Features

16 biggest hits and misses of 2016

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ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra

Summarizing 2016 is best done by going through the highs and lows — well, mostly lows.

As this turbulent year comes to a close, GadgetMatch presents a total of 16 unforgettable moments and polarizing announcements that have shaped the past twelve months.


This is going to be a long read, so let’s get right to it.

Hit: Google releases its own smartphones to positive reception

Google’s Pixel and larger Pixel XL have been experiencing great critical and commercial success — so much so that Google’s third-party partners, specifically Samsung and LG, are caught in an upstream, and the Nexus program has been set aside for now. The search giant is showing manufacturers how to do Android right, but one question remains leading into 2017: Where’s Android One headed?

Miss: Samsung recalls its greatest phone ever

This has to be the most heart-wrenching miss on this list. The recall of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 caused such an impact on the tech industry, we’ll still be feeling it well into 2017. It’s a shame really, as many media outlets — including ours — praised the stylus-equipped smartphone as not just the best smartphone this year, but even the greatest Android device ever made.

Miss: Apple lets go of everyone’s favorite port

No bit of tech news this year harmed mainstream audiences as much as Apple’s removal of the audio jack in its latest crop of iPhones. It’s a move marketing head Phil Schiller believes takes “courage,” but we think it has more to do with consumerism, making people buy new pairs of wireless headphones which Apple coincidentally markets together with partner company Beats.

Hit: Nintendo cares about our childhoods

Nintendo clearly won the award for coolest gift to buy your parents, yourself, or even your kids this holiday season. The miniature Famicom and NES consoles are always sold out wherever they’re available, and why not? They’re incredibly affordable, come preloaded with 30 classic games, and make you relive all those bitter sibling rivalries during childhood.

Miss: Android Nougat never really took off

It’s been four months since Android 7.0 Nougat began rolling out, but a total of only 0.4 percent of consumer devices actually have it today. To make matters worse, an even newer Android 7.1 came out already, and support for the more widespread Android 2.3 Gingerbread will be discontinued early next year. Google has a lot of ground to cover until Android 8.0 launches next year.

Miss: Smartwatches are going the way of the dodo

How many people do you know constantly wear a smartwatch? Exactly. Sales have been slumping, and even though the latest version of Android Wear is set to release early 2017, brands like Motorola and Samsung aren’t keen on applying Google’s smartwatch operating system, opting instead to either give up completely or use their own interface.

Hit: Chinese smartphone brands reach new heights

Chinese smartphone brands ruled 2016. Yes, Apple is still on top when it comes to total profit, raking in 91 percent of all smartphone revenue last quarter, but the global rise of Huawei, OPPO, and Vivo is unprecedented. And it’ll only get better with these Asian companies making a stronger push in the western hemisphere during the next few months.

Miss: Project Ara doesn’t see the light of day, sort of

We were so disappointed to hear this news: After years of development and hopeful demos, Google’s modular Project Ara smartphone never entered the mass production phase. Fortunately, an actual prototype of the project leaked last month, but all it did was remind us how much potential was wasted.

Miss: GoPro suffers financially and recalls Karma drone

GoPro has been the go-to brand for all things action camera since its conception. Now, unfortunately, its profits have plunged, and mishaps like the recall of its ambitious Karma drone doesn’t help maintain a positive image for the brand. GoPro will need some divine intervention to make up for its 40 percent drop in sales as compared to 2015.

Hit: Apple finally updates its MacBook lineup

After years and years of minor refreshes, Apple finally launched what we’ve all been waiting for: an all-new MacBook Pro. With so many changes — such as the new keyboard and loss of several important connectivity ports — it feels like a totally new product, but the true innovation comes in the Touch Bar, which is open to endless support from third-party developers.

Miss: BlackBerry gives up on hardware

In what was the least surprising yet still heartbreaking news, BlackBerry has halted all plans for designing its own smartphones. Instead, the entire development and manufacturing process is now in the hands of third-party companies, to the disgruntlement of long-time fans. The awkwardly named BlackBerry DTEK50 and DTEK60 are simply rebranded midrange Alcatel handsets with added security, courtesy of BB.

