Getting a new phone can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve been out of the consumer tech game for a while. Manufacturers release new phones seemingly all the time. Some, like Samsung, put out two flagships every single year. Amid all this noise, what should you keep in mind when you’re looking for a phone?
There’s nothing wrong with the mid-range…
It’s easy to be blinded by marketing buzzwords like HDR. But as far as real-world use is concerned, phone specs have plateaued. You can get a smooth OS experience on both iOS and Android without having to resort to the top-end. Examples include the superb iPhone SE, which crams most of an iPhone 6s’ innards into an iPhone 5’s body, as well as the well-regarded Moto G5 Plus, which is splash-resistant and has near-stock Nougat.
Smartphones have equalized to the point that mid-range phones have once-flagship features such as Full HD (or higher) screens and fingerprint readers. The Moto G5 Plus has both.
… or the low-end
Sometimes, all you need is a modern phone — for calling, texting, messaging, social media, web browsing, podcasts, and the occasional photo when you really need it. The trickling down in smartphone tech has reached the low-end, especially on Android. Their days of being a sluggish mess are far behind it, because of performance improvements since Android Lollipop, the ubiquity of multi-core processors, and the rise of Chinese manufacturers.
Need proof? Take a look at our camera face-off between the Samsung Galaxy S8 (the best Android phone in the world right now, in my opinion) and the Vivo V5 Lite (a US$ 200 Chinese phone). And if you’re only using the camera to share images on highly compressed platforms, Snapseed can probably save the day, anyway.
But if you’re going high-end, make sure you get a flagship
If you’re going to go all out on a phone, a flagship is the only answer. By getting the best phone your money can buy, you’ll be set for a while in terms of software support, camera quality, and robustness of features.
iPhones are historically guaranteed to be supported for at least four years (see the iPhone 5, for example). But do note that now isn’t the best time to get an iPhone 7, with the next iPhone just around the corner.
Over on Android, flagships are more or less locked to two or more major OS updates — you often can’t say the same for mid- to low-range entries. With a flagship, you’ll also get features like an extra-tall aspect ratio, almost bezel-less displays, and HDR, all of which can be game-changers, depending on your needs.
Flagship features don’t have to break the bank, either. Companies like OnePlus (and its Chinese counterpart OPPO) have been disrupting the market for years with phones that are nearly identical specs-wise to Samsung’s flagships at a fraction of the price.
If all else fails, get last year’s model
My trusty Xperia Z2 finally died, after surviving countless falls, extended dunks in steamy hotspring water, and being smuggled into the ICU. I needed a new phone.
I had grown accustomed to Sony’s minimally intrusive Android skin and reliable firmware updates (for its flagships, at least), so I was keen on staying with them. But Sony had dropped the ball with its recent flagships (seriously, nobody needs 4K resolution on a 5.5-inch screen) and I was no longer interested in a large phone. Apparently, Sony had stopped making smaller versions of its top-end phones, and nobody else had stepped up to the plate. As a result, I was seriously considering getting a Galaxy S8.
Then I saw the Xperia Z5 Compact in a forgotten corner of a Sony store at a clearance price. I looked it up.
Once-flagship specs. Great camera with a two-stage hardware button. Fingerprint sensor integrated into the power button. Dual front-facing speakers. Water- and dust-proof. Insane battery life. Android Nougat. Tiny. And a third of the price of the Galaxy S8.
I bought it, and it’s been my daily driver ever since.
Given the relative slowness in the progress of phone tech, with only iterative yearly improvements, you can’t go wrong with getting an older phone, as long as they’re still well supported. Other Android examples include the OnePlus 3T and Moto G4 Play. Apple has the iPhone 6s, which shows an appalling lack of courage but has the utility of a headphone jack.
Get a phone that molds to your needs, and not the other way around
There’s never been a better time to get a phone — variety can be found at all points in the spectrum. What’s the point of getting a six-inch phone if your small hands necessitate one of those ring grips, completely messing up the phone’s industrial design? I have big hands myself, but I prefer a phone that I could use one-handed in all situations.
Need a phone on which you can type without looking, in multiple languages? BlackBerry has you covered (they’ve been using Android for the past few years, so you won’t be too behind the curve).
Would you like a status symbol and the satisfaction of sneering at your green-bubble inferiors? Apple has you covered — they even spearheaded the current trend of gold as a flagship color.
Will you be watching movies on your phone? Samsung has you covered. Be an informed consumer, read reviews and impressions, and you’ll find the phone that’s right for you.
OPPO drops the F9, Motorola copy-pastes: Weekend Rewind
Why innovate when you can recreate, right?
Here are this week’s top stories on GadgetMatch.
