Xiaomi Black Shark review: A blast for your buck

Gaming smartphones had a breakthrough in 2018, with multiple renowned companies in the field launching their super-powered handsets. These include the Asus ROG Phone, Razer Phone 2, and today’s review subject, the Xiaomi Black Shark.

Check out the Asus ROG Phone vs. Razer Phone 2 vs. Xiaomi Black Shark to see how the three phones differ. Today we’re focusing on the Xiaomi Black Shark.

This is the most affordable gaming handset of the three, starting at 2,999 yuan (~$434). Xiaomi’s tendency is to bust through industry doors with no regards of the competition, offering top-notch specs, great design, and plenty of features, while undercutting prices by far. Let’s see how well the Xiaomi Black Shark follows this trend.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Design & build quality

back of xiaomi black shark with retail box

Like any gaming product worth its salt, the Xiaomi Black Shark design is bold and shameless. You will know it the minute you lay eyes on it. The device is black with green metal accents, and glass parts along the back. Housed in the rear you can also find the dual cameras (12MP and 20MP), LED flash, Black Shark branding, and a light-up logo surrounded by a textured design.

Around the edges there is another green metal outline, as well as the power and volume buttons along the right, the Shark Space toggle in the left (more on this in the software section), a USB Type-C port towards the lower edge, and the bottom speaker grills.






The front of the device takes a more traditional black slab approach, though. It has a notification light, a 20MP front-facing camera, and a fingerprint reader in the bottom bezel. The reader also works as a home button, and though you can’t see them, two capacitive buttons to its left and right work as the back and overview buttons, accordingly.

The Xiaomi Black Shark will turn heads and satisfy that gamer need to own flashy tech.

Edgar Cervantes

This device will turn heads and satisfy that gamer need to own flashy tech. The logo in the back lights up with notifications, which I find pretty darn awesome. Though it is made mostly of plastic and glass, it is the best-built device of the big three gaming handsets.

The Black Shark’s sturdy grippy surface and back recessions will give you a secure grip while gaming. I wish Xiaomi had followed the norm with thinner bezels along the front, but this is a gaming handset. You don’t necessarily expect it to be small or thin. Instead, the Xiaomi Black Shark is solid, unique, and comfortable to hold (at least as much as a rectangular smartphone can be).


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Display

The Xiaomi Black Shark sports a 5.99-inch IPS LCD panel with a 2,160 x 1,080 resolution and an 18:9 screen ratio. IPS LCD displays are known for great color accuracy, but the same can’t be said about the Xiaomi Black Shark’s screen. It is very saturated and the blacks are super deep, making the experience seem more like an AMOLED one.

xiaomi black shark display

You should look elsewhere if you prioritize accuracy.

Edgar Cervantes

In our testing we found even the “Natural Mode” calibration’s color temperature goes up to 8778k, while the ideal one is 6500k. Average color error is also sky high at 7.1 Delta E 2000. This would make it the screen with the second highest average color error we have tested. You should look elsewhere if you prioritize accuracy.

The screen gets pretty bright at almost 560 nits, though. While colors are not that accurate, the image looks good for gaming, with exaggerated colors and deep blacks. The display pops, which further immerses you into the game.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Performance & hardware

Gaming products are all about performance. The Xiaomi Black Shark certainly doesn’t disappoint on paper. Its specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, up to 8GB of RAM (6GB if you go for the 64GB storage version), and an Adreno 630 GPU.

The Xiaomi Black Shark is fast, smooth, and will present very few hiccups. The same can be said about any high-end device, though.

Edgar Cervantes

This is a powerful device. It is fast, smooth, and had very few hiccups. The same can be said about many high-end devices, though. The Xiaomi Black Shark has other elements to entice gamers.

For starters, an “Extreme Mode” can be turned on while gaming to bring the processor to higher speeds and take better advantage of the phone’s resources. In addition, you can easily clean the RAM to liberate memory. There is a difference when turning it on, but it is minimal. Loading times shorten by like a second or two. Smoothness seems basically equal, at least to the naked eye.

Needless to say Xiaomi’s liquid cooling didn’t seem to work wonders.

Edgar Cervantes

Gaming can make a device really hot, which in turn affects performance. The Xiaomi Black Shark uses a unique liquid cooling system the company claims will reduce temperature by 8 degrees Celsius when compared to traditional all-copper.

This cooling system might get you all hyped up because liquid cooling is the fanciest method for PCs, but it doesn’t quite work the same in this smartphone. The small amount of liquid will start evaporating as its chamber gets hotter, travel to cooler areas, and turn into liquid again.

xiaomi black shark cooling system

This allows for better cooling at first, but eventually the chamber will get too hot for the system to work. I managed to cross that point often and the phone got uncomfortably hot. Needless to say it didn’t seem to work wonders.

