Sunday, 31 May 2020

The PodHubUK Podcasts for May 2020

...a roundup of our month of podcasting. Links to the team, communities and podcast homes on the net at the foot, so scroll down!

Whatever Works
Episode 109 - Twitching and Fidgeting
Friday 1st May 2020
Aidan and I are back with another natter about Whatever Works in our lives and in the lives of the Group Members here. All sorts are covered - from AirDots to Vacuum Bags and much between!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 554 - Stay Safe
Saturday 2nd May 2020
Steve and I welcome Carole Theriault of Smashing Security to chat about all aspects of just that, in today's connected world in our pockets, plus loads of other stuff. Excellent guest and great chat.

The Phones Show
Episode 393 - OnePlus 8 Pro
Sunday 3rd May 2020
Join Steve over at his YouTube Channel as he gives us the lowdown and his surprise on the latest and greatest from OnePlus.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 555 - QWERTY Powerhouse
Tuesday 5th May 2020
Steve and I are back with (maybe the last, depending on BoJo!) mid-week special in which Steve chats with Martin Riddiford about the path from Psion to Gemini to Cosmo to Astro! Plus all the other usual stuff of course. It might be useful to watch Martin's 2 minute video before listening.

Whatever Works
Episode 110 - Handy nOb Control
Friday 8th May 2020
Come on down and join Aidan and I as we offer all sorts of trinkets for consideration - and for some of which - the price is right! Grips, grills and glows - it's all here!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 556 - Back from the Dead
Saturday 9th May 2020
Steve and I are joined this week by Mike Warner as we chat about all things mobile phone, drill into some of the current issues flying around and learn to not give up once started down the road of Recovery!

The Phones Show
Episode 394 - May 2020 Top 5 Phones, iPhone SE (2020) Review
Monday 11th May 2020
Join Steve Litchfield in the mid-year rundown of his Top 5 Phones and also a look at the newest iPhone. Chatter about this in PSC mid-week coming, as well as my counter-suggestion - my own Top 5 Phones!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 557 - Thousands and Thousands of... mAh
Tuesday 12th May 2020
Steve and I are back with another mid-week lockdown special as we bring you another round of our thoughts on all things mobile phone. Top 5's all-round and some image analysis.

Projector Room
Episode 62 - Supermarionation
Wednesday 13th May 2020
We're back again with another 'virtual pub chat' about all things film, cinema and TV. Why not join Gareth, Allan and I as we try to pronounce Arkansas and other tricky words and names!

Whatever Works
Episode 111 - Projection Perfection
Friday 15th May 2020
Aidan and I are back again and this week we have a bit of a film/audio/TV week as we welcome Steve back to join us. Loads of other stuff as well of course, so do join us.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 558 - A Four-Fold Apprach
Saturday 17th May 2020
Steve and I are back again with more musings on the world of mobile and phones as we welcome Andrew Manning once more to catch up with the devices he's using and his thoughts on the latest.

The Phones Show
Episode 395 - The Unihertz Titan Review
Monday 18th May 2020
A most unusual ruggedised yet very fully featured QWERTY champion... at an amazing price. What's the catch? Join Steve to see if there is one!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 559 - No NFC? No Google Pay for YOU
Tuesday 19th May 2020
Steve and I are back again, by popular demand not giving up on the mid-week extra shows! We natter about a Titan of a phone and roll the drum for the coming Pixel - amongst loads of other stuff.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 560 - A Pure View on Phone Imaging
Saturday 23rd May 2020
Steve and I are back again with another PSC in which we welcome Imaging Guru Juha Alakarhu to talk about his professional path and what he's working on next.

The Phones Show
Episode 396 - The Oppo Find X2 Pro Review
Monday 25th May 2020
Six reasons why the Find X2 Pro is a good example of what's great in the smartphone industry.... and five why it exemplifies all that's wrong! Join Steve as he unpicks it.

Projector Room
Episode 63 - Blood and Money
Wednesday 27th May 2020
Gareth, Allan and I are back again with another delve into what we've been watching in the last fortnight with snippets from the Group Members here too. All sorts of goodies, so do join us.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 561 - Lockdown Loans
Tuesday 26th May 2020
Steve and I are back with another mid-week special, so why not join us as we natter about the phones we have in-hand and chew over some comments from the Group Members here.

Whatever Works
Episode 112 - A Watery Grave
Friday 29th May 2020
Aidan and I are back again with our musings on Whatever Works for us and you! From Kiwi Keychains to Batteries and Blades, we got it all!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 562 - Fingerprints and Fancies
Saturday 30th May 2020
Steve and I welcome Jon Trimmer this time as we natter about all things mobile phone for a while.


The Podcasts
PodHubUK - Phones Show Chat - The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room

The MeWe Community Groups (follow the links to join up)
Phones Show Chat & The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room - PSC Photos - PSC Classifieds

The Team
Ted Salmon - Steve Litchfield - Aidan Bell - Dave Rich - Gareth Myles - Allan Gildea

Friday, 1 May 2020

The PodHubUK Podcasts for April 2020

...a roundup of our month of podcasting. Links to the team, communities and podcast homes on the net at the foot, so scroll down!

Projector Room
Episode 59 - The Invisible Wish
Wednesday 1st April 2020
I'm joined again by Gareth and Allan as we chat about all things film, cinema and TV for an hour or so. Why not dip into the depths of the Mariana Trench or escape to the barren plains of Greenland with us!

Whatever Works
Episode 105 - Mowing for Muscles
Friday 3rd April 2020
Aidan and I natter for another hour in this extra show about all sorts of stuff - including more ideas about how to pass the time during the UK's virtual lockdown. Make an omelette or cut the grass whilst taking your temperature!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 546 - Lockdown, Type C and DACs
Saturday 4th April 2020
Steve and I are back for another mobile phone fix and Steve chats with Gavin Fabiani-Laymond about all things USB-C and audio as he drops in.

The Phones Show
Episode 391 - Huawei P40 Pro
Wednesday 8th April 2020
Check out how Steve has managed to love/hate the latest from Huawei based on camera/no-GMS!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 547 - Updates Incoming
Tuesday 7th April 2020
Steve and I are back with another C-19 Mid-week Special as we chat for a half-hour or so about what mobile phones we're playing with and a rather interesting new recording App from Dolby.

