smartphones

iFixit gives Fairphone 3 a perfect 10 for repairability

Posted by | Apple, apple inc, Europe, Fairphone, GreenTech, hardware, ifixit, iPhone, Mobile, phil schiller, repairability, smartphone, smartphones, sustainability | No Comments

Here’s something the hermetically sealed iPhone can’t do: Score a perfect 10 for repairability.

Smartphone startup and social enterprise Fairphone’s latest repairable-by-design smartphone has done just that, getting 10/10 in an iFixit Teardown vs scores of just 6/10 for recent iPhone models.

The Fairphone 3, which was released in Europe last week with an RRP of €450, gets thumbs up across the board in iFixit’s hardware Teardown. It found all the internal modules to be easily accessible and replaceable — with only basic tools required to get at them (Fairphone includes a teeny screwdriver in the box). iFixit also lauds visual cues that help with disassembly and reassembly, and notes that repair guides and spare parts are available on Fairphone’s website.

iFixit’s sole quibble is that while most of the components inside the Fairphone 3’s modules are individually replaceable “some” are soldered on. A tiny blip that doesn’t detract from the 10/10 repairability score

Safe to say, such a score is the smartphone exception. The industry continues to encourage buyers to replace an entire device, via yearly upgrade, instead of enabling them to carry out minor repairs themselves — so they can extend the lifespan of their device and thereby shrink environmental impact.

Dutch startup Fairphone was set up to respond to the abject lack of sustainability in the electronics industry. The tiny company has been pioneering modularity for repairability for several years now, flying in the face of smartphone giants that are still routinely pumping out sealed tablets of metal and glass which often don’t even let buyers get at the battery to replace it themselves.

To wit: An iFixit Teardown of the Google Pixel rates battery replacement as “difficult” with a full 20 steps and between 1-2 hours required. (Whereas the Fairphone 3 battery can be accessed in seconds, by putting a fingernail under the plastic back plate to pop it off and lifting the battery out.)

The Fairphone 3 goes much further than offering a removable backplate for getting at the battery, though. The entire device has been designed so that its components are accessible and repairable.

So it’s not surprising to see it score a perfect 10 (the startup’s first modular device, Fairphone 2, was also scored 10/10 by iFixit). But it is strong, continued external validation for the Fairphone’s designed-for-repairability claim.

It’s an odd situation in many respects. In years past replacement batteries were the norm for smartphones, before the cult of slimming touchscreen slabs arrived to glue phone innards together. Largely a consequence of hardware business models geared towards profiting from pushing for clockwork yearly upgrades cycle — and slimmer hardware is one way to get buyers coveting your next device.

But it’s getting harder and harder to flog the same old hardware horse because smartphones have got so similarly powerful and capable there’s precious little room for substantial annual enhancements.

Hence iPhone maker Apple’s increasing focus on services. A shift that’s sadly not been accompanied by a rethink of Cupertino’s baked in hostility towards hardware repairability. (It still prefers, for example, to encourage iPhone owners to trade in their device for a full upgrade.)

At Apple’s 2019 new product announcement event yesterday — where the company took the wraps off another clutch of user-sealed smartphones (aka: iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro) — there was even a new financing offer to encourage iPhone users to trade in their old models and grab the new ones. ‘Look, we’re making it more affordable to upgrade!’ was the message.

Meanwhile, the only attention paid to sustainability — during some 1.5 hours of keynotes — was a slide which passed briefly behind marketing chief Phil Schiller towards the end of his turn on stage puffing up the iPhone updates, encouraging him to pause for thought.

Apple 2019 event

“iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 are made to be designed free from these harmful materials and of course to reduce their impact on the environment,” he said in front of a list of some toxic materials that are definitely not in the iPhones.

Stuck at the bottom of this list were a couple of detail-free claims that the iPhones are produced via a “low-carbon process” and are “highly recyclable”. (The latter presumably a reference to how Apple handles full device trade-ins. But as anyone who knows about sustainability will tell you, sustained use is far preferable to premature recycling…)

“This is so important to us. That’s why I bring it up every time. I want to keep pushing the boundaries of this,” Schiller added, before pressing the clicker to move on to the next piece of marketing fodder. Blink and you’d have missed it.

