Powerful chip will give new phone, Mate 10, faster performance and longer battery life
Visitors look at the remotely controlled R2-D2 robot from the Star Wars movies at the IFA Consumer Electronics Fair in Berlin. Photograph: Getty Images
Huawei aims to use artificial intelligence-powered features such as instant image recognition to take on rivals Samsung and Apple when it launches its new flagship phone next month, a top executive said at the weekend at the IFA consumer electronics fair in Berlin.
Richard Yu, chief executive of Huawei’s consumer business, on Saturday revealed a powerful new mobile phone chip Huawei is betting on for its upcoming flagship Mate 10 and other high-end phones to deliver faster processing and lower power consumption.
Huawei will launch the Mate 10 and its sister phone, the Mate 10 Pro, in Munich on October 16th, Mr Yu confirmed.
He declined to detail new features, but the phones are expected to boast large, 6-inch-plus full-screen displays, tech blogs predict. Artificial intelligence (AI) built into its new chips can help make phones more personalised, or anticipate the actions and interests of their users, Mr Yu said.
As examples, he said AI can enable real-time language translation, heed voice commands, or take advantage of augmented reality, which overlays text, sounds, graphics and video on real-world images phone users see in front of them.
Mr Yu believes the new Kirin 970 chip’s speed and low power can translate into features that will give its phones an edge over the Apple iPhone 8 series, set to be unveiled on September 12th, and Samsung’s range of top-line phones announced this year.
Huawei is the world’s number three smartphone maker behind Samsung and Apple. “Compared with Samsung and Apple, we have advantages,” Mr Yu said in an interview during the annual electronics fair in Berlin.
“Users are in for much faster [feature] performance, longer battery life and more compact design.”
The company asserts its newly announced Kirin 970 chip will preserve battery life on phones by up to 50 per cent. Huawei describes the new chip as the first Neural Processing Unit (NPU) for smartphones. It brings together classic computing, graphics, image and digital signal processing power that have typically required separate chips, taking up more space and slowing interaction between features within phones.
Most importantly, Huawei aims to use the Kirin chips to differentiate its phones from a vast sea of competitors, including Samsung, who overwhelming rely on rival Snapdragon chips from Qualcomm, the market leader in mobile chip design. Among major phone makers, only Apple and Huawei now rely on their own core processors.
Rumor has it that Apple isn’t going to reinvent the iPhone this year, but you definitely can’t say the same about its software. iOS 10 was unveiled to the world late in the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference keynote, and for good reason — there were many, many new software features to unpack.
And now it’s time to play. Assuming you have the guts to install unfinished software, you’ll be able to grab the iOS 10 public beta soon (as long as you’re part of the Apple Beta Software Program, anyway). As a quick reminder, the preview is compatible with the iPhone 5 and newer, the iPad mini 2 and newer, and the sixth-generation iPod touch. Before you choose your sacrificial iDevice, though, read on to get a better sense of what works in the beta, what doesn’t and how Apple’s approach to software continues to evolve.
I’ve been using the public beta build on an iPhone 6s for two days, and so far it’s been remarkably stable. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve already encountered a handful of hiccups and bugs, but I haven’t run into any full-blown showstoppers either. Still, if you’d prefer not to troubleshoot or restart your phone, you’re better off steering clear of the Apple Beta Software Program. But that goes without saying.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind: Not all the features Apple previewed at WWDC are live yet. In fact, some of the most interesting ones aren’t. (Same goes for Apple’s macOS Sierra preview, as a matter of fact.) Most of Siri’s improvements center on linking up with third-party apps to let you send money through Square Cash, for instance, or tracking runs with MapMyRun just by asking. Sorry! You can’t do that today; it’ll be a few months yet before developers get their SiriKit-enabled apps ready.
Ditto for applications like Skype and WhatsApp: When updated this fall, they’ll display calls on your lock screen as though they were regular phone calls. This version of iOS 10 also doesn’t consistently transcribe your voicemails either or get lyrics for your songs or let you use Apple Pay on the web. The list goes on. Suffice to say the software going live today is just a taste of the software Apple plans to ship in the fall.
