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Oppo A78 review
9:53 pm | November 9, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Phones | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Oppo A78 two-minute review

The Oppo A78 doesn’t exactly make a glowing first impression – take it out of the box, tap its back, flick through its menus and you’ll find what seems to be your generic budget phone. But use the phone for a while and you’ll find that it’s surprisingly impressive for its price.

At £219 / AU$359 (roughly $280), this sits comfortably in the ‘cheap phone’ category, a smartphone sector that’s as competitive as it is devoid of brand-new ideas. And the Oppo doesn’t win its commendations by trying something novel and whacky, but by being solid with a few areas that reach above its position…

… and two areas that fail dramatically. More on those later.

The Oppo A78 is one of Oppo’s budget A-series mobiles, which sits below the mid-range Reno and top-end Find X families of premium devices. The A-series has often suffered from a lack of love compared to the Reno and Find lines. But like a forgotten third child, A-series phones can often surprise you; that’s the case here.

While the A78 has a few traits that immediately give away its budget status, like the flat-edge design and tear-drop notch that breaks up the screen, it feels a lot more premium than many rivals. There’s no cheap, tacky plastic casing, instead, you'll find a shiny textured rear and a fingerprint scanner that’s one of the best around.

The Oppo A78 being held in a hand

(Image credit: Future)

This Oppo A78 is surprisingly great at gaming too/ Despite having a low-end chipset and only 4GB RAM, in testing there were rarely stutters or issues playing top-end titles. If you’re a gamer on a budget, this mobile is well worth considering.

The stereo speakers here are genuinely impressive too, as they sound more balanced than you usually hear on a cheap smartphone. It was genuinely a treat playing games or watching shows on the Oppo, which is something it’s pretty hard to say about lots of its rivals.

But let’s put a pin in the compliments – you were promised criticisms too. Firstly, there’s the pre-installed app situation (that’s bloatware, to give it its less complimentary name). These are sadly commonplace in budget phones, but the A78 had a ludicrous number of them – including 18 different games.

The phone’s camera is pretty pathetic too, with the camera test snaps looking so much more pixelly and duller than they should; seriously, they're the closest thing cameras can create to impressionist paintings. Skip straight down to the ‘Camera samples’ section if you want to have nightmares tonight.

So it’s easy to recommend the Oppo A78 as a great budget phone if you’re not a big photographer, and if you’re happy spending some time deleting a load of random apps that come on the phone or automatically install themselves. 

While “you’ll like it if you ignore some of it” may seem like a very loaded compliment, it’s generally the case for all budget and mid-range phones, and more so than for many of its rivals, the Oppo genuinely does shine for most use cases. 

Oppo A78 review: price and availability

  • Unveiled in early 2023
  • Hard to find in UK, not on sale in US
  • Costs £219 / AU$359 (around $280)

The Oppo A78 laid down on a bench

(Image credit: Future)

The Oppo A78 was unveiled at the beginning of 2023, though you may find it hard to track down in the UK, as not many retailers appear to stock it. 

The handset costs £219 in the UK and $359 in Australia, where it’s a lot easier to buy. That roughly converts to $280 in the US, however, Oppo doesn’t offer its mobiles in the country.

You could have guessed that price from the name, though, as Oppo’s A-series is its budget family of mobiles, with the A78 one of the first of the AX8 family, replacing the AX7 line.

Some of the phone’s biggest competitors at that price are its own Oppo A siblings as well as Moto’s G53 and G73, the Redmi Note 12 and the Nokia G42, to name a few – all of these are budget mobiles around the same price point that offer relatively comparable specs and experiences.

  • Value score: 4 / 5

Oppo A78 review: specs

The Oppo A78 roughly matches your typical budget smartphone in its specs:

Oppo A78 review: design

  • Surprisingly premium feel in hand
  • Reliable fingerprint scanner
  • 3.5mm headphone jack and USB-C port

The Oppo A78's fingerprint scanner

(Image credit: Future)

The Oppo A78 doesn’t vary much from the standard budget phone design template used for the majority of similar mobiles over the last few years: it’s a ‘chocolate-bar’ style mobile with flat and angular edges.

It’s not a small phone, measuring 163.8 x 75.1 x 8mm, so it might be a stretch to comfortably hold if you have a smaller hand, but weighing 188g it’s not that heavy. 

The glossy rear back looks surprisingly premium compared to the cheap feel of the plastic used for many budget phones. TechRadar’s test unit came in black, but depending on your region, you can also get your hands on a vibrant glowing lilac model. This version also has a glossy rear, broken up by a strip to the side that houses the two slim camera bumps, as well as the words ‘innovative AI camera’.

Around the edges of the chassis, you’re getting the standard phone fare: the bottom houses a USB-C port and 3.5mm headphone jack, the left side has a volume rocker, there’s nothing on top and the right edge has the power button with an embedded fingerprint scanner. This sensor was incredibly responsive, a surprise how much of a wild west this kind of tech can be in phones.

Another important thing to raise is the IP54 rating of the phone, which means the Oppo is protected from splashes of water or dust, but won’t survive immersion in liquid or blasts of many fine particles.

  • Design score: 4 / 5

Oppo A78 review: display

  • Low max brightness
  • HD resolution and 90Hz don't match some competitors
  • Big 6.56-inch size

The Oppo A78 laid down on a bench

(Image credit: Future)

Touting a 6.56-inch LCD screen, the Oppo A78’s display could easily be called ‘big’, even if there are larger screens in use for top-end and even some budget phones. Still, the size is useful for gaming or streaming.

It’s an HD+ screen, with a resolution of 720 x 1612; some rival handsets at this price do boast FHD+ displays. You can also find 120Hz refresh rates on some same-priced mobiles, though the 90Hz here does trump many other rivals – and won’t matter to people who don’t notice the smoother motions that higher refresh rate displays provide.

If you’re not accustomed to other screens on modern phones, then you certainly won’t mind the Oppo A78’s display – it’s big and bold (though not quite as bright as you’d want, capping at 600 nits). 

  • Display score: 3 / 5

Oppo A78 review: software

  • Older Android 12 build
  • ColorOS has a colorful design but few features
  • The phone has staggering bloatware issues

The Oppo A78's home screen with its bloatware.

An illustration of the bloatware on the Oppo A78. Other than Ecosia (our chosen browser, as Android asks you to pick), PUBG Mobile, Call of Duty: Mobile and City Smash 2, these apps all either came pre-loaded on the phone, or installed themselves during the set-up process. (Image credit: Future / Oppo)

The Oppo A78 doesn’t come with the newest version of Android, something that may irk software aficionados but that doesn’t have much of a functional impact on the phone. It comes with Android 12, which has been replaced by Android 13 these days.

Laid over the top of this is Oppo’s ColorOS, a largely aesthetically inclined fork that replaces stock Android with a colorful and punchy user interface. There aren’t that many unique features here, but the swipe-down quick settings menu is more attractive than most.

The phone has a truly jaw-dropping number of pre-installed apps, though, more so than other budget phones. As well as useful first-party apps there are a number of third-party ones that you might choose to delete like Netflix, Spotify, TikTok, LinkedIn and Facebook, but the egregious issue is the sheer number of games that come on the phone by default. 

These include big-name ones like Candy Crush Saga and Lords Mobile but plenty more dodgy-looking small ones too – in the above image, you can count 18 that either came on the phone by default or are automatically downloaded without a user clicking 'install' in the app store. Not a good look by any means, unless you like feeling alienated from your own mobile. 

  • Software score: 2 / 5

Oppo A78 review: cameras

  • 50MP main and 2MP depth-sensing camera
  • Photos are grainy and lack dynamic range
  • The 8MP selfie camera performs better

The Oppo A78 in its camera app

(Image credit: Future)

Is it a budget Android phone if it doesn’t have a 50MP camera? Oppo has opted to use the same type of camera that the vast majority of the A78’s competitors also boast. But that’s far from a bad thing, as the 50MP camera phone revolution has brought benefits to the photography of low-cost mobiles.

Somehow, though, the A78 takes worse pictures than basically any other phone using this kind of main sensor. Snaps looked grainy and fuzzy, as though the whole world was made of Lego. Plus there's poor dynamic range and a deficit of sharpness. This wasn’t even a resolution issue, with pictures defaulting to 12.5MP thanks to pixel binning – though at a glance you’d think snaps were 1.25MP.

Of course, you can’t expect premium-tier photography from a budget device, but the Oppo A78 really couldn’t be further from the likes of the Oppo Find X6, and isn’t recommendable to people who use phone cameras much. Let’s not even talk about AI optimization, oftentimes the saving grace of budget phones, because the A78’s designers seemingly didn’t either.

The phone offers the ability to capture 108MP snaps in its Extra HD mode – while the usefulness of this is deeply questionable, given the aforementioned resolution issues it worked as intended during testing, capturing high-res snaps that you could zoom far into. For some users, this may compensate for the lack of a dedicated zoom camera, letting you get closer to a picture without losing quality as standard digital zoom does.

Joining the main camera is a 2MP depth sensor for portrait photography, which presumably brings some benefits for artificial bokeh blur. But isn’t as useful for photo fans as, say, an ultrawide, telephoto or macro camera would be.

The phone has an 8MP camera at the front. Selfies weren’t especially detailed or sharp, though thanks to the AI processing (which makes a belated appearance!) they’re punchy and vibrant. Portrait mode though provided some pretty questionable bokeh, with a tendency to blur too much of the subject’s hair or face. Oppo would have done well to indulge in a better camera here, and as it stands the A78 isn’t ideal for people who want Instagram-worthy snaps.

Some standard photo modes are present on the phone, like Night or Panorama, and Night does give you a bit more detail for low-light shots, with most other modes performing exactly how you expect. There’s no macro mode, with Oppo dropping it with no macro or ultra-wide lens to use it with, but there is a Pro mode.

Video recording maxes out at 1080p on both the front and rear cameras (not simultaneously). And while there are time-lapse and slow-mo modes, they offer little control over resolution and frame rate.

Oppo A78 camera samples

Image 1 of 7

An Oppo A78 photo of London's Blackheath

While this isn't an artistic shot, zooming into the grass betrays all of the camera's issues. It looks more like an optical illusion than a grassland. (Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 7

An Oppo A78 photo of London's The Shard

London's blocky architecture makes the phone's grainy style seem natural. (Image credit: Future)
Image 3 of 7

An Oppo A78 photo of London's Blackheath at sunset

Golden Hour lets you forget camera issues to an extent, but zoom into the grass or buildings. (Image credit: Future)
Image 4 of 7

An Oppo A78 photo of London's Greenwich Park

In this park shot, the trees look blocky enough to be in Minecraft, with dynamic range issues making them all look like similar species. (Image credit: Future)
Image 5 of 7

An Oppo A78 photo of fowl in a pond

The natural quirks of low-light photography plaster over the Oppo A78's issues. (Image credit: Future)
Image 6 of 7

An Oppo A78 selfie in standard mode

Selfies on the Oppo A78 are sufficiently bright, but scroll along to Portrait mode next. (Image credit: Future)
Image 7 of 7

An Oppo A78 selfie in Portrait mode

As you can see, hair is a little blurry at the edges of the face in Portrait mode. (Image credit: Future)
  • Camera score: 2 / 5

Oppo A78: performance and audio

  • Dimensity 700 is relatively powerful
  • 128GB expandable storage plus 4GB RAM
  • Fairly balanced stereo speakers, plus 3.5mm and Bluetooth 5.3

Now from the Oppo A78’s surprising weakness to its surprising strength: the phone is a wolf in sheep’s clothing when it comes to performance.

The phone packs a MediaTek Dimensity 700 chipset, a piece of hardware that has a proven history of transforming cheap phones into worthy processing champs (well, compared to same-priced rivals, don’t expect iPhone power here).

In gaming tests, the Oppo performed much better than its same-priced contemporaries – it rarely stuttered in Call of Duty Mobile and powered through PUBG Mobile without any issues. Through an overabundance of caution the random pre-installed apps weren’t included in testing, but sticking to big-name titles, the A78 is thoroughly impressive.

The handset comes with 128GB storage, though there’s a microSD slot that lets you bump that figure up if you need more space. The RAM is at 4GB, a fairly low amount for a modern phone. Clearly, it didn’t matter much given the performance. RAM expansion, which temporarily uses the phone’s storage space as RAM, helps a lot too.

In terms of audio, the Oppo A78 has stereo speakers – but unlike many budget phones, which have a powerful down-facing but pathetic top-mounted output, these are two fairly equal speakers. This makes gaming and watching streaming services a much more enjoyable experience than on some rivals.

There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack for people who like wired headphones or aux cords, and Bluetooth 5.3 for those living the wire-free life. This latter is actually a fairly new standard, and many of the A78’s same-priced and even pricier rivals still use 5.1 – the benefit of 5.3 comes in the form of energy saving, better encryption and increased switching between low- and heavy-duty cycles.

  • Performance score: 3.5 / 5

Oppo A78 review: battery life

  • Reliable day-long battery power
  • Nice big 5,000mAh power pack
  • 33W charging powers to full in over an hour

The Oppo A78's sleek camera bump

(Image credit: Future)

Like 50MP cameras, 5,000mAh batteries are arguably synonymous with the budget smartphone in this day and age, and the Oppo A78 isn’t shaking anything up here. It packs this same heavy-duty power packet, and it performs just as expected.

