BlackBerry Priv Review by Dieter Bohn

[ The Verge ] Dieter Bohn:

Let’s start with the physical keyboard, because it’s the most BlackBerry thing about the Priv. The screen slides up with a satisfying snik to reveal the four plastic rows. It’s a fine keyboard, and it registers my keypresses without fail, even when I type quickly. It’s laid out in classic BlackBerry fashion, the better to appeal to people whose thumb muscles still remember their Bolds.

The keyboard makes a BlackBerry, and the keyboard on the Priv carries on the torch.

Beyond the keyboard, the Priv’s hardware is quite good. It has a 5.4-inch curved AMOLED display, a size that’s Goldilocks-just-right for a phone with a slide-out keyboard: big enough to feel expansive, but not so big it’s ridiculous. The display itself is plenty high resolution at 2560 x 1440 and looks great.

Curved? You mean the cover glass ends are tapered. Like the iPhone 6, right?

Unfortunately, the camera is slow. Even in the best of cases, you’re looking at about a second between the moment your finger hits the shutter button (or space bar) and when the image is shot and saved in your gallery. With HDR mode on, I’ve seen it take upwards of 4 or 5 seconds to finish taking an photo.

This is not just a BlackBerry thing; some Android smartphones, like my Samsung Galaxy Note 4, takes a bit of time between taking the shot and letting me review it. I was able to get rid of that lag by uninstalling every app uninstallable, shutting down all apps running in the background, and ratcheting down all background system services. iPhones — even the old iPhone 4s I have running iOS 9 — do not lag one bit. It must be software, and Bohn urges patience because the software in general needs to be more stable.

Stream HBO Now, HBO Go, Netflix, Watch ESPN, Fox Sports, and Hulu Worry-Free on T-Mobile

[ re/code ] Dawn Chmielewski:

Subscribers can choose among popular streaming services including Netflix, HBO Now, HBO Go, Watch ESPN, Fox Sports and Hulu.

Notable omissions from the list include YouTube, the world’s biggest video site, and Facebook and Snapchat, both of which have made big pushes into video in the last year.

“Video streams free,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said Tuesday. “Binge on. Start watching your shows, stop watching your data.” Legere’s offer applies to customers who pay for at least three gigabytes of data a month.

This is cool.

Video is, of course, one of the biggest gobblers of data. To make it feasible to offer unlimited streaming, T-Mobile is ratcheting down the quality of video to something it says approaches “DVD quality” but is less than the HD feeds some users are accustomed to. In addition, those taking part in the Binge On program will see other videos reduced in quality — not just those that are part of participating services.

I’m guessing almost everyone on T-Mobile would rather watch unlimited 480p videos than watch limited HD videos.

Thankfully, for unlimited data customers such as myself and others who value quality over quantity, you can disable Binge On. Starts November 15.

BlackBerry Priv Review by Joanna Stern

[ The Wall Street Journal ] Joanna Stern:

Typing on real keys with a phablet-sized 5.4-inch screen towering over them is odd at first, but once I found my acrobatic balance, my fingers were scurrying around at up to 60 words per minute. That’s about 20% faster than I type on my iPhone (though still 15% slower than on the BlackBerry Classic’s larger, wider, backlit keyboard).

The tactile feel of a real keyboard on a smartphone is an emotionally pleasant thing, and less of a functional thing. Or so I thought. 60 words per minute? Now that’s some fast thumb typing.

But even I, a former physical keyboard addict, ended up using the on-screen keyboard most of the time. It’s more convenient and easier to use one-handed.

Emotional trumps functional sometimes, and vice versa, but convenience trumps both all the time.

The bright, crisp, 2560×1440-pixel OLED display competes with Samsung, Apple or LG’s displays. The 18-megapixel camera takes good shots, though not as good as the Nexus 6P’s in low light.

I would like to hear, from an expert like Dr. Raymond Soneira, whether or not the 5.4-inch OLED display competes with the best from Apple (IPS LCD), LG (IPS LCD), and Samsung (OLED). No disrespect to Joanna Stern, but performance metrics like color space, color accuracy, viewing angles, brightness uniformity, etc. cannot easily be ascertained merely by looking closely at a display with the naked eye.

I think something like a BlackBerry Priv — big display with a BlackBerry keyboard — would have been a great smartphone when Androids started getting bigger a few years ago. But the thing that gets me every time is how inconvenient it is to thumb type different languages with a physical keyboard on a smartphone. The on-screen keyboard is way more convenient.

