Why Qualcomm believes its new always-on camera for phones isn’t a security risk

One of the biggest new features of the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset is an always-on camera. Yes, you read that right. An always-on camera on your phone.

It means your future smartphone - this chipset will likely be in a lot of the best Android phones of 2022 - would be able to constantly run its front and rear cameras.

Flights and accommodation for this launch event were funded by Qualcomm, but the views reflect the writer's own independent opinion.

The idea is it’ll allow for innovations that mean you don’t have to touch your phone to activate it. For example, it may allow you to one day be able to unlock your phone when your hands are busy.

Other examples Qualcomm has given is that certain apps could introduce security features through this new tech. 

One demonstration showed how an app could track other faces in the front camera’s view, so it could work out if someone is looking over your shoulder while you’re looking at private information or entering your banking details.

While this has its use cases, it will understandably worry some users when it comes to potential security risks. According to Qualcomm, this isn’t an issue.

“It’s going to scare some people”

During its Tech Summit 2021 event, Qualcomm reassured customers that they’ve tackled this in a sensible manner. 

Judd Heap, VP of Product Management at Qualcomm’s Camera, Computer Vision and Video departments, told TechRadar, “The always-on aspect is frankly going to scare some people so we wanted to do this responsibly.

“The low power aspect where the camera is always looking for a face happens without ever leaving the Sensing Hub. All of the AI and the image processing is done in that block, and that data is not even exportable to DRAM.

“We took great care to make sure that no-one can grab that data and so someone can’t watch you through your phone.”

This means the data from the always-on camera won’t be usable by other apps on your phone or sent to the cloud. It should stick in this one area of the phone’s chipset - that’s what Heap is referring to as the Sensing Hub - for detecting your face.

Heap continues, “We added this specific hardware to the Sensing Hub as we believe it’s the next step in the always-on body of functions that need to be on the chip. We’re already listening, so we thought the camera would be the next logical step.”

We’ve seen always-on microphones in smartphones for the last few years to ensure you can open up apps such as Siri or Google Assistant without having to touch your device. This is similar for that, but for the camera.

Separately, Qualcomm has confirmed that the camera cannot capture photos or video through this element of the Sensing Hub on the new chipset.

Heap said, “It can usher in a lot of really good security features as well. It could even be potentially something that means you won’t need your lock screen anymore. Your phone will just know the context at all times.”

For those concerned about an always-on camera, you may have to avoid handsets with the Snapdragon 8 Gen1 SoC in them as Qualcomm has yet to confirm if this is a feature you'll be able to disable.

“We will have a few OEMs picking up the feature in this generation. There will be even more in the next generation, next year.”

We don’t yet know which phones will be supporting this feature, or how it’ll be implemented. We’ll have to wait until the launch events for handsets like the Oppo Find X4, Xiaomi 12 and OnePlus 10 to be sure of how these manufacturers will use the always-on camera.

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O2 slapped with £150,000 fine for providing inaccurate information during bill investigation

Ofcom has fined O2 £150,000 for providing “inaccurate and incomplete” information during an investigation into problems with the operator’s billing system that concluded earlier this year.

The regulator concluded O2 had been overcharging customers over an eight-year period between 2011 and 2019. As many as 250,000 people were affected, with 140,000 paying a combined £2.5 million.

O2 was handed a £10.5 million penalty, refunded anyone who was overcharged, and changed its billing system to avoid a repeat.

O2 penalty

However, Ofcom says its investigation was hampered by O2’s “carelessness” in responding to its information requests and said it had failed to adhere to its regulatory obligations.

“We regularly make statutory requests for information from companies as part of our work to protect consumers,” explained Ofcom. “This evidence is vital to our decision-making, and so it is essential that companies respond by the deadline, with accurate and complete information.”

“Earlier this year, we fined O2 £10.5m for overcharging thousands of its customers. As part of this investigation, we requested information from O2, but it provided incorrect and incomplete responses. This contributed to our investigation taking longer to complete than necessary.”

The fine takes into account a 25% reduction because O2 admitted liability and agreed to enter a settlement. The operator has also been told to review its processes and systems for responding to Ofcom’s information requests.

O2 has been contacted for comment.

If you're in the market for a new contract then our best O2 mobile phone deals is a good place to start

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The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is rumored to cost the same as the S20 FE

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is expected to finally make its debut next month, and according to the latest rumor, it's going to go on sale at the same price point as the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE that it's replacing.

This comes from well-known tipster Roland Quandt, who has said that the Galaxy S21 FE will retail for $699 in the US. Other territories aren't mentioned, but the 5G version of the Galaxy S20 FE was originally sold for $699 / £699 / AU$1,149.

A previous leak put the European pricing for the Galaxy S21 FE at €649, so we're starting to get close to the complete picture when it comes to how much of your hard-earned cash you'll have to part with to get yourself this phone.

See more

What we know so far

We've seen so many leaks and rumors around the Galaxy S21 FE that there's not going to be much left for Samsung to reveal in January. The handset is expected to make its debut at the CES 2022 event at the start of next month.

The smartphone is said to sport a 6.5-inch, 2400 x 1080 pixel resolution OLED display, and is apparently fitted with a 4,500mAh battery – those specs match the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE exactly, so there's no change there.

There is going to be a faster processor though, with the Galaxy S21 FE following the lead of the Samsung Galaxy S21 by making use of a Snapdragon 888 chipset. That's expected to be paired with a modest 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage.