That means that the phone will sail through a day of use easily, without needing to be charged mid-way through. Intensive tasks like gaming binges or photography sessions will tax it (though heaven knows why you’d want to do much of the latter), but in testing, it always managed to last through a day.

Don’t expect a two-day battery life though, unless you’re very economical with your use – just a reliable one-day battery life.  

Charging is done at 33W, which is a little slow given that 67W and higher are becoming used in low-cost mobiles. That means you’ll have to be charging for over an hour to get from an empty tank to a full one, though Oppo states that you can get to half-charge in half an hour.

  • Battery score: 3.5 / 5

Should you buy the Oppo A78?

Buy it if...

You're a mobile gamer on a budget
There are very few mobiles at this price point that are fun to game on, but the Oppo's big screen, decent speakers and processing power are a match made in heaven.

You like side-mounted fingerprint scanners
Different phone fans prefer their fingerprint scanners in different places, but if you like the phone's edge to house its sensor, then you'll love the A78, as it was really responsive.

You're not fussed about software
Some phone fans really care about having the newest Android build, but the A78 doesn't and likely won't see an update any time soon. This is one for those who don't even know what OS their current phone has.

Don't buy it if...

You're a photography fan
Unless you want to take photos that look like Minecraft screenshots, avoid the A78's camera.

You want a working phone out of the box
Given its huge number of bloatware apps, you'll need to spend time deleting these additions, which isn't great given how clean some rivals are.

You have small hands
With a big screen and bigger body, the Oppo A78 won't feel great for people with smaller hands, as you'll need to stretch to reach the screen or fingerprint scanner.

Oppo A78 review: Also consider

There are plenty of fantastic budget Android phones out there. If you want to see what the Oppo A78 is bumping up against, here are a selection of its close rivals:

Xiaomi Redmi Note 12
Costing the same as the Oppo, this Redmi phone has a much better display and cameras that aren't horrible, but has a weaker chipset and a bigger body.

Nokia G42
This Nokia is a touch cheaper than the A78, and it has very similar specs in the display, battery and camera departments. The lower cost gets a weaker chip and slower charging.

How I tested the Oppo A78

  • Review test period = 2 week
  • Testing included = Everyday usage, including web browsing, social media, photography, video calling, gaming, streaming video, music playback
  • Tools used = Geekbench 5, Geekbench 6, Geekbench ML, GFXBench, native Android stats

The model of Oppo A78 I tested was the black one, in its sole configuration of 4GB RAM and 128GB storage, though I spent the majority of the test period using RAM boost to get 8GB effective RAM.

After receiving the Oppo A78 I turned it on to let the battery power settle (and to ready up all the apps I wanted), and it was activated for roughly a week when I was simply preparing it. This time isn't included in the aforementioned test period.

Lots of the test period was taken up with the phone simply being used as an everyday handset, for social media, music streaming and Google Maps. And I'm currently deep into Call of Duty Mobile, so that took up a lot of the use time too. Several camera test sessions were conducted, but it was pretty sad to spend time lining up the perfect snap only for it to turn out as a pixel art piece.

I was a writer and editor for TechRadar's phone team for several years so I've got plenty of experience testing mobiles like this, particularly in the budget end of the market – I've used low-cost devices from almost every major brand, and also focused lots of my efforts on Chinese mobiles like those from Oppo. I still review phones for TechRadar, especially budget devices, so have tested some of the Oppo's contemporary rivals.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed August 2023

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review
7:25 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Phones | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite two-minute review

OnePlus has been using its budget Nord line to shake things up compared to its top-end numbered line. And its latest phone finds another way to be different; while the likes of the OnePlus 11 have nice and simple names, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite opts to instead have a ridiculously bloated title.

‘Nord’ is the budget arm of OnePlus, ‘CE’ is the budget arm of Nord and ‘Lite’ tells you that this is an even budget-ier phone than its budget brothers. Confusing etymology out the way, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is a pretty standard Android phone, with its only noteworthy feature being its obnoxious name.

This handset is partly an affordable alternative to the OnePlus Nord CE 3, with a similar design and software but weaker specs in a limited few areas. But it’s just as easy to call it a successor to the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite from 2022, with a few upgrades and several curious features carried over. It’s also seen a relatively major price jump from that previous handset.

Admittedly the Nord CE 3 didn't launch in many regions, making the Lite a bigger opportunity for OnePlus to get people to give its CE line a fighting chance.

The price increase here is an issue because costing £299 (around $350 / AU$520), the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is bumping heads with some (relatively) super-spec’d similar-price rivals, and it’s not a favorable comparison given the competitive nature of phones at this price point.

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite on a table

(Image credit: Future)

One of the selling points of the phone is its 108MP main camera, making the Nord CE 3 Lite the first CE handset to use a high-res main camera like this. Functionally this doesn’t change much, but it does give you the option to eat through your storage space at an even faster rate.

A new feature that’s actually useful is the 67W fast charging; Nord phones generally come with luxuriously big batteries, but with the slow charging taking ages to power them to full. Now, however, you’re getting a day’s worth of power from just half an hour of charging.

Most of the best parts of this phone are carried over from the Nord CE 3 too like the aforementioned big battery, as well as the large display and microSDXC card slot. However, some of the downgrades are where the phone is weakest: its chip is weak for gaming, it misses out on an ultra-wide camera and the screen uses LCD tech instead of OLED.

Curiously, these were all some of the weakest points of the Nord CE 2 Lite – clearly, OnePlus missed a memo somewhere.

So the handset is a mixed bag with some useful features but a few too many weak areas to make the device recommendable over similar-priced rivals.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review: price and availability

  • Released in April 2023
  • Costs £299 (around $350 / AU$520)
  • Unavailable in US or Australia

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite on a table

(Image credit: Future)

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite went on sale in April 2023, in Europe at least because OnePlus doesn’t sell its CE models in the US.

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite costs £299 (around $350 / AU$520), and for that price you’ll get 8GB RAM and 128GB storage – in the UK, this is the only variant available, though you can pick between Pastel Lime and Chromatic Gray.

At that price, the phone straddles the line between ‘budget’ and ‘mid-range’ mobile, Some other phones at this price point include Xiaomi’s impressive Redmi Note 12 Pro or the Poco X5 Pro, two handsets explored in the comparisons section later.

  • Value score: 2.5 / 5

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review: specs

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is your typical budget smartphone in most regards when it comes to specifications:

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review: design

  • Standard chocolate-bar phone
  • Mostly-reliable fingerprint scanner
  • 3.5mm headphone jack and USB-C port

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite on a table

(Image credit: Future)

OnePlus has opted to use the same rough design for the Nord CE 3 Lite that it uses for basically all of its budget mobiles. That means it’s your standard ‘chocolate-bar’ style smartphone.

The back of the handset has circular camera bumps, which don’t protrude too much, so the phone won’t wobble a lot when put down on a flat surface. The fingerprint scanner is mounted on the right edge of the OnePlus, built into the power button – it was fairly reliable to use, but there were occasions when it didn’t pick up a print. Then on the opposite edge is the volume rocker, with both a USB-C port and 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom frame of the device.

This Nord CE 3 Lite is big, as smartphones go, with dimensions of 165.5 x 76 x 8.3mm, though weighing 195g it’s not especially heavy. Still, don't opt for this mobile if you want a nice compact phone, as it could be hard to use – in fact, even fairly average-sized hands and will see you stretching to reach the fingerprint scanner.

Both the frame and the back panel of the CE 3 Lite are made of plastic, a common material for budget mobiles. While it doesn’t lead to a premium feel in the hand it does make the handset a little more durable. An official IP rating would add to that durability but unfortunately there isn’t one – don’t get this device wet!

Sadly, OnePlus has followed the mainstream phone trend of using a flat frame, which means that when you’re holding the phone – especially if you’re stretching your hand to do so, it can dig into your hand a little bit and get uncomfortable.

There are two colors to the phone: green and gray. TechRadar's test unit was the former, a vibrant lime hue that’s a little more exciting than the options you see in many other Nord devices.

  • Design score: 3.5 / 5

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review: display

  • Giant 6.72-inch screen
  • FHD+ resolution fit for games or movies
  • LCD screen means colors aren't bold

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite on a table

(Image credit: Future)

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite’s display is nice and big, with its 6.72-inch screen giving you plenty of viewing room for social media or your streaming service of choice. Plus, its resolution is 1080 x 2400 or FHD+, so unlike some low-budget mobiles you won’t have to drop any pixels.

The display also has a 120Hz refresh rate, so the image updates 120 times per second, making motion look nice and smooth on the display.

The downside to the display is that it’s LCD, which means colors aren’t quite as bold and bright as they would be on another phone – LCD used to be reserved for budget phones but nowadays many use OLED too. If you care about screen quality this may be a reason to spend a little more on the AMOLED-touting Nord CE 3.

  • Display score: 3 / 5

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review: software

  • Phone runs newest Android software, Android 13
  • OnePlus' OxygenOS laid over the top
  • OxygenOS brings useful extra tools like Zen

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite on a table

(Image credit: Future)

As with all OnePlus phones, the Nord CE 3 Lite uses Android with OnePlus’ own user interface laid over the top. In this case, it’s Android 13 on the base with OxygenOS 13.

OxygenOS is a popular user interface for Android fans, even though in recent years it’s lost its unique identity due to it blurring together with Oppo’s ColorOS (a merger several years ago made OnePlus just one part of Oppo). 

Some of the unique features of the software include a Zen Space app that lets you limit the phone to focus when you’re working, and a Smart Launcher that dynamically adjusts your home page widgets and apps to help your workflow.

Coupled with the 120Hz refresh rate display, the software made navigating the phone feel smooth and easy, which is certainly something you can’t say often for handsets at this price point. That’s despite OxygenOS 13 feeling a little more cluttered than earlier versions of the software.

In TechRadar's OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite review, the reviewer criticized its app bloatware, a complaint critics have been leveling against cheap phones since the dawn of time, but usually to little avail – until now. The CE 3 Lite has barely any pre-installed apps that aren’t the default system ones, adding to OxygenOS’ clean feel.

  • Software score: 3.5 / 5

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review: cameras

  • High-res but mid-performance 108MP main sensor
  • Two 2MP auxiliary cameras add nothing
  • Decent 16MP selfie camera

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite on a table

(Image credit: Future)

OnePlus has upgraded its Nord CE main sensor to 108MP in the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite. But that numerical upgrade certainly doesn’t transform this device into a budget camera powerhouse.

Photos taken on this main camera were detailed and often fairly bright, so they’ll be fit for purpose for social media use, although the automatic AI optimization sometimes made questionable decisions in tweaking white balance, so we’d recommend keeping that off. There’s an example of this in the camera samples section below.

You’re not getting as vibrant colors or adept night shooting as on a more premium sensor, but that’s a sacrifice you make by buying a budget smartphone. Snaps are pixel-binned into 12MP shots, to save you from burning through the storage space, but you can get 108MP shots if you want.

Joining the main camera is a 2MP macro camera and another 2MP depth sensor, and these add nothing to the photography experience, as has almost always been the case with budget mobiles that have this duo tacked on.

With no telephoto camera you’re left to rely on digital zoom which loses quality quickly. There’s also no ultra-wide camera, which is a surprise given that the vast majority of budget mobiles come with these.

On the front of the phone is a 16MP f/2.4 selfie camera. Snaps taken on this appear a little naturalistic compared to equivalents on the top-end phones of the day, largely because of the AI processing’s light touch, but depending on your taste you might prefer this look over super-processed selfies.

Video recording on both the front and rear cameras is available at 720p or 1080p, so there’s no 4K recording here. Other modes on offer cover the basics: slow-mo, time-lapse, Pro and macro, as well as the full-resolution main camera mode previously mentioned.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite camera samples

Image 1 of 6

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite camera sample

A church captured on the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite's main camera. (Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 6

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite camera sample

A tennis racquet and balls captured on the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite (Image credit: Future)
Image 3 of 6

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite camera sample

A wider landscape OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite (Image credit: Future)
Image 4 of 6

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite camera sample

A building with a distant skyline captured on the main camera of the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite (Image credit: Future)
Image 5 of 6

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite camera sample

A 3x zoom picture of a building, with AI off, to compare to the next image. (Image credit: Future)
Image 6 of 6

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite camera sample

A 3x zoom picture of a building, with AI on, to compare to the next image. (Image credit: Future)
  • Camera score: 2.5 / 5

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite: performance and audio

  • Snapdragon 695 chip is rather sluggy
  • Phone doesn't manage gaming well at all
  • Lots of space for storage

Powering the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 695 chipset, which can be seen in quite a few budget phones over the last few years. It’s quite an old component and quite a weak chip, not suitable for intensive purposes or power users.

The phone was tested on common games like Call of Duty: Mobile and New State, and found that the chip just couldn’t manage average-intensity titles like these. When playing online, the games would stutter and grind to a halt frequently, which isn’t ideal for competitive online games.

