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Elephone A4 [REVIEW]

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Why did Apple put the notch on the screen? Why complicate the design and reduce available space on screens which are limited in size? Many hours are lost on the discussion around that notch, but one thing is certain – other smartphone companies like to copy Apple. They may be afraid to have their ideas and think that if they follow the winner they will also become winners?

In this review we look at the Elephone A4, a Chinese smart phone that took the idea of a screen with a notch and placed it in a pretty cheap package. For around $100 we get a smartphone with a MediaTek quad-core chipset, 3GB of RAM, 16GB of user memory, the latest Android 8.1, a notched screen and even a face unlock.

How good has the Elephone managed to integrate these functions? Well, let’s start with the build quality of this smartphone.

Build quality and buttons

This smartphone already has a little less standard design. At the front and the back there is glass and the smartphone is bordered with what looks like real chrome. What separates it from most is its back, which has two visual elements. One part on the back has very fine lines on it while the rest is plain color. Such a small visual change is already quite different from the uniform design of a standard smartphone nowadays.

Chromed edges are made pretty well because they do not feel like cheap plastic, rather like real metal. The volume buttons have no middle indentation but are quite comfortable to press whilst being tactile, just like the power button that is textured and rounded so that you will not accidentally confuse it with the volume buttons.

Below these three buttons is a fingerprint reader, which I personally think is one of the worst spots for that sensor since the smartphone is most often held on the edges which lead to various random touches, especially when pulling the phone from the pocket. In the end, it probably depends on how you hold your smartphone and this position may suit you perfectly.

Although the glass front and back may look attractive, be sure that it’ll be covered in fingerprints very quickly. Fortunately, this problem can be solved by swiftly wiping it on your pants or t-shirt. I won’t even mention the problems that can arise with glass backs and falling.

I would also like to mention that the MicroUSB connector at the bottom is embedded very deeply and that all standard MicroUSB cables will fall out and have a poor connection. All in all, if you do not mind the glass and the position of the fingerprint reader, I would say that for the price this smartphone feels very nice in hand.

Android system

Although Elephone has put a very fresh version of the Android system on this smartphone, I cannot say that it has done it much good. They themselves have made their own life difficult since they put the notch at the top of the screen even though Android natively does not support such special screen shapes. Youtube videos cannot stretch up to the physical edge of the screen but are cut off under the notch.

Texts and icons on the sides of the notch are poorly positioned and occasionally sometimes the notch cuts them off. The games do not go over the notch and it does seem to look rather weird. Still, I cannot say that the effect is bad because in some cases it really looks like the phone has two small screens above the main panel

Additionally, the operating system that the Elephone put on this smartphone does not have a lot of bloatware and is quite close to native Android apart from a couple of plugins from Elephone like their application launcher and their cloud service. The only problem with this system is lack of optimization and polish.

Microstutters in the system are common and the entire user interface runs at rather unstable speeds. The task switcher can slow down the interface to probably under 20 fps, which is very bad. Just opening and changing the applications is not slow, but the animations are. Another thing I should mention is the fingerprint reader.

Although I’ve added my finger several times, there are always problems with unlocking and very often I needed to type in my PIN after my smartphone banned using fingerprints because of failed attempts. When it is working, the fingerprint reader can unlock the phone very quickly. The problem is that it rarely works.

It may be my fingers’ fault since I had similar problems with other cheap Chinese smartphones… Maybe they just use bad sensors.

Battery

With a fairly small 3000mAh battery, you should not expect much of this smartphone. Unfortunately, expectations I had are met. I did a quick drain test by playing Subway Surf for 15 minutes at maximum brightness.

In these 15 minutes, the battery level went down by 8%, which is a considerable amount of power gone. I also have to say that the chipset of this smartphone has gotten quite hot I played that game, even to the unpleasant levels. Obviously, the unoptimized chipset is credited for quite a bit of that consumption. 8% in 15 minutes means that the game could be played for just over three hours.

Of course, it’s a cheap smartphone and as I said, we should not expect a lot. With the normal use of social networks and surfing – this smartphone should endure all day.

Benchmark and real- life performance

First, it’s time to do the synthetic tests. After crashing the first few times, Antutu’s test gave us a fairly low 38849 points. At geekbench, the renderscript test gives us 1114 points, the single core test gives us 583 points and the multi-core test gives us 1614 points.

