Features

Nougat is Android’s best, but there’s still room for improvement

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It’s been nearly two months since Google officially named the seventh version of its Android operating system, and we’re now seeing Nexus devices receiving Android 7.0 Nougat through direct, over-the-air downloads. It’s a given that this is the most mature and jam-packed iteration of any Google-powered OS to date, but how far has it come along?

Having spent a substantial amount of time on both the beta phase and the stable build we have now, we must say that Nougat is, by far, the most efficient Android version to ever grace a handset. It’s obvious how Google took some inspiration from manufacturers. Software features that have been present on Samsung, HTC, and Sony smartphones, among others, have become part of Android’s most basic interface.


Everything is simply better

Android 7.0 Nougat - Features Overview

Multitasking, for one, is a headline feature of Nougat. Google took a page out of Samsung’s book and applied split-screen multitasking as a standard function. But unlike Samsung’s limited take on the feature, Nougat’s implementation is compatible with far more applications. By opening any app and holding the app overview button (the square to the right of the circular home button), you’re shown a list of recent apps to display on the lower half of the screen. And this isn’t some lame, laggy feature either; for instance, you can watch a full-length video while taking notes on your app of choice.

On the subject of efficiency, tapping the same overview button twice will allow you to switch to the last app you accessed. Think of it as a “Command + Tab” (on a Mac) or “Alt + Tab” (on Windows) shortcut for Android. We found this especially useful for going through multiple chat apps with less touches and swipes.

Another vital improvement is the smarter notifications and settings. In addition to the greater control you have over the notifications you receive, such as instantly sharing or replying from the alert itself, quick settings are available on the first swipe down from the top. Swipe once more, and you’ll see a longer list of settings, all of which can be rearranged or swapped for whatever you find more fitting. As for the main settings menu, you’re greeted with a preview for each option; you can see how much space you have without entering the “Storage” setting, and even preview your data and battery usage without entering the sub-menu.

And these are just some of our favorite new features of Nougat. Expect longer battery life, stronger security, an additional set of 72 emoji to play with, and greater control over the data usage of specific apps, to name a few, once Android 7.0 Nougat enters your gadget.

But all’s not well

Android 7.0 Nougat - Problems

Like any operating system fresh out of the lab, there are growing pains to deal with. Besides a couple of bugs we encountered on our updated Nexus 6P, such as the battery percentage meter constantly disappearing and Google Now sometimes crashing, not all design cues and features work the way they should.

The most glaring issue is app compatibility during split-screen multitasking. While it’s understandable that a large helping of third-party software aren’t ready for the cut-up interface, it’s inexcusable for the built-in apps Google produced themselves. A message that the “App may not work with split-screen” appears on apps like YouTube, and to make matters worse, you’ll see “App doesn’t support split-screen” for the basic Google Search app. Fortunately, time is the cure for this, since this function is now baked into the core of Android.

Interestingly, the “Clear All” button is now back in the app overview, despite Android developers claiming it’s unnecessary because of better memory management since 5.0 Lollipop. The bad news is that it’s found at the very top of the app list, meaning you have to scroll through every open app to reach the option. Nougat is already excellent at keeping programs in a low-power state when not in use, but for clean freaks, having instant access to the clear button would have been glorious.

Lastly – and this has been prevalent for a few Android generations now – you still can’t add widgets or apps to the left of the primary home screen. Everything simply goes to the right, so if you’re a fan of multiple widgets, you have only one direction to swipe for quick access.

Don’t hold your breath, unless you’re a Nexus user

What use is software if you can’t experience it? Unless you own a Nexus device, chances are you’re not receiving a Nougat update anytime soon. Google’s very own devices always get first dibs on major updates, while other users could wait as long as a year for just a hint of good news. Things could be changing, however, with news of the upcoming LG V20 being the first smartphone to come equipped with the latest Android version straight out of the box, and not a next-generation Google Nexus. With this, Google might finally be addressing its most recurring issue: fragmentation.

Android Marshmallow Fragmentation

Source: https://developer.android.com/about/dashboards/index.html

Android’s fragmentation, which refers to the overly diverse range of versions across all smartphones and tablets, is currently at its worst. Looking at the chart above, which hasn’t even been updated to reflect the latest Android version yet, shows how last year’s 6.0 Marshmallow continues to catch up with the wider distribution of older generations, despite Android 7.0 Nougat already being available.

Still, possibly poor market share shouldn’t put down Nougat’s accomplishments. Consider yourself lucky if you’re part of the new minority of Nougat users; it’s as solid as it gets for Android.

