Apex Legends Mobile has learned a great lesson from Call of Duty Mobile

I'm enjoying my time with the newly-launched Apex Legends Mobile, a fact that's partly thanks to my appreciation for big online mobile games like this, and partly because I spent a good year obsessed with the console version.

But I particularly like it because it's learned one key thing from mobile gaming juggernaut Call of Duty Mobile, which has a feature that's so useful that it's now the basis I use to judge other similar mobile games.

I'm talking about one small aspect of the control scheme - and while Apex Legends Mobile doesn't have the most intuitive controls of any of its rivals, there's one small thing it does really well.

The single-button approach

Mobile phones are a little fiddlier to use to control games than a typical console controller, as the buttons are all on the screen, so you basically have to rely on your thumbs to do most of the action (unless you've got very nimble fingers).

Since shooter games like Apex and CoD have the same key functions, all mobile shooters ended up having a near-identical control scheme. You could swipe around on the right half of the screen to look around and on the left half to move around; tap on a button on the left side to aim your gun, tap on the right to shoot.

This scheme worked, with PUBG Mobile being a key example of it in action, but it makes the myriad other functions a little more fiddly. If you wanted to duck or stand up, lay down, use a healing item, change weapons, equip a grenade or anything else, you had to move your hands - this meant you couldn't do them while aiming and firing. Plus, if you wanted to move or look around while aiming, you had a tough time ahead of you.

Gaming on Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

(Image credit: TechRadar / Activision Blizzard)

Call of Duty simplified this in a small but key way - when you press the shoot button, you automatically aim too. This cuts out the slight amount of time that it took to press the two separate buttons, which in a frantic shooter game can mean the difference between winning and losing.

With this small feature, CoD became my go-to mobile game when I wanted this kind of gameplay - the entire gameplay felt just that little bit smoother and more intuitive, and it was hard to play PUBG after that.

Thankfully, Apex Legends Mobile copies this feature, and it makes the gameplay feel just as frantic and fast-paced as for the non-mobile version.

But while Apex is super fun, partly because of this feature, it does stumble at another thing that's afflicted mobile shooters, that Call of Duty was much better at - and that's the rest of the controls.

Too many buttons

While Call of Duty Mobile was inspired by the main-line Call of Duty games, Apex Legends Mobile is a direct port of the console and PC game, meaning it needs to be more faithful to the existing controls and features. The base game has loads of nuanced tricks, including for things like sliding and using Ultimate abilities, that don't fit well on a small mobile screen.

The touch controls section of the screen is cluttered, with loads of different icons for different things, and it makes it harder to remember what does what. Which button do I press to slide down a hill? Can I remember to press the 'duck' button instead of the 'reload' one? Lots of the time I end up mashing the wrong icon, or having to remember which did what.

Apex Legends Mobile

(Image credit: Apex Legends)

The Ping system is a key example. On console and PC, this is a great way to easily point out features to a team-mate - you can ping distant enemies, useful loot items in boxes, areas to attack or defend. However with fiddly touch controls on mobile, I always struggle to know what the ping button will do - and sometimes things are pinged when I don't even mean them to be.

The same can be said about picking up objects - sometimes you'll pick them up automatically, sometimes you won't, sometimes you can't pick up items at all even if you need them and have storage space, and I can't work out a rhyme or reason why.

A great example is for the boxes that drop when players get killed - these let you pick up whatever gear they were carrying, which is often the best way to upgrade your own weapons and restock on ammo. In Apex Mobile, sometimes you automatically collect everything in the box that's applicable to you just by moving near, but sometimes you need to press a tiny button on the display to start the process - and sometimes you need to individually pick out which items you want, and this latter option is really time-consuming. 

Bear in mind, I'm not some newbie playing their first mobile game - I've played loads, as it's literally part of my job. Apex Mobile can be a little convoluted, then.

Apex Legends is far from the first mobile game to face the 'too-many-controls' problem, and I faced it recently with PUBG: New State, which put me off playing the thing. Thankfully the easy shooting controls make up for the confusion, but I feel some really easy tweaks would make the game much more fun to play.

That's not to say this is a bad game - in fact, I'm having a lot of fun, and it's one of the better mobile shooters I've played (and I've played many). But since I know I'm going to be spending hours playing the game, I'd love for it to make a little more sense.

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Motorola has dropped a hint about a key Razr 2022 upgrade

We may have a better idea of what's in store with the Motorola Razr 2022, the third version of the clamshell foldable that first launched in 2019 – and this latest leak comes straight from one of the executives at Motorola.

Qualcomm just unveiled the Snapdragon Gen 8+ Gen 1 mobile processor, and Motorola general manager Shen Jin has posted an image promoting the new chip on Weibo (via Notebookcheck). According to the post text, there's a hidden Easter egg in the image.

Look a little bit closer, and you can make out the shape of a foldable phone down at the bottom of the picture – is this the Easter egg that's being referred to? The implication is that the latest CPU could make its way into the Razr 2022.

Chips with everything

We wouldn't exactly take this as confirmation right now, even given the quality and standing of the source. The Motorola Razr 2020, the most recent one we've seen, arrived with a mid-range Snapdragon 765G processor, so it would be a significant jump up if Motorola was to include the best chipset around in this new version.

Other upgrades have been rumored as well however: there's talk that the 2022 version of the foldable is going to come with more storage and with a better camera – so perhaps a processor upgrade could also be in the pipeline.

We shouldn't have too long to wait to find out. While there haven't been any specific leaks around a release date, we are expecting the next Razr to make an appearance at some point during the rest of 2022 – Motorola didn't update this phone last year, so a refresh is now long overdue.


