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iPhone X review: Day one with Face ID and animojis

The iPhone X feels like a concept car, or a secret project. That’s because of the X name, probably, and the legacy of 10 years of iPhones. It’s also the fact that this is an optional step-up model — like an 8 Plus, but smaller. It’s a bold new design, different after three years of each iPhone looking very much the same. Huge kudos to cnet for this. Link to source at bottom of page

I love new technology and the wild ideas that come with it. I love to be immersed in new concepts. But I’m also practical when it comes to tools. Will I use a fully rethought phone? Will it work for me when I need it to? My phone is my mission critical everything. It’s my Indiana Jones hat. Will Face ID work as well as the trusty Touch ID home button? Will I feel safe?

Ultimately the all important question is simple: Is this the must-have upgrade? Should my mom get it? Should my sister? My brother-in-law? My best friend? You?

I’ve spent 18 hours with the device to begin to answer this question. Consider this a living review that we’ll be updating throughout the week — and beyond — as we test, retest and experience the iPhone X.

Face ID works pretty well…

You’ve been able to unlock an iPhone with Touch ID using your fingerprint since 2013. The original iPhone shipped with a home button a decade ago. Apple‘s making a big leap by getting rid of both in one fell swoop and replacing them with Face ID. Your face — or a passcode — is the only way to unlock the iPhone X.

Face ID worked well in early tests. Setup is quick: Two circular head twists and the iPhone adds your face to its secure internal database.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Unlocking isn’t automatic. Instead, the phone “readies for unlock” when it recognizes my face. So I look at the iPhone, and then a lock icon at the top unlocks. But the iPhone still needs my finger-swipe to finish the unlock. It’s fast, but that extra step means it’s not instantaneous. Face ID did recognize me most of the time but sometimes, every once in a while, it didn’t.

I tried the phone with at least five of my coworkers. None of their faces unlocked it — although none of them look remotely like me. I also attempted to unlock it with a big color photo of my face on a 24-inch monitor, but that didn’t register as a face to the iPhone X either. The TrueDepth camera recognizes face contours to identify you.

iPhone X Face ID yes
Face ID worked perfectly in these instances.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Face ID worked perfectly in almost completely dark room, too, lit only by the iPhone’s screen. (It uses infrared). We’ll still need to do a lot more testing to see what Face ID’s limits are. By default, it requires “attention” at the display, but that requirement for direct attention can be turned off for those who need it, or those who prefer to speed up the process.

…but it’s not perfect

By design, the iPhone X doesn’t unlock with just a glance. Once you’ve identified yourself with your face, you need to swipe up with your finger to get to your apps. Not only does the swipe remove the immediacy of Face ID, it means you need your hand to do anything. Quick access to the phone wasn’t quite as quick as I expected.

I pushed my face testing hard. I got a haircut, shaved my beard into several shapes, then off completely. I tried on sunglasses and other frames. I wore hats and scarves. Then I went to more absurd levels, including some that wouldn’t happen in most real-world scenarios, trying on wigs, fake mustaches and steampunk goggles.

iPhone X Face ID no
Face ID failed here.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The preliminary results are in my video. This is by no means a final test, but the bottom line is that most of the “real world” tests worked and showed me that Face ID is more resilient than I expected. Face ID didn’t mind my sunglasses. Scarves presented some challenges, but that makes sense if they’re pulled up over your mouth since they’re hiding essential aspects of your face. All the tests worked far better than Samsung’s face unlock feature on the Galaxy Note 8 — though Samsung kept its fingerprint reader on, as an easy backup.

The iPhone X occasionally asked me to re-enter the passcode after a failed Face ID attempt, then locked out further Face ID efforts until I entered the passcode again. If you’ve used Touch ID, this will remind you of trying to use an iPhone with wet fingers.

The big OLED screen is a welcome addition…

The 5.8-inch screen is the biggest on an iPhone to date, and the first Apple handset to use OLED (organic light-emitting display) technology versus the LED/LCD in all previous iPhones. In addition to better energy efficiency, OLED screens offer much better contrast and true, inky blacks — not the grayish blacks of LCD screens.

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The iPhone 8 (left) has a 4.7-inch screen; the iPhone X (center) has a 5.8-inch screen; and the iPhone 8 Plus (right) is 5.5 inches.