1. OPPO F9 (water)drops!
We were getting teasers of this phone two weeks ago and now it’s finally here! The OPPO F9 is official and it comes with a notch that the company is essentially calling a “waterdrop.” That aside, it’s looking like a lean, mean, midrange machine with its 6GB RAM and 64GB of storage, an AI-enhanced 16MP main shooter with a secondary 2MP depth sensor for portraits, and a 3500 mAh battery.
Our hands-on and unboxing is up on YouTube so make sure you watch it!
Notches and gradients are all the rage in 2019, so we guess it makes sense that Motorola opted to fuse both the iPhone X and the Huawei P20 Pro. The result is the Motorola P30 because Moto probably couldn’t be bothered to think of another name. It’s powered by a Snapdragon 636 chip with 6GB memory. It will come in both a 64GB and a 128GB variant. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery they say. Moto must really want to butter up Apple and Huawei.
Xiaomi’s been cooking something but since this is the Internet and tech leaks are totally a thing, we already know what it is. Coming our way officially next week is the Pocophone F1. A leaked video pretty much already told us a lot of what we want to know: 5.99-inch display, Snapdragon 845, and 6GB of memory.
We’ll have our own video on this soon so definitely stay tuned for it.
Google is being generous in handing out pies. Android Go, a less data-hungry version of the mobile operating system, will also get Android Pie. The Go edition of the newest Android OS only needs half the storage space and can run fluidly, even with just a gigabyte of memory.
Not ready for the responsibility of raising a child? There’s an app for that! The US Food and Drug Administration recently approved Natural Cycles. It’s the very first app to be marketed as a method of contraception. It determines whether a woman is fertile or not then advises which days you should “abstain” or “use protection.”
However, the FDA warns that “no form of contraception works perfectly, so an unplanned pregnancy could still result from correct usage of this device.”
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.
7 best affordable flagship smartphones of 2018
Best specs, lower prices
Putting the words “affordable” and “flagship” seems like an oxymoron at first, but manufacturers have reached a point wherein this magical combination is actually possible.
Yes, affordable flagships are a thing now, and they’re taking away some of the premium segment’s long-standing thunder. Why wouldn’t you want the best specs and features in a cheaper package?
This year has been kind to us with all the affordable flagships launched thus far. Here are the best ones to date:
Let’s begin with the brand that started it all. Originally called the “flagship killer,” the OnePlus line is synonymous with high-end power without the extravagant pricing. The OnePlus 6 is the latest entry, and it’s an absolute stunner from its gorgeous display to the fluid Android interface.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S
This is the one time Xiaomi likes to go a little more premium, and we support it a hundred percent. The Mi Mix 2S combines a ceramic body with a massive, notch-free display and incredible hardware for the price. Each generation improves on the predecessor — this is no exception.
Fortnite on Android, Meteor Garden: Now Playing
OPPO and Vivo phones contribute to class divide on Meteor Garden
This month has been nothing short of crazy for us at GadgetMatch, what with leaks and teasers of upcoming devices, back-to-back smartphone launches, and Android Pie’s release. Here are some of the things that have kept us sane the last few weeks!
Games to play
Fortnite on Android
Chay: You read that right. The highly successful battle royale game is finally coming to Android. At Samsung Unpacked, Epic Games announced that Galaxy devices will get exclusive early access to the game through the Game Launcher app. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes available in even more devices, and if we’re being honest, we can’t wait to see more memes (and dances!) as more people get to play it.
Amazing Spider-Man 2 on Android
Rodneil: If you’re itching for a Spider-Man game to help tide you over until the release of Marvel’s Spider-Man for the PS4, then this mobile game released back in 2014 should tide you over. It looks good, the controls are simple, and the game also gives you the satisfaction of swinging around New York City as you please.
Movies to see
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Marvin: It’s tough to believe, but Mission: Impossible is on its sixth installment, and the latest may be the most death-defying one yet. Tom Cruise is once again Ethan Hunt, an agent who needs to track down a terrorist group before they blow the world up. His stunts are jaw-dropping to say the least, and the twists are surprising enough to keep your eyes glued to the screen. My advice: Watch this in a cinema with great seats — it’s a long ride!
TV shows to binge watch
Kevin: Having been released back in 2016 and now waiting on its third season, Kim’s Convenience is a Canadian TV sitcom that focuses on a Korean family that runs a convenience store in Toronto. The show centers on everyday happenings and mishaps of the family. It presents characters who fit, and at the same time, break certain stereotypes while injecting a hint of moral in different (mostly funny) ways.
