
line of a notification when you’re in another app
without obstructing what you’re seeing, but it means
an already huge phone has to be bigger, and doesn’t
improve the user experience. It complicates it.
Aside from the screens, the phone runs on the
Snapdragon 821 processor also found in the OnePlus
3T and LG G6, paired with 4GB RAM. There’s definitely
enough power under the hood for most people,
and the 821 is a proven chip despite the 835 now
debuting on the Galaxy S8.
4GB RAM is still all you really need on a phone too
short of doing literally every computing task on it at
once, and the U Ultra stood up to solid performance
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 41
in multitasking. App load times are good, as is
switching between apps.
Units ship with a generous 64GB storage, but that
is becoming standard for flagship Android devices
today. A limited edition 128GB version with Sapphire
glass is available in Taiwan.
In terms of pure power, the U Ultra is a high-end
device, if not the most powerful. But with constant use
it feels limited and overblown at the same time, which
makes for a frustrating experience. The hardware and
software are inextricably linked, but not in a good way.
It is also a weighty device at 170g, not helped by its
There’s also everything else you’d expect; NFC,
Bluetooth 4.2, 11ac Wi-Fi and fast charging with Quick
Charge 3.0. But there’s no wireless charging despite
the move to glass (metal phones prohibit it), and no
waterproofing whatsoever. These things won’t matter
to everyone, but many competing Android phones
now have both as standard, and at £649 the U Ultra
really should have one or both.
There’s also no headphone jack, and the sad fact of
the matter is HTC can’t get away with this. Apple can.
It’s not fair, but it’s true.
Even though we’d prefer a headphone port on the
iPhone 7, at least Apple shipped an adapter with every
phone. In the UK, you don’t get an adapter with the
HTC U Ultra and the UK HTC site doesn’t stock it, so
you have to use the bundled headset.
That’s fine if you like black HTC in-ear headphones,
but we struggle with comfort of in-ears. So with no
other option besides Bluetooth headphones, we
42 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
immediately considered the U Ultra a no-go for audio.
This is bad for HTC – we won’t be the only one who
will grimly persevere with the included headphones.
They are too bass heavy and there’s not a whole lot
else to say other than to repeat my frustration.
The camera is a 12Mp sensor with OIS while the front
facing camera is 16Mp. The latter can use UltraSelfie
with UltraPixel tech (lot of ultra going on here), a
mode that is four times more sensitive to light than
the normal mode. Get ready to photo that face.
Photos come up well but can look a tad washed
out or too dark – the lighting conditions generally
have to be spot on or the sensor struggles.
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 43
It wasn’t this dark when
we took this photo
The rear-facing snapper can also take in 2160p
video at 30fps. The camera app is a little tricky to use
and feels a bit toy like, but once you’ve found the
settings menu then it can produce very good, if not
class leading, images. The camera bump is also huge
on an already thick phone. Surely HTC could have
made it flush?
And then there’s the battery – it’s 3,000mAh, which
simply isn’t enough for a phone with two displays.
This phone is physically massive, and it’s simply not
a big enough cell to keep it going. The U Ultra came
off charge most mornings at 8am and was hitting
44 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
20 percent before 6pm while we were testing all its
features. Screen on time is frustratingly low, meaning
the U Ultra is nowhere near being a power user’s
phone, when the two displays and large dimensions
mean this is the main thing it should be.
HTC hasn’t commented on why the battery
is so small, but considering it says it left out the
headphone jack to easier design a curved back,
it reeks of a company trying to be different with
design to stand out, yet try to appeal to an iPhone
audience by copying Apple’s most annoying design
decision of recent times. Go figure.
Overall, the U Ultra’s unwieldy design could
be forgiven if it was a two-day powerhouse with
waterproofing and a headphone jack. The fact that
it’s not is bitterly disappointing.
The phone’s UI is still HTC’s Sense, which is quite close
to stock Android. HTC has moved even closer to stock
Android since the 10, and our U Ultra review unit ran
7.0 Nougat. Rather than replicating every Google app
with an HTC equivalent, the U Ultra pushes you to use
Google’s Photos, Gmail, Calendar and everything else.
Sense has become very discreet, save for the HTC
Sense Companion you will find on the U Ultra. HTC
calls it AI, but it isn’t AI – it’s a set of reminder and
tutorial functions that pop up from time to time to
help you out. Sometimes it’s simply to say that the
phone is checking performance for you and will let
you know if an app is using too much power, or to
let you know about traffic in your area.
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 45
These prompts feel untargeted, and despite
the fact it’s meant to learn your habits, we found it
next to useless. We know Android tends to prompt
you to manage power efficiency and such, but
we’d rather this phone just did it for me rather than
telling me it’s possible. The phone also doesn’t
yet have Google Assistant, so you’re left with the
inferior Google Now function and an invasive and
unhelpful Companion. We used neither.
The USonic headphones work with the software
to enhance your listening experience on the phone,
but we felt like the technology wasn’t up to much.
It apparently analyses your inner ear and adjusts the
audio output to suit (in our experience by cranking
up the bass far too loud).
It’s not adaptable, so won’t adapt to your
surroundings unless you manually go through the
46 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
procedure again. Some may find it beneficial, but we
feel it’s one more thing HTC didn’t automate that
delivers a less than satisfactory user experience.
Despite this, Nougat runs fast and responsive, and
the notification shade is one of the best we’ve used
for quick replies and actions. In fact, the efficient
software is one of the best things about this phone.
On the HTC 10, the hardware amplified its quality
but paired with the U Ultra’s hardware it makes
the software feel unremarkable and clunky. The
default settings display text and icons very large,
which adds to the unrefined overall feeling we
have about the device as a whole.