InstaAgent is Password-Collecting Malware

via John Gruber. [ MacRumors ] Juli Clover:

An app developer from Peppersoft downloaded InstaAgent — full name “Who Viewed Your Profile – InstaAgent” — and discovered it’s reading Instagram account usernames and passwords, sending them via clear text to a remote server – instagram.zunamedia.com.

Don’t install InstaAgent. If you did, uninstall InstaAgent, and as soon as possible change your Instagram account password. Avoid third-party Instagram apps that promise followers and likes. Good work David L-R (the app developer from Peppersoft)!

What is Mobile?

Benedict Evans:

This isn’t about the screen size or keyboard or location or use. Rather, the ecosystem of ARM, iOS and Android, with 10x the scale of Wintel, will become the new centre of gravity throughout computing. It will take over things like IoT and wearables in one direction and, in due course, the data centre in the other, and it will push onto the desktop.

Microsoft and Intel will disagree with this conclusion. My guess is that Intel will eventually catch up to ARM in terms of CPU & GPU power and power consumption ratios. When that happens Microsoft will introduce a smartphone. If Surface Book is Microsoft’s nomenclature going forward, my guess is the smartphone will be called Surface Phone.

The ARM-equivalent Intel SoC-powered Surface Phone will likely be head-to-head in computing power and power consumption to Android and iOS smartphones, but with one special twist: ‘dock’ it (physically or wirelessly) to a workstation setup — meaning there’s a big monitor, full-sized keyboard, and mouse — and the Windows 10 running Surface Phone becomes the Windows 10 running Surface Workstation. The thought of having a single mobile device to do everything is very alluring.

Windows 10 reminds me of responsive web design. On a desktop screen the design will make use of the larger screen real estate. On the other hand that same code will morph the user interface to make it easier to use on a smaller screen. Windows 10 seems to me a solid start to a responsive operating system design that works across screens that are smartphone small to digital signage big.

I personally prefer the more refined user experience designed into iOS and OS X, but I think Microsoft is building an operating system and ecosystem that can scale much larger.

OmniVision PureCel Plus Technology

[ OmniVision ] PureCel Plus technology uses a buried color filter array and deep trench isolation to reduce pixel crosstalk and improve color reproduction in low-light conditions. The angular response of the sensor means brighter lenses can be used and thinner camera system geometries.

What does this mean for future smartphones? Better low-light photography, faster lenses, and hopefully no more camera bulges.

2015 US Smartphone Penetration

[ Pew Research Center ] Monica Anderson:

Today, 68% of U.S. adults have a smartphone, up from 35% in 2011, and tablet computer ownership has edged up to 45% among adults, according to newly released survey data from the Pew Research Center. Smartphone ownership is nearing the saturation point with some groups: 86% of those ages 18-29 have a smartphone, as do 83% of those ages 30-49 and 87% of those living in households earning $75,000 and up annually.

I was surprised to see “tablet computer” ownership did not fall. When I had an iPhone 4s I used my 9.7-inch iPad a lot, but when I started using the 5, 5s, and then the Note 4 I gave my iPad to one of my children. I used my iPad mini a bit, but I had little to no need of my iPads. The iPad mini is now being used by my oldest. Yes, I am still the owner of two “tablet computers” but I no longer use them. My guess is there are many “tablet computer” owners who no longer use them much.

Note: I was no longer surprised after finding out the sample size was only 1907 adults. As of this writing the US Census Bureau estimates the population to be 322 million. That’s a lot of extrapolating.

LG V10 Review by The Verge

[ The Verge ] Vlad Savov:

The real attraction of the LG V10 is the camera that resides above the button cluster, so let’s get right to it. It’s amazing. I’m taking more photos and being more creative than I have with any other phone. Where other smartphones will render an indistinct blob of bright red, the V10 captures a beautiful, finely detailed flower in bloom. I see each petal distinguished from the next, with proper color gradation from the subtle pink hues to the deeper reds. At night, I’m unafraid to pull out the V10 and capture a particularly atmospheric scene — such as this tree illuminated by street lights behind it — knowing that this phone’s camera can handle it.

LG got the camera spot on. The 2560×1440 5.7-inch display? Excellent. The 2.1-inch secondary on top? Get rid of it.

Apple Considering Massive San Jose Campus

[ Silicon Valley Business Journal ] Nathan Donato-Weinstein:

Apple Inc. and the city of San Jose are working toward a development agreement that would allow the Cupertino-based juggernaut to build a north San Jose campus of up to 4.15 million square feet, according to city records — an amount larger than Apple’s “spaceship” campus under construction in Cupertino.

North of Highway 101 just across from San Jose International Airport. If Apple was planning to manufacture a car it would need a large factory, wouldn’t it?