Analysis: Motorola could be ready to challenge Samsung

There are two more significant foldable phones launching in 2022 besides the Motorola Razr: namely, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4. Like the Razr, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 will be using the clamshell form factor.

If the rumors that we've heard so far are true, then the Motorola Razr 2022 is ready to go head-to-head against the Galaxy Z Flip 4 in just about every metric that matters. With improved performance and better cameras, plus other upgrades that we assume are coming, the new Razr will be very much a premium phone.

When it comes to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor specifically, it is reportedly bringing with it up to 10% faster CPU performance, 10% faster GPU clock speeds and 20% better power efficiency for AI-related tasks. That's compared to the flagship chip found in handsets such as the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

All these premium upgrades come with a cost though, of course: pricing is going to be a crucial part of how successful the Motorola Razr 2022 is in terms of sales. For comparison, the 2020 version of the handset cost a hefty $1,399 / £1,399 when it launched.

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Motorola has dropped a hint about a key Razr 2022 upgrade

We may have a better idea of what's in store with the Motorola Razr 2022, the third version of the clamshell foldable that first launched in 2019 – and this latest leak comes straight from one of the executives at Motorola.

Qualcomm just unveiled the Snapdragon Gen 8+ Gen 1 mobile processor, and Motorola general manager Shen Jin has posted an image promoting the new chip on Weibo (via Notebookcheck). According to the post text, there's a hidden Easter egg in the image.

Look a little bit closer, and you can make out the shape of a foldable phone down at the bottom of the picture – is this the Easter egg that's being referred to? The implication is that the latest CPU could make its way into the Razr 2022.

Chips with everything

We wouldn't exactly take this as confirmation right now, even given the quality and standing of the source. The Motorola Razr 2020, the most recent one we've seen, arrived with a mid-range Snapdragon 765G processor, so it would be a significant jump up if Motorola was to include the best chipset around in this new version.

Other upgrades have been rumored as well however: there's talk that the 2022 version of the foldable is going to come with more storage and with a better camera – so perhaps a processor upgrade could also be in the pipeline.

We shouldn't have too long to wait to find out. While there haven't been any specific leaks around a release date, we are expecting the next Razr to make an appearance at some point during the rest of 2022 – Motorola didn't update this phone last year, so a refresh is now long overdue.


Analysis: Motorola could be ready to challenge Samsung

There are two more significant foldable phones launching in 2022 besides the Motorola Razr: namely, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4. Like the Razr, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 will be using the clamshell form factor.

If the rumors that we've heard so far are true, then the Motorola Razr 2022 is ready to go head-to-head against the Galaxy Z Flip 4 in just about every metric that matters. With improved performance and better cameras, plus other upgrades that we assume are coming, the new Razr will be very much a premium phone.

When it comes to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor specifically, it is reportedly bringing with it up to 10% faster CPU performance, 10% faster GPU clock speeds and 20% better power efficiency for AI-related tasks. That's compared to the flagship chip found in handsets such as the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

All these premium upgrades come with a cost though, of course: pricing is going to be a crucial part of how successful the Motorola Razr 2022 is in terms of sales. For comparison, the 2020 version of the handset cost a hefty $1,399 / £1,399 when it launched.

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Get an early look at the Google Pixel 6a with this leaked unboxing video

The Google Pixel 6a is now official, though you can't buy it until July 28. If you want something to pass the time until then, an unboxing video of the phone has leaked out from one of Google's official channels on YouTube.

As spotted on Reddit (via 9to5Google), the unlisted video gives us a guide to the phone from Google Retail Training France. Whether or not Google is going to allow it to stay up now it's been discovered remains to be seen.

We already know what the Pixel 6a looks like of course, but the video gives us some interesting hands-on footage, and shows the packaging of the device. We also get a look at the fingerprint sensor, which looks speedy enough (it's apparently using a different component to the sensor in the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro).

Specs appeal

The first proper look at the Google Pixel 6a came at Google IO 2022, although there's still a lot that we don't know about this mid-ranger. The price is going to be $449 / £399 / AU$749, and preorders will be open in certain regions from July 21.

Google has said that the handset is going to use a 6.1-inch, 1080 x 2400 pixel resolution OLED screen with a punch-hole cut out for the selfie camera. An always-on display option is supported, although the screen refresh rate is capped at 60Hz.

We also know that the Pixel 6a will have a dual-lens rear camera (12.2MP f/1.7 main and 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide), as well as an 8MP selfie camera. The 4,410mAh battery charges at a rate of 30W, and according to Google lasts for more than a day of use.


Analysis: hopes are high for the Pixel 6a

At first glance, these mid-range versions of Google's flagship phones should be sure winners: the best bits of the more expensive phones at an affordable price, plus all the benefits of the tight integration between Google's services and the clean version of Android that gets put on Pixel phones.

However, since the Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL launched in 2019, this series of handsets has been a bit hit and miss. We weren't really overwhelmed with the Google Pixel 5a, which was actually only ever released in the US and Japan.

Hopes are high for the Pixel 6a though, based on what Google has told us so far. Not everyone needs the very best in smartphone components, and for a lot of people the upcoming mid-range handset should suit them very well.

It's worth noting that the Google Pixel 7 is coming out three months after the Pixel 6a – and it was quite a surprise when we got a brief, official glimpse of it at Google IO 2022. It's possible that some smartphone buyers will wait and see what the 2022 flagship has to offer before parting with their cash.