Sarah Tew/CNET

At first use, the bigger screen feels great. I’ve wanted more screen real estate on the iPhone, and the X comes closest to all-screen. Picture quality improvement isn’t immediately noticeable over previous iPhones, but that’s a testament to how good Apple’s previous TrueTone displays are. The larger screen gives the iPhone a more current and immersive feel.

I’ll need more time to compare the screen to other iPhones — and to other OLED phones, such as Samsung Galaxy models.

iPhone X

Sarah Tew/CNET

…but the X’s screen feels different from an iPhone Plus

That said, I grappled with a few X display quirks. Sure, there’s a notch cut out of the top of the screen where the front-facing camera array sits. But this isn’t just the Plus display crammed into the body of a 4.7-inch iPhone. The X’s display is taller than recent iPhones — or, when you put it in landscape mode, narrower. For some videos, that means they get letterboxed (black bars at the top and bottom) or pillarboxed (black bars on the left and right) to fit properly and the effective display area ends up a bit smaller than on the 8 Plus.

The rounded edges of the display mean that even if you expand a picture to fill the screen, parts of the image or movie end up cut off.

The notch didn’t bother me — much…

Hear me out. The notch and the two extra bits on either side end up feeling like bonus space: most apps don’t use that area, and it ends up relegated to carrier, Wi-Fi and battery notifications, which saves that info from cluttering the display below.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

…but your favorite apps might not make the most of that screen

Many current apps aren’t yet optimized for the iPhone X. These outdated apps end up filling the same space as on an iPhone 8, leaving a lot of unused area. That’ll certainly get fixed for some apps over time, but it’s a reminder that the extra screen room here might not end up meeting your needs, until or unless the apps are optimized.

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The Witness isn’t optimized for the iPhone X (yet), so it “pillarboxes” (places black bars to the left and right of the screen).


Sarah Tew/CNET

Living without the home button takes some adjustment

A number of new gestures take the place of the old home button. I kept reaching for the phantom button over the first few hours, feeling like I’d lost a thumb.

Unlike phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, which adds a virtual home button to create a “press for home” experience, the X remaps familiar gestures completely.

  • Swiping down from the corner now gives you Control Center, instead of swiping up.
  • Swiping up is the new “home button.”
  • Swiping up and holding brings up all open apps.
  • And another new trick: swiping left or right on the opaque bar below all apps, flips between apps for quick multitasking.
iphone-x-58

Sarah Tew/CNET

Meanwhile, there’s a new, large side button that brings up Siri and Apple Pay. I instinctively pressed and held it to shut down my phone, then I realized that is not what that button does. (To turn off the phone, you now hold that same side button *and* the lower volume button at the same time, which feels far from intuitive.)

Those gestures added up to some difficult maneuvers as I walked Manhattan streets in the Flatiron between my office and a local barber shop. At the end of the first day, I admit: sometimes I missed the simple home button.

You’ll need to adjust your Apple Pay routine

Double-clicking the side button brings up Apple Pay, but an additional face-glance is needed to authorize a payment. I tried it on our vending machine at the office and sometimes it worked great. Sometimes Face ID didn’t seem to recognize me. Maybe my timing was off.

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We tested Apple Pay on our in-house vending machine.


Sarah Tew/CNET

I’m definitely going to need to check this out at more places in the days ahead. The bottom line: you don’t want to be the guy holding up the line at the drugstore because your double-click-to-Face-ID-to-NFC-reader flow was off.

The rear cameras are similar, not identical, to the iPhone 8 Plus

Like the iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone X has a dual rear camera with both wide-angle and telephoto lenses. But X has two changes: A larger aperture (f/2.4 vs. f/2.8) on the telephoto lens, and optical image stabilization on both lenses (rather than just one on the 8 Plus), which should make for better-lit, less blurry zoomed-in shots at night or in lower lighting.

My colleague, CNET Senior Photographer James Martin, has done a deep dive on the new front-facing iPhone X camera, experimenting with portraits and shots around San Francisco.

The front camera is great with Portrait Mode…

In addition to handling Face ID duties, the TrueDepth front camera brings most of the magic of Apple’s rear cameras to the selfie world.