Basic games functioned fine, and if the extent of your gaming passion is the likes of Mini Metro or Candy Crush, you’ll be fine. But don’t expect to use that spacious 6.7-inch screen for shooter action.

There’s at least lots of space on the phone. While the version of the mobile readily accessible online has 128GB storage, there’s a microSDXC card slot to expand that space, perfect for if you save lots of files or like to load your mobile with apps.

There’s a single down-firing speaker on the OnePlus. But music fans will be happy to hear that there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can plug in wired headphones to listen to tunes. There is of course Bluetooth connectivity, with Bluetooth 5.1 on board.

  • Performance score: 2.5 / 5

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review: battery life

  • Big 5,000mAh battery
  • Phone lasts over a day per charge
  • 67W charging gets you to 80% in 30 minutes

The OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite on a table

(Image credit: Future)

If there’s one thing that a budget phone reliably does better than a premium one, it’s its lasting power; cheap phone manufacturers strip out loads of features to cut the handset’s price, but compensate by shoving in a huge battery, leading to a phone that’ll last for ages on a single charge.

That’s certainly the case with the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite – as with most of the other CE models, there’s a chunky 5,000mAh battery here, and it means the device will breeze through a day without needing to be charged.

In fact, even with some heavy use – photo shoots, Netflix binges, the aforementioned failed attempts at gaming – the handset was at no risk of running out of power after a day of use. You’d need to use the phone very sparingly to get it to two, but either way, it’s a reliable device.

The charging speed is 67W, and OnePlus claims that the phone will get from empty to 80% in half an hour. That’s a speed that makes your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy look sluggish.

  • Battery score: 4.5 / 5

Should you buy the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite?

Buy it if...

You want a long-lasting mobile
With a 5,000mAh battery, this mobile will last you for easily a day before you need to charge it, and possibly two days if you're using it sparingly.

You love the headphone jack
OnePlus has opted to keep the 3.5mm headphone jack here, and is generally good at retaining the audio port on its Nord devices.

You want a side-mounted fingerprint scanner
Side-mounted fingerprint scanners are getting rarer on mobiles, even budget ones, despite how easy they are to use. If it's your preferred way of unlocking your phone, the CE 3 Lite is here for you.

Don't buy it if...

You have small hands
With its large display and size, you'll find the Nord CE 3 Lite tough to use if you have small hands, with the screen extremities and fingerprint scanner in particular hard to reach.

You're a mobile gamer
With its Snapdragon 600-series chipset, the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite just isn't a good device for playing action-packed games.

You're a photography fan
You're going to be hard-pressed to take award-winning pictures on a single 108MP rear camera, especially with the phone's questionable AI processing choices.

OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite review: Also consider

As we've mentioned in this review, the low-price Android phone market is a competitive one. Here are some other mobiles you might want to consider:

Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro
With a more powerful chipset, improved main and additional cameras and better-looking screen, Xiaomi has made a fantastic budget mobile here that rivals the OnePlus in terms of price.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite
The CE 3 Lite's predecessor isn't much weaker than the older model, but it's now a little older and therefore cheaper, so it's definitely a good budget alternative. Just be aware you might struggle to find it on sale. 

How I tested the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite

  • Review test period = 2 week
  • Testing included = Everyday usage, including web browsing, social media, photography, video calling, gaming, streaming video, music playback
  • Tools used = Geekbench 5, Geekbench 6, Geekbench ML, GFXBench, native Android stats

I tested the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite in its lovely green model, as you can see from the pictures. And the test unit featured 8GB RAM and 128GB storage space.

Due to receiving the review unit two weeks prior to the testing period, I activated it then to let the battery use settle. This period isn't included in the two-week test period cited above.

Much of the review period saw me using the phone as you would, using it for social media, photography and streaming, and I tried many times to use it for gaming too, though that was never a fun experience.

I used to work full-time for TechRadar both as a writer and editor in the phones team, and so have several years of experience covering phones, tablets and wearables. I've reviewed previous OnePlus phones as well as the plentiful rival budget Chinese phones on the market, so know what's best to compare the Nord to.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed July 2023

OnePlus Open review: the only foldable phone that doesn’t compromise
7:00 pm | October 19, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets OnePlus Phones Phones | Tags: | Comments: Off

OnePlus Open: Two-minute review

OnePlus Open folded shut on a pedestal with sunrise behind

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

The OnePlus Open is the first tablet foldable phone that feels right. All the ‘Folds’ that came before, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and the Pixel Fold most recently, feel wrong. They’re shaped funny when closed: the Galaxy is too narrow; the Pixel too squat. The OnePlus Open gets the shape right, and it's the most important improvement OnePlus could have made to the form factor. If you’re paying twice as much for a phone, you shouldn’t feel like it’s the wrong size half the time. 

Open the OnePlus Open and you’re greeted with a display that is the biggest, brightest, and most satisfying of all the big foldable phones'. You need to look hard to see the crease, and it’s not even noticeable when you touch it. 

Best of all, this phone is easy and inviting to open. The Galaxy can be very stiff at first, and the Pixel Fold never wants to open flat – it requires an awkward second push, and I always felt like I would break my Pixel Fold. The OnePlus Open snaps to attention when I open the hinge. 

Compared to other foldable tablets, the OnePlus Open is just better. It's a better size when it's closed. It’s easier to open. In every way, the Open is a better experience, but OnePlus didn’t stop at the folding hinge. It also added something that no other foldable phone maker has dared: really good cameras. 

On every other foldable phone, the size limitations of the fold-in-half design has resulted in cameras that range from inferior to downright awful. The OnePlus Open has the best cameras of the bunch, and comes close to being as good as the best flat camera phones, closer than any foldable I've used so far.

OnePlus Open camera bump up close

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Of course, this requires a gigantic camera hump around back, and it is a mighty bubble, twice as thick as the biggest camera bump you’ve seen. It’s a worthwhile trade off, though, even if it did make the phone feel awkward in my pocket on occasion. 

Foldable phones can be so versatile when it comes to camera angles, and it’s a shame that the best foldable phones so far haven’t had cameras to match the capabilities. The OnePlus Open mostly fixes that. 

The OnePlus Open is the thinnest foldable phone I’ve seen when it’s closed, and it’s just as thin as the Pixel Fold when open. The OnePlus Open somehow manages to offer larger displays and more battery while remaining lighter than all the rest. 

In fact, it’s much lighter than the Pixel, and that makes a huge difference when you're carrying it around. The OnePlus Open is about the same weight as last year’s iPhone 14 Pro Max. Fitting two displays, a larger battery, and the premium camera bump into a package that's the same weight as last year's best iPhone is an impressive achievement. Titanium makes this year’s iPhone 15 Pro Max lighter, but only slightly. 

Using the OnePlus Open is a joy, thanks to OnePlus’s simple and elegant software design. This phone isn’t as feature-packed as a Galaxy Z Fold 5, and we’re the better for it. OnePlus has made it easy to create a useful home screen, navigate settings and tools, and open multiple windows simultaneously, without needing lengthy tutorials and pop-up reminders to help you discover hidden features. 

OnePlus Open with Pixel Fold and Galaxy Z Fold 4

Pixel Fold (left); OnePlus Open (center); Galaxy Z Fold (right) (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

It isn’t all good news. OnePlus doesn’t prioritize water resistance and durability on its phones, and that gives me serious pause in recommending them. The OnePlus Open is only IPX4 rated, which means that dust and lint could be a problem in the future, and the Open can only handle splashes of water; you can’t let it take a real dip in the pool. It can survive 10 straight minutes in light rain, so the news isn’t dire, but I wish OnePlus would offer nothing less than IP67 resistance against all dust and the occasional dunking. 

The OnePlus Open comes with a simple bumper-frame case in the box. Our OnePlus reps told me to put the case on the phone, and that isn’t a request that I usually get from most phone makers during a review. I used it occasionally because it was light and unobtrusive, but the phone is much prettier without the case. I mostly took the risk without the bumper, but it's always better to be safe than sorry.

I’m not going back to my flat phone ... after this review is over. I won't stop using this Open

The OnePlus Open costs $1,699 / £1,599, and in the US OnePlus has a trade-in deal that will effectively drop the price by at least $200 for everyone, no matter what phone you trade. This deal will be available throughout the phone's lifespan, according to OnePlus, and that makes the OnePlus Open the most affordable big foldable phone to hit the US market, at least.

It’s still admittedly expensive. OnePlus isn’t selling the OnePlus Open through wireless carriers, which means you won’t be able to sign your life away for a sweet deal on a multi-year contract to get this phone for free. 

The phone is certified for all the major carrier networks, it just won't be sold at those stores. You can buy it from OnePlus directly or from a major online retailer in your area, like Amazon and BestBuy in the US.

The OnePlus Open is also the first big foldable that’s really worth it. If you were set on a foldable before, I could recommend the best, but I never wanted to use one myself because of all the compromises. The Open doesn’t just fix the mistakes of every big foldable phone that came before, it also breaks new ground with a larger display and much better cameras. I’m not going back to my flat phone, a Galaxy S23 Ultra, after this review is over. I won't stop using this Open. 

OnePlus Open review: Price and availability

OnePlus Open half open reflecting sunrise

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
  • $1,699 / £1,599 at launch for 512GB / 16GB model
  • At least $200 trade-in offer for any phone in any condition in US
  • Available from OnePlus, BestBuy and Amazon, but no carriers are selling it

While waiting for OnePlus to tell us the price of this phone, I played a game with fellow tech journalists to guess what it would cost. I guessed $1,499, while my colleagues guessed far too low. 

OnePlus is known for shocking the market with bargain pricing on almost-flagship-quality devices, and everybody wants a big foldable phone that costs under $1,000 / £1,000, but these phones still haven’t achieved the volume that will make their fancy folding components affordable. I'm amazed that OnePlus can offer a phone with these features at such a low price, including the trade-in offer. 

The price is $1,699 / £1,599 – OnePlus has yet to tell us if or when the Open will be released in Australia – but my guess was still right on the money, because OnePlus says it will offer a deal for the full life of this phone that gives you at least $200 off if you trade in any phone. 

That’s any phone in any condition, and I take OnePlus at its word, because it really just wants to hand you a coupon, but offering a discount for a trade feels more high-end. You can get up to $1,000 off with a top trade, although nobody will be trading an iPhone 14 Pro Max for this phone, even if it is the same weight.

In the UK, customers who pre-order the OnePlus One will get a free pair of OnePlus Buds Pro 2, and when it goes on sale buyers will receive discounts on various other OnePlus devices.

OnePlus Open with OnePlus 11, OnePlus Pad, and OnePlus Buds Pro 2 all in matching green

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

It’s still expensive. You can get two or more OnePlus 11 phones for the same price. Is it worth twice what a normal phone costs? The external display on the OnePlus Open is larger than an iPhone 15's, and the internal display is nearly as big as an iPad mini. It truly delivers on giving you a two-in-one experience, and if you bought both of those Apple devices separately, with the same amount of storage on board, you’d be paying more than you’ll pay for a OnePlus Open. 

There's only one storage option for the OnePlus Open: 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM, making it the top-spec foldable for memory and the best buy for storage. It comes in Emerald Dusk green and Voyager Black, and oddly the two colors result in phones with different weights, because the Voyager Black uses vegan leather on the back (nicely textured plastic) instead of heavier glass. 

I like that black finish quite a bit, but I’ve built a collection of green OnePlus products this year, with my OnePlus Pad and OnePlus Buds Pro 2, so I'm glad that my review model is matchy-matchy. In fact, it’s nice to see OnePlus offer consistent colors for fans to collect, especially in this great green hue; even Samsung, with its product synergy, hasn't offered one unique color across all device categories. 

  • Value score:  4 / 5

OnePlus Open review: Specs

Here are the specs for the OnePlus Open, including the internal and external displays, and all of the cameras:

OnePlus Open review: Design

OnePlus Open camera bump closeup showing lenses

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
  • Thinnest and lightest foldable you can buy (in most markets)
  • Larger displays compared to Samsung and Google
  • Crease is nearly invisible and barely tactile

What is the ideal size for a tablet foldable? It would be exactly the same size as a normal smartphone when it’s closed, and the same size as a mini tablet when it’s open – and of all the foldable phones I’ve seen, the OnePlus Open comes closest to achieving this ideal.

Most importantly, the aspect ratio of the cover display is almost identical to those of the best phones on the market. An iPhone has a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. The OnePlus Open has a 20:9 aspect ratio. It doesn’t look too thin, like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5, and every other 'Galaxy Fold' Samsung has made, and it doesn’t look too squat and wide like the Pixel Fold. No one would know you were holding a foldable phone if they didn’t see it from the side. 

The OnePlus Open is admittedly thick when closed, and I tried to recall the last time I’ve owned a flat phone that was this thick. The iPhone 3GS from 2009 was just as thick as the OnePlus Open, at about 12mm when closed. The iPhone 4 shrank considerably, and that phone sparked the revolution of thin phones with metal frames and glass on the front and back.