Those looking for accessories can also enjoy the included gamepad, but it only attaches to one side and has a joystick, as well as two shoulder buttons. It is a nice addition, but I don’t like that it is single-sided. Those looking for something better now have another option.

xiaomi black shark gamepad

The company recently announced the Xiaomi Gamepad 2.0, which has extensions to both sides of the phone. The Gamepad 2.0 features a joystick and D-pad on the left side and a touchpad and ABXY buttons on the right side. Both sides feature a trigger button and a triangle-shaped button near the bottom.

All of the buttons are mappable too, giving you a little more flexibility in various games.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Specs

Display 5.99-inch IPS-LCD
2160×1080 resolution
403 PPI
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
GPU Adreno 630
RAM 6GB / 8GB
Storage 64GB / 128GB
MicroSD No
Camera Rear: Dual 12MP / 20MP cameras

Front: 20MP camera

Battery 4000 mAh
Fingerprint scanner Yes
Headphone jack No
Software Android 8.1.0 Oreo
Dimensions 161.6 x 75.4 x 9.3mm
Weight 190 grams
Colors Black, gray, and royal blue


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Camera

xiaomi black shark camera

All photos shown in this review are compressed and reduced. Pixel peepers can always check out this Google Drive folder to see the full, uncompressed photos. 

For some, a camera can make or break a phone. Many deem it the most important factor in a smartphone. The Xiaomi Black Shark is not for the mobile photographers among you. That is not to say it can’t take some great photos, though. It is a high-end 2018 phone, after all.

Let me tell you right off the bat the Xiaomi Black Shark is not for the mobile photographers among you.

Edgar Cervantes

Daylight




In daylight we get pretty good detail, exposure, and contrast, but the camera fails in some ways. That lame watermark is on by default, so if you are not careful you might end up with some unwanted publicity in your otherwise beautiful shots. I always leave stock settings alone for testing purposes, so I didn’t turn it off — make sure you do!

The dynamic range is also lackluster. Highlights are fine, but a tremendous amount of light is lost in the shadows. Look under the bushes, and you will see a deep darkness. The clock also looks way too under-exposed, even though I set the exposure and focus point to it.

HDR


HDR brings out the shadows more, but the results are still underwhelming compared to HDR in the best smartphone cameras. At least there is a way to improve dynamic range, though!

Color


Colors are bright and vibrant as long as they catch the right light. The Coronado sign looked much more saturated in real life, but the environment was a bit darker, as the sun began to set on the other side of the building. Turn to a well-lit store with crocheted dolls and things look much more lively. We do still wish contrast was on the higher side, though.

Lowlight


The shots are well exposed, but we can’t say the Xiaomi Black Shark is great at taking photos in the dark. In both images you can easily tell the shots have been over-softened too much, which results in loss of detail. Not to mention the phone struggles to get white balance right, especially in the first picture.

Portrait mode


Portrait mode shots suffer from the same shortcomings as other shots, but I was impressed at how well the camera outlines us to create the bokeh effect. This is something most smartphone cameras miss.

We were both outlined as close to perfect as these phones get, and I happen to like how gradual the bokeh is. This means closer objects look clearer than the farther ones. You can better appreciate this in the second image, where the cannon starts to blur out slowly, as well as the grass.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Software

Fans of the pure Google experience will love this phone. The UI looks just like that of a Pixel smartphone. Xiaomi didn’t even add its own apps. All its customization options are in the Settings app. The phone’s software really is as clean as it gets.



There are gaming options to be had, though. When in a game you can slide down on the fingerprint reader (in landscape mode) and the Game Dock will slide down from the top, overlaying the game interface. From here you can change gamepad settings, turn Wi-Fi on or off, activate the NoIncall mode, turn NightMode on, and disable the keypad. Hit the more button to turn off notifications, toggle ExtremeMode, clean the RAM, hang up a call, or access more settings.

xiaomi black shark game mode

In addition to the dock, Xiaomi created Shark Space. This mode can be turned on using the physical toggle on the left side of the phone. When activated, the phone will automatically clean the RAM and disable all notifications, calls, and messages, effectively killing all distractions. In addition, the phone will display a clean UI with a list of your games, gamepad settings, gaming stats, and more.

xiaomi black shark shark space

I believe the Xiaomi Black Shark is too simple to be a true gamer’s machine

Edgar Cervantes

Aside from these discrete additions, Xiaomi did a great job keeping this phone as clean as possible. It is a joy to use, but I would also argue a gaming phone needs more gaming features. The Asus ROG Phone, for example, lets you manage device temperature, CPU and RAM usage, light color modifications, cooling modes, presets, and more.

I believe the Xiaomi Black Shark is too simple to be a true gaming machine. Gamers tend to demand more customization and control over their machines.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Sound quality

The Xiaomi Black Shark sounds good, but it won’t be winning any audio awards. It sounds loud enough to be immersive.