If Apple truly wants to push the boundaries on sustainability — and not just pay glossy lip-service to reducing environmental impact for marketing purposes while simultaneously encouraging annual upgrades — it has a very long way to go indeed.

As for repairability, the latest and greatest iPhones clearly won’t hold a candle to the Fairphone.

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Fairphone 3 is a normal smartphone with ethical shine

Posted by | Android, electronics, Europe, fair trade, Fairphone, Fairphone 3, Mobile, mobile phones, Modular Smartphone, Qualcomm, Reviews, smartphone, smartphone hardware, smartphones, TC | No Comments

How long have you been using your current smartphone? The answer for an increasing number of consumers is years, plural. After all, why upgrade every year when next year’s model is almost exactly the same as the device you’re holding in your hand?

Dutch social enterprise Fairphone sees this as an opportunity to sell sustainability. A chance to turn a conversation about ‘stalled smartphone innovation’ on its head by encouraging consumers to think more critically about the costs involved in pumping out the next shiny thing. And sell them on the savings — individual and collective — of holding their staple gadget steady.

Its latest smartphone, the Fairphone 3 — just released this week in Europe — represents the startup’s best chance yet of shrinking the convenience gap between the next hotly anticipated touchscreen gizmo and a fairer proposition that requires an altogether cooler head to appreciate.

On the surface Fairphone 3 looks like a fairly standard, if slightly thick (1cm), Android smartphone. But that’s essentially the point. This 4G phone could be your smartphone, is the intended message.

Fp3j

Specs wise, you’re getting mostly middling, rather than stand out stuff. There’s a 5.7in full HD display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 chipset, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage (expandable via microSD), a 12MP rear lens and 8MP front-facing camera. There’s also NFC on board, a fingerprint reader, dual nano-SIM slots and a 3,000mAh battery that can be removed for easy replacement when it wears out.

There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack: The handy port that’s being erased at the premium smartphone tier,  killing off a bunch of wired accessories with it. So ‘slow replacement’ smartphone hardware demonstrably encourages less waste across the gadget ecosystem too.

But the real difference lies under the surface. Fairer here means supply chain innovation to source conflict-free minerals that go into making the devices; social incentive programs that top up the minimum wages of assembly workers who put the phones together; and repairable, modular handset design that’s intended to reduce environmental impact by supporting a longer lifespan. Repair, don’t replace is the mantra.

All the extra effort that goes into making a smartphone less ethically challenging to own is of course invisible to the naked eye. So the Fairphone 3 buyer largely has to take the company’s word on trust.

The only visual evidence is repairability. Flip the phone over and a semi-opaque plastic backing gives a glimpse of modular guts. A tiny screwdriver included in the box allows you take the phone to pieces so you can swap out individual modules (such as the display) in case they break or fail. Fairphone sells replacements via a spare parts section of its website.

Fp3sc

Despite this radically modular and novel design vs today’s hermetically sealed premium mobiles the Fairphone 3 feels extremely solid to hold.

It’s not designed to pop apart easily. Indeed, there’s a full thirteen screws holding the display module in place. Deconstruction takes work (and care not to lose any of the teeny screws). So this is modularity purely as occasional utility, not flashy party trick — as with Google’s doomed Ara Project.

For some that might be disappointing. Exactly because this modular phone feels so, well, boringly normal.

Visually the most stand out feature at a glance is the Fairphone logo picked out in metallic white lettering on the back. Those taking a second look will also spot a moralizing memo printed on the battery so it’s legible through the matte plastic — which reads: “Change is in your hands”. It may be a bit cringeworthy but if you’ve paid for an ethical premium you might as well flaunt it.

It’s fair to say design fans won’t be going wild over the Fairphone 3. But it feels almost intentionally dull. As if — in addition to shrinking manufacturing costs — the point is to impress on buyers that ethical internals are more than enough of a hipster fashion statement.