Analysis: the price needs to be right

Samsung Galaxy S21

The Samsung Galaxy S21. (Image credit: Future)

The Fan Edition phones that Samsung now puts out each year have traditionally done a good job of taking the best bits of the Galaxy S series flagships – typically the screen quality and the processor power – and putting them in a more affordable package.

RIght now all the indications are that the Galaxy S21 FE is going to offer plenty of value for money, but as always pricing is crucial: Samsung can probably get away with a starting price of $699 for the phone, but it isn't going to want to go any higher than that.

Remember that the standard Galaxy S21 has an official retail price of $799 / £769 / AU$1,249, and you may even be able to get it cheaper than that with the Galaxy S22 around the corner. Samsung does well to cover a multitude of price points with its phones, but it can make it difficult for some in the range to stand out.

And there's plenty of competition around at this price point as well, from the OnePlus 9 to the Google Pixel 6. The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE has had a long road to market, and it'll be interesting to see just how many people find it appealing enough to buy.

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Ofcom looks at Terahertz spectrum for terabit 6G future

Ofcom is asking for views on how to maximise the long-term value of the Terahertz (THz) spectrum, extremely high frequencies that could provide huge bandwidth for applications of the future and enable 6G networks.

The Terahertz band sits at the very top of the spectrum range between 100GHz and 3THz and is currently only used for limited scientific applications, such as weather forecasting.

However, the significant capacity of the spectrum, coupled with advances in technology, mean it could be harnessed for mobile networks in the future, enabling terabit speeds. Terahertz spectrum will also be attractive for 6G networks.

Terahertz spectrum 

Ofcom believes Terahertz will enable terabit-speed networks will provide a boost to applications like robotics, autonomous vehicles, holograms, and general mobile broadband services. It adds it is starting its work now to ensure the benefits of the frequencies can be realised as soon as the market demands.

“To help realise the full benefits of Terahertz, we intend to ensure our approach to managing spectrum is as flexible and efficient as possible – both to enable existing services to grow as well as supporting innovative new ones,” it said, asking for individuals and organisations to share their views.

“The unique properties and capabilities of new technologies mean the rules and approaches to spectrum authorisation that apply at lower frequencies need not dictate the way we approach the authorisation and use of Terahertz spectrum. Greater collaboration and cooperation between the different types of emerging spectrum users in these bands will be essential in underpinning an alternative approach.”

The development of 6G is still at a very early stage and it is still unclear what network technologies will form a commercial standard and what use cases will emerge. There is a consensus, however, that the addition of integrated intelligence and new spectrum will deliver superior speeds, capacity and latency.

These characteristics, it is argued, will overcome current technological limitations - such as the limited processing capability of mobile devices – to enable truly immersive extended reality (XR), high-fidelity mobile hologram and digital twin applications.

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Xiaomi 12 design leak shows another cyclops-like smartphone

For a while the Xiaomi 12 wasn't leaking much, even though it's expected to launch in December - that's no longer the case, and the anticipated Android phone is starting to come together.

We've now heard multiple pieces of information about the phone's rear camera bump, which make the upcoming device sound very... Xiaomi.

Firstly, a leaker on Chinese social media platform Weibo has provided imagery of the back of the Xiaomi, showing what looks like the back plate of the mobile. Accompanying the post is a render created based on this panel - it's not an official image.

The picture shows a camera bump with one giant main camera, two smaller ones below it on the left side, and a flash as well as what looks like a light sensor on the right. Judging by the picture, Xiaomi is embracing the 'giant-eye'd Cyclops' look that it's used before on phones like the Mi 10T Pro.

We don't know right now what these cameras are - presumably, the big one is the main camera, perhaps with a super-sized 50MP or 108MP sensor. The render shows '50MP' on the camera bump, and that's a commonly-leaked spec, but it's hard to be sure without solid information.

As well as big, this Xiaomi 12 bump could be good-looking, as a separate leak from prolific leaker Digital Chat Station has commented on the coating the camera module will have - apparently, "it uses a new processing technology to look and feel more coordinated with the AG glass body".

This likely means that the camera bump is getting some kind of coating to ensure it looks similar to the rest of the phone - presumably this will give it a particular glaze or sparkle. It could also give the module extra protection, which will be important if it sticks out as far as the images suggest.


Analysis: sticking with the three-camera setup

Both the Xiaomi 12 back plate and Digital Chat Station's leak suggest the upcoming phone will have three rear cameras, as did the Mi 11 and Mi 11 Ultra.

That's an intriguing change of strategy for the brand from the days of the Mi Note 10 with five rear snappers or the Mi 10 with four.

We're not complaining though, as often extra lenses on phones are more useful for fleshing out a specs list than improving photography in any way - sometimes three is better than four or five.

Two of the cameras will almost definitely be a main and ultra-wide snapper, and the third could be a macro like on the Mi 11, or telephoto which many brands opt to use for zoom pictures.

We'll have to wait and see - the Xiaomi 12 is expected to launch in December so we won't be twiddling our thumbs long.

Via GSMArena

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Xiaomi 12 design leak shows another cyclops-like smartphone

For a while the Xiaomi 12 wasn't leaking much, even though it's expected to launch in December - that's no longer the case, and the anticipated Android phone is starting to come together.

We've now heard multiple pieces of information about the phone's rear camera bump, which make the upcoming device sound very... Xiaomi.

