How one UK mobile network is donating old phones to people in need

Drawers around the world are full of old, out of date and unloved mobile phones that people have forgotten to – or can’t be bothered to – sell or pass on. But one UK network wants to give these phones a new lease of life.

Three is encouraging people to rid themselves of idle phones, but instead of selling them on for a small profit, it’s asking them to donate them to people who desperately need access to a phone and the internet.

Mobile recycling company SellMyMobile found that in the UK there were £13 billion worth of phones lingering in people’s homes at the start of 2016.

The new Three scheme, called Reconnected, takes these devices and gives them to people struggling with their finances, or who have experienced some kind of trauma in their lives, and provides them with free access to the Three network for 90 days to help them get back on their feet.

Helping out

The scheme, which is limited to the UK right now, donates phones to homeless people, domestic abuse victims and many other groups who don’t necessarily have easy access to the internet or a phone line.

Celina Benedict, Responsible Business Manager at Three, told TechRadar: “We think we’ve come up with a smart idea to get handsets into the hands of people who could really make the most of them.

 “That’s either to help them get jobs, reconnect with family or even just enjoy using a mobile, which we sometimes take for granted.”

The internet has become an indispensable tool that, as Benedict points out, many of us take for granted. In June 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Council even declared internet access to be a human right.

If you donate your phone to the Reconnected scheme, Three will ensure the phone isn’t broken, update it to the latest software, make sure it can access the internet and pair it with the relevant accessories, such as a charger and microUSB cable.

The new user will then be given 12GB of data, 300 minutes and 3,000 texts to use each month for three months, while the phone is theirs to keep. If the person wants to continue using it after that period they’ll have to pay for network access though.

Not every recipient will be able to afford to maintain the network access, but Three’s thinking is the 90 days should give them enough time to reconnect with services and people they need to help them turn things around, such as a Job Center, or family members in another part of the country.

Benedict adds: “We couldn’t not give data, we live on data – it’s one of the most important aspects. The idea was to give them more than they needed, but give them a cap so they could see what real usage is like and set them on the right path for later.”

“We couldn’t not give data, we live on data”

Celina Benedict at Three

People in need won’t be able to apply for this scheme directly though. Three is partnering with a number of different organisations to find people who can benefit from Reconnected.

Benedict says: “What they all have in common is they don’t have access to the internet, they don’t have a smartphone. The scheme is to help them get back on track and overcome issues.

“It may be they’re at risk of homelessness or need to get employment, or even just better digital skills. They’re all just trying to improve their lives, but they’re missing this one valuable tool that most of us have and can’t even imagine living without.

Not everyone is in a situation to recharge a device, however. For example, homeless people without access to electricity won’t benefit from this scheme.

“Often people in the scheme are at risk of homelessness, so they’re staying in shelters or in provided accommodation so charging is possible there,” adds Benedict “It’s more about giving them the kit and getting them started really.”

There’s also a concern that a donated phone could be sold on by the person who receives it – and Three hasn’t put a process in place for addressing this problem yet.

“We have to rely on the community groups we’re working with,” says Benedict. “We have to trust them to understand the individuals they’re supporting, and for them to decide the individuals who would make the most of the experience and will be able to carry on using a device afterwards.”

Three ran an internal pilot for the Reconnected scheme last year, encouraging its employees to donate their old phones. It received over 1,500 handsets and managed to donate 99 to people in need.

The hope is that, by opening the scheme to the public, Reconnected will receive newer phones. More modern devices will enable the scheme to be more effective, but Three will take any phone, even if it can’t connect to the internet.

If your phone isn’t suitable for the scheme, Three will recycle the parts instead of giving it away – and that means you can clear your drawers no matter how old or damaged your phone is.

Like to take part in the scheme? You can donate your phone at any Three store around the country right now – hopefully your unloved old, handset will be good enough to make a real difference to someone less fortunate.

Can photos from your phone look like they were ‘Shot on iPhone 7’?

If you live in a larger city, chances are you’ve seen the ‘Shot on iPhone’ billboards that have been dotted around for a few years now.

The award-winning campaign has long been an impressive way to highlight the quality of images that can be captured on Apple’s phones, with the photos showcasing various different subject matters and styles.

