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Here are the top stories on GadgetMatch this week.

1. ASUS ROG Phone 2: Mobile gaming beast 

This is the most specced out phone in the world today. ASUS held nothing back when they launched the ROG Phone 2.

Just look at these specs:  Snapdragon 855 Plus, 120Hz AMOLED Display, 12GB RAM and 512GB storage, 6,000mAh battery

All of that along with a host of other features specifically on performance improvement and cooling that keeps the phone in optimal condition promises to deliver the best mobile gaming experience to date.

There are even new and improved accessories like the Kunai gamepad that makes the phone look almost like a Nintendo Switch to take your gaming experience to an even higher level!

While it’s announced globally, it’s only currently available in China and comes in different variants. We’ll likely find out global pricing at IFA in September.

2. Huawei worked with North Korea on spying tech

Huawei continues to make headlines and not in the best way.

A Washington Post report says the company worked with North Korea on spying tech. Yikes.

Huawei and North Korea’s ties began when the company helped establish Koryo link — the country’s telecommunications provider. That’s all well and good, right? However, the report says the partnership didn’t end there.

A telling internal document suggests that Huawei agreed to create an algorithm that allows the government to intercept and monitor all calls made using Koryolink. This news doesn’t bode well for Huawei who has been the star of the US government’s crackdown on cybersecurity concerning China.

If you find this alarming, it’s prudent to note that the US was also in a cybersecurity mess not too long ago.

Back in 2013, then NSA analyst Edward Snowden leaked classified information revealing that the US government had also been spying on its citizens. They used a program called PRISM that collected user data from companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple.

Bottomline: Cyber Security is and will continue to be a hot topic but, as I mentioned in a previous article, it shouldn’t be Huawei’s burden to carry alone.

3. “iPhone 11” details starting to link

We’re getting more details on the iPhone 11 as its launch approaches.

A report by 9to5Mac reveals we could be saying goodbye to 3D touch. Taking its place is a new taptic engine that has the codename “leap haptics.” It’s unclear what this is capable of but surely we’ll find out more soon.

Another new thing is the front-facing camera is getting an upgrade that will allow it to record slow-mo videos in 120 FPS. There’s also the expected new chip which will likely called the A13.

Previously we’ve seen leaks about the upcoming iPhone’s triple rear cameras. One of which will be a wide angle lens. Lastly, the report says Apple will stick to a lightning port instead of shifting to USB-C.

4. Honor 9X series launches in China 

Honor just launched a new midrange series — the Honor 9X.

The Honor 9X and Honor 9X pro will both be powered by the Kirin 810 processor. It has a pop-up camera giving way to the 6.59-inch All View display.

The star of the phone though is its 48MP main camera that comes with a Night Vision feature. The main camera is flanked by a 2MP depth sensor and an 8MP wide angle camera.

All these features will be supported by a 4000mAh battery.

The Honor 9X will come in the configurations: 4GB RAM + 64GB storage, 6GB RAM + 64GB storage, and 6GB RAM + 128GB storage.

Meanwhile, the Honor 9X Pro will come in these configurations: 8GB RAM + 128GB storage, 8GB + 256GB storage

The phones are currently only available in China but we have confirmation that they will also hit global markets soon.

5. Starbucks wants to send your coffee straight to your door

No need to line up for coffee anymore as Starbucks is partnering with app delivery services that will send your coffee right where you are.

In the US, Starbucks is expanding to a nationwide delivery via Uber eats. Previously, the service was only available in 11 cities including New York, LA, Chicago and a few more.

In Southeast Asia, Starbucks is already available via delivery through GrabFood. Singapore and Malaysia previously had this service but this week the Philippines was also added to the list!


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.

Accessories

Huawei Freebuds Pro Unboxing and First Impressions

Sounds as good as it looks

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Huawei has been killing it in the personal audio department and everyone should really start paying attention. Adding to the lineup is the Huawei Freebuds Pro. It’s their answer of sorts to the likes of the AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM3.

This is what the front of the box looks like. It’s a pretty tiny box.

Freebuds Pro

A closer look shows the name of the product in gold. 

Flip it over and you’ll see some highlighted features. 

Take out the top cover and you’re immediately greeted by the Freebuds Pro. 

Here’s a look without the plastic covering.

Freebuds Pro

It’s a little tricky to take out but underneath all that is the USB to USB-C Cable and a box.