It’ll likely be a while yet before we see a redesign as thorough as what we got with iOS 7, but, hey, iOS 10 still feels like a refreshing change of pace. Apple’s typeface is thicker by default, and notifications and widgets are neatly contained in bubbles, all of which goes a long way toward making things feel cleaner. Speaking of notifications, you can use 3D Touch on supported iPhones to take action without even having to jump between apps. Think giving a Facebook message a thumbs-up or archiving emails in Outlook. Alas, you can’t do any of this while the phone is locked.
Those bubbly new widgets appear when you use 3D Touch on supported apps too, and from there it takes one more touch to add it to your Today feed. They can be a little temperamental, though: Only after two days of testing did the weather widget finally decide to display the outside temperature. (The answer: too darn hot.) Naturally, Apple redesigned lots of other bits and bobs for this release. The Control Center you invoke by dragging up from the bottom of the screen has been split into two pages, one of which is reserved for music controls.
Now back to the big, bold aesthetic Apple is pushing this year: It can be hard to avoid. Perhaps the best example of this is the radically redesigned Music app, which is … divisive, to say the least. It’s all about punchy colors and extreme legibility. I don’t mind it, but others who have seen it are not thrilled. Pro tip: You can change the font size used in the Music app from the device’s settings. This new aesthetic carries over into other redesigned apps like Health (which now also lets you opt in for organ donation) and the Clock app (which now has a bedtime mode to keep you well rested).
Nearly all the neat features in the updated Messages app work fine. You can “handwrite” notes by turning the iPhone on its side, send heartbeats with digital touch, leave “tapback” reactions on things people send you and more. My favorite so far: using bubble effects to basically yell at other people using iOS 10. Quickly sending GIFs with the included #images iMessage app is a close second; in case you forgot, Messages is one of those Apple-made apps that will soon benefit from third-party developer support. For now, though, the only other available iMessage apps let you share your recently played music or share animated images like the ones Apple uses on its Watch.
It’s also now dead simple to share a recent photo, since you have a live camera preview as soon as you tap the photo icon. One touch snaps a shot and preps it for sending, though there’s a noticeable delay in this beta build. Oh, word to the wise: If you don’t want to get caught in flagrante delicto, hold off on sending racy messages. If you send a message obscured by invisible ink to someone who doesn’t have iOS 10, the message appears normally with a follow-up that says “sent with invisible ink.” The app sometimes says the secret message hasn’t been delivered to the non-iOS 10 device, but it almost always is.
Apple has added plenty to the traditional messaging experience and it’s all pretty fun, but it sometimes feels like a bit much. Apple is facing stiff competition from Snapchat, Facebook Messenger and others, but with all that’s going on here, I can’t help but think the company is throwing stuff against a wall to see what sticks.
It’s not strictly part of the upgraded Message app, but there’s a lot of fun to be had with the keyboard as well. By default, the keyboard suggests an emoji when it detects a word that matches it. If you switch to the emoji keyboard in that case, all the words that can be emoji-fied glow orange. Tapping any of them replaces the word with the pictograph. Too bad that other keyboard tricks, like free-time suggestions based on your calendar, don’t seem to work all the time yet. For now only specific phrasing (like “I am available at …”) seems to trigger the schedule suggestion.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Apple didn’t do much with its Photos app; at first glance, there aren’t many obvious changes. (Your albums are now laid out in a grid instead of a list, so enjoy.) The biggest difference here is that iOS doesn’t just use your photos’ metadata to organize everything; it can organize them based on what’s depicted in them too. It’s a lot like Google Photos, except all the machine learning magic happens on the phone itself. The downside? If you have a ton of photos like I do, it takes iOS a long time to initially scan them all. Side note: Don’t be shocked if this blows through your battery.
The results are usually great. You can now search for broad categories like “cat” or “drink” or “bikes” in addition to places, and the results have been almost completely been right on the mark. One search result for “bikes” returned a photo from Barcelona where a moped lay at the bottom of the frame, shrouded in shadows. Not bad, Apple. Your photos automatically get bunched into Memories too, like “best of the year” and “last weekend.” There’s more to memories than an array of photos: You’ll get to see where the photos were taken and who’s in them.
It’s too bad the auto-created video montages (“memory movies”) have never loaded properly for me. Maybe your luck will be better than mine. On the plus side, you can edit Live Photos now, and all the changes you make apply to the still and the video that surrounds it. Live Photos still aren’t my jam, but this is a welcome move nonetheless.
