Reviews

Apple iPhone XR review: By Android users

Will it entice us to switch?

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The iPhone XR is by far the most controversial Apple phone this year. It’s got a notch, a not-that-affordable price, and a few compromises here and there, but people are still flocking to buy them.

Wanting to investigate further, we rounded up our four most die-hard Android users of the team to take the iPhone XR for a spin and come together for a group review. The insights are both interesting and well… somewhat expected.

Let’s begin!

What surprised you most about the iPhone XR?

Dan: Battery life. It was able to last me the whole day and then some. I always charge in the morning before leaving for the office. Charging time is a different story, though.

Marvin: Having used the iPhone XR as a gaming phone, I can agree with this. It’s unlike any iPhone before. Right, Isa?

Isa: Imagine not having to lug around a power bank with the iPhone, haha. Aside from that though, I was surprised at how there was no learning curve or adjustment when returning to this iPhone. My last one was the 6S.

Rodneil: I agree the battery was pretty good but it wasn’t what caught my attention. I was surprised at how it would still play audio from IG videos I was scrolling through while I was also playing music from Spotify or listening to a podcast. None of the Android phones I’ve used could do this.

Isa: Why do you think all IG baby girls are on iPhones? They have the best IG integration, TBH.

Dan: I also appreciated the differences of the IG app on iOS. It was so much better in creating Stories and other social content on the go. I hope Instagram will do the same for its Android app.

Rodneil: YES! The snap-on guides on IG for iOS are super helpful! Especially if you’re a stickler for proper alignment.

With that, which feature did you miss most when going back to Android?

Isa: MEMOJI.

Marvin: Not much of a Memoji fan, but the fluidity of iOS is unlike any other. I wish Android could just copy this and apply more navigation gestures like what Xiaomi does for MIUI.

Dan: I wholeheartedly agree about swipe gestures. The best swipe gestures I’ve tried are MIUI’s, but iOS’ comes really close.

iPhone XR on NOMAD’s brown rugged case

Rodneil: Have to agree with Marvin and Dan. I didn’t really use Animoji or Memoji that much. However, I did enjoy making my Memoji.

Isa: One Mac user to another, Rodney. You have to admit the integration is pretty good. Makes me miss having an all-Apple setup.

Rodneil: The integration is cool and all but I have already built my personal workflow around Google so I didn’t use it as much. AirDrop was super convenient, though. Moving files from my phone to my laptop (since I’m a Mac user) has never been so easy.

Marvin: Same for me. Everything I own and use is on Google, so I’m good wherever I go.

Dan: The first apps I installed when I got the iPhone XR were my main Google apps (i.e., Maps, Inbox, Photos, Drive, YouTube, Home, Keep).

Many reviewers say the iPhone XR’s cameras are better than the iPhone XS’; for some, better than most Android flagships. Agree?

Marvin: I didn’t get to use the iPhone XS, but the iPhone XR’s single rear camera was enough for me. Portraits were great and the interface is so simple. The selfie cam… well… not so much.

Isa: Would it kill them to add selfie features on this camera, SMH.

Rodneil: I was only able to use it sparingly but I did love the portrait mode. I even took sample portraits of Isa one night and compared it side-by-side with the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro’s. The iPhone XR easily produced the better image.

Dan: Same with Rodneil, I wasn’t able to fully take the phone’s cameras for a spin. Although, they seem great aside from the hit-and-miss portrait mode.

Marvin: I think we can all agree that it has great cameras. Not the best overall, but at a level fitting for its asking price.

What did you dislike most about the iPhone XR?

Dan: SLOW CHARGING. Whenever I charge my OnePlus 6T and the iPhone XR together, the iPhone is still at around 50 percent while the OnePlus 6T is already fully charged. Good thing the iPhone can last long despite its small battery.

Isa: True! I was on the Find X Lambo and the R17 Pro with SuperVOOC — that’s zero to 100 percent in 35 minutes — so as you can imagine, switching to the iPhone XR made me a little impatient.

iPhone XR on NOMAD’s brown rugged tri-folio case

Marvin: I won’t even bother adding to the slow charging issue; too much has been said about that. What bothered me from start to finish were the bezels. The notch is fine, but why is there so much darkness around the screen?

Rodneil: I didn’t dislike anything too much but if I had to pick one, I’d agree with Marvin. I used the phone for some Netflix and YouTube sessions and the experience felt drastically different from the bezel-less goodness I got from most Android phones.

