Features

7 reasons why the Sony Xperia XZ succeeds

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Have you heard about how well Sony’s flagship Xperia XZ is doing? Believe it or not, it’s outperforming the likes of the Google Pixel, Moto Z, and LG V20. We can learn something from this.

After the ho-hum reception to the Xperia X Performance earlier this year, the surge in Xperia XZ users in the past three months proves just how badly needed a true Sony flagship is. But how did such an expensive smartphone with little hype and average reviews succeed?

It’s no fluke, and we have seven reasons why.

High-end specs don’t matter that much anymore

We call the Xperia XZ a premium flagship, but looking at the specs sheet, you wouldn’t think so at first glance. Having only a Snapdragon 820 processor (there’s a newer Snapdragon 821 now), 3GB of RAM (you can find as much as 6GB these days), and a Full HD display (lots go up to Quad HD already), this isn’t exactly top of the line.

And yet, all those numbers don’t really matter; this Sony phone does so well with so little. In my time with the Xperia XZ, I’d say it’s as fast as any other Android flagship you could name. It goes to show how important hardware-software optimization truly is.

There must be one signature color

If there’s one thing we learned from Apple’s persistent promotion of rose gold, having one trademark color helps sell phones. Many brands already do this, but they fail to make an impact or actually look good beyond marketing materials.

The Xperia XZ’s forest blue is an exception. Let’s just skip the ALKALEIDO metal mumbo jumbo and say this color looks stunning in all types of lighting. I can’t get enough of the way it reflects light at different angles. My parents normally don’t care about new phones (my dad still uses a Nokia 3310), but even they’re wholly impressed by the XZ’s use of color.

Side-mounted fingerprint scanners are the best

Fingerprint sensors are normally found in front or at the back; Sony has its own method, and for a good reason. Front scanners are tough to reach while holding the phone, and although rear-mounted ones are much more accessible when picked up, they’re covered when laid on a table.

I must say, Sony’s implementation is the absolute best. It can be touched no matter where the phone is placed, and by covering a single side, the back and front of the Xperia XZ are way more pleasant to look at. This also leaves space for more important features, bringing us to our next point.

People care about legacy features

Useful features we’ve taken for granted are now disappearing in favor of all the new fluff smartphone manufacturers are coming up with. The Xperia XZ manages to keep two of them: a physical two-step camera shutter button and front-facing stereo speakers.

These are highly underrated features which consumers don’t realize are missing until they’re needed. The camera shutter is a must for any waterproof phone to take pictures while its screen is soaked, and a pair of speakers are always, always better than a single piece on the rear or bottom that can easily get covered up.

Price differences don’t matter as much in the premium segment

Somehow, despite costing more than the base Google Pixel or Apple iPhone 7, people still choose the Xperia XZ over its competition. It’s even more expensive in certain regions, so how does it still manage to sell so well?

Apparently, when you get to this price point, adding a few extra dollars doesn’t seem to matter to loyal fans, as long as the experience is worth the expense. The Xperia XZ also came at the right time, just when the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 collapsed and there aren’t many clear alternatives.

Trademark aesthetics evolve

Something several manufacturers got wrong this year was either retaining too much of their old smartphone designs (e.g., iPhone 7, Galaxy S7, HTC 10) or going too far in radicalizing them (e.g., LG G5, ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra, Moto Z). This led to same old, same old looks or a complete loss of brand identity.

The Xperia XZ, I believe, strikes the right balance. It’s evolved enough from the Xperia X Performance and Xperia Z5 to call it a fresh design; at the same time, it still has distinct Xperia aesthetics you can recognize a mile away. And in the process, holding the handset feels as good as ever.

[irp posts=”7442″ name=”Sony Xperia XZ review”]

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How to maximize your Redmi 9

Smart tips for your budget smartphone

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Having a smartphone these days is akin to a necessity. However, times are especially hard and you may not have the means to splurge on the best ones. Here are tips on maximizing budget smartphones — specifically, the Xiaomi Redmi 9.

First of, let’s find out what we’re working with. Here’s a quick rundown of the device’s specs:

Redmi 9

Display 6.53” FHD+ Dot Drop Display, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Processor MediaTek Helio G80 Processor
RAM + ROM 3GB+32GB and 4GB+64GB
Battery Capacity 5020mAh, support for 18W charging
Front Camera 8MP
Rear Cameras 13MP main wide-angle camera

8MP ultra-wide angle camera

5MP macro camera

2MP depth sensor

There’s not a lot you’re working with here. But that’s to be expected from a phone that starts at PhP 6,990 (US$ 141) for the 3GB+32GB variant which is what we have with us currently.

