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5 keys to making the Google Pixel 2 a success

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I make it no secret that the Google Pixel was, to me, one of the best smartphones of 2017along with the OnePlus 3 and 3T, of course. And yet, it came with its fair share of flaws that the successor could potentially rectify for an even better experience.

The Pixel 2 and its larger equivalent (Pixel XL 2? Pixel 2 XL?) will arrive on October 4. Unlike the iPhone X launch, however, leaks for the pair have been scarce, with only a handful of renders floating around the web giving us clues.

Even info on the partner manufacturers have been kept under wraps. Rumors point to HTC coming back to create the smaller Pixel, while LG will try their hand at making a Pixel from what they’ve learned designing the V30.

In any case, we’re half a month away from the big reveal, and I’ve compiled my wishlist for what will hopefully be 2017’s best phone.

Please trim the bezels

I think we can all agree that no phone looks more last year than the original Pixel. The thick bezels on the top and bottom with nothing maximizing their space — like stereo speakers or a fingerprint scanner — got scrutinized by critics and consumers alike.

Now that most major brands have jumped on the near-borderless bandwagon, it’s only natural for Google to follow suit. The render above was leaked by Android Police a couple of months ago; it still has that Pixel aesthetic minus the unsightly bezels, but we can’t say for certain if this design will fly. Hopefully, Google has more planned out.

Please make them water-resistant

Another weakness the Pixel phones shared was the lack of any level of water and dust resistance. Yes, this was 2016, but rivals Samsung and Apple added the feature on their own phones at that point after Sony popularized it.

With HTC and LG expected to take the helm and having produced the water-resistant U11 and V30, respectively, chances are high for this feature to pull through for both Pixels. They better.

Please don’t touch the 3.5mm audio port

What do the newly released iPhone X, Essential PH-1, and HTC U11 have in common? You guessed it: no port for headphones and speakers.

Leaked case renders for the Pixel 2 hint at the exclusion of the port, since there’s only one gap that’s seemingly reserved for the more vital USB-C port. I’ve already invested in Bluetooth headphones in anticipation of this year’s complete shift to wireless audio, but unless Google promises a much larger battery capacity in exchange for the loss, I’d rather keep the hole.

Please make them easier to buy

Whether it was Google’s fault for not anticipating the demand of their first-ever smartphone (not counting the Nexus line) or HTC simply not being fast enough in manufacturing, the Pixel and Pixel XL were so difficult to find in stores — especially for the larger storage variants and that Really Blue color.

With more experience under their belt and the possibility of two factories producing the Pixels, this shouldn’t be an issue anymore. And if we’re going to be optimistic, more widespread international availability would be great, as well.

Please focus on designing the best smartphone camera ever

Fun fact: The two top-rated smartphone cameras in the world are created by Google and HTC, based on DxOMark’s ratings. We shouldn’t expect anything less than stellar from the next flagship produced by the two companies.

The question is: Do we want dual cameras on the new Pixel pair? I’m a firm believer that two cameras working in tandem don’t necessarily equate to better image quality — as the original Pixel has proven — but settling for a single shooter may hold back certain sought-after features, something like the iPhone X’s portrait mode and Galaxy Note 8’s optical zoom. Whatever the case, I hope Google applies the same setup for both the regular- and XL-sized models like they did last year.

I’ll be looking back on this list come October 4. Make these happen, Google!

SEE ALSO: HTC U11 Review: Better than the Pixel

[irp posts=”17685″ name=”HTC U11 Review: Better than the Pixel”]

Features

Here’s why OPPO created a new brand called Realme

Will a new brand help them take back the budget segment?

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2018 has been one of the most intense years for smartphones with brands launching new phones every other month. In developing markets, the budget and midrange segments account for a majority of the sales, and in an attempt to establish supremacy, companies have pumped in all their resources.