Firstly, a leaker on Chinese social media platform Weibo has provided imagery of the back of the Xiaomi, showing what looks like the back plate of the mobile. Accompanying the post is a render created based on this panel - it's not an official image.

The picture shows a camera bump with one giant main camera, two smaller ones below it on the left side, and a flash as well as what looks like a light sensor on the right. Judging by the picture, Xiaomi is embracing the 'giant-eye'd Cyclops' look that it's used before on phones like the Mi 10T Pro.

We don't know right now what these cameras are - presumably, the big one is the main camera, perhaps with a super-sized 50MP or 108MP sensor. The render shows '50MP' on the camera bump, and that's a commonly-leaked spec, but it's hard to be sure without solid information.

As well as big, this Xiaomi 12 bump could be good-looking, as a separate leak from prolific leaker Digital Chat Station has commented on the coating the camera module will have - apparently, "it uses a new processing technology to look and feel more coordinated with the AG glass body".

This likely means that the camera bump is getting some kind of coating to ensure it looks similar to the rest of the phone - presumably this will give it a particular glaze or sparkle. It could also give the module extra protection, which will be important if it sticks out as far as the images suggest.


Analysis: sticking with the three-camera setup

Both the Xiaomi 12 back plate and Digital Chat Station's leak suggest the upcoming phone will have three rear cameras, as did the Mi 11 and Mi 11 Ultra.

That's an intriguing change of strategy for the brand from the days of the Mi Note 10 with five rear snappers or the Mi 10 with four.

We're not complaining though, as often extra lenses on phones are more useful for fleshing out a specs list than improving photography in any way - sometimes three is better than four or five.

Two of the cameras will almost definitely be a main and ultra-wide snapper, and the third could be a macro like on the Mi 11, or telephoto which many brands opt to use for zoom pictures.

We'll have to wait and see - the Xiaomi 12 is expected to launch in December so we won't be twiddling our thumbs long.

Via GSMArena

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Exclusive: Qualcomm may make Snapdragon Editions of other brand’s gadgets

Qualcomm makes the platforms that power some of the world’s best consumer tech, but it may one day partner with other brands to make Snapdragon Editions of already existing gadgets.

Flights and accommodation for this launch event were funded by Qualcomm, but the views reflect the writer's own independent opinion.

Don McGuire, Chief Marketing Officer at Qualcomm, spoke to TechRadar about the potential plans for Snapdragon Editions that could one day be introduced to the company's product lineup.

Speaking about 2021's Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders, McGuire confirmed the company is still taking stock on how it did. It's currently undecided if it'll press ahead with a second-gen product.

McGuire said, "Our intention has never been to get into the phone business and compete with our customers. We're not Microsoft. 

"It's more about can we leverage, can we get feedback and is there an affinity for it? What kind of things can we learn? And, then where would we go from there?

"We've got different scenarios, like do we want to do Snapdragon Editions? Do we want to partner with our partners on wearables and other places and do a Snapdragon Edition of their products."

Different scenarios

It’s clear this is an early concept for the company, but it may mean we see products that already use Qualcomm's technology packaged up in special editions with the Snapdragon brand attached.

McGuire's example was around wearables, but it was clear Qualcomm is considering this strategy in its other existing verticals too. That may mean we see smartphones with Snapdragon Edition branding in the future.

On the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders, McGuire explained it was never intended to be a project that would sell a lot of devices. 

He said, "It was a grand experiment. It was less about seeing if we could sell a Snapdragon branded phone and more about testing the affinity for the brand and getting feedback on certain features and experiences. 

It was never meant to sell a bunch of phones.

Don McGuire, Qualcomm CMO

"We were seeing if we could leverage our [Snapdragon] Insiders base to give us more proactive input into the product development process through a device like this. 

"What it turned into was always an open question. We're like, let's just do it, put it out there and see what happens and see what kind of feedback we get.

"We're looking at all these different outlets. It's all about enhancing the brand. But it was never meant to sell a bunch of phones. Because, it was super expensive... right?"

The handset was made in collaboration with Asus, and for anyone wanting to buy it there was the prohibitively high launch price of $1,499 / £1,099 (roughly AU$2,020) to stomach.

McGuire also confirmed that the project also landed later than Qualcomm had originally planned with delays impacting the release of the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders.

The device was revealed in July 2021, and it went on sale around a month later. It used the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 platform even though the improved Snapdragon 888 Plus SoC had been revealed a few weeks before the handset made its debut. 

McGuire was clear that no decisions have been made about where the company will go next with its Snapdragon Insider or Snapdragon Edition products. 

He said, "Once we get all the feedback in, then we're gonna sit down - probably by the first quarter of next year - and say, here's what we learned and where do we want to go next?"

Will that mean more Snapdragon branded gadgets? Only time will tell, but it's an interesting route for a brand that has always been focussed on making the technology that powers other brand's devices.

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Exclusive: Qualcomm may make Snapdragon Editions of other brand’s gadgets

Qualcomm makes the platforms that power some of the world’s best consumer tech, but it may one day partner with other brands to make Snapdragon Editions of already existing gadgets.

Flights and accommodation for this launch event were funded by Qualcomm, but the views reflect the writer's own independent opinion.

Don McGuire, Chief Marketing Officer at Qualcomm, spoke to TechRadar about the potential plans for Snapdragon Editions that could one day be introduced to the company's product lineup.

