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This is why your iPhone and Android phone will get more expensive

This is why your iPhone and Android phone will get more expensive

Remember when the only phones with over-$1,000 price tags were made of leather, ruby and sapphire crystal? Thanks to Apple and Samsung, those days are over. The iPhone XS and Galaxy Note 9‘s $999 starting price tags cement the thousand-dollar phone as the new normal. Level up your storage capacity and the prices only climb. If you want that iPhone XS with 512GB storage capacity, you’ll pay $1,349 — that’s 35 percent more. In the UK that high-spec phone is a whopping £1,349 and AU$2,199 in Australia, and let’s not even get started with the even more expensive iPhone XS Max.

iphone-x-iphone-8-plus-4050
It may feel like the iPhone XS costs as much as a brick of gold.
Sarah Tew/CNET

But the problem doesn’t end there. This new wave of higher prices for top-tier devices is part of a larger trend that affects the prices of most phone brands, including Google, Huawei and OnePlus.

Premium models aren’t the only products getting more expensive; midtier devices are nudged up, too. The iPhone XR costs 7 percent more than last year’s entry-level iPhone 8, and 15 percent more than the iPhone 7. The OnePlus 6T, meanwhile, rose 3.8 percent over the OnePlus 6 phone released just six months ago, and a total of 37.6 percent over the last two years.

The data from 11 phone models from 2016 to 2018 shows a pattern of sharp price hikes that we expect to see heighten in 2019 and beyond (See your regional chart below). Apple has certainly applied the model to other electronics in its lineup, boosting its prices on its new iPad Pro and MacBook Air over previous models, and creating wide price swings between the entry-level product and the higher storage version.

These creeping prices across Apple’s portfolio and the mobile category signal that costlier devices are here to stay — and it may be our fault by buying them in droves in the first place.

When Apple broke the $1,000 barrier for its iPhone X in 2017, critics scoffed at its exorbitant price, but it quickly outsold every other Apple device in each week since it first went on sale Nov. 3, 2017. Apple’s gambit paid off as consumers accepted the higher-price models, and other manufacturers followed Apple’s lead.

The trend of increasingly costly handsets in the top tier underscores the cell phone’s importance as an everything-device for communication, work, photography and entertainment. And as processing power, camera technology, battery life and internet data speeds improve generation after generation, the value people attach to a phone is sure to swell.

“Consumers are prepared to pay a premium for a mobile phone because it is arguably the most important product in their lives,” said Ben Wood, the chief research analyst at CCS Insight.

Rising prices aren’t unusual on their own. Faster, better components like processors and cameras cost more to make. The financial load of researching and developing new materials also gets folded into the final product. And inflation affects the cost of goods outside of tech, too.

But R&D spending and inflation don’t tell the entire story your phone’s creeping expense. By increasing the prices of their phones with each iteration, Apple, Samsung and other leaders in the industry are creating an ultra high-end segment that can make each sale more profitable — that’s important as people start holding on to their phones longer, for three years or more.

Yep, your phone costs more every year

With few exceptions, phone prices from top brands are on the rise.

“Although overall smartphone shipments will decline slightly in 2018, the average selling price (ASP) of a smartphone will reach $345, up 10.3 percent from the $313 ASP in 2017,” IDC analyst Anthony Scarsella said in IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, shared with journalists in May. Prices will jump on the high end especially, Scarsella added.

The uptick is immediately noticeable when comparing phone prices from today with the same model released just two years ago.

Apple’s prices have risen at a steady rate for both its iPhone and iPhone Plus/Max lines, making the iPhone XS Max a luxury spinoff.

Samsung’s Galaxy S, S Plus and Note prices are swinging upward too. Even before the Galaxy Note 9’s $1,000 bombshell, the S9 Plus — last year’s iPhone Plus and iPhone X rival — was already inching toward iPhone X prices.

 

US phone prices from 2016-2018

2016 (starting price)2017 (starting price)2018 (starting price)% change of highest price from 2016 to current model
iPhone (cheapest)iPhone 7: $649iPhone 8: $699iPhone XR: $74915.4%
iPhone XN/AiPhone X: $999iPhone XS: $9990%
iPhone Plus/MaxiPhone 7 Plus: $769iPhone 8 Plus: $799iPhone XS Max: $1,09942.9%
Samsung GalaxyGalaxy S7: $650-695Galaxy S8: $720-$750Galaxy S9: $720-$80015.1%
Samsung Galaxy PlusS7 Edge: $750-795Galaxy S8 Plus: $785-$850Galaxy S9 Plus: $840-$93017%
Samsung Galaxy NoteNote 7: $834-880Note 8: $930-960Note 9: $1,00013.6%
OnePlusOnePlus 3: $399OnePlus 5: $479 / OnePlus 5T: $499OnePlus 6: $529 / OnePlus 6T: $54937.6%
LG G seriesLG G5: $576-689LG G6: $600-720LG G7: $750-79014.7%
LG V seriesLG V20: $672-829LG V30: $800-912LG V40: $900-$98018.2%
Google PixelPixel: $649Pixel 2: $649Pixel 3: $79923.10%
Google Pixel PlusPixel XL: $769Pixel 2 XL: $849Pixel 3 XL: $89916.9%

 