I have to complain about how the phone offers dual speakers but one of them is not front-facing. This is mostly a problem because it’s easy to cover when playing in landscape mode, an orientation nearly every game uses. This results in random muffled sound.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Battery life

xiaomi black shark speakers and charging port

The Xiaomi Black Shark actually did quite well against our battery tests. When playing video continuously at 200 nits, the device was able to last for 735 minutes (12 hours and 15 minutes) before dying. When continuously loading websites, it went for 820 minutes (13 hours and 40 minutes), which is significantly higher than the average 675 (11 hours and 15 minutes).

It starts to die faster when playing, but I never played enough to really see it go from 100 percent to zer0 percent. I’d say it should average at about four to five hours of straight gaming.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Price and conclusion

Two versions of the Xiaomi Black Shark are available. It starts at just 2,999 yuan (about $434) for the version with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. You can upgrade to the iteration with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage for 3,499 yuan (about $508).

back of xiaomi black shark on retail box

Gamers looking for the most bang for their buck need look nowhere else. Hell, even non-gamers will probably find this phone an amazing deal considering the specs. However, there is one huge caveat — Xiaomi devices aren’t exactly easy to come by for most of us.

Sure, it isn’t exactly the best gaming phone out there, but…

Edgar Cervantes

For starters, it is not available in the U.S. Only select markets can get Xiaomi devices directly. The rest of us need to import them. The value Xiaomi offers makes it hard for supply to keep up, too. If you can get your hands on one, the performance and capabilities make the Xiaomi Black Shark a steal.

It has the specs to handle all the games you need, and Extreme Mode offers that boost many of you will enjoy. Sure, it isn’t exactly the best gaming phone out there, but it is plenty capable and carries a significantly lower price tag than its direct competitors.

This is also a pretty cool device to use as a daily driver for the times you don’t want to game — if there are any.

Some Xiaomi Mi A1 users wake up to the gift of Pie (others get just coal)

Tis the season to be jolly, Xiaomi Mi A1 users. Well, for some of you.

Xiaomi is now pushing out the Android 9 Pie update to the Mi A1. The 2017 Android One phone was long overdue to get the new software, what with Android One’s promise of speedy updates.

In early December, one user reported getting the Android 9 Pie beta to their Mi A1. Days later, an apparently stable update landed on more devices from around the world. Unfortunately, the OTA created severe problems with LTE connectivity for some users, and Xiaomi did a terrible job of explaining what’s going on.

On December 20, Xiaomi announced (via Gadgets 360) that a new Android 9 build is rolling out to users. The new firmware is called PKQ1.180917.001 (V10.0.2.0.PDHMIFK) and is apparently a full release, rather than a beta.

The main new features in the release are support for FM radio, adaptive battery and brightness, and recommended apps based on user actions.

Now for the bad news: while many users on Reddit report receiving the update with no issues, others complained about missing LTE bands. Furthermore, according to several redditors, Xiaomi appears to have halted the rollout again. We’re reached out to confirm what’s going on.

Give your device a fresh look with the new Action Launcher 38 (Update: Out of beta)

Update, December 25: Three weeks after Action Launcher v.38 was released in beta, users of the stable version can now enjoy the same features. Get it on the action at the button below.

Original post, December 4: The end of November also means the end of (most of) this year’s major phone releases. But what’s left for those of us who can’t upgrade to the latest offerings from Google, Samsung, LG, and the like? Are we to merely wait another year with the same outdated hardware and stale old software? Thanks to a new beta from Action Launcher, that doesn’t have to be so. In the spirit of Android, your device can feel new again with more settings and better theme customization options, all wrapped in sweet Android 9.0 Pie style.

Action Launcher’s last major update was midyear, adding desktop shortcuts that make use of the long-press UI. With the latest beta version of Action Launcher, the settings app has been redesigned with a focus on usability. Options are now grouped “logically” and include display previews and tips to help you out.

Editor’s Pick

There’s also a search box within the settings so you don’t have to dig as long to find what you’re looking for. The launcher has always excelled thanks to its theme system, known as Quicktheme, which matches the home screen with your wallpaper. Now it’s even better with new granular settings such as the ability to change the background color of folders and Shutters.

Version 38 of Action Launcher is a visual revamp above all else, but there are a few new functional parts, such as infinite scrolling for the dock and home screens. There’s also an option to disable the dock and of course the quintessential bug fixes and improvements as detailed in the changelog.

Here at Android Authority, we’ve routinely ranked Action Launcher as one of our favorites, profiling it in October as one of the 15 best Android launcher apps. While version 38 is still in beta and all associated risks apply, you can opt in to try it out via Google Play.