HTC has confused us with this phone. The HTC 10
fixed the problems of the One M9 but the U Ultra
is a Frankenstein device. When a phone gives a
better impression powered off than on, you know
you’re in trouble. It’s not a bad phone full stop, but
it does a lot to an unacceptably middling standard.
It feels cobbled together despite the
liquidity of its beautiful design and makes too
many compromises with its massive body, no
headphone jack or waterproofing, a small battery,
and gimmicky use of the secondary display.
In a year of excellent high-end smartphones,
it’s impossible to recommend the U Ultra above
the Galaxy S8, LG G6 or OnePlus 3T to name but
a few. The HTC U 11 is just around the corner,
but we are worried that HTC may soon find itself
powering off for good. Henry Burrell
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 47
• 5.7in Quad HD LCD screen (2560x1440)
• 2in second screen (1040x160)
• Android 7.0 Nougat
• Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
• 4GB RAM
• 64GB (up to 256GB via microSD)
• 12Mp UltraPixel rear camera with phase-detection
and laser auto focus, OIS and dual-tone flash
• 16Mp front camera with selfie panorama
• Dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi
• Bluetooth 4.2
• Fingerprint scanner
• USB Type-C
• BoomSound Audio
• Non-removable 3,000mAh battery
48 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
uMIdIGI C note
£106 inc Vat from fave.co/2s3phzs
UMIDIGI has turned out some great-looking
phones of late, and despite its budget price
tag the C Note is no different.
Available from GearBest in grey or gold at the
low price of £106, the UMIDIGI C Note is a metal
unibody phone with a 5.5in full-HD screen and
some mid-range specs. It supports all three UK 4G
bands – and on both of its twin SIM slots.
Before you jump in and buy the C Note, remember
to factor in import duty to the purchase price. This is
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 49
calculated at 20 percent of the value on the shipping
paperwork, plus an admin fee of around £11.
The C Note has the same premium design as the
flagship UMIDIGI Z Pro, with an aluminium alloy
body and a large, bright full-HD screen. It’s 0.1mm
thicker than its brother, but otherwise has identical
dimensions, and is 3g lighter at 172g.
Slim screen bezels and gently rounded edges at
the rear make the C Note feel great in the hand. The
screen features the same 2.5D curved glass, too,
which makes everything feel seamless as you run
your finger across its surface.
This handset is very well made for a budget phone,
with no gaps, creaking or flex. The metal should prove
reasonably tough against accidental drops, while
Dragontrail glass protects the screen.
This panel is the same as that found on the Z Pro,
a full-HD Sharp IGZO display that is sharp, bright and
offers decent contrast and viewing angles. You can
adjust the colour temperature and turn on Adaptive
brightness in the settings, too.
The rear camera protrudes only very slightly at the
rear, but fitted with the supplied clear protective gel
case you wouldn’t know any different. Unlike on the
Pro you get just the one 13Mp camera here, with a
5Mp selfie camera at the front.
You’ll see two grilles at the bottom of the handset,
which sit either side of a Micro-USB port – one of the
few obvious signs that this smartphone has a cheaper
price tag. There is actually just the one speaker inside,
50 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
with a mic concealed below the other grille. The
3.5mm headphone jack is found at the top.
A pin-operated SIM tray is found at the top of
the phone’s left edge, and this is a hybrid tray that
can accept either two Nano-SIMs or one Nano-SIM
and a microSD card up to 256GB in capacity. The
built-in 32GB of storage is already very generous
at this price point.
We’re not overly keen on the Home button,
which you tap rather than press – it just doesn’t
feel very natural, though we’re sure you’d become
familiar with it reasonably quickly. Either side of this
are multitasking and back buttons, though with no
labels it takes a little getting used to.
Built into this home button is a touch-style
fingerprint scanner, which worked very well and
very quickly in our tests. It’s a shame that the phone
has no NFC support, since this would have enabled
mobile payments on the C Note.
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 51
So the budget price of this phone is not at all evident
from the outside, but inside there is some decidedly
low- to mid-range hardware. Real-world performance
is still pretty decent, especially preinstalled with the
latest Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box, but you’re
not going to get anything close to that achieved by
the UMIDIGI Z Pro here.
In gaming framerates the difference in power is
most noticeable, but benchmark results are lower
across the board. To give you an idea of what we’re
talking about here, the UMIDIGI C Note is a much
closer rival to the Ulefone Gemini – it’s nothing to
write home about, and UK budget phones such as
the Moto G5 perform better.
But speed isn’t everything to everyone, and the
1.5GHz MediaTek MT6373T quad-core chip (based on
52 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
the Cortex-A53) and ARM Mali-T720 MP2 GPU are up
to the job of daily tasks. UMIDIGI also specifies 3GB
of RAM, which will help improve multitasking.
We ran our usual benchmarks and recorded a
low single-point score of 672 in Geekbench 4, and
a still pretty low 1872 points multi-core. AnTuTu also
clocked the C Note at 39,691 points.
Gaming performance was lower, with just 11fps
recorded in GFXBench T-Rex (the best phones achieve
60fps here), 4fps in Manhattan and 3fps in Manhattan
3.1. This isn’t a phone you’d choose for playing games,
though it is capable of casual titles if you keep down
20.7 is about average for a budget phone but, again,
on the low side.
Battery life is very good from the 3,800mAh cell –
you should get two days’ use with moderate use. (And
you can always use a power bank if you need more.)
The only real thing missing from this phone in terms
of connectivity support is NFC, as we mentioned
earlier. This will be frustrating if you want to make
mobile payments, but it shouldn’t be too much of
an annoyance otherwise.
