back to article Huawei P20 Pro: Triple Lens Shooter promises the Earth ...

Huawei has brought forward the release of its P20 Pro flagship to capitalise on the interest generated by its triple-lens shooter. This is the first Chinese phone that demands – well, screams – to be compared to the market leaders. With a price to match – £799. Although Huawei is pouring millions into marketing (including …

I do have to ask...

Judging by personal experience and facebook posts, the main things people take photos of are:

a) Cats

b) More cats

c) Food with occasional cats

d) Drunken mates in pubs, optionally with cats

So, how well does the P20 Pro do at the spur-of-the-moment, moving-subject (and/or swaying photographer in the latter scenario!) photographs?

Granted, I do like playing with long exposures (f'narr!) - I recently got some great photos of fire poi and led hula hoops by tinkering with the manual settings on my phone (e.g. https://www.instagram.com/p/BhC2KA8n586/). But most of the time, I want the shortest exposure possible, especially when photographing a moving subject!

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Re: I do have to ask...

he main things people take photos of are:

a) Cats

b) More cats

c) Food with occasional cats

I knew someone had been accessing my photo spool!

(Although, to be fair, sometimes I pity-include the dog. Especially when he's in frame with cats..)

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For me, an £800 phone with no SD card slot and no headphone jack is a real deal-breaker. Why would I pay premium money to lose two of the key features from my current phone?

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Politely disagree

It comes with a usb-c to headfone jack in the box if you want that

Personally I am looking forward to receiving my free early bird £300+ wireless bose cans...who needs it the jack?

As for SD card, really 128GB is a stonking amount of space. i guess if you are a heavy video maker it may sway you, but I personally hate the fact that android and apps pretty much ignore the existence of the sd card for e.g. autosaving film and the ability to store large apps there, and we know how bad OS-integrated sd cards are.

My early experience of the shooter as a simple point and shoot has left me very impressed. some truly wonderful shots of my kids.

I knew about the software being in beta so its going to be a winner once they sort that out.

I cancelled my order of the Pixel 2 XL due to the crumby hardware specs and its apparent ugliness.

P20 Pro is a nice looking and ergonomic beauty.

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weird two-tone paint

Does anybody other than puerile car nuts actually find that strange angle-dependent colour attractive?

To me it looks resplendent in the colours of putrefaction.

I remember first seeing a car like (on show in Liverpool airport) that and I immediately exclaimed "Christ that's ugly". But then it was a new "Mini" twatmobile so that may have played a role also.

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Red Snow

Pretty sure that snow is meant to be red. Looks like the photo was taken at sunset and the snow is just reflecting the red/orange light of the sky. In fact, wasn't that the point of that promotional shot? To show the camera picking up detail under far from ideal lighting?

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Re: Red Snow

Yes very very picky

There's many a mid-high level DSLR that wouldnt do any better for white balance and exposure in that scene.

Snow and sand are both notorious for messing up white balance to the extent that most cameras have sand/snow specific settings that can be chosen

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Re: Red Snow

I agree that the snow is meant to be reddish. But not about "far from ideal lighting" - That's golden hour lighting, it can hardly get any better.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Red Snow

Holy Crap!

The right facing side of the building is blue. BLUE I tells ya!

Except for that little sticky-out bit of the building at the front. It's a sort of red-blue mix as if it were also lit by red light reflected by the snow.

This photograph is obviously a fake and it proves that NASA never landed a man on the Moon.

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Boffin

Re: Red Snow

I have taken photos of snow at sunset and they do look pinkish red during the golden hour.

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Mushroom

Smartphones are SOOOO over

Seriously. It's 2018.

How amazing can an Android smartphone be at this point?

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Re: Smartphones are SOOOO over

Hence the review focusing on one of the main areas ripe for continued improvement. Battling the laws of physics to make a lens <5mm thick perform as close as possible to as a dedicated camera. The closer they get, the more people will forgo the camera. *

* Before the indignant replies flood in, I said MORE... I didn't say YOU, Mr "I always carry my 15 lenses and assorted accessories" professional photographer. The best camera is the one you have with you, for most people that is a phone.

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Devil

Re: Smartphones are SOOOO over

> Battling the laws of physics to make a lens <5mm thick perform as close as possible to as a dedicated camera.