It’s also true that most smartphones are now much the same, hardware, features and performance wise. So — at this higher mid-tier price-point (€450/~$500) — why not flip the consumer smartphone sales pitch on its head to make it about shrinking rather than maximizing impact, via a dull but worthy standard?

That then pushes people to ask how sustainable is an expensive but valueless — and so, philosophically speaking, pointless — premium? That’s the question Fairphone 3 seems designed to pose.

Or, to put it another way, if normal can be ethical then shouldn’t ethical electronics be the norm?

Normal is what you get elsewhere with Fairphone 3. Purely judged as a smartphone its performance isn’t anything to write home about. It checks all the usual boxes of messaging, photos, apps and Internet browsing. You can say it gets the job done.

Sure, it’s not buttery smooth at every screen and app transition. And it can feel a little slow on the uptake at times. Notably the camera, while fairly responsive, isn’t lightning quick. Photo quality is not terrible — but not amazing either.

Testing the camera I found images prone to high acutance and over saturated colors. The software also struggles to handle mixed light and shade — meaning you may get a darker and less balanced shot that you hoped for. Low light performance isn’t great either.

That said, in good light the Fairphone 3 can take a perfectly acceptable selfie. Which is what most people will expect to be able to use the phone for.

Fairphone has said it’s done a lot of work to improve the camera vs the predecessor model. And it has succeeded in bringing photo performance up to workable standard — which is a great achievement at what’s also a slightly reduced handset price-point. Though, naturally, there’s still a big gap in photo quality vs the premium end of the smartphone market.

On the OS front, the phone runs a vanilla implementation of Android 9 out of the box — preloaded with the usual bundle of Google services and no added clutter so Android fans should feel right at home. (For those who want a Google-free alternative Fairphone says a future update will allow users to do a wipe and clean install of Android Open Source Project.)

Fp3f

In short, purely as a smartphone, the Fairphone 3 offers very little to shout about — so no screaming lack either. Again, if the point is to shrink the size of the compromise Fairphone is asking consumers to make in order to buy an ethically superior brand of electronics they are slowly succeeding in closing the gap.

It’s a project that’s clearly benefiting from the maturity of the smartphone market. While, on the cellular front, the transformative claims being made for 5G are clearly many years out — so there’s no issue with asking buyers to stick with a 4G phone for years to come.

Given where the market has now marched to, a ‘fairer’ smartphone that offers benchmark basics at a perfectly acceptable median but with the promise of reduced costs over the longer term — individual, societal and environmental — does seem like a proposition that could expand from what has so far been an exceptional niche into something rather larger and more mainstream.

Zooming out for a second, the Fairphone certainly makes an interesting contrast with some of the expensive chimeras struggling to be unfolded at the top end of the smartphone market right now.

Foldables like the Samsung Galaxy Fold — which clocks in at around 4x the price of a Fairphone and offers ~2x the screen real estate (when unfolded), plus a power bump. Whether the Fold’s lux package translates into mobile utility squared is a whole other question, though.

And where foldables will need to demonstrate a compelling use-case that goes above and beyond the Swiss Army utility of a normal smartphone to justify such a whopping price bump, Fairphone need only prick the consumer conscience — as it asks you pay a bit more and settle for a little less.

Neither of these sales pitches is challenge free, of course. And, for now, both foldables and fairer electronics remain curious niches.

But with the Fairphone 3 demonstrating that ethical can feel so normal it doesn’t seem beyond the pale to imagine demand for electronics that are average in performance yet pack an ethical punch scaling up to challenge the mainstream parade of copycat gadgets.

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Xiaomi has shipped 100 million smartphones in India

Posted by | Asia, hardware, idc, india, Mobile, mobile phones, Redmi, smartphones, Xiaomi | No Comments

Xiaomi said on Friday it has shipped more than 100 million smartphones in India, its most important market, since beginning operations in the nation five years ago. The company cited figures from research firm IDC in its claim.

The Chinese giant, which has held the top smartphone vendor position in India for eight straight quarters, said budget smartphone series Redmi and Redmi Note have been its top selling lineups in the nation.

