Galaxy S6 Plus and Note 5 Renders, Cases and Dates and possible SD card.

By perusing the internet and having a look around specific sites, I've collated a bunch of stuff about these upcoming behemoths that might be of some interest. I'll start with the Galaxy Note 5, probably the more compelling device for most people.

Galaxy Note 5

The Note 5, from Amazon.co.uk

Starting with the Note 5, the first thing I will "note" is the curve on the back. Leaving the front of the device flat, so as not to tread on the toes of the S6+ (plus it would be difficult to use a pen on the curved display) the Note curves the back in to improve ergonomics. Using the new design language of the S6, a 5.7" device would be difficult to hold, so to mitigate this Samsung have given the device a more ergonomic back plate. Understandable.

Second is the SIM tray at the top of the device, being joined by the microphone but not an IR port. The S6 has an IR blaster, seems odd Samsung would choose to leave one out from the Note 5. I would say here that, judging by the size of the SIM tray, they could be using it double for the SIM and an SD card!

The clicky buttons from the S6 are intact - wonderful. They're the best buttons I've used on a phone.

The headphone jack is moved around to the bottom of the device instead of the top from last year. This is welcome from anyone who uses headphones with their phone in their pocket and just makes sense, it's stupid to put the headphone jack in the top considering the way around you use these devices and their size. If it were in the top any decently thick cable would overbalance the device to the top and send your pricey gadget to the floor.

Battery is obviously not removable, although, as I said above, an SD card is a possibility, HTC One M8 style.

Stylus has a new squared off and chamfered chrome bottom, likely very similar to the Note 4 stylus but I expect some difference in finish and build quality, to match the rest of the device. All metal, for example.

Technically, I expect to see the same or a slight iteration on the excellent chip in the S6 - the Exynos 7420. Maybe a 7422, slightly higher clocks could be possible but not needed. I can see Samsung adding another gig of RAM to get it up to 4GB and negating some of the TouchWizz RAM hog issues seen on the S6 - although these are FUD as it's allocated RAM we are seeing, not RAM actually in use, but public perception is king. Resolution changes are unlikely from the Note 4, as it was already class leading and beautiful as it was. I'd be happy with the exact same screen again.

Camera - staying the same - using the epic Samsung ISOCELL or Sony IMX240 as with the S6, both produce magnificent shots. I see Samsung possibly going all in house again as they did with the processor but it's unlikely as I don't think they have their sensor fabricating plants fully up to speed, hence why they used mostly the Sony sensor in the S6. OIS as well, obviously.

There's a chance they could go for the 21.5mp sensor also used in the Moto X Style and Play, the IMX230, but this would sacrifice pixel size on the sensor for detail, something which they already have enough of. Currently the IMX240 has 1.2 micron pixels, and the IMX230 has 1.12 micron and a larger die size overall. I think Samsung will stick with the 16mp sensor they already know how to get good photo sauce from. Why change what isn't broken. 

One thing I do see Samsung doing, though, is going even more aggressive on the lense aperture to battle LG. F1.8 is a distinct possibility, and even F1.7 just to outdo their local rival. Either way, the photos from this handset will be very, very good.

S6 Plus

Not the real device, but close. This render is cropped slightly at the edges where the case joins the phone. August 25 date on the Screen is from Monday last year.

The S6 Plus seems to be a lot less forward about revealing itself. At first it was difficult to tell if this was the new handset or just a render used from the S6. So I took about investigating.

I looked at the relative positioning of the buttons, the cameras, speaker grill and sensors. On the Spigen images this didn't lead to much. Both speaker grilles have 15 holes, for example. Then I came across this image as well, from Ringke as with the Note 5 images.

Ringke's upcoming case for the S6 Plus

The buttons here are a lot smaller and occupy very slightly different positions on the sides of the handset. The capacitive buttons are differently spaced. The camera is visibly smaller compared to the rest of the phone too.