There’s 802.11n Wi-Fi support, as well as GPS,
GLONASS and Bluetooth 4.1. More interestingly, this
is a dual-SIM phone that can support 4G on either
card (not all dual-SIM phones do). It operates in
Both are Nano-SIM slots and support all three UK
4G bands (if you’re buying elsewhere then check
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 53
out our advice on how to tell whether a phone is
supported by your network), but annoyingly you must
choose between either dual-SIM or microSD – you
can’t have both.
The C Note is fitted with a 13Mp Samsung S5K3L8
rear camera with phase-detect autofocus and a
dual-LED flash at the back, and a 5Mp selfie camera
at the front. At first glance the camera app is rather
basic, with just Normal, HDR and Panorama modes
and no real-time filters to speak of, but there’s also
a Professional Camera mode which UMIDIGI claims
54 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
can help you to take DSLR-quality images. This gives
you loads of control over your images, with sliders for
everything from saturation and brightness to ISO and
white balance. To be honest, the quality of the camera
isn’t that good, but for the money it isn’t bad. Even in
Auto mode we saw natural colours and a reasonable
amount of detail, though blurred edges are visible.
With HDR mode switched on things look much better,
but there is a lot of image sharpening in evidence.
The main camera is capable of video recording at
1080p but by default is set at 720p. You can turn on
electronic image stabilization in the Video settings (or
rather Vedio settings).
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 55
The selfie camera isn’t up to much, with a very soft
image. You can make use of a beauty mode, turn on
anti-shake and control such things as white balance
and scene mode.
It’s refreshing to see a budget phone supplied with the
latest version of Android (7.0 Nougat) out of the box.
This is a vanilla version of the OS, with no deviations
from standard Android – it should feel instantly
familiar. Nova Launcher is preinstalled, but there’s
nothing else in the way of preinstalled bloatware.
You can double-click to wake the screen, change
the colour of the notification LED for incoming calls,
and rearrange the order of the touch buttons below
56 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
The UMIDIGI C Note is a very well-designed budget
smartphone with a premium design. Performance is
lacking, but capable, and the camera can produce
decent results in good lighting. A good budget buy.
• 5.5in full-HD (1920x1080) IGZO Sharp 2.5D display,
Dragontrail glass protection
• Android 7.0 Nougat
• 1.5GHz MediaTek MT6373T quad-core Cortex-A53
• ARM Mali-T720 MP2 GPU
• 3GB RAM
• 32GB storage (up to 256GB via microSD)
• 4G LTE on dual Nano-SIMs (dual-standby), supports
all three UK bands
• 802.1a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
• Bluetooth 4.1
• 3.5mm headphone jack
• 13Mp Samsung S5K3L8 PDAF rear camera with dual-
LED flash, Professional Camera mode
• 5Mp selfie camera
• Front TouchID fingerprint scanner
• 3,800mAh battery (two-day life)
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 57
£122 inc Vat from tinyurl.com/yd2t27qg
We all try to look after our smartphones and
protect them from damage, but for some
users doing so is almost impossible. If your
job involves manual labour or you’re into extreme
sports, your phone is more vulnerable to the elements
than most. For these type of users a rugged phone
such as this Ulefone Armor will make a great purchase.
Available from GearBest at the attractive price
of £122, the Armor is IP68-certified waterproof,
dustproof, shockproof and can withstand
58 ANDROID ADVISOR • ISSUE 39
temperatures from -40°C to 80°C. With a Gorilla
Glass 3 coating the screen is also scratchproof.
Ulefone claims it has an extra strong signal thanks
to a large antenna and that plastic casing, which
combined with built-in GPS and a compass will be
useful in the great outdoors. Battery life is also good
from the 3500mAh lithium-polymer cell, and there’s
a dedicated SOS button should you get lost.
In other respects this isn’t the most exciting
smartphone, but with reasonable performance it
will get the job done.
If you decide to go ahead and buy the Ulefone
Armor from GearBest you should be prepared to
factor import duty into the overall cost. This is
calculated at 20 percent of whatever value is on the
shipping paperwork, plus an admin fee of around £11.
The design of the Armor is perhaps the most
interesting thing about it. With a blend of TPU and
polycarbonate plastic and rubber, nothing is getting in
or out of this case - water, dust or otherwise.
Ulefone claims it uses waterproof gum to attach
this case to the phone, and waterproof film to cover
any inevitable gaps. The touchscreen has also been
optimised to work effectively with wet fingers, and
worked well in our tests. The Armor has an IP68 rating,
which means it can withstand up to 1.2m of water for
up to 30 minutes, but in Ulefone’s own testing it was
able to withstand up to 1.5m of water in that time.
The rugged case adds some thickness to the
smartphone, which measures 12.5mm at its thickest
ISSUE 39 • ANDROID ADVISOR 59
point. Thankfully, though, the smaller-than-most 4.7in
screen keeps down the overall size of the handset. It’s
still reasonably weighty at 195g, but reassuringly so.
This screen is sadly only an HD panel, with a
resolution of 1280x720 pixels. It’s been a while
since we tested anything with a lower than full-HD
resolution, even in the budget market, but because
the screen is ‘small’ everything still looks sharp. It has
a pixel density of 313ppi, which is only just short of
the iPhone’s 326ppi.
You might find the screen a little dull for outdoor
use in the brightest conditions, and contrast is also
lacking, but on the whole it is a good performer with
realistic colours and good clarity.
The Ulefone Armor has an interesting design, and
is instantly recognisable as a rugged phone. Available
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in black or orange and black, it’s a bit like Marmite:
you’ll love it or you’ll hate it.
On the orange and black model an orange plastic
trim runs the circumference of the screen, which itself
has pretty large bezels. Though this is often something
you find in cheap phones, here it is purposely created
to protect the screen from damage.
The orange colour scheme is more obvious at the
rear, which comprises six vertical panels with a rough,
textured surface that helps you grip it with wet or cold
hands. The second panel down features two screws,
which you remove in order to prise off the panel and
access the dual Micro-SIM slots and microSD port.