Update: Pocophone F1 is getting a new Armoured version with 6GB of RAM

Xiaomi Pocophone F1.

Update, December 25, 2018: As anticipated, the surprise launch from Pocophone is a new version of the F1. Joining the original Armoured Edition version with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, the new version features the same Kevlar finish, but with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The new version will sell for 23,999 rupees in India, via Mi.com and Flipkart; sales start December 26.

It’s not clear whether the new Armoured version of the F1 will be released in other markets. Seeing that the global Pocophone Twitter account had nothing to say about the new model, don’t get your hopes too high.

Original post, December 24, 2018: Pocophone (aka Poco in India) has taken the world by storm this year. The Xiaomi offshoot ranked first in our recent reader survey about the best new smartphone brands of 2018, by a huge margin. That’s largely on the strength of its high-powered debut device, the Pocophone F1, which is almost unbeatable in its price range.

Now Pocophone is ready to unveil something new. Check out the teaser:

We don’t know yet what this #NewPOCO thing is, but don’t get your hopes high for a Pocophone F2. The F1 is too early in its lifecycle to get a successor. Plus, Pocophone will probably want to wait for the new Snapdragon 855 to become available before it pushes out another cheap powerhouse.

According to Ishan Agarwal, Pocophone may actually be teasing new color versions of the F1. You may know Agarwal from some recent high-profile leaks, like the mystery new OnePlus or the McLaren 6T before it. He thinks – though he doesn’t claim to know for sure – that Pocophone will bring the Kevlar finish down to the lower-end versions of the F1, as well as release new gradient colors at the same price as the existing ones.

There’s a chance Pocophone will surprise us with a brand-new device, but it doesn’t make much sense to do it on Christmas day.

It’s also possible we’ll just get a software update. Pocophone previously said it would try to update the F1 with HD Netflix support by the end of the year.

Read next: The best Android phones of December 2018

In related Xiaomi news, the Pocophone mothership just launched yet another affordable device today. The Xiaomi Mi Play features mid-range specs and stylish looks for the equivalent of $160. Read more about it here.

Last-second gift bailout! These discounted gift cards are available now

Everyone loves gift card deals. It’s like free money.

Ok… so, you forgot. You procrastinated. You pushed it off until the last minute, and now the last minute is here and you’ve got nothing. It’s fine. We understand. Christmas is a busy time and sometimes things get past you. It’s not the end of the world, and we might just be able to help you out.

You’re probably not going to be able to get anything shipped to you in time at this point, but lucky for you there are things you can buy that don’t require shipping. Mostly we’re talking about Digital Gifts in the form of gift cards, subscriptions, and more. Not only are these available now, they are all on sale! These are the best last-minute digital gift deals you can get right now:

20% off

$100 iTunes gift card

You can get gift cards at a discount and emailed to you. We have seen several iTunes deals in the last week or two, but 20% off is as good as it gets. This deal comes through PayPal’s Digital Gifts store on eBay.

$80 at eBay

App Cash

Google Play gift card

Use the code GOOGLE with a Google Play gift card worth $50 or more and you’ll save $5 off the price. The deal is emailed to you as a redemption code. We don’t see a whole lot of Google Play gift card deals, so any chance to save is a good one.

$45 at Amazon

Pick your favorite

Gift Card Mall Holiday Sale

I feel like this is the moment the domain “giftcardmall.com” has been waiting for all year. And here it is. You can save 10% at GameStop, 15% at Panera Bread, or pick one of the other hundred restaurants and businesses with gift card sales in this promotion. So many savings and so many choices.

See at Gift Card Mall

Yummy

The Cheesecake Factory $25 gift card

While not quite a discount on the gift card itself, this deal is as good as gold if you’re looking for cheesecake. Buy a $25 gift card that is delivered to your email within minutes, and you’ll also be able to grab a free slice in the new year.

$25 at The Cheesecake Factory

Music, apps, games, and more

iTunes Gift Card

For a limited time, Walmart is offering $50 iTunes gift cards on sale for only $40. iTunes gift card discounts aren’t all that rare, but taking 20% off is better than we regularly see and is basically free many to spend in the App and iTunes Stores. This deal is for a digital gift card which will be shipped to your email, usually immediately after purchase.

$40 at Walmart

Digital TV

Veronica Mars, The Office, and other TV shows

Get a new tablet or computer for Christmas? Have a fancy new display that needs some media on it to look its best? Buy one of your favorite TV shows digitally from iTunes while they are on sale.

As low as $20 on iTunes

Showtime

HD Concerts and Documentaries

Forget binge-watching some old 90s sitcom. Binge watch the best of The Boss for as little as $1 per concert. Great gift for the music lovers in your life.

$0.99 at Amazon

Keep Gaming

Xbox Game Pass 12-month subscription

The Game Pass is one of the best deals in gaming – even without a discount. One little subscription gets you access to hundreds of games, including recent releases, that Microsoft is always adding to. This deal gets you $50 off a yearly subscription.