Nobody cares how thick or thin the smartphone camera lens is.

Please tell me that whenever you buy a new smartphone your purchasing decision is based on the thickness of the camera lens.

[ ... ] perform as close as possible to a dedicated camera

Have you seen a photograph produced by a recent DSLR or Mirrorless with a high-quality professional lens such as SIGMA or Zeiss?

As close as possible is a funny expression. We - of planet Earth - are as close as possible to the Andromeda Galaxy. Not close enough, though.

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Re: Smartphones are SOOOO over

And the other point I may mention to any proud self professed camera enthusiast is that -

It doesn't matter how good you are taking photos and how good your camera is...we really don't want to look at your 956 holiday photos from your latest trip to Asia or wherever.

We don't give a shit. Thank you.

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Re: Smartphones are SOOOO over

"Nobody cares how thick or thin the smartphone camera lens is.

Please tell me that whenever you buy a new smartphone your purchasing decision is based on the thickness of the camera lens."

The idea is to get the lens flush with the rest of the camera and still perform well, so the camera performance will be a purchasing factor

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Mushroom

Re: Smartphones are SOOOO over

> We don't give a shit. Thank you.

That's exactly my point.

Let's stop pretending that the camera is the smartphone's differentiating feature, or that it has any relevance to anything.

But then, if we stopped the pretense bullshit, this wouldn't be the Internet, would it?

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Re: Smartphones are SOOOO over

> Nobody cares how thick or thin the smartphone camera lens is.

You may not care about the thickness of the camera lens, but the manufacturer does, because it dictates how thin they can make the handset. And like it or not, the thinness of a handset is a major factor in a phone-buyer's first impressions, especially for non-technical consumers who don't realise how much of a compromise this results in, especially when it comes to battery life and physical robustness.

Ironically, this drive towards thin handsets means most people end up buying a case to protect their device, bumping the thickness and weight back up. But again, that's not something people think about when weighing up a naked handset in a phone showroom, and so thinness is a key driver in handset design.

> Have you seen a photograph produced by a recent DSLR or Mirrorless with a high-quality professional lens such as SIGMA or Zeiss?

Probably - but I'll have viewed it on a laptop monitor or my phone after it's been downsampled by whatever website or social-media network I'm viewing it on, so the finer details will have been lost on me.

Therein lies the rub: phone cameras have been "good enough" for around 80%[*] of general photography usage for several years now. I'd even go so far as to say that they've been superior to traditional 35mm-compact cameras for over a decade and encroaching on digital-compact territory for the last five years.

Now, as one of the few technological features which manufacturers can use to differentiate their handsets, mobile-cameras are making another push which may push them up into the 90-95% range. I.e. they genuinely are starting to challenge DSLRs!

Certainly, we're getting to the point where you'll have to spend a significant amount of money to have a measurable improvement in photo quality - and even then, you'll probably need to have at least some experience and training to take advantage of the improvements.

[*] Number generated by the traditional WAG; feel free to use your own RNG here...

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Re: Smartphones are boring

They’re all very alike, so it boils down to comfort and what you want to do with it. I do way too much with mine. I’ve commented here, before, that it’s quite the single point of failure (notwithstanding the backup I always have handy).

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Re: Smartphones are SOOOO over

Please tell me that whenever you buy a new smartphone your purchasing decision is based on the thickness of the camera lens.

So given 2 phones, one with a grossly protruding lens and one flush it wouldn't be a purchase factor for you? Of course nobody cares about the lens itself, but they DO care about having the thinnest phone for whatever illogical reasons...

As close as possible is a funny expression. We - of planet Earth - are as close as possible to the Andromeda Galaxy. Not close enough, though.

A nonsensical comparison and factually incorrect... We will be closer to the Andromeda galaxy tomorrow and in a few billion years we will be a little too close for comfort assuming anyone is around to see that. However your smartphone will probably take great pictures by then ;)

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Re: Smartphones are SOOOO over

The very best camera imaginable for taking a photo right now - is the one that you actually have with you right now.

Of course cameras are a key differentiator between phones. Let's face it, the rest of their hardware isn't that interesting.

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Mushroom

Re: Smartphones are SOOOO over

> A nonsensical comparison and factually incorrect...