Screws also hold in place the other rear panels, but
these require a different type of screwdriver to the one
supplied in the box for getting to the SIM slots. We
don’t think Ulefone wants you to remove these.
At the top of the rear is a 13Mp camera with a
waterproof housing and a single LED flash, and to
the right of this a mono speaker. The Armor wasn’t
built for audio quality, and not only will it fire sound
into your palm or on to a table or flat surface, but
the results are rather tinny.
At the bottom of the Ulefone is a large silver,
grooved piece, which we think is part of the antenna.
As we mentioned previously, Ulefone claims
excellent signal strength for the Armor.
Because the casing is rather thick, also in the
box you’ll find an extender cable for the 3.5mm
headphone jack, and a Micro-USB charging cable
with a slightly longer prong than most (you might
find using third-party USB cables tricky).
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Both these ports are hidden behind a rubber flap
– we would prefer to see waterproofing on the ports
themselves, as is the case with the Galaxy S8 and
iPhone 7, but this phone costs nowhere near as much
so we can hardly complain.
It’s a shame not to see USB-C here but, again, this
is a budget phone, and the processor doesn’t support
any form of quick charging in any case. Ulefone
supplies a 5W charger but it’s a two-prong adaptor,
so we recommend using your previous handset’s USB
charger or buying a third-party model.
Below the screen are three physical buttons for
home, back and multi-tasking. These are waterproof
and coated in rubber, and like the other buttons on
the phone require extra pressure to operate. Bizarrely,
above the back button is an on-screen back button,
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but with no label. Had we not noticed it mentioned
in the Quick Start Guide we would have thought the
phone was playing up.
The Armor also features something that’s becoming
increasingly rare these days: a dedicated camera
button. It’s located at the bottom of the phone’s right
edge, as you’d expect, but serves only as a shutter
button: it won’t launch the camera from standby.
Just up from this is an SOS button. If you’re going
to be going out and getting yourself lost then you may
see the need for this. Provided you have configured
it beforehand, pressing this button will automatically
call and send a text message to a specified contact
informing them of your GPS co-ordinates and the
fact you need help.
The SOS button works only with the first SIM, and
we didn’t like its position where we’d usually expect to
find the power button. However, it does usefully serve
to wake the screen when inadvertently pressed.
Separate volume buttons are found on the
phone’s left edge, while the power button is up top.
One issue we have with the Ulefone Armor is its
lack of notification LEDs, which means you’ve no
way of knowing you have a missed call, text, email or
other without picking it up and waking the screen.
Battery life from the Armor should be good, which is
important if you’re away from civilisation and unable
to fast-charge the battery. Ulefone quotes a full day’s
heavy usage, or two days with lighter use. It says it will
endure 300 hours on standby, or six hours of constant
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talk time. (And you can always use a power bank if
you need more.)
In other respects performance is nothing to shout
about, but the Armor is capable of most tasks. It’s
only a little slower than the Helio P10-powered Nomu
S30 in general processing speed tests, for example,
but a little faster in graphics tests which is likely due
to the lower-resolution screen.
The Ulefone Armor runs a 1.3GHz MediaTek
MTK6753 octa-core 64-bit processor with the
integrated ARM Mali-T720 GPU. This is paired with
3GB of RAM and a generous 32GB of storage, plus you
can add a further 64GB through microSD.
test, but we successfully ran our processing and
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graphics performance benchmarks. In Geekbench
4 we recorded 603 points in the single-core
component and 2571 multi-core. AnTuTu 6 clocked
the Armor at 37,404, and in GFXBench it recorded
on-screen framerates of 20fps in T-Rex, 9fps in
Manhattan and 7fps in Manhattan 3.1.
Fingerprint scanners are pretty standard even in
budget Chinese phones, but you won’t find one in the
Ulefone Armor. That’s really all you’re missing, though,
because the phone supports dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi,
GPS, GLONASS, Bluetooth 4.0, OTG and NFC. The
latter could be useful for mobile payments and cut
down the amount of gear you have to take out and
about with you, but only provided a fingerprint is not
required for authentication.
As we touched upon earlier, the Armor is a dual-
SIM dual-standby phone, and allows you to insert two
Micro-SIM cards for two different networks. This can
be useful for managing separate SIMs for home and
work, or local and abroad. Only one can be specified
for data usage, but both numbers can make and
receive calls and texts.
A bonus: you’re not forced to choose between
microSD and dual-SIM functionality as you are with
phones that feature hybrid SIM slots.
If you’ll be using the Armor in the UK, it’s good
to know that all three of the UK’s 4G LTE frequency
bands are covered, meaning you should get the
strongest signal your mobile network can offer
wherever you may be.
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We weren’t expecting miracles from the Ulefone’s
13Mp, five-piece-lens camera with single-LED flash
– this phone simply isn’t designed to be a premium
camera phone. As such the camera app is very basic,
and changing any of the options (such as selecting
HDR) will slow things down.
Viewing images at full-size noise is noticeable,
though a fair amount of detail is captured and
colours are reasonably natural. The Armor is certainly
up to the task of snapshotting your latest excursion
or whatever job you’re working on, provided you’re
not trying to take those shots in the dark.
The Ulefone Armor also has a 5Mp selfie camera,
which is fine for video chat and Snapchat.
Our review sample showed a glitch where all
the icons in the camera app would twitch after we
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switched between the main and selfie cameras. It was
still usable, but off-putting, and a restart seemed to fix
whatever had gone wrong.
The Armor runs a fairly standard version of Android 6
Marshmallow, which was succeeded in late 2016 with
Nougat. We don’t know if or when the Ulefone will
be updated. You’ll find an entry for the SOS button in
the settings menu, and Ulefone has applied its own
theme to the UI which changes the look and feel of
the shortcuts on the home screen, but aside from
this everything should be as you’d expect.