These synthetic tests have already told us a lot but I downloaded the averagely demanding 3D game “Does Not Commute” and at the highest settings it was very sluggish and uncomfortable to play. The game just gets comfortable when I drop the graphics to the lowest setting. I also tried the Subway Surf which, although it had an average FPS of about 30, was pretty much playing without major stutters. These are all pretty undemanding games so I would not believe you could run anything much more demanding like PUBG or Asphalt 8.

Otherwise, the use and browsing of the web sites is pretty quick, along with opening up and using multiple applications. Although pure speed may be there, the UI again has a lot of microstutters and lacks plenty of fluidity. You may not be able to see it on the video, but when you use it, it’s very noticeable.

Cameras and video

I need to be honest; I was expecting a lot less for a camera on such a smartphone. In the end, what I got is a pretty normal camera that in no sense is great, but has no giant weak spots.

The details in the night get a bit lost and the picture is slightly blurred due to the denoise algorithm used by this smartphone, but you still see what you need to see. During the day the colors are fairly correct and everything seems fine, the picture also sharp, even though the lens covers quite an angle.

When shooting, we have FullHD recording with electronic stabilization. Rolling shutter is noticeable but not too much and electronic stabilization stabilizes, but also not too much. Unfortunately, as with most Chinese smartphones with electronic stabilization, the picture is always too distorted and stretches completely unnaturally. Fortunately, with this smartphone at the end we get a seemingly more stable picture than with some others…

Simply, when I look at camera quality and the price at which I got all this, I would say I did not expect much more. The camera application is a bit odd and rudimentary but when you get the hold of it, it will not cause you problems.

Speakers and audio out

As with performance testing, first come the synthetic tests. The results shown in the video are measured with the headphones connected to the mobile phone and should reflect the reality fairly well. In a listening test you can hear the lack of low frequencies a bit. It should not cause problems but music will certainly not sound as beautiful as it would with a better system.

Sometimes distortion is heard at medium and high frequencies, but not often and only at the highest volumes. Fortunately, the headphone connector is tough and great, meaning good and quality contact! The loudspeaker is fairly average, but has no deep frequencies. It’s quite loud without unpleasant distortions.

For such a price, I would say that this is good enough since the very good mobile speakers are still quite a luxury thing.

Screen

Inside, there’s a classic IPS panel with one extra, the black notch on top. Although the notch itself doesn’t affect the quality of the image on this screen, a lot of the problems are created due to the imperfection of the user interface optimization by Elephone. The screen itself has a nice contrast and fairly bright colors which make this smartphone very nice on the front.

Its resolution, on the other hand, is quite non-standard. The resolution of 720×1512 results in a 19:9 aspect ratio, which means even more vertical space than now trendy 18:9 ratio. True, this makes the smartphone quite interesting to use but can lead to complications in applications that are made only for 16:9 and 18:9 phones.

Another interesting addition is that all four edges of the screen are rounded. Although it probably loses about twenty pixels, the effect seems quite attractive in itself. Some probably prefer classic, sharp edges but it depends on taste, I can only say that the rounded edges of this smartphone did not create a problem for me.

When it comes to lighting, maximum and minimum brightness are quite unattractive and do not go far beyond average. The lowest illumination is not dark and the highest illumination is not too bright. The text is readable under the sunlight and at night you should not look at it for too long.

Conclusion

With this smartphone, Elephone has tried to bring luxury aesthetics into a non-luxurious price ranking. You pay $100 and you get a nice smartphone, a chrome edge, a big 5.85″ notch screen, a lot of RAM, and quite the camera.

Unfortunately, at such prices the things you get in one department are lost in the other. The system isn’t making a good use of the notch, the fingerprint reader is clunky to use, the user interface feels pretty rough because of the unstable FPS and the performance itself puts it in the lower mid-range.

For those who love the notch on the screen and do not want to spend a lot, this could be a good choice. If the notch is not very important to you, then you should opt in for some other smartphone with more balanced specifications.

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Phones

New Flagship Mi 10 Ultra Was Released Today

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Photo: Xiaomi

Today Xiaomi has launched the new flagship model in Mi 10 line – Mi 10 Ultra. The new model was unveiled at the special online event. The launch of a new product coincided with a special day for the company – the 10 years anniversary of Xiaomi.

Photo: Xiaomi

The display looks totally borderless and fascinating – the 6.67-inch OLED display and 120Hz refresh rate.

The work capabilities are provided with an 8-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor. The model has a liquid cooling system containing the graphite layer which helps to effectively manage the smartphone`s temperature during work.