Speaking about 2021's Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders, McGuire confirmed the company is still taking stock on how it did. It's currently undecided if it'll press ahead with a second-gen product.

McGuire said, "Our intention has never been to get into the phone business and compete with our customers. We're not Microsoft. 

"It's more about can we leverage, can we get feedback and is there an affinity for it? What kind of things can we learn? And, then where would we go from there?

"We've got different scenarios, like do we want to do Snapdragon Editions? Do we want to partner with our partners on wearables and other places and do a Snapdragon Edition of their products."

Different scenarios

It’s clear this is an early concept for the company, but it may mean we see products that already use Qualcomm's technology packaged up in special editions with the Snapdragon brand attached.

McGuire's example was around wearables, but it was clear Qualcomm is considering this strategy in its other existing verticals too. That may mean we see smartphones with Snapdragon Edition branding in the future.

On the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders, McGuire explained it was never intended to be a project that would sell a lot of devices. 

He said, "It was a grand experiment. It was less about seeing if we could sell a Snapdragon branded phone and more about testing the affinity for the brand and getting feedback on certain features and experiences. 

It was never meant to sell a bunch of phones.

Don McGuire, Qualcomm CMO

"We were seeing if we could leverage our [Snapdragon] Insiders base to give us more proactive input into the product development process through a device like this. 

"What it turned into was always an open question. We're like, let's just do it, put it out there and see what happens and see what kind of feedback we get.

"We're looking at all these different outlets. It's all about enhancing the brand. But it was never meant to sell a bunch of phones. Because, it was super expensive... right?"

The handset was made in collaboration with Asus, and for anyone wanting to buy it there was the prohibitively high launch price of $1,499 / £1,099 (roughly AU$2,020) to stomach.

McGuire also confirmed that the project also landed later than Qualcomm had originally planned with delays impacting the release of the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders.

The device was revealed in July 2021, and it went on sale around a month later. It used the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 platform even though the improved Snapdragon 888 Plus SoC had been revealed a few weeks before the handset made its debut. 

McGuire was clear that no decisions have been made about where the company will go next with its Snapdragon Insider or Snapdragon Edition products. 

He said, "Once we get all the feedback in, then we're gonna sit down - probably by the first quarter of next year - and say, here's what we learned and where do we want to go next?"

Will that mean more Snapdragon branded gadgets? Only time will tell, but it's an interesting route for a brand that has always been focussed on making the technology that powers other brand's devices.

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Xiaomi 12 might actually be smaller than Xiaomi Mi 11 was – and we’re glad

The Xiaomi Mi 11 was certainly a chunky smartphone, as its 6.81-inch screen made it one of the biggest flagship phones we saw all through 2021 - but it seems like the Xiaomi 12 might have slimmed down a little.

This comes from the website GizmoChina, which apparently got its hands on a screen protector for the upcoming Xiaomi 12 Pro - by the sounds of it, this was sent to them by a third-party screen protector manufacturer, but it isn't explicitly stated where this came from. 

GizmoChina put the Xiaomi 12 Pro screen protector on a Xiaomi Mi 11, and it seems the plastic film doesn't line up on the older device - in fact, it doesn't reach the edges, which suggests the 12 Pro display is smaller than the 11's.

If you're querying possible discrepancies between the 'Pro' model of the Xiaomi 12, and the Mi 11: the Mi 11 Pro, and Mi 10 Pro, both had the same screen size as their non-Pro siblings, which suggests the Xiaomi 12 and 12 Pro will have the same dimensions too.

Another intriguing change is that the Xiaomi 12 screen protector has a space for a front-facing camera that's at the top-center of the display - this is different to the Mi 11, and many other Xiaomi phones, which have it in the top left.


Analysis: how big is too big?

It's no secret that the average smartphone size is gradually creeping up and up - it's hard to buy a new mobile if you don't want your hand stretched at least somewhat. Still, the Xiaomi Mi 11 was very big.

In our review, we noticed "people with smaller digits may still find it a stretch to reach the upper part of the screen" because of the big size, though thanks to the handset's relatively thin body it wasn't too unwieldy.

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra also had a 6.81-inch screen, but that phone felt even bigger because of its gigantic rear camera bump.

Despite the fact we weren't too down on the Xiaomi Mi 11's size in our review, we can't help feel a twinge of joy knowing the Xiaomi 12 could be smaller - unless you've got mighty mitts, big mobiles can be uncomfortable to use for long periods of time.

That's not to say all Xiaomi 12 phones will be smaller, and we imagine there's still an enormous 'Ultra' model being planned with more powerful rear cameras than you can shake a stick at - but at least the 'normal' phone could be a cosy little-un.

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iPhone 13 sales aren’t matching the iPhone 12 according to reports

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The iPhone 13 got some very good reviews when it was launched in September (ours included), but it seems that the actual sales numbers for these smartphones aren't quite what Apple might have been hoping for.

As Bloomberg reports, Apple is telling its component suppliers that demand for the iPhone 13 has “weakened”, and that there's no guarantee that either supply or demand will ramp up next year, as had previously been predicted.

Apple had already cut down production numbers for the iPhone 13 from 90 million units to 80 million units, due mainly to the global chip shortage that is affecting just about every electronics company on the planet at the moment.

iPhone availability

If these communications between Apple and its suppliers have indeed happened – Bloomberg is one of the most reliable outlets out there, so it's likely – it may not mean all that much in terms of how easy it will be to buy an iPhone 13 over the Christmas period.