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Scott Stein/CNET

Portrait Mode, where the subject is in the foreground in focus with a blurred background, and Portrait Lighting, which applies various lighting effects to a photo after the fact, both now work on your selfies. Vanity, thy name is Portrait Mode.

…but not great with Portrait Lighting and my face

Portrait Lighting is officially in beta on both the iPhone’s rear and front cameras, and my experiences with it confirmed Apple isn’t finished perfecting the software that makes it work. My face ended up looking oddly cut-out and poorly lit. Unlike the rear cameras, which seemed to produce hit-or-miss Portrait Lighting shots, I haven’t had luck with my own selfies.

iPhone X selfie portrait lighting
Portrait Lighting is still in beta, so temper your expectations.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Get ready to be bombarded with animojis, and other TrueDepth AR and face-mapping apps

Animojis are exactly what they sound like: animated emojis. They’re cute. They’re also Apple’s showcase for the fancy TrueDepth camera, which maps your facial expressions onto monkeys, aliens, foxes and even a pile of poop. (If nothing else, the 10-second clips made my kids laugh when I sent them a few.)

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Animojis map to your facial expressions and mouth movements.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Third-party apps also use the TrueDepth camera for real-time 3D effects. Snapchat created new face filters I got to play with, and some did an amazing job staying on my face. I’m curious to see how future apps use this tech for even more advanced face-aware AR.

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Snapchat face filters just got a lot more realistic.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple’s Instagram-like video app Clips has an update coming that also uses the camera to green-screen my face into different scenes, like an 8-bit gaming experience or a Star Wars filter where it looks like my face is a blue-tinged hologram. Again, it’s fun. For many people, the filters Snapchat already provides are probably enough.

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Apple’s Clips app is now TrueDepth-enabled, too.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple nailed the size and feel: Did it nail the entire experience?

I think the X is in the sweet spot that the older iPhone sizes could never perfectly be. It’s a good-feeling phone with a nice, large screen. The shift to Face ID and the removal of the home button feel like changes that some might be fine with, and others will find unnecessary. I’m still learning the X’s design language.

We’re just getting started!

Want to know more? So do we. This is the beginning of our iPhone X journey, not the final word. We’ve got plenty more on deck, including battery tests, benchmarks and in-depth comparisons to rival phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and Google PIxel 2 XL.

We’ll continue to update our experiences throughout the week as we count down to the iPhone X global launch on Friday, Nov. 3.

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OnePlus 6T McLaren Version: No need for speed

Last year’s OnePlus 6T made quite a statement. The definitive flagship killer remains the best-ever OnePlus phone to date and offers 99% of what its rivals can do at roughly 60% of the price. If there ever was a case against spending upwards of four figures on the latest handset, well, this was it.

OnePlus 6T McLaren Version

Final yr’s OnePlus 6T made fairly an announcement. The definitive flagship killer stays the all-time OnePlus telephone thus far and presents 99% of what its rivals can do at roughly 60% of the worth. If there ever was a case in opposition to spending upwards of 4 figures on the most recent handset, effectively, this was it. OnePlus 6T McLaren Version Review is here.

Besides there’s now a brand new OnePlus to shake issues up a bit. This particular McLaren Version of the OnePlus 6T, which prices an additional £150 over the bottom mannequin, is a slightly-beefier handset with 10GB of onboard RAM as a substitute of the same old 6- or 8GB configurations.

Purchase OnePlus 6T McLaren Version

It additionally features a fairly uncommon McLaren-inspired design, with a shiny carbon fibre-like rear and light “papaya orange” accents across the again edges of the underside half of the telephone, which mimics a Method 1 race automotive’s velocity trails.

However the variations between the two finish there. Sure, it should finally arrive in your doorstep in a particular presentation field together with some McLaren-branded knick knacks (which I’ll get onto later) however elsewhere this “restricted version” smartphone is far the identical as earlier than.

OnePlus 6T McLaren Version

Not that that’s a nasty factor. Like its non-McLaren branded counterpart, this new OnePlus 6T continues to be powered by Qualcomm’s fastest-ever cell processor, the octa-core 2.8GHz Snapdragon 845 chipset, which additionally retains issues ticking alongside on most of its flagship counterparts. It additionally features a large 256GB of onboard storage, albeit with no area for a microSD card – not that you just’ll essentially want it. Actually, that implies that though it’s £150 greater than the bottom OnePlus 6T, it’s solely £70 greater than the 8GB and 256GB mannequin.