Quick note: That specific variant is currently on sale today on Xiaomi’s official flagship store on Lazada. On July 7, 2020 only, it’s up for grabs for PhP 500 less or at exactly PhP 6,490 (US$ 131).

If you want to snap this up, here’s what you’re getting.

It doesn’t look like a budget phone

Some budget smartphones tend to look very bland. That’s not the case with the Redmi 9.

The Ocean Green variant has this subtle radial pattern on its back. It’s very nice to hold and marginally adds to the grip. That’s a thoughtful choice considering how most budget smartphones come in plain backs in a slippery plastic build.

Another thoughtful design decision is the alignment of the power button and volume keys. For a phone with this big a display, having them all on the right side is an underrated design decision.

Unfortunately, that design decision is countered by the placement of the fingerprint sensor. It’s curiously connected to the camera module. During your first few days of use, you’ll be prone to smudging the lens that sits right above it.

That said, that camera module also doesn’t look like it’s a budget smartphone. The vertical camera array is situated on the top middle part and is separated by a circle that looks like the source of the radial pattern.

Learn basic mobile photography skills

While we’re talking about the cameras, the versatility of the ones equipped on the Redmi 9 is pretty impressive.

On most occasions, you should be able to take a good enough photo for your social media feeds. But you can even take it a step further by learning some basic mobile photography skills.

Here are some tips and how tos from our archives that you might find useful:

  1. How to take slice of life photos
  2. Capturing festivities
  3. Using foreground element

Use the built-in photo editor

You don’t have plenty of space for apps, so it’s prudent to learn the in and outs of the built-in photo editor. Just go into the gallery and edit one of your photos, and you’ll be treated to plenty of options.

Take for instance this wide angle photo. It looks fine, but a little unbalanced.

On the photo editor, you can fix that by aligning the horizon to the grid and making the colors pop more.

If you’re feeling adventurous, there are also plenty of filters you can play with. Here’s a sample of how that same photo was turned into this very stylized one that looks almost like a scene from Attack on Titan. 

Google is your best friend 

One of my favorite Google Apps is Google Photos. It gives you unlimited storage of your photos at zero cost.

It’s most likely already installed on the Redmi 9 out of the box. Just make sure you turn syncing on so every time you take a photo, it’s automatically uploaded and backed up.

Google also has lite versions for most of their apps so that should help ease up the load on your limited RAM and storage.

Use lite versions of apps

Lite apps aren’t limited to Google though. More commonly used apps like Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, and even Spotify have lite versions.

These versions eat up less space and less memory when used. Of course, you’ll be missing some features, but that’s the trade-off.

What you can do is identify which app you use the most and need all of the features available, so you can get the full version of that app, while keeping everything else lite.

Be resourceful about it

One of the hallmarks of Xiaomi and Redmi is offering good value for less. That means making the most of what you have.

For the Redmi 9, this means knowing for sure what it can do, and allocating its existing resources based on your smartphone needs.

Remember, your smartphone is only as good as how you use it.

A quick reminder that the Redmi 9 (3GB+32GB) is currently on sale today on Xiaomi’s official flagship store on Lazada. On July 7, 2020 only, it’s up for grabs for PhP 500 less or at exactly PhP 6,490 (US$ 131).

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Samsung Galaxy Note 20 rumor roundup: Snapdragon 865+, 120Hz, new S Pen

Can’t wait for August!

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In around a month, Samsung is launching the hugely anticipated Galaxy Note 20 series. As always, the premium smartphone series will round out Samsung’s traditional slate of flagships for the year.

By itself, this fact isn’t a big surprise. Unless plans change drastically, the company always releases the next Galaxy Note series in August. However, as the launch date draws near, what can we expect from the series this year?

Fortunately, several leaks and rumors have already revealed almost everything about the upcoming series. From its hardware inside to what it looks like, we have a good idea of what the Galaxy Note 20 will launch with. Let’s take a look at what we know about the series so far.

Three devices or two?

Earlier this year, Samsung launched three variants of the Galaxy S20 series: the usual one-two punch and an ultra-premium Galaxy S20 Ultra. Naturally, everyone asked whether the next launch will also have three variants.

In one of the first leaks regarding the Galaxy Note 20 series, Ross Young revealed only two variants: the Note 20 and the Note 20+. The series will not have a third Ultra variant. Further, Ice Universe approved the leaks, adding some legitimacy to the claim.

However, despite the affirmation, Ice Universe continues to refer to the second device as the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, especially in subsequent leaks. Are there actually three phones coming? If there are just two, what will they call the second phone — the Note 20+ or the Note 20 Ultra?