Isa: I didn’t really mind the bezels (I still pick phones with bezels over notched phones). I did notice, though, that the XR is pretty heavy. I know it’s a glass phone but so are a number of phones in the market and those aren’t that heavy.

Dan: I’d like to add that I am surprised that some apps I use daily are having trouble with the notch. My notch experience has been better with various Android phones (sans within the IG app), so I guess iOS apps are not as optimized as I thought they’d be. But, mobile gaming has always been better on iOS.

So, would you recommend the iPhone XR to long-time Android users?

Rodneil: No, haha. I enjoyed using the XR but if you’re a long-time Android user, there’s little reason to switch to iOS, especially if you’re not going to use it along with other Apple devices. I loved Instagram on iOS and the whole experience felt smooth, but I wasn’t convinced that this iPhone could make an Android user switch.

Dan: I’d say yes, but that’s before considering the price. I have the OnePlus 6T which is one of the best Android phones today, yet it’s one of the cheapest in the flagship segment. The iPhone XR is US$ 200 more expensive than the OnePlus 6T, and it’s not even the best iPhone available.

iPhone XR on NOMAD’s black rugged folio case

Marvin: I think the price is still too high for an “affordable” iPhone, though I can see Android users switching simply to enter the Apple ecosystem and receive timely updates. These are things Android’s fragmentation will never have.

Isa: Yes, but only if they’re willing to switch to the dark side, (i.e., the Apple ecosystem). Despite it getting flak for being called the expensive “affordable iPhone,” it still costs less than the iPhone XS options and it’s a solid phone.

Rodneil: I honestly thought this would lure me into the whole Apple ecosystem. I’m absolutely in love with macOS but I just didn’t feel the same way about iOS. I’m a little too comfortable already with my current setup and I love Android just as much as I love macOS.

Marvin: Rodneil has commitment issues. Whether you like or not, the iPhone XR is the cheapest entry into iOS without going back a generation. While it’s not exactly affordable compared to its more premium siblings, it at least has the same fast processor and stable firmware, but with stronger battery life and more colors to choose from.

iPhone XR on NOMAD’s black carbon case

Isa: I think we were all pleasantly surprised at how good this “lower-tier” iPhone turned out to be. Can I have it back? I wanna make more Memoji.

Marvin: No.

Isa: NO!

Rodneil: …

Dan: The phone is with me and I’m keeping it for a while. Good luck, Isa!

Accessories

Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 review: Affordable, but far from perfect

Xiaomi’s premium TWS offering

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The truly wireless earphones market is filled with a plethora of options today, ranging from entry-level offerings like the Redmi Earbuds S to the premium Sony WF-1000XM3. However, the most popular TWS earphones are from Apple — the AirPods.

AirPods kickstarted the TWS trend, and since then, pretty much every brand has jumped onboard. Xiaomi is known for its reliable yet affordable products, and it has launched a few options previously, but it was limited to its home market of China.

Now, the brand has finally launched the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 in India, and it’s pretty much half the price of Apple’s AirPods.

The Redmi Earbuds S is an entry-level offering while Mi branding is now used for the company’s premium offerings. TWS earphones are incredibly convenient to use, and their demand is consistently rising. Can the Mi TWS 2 offer maximum features for the price and go against the competition?

Do they look like the AirPods?

 

At first sight, you’d think they are the AirPods for a quick second. But it’s soon clear that they aren’t. This is something I appreciate about the Mi TWS 2. In a market filled with AirPods knockoffs, it’s nice to see a different design. However, don’t set your expectations too high.

The earbud’s stem is exceptionally thick, and this is easily noticeable from the side. Thankfully, it doesn’t look that thick from the front view and is oval. The stem is also considerably long, giving the earbud a very bulky look.

The polycarbonate build has a matte finish on the stem while the driver is smooth and shiny. I feel the earphones were designed with utility and features in mind, and aesthetics took a back seat.

If the bulkier design can add more battery life and better drivers, I’m okay with it. This may not be the case with many since they tend to look like cheap AirPods knockoffs.

Each earbud weighs just 4 grams, and they slide in your ears very smoothly. Putting them on is a quick task, and for calls, while driving, these are exceedingly convenient to wear single-handedly. The semi-open design is supposed to be fit-for-all. But, this is where my primary concern lies.

