Tag: smartphones

Attached To Technology And Paying A Price

When one of the most important e-mail messages of his life landed in his in-box a few years ago, Kord Campbell overlooked it.

Not just for a day or two, but 12 days. He finally saw it while sifting through old messages: a big company wanted to buy his Internet start-up.

I stood up from my desk and said, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,’ ” Mr. Campbell said. “It’s kind of hard to miss an e-mail like that, but I did.

The message had slipped by him amid an electronic flood: two computer screens alive with e-mail, instant messages, online chats, a Web browser and the computer code he was writing.

While he managed to salvage the $1.3 million deal after apologizing to his suitor, Mr. Campbell continues to struggle with the effects of the deluge of data.

Even after he unplugs, he craves the stimulation he gets from his electronic gadgets. He forgets things like dinner plans, and he has trouble focusing on his family.




His wife, Brenda, complains, “It seems like he can no longer be fully in the moment.”

This is your brain on computers.

Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.

These play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation provokes excitement — a dopamine squirt — that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored.

The resulting distractions can have deadly consequences, as when cellphone-wielding drivers and train engineers cause wrecks.

And for millions of people like Mr. Campbell, these urges can inflict nicks and cuts on creativity and deep thought, interrupting work and family life.

While many people say multitasking makes them more productive, research shows otherwise.

Heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information, scientists say, and they experience more stress.

And scientists are discovering that even after the multitasking ends, fractured thinking and lack of focus persist. In other words, this is also your brain off computers.

The technology is rewiring our brains,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and one of the world’s leading brain scientists.

She and other researchers compare the lure of digital stimulation less to that of drugs and alcohol than to food and sex, which are essential but counterproductive in excess.

Technology use can benefit the brain in some ways, researchers say. Imaging studies show the brains of Internet users become more efficient at finding information. And players of some video games develop better visual acuity.

More broadly, cellphones and computers have transformed life. They let people escape their cubicles and work anywhere. They shrink distances and handle countless mundane tasks, freeing up time for more exciting pursuits.

For better or worse, the consumption of media, as varied as e-mail and TV, has exploded. In 2008, people consumed three times as much information each day as they did in 1960.

And they are constantly shifting their attention. Computer users at work change windows or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour, new research shows.

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Google Unveils Latest OS, Out NOW On Pixel Phones

Android 9 Pie: If you have the right phone, you can get the new Android right now.

Android fans can today download the latest version of Google’s hugely popular mobile OS.

Android Pie, the ninth iteration of the operating system, has been officially unveiled by the search engine giant today.

Android 9 introduces digital wellbeing features, better notifications and promises to extend battery life for devices. And it’s available to download today via an over-the-air update for Google Pixel devices.

In a blog post, Sameer Samat, the VP of Product Management for Android and Google Play, said: “The latest release of Android is here!

“And it comes with a heaping helping of artificial intelligence baked in to make your phone smarter, simpler and more tailored to you. Today we’re officially introducing Android 9 Pie.




We’ve built Android 9 to learn from you—and work better for you—the more you use it.

“From predicting your next task so you can jump right into the action you want to take, to prioritizing battery power for the apps you use most, to helping you disconnect from your phone at the end of the day, Android 9 adapts to your life and the ways you like to use your phone.”

Google described Android Pie as an experience “powered by AI” and said it will adapt to how individuals use their phones and learn user preferences.

Personalised settings include the new Adaptive Battery and Adaptive Brightness modes.

These former setting, as the name suggests, adapts to how users use their phone so apps which aren’t used don’t drain the battery.

While the latter setting automatically adjusts the brightness level to how the user prefers it.

App Actions also predict what users are going to do next based on the “context and displays that action right on your phone”.

Slices, a new feature which is launching later this year, shows relevant information from users’ favourite apps when they need it.

So, for instance, if a user starts typing the name of certain taxi apps it will also show prices for a ride home in the search results screen.

Android Pie is also introducing a new system navigation featuring a single home button.

But one of the biggest additions will be the digital wellbeing features previously announced at Google I/O earlier this year.