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This little known iPhone trick will help you become a DIY master

One of the best things about the modern world is that you can have a gadget in your pocket for months or even years, and still be surprised at the cool little things it can do. This week it was the turn of the iPhone to make me sit up and go “hey, you’re a neat little guy, aren’t you?”

Now I’m not going to pretend you all don't know about this feature already. But the iPhone’s pre-installed Measure app proved invaluable to me this week, and I’ll be using it forevermore as a result. That’s because it’s not only a quick tool for measuring things, but because it also doubles up as a very accurate spirit level.

I’ve been in my new(ish) home for about six months now, and it’s been time to put the finishing touches to the place. There’s some pot plants for the balcony sorted out, some smart connected decorative lights on the wall, and, finally, some frames for prints and pictures.

The previous owners of the place had already left in place some handy picture hooks, but they felt a bit off – all my frames looked wonky against each other. And, thanks to the iPhone’s Measure app, which has slowly been improving since its introduction in iOS 12, I was able to quickly determine that, yep, I was living in a crooked house. A few tweaked hooks later, and I’m the vision of perpendicular accuracy. Here’s how you can be too.

How to use the iPhone Measure app’s spirit level

You don’t need to download Measure – it’s pre-installed on every iPhone. But if you can’t find it, fire it up from your iPhone’s Utilities folder.

When you first open the app, it’ll be using your iPhone’s camera in its default “measure” mode (more on that later), which uses augmented reality (AR) technology to measure things without the need for tape. You can ignore that – instead tap the small “Level” icon on the right.

The app will then turn into a spirit level, using your device’s accelerometer and gyroscope sensors to establish whether or not you’re on a perfectly flat-and-balanced surface.

You can use the feature in two ways. If you’re looking to measure a large flat surface, you can place the iPhone on its back, and you’ll see two white circles. Making them overlap will ensure the surface is level – the screen will turn green when that’s the case.

If you’re measuring something less wide, turn the iPhone on its edge, and place it on the surface. You’ll then be presented with a more traditional spirit-level interface, with a white line displaying the exact angle you’re off by. Again, aligning the surface until it is level will see the iPhone screen go green.

The iPhone measure app

(Image credit: Future)

Ditch the tape measure

As mentioned above, the app’s default mode is as a tape measure, and if you’ve not used it before, it’s really handy. A modern iPhone’s camera system and sensors are so advanced now as to be able to sense depth – a key requirement of augmented reality (AR) interfaces. As such, the app is able to determine an object’s distance from the iPhone, and use this with relative accuracy to give you a measurement of something’s length on screen.

The app is pretty good at determining straight edges of objects (handy for measuring shelves and the like). It then uses a pin system to let you draw a line between two points that you’d like to know the height of. If you get in close to an item you’re measuring from a distance, the onscreen measuring tool will become a full-on ruler, letting you know the precise distance between points of the element you’re measuring.

While I wouldn’t use it for architectural purposes, as it’s still requiring you to accurately determine the exact edges of the object you’re measuring, it’s a great way to get a very good estimate of the length of something in a pinch – handy, say, for when walking around IKEA and you’re looking to get an idea of whether or not something will more-or-less fit a gap in your home.

And, in one final neat trick, if you point it at a person, it’ll instantly recognize them as a human and measure their height – handy for establishing if your Tinder date may have been exaggerating a little on their profile!

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iPhone 13 Pro Max vs Sony Xperia 1 IV: which flagship phone is the real pro’s choice?

The Xperia 1 IV is Sony’s latest enthusiast-baiting smartphone, and it’s packed full of multimedia potential.

But when it comes to creating a phone that pros and media types love to use, Apple is the king of the hill. Its iPhone 13 Pro Max is in the running to be dubbed the best flagship phone in the current market because of its all-round excellence.

Does Sony have the key to access that same exclusive club? Let’s take a look.

Sony Xperia 1 IV vs iPhone 13 Pro Max price and availability

Sony announced the Sony Xperia 1 IV on May 11, 2022, but the phone won’t  be available for purchase until June 16 in the UK and Europe, and September 1 in the US. Over in the U.S., the sole 512GB option will cost $1599; the UK and Europe will get a 256GB model for £1299/€1399.

There’s no word on Australian availability just yet, but we’re not holding out hope for any. Sony usually doesn’t sell its phones in the region.

Sony Xperia 1 IV event

(Image credit: Sony)

The iPhone 13 Pro Max hit shops on September 24, 2021. Prices start at $1,099 / £1,049 / AU$1,699 for the 128GB model; move up to $1,199 / £1,149 / AU$1,869 for 256GB; then on to $1,399 / £1,349 / AU$2,219 for 512GB; and top out at $1,599 / £1,549 / AU$2,569 for the new 1TB model.

All in all, it’s a win for the iPhone 13 Pro Max in terms of both price and availability.

Sony Xperia 1 IV vs iPhone 13 Pro Max design

The Sony Xperia 1 IV looks nearly identical to the Sony Xperia 1 III, with the same flat sides and oddly tall form factor.

With the iPhone 13 Pro Max, Apple has also stuck with the design language of its previous phone. Like the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the 13 has a flat stainless steel frame and equally flat front and rear surfaces.

Sony’s phone measures 165 x 71 x 8.2mm and weighs 185g. This makes it taller and thicker than the iPhone 13 Pro Max (160.8 x 78.1 x 7.65mm), but also narrower and significantly lighter. There’s no hefty stainless steel weighing it down here.

A key reason for the Sony Xperia 1 IV’s height is its tall forehead and chin bezels. Unlike virtually every other current flagship, it houses its selfie camera above the screen rather than in a display notch.

