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How the OnePlus 8 series looks in the light of day, and more tech news today

OnePlus goes from flagship killer to killer flagship, Google reportedly goes without Qualcomm, and I'm going to tell you more

Published onApril 15, 2020

OnePlus 8 series cameras 2

Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily newsletter, for Wednesday, April 15.

1. OnePlus 8 launch and reviews: Familiar flagships, unfamiliar prices

OnePlus 8 Pro camera macro 1

The OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro launched yesterday with big specs, new features, and price tags to match – plus reviews dropped immediately, so we already know what to think. OnePlus is gunning for everyone, not just Samsung, now.

  • The big new features for the range compared to the 7T series include best-ever display, wireless charging, and a 120Hz refresh rate screen (Pro-only), plus the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 with 5G. Both go for a hole-punch for a front-facing camera, dropping the pop-up/notch.
  • There are new color options, too: Onyx Black, Glacial Green for both, with the 8 Pro getting a bright Ultramarine Blue, while the 8 gets a shiny Interstellar Glow but only with the upper spec model. (OnePlus 8 in Interstellar Glow in the image by David Imel, above.)
  • Reviews are out already so we don’t even have to temper expectations or warn about problems being discovered later in full reviews. Some reviewers have had both devices for more than two weeks.
  • The main catch is pricing: the OnePlus 8 Pro starts at $899, the OnePlus 8 at $699.
  • In terms of comparable new 2020 flagships, the Samsung S20 Plus had a much higher RRP but has seen big price drops already, while the new LG V60 has similar specs, and is cheaper outright, or about the same price with a dual-screen accessory.
  • And of course, the iPhone 11 starting at $699 too (with just 64GB internal storage), while the unlocked Pixel 4 is $449 and Pixel 4 XL is $549 right now.
  • (Deals and discounts are hot, the economy is not.)

OnePlus 8 Pro:

  • The 8 Pro model (in blue, above) has gone from a flagship killer to a killer flagship, and now competes directly with top-of-the-line devices in terms of comprehensive specs. And pricing.
  • Just about all 8 Pro reviews agree: the 8 Pro has a fantastic 120Hz display, the new official IP rating is great for peace of mind, fast wired and wireless charging, great software, battery life with a 4,510mAh battery is solid, and the cameras have versatility. It’s solid.
  • There are two variants and two prices: 8GB of RAM with 128GB internal storage for $899, and 12GB RAM with 256GB of internal storage for $999 outright. (Keeping to the CEO’s promise of under $1000. By $1.)
  • Oddly, OnePlus has included a color filter lens as the Pro’s fourth lens. It does almost nothing useful beyond the super-niche. Odd.
  • Reviews are positive, and the one biggest and consistent negative I’ve seen across reviews and chatter is that the camera system just isn’t quite there. Despite the new tech and versatility (and price), it won’t always beat the older Pixel 4.
  • The problem is that a new model doesn’t necessarily mean a better camera. There’s no guaranteed linear improvement even as tech improves and matures.
  • Right now, OnePlus doesn’t seem to have the camera quite nailed, whereas everything else is leading.

OnePlus 8:

OnePlus 8 series cameras 1
  • The (non-Pro) OnePlus 8 has the following compromises from the Pro: spec’d down camera, no wireless charging (or an IP rating on the unlocked model, more on that later), 90Hz refresh only, and it’s a touch smaller.
  • But it still has that great display and performance, and all the good things you expect from the OnePlus package.
  • The camera system on the OP8 is less capable and performs worse than the already good but imperfect OnePlus 8 Pro, especially in low-light or dim indoor lighting.
  • The 8 has an older 48MP main camera, and 12MP ultrawide, not getting the newer Sony IMX689 sensor found on the 8 Pro, and no telephoto.
  • Instead of telephoto, you get a macro lens. This is not good: reviewers basically either found it interesting for a few photos of flowers, or just useless.
  • The battery is 4,300mAh which is smaller but reviewers say it’s good. Lack of wireless charging is either a big deal to you or not.
  • But the base model is $200 cheaper than the 8 Pro, and that makes it competitive.
  • Cheaper still is the OnePlus 7T, now retailing sparsely for $499. Given the modest improvements to the OnePlus 8, the 7T is still great, and worth close consideration.

Meddling carriers:

  • Carrier weirdness is always a thing in the US. Here’s what’s going on with Verizon and T-Mobile’s carrier offering.
  • First, Verizon is only offering the OnePlus 8, not the Pro. But it is offering a variant model which includes mmWave 5G tech along with sub-6GHz tech.
  • mmWave unlocks the holy land of 5G speeds, but has almost no availability anywhere. (Experts think a few blocks in major cities will get mmWave 5G by the end of 2020, whereas sub-6GHz will be more widely available and hence, that’s what most 5G phones will offer.)
  • Verizon has its own name for this phone, called OnePlus 8 5G UW (UW = Ultra-wide) and it retails for $799, $100 more than the standard OnePlus 8 for $699.
  • To complete the oddities: carrier versions of the OnePlus 8do have IP68 certification, both Verizon and T-Mobile, but the unlocked model does not.
  • Is it safe to assume the unlocked model has the same standard, just without the certificate? Maybe, but I wouldn’t take it for a swim.

More: The OnePlus 8 Pro: Pricing, when, where, and for how much – and how the pre-order bonus works.

2. Google is reportedly ditching Qualcomm to build its own ARM-based processor for its Pixels, and Chromebooks, with Samsung fabs at 5nm process. Just in time for a Google Pixel 6? Watch this space, but pretty big news if confirmed (Android Authority).

4. Google reduces Nest Cam video quality to help with internet congestion. One cam uses 400GB of data per month at the highest quality setting (Android Authority).

5.  Here comes Peacock: NBCUniversal enters the streaming wars with Peacock set for end-of-April launch for Comcast customers, July 15th for everyone else (The Verge).

6. Riot is expanding access to the Valorant beta starting today (The Verge).

7. Google’s image results will soon tell you more about what you’re seeing (Engadget).

8. Amazon has announced deep cuts to affiliate commission rates starting within a week (The Verge). Attention: this is going to have huge ramifications for digital media, which had found a way to reduce reliance on the advertising dollar and earn revenue when people go and buy stuff from Amazon, which they do naturally anyway. That had the co-benefit of reducing any perceived bias from sponsorships. Amazon just pulled the rug.

9. Can a wearable detect COVID-19 before symptoms appear? Stanford researchers are finding out (Wired).

10. Nokia (the telecommunications and networking company) has global internet traffic insights: check the Zoom explosion in usage compared to Skype (Nokia).

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