The camera size is more obvious here too. And again, no IR blaster either. Plus it looks like the bands for the antennae are chromed here too. Flat back on this model although the front is curved. Mic only up top.

Technically, again I expect to see 4GB RAM, 1440p display, maybe an Exynos 7422 but more likely the 7420 in this model as it's keeping the "S6" moniker. 

Camera - as above with the Note 5 - sticking with the 16mp sensor they already know well.

There's not a lot else to say at this point about the handsets except possible dates. I've been looking at ordering times on Amazon, and most are already available or have mid-August dates. I've ordered one of each case, and we'll see what we can find out.

A more accurate Spigen render, with the top and bottom of the phone less cropped.

The last thing I'll say is don't expect them on the date shown on the screens in the renders - the August 25 date is followed by "MON" meaning Monday - that was August 25th last year.

New Moto X 2015 Camera Sensor - A Sony IMX230 Win.

Motorola have just finished up their event, allowing press to get their hands all over the units and have a play. Some outlets have already had the units in for testing, including DxOMark, who run the units through a reference suite of tests.

The new Moto X Style comes out very well against the competition, ranking overall just below the Galaxy Note 4, although both share a score of 83. Both still sit behind the Galaxy S6 in second and third position. The Play should be up there as well, as both share the same camera hardware.

With the spec of the camera it's likely the handset is running the recently released Sony IMX230, a 21 megapixel unit with a large 1/2.4" sensor. This sensor is shared with the Huawei Honor 7, and likely upcoming Sony devices. This is larger than the OnePlus Two and the LG G4, both of which tout large sensors to begin with, but lag at 1/2.6". Potentially the sensor can pick up a huge amount of detail in images, but it will depend on the software how the phone handles this.

Pixel size remains low though due to the resolution, with 1.12 micron pixels. The aperture also remains F2.0, but it seems they are still getting good results.

The only let down for myself with the Moto X 2014 was the camera. It's excellent news to see they really have focussed on it this year, and made actual progress. I don't think anyone will mind the step away from absolute top-of-the-line processors as the rest of the handsets have been improved so much, and you really don't need 8 cores to run Motorola's slick deployment of Android 5.1. 

The batteries are big, the build will be excellent as always, the cameras look good, the software will be phenomenally good as it usually is from Motorola. It looks like Motorola are onto a real winner this time around, and, as this will be the first handset that has had some development under Lenovo, it's good to see Motorola's parent company is allowing them freedom to do exactly what they should be doing.

Source - DxOMark

OnePlus Two Camera Sensor - What is it?

With more or less the entire industry using Sony Exmor RS sensors, barring HTC on the One M9 and Samsung in some Galaxy S6 models, it was expected that OnePlus would do the same with the Two. Previously, they used the trusty Sony IMX214 that is also used in the LG G3, Oppo Find 7 and 7a, Honor 6, Ascend Mate 7, Nexus 6, the Moto X 2014 and a bunch more. 

This time around, though, they have elected to move away from Sony, just like HTC did with disastrous results this year. It's always a risky move to go with something unknown, but it might pay off. LG moved to their own sensor this year, and it's worked wonders for them. 

Camera sensors in mobile phones have reached the point where, if the pixels get any smaller, they physically aren't big enough to let in the width of the wavelength of some frequencies of light. Photons, the particles which make up light, need space just like any other particle, and that space is represented by the number next to the pixel size of smartphone camera sensors. 

Samsung this year went with 1.12 micron pixels, which is more or less as small as you want to go for a cameraphone. Get any smaller and you start needing to leave the shutter open longer to actually let light into the sensor. HTC, with the Ultrapixel cameras, tried to go the complete opposite direction, 2 microns, and allow more photons in per pixel, getting a better feel for the colour of each pixel and sacrificing resolution and detail, as their images at the time were only 4 megapixel.

OnePlus have positioned themselves in the middle this year, not going all the way up to 2 microns or down to 1.12 microns like Samsung, opting for 1.3 microns. Many were quick to realise that Sony don't make a 13 megapixel sensor that offers that pixel size. I have however found the company that does, and it fits the rumor that OmniVision would be supplying the camera.