Engadget’s parent company might own MapQuest (which is apparently still a thing), but I’m all about Google Maps. My devotion has been more or less unwavering, but Apple Maps in iOS 10 scored major points with me, thanks to the improved (and enlarged) navigation interface. Seriously, it’s so much easier to read at a glance than Google Maps that I can almost see myself switching. There’s also a little weather display in the corner, and the app is better about suggesting places you might want to go and how to get there. You’ll eventually see other apps like OpenTable hook into listings you find in Maps, but we’ll have to wait a few months before that functionality becomes available.
There’s a lot more going on with the Music app than a new look: The whole flow has changed. By default, you’re dropped off in the Library upon launch, where you can access all the songs you’ve saved or downloaded. Simple enough. It’s the For You section that seems to have gotten the most attention. Instead of just giving you a bunch of random playlists you might like, Apple now does a better job of explaining why its choices might be up your alley. The Connect tab is gone this time, so posts from acts you follow are in For You as well. Thankfully, they’re buried at the bottom and easy to ignore if you find them as utterly pointless as I do. Perhaps the most important interface change is that search gets a tab of its own, making it easier to find your perfect summer jam.
Like Music, Apple News also received a facelift that’s heavy on bright colors and large text. And again, the biggest change is the For You section, which is to say it now actually works. The Top Stories were the same between devices running iOS 9 and the iOS 10 beta, but the update brings subsections of stories that seem better tuned to your interests. In my case, those subsections included the Middle East, currency markets, startups and technology — all things I dig and have searched for recently. Throw in notifications for breaking news and we finally have an Apple News that feels like it’s worth using.
The odds and ends
Not everything fits neatly into a box, but here are a few changes to the iOS formula that you should definitely be aware of.
Yes, you can remove Apple’s first-party apps, and yes, it is glorious. Technically, it’s just user data that’s deleted; the app itself remains hidden on the device, but I’ll take that symbolic victory.
Raise to Wake does exactly what it says, and it works remarkably well for checking the time and your notifications.
You can swipe left from the lock screen to launch the camera. (It takes a little getting used to.)
I didn’t always love how fast the TouchID sensor worked on the 6s and 6s Plus. Coincidentally, Apple now requires you to push the home button to unlock instead of laying a finger on it. No more inadvertent unlocks (though you can revert to the old way in settings)!
You can access Spotlight search from just about anywhere, since the search bar now appears at the top of the drag-down notifications shade.
Apple’s Home app is pretty (there’s that bold aesthetic again), but I couldn’t properly test it since I didn’t have any HomeKit gear on hand. Check back for our impressions in our eventual full review.
We can’t issue a verdict on iOS 10 until it launches this fall, but Apple has taken some significant steps forward here. iOS 9 built the foundation for a lot of these features, and with iOS 10 we’re seeing Apple try to figure out how they best work together. Sometimes that means rewriting the rules, and other times that means letting people build on top of the existing platform. How well that will work is the big question, and we should have our answer in a few months.
Picking the right smartphone can be tough. With Apple, Samsung, LG, HTC and plenty of other manufacturers releasing handsets at a steady clip, it can be difficult to keep up with each and every launch. We use our smartphones for work, play and everything in between, so it’s important to settle on the right blend of hardware, operating system and price tag that makes sense for you.
After all, you’re likely going to be spending anywhere from 18 months to two years of your life with your new handset, unless your budget allows you to upgrade on whim. Deciding between so many candidates can be a bit of a struggle, but we’re here to help with our guide to the best smartphones around.
Article prices are based on the RRP, but more up-to-date listings can be found in the buyers guide widget below.
Apple iPhone 6s
Apple’s follow-up to the iPhone 6 isn’t as much of an incremental update as some were expecting. The 6s is more powerful and carries a pressure-sensitive display, not to mention significant improvements in the camera department. As well as simply being another easy-to-use iOS device, new features include the “3D Touch” panel, which lets you “peek” inside apps, surfacing information and actions without opening the app fully. The upgraded 12-megapixel camera has a few tricks of its own, too, like the new 4K video mode and animated “Live Photos.” New Rose Gold option aside, though, the iPhone 6s is practically identical in looks to its predecessor. It’s not cheap either, so iPhone 6 owners might find it hard to justify an upgrade.
