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Sony Xperia 1 III review: An expensive flagship phone with a superb 21:9 screen

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Pros

  • 21:9 4K OLED screen with 120Hz refresh rate
  • Top-end Snapdragon 888 5G chipset
  • Good rear camera array including dual-lens telephoto
  • Distinctive design
  • Excellent speakers
  • IP65/68 dust/water resistance

Cons

  • Tall chassis is hard to navigate for people with smaller hands
  • Second SIM slot must be sacrificed if MicroSD card storage is required
  • Battery life could be better
  • Expensive

We’re used to flagship handsets costing over £1,000 SIM-free, and Sony has added another to this exclusive group with its Xperia I III. At £1,199 ($1,299.99 in the US), it’s a little more expensive than the Oppo Find X3 Pro 5G and matches the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, both reviewed here in recent months. The Xperia 1 III stands out for its high refresh-rate (120Hz) 4K OLED screen and a lavish feature set built around Qualcomm’s top-end Snapdragon 888 chipset and an excellent rear camera array. 

sony-xperia-1-iii-main.jpg

The 6.5-inch Xperia 1 III runs Android 11 on Qualcomm’s top-end Snapdragon 888 5G chipset with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage (expandable via MicroSD card at the expense of one of the two SIM slots). The screen is a 4K OLED panel with a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz.

Image: Sony

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The screen’s 21:9 aspect ratio makes for a tall (165mm) handset. 

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

Sony takes a distinctive approach to handset design, with its Xperia range incorporating a tall (or wide, in landscape mode) 21:9 screen that’s suited to video watching, games playing and photography. The handset’s elongated 165mm by 71mm by 8.2mm chassis can poke out of a pocket, and while I could reach across the screen easily when navigating one-handed in portrait mode, there’s no way I could sweep from top to bottom. When you are working one handed, though, the Xperia 1 III feels nicely balanced and not too heavy at 186g. 

In terms of dimensions, there’s almost no difference between Sony 2021 flagship and last year’s Xperia I II — just tiny gains on thickness (8.2mm vs 7.6mm) and weight (186g vs 181.4g). This may have something to do with the incorporation of a larger battery this time around (4500mAh vs 4000mAh). 

Design-wise, Sony’s handsets have characteristically squarer corners and a more slab-like appearance than rival phones. The company doesn’t ring the changes every year, as some manufacturers do, and if I had the Xperia 1 II sitting side by side with this year’s model, it would be hard to tell the difference. 

The handset’s edges and Gorilla Glass 6 backplate have a matte finish compared to last year’s reflective look. This makes it easier to hold the phone securely, while the back is less prone to capturing finger-marks. The camera lozenge positioning and shape is unchanged, and Sony should perhaps have made design changes here, as the tall, narrow lozenge protrudes significantly. This means the phone has an annoying tendency to bounce around on a table if the upper left or bottom right quadrants of the screen need a tap. 

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Buttons on the right edge (from top): volume, power, Google Assistant, camera.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The right edge houses a power button incorporating a fingerprint scanner, a small volume rocker and a raised, tactile camera shutter button towards the bottom. This will start up the camera software when pressed, allowing you to capture fleeting photo opportunities. These three buttons were present on last year’s model, but the Xperia 1 III adds a fourth — a Google Assistant shortcut button. 

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The SIM caddy on the left edge pops out easily without the need for a special tool. The phone accommodates two SIMs or a single SIM and a MicroSD card. Some handsets support two SIMs and a MicroSD card at the same time, and a flagship phone at this price point really should be more flexible. 

There’s a 3.5mm headset jack on the top edge, and a USB-C connector on the bottom. Speakers are embedded in the front, above and below the screen. They’re noticeable and, as ever with this type of design, might become repositories for fluff. That said, the Xperia I III has an IP65/68 rating, which means it’s completely dust-proof and can withstand both ‘water jets’ and immersion in 1.5 metres of water for up to 30 minutes. 