The iPhone, of course, has the mother of all screen notches eating into the top edge of its display. Apple claims to have reduced the size of the notch by 20%, but it’s still a bit of an eyesore.

Sony always packs its phone edges with points of interest, which explains the physical camera button and the 3.5mm headphone jack – these should appeal to photographers and audiophiles respectively.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max in silver facing down on a table

(Image credit: Future)

Around back, the iPhone 13 Pro Max organizes its camera sensors in a square configuration; Sony’s are configured in something like a vertical lozenge.

You can get the Sony Xperia 1 IV in Black, White, or Purple. Over in iPhone-land, there’s a wider range of color options: Graphite, Gold, Silver, Sierra Blue, and Alpine Green.

Both phones are suitably dust and water-resistant. The iPhone 13 Pro Max has an IP68 rating, while the Sony Xperia 1 IV gets an even more thorough IP68/IP65 certification.

There’s Gorilla Glass Victus protecting the screen of the Sony;Apple has fitted the iPhone with its Ceramic Shield, which is made by embedding ceramic nanocrystals into the glass by way of a high-temperature crystallization process.

Sony Xperia 1 IV vs iPhone 13 Pro Max display

The Sony Xperia 1 IV goes with the same 6.5-inch 4K OLED display as the Xperia 1 III. The stand-out part of that is the ‘4K’ figure, which equates to a massive 3840 x 1644 resolution.

By contrast, the iPhone 13 Pro Max display is a 6.7-inch OLED with a 2778 x 1284 resolution. It’s more than a match on size and vibrancy, but it’s nowhere near as sharp.

A Sony Xperia 1 IV from the front and back, with the screen on

(Image credit: Sony)

This means that the Sony Xperia 1 IV is the only current flagship that can play back 4K content natively. That’s clearly what Sony is aiming for here, together with that 21:9 aspect ratio and unbroken canvas.

Both displays refresh at a maximum of 120Hz, so they’re equally fluid.

Sony has increased the brightness of its display by 50%. It remains to be seen if that helps it compete with the punchy iPhone panel, which remains one of the best in the business.

Sony Xperia 1 IV vs iPhone 13 Pro Max camera

Both of these phones pack triple 12MP camera systems, and both manufacturers are known for their natural color science. But that’s about where the similarities end.

Apple and Sony take fundamentally different approaches to photography. The iPhone is all about the fire and forget experience, unburdened by fiddly menus and the need to think through one’s framing.

Sony’s Xperia 1 line is all about pro-level control, with an in-depth camera app that mirrors its high-end Alpha line of cameras, and a physical two-stage camera shutter button on the right-hand edge.

The big advancement with the Xperia 1 IV is with that telephoto system. This time around, you get a continuous zoom between 70mm and 125mm, roughly equating to an optical zoom that can fall anywhere between 3.5x and 5.2x. That’s a first.

By contrast, the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s 3x zoom seems a little tired.

Still, the iPhone 13 Pro Max camera’s image quality is well recognized at this point. It’s arguably the best smartphone camera system on the market right now.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max lying on a table, face up, showing the home screen

(Image credit: Future)

This is led by a large (and, at f/1.5, wide open) main sensor that can capture some seriously impressive images in all lighting conditions, aided by an uncannily steady, sensor shift stabilization system. Even the ultra-wide can take sharp nighttime shots this time around, too.

Hardware aside, a large part of the fantastic image quality comes down to Apple’s leading image processing technology, which helps produce excellent results with minimal input. Sony’s phones have never been able to achieve the same, though it does offer unmatched control over your shots.

Apple’s cameras have always had an edge over the competition in video recording, but Sony is looking to make progress with the Xperia 1 IV. The Sony’s latest phone captures 4K 120fps slow-mo recording to the iPhone’s 4K/60fps; and Sony has also imbued the Xperia 1 IV with wider dynamic range and a Videography Pro mode for live streaming.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max has its own video tricks, including a Cinematic Mode that enables you to apply Portrait-like bokeh effects to your footage and adjust the point of focus in post.

Both phones have 12MP selfie cameras, but the Xperia 1 IV’s is the larger sensor of the two.

Sony Xperia 1 IV vs iPhone 13 Pro Max specs and performance

We all know the story by now. Android phones can keep one-upping themselves on performance, but they’re still going to fall short of Apple’s latest.

We haven’t been able to put the Sony Xperia 1 IV through its paces just yet, but we can confidently tell you now that it won’t be as fast as the iPhone 13 Pro Max. That’s because it’s running the exact same Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip that powers most of its rivals, from the Xiaomi 12 Pro to the Oppo Find X5 Pro.

A close up of the Sony Xperia 1 IV's rear camera

(Image credit: Sony)

And in all of our testing and benchmarking, those phones fall comfortably shy of the iPhone 13 Pro Max. The key to that is Apple’s latest custom A15 Bionic chip, which is a monster.

Benchmarks aside though, you won’t notice the performance difference between the latest iPhone and any Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 phone. Both chips are way more capable than they need to be for any modern task, from juggling multiple apps to playing high-end 3D games.

The Sony Xperia 1 IV packs double the RAM of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, for what it’s worth (12GB vs 6GB). Still, this isn’t a great deal, given the fundamental differences between the ways iOS and Android handle resources.

Apple’s device comes with way more storage options than Sony’s though. You get a choice of 128, 256, 512, or 1TB wherever you are. With the Sony Xperia 1 IV, you get 256GB in the UK and Europe, or 512GB in the US.