So  is 2GB extra RAM value £70? Effectively, a smartphone with 10GB of RAM is principally overkill for almost all of smartphone customers – you received’t discover any discernible variations in day-to-day use, and it doesn’t actually add something to the telephone’s total efficiency. The OnePlus 6T McLaren Version obtained nearly an identical scores within the Geekbench four assessments

In real-world use, although, juggling a number of purposes and video games did really feel just a little bit snappier in comparison with the common OnePlus 6T. If for some motive, you’re continually pushing your telephone to its limits and will do with all the grunt you may get your arms on, there’s merely no different different in the meanwhile.

Fortunately, the added RAM doesn’t seem to have negatively affected the telephone’s stamina. The OnePlus 6T McLaren Version’s battery life stays largely unchanged, reaching a complete of 21 hours in our steady video playback check earlier than needing to recharge. The telephone additionally advantages from what the agency calls “Warp Cost 3.0”, which prices the OnePlus to 50% from empty in simply 20 minutes.

The remainder of the telephone’s particulars additionally stay the identical. The 6.41in AMOLED display continues to be 2,340 x 1,080 in decision and contains the little drop notch on the prime for the embedded selfie digicam. This association hasn’t modified both; the front-facing digicam is a 16-megapixel unit, which works with the 2 rear-facing 16- and 20-megapixel snappers.

Digicam high quality is an space the place the OnePlus 6T excels, and the McLaren version isn’t any totally different. Supplied you may have loads of mild (low-light pictures do undergo from some heavy-handed compression artifacting), photographs look sharp and detailed, with a pleasingly-natural color palette.

The telephone can be working the most recent model of Google’s ever-popular cell working system, Android 9.0, albeit with OnePlus’ personal Oxygen OS excessive. Don’t fear, so far as software program tweaks go that is the least intrusive of the lot, and the expertise feels very very similar to inventory Android. There’s a particular McLaren theme with this mannequin, although, with black backgrounds and orange textual content – however it may be turned off for those who don’t prefer it.

OnePlus 6T McLaren version: Added extras

OnePlus 6T McLaren Version

Let’s discuss that particular presentation field and McLaren-branded gubbins, then. Open the lid, and the very first thing you’ll spot is a elaborate McLaren “Salute to Velocity” e book, which works into plenty of depth in regards to the racing agency’s historical past and notable successes.

The e book additionally features a spot of AR performance. When organising the telephone, you’ll be able to level the rear digicam on the pages and reveal supplementary video diaries and even an in depth 3D picture of a Method 1 race automotive. It’s fairly enjoyable, and particularly fascinating for those who’re a eager racing fanatic. The handset itself can be discovered contained in the e book.

Sitting beneath is the McLaren-branded telephone case, in addition to the telephone’s charger and USB-C to three.5mm headphone adapter. Lastly, there’s additionally a fairly neat carbon fibre McLaren emblem, which is constructed from the Surrey-based racing workforce’s MCL33 Method 1 race automotive (which was pushed by Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne) and encased in glass for show in your shelf.

OnePlus 6T McLaren Version evaluation: Verdict

Is any of this additional stuff truly well worth the added value? Effectively, not precisely, and particularly not for those who aren’t a giant Method 1 fan. The RAM improve doesn’t provide a lot in day-to-day use, whereas the included McLaren-branded merchandise is fascinating at first however will in the end find yourself gathering mud on a shelf.

Purchase OnePlus 6T McLaren Version

If you’re a eager follower of McLaren’s Method 1 appearances, nonetheless, and just like the look of the telephone’s particular design, there is definitely a powerful case to be made for paying the additional value.

However, with the added £150 bringing the worth of the OnePlus 6T McLaren version to a not-so-mid-range £649, the telephone strikes dangerously near nearly all of top-shelf Android flagships. It fails to achieve pole place in consequence.

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BlackBerry Key2 LE review: Party like it’s 2002

It feels odd to say this, given TCL Communications has sent us a phone with a physical keyboard in 2019 but, in a strange way, the Chinese company is listening. It’s not that people are buying BlackBerry handsets in huge numbers any more.

