▼ Choosing a midrange phone is harder than ever

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Today I've been thinking about how so much of the action in Android phones is happening in the midrange. Obviously that's because OnePlus just unveiled the Nord smartphone, with a 90Hz display, dual selfie cameras, and 5G. Here's Jon Porter:

If offering similar specs to the OnePlus 8 in a midrange phone sounds like a recipe for stealing some of the 8's thunder, then you wouldn't be entirely wrong. In fact, OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei told me that's almost the point. Although he says the two phones are targeting different markets, he doesn't want the company to be afraid of competing with itself.

It won't be making it to the US in any real numbers (yet), but there is not a ton of daylight between it and the OnePlus 8. Wait for the Nord to be scored in Porter's full review — coming soon — but it seems like a solid phone based just on the specs.

It's also one of a few phones that I've been waiting for since December, as it uses the less-expensive Snapdragon 765G processor. There's also LG's stylish midrange Velvet phone, which launches in the US on July 22nd. Sam Byford reviewed the Korean version, which has a slightly different processor from the same series.

My hope last December was that this processor would be fast enough for the vast majority of people, which could mean that vast majority wouldn't have to compromise so much when spending less than $700 or so on a phone. Byford's review doesn't give me a ton of hope:

Apps load quickly, web pages render as expected, games run fine, and so on. But the Velvet still somehow feels slow, whether it's the 60Hz display or the stuttery scrolling in certain apps. I don't know if it's the chip itself or LG's software, but it doesn't match up to other 2020 flagship Android phones.

Dip below "mid range" and you get into territory with phones like the Samsung A51 I reviewed this past May. It has Samsung's own Exynos processor and I noticed a distinct slowness there too. In a world where the iPhone SE runs $399 with an absolutely blazing processor, Android phones are at a distinct disadvantage in that department. There are still places where Android phones are stronger than the iPhone SE, of course, but it's just not easy to choose.

(Also, someday, hopefully, maybe, whatever Google will finally announce a Pixel 4A with an entirely other rumored chip in it.)

Anyway, when I say "all the action" is in this price range, what I mean is that there seems to be a lot more experimentation, mixing and matching of components, and differentiation. Everything over a thousand bucks is flat out trying to give you the bestest and mostest, so choosing a phone is relatively simple. (Let's set aside foldables for now.)

But down here in the more reasonable range you sort of have to be more savvy about what you want. Do you care about screen size? Screen quality? Battery life? Camera? Speed? Gaming performance? The truth is that unless you veer into flagship territory, you have to pick one or a few of those things — you can't have it all.


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Samsung news

Samsung's Galaxy Note 20 Ultra may try to be the Xbox Phone. Jay Peters:

The two companies also announced they would be partnering on a cloud-based game streaming service in February. A Microsoft-made game streaming service would also fill a hole for Samsung, which shut down its own PC-to-phone game streaming service in March. More than 90 games will apparently be available to stream on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra over xCloud, according to WinFuture.

┏ This is what Samsung's bean-shaped Galaxy Buds Live will look like in your ears. Beans... Beans... Beans. BEANS. BEANS! BEANS! BEANS!

┏ Samsung Galaxy Note 20 shown off in most detailed leak yet.

The render shows off a handset with a much flatter screen than what we're expecting from the Ultra, and the rear camera module also appears to lack the Ultra's fourth sensor, which is speculated to be either a 3D ToF sensor or a laser autofocus.

┏ Blurry Samsung Galaxy Fold 2 leak hints at camera upgrades and gold model.

Separate rumors suggest the Galaxy Fold 2 will launch at a cheaper price point, with less storage. The original model started at $1,980, so any cost savings could help push dual-screen and foldable devices towards the mainstream.

Android news

┏ If you really want a smaller phone, try the tiny Jelly 2. Sam Byford takes a look at the latest minimalist Android phone, which avoids the Palm phone's biggest problem: the Jelly 2 has a 2,000mAh battery instead of the Palm's 800mAh.

┏ The brain behind the Google Pixel camera is building a universal camera app for Adobe.

┏ OnePlus Buds review: cheap AirPods for OnePlus phones. Chris Welch:

The OnePlus Buds require a OnePlus phone if you want to get the most from them, so these really won't appeal to owners of other Android devices. You won't get features like wireless charging or noise cancellation at a price this low, but if you've found yourself envious of Apple's AirPods and don't like how in-ear earbuds feel, it's hard to beat the value factor here.

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┏ Sony's first vlogging camera almost nails it. Here's my review of a great little Sony camera. I am hesitant to tell you to get it, as it really is dependent on your particular needs. But if you're in that particular gap between wanting a video camera more powerful than your phone but still very pocketable, this is one of the very few things that can fill it.

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You are reading Processor, a newsletter about computers by Dieter Bohn. Dieter writes about consumer tech, software, and the most important news of the day from The Verge. This newsletter delivers about four times a week, at least a couple of which include longer essays.

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