The latest ones, for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, have focused on low-light photography – and Apple has been sending photographers around the world to get the most impressive pictures they can find (which you can see below).

It’s clear that Apple has worked hard on getting the images to look as good as possible (using a “range of hardware and apps” to produce the final images – a look at the final resolution shows the images are larger than the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus can produce natively), but the upshot is that they create a stylized concept of what’s possible with an Apple device, if you’re willing to put in the effort and get creative.

Here at TechRadar we’re constantly bombarded with claims of great low light performance from camera phones, so we got in touch with the leading smartphone manufacturers to see what they could offer by way of comparison, and wow us with their very own ‘Shot on’ campaigns.

We asked them to send us the best low light snaps their flagship phones can capture, and we’re publishing them all here as galleries, with explanations of what / if any alterations were made post-shot. 

What’s clear is smartphones are really good at taking pictures, no matter which brand you’re a fan of – and we’ve roped in the expertise of TechRadar’s Cameras Editor Phil Hall to give his trained opinion on the images from each phone.

So take a look at the range of snaps we’ve received, and let us know your favorites in the comments below.

  • (We’ve contacted all the major manufacturers, and while some had no photos to share, we’re still waiting to hear back from others, so we’ll update this piece if we hear anything more).
Image 1 of 7

‘Jennifer Bin sought to show a different perspective of Shanghai.’

Image 2 of 7

Credit: Mathieu Beth Tan

Image 3 of 7

‘Reuben Wu traveled from Chicago to the volcanos of Indonesia’

Image 4 of 7

‘Eason Hsiung focused on the late night culture of Taipei’

Image 5 of 7

‘Ruairidh McGlynn traveled by dogsled through Iceland, stopping for a break in this ice cave.’

Image 6 of 7

Credit: Photo by Arif Jawad

Image 7 of 7

‘Photographer Elsa Bleda captured the energy, color and life of Johannesburg, South Africa.’

iPhone 7 specs: 

Weight: 138g | Dimensions: 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm | Screen size: 4.7-inch | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 7MP | Aperture: f/1.8

Enhancements: ‘Some images shot on iPhone 7. Additional hardware and apps used.’

The photos above were taken using the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, with Apple sending out a fleet of photographers to ‘capture life from dusk to dawn using the low-light camera on iPhone 7’.

We’ve long been impressed with the iPhone’s ability to shoot ‘natural’ snaps, not over-saturating, and there’s an impressively ethereal quality to all the photos in Apple’s Shot on iPhone campaign. We’re almost at the point of being able to pick such a snap out of a crowd – and all the photos in this set are stunning.

The enhancements used on each are unclear, but the main takeaway is that all this is possible with a phone – whether it requires adding on hardware or using an app to touch up certain snaps, buying this phone will allow you to really flex your creative muscles – and potentially feature in a ‘Shot on iPhone’ campaign of the future if your snaps are good enough.

TechRadar’s Photography Editor Phil Hall says: “There’s no question that these images look mightily impressive. 

“I’d love to know, though, what’s gone on behind the scenes – I’m guessing they’ve shot them in raw format to draw out the best quality possible, while there’s been some clever post-processing, especially to control how image noise is rendered. 

“Regardless though, the images have real ‘bite’ and clarity, perfectly showing off what the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are capable of.”

Download the images here

Google’s Instant Tethering makes it easier to connect via your Nexus or Pixel

If you regularly use your Nexus or Pixel phone to get yourself online, the process should be a little bit easier from now on: Google has officially rolled out a new feature called Instant Tethering that takes care of much of the hassle for you.

As we reported last month, the feature is aimed at tablet users who want a quick and easy way to connect to the web through their phones. If both devices are linked to the same Google account, Instant Tethering can set up a tethered connection in seconds.

Say you’ve just unlocked your Pixel C tablet: if no regular Wi-Fi connection is found, it will scan for a Pixel or Nexus phone registered with the same Google account and automatically use the data connection on that device to get online.

Turn on, log in

Once you’re done with your web browsing or WhatsApp messaging, the Wi-Fi hotspot is disabled for you, so in theory you don’t even need to pull your phone out of your pocket – everything happens without the need to delve into any menus or settings.