Google said: “While much of the time we spend on our phones is useful, many of us wish we could disconnect more easily and free up time for other things.

In fact, over 70 percent of people we talked to in our research said they want more help with this.

“So we’ve been working to add key capabilities right into Android to help people achieve the balance with technology they’re looking for.”

The digital wellbeing features are officially launching later this year, but are available right now for Pixel phones in beta.

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Qualcomm Releases New Antennas That Will Make 5G Phones A Reality In 2019

Qualcomm actually announced two antenna modules.  The first is called the QTM052 mmWave antenna module and was engineered to “open up spectrum and improve mmWave signal using 5G technologies.”

Since the mmWave signals don’t travel very far and are easily blocked by objects as small as your hand, Qualcomm created this antenna array to overcome those challenges.

It uses something it calls “beam forming, beam steering, and beam tracking for bi-directional mobile mmWave,” allowing it to improve overall range and coverage.

The module is also a series of antennas to be placed in the handset so the beams can move whenever there’s signal blockage.




The second antenna, called the QPM56xx sub-6 GHz RF module, works on lower 3.3-4.2 GHz, 3.3-3.8GHz, or 4.4-5.0 GHz bands. This sub-6 antenna will provide more consistent 5G coverage in fixed locations

These antennas will be used alongside the Snapdragon X50 5G modem that was released in 2016. The two antenna modules will be used in tandem to deliver 5G speeds in a variety of settings.

Several of the world’s largest handset manufacturers, including Xiaomi, Sony, HTC, Samsung, and LG, have already confirmed that they will work with Qualcomm in the coming months to create mobile devices that are compatible with 5G.

These devices should be released during the first half of the year with many likely making their debut at Mobile World Congress next February.

Huawei has also announced it is planning a 5G phone for late 2019. Earlier this year the Chinese tech giant announced its Balong 5G01 modem.

The modem is schedule for the third quarter of 2019, meaning we should see its 5G handset soon thereafter.

And while we’re still many months away from seeing 5G handsets, most of the major networks are quickly building out their 5G networks to prepare for the launch.

AT&T and Verizon have each indicated they plan to release 5G hot spots (also known as pucks) later this year in selected markets so users can get a taste of 5G.

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Water Resistant Gadgets Aren’t Waterproof

The terms water-resistant and waterproof get bandied around quite a bit in the gadget market, but that doesn’t mean you chuck your gadgets into the nearest pool with impudence.

Water-resistance is most definitely not waterproof by any measure.

Last week we dove deep into the nomenclature and standards surrounding the testing and production of water-resistant gadgets.

This week we’re back with a lighter overview that’s perfect for people looking for a broad overview of water-resistant gadgets without so many tables and technical specifications.

Let’s take a look at the most important things you need to know about water-resistance and your gadgets.




What’s the Difference?

Every year thousands upon thousands of consumers fry their supposedly “waterproof” gadgets because of a poor understanding and poor marketing.

Understanding the basics of water-resistance is key to keeping your gadgets safe as well as purchasing the right gadgets for your outdoor and sport needs.

The most important thing you need to understand about the entire concept of “waterproof” is that it isn’t a real thing outside of very misleading marketing material.

There is no waterproof gadget on the market.

Every single phone, watch, sport band, GPS device, portable speaker, or the like that bills itself as “waterproof” should really bill itself as “Water-resistant within the parameters specified by the manufacturer.”

Think of it like “earthquake proof.” It is impossible to build a structure that is completely impervious to earthquakes.

No matter how well-built and over-engineered a structure may be there is always a combination of earthquake intensity and duration that will bring it to the ground.

Water-resistance is exactly the same. Every “waterproof” gadget has a point where the it has been submerged too long, too deep, or in water too hot or too cold, and the seals on the device fail allowing water inside.

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This Is The Psychological Reason You Can’t Stop Checking Your Phone

Whether you’re waiting for a train, a friend or the kettle to boil, the likelihood is that you’ll kill those brief moments by mindlessly scrolling or swiping across your phone screen.

And as soon as your phone pings or buzzes, do you immediately check it to see what exciting form of attention you’ve just been paid?