In a sentence: Apple’s iPhone 6s is a great phone and safe bet, especially for anyone moving from an older 5 or 5s.
Price: £539 and up
Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung’s Galaxy S7 takes everything that made the S6 great and improves upon it. The outcome is a flagship with a gorgeous Quad HD display, outstanding performance and subtle design tweaks that make the marriage of metal and glass that bit more appealing. Those already leaning in Samsung’s direction will be thankful for the return of expandable storage, with cards of up to 200GB capacity finding a microSD slot to call home. An IP68 water- and dust-resistant rating only sweetens the proposition. Only minor progress has been made in the imaging department, but the S7 has a capable and versatile camera nonetheless. A steep price is one of the only downsides of the device, but you’re paying for premium.
In a sentence: Easily one of the best Android smartphones available.
Motorola’s made a name for itself putting out great devices at reasonable prices, and the Moto X Style is a perfect example of that philosophy. A fondness for larger displays is a must. If that’s the case you’ll get a pleasing 5.7-inch Quad HD display to poke at, and Moto Maker means you can customise an already expedient design with whatever colour and texture combination you see fit. Purists in particular will enjoy the vanilla Android build with a light drizzle of Motorola chocolate sauce on top. The Moto X Style has a great camera, too, even if it isn’t quite as good as those on some rival devices. Similarly, the handset offers flagship performance, but it’s not the most powerful device around. There are compromises, but none that should tempt you to overlook the Moto X Style considering its relatively low price.
In a sentence: An expert lesson in striking the balance between user experience and price.
Price: £369 and up
Apple iPhone SE
Score: 89/100 Many people felt left behind by Apple’s turn to bigger-screened iPhones, and the SE is an attempt to regain their favour. The 4-inch form factor feels both familiar and fresh in its design — like an iPhone 5s with softer curves — and the SE benefits from the inclusion of the same internals found in the iPhone 6s, meaning it’s lightning fast. The two also share the same, excellent camera, though the iPhone SE lacks “3D Touch” functionality and possesses an older, slower Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Still, it offers fantastic battery life and happens to be the cheapest iPhone Apple’s ever sold. Oh, and lest we forget: Rose Gold.
In a sentence: A no-brainer for champions of the 4-inch form factor wanting to upgrade from an older iPhone.
Price: £359 and up
The HTC 10 marks the end of a few uneventful years at the company, defined by a series of unremarkable flagships. But what a return to form. The HTC 10’s sleek, all-metal design packages a 5.2-inch Quad HD display and internals that are almost unmatched in their performance. While its competent 12-UltraPixel camera isn’t the best on the market and battery life is distinctly average, HTC has cleaned up its Android skin and included a few attractive extras like hi-res audio support and AirPlay compatibility. HTC has again created a flagship handset that can hang with the best of ’em, but that means you’re looking at premium pricing to match.
In a sentence: On the podium as one of the top Android smartphones on the market.
Google Nexus 6P
The Nexus 6P is another device for those who prefer a larger-than-average screen. The 5.7-inch, Wide Quad HD display isn’t all the handset has to offer, though, with an abundance of processing power and impressive battery life. Being a Google device, the Nexus 6P also receives Android updates as soon as they become available, so you’ll always be on the latest version. Combine all these features with a solid camera, and you get a large-screen smartphone at a pretty competitive price. However, it’s worth bearing in mind the Nexus 6P lacks a microSD slot to expand storage, and its all-metal design is like the smartphone equivalent of Marmite.
In a sentence: A great option for people who like a larger screen that also benefits from the most up-to-date Android software.
Price: £449 and up.
When Motorola launched the first Moto G a few years ago, it immediately stood out as offering unparalleled value for money. Now in its third generation, the Moto G is still one of the best all-round smartphones for anyone on a budget, or those that would rather not pay for bells and whistles they’ll get little use out of. While it doesn’t excel in any one area and ignores flagship-grade components to keep costs down, there are no particularly uninviting compromises either. The Moto G’s outward appearance can also be heavily personalised using Moto Maker, at which point avid mobile gamers and users of more demanding apps might want to pay a little extra for more RAM and internal storage.