Let me explain the Andromeda sentence so that even someone like you can understand it:

We are as close to the Andromeda Galaxy as it is possible for us to be. That's because we know that the Milky Way and Andromeda have been on a collision course, and because we are closer to Andromeda today than we were yesterday.

Whether tomorrow, or the day after, we will be closer to it, or not, is completely irrelevant. We don't know. As of right now, at time T, we know we are as close to it as we can possibly be. That's because right now, at time T, we are closer to it than we were at time T - 1 in the past. Based on direct observation.

However, neither you nor I know if at an undetermined time T + N in the future we will be closer to it than we were at time T + (N - 1), also in the future. That's because we can't observe the future.

Even so, being as close to Andromeda a we can possibly be at this time, we still have another 4 billion years to get even closer to it. Assuming the two galaxies maintain their current collision course. Which means the as close as we can possibly be statement is meaningless.

Bueller? Understand the difference between a meaningless approximation - as close as we can possibly be - and a direct measurement observation - we are closer to it today than we were yesterday?

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Anonymous Coward

"Battling the laws of physics "

And still the laws of Physics win over marketing...

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Anonymous Coward

"they genuinely are starting to challenge DSLRs"

Only for the image-challenged people.

Sure, if you expose people to bad images for long enough, they will start to accept bad images as "normal" - and they'll even believe far better, high-quality images are "wrong" because they don't match those they are used to.

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Anonymous Coward

"The best camera is the one you have with you,"

That's a photoreporter (and parents) only assumption - for whom even a bad image is always better than no image at all.

For other kinds of photography, the best camera (and especially lens), is only the right one for the image you need to create. The wrong camera (and especially lens) will just deliver a wrong, bad image - and then no image at all is the same.

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Re: Smartphones are SOOOO over

we really don't want to look at your 956 holiday photos from your latest trip to Asia

That's fine.

Now, about my 956 pictures of cats..

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Re: "they genuinely are starting to challenge DSLRs"

> Sure, if you expose people to bad images for long enough, they will start to accept bad images as "normal" - and they'll even believe far better, high-quality images are "wrong" because they don't match those they are used to.

That's... impressively elitist, and possibly even trollish.

We're not talking about "bad" and "good", we're talking about "good" and "better", and the delta between the two is shinking, whether you want to admit it or not.

And as ever, the two most important criteria for a good photo are a) being in the right place at the right time and b) having the skill (or luck!) to get a good composition.

So yeah, keep lugging around your DSLR and your heavy bag of lenses, filters and spare battery packs, and I'll keep waving my mobile phone around. And at times, they'll both produce photos worth sharing!

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Coat

Re: Smartphones are SOOOO over

>Nobody cares how thick or thin the smartphone camera lens is.

It's relevant as part of the ongoing attempt by smartphone manufacturers to emulate the last of Steve Jobs' Visionary Design Decisions.

Namely: Get thinner and thinner until you can't do your job anymore.

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Re: Smartphones are SOOOO over

Actually, when Andromeda collides with our galaxy the Earth won't really be affected, if it exists at that time. Stars in galaxies are so far apart that collisions are extremely rare.

It'll make for some lovely night skies, so overall it might be a good thing.

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Mushroom

Re: "they genuinely are starting to challenge DSLRs"

> That's... impressively elitist, and possibly even trollish.

No, it's not.

> and the delta between the two is shinking, whether you want to admit it or not

Again, no, it's not.

Maybe you are comparing your smartphone photos with photos coming out from a USD $250 Samsung Point-And-Shoot. Yeah, the ones that come in pink, pastel green, paster purple and pastel rust. In that case, probably true, considering that the $250 Samsung camera has the same exact optics and image processor as a smartphone.

For anyone that knows a thing or two about photography, smartphone pictures are generally crap. Different levels of crap, depending on phone brand, and cost, but still crap. There are objective reasons why that is, and no amount of marketing bullshit will compensate for physics.

I'm not talking about ridiculous pixel-peeping here - which is stupid in and of itself. I am talking about basics like color depth, saturation, range, blotching, perspective distortion, i.e. basics.

If you firmly believe that the photos coming out of your smartphone are the very best you can get, or that they match the quality and optics of a DSLR, great. Works for you.