$69.99 at Amazon

Buy some new movies

Amazon $50 iTunes gift card

Amazon refuses to be on the outside looking in with iTunes gift cards. Use the code APP750 to get 15% off this digital card.

$42.50 on Amazon

More ways to save

Buy 1, get 1 20% off iTunes

Yes, that’s three iTunes gift card deals in a row, but each one offers you something a little different. For example, this deal from Target gives you a chance to buy smaller denominations instead of $50 or $100 and still save. Plus, since it’s buy 1, get 1 20% off, you can get yourself a little something something. Yay Christmas.

See at Target

For the Bookworms

Kindle Unlimited subscription

Read all you want. As much as you can. Do it all at a discount. There are actually two sales here. .You can get a full year discounted by $40 or try it for three months at just $1. Either way, it’s a bargain for millions of books.

$80.31 at Amazon

Players Gonna Play

One Month Xbox Live Gold

Give the gift of pwning some n00bs. Microsoft has one month of Xbox Live Gold for just $1 for new members. Just getting a brand new Xbox, this is a great way to jump into the multiplayer scene. Plus, Xbox Live gives away free games every month.

$1 at Microsoft

Customize It

Amazon Gift Card Holiday Sale

We’ve seen iTunes and Google Play deals from Amazon, but there are dozens more available right now. Get discounts to your favorite movie theater or ice cream shop with custom promo codes for every one.

Various Prices at Amazon

You don’t have to be out looking for gifts for other people. Treat yo self while you’re here. Or check back tomorrow when you find a new smartphone or laptop under the tree and need a way to fill those storage banks.

Why you (and your family) should be using 2FA and a password manager

Keep you and your loved ones safe and secure.

So much of what we do every day, day in and day out, is either done online or has a record kept online. Things like your email or a shopping website are obvious, but your bank, mortgage holder, health insurance provider and more are also online companies even if that’s not how we interact with them. There is a pretty complete fingerprint of your life stored where plenty of other people can (and often do) look for it.

So what should we do about it? That’s easy — use a good password for everything, make sure you don’t use the same password in more than one place, and secure things with a second step anytime you can.

You can’t remember all those passwords

Don’t feel bad because nobody else can, either. A good password simply means one that someone else who is really good at figuring this stuff out isn’t likely to be able to use. That means they aren’t something you are going to be remembering, especially when there are more than a few of them. That’s where a password manager comes in.

Best password manager for Android

A password manager is like a safe that holds all your passwords and gives the right one to the right place when it’s needed once it’s sure you really asked for it. Enter all your account information into it and then all you need to remember is one good secure password that’s used as your OK to let it share its data with another app or website. Now there is only one thing to remember and it gives you more secure access to everything else!

Remembering one good password is something we can all do.

There are a lot of good ways to manage passwords. A recipe box filled with index cards that sits on your desk is one way, but a good app from a trusted company does a better job and offers more features. Most have a way to keep a backup copy of your password database in case you lose your phone or it gets stolen, as well as extras like a place to store credit card info or secure notes. The best secondary feature you’ll find is a password generator that can create a good password, then put it in the database and be ready to serve it to the right place so you never have to worry about keeping track of it.

Password managers work great on your Chromebook, too!

The first thing a person who gets your password is going to do is to try to use it everywhere. That’s why it’s important to never reuse passwords at more than one place because when someone breaks into the servers at Target, or Adobe, or Yahoo! or anywhere else and gets your username and password, you certainly don’t want to let them run up your credit card by buying things at Amazon. You just can’t remember all those passwords.

The convenience and security a proper password manager offers are better than anything you can do to manage things yourself and it’s more secure, too. If you’re not using one, stop right now and set one up — then help make sure the rest of your family is doing the same thing.

A password is a key to the door and 2FA is the drawbridge over the moat

I forget who said it, but 2FA (two-factor authentication) has been described this way. Imagine a castle with attackers at the gate. It has a very strong door (the password) but also has another deterrent in the form of a drawbridge that’s lifted so nobody can get over a moat filled with medieval monsters of some sort. 2FA is that drawbridge and it only gets lowered when you tell it to lower.

In non-technical terms, 2FA is simply a second way to prove your identity before access to digital data is given. You prove your identity using two of these three things:

  • Something you know (a password)
  • Something you have (a code from an app or text message)
  • Something you are (your fingerprint)

How to set up two-factor authentication on your Google account

Most of us have used it in one form or another even if we didn’t know it. The three-digit number on the back of your Visa card is an example of something you have; ideally, you only know it if you have the card there in front of you which means you have your wallet which means you are probably the person whose name is on the front. A more complicated method that’s just as simple to understand: when you log into your computer at work the server checks to see if you swiped your employee ID to get into the building before it starts showing you any company data.

