Throughout all the changes that smartphones have undergone through the years, one thing that has remained constant, a least in the past few generations, has been the focus on better cameras. Almost just as important as the software user experience, the ability of these personal computers in our pockets to create a visual record of our lives has proven to be of importance to people from all walks of life.
No smartphone maker has been able to turn a blind eye on that trend and this year, Vivo has gone all out on the X60 Pro+ and we take it for a test run to see if its combination of high-end sensors and the ZEISS name is all that it’s cut out to be.
Design and Display
The most distinctive part of the Vivo X60 Pro+ is definitely its back. Even from a distance, you can already tell it is different from most smartphones in the market and a closer look and touch immediately confirms that. Available in a single Emperor Blue trim, the phone combines frosted glass with soft vegan leather to create a unique feel that might actually split people into camps. Given that material, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that the phone doesn’t have a formal IP rating for dust and water resistance.
Aside from that, the Vivo X60 Pro+ actually looks pretty familiar, especially with the unique Dual-Tone Step camera design that Vivo is seemingly turning into an iconic look. It visually and physically breaks the usual bump into two levels, exuding what the company claims to be a certain degree of humanistic warmth. The “chocker” is still there as well, though with a slimmer look that visually matches the phone’s actually slimmer body.
The front of the phone is just as eye-catching, which is not really a surprise for the 6.56-inch Samsung AMOLED panel and its HDR10+ capabilities. Even the small 3.96mm punch-hole cutout, strategically positioned in the middle for the best selfie angles, isn’t enough to mar the vibrant and bright display of colors it emits. It is starting to become a common thing so it is also unsurprising that the phone boasts of a 120Hz refresh rate as well as a 240Hz response rate to match.
Specs and Performance
Vivo spared no expense when it comes to the Vivo X60 Pro+’s specs, from the latest Snapdragon 888 to the fastest UFS 3.1 storage available to smartphones. In terms of benchmark tests, the phone naturally boasts high scores though one might notice there isn’t that big of a gap between the X60 Pro+ and the X60 Pro with a Snapdragon 870. That said, the two are separated not just by differences in silicon but also differences in optics.
One particularly special feature that Vivo is giving the X60 series is what it calls “extended RAM”, a feature that some more advanced computer users are more familiar with as “swap memory” on Linux or “virtual memory” on Windows. It utilizes 3GB of unused storage to extend a phone’s RAM, from 8GB to 11GB or from 12GB to 15GB. The net effect is that it gives more room for more apps to stay in the background, up to 20 or 25 apps as the case may be. In practice, you will rarely feel a slowdown when switching between many open apps.
The Vivo X60 Pro+, despite its thin frame, packs a 4,200 mAh battery. Unlike its rivals and peers, however, it only supports 55W FlashCharge, which, while serviceable, almost sounds too modest in comparison. It charges fast, definitely, but fails to make a boast against 65W or especially 100W charging technologies.
It also runs Funtouch OS 11.1, based on Android 11, not the shiny new Origin OS that it thinks better serves its Chinese customers.
While the Vivo X60 Pro+ is already a solid phone overall, its claim to fame at least in Vivo’s eyes is that ZEISS logo on its back. It is unambiguous proof that the phone has passed ZEISS’ stringent certification processes. The famed optics company also lent a hand in helping Vivo develop what is basically a miniature version of its camera imaging technologies for smartphones. A concrete example is the special stylized bokehs that the ZEISS Biotar cameras are famous for, now available on the X60 Pro+.
Vivo’s top-of-the-line smartphone also has one other special ZEISS trait that even its X60 Pro sibling doesn’t. It has passed ZEISS’s T* coating certification, which boils down to having improved light transmission and reduced reflections, avoiding stray light and ghosting artifacts produced by other lenses.
That ZEISS mark, however, isn’t the only feature that the phone boasts of. The Vivo X60 Pro+ also uses for its main camera the 50MP Samsung ISOCELL GN1 which, in turn, boasts of a large 1/1.3-inch sensor and large 1.2 micrometer pixels that enables it to take better low-light and night-time shots as seen below. The Vivo X60 Pro+ takes great advantage of this in its Super Night Video feature, something the X60 Pro doesn’t have.
Just like with X50 Pro+, Vivo opted not to combine the large sensor with a large gimbal that would have bulked up the camera bump. Unlike last year, however, Vivo actually gave the X60 Pro+ a 48MP ultra-wide camera that does have its new Gimbal Stabilization 2.0. Curiously, this camera isn’t used in the phone’s night mode when it would have benefited from better stabilization. Vivo believes that the Samsung ISOCELL GN1 is better suited for that task and we can agree with that premise.
Another difference with the X60 Pro is that there is a periscope-style telephoto camera on the X60 Pro+. With an 8MP sensor and a maximum 5x optical zoom (60x hybrid zoom), it really isn’t that much but is definitely better than nothing at all.
The Vivo X60 Pro+ definitely delivers Vivo’s promise of professional photography packaged in a high-end smartphone with a unique design. The ZEISS branding helps to lend credibility to those claims but, at the end of the day, people will judge the phone by its own merits. Fortunately, for Vivo, the phone performs admirably on all fronts.
There is only one option for the Vivo X60 Pro+ so if you’re not a fan of the Emperor Blue’s vegan leather, you’re out of luck. The phone will launch first in India but plans to expand its availability throughout APAC, European, and Middle East markets are already underway.
Android 12L Beta 1 released: Big screen features for all
Today Google released the latest version of Android with Android 12L Beta 1, made ready for all intrepid Android-running smart device users to see the future. This is not the first time we’ve seen this software, but it is the first time we’ve seen the software available in the Android Beta program for just about anyone who’ll give it a shot. This version of the software can be found on the Android Beta website and through Google’s developer portal.