[irp posts=”10272" name=”Six months in, Android Nougat distribution still sucks”]

Hands-On

Realme 5 Pro Hands-On: It’s all about the numbers

Finally a real competitor

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Realme has launched a wide array of phones this year and it doesn’t look like they’re stopping anytime soon. The brand is extremely aggressive about marketing and thanks to immense pressure from Xiaomi, Vivo, and Samsung, they’ve unveiled the Realme 5 Pro.

It has a faster processor, quad-camera setup on the rear, and flashier design. While the Realme X is built for a slightly more premium experience, the Realme 5 Pro is intended to be an affordable all-rounder that excels at everything.


A plastic design that looks flashier

We have the Blue variant and Realme calls this a holographic design due to the reflection and slight color gradient. We’ve previously seen this diamond cut design language in a lot of other phones and it offers a new choice to users instead of just relying on a plain metal back.

The phone feels sturdy enough and has slightly curved corners for an ergonomic user experience. Realme says the phone is splash resistant including the buttons as well as the charging port.

Holographic diamond cut back

The power button is located on the right

Volume buttons and SIM-tray are located on the left

Realme has finally endorsed USB-C and the headphone jack continues its legacy

A sharp and well saturated display

The Realme X has an AMOLED panel, but this one sports an LCD screen. This cost-cutting measure shouldn’t be a major drawback since the display is very sharp and bright enough. The colors are punchy, but tend to look too saturated sometimes. Thankfully, you can adjust or even schedule the screen’s warmth.

It’s 6.3-inch screen has Gorilla Glass protection and houses a small water-drop style notch on the top. The bezels are small and the chin is quite paltry as well.

A powerful processor that’s perfect for regular use

Powering the phone is an octa-core Snapdragon 712 processor that clocks at 2.3Ghz. A dedicated NPU looks after AI operations and the base option comes with 4GB of RAM. Storage is expandable via a microSD card.

Four cameras to help you get the best shot

It has a 48-megapixel primary sensor, an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens, 2-megapixel macro lens, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. Rest assured, you’re covered from all ends. Whether its a low-light shot or a huge group photo, this setup is perfect for the average Joe.

For selfies, the notch houses a 16-megapixel front-facing shooter. Realme has added a handful of modes like Chromaboost, Nightscape, and Portrait Mode in the camera app.

ColorsOS to get you through the day

The Realme 5 Pro ships with ColorOS 6.0 and a few minor changes include new icons, smoother transitions, and filtering.

A near-perfect battery

It has a 4,000mAh battery and it is sufficient to get you through a day of heavy usage. It supports VOOC 3.0 fast charging technology and can charge your phone completely in about an hour and a half.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Realme 5 Pro ticks all the boxes, and we’ll be doing an in-depth review soon. For now, it offers a robust camera setup, substantial performance, and a new design. Although, a few cost-cutting measures like plastic build and LCD display are clearly visible.

ColorOS can be a deciding factor since it still isn’t well refined. If you’re looking for a long-lasting phone that has consistent updates, a Nokia-branded phone or Xiaomi’s Mi A3 are the only alternatives in this price segment. And even though the Redmi Note 7 Pro was launched just a few months back, it may have lost its edge in this ever-changing world due to a better processor, versatile camera, and faster charging.

SEE ALSO: Realme 5 series pricing and availability in India

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Camera Shootouts

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ vs Huawei P30 Pro: Camera shootout

The current king and queen of flagship smartphones

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Samsung has launched the Galaxy Note 10 series, which currently holds the crown in DxOMark camera ratings. Previously sitting was Huawei’s flagship, the P30 Pro. Both smartphones currently pride themselves as leaders in smartphone photography, so it’s time to compare through a blind shootout!

With this shootout, you’ll get a chance to analyze each photo and pick which one is the better shooter for you. Photos are shot in auto mode with default settings. Of course, no post-processing was done except for resizing so you can easily view the images. The answer sheet can be found at the end of this comparison.


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Results

Galaxy Note 10+ — 1A, 2B, 3B, 4A, 5A, 6A, 7A, 8B, 9A, 10B, 11A, 12B, 13A, 14A

P30 Pro — 1B, 2A, 3A, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8A, 9B, 10A, 11B, 12A, 13B, 14B

Personally, both photos are astounding on their own. The Note 10+ and P30 Pro proves that they are indeed the king and queen of smartphone photography.