The 6.5-inch OLED screen, which is protected by Gorilla Glass Victus (Corning’s toughest), is a key selling point for Sony. Some might blanche at the noticeable bezels, which are a couple of millimetres thick along the long edges and rather wider on both short edges. As a result, the screen to body ratio is only 84%. 

Still, this is the first smartphone screen to offer 4K resolution (3,840 x 1,644 pixels, 643ppi) with a 120Hz refresh rate. However, you have to enable 4K output as ‘Creator mode’ in the Display settings, where it’s hidden under the ‘Image quality settings’ submenu. Once enabled, 4K resolution will kick in when ‘specific apps’ are used, but there’s no list of these apps available when you apply the setting. Similarly, the 120Hz refresh rate has to be set manually: there’s no setting to automatically switch refresh rate, although presumably the handset does a bit of this to conserve battery life when a lower refresh rate is adequate. 

All this all rather fiddly considering 4K at 120Hz is a headline feature. Still, once set, watching video in 4K was a pleasure. For me, this was not just because of greatly improved subtlety of colour rendition and definition on the visual side, but also because of the screen’s wide aspect ratio and the superb speakers that pump out plenty of volume and strong bass tones. 

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White balance settings (left) and Multi-Window mode (right).

Images: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

There are controls for the white balance which provide quite a high level of customisation, and games players can also use the Game Enhance settings to adjust many in-game settings, including setting the refresh rate (although doing so is somewhat fiddly).   

The speakers also deliver great-quality spoken word output, and have a good bass/treble mix that handles orchestral and chamber music well. On the less positive side (for me, at least), Sony has again implemented its dynamic vibration system, which causes the handset to deliver haptic feedback. I find this irritating, but others may love it. If, like me, you don’t, you can simply disable it. 

Sony provides its Side Sense mini-menu system to provide quick access to apps and settings, and to the split-screen mode called Multi-Window. This has its own (rather neat) user interface with pre-designated app pairs and an easy scroll-and-select system for picking apps to view split screen. Side Sense is pretty intuitive, and Multi-Window is also accessible via an app icon on the home screen. 

Powered by Qualcomm’s top-end Snapdragon 888 5G chipset with 12GB of RAM, the Xperia 1 III turned in excellent Geekbench 5 benchmarks: 1128 single core and 3629 multi core. The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra and Mi 11 both just beat it with single core scores of 1134 and 1129 and multi core scores of 3718 and 3704 respectively, while the Oppo Find X3 Pro 5G was just behind with scores of 927 and 3302. These differences are marginal, though, and all Snapdragon 888 handsets we’ve tested so far perform superbly. 

With 256GB of internal storage and 27GB used out of the box, there’s 229GB free for personal use. Sony’s chunk of the out-of-box usage includes its interface tweaks and usability enhancements as well as pre-installed apps such as its own PS app for PlayStation fans. 

There are three 12MP cameras at the back plus an 8MP f/2.0 front-facing camera. The main rear camera is a 12MP f/1.7 wide-angle unit with OIS. This is joined by a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle (124°) camera and a 12MP adaptive telephoto camera with OIS and dual lenses — f/2.3 70mm and f/.2.8 105mm. The idea is that when you’re doing telephoto shooting the switch between the two lenses is smooth and seamless. 

Maximum zoom is 12.5x hybrid, with stops at 2.9x and 4.4x for each of the two telephoto lenses. This might sound complicated, but in practice it’s quick and easy to work with. Just point the camera, and select which of the zoom options you require from the on-screen buttons, and then slide between the presets to adjust as required. 

The second excellent feature here is Dual PDAF sensors, which enable fast autofocus, including on moving subjects. I combined the zoom and autofocus capability to great effect, managing to easily grab zoomed-in photos of my cat moving around the lawn. The picture shown here was taken at 4.4x zoom and was a single point-and-shoot image as the cat came towards me to ask for a bit of attention. 