What about the camera? The model comes with four rear cameras (48 MP main sensor, 20MP ultra-wide-angle camera, 12MP portrait camera and a telephoto lens with 120x superzoom).

The video makers will appreciate the 8K video recording feature.

Talking about selfie – there is a 20 MP camera for perfect shots, videos, and video calls.

The new model has got a 4500mAh powerful battery. The full charge can be done in 23 minutes thanks to the 120W fast charging.

Also the model can be charged wirelessly in 40 minutes (50W wireless charging is supported).

Also, the model has got the other traditional and useful features – fingerprint sensor (in the display), NFC, stereo speakers. The smartphone will come with MIUI 12 on board.

Photo: Xiaomi

The model will come with three RAM options – 8, 12, and 16 GB and 128, 256, and 512 internal memory options.

Mi 10 Ultra has three colors – black, silver, and transparent.

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How the Galaxy Note20’s S Pen Delivers a More Powerful and Productive Notetaking Experience

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Photo: Samsung

The Note series is and always has been about maximizing productivity – an idea that’s best embodied by the smartphones’ signature accessory: the S Pen.

When designing the series’ newest additions, to empower users to be as productive as possible, the team behind the Galaxy Note20 and Note20 Ultra made enhancing the S Pen and the Samsung Notes app top priorities. The result of their extensive efforts is a smoother and more intuitive note-taking experience – one that’s more accurate and responsive, makes navigating your device a breeze, and makes capturing, editing and sharing your ideas effortlessly easy.

Click on the video below to learn more about the S Pen’s newest tools and tricks.

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Phones

OPPO Reno4 Series: AI-enhanced Smart Sensor, a new era in smartphone technology

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Photo: OPPO

Population density and population mobility is increasing daily all around the world and more people are becoming tech savvy with each passing day. Internet and information technology have gradually and consistently penetrated into our lifestyles. Staying always connected through the internet has made privacy protection one of the trickiest problems for smartphone users. On the other hand, for smartphone brands, the ability to continuously update technologies and create products with excellent user experience are also growing challenges.

Reno4 is equipped with a new AI-enhanced smart sensor, which is an attempt made by OPPO for building products in the AI-smart era. This smart sensor can identify the owner of the mobile phone and intelligently decide whether to show the detailed content in a notification, while enabling touchless operation of the mobile phone. With the new AI-enhanced smart sensor, Reno4 realizes the integrated functions of N-in-one such as AI assistant, privacy security and touchless gesture operation. It supports the original intention of the OPPO brand and its Research & Development team to make mobile phones smarter and maximize the experience and the technology.

Smart sensors, an answer to users’ demand of better privacy protection

For some time in the recent years, OPPO has been cultivating the Southeast Asian market, since it first entered the Indonesian market in 2012. According to a survey by Euromonitor International, comparing the market share of OPPO in 2019 and 2014, Thailand increased to 4.8 times, Indonesia 4.7 times and Vietnam 2.9 times. With further expansion of market share, OPPO realized that mobile phone users in the Southeast Asian market are also increasingly demanding privacy protection. Simultaneously, the population density in this market is increasing and people are living a more connected lifestyle. Mobile phones, as the most important social interaction tools, are becoming more and more vulnerable to threats against information privacy for the owners. For instance, your friends may accidently catch a glimpse of critical or private content on your phone.

After performing a market research, OPPO realized that the functions which the smart sensor provides could help bridge the gaps in market demand, especially for privacy protection. In the past, there were two solutions in the industry. The first was the use of radar, which can effectively reduce the power consumption of mobile phones; yet this also means that the footprint of the sensor is increased and the screen ratio is reduced accordingly. Also, the radar itself has limited recognition capabilities, thus the scenarios to be implemented are restricted. The second was to use an ordinary camera for real-time shooting to recognize motions and faces, being able to achieve smart control, but in this case the power consumption brought by the function is huge. Both solutions have their own limitations, OPPO had to find another way.

● Smart Spying Prevention
Based on that, OPPO decided to apply the AI-enhanced smart sensor to the field of smart spying prevention, which is constructed by utilizing a low power consumption sensor in combination with an intelligent recognition algorithm. The sensor could not only be used in privacy protection, but also could extend the scenarios in Smart AirControl, Smart Rotation, and Smart Always On. Many high-end smart home devices have equipped smart spying prevention technology as an auxiliary function. For instance, high-end home security monitoring equipment leverages DVS technology to capture only the outlines of people in its range – helping protect the privacy in living spaces. Similar with that, when your Reno4 receives a message, AI-enhanced smart sensor on the phone could identify whether only the mobile phone’s owner is watching the screen. If not so, the content of the notification would be hidden to protect the user’s privacy.

