lundi 29 mai 2017

Opinion: Xiaomi’s Love for the SD625 (and Other Sidegrades) Impacts the Value of its Affordable Smartphones

When I had the opportunity to review the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, I went in with low expectations. After starting my Android journey with a low-end device and struggling to get a better smartphone for a few years, I certainly did not look forward to downgrading from my OnePlus One (considered close to a flagship then) to a device competing in the budget segment.

But my preconceived notions as an amateur reviewer at that time couldn't have been more mistaken.

The Redmi Note 3 was a fantastic device which punched way above its selling price. The overall experience it offered did not resemble an 'entry level' device at all. Certain aspects of the device even came close to the flagship experience, and some like its battery life even went beyond that. As an occasional gamer, the Redmi Note 3 was a joy to use too — no signs of thermal throttling, even when subjected to intense gaming scenarios for long, sustained sessions, and a battery that let you stretch those gaming sessions even longer than usual. It ultimately redefined my understanding of low-end smartphones today, their potential, and how some companies can do it right.

A good chunk of credit for the Redmi Note 3's remarkable performance and experience went to the SoC inside of it. The Redmi Note 3 that was sold in India came with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 650, a mid-range hexa-core processor with 4x Cortex-A53 cores for daily tasks and power efficiency, and 2x Cortex-A72 cores for when you need that extra performance. It was built on a crusty 28nm process, but that didn't stop it – at the time – from punching above its segment. This particular combination resulted in smooth and efficient performance for daily tasks which was sustained in heavier use cases, too.

So when the Redmi Note 4 was announced, I was disappointed with the choice of SoC that Xiaomi opted for. The Snapdragon 660 was not official back then, so Xiaomi went in with the Snapdragon 625 – an octa core SoC with a dual cluster setup of Cortex-A53.

Again, I came out surprised with the resulting real-world performance of the device, mostly because I expected the lack of a heavy cluster to deeply impact the intensive usage of the device. As noted in my review, the Redmi Note 4 is still a theoretical downgrade when you consider where the Redmi Note 3 was sitting, because otherwise the Note 4 can hold its own in real world performance. But still, it was a marked, literal downgrade year-to-year and from one revision to the next, with slight advantages in power efficiency (but battery life was exceptional on its predecessor, anyway).

Even on the GPU end, the Snapdragon 625 with its Adreno 506 GPU performed worse when compared to the Adreno 510 on the Snapdragon 650. The Adreno 506 has a higher clock speed (650 MHz vs 600 MHz) and is built on the 14nm fabrication process, but it has lesser number of ALU's (96 vs 128) and manages to score lesser GFLOPS (130 vs 180). Benchmarking scores place the Adreno 506 well below the Adreno 510 as it managed to score about ⅔ of the framerates on the same benchmarks, pointing towards a marked downgrade in graphics performance.

A similar situation or "downgrade" crops up with the Xiaomi Mi Max and Xiaomi Mi Max 2. The original Mi Max came with a beefy Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 on the higher end variants — an SoC which was a slight step up from the 650 by adding an additional 2x Cortex-A72 to the performance cluster.

But with the Xiaomi Mi Max 2, we see Xiaomi switching lanes as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 makes an appearance again in this device. We repeat, the Snapdragon 625 is not a bad SoC by itself — particularly if paired with decent software, but the performance difference between the Mi Max and Mi Max 2 would be larger than between the Redmi Note 3 and Redmi Note 4. This immediately makes the Mi Max 2 a definite downgrade in terms of peak performance. Consumers looking to purchase the Mi Max 2 would have to rely on other changes to the device, like the larger battery and Quick Charge 3.0 capabilities through the USB Type-C port, in order to justify the purchase over the Mi Max. Xiaomi, like all other OEMs, also tends to cease production and sales of older devices when newer versions are released, so that its current products do not face competition from the value propositions of its past products.

The choice of Snapdragon 625 on the Mi Max 2 is a bigger deal than on the Redmi Note 4 because of the existence of (or close proximity to) alternatives. The Redmi Note 4 was announced when the SoC choices available to Xiaomi would be to move along the 65x lineup and choose the Snapdragon 652 or newer 653 with their caveats being that they were built on the 28nm fabrication process, now old and rusty. Or, Xiaomi could choose the SoCs built on the new 14nm fabrication process and opt for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 or newer 626. Choosing the 625 back then to focus on battery life was more digestible, but again, these phones really weren't lacking in terms of battery life anyway.