BlackBerry Key2 LE

It feels odd to say this, given TCL Communications has sent us a phone with a physical keyboard in 2019 but, in a strange way, the Chinese company is listening. It’s not that people are buying BlackBerry handsets in huge numbers any more. That ship well and truly departed a decade ago. But, with the Blackberry Key2 LE, the company has fixed our main issue with the KeyTwo: the, uh, “optimistic” pricing.

To do so, TCL has had to make a number of concessions but overall they’ve been made in the right place to bring the BlackBerry Key2 LE to a price that shouldn’t leave you in total disbelief.

Unless you happen to think that buying a BlackBerry in 2019 is a mad thing to do, which is a point it’s pretty hard to argue with, considering the quality of the opposition.

BlackBerry Key2 LE review: What you need to know

It’s the third outing for the reborn, keyboard-based BlackBerry. No, it’s not still made by Canadian firm RIM but by TCL Communications, the firm that’s also recently brought back Palm in a pique of retro fever.

The second keyboard-based BlackBerry, the KeyTwo impressed us well enough last year but the price felt a bit high considering the distinctly middle-of-the-road innards. Suffice to say you were paying a premium price for a keyboard.

The Key2 LE (“Light Edition”) fixes that, knocking a cool £229 off the price. To do that, TCL has cut the processor speed, RAM and battery capacity and included a slightly less appealing keyboard.

BlackBerry Key2 LE review: Price and competition

With that kind of specification surgery, you’d better hope the price is low and, gratifyingly, it is. While the original BlackBerry KeyTwo came in at £579, only £20 less than the LG G7 Thinq, the Key2 LE is a far more reasonable £350.

If specifications are all you care about you can still do better for the price, though. The Pocophone F1 is £330, and it comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, a chip that, bluntly, wipes the floor with the Snapdragon 636 inside the Key2 LE.

But, let’s assume you want a physical keyboard (why else would you be reading a BlackBerry review in 2019?) What alternatives are there? Well, there’s the original BlackBerry KeyOne, of course, which now goes for around £230. My advice, though, would be to look at buying a Samsung Galaxy S8, and pairing it with Samsung’s keyboard cover. It’s the most powerful BlackBerry-like experience you’ll get in 2019 by some distance.

Samsung hasn’t made the keyboard cover for the S9, so I can only assume nobody was buying them, though.

BlackBerry Key2 LE review: Design

Buy you’ve presumably ruled out buying a Samsung flagship, so let’s talk about BlackBerry. The Key2 LE’s design is actually rather smart and I’ve found myself growing rather fond of it over the time I’ve spent using as my main phone.

It’s certainly different. A 3:2 aspect-ratio display in an era where phone screens are favouring 18:9 or greater is a bold move, although not quite as bold as occupying the bottom two-fifths of the front with a 35-key keyboard. It’s separated from the screen by a bezel filled with off-screen capacitive navigation keys.

As for the rest of the design, that’s quite nice, too, and echoes the layout of the Key2. The top of the chassis is neatly squared off, the bottom has curved corners so it shouldn’t catch on the lining of your pocket and the whole phone is framed in a smart, champagne gold trim.

Flip it over and you’ll find a nicely rubberised back that feels wonderfully grippy in the hand and a genuine breath of fresh air when compared with what BlackBerry hopes will be its rivals. The familiar BlackBerry logo is embossed in silver two-thirds of the way up and a dual-camera sits at the top.

You can buy a dual-SIM version and it supports microSD cards up to 256GB in size. It isn’t waterproofed – there are quite a lot of gaps between those little keys – but it does maintain the headphone jack, like the good old days.

BlackBerry Key2 LE review: Keyboard

There’s no getting around it: I have big hands and, as such, I’ve never seen the appeal in poking at tiny buttons like I’m playing the world’s most tedious minature game of Whack-A-Mole.

Actually, I’m not really a big fan of typing on smartphones, full stop. I only type on my phone as an absolute last resort: WhatsApp Web is a Godsend. That said, I’ve actually found the BlackBerry Key2 LE keyboard a pleasant surprise. I can certainly see the appeal, even if part of that appeal is the clickity-clack of looking important while you hammer out a tiny email.