OnePlus Open with OnePlus 11 on top focusing on camera bumps

The camera bump on the OnePlus 11 (top) compared to the mound on the OnePlus Open (bottom) (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Will foldable phones get thinner than this? The Honor Magic Vs2 is already 1mm thinner than the OnePlus Open, so yes, of course they will. The thickness of the OnePlus Open, especially at its big camera bump, is the foldable’s biggest shortcoming against the best flat phones. But, if you're going to make good use the big internal screen (and you definitely will), the thickness is a fair trade. 

That bump, though. If you think you’ve seen a big camera bump before, get ready. The camera circle on the OnePlus 11 is prominent, though not unattractive. The camera mound on the OnePlus Open is more of a hillock, with no sweeping, k-shaped metal to round out the design. It floats near the top of the back like a giant, glaring eye. 

Also, I could definitely feel it in my pocket, and I preferred to wear the phone lens-side out from my butt. It’s not a huge problem; it’s just a huge camera bump. To get premium cameras on a foldable phone, especially compared to the sub-par cameras we’ve seen on past foldables that cost a lot more than the Open, I’ll accept the bump. 

When you open the Open you see a fantastic internal display. There is a crease, but it's barely visible – I often had to tilt the phone for the light to catch the crease properly to show it to onlookers. If you run your finger back and forth over the crease slowly, you can’t feel it, but if you flick quickly you can perceive the slight dip.

OnePlus Open open with close up on crease in display

If you can't see the crease, is it really there? (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

The hinge on the OnePlus Open is satisfying and eager. The Galaxy Z Fold 5 is a bit stiff and takes some effort to open, while the Pixel Fold is a total disaster: the hinge opens most of the way, but you need to give an extra push to force the phone flat. It’s very off-putting. 

The OnePlus Open, on the other hand, feels like it wants to be open just as much as it wants to be closed. There's no barrier keeping you from using the phone however you’d like, unlike those other large foldable phones. 

The fingerprint scanner on the OnePlus Open is on the power button, and OnePlus uses great fingerprint tech, so it worked well every time I used it. The phone also has a good face unlock, and that’s usually how I unlocked the phone. 

There's also a three-stop mute switch on the OnePlus Open, a standard on almost all OnePlus flagship phones (and a now-abandoned feature on the iPhone Pro models). You can go from full mute to vibrate to sound-on with a quick flick. If you’re someone who finds themselves in theaters and meetings often, a mute switch is a great feature to have. 

The two color options are both worth considering. The black ‘vegan’ leather (aka plastic) is actually very nicely textured and looks classy. My review unit in green fits in splendidly with all the other green OnePlus gear I’ve been happily collecting this year. The company has had a banner year, and every flagship product it’s launched is worth a look.

  • Design score:  5 / 5

OnePlus Open review: Display

OnePlus Open with Genshin Impact game opening screen on inner display

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
  • 6.3-inch cover display is larger than the iPhone 15's
  • 7.82-inch inner display is a half-inch smaller than an iPad mini
  • Both screens are super-bright, with variable refresh to 120Hz

The two displays on the OnePlus Open are a marvel to behold, and both of them are just as good as the flagship phone or tablet they’ll replace in your collection. The cover display is 6.3 inches, with LTPO 3.0 technology that can slow down to 10Hz for a low-power, always-on mode. The inner display is a huge 7.82-inch screen that has almost the same screen area as an iPad Mini (2021). It can slow down to 1Hz, and both screens can refresh up to 120Hz. 

Just as it did with the OnePlus Pad, the company continues to find the best displays for its devices, with superior brightness levels that trounce the competition. The Pixel Fold can reach peak brightness levels of 1,450 nits, for when the sun is shining directly on it. The OnePlus Open, on the other hand, can easily hit the same brightness in normal use, and peaks at a brilliant 2,800 nits. Even Google’s impressively bright new Pixel 8 Pro can only peak at 2,400 nits. 

In terms of screen area, you really are getting more with the OnePlus Open than you would with the Pixel Fold or Galaxy Z Fold 5. The competitor phones may advertise a 7.6-inch screen, which doesn’t sound like it’s much smaller, but that’s a diagonal measurement, and the diagonal doesn’t tell us anything useful about screen size.

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OnePlus Open standing up next to an iPhone 15 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Here is the OnePlus Open, folded shut, next to an iPhone 15 Pro Max. 

Image 2 of 2

OnePlus Open standing up next to an iPhone 15 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Here is the OnePlus Open with the inner display unfolded next to an iPhone 15 Pro Max.

The Pixel Fold and Galaxy Z Fold 5 actually give you around 28.4 square inches of screen real estate inside. The OnePlus Open gives you 30.4 square inches. That’s two square inches more, not just 0.22-inches measuring the diagonal. Does it feel like a lot? Not really; those other phones already felt big. Combined with the much better external display, though, the extra space on the OnePlus Open's inner screen feels like a nice bonus. 

The external display on the OnePlus Open is the biggest difference, even though the diagonal measurement tells a misleading story. Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 5 has a 6.2-inch external display, but it’s very tall and narrow, and it’s not much fun to use. The OnePlus Open has a 6.31-inch external display, so is it really much bigger? Oh yeah, it’s much bigger. 

The iPhone 15 display gives you around 14.15 inches of screen space in square inches. The OnePlus Open’s external display is even bigger, giving you 14.9 square inches. The Galaxy Z Fold 5? That's almost two square inches smaller than the OnePlus, and more than an inch less space than the iPhone 15. Samsung’s most expensive phone doesn’t even give you as much external screen space as Apple’s base model iPhone, unless you unfold the Galaxy.

  • Display score:  5 / 5

OnePlus Open review: Software

OnePlus Open home screen arrangement screen with wallpapers icons and widgets options

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
  • Elegant interface doesn’t get in the way
  • Not feature-packed like Samsung, for better and for worse
  • Nice synergy with OnePlus Pad

The OnePlus Oxygen OS interface on the OnePlus Open is clean and elegant, closer to Google’s Pixel version of Android than Samsung’s One UI interface. If that doesn’t mean much to you, just know that it’s easy to set up and use the Open, and there are no unexpected glitches or unforced errors. 

For instance, you can start an app with the phone closed and then open the phone, and it's no problem for the OnePlus Open. On the Pixel Fold, this often causes problems, but on the Open it just works; in fact, apps look great on both the smaller and larger displays, unlike the Pixel, which has trouble displaying apps properly.

On the other hand, Samsung fans hold a shotgun of features ready to blast at any competitor, and a few of these can be undeniably useful. You can’t turn the OnePlus Open into a desktop computer like you can with Samsung’s DeX software. You won’t have a second virtual assistant like Bixby ready to manage all of your phone settings. You can’t use a precise pen on the Open’s display. I could go on and on.

OnePlus Open wallpaper settings screens with Live and Static wallpaper options

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

That said, there’s nothing missing here. Everything you’d expect to find on a good tablet foldable is here. You can run apps side-by-side easily by swiping at the edges of the screen. You can have apps in smaller pop-up windows on top of larger apps. 

It’s very unfussy and easy to manage. The OnePlus Open isn’t quite as feature-packed as the Galaxy Z Fold 5, but you also don’t get endless layers of menus and options accompanying each feature. 

OnePlus also deserves credit for building out its own product ecosystem, and since the OnePlus Pad is actually an excellent tablet, I should mention that it has special features that work with other OnePlus phones like the OnePlus Open. The devices will automatically connect and start sharing things like photos or anything you copy or cut into the clipboard. Copy an image on one device and it immediately appears on the other. Samsung and Apple have similar features, more advanced even, and it’s always nice to see a mobile maker reward its fans. 

  • Software score:  4 / 5

Google Pixel 8 Pro review: Cameras

OnePlus Open camera lenses showing texture

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
  • Excellent cameras beat all other foldable phones
  • Not quite as good as the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but close
  • Image quality is good, but the camera software needs help

It’s hard to stick a good camera into a foldable phone. A foldable phone has less depth to accommodate the camera, and cameras need depth in their design in order to take great photos. OnePlus is using a new type of stacked sensor from Sony, and on paper it looks set to match or beat the OnePlus 11, which is a very good camera phone for taking cool and artsy photos. 

Have I mentioned that the camera bump is big? I have? I'll move on, then. There are a lot of shooting modes on the OnePlus Open, maybe too many. I’m not sure that most folks will understand all the different options offered by Long Exposure, Slo-Mo, and Time-Lapse, let alone the more enigmatic XPAN and Movie modes, which are separate from basic Video.

OnePlus Open with camera app open pointed at bridge during sunrise

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

There’s also an Action mode that's separated from the other camera modes, and I’m not sure what it does, because I don’t see enough action to use it. Sometimes, a small circular button like a waning crescent moon would pop up on screen, and I could activate or deactivate some feature by tapping it, but I was never sure what effect it actually had.

A dive into the settings doesn’t help much. There aren’t tutorials for all of the features, and you don’t get all the settings you might expect. I couldn’t manually adjust the resolution of my photos, for instance, aside from choosing to use a 10-bit color mode that stores photos in a different format to save space. Does that count? I’m not really sure.

OnePlus Open camera image samples taken in New York CIty

A long exposure sample from the OnePlus Open camera (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

I also wish the OnePlus Open did a lot more to take advantage of its foldable design, photography-wise. You can swap the viewfinder to the smaller display while the phone is unfolded, and this way you can see yourself on the display while you take a selfie with the higher-quality main camera, instead of the 20MP selfie camera. 

On a clamshell foldable like the Motorola Razr Ultra, you’ll find a lot more tricks to make this experience fun when you use the camera with crowds. You’ll find funny faces on the external display that make kids smile, or cool angles you can set up with the camera. That isn’t the case on the OnePlus Open. You get a much better camera than on other foldables, but it doesn’t benefit from being a foldable camera phone as much as I’d like.

OnePlus Open camera samples

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OnePlus Open camera image samples taken in New York CIty

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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OnePlus Open camera image samples taken in New York CIty

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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OnePlus Open camera image samples taken in New York CIty

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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OnePlus Open camera image samples taken in New York CIty

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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OnePlus Open camera image samples taken in New York CIty

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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OnePlus Open camera image samples taken in New York CIty

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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OnePlus Open camera image samples taken in New York CIty

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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OnePlus Open camera image samples taken in New York CIty

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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OnePlus Open camera image samples taken in New York CIty

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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OnePlus Open camera image samples taken in New York CIty

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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OnePlus Open camera image samples taken in New York CIty

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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OnePlus Open camera image samples taken in New York CIty

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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OnePlus Open camera image samples taken in New York CIty

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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OnePlus Open camera image samples taken in New York CIty

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

In this sample, the iPhone 15 Pro Max gave me disappointing color results compared to the OnePlus Open. The flag is supposed to be red, white, and blue, not orange.

Here is the 5X zoom on the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the enhanced 6X digital zoom on the OnePlus Open. The iPhone gives you more details, but also more noise. The OnePlus effect is pleasant, but it can cause problems, as you'll see. 

Here's an extreme close-up at the edge of zoom range for the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the OnePlus Open. As you can see, both photos are terrible in their own way. The iPhone looks like a grainy photo, though, while the OnePlus made a pretty painting. 

  • Camera score:  4 / 5

Google Pixel 8 Pro review: Performance

OnePlus Open with Marvel Snap game welcome screen on inner display

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
  • Speedy performance matches the best Androids
  • Still can’t beat the iPhone 15
  • Phone ran smoothly but games stuttered

The OnePlus Open uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, making it the last major phone this year to launch with Qualcomm’s best Snapdragon. There’s equilibrium to that, as the OnePlus 11 was the first phone to launch with this chipset, even before the Galaxy S23 series earlier this year. OnePlus has bookended its year with the same Snapdragon. 

Of course, that means its performance won’t reign as champ for long, and Qualcomm has its Snapdragon summit coming up, at which a new chip is expected. The OnePlus Open is certainly fast, but it isn’t the fastest phone around, and faster phones are coming. 

Running the interface was nice and smooth, even on the transitions between the internal and external display. Whether I was switching screens while using an app to get a better view, or changing viewfinders on the camera so I could take a better selfie, there was never a hitch swapping views on the OnePlus Open. 

OnePlus Open closed on a pedestal during sunrise

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

When I tried playing the most graphically intensive titles, the phone did stumble a bit compared to the best-performing Android phones on the market, like the Galaxy S23 Ultra. I never lost because of bad performance, but I saw some jumps and starts, especially on load screens. I have no complaints, but it’s fair to expect more. 

The iPhone 15 gives you more performance, because Apple’s chips are much more powerful than the current Snapdragon generation. That means even the iPad mini, with its older A15 Bionic chip, is as fast as the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. If you’re thinking of buying the OnePlus Open to replace an iPhone plus an iPad mini, you’re getting better performance from Apple’s devices. 

Performance impact aside, I still reached for the OnePlus Open to play games over any other phone I had on hand. Playing on the big internal display is delightful, and adds a new level of immersion to mobile games. The most graphically intensive games, like Genshin Impact, could run without much trouble on the OnePlus Open, and having the much larger display made it easier to control my character and read the tiny text on screen.