The markets have reacted positively and sales are steadily rising thanks to improving standards of living, technological advancements, and aggressive competition among brands. Pricing is always the primary factor of differentiation and companies want to offer as much as they can, this means the profit margin is often meager.

Behemoth companies like Huawei want dominance in the high-end as well as the price-sensitive segment. But, it gets increasingly difficult to establish a brand image when you have products in all price brackets. With rising sales, Huawei could’ve been associated with budget phones, and this would make launching flagship phones a challenge, especially when they demand a premium.

To counter this brand recognition issue, Huawei launched the Honor brand a few years back. Honor is known to make feature-packed phones that belong in the price-sensitive bracket. Now, the Huawei brand targets the upscale flagship segment with the P and Mate series.

OPPO is trying to pursue a similar strategy with the Realme brand. Realme made its debut in May this year and has launched a handful of phones since then. Its marketing efforts purely target the budget and lower-midrange segment, as well as the youth.

Realme launched as a sub-brand of OPPO but has since parted ways from the parent in terms of management, product design, and operations. This means, even though OPPO owns and strategically helps out Realme by leveraging its supply chain and research, the brand takes its own independent decisions. Design elements and ColorOS are a few things that are being shared by the two brands for now.

This division enables OPPO to concentrate on its high-end flagship phones like the Find X and R17 Pro. OPPO has taken a massive beating in terms of brand recognition even after spending millions on marketing. According to IDC, sales in Q3 2018 have slumped by 2.1 percent year over year while Xiaomi and Huawei have clocked a staggering 21 percent and 32 percent growth, respectively.

The dip in sales is because of two reasons. Firstly, OPPO intends to concentrate on the high-end segment and not get their brand value saturated further. Secondly, it has slowly taken a step back from the budget segment and handed over the reins to Realme. Though, this doesn’t mean OPPO is out of the race; it continues to launch new budget phones, but it’s clear no intensive marketing efforts are being taken up.

Realme’s strategy has worked out positively in the short term and the company has registered a nine percent market share in India’s Diwali festive season. Realme has been targeting online-only sales for now and being a smaller company lets it be more dynamic.

The dynamic nature means it can make a wider range of products quickly, even strategically launching them to undermine the competition. While the brand was hastily launched in May, the recent branding change already matured and was built with a long-term plan in mind.

In the beginning, Realme seemed like a knee-jerk reaction to Xiaomi’s increasing dominance. We’ve seen the brand rapidly launch new phones in the last few months and they genuinely pack some unique offerings instead of just trying to undercut the competition based on pricing.

Only time will tell whether the division of segments among the two brands have paid off, but for now, it’s a strategy worth investing in.

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GadgetMatch Awards: Best Products of 2018

It’s been a long year

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What a year 2018 has been! The number of outstanding products has been jaw-dropping, so it’s only right for us to create an extensive list to award the ones that wowed us the most.

Truth be told, we have a lot of categories to cover, so let’s get right to it.

Best Premium Smartphone: Huawei Mate 20 Pro and Apple iPhone XS Max

Yes, it’s a tie! For the Android side, the Mate 20 Pro edges out the competition with its smooth blend of performance and unique design. On the other hand, the iPhone XS Max is not just Apple’s biggest phone to date, but also an all-around beast.

Best Midrange Smartphone: Xiaomi Mi Mix 3

With smartphone prices increasing every year, it’s such a breath of fresh air to see Xiaomi keep margins low while producing excellent handsets. The Mi Mix 3 is a testament to that with an incredible form and unmatched performance in this segment.

Best Budget Smartphone: Honor 8X

2018 has been the year of fantastic budget smartphones, and the Honor 8X comes out on top as the best overall. We love everything about it, from the sleek exterior to the fluid interface and long-lasting battery.

Best Bang-for-Buck Smartphone: Pocophone F1

Without a doubt, no smartphone disrupted the market as much as the Pocophone F1 has. The performance you get for the price you pay is mind-blowing, making this the biggest steal of a deal in 2018.