A quick check on the US and UK Apple websites shows shipping times for the standard iPhone 13 at about a week, and for the iPhone 13 Pro at about two weeks. Not exactly express delivery, but not a huge delay either.

In other words, the difficulties that Apple is having in manufacturing iPhone 13 units seems to have been balanced out by reduced demand, at least for the time being. We'll have to wait and see how that picture changes through the course of 2022.


Analysis: why is the iPhone 13 selling slower than the iPhone 12?

iPhone 12

The iPhone 12. (Image credit: TechRadar)

Cast your mind back to the start of this year and you might remember that the iPhone 12 was helping Apple to a record quarter of smartphone sales. This time around though, it seems that the demand for Apple handsets isn't on the same level – so what's going on?

Some supply problems have affected both the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 13: primarily the ongoing effects of the pandemic and the global chip shortage that means manufacturers can't get gadgets out of the door fast enough. But the iPhone 12 managed strong sales even with lengthy shipping delays.

Part of the explanation is down to the iPhone 12. It was the first iPhone with 5G, its launch was delayed (leading to more pent-up demand), and it came at a time when much of the world had been sitting in their homes all year – meaning people perhaps had a little extra time and cash on their hands.

In contrast, the iPhone 13 doesn't have a flagship new feature, launched on time, and has arrived while we're all much busier and more distracted. Add in stronger competition (consider the Pixel 5 vs the Pixel 6, for example) and it's perhaps not surprising that the iPhone 13 hasn't hit the sales highs of the iPhone 12.

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Samsung Galaxy S22 camera modules show up again in a new leak

If the rumors are true, the Samsung Galaxy S22 series is going to launch in February 2022, and in the meantime the leaks continue to flood in – including a new image showing off the rear camera modules for the S22, the S22 Plus, and the S22 Ultra.

Published on Chinese social media platform Weibo (via SamMobile), the snap clearly shows the three lenses that make up the rear camera on the S22 and the S22 Plus, as well as the more advanced setup that the S22 Ultra is getting – it reportedly adds an extra telephoto zoom lens to the mix and adopts a different P-shape configuration.

If we can use the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra as our guide, those extra three holes on the right on the S22 Ultra module are for the laser autofocus system, the flashlight (which is separate on the S22 and S22 Plus), and the additional telephoto zoom lens.

Leaked Samsung Galaxy S22 camera coverings on a table.

(Image credit: 8090 Digital Beauty / Weibo)

Camera quality

We've now seen multiple leaks around the Galaxy S22 handsets and their cameras, and there's now little doubt that the rear camera modules will follow the lead of the Galaxy S21 series, with additional lenses and capabilities on the Ultra model.

What's not yet clear is whether there's actually going to be a raised shelf to house these cameras or whether each lens will protrude from the rear casing separately. We've seen conflicting reports on this, especially when it comes to the S22 Ultra model.

One rumor doing the rounds is that there may actually be two variations of the S22 Ultra, with two different rear camera designs – one with S Pen support and one without. We should only have to wait another couple of months to find out for sure.


Analysis: the S22 Ultra breaks away

The back of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra showing its rear camera.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. (Image credit: Future)

If we can assume that most of the Galaxy S22 leaks we've seen so far are accurate – and there have been a lot of very similar ones – then it would appear that the Ultra model is going to be quite distinct from the standard S22 and the S22 Plus editions of the phone.

Well-respected tipsters have predicted that the Galaxy S22 and the Galaxy S22 Plus are going to rock up with triple-lens 50MP+12MP+10MP rear cameras. The configuration on the Galaxy S22 Ultra, meanwhile, is said to be a quad-lens 108MP+12MP+10MP+10MP affair.

Those dual 10MP telephoto lenses will apparently enable an optical zoom level all the way up to 10x, according to those in the know. But the Ultra model will also stand out in terms of its design, with a larger 6.81-inch screen and flatter edges.

In fact, it sounds as though next year the Ultra model will be more like a Galaxy Note phone than a Galaxy S phone – and it may get a name change to reflect that too. It's an appealing prospect, but it's likely to come with a hefty price tag attached as well.

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Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3 made me love mobile gaming again

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Cast your mind back to 2008 – the year that saw Apple's groundbreaking iPhone 3G launch alongside its industry-changing App Store. Suddenly, users were able to access a storefront filled with thousands of games that could be instantly downloaded to their handset, essentially granting them a portable phone/gaming device that could be carried with them at all times (and not in a lame Nokia N-Gage way).

I, like many people, jumped into this new gaming landscape with absolute enthusiasm, and over the next few years I would take the opportunity to pull my phone out and play a quick game of Doodle Jump, Real Racing or Monument Valley whenever I had a free moment.

Of course, that enthusiasm would eventually dwindle, leading me to abandon mobile gaming entirely. This was due in large part to the limitations of on-screen controls on tiny mobile displays, along with the aggressive monetisation that would make mobile gaming an insufferable grind for those unwilling to succumb to microtransactions.

So believe me when I say that I'm especially surprised to find myself returning to mobile gaming in a big way in 2021 – something that probably never would've happened if not for the release of Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 3.

Suddenly, I felt compelled to take advantage of the foldable device's large inner display and beastly specs, seeking out the most visually impressive games to play on it – I've even purchased a third-party Bluetooth gaming controller dedicated exclusively to smartphones, so there's no going back now.

So without further ado, here are the main reasons why Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 3 made me love mobile gaming again.