  • Performance score:  4 / 5

OnePlus Open review: Battery life

OnePlus Open in protective bumper

This protective bumper comes with the OnePlus Open in the box (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
  • Battery life is better than most foldables, still not the best
  • Fast charging speeds are great if you need them
  • This is the only compromise left

The OnePlus Open could last through a full day if I was judicious with my usage. If I opened the big screen and played a lot of battery-hogging mobile games, then of course I drained the battery faster. OnePlus has some innovative ways to add more power, but there’s only so much it can do without making the device much larger. 

Normally, a flagship smartphone this size would come with a battery around 5,000mAh, but the OnePlus Open uses two cells that add up to 4,805mAh, so a bit smaller. Having two batteries doesn’t just help with the foldable design; it also allows the phone to use OnePlus’s faster SUPERVOOC charging, with speeds up to 67 watts.

OnePlus Open with on the web browser

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

The iPhone 15 Pro can only charge at under 30W, and more power definitely means faster charge times. You can easily charge the OnePlus Open to full in around 30 minutes. 

Sadly, there are no wireless charging features on the OnePlus Open. For some buyers this isn’t a big deal, but for other folks this is a total dealbreaker. I get it – you’ve grown accustomed to your wireless lifestyle. You charge your phone in your car and on the many expensive charging pads you’ve purchased. Sorry, we told OnePlus this was important, but they wanted to save space (and probably some money, too).

  • Battery score:  3 / 5

Should you buy the OnePlus Open?

Buy it if...

You want a phone and a tablet in one
That’s it – that’s the pitch, and no other tablet foldable has truly delivered on the phone part of that bargain as well as the OnePlus Open.

You were considering a foldable, but the cameras…
Whenever we review a foldable phone we lament the terrible cameras. Not this time. If bad cameras were holding you back, cut loose and buy the OnePlus Open.

You really like the color green
There are better reasons to buy the OnePlus Open, but I have to give OnePlus credit for a matching lineup of products this year that all work nicely together. Showing unified thinking across categories gives me more confidence recommending the brand.

Don't buy it if...

You don’t really want a phone and a tablet
If you just want the absolute-best phone, you can find faster, better cameras, better battery, and more features. You just can’t find a better two-in-one.

Cameras are the most important things
The OnePlus Open has better cameras than any foldable we’ve seen before, but you can find more versatile cameras on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, and a much easier camera experience on the iPhone 15. 

All your stuff is Apple or Samsung:
While the OnePlus Open works well with a OnePlus Pad, both Samsung and Apple have better cross-device features for sharing and more – you can even move a mouse pointer straight from your Galaxy tablet to your Galaxy phone screen.

OnePlus Open review: Also consider

If you’re not convinced that the OnePlus Open is the right tablet foldable for you, or you want to check out a phone that does a little more, here are some options:

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 gives you so many more features it’s impossible to count. Most importantly, it’s water-resistant and dust-proof. It can run like a desktop computer. It uses the S Pen. The list is endless.

Google Pixel Fold
While the Pixel Fold doesn’t have the best performance or design, it has what no other foldable has: Google power. The Fold is the best device for taking advantage of the Tensor G2 chip’s exclusive machine learning features, including the new dual-screen translator that Google rolled out recently.

How I tested the OnePlus Open

OnePlus invited me to a day-long summit to learn about the OnePlus Open, and I left with a review unit. We had an opportunity to take photos around New York City, but in the weeks since I received the device OnePlus has updated the software multiple times, especially the image processing.

Photos have definitely improved since I received my review phone, but OnePlus told me to expect another software update before this review was published which didn't materialize. It’s therefore possible that image quality may change and improve, in which case I will revisit this review (and remove this paragraph). 

I used the OnePlus Open as my primary work phone during my review period, so I used it for all of my work communications, scheduling, and calls, especially video calls on the go. I listened to music and played games with the phone as well. 

I tested the camera using mostly the primary photo and video modes, with some venturing into the other camera modes. I used the camera during the day and at night, at home and while traveling, and for sharing as well as scanning documents. 

I used benchmarking software to compare the OnePlus Open to other phones I've tested, but I report my experience in real-world usage terms and not benchmark results. For battery testing, I drained the phone as much as possible and recorded my battery percentage at the end of the day, as well as my screen time and other usage notes.

I tested the OnePlus Open with a variety of accessories, as well as with the Android Auto system on my Honda. I used it with many of this year’s OnePlus devices, including the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 and the OnePlus Pad, as well as Google Pixel Buds Pro, an Xbox game controller, and other audio accessories. Read more about how we test

First reviewed October 2023

Google Pixel 8 Pro review – making more out of your phone
6:20 pm | October 4, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Google Pixel Phones Phones | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Google Pixel 8 Pro: Two-minute review

The Pixel 8 Pro is a sleek update to Google’s venerable Pixel lineup, and while I’ll be ready for a new look and feel next year, I’m happy to report that this is Google's best-looking Pixel yet.

This is also Google’s most ambitious Pixel yet, with some serious camera upgrades that will satisfy even pro photogs, and a Tensor G3 chipset custom built to run Google’s machine learning features. Google is so confident in this phone’s performance that it is promising an unprecedented seven years of major updates, longer than any other phone maker supports its phones, currently. 

That said, this is a very, very odd device. If Google had simply released a generic smartphone with the Pixel 8 Pro’s cameras, display and design, it would have had a simple winner, capable of making an argument against not-quite-flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus or the Apple iPhone 15 Pro. Instead, Google is pushing deep into machine learning territory with generative AI features that will offer new experiences on your phone.

Some of these, like the amazing new call-screening assistant, work wonderfully, and are set to become an enduring part of our smartphone experience. Others, like the new photo editing features, border on frightening. Most, like AI wallpaper, seem like simple distractions and additions that could have been an app you download, but instead are now part of the Android-on-Pixel experience.

Pixel 8 Pro showing call screening

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

This is a decidedly Android phone, for better but mostly, these days, for worse. It’s a confusing mess. You’re faced with setup screens that never seem to end, notifications that never seem to disappear, and Settings menus that are layered deep enough to strike magma. 

The good news is that Google has plenty of time to fix Android, and if it does so Pixel 8 Pro owners will benefit from those improvements for seven years, if Google lives up to its promise. 

This is very good news indeed. In fact, it’s some of the best news I’ve heard from the Android camp in quite some time. If Google really delivers on seven years of major OS upgrades, Pixel feature drops, and Security updates, the Pixel 8 Pro will be the first Android phone to beat Apple in terms of longevity.

Will the Pixel 8 Pro be worth owning in seven years? Decidedly not, not if you’re buying one today. But, when it comes time to sell your Pixel 8 Pro in a year or two, the person you sell it to will know they aren’t buying an unsupported lemon. They’re buying a phone that could last them, and possibly someone else after them, for years. 

If you’re firmly encamped with Google on Android territory, the Pixel 8 Pro is a great choice for your next phone. Software-wise, Google has a lot of catching up to do against iOS 17 before I’d recommend buying it over the iPhone 15 Pro, but Google’s phone is fun and unique enough that I’d consider this phone if you can’t spring for a truly fancy foldable or the mighty Galaxy S23 Ultra

Of course, the real fun begins when Google starts slashing prices, and it can be liberal with discounts, especially around the sales season. More than with any other brand, I recommend waiting for a deal when you’re considering a Pixel phone, because as good as the phone is now, it feels like an even better buy for a few hundred dollars or pounds less. 

Google Pixel 8 Pro review: Price and availability

Google Pixel 8 Pro flat on a table

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
  • Starts at $999 /  £999 / AU$1,699 for 128GB storage
  • Available with up to 1TB of storage in the US, 512GB globally
  • Costs $100 / £150 / AU$400 more than the 128GB Pixel 7 Pro

The Pixel 7 Pro costs a bit more than last year’s model, when I was expecting that Google would drop the price. That’s because, frankly, the Pixel 7 Pro didn’t age very well in terms of performance and value, and rumors suggested that the Pixel 8 Pro wouldn’t offer much benefit over its predecessor. However, as it turns out there’s much more value to be found in the Pixel 8 Pro, and it holds up nicely against competitors in its price range. 

The most promising way Google has added value to the Pixel 8 Pro is with its promise to support the phone for seven years of major software upgrades, security updates, and Pixel feature drops. Android phones have traditionally been lacking in terms of longevity and long-term value, and no Android phone maker has ever offered this level of long-term support. Even Apple stops supporting iPhones with new OS upgrades after about five years. 

The Pixel 8 Pro doesn’t have the best performance, so its prospects as a long-term device are questionable, but at least we know Google won’t ignore it and let it rot on the vine. 

Of course, you probably won’t keep your phone for seven years, but when it comes time to trade or sell it, it should hold its value better because of Google’s support commitment. Time will tell; and there are other reasons why this phone is worth more than last year’s model. 

The Pixel 8 Pro has a fantastic display, brighter and sharper than those on the iPhone 15 Pro Max and Galaxy S23 Plus. The phone also has the largest battery of the bunch, and battery life lived up to Google's promises during my review period. 

The cameras are better in many ways, but the specs can get a bit esoteric and hard to explain. Needless to say, they take much better photos than before, and the new AI editing tools are incredibly impressive. Scary, impressive, and I mean that sincerely.

If you have this much to spend, I’d still recommend the iPhone 15 Pro; not for the cameras or the hardware, but because iOS 17 is leaps and bounds ahead of Android 14. Apple’s software experience isn’t just simplified, it’s elegant and polished. Android has gotten unwieldy again, and it’s hard to recommend even the best Android phone over a comparable iPhone. 

That said, the Pixel 8 Pro offers great value against the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus, although if you can spend more (or get a great contract deal), both Samsung and Apple have even fancier phones with more cameras to sell you, while Google hits its ceiling with the 8 Pro.

  • Value score:  4 / 5

Google Pixel 8 Pro review: Specs

Check out the Google Pixel 8 Pro's full specs below:

Google Pixel 8 Pro review: Design

Google Pixel 8 Pro back in porcelain in front of animal print

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
  • Yup, it still looks like the Pixel 6
  • Matte finish and nice color choices add some class
  • Is this how every Pixel is going to look in the future?

What is there to say about a phone design that has barely changed in three years? Like this year’s iPhone 15 series, the Pixel 8 Pro is a bit more curvy than last year, with new colors and a matte finish. It is decidedly nicer than last year’s model, if you care about the fine details, which I do. 

The Pixel 8 Pro is more rounded on the corners, and more flat on the display. This makes the phone easier to hold, while also giving you a better view of your content. The finish is lovely, and the colors are more classy and inviting than unusual and modern. Most folks love the Bay blue best, but I’m into these cream-colored phones this year, so I asked for a Porcelain sample from Google for my review. 

This is the nicest Pixel phone Google has made so far, which is good because it has largely made the same phone three times now, with two more A-series models in between. I feel like these refinements could have come last year, and this year we could be looking at something even more evolved.

Google Pixel 8 Pro camera bump

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

I don’t mind the Google Pixel camera bump. It adds a distinct touch of flair, and on my Porcelain model it has the slightest golden hue that gives it a nice glint in the sun. It’s a very pretty phone, especially if you’ve never held a Pixel before. 

If you are a Pixel owner, especially if you own an older Pixel, you’re probably eyeing this phone for an upgrade. It’s too bad that Pixel 6 owners, ready to upgrade now, have only this slightly refreshed-looking version of their older phone to buy. I’d like to see something more novel next year, especially if the Pixel remains at this higher price level, on par with the titanium iPhone 15. 

  • Design score:  4 / 5

Google Pixel 8 Pro review: Display

Google Pixel 8 Pro AI wallpaper bicycle

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
  • The standout feature – it’s brighter and sharper than before
  • Even brighter and sharper than the iPhone 15 Pro Max
  • Slightly thicker bezel than the iPhone

The Pixel 8 Pro display is a standout feature this year, and Google has even endowed it with its own branding: Super Actua. The Pixel 8 is plain old Actua, you see. In practical terms, it seems this refers to the display’s brightness, because it is incredibly bright. The Pixel 8 Pro can reach 2,400 nits at peak brightness, and still pumps out 1,600 nits when you aren’t in direct sunlight. 

In almost every way, the Pixel 8 Pro display beats that of the iPhone 15 Pro Max. In terms of brightness, total resolution, and sharpness (pixel density), the Pixel has the better screen. Side by side, it was much harder to see a difference, though the Pixel was definitely brighter in some cases, especially when viewing a purely white subject. 

That’s when I had the Pixel display set to the more vivid ‘Adaptive’ mode, which the iPhone lacks. When I set the Pixel display settings to the ‘Natural’ screen color mode, I got colors and brightness levels that looked much more like I’m used to seeing on an iPhone.

The bezel on the Pixel 8 Pro is just a hair thicker compared to the iPhone 15 Pro Max bezel, but the smaller punch-hole camera is much less intrusive than Apple’s Dynamic Island, no matter how much Apple makes it dance and sing. 

  • Display score:  5 / 5

Google Pixel 8 Pro review: Software

Google Pixel 8 Pro AI wallpaper settings

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
  • Great call screening feature is useful and natural
  • Many features are missing at launch
  • Some important features are hard to find

There are a few bright spots in the Pixel 8 Pro’s software improvements, couched in the machine learning and AI direction that Google is taking. The new call screening feature works impeccably well. I tried calling my Pixel 8 Pro from another number and the voice sounded natural, if a bit too casual, but that’s a good problem. Better a casual robot screening my calls than a stilted digital voice. 