Whatever Works
Episode 106 - Herculean Hammocks
Friday 10th April 2020
Aidan and I are back with another weekly look at Whatever Works for us and in the lives of the Group Members here. Switches, Sharks, Stands and Slices - and that's just the S's!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 548 - Homing In on the Perfect Phone
Saturday 11th April 2020
Steve and I are back in our regular slot as we look at all things mobile phone with fellow-addict Andy Moon.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 549 - Smartphones Incoming
Tuesday 14th April 2020
Steve and I are back with another interim C-19 lockdown special in which we chat for a while about what we're up to with mobile phones - and more importantly, what's coming soon - in our hands, and announced!

Projector Room
Episode 60 - Mexican Highwaymen
Wednesday 15th April 2020
Come and join Gareth, Allan Gildea and I in the Projector Room for our latest natter about all things film, cinema and TV as we go hunting in the fog!

Whatever Works
Episode 107 - Phish, Swat and Slice
Friday 17th April 2020
Aidan and I are back with another potpourri of Whatever Works for us and for the Group Members here. From heating tips to magic arms and much between!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 550 - The Two Year Pixel
Saturday 18th April 2020
Steve and I are back again with our regular weekend show in which we chat with Rita El Khoury (back by popular demand) about all things Android - and we throw in some iOS for Good measure.

The Phones Show
Episode 392 - The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
Monday 20th April 2020
Join Steve over on his YouTube channel as he delivers his verdict on the folding Sammy!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 551 - Sony vs Apple vs Samsung
Tuesday 22nd April 2020
Steve and I are back with another Lockdown Special Mid-weeker as we take a look at Xperia, Galaxy and iPhones in-hand this week.

Whatever Works
Episode 108 - Inflatable Flair
Friday 24th April 2020
Aidan and I are back with another lavish helping of Whatever Works in our lives and in the lives of the Group Members here. Thank you for your contributions. From giant jigsaws to inflatable baths and much more!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 552 - Patience is a Virtue
Saturday 25th April 2020
Steve and I welcome MeWe regular Chris Clayton to the show this week as we run through his mobile thoughts and path, as he heads for an iOS world - but maybe not just yet!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 553 - What Price a Sony?
Tuesday 28th April 2020
Steve and I are back with a midweek catchup and natter for a while about where we are with mobile phones, what's coming and what's gone!

Chewing Gum for the Ears
Episode 20 - The Romantic Eighties
Tuesday 28th April 2020
We take a step back to remember a bit about the 1980's with the highs and lows! Steve and I welcome you to have a listen to our chat which includes loads of other music-related stuff too.

Projector Room
Episode 61 - Sergio's Extraction
Wednesday 29th April 2020
No, not a visit to the dentist but the latest podcast as I chat with Gareth and Allan about all things film, cinema and TV. From Busan to the Moon, we Loop around eventually to A Quiet Place!


The Podcasts
PodHubUK - Phones Show Chat - The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room

The MeWe Community Groups (follow the links to join up)
Phones Show Chat & The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room - PSC Photos - PSC Classifieds

The Team
Ted Salmon - Steve Litchfield - Aidan Bell - Dave Rich - Gareth Myles - Allan Gildea

Sony Xperia 5

Regular readers of my thoughts on tech gear will know that I am wow'd by Sony equipment until it comes to phones. I then enter a love/hate relationship! Wanting so much to love them but become annoyed at how Sony have layered their identity through software over the top of Android. Will this 2019 Sony little brother of the Xperia 1 break the pattern for me, I wonder.

Many thanks to Andy Moon for the loan of this phone which retains the £699 price even six months after launch (in mainstream UK outlets). There are Sony sales at various retailers now and then, but nothing like the same regularity of sales for various other makes and models. It seems that to some degree Sony do much like Apple and keep prices high (at least) until the next model appears. Talking of which, there is an Xperia 5 Mk.II on the horizon, but nothing announced at time of writing in April 2020.

In the Box
As usual with Sony in the UK, there's no TPU case in the box, so you really have to get one. Very first impressions are that it's a very, very slippery glass and aluminium sandwich which you will drop! Otherwise, there's a 3-pin plug, USB-C to USB-C cable to go into it, a nasty-looking set of inner-ear earphones with a simple pause/play/next track Google Assistant button in-line and a 3.5mm to USB-C adapter. Interesting that they continue to supply 3.5mm 'phones and adapter rather than a USB-C set. And the phone! And lifting the phone supplied my tiny brain with that Sony 'Wow' factor, once again!

Sony Design
It's about design for me with Sony. We'll come to practicalities later, but it feels like such a premium slice of tech when handled. It's smooth and the surround is beautifully 'rounded' to meet the flat Gorilla Glass 6 on both sides. I so want to not use the case, but I know I can't - so will enjoy the moment a little longer! We'll come to the screen later but for now, it's a tall - very tall - phone, following the cinema-centric target which Sony are looking towards. So yes, tall and thin. In actual fact, when it's held up against other modern phones from Motorola and Nokia, it really isn't much taller, just a tad, but because of that 21:9 screen ratio it feels taller. An odd illusion. At the top of the front I can see a selfie-cam in the forehead next to an earpiece speaker. The body is IP65/IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins), so well covered against many elements and surprisingly light at only 164g - way behind many of the other Android 2019 releases for weight. This does not, however, make it feel any less premium.

Fit & Finish
On the left is a pull-out (no pokey-tool needed) SIM Card and microSD Card Tray, down the bottom a microphone, USB-C port and classy-looking speaker with a metal-looking grille over it. Up top another microphone and on the right side from top to bottom, a smallish volume rocker, side-mounted capacitive fingerprint scanner, power button and shutter release button. Only from Sony! On the back, we have Sony and Xperia logos and top-left (looking in portrait) three camera lenses, an LED flash and one other sensor. The fit and finish is superb, as you'd expect at this price. No wobbly buttons or anything less than premium look, feel and style. Love it.

Kudos to Sony for not following the herd in a number of ways. Firstly, retaining a capacitive fingerprint scanner, which I'll come to later, and a Notification LED on the forehead, but for now, the screen. Not afraid to keep a small chin and forehead which you could argue makes the 21:9 even taller than it could be, but I like it. Nothing in the way of cinema-viewing in terms of a selfie - and somewhere for the thumb to swipe-up from at the bottom instead of bumping into the case. Quick note about the SIM Card/microSD Card tray - it's horribly plastic in construction but does offer hybrid options of dual-SIM or SIM and Storage. In the usual Sony way, when you open the tray, the phone is powered off. Pros and cons!