A capable rugged phone at a very good price, the
Ulefone might not be the fastest handset out there
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or have the best screen but for many people it prove
ideal. Marie Brewis
• 4.7in HD (1280x720, 313ppi) LTPS display, Gorilla
• Android 6.0 Marshmallow
• 1.3GHz MediaTek MTK6753 octa-core 64-bit
• ARM Mali-T720 GPU
• 3GB RAM
• 32GB storage
• MicroSD support up to 64GB
• Rugged design: waterproof, shockproof, dust-proof,
scratch-resistant, temperature -40°C to 80°C
• Dual-SIM dual-standby (2x Micro, SOS function
works only with SIM 1)
• 4G FDD-LTE 800/1,700/1,800/2,100/2,600MHz
• Dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
• Bluetooth 4.0
• GPS, GLONASS
• 13Mp, 5P rear camera with single-LED flash
• 5Mp, 5P front camera
• SOS button
• Dedicated camera button
• 3.5mm headphone jack (with extender)
• 3500mAh lithium-polymer battery
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Google I/o 2017
Brad CHaCos reveals everything announced at the event, from
new Android O features to standalone Daydream VR headsets
Big data on the big stage
Leading up to its annual I/O developer conference,
Google announced so many new products and
features that it was hard to imagine anything would be
left. But it left some rounds in the chamber, revealing
goodies ranging from an updated Google Assistant
to helpful feature updates for hardware like Home
and Chromecast to a new vision computing platform
that imbues Google apps with the ability to see,
understand, and translate the world around you.
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Even though Android O isn’t new, Google revealed
some fresh new features for its upcoming operating
system revamp. Highlights include a picture-inpicture
mode for app multitasking; ‘notification dots’
that show when a home screen app has associated
notifications, summoned with a long-press; and
tweaks designed to make everyday tasks like
copy-pasting much more fluid and seamless.
Android O is also getting operating system
optimizations that drastically reduce boot and app
load times, as well as a new Google Play Protect
app that’s your hub for keeping your phone safe and
secure. Even better? You can try all this stuff right
now with the Android O beta program.
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Standalone Daydream headsets
Google’s Daydream VR platform has largely felt
neglected since its launch at the last I/O, but it
received a fresh injection of energy this year. While
the initial Daydream devices required a compatible
Android phone for its smarts and screen, standalone
versions are now on the way, including devices
created by Lenovo and HTC – the creator of the
Vive headset for PCs.
The original version’s still around, though. In fact,
Samsung’s Galaxy S8 phones will be receiving a
software update to become Daydream compatible
later this summer.
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Google announced Google Lens. Point your phone’s
camera at an object, invoke Lens via the Assistant
or Photos app, and Google’s computing brains in
the cloud will study the image to let you know what
you’re looking at. In an on-stage demonstration, Lens
identified a flower correctly.
It offers some nifty extras, too. You can take a
picture of your router’s ID label to automatically
connect your phone to its Wi-Fi network, and looking
at a restaurant or other businesses will surface ratings
and contextual information – including tickets to
events – about it from Google’s services. You can
also use Google Lens on foreign language text to
have Google Translate automatically kick in.
Look for Lens to eventually expand to other
Google apps over time.
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Beyond the Lens integration, Assistant levelled up in
several other ways. The conversational digital, well,
assistant is now available on iPhone, and Google
rolled out an Assistant SDK to allow hardware makers
to bake the service directly into their devices. The
company’s working with vendors, including Sony,
Panasonic, LG, and Bang & Olufsen, to add Assistant
in a wide range of hardware this Christmas.
Google is also making it easier to converse with
Assistant. Not only is it picking up support for several
popular languages, it’s adding the ability to type in
queries – no more barking into your phone in public
like a madman.
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Google Home is picking up some nice new features
of its own – the highlight being hands-free calling
capabilities. It will call businesses and your Google
Contacts on command, and you don’t need any extra
apps or even a phone line for it to work. You can opt
to allow the call to show your mobile number on the
receiving end, or it’ll use a number flagged as private.
The smart speaker will also offer ‘proactive
assistance’, or the ability to notify you of timely and
important notifications. The lights will flare to life
when you have a notification, prompting you to ask
Home “What’s up?” Amazon’s Echo rolled out similar
functionality. Google Home is adding Bluetooth
compatibility too, the ability to push content
to Google apps on your phone and support for
Spotify’s free, ad-based streaming music tier.
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Google is updating Photos to make it easier for you
to share your pictures with pals. A new selective
sharing function – lurking in a new Sharing tab in-app
– will automatically suggest photos for you to share
with your pals, creating its recommendations based
on where you were, who you were with, and your
frequent image-sharing contacts. Once you share
some pictures with a pal, they’re get a notification that
opens the Photos app on their phone, where they’ll
find a prompt to share photos of their own in return if
they were at the same event.
Photo is also adding shared libraries, which lets you
synchronize your albums with others. And it’s one of
the flagship apps for Google Lens, which can be used
to identify items and objects in your snapshots and will
offer actionable action prompts.
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The company’s new Photo Books service taps into
Photos to intelligently and automatically create
physical photo albums in Shutterfly-like fashion. Once
you start an album, you can select a range of photos
to include in it, and the Photos service will pick out
the best images and even lay them out for you, using
Google’s machine learning smarts. (You’ll also be
able to tweak things if you want, of course.)