Sony Xperia 1 IV vs iPhone 13 Pro Max battery life

Sony has bumped the capacity of its flagship battery up to 5,000mAh. That’s a healthy size for a flagship Android phone, and is much larger than the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s 4,352mAh cell.

Like we just said, though, iOS and Android handle their hardware resources very differently, and we’d hope for rough parity between the two.

The Sony Xperia 1 IV will need to pull the cat out of the bag to match the iPhone 13 Pro Max, though. With the Xperia 1 III, we tended to have around 10% or so left in the tank at the end of a long day. With the iPhone 13 Pro Max, we had a third of a tank left. Hopefully Sony’s brute force capacity increase, alongside the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and software improvements, will close that gap.

iPhone 13 Pro Max

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Neither phone is among the most impressive when it comes to charging speeds. Sony has equipped its latest phone with the same 30W wired charging support as before, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max can take a similar 27W.

When rivals are boasting 80W, 100W, and even 120W charging, those specs aren’t too great. Still, both manufacturers claim their phones can charge to 50% in just 30 minutes.

Neither manufacturer includes a charger in the box, but at least Apple gives you a cable.

Takeaway

Sony seems to have created another media enthusiast’s dream with the Sony Xperia 1 IV. It picks up where the Sony Xperia 1 III left off, with an even more flexible camera system, a brighter 4K display, and meatier battery life.

It remains to be seen if those updates are enough to close the 1-point review score gap between its predecessor and the iPhone 13 Pro Max. We were seriously impressed with Apple’s latest for its superb fire-and-forget camera, its excellent battery life, and its peerless performance.

One thing seems certain – Sony is always going to hold a place in the hearts of a certain type of fan obsessed with serious photography, audio fidelity, and proper video playback. But can it mix it with the iPhone in the mainstream this time around?

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Every Android phone user needs to know about this simple iPhone AirDrop rival

When I'm hanging around my iPhone-using friends, they're always AirDropping things left, right and center. "One of the benefits of having an iPhone," they tell me, "is that you can AirDrop things."

I was taken aback recently, though, when an Android-using friend said the exact same thing to me, when they wanted to send something over. It was then that I realized that many Android phone users don't know that they have an AirDrop alternative readily accessible at their fingertips.

I used to be in the same boat, until I discovered the way to easily send files between Android phones, and I think everybody who uses such a device should know about Nearby Share.

Meet Android Be- no, wait...

Android phones used to have a feature called Android Beam, which used NFC to transfer files between devices.

To use this, you tried to share a file in the normal way, then held your phone right up to the one you were trying to share the file with.

This wasn't exactly an AirDrop alternative, since you need to rub the phones against each other like two dolls that you were trying to make kiss. And even this was a little-known feature that most Android owners hadn't ever used.

But Google got rid of Android Beam in 2020, for something a lot more convenient.

Android Beam

(Image credit: Future)

Meet Nearby Share

Nearby Share works identically to AirDrop - you can share files, photos and links with people nearby, as long as it's to another Android device (though apparently Chromebooks will get support soon too).

This means you don't need to rub your phones together, or use a different app to send files. Easy!

I'd never heard of Nearby Share - I assumed Android Beam had been removed since people just used email, cloud storage or messaging apps to send things, and I generally use WhatsApp for this kind of thing. But no, Nearby Share is here, and it's easy to use.

I was introduced to Nearby Share in a way which really rammed home its use - someone whose contact information I don't have wanted to send me something. Instead of having to give them my email or phone number, they could just Nearby Share them to me. Very simple.

How to use Nearby Share

Using Nearby Share is pretty easy, though I must admit than, when I realized how prominent the button for it is, I felt stupid for having missed it.

Using it is slightly different depending on which Android fork your phone is on, but generally, you press the 'Share' button (y'know, the one that looks like this: < ) and then press 'Nearby Share'. 

Nearby handsets with the functionality will appear, and you can easily send them the files.

Admittedly, this does feel a little bit slower than AirDrop, but given how Android is used by far more people than iOS, I'm just glad that I have the option to easily send files to so many more people.

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Nasty Apple bug reportedly killing FaceTime on iPhones

A nasty bug has been going around affecting iPhone users that can cause the iMessage and FaceTime apps to randomly deactivate with no way to turn them back on.

The news comes from various Twitter users including prominent Apple leaker and Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman, all of whom detailed their experience with this bug. So far, this problem is limited to users on the T-Mobile and Verizon networks. That may seem like good news at first if the problem is limited to just two networks.

However, Verizon and T-Mobile have the widest service networks in the United States, and with over 113 million iPhone users in the U.S., this could be a major problem.

Problem with eSIM

The problem is specifically affecting the eSIM chip, according to 9 To 5 Mac. The eSIM chip allows people to set up and activate their phones on a network via software without having to use a physical SIM card or visit a carrier store. And if you don’t recall, a SIM card is what allows your smartphone to make calls, send texts, and connect to the internet over a cellular network.

The purpose of the eSIM chip is to make setting iPhone easier to do. Unfortunately, no one knows exactly what is occurring inside the eSIM chip that’s causing the problem. According to Gurman, this bug has existed for a while. It affects phones running iOS 15.4, 15.5, and 15.6 beta 1.

Both Verizon and T-Mobile appear to be aware of the bug as several people in that Twitter thread, including Gurman, contacted their carriers for help. So far, Apple has yet to acknowledge the bug, let alone roll out a patch fix.

Solutions

Gurman states that the only solution is to insert a brand physical SIM card into an iPhone to get around the bug. 