Does it annoy you when you’re in a meeting, feel your phone vibrate in your pocket, but know you can’t check it?

It’s a compulsive urge that many of us find hard to resist.

But according to Sharon Begley, author of Can’t Just Stop: An Investigation of Compulsions, there’s a psychological reason behind this.




Research from the 50s seemed to suggest that because dopamine is pleasurable, it’s pleasure to which people become addicted. But now we know better.

What’s emerged in the last few years is that the dopamine circuitry actually predicts how much you will like something and how much pleasure it will give you. Then it calculates how much reality corresponds to the prediction or falls short.

The emerging idea seems to be that when reality falls short, we feel a dopamine plunge. That feels bad, so we keep trying to do something that will make reality live up to expectations.

“That, to me, fits in with compulsions because these things we’re doing really aren’t that pleasurable. Rather, it’s the dopamine fuel, pleasure, and reward circuit that’s making us feel bad.

So what we get addicted to is not the actual rush of, say the comment you just received on your latest Instagram, but rather the anticipation of it – most of the time, actually reading that comment doesn’t live up to our expectations.

According to Begley, this means “we feel driven and compelled to keep trying, like one of these days it’s going to feel great. If it never does, then you’re in this essentially infinite dopamine loop.

Gaming is one of the prime examples of how such an addiction works, and there’s an ethical debate in the industry about whether it’s right to consciously get people hooked.

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How And Why To Turn Off Word Prediction On Your Phone

Autocorrect has made our lives so much easier — never again will we suffer the humiliation of sending a typo to a friend or making a grammatical error in an email to a colleague.

Except, that’s not true. If anything, autocorrect has made texts and emails sent from mobile devices even more embarrassing.

A cursory search through Google will reveal a spectacular array of autocorrect fails and cringe-worthy messages, all caused by our supposed life-saver.

Frustratingly, sometimes autocorrect can appear like an untameable beast. It stubbornly corrects words that it clearly shouldn’t, wreaks havoc on capitalization, and frequently refuses to let you type what you want.

So, what can you do? We investigate.




Turn Off Autocorrect

The simplest and most effective way of beating your autocorrect is to just switch it off. It might be heavy handed approach, but it’s sure to stop you accidentally telling partner that you’re splitting up with them.

The method is more or less the same on all versions of Android, but might vary slightly depending the exact device you have.

The method detailed below works for Google’s stock keyboard on a Nexus 5, but you can easily adapt it to your own needs.

You have two ways to access the relevant menu.

Either head to Settings > Language & input > Google Keyboard, or long-press the comma (,) button when using your keyboard, choose the gear icon that pops up, then select “Google Keyboard Settings”.

Once you’ve arrived at the correct menu you need to tap “Text correction”.

You’ll then be presented with a long list of options — all of which are useful for someone who wants to tweak their autocorrect.

Let’s take a closer look.

The Options

Before you disable autocorrect completely, it’s important to understand that the Google default keyboard comes with differing levels of severity.

If you’re having real difficulty with the feature, it’s possible you have it set to “Very aggressive” or “Aggressive”. Modest should be adequate for most people.

To check which severity level you are using, and to disable the function all together, you need to choose “Auto-correction” from the list.

You’ll then see the three levels of correction along with a way to turn it off completely.

If you are set to moderate and you’re still having issues, it’s worth exploring a couple of the other settings in the menu before taking the nuclear option.

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Huawei Says Three Cameras Are Better Than One With P20 Pro Smartphone

Huawei’s latest flagship smartphone is the P20 Pro, which has not one, not two, but three cameras on the back.

The new P20, and the larger, more feature-packed P20 Pro, launched at an event in Paris that indicated the Chinese company is looking to match rivals Apple and Samsung and elevate the third-largest smartphone manufacture’s premium efforts.

The P20 has a 5.8in FHD+ LCD while the larger P20 Pro has a 6.1in FHD+ OLED screen, both with a notch at the top similar to Apple’s iPhone X containing a 24-megapixel selfie camera.

They both have a fingerprint scanner on the front but no headphone socket in the bottom.