Pull out the cable and the box and you get this.

Here’s a closer look at the cable. 

And here are extra soft silicone plugs so you can find the perfect fit for your ears.

Now, let’s go back to the Freebuds Pro. Here’s the back of the charging case with the Huawei text. 

You flip it over to open it and reveal the earbuds. 

The buds are tinier — the tiniest they’ve released over the past year.

On the bottom of the case is the USB-C port. 

And on its right side is the bluetooth pairing button. 

But if you simply open the case next to a Huawei phone — here it’s the Huawei Mate 40 — it’ll immediately detect it and ask to pair. 

When you press connect, it’ll show you right away how to operate the Freebuds Pro. 

After that, it’ll show you the battery life of each Freebud Pro and the case. 

As mentioned earlier, in terms of the size of the stem, it’s a lot smaller than the previous two releases. 

The cases also vary in shape and size.

Here’s what they look like when worn. 

First impressions 

I’ve only had the Freebuds Pro for a little over 24 hours at the time of writing. I’ve since used it on a video call meeting and to listen to the Eyes Wide Open album by TWICE.

I Cant Stop Me GIF by TWICE - Find & Share on GIPHY

So far, it’s performing exactly as advertised. It carries over the noise-cancellation excellence from the Freebuds 3 and Freebuds 3i. In fact, the Freebuds Pro combines the best practices of the aforementioned devices thanks to a number of engineering and design choices.

Sound quality is also right around what I expected based on my previous experiences with other Huawei audio products. It’s certainly two steps above the Freebuds 3i in terms of overall sound quality.

SEE ALSO: Freebuds 3 review | Freebuds 3i review

Music comes off as crisp and clean as the Freebuds 3 but we’ll have to try it out for a little longer for a more definitive take. Same goes for the battery life.

The controls are also more intuitive. If you are coming from the Freebuds 3, it is a little different. Here’s a photo of me assuming the controls are the same. Nope, I didn’t pay attention to the prompts during set-up. What an idiot.

Price and availability 

In the Philippines, it retails for PhP 7,999 — around PhP 1,000 cheaper than the launch price of the Freebuds 3 (PhP 8,990).

Pre-order period is from November 27 to December 3. If you pre-order you’ll get freebies worth PhP 3,989.

  • Huawei Band 4 — PhP 1,890
  • Entertainment Gift Package — PhP 2,099

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Features

The Huawei Mate 40 Pro’s cameras are actually smart

Perfect for lazy point-and-shooters

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Huawei Mate 40 Pro

Part of writing tech reviews means I also take product photos for a living. It may seem easy at first, but I can guarantee that it takes some practice to get good shots. The same is true for when we take sample photos.

However, I’m human (occasionally trash) and I get tired and lazy too. I had a different article in mind for this feature at first but I wasn’t too happy with some of the shots I took with the Huawei Mate 40 Pro.

But then it hit me. Isn’t this the whole point of having a smartphone camera? It’s supposed to do a lot of the processing and beautification on its own. So what I’m going to show you right now are some of the shots I was “moderately okay” with to showcase just how smart the Mate 40 Pro is as a point-and-shoot-camera.

Insane HDR

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

The level of detail in this photo is already impressive on its own. The pot with the dead plant/s (I’m not much of a plant person, sorry) is placed against the light source which is the window.

Despite that, not only was the Mate 40 Pro able to produce a shot showing the pot’s details, it also captured the view outside the window.

Not impressed? Here’s what it looked like right before I took the photo.

A little mind-blowing, right?

10X Zoom is the zoom sweet spot

The Huawei Mate 40 Pro can go all the way up to 50X Zoom. But we all know maxxed out zoom levels don’t really produce images you’d be inclined to post on social media.

Thankfully, (and as you can see in the plant screenshot) the camera app actually guides you to different shooting perspectives for optimal use.

When you fire it up, you have the normal distance or 1X zoom. Click the button on the right and you go straight to wide. Click to the left of 1X and you have 5X zoom, and click to left most node and you have 10X Zoom.

So how good is it?

This was taken in 1X at night while I was taking a brisk-ish walk around our compound.

What did I tell you? Lazy shot, right? But it looks fair. The scene was aptly lit and the night mode wasn’t very aggressive. But put your attention on the figure in the middle. Here’s what it looks like after shooting in 10X Zoom.