But, consider the possibility that what you happen to believe isn't necessarily a match for factual and observable reality. Or physics.

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Re: Smartphones are SOOOO over

Its funny, as I waited for my Pro 20 replacement for my busted moto, i dug out an old Samsung S5

Good grief that is shit in comparison...but at the time...amazing right?

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Anonymous Coward

"That's... impressively elitist, and possibly even trollish."

Not at all. It's the basic way human perception works - it adapts and starts to believe a given stimulus is "normal", and puts different ones in the "wrong" category.

Why some foods add a lot of sugar or salt? Do they make it better, or just make people used to them, so they want more of the same, and refuse better food but which no longer they are used to?

I see more and more oversaturated, high-contrats, and oversharpened images, sometimes quite videogamish. They are easier to the eye. Like pop music, Coca-Cola or McDonald's are easier, but not always better.

I've seen young people refuse B/W images and movies because they are not gaudy as the images/movies they are used to. And the internet is very efficient at leveling tastes.

Is this "elitism"? If elitism means not to participate in a marketing-driven race to the bottom and homogenisation, through a knowledge of visual arts, their history and evolution, well, it's welcome.

"two most important criteria for a good photo"

They are criteria for a "pleasing photo" - which may not be a "good" one. Images go far beyond "pleasing" ones. Some photographers creates images from scratch, so they don't really bother about "being in the right place at the right time" - they create the right place and right time too.

And you don't really need to lug around a log of gear - just what is needed for the images you want. But you want control and versatility, not some limited device with some pre-programmed software effects.

"at times, they'll both produce photos worth sharing!"

Sure. Just, the percentages of those times are very different. And still, in important situations (marriages, graduations, etc.) , people still want to see a photographer come with a SLR, not a mobile phone... why?

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Long Exposure

With regard to your point about the "Night Mode" Hill shot, In my experience, with a long exposure shot, even on a top-of-the-range SLR or DSLR, you would get the problem of the sky appearing too light, as it reflects back the street lighting.

I would not consider this to be a problem of the specific software, just the limitations of the location.

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Headmaster

It's a real curate's egg

The curate's egg is bad. He say's it has some good bits. He's a sycophantic liar, bad eggs don't have good bits.

So either this article is full of lies and the camera is useless or the author is using a turn of phrase they don't really understand.

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Headmaster

Re: It's a real curate's egg

the author is using a turn of phrase they don't really understand.

I rather think the author is using a turn of phrase you don't understand.

From the page you linked to...

The initial meaning of the phrase was to describe something which was partly good but which was ruined by its bad part.

It's now more often used just to describe something that is partly good and partly bad.

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Mushroom

Re: I rather think the author is using a turn of phrase you don't understand.

Saucy! I do understand, like I understand that "Shouldn't of" is becoming common, and the ridiculous "step foot". (Don't hear many people saying "punch fist" or "run leg" though.....)

The problem I have with this use of Curate's egg is it takes a phrase that has a pretty unique meaning and turns it into "mixed bag", "Six of one, half a dozen of the other" etc.... We have loads of phrases for "sort of ok", we don't need another one!!!

Why do things have to keep changing??????

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Re: I rather think the author is using a turn of phrase you don't understand.

like I understand that "Shouldn't of" is becoming common

Ah, now there, we are in complete agreement!

Those who use shouldn't of or couldn't of should be hung, drawn and quartered with a blunt knife. It is an abomination unto Nuggan.

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The fools have learned nothing

Although Huawei is pouring millions into marketing

And an EU office, a legal team, and all of the other costs that Sammy and Apple incur. They too make their phones in China, if Huawei want to maintain the value differentiation, then they need to avoid all the shitbag marketing and "presence" costs.

If I were a Chinese maker with a decent product, I'd be looking to use a UK middleman with Ebay distribution, bolt the middleman's knackers to the warehouse floor to avoid fraud, manage warranty claims by simple replacement, have ZERO marketing, and let word of mouth and selected press placing get the phone in the market. Which is how come I've got a Xiaomi, and recommend it to anybody who will listen.