The fingerprint scanner is on the side and is capacitive and doesn't do anything other than scan your fingerprint! The power button is separate alongside and unlike most reviewers, it seems, I'm OK with this. It is quick to register and works well - as long as it doesn't get too greasy. I have to, now and again, particularly on hot sweaty days, wipe it before placing my finger, but to be fair, as soon as that is done, quick wipe, it's functioning again normally. Yes, it's a bit odd, but give me this over under-glass scanners anytime! There's no FaceID nor even Face Unlock (since Google seems to have stripped it out of Smart Lock options now), so use of that fingerprint scanner will be critical to user-adoption or rejection.

The screen is a Triluminos 6.1" OLED 1080p panel returning 449ppi and that brave 21:9 aspect ratio for watching films. With no notch, remember! I have a number of 'proper' cinema-ratio films in my stock of .mp4 files and if you're the kind of person who lives for all things film, cinema and TV, it's a wonderful wide experience. How many people are like me - happy to watch films on their phone, however, is another matter! As we expect from OLED and especially Sony, the blacks are very black, colours saturated and brightness peaked. They've gone to town on the available options and tech for the screen, integrating what they're calling Creator Mode in Gamut and Contrast settings. This is supposed to "provide a faithful reproduction of the creator's intended vision through high definition display and specially developed image processing compatible with BT.2020 colour gamut and 10-bit colour of HDR specification". Phew! Well, call me shallow, but I can't see the difference between the two! But maybe in time the appreciation will come out. Only certain apps will support this so it would be a case of tracking down those which do.

X1 for Mobile
If you switch back to Standard Mode, you still get a wonderful experience, according to Sony, and you can auto-set the above to kick in when the supporting apps are used if you want - and enhance video capture using X1 for mobile technology. You can run an example sequence here which shows the difference with/without, for photos and video, which yes, do show a difference - rich saturation mainly - but whether or not anyone would notice away from direct comparison, I'm not sure. Manual White Balance is supplied with pixel-perfect sliders and pre-sets, before you get to the usual Display settings supplied by Android.

Consuming Media
The benefit to us mere mortals is that the screen looks fabulous, bright, colourful, adjustable and great for consuming media if you're OK with the size. The 6.1" screen in real terms means about 5.5" high x 2.3" wide. There are pros and cons to the tall aspect ratio outside of consuming media, when the user is trying hard to use the phone for all the other stuff we do. Not so great for width as the keyboard is pretty narrow in portrait (and near-unusable in landscape, taking up most of the screen) and reaching up to the top of the screen is a long way with one hand. Good, in the sense that scrolling through feeds is great. Loads of content can be seen in the one view whilst the thumb moves the panes up and down for more. Having said all that, I guess it's also a case of what you get used to using and muscle memory.

Really Always On!
The other thing I need to make a fuss about is that this is the first Sony that I've used with a proper Always on Display! Hurrah! At last. They've had displays before which need to be tapped, lifted or bumped to wake up and show the time, date, weather, music playing information (with album art - and not just from the Sony Music App but others too), battery % and Notifications, but not a display that actually stays on, should the user wish. The Xperia 1 and 5 now have this and it ticks a box for sure. Apart from it staying on, it seems like it is pretty much the same as the XZ-range, showing the aforementioned data and a choice of analogue and digital clocks. The analogue one is particularly attractive, with the date inside the clock-numbers ring. Options are Always On, Smart Activation (like taking out of a pocket or moving it or just when lifted) or off. You can also assign a photo to the screen if you really want to eat away at the battery. Options.

Data Exchange
This is also the first Sony I've used which has 128GB of storage built-in. They went from 32GB to 64GB and stayed there for what seemed like forever, whilst others were leap-frogging. 128GB is great, alongside that microSD Card. I have my 512GB card in there and it's playing nicely. Tested with my 2TB Extreme SSD plugged into the USB-C, no problem. Reads and writes, as fast as a Samsung - in fact it may be a tad faster. My other test is the HDMI-Out and again, passed. No problem at all getting content to my TV, sweet as a nut! I don't have the means to test at this point whether or not pass-through charging works as my dongle for the purpose is locked down in another location and I can't get to it! However, I have every confidence that it will work, like the XZ2 and XZ3 which I have tested in the past. UFS 2.1 is present here for the 128GB Storage and this jumps up read/write times significantly over 2.0, apparently! In practical terms, I really don't see a difference for the stuff I do, so test-bench needed! Having 128GB onboard means it's so easy to switch and swap microSD Cards with different data on them, knowing that the core 'static' data that I want to keep on the phone at all times is safe and available. Once again, I declare that 128GB should be the minimum for phones these days. Call quality is good and strong. I have had various calls on the phone and all without fault on Vodafone. The WiFi aerial appears to be good, tested in corners known to be dodgy, and GPS seems to get a quick lock on Google Maps, no trouble. I'd say it all feels much like a Motorola in these respects with good components.

Power Up
Powering the Xperia 5 is the SnapDragon 855 chipset supported by 6GB RAM and it flies in every department. Not a stutter anywhere and although I'm no Gamer, the one pre-installed here (I'll come to that later) is Asphalt 9 and that absolutely flies too! Gameplay is as smooth as silk and the super bright and colourful screen make for quite an experience! Maybe I do like Gaming, after all! The RAM makes multi-tasking a breeze and supports split-screen and other features excellently. App-switching is instant and the 6GB holds plenty in memory. This unit has Android 10 installed, but it was running 9 (Pie) on release in Autumn of last year. The system has been updated to April 2020 Google Security and you do get the feeling, as with Samsung these days, that keeping things up to date is important for the firm, to keep punters happy.

Sony also provide a pretty clean version of Android, following the protocols of Android 10 very nicely with Home Screen Settings, Google App Cards to the left of Home and full screen Gesture controls, which work beautifully, both sides for Back, the full height of the screen. The Notification Shade is pure Android 10 too with a colour theme to fit. Useful additions include a switch to remove the Google Search Bar from the foot of the Home Screen. (Hurrah! Who wants that, Google!) One-handed mode can be selected to shrink the screen into a corner and has full resizing. Smart lighting control, which knows when the phone is in the hand so brightens things up, Google Assistant can be assigned to the Power button, double-press, or to launch the camera (which seems a bit pointless when the shutter button does it) or just behave as a power button. Double Tap To Wake is present for those who don't want AoD, as is Sony's own Side Sense.