The new AI wallpaper is surprisingly interesting. It seems limited at first, since it isn’t actually a free-for-all generative AI creating images. Instead, it gives you a MadLibs-like selection of categories and prompts. You might choose an ‘Imaginary’ scene of ‘A surreal bicycle made of flowers in shades of pink and purple.’ The bicycle, flowers, and color options are all part of a multiple choice menu. Instead of a bicycle, I might have chosen a boat, a lamp, a lighthouse, or a UFO.

There are 12 options for objects; 30 different material choices, including flowers, fleece, and rhodochrosite (a crystalline mineral); and seven different color combinations. The AI offered me three different fleece lighthouses in coral and tan. By my math, that means the Imaginary category alone can create around 7,500 wallpapers. There are 12 categories, including Imaginary, X-ray, and Volcanic. 

Is it a gimmick? No, but it feels like something a really good third-party app could pull off just as well, maybe with even more options. It is generative AI, after all, so the sky's the limit, and then whatever the computer decides comes after sky. The bottom line is that the wallpapers were pretty, and cool, and unique, and fun to play with. So that’s a win.

Pixel 8 Pro settings control panel

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

On the Pixel 8 Pro web page, Google says you can “personalize your experience with AI wallpaper,” and that is the heart of the problem that I have with much of Google’s software on the Pixel 8 Pro. I’ve used AI to create a wallpaper, but is it personalized? I chose some options, and swiped through the results. Who is this person? 

Google describes its machine language features as if they are created by a real human being disturbingly often. When the machine does the creation, there is no person involved, and there is no experience for a human. When I use Google’s software to write a whole email, or create a group photo that never existed, am I personalizing that email? Have I personalized that photo?

No, I’m using a machine as a tool to help me create or complete a task. And that’s great! That’s useful! But that is not how Google is positioning the Pixel 8 Pro and all of its new AI features. Google is not saying ‘you can create an image,’; it’s saying you can ‘combine’ photos, or ‘reimagine’ photos. There is something missing in that explanation, and it feels like what’s missing is honesty.

The photo-faking tools aren’t the only AI issues I have. Google is pushing the Pixel 8 Pro’s ability to read and summarize web pages for you. That feature will soon come to its Recorder app, so its AI will summarize your past conversations, or lectures you couldn’t attend, perhaps.

Google Pixel 8 Pro Google Assistant failing to summarize

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

I tried the summarization feature on a story I wrote about taking a family photo at home. Google’s summary got very basic facts wrong. It said that my family visited a photo studio, even though I never mentioned a photo studio, and in fact I explicitly say that my dad hired a professional photographer to come to our house. If I can’t trust a summarization feature the first time I use it, I will never trust it again. 

Many of the other new features are simply hard to find. Google’s new call screening feature is great, but it’s hidden under a submenu that you can only find if you open the Phone app; it’s nowhere to be found under the Settings menu.

Even worse, Google has had a Safety Check In feature on its Pixel phones for years, similar to the new Check In feature that I love on iOS 17. Google’s own site gives instructions for the ‘Personal Safety’ app, but my phone doesn’t have an app called Personal Safety. It’s just called Safety, which sounds like it could be a software security suite, or a health and readiness app. It could be an app for the Boy Scouts, for all it stands out. 

I’ll stop complaining, because I’ve run out of features to complain about. See, Google is launching the Pixel 8 Pro without a number of key features ready to go. The camera will get Zoom Enhance, Video Boost, and Night Sight video features, after images have been uploaded to Google’s cloud services for Google to work its magic off-device. Recorder summaries are also coming, as well as the smart reply feature, though I’m skeptical of those AI features, as I’ve made clear. 

  • Software score:  3 / 5

Google Pixel 8 Pro review: Cameras

Google Pixel 8 Pro camera module up close

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
  • Great photos with improved macro quality
  • Upgrades on every camera, especially telephoto
  • Not as good at night shots as the iPhone 15 Pro

The main camera on the Pixel 8 Pro is considerably better than the camera on the Pixel 7 Pro, but the improvements can be hard to explain.

The lens on the camera has a f/1.65 aperture, which is wider than the f/1.9 aperture in last year’s lens, and while the number is lower, a wider aperture is better because it lets in more light, and the improvement is exponential and not linear.

The f/1.65 lens on the Pixel 8 Pro is an amazIng feat, while the f/1.9 aperture on last year’s Pixel 7 Pro was a thoroughly unimpressive spec. See, the numbers are confusing, and it’s just not an easy spec to boast about. The iPhone 15 Pro uses an f/1.8 lens on its main camera, which won’t let as much light through, but of course there are plenty of other factors to consider. 

Compared to my iPhone 15 Pro Max, some photos looked better when shot with the Pixel 8 Pro, but others, especially night pics and low-light images, looked better taken with the iPhone. That’s surprising, but there are still some reasons for Google to brag. 

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Macro photo taken with Google Pixel 8 Pro showing close up fine details

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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Macro photo taken with Google Pixel 8 Pro showing close up fine details

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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Macro photo taken with Google Pixel 8 Pro showing close up fine details

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Macro photography is better on the Pixel 8 Pro than on the iPhone, and even if you aren’t going for a macro look you can still get closer to your subject with the Pixel. The Pixel 8 Pro also handled food photos much better than the iPhone. That natural look the iPhone tends towards can make dishes look unappetizing in bad lighting. It’s better to have a camera that can do some enhancements. 

Speaking of enhancements, not all of the enhancements coming to the Pixel 8 Pro are ready yet. The Night Sight video enhancement will eventually upload and improve your night-time videos, but it’s not here yet. Neither is the zoom enhancement for the telephoto and main cameras. Those features will presumably come in a feature drop, hopefully before the end of the year. 

Once you’ve taken your photos, it’s off to Google Photos to edit them, and Google Photos on the Pixel 8 family is a special app. It has features you won’t find on other Pixel phones, Android phones, iPhones, or even on the desktop.

Google Pixel 8 Pro magic editor

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

We’ve seen Magic Eraser before, but Google is taking this functionality to a new level with Magic Editor. When you launch Magic Editor by tapping the enticing, colorful button, Google opens a new suite of generative AI tools to help you fake your shots like a pro. You can still erase, and here Google does a much better job of creating a background to replace what’s now missing. 

You can also easily manipulate objects in your photo. You can move things around, make things larger or smaller, and generally make the image look completely different. If you stop talking to somebody, you can cut them out of the group photo. If you want to say you caught a bigger fish, you can just grab the fish in the photo and spread your fingers to make it grow. Reality doesn’t matter, as long as you have the right tools. 

While the results can be somewhat creepy and uncanny, they aren’t flawless. I erased tourists from a shot of the Statue of Liberty, as an example, and it’s clear where the guardrails were drawn incorrectly to compensate. I erased a shadow from my photo of some ice cream at night and a portion of a sign went missing, replaced with a blank, white wall. 

Image 1 of 2

Google Pixel 8 Pro image edited by Magic Editor

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Gee, I wish this guy would move his head

Image 2 of 2

Google Pixel 8 Pro image edited by Magic Editor

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

With Magic Editor, the problem is solved

There’s reason to be cautious and reason to be disturbed by the ease and capriciousness with which Google launches these powerful machine learning features, but for now the quality doesn’t quite justify the fear. It’s possible that some day my phone will be able to make a believable fake that could stand up to scrutiny. For now, though, I’d say Google is just focused on trying to get its promised features out the door.  

Google Pixel 8 Pro camera samples

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Google Pixel 8 Pro sample images taken with the various cameras

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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Google Pixel 8 Pro sample images taken with the various cameras

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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Google Pixel 8 Pro sample images taken with the various cameras

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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Google Pixel 8 Pro sample images taken with the various cameras

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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Google Pixel 8 Pro sample images taken with the various cameras

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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Google Pixel 8 Pro sample images taken with the various cameras

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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Google Pixel 8 Pro sample images taken with the various cameras

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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Google Pixel 8 Pro sample images taken with the various cameras

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
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Selfies taken in portrait mode with the Google Pixel 8 Pro

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
Image 2 of 2

Selfies taken in portrait mode with the Google Pixel 8 Pro

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
  • Camera score:  4 / 5

Google Pixel 8 Pro review: Performance

Google Pixel 8 Pro camera bar from rear

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
  • No problem running my favorite apps and games
  • Still lags behind older competitor phones
  • Machine learning features run slowly with delays

Performance is tough to measure on a Pixel phone. In terms of raw performance, pushing games and graphics to new heights, the Pixel 8 Pro does just fine, but it won’t win any competitions. It handled all of my favorite games and ran high-resolution videos smoothly, but everything looked better on phones like the iPhone 15 Pro or even older Android phones like the Galaxy S23 Ultra (which can be found for around the same price as the Pixel 8 Pro, now that it’s eight months old). 

On the other hand, the Pixel 8 Pro is an all-around solid device, especially compared to other phones in this price range. Battery life is excellent, thanks to a larger battery and better power management, courtesy of Google’s Tensor G3 chipset. The display is snappy and smooth, and it makes Google’s interface design pop when you want, or mimic the subdued and natural iPhone tones if you prefer. 

There is a temperature sensor on the Pixel 8 Pro, and I cannot figure out why. It is only accurate up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (around 150 Celsius), so it isn't actually useful for checking the temperature of pans while cooking, as Google suggests. I need my frying oil to be around 350 degrees, and I want to check my oven up to 500 degrees or more. Try again, Google. 

Google Pixel 8 Pro review camera angled BLTR

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

When the Pixel 8 Pro is running Google’s special machine learning features, it stumbles quite a bit. When you edit photos with the new Magic Editor it takes a while to open the app, then longer to create the edits, and it frequently crashes while saving a copy. The AI wallpaper feature is cool, but it took several seconds to create a single set of wallpapers. 

I hope to see these features improve over the next seven years as Google upgrades this phone with software improvements, which begs the question: this phone won't possibly be capable of handling Android 21. Will this phone really be a viable phone in seven years? Google has promised this will be a seven-year phone, the first ever. How will the Google Tensor G3 stack up in seven years, compared to every phone that comes after it?

It's far too early to say, but I have serious reservations about Google’s promise. First of all, the Tensor chipset already feels like it’s behind the curve compared to Qualcomm’s best Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chips, and no phone maker using Qualcomm is offering more than five years of major software updates. And the Tensor doesn’t even begin to compare to Apple’s A17 Pro chipset, which actually feels like it could last seven years, though Apple has never made that explicit promise.

Google Pixel 8 Pro review USB-C

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

Second, Google has a terrible track record when it comes to supporting its own products and keeping promises. Google offered a Pixel Pass upgrade program with the Pixel 6, promising an upgrade after 24 months if you subscribed to the program. It killed the program within two years, and nobody got an upgrade. The Pixel 8 should have been the phone subscribers received. 

Maybe Google will support this phone for seven years, for real, giving it every software upgrade and every new feature that it invents between now and 2030. Or maybe this phone will only get a portion of those upgrades, and new features every now and then. Or maybe Google will invent an entirely new class of Android for old phones like this one; some disappointing, stripped-down version that will work with the oldest devices. 

We just don’t know – and Google hasn’t established a record of trust when it comes to longevity and long-term support. 

  • Performance score:  3 / 5

Google Pixel 8 Pro review: Battery life

Google Pixel 8 Pro bottom showing USB C port

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
  • Improved battery life lasts all day, no sweat
  • Aggressive power management and adaptive display
  • Faster charging would have been nice

Battery life on Pixel phones gets better every year (as long as you avoid the A-series), and I’m happy to report that the Pixel 8 Pro had no trouble lasting through a full day of use. That should come as no surprise, since it has a larger battery than either the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus or the Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max. Google really packed in the biggest cell it could fit, and you’ll need to buy a gaming phone to find bigger. 

The power management can be quite aggressive. That screen is bright, but Google keeps it dialed down to a healthy brightness that won’t strain your eyes or drain the battery too much. There are plenty of baked-in power management features, as well. 

You can choose the Standard battery saver or the Extreme battery saver, which limits more apps and background processes. There’s also an enigmatic adaptive battery feature that’s turned on by default. All the better, because that battery really lasts. 

The Pixel 8 Pro charges at a respectable 30W, which meant I had a full battery within an hour, and 50% in 30 minutes. Still, there’s some room for improvement, especially if the battery is going to keep getting bigger. 

Google includes a USB-C cable in the box and, oddly, a USB-A to USB-C adapter, but no wall charger. You need to buy a compatible Power Delivery charger or wireless stand. I used an Anker Nano charger, which can handle the fastest charging the Pixel can accept. 

  • Battery score:  4 / 5

Should you buy the Google Pixel 8 Pro?

Buy it if...

You’ve taken a lot of bad photos and videos
The Pixel 8 Pro can fix whatever photos you have in your Google Photos library, even if you took them with a different phone in the past.

You’re a die-hard Android fan forever and ever
Good news, Android fan, this phone will last longer than any other Android. If you want an Android that will get updates in 2030, this is the first.