Its large 7.6-inch display is unbeatable

Gaming on Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

(Image credit: TechRadar / Aquiris Game Studio)

I might be in the minority here, but I find it more or less impossible to get excited about Nintendo's incremental Switch OLED update when I already have access to the (admittedly expensive) Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 – a powerhouse device in its own right with a screen that absolutely wipes the floor with Nintendo's meagre 720p offering. 

Now, I may not be able to play Metroid Dread on the Z Fold 3, but I can play a large number of other games which boast sharper graphics and smoother frame rates. It's not overstating things to say that Nintendo Switch OLED's much-hyped display fails to hold a flickering birthday candle to the Z Fold 3's screen. 

Not only does its inner 7.6-inch OLED display provide a larger screen real estate than the Switch OLED, it also boasts a 1440p resolution and support for ultra smooth 120Hz refresh rates. On top of this, it's incredibly bright, offers blue light-limiting modes and other visibility enhancements, and allows you to tweak color vibrance and white balance to your liking.

It must also be said that the Z Fold 3's more squared aspect ratio works tremendously well on a screen of this size – if the normal 20:9 aspect ratio of phones like the Galaxy S21 Ultra is meant to invoke the feeling of a mini widescreen television, the Galaxy Z Fold 3's inner display is more like the IMAX-expanded equivalent (coincidentally, Zack Snyder's Justice League fits almost perfectly on the Z Fold 3's 11.2:9 screen).

its specs make it a gaming beast

Gaming on Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

(Image credit: TechRadar / Activision Blizzard)

From a performance standpoint, Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 3 is at the top of the Android smartphone pack. Its specs read like a list of the best components currently available, with Qualcomm's best Snapdragon 888 chipset powering the device and a hefty 12GB of RAM accompanying it.

Every game that we've tested with customisable settings has played magnificently on Z Fold 3, with such titles as Call of Duty Mobile, Fortnite, PUBG and the gorgeous loot-shooter Shadowgun Legends running at a smooth 60fps on Ultra / Max settings, and options like anti-aliasing and real-time shadows switched on. Certain games, like Call of Duty Mobile and the Diablo Immortal beta, offer downloadable texture packs, making their visuals even more impressive – so long as you have the storage space to spare.

It's also worth noting that the device is 5G compatible, meaning players whose phone plans offer access to 5G speeds get faster, smoother online gameplay when outside of a Wi-Fi network.

A larger display means better on-screen controls

Gaming on Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

(Image credit: TechRadar / Activision Blizzard)

There's also no question that the device's larger display provided this writer with a competitive advantage while playing the likes of Call of Duty Mobile. Enemies were larger and easier to spot on the battlefield, and on-screen controls felt more comfortable to use, given that they were now spaced further apart.

As mentioned earlier, I became so invested in FPS games on the Galaxy Z Fold 3, that I ended up buying myself a third party Bluetooth gaming controller. After some research, I settled on the GameSir X2 Bluetooth Mobile Gaming Controller, as its flat-edged design and expandable backing allowed me to easily fit the larger Z Fold 3 into its clamps. Additionally, its Bluetooth functionality meant that I didn't need the controller to line up exactly with the Z Fold 3's USB Type-C port.

Talk about a gameplay upgrade! While on-screen controls worked well enough, I now had real triggers, buttons and sticks, affording me with Xbox-like gameplay responsiveness. Combined with the advantage given to me by the foldable's large inner display, I became an unstoppable force in every ranked match I played from that point on.

Access to a suite of gaming features

Gaming on Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

(Image credit: TechRadar / Activision Blizzard)

Along with the ability to play graphically intensive games with ease, Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 3 also offers a suite of Game Booster tools which can be accessed by simply swiping up from the bottom edge of the display when a game is running.

Aside from allowing you to monitor your device's temperature and memory usage, the Game Booster also allows you to turn on Priority Mode, which is intended to block out distractions, such as incoming calls and notifications. It'll also close background apps which use your network connection to prevent your online gameplay from being hindered.

Additionally, you can connect to Discord via the Game Booster section, and you can also access controls which let you set touch protection, lock the navigation button, take screenshots, record video, download gameplay plugins and more.

It's got powerful stereo speakers

While most handsets are happy to just give you one small speaker alongside their charging ports, the Galaxy Z Fold 3's larger frame allows for two rather large speakers, providing you with surprisingly powerful audio on either side of your device (when played in landscape mode).

We all know that good sound is enough to give you a competitive advantage during online play, and the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 absolutely delivers that, even managing to emulate spacial audio thanks to the device's Dolby Atmos functionality. 

Don't get me wrong – the effect isn't as convincing as having proper rear and upfiring speakers, but it absolutely does help you gauge which direction attacks are coming from in the heat of battle.

It's ideal for emulation


What emulation might look like on Galaxy Z Fold 3

A fan-created skin intended for use with DraStic (Image credit: TechRadar)

Although emulation can hardly be considered an official selling point of the device, given that emulators and ROMs are frowned upon by most game publishers and console manufacturers, let us (quietly) tell you that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is an absolutely sublime device for this particular purpose – especially when playing older games in the 4:3 aspect ratio.

Also, the Z Fold 3's ability to fold in the middle, along with its built-in stylus support, make it absolutely perfect for playing games for a certain dual screen handheld gaming device from the past which shall remain nameless (you didn't hear this from us, but the Android app DraStic even lets you import skins which can make your display look nearly identical to the device in question).