Side Sense
Side Sense is a kind-of copy of what Samsung have been doing for years, placing a panel of selectable shortcuts and Apps which you can invoke by (adjustable speed) double-tapping (or adjustable length) sliding up the very top of the edge of the two front sides, but it's very difficult to execute in my testing here and needs learning - and impossible with a TPU case attached. The case just covers where you're supposed to tap/slide! I now have a 'Sony Slide Cover View' where the edges are left clear for this to work, but it's a 'flip' case, so has other functional quirks of course - and it's quite expensive. Very classy for those who like flip-cases and works in tandem with the phone's software to glow the AoD through the front transparent flap. But that's a review for another day. Anyway, the panel is just a replication of the Apps Drawer really, except that it also has controls to quickly invoke that One-Handed mode (for those who have selected Gesture Navigation), Notifications (which you can just swipe down the top of the screen for anyway) and the slightly more useful 21:9 Multi-Window. With this you can assign 'pairs' of apps to run half-screen each (which it learns from your use and offers three likely pairings) or just manually drag apps into the placeholder on offer for top/bottom. We've seen this for a long time, of course, where a person could have their email at the bottom, working away and YouTube, for example up the top running a video. Pairings are limitless, and I guess it makes good use of the extra-tall screen for those who are likely to use it. The system can also be set to put Apps in the panel based on frequent use, rather than just being set as they might be on your Home Screen. Gimmick? Maybe. But why not!

Simple Life Please!
I always said that Sony, with their pots of cash, don't need to 'do deals' with software firms and pre-install loads of bloat, but they continue to do it to some degree. It feels like they actually believe that their customers want this stuff, no question, so they make it simpler for them. One change since I last used a Sony is that, much like Samsung, many of the Apps can be rejected during the setup process, by unticking boxes and never being installed at all. Good! However, a bunch remain - and the ones which can be Force Closed and Disabled, removing them from the Apps List are 3D Creator, Album, Asphalt 9,, Cinema Pro, Facebook and Fortnite. Annoying. But yes, they can be got rid of out of sight. Some are useful, however, and I give a pass to Sony's own Music App, for example, which is a welcome and capable Player. The Game Enhancer App enables the user to control incoming Notifications during gameplay and provides a dedicated front-end for all the games that have been installed. There are also loads of Apps made by Sony available in the Play Store which can be installed, to control other Sony gear and add functionality to the camera, which I'll come to later.

System-Wide Dolby
I was pleased to see a further 'enhanced' version of Dolby Atmos available to the user here, system-wide to support the stereo speakers and headphone output. This is not very far away from the all-bells-and-whistles version which was available on the Razer Phone. Many phones offer half-baked versions of Dolby this and Dolby that, but none reach the heights of the Razer experience. First to the speakers though and no, it's not 'proper' stereo but the one that we have come to dub 'faux' with deeper frequencies coming from the speaker at the bottom, bottom-firing, and others from the top earpiece speaker assembly. The sound coming from the phone is very, very good. Loud enough and with enough quality for most people, but doesn't reach the highs of the market-leaders now and certainly not the Razer. It's not as bass'y as some others out there, but start playing with the equaliser via Dolby (either with the range of pre-sets or going it manual with frequency-sliders), drop the volume to 75% instead of 100 and it sounds fabulous. Stereo separation is excellent and on test with YouTube videos exploiting 'surround' it does the job admirably even 18" from the face. The Dynamic Vibration (same as the XZ range) makes a real difference to the 'feel' of the music either when held in-hand or placed on a flat surface. It's more than good enough for my purposes and, I suspect, 98% of potential users.

Plugged In, Kind Of...
The Xperia 5 is able to produce 24-bit/192kHz audio and I'm testing here with the supplied nasty in-ear 'phones, which are functional and OK, but nothing special in terms of reproduction. Shame on you Sony for charging £700 for a phone and skimping on rubbish earphones. However, put on my AKG K701 set and put up against various Nokia/Moto models I have here which have basic headphone output, there is a marked difference in volume and quality. Even to me, who is normally wow'd by even the lowliest of output! It really sounds gorgeous with far-too punchy a bass for me. I can't slide the volume past 50% and the tweaks and fiddles in Dolby Atmos make things even more flexible. I'm no audiophile, but this sounds super - loud and great quality! Bluetooth 5 bells and whistles are present in the form of A2DP, aptX HD, LE et al. It is quick to pair and maintains a connection pretty much over the same yardage as the iPhone X using AirPods which I tested the other day.

No Qi
Wireless charging is another corner cut here by Sony. At this price, again, it might be reasonable to expect that. The phone is supplied with a built-in 3140mAh battery and 18W Fast Charging via the USB-C port which is also USB PD 2.0 compliant. In my usual 10% reading test I am getting statistic-defying results of 1 hour 40 minutes, which for the size of this battery is remarkable, based on my standard testing against the same conditions with all devices, some with even bigger batteries. Maybe it's something to do with Android 10 efficiencies or perhaps just Sony's Adaptive Charging (Battery Care). This system "intelligently measures battery health in real-time and continuously adjusts battery charging to provide a longer lifespan, more daily use and faster charging". After a few days I've turned off Battery Care though as it doesn't seem to be learning fast enough and I keep waking up and the battery is not 100% but rather 80/90%. Maybe it needs longer to get to know me. On my average day tests I'm getting 26-30 hours between charges with 5-7 hours of Screen On Time, adaptive battery and brightness engaged. Great results all round and a far cry from what I found testing the Xperia XZ3 with an OLED screen - more like back to the performance of the LCD XZ2. What we have in terms of connectivity is NFC for Google Pay and all the aerials seem to do a fine job. Phone calls are clear and loud and don't drop out on Vodafone here, WiFi is strong and feels solid, GPS locks on quickly and Google Maps relocates instantly.

Xperia Companion
A quick word here for the old Windows/Mac Programme Xperia Companion available via Sony's website. It feels a bit like a step back in time with everyone now living in the cloud, but sometimes this kind of thing feels like a comfy old pair of slippers. Use the Cable to plug the phone into your computer, run the old Nokia-like software and you get a simple but pleasing front-end with graphical displays for Battery and Storage levels of the phone and buttons for updating the phone's software (instead of doing it on-phone), Software Repair (factory reset - which can also be done on the phone), Browse the phone (which you can do in Windows or on the phone anyway), Music to Xperia (iTunes, Spotify - ditto) and Backup/Restore/Xperia Transfer to Sony's cloud. Some of these don't work with Android 10 so only with older models. Yeah, I know, there are other solutions out there which are much more universal and don't need a computer - but much like enjoyment gained from using iTunes for my iPhone, I really like this - and won't be uninstalling it anytime soon!