UK phone prices from 2016-2018

2016 (starting price)2017 (starting price)2018 (starting price)% change from 2016 to current model
iPhoneiPhone 7: £599iPhone 8: £699iPhone XR: £74925%
iPhone XN/AiPhone X: £999iPhone XS: £9990%
iPhone PlusiPhone 7 Plus: £719iPhone 8 Plus: £799iPhone XS Max: £1,09952.9%
Samsung GalaxyGalaxy S7: £569Galaxy S8: £689Galaxy S9: £73929.9%
Samsung Galaxy PlusS7 Edge: £639Galaxy S8 Plus: £779Galaxy S9 Plus: £86936%
Samsung Galaxy NoteNote 7: £700Note 8: £869Note 9: £89928%
Google PixelPixel: £599Pixel 2: £629Pixel 3: £73923.4%
Google Pixel XLPixel XL: £719Pixel 2 XL: £799Pixel 3 XL: £86920.9%
LG G seriesLG G5: £539LG G6: £649LG G7: £59911.1%
LG V seriesN/ALG V30: £800LG V40 ThinQ:N/A
OnePlusOnePlus 3: £329OnePlus 5: £449OnePlus 6: £469 / OnePlus 6T: £49951.7%

We see the most shocking escalation from OnePlus, whose price jumps up each time a new model arrives. OnePlus is currently on track for two variations per year: The OnePlus 6 debuted in June for $529 and the OnePlus 6T launched in October for $549. Again, the OnePlus 6T costs 37.6 percent more than the 2016 model in the US. The phone became 51.7 percent more expensive in the past two years if you paid in British pounds.

“As reliance on smartphones has increased drastically over a short amount of time, the increase in quality and components across the industry required to meet high performance demands has also risen,” a OnePlus representative said.

According to LG, “Key factors include the cost of components, competitor pricing, carrier incentives, tariffs, etc.,” Ken Hong, LG’s senior director of global communications, said in an email.

“Fact is, these input costs are rising so we’re forced to follow suit,” Hong said, adding that introducing more variants like the LG V35 has the positive effect of lowering the price of the previous model, in this case the LG V30.

CNET reached out to all manufacturers mentioned in this story for comment.

Interestingly, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL cost the same as the Pixel and Pixel XL. However, Google raised the Pixel 3 price 23 percent, without adding a second camera on the back and making minimal design changes. Google has pushed up the price to match the competition.

But making phones is more expensive now, right?

Phones, like all electronics, are composed of parts sourced from various suppliers, and if the cost of those parts goes up, it’s a sure bet the cost of the phones will, too.

Demand for more storage over the past few years has triggered price hikes, pushing up the cost of memory and prompting suppliers to invest in building more factories to meet the demand, according to Wood.

Adding more sophisticated cameras like the iPhone XS’ 3D depth sensing front-facing camera, or more lenses, like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro‘s three rear shooters, costs more too. And so do materials like glass or ceramic for a phone’s backing, or sturdy aerospace-grade aluminum for the frame.

You can bet that the first phone to debut a diamond glass screen or the new, smudge-resistant Vibrant Satin Corning Gorilla Glass won’t be cheap. It’s also expensive for companies like Samsung to build a whole new manufacturing process for elements like curved glass and flexible OLED displays.

Yet while the cost of all these components — called the Bill of Materials, or BOM — can partially explain why high-end phones cost more each year, many experts say that phonemakers are padding their profits.

“I certainly accept that some elements of the cost came from the components and the manufacturing process… but not to that order of magnitude,” Wood said on a phone call in July. “I also believe that Apple made a strategic decision to increase the price of the flagship iPhone to maximize the returns on a really amazing portfolio.”

Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with Creative Strategies, agrees.

“There is certainly more going into these phones than ever before,” she said in an email. “The BOM is certainly growing for these devices, but I do think that there is a premium margin applied by the brands to their flagship products because they are status symbols.”

Where’s the price ceiling?

Apple and Samsung’s $1,000 phones are clearly just the beginning, and analysts think buyers will give in.

“As long as the phones are our main go-to computing device throughout the day, buyers will be willing to spend more,” Milanesi said.

Wood agrees.

“Apple continues to break all the rules when it comes to consumer electronics pricing,” said Wood. “Once again it’s increasing the price of its flagship device. It comes at a time when rivals like Samsung are under huge pressure, and it simply confirms the premium that people are prepared to pay for Apple products.”

With today’s iPhone XS, Galaxy Note 9 and Huawei Mate 20 Pro nudging prices skyward, other players have reason to follow suit. Even midtier models (again, the iPhone XR and OnePlus 6T) can get away with raising their price tags so long as the devices cost relatively less. For example, the OnePlus 6T at $549 still costs nearly half of what you’d shell out for the iPhone XS, a relative value that many find easy enough to swallow for a “cheaper” phone with high-end parts.

“When Apple announced the iPhone X for a thousand bucks… they did the whole industry a favor,” Wood said. “That gave all the other manufacturers some breathing space and I can imagine there was a certain delight in the corridors of Samsung and Huawei and others.”

In other words, while Apple might pocket the most profit, its audacious iPhone X price tag helps competitors make more money per phone, too.

Don’t worry, midrange phones are still affordable

High prices on top-tier phones may not mean that the cost of every phone will rise.

We continue to see fierce competition in the middle and low end where phones like the Motorola Moto G6 and E5 families turn out excellent budget handsets for just about the same price each year: $250, £219 or AU$399 in the case of the Moto G6.

Huawei’s Honor brand also notably produces midprice, midtier devices that strike a balance between value and cost, often while hewing to popular designs and features, like slim bezels and dual, portrait-mode cameras that people crave. Xiaomi, Nokia, Oppo, Asus and other brands also help fill the gap worldwide by quietly cranking out basic, affordable phones for cost-sensitive buyers.

So while the shiniest, most powerful devices are still locked on a path to their highest prices yet, there’s still a strong demand for midrange and entry-level phones aimed at people with tighter budgets or more basic needs.

If a $1,000 phone sounds too outrageous, you may need to find beauty in a more modest phone, or get over the sticker shock and accept that the days of a $600 flagship phone are long behind us.

This story was first published Aug. 5, 2018 and most recently updated Nov. 11, 2018.

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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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