2FA for our online accounts is (thankfully) much more simple that an authentication server at work thanks to our smartphone. Using an Authenticator app you are given a short code to enter along with a password. Having this code means that you have your phone and your password — two of the three things. And as long as your Authenticator app is protected with a good password as mentioned above, only you can use it.

Two-factor authentication: What you need to know

This sounds like a lot more hassle than it really is because your phone is also secured and can be trusted. Most places that offer 2FA also allow you to say you trust the device you’re using to access it and you can bypass the step once you’ve proven your identity. As long as you have a good password on your phone and the company that makes it doesn’t allow someone unlimited tries to guess that password, you’re pretty safe.

One extra layer of security is never a bad thing!

But trying to access the same account from another device, whether it be another phone or a computer, means you’ll need to enter the 2FA code. This means you can get on Twitter or Facebook (or Amazon or your bank’s website) from your phone easily but I can’t get in from my phone or computer without having your 2FA code, which only comes to your phone. Following? It’s a great big circle of trust that doesn’t allow anyone else in it.

Google wants you to upgrade to (its) better two-factor authentication

How to install and set up Authy for two-factor authentication on your Android

Be safe, be secure

Look, we know that most of us aren’t high-profile targets with people focused on hacking into our lives. Those people have extra steps they can take, but we don’t need those. But we are all potential victims of chance when it comes to phishing attacks or corporate database breaches. Not using a password manager and 2FA whenever it’s offered is crazy.

Don’t be a victim. And don’t let the people closest to you be one, either. Use a good password manager and two-factor authentication for everything, all the time!

Let’s hope that Samsung sticks to its Android 9 Pie update roadmap

samsung galaxy s9 one ui review android pie logo easter egg

Samsung celebrated Christmas a little early in the form of its stable Android 9 Pie update with One UI for Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus owners. In addition to the rollout, SamMobile reported that Samsung updated its Members app with its Android 9 Pie update roadmap.

According to the roadmap, the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus will receive Android 9 Pie in January 2019. Even though the update is rolling out to the phones starting today, the carrier variants might not see the update for another month.

Editor’s Pick

Next in line is the Galaxy Note 9, which looks to receive its Android 9 Pie update in February 2019. We’re not sure why the newer Galaxy Note 9 will get the update after the older Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, but there it is. Keep in mind that the Galaxy Note 9 might also get Android 9 Pie ahead of schedule.

Following Samsung’s 2018 flagships are the company’s 2017 flagships: the Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, and Note 8. All three phones will receive Android 9 Pie, along with One UI, in March 2019.

SamMobile

Things then get a bit crazy. The Android 9 Pie rollout is expected to go from April 2019 with Samsung’s Galaxy A7, A8, A8 Plus, and A9 (2018) through October 2019 with the Galaxy Tab A 10.5. A slew of devices will also get the update between April and October, such as the Galaxy Tab S4, Galaxy A8 Star, and much more.

You can see the full list of devices that will get Android 9 Pie in the above screenshot. You’ll also see that the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are not on the list — both devices received two major Android updates, usually the quota for flagship Android smartphones.

NEXT: Hands-on with Samsung One UI and Android Pie on the Galaxy S9

OxygenOS beta 24/22 for OnePlus 5/5T rolling out, fixes audio crashes

OnePlus is delivering a small Christmas Eve present to open beta users of the OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 5: a new version of OxygenOS beta (based on Android 9 Pie) with a significant bug fix.

The newest OxygenOS betas — version 24 for the 5 and version 22 for the 5T — will appear as an OTA update for those of you who are part of the open beta program.

Editor’s Pick

The updates are fairly large at about 1.7GB but bring a big fix: a patch for the audio tuner crashes present on the previous open betas for the 5 and 5T. This is the only major fix for the update, other than the usual bug fixes and improvements.

This is the official changelog for the new betas:

System

  • Fixed random audio tuner crashes
  • General bug fixes and system stability improvements

If you are currently on the stable Android 8.1 Oreo version of OxygenOS on your OnePlus 5/5T, you can click here to find instructions on how to give the beta a shot. Along with getting to use Android 9 Pie on your 5/5T, you’ll get access to new features before anyone else.

NEXT: How the price of OnePlus phones changed over the years

Samsung rumored to have Gear Sport smartwatch successor in the pipeline

  • Samsung is rumored to be working on a follow-up to the Samsung Gear Sport smartwatch.
  • Not much is known about the fitness-centered smartwatch, but it likely won’t feature the “Gear” branding.
  • The Samsung Gear Sport follow-up could launch alongside the Samsung Galaxy S10 in early 2019.

According to SamMobile, Samsung is reportedly working on a follow-up to 2017’s Samsung Gear Sport smartwatch. Allegedly, the smartwatch’s internal codename is “Pulse” and it features the model number SM-R500.