The big addition here is OIS, smoothing out and hand wobbles and allowing for a longer exposure without blurring in stills, but also smoothing out video as well. We've seen this become a must for all flagship phones this year.

OmniVision make the OV13860 sensor, a 13 megapixel sensor that offers 1.3 micron pixels. They go to great lengths to mention their 6 lens system to do away with colour aberrations, forgetting to mention they had a 6 lens system on the One as well, and touting it as a new feature. Below is a chart to compare old with new.

Along with bigger pixels has to come a bigger sensor size to fit the pixels in. They've now got a 1/2.6" sensor, larger than previously and putting it on par with the LG G4, although the G4 offers higher resolution stills so has to cram in the pixels a little tighter.

I would note here, that with the larger pixel size they could have gone for a much quicker aperture. Samsung is managing F1.9 with much smaller pixels, and LG is using the same size sensor (both 1/2.6") of their own design and using F1.8. It's a shame they chose not to take advantage of this, although they are using laser autofocus as well as a few features of the OmniVision sensor. OmniVision have built in 120FPS autofocus contrast calculation to keep the autofocus extremely quick, which will hopefully work in conjunction with the laser beams.

I've reached out to OnePlus to see if I can get my hands on a unit to test, we'll see what happens.

I've attached the die layout of the new camera below for your reference.

Watching the OnePlus Launch? Here's what you'll need.

First - an iOS or Android smartphone with a circa 5" display. Anything above 5.5" is pushing it for the next item you'll need.

Second - Cardboard, of the Google variety.

Third - the OnePlus Two Launch app from the Google Play Store - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.oneplus.two.vrlaunch 

Fourth - a sharp knife to cut away all those bits of cardboard that dig into your skin whilst you're wearing it. I had an issue with the bridge of my nose, being of Viking lineage, being dug into by the three bits of cardboard in that area of the unit. A bit of swift sawing with a sharp knife dealt with that and now I could wear it for hours.

Fifth - Patience if you're in the Eastern to mid hemispheres. The event is timed to 7pm PST, which is 3AM British Summer Time, and no use to anyone East of New York. 

Sixth - Don't look at any OnePlus news - more or less all the device specs have been revealed, which doesn't leave OnePlus much to do this evening/tomorrow morning except tell us what the software can do, and if it's running Oxygen OS you need only look to stock Android for inspiration.

Seventh - There could me more than one device, lets keep our hopes up.

Eighth - prepare not to be surprised if it costs more than the last one - yes, it's still using the same screen as the OnePlus One, it's still the cast off's from the iPhone 6 Plus (they're the same screen, hence the delay in production of the One last year when Apple were ramping up production of the 6+, at least that's what I believe to be the case), but it's also using more RAM, a newer Snapdragon chip, and a bigger battery. These costs add up, and if OnePlus have any sense they will also have paid for better quality control, better customer service, more service centres (we've seen the plan for seven in India alone), and better support, which all need to be paid for by the device's initial cost. Plus they are also making their own, albeit barely customised, version of Android, and programmers cost money too.

Windows Week

This is going to be a busy week for Microsoft, for IT professionals and for the internet backbone in general. This week, Windows 10 is released.

I've not kept up with the developments of Windows 10 much, I've seen the basic headlines about the new Edge browser and Cortana, but I've wanted to wait until my machine actually had the new OS before getting out the mallet of judgement. I really want to be impressed by Windows 10, so I want to be able to install it and experience all the updated features like a normal new user would. Even looking at the Windows blog to thieve a few photos for this post, I've found new features I hadn't heard about before.

Now all three major OS have their own maps solutions.