Camera and Photos
I have to admit that this is the point at which I hand over to Steve Litchfield for a summary of what the phone's camera is capable of, but on this occasion that has not been possible. So I have sent him some shots and video which I have taken to invite his appraisal of what he has found. But before I reveal that, I'll tell you what I see and find - what I think of what's in front of me.

Basics first and Yay! A shutter button, like a proper camera. Sony have stuck with this and it's great. Yes, I know that screens can be tapped but this makes it feel much more like the unit is indeed a capable compact camera. Supported by Sony's look and feel in the software. The shutter button can be long-pressed to fire up the camera even if the screen is locked. It then acts as a two-stage button, just like a real camera, half press to confirm focus, continue down to fire the shutter. Bliss! Furthermore, when you're shooting the camera tell you when you're too close to focus - unlike many systems which don't confirm in any way and let you go ahead and shoot. When I'm using this, it feels like a feature which is worth the money for the phone alone!

We have a triple camera setup here with a main 12MP f/1.6 unit with OIS, a second 12MP f/2.4 one with 2x Optical Zoom and OIS again and a third 12MP f/2.4 camera for wide-angle shots. Round the front there's an 8MP f/2 Selfie-cam. There's no way to shoot photos in 21:9 in the camera app, it seems - best is 16:9, which seems a bit odd. The Cinema Pro app allows it (and presumably other 3rd party camera apps), but I got totally lost using that as it seems to be for Pro video creators, not the likes of me! Back in the phone's Display settings there's an option to switch on Creator Mode. If that's turned on, then the system uses all that BT.2020 and 10-bit colour malarkey to which I referred earlier. I'm not even going to attempt to decipher Cinema Pro. Instead I'm going to point you at the GSMArena Cinema Pro Review and ask you to forgive me not wanting to tackle this complicated beast myself. They seem to think that it's more of a toy than a serious tool for filmmakers anyway and I can't ever see myself using it!

Safe Ground
So, back to more comfortable territory and a look at what the built-in camera app brings. In the lower part of the screen there's a 1x, 2x and W (wide) button which cycles through and changes the camera in use (fairly slowly) for shooting different aspects. Below that is a Photo/Video switch and under that, a Mode button, shutter button and review (which can be assigned to Sony's Album or Google Photos). Panorama mode works in the usual way, sweeping across a scene and trusting the OIS to deal with shake, which it does very well and produces pleasing results. Note to self. Must do more of this. Creative effects supplies a bunch of filters on-the-fly. Slow motion lets you shoot a video then make a section of it slow motion, just when your son actually takes the penalty, at 120fps! Google Lens cleverness, we know well and is built-in. Have you used it lately? It's very smart these days. Portrait Selfie is fun with various effects on-the-fly including making people's skin look soft or brighter, faces more slender or even eyes bigger! But the actual Bokeh is the one to visit here with a slider for how narrow you want to set depth of field. Works very nicely. And then Manual mode, in which you can change focus, shutter speed, ISO, EV or white balance. All works as it should for when you want to override the clever AI. AI which, if you let it, gives you tips and advice all over the place and thinks it knows what you're shooting most of the time and setting the camera to get you the best shot. We've seen all this before, but done very well here and, as I say, can be shut off! Predictive Capture shoots when it sees a smile or with action, just before you shoot - the usual stuff. There are other Apps in the Play Store by Sony to plug into the camera, so a bit of a playground! The camera app feels like a lot of fun and much like a compact camera in use, especially with that shutter button.

Steve's Conclusion
So, Steve's had a look at the photos and video I sent over to him and concludes that "the story is the same as with Sony’s camera phones for the last decade. Great sensors, decent specs but spoilt by underwhelming image processing. There’s just no care taken down at the pixel level to ensure purity - so nature is smudged and straight lines become jaggies. This is no Google Pixel or iPhone competitor in terms of care and attention to good photography. Sorry, Sony. Having said all that, it’s perfectly competent for shooting accurate photos for social media and personal enjoyment - colours are lifelike, lighting looks as if it matches reality rather than being hyper-real. The camera system is indeed…. competent." Thanks Steve!

My Verdict
You will have got the impression by now that this phone has shuffled up to the top of my current list and grabs my SIM Card. It's not particularly the best at anything. It's just that for me, the package is pretty close to what I'm looking for and what makes it a winner. I'd like to add Qi Charging, chop the one or two remaining 'system apps' which are not and put in a 3.5mm audio-out socket, but beyond that I really can't complain. There's a very clean version of Android, bang up to date support for that, a gorgeous screen, excellent battery defying the size, very good (if not quite the best) stereo speakers, great headphone sound, Always on Display, 128GB, microSD, weather-proofing and as far as I'm concerned, excellent camera setup with great auto-results. Yes, it's expensive at £699 (still) but let us not forget, that although there's bigger a brother out there in the Xperia 1, it's really only physically bigger - the Xperia 5 is just as much a flagship and arguably better for being smaller in the hand and pocket. If this were priced at £499, which it might be eventually, I'd highly, highly recommend it. As it is, I just highly recommend it!

Monday, 13 April 2020

Kiki's Delivery Service

Thought I'd have another go at another Ghibli animation and chose this one. "Made in 1989 and written, produced, and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The film tells the story of a young witch, Kiki, who moves to a new town and uses her flying ability to earn a living. According to Miyazaki, the movie portrays the gulf between independence and reliance in teenage Japanese girls. It was the first film released under a 15-year distribution partnership between The Walt Disney Company and Studio Ghibli and Buena Vista Home Video recorded an English dub in 1997 for which Kirsten Dunst voiced Kiki." Wiki.

Kiki is a witch and leaves home on her broomstick with her black cat (who she can talk with, but nobody else can) to head for the city to learn her craft. Or something! Not important. She stumbles into a kindly family who run a bakery and take her in, offering her accommodation in return for providing a delivery service (by air, of course) to their customers.

A young local lad is interested in her romantically and has a shared interest in flying, so he pursues her. They get into various scrapes while she's going about her business ending up with a great disaster which she and he have to club together regarding to save the day etc. In amongst all that she loses her powers because of a lack of confidence and has to fight to get them back climbing her personal mountain.