Best Selfie Smartphone: Vivo NEX S

Not only is Vivo’s NEX S the best at taking selfies, it also has the coolest implementation. We’ve been using it since its launch, and we still can’t get enough of its pop-up camera. There’s nothing like it!

Best Special Edition Phone: Porsche Edition Huawei Mate 20 RS

It doesn’t get much classier than this. The Porsche Edition Mate 20 RS takes everything that makes the Mate 20 Pro so great and adds a smooth touch of leather on the rear and signature styling on the interface.

Best Gaming Smartphone: ASUS ROG Phone

It was in 2018 when gaming smartphones truly matured, and none have done it better than the ROG Phone. You can’t find a better mix of performance and cooling than this, and the variety of accessories simply sweeten the deal.

Best Smartphone Feature: SuperVOOC

Who wouldn’t want the fastest charging technology in existence? While manufacturers kept upping battery capacities, OPPO focused on speeding up the already-fast VOOC to create SuperVOOC, which can fully charge a phone in less than an hour!

Best Tablet: Apple iPad Pro (2018)

At this point, the iPad Pro isn’t just a tablet anymore — it’s pretty much an alternative to the traditional laptop. This year’s iPad Pro is so fast, so well-designed, that it stands above all competitors by a mile.

Best Laptop: Huawei MateBook X Pro

The MateBook X Pro is a Windows laptop we never thought we’d see: It has an unparalleled screen-to-body ratio, gaming-level performance, and superb battery life. Why are we seeing a notebook this great only now?

Best Convertible: Lenovo Yoga Book C930

The Yoga Book is back, and it’s better than ever! The C930 follows up on the original Yoga Book with an improved dual-screen form and all the power and battery life you need out of a thin-and-light convertible.

Best Gaming Machine: ASUS ROG Strix Scar II

There have been lots of awe-inspiring gaming devices this year, but the ROG Strix Scar II takes the cake as the most well-rounded product. We’re in love with its near-borderless display, and how the rugged look matches the top-grade hardware.

Best Wearable: Apple Watch Series 4

When choosing a smartwatch, an Apple Watch is always a serious consideration with its sharp looks and buttery-smooth interface. The Series 4 is the lineup’s most daring entry yet, and is what we want most on our wrists.

Best Professional Camera: Sony A7 III

The Sony A7 III achieved the holy grail: placing a full-frame sensor and interchangeable-lens mount inside a relatively affordable body. It does everything we ask of it, whether for low-light photography or smooth video recording.

Best Compact Camera: Sony RX100 VA

Sony’s RX100 VA made an already-incredible pocketable camera even better. It’s been our go-to compact shooter this year, thanks to its impeccable image quality and ease of use.

Best Action Camera: GoPro Hero 7 Black

This was a no-brainer: The Hero 7 Black is the culmination of GoPro’s constant drive to create the best-performing, most user-friendly action camera in the market. Shaky video is definitely dead here.

Best Headphones: Sony WH-1000XM3

Now in its third generation, the WH-1000XM3 delivers some of the best noise canceling and sound quality we’ve ever experienced in mainstream headphones. We can’t get enough of these cans!

Best VR/AR Experience: HomeCourt

When we want to up our basketball game, we look to HomeCourt to monitor our progress and improve our skills. It works flawlessly with our iPhones, and its straightforward interface simply makes us want to shoot more hoops.

Best Drone: DJI Mavic 2 Pro

It was a tall order, but DJI managed to make the hottest drone even more desirable. The Mavic 2 Pro ups the ante in every single aspect, from image quality to flying performance, while making all other drones in its class seem inferior.

Best Vehicle: Honda CR-V 2018

Out of the all the cars we drove this year, Honda’s 2018 CR-V impressed us the most. The way it presents a high-tech interior while maintaining the power and fuel efficiency of its diesel engine is unheard of at this price point.