How’s the overall user experience?

The earbuds fit perfectly and are rather stable. But the satisfaction of wearing an earbud is utterly absent because of reduced noise isolation. Even though they’ve never automatically snuggled out, I’m always afraid of losing them while walking. The confidence to wear them outdoors is low.

These too sport gesture-based controls, and the result is below satisfaction. I’d have to try a few times before they actively receive the command. Even play/pause function is rather cumbersome and paired with the loose fit; I’m afraid they don’t fall off.

Thankfully, they have an optical sensor that automatically plays/pauses a song when the earbud is worn or removed. Most times, I’d simply remove them from my ear instead of relying on the gesture buttons.

Lastly, the case is quite basic from a design point of view but gets the job done properly. The plastic build is solid, the lid has magnetic detection, and the earbuds aren’t finicky when plugged for charging. A small LED light on the front will show you the case’s battery status. A USB-C port is located on the bottom.

Pairing them is a straightforward task, and Xiaomi phones will automatically pop-up the status menu just like it’s on iOS. It’ll show you each earbud’s battery percentage along with the case.

But do they sound good?

The brand has added a lot of features on the audio side to make the product look premium. It has support for multiple codecs like SBC, AAC, and LHDC. The last one allows high-resolution audio streaming via Bluetooth. I used the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max to test the Mi TWS 2 and it automatically leveraged the AAC band.

Each earbud houses a 14.2mm audio driver, which isn’t the biggest. But, much of the audio output relies on tuning. Sound testing is also very subjective, so I’ll try to address everyone’s choice.

To start with, the output is very crisp and clear, and the vocals are perfectly heard. If you’re into Bollywood songs or even pop, these should be ideal for you.

Unlike the usual tuning, we see in Indian products; the bass here is well managed. It isn’t too much and ultimately does justice for every user. I’d say these are your GadgetMatch if you listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

The drivers are massively let down by non-existent noise isolation. The design of the earbuds inherently means you can hear pretty much everything happening around you. Even at maximum volume, it just didn’t feel enough.

Lastly, they have “Environment Noise Cancellation” that automatically kicks in when you’re on a call. Background noise is reduced drastically, and everyone I called could feel the change. The overall voice clarity is immensely improved, and high-winds too couldn’t deter them.

How long can they last?

Xiaomi claimed the earbuds can last up to four hours on a single charge and it’s on-point. I was able to get almost four hours with volume at 80 percent.

The case is capable of providing 10 hours of backup, taking the total to fourteen. Thankfully, the case takes just an hour to charge.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re an audiophile, the simple answer is no. The Mi TWS 2 will disappoint you in many ways. However, if you’re looking for work-related earphones, these are perfect.

Calls are ultra-clear, and the overall experience is better thanks to a loose fit. Keep them on, and get through a full day’s work. On the audio side, hip-hop or bass-intensive genre may not suit well here. However, all other vocal-centric songs shall swing by without a hitch.

With a price of INR 4,499, the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 is a solid competitor. When compared to the realme Buds Air, these lose out on aesthetics. But, the minor additions from a function point of view are worth the slight bump in price.

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LG Velvet Review: New breed of flagship killer?

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Over the years, LG was once a pioneer in the smartphone industry with their G and V smartphone series. These phones are packed with a lot of punch and boast new and exciting features.

But LG has forgotten one thing, and that is how to fix their unexciting phone designs. From the G7 ThinQ all the way to V50 ThinQ 5G, those phones almost look unchanged. They might have been minor changes with the newer V60 ThinQ 5G, but it’s still not as eye-catching as other contenders.

The LG Velvet isn’t a replacement to their ever-existing flagship series. Instead, LG tries to reimagine things by making sure they produce products that cater the needs of not just tech nerds, but other types of consumers as well.

Here’s our in-depth review of the LG Velvet.

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Accessories

Redmi Earbuds S review: Affordable TWS without compromises

Making TWS earphones more accessible

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Truly wireless (TWS) earphones have been around for a while. Apple kick-started the hype with the launch of the AirPods and numerous brands have released alternatives since. However, they’ve always been very expensive.

With brands keen on ditching the headphone jack, users are often left with no option but to find wireless options. Redmi phones continue to have a headphone jack, but the brand also wants to remain focused on its target — deliver quality products at an affordable price.