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Photo taken with the 4.4x zoom setting on the Xperia 1 III’s dual-lens telephoto camera.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet  

The Xperia 1 III’s 4500mAh battery kept it going for 10 hours 27 minutes under the PCMark for Android Work 3.0 battery rundown test. For comparison, all of the top 20 handsets tested with this benchmark lasted for over 15 hours, while the longest-lasting Snapdragon 888-based phone — Xiaomi’s Redmi K40 Pro — managed just over 14 hours. In my tests it dropped 29% from a full charge in a three-hour YouTube streaming session, suggesting battery life of around 10 hours.  

Sony says the battery can fast-charge to 50% in 30 minutes. On one occasion with the battery at 20% it got up to 66% in half an hour. Wireless and reverse wireless charging are both supported.  

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Image: Sony

Conclusions 

The Xperia I III brings Sony’s flagship handset up to date with a Snapdragon 888 SoC, improved cameras and a 4K OLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate as headline features. It retains the unusual 21:9 aspect ratio, and delivers good-quality video and excellent audio. There’s a lot to like if you’re into photography, video, gaming or media consumption, and the dual-lens telephoto camera is a usable solution. Battery life could be better, especially if you make heavy use of 4K resolution and the 120Hz refresh rate, but fast charging should keep downtime to a minimum if mains power is accessible. 

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/product/sony-xperia-1-iii/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

ZDNET

Nomad Summer Sale kicks off: Get 30% off everything

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Image: Nomad

Nomad Goods produces some of the best high-end and high-quality accessories for Apple products, and for the next week, you can get 30% off of all full-priced items on the site.

One of my favorite Nomad accessories right now is the recently launched leather AirTag Loop. At $24.95 before the discount, the leather loop adds a stylish way to carry your AirTag. Plus, it’s a worthy alternative to Apple’s official AirTag cases. You can even change the battery, when that time comes, without removing the AirTag from the loop. 

Other Nomad products I recommend include charging cables, which have a braided Kevlar on the outside of them to ensure they don’t easily break. Nomad’s iPhone cases and Apple Watch bands are also popular and come in plenty of color options that include MagSafe compatibility.

I reviewed the Base Station Pro wireless charging system that allows you to place any Qi-compatible device anywhere on the pad, instead of worrying about precisely lining the charging coil. 

To take advantage of the 30% off promotion, you’ll need to use coupon code SUMMER30 at checkout on Nomad’s website.

If you pick up some new Nomad gear, let us know in the comments what you decided on.

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/nomad-summer-sale-deals-coupon-promo-code/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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Verizon to bring RCS to all Android smartphones by 2022

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Verizon will be working with Google to bring the Rich Communications Service (RCS) standard to Android users in the US starting next year, joining T-Mobile and AT&T which both announced the switch earlier this year. 

Verizon announced the collaboration with Google on Tuesday and said the RCS standard provides “a more interactive and modern messaging experience right from Messages by Google.”

According to a statement from Verizon, Messages by Google will be preloaded onto every Verizon Android device by next year. 

Google and Verizon said the switch will offer consumers “higher-quality photos and videos, chatting over Wi-Fi or data, knowing when your message is read, enjoying more dynamic and engaging group chats, and securely chatting with other Messages users in available one-on-one conversations with end-to-end encryption.”

Ronan Dunne, executive vice president and CEO of Verizon Consumer Group, said that by working with Google, Verizon would be able to offer Android users “a robust messaging experience that allows them to engage with loved ones, brands and businesses in new and innovative ways.”

“Our customers depend on us to provide a reliable, advanced and simple messaging platform to stay in touch with the people that matter the most in their lives,” Dunne said.

Google has spent years pushing the RCS standard as an update to SMS because it offers features similar to those seen in WhatsApp, Apple’s iMessage and Facebook Messenger. Apple has refused to use RCS and messages sent between Android phones and iPhones will continue to be SMS, making them less secure than messages sent between users on either platform. 

Dirk Schrader, vice president of security research at New Net Technologies, noted that using RCS as the underlying standard is interesting because it can be seen as a message to services like Whatsapp by offering the same features without sharing the user’s contacts. 