The P20 and P20 Plus are also available in pink gold or a blue twilight gradient colour finish that resembles pearlescent paint found on some cars – a first, Huawei says, for a glass-backed smartphone.




The P20 has an improved version of Huawei’s Leica dual camera system, which pairs a traditional 12-megapixel colour camera to a 20-megapixel monochrome one, as used on the recent Mate 10 Pro.

But the P20 Pro also has a third 8-megapixel telephoto camera below the first two, producing up to a 5x hybrid zoom – which Huawei says, enables the phone to “see brighter, further, faster and with richer colour”.

When I first heard that Huawei’s new flagship device was going to have three rear-facing cameras I was sceptical,” said Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight.

But it feels like the company has added meaningful features rather than gimmicks, including the five-times telephoto zoom, excellent low light, long exposure performance and crisp black and white pictures the dedicated monochrome lens offers.

Huawei has also improved its built-in AI system for the camera, which recognises objects and scenes, pre-selecting the best of 19 modes for the subject.

Huawei’s AI will also help people straighten photos and zoom in or out to assist with composing group shots.

The company is also pushing its new AI-powered stablisation for both photos and videos, which Huawei says solves the problem of wobbly hands in long-exposure night shots.

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How To Make Android And iOS Play Nicely Together

Even if you love Android, you can’t totally ignore iOS. You probably have plenty of family members or friends who use iPhones.

Or you may dabble with the other side on your own with an iPad, which isn’t a bad option considering the Android tablet space could use really use a new Nexus flagship.

As you’re probably aware, you can forget about using most Apple services on Android.

Apple Music is a rare exception, though much like iTunes on Windows, you get the feeling it will always be a second-class citizen compared to the iOS version.




So when you think of sharing music, photos, messaging, and location updates you have to go outside the walls of Cupertino.

This is where the app ecosystem comes in. Not only are there plenty of good services that work well on both Android and iOS, but they’re often better.

If you do it right, you’ll move from one screen to another, regardless of platform, with ease. And you’ll be better connected to those in your life who just can’t part with their iPhones.

Go over the top for messaging

Let’s start simple: the ski slopes will probably open up in the infernal regions before Apple ports iMessage to Android.

It’s really unfortunate, because iMessage is probably the one thing I miss the most from when I used an iPhone everyday.

Real-time typing notifications, sync to the desktop, and of course the social pressure of not being one of those dreaded green bubbles are all nice to have.

Keep tabs on everybody

Another iOS-only app that you have to live without is Find My Friends.

Again, Apple has crafted a seamless approach for keeping tabs on family members, especially helpful if you have children that aren’t very good at reporting their whereabouts.

Familonet gives a lot of additional details, such as location history, customized alerts, and it supports Android Wear (iOS users also get Apple Watch support).

Share photos with ease

Keeping a photo collection in sync, or just the act of sharing images, can be a pain when you’re trying to do this across mobile platforms.

If you have enough Google Drive storage then you can save everything at full quality, and that’s definitely the best option. The iOS app is also pretty much on par with features as the Android version.

In the end, the beauty of our current app situation is that there is a ton of choice out there to keep everything for yourself and others all in sync.

We’re in a multi-platform and multi-device world, and the services that are worth our time are going to be the ones that navigate this the best.

The hardest part is convincing iOS users to stray from Apple’s defaults, which are convenient, even if third-party apps and services are better.

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Megapixels Don’t Matter Anymore. Here’s Why More Isn’t Always Better.

For years, smartphone makers have been caught up in a megapixel spec race to prove that their camera is better than the next guy’s.

But we’ve finally come to a point where even the lower-end camera phones are packing more megapixels than they need, so it’s getting harder to differentiate camera hardware.

Without that megapixel crutch to fall back on, how are we supposed to know which smartphone has the best camera?

Well thankfully, there are several other important specs to look for in a camera, and it’s just a matter of learning which ones matter the most to you.




Why Megapixels Don’t Matter Anymore

The term “megapixel” actually means “one million pixels,” so a 12-megapixel camera captures images that are comprised of 12,000,000 tiny little dots.

A larger number of dots (pixels) in an image means that the image has more definition and clarity, which is also referred to as having a higher resolution.