It's all good stuff, very cutesy and animation delightful with a French feel about it. The imagery is compelling throughout - a visual delight, with much thought put into landscapes, cityscapes from the air and angles. Very enjoyable and recommended. Maybe not as deep and meaningful as the likes of Spirited Away, but really nice to watch. Available on Netflix.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Nutri-Q 35650 Twin Omelette Maker

We were looking for an omelette maker as we hadn't had one for years and found this one which has turned out to be excellent! It's a bit like a sandwich toaster machine with two 'troughs' in each of two 'plates' which close together, then cook what's inside.

In this case, omelette mixture of eggs, a dash of milk (I'll come back to that), pepper, a dash of olive oil. Turn it on until the green light on top goes out, indicating that it's ready to cook. This took about 3mins. Open up the clamshell by pressing in the button on the bottom to unlock it, pour the mixture into the two 'troughs' close the lid, clicking the lock, let it cook away for about 6-7 minutes. Lift to check and see when it's nicely browned. They say 3-5 minutes but in our experience, that's not long enough.

We cooked a couple of variations with cheese and chopped-up bacon pieces and they came out beautifully. The ceramic marble-flecked 'plates' are totally non-stick and as long as you use plastic utensils, they'll presumably stay that way. The finished omelettes slip out easily on a plastic spatula ready for the plate.

You can either cook two at a time or just one. We learnt the hard way about ignoring the advice to not fill the 'troughs' too high up as on the second attempt, we filled them too much (to use up the mixture) and it spilled out and onto the worktop. No worries though, as the overspill created scrambled eggs for us! We did also wonder if it might have been because we use a dash of milk - next time we'll not add that.

Only problem was the cleaning. If it hadn't spilt over, we'd have been reporting easy wipe-clean with a fairy-liquid and water soaked cloth - but actually, the spill went into some of the housing between top and plates which we had to use something plastic and pointy to clean out. A toothbrush would do it. So care needed - and unlike us, follow the instructions! If you want to cook scrambled eggs, you just leave the lid open and stir as it cooks. Fried eggs? No problem - crack it in there and whip it out when done!

Dare I say that it's a cracking little machine?! And at only £17 from AmazonUK it's a bargain - and the resulting omelettes taste delicious! Recommended!

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

The PodHubUK Podcasts for March 2020

...a roundup of our month of podcasting. Links to the team, communities and podcast homes on the net at the foot, so scroll down!

Whatever Works
Episode 102 - Stream Dining!
Sunday 1st March 2020
Aidan, Dave and I are back once more with another show to thrill your weekend with another collection of Whatever Works for us and the Group Members here - from text tricks to treadmills and much between!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 541 - It Just Works...Most of the Time!
Sunday 8th March 2020
Steve and I welcome back Xerxes Hodivala to chat for an hour about all things mobile phone and where we all are on the road to the perfect solution!

The Phones Show
Episode 389 - Samsung Galaxy S20
Thursday 12th March 2020
Join Steve as he puts the latest Galaxy through his usual testing routines and finds out if this is going to better his S9+ or even iPhone!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 542 - Underwhelmed
Saturday 14th March 2020
Steve and I are back this week with our initial thoughts on all things Samsung - the new 20's and the old 10's - along with a whole other bunch of mobile stuff as always.

Whatever Works
Episode 103 - Virtual Venetian Vision!
Sunday 15th March 2020
Aidan, Dave and I are back again for our fortnightly look at Whatever Works for us and the Group Members and to have a dig and a poke at what doesn't! From clever rings to ghostly things - there's something for everyone!

Projector Room
Episode 58 - Korean Cabbie
Wednesday 18th March 2020
Gareth and Allan join me once again for our fortnightly look at what's interesting to us and for the Group Members here in film, cinema and TV. The usual mixed-bag of goodies to tempt you, from Balloons to Black Spots and much more!

The Phones Show
Episode 390 - Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
Saturday 21st March 2020
Join Steve as he takes a look at the rather large big brother of the S20. Is it the phone to tick every box and blow our socks off? Tune in and find out!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 543 - The Age of Ultra
Saturday 22nd March 2020
Steve and I chat with Zachary Kew-Denniss about the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, some new Nokia phones on the way and a look at our new logo, thanks to Steve Heinrich!

Whatever Works
Episode 104 - Nothing But Plugs!
Friday 27th March 2020
We're back again to help relieve the lockdown boredom as Aidan and I have a look at Whatever Works for us and in the lives of our listeners. We natter for an hour about all sorts of stuff - including ideas to pass the time.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 544 - 10 Days, 6 Phones, One V60
Saturday 28th March 2020
Steve and I welcome back Matt Miller to PSC (and podcasting)! We natter about what he's been up to and enjoy his take on all things mobile phone for an hour.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 545 - The Astro Slide
Tuesday 31st March 2020
The first of our Beat the Blues C-19 Mid-Week Shows! This mid-week Steve Litchfield and I welcome Aidan back to join us as we take a look at the newly announced Astro Slide from Planet Computers. Is the 3rd Generation even better?

The Podcasts
PodHubUK - Phones Show Chat - The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room

The MeWe Community Groups (follow the links to join up)
Phones Show Chat & The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room - PSC Photos - PSC Classifieds

The Team
Ted Salmon - Steve Litchfield - Aidan Bell - Dave Rich - Gareth Myles - Allan Gildea

Friday, 27 March 2020

Moto G8 Power

Here's the brand new Moto G8 Power (8 Power in the USA). A low-price handset with some very positive key features. Motorola will be hoping that their budget-conscious customers will value these features over some missing ones that their friends will have!

This is going to be one of those for-the-price reviews again, I'm afraid! I'll try not to say it too often, but please fill the phrase in for yourself as we proceed and consider what's on offer here. The big selling point is clearly the 'power' in that the unit has a 5,000mAh cell. There are a few phones creeping up into this post-4000mAh territory now, including one or two from Samsung. A couple of years ago, we'd have wow'd by that, but maybe not so much now. However, with Moto's clean approach to phone software perhaps their claim of 'up to 3 days' of life will have some validity. We'll find out here.

Box Contents
In the box, there's a clear TPU (becoming a standard for Moto these days), USB-A to USB-C cable, 3-pin UK Plug with USB-A port, a few papers and pokey-tool - and that's it! The TPU fits snuggly, as you'd expect - and offers perfectly good grip and coverage for most of us who don't go off-road or hang-gliding!