“It would be nice if our phones and tablets knew how to work better together and could share their connectivity seamlessly,” writes Google’s Omri Amarilio in a forum post. Google has also posted a support article on the topic.

To use the new Instant Tethering feature, you need to be using a Pixel or Nexus phone running Android Nougat 7.1.1 or later. The Instant Tethering option should appear under the Google menu in Settings.

U.S. version of the Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) shows up on GFXBench?

Back on the first day of this month, a phone with the model number of SM-J727A surfaced on GFXBench. This is believed to be the Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017). The phone could be offered internationally, and in the states based on an FCC certification. The SM-J727A could be the international model since it is powered by the Exynos 7870 chipset. The latter contains an octa-core 1.5GHz and the Mali-T830 GPU.

Yesterday, another version of the same phone using a serial number of SM-J727VL appeared on GFXBench. This looks to be the U.S. version of the phone since it is powered by the Snapdragon 425 SoC, carrying a quad-core 1.4GHz CPU and the Adreno 308 GPU. The rest of the specs match up perfectly with the specs for the SM-J727A. In other words, it comes with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of native storage. Both models have an 8MP rear-facing camera and a 5MP front-facing snapper for selfies and video chats.

It seems obvious that with the only difference between the two benchmark tests being the inclusion of the Exynos chip on one and the Snapdragon chip on the other, the former is the international Galaxy J7 (2017), while the latter is the U.S. version. To be more specific, it could be a version of the device that is heading to Verizon based on the “VL” at the end of the model number. The phone should be unveiled later this year. Based on a U.S. trademark application, the U.S. model could be launched as the Samsung Galaxy J7 Sky Pro. According to one rumor, besides Verizon, the handset could end up offered in the states by AT&T and U.S. Cellular.

source: GFXBench via TechUpdate3

Google restocks; some Pixel XL models are available again from the Google Store

At Google, the guys with the spreadsheets and calculators have had a problem matching supply with demand for the Google Pixel XL. The larger 5.5-inch version of the first Google designed smartphone has been out of stock for weeks at the Google Store, and those who ordered from Verizon have had to wait weeks if not months for certain versions of the device (namely the 128GB model). Big Red has tried to make nice to those who have ordered the handset and are still waiting for it by sending them a free Google Daydream View VR headset valued at $79 (although on sale now for $49 by Google).

The good news is that Google has finally restocked the Pixel XL in its online store. Not all models are available, mind you. For example, the 128GB variant in Very Silver is still sold out, although that unit is available in Quite Black. If you limit yourself to 32GB of native storage, you can buy the Pixel XL in either color. The limited edition Really Blue, which is only offered with 32GB of native storage, is out of stock.

The 5-inch Google Pixel is available with 32 GB of native storage in all three colors, Very Silver, Quite Black and Really Blue, although the latter ships in 2 to 3 weeks. The 128GB variant of the Pixel is not available in any color.

If you’ve forgotten the pricing structure of the Google Pixel and Pixel XL at the Google Store, it works like this. The Google Pixel handsets are priced at $649, or $27.04 over 24 months. The Pixel XL will cost you $769 or $32.04 over 24 months. If interested, click on the sourcelink.

source: GoogleStore via AndroidAuthority

This leaked photo might show Magic Leap’s augmented reality device prototype

A photo purporting to show a working prototype of Magic Leap’s augmented reality device has leaked.

The device has been shrouded in mystery for years – Magic Leap raised half a billion dollars in investment funds in 2014, and released a demo video last year that amazed many, but we haven’t seen even a sliver of a working machine, at least not until now.

The image was obtained by Business Insider from a source, and the device, which is supposed to be portable, is rough, to say the least.

Credit: Business Insider

Called PEQo – PEQ is the prototype’s name, and the number seemingly refers to the iteration – you can make out a band that wraps almost completely around the wearer’s head, and we guess there’s some kind of lens (or there’s supposed to be) in the front through which viewers see digital images overlain onto the real world. This design would be similar to Microsoft’s HoloLens AR viewer.

The backpack-like case clearly holds computing parts, while BI says the pack in the person’s left hand houses the battery. 