The return of 120Hz

As we mentioned, Young’s leaks are the first ones we know about the series. Besides revealing the number of variants, he also mentions the continuation of the 120Hz LTPO screen and a slight bump in size for both variants. The Note 20 will have a 6.42-inch 2345 x 1084 resolution, 404ppi screen. The Note 20+ will have a 6.87-inch, 3096 x 1444 resolution, 497ppi screen

The leaked detail holds a lot of promise for the two devices’ picture quality and energy optimization. With lower power needed, the series can look brilliant even in an always-on mode.

Samsung cat tells all

Naturally, as time went on, the weight of the leaks got even more substantial. Just a few weeks ago, Ice Universe leaked the most comprehensive rundown of the series’ hardware so far.

For one, the leaker confirmed the Note 20 Ultra’s larger screen. However, it’s not just the size. Samsung is also reducing the bezels by a fair bit. All four sides have narrowed down by a fraction of a millimeter. Further, the punch-hole camera’s diameter is reducing by a full millimeter. Given how thin bezels are today, the reduction will be clearly noticeable on the upcoming device.

Concurrently, the account also reveals more about the hardware inside. According to two tweets, the Note 20 Ultra will sport the unreleased Snapdragon 865 Plus processor. Based on a separate rumor, Qualcomm will reportedly launch the upgraded chipset later this month, making it in time for the Note 20’s launch in August. That said, the upcoming chip will also grace the remaining devices in Samsung’s flagship lineup this year.

Additional speculations

Rounding out this list, Ice Universe also hints at a new camera feature and a new S Pen. We don’t know much about the Note 20’s cameras yet. According to a few leaked designs (which we’ll get to later), the rear will likely have three cameras. However, the performance remains a mystery.

If anything, Samsung was working on impressive 150-megapixel and 250-megapixel cameras earlier this year. The source claims that the former is already set for a launch this year, potentially for the Note 20 series. Since the Galaxy S20 series tops out at a 108-megapixel camera, it’s not far-fetched to assume a 150-megapixel shooter on the Note 20 series.

On the other hand, we haven’t heard a lot about the upcoming S Pen functionalities. Ice Universe leaks that the stylus will have a considerably reduced latency at 9 milliseconds, making it extra responsive to a user’s writing. Of course, latency is different from functionality. What can the Note 20’s S Pen do?

Perhaps the most obscure speculation about the stylus comes from a leaked patent early last year. Samsung filed an enigmatic patent for an S Pen built with a camera inside. The rumored spy pen got nowhere fast especially last year. However, patents are finicky. You’ll never know when they’ll pop up. Is this the S Pen’s unknown feature this year? We doubt it, but who knows?

What does it look like?

The leaks surrounding the series’ design are contentious. Some got nowhere, while some were simply wrong.

The first design leak comes from the tandem of OnLeaks and Pigtou (who previously leaked a pop-up camera from Samsung earlier this year). The duo created renders of what they thought the series will look like, based on rumors. Though substantial, the renders were simply just third-party renders. The world still wanted more controversial leaks from supposedly insider sources.

They got what they wanted with Ice Universe’s leak at first. The aforementioned hardware leaks came with a depicted phone which were assumed to be the Note 20 Ultra. Unfortunately, a lot of people were wrong (including us, admittedly). In a follow-up tweet, the leaker revealed that they were actually just photos of the Note 10+ used for representation.

Dispelling all of this confusion, Samsung accidentally leaked the device’s design themselves. In a rare hiccup, the company’s Russian website mistakenly displayed the Note 20 Ultra in the pinkish Mystic Bronze color. In one go, Samsung destroyed all rumors and revealed so much about the upcoming device already, including the triple rear cameras and the sleek S Pen.

When is it coming?

To cap everything off, we turn to the very first time the Note 20 was ever mentioned. In an earnings report released earlier than Ross Young’s leaks, Samsung confirmed that the Note 20 series will still come as scheduled — that is, in August.

Further, a recent report confirms an impending launch window between August and October for three unreleased devices. As expected, August will host the Note 20 series. Meanwhile, September and October will debut the Galaxy Fold 2 and the Galaxy S20 Lite.

It won’t be long now before the Note 20 series launch. Though we know a lot about the series already, Samsung can still surprise us with a few tricks up its sleeve.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10+ Review

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Samsung Galaxy M31: How long does a 6000mAh battery lasts?

We took the phone out for a spin!

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Having long-lasting device is a must when you need to stay connected.  When Samsung proudly introduced the Galaxy M31 with a  6,000mAh battery, it’s like god heard my woes. No more reliance on power banks and hogging wall sockets!