The keys are decently spaced enough that typos are rare, although it has the strange side effect of making me watch my fingers, rather than the words appearing on the screen. Additionally, adding commas and question marks requires you to press the tiny “alt” button first, which is tedious if you’re the kind of bore that insists on perfect grammar in your texts. (Solidarity, reader: I’m one of you.)

Still, generally the predictive text jumps in at exactly the points where you would want it to, offering suggestions which generally make sense and adding apostrophes to save you the frustrating alt-key dance. The fingerprint reader is also embedded in the spacebar, which is a very nice touch and works well. It’s a pity that said space bar doesn’t double up as a home button but you can’t have anything.

But remember how I said the keyboard was one area where BlackBerry had cut corners with the LE? It’s no longer touch sensitive. That means you can’t use it as a touchpad for scrolling through webpages and it doesn’t allow you to flick your fingers upwards at the words you want to pick. You can still set keys to act as shortcuts to launch apps, which is a nice touch, if a little pointless given your favourites are easily accessible in a touch-friendly interface an inch away.

Would I pick this over a touchscreen keyboard? Absolutely not but it was a closer call than I thought it would be before I picked up the BlackBerry Key2 LE. The deciding factors are twofold: first, I miss swiping my words, which I still find the quickest way of entering text in a hurry. Second, I found that to type with any kind of speed on the BlackBerry, I need to use two thumbs. That makes texting and walking nearly impossible, which is a real pain if you’re running late and need to tell someone pronto.

BlackBerry Key2 LE review: Screen

Two years ago, phones switched up their aspect ratios, most moving to a long and thin 18:9, rather than the dumpier 16:9 of old. The resurrected BlackBerrys don’t play these games at all, providing a 3:2, 4.5in touchscreen placed just above the keyboard.

Does that make interacting with apps a bit more awkward? You betcha. Even pressing the home, back or menu buttons requires you to lift your thumb above the keyboard, which is as fiddly as it sounds.

But hey, you know what you’re signing up for when you buy a BlackBerry, so how does the display perform on a technical level? Really well, as it turns out. It’s an IPS panel, with a resolution of 1,620 x 1,080 meaning you get a decent pixel density of 434ppi.

Better still, it performs better than the more expensive BlackBerry KeyTwo. It covers 98.5% of the sRGB colour spectrum, up 5% on its pricier sibling and it reaches a peak brightness of 470cd/m2 compared with the KeyTwo’s 397cd/m2. Contrast is slightly weaker but, at 1,239:1, it would be churlish to moan too much.

It’s still not the perfect screen for binge-watching Netflix shows on, thanks to the ruddy great keyboard poking out of the side but it’s actually pretty good for what it is.

BlackBerry Key2 LE review: Performance

So far, so good then: £230 off the price of the original BlackBerry KeyTwo, with only minor keyboard annoyances to contend with. How about the reduction in core specifications?

The new BlackBerry Key2 LE comes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor, while it’s more expensive sibling features the 660. Both are octa-core chips but there’s a 400MHz clock speed difference between them. Piling on the pressure for the upcoming benchmarks is the loss of 2GB RAM between versions. While the KeyTwo had 6GB, the Key2 LE has to make do with 4GB.

So, what does that mean in practical terms?

The good news is that it’s not too far behind the non-LE version. You may come up against a memory ceiling now and then. The software warned me at one point that I needed to close things to make it perform better. Generally, however, the difference shouldn’t be all that different. Not £230 different, anyway.

BlackBerry Key2 LE

The elephant in the room is how much better you can do for the money with a non-BlackBerry phone. Off both the charts above is the Xiaomi Pocophone F1, which comes in £20 cheaper. The Nokia 8.1 is £30 more expensive than the BlackBerry Key2 LE and beats it comfortably.

The Samsung Galaxy S8, a handset fast approaching its second birthday, is significantly faster and can be made BlackBerry-like by adding the official Samsung keyboard cover.

Battery life is equally underwhelming, comparatively speaking, with the Key2 LE lasting only 13hrs 18 mins in our video playback test. Confusingly, this is 12 minutes longer than the KeyTwo despite it having a 500mAh smaller battery.