But with the Mi Max 2, most of the rumors and leaks surrounding the device indicated a higher-specced device coming in with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC — a much more exciting SoC with its octa-core Kryo setup on a 14nm fabrication process. Coupled with the larger battery and Xiaomi's affordable pricing strategy, the Mi Max 2 would have been the beastly phablet to watch out for, a flagship-on-a-budget device for Xiaomi that would be one of the first devices to sport the 660, and show us what it can be capable of. That alone, I think, would have driven a lot of interest its way.

The Snapdragon 660 was announced in early May 2017 and the Mi Max 2 came out just a few days ago. The time gap between the two indicates that the Mi Max 2 may have already been past the drawing board and into production when Qualcomm presented its SoC upgrade to the OEM [Note that public releases obviously do not coincide with partner unveilings]. Thus for Xiaomi to upgrade to the 660 from the 625 would have meant starting back again from scratch on various aspects of product development.

It is also probable that Xiaomi knew of the existence of the Snapdragon 660 and went ahead with the Mi Max 2 and Snapdragon 625 anyways. This may have been because of the trickle down effects of production issues that have been plaguing the Snapdragon 835. With Qualcomm pushing forth heavily and focusing resources on the Snapdragon 835, there might not have been enough built up stock of the Snapdragon 660 for Xiaomi to go ahead with full scale production without delaying their product release. It might have been circumstantial, it might have been calculated, but either way it resulted in one of those rare instances in mobile tech where you can point at a clear step backwards (or backward-sideways) in a new device's specification.

Xiaomi's decision to go with the Snapdragon 625 on the Mi Max 2 may be wholly unrelated to Qualcomm as well. Xiaomi is known for half yearly 'product refreshes', which usually include the addition of the alphabets C, S or I to the name of the last released generation. So while the Mi Max 2 comes with the Snapdragon 625 SoC, Xiaomi could be looking at a half yearly upgrade with the Mi Max 2C/I/S (or a different alphabet for that matter) with the Snapdragon 660 SoC. The half yearly refresh could even feature Xiaomi's own in-house SoC, but we wouldn't count on that.

Going for the Snapdragon 625 may also be a conscious decision from the get go. The Snapdragon 625 is a good SoC for mainstream consumers and brings with it a balanced compromise of performance and battery life. The 14nm fabrication process allows for improved efficiency in a manner that the mainstream consumer could feel and appreciate, while taking away from the peak performance that mainstream consumers would seldom reach. The average Joe does not know, or care, about the differences between the 625 and the 650, so a swap out would be a calculated maneuver. But still, it's a rare occurrence to see a company willingly go for the "lower numbers" in such important lines, particularly some that are praised for their value or bang-per-buck.

Choosing the 625 would also help keep costs of the product down, letting Xiaomi pass on benefits to the consumer through lower selling prices or other additions that increase its product value. Part of this was reflected in the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, which began sales at the same price as its predecessor while still offering more base storage.

At the end of the day, the Xiaomi Mi Max 2 with the Snapdragon 625 is what we have for now. The Max 2 and the Redmi Note 4 for that matter, did not generate as much excitement in me as their predecessors did. All of Xiaomi's smartphone products have great price-to-value ratio, but the Redmi Note 3 and the Mi Max just set the bar too high for Xiaomi to beat their own previous efforts. It is partly disappointing to see successors to some of Xiaomi's best smartphones come out with objectively-worse chipsets and not be true and complete year-on-year upgrades. Becoming complacent in this highly-competitive smartphone might just present a rare opportunity for another OEM to take advantage of these strategies.

With their future releases that already sport high capacity batteries, we hope Xiaomi goes back to more performance-focused SoCs and make use of 2017's exceptional-looking range of processors.

What are your thoughts on Xiaomi's recent adoption of the Snapdragon 625? What should Xiaomi do for future releases? Let us know in the comments below!

from xda-developers

OnePlus Teases the OnePlus 5 with a Camera Sample

We're closing in on the OnePlus 5 release, and the marketing machinery from OnePlus is getting stronger. Generating excitement for the new phone is hard work, so OnePlus is making sure it does its part before the phone gets the chance to speak for itself.