Photo Books is live, with Android and iOS apps out
now. According to a screenshot flashed on screen
during the IO keynote, soft cover albums will start
at $9.99 (£TBC), with hardcover albums starting at
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Gmail Smart Replies
Smart Replies, which presents you with three
machine-generated short responses to quickly reply
to incoming messages, is leaving the confines of
Google’s Inbox app and hitting the big stage. It’s
coming to Gmail’s Android and iOS apps soon, though
only the English versions at first. Spanish Gmail apps
will gain the feature in the coming weeks, with other
languages to follow.
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YouTube is getting the ability to play 360-degree
videos on TV sets, using a remote to navigate the
scene. To bolster the launch, the service is also
rolling out live 360-degree videos if you truly want
to live in the moment. The service is still trying to
beat Twitch at live streams, too. At Google I/O, the
company revealed a new Super Chat APIs – ‘Super
Chat’ being YouTube’s term for donations – that allows
your digital pounds to do things in the creator’s real
world studio, such as shutting off lights or enabling a
drone. Sounds complicated.
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Next-gen TPU hardware
A bit of ultra-nerdy news came when Google
announced a second-generation version of the
specialized ‘tensor processing unit’ hardware first
announced at 2016’s I/O. Businesses will be able to tap
into their power via the Google Cloud Platform, too.
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android for an aI future
TensorFlow is going on a diet to optimize for smartphones and
other lightweight devices. BlaIr Hanley FranK reports
The future of Android will be a lot smarter, thanks
to new programming tools that Google unveiled
recently. The company announced TensorFlow
Lite, a version of its machine learning framework that’s
designed to run on smartphones and other mobile
devices, during the keynote address at its Google I/O
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“TensorFlow Lite will leverage a new neural
network API to tap into silicon-specific accelerators,
and over time we expect to see [digital signal
processing chips] specifically designed for neural
network inference and training,” said Dave Burke,
Google’s vice president of engineering for Android.
“We think these new capabilities will help power a
next generation of on-device speech processing,
visual search, augmented reality, and more.”
The Lite framework will be made a part of the
open source TensorFlow project soon, and the
neural network API will come to the next major
release of Android later this year.
The framework has serious implications for what
Google sees as the future of mobile hardware.
AI-focused chips could make it possible for
smartphones to handle more advanced machine
learning computations without consuming as much
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power. With more applications using machine learning
to provide intelligent experiences, making that sort of
work more easily possible on device is key.
Right now, building advanced machine learning
into applications – especially when it comes
to training models – requires an amount of
computational power that typically requires beefy
hardware, a lot of time and a lot of power. That’s not
really practical for consumer smartphone applications,
which means they often offload that processing to
massive data centre by sending images, text and other
data in need of processing over the internet.
Processing that data in the cloud comes with
several downsides, according to Patrick Moorhead,
principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy: users
must be willing to transfer their data to a company’s
servers, and they have to be in an environment with
rich enough connectivity to make sure the operation
There’s already one mobile processor with a
machine learning-specific DSP on the market today.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 system-on-a-chip
sports the Hexagon DSP that supports TensorFlow.
DSPs are also used for providing functionality like
recognizing the “OK, Google” wake phrase for the
Google Assistant, according to Moorhead.
Users should expect to see more machine learning
acceleration chips in the future, Moorhead said.
“Ever since Moore’s Law slowed down, it’s been a
heterogeneous computing model,” he said. “We’re
using different kinds of processors to do different
types of things, whether it’s a DSP, whether it’s a
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[field-programmable gate array], or whether it’s a
CPU. It’s almost like we’re using the right golf club
for the right hole.”
Google is already investing in ML-specific hardware
with its line of Tensor Processing Unit chips, which
are designed to accelerate both the training of
new machine learning algorithms as well as data
processing using existing models. The company
recently announced the second version of that
hardware, which is designed to accelerate machine
learning training and inference.
The company is also not the only one with a
smartphone-focused machine learning framework.
Facebook showed off a mobile-oriented ML
framework called Caffe2Go last year, which is used
to power applications like the company’s live style
Tensor Processing Unit
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Google lens: six things
we can’t wait to try out
Google’s I/O was heavy on AI and machine learning, and the best
intersection of the two is Google Lens, writes MICHael sIMon
Google Lens looks fresh and exciting, though
we’ve seen hints of this technology before.
Google Goggles might not have been
mentioned during the I/O keynote, but its spirit
was most certainly present at I/O. Released seven
years ago when AI and AR were still in their infancy,
Goggles was an app that let you identify places, scan
barcodes, and search for prices by snapping a photo
of the thing you were looking at.
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Google Lens, which was announced during the
very first minutes of I/O, is essentially a supercharged
version of Google Goggles. Built into Assistant and
Photos, the new machine learning AI promises to
decode the world around us by using Google’s AR and
neural networks to scan images and pull out relevant
bits of data. Here are the six things we’re most excited
to try out.
Google Translate is already one of our go-to tools
when trying to read text in a different language, but
Google Lens takes it out of the Translate app and
puts it right into Photos. To translate something, you
need only snap a picture of it and call on Google
Lens’ smarts. This approach makes using Translate’s
technology even simpler, and we’ll be much more
likely to remember to use it in a pinch.
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It’s not hard to find interesting spots when visiting a
new city, but with Google Lens, discovering hidden
gems in our own town becomes a lot easier. Just
point your camera at a place you’re interested in, and
Google Lens will scan it. Then, in real time as you look
through the viewfinder, you’ll be able to see what it
is, what it sells, and what people think about it. The
process is far simpler than getting the name, typing it
into Google, and scanning through the results.
This area is where you can see just how much Google
Lens has improved on Google Goggles. Google Lens
lets you snap a picture of just about anything, and
then it will tell you everything you need to know about
it – during the keynote, Sundar Pichai demonstrated
this feature by identifying a common lily. We’ll need to
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try it ourselves to confirm its accuracy, but our phones
could possibly become the greatest encyclopedia
ever, teaching us about arts, architecture, and nature
without requiring a dive into a search hole.