In India, the world’s fastest growing and second largest smartphone market, most handsets ship with a price tag below $200. Xiaomi, whose phones punch above their price class, has strictly adhered to the budget-conscious market from the day it began operations in India. The company says it never makes more than 5% profit on any hardware product it sells.

In a statement, Manu Jain, VP of Xiaomi and MD of the company’s India business, said the company’s milestone today “is a testament to the love we have received from millions of Mi Fans since our inception. There have been brands who entered the market before us, yet are nowhere close to the astounding feat we have achieved.”

Shipping 100 million smartphones in India alone is a remarkable feat for Xiaomi, which operates in dozens of markets. The company last year shipped 100 million handsets in about 10 months worldwide  (India included) in what was a record for the company.

As competition in its home nation intensifies and smartphone shipments slow or decline everywhere, India has emerged as the most important market for Xiaomi in recent years. When the Chinese firm entered the nation, for the first two years, it relied mostly on selling handsets online to cut overhead. But in the years since, it has established presence in brick-and-mortar markets, which continues to drive much of the sales in the nation. (India is also one of the handful of places where smartphone shipments continue to grow.)

xiaomi india

Image: Manish Singh / TechCrunch

Last month, Xiaomi said the company was on track to building presence in 10,000 physical stores in the country by the end of the year. It expects offline market to drive half of its sales by that time frame. Xiaomi says it has created more than 20,000 jobs in India, the vast majority of which have been filled by women.

Even as smartphones continue to be its marquee business in India, Xiaomi has also brought a range of other hardware products to the nation and has built software services for the local market. The company has also donned the hat of an investor, backing a number of startups, including local social network ShareChat, which recently raised $100 million from Twitter and others, fintech startups KrazyBee and ZestMoney and entertainment app maker Hungama.

In recent interviews with TechCrunch, Xiaomi executives said they have a dedicated team in India that closely looks for investment opportunities in local startups.

“We believe this is just the beginning of a brand new chapter, and we will continue to bring in more categories and products with best specs, highest quality at honest pricing for all our Mi Fans,” Jain said today.

Samsung, which once led the Indian smartphone market, has launched a handful of handset models across various price points to better compete with Xiaomi. It has also ramped up its marketing budget in the nation. Xiaomi, which spends little on marketing, remains on top.

Samsung entered India more than a decade ago and has also shipped more than 100 million smartphones in the country, research firm Counterpoint told TechCrunch. Xiaomi is only the second smartphone vendor to achieve this feat, said Tarun Pathak, an analyst with the research firm.

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After announcing Galaxy Fold release date, Samsung cancels older preorders

Posted by | galaxy fold, hardware, Mobile, Samsung, smartphones | No Comments

The good news: Samsung says it has addressed the early problems with the Galaxy Fold and finally has a release date (in Korea at least). The bad news: The company is canceling the first round of U.S. pre-orders. The gooder news: If you were among those early adopters, the company is giving you a $250 in-house credit to keep you in its good graces.

Shortly after announcing that its first foldable handset is set to start shipping to customers in South Korea on September 6, Samsung sent out a note to customers stating that it would be “taking the time to rethink the customer experience.” That involves, among other things, canceling existing pre-orders. “While not an easy decision to make,” the company writes, “we believe that this is the right thing to do.”

So Samsung canceled my pre-order for the Samsung Galaxy Fold…at least they gave me a $250 credit for anything on their store. That is admittantly quite generous.

I guess I should rejoin the pre-order queue. pic.twitter.com/Nv7OAIMxnN

— M. Brandon Lee | THIS IS TECH TODAY (@thisistechtoday) September 5, 2019

TechCrunch has confirmed the news with Samsung, though the company is letting the email to customers speak for itself. The letter also notes that the company is launching a “new Galaxy Fold Premier Service” for those who opt to pick up the newly rejiggered version of the phone. After the first version of the handset ran into some issues with reviews, Samsung no doubt wants to be the first line of defense should consumers run into any problems with the new $2,000 phone.

The company has yet to confirm a release date for the rest of the world, though it notes that the Fold will be coming to markets, including the U.S., in “coming weeks,” which is on track with the earlier September time frame.