On the left of the phone we have the pokey-tool hole for ejecting the SIM Card Tray and inside, an option for two SIM Cards or one and a microSD. The tray looks sturdy enough and fits very firmly in place with what appears to be a rubber-seal to keep out the elements. On the right is the volume rocker above a knurled power button, both of which are plastic but look hardy enough. Up top is the 3.5mm audio-out socket and at the bottom, USB-C port and the first of a pair of stereo speakers, this one downwards-firing.

Tour Continued
The plastic back houses the four cameras, very much like others in the G-range, top-right in landscape, with the bigger top camera on its own being the wide-angle and the other three on an island for normal shooting, macro and zoom. Alongside is the LED flash and about 75% of the way up, central, is the capacitive fingerprint scanner with the usual 'M' logo inside. The back has a very faint lined pattern, there's reassuringly no 'give' in it at any point as it curves very slightly round to meet the edging. Edging which feels very much like plastic, but is, apparently 6000-series aluminium.

The front glass is flat and there's no boast about Gorilla Glass or even Panda King, which Moto have recently been using on some models. So I guess it's a case of taking great care - or even applying some sort of screen protector so the glass doesn't get micro-scratched up. The panel is an IPS LCD "Max Vision Display" at 6.4" in the ratio 19:9. It's 1080p and returns a ppi of 399. It looks bright, colourful and sharp to these old eyes and it is brighter and whiter than the Pixel 3 (which I happen to have at hand). The OLED of the latter survives better, the more the screen is angled away - at which point the Moto's LCD becomes warmer and less bright. Face-on, however, I have no complaints, even out in sunlight. The screen's colour can be switched in settings between Natural, Boosted and Saturated but they don't seem to make a huge difference and the default is set to Saturated. There's a bit of a forehead bezel and a bit more of a chin, but for most of us we'd say that the screen goes out to the edges well enough to consider that it is using the whole front of the phone. I really don't think that a millimetre here and there makes any difference to usability. In fact, one could argue that small bezels are helpful under Android 10 for Gesture controls. The 'corners' are rounded nicely and there's a Selfie hole-punch top-left (portrait) Samsung-style, that really doesn't get in the way.

Big and Heavy
The phone is fairly weighty at all-but 200g, is fairly big in the hand and offers a "water repellent design". I'm guessing this means the usual nano-coating of components, ports and buttons - but nothing IP-rate-able. It's almost exactly the same size as the Motorola One Zoom except a little fatter for that extra 1000mAh of battery.

All Power
To the (almost) USP then and that 5000mAh battery. I've been testing it for about a week now and I'm delighted to report that after initial charging, I only had to do it once again! Firstly though my 10% Reading Test - in which I read/look/use indoors from fully charged (nothing clinical here but a mixture of reading books, looking at news, the odd phone call, the odd video linked to in news, screen on and both display and battery on Adaptive) and see how much time has passed when the battery gets to 10%. The current leader here is the 4000mAh battery of the Moto G8 Plus which clocked up 2 hours and 20 minutes but we have a new record-breaker now at a staggering 3 hours and 10 minutes! It just gets better.

Staying Power
Second, is my average-use-for-me scenario which, as I say, I have now done twice. The first time I was getting a return of 72 hours with 9 hours Screen-On-Time, so yes, 3 days without question, but the second test brought an even better return of just over 80 hours between charges and 15 hours SoT. A fabulous performance all round which will, of course, be less than this if people are caning it watching films, playing music all day, shooting video and the like. In support of my testing methods, the playing field is level across devices and for you, it'll be different of course. By all accounts, a PowerHouse and for some of us, a weekend away might not need thoughts of recharging. The supplied plug is capable of 18W rapid charging and as we'd expect, there's no Wireless Qi Charging on offer. My Qi Receiver plugs in nicely, however, and works a treat for healthy, slow overnight charging. Hopefully, every second or even third night!

Next up is those stereo speakers and how they perform. The true stereo (not faux) output is very similar (if not exactly the same) as the Moto G8 Plus which I reviewed recently. I wouldn't be surprised if the same components were used as the output is just as excellent. It's decently loud in the same way and with the speakers 'tuned by Dolby' with true system-wide Dolby Equalisation available, the quality, richness, depth and separation can be fine-tuned by the user too. Unusually, all the Dolby options are made available to the speakers and not some reserved just for headphones use. Tested with stereo YouTube videos, there's a real 3D effect as the usual fleet of spacecraft fly overhead and speedboats zoom past from behind the listener. With the phone 18" away from the face the effect remains noticeable and the right way up when the phone is turned over (which can't be said for many so-called stereo setups).

Moto Audio
So Moto Audio...tuned by Dolby gives some basic cover-alls (for those who don't want to dig) of Smart audio (it works out the best for you), Music, Film and Game (each of which can be drilled into for individual tweaking) - then the Custom, which has even more, with a Manual Equaliser setup to adjust frequencies across the range. Alongside that, there's more pre-sets of Brilliant Treble, Bass Boost and Vocal Boost. There's always a payoff with top volume as the user starts to play around with theses settings, but whatever you do with the output it's hard to describe it as anything less than a room-filling sound. There's an FM Radio which records - and doesn't even need anything plugged into the 3.5mm audio-out socket to fire it up. Great stuff. Bluetooth 5 is present and connected very nicely to gear I have here, though unfortunately I don't have any top-notch BT headphones or speakers to hand to push it very much.

There are no awards waiting for output via headphones here but the sound is good enough by far for The 95%. It's perfectly loud for my ears even in a noisy environment, deep and bass'y enough, but for the 5% who want their heads blown off (or who can tell the difference) a more powerful DAC dongle can be used. For most people, the inclusion of a 3.5mm audio-out socket will be a very welcome addition. Everything about the sound output is very impressive at this price-point. There, I said it!

Driving Time
The chipset is a SnapDragon 665, so the same as the Xiaomi Mi A3 and Redmi Note 8T for example. Here, of course, there's next to no bloatware - only the few additions which Moto add to enhance the Android experience, which I'll come to, so the 665 is left in peace a lot of the time to get on with serving the user what they ask for (and not attending to 1001 back-end processes which slow down some). This is no powerhouse of course and only coupled with 4GB RAM there is evidence of slight lapses when switching between apps and opening up new ones and processing data when in high demand. There is a setting available for Adaptive Performance now which optimises RAM efficiency and learns the user's behaviour if engaged. Opening up the camera is a bit slow, for example, and running demanding games, but in the real world, the 95% really won't be bothered - it's only us, putting it up against the latest crop of flagships, who are concerned. Mr Average will not even notice for 95% of the time.