You want a receptionist to answer your calls
The call screening feature really works (if you can find it), and it gives you a quick, written transcript of what your caller wants before you decide to answer.

Don't buy it if...

Your friends all have iPhones
With iOS 17, Apple is making a compelling argument for sticking with the same phone everybody around you is buying.

You want the absolute best cameras
While the Pixel 8 Pro is impressive, and the iPhone 15 Pro Max is a serious upgrade, nothing beats the Galaxy S23 Ultra for camera capabilities and quality.

You are a journalist or reporter
The camera editing tools on the Google Pixel 8 Pro may create questions about credibility from the shots it makes, and the summary tool is factually inaccurate.

Google Pixel 8 Pro review: Also consider

The Google Pixel 8 Pro is a fun and unique phone offering features only Google can give you, but that doesn't mean it's the best phone for everyone. Here are the best alternatives in the same price range. 

Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus
Samsung's Mama Bear of the Galaxy S23 family is just as big as the Pixel 8 Pro, and faster, with a lot more features packed into One UI. Plus, you can find great deals that give you more storage and deep discounts on this older phone. 

Apple iPhone 15 Pro
The iPhone 15 Pro gives you blazing performance and the great new titanium design. The cameras may not match the Pixel 8 Pro, but the software is better by miles. This phone is smaller, but you may appreciate the better grip. 

How I tested the Google Pixel 8 Pro

I took the Pixel 8 Pro to homecoming, but my kid wouldn’t let me use any of the photos I took for my international website. I used the Pixel 8 Pro for a week leading up to this review, using the phone as my only device with an active SIM card during this time. I used it for all of my personal and professional needs. 

I used the Pixel 8 Pro to take photos, to navigate with maps, and to play games. I used it for phone calls and messaging of all sorts, including RCS messages and various messaging services, including Slack and WhatsApp. I also used Google Assistant to send messages using voice commands, especially while I was driving and using Android Auto. 

I played games extensively with the Pixel 8 Pro, and I tested it with a number of streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu, and Max. 

Normally, I would benchmark a phone using benchmark apps, but these apps are not whitelisted for download on the Pixel 8 Pro before launch. It should be noted that Google makes the final decision about whitelisting apps on the Play Store, so Google is keeping pre-launch reviewers from benchmarking this phone. 

I tested the Pixel 8 Pro with various accessories, including the new Pixel Watch 2 and the Fitbit Charge 6. I also used it with Pixel Buds Pro, my MX Master 2 mouse, and an SD card reader. For battery testing, I recorded my usage during the day and noted the times the phone died. I timed the phone during the charging process to verify charging claims.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed October 2023

Google Pixel 8 review – smaller, cheaper, a little less camera power
6:18 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Google Pixel Phones Phones | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Google Pixel 8 preview: Two-minute review

The Google Pixel 8 is less like a smaller version of the larger and more expensive Pixel 8 Pro than a true subset, with lesser camera capabilities, less RAM, and a somewhat less impressive screen. It's still attractive, and a lot more affordable, and it should appeal to those who want the Pixel aesthetic, but at a more pocketable size and price.

Like the larger Pixel 8 Pro, the 6.2-inch Pixel 8 got a subtle body redesign and new new Tensor G3 chip (plus, all the on-board AI that comes with it). Unlike that larger flagship, though, the Pixel 8 has just two rear cameras that appear virtually unchanged from those on the Pixel 7. A 50MP main camera and 12MP ultrawide is nothing to sneeze at, but the Pixel 8 Pro has more lenses and more pixels across the board.

At least you don't lose much on the display side. It's still a high-resolution screen that's capable of impressive brightness, although lacks the Pixel 8 Pro's LPTO capabilities, which means its variable refresh rate can bounce between 60Hz and 120Hz, but never really goes low enough for an always-on display.

The new Tensor G3 chipset, and both local and cloud-based Tensor processing units (TPUs), should, though put the Pixel 8 on equal footing with the 8 Pro when it comes to some impressive AI photo, text, and automation prowess.

And there's something to owning a much lighter and more pocketable Android phone that still manages to pack in an impressively large battery and virtually match the larger phone's promised battery life.

Overall, if you don't prize a telephoto lens, and can live with fewer ultra-wide pixels, you won't sacrifice too much if you choose the Pixel 8 over the Pixel 8 Pro. Is this an serious rival to Apple's pricier iPhone 15? It's soon to tell.

Want more thoughts on the latest Pixel products? Check out our hands-on Google Pixel 8 Pro review and hands-on Google Pixel Watch 2 review too.

Google Pixel 8 preview: Price and availability

  • Priced from $699 / £699 / AU$1,199
  • Pre-orders live now
  • On sale from October 12

Google unveiled the 6.2-inch Pixel 8 and 6.7-inch Pixel 8 Pro at its October 4 Made by Google event, at which it also launched the new Google Pixel Watch 2

The Pixel 8 starts at $699 / £699 / $1,199 for the 128GB model. While there's also a 256GB option that costs $759 / £759 / $1,299, you can't buy the Google Pixel 8 in the 512GB or 1TB variants that are options if you get the Pixel 8 Pro and in Australia, you can only buy the larger capacity 256GB model in Obsidian, while the 128GB version can be had in all three colorways.

Preorders started October 4, and the phone ships on October 12.

Of course, if you've heard enough and are ready to snag yourself a new Google Pixel 8, you can check out our Google Pixel 8 preorders page, which we're constantly updating with the best offers available.

Google Pixel 8 preview: Specs

Google Pixel 8 preview: Design

  • Softer, familiar look and feel
  • Relatively lightweight

Google Pixel 8

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

There's now more of a size difference between the Google Pixel 8 and its bigger sibling, the Pixel 8 Pro, and it's also noticeably different to the Google Pixel 7

While the Pixel 7 has a 6.3-inch display, is 155.6mm tall, 73.2mm wide and 8.7mm thick, and weighs in at 197g oz, the Pixel 8 has a 6.2-inch display, is 150.5mm tall,  70.8mm wide and 8.9mm thick, and weighs 187g.

It feels great in the hand, even if it did get just a tiny bit thicker. Compare this phone to the ample specs of the Pixel 8 Pro, which is 162.6mm tall, 76.5mm wide and 8.8mm thick, and weighs 213g. 

Aside from the dimensions, and a slight softening of the curves (and some nice color choices), the Pixel 8 does still look a lot like the Pixel 7. The body is again IP68-rated, which means it should handle a dunk in the pool and some dust.

It has a polished metal frame (the Pixel 8 Pro is specified as aluminum), and Gorilla Glass Victus covering the screen. The buttons and ports (USB-C for charging, SIM slot) are unchanged from the Pixel 7.

On that now-iconic metal band (some love it, some not so much) is the dual camera array and flash. Unlike on the 8 Pro, there's no thermometer on this model.

Google Pixel 8

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Google Pixel 8 preview: Display

  • Brighter
  • Faster

Google shrunk the screen just a tiny bit compared to the Pixel 7, but maintained the resolution while updating the peak brightness to 2,000 nits and increasing the max refresh rate to 120Hz (the minimum is 60Hz).

While I didn't spend a lot of time with the phone, the Pixel 8's 6.2-inch OLED display did look bright and sharp. As before, it accommodates an under-screen fingerprint reader and a single drill-through hole for the 10.5MP selfie camera.

Google Pixel 8 preview: Cameras

Google Pixel 8

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

The pair of rear cameras and the front-facing camera on the Google Pixel 8 are largely unchanged from the Pixel 7. They are:

  • Main: 50MP f/1.68
  • Ultrawide: 12MP f/1.95
  • Front-facing: 10MP f/2.2

I didn't get to take any pictures with the phone, but you can expect image quality that at least matches what you got from the Pixel 7 – and with the backing of a new Tensor G3 CPU and updated AI capabilities, your photos, and your options for editing and enhancing them will likely be better. Google has also redesigned the Camera app, with a new layout and access to more pro-level tools.

Want a telephoto camera as well? You'll have to upgrade to the Google Pixel 8 Pro for that.

As you would expect from Google, AI features throughout the phone, and it's employed to impressive effect in photos.

The new Magic Editor is an evolution of Google's Magic Eraser tool. It lets you tap and drag on subject in a photo to move it, with the AI processing intelligently filling in the space where the subject was.

I watched as a Google exec opened a photo of his son shooting a basketball, tapped his son, and moved him to within inches of the basket to make it look like he was executing a dunk. The exec told me that while the child’s shadow now looked out of place, he could use Magic Editor to move that too.

In a similar fashion, Best Take can take a collection of photos shot in succession and, with your guidance, find the best expression for each person across all the photos, and then create one photo in which everyone is looking at the camera and smiling. I saw it, and thought it was wild – and maybe a little disturbing.

Video, which you can shoot at up to 4K 60fps, gets an upgrade as well, with Google processing every frame of video through its HDR pipeline for better low-light performance. There’s even a new Audio Eraser to help you remove distracting noises from your videos.

I'll know more about the quality of these cameras when I put them through their paces for my full review.

Google Pixel 8 preview: Performance and specs

  • Tensor G3
  • A dedicated Titan M2 security coprocessor
  • Maximum of 256GB storage

While I'm excited to see what kind of performance Google has squeezed out of its new Tensor G3 GPU, on the Pixel 8 this is backed by only 8GB of RAM, as opposed to the 12GB you get with the Pixel 8 Pro.

It's probably safe to assume that the more affordable Pixel 8 will perform some tasks a little more slowly, but again, it's hard to know without conducting more thorough testing.

The Pixel 8 has similar AI capabilities to the Pixel 8 Pro, but I only saw some of these demoed, and only on the Pixel 8 Pro, which means I can't say for sure that the Pixel 8 will perform similarly.

Those capabilities, some which are available out of the box and some of which are coming post-launch, include onboard large language model (LLM) capabilities in Google Assistant. It’ll be able to summarize web pages (like a recipe), or read aloud from a variety of text sources, even translating to another language on the fly.

Google’s Call Screening also gets an update, with a much more natural-sounding voice. In a demonstration, a Google rep, acting as a delivery person, called a Pixel 8 Pro that was set to screen calls. The Pixel 8 Pro answered, and we explained that we had a package to deliver. On the Pixel 8 Pro, we were able to type a note telling the delivery person they could leave the package by the door, and the Pixel 8 Pro relayed that message in its normal-sounding voice. If the voice hadn’t identified itself as a personal assistant, I would never have known it was an AI.

Google Pixel 8 preview: Software

  • Android 14
  • On-board AI
  • 7 years of OS and security updates

If the looks and specs don't tempt you, perhaps Google can turn your head with its impressive new support promises, which now include seven years of security and OS updates.

Not only will the Pixel 8 Pro come running Android 14 out of the box, it will have a lengthy lifespan thanks to more than half a decade of operating system updates. Seven years of updates beats the likes of Apple, Samsung, and OnePlus.

Google Pixel 8 preview: Battery

  • A big battery for its size
  • Fast wireless charging

The Google Pixel 8's 4485mAh battery is fairly large considering the phone's diminutive size. It's rated for 24 hours of life, although we won't know what kind of battery life performance it offers until we're able to do more testing.

The Pixel 8 (and Pixel 8 Pro) supports Qi-based fast wireless charging and Battery Share.

Google Pixel 8 preview: Early verdict

If you want the essence of Google's new Pixel phone experience in a small package and for an affordable price, and if you can live without the Google 8 Pro's telephoto camera, and don't mind having less storage and less memory compared to the 8 Pro, the Google Pixel 8 might be a promising choice.

We'll know a whole lot more when we're able to spend more time Pixel 8 and put it through our full review process – watch this space.

iOS 17 review
2:42 pm | September 20, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Phones | Comments: Off

iOS 17 review: How to get it and which phones support it

Apple iPhone XS in hand

Every iPhone since the iPhone XS is eligible for iOS 17 (Image credit: Future)

Apple has announced that iOS 17 is out of its public beta phase and ready for download. If you have any iPhone that was released in the last five years, you can download iOS to your phone now – and you really should.

You can find the update in the Settings app by going to General Settings, then Software Update. If you've been using the iOS 17 public beta, your device may have already updated itself to the final launch version of the software.

Every iPhone from the iPhone Xr and iPhone Xs, through the iPhone 11 family and newer, is eligible for the update. If you have an iPhone SE (2020) or a newer iPhone SE, you can also get iOS 17. 

The iPhone X and earlier models are unfortunately left behind, but with five years of full OS updates Apple is still by far the best phone maker for long-term software support, which is a big reason why the best iPhones hold their value better than even the best Android phones

The iPadOS 17 update is also available now, for iPad models released within the last five years. 

iOS 17 is, of course, available on every new iPhone 15 out of the box – check out our in-depth iPhone 15 review, comprehensive iPhone 15 Pro Max review, hands-on iPhone 15 Plus review, and hands-on iPhone 15 Pro review to read about our experiences of using iOS 17 on those handsets.

iOS 17 review: One-minute review

Two iPhones coming together for NameDrop sharing

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

iOS 17 is everything I’d want in a smartphone update, and much more. It fixes issues that have been bugging iPhone owners for years, and answers longstanding user requests. It adds cool and important new features, and it improves other features so much, especially when it comes to sharing, that they feel brand-new again. Most of all, it will make iPhone owners pleased to own an iPhone, and get them interacting with other iPhone owners in new ways. 