Hit: Xiaomi cuts in front of innovation line

Xiaomi Mi Mix front and back

We’ve seen hundreds of leaks and prototypes that never got turned into actual commercial products, but Xiaomi went ahead and pulled the trigger with its Mi Mix concept phone. Just look at its massive near-borderless display, ceramic-encased design, and high-end specifications — has Xiaomi set the standard for what smartphones will strive to be in 2017?

Miss: LG fails modular experiment

LG V20 and LG G5 with removable batteries

For every successful modular phone, there are a few that fail. LG had its first attempt with the flagship G5 earlier this year, but a not-so-great reception to its not-that-intuitive execution lead to the Korean company possibly junking it completely. The recently launched V20 doesn’t have modularity either, so Lego-like phones are probably better left as works in progress for now.

Hit: World goes crazy for Pokémon Go

No single game has caused as much controversy as Pokémon Go this year. The augmented reality app invaded smartphones all over the world, making developer Niantec filthy rich in the process. We ourselves got swept into the craze, writing comprehensive guides for getting started and finding the best spots for those rare creatures.

Miss: ASUS jacks up this year’s ZenFone prices

ASUS made waves in 2015 with ZenFones that had unmatched horsepower for their price points, effectively forming a booming segment of bang-for-buck phones we still see today. A year later, when the Taiwan-based company released the outrageously priced ZenFone 3 series, formerly loyal fans have been jumping ship for more affordable offerings.

Miss: Yahoo goes up for adoption

How the mighty have fallen — Yahoo was so wealthy at one point, it could have bought Google. Instead, the former internet giant got bought by Verizon for only $5 billion; that’s a huge drop from its $125-billion valuation back in 2000! The nail in the coffin came when news broke about 500 million Yahoo accounts getting hacked — two years after the breach actually happened.

[irp posts=”8433" name=”Best smartphones of 2016"]

Automotive

2019 Honda Brio RS: The sporty baby Jazz

A fun ride through and through

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For today’s millennials and young professionals, choosing which car to buy could be a tough choice to make. For some, it has to pass certain requirements like fuel efficiency, ride comfort, space, if it looks good, and more importantly if it fits the budget. This is what first came to my mind when we got to test the 2019 Honda Brio RS. I think it has all the criteria most of us need for our daily commute and I’ll tell you why.

At first glance, it will give you the impression of a baby Jazz as it follows traditional Honda design cues.  It looks far better than its competing compact hatchbacks and is definitely a big design upgrade than the previous generation Brio.  From the front, this car looks aggressive and masculine for its size. The rear, however, still leans on the conservative side. Together with its sporty side skirts, the side profile is sleek with forward-tilting character lines giving it a sense of action and speed.


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Being an RS variant, there are additional design upgrades which include the black roof, blacked-out honeycomb grille, a rear spoiler with mounted third brake light, 15-inch RS design alloy rims, and of course, the bright red RS badges plastered all over. These positively add to the sportiness of the vehicle.

Its Phoenix Orange Pearl body looked glowing hot when the sun hits and we like it

Hopping in, you will immediately notice the orange accents running through the air vents, glove box, and side panels, plus the orange stitching and patterns on the seats. Next, we see the 7-inch touch-enabled infotainment system at the center of the dash which is connected to six speakers. Although that’s the case, we still weren’t impressed with the sound quality as it felt a bit short on bass.

Whether as the driver or passenger, you are seated in a low orientation and feel very close and planted to the ground. The height of the steering wheel and dashboard takes some getting used to if you always drive tall cars. But don’t get the idea that it’s cramped up inside. The seats up front are spacious with plenty of headroom to spare while at the back we have a decent amount of legroom for the average Asian. The trunk was large enough to carry our equipment along with other stuff. It was impressively spacious for a car this size.

We drove to our favorite scenic route of the Sierra Madre mountains, putting the car through its paces. The Brio is powered by a 1.2-liter SOHC i-VTEC engine which I think is sufficient enough for a car this small. It is then mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with sport mode and the company’s Earth Dreams Technology.

