Features

9 smartphones from 2016 that still matter

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2017 has been an incredible year for smartphones. Bezels are getting smaller, cameras are breaking new grounds, and artificial intelligence is playing a bigger role. Don’t think for a second, however, that last year’s handsets are any less relevant.

Despite their age, the phones listed here are still solid choices for your next purchase. Some are a lot cheaper now, but be warned: They may also be more difficult to find now.

Here they are in no particular order:

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

This was the first choice to come to mind when compiling this list. The iPhone 7 Plus is an excellent option to this day for two reasons: It looks identical to this year’s iPhone 8 Plus, and it’s much cheaper than the iPhone X. Updating to iOS 11 will also make it feel like a newer phone.

REVIEW: Apple iPhone 7 Plus

LG V20

LG V20

LG’s V20 symbolizes the end of an era; it’s the last flagship smartphone from a major brand to house a removable battery. But that isn’t the V20’s only claim to fame. It also delivers an excellent video and audio experience, as well as an underrated secondary screen for faster multitasking.

REVIEW: LG V20

Huawei Mate 9

As great as the Mate 10 series is, we must not forget how well-rounded the Mate 9 was. Even though the bezels aren’t up to today’s standards, the extra-large build feels lovely in one’s hand. Mix in the dual-camera setup and its revolutionary machine learning software, and you have a handset that keeps getting better.

REVIEW: Huawei Mate 9

Google Pixel

You don’t have to look any further than all the camera shootouts the Pixel won to see how great of a camera-phone it is. To this day, we still use the original Pixel for shoots and recording Facebook Live shows. And it’s got something the newer Pixel 2 doesn’t have: a 3.5mm audio port.

REVIEW: Google Pixel

ASUS ZenFone 3

Our one complaint about the ZenFone 3 when it first launched was its price. But now that it’s discounted, we’re looking at a great all-around phone. Its Snapdragon 625 processor and 4GB of memory are still the standard setup most midrange handsets follow today, and the build quality is as premium as ever.

REVIEW: ASUS ZenFone 3

Moto Z

Moto Z

At first glance, the Moto Z doesn’t stand out in this cutthroat list; however, its edge comes in the form of Moto Mods. Even the newer modular accessories work with the aging handset, making this an affordable yet powerful gateway to the world of feature-rich attachments.

REVIEW: Moto Z

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

It’s easy to forget how the Galaxy series once looked now that the Infinity Display of the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 are engraved in our minds. And yet, the Galaxy S7 Edge is still a beautifully shaped device with a conveniently placed front-mounted fingerprint scanner. The planned update to Android Oreo will raise its stock even higher.

REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge

OnePlus 3T

If there was one smartphone that was a cut above the rest in 2016, it was the OnePlus 3T. As an improvement over the original OnePlus 3, the newer version had it all: a reliable camera, impeccable build quality, the fastest interface of its time, above average battery life, and a mouthwatering price for its specs.

REVIEW: OnePlus 3T 

Xiaomi Mi Max

It was tough choosing just one Xiaomi phone from their comprehensive 2016 roster — the Mi Mix and Redmi 4 Prime came to mind, as well — but the Mi Max won out for being their best multimedia option. The massive screen and generous battery capacity make this the go-to choice for movie watching and gaming on the go.

REVIEW: Xiaomi Mi Max

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Hands-On

Huawei Mate 20 Pro Hands-on: Best phone of 2018?

Huawei outdoes itself again

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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.

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Features

Huawei Mate 20 vs Mate 20 Pro: What are the differences?

Price isn’t the only factor

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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.

While we wait to get our hands on the Porsche Design Mate 20 RS and Mate 20 X, here are the two phones we already know everything about.

Display

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.

Performance

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.

Cameras

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.

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Features

Huawei Mate 20 series first to have Nano Memory Card

Could this become a trend?

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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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