To be specific, the setting of the entire recognition logic makes the spying prevention more humane and comprehensive, which is a great companion to its advanced hardware. The sensor will first probe how many faces are in the scale.
• If only 1 face is detected, the main camera will be turned on to identify whether the face is of the owner him/herself; if it is, then it displays the entire message.
• If the sensor detected that there is more than one person (or no person) facing the display, then the notification will still be shown but the content will not be shown.

A smart sensor that can do much more – innovation improving user experience

The AI-enhanced smart sensor technology also introduced advanced AI capability to Reno4, which enables some futuristic features such as touch-free control and smart rotations. In recent years, gesture recognition has become another popular way of human-computer interaction and has been widely used in many fields, especially in the automotive field in smart cars. With the continued trend of marginal innovation in smartphone industry, gesture control may become an inevitable function of smartphones. OPPO joins this race with the AI-enhanced smart sensor. OPPO believes that such innovative and optimal functional user experiences are inspirational to the mobile phone AI assistant race.

• Smart AirControl
Reno4 is the first OPPO phone to bring full-screen gestures to their line-up. The Smart AirControl allows you to interact with Reno4 without touching the display and could perform tasks such as scroll up and down the pages on some popular apps like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. More conveniently, in a short period of time, the owner does not need to do a “starting up” gesture every time he or she scrolls the screen. It is also worth mentioning that this feature allows you to answer the call without touching your phone, which brings great convenience to those who work with plastic gloves most of the time.

Photo: OPPO

• Smart Rotation
For most of us, especially the ones who prefer operating their phone while lying in bed, it is inconvenient when the content on the phone automatically flips to vertical when the Auto Rotate function is on. Based on this user insight, OPPO also introduces Smart Rotation to Reno4 with AI-enhanced smart sensor. When the phone and your face is rotated simultaneously, the AI-enhanced Smart Sensor and pose-recognition algorithm intelligently detect the orientation of your face and the phone to help determine whether to rotate the screen. There are some of the rotation scenes you often encounter:

When the phone is rotated from vertical to horizontal:
• If the face stays still – for example if you are watching a video and rotate your Reno4 – the screen will rotate.
• If the face rotated with the phone (such as lay in bed), the screen will not be rotated Surely this function could offer users a more immersive experience in various lifestyle scenarios in a smart manner.

• Smart Always On Display
Making full use of the characteristics of this AI-enhanced Smart Sensor, OPPO also applies functions to enrich user experience, such as “Smart Always On Display”. This feature can identify whether a user is continuously watching the mobile phone, so that the screen will not turn off. This feature makes Reno4 more intelligent and provides better using experience.

In addition, on software level, a special brightening algorithm will make the sensor work better in low light. Even when the level of luminance is lower than 1 lux, Reno4’s AI-enhanced Smart Sensor can function well.

Photo: OPPO

The future of technology – convergent products

The development of mobile phones can be roughly divided into the feature phone era and the smartphone era. In recent years, it has entered the evolutionary stage of artificial intelligence era. What sets two eras apart is the ability to solve problems using new and improved solutions. AI is a very broad concept, and R&D for AI in smartphones means to identify and develop new solutions that provide human beings with more convenience in terms of communication.

Digital experiences enabled by AI assistance, especially virtual assistance, is considered to be one of the major recent technological advancement and most promising consumer trend. The form we are most familiar with is virtual assistant, such as Microsoft’s Xiaoice or Cortana. The AI-enhanced smart sensor and its Smart AirControl and privacy protection functions have brought new possibilities to smartphone AI assistant. More recently, the future in smartphone features – AI assistants – may become more invisible and subtle. Finding a balance between easy operation and false touch, Smart AirControl is relatively easy to operate, avoiding false touch, it is an attempt and exploration in the field of human-device interaction. Even you could be like Iron Man and have your very own “Jarvis” or “Friday”. A futuristic AIOT form could be foreseen, to replace operating the devices with your phone or remote control.

To further enhance user experience, OPPO put large amount of effort in the high-end hardware and software. Strategically, with rapid development of emerging technology, OPPO has stepped into the Era of Convergence, in which OPPO is not placed only as a mobile device company. It will also deep dive into the whole technology world to create convergent products for all.

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