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"This is the first Chinese phone that demands – well, screams – to be compared to the market leaders. With a price to match – £799"

Except, it's already been discounted to £509 - EE are selling at that price instore on PAYG (albeit that you're probably going to have to wait a while to actually get your hands on some stock). And who knows how much further the price will drop over the coming months. So really it should be compared with mid market phones, and in that part of the market is seems a very competitive proposition.

From all the reviews I've read, the main drawback with the camera seems to be excessive processing of the images. However it's able to also record photos in RAW format, I wonder whether this is a way of mitigating the excesses of Huawei's algorithms?

I have a Huawei Mate 9, and I have to say the battery is absolutely outstanding. And the fingerprint sensor is incredibly fast and only ever gives problems when my finger is wet.

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I have the bog standard P20

Like the Pro, it gets higher DXO scores than the Samsung S9, Google Pixel 2 and Apple iPhone X. Likewise, as per this this review, Huawei's JPEG processing most certainly lags. The HDR mode in particular looks quite poor compared to my Nexus 5X. This is not a good phone camera for a dreary day. Playing to its strengths, however, which are good light and low light (e.g. indoors), it's looking very promising.

I'm not finding the iOS aping interface a problem at all. Nor does the notch bother me either way. There are use cases where face recognition doesn't work well for me. Something to do with how the phone detects movement, I think. Picking the phone up from a table or desk, the screen switches on and face recognition works pretty flawlessly. Taking the phone out of my pocket, OTOH, it often fails to activate.

Speed wise, the phone fast and slick, so no complaints there.

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I want that street food. The phone not so much.

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Excellent review, right on point.

I really have no idea what some of the other reviewers of this phone were smoking. The camera is just above average considering the hardware that we have here.

I have the p20 Pro ( but it will be returned) , got fooled by the hype. Luckily I still had my pixel 2 xl so thought I'll compare shot for shot; The majority of the time the Pixel was miles better.

The times when the p20 Pro got close or ahead, I really had to play with the settings.

Seriously., there are many short comings with this phone when you think about it

1. It's processor is just about to be outdated... New one was just announced..

2. Is the current processor already at its limits.. . video stabilisation for 4k

3. Popular camera options too many clicks away (swipe swipe swipe click for hdr...)

4. Night mode is a joke.. 4 second exposure to over sharpen and ruin the picture

5. Zoom into the pictures taken with the p20,most are lacking detail

P.S I'm actually a fan of Huawei phones. My phone before the Pixel was the p10 and mate 9. But when they market the crap out of this phone for its camera, u have to be disappointed..

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Not pixel perfect

My research found me looking at a pixel shot where it had totally messed up the bokeh effect

True bokeh comes from the second lens, but the pixel has no second lens so uses software and AI and they haven't got it completely right.

google make software not hardware and try and solve hardware problems with software - well because its cheaper and thus more profitable. but your first 5 versions are usually poor (or 10 if you are microsoft).

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After a P9+ that did not get updates in my market for over 15 months Huawei will never again get money from me for a phone.

When the flagship phone is over 12 months behind on security patches there is an issue.

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Notch on/off

The provided pictures don't really do a good job of showing when the notch is enabled, since it is showing the exact same thing - in both cases the top area is being used for status like battery etc. On the iPhone X a "notch aware" app can use that part of the display for itself (i.e. no status bar) and I assume that the newer version of Android that is supposed to be "notch aware" will allow the same.

If all the iPhone X could do is use the top area for status, then of course you'd want it black all the time! To get a proper comparison of notch on/off on the P20 it will have to be running that latest version of Android that fully supports the notch.

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Three lenses?

All the better to surveille you through, my dear.

Ob. Onion.

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Consumers are dumb

800 Quid for a phone with a swanky new camera. Madness

Lets see, for around 50 quid you can have a Nokia 'dumb' phone with a battery that lasts best part of a MONTH between charges and if you really do want to take pictures of everything not far north of a hundred quid will get you a very reasonably point & click camera featuring many many pixels & half-decent optics.

The only reason to integrate a phone & a camera is so you can instantly send stupid pictures to you mates on twit/book/chat/verse or whatever.

You want it all? You want it all crammed into a 5mm thick form factor, you wanna pay 800 notes for it & don't care that if you drop it its fucked. Go ahead moron!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Consumers are dumb

Did you get out of bed the wrong side?