This car gives you a smooth and quiet ride even at high speeds. The cabin is astonishingly quiet with very minimal wind noise and vibrations. Thanks to its CVT implementation, this car is so smooth that I didn’t realize I was already going 90 on a 50kph road.

You cannot ask it to drive like its more spirited cousins, though. It is not the fastest accelerating car and pushing down the gas pedal when overtaking or driving up a steep road takes the CVT some time to adjust and you won’t get that instant punch you were expecting.

The Brio also lacks traction control and other basic features like rear sensors and reverse camera. It doesn’t even have a center console box and an armrest, but these are things we can brush aside. In terms of fuel efficiency, we were able to average 11.1km/liter which is not bad considering we drove it aggressively through the winding and steep roads of Tanay, Rizal. Steering was light and handled tight corners remarkably.  Overall, this car gets the job done. It gets you where you need to go and is reliable, economical, safe, and don’t forget that it’s such a looker.

Will I recommend the Brio RS? In the city, this car would be perfect. Although it’s not the most powerful more so for long drives. I can tell you one thing, though, it sure is fun to drive. I’m actually not a big fan of small hatchbacks but it all boils down to the company’s target market. The Brio is tuned to be sporty and modernly stylish so it might appeal to those looking for something that looks fun and doesn’t break the bank.

With those, I could confidently say that the Brio RS has the edge over its small hatchback competitors in terms of performance and design. You won’t go wrong with this car.

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Features

Galaxy Note 10 photos leak, baby Switch: Weekend Rewind

Lotsa new hardware coming soon!

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Here are the top stories on GadgetMatch this week.

1. Samsung Galaxy Note 10 hype train is chugging 

A good indicator that a noteworthy smartphone is coming — pun 100 percent intended — is if its leaks start coming up on the web. That’s exactly the case with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.


The “official” leaked images showcases the front and back of the Note 10. There’s a punch-hole camera hovering over the middle top part of the display.

Speaking of the display, it looks absolutely edge-to-edge and while there’s no indication of it in the images, it might be nesting an in-display fingerprint scanner. The only buttons immediately visible are the volume rockers and the power button. This means it might not have the Bixby button which has been a staple on Samsung flagships in recent years.

Image from @ishanagarwal24 on Twitter

Lastly the renders also show that other than black, the Note 5 will also have a variant that has a gradient back reminiscent of the one we first saw on Huawei.

The Note 10 is launching on August 7 in New York and we’ll be there to give you the updates so make sure you’re following us everywhere on social media.

2. US gov’t can’t make up mind on Huawei ban

Here’s another chapter to the Huawei Ban saga.

If you haven’t kept up, US President Donald Trump lifted the ban on Huawei but just as recently as last week, we learned that no policies were put in place to support the lifting. This week, the U.S. finally issued an official statement about the ban’s lifting. It says the U.S. will issue trade licenses to approved companies who do business with Huawei.

However, the licenses will depend on whether the product is deemed a threat to national security. There were no parameters provided on what entails being a “threat to national security” meaning the licenses is still subject to the government’s whim.

Essentially, Huawei isn’t out of the woods yet and their fate relies heavily on the trade negotiations between Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

3. Sony working on a rollable smartphone

Sony’s mobile phone unit is still alive and they’re looking to roll out something new.

Going beyond foldable smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X, the company is reportedly working on a rollable phone prototype. 

Tech leaker Max J tweeted a gif of a footage from a 2016 video by SlashGear to show what the tech looks like.

The tweet also mentions the following specs: a Qualcomm SM7250 chipset, a 10x zoom camera, and a 3220mAh battery. However, the final retail unit will likely have a Snapdragon 855 chip along with a Qualcomm X50 modem for 5G connectivity

Before you roll your eyes, note that rollable displays already exist. LG — the company Sony is working with — showcased the LG Signature OLED TV R. It’s a 65-inch 4K TV that quietly rolls into a sound bar base when not in use.

It’ll be interesting to see if Sony can translate that tech into a phone’s form factor. The company is planning a late 2019 or early 2020 launch.

 

Macbook Air

4. Apple fixes its MacBook lineup  

If you were confused about Apple’s MacBook lineup for a while, you’re not alone. Not to worry though as they have already applied a fix.

