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.
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Huawei Mate 20 Pro Hands-on: Best phone of 2018?
Huawei outdoes itself again
In an industry where incremental updates are the new norm, Huawei manages to wow us again — barely a year after the release of the P20 Pro. The Chinese company is back with the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro which might just be the best among the best this year.
In this video, we go over the phones’ new designs, updated cameras, and new memory card format. We also go through the differences between the Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro.
Huawei Mate 20 vs Mate 20 Pro: What are the differences?
Price isn’t the only factor
Huawei has once again launched two flagships phones at the same time; one comes with a Pro moniker, while the other does not. Like before, there are some significant differences between the Mate 20 pair to take note of.
One obvious difference is in their displays. While the Mate 20 Pro goes for a notched 6.39-inch 1440p curved HDR OLED display — certainly a mouthful — the regular Mate 20 has a 6.53-inch 1080p RGBW HDR LCD with a much smaller notch.
The Pro model justifies the larger notch by housing a more complex camera system for secured facial recognition, but if that doesn’t matter to you, the regular variant’s Dew Drop notch may be more appealing — and definitely less intrusive.
In addition, the Mate 20 Pro’s OLED tech allows it to curve the edges and equip an in-display fingerprint scanner. It’s essentially the more modern-looking design of the pair.
Since both models have Huawei’s Kirin 980 chipset installed, pure performance is virtually identical. The Pro and non-Pro also share the same memory and storage configuration of 6GB and 128GB, respectively, although the plain Mate 20 has a more affordable 4GB memory variant available, too.
Another minor difference: The 4200mAh capacity of the Mate 20 Pro, along with the more energy-efficient OLED, provides it with potentially longer battery life than what the Mate 20’s 4000mAh capacity and LCD panel offer.
A more significant advantage for the Mate 20 Pro is its inclusion of a 40W SuperCharge adapter in the package — noticeably better than the 22.5W output of the Mate 20’s. Plus, the Pro version can charge other phones wirelessly using wireless reverse charging tech.
Perhaps, you’ll care most about the difference in camera quality and performance. While it’s too early to make photo and video comparisons, an initial look at specs shows that the Mate 20 Pro may have an edge.
There are three modules in place for the Pro: One is a 40-megapixel main camera, another has 20 megapixels and an ultra-wide lens, and the final unit offers 8 megapixels with 3x optical zoom
As for the Mate 20, its main camera has only 12 megapixels, the ultra-wide shooter settles for 16 megapixels, and the 8-megapixel telephoto camera goes up to only 2x optical zoom.
Despite the larger notch of the Mate 20 Pro, they share the same 24-megapixel selfie camera.
Pricing and colors
This part largely depends on where you reside, but in an ideal setting, all five colors — Emerald Green, Midnight Blue, Twilight, Pink Gold, and Black — should be available for both models.
Pricing is another matter, and it again depends per region. In Europe, the Mate 20’s 4GB+128GB configuration retails for EUR 799 and its 6GB+128GB model goes for EUR 849. The Mate 20 Pro’s sole 6GB+128GB variant costs EUR 1,049, making it more expensive by EUR 250 and EUR 200, respectively.
In Singapore, the Mate 20’s 6GB+128GB setup retails for SG$ 998, while the Mate 20 Pro is at SG$ 1,348 — a difference of SG$ 350.
Huawei Mate 20 series first to have Nano Memory Card
Could this become a trend?
Aside from introducing a host of flagship features to the freshly minted Mate 20 series, Huawei also introduced a new memory card standard, simply named Nano Memory Card.
It’s available on both the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro, and it effectively replaces the microSD slot we’ve become so accustomed to. The question is: What’s so special about it?
The simplest answer is that it has the same size as the nano-SIM card inside any smartphone today. Because of the identical dimensions, the secondary card slot doesn’t have to be designed differently, like what has been done for microSD cards.
In the case of the Mate 20 series, the removable card tray has back-to-back slots: one for the nano-SIM, and the other for either another nano-SIM or separate Nano Memory Card.
As of writing, Huawei will be offering 128GB and 256GB NM Cards, with speeds of up to 90MB/s. They’re hoping it’ll become the new standard, and are producing adapters for additional compatibility.
It’s certainly a more efficient way of adding physical storage to a handset, and allows manufactures like Huawei to use the saved space for other features, like a large battery.
Looking ahead, it seems only logical for other smartphone brands to follow suit, but that would mean consumers would have to buy into a whole new standard and let go of their microSD cards.
The same thing happened with the introduction of the USB-C port, wherein users had to replace their micro-USB cables for the newer, more intuitive system. It’s been a gradual process, but definitely rewarding.
It’ll take a while before we find out if this will become a trend, but for now, we should appreciate Huawei’s courage in taking the first, big step.
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