Small steps

Magic Leap’s whole aim with its AR device is to create a product users can take with them anywhere and comfortably slip on, standing apart from other high-end VR and AR headsets on the market that require tethers to a PC. 

From this picture, Magic Leap still has a long way to go to achieve that goal, however BI says the image shows the device as it was in early January. Improvements have been introduced in the weeks since, according to the site’s source.

Magic Leap is facing pressure after a scathing report from The Information said it may have “oversold” what its tech can do and what the startup has shown off won’t actually make it to a commercial product.

The company has a big board meeting scheduled next week, at which it’s expected to demonstrate its working technology. The backpack will be replaced with belt packs, BI’s source said, and the hardware will appear more finished. 

Despite some apparent obstacles, Magic Leap looks to be plodding along with its AR mission. Many questions remain – including how well the device really works, how much it will cost, and when it will release – but it doesn’t appear we’ll have answers to those anytime soon.

You can check out the demo video Magic Leap released last year below:

The LG G6 will officially use the Snapdragon 821 instead of the 835, and it’s a brilliant move

LG’s G6 flagship smartphone is expected to be officially unveiled later this month on February 26, and all signs are pointing to a very interesting piece of tech. LG is expected to ditch the modular design of 2016’s G5 in favor of a more traditional approach with a near bezel-less display. Other expected features include the likes of a dual-camera setup and LG’s own mobile payment system, but one aspect of the phone that’s been up for a bit of debate is the processor that will be powering it.

Samsung is mass-producing the Snapdragon 835 processor for Qualcomm this time around, and because of this partnership, we’ve heard reports indicating that Samsung will be hogging the 835 for its upcoming Galaxy S8 handset that’s expected to debut a few weeks after the G6. Some parties have been holding out hope the these rumors would turn out to be false and that the G6 would, in fact, get the latest and greatest from Qualcomm, but this has just been confirmed to not be the case. Likely to the dismay of many of our readers, LG’s G6 will be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor.

This confirmation comes by way of a photo that was taken at CES 2017 of a confidential LG presentation slide (see above), but while the 821 is no slouch, why would LG decide to outfit its main flagship smartphone with a piece of silicon from last year? The answer is actually quite interesting. Based off of Samsung’s anticipated sales for the Galaxy S8 during its first few weeks of availability, any OEM that wants to equip its handset with the Snapdragon 835 will have to wait to release it around either late May or early June. So, if LG wanted to hold out and equip the G6 with the 835, they’d have to wait to release its phone weeks after the Galaxy S8 has been out in the wild. Some consumers may have been willing to wait a couple more months for the G6’s release if it meant getting the latest and greatest from Qualcomm, but from a business perspective, opting for the 821 was a very smart move on LG’s part.

Most consumers aren’t overly concerned with what processor is powering their phone, as all they care about is whether or not their device is fast for sending out Tweets and Snaps. The Snapdragon 821 is still a very capable piece of silicon, and by not waiting around for the 835 to be available and out of the clutches of Samsung, LG has secured a nice head start over old Sammy. The LG G6 is expected to be available for purchase as early as March after it’s announcement on February 26, and if all of this lines up the way we’re anticipating, that means the G6 will have about six weeks or so of market availability ahead of the Galaxy S8 over in South Korea – arguably the biggest and most important area for both companies. 

In addition to the confirmation of the Snapdragon 821, the leaked photo also reveals that the LG G6 will feature a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, dust and water-resistance, a quad DAC, and that its display will be named “Full Vision.” The G6 may be launching with a slightly less powerful chipset as compared to the Galaxy S8, but that’s not nearly enough to knock the device off of our watchlist. The G6 is still one of the most anticipated phones of 2017, and if releasing its phone a few weeks ahead of Samsung can give the company an edge in sales over the S8, LG may be looking at the head start it needs to beat out one of its fiercest opponents.

Apple boss hints at augmented reality for the iPhone

Apple CEO Tim Cook is a fan of augmented reality. He’s made no secret he thinks it will trounce virtual reality, even going so far as to say AR use will eventually be as common as “eating three meals a day”.