First, they completely axed the 12-inch MacBook — a sexy but underpowered notebook. Next, they refreshed both the MacBook Air and the base level MacBook Pro. 

The new MacBook Air now has True Tone display technology but the rest of the specs remain the same which means it will still be powered by Intel’s dual-core 8th Gen i5.

The MacBook Pro’s refresh brings the Touch Bar to the base model.  It now offers a 1.4GHz quad-core 8th Gen Core i5 chip — with an option to bump up to 3.9Ghz  from Intel’s Coffee Lake lineup.

So no touch bar means it’s a MacBook Air while having a touch bar means it’s a MacBook Pro. Simple, just the way it should be.

5. We’re getting a baby Switch!

Did you hold off from buying a Nintendo Switch? If you did, this new baby Switch might finally convince you to get one.

Enter the Nintendo Switch Lite. As the name suggests, it’s a smaller, less feature-packed version of the Switch. You can still play most of the titles available to the Switch but this one was made specifically for on-the-go gaming.

Unlike the bigger Switch, there’s no option to play on a bigger screen. It also doesn’t support the Joy-con controllers. Other than that, it’s everything the switch is but strictly for handheld gaming.

It’ll retail for $199.99 and will launch on September 20 so you have time to save up.


Weekend Rewind is our roundup of top news and features you might have missed for the week. We know the world of technology can be overwhelming and not everyone has the time to get up to speed with everything — and that includes us. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the rewind.

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Automotive

Four tips for driving in the rain

Safety first then teamwork

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It’s a given that every driver has to be alert at all times while driving. Although, when the weather gets in the way, things could get a lot trickier and also more dangerous. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re driving in the rain to make sure you get home to your family safe and sound.

Don’t turn your hazard lights on!

This is a pretty common practice that I see on the road. As soon as the downpour starts and visibility gets challenging, drivers ignite their hazard lights as a form of caution to other motorists.


Although the intention is well, this is not the appropriate thing to do when driving in the rain. Activating your hazard lights basically signifies to fellow drivers that something’s up and they should avoid you. These lights are commonly switched on when the vehicle is stalled at the side of the road. Also, having emergency lights activated eliminates the use of your signal lights. Hence, other drivers wouldn’t know when you’re changing lanes and might cause more accidents.

Instead of doing so, simply turn on your headlights. This will also ignite the brake lights at the rear and both the headlamps and taillights are designed to still be visible even under heavy rain or fog.

Watch your speed

It just makes sense to slow down when you’re not certain about the integrity of the road or when there’s low visibility outside the vehicle. Another main reason why you need to watch your speed is to be able to see and avoid puddles of water on the road as they could be covering a deep pothole or even cause hydroplaning.

Hydroplaning is when the vehicle’s tire runs above the water due to speed and loses contact to the ground. As a result, you lose traction of the vehicle’s tire which could potentially be dangerous both to you and other vehicles. If ever it happens to you and in a split-second you feel the loss of control, remember not to panic and suddenly step on the brakes as this will just make things worse. Instead, let go of the gas pedal, grip your steering wheel firmly and slow down until you gain traction again.

Additionally, for roads with puddles of water, you can also follow the tire trail of the car ahead as there are about 1-2 seconds that the water is set apart, reducing the chance of hydroplaning.

Maintain that distance

It’s a good rule of thumb to be about two to three cars away from the vehicle in front of you when moving at a constant speed. Although, that gap should widen when you go faster or when the road is wet. This is to have ample braking time for you when the car ahead suddenly stops.

Seeing more is always better

Remember, visibility is key to be able to plan your actions while driving, react to unexpected hazards, and lessen the chances of running into puddles —  therefore reducing the risk of getting into an accident.

With this in mind, be sure to always keep your wipers in great condition by regularly checking and replacing them. When rain occurs, fog buildup on the windshield is also a common occurrence so be sure to defog the windows.

Lastly, you may choose to mix specific products in your washer reservoir to make it repel more water on your windshield. These things are pretty inexpensive and help a lot during the rainy season.

We hope you picked up something from this article. Remember to always prepare your car ahead of time to ensure that you and your passengers have a safer trip.

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