Paired with a Bluetooth controller, we found the Galaxy Z Fold 3 excelled in emulating games from the 16-bit and 64-bit era, and even did well with other games from the console generation that followed right after. Many emulators allow you to tweak graphical settings, such as resolution and anti-aliasing, making certain titles look even better than they did originally.

That said, there's room for improvement

So far, each title we've played on the Z Fold 3 has adjusted its aspect ratio to the device seamlessly, however, one issue we've come across is due to the act of switching between the outer and inner displays while a game is already running. 

PUBG, for instance, would sometimes become stretched or squished in the transition between screens, but really, how often would anyone opt to play a game on the outer display anyway? We understand the appeal of ultra-wide gameplay, but ultra-tiny? Not so much.

It's also worth noting that not every game looks better on a large display. The best looking games are the ones which offer adjustable graphics settings, as they're actually designed to take advantage of powerful handsets. Luckily, all of the biggest games available on mobile devices, such as Fortnite, PUBG and Call of Duty Mobile, are among these titles.

Unfortunately, there are still many games which haven't been optimized for large screen devices. We booted up EA's Need For Speed: No LImits only to find that it looked downright fugly on the Z Fold 3. We were also disappointed to find that the immensely popular Genshin Impact seemed to suffer from frame rate issues that were not present when played previously on the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

That said, we imagine that future patches will be able to iron these issues out. Minor inconveniences aside, Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 3 offers an unmatched mobile gaming experience which has made this writer excited about the future of the format.

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Razer and Qualcomm made a Nintendo Switch-like game console… but you can’t buy it

In the years since the Nintendo Switch reawakened the desire for a mobile gaming console, other devices have emerged to meet the demand of consumers. But the next one to come out – a joint project between Qualcomm and Razor – won’t even be sold to consumers. 

Instead, the Snapdragon G3x Handheld Developer Kit, as it's called, is a working console meant for developers to experiment with making mobile games beyond smartphones. It’s a pre-platform of sorts, meant to get developers (and potentially, game studios) used to a new class of console before they arrive on the market.

No, not pocket desktop consoles like the delayed Steam Deck – the Snapdragon G3X, as its title implies, runs the Snapdragon G3x Gen 1, the first of an entirely new line of Qualcomm chipsets dedicated to gaming (not coincidentally following the same naming convention as the just-announced Snapdragon 8 Gen 1). 

In other words, the consoles Qualcomm is priming the gaming industry to cater to would be focused on mobile gaming. Presumably, these consoles would run the same apps you’d find in the Google Play Store or Apple App Store, but with souped-up specs and dedicated analog thumbsticks and buttons that would leave touch controls behind and displays unobstructed.

Qualcomm Razer Snapdragon G3X

(Image credit: Quallcomm / Razer)

There have been plenty of false starts for mobile console gaming over the years, like the Nvidia Shield Portable system, and outside the Nintendo Switch, none have lasted long. This has partially been due to the ubiquity of smartphones, which have inadvertently lowered the bar: why spend a lot more money on something that plays the same games as the phone you already own? Why encumber yourself with another device that needs updating and charging?

To Qualcomm, this seems like a natural progression of mobile gaming, and the company has a vested interest in seeing a transition to dedicated consoles – namely, so its new Snapdragon G3x chipsets can power them. 

That’s the reason the chipmaker seemed so blasé when asked during a background briefing if the Snapdragon G3x would come to market. If a manufacturer came along wanting to take their fully-realized concept and make consumer devices, Qualcomm may be interested in collaborating – but even if a different console debuted first, the chipmaker is happy to sell them the silicon they’ve already tested and implemented in a finished device.

Qualcomm Razer Snapdragon G3x

(Image credit: Quallcomm / Razer)

So what is the Snapdragon G3x Handheld?

The Snapdragon G3x Handheld Developer Kit is, essentially, a supercharged smartphone gaming platform with a dedicated controller built around it. 

This isn’t exactly a new concept given the all-in-one Steam Deck and Nvidia Shield Portable before it (among others) – it’s just applying those to mobile gaming. But unlike previous phone gaming setups that are either add-ons for specific models like the Kunai Gamepad for the Asus ROG 5 or wrap-around controllers like the Backbone and Razer Kishi, the Snapdragon G3x Handheld doesn’t serve as a phone at all. 

There’s a good amount of phone DNA in the Snapdragon G3x Handheld, though: a 6.65-inch Full HD Plus OLED display with 10-bit HDR and a 120Hz refresh rate, 5MP 1080p webcam, and Android operating system all feel inherited from phones. Plus, it has mobile connectivity, allowing players to take the console on the go and play anywhere they could with a phone.

But there are some novel things that Qualcomm is bringing from mobile gaming to consoles, too. While we don’t have much information on the Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 chipset powering the G3x Handheld, the company claims the silicon will power advanced haptics and other extras – which should elevate the gaming experience on the console above how it feels to play on a phone.

Its Adreno GPU will also have updateable drivers – and while Qualcomm's flagship chips have been able to download updates from the Play Store to their Adreno GPUs since last year's flagship Snapdragon 865, per Android Authority, that required manufacturers to customize and publish the updates for their devices. A mobile gaming console manufacturer would conceivably get to these updates faster.

