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Google Pixel 2 XL: Promising flagship device with stunning camera

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Google Pixel 2 XL
Pixel 2 XL. (File Photo: IANS)

Tech Review

New Delhi, Nov 9 : As Google joined race in the premium smartphone segment by launching Pixel last year, Apple and Samsung, the two segment leaders, took immediate note of it.

The fight was no more between the two traditional arch rivals as Google entered the arena after bidding adieu to its Nexus line-up in favour of Pixel smartphones that it designed, developed and marketed on its own.

The first Pixel devices created a ripple in the market. Now, the tech giant has launched the second edition of the Pixel line-up and we got the bigger sibling — the Pixel 2 XL — for review.

At the starting price of Rs 73,000 (64GB variant), the device is set to give some tough competition to iPhone 8 Plus. Let’s see how.

Pixel 2 XL’s build and appearance will impress you the moment you hold it. Google has served up a metal unibody smartphone with a soft matte finish that makes the device extremely ergonomic. This is something all-glass and metal body phones lack these days.

The matte finish also ensures the device remains free of fingerprint smudges. This feature is, however, subjective and some might find it a bit “plasticky”.

Pixel 2 XL joins the bandwagon of bezel-less display smartphones and hence has a taller-than-wider frame to accommodate a 6-inch 18:9 screen in a smaller frame and has almost 76.5 per cent screen-to-body ratio.

However, this is not a flagship with the slimmest bezel as LG has fitted Pixel 2 XL with front-firing stereo speakers which is a refreshing change from usual bottom firing ones.

A major high point as well as the best feature is Pixel 2 XL’s camera. It doesn’t house a dual-sensor like Apple iPhone 8 Plus, but the single camera lens outperforms many flagship devices out there in the market.

There is a 12MP primary sensor and an 8MP fixed-focus selfie camera.

The rear shooter has been upgraded with a brighter f/1.8 aperture and optical stabilisation (OIS), as well as electronic stabilisation, resulting in detailed images with crisp colour reproduction and accurate tones.

Focusing on a subject happened in a snap and there was literally no shutter lag for us.

Low-light photography was pretty impressive albeit with a slight decrease in the focus speed.

It’s also interesting to see how the primary camera’s portrait mode churns out great images with blurred background sans dual sensors.

The front shooter too is capable of producing quality selfies and portrait shots.

We especially liked the hefty 3520mAh battery that enabled us to get a day-and-a-half usage on a single charge. It really took power-intensive tasks for us to drain the battery on this device.

Apart from unlocking the device in a snap, the fingerprint sensor on Pixel 2 XL can also be used to access the notification panel with a swipe down.

“Google Lens” uses machine learning (ML) capabilities to recognise places, objects and streets, etc, from the clicked images to give more information about them.

What does not work?

On the most-talked about “blue tint” issue, we did notice it the moment we tilted the phone at different angles. Also, the colours look a little washed out when compared to flagships like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

However, Google has promised to fix the issue via an update in the coming weeks.

We did not find the screen “burn-in” issue that some early users had reported during a week-long use.

The pressure sensors on the lower edges of the device activate Google Assistant which is similar to what we saw on HTC U11.

It is a bit disappointing to see it fire up only Google Assistant and silence incoming phone calls. However, the user can change the intensity of pressure to avoid activating it while pulling it out of pocket.

Conclusion: A great camera, timely updates and security patches (which other OEMs tend to miss), a plain understated design language, stock Android Oreo Operating System (OS) and top-notch Snapdragon 835 chipset make the device a promising, power-packed flagship over iPhone 8 Plus.

IANS

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Google still allowing third-party apps read your Gmail: Report

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Washington, Sep 21: After facing a backlash over reports in July that third-party app developers can read your Gmail, Google has once again defended its policy to allow third-party apps to access and share data from Gmail accounts.

According to a CNNMoney report on Thursday, Gmail lets third-party developers integrate services into its email platform.

“Developers may share data with third parties so long as they are transparent with the users about how they are using the data,” said the report, quoting from a Google letter sent to the US Senators.

Google also makes “the privacy policy easily accessible to users to review before deciding whether to grant access”, said Susan Molinari, Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs for the Americas at Google, in the letter.

The Wall Street Journal reported in July that despite assuring users to “remain confident that Google will keep privacy and security paramount”, the search giant is still allowing third-party app developers scan through Gmail accounts.

Gmail has nearly 1.4 billion users globally — more users than the next 25 largest email providers combined.