This software is a sort of half-step between Android 12 and Android 13. This is an operating system update that’ll work on all devices, but adds functionality and features specifically tuned for large-screen devices and devices with transforming displays. Foldables and rollable display devices will not be passed over by Android!
If you’re testing this software on a device with a large screen, you’ll find a new taskbar for easy app switching. This new taskbar also allows the user to easily drag and drop apps for split-screen mode functionality. Large-screen devices have UI refinements as well, with a focus on usability for overview, lockscreen, quick settings, notifications, and home screens.
This new software is optimized for large screen devices. Developers were given APIs and tools to “help build for large screens” with Android. This included material patterns for large screens, Jetpack Compose for adaptive UI, Window Size Classes for UI management, Activity embedding APIs, a resizeable emulator, and visual linting in Android Studio (with Android Studio Chipmunk).
You do not need a large-screen device to enroll in the Beta program for Android 12L. If you head over to the Android Beta for Pixel site, you’ll see the devices that’ll be able to run this Beta software. Most any Pixel device Pixel 3a or newer should be able to run this Android 12L Beta build.
If you own a Lenovo Tab P12 Pro, you can give Android 12L Developer Preview a try right now. There’s a Lenovo P12 Pro Android 12L Developer Preview Program available for tapping right this minute. This includes Security Patch 2021-11-01 and Android 12L DP1.
Tile tracker prospective buyer Life360 accused of selling location data
Many people who have caught a whiff of the many privacy issues in this digital age may presume that it all revolves around social media. The rather horrifying truth is that almost anything about a person that can be transmitted in a digital manner can be used to create a profile of that person, often for targeted marketing purposes. That especially includes the places you’ve been to, which is why location tracking has been a very thorny subject as far as privacy issues go. That’s why it’s a bit worrying that the popular Bluetooth tracker Tile might be acquired by a company that is now allegedly violating its own users’ privacy, which is ironic given the nature of Life360’s business.
Image Credit: Tile
READ: After trying Apple’s AirTag I can see why Tile is furious
Life360 might not be a familiar name to many people, but it has built a reputation around helping families keep track of one another, often with the goal of ensuring their safety. The app comes in handy in making sure kids are where they should be or that family members can send SOS messages in an emergency. These features obviously require some form of location tracking as well as some expectations of privacy.
A lengthy report from The Markup, however, casts some doubt on the latter. Former Life360 employees claim that the company basically sells the location data of its users to almost anyone for the right price. It even partnered with the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to track “mobility trends” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of Life360’s customers, however, are involved in the advertising industry, providing insights for use with targeted advertising. Company founder and CEO Chris Hulls admits that they see this data as an important part of their business model but that they have privacy policies in place that prevent personally identifiable information (PII) from leaking to its clients. Life360 also credits this business model for allowing them to offer free life-saving services like driver safety.
Complicating matters, however, is Life360’s intent to acquire Tile, one of the most popular brands of Bluetooth trackers in the market today. With Apple’s AirTag and Samsung’s SmartTag, that market has seen a renewed interest as well as more intense scrutiny from privacy advocates and regulators.
The report, while not exactly damning, could put a dent in Life360’s plans. According to The Markup, Hulls said Life360 “doesn’t have plans” to sell Tile tracker data.
Regardless of those privacy policies, the mere thought that Life360, a service aimed at families with kids, deals heavily in the data-selling business is enough to raise red flags. Without many external safeguards in place, there is almost no telling how much information its partners are able to glean from the precise location data that it sells. Security and privacy experts have argued that even anonymized data can still be used to build a profile of an individual for targeted advertising, which can then be used to harvest other information from other sources (via Nature).
Instagram parental controls about to change the way you browse
Although Meta itself is no stranger to controversy and legal inquiries, it was Instagram that was put on the hot seat a few months back for the way it treated its younger users. From accusations of trying to profit at the expense of teens’ mental health to criticisms for lack of parental control, Instagram has been painted recently as an unsafe place for young people to be, despite its popularity with that demographic. The social network has tried to recover from that bad PR and is now announcing features to reassure parents, but some of those won’t be rolling out until next year.
Image Credit: Instagram
Instagram isn’t new to the social networking game, and the bulk of its users come from younger generations. You’d think that, at this point, it would already have safety measures in place to let parents safeguard kids, but that was definitely not the case. To be fair, it wasn’t until recently that Instagram officially allowed minors in, but it should have had provisions ready for that situation.
Better late than never, as some might say, and parental controls are finally coming to Instagram. The catch is that it won’t be until March next year before these parental controls become available. When it does, parents will finally have a say on how much time they want their kids to spend on Instagram. The company is also building an educational hub for parents that will probably try to ease their worries about the network’s impact on their children’s mental health.
Parents won’t have to wait long for one promised feature, though. Starting today, teenage users from the US, the UK, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia will be nudged to take a break every now and then when they’ve been scrolling through their feeds for too long. Although it’s too easy to dismiss these notifications, Instagram hints it will be a little persistent and almost nagging in reminding young users to leave that setting enabled.
Instagram is also improving on limitations specific to teens’ accounts. For example, other people won’t be able to tag them in posts if the teens don’t follow those accounts. The network’s “Limit Even More” option for controlling sensitive content might also filter out potentially harmful search results, though this feature is still in its early testing stage.
There are also features being tested that will benefit not just teens but all users of all ages. Instagram is testing a new tool that will let users manage their activity better, like bulk deleting content, including previous likes and comments. If all goes well, this will be available in January.
The social network is also preparing a “nudge” to remind users to look at other topics if they’ve been staring or searching for a single one for far too long. It’s almost like the “Take a Break” feature but focused on certain topics that can become an unhealthy obsession, especially if the subject matter can be deemed to be potentially harmful.
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