But how long does a 6000mAh battery last, especially for someone who’s overly attached to his smartphone? To find the answer, we fully charged a Galaxy M31 to see if it will last more than my ex-flings (or a day, in this case).

Hour 00: Making you mine

It was 2:20 PM when I took the fully charged Galaxy M31 to finish setting it up, and personalize it as my new daily driver for god knows how long. If you’re familiar with Samsung’s One UI 2.0, navigating the phone is a breeze.

I installed my essential apps — particularly Spotify — and spent at least an hour and a half to finish personalizing the phone. It was almost four in the afternoon when I decided to take a nap, with the battery currently sitting at 96 percent.

Hour 02: Vibing with your quirks

Thirty minutes later, I woke up from incessant sweating caused by a vexatious, humid atmosphere. When I checked the phone, I wasn’t surprised to see it drop to 95 percent. After all, Spotify was still playing on the background. I started prepping up to take a bath while dancing to “Mamma Mia” (I do hope youngins still know this classic).

Most of my Sundays are usually spent doing different hobbies, but having to test a phone’s battery life derailed my perfectly laid up weekend plan.

In lieu of doing things that feed my soul, I watched The Half Of It on Netflix and played Mobile Legends: Bang Bang in between supper, hourly snacks, skincare, and prepping myself to sleep.

Hour 08: Quarter good

Even with an annoying notch, watching and playing on a Super AMOLED screen is still a treat. I’m accustomed to using flagship smartphones, but the Galaxy M31 packed a punch for a midrange phone.

It’s powered by an Exynos 9611 chipset (which caused some heating), and a 6B RAM, and 128GB internal storage. A hiccup-free experience is guaranteed!

It was 10:10 PM when I turned the Wi-Fi off so I can sleep peacefully. The battery currently sits at 76 percent.

Hour 15: Staying strong

My nights are constantly haunted by my crushing regrets. In between interrupted periods of sleep, the phone’s battery sat at 75 percent. I decided to get out of the bed around 5 in the morning, planning a full day ahead.

I started catching up with news while hydrating myself with lemon water. Afterward, I opened my favorite app — Nike Training Club — to perform morning stretches. It offers quick, guided workouts for different purposes: strength, endurance, mobility, and flexibility.

Before I start my workout, I brought along my Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Fit E. If you’re deep into Samsung’s ecosystem, you’ll be disappointed with the unavailability of Galaxy Buds’ plugin, so no wireless listening for you. Although, you can rely on the Galaxy M31’s loudspeakers. Thankfully, the phone still connects seamlessly with my Galaxy Fit E.

At 6:25 AM, the battery dropped to 70 percent after conducting my morning routine. Do note that Spotify is constantly playing, even when I’m not actively using my phone. (Life without music sucks.)

Hour 17: Picture-perfect memories

It was almost seven in the morning when I started shooting a friend’s baked goods. As I sung to Taylor Swift’s “Death by a Thousand Cuts”, I let myself have fun using the Galaxy M31’s quad-camera setup.

I wrapped up around 7:19 AM with a 67 percent battery life. I took a bath and drove to Starbucks to get my favorite cold brew. Along the way, I took some selfies and snaps and uploaded them to Instagram Stories.

Hour 20 to 28: The last hurrah

I was back at my desk around 10 AM and started my daily grind. The phone sat at 43 percent after heavy and constant usage. I pulled my laptop and started working. Even with a bigger screen, I still used my phone to respond to messages, moderate social media pages, and watch on Netflix while eating.

The phone’s battery dipped to 15 percent at 6:48 PM, when my shift was about to end. To my astonishment, the Galaxy M31 lasted more than 28 hours on a single charge.

I charged the device at 7:08 PM and left it while I had dinner, took a bath, and did some house chores. It took at least three hours to fully charge the device from 15 to 95 percent, using its 15W fast charging adapter via USB-C.

On a side note, the Galaxy M31’s battery is such a rocker when left on standby mode. On a Tuesday afternoon, I left a fully charged Galaxy M31 in a safe. I checked back Saturday afternoon, and I was surprised to see its battery dipped from 100 percent to 33 percent.

Is it your GadgetMatch?

Summing it up, the Galaxy M31 is a capable and dependable midrange smartphone. It offers reliable performance with a battery that can keep up with you for more than a day. If you’re a power user looking for an affordable handset with no bells and whistles, this one is for you.

The Galaxy M31 is currently available in Black and Blue and retails for PhP 13,990 (US$ 283). It’s online-exclusive and will be available for purchase at Samsung’s Online store.

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