It’s also possible to remove your eSIM account and get a new one reissued to your iPhone. But Gurman advises against this because the process is too “complex for most people and shouldn’t need to ever to be done."

One person describes his experience with reissuing an eSIM via T-Mobile. According to the user, T-Mobile had to reissue the eSIM three separate times and it took 30 minutes for the last one to activate. But then that caused further problems with the line and required calling the carrier again.

It’s unknown if or when Apple will fix this problem. TechRadar has contacted Apple and Verizon and will update this story with their replies.

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Even if the iPhone 14 is the most powerful phone ever, that’s not enough

I must confess, I didn't quite 'get' the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 as soon as I heard about it. It's a new super-powerful chipset from Qualcomm that'll come to Android phones toward the end of 2022, that's a small step up over the 8 Gen 1 already seen in the OnePlus 10 Pro, Xiaomi 12, and members of the Samsung Galaxy S22 family that launched in the US.

The flagship features include 10% faster CPU performance, 10% faster GPU clock speeds and 20% better AI power efficiency - and if your eyes glazed over when you started reading that, we don't blame you. It's not exactly a sexy new smartphone component, and it's very much the definition of 'an incremental upgrade'.

But that doesn't even matter - tech fans know that Apple's Bionic chips are always much faster than Qualcomm's Snapdragon rivals, and as a die-hard Android fan, even I'll admit that the iPhone 14 will probably have any of its Android contemporaries beat in terms of sheer power.

However, as I read more into the specs of the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, it reminded me that although it might not lead to more powerful phones than the iPhone 14, that's not all that's important.


Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

The loaded chips

While chipsets are largely important for the processing power of a smartphone, letting you play games or edit videos without lags or stutters, that's not all they do.

For example, let's look at the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1's camera support. The chip supports capture on a 108MP camera with no shutter lag, or three 36MP snappers simultaneously with the same lack of delay. Alternatively, you can record 8K HDR video, or 10-bit photos and videos, or make the most of plenty of specific tools like noise reduction and AI face detection.

Another example is in the display - the chip supports a QHD+ resolution and 144Hz refresh rate simultaneously, a combination that would toast a lesser chip.

So, even if the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 isn't technically as powerful as Apple's next chip, it has the features to make up for it.


Apple Arcade

Promotional material for Apple Arcade (Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 14 problem

I will be very surprised if the iPhone 14 has a 108MP camera, or QHD+ 144Hz screen - Apple doesn't often pick flashy specs like those. In fact, some rumors suggest it's not actually getting a new chipset at all this year (though the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max apparently will).

Even if it or its Pro sibling are the most powerful phones on the market, that's not enough, because processing power isn't everything. In fact, power isn't all that important.

You'd think you'd need lots of power to play top-end games, but they play so well on a mid-range phone that you don't need a powerful one to enjoy Call of Duty Mobile or PUBG New State. In fact, for some of these games, I'd even recommend a mid-power phone - they don't overheat as quickly.

Phones simply don't need to be too powerful. So, the bundles of processing strength that iPhones have largely gone to waste.

You know what wouldn't go to waste? A QHD+ 144Hz screen - that'd look great, and actually would provide a demonstrable change for gaming. The ability to take 108MP pictures without your phone stuttering would also be lovely, so you can take lots of high-res snaps in quick succession that you edit afterward.

Even if the iPhone 14 has the most powerful processor in the whole wide world, that's not enough, because, without useful features and flashy specs, it still won't compete with the best Android mobiles that come out at the same time.

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The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 just keeps on sounding better

In the space of a day or two the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 has gone from sounding underwhelming to quite exciting, as hot on the heels of a leak suggesting a serious power upgrade, it now looks like the battery could be better than expected.

MyFixGuide has spotted a listing from China’s 3C certification agency, which suggests that the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 will have two batteries with a combined capacity of 3,595mAh.

Now, that’s already more than the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 – which has a 3,300mAh battery – and than a previous leak suggested, as that pointed to a 3,400mAh battery.

But the battery capacity we’re seeing on this listing is almost certainly the 'rated capacity', which is essentially the minimum capacity you’ll get from the battery. Samsung (and most device makers) actually advertise the 'typical capacity' though, which is the estimated average value for the battery - so a little higher than the rated capacity.

It’s the typical value that we mentioned for the Z Flip 3 and for the previous leak, and with a rated capacity of 3,595mAh, the typical capacity here is likely to be even higher at around 3,700mAh – a figure which leaker @UniverseIce suggests.

So that’s around 400mAh more than the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3, which is a not-insignificant amount, especially given that the screens sound like they might be similar, and the chipset is likely to be more efficient. So if anything the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 might be less battery hungry than its predecessor.

We would of course take this claim with a pinch of salt, especially since it conflicts with an earlier rumor. But certification agencies like this one are usually working off official information, so there’s a very high chance that this is accurate.


Analysis: A big boost but we still want more

Battery life has long been a problem with smartphones, and it’s even more of an issue with foldable phones, as despite often having bigger screens than conventional phones, they also often have smaller batteries.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 will probably actually be in line with a large conventional phone, as leaks point to a 6.7-inch foldable display, but even a 3,700mAh battery would be much smaller than the juice packs in most phones of that size.

It’s rare to find a large phone with less than a 4,500mAh battery, and many are at 5,000mAh or higher.

But with the hinge, the secondary display, and the multiple sections needed in a foldable phone, there’s a lot more to them than normal smartphones, meaning battery space is more limited – unless you want something really chunky. So this isn’t an easy problem to solve.

Hopefully the rumored upgrade here will be enough, but either way it’s much needed, as our Galaxy Z Flip 3 review described its battery as the “biggest drawback.”