Qualcomm Razer Snapdragon G3X

(Image credit: Quallcomm / Razer)

The hardware is more suited for gaming, too – which is likely all Razer’s influence, from the angled controller grips, buttons, and thumb sticks to the air-cooling system that intakes cool air from the console’s back and expels hot air out the top. (Ideally, this will keep the G3x Handheld from overheating and losing frames, which can happen with less powerful or poorly-cooled phones.)

Crucially, it also has a USB-C port at the top to output 4K HDR and up to 144Hz to a linked TV or monitor, allowing it to power play on a big screen a la the Nintendo Switch’s dock – but beating that console to the 4K punch. The port can also output to an ‘XR viewer’ (like augmented reality glasses), which Qualcomm believes will take off in the coming years.

The G3x Handheld also has 4-way speakers, a 1080p webcam for streaming, and mics at the center and top of the device. At least one version connects to sub-6 and mmWave 5G, too, allowing for the fastest possible mobile gaming, along with WiFi 6E.

Qualcomm Razer Snapdragon G3X

(Image credit: Quallcomm / Razer)

This all makes the G3X sound like an impressive way to spruce up your mobile gaming for those who have extra cash to spare. What makes the console stand out above other peripherals is the software provided by AKSys Games Localization, which auto-maps on-screen controls to buttons and thumb sticks.

If you’ve played with phone gaming peripherals before, you know how audacious this claim is: no matter how slick your controller design, it’s worthless if you can’t get button presses to sync up with on-screen touch controls. If Qualcomm and Razer can pull this off, it could make the G3x Handheld and standalone mobile gaming consoles as a whole attractive enough to justify the expense and hassle.

Qualcomm Razer Snapdragon G3X

(Image credit: Quallcomm / Razer)

Hope for a Snapdragon mobile console future

The Snapdragon G3x Handheld certainly seems like an odd device to announce publicly, but only from a consumer perspective. Qualcomm wants game developers and potential console producers to believe that this product niche is not just possible, but inevitable. The company is betting an entirely new chipset line on it.

So who would a mobile console be for? Qualcomm and Razer see modern gamers as nomadic, switching between platforms even to play the same games. The G3x Handheld serves gamers-on-the-go as it can play already-popular mobile games on the device, but also host games streamed from the cloud given its mobile connectivity. 

As a developer-focused device, the G3x Handheld has the freedom to offer plenty of features that might be trimmed away in a consumer-facing console – the aforementioned XR glasses compatibility is a good example given its sparse adoption thus far. 

But ultimately, the G3x Handheld is a harbinger, at least according to Qualcomm and Razer: mobile gaming made up 52% of the $175 billion made by the global gaming industry last year, and it’s only growing larger (by comparison, PC made up 21% and console 28%). Mobile gaming will continue to evolve, and the G3x Handheld is one way that device makers could introduce new ways to serve an ever-growing market. 

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OnePlus 10 will come with new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1

Less than 24 hours after the reveal of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 we've already had five confirmed manufacturers that will be including the new chipset in flagship phones over the next few months.

The latest name to join that list is OnePlus, and it's set to feature in a handset that we expect to be called the OnePlus 10.

OnePlus CEO Pete Lau confirmed on Weibo, a Chinese social networking site, that the "next-generation" of OnePlus products would feature the new chipset. Lau didn't confirm the name of the products, but we believe them to be called the OnePlus 10.

The latest to reveal

It's widely expected that the next flagship phones from the company will be called the OnePlus 10 and OnePlus 10 Pro. 

Leaks suggest the handsets may be introduced in China near the start of 2022, and then they'll come to the rest of the world around March or April.

Oppo – OnePlus' sister brand – also confirmed it would be including the new Snapdragon chipset in the Oppo Find X4 series (or whatever the company calls its next flagship device).

Other confirmed devices include the Realme GT 2 Pro, the Xiaomi 12 and a new Motorola Edge handset. That last device is set to launch on December 9, but it's expected to be exclusive to China.

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Microsoft is finally dropping a fix for a frustrating Your Phone issue on Surface Duo 2

Microsoft’s Your Phone app is finally getting a fix for one of its more frustrating limitations on the Surface Duo 2: it can now connect to multiple Windows 11 PCs.

Version 1.21111.176.0-beta_3060351 of the Your Phone app is rolling out on the Google Play Store, allowing users to choose "Add computer" when connecting their mobile phone with their PC through the Android phone app. 

The process isn’t perfect by any means. You still need to manually add each PC to the app, and there’s no “Apps'' support but instead a much less efficient "Phone screen" mode. That being said, the beta support is definitely far better than the alternative.

The Your Phone app was introduced not long after the death knell of the Windows Phone. In the beginning it was a way to allow users to sync text messages and photos from their phone to whichever PC they connected it to. Since then, the app has received tons of support in the form of added features such as access to contact lists, running other apps on the PC, changing settings on the phone from the PC, and more.


Analysis: Other Surface Duo 2 updates on the way

Microsoft has plans to release other upgrades for its recently launched Surface Duo 2. Alongside the Your Phone app fix, the tech giant seems to be adding the inking toolkit to Outlook. The feature had been promised for the phone in the past, but was nowhere to be seen at launch.

And there have been rumors of several December updates including the ability to launch OneNote directly by clicking the Surface Slim Pen's button, a Photos app beta, and being able to choose what display is the default (for single-screen mode). Finally, Windows 11 will be coming to the original Surface Duo according to these same rumors.

Of course, as with any other rumors, keep your expectations in check with these particular rumblings until things are officially confirmed by Microsoft.

Via Windows Central

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