The Samsung Gear Sport is a fitness-centric smartwatch, acting as kind of a hybrid of the Samsung Gear S3 Classic and Gear S3 Frontier. However, Samsung is doing away with the “Gear” branding, so it’s highly unlikely this Gear Sport follow-up will be called the Gear Sport 2 or have much relation to the previous Gear smartwatches.

Instead, it’s far more likely this new Pulse smartwatch will be a sportier, fitness-centric version of the highly-rated Samsung Galaxy Watch, which launched alongside the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 in August. It’s possible the model could be called the Samsung Galaxy Sport (which would make sense), but that’s just a guess at this point.

Editor’s Pick

It’s also relatively certain the new Pulse smartwatch will run Samsung’s proprietary Tizen software instead of something Like Google’s Wear OS. There were rumors the Galaxy Watch might come with Wear OS, but that didn’t come to pass, so it would be quite surprising if Samsung did so with this new watch.

Since the Galaxy Watch launched with the Galaxy Note 9, it’s reasonable to guess that this watch will launch alongside the Samsung Galaxy S10, which we expect to see towards the end of February 2019. However, Samsung is expected to launch three variants of the Galaxy S10 so it might launch this watch on its own to avoid an over-crowded launch event. We’ll have to wait and see.

Are you excited about a sportier (and maybe cheaper) version of the Samsung Galaxy Watch? Let us know in the comments if this device is on your watch list!

NEXT: Samsung Galaxy Watch review — the smartwatch that tries to do it all

The Razer Raiju Mobile controller is amazing(ly expensive)

This is the featured image for the Razer Raiju Mobile review

Mobile gaming is still finding its way. We’re definitely getting higher caliber mobile games than we’ve ever had. However, there is still a long way to go. Software controls are still a little clunky with a lot of genres, particularly shooters and platformers. It is still more preferable to play with a hardware controller over software controls.

The Razer Raiju Mobile controller may be a positive step in that direction. We had the opportunity to play with Razer’s latest piece of mobile gaming hardware over the weekend and we’d like to share our thoughts with you.


Razer Rajiu Mobile controller front

The front of the controller has a very standard layout for a modern hardware controller.

The basics

Editor’s Pick

The Razer Raiju Mobile is a mobile gaming controller with a cradle for your smartphone along with both wired and wireless options. The front is your standard modern controller layout with a d-pad, two joysticks, and four buttons. The bottom-center of the front houses four more buttons, including the typical start and select buttons as well as a home and back button for controlling your Android phone. Moving around the back shows two hidden buttons right around where your fingers rest while holding the controller. There is also a switch back there where players can switch between two Bluetooth modes or wired mode. The top houses a ridiculous six shoulder buttons — four normal buttons and two triggers.

The top-center of the device houses a phone cradle that tilts up to 60 degrees, while a phone is actively resting in the cradle. The controller is housed in textured plastic, which actually feels really nice. Obviously we don’t recommend dropping this from any height onto any surface, especially with the added heft of a phone in the cradle. Like any plastic controller, we imagine that it does not have good relationships with hardwood floors.

The controller had no problems holding any of our tester devices in its little cradle.

The Razer Raiju Controller comes with two USB Type-C cables in the box. The first is a longer cable for connecting your controller to a power source. You also get a shorter cable for direct connections to your phone for use in wired mode. Both cables come with some snazzy caps for dust prevention. Razer claims the device gets up to 23 hours per charge with up to a four hour charge time.

There are two modes for the Razer Raiju Controller, the first of which is your standard Bluetooth mode. The controller can remember two total devices, and you can switch between those two with the switch on the back. The pairing sequence is simple enough and works exactly like Bluetooth headphones. Just hit the home and start buttons to initialize pairing mode and you’re off to the races.

The Bluetooth pairing worked on the first try without any difficulties. We did notice that switching from wired to Bluetooth and back again — as one is wont to do during testing — can mess up the connection. However, turning the device off and back on again always fixed it. There is also an official app for the Razer Raiju Mobile controller. It allows you to re-map several of the controller’s buttons and adjust the sensitivity of the joysticks. It’s super basic, but it worked well and we thought it was a nice touch.


Razer Raiju Mobile controller vs xbox one and PS4

The controller is comparable in size to the Xbox One controller and slightly larger than the PlayStation 4 controller.

The feel

The Razer Raiju Mobile controller has an excellent feel. Most of the controller is covered in a textured plastic and it adds some grip. Each joystick has a rougher, rubberized coating for even better grip and all of the individual buttons are glossy plastic. The back of the controller is textured differently for better grip. You can see from the image above that it’s about as big as an Xbox One controller and a little larger than a PlayStation 4 controller. It has a good weight to it, even with a phone as large as the Galaxy Note 9 nestled in its cradle.