We’ve all been in the situation where we’re at a friend’s
house and we need to connect to their router, except
they don’t know the password. So we need to crawl
under a desk, flip over the router to find the label, type
each character, and, 10 minutes later, finally connect.
Google Lens does all that work for you. You’ll only
need to snap a picture of the password label on the
router and it will automatically connect.
Buying tickets to shows and movies on our phones
is already pretty effortless, but Google Lens wants to
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make it a complete breeze. If you walk down a street
and see a marquee that shows a band that’s playing,
Google Lens will spring to life as soon as you snap
a picture. You can listen to sample songs, add the
date to your calendar, and, of course, buy tickets.
Presumably, it will work just as well with movies and
other events – we can’t wait to take a photo of a
movie poster and then see show times and trailers.
The keynote didn’t mention anything specific about
buying stuff using Google Lens, but we can’t help but
wonder about its potential as a shopping assistant.
We’ve already seen something similar with Bixby
on the Galaxy S8, but outside of books, it’s not very
helpful. If Google can perfect the system so it brings
up shopping results for anything we scan, it could be
the killer use case for Google Lens.
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How to: Get android o on
a nexus or Pixel phone
If you want to check out Android O’s newest features before they
are officially released to the public, MICHael sIMon shows how
Google is constantly at work perfecting the
latest version of Android, but you might not
know that you can help test it out. Before
any new version is released, whether it’s a full new
major ‘sweet treat’ version (such as the new Android
O beta) or a simple maintenance release, you can sign
up to test it weeks or months before it’s available for
public download. All you need is a Google account
and the right phone.
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And Google makes it easy to sign up, as long as
you have one of the newer ‘pure Android’ handsets.
Currently, the list is pretty short, but if you own a
Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, or one of the Pixel phones,
you’re all set. (Additionally, you can install the beta
on the short-lived Nexus Player set-top box, and
the Pixel C tablet.)
Those phones should be good for the rest of this
year, as Google has vowed that Nexus level devices
will “receive major updates for at least two years.” For
example, the 2014 Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 only recently
dropped off the list, so last year’s Huawei and LG
Nexus devices should be good at least through the
remainder of 2017.
If you have the right hardware, head over
to Google’s Android Beta Program website (tinyurl.
com/hhjhq94). You’ll need to log in with your Google
account, and once you do, you’ll be taken to a page
that explains what the program is all about. The usual
beta disclaimers apply, and Google warns that the
updates “may contain errors and defects that can
affect normal functioning of your device.” So before
you enrol you’re phone, it’s a good idea to back up
your data first, just in case.
In the middle of the page, you’ll see a list of your
eligible devices, with an Enrol button next to it. Tap
it and you’ll see be taken to a disclaimer screen.
Check the agree box, select Join beta, and in a
couple seconds you’ll be in.
If a new beta isn’t available, it will be business as
usual on your phone. Security updates will be installed
as normal, as well as any official releases, and you
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won’t know anything has changed. Once a beta does
land, you’ll get a notification about it just like you
normally would (although it will indicate that it’s a beta
update), or you can check in the usual place: Scroll
down to the About phone tab in Settings, and select
System updates. It will install over-the-air normally,
with a restart, and whenever a new one releases, you’ll
go through the same process. And when the version
you’re testing releases publicly, you’ll be able to
install that version on your phone, too.
If you’ve flashed your device and just want to
install the files yourself without registering for the
program, you can grab them from Google Developers
site (tinyurl.com/am8Ln3s). Just scroll down to the
Latest section, find the version you’re looking for,
and follow the link to get to the Public Beta Images
page. Then, locate your device and download the
If there is a beta to install, it will
show up when you select the
Check for Update button
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appropriate file. (The Android O beta downloads
are available from tinyurl.com/pj3sovs.)
With betas, Google is looking for feedback, so
if you spot something that needs fixing, you can
contact Google directly by heading to the Settings
app, tapping About, and then Send feedback about
this device. Additionally, Google hosts an Android Beta
Program Google+ community (tinyurl.com/y9zsen2y),
where you can share feedback with other users.
Finally, if you’re having serious problems with a
particular beta, you can always downgrade to the
most recent stable version. Simply select Unenroll
device on the same Android Beta Program page
where you registered your device, and Google will
deliver the latest general release to your phone.
However, as Google warns, it “will wipe all data on
the device,” so once again, you’ll want to back up
your data before downgrading.
If a particular beta is giving you fits, you can easily
unenrol from the program and downgrade to a
stable release. But back up your data first
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How to: Make selfie
stickers in Google allo
The latest Android update lets you create stickers in your likeness
and send them to your friends, writes MICHael sIMon
Allo hasn’t been the runaway success that
Google thought it would be, but that hasn’t
stopped it from adding a stream of upgrades
and new features. But with the latest new addition,
some people might want to give it a second look.
With the new update rolling out to the Play Store,
Google is introducing a long-rumoured feature called
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selfie stickers. If you haven’t yet tried out Allo, stickers
are central to its appeal, as Google looks to bring an
Apple Messages-style whimsy to Android, adorning
your conversations with everything from Star Wars to
But selfie stickers add even more personality.
Google is using neural networks here “to analyse
the pixels of an image and algorithmically determine
attribute values by looking at pixel values to measure
colour, shape, or texture.” Translation: They actually
look like you. To find the feature, start a new message
with someone who has the Allo app installed and tap
the emoji button in the message field. Swipe left to
scroll past the default stickers and tap the overflow
(three dots) menu. On the next screen, tap the smiling
sticker icon at the far right of the selection window to
bring up your sticker gallery.