In a sentence: A decent, affordable Android smartphone that makes minimal sacrifices to hit its low price point.
Price: £149 and up.
OnePlus is in the business of making serious smartphones and selling them for a fraction of the price of competitors. Case in point: the OnePlus 2. It has all the guts and performance of a market-leading flagship, with style and build quality being far from an afterthought. Those features alone make the price tag easy to justify, and that’s without mentioning the versatile 13-megapixel camera. OnePlus has held back in a couple of areas, understandably, such as opting for a 5.5-inch 1080p display instead of a Quad HD panel. Other compromises include a lack of expandable storage and NFC, which are likely to be either deal-breakers or features you can easily live without.
In a sentence: A inexpensive, near-flagship device that prioritises performance and price.
LG has released some excellent flagship smartphones in the past, but this year the company has skipped an incremental upgrade in favour of something much more adventurous. Top-tier performance and fun, flexible dual-camera array aside, the bottom bezel of the device is completely removable, making space for a couple of modular accessories LG calls “Friends.” These include a hi-res audio attachment and a camera grip that also extends battery life, which is pretty average otherwise. At this point, however, you have look beyond the few accessories currently available and hope others will explore the potential of the modular design even further.
In a sentence: A powerful Android smartphone that dares to be different
Sony Xperia Z5
The Xperia Z5 is either another of Sony’s beautiful, polished products, or a slightly lazy attempt to tweak its tired “Omnibalance” design. Regardless of which side of the fence you find yourself on, you can’t dispute the build quality and high waterproof rating. The Xperia Z5 offers the kind of performance you’d expect from a genuine flagship, but pairs that with a 5.2-inch 1080p display. Gorgeous it might be, but it does fall short of competitors’ higher-resolution screens. What your money is primarily going towards is the 23-megapixel rear camera, which happens to be one of the best on the market. The Xperia Z5 isn’t cheap, but it won’t disappoint serious smartphone photographers.
In a sentence: Another lovingly built Sony smartphone with one of the best cameras around.
Fledgling British brand Wileyfox has made an extremely good first impression with the Swift. Like the Moto G, the Swift is all about crafting a low-cost smartphone that still provides an excellent user experience. With a relatively charming, all-plastic design, a bright 5-inch, 720p display and easily customisable Cyanogen software, there’s plenty to like. You also get a decent amount of processing power for an affordable device, though the 13-megapixel camera leaves quite a lot to be desired. However, aside from its underwhelming camera, the Swift deserves serious consideration if you’re after a good smartphone that doesn’t weigh heavily on your wallet.
In a sentence: An affordable Android smartphone that represents excellent value for money.
As we approach Apple’s annual WWDC conference that starts on June 13th, the rumors about upcoming iOS and OS X features are sure to ramp up. This week, MacRumors is reporting that the company is working on a way for you to unlock a Mac using your iPhone’s Touch ID feature. The security measure is said to bypass a typed log-in using Bluetooth when the phone is “in close proximity” to a computer running OS X. As MacRumors notes, there’s a similar feature on the Apple Watch that allows an unlocked iPhone to provide access to the wearable without the need to enter a second password.
If this Touch ID to unlock a Mac functionality sounds familiar, the third-party Knock app for iOS and Apple Watch unlocks a nearby computer with those devices rather than having to key in a password. Back in March, Recode reported that Apple Pay was on its way to the browser for making purchases on the web. This new report suggests that the Touch ID interaction with Macs will be used to confirm those transactions as well. As is the case with any rumor, it pays to be a bit skeptical. However, we won’t have to wait long to see if this news is indeed true.
In terms of other rumors for OS X 10.12, reports indicate that Siri could finally make its debut on the desktop. This week, rumblings surfaced about the design of the dock icon, but we’ll have to wait a few more weeks to see if that virtual assistant or Touch ID unlocking will be a part of this fall’s software update.
It might not have gotten the same amount of press as the San Bernardino case, but authorities also hacked into the iPhone of Michael Jace’s wife with the help of an outside party. According to the court documents obtained by LA Times, the Los Angeles Police District has been trying to get into April Jace’s iPhone 5s since 2015. Michael Jace (Julien Lowe from The Shield) is accused of killing April, and investigators believe they argued via text before she was murdered.