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Google releases Android 10

Posted by | Android, computing, Gadgets, Google, Google Play, Google Play Store, Mobile, mobile operating system, oled, operating system, operating systems, PIXEL, smartphones | No Comments

Android 10 is now available, assuming you have a phone that already supports Google’s latest version of its mobile operating system. For now, that’s mostly Google’s own Pixel phones, though chances are that most of the phones that were supported during the beta phase will get updated to the release version pretty soon, too.

Since the development of Android pretty much happens in the open these days, the release itself doesn’t feature any surprises. Just like with the last few releases, chances are you’ll have to look twice after the update to see whether your phone actually runs the latest version. There are plenty of tweaks in Android 10, but some of the most interesting new features are a bit hidden and (at least in the betas) off by default.

The one feature everybody has been waiting for is a dark mode and here, Android 10 doesn’t disappoint. The new dark theme is now ready for your night-time viewing, with the promise of improved battery life for your OLED phone and support from a number of apps like Photos and Calendar. Over time, more apps will automatically switch to a dark theme as well, but right now, the number seems rather limited and a bit random, with Fit offering a dark mode while Gmail doesn’t.

The other major tweak is the updated gesture navigation. This remains optional — you can still use the same old three-button navigation Android has long offered. It’s essentially a tweak of the navigation system that launched with Android Pie. For the most part, the new navigation gestures work just fine and feel more efficient than those in Pie, especially when you try to switch between apps. Swiping left and right from the screen replaces the back button, which isn’t immediately obvious, and a slightly longer press on the side of the screen occasionally opens a navigation drawer. I say “occasionally,” because I think this is the most frustrating part of the experience. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The trick to opening the drawer, it seems, is to swipe at an angle that’s well above 45 degrees.

Also new is an updated Smart Reply feature that now suggests actions from your notifications. If a notification includes a link, for example, Smart Reply will suggest opening it in Chrome. Same for addresses, where the notification can take you right to Google Maps, or YouTube videos that you can play in — you guessed it — YouTube. This should work across all popular messaging apps.

There are also a couple of privacy and security features here, including the ability to only share location data with apps while you use them and a new Privacy section in Settings that gives you access to controls for managing your web and app history, as well as your ad settings in a slightly more prominent place.

With the new Google Play system updates, the company can now also push important security and privacy fixes right to the phone from the Google Play store, which allows it to patch issues without having to go through the system update process. Given the slow Android OS upgrade cycles, that’s an important new feature, though it, too, is an evolution of Google’s overall strategy to decouple these updates and core features from the OS updates.

Two other interesting new features are still in beta or won’t be available until later this year, but Google prominently highlights Focus Mode, which allows you to silence specific apps for a while and which is now in beta, and Live Caption, which will launch in the fall on Pixel phones and which can automatically caption videos and audio across all apps. I’ve been beta testing Focus Mode for a bit and I’m not sure it has really made a difference in my digital well-being, but the ability to mute notifications from YouTube during the workday, for example, has probably made me a tiny bit more productive.

Oh, and there’s also native support for foldable phones, but for the time being, there are no foldable phones on the market.

Like with most recent releases, those are just some of the highlights. There are plenty of small tweaks, too, and chances are you’ll notice a few new fonts and visual tweaks here and there. For the most part, though, you can continue to use Android like you always have. Even major changes like the updated gesture controls are optional. It’s very much an evolutionary update, but that’s pretty much the case for any mobile OS these days.

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September’s Mate 30 launch could be a major test for Huawei

Posted by | Android, Google, hardware, huawei, Policy, smartphones, U.S. China trade war | No Comments

Apple isn’t the only smartphone manufacturer planning a big September launch. Huawei’s got a big event on the books as well, set for September 18 in Munich, just over a week after the new iPhones are unveiled. For Huawei, however, the Mate 30 announcement is about more than just smartphones.

The event is effectively the first big handset launch since the embattled Chinese manufacturer was added to the U.S. trade blacklist. The move had seemingly been a longtime coming, after years of allegations ranging from spying to sanctions violations, but with the ban in place, the move will mark a key moment of truth for a company that has so far been dependent on offerings from U.S. companies like Google.