Today, the company teased a camera sample from the upcoming flagship.

The camera sample teaser comes after OnePlus announced that they are working with DxO Labs to improve the camera on the OnePlus 5. No other details of this partnership were revealed, but the teaser indicates that the partnership may have borne some fruit.

OnePlus Announces They're Working with DxO Labs to Improve the Camera of the OnePlus 5

It remains to be seen if the camera performance on the OnePlus 5 is indeed better or even at par with the flagships of 2017.

What are your thoughts on the OnePlus camera teaser? Are you happy with the image seen in the teaser, assuming it is representative of the OnePlus 5's performance? Let us know in the comments below!

Source: OnePlus Twitter

from xda-developers

Galaxy Folder 2 Unboxing and First Impressions

Miles has a new video on XDA TV giving us his first impressions of the Samsung Galaxy Folder 2. The first feature you will notice straight away is its Clamshell design, reminiscent of phones such as the Motorola RAZR V3 or the Samsung W2016.

The Folder 2 might not be the best for gaming.

Size comparison of the Folder 2 vs the Galaxy S8.

First announced way back in July 2016, its still yet to be announced if it will make its way outside of China. While its specs aren't meant to compete with the flagships of today, its form factor might appeal to some. Watch the video to find out more about this modern phone with a nostalgic design.

What are your thoughts on this somewhat retro-looking device?

from xda-developers

SendAnyFile Allows You To Send All Files Via WhatsApp, Messenger And More

Modern IM apps like WhatsApp or Messenger allow file sharing with your contacts. Supported file types are very limited, though, and often you need to use e-mails to send attachments.

XDA Senior Member balamu96m has created a handy app that allows sending any file you desire using such services. SendAnyFile simply takes a file, changes its extension to .doc and sends it. The person who receives a file can either use the SendAnyFile app to open the attachment or simply change the extension in his or her favorite file explorer.

It's simple, yet very efficient way of sharing your files. The application doesn't require root and works on every device that runs KitKat or newer versions of Android.

Get SendAnyFile now!

from xda-developers

Play Music From Any App On Android Auto With AnyAutoAudio

The Android Auto program is constantly growing, with more and more cars taking advantage of it. Due to its limitations, though, Auto is compatible with only a handful of apps — leaving many awesome music apps out.

Some developers were not happy with it and worked on a solution. One of them, XDA Forum Member jvvpc ,wrote an app that allows streaming any music to Auto using the notification listener permission. Moreover, Android Auto allows you to control it just like any normal Auto app. You can simply play whatever music you want with this app!

Visit AnyAutoAudio's thread

from xda-developers

How to Add more Tiles to the Quick Settings Header on Google, OnePlus, and Sony Phones [No Root]

If you pull down on the status bar of your Android phone, you'll likely see a few notifications below a single row of Quick Settings tiles. This row is called the Quick Settings header as it only shows the first few tiles that are available in the full set of QS tiles. By pulling down one more time, you'll see the full list of QS tiles that you've added. Quick Settings were officially added to AOSP starting with Android 5.0 Lollipop (though OEMs such as Samsung have had their own form of notification toggles available for several versions before Lollipop).

Though we've since received the ability to customize QS by re-arranging the icons and add third party tiles to the QS list, there is still no official method to customize how many tiles are displayed (again, Samsung has beaten Google to the punch in this regard). However, through the use of a hidden preference that we can set via ADB, it is possible to add more tiles to the Quick Settings header.

Thanks to Eli Irvin for collecting these screenshots for me!

This modification does not change the number of columns or rows shown in the full QS panel that you see when you swipe down twice on the status bar (or pulling down with 2+ fingers). The only way to do that, as far as I know, is through SystemUI modifications – which obviously requires root or an unlocked bootloader.