You could get that Nokia 'dumb' phone, and carry around a camera separately, and a filofax and an atlas, and a compass and sextant, and an encyclopaedia, plus a pack of cards, writing paper, envelopes and stamps, a wind-up gramophone, some vinyl records, a transistor radio, spare change to buy a newspaper, a handful of paperbacks, some seaweed for weather forecasting, a set of foreign language dictionaries and a portable battery operated TV with built in VCR.

Or not. Companies offer shiny stuff; humans like shiny stuff. Liking shiny stuff is mostly how we progressed from spending days grubbing for roots, chasing antelopes and dying at age 20 to sitting in armchairs listening to the Hexagonal Phase in the warmth with a chicken biryani 7 minutes of microwave away (that and clubbing things on the head with heavy sticks). Some humans profess to be superior because they are too clever to like shiny stuff, but meanwhile everyone else muddles on, mostly amazed that you can fit the world in their pocket, and actually having a few mates who they enjoy staying in contact with, and exchanging stupid pictures with.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Consumers are dumb

"Liking shiny stuff is mostly how we progressed from spending days grubbing for roots"

Many are increasingly of the opinion that we all made a big mistake coming down from the trees in the first place.

"to sitting in armchairs listening to the Hexagonal Phase"

Some say that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no-one should ever have left the oceans or got Eoin Colfer to write an attempted follow-up Douglas Adams' work, let alone then doing a radio adaptation of it.

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Re: Consumers are dumb

800 pounds for a phone is way more than I would pay and on that we agree, but the rest of your post is completely off. If you're talking about ye olde Nokia phones, the battery in them could last a fair bit, but only if one didn't do much with them. Ever taken a look at the talk time for those? It's short. Much shorter than on modern devices. But talking on the mobile was a luxury back then and we didn't do too much of it, so the battery would last for days between charges. The modern Nokias, including the new 3310, have fairly normal battery lives (AFAIK). Apart from the battery not actually being as great as the legends say, today, such a phone is only a half-capable communicating device (and that's probably being generous).

As for the slightly over 100 quid dedicated cameras, they are crap. They will have some zoom and that's the only thing they have which most mobiles lack. Sharpness, colours, noise reduction artefacts, low light performance... it's so disappointing. I was trying to find a snapper to replace my ages old Canon SX260HS and the stuff that goes for 150-250 pounds is not worth getting over my mobile phone (a Xiaomi Mi 5s - the camera bit is the same as the first gen Pixel, bought it last year for 250€ after they released the Mi 6).

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Re: Consumers are dumb

> If you're talking about ye olde Nokia phones, the battery in them could last a fair bit, but only if one didn't do much with them. Ever taken a look at the talk time for those? It's short

To be fair, I used to own an Ericsson T39 - a mildly ugly flip phone, but it would last a fortnight between charges with the extended battery. My housemate had the same phone with a third-party battery and that would last a full month between charges.

Still, like you say, with the small monochrome LCD screen, you were pretty much limited to voice calls, SMSs and WAP text-based pages. Oh, the fun I had, browsing the BBC's WAP site while sitting on the bus, one paragraph at a time...

And yeah, I just bought a new phone - the LG V30. And yeah, it cost me £600. And yeah, I picked it partly because of the highly useful ultra-wide-angle lens and the small improvements in photo quality over the increasingly tatty S7 Edge it replaced.

However, I also use it to browse the web, check emails, jot down notes, keep an eye on the company IM system, log into social networks, navigate around the country, manage my calendar, keep an eye on my bank balance and act as a remote control for my desktop PC and media players.

Sometimes, I even read books, listen to music or watch videos on it.

Oh, and at a pinch, it serves as a torch, spirit level, real time translation tool and occasional DJ mixer.

So yeah: £600 is a reasonable chunk of cash. But it'd almost certainly be more expensive - and a lot more inconvenient - to lug around all of the devices that it's replaced.

Back in the day, I did actually swear by "best of breed" - I carried a PDA for reading ebooks and web-browsing, a compact camera, a mobile phone and an MP3 player. But modern mobile phones have long since become more than Good Enough to handle all of the above.

Except for MP3 playback; I still use an old iPod Classic. Partly because it has a huge amount of storage and superb battery life but also partly because it means I don't have a headphone cable dangling in the way when doing stuff on the phone...

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