In Store
I've been saying for some time now that 128GB of storage should be considered the bare minimum for people's phones now, but again, it's a for-the-price thing here. The 64GB on offer here will, no doubt, be perfectly good enough for most folk - and for those who need more, there's a microSD Card slot. This is playing perfectly with my 512GB microSD Card and my 2TB SSD too via USB-C, on-the-fly. Yes, OK, it takes a while to initiate the SSD, getting it all read, but once there it works beautifully playing films and any other media I throw at it. Just like the G8 Plus there's no HDMI-Out, but I'd have been shocked if there was!

The Big Omission
The thing that I am shocked about, however, is that there's no NFC! I really am astounded that Moto would release a phone in The West with no means to use Google Pay. They must realise that almost everyone now is expecting to head for Tesco and pay for their grub with their phone. To grab that coffee on the way to work. To pay for your bus fare or Metro. What were they thinking, I wonder. Was this a phone they were expecting to just release in The East then turned-tail at the last minute and decided on a World release after all? I think that very sadly for Motorola, this, for many, many people will be a deal-breaker. There are many cheaper phones which have it. Even Moto's phones. It's just that I can't see who might want to buy it without. People under the age of banking and credit? Maybe it will be a second phone for people. A glove-box backup. A wild and odd decision which sadly can't be fixed in software when they realise.

We've got used to Motorola connectivity aerials working very well and this is no exception. The cellular locks and holds onto calls and 4G data very well, as I said earlier the Bluetooth works fine, seems strong and maintains a good grip over distance in my limited available testing, the GPS works quickly and reliably in Maps and the only fly in the ointment for nit-pickers is that 5GHz WiFi support is missing so users have to make do with 2.4GHz. Can't say it matters much to me, but I do know one person at least who wants the whole home network to be on 5 with any 2.4 on the system dragging the network to a slower place. So for some, to be aware.

Android 10
Still, let's get back to it and assume people will live without NFC! Android 10 out of the box. That's great. I highly approve of the new flurry of phones up and running with it as others wallow in Pie awaiting updates - and even new phones being released, outdated. Well done to Moto here. All the lovely 10 additions are present including system-wide Gesture controls and Dark Theme everywhere. It really gives the user the feeling that they're bang up to date with what's going on. Sadly, we're back to the lag-behind with Google Security and this unit is now 4 months behind on December 2019. This is another of Motorola's non-AndroidOne programme phones so it will, no doubt, once settled, enter the general 3-month update cycle. New phones from Moto which are not AndroidOne do tend to take a while to get that first kick.

Moto Additions
The one that always saddens me most if missing is Moto Approach. They have proved that Approach is possible with LCD screens via the G7/8 Plus models, but like the AndroidOne phones (such as One Vision and One Action) they have chosen to not make it available. Why on earth? However, all is not lost. Instead of waving a hand over the screen to wake up Peek, a tap on the screen will do it here. From thereon in it's the same as any other Peek with Notification icon being swipe-able for quick-peek or opening up for full viewing. It's just that proximity sensor action for Peek which they seem to have saved pennies on. Much of the rest of the suite is present (chop-chop for Torch, 3-finger screenshot, twist-twist for camera and so on) with some additions like Gametime settings to keep interruptions at bay and brightness high, a 'What's new in Android 10' section leading the migrating user through the changes and double-press Power for Google Assistant. But it's really otherwise a clean version of Android with stock-like Home Pages and Google Assistant access and Cards to the left as we've come to expect. Wherever Google Services and Apps are supplied, Moto uses them. No doubling up of anything, no bloat, no deals with FaceBook, LinkedIn or Amazon. Clean as a whistle. You get as close to Vanilla as is possible. Well done Moto.

The fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone is a tad small for my liking but it works perfectly and can be set to swipe-down for the Notification Shade. The setup is straight-forward, quick and opening up the phone it's first time, every time. At least it's not an under-glass mess-up like many others and the user, even though they might have to pick the phone up, knows where they are without hopeful successive stabs at the screen. There's no Face Unlock option but there is Attentive in settings which means that if you have it set up and you're looking at the screen, the screen will stay on and not time out/off.

The G8 Power is equipped with what should look like a great array of camera options. A 16MP f/1.7 main camera, a 2MP f/2.2 macro lens with 2cm focus distance, an 8MP f/2.2 wide-angle snapper and lastly, an 8MP f/2.2 telephoto with 2x optical zoom. There's a 16MP f2 Selfie round the front in support which offers a quad-pixel binning setup to grab 4MP shots, unless you specifically set it to 16MP to make use of the full sensor, unimpaired. There's no OIS to be seen anywhere, but regardless, this camera setup produces fine, fun shots in good light and for those not pixel-peeping. At this price, it can be given a pass on that level, I think!

Camera App
The App is laid out in a similar way to others in the range with a tap-button to move between wide, normal and zoom, a grid icon to launch all the modes including that so-called Macro, Spot Colour, Cutout, Portrait and so on. Some more useful than others but nothing much new from what we've seen before. Auto-everything with AI, Smile Capture which fires when everyone is smiling, Manual mode (with control over everything except focus, bizarrely), RAW option, Portrait mode (which works surprisingly well), Google Lens is built-in, all sorts of video options including electronic stabilisation and so on and so on. Tons of stuff to play with but the best fun for me has been the Macro Mode where photos can be taken pretty close-up. Yes, of limited use for most people, but great fun. And that's what photography on this phone is, I think. Probably out-performed by an awful lot of other phones out there, but I'm guessing that people buying/using this phone at this price won't care about that stuff - they'll happy-snap for memories and social media 'til their heart's content!

The phone is £219 in the UK on launch (in Smoke Black or Capri Blue) which will no doubt mean it will end up being £189 or less in time. If the user can live without NFC/Google Pay then it's actually a bit of a bargain. With eyes fixed on the giant battery performance, super stereo speakers, system-wide Dolby, fun camera and a near-Vanilla Android experience bang up to date with version 10, the user could do an awful lot worse. It's a popularly big phone so might suit people with less than perfect eyesight and the Moto additions make the whole package a tidy one for the money. Yes, there's stuff missing and maybe some would veer towards the Moto G8 Plus to plug those gaps, but for others who don't care and love the mega-powerful cell, it'll be a good choice.

The PodHubUK Podcasts for May 2020

...a roundup of our month of podcasting. Links to the team, communities and podcast homes on the net at the foot, so scroll down! Whateve...