Today, we’ve gotten more from the Apple boss on what he thinks of AR, and while we’re still waiting on a concrete device that projects digital images onto the real world from the iPhone maker, it seems like it’s only a matter of time now.

Cook chatted with The Independent during his visit to the UK this week, and in the interview Cook said he prefers AR over VR because it “allows individuals to be present in the world but hopefully allows an improvement on what’s happening presently.” 

“Most people don’t want to lock themselves out from the world for a long period of time and today you can’t do that because you get sick from it,” Cook said of VR. “With AR you can, not be engrossed in something, but have it be a part of your world, of your conversation. That has resonance.”

Notably, Cook compared AR to probably the biggest consumer electronic device on the planet: 

“I regard it as a big idea like the smartphone,” he said. “The smartphone is for everyone, we don’t have to think the iPhone is about a certain demographic, or country or vertical market: it’s for everyone. I think AR is that big, it’s huge.”

“I get excited because of the things that could be done that could improve a lot of lives. And be entertaining,” Cook continued. “I view AR like I view the silicon here in my iPhone, it’s not a product per se, it’s a core technology.”

Clues to Apple’s AR future

Again, Cook has talked about his excitement for AR before, so there’s no new revelation there. But dig a little deeper, and we get a few hints about how Apple might approach the tech, if ever. 

Cook sounds keen to have AR be both useful and enjoyable, perhaps with applications for education, medicine and the workplace, along with leisure activities, like games. He would also appear to prefer something with see-through lenses, similar to Microsoft HoloLens, that lets users stay engaged with what’s going on around them while also interacting with an AR overlay.

Or, perhaps like 9to5Mac points out, Apple actually isn’t working on a new device at all, but rather developing more AR features for the iPhone. 

“I do think there can be a lot of things that really help people out in daily life, real-life things, that’s why I get so excited out it,” Cook told The Independent. What is more prevalent in our daily lives than our smartphones?

Will Apple release AR tech simliar to Google’s Tango?

The iPhone 8 is rumored to have AR capabilities, including adding 3D effects to photos, and we can see Apple developing AR technology akin to Google’s Tango for phones and tablets, or the Daydream mobile VR platform.

Going this route would allow Apple to dive into AR without building, marketing and selling an entirely new product. What’s more, Cook said he views AR as a core technology, similar to silicon in a handset, suggesting iPhone AR could be applied to other categories, such as tablets, computers and TV. 

All this is certainly possible, though a recent report coming from VR/AR evangelist Robert Scoble, citing sources “at the highest levels,” points to the tech giant teaming up with Carl Zeiss to develop augmented reality glasses, and a standalone VR/AR device has been rumored to be in development at Apple for some time. Cook, of course, could be talking about smart spectacles or other AR device as well.

Whatever Apple is working on behind the scenes, it will likely be a while before we see it in an official capacity. Cook ended his interview with a caution there’s still a ways to go before AR is “good enough for the mainstream,” suggesting Apple, like it usually does, won’t release a product until the tech has reached a certain level of maturity. 

Via 9to5Mac

Some Matte Black iPhone 7 units have paint chipping issues

In September last year, when Apple released the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, it introduced two new color options, previously unseen on iPhones: Matte Black and Jet Black. From the beginning, Apple acknowledged that Jet Black iPhone 7 models were prone to developing “fine micro-abrasions” with time – this meant that users had (and still have) to take extra care of them. As it turns out, some Matte Black iPhone 7 units have a cosmetic issue, too, though this one hasn’t been properly acknowledged by Apple.

A growing number of Matte Black iPhone 7 owners are reporting via Apple’s Support Communities that the paint on their devices has chipped or peeled off. In most cases, the problem affects small areas near the side buttons or the speaker grille. However, in one particular case, the paint has chipped off from the rear of the handset – as you can see in one of the images included below. These issues can show up both with, and without a protective case.

The first peeled / chipped off paint problems have been reported in November, about 2 months after the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus hit the market.

Apple’s iPhone 7 warranty normally doesn’t cover cosmetic damages, so users discovering paint-related issues will likely not receive replacement devices.

If you own a Matte Black iPhone 7 or iPhpne 7 Plus, let us know if you’ve experienced anything similar to the problems depicted in the images and at the source link below.