This might lead you to believe that a camera with more megapixels will take better pictures than a camera with fewer megapixels, but that’s not always the case.

The trouble is, we’ve reached a point where all smartphone cameras have more than enough megapixels.

For instance, a 1080p HD TV has a resolution of 2.1 megapixels, and even the highest-end 4K displays top out at 8.3 megapixels.

Considering that nearly every smartphone camera has a double-digit megapixel rating these days, your photos will be in a higher resolution than most screens can even display.

Simply put, you won’t be able to see any difference in resolution between pictures taken by two different smartphone cameras, because most screens you’ll be viewing them on aren’t capable of displaying that many megapixels.

Really, anything greater than 8.3 megapixels is only helpful for cropping. In other words, if your phone takes 12-megapixel photos, you can crop them by roughly 50%, and the resolution will still be just as high as a 4K TV.

Pixel Size Is the Real Difference Maker

The hot new number to judge your phone’s camera by is the pixel size. You’ll see this spec listed as a micron value, which is a number followed by the symbol “µm.”

A phone with a 1.4µm pixel size will almost always capture better pictures than one with a 1.0µm pixel size, thanks to physics.

If you zoomed in far enough on one of your photos, you could see the individual pixels, right? Well, each of those tiny little dots was captured by microscopic light sensors inside your smartphone’s camera.

These light sensors are referred to as “pixels” because, well, they each capture a pixel’s worth of light. So if you have a 12-megapixel camera, the actual camera sensor has twelve million of these light-sensing pixels.

Each of these pixels measures light particles called photons to determine the color and brightness of the corresponding pixel in your finished photo.

When a bright blue photon hits one of your camera’s light sensors, it tells your phone to make a dot with bright blue coloring.

Put twelve million of these dots together in their various brightness and colors, then you’ll end up with a picture.

A Little Aperture Goes a Long Way

The next key spec to look for is the camera’s aperture, which is represented as f divided by a number (f/2.0, for example).

Because of the “f divided by” setup, this is one of those rare specs where a smaller number is always better than a larger one.

To help you understand aperture, let’s go back to pixel size for a second.

If larger pixels mean your camera can collect more light particles to create more accurate photos, then imagine pixels as a bucket, and photons as falling rain.

The bigger the opening of the bucket (pixel), the more rain (photons) you can collect, right?

Well aperture is like a funnel for that bucket. The bottom of this imaginary funnel has the same diameter as the pixel bucket, but the top is wider—which means you can collect even more photons.

In this analogy, a wider aperture gives the photon bucket a wider opening, so it focuses more light onto your camera’s light-sensing pixels.

Image Stabilization: EIS vs. OIS

With most spec sheets, you’ll see a camera’s image stabilization technology listed as either EIS or OIS. These stand for Electronic Image Stabilization and Optical Image Stabilization, respectively.

OIS is easier to explain, so let’s start with that one. Simply put, this technology makes it to where your camera sensor physically moves to compensate for any shaking while you’re holding your phone.

If you’re walking while you’re recording a video, for instance, each of your steps would normally shake the camera—but OIS ensures that the camera sensor remains relatively steady even while the rest of your phone shakes around it.

In general, though, it’s always better to have a camera with OIS.

For one, the cropping and stretching can reduce quality and create a “Jello effect” in videos, but in addition to that, EIS has little to no effect on reducing blur in still photos.

Now that you’ve got a better understanding about camera specs, have you decided which smartphone you’re going to buy next?

If you’re still undecided, you can use our smartphone-buyer’s flowchart at the following link, and if you have any further questions, just fire away in the comment section below.

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Test Your Android Phone’s Performance With These Free Benchmarking Tools

How much do you know about your phone? Beyond a name, a price, and vague sense of whether it’s “high end” or not, you’re probably in the dark.

Even if you look up the stats, you don’t really know how it performs. The only sure way to know is to run a few benchmarks.

This not only gives you an idea of how fast your phone is, but also lets you see how it fares against marketplace rivals or older phones, and can help you troubleshoot problems by comparing against similar phones.