In a statement, Verizon explained that Messages will “work with Verizon’s network and RCS messaging service” and “Google will work with Verizon to provide a robust business-to-consumer messaging ecosystem using RCS.”

Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s senior vice president of Platforms & Ecosystems, said the two companies have been working together on Android for years. 

The GSMA reports that more than 473 million monthly active users in 60 countries are using the RCS standard and Verizon said Android users will have a “more advanced messaging experience as they interact with each other and businesses on networks that support the RCS standard.”

By the end of the year, those using Verizon’s Message+ app will also get full access to RCS capabilities including the ability to embed high-res pictures and videos, get real-time conversation notifications, and send animated GIFs.

The RCS standard will also allow businesses and Verizon Android users to communicate more easily for things like product purchases, reservations and more. 

Setu Kulkarni, vice president of strategy at NTT Application Security, said that by making their end users available to brands and businesses, Verizon has taken on a new level of responsibility to keep its customers’ personal and private data on their phones secure from data breaches. 

“Since the app is backed by Google, there is certainly a greater degree of confidence that security measures are taken but let’s not forget that the state of cyber security is dynamic — and that no app is guaranteed to be breach free forever,” Kulkarni said.

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/verizon-to-bring-rcs-to-all-android-smartphones-by-2022/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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Adversaries continue to abuse trust in the supply chain

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We trust so much in our organizations — systems, partners, and vendors — for deploying software, monitoring network performancepatching (both systems and software), procuring software/hardware, and performing so many other tasks. A recent ransomware attack used one such system to successfully target thousands of victim companies.  

In this most recent example, attackers targeted Kaseya VSA IT Management Software, which was designed to allow IT admins to monitor systems, automate mundane tasks, deploy software, and patch systems. Attackers were able to exploit a zero day to access customer instances of the product and use its native functionality to deploy ransomware to those customers endpoints.

Further compounding the problem, managed service providers (MSPs) use Kaseya software to manage their customer environments. When the attackers compromised Kaseya, the MSPs inadvertently and unknowingly spread the ransomware to their customers.  

This is only one example of how attackers continue to abuse trust in unique ways that leaves many security and IT practitioners to wonder, “Why didn’t something like this happen sooner?” 

Attackers Are Getting Bolder  

Ransomware group REvil continues to get even bolder. Make no mistake, an attack like we saw against Kaseya was prescriptive and purposeful to inflict the maximum amount of damage to the most amount of targets. Immediately after the attack, they bragged about infecting more than a million devices and set a ransom demand of $70 million. If one organization paid, they promised that the decryptor would work across all organizations that were affected.  

This shines a light on a troubling trend we’re seeing, where attack targets are shifting from individual organizations to exploiting platforms, like Kaseya or SolarWinds, that allow for multiple organizations to be affected. Attackers continue to research the tools we all rely on to find ways to abuse the native functionality to effectively execute an attack. This latest attack abused an old copy of Microsoft Defender that allowed sideloading of other files.  

Software Is Vulnerable All The Way Down The Chain  

All the tools that organizations rely on — such as tax software, oil pipeline sensors, collaboration platforms, and even security agents — are built on top of the same vulnerable code, platforms, and software libraries that your vulnerability management team is screaming from the hills to patch or update immediately.  

Organizations need to both hold their supply chain partners, vendors, and others accountable for addressing the vulnerabilities in the software that they’ve built on top of this house of cards as well as understand the exposure they have by deploying said software within their environments. 

Run Faster Than The Next Guy; Take Defensive Steps Now  

Forrester blog, Ransomware: Survive By Outrunning The Guy Next To You, discusses protecting against ransomware by hardening systems to make your organization a hard target. Supply chain attacks bypass defenses by exploiting your trust in systems. To protect against them, you have to scrutinize the inherent trust you’ve placed on your supply chain.  

