Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

The Wrap – Small speakers and big new phones

This week on The Wrap, check out a couple of big new phones from Oppo and Asus, plus delve into the world of pint-sized sound from Sonos, JBL, and Apple. It’s gadgets big and small, all in five.

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It’s the middle of March and you’re tuned into The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup, and while you can probably expect quite a few phones by now, this year’s round of phones has started off slow. No Mobile World Congress in February has meant no big announcements, not all together, but they are still happening.

This week, there were actually two, and pretty close together.

Asus has announced the ROG Phone 5, what is actually the follow-up to the ROG Phone 3, because Asus is skipping the number four, because it happens fairly regularly with some companies. But while it’s skipping a number, it’s not skimping on the hardware, offering the fast 5G Snapdragon triple eight chip, up to 18 gigs of ram and half a terabyte of storage, plus a huge 6000mAh battery.

On specs alone, the ROG Phone 5 feels more like a small computer than a big phone, even though it’s a bit of a combination of both, arriving with extra buttons and air-triggers to let you turn this nearly 7 inch phone into a gaming console.

No word on price yet, but it’s clear this phone is focused on gaming to go.

It’s not the only phone this week, either, but Oppo’s entrant isn’t quite made the same way. It’ll come with the 5G Snapdragon triple eight chip, too, but Oppo’s Find X3 Pro appears built more for media, with two 50 megapixel cameras, one wide and one ultrawide, while another small camera is built to get you hyper close, supporting around 30x times the closeness, rather more like a microscope than a standard macro up-close camera, alongside a different telephoto camera.

It comes in a glass body that weighs just under 200 grams, with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage, and all sitting under a 6.7 inch screen, because big phones are clearly in. But it will also come with some smarts to brighten up photos and provide more balance to night shots, making it more like a phone for people who love media, whether it’s making it or consuming it. There are even ringtones by Hans Zimmer, which may well be one of the strangest touches we’ve seen any phone come with.

At least it beats listening to another identical tone to everyone else.

No one wants to listen to all of those over and over again, especially on the speakers of a phone. Fortunately, there are plenty of other ways to listen to sounds from a phone, though most need an external device of sorts.

However, we’re hearing of a few of those this week. JBL has three coming in the Clip 4, the Go 3, and the Xtreme 3, which basically resemble a speaker with a carabiner clip, a small box, and a slightly tapered cylinder you can strap to your side, all in that order.

Razer also has some Bluetooth sunglasses on the way, joining Bose with something of its own, arriving in the Razer Anzu later in the year. They won’t necessarily be cheap, but they will come with replaceable lenses, so you can use them as sunglasses that works as headphones, or even blue-light cutting glasses without the polarised lenses for the sun. Honestly, after walking around wearing sunnies as earphones to test them at night, you’ll probably look far less silly than we did.

And if you’ve ever carried a big wireless speaker, you’ve probably looked equally silly. Wireless speakers are meant to be portable, but big speakers rarely are.

That’s the case with the Sonos Move, the 2019 portable Sonos that sounds great, but really needed to be smaller. And this year, it may well be.

There’s a new Sonos on the way in the Sonos Roam, a smaller portable speaker made to take on the go and coming in April in Australia, offering a big sound in a small package, water resistance, wireless charging, and a price below $300. The Sonos Roam will actually be the least expensive of the Sonos speakers in Australia not made by IKEA, making it something new, and it will work with the rest of a Sonos system, too.

Small speakers like it are clearly a big focus for companies, especially since if they can be small and smart, that’s all the more better.

And this week, we’re checking one small smart speaker out, as we finally put the Apple HomePod Mini through its paces.

Now this one is interesting, because it’s a tiny cup of sound that is much smaller than its brother, the HomePod. However, it can get loud and offers nice sound, even if it sounds a little bright, though we found the bass needed some work overall.

At $150, the HomePod Mini makes a neat case for a tiny HomePod, though it does need an iPhone to work, and can’t be setup without an Apple device.

You probably won’t be surprised that Siri on the HomePod seems to work best with Apple Music, and you can’t have Siri load up another service, even if you can on an iPhone. However, iPhones can throw music to the Mini simply by holding it near.

But while one HomePod Mini is nice, they can be paired for stereo, so two is supremely better. When two are brought in, the speakers sound more rounded, and everything is better. There are still things that need work, but if you were looking at the HomePod Mini, we’d suggest considering two, as it just rounds things off much more nicely.

For now, you’ve been listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup. A new episode can be found every week at Listnr, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts, but for now, have a great week. Stay safe, stay sane, and take care.

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