The level of detail at 10X Zoom, and at night at that, is simply astonishing. It’s such a clean shot given the conditions it was in.

Night Mode is unreal

While we’re at it, let’s talk about the Huawei Mate 40 Pro’s Night Mode. Huawei, in recent years, has done a pretty good job with their night mode. As I mentioned, it’s no longer overly aggressive when it doesn’t need to be.

But when there’s little to no light source, Night Mode really kicks into high gear. Here’s a screenshot of the basketball court before I took the photo.

If I’m not mistaken, this was around seven or eight in the evening. There’s a faint light around the court, but since there’s a pandemic, we can’t really use it to play hoops. That’s why it’s lights off for now.

But here’s the final shot.

Personally, I think the post-processing was extremely aggressive here. The AI was working extra hard filling-in what it thought the colors were of the sky and the trees. It missed a little bit on the ring though as it isn’t green at all in real life.

That said, this is a fantastic showcase of what the Mate 40 Pro’s Night Mode can do even in near pitch-black scenes.

Here’s a bonus night mode shot just to showcase how good it is on an adequately lit scene.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

Trying (and failing) at toy photography

The following morning, I decided to try my hand at ‘toy photography.’ So over the pandemic, one of the things I did to cope was buy a few anime figures. But it’s not something I’ve actually done before so this was mostly just for the heck of it and to see how the Mate 40 Pro can do under ample light conditions.

I shot poorly (I think), but the Mate 40 Pro did a lot of heavy lifting. It only occurred to me that perhaps having this colorful a backdrop wasn’t the best idea for highlighting a toy figure.

But here’s the portrait mode shot.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

Any Shoto Todoroki stans reading this?

It’s a little darker than in real life, but the background blur is fantastic. Look at the lights on the building in the background. The subject could have been clearer if my hands had been steadier but overall, this isn’t bad at all.

I didn’t really read up on how to do this before trying it but based on some stuff I’ve seen online, toy photography is also about highlighting the details. The zoom function shines here again.

On the left is the 1X shot and on the right is the 5X Zoom. The quality suffers a little but it still manages to showcase the underfoot details of the figure.

I tried taking a closer shot with a bright background. The Mate 40 Pro still captured a fair amount of detail with ample lighting on the subject despite the overpowering source of light on the background.

Again, I wasn’t really too happy with the background so I figured I’d wrap things up. I took one last shot — a face close-up using 5X Zoom.

I haven’t spent that long of a time with the Mate 40 Pro so I was having trouble with focusing. Despite my shortcomings, the image still came out a little okay.

When I actually tried (a little)

A little later on we had to shoot a video for Huawei. It was a rush project so I figured I’d meet up with MJ to wrap things up quickly. With his influence, I actually tried taking proper photos and here’s how they came out.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

Oh and here’s portrait mode on an actual person.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

Perfect for point-and-shooters

I’m willing to bet most people really don’t want to bother with too many settings or tweaking things here and there. The Huawei Mate 40 Pro really shines in this aspect as the combination of its hardware plus AI shooting does a lot of heavy lifting for most users.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

But my general advice is still try a little (haha). It won’t take a lot of effort to capture something amazing when you have the Mate 40 Pro with you.

Watch our Huawei Mate 40 Pro Unboxing and Review.

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Features

Samsung Galaxy S21 rumor roundup: Exynos vs. Snapdragon, no chargers, S Pen support

Coming early in January!

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Is it too early for a Samsung Galaxy S21 rumor roundup? Normally, Samsung’s next flagship gets its time under the spotlight starting sometime in January. However, according to some recent eager-beaver news, Samsung isn’t wasting precious time next year, potentially launching the Galaxy S21 earlier than usual. Now, besides the earlier debut, we have a charitable bag of Galaxy S21 rumors and leaks.

Here are the juiciest Galaxy S21 details you absolutely have to know:

What’s in a name?

Revealed in August, one of the earliest details about next year’s flagship revolved around the Galaxy S21’s name. For the second time in a row, Samsung is ditching the contiguous naming scheme of the previous year.

Last year, the Galaxy S20 series skipped ten numbers from the Galaxy S10 from two years ago. Before that, Samsung had always used a plus-one naming scheme for the flagship series. Now, the company is returning to the plus-one scheme, ditching a Galaxy S30 (for now).

Though the name doesn’t reveal anything about the phone’s insides, it sets a nice precedent and sets the stage for any forthcoming reports.