See also

The cradle itself has no noticeable problems. It clicks as you adjust it and stays wherever you leave it. It fit all of our tester devices without any problems, although the Galaxy Note 9 was a bit of a squeeze. Once the phone is in the cradle, you can move the cradle forward to change the angle if you need to. Each button has a light, satisfying click that leaves no doubts that you actually hit the button. The triggers have a smooth pull very similar to the second generation Xbox One controllers. There is also an optional hair-trigger mode for actuating the triggers more quickly. The switches for that mode are on the back of the controller.

Holding the controller is simply delightful. I am a 5’10” male with mostly average measurements. My hands fit firmly around this thing and I experienced no noticeable discomfort, even over a longer playing session. If I had nitpicks, I’d say that I prefer the more meaty button presses of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One controllers versus the light click of the Razer Raiju Mobile buttons, but this is just a preference.


Razer Raiju Mobile Final Fantasy IV

Supported games play with no discernible issues on the Razer Raiju Mobile.

The gaming

We played a few games from Razer’s list of supported games. including Riptide GP Renegade, Final Fantasy IV, and Alto’s Odyssey. For kicks, we also tried out the ePSXe emulator as well as the unsupported Gunstar Heroes, just to see how it’d react. Here are our observations:

  • Games with official support use the controller beautifully with no discernible issues. The button layouts were generally logical and it never took long to figure out the controls. Some games seem to like to use multiple buttons for the same action, but this wasn’t a problem during our testing.
  • Games and emulators not on Razer’s compatibility list are a mixed bag. Gunstar Heroes failed conclusively while ePSXe worked, but it required quite a bit of tedious configuration. Straying outside of Razer’s compatibility list results in a mixed experience overall.
  • We found that we frequently hit buttons on accident. In particular, the two paddle buttons in the back are super easy to press as are the non-trigger shoulder buttons. Thankfully, those buttons don’t really do much in any of the games we tested, but this thing is seriously covered in buttons.
  • Speaking of the paddle buttons, they actually don’t get use from the games. They let you adjust the sensitivity of the joysticks on the fly. This is configurable in the Razer Raiju Mobile app, although we really only noticed a difference when our paddles were set to a very different sensitivity from our default setting. These are definitely better for quick, large adjustments rather than subtle ones. Additionally, two of the shoulder buttons as well as the start and select buttons are configurable in the mobile app as well.
  • The hair trigger setting on the controller also worked as expected.
  • It doesn’t just work for the Razer Phone 2. We tested it with a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 as well as a Pixel XL and it worked fine.

It feels like we should have said more here. However, there just isn’t much to say. When the game supported the controller and everything connected properly, the experience was basically flawless. It’s not a panacea for mobile gaming’s horrible record of controller support, but that’s hardly Razer’s fault.


Razer Raiju Mobile box contents

This is everything you get in the box with a Razer Raiju Mobile. We like the stickers and braided USB Type-C cables a lot.

Recommendations and price

We’re going to just pull the band-aid off quickly. This thing costs $159.99. The Xbox One controller (pictured above) was $99.99 and a PlayStation 4 controller runs for $59.99. Then again, the Xbox One Elite controller with hair trigger locks also costs $149.99 so there is some context to support the Raiju Mobile’s price tag. Even so, it’s difficult to recommend this to casual players at that price. There are a few instances where we might recommend this to someone:

  • Those with multiple devices who also play a bunch of games. For instance, this controller should work well with Android TV as well as most mobile and tablet devices. One game controller for all of your devices may be worth the investment to some people.
  • Hardcore mobile gamers who want a controller with uncommon features like button re-mapping and hardware hair trigger locks.
  • Anyone who plays a sizable number of the games on Razer’s supported games list and wants a controller they are sure will work with those titles.

Of course, this is basically a first impressions post, so we can’t comment on anything like long term durability. The uncommon features, sleek looks, plentiful buttons, and excellent feel while gaming make a compelling case for the more hardcore mobile gamer much like the Xbox One Elite controller does for Xbox’s more hardware player base. For better or worse, Razer knows exactly what kind of consumer they’re targeting with those features at that price. Casual mobile gamers may want to try something a little bit cheaper.


The back of the Raiju Mobile houses the hair trigger lock switches (top), the Bluetooth/wired switch (middle), and the two paddle buttons (bottom). A surprisingly busy back of a controller.

The Razer Raiju Controller is definitely a positive force in the mobile gaming industry. It’s also priced outside of the sensibilities of most casual mobile gamers. Still, this is an excellent controller with no major flaws out of the box with an excellent feel and experience. Of course, we can’t comment on the long term durability of it because we only had it a few days. If you happen to be one of the folks that don’t mind the price, you can learn more from Razer’s website!