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One Google Pixel 6a downgrade might make it a tough sell for cheap phone fans

All cheap phones have compromises to keep the price low - that's a statement about as controversial as saying "water is wet". But the Google Pixel 6a has one downgrade from the Pixel 6 that might put off phone fans.

While the new budget take on Google's popular Android phone has demerits in a few areas, including a main camera sensor with a lower resolution, a smaller body size and a plastic back, there's one aspect that sticks out like a sore thumb, and it's the screen refresh rate.

With a 60Hz refresh rate, the Pixel 6a feels out of date, and it doesn't match the 90Hz of the Pixel 6 or the 120Hz, 144Hz or even 165Hz we see loads in phones of all prices. Admittedly Google has been slow to embrace high screen refresh rates, but that means it's falling behind the competition.

This might seem like a small point to pick out, but screen refresh rate is a huge selling point for many people, as it touches everything you do on your phone. A higher refresh rate means the display updates more times per second, and in practice this makes motion look a lot smoother.

It's particularly an important factor for cheap phones. The Moto G200, which costs the same as the Pixel 6a, has a 144Hz display - many phones that are a lot cheaper have 120Hz ones, and even incredibly budget phones get 90Hz.

So fans of budget mobiles might find this one questionable spec enough to write off the Pixel 6a. 

Having a low refresh rate is particularly a shame for the Pixel 6a - one of the benefits of the smooth motion of a high refresh rate, is that navigating menus feels quick and easy. High refresh displays therefore go hand-in-hand with the clean-looking interfaces of stock Android, that Pixel phones use.

Given the huge popularity of the Google Pixel 6 range, it's possible that the 6a will survive with its limited screen refresh rate. But given that the mid-range and budget phone markets are far more competitive than the premium ones, this could be a rude awakening for Google that it can't downgrade everything.

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TikTok update helps to prevent users from being cheated out by their own videos

In order to make the creator economy a fairer, TikTok has implemented new tools that allow users to properly credit their inspiration for their latest video, alongside giving credit to the original user who made the video in the first place.

In a similar fashion to how credit is applied for stitched and dueted videos, TikTok’s new crediting tools will place a tag directly in the description of the video, in a spot that it’s always visible even before the description box is expanded. This is even when they’re not replying to or stitching other videos on the app.

According to TikTok, these new tools will “better enable creator credit and equitable attribution for our creator community and content originators,” which in turn should mitigate some of the parasitic content-stealing that is commonplace on the ever-growing social media app.

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While these new crediting tools have the possibility to be a powerful force for good on TikTok, it remains to be seen whether or not this feature will be used by many of the app’s users.

As an entirely voluntary feature, it’s entirely possible, if not likely, that the parasitic creators who’re being targeted by these tools will simply opt not to use them as there is no incentive nor mandate for their use.

Anticipating that the new crediting tools won’t immediately be adopted by the app’s entire userbase, TikTok announced in the coming weeks they will be implementing additional prompts to encourage creators to credit, one of which will be an “educational pop-up that encourages and explains the importance of crediting.”

Ultimately, while these features may help to appropriately share credit across the app, TikTok is always going to struggle to properly embody the culture of crediting the original creators.

However, it's a good first start in taking on spam accounts that regard other viral videos of their own, and could help original accounts to further monetize their TikTok careers with more original videos.

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The OnePlus Nord 2T is here – and it just made another OnePlus phone irrelevant

In what feels like about the 50th OnePlus smartphone launch of the year, the company has just unveiled two new handsets for the UK – the OnePlus Nord 2T and the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite.

Of these, the OnePlus Nord 2T is the star, being the higher end of the two – but it’s also a remarkably similar phone to the OnePlus Nord 2.

It has a 6.43-inch FHD AMOLED screen with a 90Hz refresh rate and HDR10+, 8GB or 12GB of RAM, 128GB or 256GB of storage, a 4,500mAh battery, 5G, a 50MP main camera, an 8MP ultra-wide one, a 2MP mono one, and a 32MP front-facing one.

That’s basically all the same as the OnePlus Nord 2, but there are a few upgrades here. For one thing, you get faster 80W charging here, which is the same as you’ll find on the OnePlus 10 Pro. There’s also a better chipset (the MediaTek Dimensity 1300), and it ships with newer software in the form of OxygenOS 12.1. There are also some improved camera features, including nightscape and AI video balancing modes.

OnePlus Nord 2T

A OnePlus Nord 2T (Image credit: Future)

This doesn’t sound like an enormous upgrade then, but with a starting price of £369 (roughly $460 / AU$655) it doesn’t need to be, as that’s exactly what the OnePlus Nord 2 costs at the time of writing.

That’s for 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and the price rises to a still quite reasonable £469 (around $580 / AU$830) for 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.

As for the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite, that has previously launched in India so we already knew what to expect. It has a 6.59-inch 120Hz LCD screen, a Snapdragon 695 chipset, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a 5,000mAh battery, 33W charging, a 64MP main camera, a 2MP depth sensor, a 2MP macro one, and a 16MP selfie camera.

You can pick this phone up for £279 (approximately $345 / AU$495), with both phones going on sale on May 24 in the UK. There’s no word on US availability, but we wouldn’t expect to see them there, and Australia is even less likely, since OnePlus doesn’t currently sell anything in Australia.