The Redmi Earbuds S is the first TWS offering in India under the Redmi brand. While the brand stands strong in the smartphone segment, it has some cut-throat competition from realme. With a price tag of INR 1,799 (US$ 24), does it have enough firepower to take on the competition? If you’re looking for an entry-level TWS solution, can you trust the Earbuds S? Let’s find out!

Not AirPods knock-offs

If you’ve been following the TWS market, the Earbuds S will look familiar. These are sold as the AirDots S in China and many have ordered them previously via international marketplaces. In India, Redmi is calling them the Earbuds S and these could land in more south-east Asian markets soon.

While the trend is to follow Apple’s design language, the Earbuds S is going against the flow. It has its own distinctive design that looks nothing like a cheap knock-off.

The pill-shaped case is compact, feels solid in hand, and has a subtle curve on the bottom. The case size is perfect and it’ll always slide into your pocket smoothly.

Each earbud weighs just 4g and the in-ear design is immensely comfortable. I’ve worn them pretty much all day long and never felt any irritation, pain, or slightest of inconvenience. The snug fit also ensures adequate noise isolation and wearing them while driving for calls is seamless.

There’s not much to talk about with the design since it’s basic and gets the job done. They’re built out of plastic and its clearly evident at first sight.

I won’t count this as a drawback since it helps reduce overall weight and I wouldn’t expect metal or premium construction at this price.

Easy to use, fairly straightforward

The lid is very basic but has a satisfying feel to it when closing. Unlike the popular AirPods, these sit in your ears at a 45-degree angle. Paired along are two earbud tips to suit your ear canal. I didn’t have to use them and the standard size that comes along worked fine.

Using them is a very straightforward process. Open the lid, remove the earbuds, and wear them.

They’ll connect to your phone as soon as they’re disconnected from the case. I’ve never faced any connection issues so far. Each earbud has a button for quick controls such as music playback options and calling up Google Assistant.

On the flip side, you can’t rely on the earbuds to change the volume level or play a previous song. That can only be managed via your phone.

Pressing the button thrice will trigger the low-latency gaming mode. A feature that’ll be very handy while playing online multiplayer games like PUBG Mobile or Mobile Legends.

Each earbud has an indicator light that shows the status. Red means they’re charging while white means successful connection establishment. Lastly, they’re IPX4 certified, meaning sweat resistance. This obviously translates to a perfect workout session.

Punchy bass, relatively good audio

This is where I was surprised the most. Considering the nifty features it already has, I expected some kind of compromise in this department. And, I was wrong.

It has 7.2mm drivers and delivers punchy bass — a must-have for Bollywood music. Mainstream genres like pop sound amazing and if you’re not an audiophile, you won’t have any complaints.

The maximum volume is sufficiently loud and coupled with good isolation, even a busy market street is easily navigable.

However, if you’re looking for top-notch audio, these aren’t meant for you. The low frequency takes over while the mids are flat. You can use an equalizer to change the settings but the inherent tuning is in favor of bass-heavy music.

Furthermore, these connect via the SBC codec and there’s no support for aptX. I wouldn’t call this a drawback because the brand has to cut corners to make them accessible to a wider audience.

Adequate playback duration

Xiaomi claims the earbuds can deliver up to four hours of playback on a single charge and I’ve reached 3 hours 45 minutes in one go. So, their claims aren’t farfetched.

The case can charge the earbuds fully twice, delivering a total of 12 hours of playback in one go. If you’re going to use them for conference calls, music, and other work-related activities, they’ll easily get you through a working day.

The case takes almost two hours to charge fully. For frequent travelers, this can be a major drawback. Furthermore, the case charges via a microUSB port instead of the now-standard USB-C. Don’t forget to carry that extra charging cord along!

Can this be your GadgetMatch?

Yes. It definitely can. While there are a lot of minor additions I’d want to see, the price brings me back to reality.

In a nutshell, they’re designed aptly, deliver ordinarily better audio, and have 12 hours of playback. For US$ 25, there’s no better deal available. Keep in mind, the Redmi Earbuds S are making TWS earphones more accessible to everyone.

If you’re looking for top-notch audio quality, there are premium offerings like the OPPO Enco Free, Galaxy Buds, and 1More Truly Stylish. On the affordable side, realme Buds Air Neo and OPPO Enco W31 can be alternatives but are still priced considerably high.

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