One of those new features is native Maps - provided by an amalgamation of Bing maps and the excellent HERE maps from the remains of Nokia. There are plans for Nokia to sell HERE maps on to a German car consortium, but Microsoft must have a deal in place already to keep using the tech. Microsoft already bundle maps in Windows Phone 8, but they're trying to make everything run as close to the same OS as they can, so that means getting maps on the desktop too.

There's a lot of other stuff piled in here as well - a more cohesive combination of the tiled interface and the desktop, new social gaming features, and so on. I'm not going to bore you with the details, because if you're reading this you probably already know them.

I'm an early adopter of new technology, and had Windows 8 from launch day. I like Windows 8, I have to admit, for some of the features Microsoft introduced that made a huge difference to someone who builds and tinkers with computers. The main one was the way drivers installed - Windows would insert a generic driver for newly installed hardware so it would work at a basic level, whilst, in the background, it would dial up the proper driver from the web and install it for you. 

I liked the shortcuts for the keyboard too, I liked tapping the Windows key and firing in the first few letters of an app to open it quickly (something that's always been there, but was new to me on Windows, Mac OSX has done this for years with the control-spacebar combo for spotlight). I like the way I can set up multiple monitors easily. I can't remember what else I actually like, as nowadays I spend most of my time in Chrome, but I didn't feel as much hate towards Windows 8 as there was in other corners of the web. 

What I am going to do is keep an updated story of how the update goes on my home-build, going from 8.1 Pro with Media Centre (never used) to Windows 10 Pro, and what I find after the update. Surely there will be some niggles, maybe I won't get the update on launch day, maybe Microsoft will have so many people chomping at the bit to get the update that their servers melt, maybe it doesn't work on my ageing SSD and my hardware craps out. We shall see. 

The G+/Photos Breakup, and why it's better for both services.

Google Plus Photos has been around for ages now, it's been a boon to people who take a lot of cameraphone shots for a few years. I remember it's release, getting myself on there as soon as I could. I'd picked up an HTC One M7, and was happy that I could backup full size photos to the service, even though they weren't much bigger than the free tier of backup at 2000x2000px. 

Google Plus Photos was released alongside Google Plus, which was the more popular service at the time, but times change. Google Plus is thriving, despite what reports may claim, especially in Asia despite the lack of the Chinese population. It might not have grown exponentially as Google may have wished for, but it is still growing, slowly. What is being used a lot more, though, is Google Plus Photos.

Not everyone wants to be part of Google Plus. They've got their own networks already that they're happy with, be that Facebook or Twitter or whatever. Google knows this. What the vast majority of uses would like though is a good backup solution for their photos. When you've wanted to use Google Plus Photos in the past you've needed the social network aspect, and some people just find it confusing to get into. I've put people onto G+ Photos before, and they've given up before getting through signup, because they don't want Google Plus.

Those who have got into Google Plus have oftn found it confusing and frustrating to find their way around. There's just too much in there, and whilst it might be a lot simpler than Facebook, they've been on Facebook for years and its evolved with them. Breaking photos out of Google Plus simplifies the interface by another step, making it that but easier for newbies to get started.

That advantage follows into the new Photos service as well. Photos gets a lot simpler to use. You don't need Google Plus anymore, which takes away the need to navigate around Plus to get to photos (especially on the desktop). Photos can also add new features without confusing users. This includes a lot of new animation options and enhancements. It means Google can add a lot more into photos without worrying about Google Plus.

This makes Photos a really useful service for everyone, whether you want Google Plus or not. Who doesn't want a simple backup solution for their photos that works without them having to do anything other than enter their gmail address? It makes Photos a lot less confusing and easier to use, and to some extent does the same for Google Plus as well. It certainly doesn't spell the end of Google Plus, just the start of a much better standalone photo service. It makes a lot of sense to split the two up and let the focus on what they're supposed to do, rather than cramming everything into one service that not everyone wants.

One last worry to address was the fear that this might be making it more difficult to share images between the two services, or that some functionality might be lost. I'm happy to say that's not the case and hopefully we'll still be enjoying making ourselves into zombies and the like fit a while to come.