Of course, there’s more to phones than just benchmarks and one of the things that has most impressed me about the Key2 LE is the software. Don’t worry, you don’t have to learn/relearn BlackBerry OS; this is a nicely skinned version of Android with some BlackBerry-specific flavours.

Some of these are purely cosmetic. I like the charging bar that snakes around the edges of the screen when you plug the phone in, and the tiled apps that appear when you tap the menu button, but other features are a hell of a lot more useful.


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BlackBerry Messenger may be a peculiar throwback in 2019, but DTEK by BlackBerry is a useful privacy and security checker, and there are other brilliant tools built in for the privacy and business conscious. Privacy Shade makes the entire screen pitch black, except for a single-line window that you can drag along with your finger, meaning sensitive emails are safe from people reading over your shoulder. Redactor is equally useful, allowing you to paste thick black lines over text in screenshots before sending them, removing secrets from prying eyes.

BlackBerry Key2 LE review: Camera

For those easily bamboozled by specifications, the camera specs look slightly better on paper than the original KeyTwo but, make no mistake, this is a downgrade disguised as an upgrade. Yes, it’s now 13 megapixels compared with the original’s 12 megapixels, but the aperture was a larger f/1.8 and it’s now a smaller f/2.2. Worse, the sensor size has shrunk from 1/2.3in to 1/3.1in, which means considerably less light gathering potential.

Despite this, the performance here isn’t too bad but the complaints we had with the KeyTwo are repeated here: a smoothing effect seems to apply in post-processing which gives things an unnatural look.

As you can see in the comparison shots with the Nokia 8.1, it’s getting plenty of detail, but said detail is lost with aggressive processing that leaves areas of similar colour looking smudged.

The quality of images isn’t too bad for the price but the real issue I have is with the actual day to day use of the camera. You have to remain perfectly still in the second after pressing the capture button. If you don’t, the result will be a blurred image. Suffice to say, this makes my Instagram hobby of cat photography almost impossible but maybe BlackBerry users care more about emails than feline photography.

BlackBerry Key2 LE review: Verdict

Should you buy a BlackBerry in 2019? I wouldn’t personally. Touchscreen keyboards have come a long way in the last decade and a physical keyboard feels like a relic that’s more likely to get in the way than prove genuinely useful nowadays.

But if you do long for a handset that’s a little different then you could do worse than the BlackBerry Key2 LE. On the whole, the cuts made over the original KeyTwo don’t add up to £230 less value in my eyes.

And yes, you could add a keyboard cover to the Samsung Galaxy S8 for a better overall Android experience but if you prefer everything with a BlackBerry taste, then the Key2 LE is worth a nibble.


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Google to remove Android apps requesting SMS and Call Log access

Google has said it will begin removing Android apps that seek unjustified access to the device owner’s call and text message logs.

Google to remove Android apps

Google has said it will begin removing Android apps that seek unjustified access to the device owner’s call and text message logs.

The company is requiring apps that request this highly personal information from users’ devices must fill in a permissions declarations form to explain why, or revoke the permissions in a new version of the app.

Developers that fail to do either will be removed from the Play Store automatically, as will those who fail to provide sufficient reasoning.

The news comes from Paul Bankhead, who is the director of product management at Google, who points out that many apps, such as diallers or messaging tools, require such access as part of their basic functionality.

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In a blog post (via The Register), he wrote: “We take access to sensitive data and permissions very seriously. This is especially true with SMS and Call Log permissions, which were designed to allow users to pick their favourite dialler or messaging app, but have also been used to enable many other experiences that might not require that same level of access.

“Our new policy is designed to ensure that apps asking for these permissions need full and ongoing access to the sensitive data in order to accomplish the app’s primary use case, and that users will understand why this data would be required for the app to function.”

Developers affected by the policy change have already been emailed and have been given 90 days to either remove those permissions or submit the aforementioned form. The company says each submission will be evaluated by its review teams. It says tens of thousands of devs have already resubmitted apps to support the new policy, or submitted a form.

“Over the next few weeks, we will be removing apps from the Play Store that ask for SMS or Call Log permission and have not submitted a permission declaration form,” Bankhead added.

Those apps subject to removal must submit a new version of the app without these permissions or submit the firm before March 9.

Does Google do a good enough job of keeping app permissions under control? Let us know @css0cder on Twitter.

 

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