Best Toy: PlayStation Classic

The classics are back in a complete yet portable package! The PlayStation Classic offers a solid roster that not only produces strong nostalgia, but also introduces now-retro games to a whole new generation of gamers.

Best Smart Speaker: Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)

Every smart home needs a matching smart speaker, and nothing has been more fitting this year than the third-generation Echo Dot. It’s louder, more robust, and listens way better than models before it — absolutely essential for homebodies.

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Oops! OnePlus, Samsung figure in blunders: Weekend Rewind

They had a rough week

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Here are this week’s top stories on GadgetMatch.

1. OnePlus won’t have first phone with latest Qualcomm chip after all

So about OnePlus getting first dibs on the Snapdragon 855 SoC, well, it’s not accurate. The announcement was just lost in translation.

In a report by Engadget, it appears there were two sets of slides for OnePlus’ presentation at the Snapdragon Summit in Maui. One is in English while the other is in Chinese. It was the English version that said OnePlus will be the first to get the Snapdragon 855 but it was mistranslated from Chinese which apparently said “among the first” and not the first.

Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 855 SoC in Hawaii which is a 5G-enabled chip among other things. Earlier this week, Samsung and Verizon also announced plans to release a 5G phone in the US in the first half of 2019.

2. Samsung caught using DSLR to promote live focus feature

Speaking of Samsung, the company also starred in their own blunder this week when they were caught using a photo taken with a DSLR to promote the live focus feature of the Galaxy A8 Star.

It was Dunja Djudjic of DIYPhotography who spotted her work — something she licensed on photo site EyeEm — on Samsung Malaysia’s website that implies it was taken with the Samsung phone. However, this was not the case as Djudjic says a DSLR was used to take the photo.

It’s common practice for advertising materials to be sourced from stock image sites. However, it shouldn’t be the case when promoting a smartphone camera’s capabilities. Samsung phones do take good photos so it’s a little puzzling why Samsung Malaysia went with this direction.

3. Samsung and Huawei will come out with holed phones in December

More on Samsung but on a less controversial note. The Korean company is set to announce their first holed smartphone on December 10 — the Samsung Galaxy A8s.

The date will be historic as Samsung looks to beat everyone to the punch by launching the first official smartphone to have a selfie camera within the display. Nothing is confirmed yet, but specs-wise the Galaxy A8s could have a 6.3-inch display with a Full HD+ resolution, Snapdragon 710 chipset, up to 6GB of RAM, and a 24MP selfie camera.

Huawei won’t be too far behind as they’re also announcing a phone with a similar front-facing camera setup on December 17.  The phone will be called the Nova 4.

The main Nova series always sports the top Kirin chipset despite not being part of the premium P or Mate series. When the Nova 3 was announced, it was rocking the Kirin 970; this means the Nova 4 might have the new Kirin 980.

4. iPhone XR has the best single-lens camera

Apple’s decision to stick to one has been validated. In a smartphone market filled with at least dual-camera setups, Apple still opted to go with just one on the more “affordable” iPhone XR.

DxOMark finds the iPhone XR’s camera to be a great performer scoring 101 points overall. This makes the iPhone XR the highest-rated single-cam device tested by DxOMark.

Question is, can the iPhone XR keep the throne for long? DxOMark has yet to put the Google Pixel 3 to test. It will be interesting to see once the result for Google’s latest smartphones comes out since the Pixel 3 has been killing it in smartphone photography — single lens or otherwise.

5. God of War is Game of the Year

God of War wins big at The Game Awards 2018 — the biggest awards show in gaming. The PlayStation 4 exclusive topped other interesting titles for Game of The Year including fellow PS4 exclusive Marvel’s Spider-Man, Celeste, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Monster Hunter: World.

God of War also won Best Direction and Best Action/Adventure Game. Other notable games that got wins are Florence for Best Mobile Game, Dragon Ball FighterZ for Best Fighting Game, Fortnite for Best Multiplayer Game.


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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