Modifying the Quick Settings header does not require root access, though it won't work on all devices. If your device is on Android 7.0+ and the underlying software isn't too heavily modified from AOSP, then this trick should work on your phone. That's because it relies on a settings preference that is defined in the SystemUI package (in AOSP, you can find the preference listed in

  /**  * Version of QSPanel that only shows N Quick Tiles in the QS Header.  */  public class QuickQSPanel extends QSPanel {  public static final String NUM_QUICK_TILES = "sysui_qqs_count";  

This snippet of code is taken from the AOSP page I linked above. The string NUM_QUICK_TILES defines how many QS tiles are shown in the header. NUM_QUICK_TILES gets its value from the Settings.Secure preference "sysui_qqs_count" which is what we will modify. In order for this modification to work, the software on your phone has to have this preference available.

Google Nexus and Pixel phones can use this modification, as can Sony Xperia and OnePlus phones. Custom ROMs such as LineageOS work, as least it did on my Nextbit Robin. Samsung and Huawei phones won't work with this preference change, though as noted before you can follow my previous tutorial to customize the QS panel size on Samsung phones.


As mentioned previously, you will need ADB access to use this command. Download the latest ADB binary for your machine straight from Google. Make sure that you have the right driver installed for your phone to be recognized by your machine. Go to Settings –> Developer Options and enable USB Debugging. Then open up a command prompt or terminal on your machine, and enter the following command:

  adb devices  

Your machine will attempt to start ADB and see if it recognizes any connected devices. You may see a prompt on your phone to grant ADB access to your machine – accept it. If you now see your device's serial number returned in the command prompt, then you're golden.

Now, you'll need to enter this command to modify the number of tiles shown in the QS header:

  adb shell settings put secure sysui_qqs_count N  

where N is the number of tiles you want shown in the header row. For instance, if I want to have only 3 tiles shown:

  adb shell settings put secure sysui_qqs_count 3  

or if I want to have 7 tiles shown:

  adb shell settings put secure sysui_qqs_count 7  

If you want to return to the default configuration, just enter "5" for N.

Although this is admittedly a fairly minor tweak, it's still nice that, even without root, there are still some ways you can modify the UI. I am not sure why Google left this setting open for us to change, though you wouldn't even know it was available unless you dug around in AOSP as this setting is not listed when you dump the available secure settings on your device. I hope that Google adds a native way to resize the full QS panel like Samsung does, but that will likely remain wishful thinking on my part.

Credits for this tweak go to XDA Senior Member paphonb who posted about this in a buried thread back in December. He's the developer of the Custom Navigation Bar application which allows you to tweak the navigation bar on many Android 7.0+ devices without root. He and I are working on a new application that will incorporate this tweak and many, many more so unrooted users can explore all the hidden tweaks available on their devices.

from xda-developers

Beta version of Tasker with Revamped UI Coming this Week

Tasker is, by all means, one of the most powerful applications available for Android. In fact, we love it so much that we publish tutorials of how to make your device even better. While the app offers incredible functionality, the UI is a bit outdated as it focuses more on functionality. Luckily, this will change soon as the upcoming beta will bring a ton of new features, including a new design!

We have informed you about this upcoming update on two separate occasions. In February, the developer announced that they were working on an update without going into much details. A month later the developer published a list of upcoming changes that included the new redesign. The wait is almost over, finally, as the first release of the new beta with the promised redesign should take place sometime this week.

The upcoming release will bring dozens of changes. A full list is available on the project's website. Here's a highlight of the most important features:

  • Switched themes to Material Design (Android 5.0+)
  • Added approximately 900 material design icons, selectable colors
  • Added Tasker (default) theme at Prefs / UI / Theme (Android 5.0+)
  • Support for (customizable) Quick Settings (Android 7.1+) and App Shortcuts (Android 7.1.1+)

As you can see, the material makeover is at the top of the list. Additionally, we should expect customizable Quick Settings and App Shortcuts on Android Nougat without the need of a third party plugin. This is a big deal for users who want to create ready-to-use profiles. Also, the new version of Tasker will be able to detect Magisk root without you having to specify the su binary directory manually in all shell commands. The list of changes is quite extensive and includes a big number of additions and fixes; you can study all of them by checking the release notes for the upcoming version.

We still don't know exactly when the new version will be available. Though you can check by yourself by visiting the download page below. We will keep you posted!

Source: Google Groups Release Notes Tasker Beta Download (Currently unavailable)

from xda-developers