Orange is the New Black (Season 6)
Chay: Is there hope for the inmates of Litchfield? Will there ever be justice? These are always the questions you have after watching an entire season of Orange is the New Black. The longer the series goes on, the more invested you become in these women’s stories. This season, the spotlight is even brighter on my all-time favorite OINTB character: Taystee goes on trial to clear her name and fight the injustice she and fellow inmates have been suffering behind bars.
Kevin: If you’re into Rick and Morty’s tandem and outer space adventures, Final Space might be something you’d want to check out. The story follows a smart-mouthed prisoner who works on a space station, meets a cute alien life form, and immediately becomes friends with it, not knowing that it’s a valuable entity to the menacing Lord Commander. I’m just a few episodes in but it’s been entertaining and funny — something I would expect from Conan O’Brien producing the show.
Meteor Garden (2018)
Rodneil: If you loved the Taiwanese version that first aired in the early 2000s, then I suggest you give the 2018 version a chance. It’s great to see how the setting has been updated to modern times with some of the bullying part of the story happening in social media. There are cool tidbits too about how transactions are mostly made through QR codes and how the phones of the less privileged are OPPO while the elite F4 carry Vivo phones. It’s a nice glimpse to the current state of technology in China. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the cast actually looks like they’re still students versus the already adult-looking cast of the original adaptation.
Mob Psycho 100
Rodneil: I held out for quite a bit before watching this anime but when I found out that season two is already arriving at the start of 2019, I knew I had to binge the 12-episode first season. From the same creator as One-Punch Man, Mob Psycho 100 features Shigeo Kageyama — a young, overpowered psychic who’s trying his best to live life without taking advantage of his psychic ability. If you loved the over-the-top action and the ridiculously overpowered lead in One-Punch Man, there’s plenty for you to enjoy in Mob Psycho 100.
Terrace House: Opening New Doors (Part 3)
Marvin: It’s been a grueling couple of months, but Part 3 of Terrace House: Opening New Doors is finally available on Netflix outside Japan, and it’s certainly worth the wait. The cast gets a near overhaul, and with the new members come much more drama and the awkward first dates we’ve grown to love. But the real highlight of Part 3 are the commentators, who are able to turn any sad moment into a laughing fit for both the viewers and themselves. Part 4 can’t come soon enough!
Music and podcasts to listen to
Honey by Scandal
Rodneil: My fascination for Asian girl groups continues. Scandal has had plenty of their songs appear on several animé, and this album gives you plenty of those types of tracks. My favorites are “platformsyndrome,” “OVER,” “Koisuru Universe,” and “Short Short.”
“Long Gone” and “Lover Boy” by Phum Viphurit
Kevin: Thai-born, but New Zealand-raised, indie artist Phum Viphurit’s “Long Gone” is a mellow tune with just the right soul to make you groove and nod your head to the rhythm. “Lover Boy,” on the other hand, has more funk to its bass lines which is then overlayed with Viphurit’s smooth vocals — almost reminiscent of how John Legend made “P.D.A.” a chill, sexy track.
“Sana” by I Belong To The Zoo
Rodneil: “Sana” is a gut-wrenching Filipino track that tells the story of a romance that has gone stale. While that sounds like a run-of-the-mill heartbreak song, singer Argee Guerrero delivers each line with so much conviction that it’s hard not to imagine yourself in the shoes of the aggrieved party.
Psychobabble with Tyler Oakley and Korey Kuhl
Chay: In their first episode back after an eight-month hiatus, #TeamTylerandKorey discusses the top trends of the year, Bernie Mac, and how hotels are homophobic. Korey also reveals he had a vocal box replacement and was on vocal rest during the hiatus. It’s not clear whether that’s the only reason the podcast was MIA for a while, but it’s possible the Fullscreen shut down, which picked up Psychobabble for a video version in early 2017, is also a culprit. That’s bad news for anyone who paid for a subscription on the streaming service, but good news is all episodes are now available on Spotify, as well.
Cities to visit
Rodneil: Madrid is a beautiful city filled with mid-rise buildings that feature stunning European architecture. For some street entertainment, check out Plaza del Sol at night. If you’re looking for a place to eat, the cochinillo (suckling pig) in Las Cuevas De Luis Candelas, located just right outside Plaza Mayor is to die for. There’s also the restaurant Mr. Frank which seems like a nice date place. Definitely order the Provoleta con chorizo and Presa Ibérica con frutos rojos. The restaurant is located near the Congreso de los Diputados which is a great backdrop for your touristy photo.
Now Playing is the GadgetMatch team’s favorite games, movies, TV shows, and more each month. If you’re curious to know what we’re into at the moment, this is what you should check out. So grab your popcorn, get some drinks, and enjoy what’s now playing!
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