Exynos versus Snapdragon

Separated by months, the Galaxy S21’s processor didn’t pop up immediately after the new naming scheme’s reveal. However, because of the long-standing feud between the Exynos and Snapdragon camps, it’s important to mention the processor early.

Without the actual processors in our hands, no one knows how the two chipsets will perform in real life yet. However, early reports are presenting conflicting results. The earliest of which, coming from constant Samsung leaker Ice Universe, foretells the next Exynos falling to Snapdragon once again. As it is, it looks like business as usual for Samsung.

Strangely, the same leaker backtracked soon afterward. Now, Ice Universe claims that the Exynos 2100 will tower over the Snapdragon 875 next year. To their credit, the most recent report explicitly names the two chipsets. The previous, contrary report only mentions “next year’s Exynos 1000.”

Funny enough, the strange conundrum resolves itself. Recently, Samsung launched the Exynos 1080 chipset, a processor positioned for the midrange segment. The midrange Exynos 1080 will almost certainly fall to the Snapdragon 875’s performance. Meanwhile, the (still-unconfirmed) Exynos 2100 can still outperform Qualcomm’s chipset.

To the left, to the left

Despite its size, the Galaxy S20’s camera island is inoffensive. It’s big, but it’s fine. However, as teased by a few renders and case leaks, the Galaxy S21 is taking a completely different route. Instead of a slightly offset camera island, the upcoming flagship’s camera will flow almost seamlessly from the top-left corner.

To say the least, the new design looks… different. Current reception is mixed. While some are more welcoming toward the new design, a sizable number are decrying the size and the case’s glaring top-left vulnerability.

Charger-gate redux

One of the most controversial decisions this year, Apple recently decided to ditch the free charging adapters starting with the iPhone 12. As expected, the decision met with a lot of derision from both iPhone and Android fans. However, Apple isn’t alone in the decision.

According to some expert analysts, Samsung is following Apple’s lead this time around. Despite mocking Apple for eliminating free chargers, the company is reportedly removing their own chargers from the Galaxy S21 series.

As of the latest report, Samsung is mulling over critical decisions over its free chargers and wired earphones. The Galaxy S21 can potentially lose one or both.

The irony is strong. Further, it’s unknown how Samsung intends to defend a potential removal. For its part, Apple included its decision in its carbon-neutral plan, adding a tinge of environmental ethics to the cost-cutting measure. Samsung can always declare the same. However, the company will likely run into a lot of difficulties defending the removal if it does the same.

Goodbye, Note

Another fairly reliable rumor involves the Galaxy Note’s S Pen. Supposedly, the Galaxy S21 series will feature one variant with an included S Pen. For the first time ever, the flagship series will steal a feature usually exclusive for the premium Galaxy Note series. Out of the project four Galaxy S21 variants, the Galaxy S21 Ultra will offer the stylus (or support for it, at least).

Though relatively harmless on its own, the rumor coexists with another blockbuster rumor going into 2021: the supposed exit of the Galaxy Note series.

As early as September last year, Samsung had already hinted at a potential merging between the Galaxy S and the Galaxy Note lineups. At the time, the fusion made only little sense. The Galaxy Z series, which was poised to take over as the second main series, was only starting to grow.

Now, Samsung’s foldable segment has already grown into its own niche. Samsung can realistically merge its flat slab phones into one segment and establish a dedicated foldable lineup. Although, doing so will naturally eliminate the long-standing Galaxy Note series. But that’s another story for another time.

Early bird gets the Galaxy S21

As the roundup first starts with, the Galaxy S21 series will reportedly launch earlier than usual. For years, the Galaxy S series debuted between late February and early April. Last year’s Galaxy S20 was the earliest launch date in a while: early February.

According to substantial rumors, next year’s flagship will launch even earlier. The most reliable report pegs a January announcement for the series. However, some reports have even claimed a December date. Regardless of when exactly, it’s almost certain that the series will launch much earlier than historical expectations.

GadgetMatch-served Unpacked Invite

At the moment, no one knows exactly why it’s coming out early. Some pundits, especially Samsung fans, think that introducing the Galaxy S21 will space out the year for more launch events spread throughout. Others, including a notable source, think that it aims to capitalize on market share lost by Huawei.

Regardless, we still have a little less than two months for more information to inevitably leak out. Tune in for more information ahead of the launch early next year!

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