To start, organizations should take an inventory of the critical partners that have a large foothold within their environment, such as the vendors used for collaboration/email, MSPs that manage and monitor infrastructure, or security providers that may have an agent deployed to every system. After compiling your list, you should:  

  • Ask those partners what they’re doing to prevent you from being the next victim of a destructive attack. Ask about the gating process for pushing updates to your environment. How do they QA updates before they’re pushed? Ask solution providers how they secure their code and assess that code for vulnerabilities. 
  • Find out if they have the appropriate processes and architecture in place to prevent the type of lateral movement we saw with the latest attack. Ask how they secure their own environments, especially their update servers. Ask to see audit or assessment results from third-party assessors.  
  • Review your service agreements to find out what contractual responsibility those partners have to keep you safe from ransomware and malware. Understand what rights you have to demand compensation, if you are the victim of an attack due to a service provider’s systems being used as a delivery vehicle.  

Organizations should take aggressive steps to implement prescriptive ransomware advice as well as take a look at additional ransomware resources to limit the blast radius of an attack.  

This post was written by Analyst Steve Turner, and it originally appeared here

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/adversaries-continue-to-abuse-trust-in-the-supply-chain/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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Qualtrics Q2 surprise profit blows away expectations, forecast higher as well

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In its second quarter as a public company, Qualtrics, the subsidiary of SAP AG that brands itself as the customer experience management platform, reported Q2 revenue that topped expectations by 3%, and a surprise profit where analysts had expected a loss. The company’s forecast for this quarter, and the full year, is higher as well.

The report sent Qualtrics stock up about 2% in late trading.

“It was an outstanding quarter for us,” said CEO Zig Serafin in an interview with ZDNet via telephone. “What you’re seeing is that the technology that we provide has never been more relevant, more impactful.”

Serafin pointed to evidence of that relevance in the company’s 38% rate of revenue growth, year over year, and the company’s 48% rate of subscription revenue growth. “This is building on strong growth in the first quarter,” he said. “You’re seeing an acceleration in demand.”

Qualtrics’s net dollar retention rate, how much it makes from customers, on average, versus the prior-year period, was 122%. That was up from 120% in the prior quarter. 

Qualtrics is known as a program for managing the interaction with customers, from first attracting customers to maintaining the relationship.

However, Serafin said the software is increasingly helping companies to attract new employees as well.

Customers are using Qualtrics’s program to “tune in better into the needs of their existing employees, but also attract new candidates and employees that could be coming into their company,” said Serafin.

“Our research is showing that about 50% of people will be out there looking for a new job in the next twelve months,” said Serafin. “How people leverage the employee experience management product portfolio on top of our platform, helping  companies to listen and take action on the changing nature of work.”

Also: Qualtrics Q1 report, forecast top Wall Street expectations: The C-suite is buying in, says CEO

That includes companies using the software to “design the physical work space and the digital space,” he said.

Revenue in the three months ended in June rose to $249.3 million, yielding a net profit of 4 cents a share, excluding some costs.

Analysts had been modeling $241.7 million and a 2-cent net loss per share.

Profit was helped in part by reduced expenses such as travel and entertainment, but “the majority of the outperformance is due to the outperformance on the revenue,” CFO Rob Bachman told ZDNet in the same phone call.

For the current quarter, the company sees revenue of $257 million to $259 million, and net loss in a range of 1  cents to 3 cents, again, excluding some costs. That compares to consensus for $246.6 million and a 5-cent loss per share.

For the full year, the company sees revenue in a range of $1.007 billion to $1.011 billion, and EPS in a range from breakeven to negative 2 cents per share. That compares to consensus of $984 million and an 11-cent net loss per share.

Regarding the forecast, Serafin told ZDNet that “what is most exciting to me is that our guidance is putting us on track to surpass one billion dollars in revenue in 2021, which puts us in a very different league of SaaS companies,” said Serafin.

The company plans to continue to invest in the business, said both Bachman and Serafin. Qualtrics hired 400 people in the quarter, and plans to keep spending.  

“We will continue invest deeply in the business,” said Bachman. “We have a unique opportunity to invest, we will  continue to do so.”

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/qualtrics-q2-surprise-profit-blows-away-expectations-profit-higher-as-well/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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