But when they’re being pitted against each other, the Galaxy Note 10+ shines when it comes to color reproduction. Its daylight photos have a better white balance complemented by high contrast which results in vibrant and saturated colors as seen in the blue skies and greenery. Even its night shots, the photos produced are more alive making every photos ready for uploading on social media. No more post-processing needed.

On the other hand, the P30 Pro produces brighter and warmer photos at daylight. Its colors are a little bit washed out due to added brightness and lesser contrast, however, mobile photography enthusiasts wouldn’t even bother since the photos produced can be altered depending on the user’s liking.

Additionally, the P30 Pro provides a raw feeling on its night shots. It may be a little bit less vibrant compared to the Galaxy Note 10+, but it allows users to experiment and apply their artistic style on their captured photos during post-processing.

Conclusion

It’s safe to say that both smartphones are winners at their own game, as it all comes down to a user’s preference. Thankfully, we’re now in an era where premium smartphones provide the best value their users deserve. All that’s left is for people to choose which phone they should buy.

So, how did you feel about the results? Did it help you decide which phone is really your GadgetMatch?

Share your thoughts about this shootout and connect with us on our social media channels. Don’t forget to join our growing community of fellow Matchketeers! If you have more suggestions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter.

 

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Automotive

What Mazda promises with the new Mazda 3

Still going for a great driving experience

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The new Mazda 3 has just been introduced to the local market by Bermaz Auto Philippines. We’ve caught a glimpse of it before and got a general concept of what to expect. Although now that we have the Philippine-spec units and prices to go along with it, what does the Japanese company promise with this new vehicle? Let’s take a look at some of its features.

Styling

Mazda still stays true to its KODO or “Soul of Motion” design that gives life to the exterior by playing with curves and how light uniquely bounces off its panels. In short, it offers fresh styling that stands out and begs to be noticed. It has that minimalist but artistic approach and it certainly works for the Mazda 3.


Step inside and the simplicity continues. There’s nothing too fancy to see here except for the driver-centric layout which exudes a premium feel thanks to the materials used.

Its cabin has also been designed with superior acoustics in mind. The company claims they were able to achieve a natural and rich-sounding cabin by strategically positioning its 12 speakers and cutting down on sound reflection. We haven’t experienced it first-hand, but that’s kind of a bold claim from the company if they couldn’t back it up.

These, coupled with the company’s “Jinba Ittai” concept of machine and man as one, ensure that the ergonomics inside serve its driver well to further enjoy the driving experience and create that bond between each other. This also brings us to our next point.

Comfort

In order for the car to feel like an extension of your body, the interior has to be comfortable.

With the previously mentioned concept, one of the ideas is for the car to support wherever your body leans. This simply means the vehicle’s structure and interior provide comfort, especially during long drives.

Additionally, the company made sure that they give ample attention to dampening vibrations and reducing noise seeping into the cabin. By using new sound-absorbing upholstery that supposedly traps sound, a quieter cabin and overall smoother drive is what the passengers experience with the new Mazda 3.

It also tends to spoil the modern driver with its lineup of creature comforts. Things like auto brake hold come into play during heavy traffic, power-folding side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, and auto-dimming rearview mirror are just some to mention.

Performance

The Philippine-specific Mazda 3 doesn’t come with the new Skyactiv-X engine that Europe has. Instead, the local market gets Skyactiv-G inline-4 engine options mated to a six-speed automatic. The naturally aspirated engine outputs up to 152hp and 200Nm which should be enough for everyday drives plus some room for its legs to stretch when the road ahead clears up.

It also comes with G-Vectoring Control Plus that should be able to refine steering and make the vehicle safer and more stable overall. By calculating data while driving on a curb, for example, the system applies input that complements the task at hand and helps the driver gain control while coming out of said turn.

As a quick recap, the new Mazda 3 aims to tick the boxes for a capable car in the city but promises a number of features and innovations to further enjoy the ride experience. It’s styled skilfully inside and out, aims to ensure comfort throughout drives, provides high-quality entertainment, packs a capable engine, and prioritizes safety.

It comes in five variants in the Philippines with the following price points:

  • Mazda 3 1.5-liter Sedan Elite  — PhP 1,295,000
  • Mazda 3 1.5-liter Sportback Elite — PhP 1,320,000
  • Mazda 3 2.0-liter Sedan Premium — PhP 1,495,000
  • Mazda 3 2.0-liter Sportback Premium — PhP 1,510,000
  • Mazda 3 2.0-liter Sportback Speed — PhP 1,590,000

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