The Mate 30, which also marks a push into 5G, could potentially launch without Google apps. The recent U.S. government reprieve only applied to already announced products, according to a statement Google gave to Reuters. Trump has suggested the ban on Huawei products could be lifted with a new U.S.-China trade deal, further clouding the suggestion that the move was made purely out of concerns for security.

The smartphone maker gave its own comment to Reuters, noting, “Huawei will continue to use the Android OS and ecosystem if the U.S. government allows us to do so. Otherwise, we will continue to develop our own operating system and ecosystem.”

That last bit is a clear allusion to HarmonyOS. The recently unveiled operating system is largely limited to low-end handsets and IoT devices, but Huawei is also certainly readying itself for a long-term life after Google.

Meanwhile, CNBC is citing a source that suggests the phone will launch with or without Google apps, depending on how things shake out over the next few weeks. That would likely amount to a minor nuisance, requiring users to download them after purchase, while a full-out Android brand would prove far more harmful to its bottom line.

It seems quite unlikely at the moment, however, that the company would attempt to launch such a high-end device with its own partially baked operation system.

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ZTE tries for a US return with an affordable flagship

Posted by | hardware, Mobile, smartphones, zte | No Comments

ZTE’s U.S. government dealings have never been as high-profile as fellow Chinese smartphone maker Huawei, but it has had its fair share of scuffles. Last summer, the company got smacked with a $1 billion fine over sanction violations. All in all, 2018 was not a great year for ZTE here in the States.

It all amounted to a big blow for a manufacturer that was actually doing pretty good business selling mid-range devices in the largest smartphone market. With the Axon 10 Pro, it seems ZTE is finally done licking its wounds and is ready to try again here in the States, even as trade tensions continue to loom large in dealings between the two super powers.

I’ve got to say, it’s looking like a pretty solid device. The company seems to be positioning the product in the same sliver of the market that OnePlus has found a home. At $549, it’s a breath of fresh air in a world of $1,000+ flagships, without skimping on the design language or features. It’s doubly compelling given that OnePlus’s own prices have been creeping up a bit as well, as the company has pushed into more premium territory.

The device has a 6.47-inch display with a small camera notch up top and an in-screen fingerprint reader. There’s the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon chip on-board (855), paired with a a beefy 4,000 mAh battery. Around back are three cameras, including a 48-megapixel, a telephoto and a wide-angle. The headphone jack, however, is MIA.

With Huawei more or less out of the picture here in the States, maybe there’s some room for ZTE to thrive, after all. Of course, the company still has to contend with a shrinking smartphone market, just like everyone else.

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Behold, the shark-fin selfie camera on Oppo’s latest

Posted by | hardware, Mobile, oppo, smartphones | No Comments

You would, of course, be completely forgiven for not recognizing Oppo’s name here in the States. In its native China, however, the company is a powerhouse, regularly capturing around 20% of the world’s largest smartphone market and handily beating out more familiar names (here, at least) like Apple and Samsung.

India (the No. 2 global market) has been a pretty solid market for the company as well, generally landing itself in the top five. The Reno 2 was just announced for that country today, bringing with it some of the unique, boundary-pushing features that have become Oppo’s stock-in-trade.

CMB 8068

Most notable here is the “shark fin.” That’s the in-house name for the triangular mechanical selfie camera that pops out the top. It’s a return feature and one a number of other manufacturers have implemented in some form, including the Oppo-connected OnePlus, which has a much stronger U.S. presence.

The other big thing here are the cameras on the other side. It’s a pretty impressive set up back there, including a 48-megapixel lens with optical image stabilization, wide angle lens and telephoto. At 5x hybrid, it’s a step down from the 10x Zoom the company launched a while back.

At Rs. 36,900, it’s priced at just over $500, putting it at the mid-range here in the States. I’ve been playing around with it a bit at our New York office, and it’s not a bad little phone — albeit a little bit chunky compared to some flagships. That’s not really a surprise at that price point. Nor is the continued inclusion of a headphone jack, which continues to be an important feature for markets like India.