Don’t worry, benchmarking your Android phone is easy and cheap. All these tools are free, fun to use, and a few are gorgeous enough to show off to friends.




Setup and Prep

Before you benchmark your phone or tablet, you’ll want to charge it up completely, then kill all background tasks in the multitasking menu.

You don’t want anything to interfere with your tests, so you also might want to put it in Airplane mode to prevent it from fetching mail or receiving calls.

Make sure the ambient temperature isn’t too hot, as the difference in results can be dramatic.

If you’re running a bunch of these tests in a short time and find the device is getting really hot, causing benchmark scores to fall, try removing any heavy cases like Otterbox’s Defender. They act like insulation.

Interpreting Results

Don’t expect test results to tell you everything. Established designs sometimes outperform newer replacements thanks to better cooling or highly-tuned code.

Bigger devices like tablets simply have more space to play with, allowing the use of faster, more power-hungry chips.

Also in play are manufacturer and carrier Android add-ons that make a big difference in how fast a device can feel.

And of course, the fastest phone isn’t necessarily the best. You have to consider size, design, materials, camera quality, sound quality, and much more.

Gamers have unique needs when it comes to performance. Super high-density screens are easy on the eyes, but it’s tough for small, low-power mobile graphics processors to run games smoothly at really high resolutions.

As displays skyrocket to 4K, selecting a device with a fast graphics processor and a slightly lower display resolution can help keep those demanding 3D games running smoothly.

3DMark

3DMark reigns supreme for PC gamers and has made impressive headway on other platforms as the de facto standard for 3D benchmarking.

The free Android version includes a flashy demo reel as well as the physics and GPU tests from the “Ice Storm” module of the Windows suite, while adding a few mobile-specific queries like battery life tests.

Usage is push-button simple. Results are shared online via Futuremark’s cloud database and web comparison system.

It’s easy to see where you sit on the ladder, and although this feature isn’t exclusive, Futuremark has been doing it a lot longer than anyone else here, so the tools provided for comparing, recording, and sharing are mature and well-executed.

CPU test results track with real-world usage but are geared more towards gaming loads than everyday operations. The battery test is handy, but has the same limited scope.

It only gives you an idea of how long your device will last while pushing pixels as hard as it can.

GFXBench 3.0

3DMark isn’t the only game in town when it comes to mobile GPU benchmarking. GFXBench arrived early in Android’s history and delivers more detailed results than Futuremark’s flagship.

It’s also smaller; a big advantage if space is at a premium and your phone or tablet doesn’t support removable media.

GFXBench is all about the details, and the developers serve them up page after page. You get more than framerates, and the numbers aren’t abstractions.

Driver overhead figures, rendering quality tests, precision, and computing performance all get attention, taking GFXBench beyond gaming and deep into graphics geek territory.

Like 3DMark, you also get access to a crossplatform database that extends to desktop systems, but GFXBench doesn’t leave Mac users out in the cold.

Accurate results aside, certain areas of the test look decidedly low-rent these days. Objects, effects, lighting, and other aesthetics are in need of a makeover.

Vellamo

The hardware moguls at Qualcomm may have created Vellamo, but they don’t play favorites; the results show no favoritism towards Snapdragon processors.

Vellamo doesn’t test everything.

It’s mainly focused on testing browser speed, but also includes a mode called Metal that goes low-level for CPU, memory, and bandwidth testing, and a Multicore mode that tests the efficiency of thread latency and handling.

Browser benchmarks may have fallen out of favor as stand-ins for proper mobile CPU tests, but they can still tell you quite a bit about the efficiency of the web browsing engine.

On Android, changing up your browser can have a huge impact on performance.

Like most of the packages here, running the main suite takes a single button press, but some of these tests run a few minutes, so bring along some patience.

Fortunately, Vellamo happens to be a pleasure to use, with elements of Material Design already incorporated into the user interface ahead of Lollipop’s release, so waiting isn’t a chore.

Swiping left on the start screen brings up the results table, device comparison list, and information panels, although you won’t find desktop computers or operating systems other than Android represented here.

Qualcomm’s benchmarking largess extends only to compatible hardware.

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