April’s phone had a passcode lock, and as you probably know by now, a set number of incorrect attempts will wipe an iPhone clean. An LA judge apparently ordered an Apple technician to help cops figure out a way to crack the device open sometime in 2015. That didn’t seem to work, and for quite some time, the phone wouldn’t even switch on.
Authorities aren’t going after Apple again for this case, though, because they found someone else who could hack into the device, just like the San Bernardino investigators did. LA Times says the LAPD found a “forensic cellphone expert” on March 18th who managed to override the lock screen. The court documents didn’t mention whether the expert also exploited a flaw in the phone and its unidentified platform. If he did and authorities also paid for his services, they might keep that particular flaw a secret from Apple, as well. Let’s just hope it’s a vulnerability the tech titan already fixed.
If the rumors are true, Apple’s next big reveal will happen in March. 9to5 Mac reports that Cupertino is planning to pull the wraps off of the Apple Watch 2 at the event, which would be the second consecutive year the company held a product announcement in that month. Details are scarce on version 2.0 of the company’s smart watch for now, but reports suggest that Apple has a new camera, wireless connectivity, revamped sleep tracking and upgraded health sensor tech in the works for the device. Bands with built-in senors are also rumored to be on the way and the report says that the Watch 2 will go on sale in April.
What’s more, 9to5Mac’s sources say it’s possible that we may also see the long-rumored iPhone 6c break cover at the event. If you’ll recall, the 6c is said to offer a 4-inch handset in a metal chassis, differing from the “unapologetically plastic” shell of the iPhone 5c. The iPhone 6c is also rumored to house Apple’s A9 chip and NFC to drive mobile transactions with Apple Pay. As is the case with these reports, the company could change plans leading up to the event, especially given the fact that we’re three months out. That being said, 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman has a solid track record as of late, so don’t be surprised if both of these gadgets are revealed this spring.
Apple Pay has been available in locales outside of the US already, and now our neighbors to the north are getting in on the action. Cupertino’s mobile payments tech is now available in Canada, so iPhone and Apple Watch users can pay for goods with those two devices at a smattering of retail locations. There is a catch, though: Apple Pay in the land of poutine only supports American Express right now. If you have one of those cards in your physical wallet, you’ll now be able to add it to the Wallet app on your iPhone in iOS 9.1 for use at places like McDonald’s and Tim Hortons (mmm, doughnuts). Bank-issued AmEx cards won’t work right now either, just the ones issued directly from the credit card company. This means that most debit cards and bank-issued credit cards won’t be compatible as a lot of Canadian banks use Visa or MasterCard. As was the case in the States and other countries, we’d surmise you can expect the list of participating banks and cards to expand in the weeks to come.
Much like the Google logo before it, Google+ is being completely reinvented today. In a blog post, Google says that after pulling in feedback from users it has decided to focus the former do-everything social network around two key features: communities and collections. Collections launched earlier this year as a way to let users gather a bunch of content together around a single idea and share it with other users, while the older communities section encouraged users of similar interests to share “whatever you’re into,” be it food, sports, photography, the country of New Zealand, or anything else. The new version is rolling out today on the web, iOS and Android — you’ll need to opt-in if you’re viewing it from your browser, and the apps don’t appear to have gone live just yet.
Narrowing the focus of Google+ was probalby the best way for Google to salvage the service. It originally started life as a Facebook-style social network for posting links, photos, status updates, and more with your friends. The original big innovation was the concept of dividing the people you followed on Google+ into “circles” and then sharing content with just the relevant groups of people, but it failed to catch on with users. However, there’s no doubt that some good things came out of Google+ as well — particularly the excellent Google Photos project that the company separated out of Google+ back at I/O this year.
With today’s change, Google+ will formally be less about interacting with your real-life friends and more about finding topics that interest you and meeting people across the internet who have those same interests. Alongside its photos product, those community features were probably the most successful part of Google+ for a long time. While I never had any friends who used it very much, I did come across some pretty vibrant photography communities after just a little exploration. Now, those features will be more front and center for users who want them.
The question of Google+ living up to its original ambitions ended a long time ago — it’s months since the company stopped forcing Google users to create a Google+ profile. Now, the company is simply taking the parts of the service that were working for users and putting them front and center for its users.