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Zhiyun’s Smooth-Q2 aims to be the most portable quality smartphone gimbal available

Posted by | Bluetooth, Camcorders, cameras, contents, dji, equipment, Gadgets, Gimbal, gimbalstabilization, hardware, iPhone, Kickstarter, osmo, smartphone, smartphones, TC, technology, United States, Zhiyun | No Comments

Zhiyun has been steadily rolling out new gimbals for smartphones and dedicated cameras for a few years now, and the company’s quality and feature set has improved dramatically over time. Now, it’s launching the Zhiyun Smooth-Q2 smartphone gimbal on Kickstarter, with the aim of delivering a “truly pocket-size” gimbal that has all the bells and whistles you could ever want or need.

The Smooth-Q2 is indeed a portable powerhouse — the company sent me a pre-production unit to test, and though it’s not the final shipping hardware, it already works and feels like a polished, quality device. The first thing you’ll notice right away about the Smooth-Q2 is its size — it can indeed slip inside a coat or pant pocket, though you’ll need a fairly deep one to make that work. Even if you don’t necessarily have a compatible pocket, it’s hard to beat the Smooth-Q2 for sheer portability, and that’s bound to save you some packing space when you’re getting ready for your next trip.

Smooth Q2 1

There’s another recently released small-size smartphone gimbal on the market — the DJI Osmo Mobile 3. That has a clever method of folding down for easier packing, but the Smooth-Q2’s design, while similar in overall footprint, means it’s much easier to put in your actual pocket (or pack in a bag’s side pocket) than is the DJI version. And while both are incredibly easy to balance even if you’re a gimbal novice, I found the Zhiyun was actually the simpler of the two.

The Zhiyun Smooth-Q2 also feels more solidly constructed, though its simpler controls (it doesn’t have a trigger around or a zoom lever) may leave some creators wanting. There are some other advantages here, too, however — a quick release spring-loaded clip means you can detach your smartphone quickly for other uses without unbalancing the gimbal, and go right back to shooting when you’re done. Plus, you can connect via Bluetooth and control your smartphone’s native camera app directly, instead of relying on their ZP Play app — which you can still use for features like object tracking.

The Smooth-Q2 offers 16 hours of battery life, so you should easily make it through a day without requiring power, and it can do time lapses, with or without programmed motion, and a vortex mode for capturing crazy rotational footage. It has an aluminum body that should be able to withstand less-than-careful stowage in your bag.

In terms of quality, the Smooth-Q2 really delivers in early testing with my iPhone XS Max, and I’ve included two quick sample clips so you can see for yourself. These are shot in the gimbal’s basic PF mode, in which the camera pans as you turn the gimbal side to side.

Zhiyun’s crowdfunding these, but the company’s history and reputation mean that you can count on them to deliver. The entry-level price is set at $109 U.S. for backers, which is a $30 discount off the planned retail cost, and they should ship to backers in October, according to the company.

Smooth Q2 2

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Google Maps adds biking and ridesharing options to transit directions for multi-mode commutes

Posted by | Android, Apps, computing, eta, Google, Google-Maps, operating systems, smartphones, Software, TC, Transportation | No Comments

Google is introducing combo navigation directions that pair ridesharing and biking options with transit guidance. Starting today, when you search from directions using Google Maps and select the “transit” tab, you’ll see ridesharing options included when the nearest station is a bit farther than most people might expect to go on foot. Similarly, you’ll also see routes with bike suggestions for certain legs, all listed alongside routes that stick to just transit alone for a full range of options.

The new hybrid navigation options will include useful info like the cost of rideshare segments, as well as wait times and traffic conditions. You’ll be able to specify your preferred rideshare provider from this, available through Google Maps in your area, and also pick which rideshare method you prefer (i.e. pool or economy).

Bikers will get route directions specific to the best paths and roads for bikes to takes, and in both cases, all of the available info will be fed into providing an overall ETA, so you can make an informed decision about which route and method of transportation to take depending on when you need to be where you’re going.

Google says that the combined transit/ridesharing navigation will start rolling out today on both Android and iOS, and that iOS users will start seeing the biking options today, with Android to follow in the coming weeks.

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