At the top of the list should be a new option to
turn a selfie into stickers. If you’re not seeing it, you
can side-load the APK (from tinyurl.com/y9r3ydkm),
but unlike other installs, I also had to clear the cache
(Settings > Apps > Allo > Storage > Clear Cache) and
quit the app. If you’re still not seeing it, you can force
stop (Settings > Apps > Allo) see if that works.
When you tap the selfie sticker option, you’ll see a
Create button. Tap that and you’ll enter a Snapchatstyle
selfie screen that lets you snap a photo (you can’t
use a prior selfie for your sticker). There are a pair of
eyeglasses in the middle of the screen, so you’ll want
to align your eyes with them.
Once you like what you see, tap the camera
button and Google’s engine will begin to work its
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magic. The whole process takes about five seconds,
and you’ll see a fun set of disguises to pass the time.
Then you’ll be taken to a new screen with your
From there, you can either save them to your
gallery or customize your face for better accuracy.
One thing to watch out for – if you’re wearing a hat in
your selfie, the neural network will think you’re bald,
so you’ll need to add hair in the customization panel
(a turban and hijab are also options). But otherwise,
the results are pretty spot-on. It even picked up my
hazel eye colour through my glasses.
In all, 24 stickers will be created featuring your
mug in a variety of situations, including your face on
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a slice of pizza, as a zombie, if you were an abstract
art painting, and sleeping. They’re just as easy to
use as they are to make, with the new sticker pack
appearing at the top of the list when you go to use
one. Just select the one that fits your mood and it
will automatically send to your recipient. You can
also long-press on one of the stickers to share it with
Android Messages, Google Voice, or just about any
other app that accepts images.
The new update to Allo is rolling out to the Play
Store, but you can also side-load the Google-signed
APK from APKMirror. You may need to follow the
instructions above to get the selfie sticker option to
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How to: use parental
controls in android
JIM MartIn looks at how to keep your children safe online
Kids are increasingly tech-savvy these days, and
even a toddler will manage to use your Android
phone or tablet in ways you didn’t know were
possible. Apart from running up a heavy bill in app and
game purchases, this means your children may also be
at risk from online predators and adult content.
But you don’t have to live in fear. We’re going to
show you how to set up sensible parental controls
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and create user profiles for kids that you can use in
Android 5.0 or later (and in 4.3 onward on tablets).
Set up a child’s account on Android
We’re using Android (7.1 Nougat) on a OnePlus 3T, but
since the interface varies on just about every Android
phone don’t expect yours to look identical. The
process, though, is broadly the same - you may just
have to hunt around for the Users entry in your phone
or tablet’s settings.
First, drag down from the top of the screen, then
drag down further if a settings cog icon doesn’t
appear. Tap on the icon to open the Settings app.
Scroll down until you see Users. If your phone has
a Settings app split into sections, you might have to
search other tabs to find the Users menu.
In Users, you’ll see your own account, or the main
account of the owner of the phone. There will be an
‘Add user’ option, so tap on this.
Accept the message by tapping ‘OK’ then tap on
‘SET UP NOW’
The device will log you out and ask you to sign
into the new user’s account. As that’s for a child in this
case, you’ll continue to make the settings.
Tap Continue, as in the image above left, then you’ll
be asked if you want to sign into an Android account.
If you want to prevent your kids from downloading
apps, games, music, videos and TV shows through
Google Play, just tap on Skip Setup. You will still be
able to download apps via your own user account.
You’ll also have the option to set up their email
account, or tap Not now if you don’t want to.
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Restrict content in Play Store
Assuming you do want to give your child access to
the Google Play Store within their account, either sign
in with your own Google account when prompted
during the setup, or use their account if they have one.
Then, launch the Play Store app (this is in their
user account on the phone or tablet still) and tap the
‘hamburger’ – the three horizontal lines at the top
left. Scroll down and tap Settings, then scroll until
you see Parental controls. Tap it, and you’ll have to
create a PIN code. Enter this twice.
Now the setting will be turned on and you can
then tap each category to set how restrictive you
want to be for each. For apps and games, the
numbers relate to ages, so tap PEGI 7 is the child is
between four and seven. Be sure to tap SAVE at the
bottom of each screen.
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Below the Parental controls master switch is
shown a summary of which restriction is set for
each type of content (see above).
If you want to prevent kids from buying content
freely, you can set a PIN that only you know which
will be asked for when they try to download anything
that costs money. To do this, go back to the main
Play Store settings menu and tap on ‘Require
authentication for purchases’.
The Play Store isn’t the only place to download
apps and games, so it’s important to make sure
other sources are blocked. To do this, go back to
the device’s home screen, and drag down from the
top of the screen again to get to the cog icon – tap
it to open the Settings app.
Find the Security section (called Security &
fingerprint on our phone), tap it and then check to
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make sure the Unknown sources switch is turned off
(which it probably will be).
Make YouTube safe
Kids love watching YouTube videos, and now there’s
a YouTube Kids app you can download for free in the
Play Store. Do this while logged into their account on
the phone or tablet.
Launch the app and it will explain that no algorithm
is a 100 percent guarantee that everything in the app
is totally safe for them and that you can easily flag
an inappropriate video so the team can review and
remove it. You can then set the restriction level to
Preschool, School age or All kids.
Finally, you have the option to turn search on or
off. With it off, they will have to use the menus in the
app to discover videos, but in our experience this is
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too limiting and it’s better to have search on – at least
for kids five and older.
It’s important not to use these parental control
features as an excuse for not supervising your child’s
use of the phone or tablet. It’s best to keep an eye
on what they’re watching and listening to, as well as
setting ground rules on what’s allowed and what isn’t,
plus how much screen time they can have each day.
There are lots of apps which can automatically
disable certain apps – or even the entire device, such
as Screenlimit (tinyurl.com/yacz4hcm).
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