Later, Google said in a blog post that the company is continuously vetting developers and their apps that integrate with Gmail before it opens them for general access.

According to Google, it gives both enterprise admins and individual consumers transparency and control over how their data is used.

“We make it possible for applications from other developers to integrate with Gmail — like email clients, trip planners and customer relationship management (CRM) systems — so that you have options around how you access and use your email,” said Suzanne Frey, Director, Security, Trust and Privacy, Google Cloud.

Before a published, non-Google app can access your Gmail messages, it goes through a multi-step review process at the company, it said.

“It includes automated and manual review of the developer, assessment of the app’s privacy policy and homepage to ensure it is a legitimate app, and in-app testing to ensure the app works as it says it does,” Frey noted.

In 2017, Google had said its computers will soon stop reading the emails of its Gmail users to personalise their ads.

IANS

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This Alibaba robot will serve in China’s hotels soon

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Robot in Hotel

Hangzhou (China), Sep 20: China’s e-tail giant Alibaba on Thursday unveiled a robot that will serve guests in the country’s hotels soon.

“The robotics industry is revolutionising the world and Alibaba Artificial Intelligence (AI) Labs is raising the stakes in this industry with the launch of service robots for hospitality sector starting October,” the company said at its annual Cloud Computing Conference 2018 being held here.

The robot was unveiled by Alibaba AI Labs, the AI product development arm, at the four-day tech summit in this scenic city where Alibaba is headquartered, about 180 km southwest of Shanghai.

“This robot will help bridge the gap between the guest needs and the response time they expect. It is the next step in the evolution towards smart hotels,” said the General Manager of Alibaba AI Labs, Lijuan Chen.

Guests staying in hotels will be able to communicate with the robot via voice command, touch and hand gestures. The robot will in turn respond to them through AliGenie, the software behind Alibaba’s smart speaker, Tmall Genie.

“The robot will be the ultimate assistant for hotel guests who want everything quickly at their fingertips,” added Lijuan.

With a multi-sensor data functionality, parallel computing for quick responses, autonomous navigation system to identify obstacles, communication systems to control elevators and identity verification through facial recognition technology, the one-metre tall robot can walk at a metre per second speed.

“After trial at a hotel, Alibaba AI Labs will assess its suitability for other areas, including hospitals, restaurants and office services,” the company added.

According to the International Federation of Robotics, the global market for service robots is expected to grow from 20 to 25 per cent from 2018 to 2020.

The ninth edition of the tech conference is being held from September 19-22 here in the provincial capital of Zhejiang, featuring the latest trends in cloud computing, AI, Internet of Things and blockchain.

IANS

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Samsung Galaxy A7 launched with triple rear camera

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New Delhi, Sep 20: Tech giant Samsung Electronics on Thursday launched the pocket-friendly Galaxy A7 that comes with a powerful rear triple camera system.

The Galaxy A7 — to be priced below the Rs 30,000 price segment for India — will be available in select European and Asian markets from this fall and other markets in the near future, the company said in a statement.

The triple camera system comprises 24MP AF lens, an 8MP “Ultra Wide” lens (F2.4) and a 5MP “Depth” lens.

Coupled with the 24MP lens and Depth Lens, the Galaxy A7’s “Live Focus” feature enable users to control the depth of field by allowing them to adjust the “bokeh” effect for better pictures and experience.

“Samsung is committed to delivering meaningful innovation to all consumers across the Galaxy family, no matter who they are or where they are in the world” stated DJ Koh, President and CEO of IT and Mobile Communications Division at Samsung Electronics.

The Galaxy A7’s 8MP Ultra Wide Lens at the rear is placed at the same viewing angle as the human eye. The device ensures clear photos in both bright and low-light conditions.

“We’re excited to introduce innovative new features to the A series with the Galaxy A7, a practical but powerful device that is built to help make your everyday both convenient and extraordinary,” he added.

The device with 6.0-inch Super AMOLED display comes in three variants: 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage with a MicroSD Slot (up to 512GB); 4GB RAM and 128GB internal memory and 6GB RAM and 128ROM.

It runs Android 8.0 OS and houses a 3,300mAh battery.

Samsung is set to launch another “Galaxy A” series smartphone with a four rear-camera system device called A9 in Malaysia on October 11 that will be a premium device (above the Rs 30,000 price segment).

The company is refreshing its mid-price segment smartphones with flagship premium features for the rest of the year.

 

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