OnePlus Nord Buds

(Image credit: OnePlus)

Finally, OnePlus has also launched the OnePlus Nord Buds in the UK, following a recent announcement for the US. For $39 / £49 (around AU$85) they give you up to 98 decibels of volume, Dolby Atmos audio, a 12.4mm titanium coated driver, 4 microphones, AI-powered noise reduction algorithms, and an IP55 rating.

You can expect 7 hours of battery from the Nord Buds, while the charging case offers 30 hours before that needs juicing up. There’s no exact release date for these but expect them sometime around June.


A OnePlus Nord 2T

A OnePlus Nord 2T (Image credit: Future)

Analysis: the Nord line keeps on growing

Right now in the UK, OnePlus is selling the original OnePlus Nord, the OnePlus Nord 2, the OnePlus Nord CE, and the OnePlus Nord CE 2. So with the addition of these two new phones, the line will have got 50% bigger.

Of course, the company may well discontinue the OnePlus Nord 2, given that the Nord 2T is a better phone at the same price. At a minimum a price cut will be needed if the company hopes to keep selling the older model.

The OnePlus Nord CE might also need a price cut if OnePlus hopes to keep selling it, as it’s priced at almost exactly the same level as the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite and looks on paper to be a slightly worse phone.

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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 could be even more powerful than the Galaxy S22 Ultra

We haven’t seen much to get excited about in Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 leaks yet, with the available information suggesting that it'll be very similar to the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3. But finally we’ve seen something that could make it worth upgrading to.

Leaker @UniverseIce has spotted a Geekbench benchmark listing for the phone, and it includes a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Plus chipset.

This is a chipset that hasn’t even been announced yet, but it’s set to be an upgrade on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, which is currently used by most Android flagships – including the Samsung Galaxy S22 range in some regions.

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If it does get that chip, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 could be more powerful than even the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.

And in regions like the UK, which got an arguably lesser Exynos 2200 chipset in the Galaxy S22 range, the upgrade will be even bigger – Samsung typically uses the same chipset globally for its foldable phones, so we’d expect the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Plus will be used worldwide.

That said, not every aspect of the performance will be an upgrade on the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, as the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is listed here with 8GB of RAM. That’s the same starting amount as the S22 Ultra, but while Samsung’s top flagship can come with up to 12GB, we might only see the one RAM configuration in the Z Flip 4 based on past form.

It’s worth noting also that while this benchmark is for the Galaxy Z Flip 4, we’d expect that the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 will use the same chipset, so that will likely be an seriously powerful phone too.


Analysis: the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 suddenly got interesting

We’ve been a bit down on the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 thus far, given that the design and screens are rumored to be more or less identical to those of the Z Flip 3. Slight improvements to the cameras and battery have been suggested, but nothing overly exciting.

That left a possible price reduction as the only really notable rumor we’d heard about the phone, as a lower price could truly push the foldable into the mainstream.

But if it’s both cheaper than the Galaxy Z Flip 3 and one of the most powerful phones of the year, then suddenly the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is a handset that’s worth paying attention to.

Nothing that we’ve heard about it has been confirmed yet, though, so we’d take all of this with a pinch of salt; but this could end up being one of Samsung’s most impressive phones of 2022.

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Apple’s data auction privacy ad is only scary because it’s true

Ellie is like all of us; just a person perusing the latest offerings in a classic vinyl music store, who then discovers a door and a hidden auction where a multitude of what could best be described as dandies are anxiously bidding on her private data.

Yup, seems normal. Apple is using this slightly comic, but mostly disturbingly accurate, ad depiction of data brokers at an auction house called "DUBIOUS" to illustrate a point: this is what's happening to your data.

In the commercial, which is titled "Your Data is Being Sold!" and is released online and broadcast on Wednesday, Ellie is clearly shocked and appalled as everything from her late-night texts to her grandmother ("Sweet Nana,") is auctioned away to data brokers. Because this is an ad for Apple, though, Ellie launches a secret weapon.

She takes out her iPhone 13 and clicks "Ask not to track" for an app and the anthropomorphized data and data brokers start to disappear. Ellie also adjusts the Safari Privacy settings and soon the dubious auction house is empty.

It's an effective, if a little on-the-nose, ad. But it's not inaccurate. 

Any given website has dozens of trackers (usually hidden under transparent pixels) that allow data you dropped on one site to be carried over to another (it's why once you search for red shoes on one site, you see "red shoes" on every site).

Similarly, app developers have (and often still do) sell your tracking data to third-party data brokers. Apple's app privacy program now forces app developers to ask you for permission to track your data. So many people have opted out using these new settings, that it's often cited in less-than-stellar earnings reports for companies like Facebook.

Apple said that the goal of the hyperbolic ad is to highlight potential uses of data, ones you're probably not aware of.

The company's commitment to privacy is not only evident in this ad and Apple's various privacy-related and anti-tracking features, but in what its leadership says about the topic.

Speaking before the International Association of Privacy Professionals earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “A world without privacy is less imaginative, less empathetic, less innovative, less human” and noted that Apple has "a commitment to protecting people from a data-industrial complex built on a foundation of surveillance.”

In the case of this ad, though, that "data industrial complex" is a cliched auction house with real people bidding on physical objects that represent Ellie's data. Still, we get the point.

Apple, which has never made its revenues from ads or customer data, is in the enviable position of approaching the data privacy issue from higher ground. It can point out Google or Facebook's data practices (though rarely, if ever, by name) because it has no need for that data.

Even Apple's fast-growing services business relies on direct subscription payments, which means, it doesn't need your data for revenue or growth.

Anyway, enjoy this slightly comical ad.

Also, if you're interested in how to manage these settings, you can read our app transparency guide and iPhone location services control guide.

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