Some of the best iOS 17 improvements are simple, yet so effective, like the StandBy screen that appears whenever I’m charging my phone and not using it. Some of the improvements are vital, like the safety Check In feature that tells my dad that my son and I got home safely after our four-hour drive back to New York. And some of them are subtle, but necessary improvements, like much better search options in Messages and improved Autocorrect. 

While geeks get excited about using a new OS update, the iOS 17 update will be fun for every iPhone user. Make a Contact Poster, then get out and find new iPhone friends. You’ll be able to share your style, your music, and even your gaming skills. Apple is making it easy and fun to share with the new NameDrop gesture, while adding more safety filters to block unwanted content from reaching your eyeballs.

iPhone 14 Pro with purple contact poster on screen for author

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

There's little disappointment to be found in this update. The Journal app sounds very promising, although it won’t be available until a later update. There are also some questionable new options if you want to leave someone a message: Apple has actually revived the answering machine with live voicemail screening. Otherwise, this update will be an overall positive for every iPhone user.

For Android owners, it’s going to hurt. Apple has added new sharing features that are going to make Android owners feel more left out than ever before. If you thought the green bubble was bad, wait until everyone in the car gets to add music to the playlist, as long as they have an iPhone, via SharePlay.

It’s funny, until it gets serious – Apple also excludes Android phones from receiving alerts via the new and valuable Check In safety feature.

Overall, this is one of the best iOS updates I’ve seen in years, and it gives iPhone owners more cool things to try than most updates provide. Whether you’re buying the new iPhone 15 Pro Max or updating your iPhone 11 Plus, you’re going to have fun with this one.

iOS 17 review: StandBy mode

iPhone in StandBy mode on side table

(Image credit: Apple)

Starting with the most elegant of the new iOS 17 features, StandBy gives my iPhone something to do when I’m not using it. It also gives you a great reason to get a charging stand, though your iPhone only needs to be propped up on its side for StandBy to work. I use it with a regular charging wire and a simple magnetic tripod from Moment, and it works great. 

StandBy is basically two Smart Stack widgets, side-by-side, on your lock screen. A Smart Stack is a pile of widgets that you can swipe through, and you can add widgets from Apple or any of the third-party apps you have that include a widget. You can pick the widgets manually, or let Apple make suggestions automatically. 

For a simple clock, calendar, and notification system, StandBy looks very clean and crisp. It’s easy to read across the room, and when you get a notification, you can see the app icon large, but it hides the actual message until you want to read it.

iOS 17 StandBy night clock press image

StandBy mode works very well as a bedside clock (Image credit: Apple)

You can also set StandBy to be a basic clock, without the widgets, or you can make it a digital photo album. I especially like that StandBy is well designed for bedside clock duties. It turns a deep red at night, and it won’t disturb your night vision. On the iPhone 14 Pro, it works with the always-on display, but for other iPhone models, it will look for motion, or wait until it feels a gentle nudge before it turns on the bedside clock at night.

I’m sure there are probably apps that can do the same job as StandBy, but having this feature automatically baked into the system makes it effortless. While it’s not the most exciting new feature, StandBy is the iOS 17 feature I use most often, pretty much every moment I’m not using my iPhone.

iOS 17 review: Sharing with AirDrop, NameDrop, CarPlay and more

Two iPhones using SharePlay to watch Ted Lasso together

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

It has long been possible to share information and content with other iPhone users, but Apple has made the experience so much more fun and easy with iOS 17 that I expect it will spark a new wave of sharing between friends and users of all stripes. Whether you want to just share your contact information, or if you want to share photos, music, documents and more, the new iOS 17 is a game changer. 

It starts with NameDrop, which is a gesture that you can use to share contact information between iPhone owners. You just bring your iPhone close to another iPhone (or even any of the best Apple Watches) and they find each other. Your new Contact Poster appears, so make sure you have a contact poster created and ready. Then you can start sharing.

Apple iPhone 14 Pro with contact poster creation screen

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Before I get to the fun stuff, let me address the elephant in the room here. Some nefarious people use AirDrop to spread unwanted imagery. iOS 17 has protection against sensitive content, and that starts with Contact Posters. If there’s nudity in a contact poster, you can choose to be notified first, and the image will remain blurry.

The new sensitive content protection also protects you when you're receiving photos via AirDrop sharing, over Messages, and even during the new FaceTime messages that callers can leave. If somebody gets naked on a FaceTime ‘voicemail,’ iOS 17 will warn you before your eyes are exposed.

Once you’ve started a NameDrop, you can choose which email or phone number to share, or you can just receive info and share nothing. Depending on what you’re doing when you start sharing, you can also share a lot more than just your contact info.

iOS 17 screen shots from Apple's public iOS 17 site

(Image credit: Apple)

If you have a photo on screen, or if you’re looking at a web page in Safari, starting a NameDrop session will let you immediately share whatever you’re seeing. You can send the same web page or share that photo with the other person. For other apps, you can go to the Share button menu and share quickly with your new iPhone buddy.

If you’re listening to music, things get even better. You can start sharing a song, and the other person will listen along at the same time. You don’t just share a link to Apple Music or Spotify; you actually listen together, bopping along to the same beat. Both of you get music controls, too, so you can pause or rewind if you need.

You can even add more people as you meet them, building a group-share of folks listening to the same tunes. Everybody gets playback controls. This synchronized sharing works with music, videos, and games, as long as the app supports the latest SharePlay features.

Two iPhones sharing music using SharePlay on iOS 17 song is

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

The coolest new implementation of this might be in the car, sharing with CarPlay, one of the new features coming to Apple Music with iOS 17. Say goodbye to the tyranny of the driver controlling the music. Now, everybody in the car with an iPhone running iOS 17 can add to the car’s playlist. You can let passengers connect with the same NameDrop gesture, or you can give them a QR code on screen that they can scan.

This music sharing works with Apple Music, even if not everybody is a paid subscriber. As long as the host subscribes, everybody can choose tunes from the Music library.

If you want to share more than just music and beats, AirDrop is improved for document and photo sharing as well. If you want to share a very large file, like a full 48MP image or a Pro Res video, for instance, you don’t have to sit around within Wi-Fi range to finish sharing. AirDrop is now smart enough to send the remainder of the file over the internet if you have to run.

iOS 17 review: Improvements we’ve been asking for

iPhone 14 Pro with improved iOS 17 keyboard autocorrect

Autocorrect has gotten better on iOS 17 (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

We had been hearing, via leaks and hints from Apple, that iOS 17 would provide improvements and features that users had been hoping to see for years. We’re not sure which of the updates counts, but there are a bunch of great improvements that will make longtime iPhone users sigh with relief. 

The keyboard is updated, with a newly improved autocorrect engine. Apple says the iPhone will do a better job autocorrecting words in the context of the sentence. It’s also easier to edit and change autocorrections if they aren’t quite right. 

Messages now works natively with Android phones… just kidding, this whole update seems to be focused on dissing Android, hard. But Messages did get some great improvements that make searching easier. You can add multiple filters in search for people, keywords, or content types. If you’re looking for a photo from a birthday, you might search for 'cake' and photos together, for instance. 

Messages will also clean up one-time passcode messages for you, which is a very slick feature that will come in handy on a regular basis.

iPhone 14 Pro messages screen showing sharing options

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Unfortunately, Messages has become something of a hub for Apple and all of your connections. If you want to share a new Safety Check In, for instance, you do that using Messages. If you want to set up a recurring payment to someone using Apple Pay, Apple has added this feature, but it’s part of Messages. Most sharing between contacts is now handled through Messages as part of your conversations.

The problem is that there are a lot of new sharing features. That Check In feature is great, but it’s hidden deep beneath the ‘plus’ sign in Messages. You need to tap the plus sign, then tap 'More' just to find Check In, for example, which is an important and useful new feature (more on that below).

iPhone downloading maps offline in iOS 17

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Android fans love to point out when iOS finally catches up to longtime Android features, so it may be hard for iPhone users to brag about new live widgets, which can actually take actions like checking off a to-do list or playing a song in a streaming app. Likewise, Android has long enabled you to download maps offline for faster navigation, or navigating without cell service, and Apple Maps has finally caught up with this handy feature.

iOS 17 review: Important health and safety additions

iOS 17 features including Check in and Lockdown Mode

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Some of the best improvements made in iOS 17 will keep iPhone users happier and healthier, and perhaps save you from a dangerous situation. The new Check In feature is great for keeping your loved ones updated on how you’re doing and keep you safe, and improvements to Lockdown Mode can protect you from dangers as far reaching as state-sponsored hacking. 

If you’re starting a drive, or a run at night, or if you just want someone to keep tabs on you for a period of time, you can start a Check In through Messages. When you Check In, you choose a destination or a period of time. When you get to your destination, your recipient is notified. After the time has elapsed, you check in with your iPhone, and your recipient knows that everything is okay.

iOS 17 features including Check in and Lockdown Mode

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

What happens if things go wrong? If you get delayed on the way to your destination, your phone will ask you to check in. If you are more than 15 minutes off schedule, the phone will check in on you. If your time elapses and you don’t check in, your recipient will be notified.

What they get will depend on how you set up the Check In, but you can send information including your location, your phone’s battery level, and how many bars of cellular service your phone was showing. This can at least help them determine if there may be reason to worry, or if your phone may have run out of battery, and they should check in with you a different way.

You can also send a lot more info. You can send the complete route that your phone took from the time you started the Check In, and the last location where your phone screen was unlocked. If you have an Apple Watch, it will send the last location where the watch was removed.

iOS 17 features including Check in and Lockdown Mode

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Apple and Android both have a Lockdown Mode, but Apple’s Lockdown for iOS 17 is so much more advanced that it’s a whole different world. If you're worried about your phone being stolen or hacked, you can engage Lockdown Mode. On Android, that blocks your fingerprint from being used. On iOS 17, Lockdown Mode will even protect your iPhone against the Pegasys spyware sold by NSO Group to various state-sponsored spy agencies.

Like I said, it’s literally a world of difference, and I love the way Apple describes its efficacy: “... designed for the very few individuals who, because of who they are or what they do, may be personally targeted by some of the most sophisticated digital threats. Most people will never be targeted by attacks of this nature.” On iOS 17, this mode will also work with your Apple Watch and WatchOS 10.

iOS 17 review: A questionably retro direction for calls and messages

Did you ever have an answering machine in your home? I’m guessing that many younger iPhone users never listened to someone leave a message before deciding whether to actually pick up the phone and answer a call, but with iOS 17, you get that retro experience once again. You can send a call to voicemail, and listen while the person leaves a message, then interrupt the process and talk to them if you want to.

iOS 17 Live Voicemail options

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

I’m not sure if anybody was asking for this, but I expect people will use it. On a similar note, you can also now leave a voicemail in FaceTime. If you're on your iPhone, you can leave a short video message for someone to see later. If you start a FaceTime call using your Apple Watch (yes, that’s a thing you can do), you can just leave an audio message. 

Another change in iOS 17 affects Siri and how it responds. You no longer need to address Siri with a “Hey.” As my grammar school math teacher would say: “Hey is for horses.” In any case, Siri now answers to simply “Siri.” You can say “Siri, how much money is Mike Tyson worth?” and marvel at the results without saying "hey" first.

Apple iOS 17 new Siri results for Maps

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Siri is also listening in on phone calls, and if you want to ask Siri a question during a phone call, go right ahead. Your caller won’t hear Siri’s answer, but of course they will hear you calling out “Siri, what’s the weather in Ocean City, Maryland” when your friend suggests a beach weekend.

While that is useful, Siri can already be intrusive sometimes, and the idea of the assistant listening in on phone calls is a little unsettling. I have no doubt that my privacy is protected; this is Apple, after all. Still, I’d rather have to press a button than just feel like Siri is constantly monitoring my conversations.

iOS 17 review: What's to come – Journal app

iOS 17 Journal app

(Image credit: Apple)

One of the coolest features I’m excited to try in iOS 17 hasn’t arrived yet. That’s the new Journal app, which Apple says will be available as a download at some point in the future, and knowing Apple, there’s no way of knowing when that will be. It could be a matter of weeks, or it could be months. 

Journal is an exciting app for many reasons. First of all, I like the idea of journaling, but I have trouble getting started, and that’s what Journal is all about. It uses your iPhone, and whatever you’ve done with your iPhone, to suggest journal entries. It can even offer prompts for writing ideas. 

What’s cool is where it gets its information from: everywhere. There seems to be no limit to the ways in which Apple suggests Journal could gather information to create a story of your day. It could be based on obvious clues like photos you’ve taken, or places you’ve visited using Maps. Apple also says that Journal will know when you’ve done a workout, or when you’ve listened to a new album by one of your favorite artists for the first time. 

There are suggestions that Journal will know when you meet people, and when you are close to people you know. It will know music and activities, location, and your contacts. The Journal app has the potential to build quite a robust picture of your day, once Apple graces iOS 17 with its presence.