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First look: ASUS ZenFone 3 Laser, ZenFone 3 Max

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While the world awaits the arrival of the ZenFone 3, in Vietnam, two new ASUS budget phones were made official as the company continues its 2016 makeover of popular smartphone spin-offs.

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Laser and ZenFone 3 Max join the ZenFone 3, ZenFone 3 Ultra, and ZenFone 3 Deluxe announced in its native Taiwan last May 2016.

And just like their higher-end cousins, the 2016 Laser and Max feature polished metal unibody designs that look identical and feel better in the hand—not to mention they’re thinner and lighter than their predecessors’. It’s obvious they share the same DNA, but there are different selling points for each phone: a more capable camera for the Laser; a long-lasting battery for the Max.

The designs don’t match the premium aesthetic of the other ZenFone 3 models—we’re not entirely convinced the cases are entirely made of metal—but that can be forgiven.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow is the platform of choice for these latest ZenFones, and this time around, the software nuances that layer the interface are prettier and less intrusive and don’t seem to impact responsiveness too much. Of course, they come with (mostly) upgraded internals as well, which is expected of smartphone successors.

The one thing you won’t find on most budget phones, however, is a fingerprint scanner present on the back of both devices. It’s fast and reliable, though it bears noting the Laser unlocks faster. Neither is as good as the one on the ZenFone 3 or ZenFone 3 Deluxe. For what it’s worth, the scanner on the Laser is oblong in shape; the Max’s has a squarish design with rounded edges.

zenfone-3-laser-camera

Of the two, the ZenFone 3 Laser takes photography more seriously, with a camera bump to show for it. The device sports a 13-megpixel rear camera that takes better photos than the 13-megapixel shooter on the Max, and works well enough to allow for some background blur. There’s also an improved laser autofocus system around the back (which the Max doesn’t have) for quick, crisp shooting.

A 5.5-inch, full-resolution display with curved corners dominates the front of the device, while an octa-core Qualcomm 430 chip backed by 4GB of RAM powers the entire assembly.

The ZenFone 3 Max, meanwhile, is better equipped to handle the rigors of daily use, with its moderately sized 5.2-inch display and 4,100mAh battery and ability to charge other phones or devices.

Zenfones old and new. From left to right Zenfone 3 Max, Zenfone Max, Zenfone 3 Laser, Zenfone 2 Laser

ASUS ZenFones old and new. From left to right: ZenFone 3 Max, ZenFone Max, ZenFone 3 Laser, ZenFone 2 Laser

But although the high-capacity cell is something all road warriors will appreciate, we can’t help but question ASUS’ choice to include a smaller battery than that of the original Max. We suppose a compromise had to be made to come up with a sleeker phone, but time will tell if consumers embrace the decision. Nevertheless, the 3GB of RAM inside the new Max should be plenty for multitasking.

Anyway, you get the idea. Different phones for different types of users—ASUS followed the same formula last year to great success. The company shipped 20.5 million ZenFones in 2015; this year, it has set a grander goal: 25 million units sold globally.

The ZenFone 3 Laser and ZenFone 3 Max are priced at 5,990,000 (around $270) and 4,490,000 ($200) Vietnamese dong, respectively. They’ll soon be available in Vietnam, and a wider rollout is expected in the future. The Philippines might see them hit stores in August at the earliest; India and the rest of the world might have to wait until the third quarter of 2016.

[irp posts=”7939″ name=”ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5-inch review”]

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Google asks smartphone makers to pay for Play Store

In response to EU’s ruling

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Google Play

Months ago, Google landed in a scalding pool of Europe’s hot water. The European Competition Commission accused the company of anti-competition practices. Among other things, Google forced smartphone makers to bundle Chrome and Google Search as a requirement. According to the commission, the stipulation gives the company an unfair advantage over its rivals.

Eventually, the Commission hammered down a guilty verdict. From this, Google paid a record-breaking fine to the European Union. Besides this, the company had to stop the indicted practice.

Now, Google is finally implementing a resolution for the guilty verdict. Starting this month, the company will change its offered bundles for smartphone makers in the EU.

As opposed to enforcing the bundle, Google will offer Android’s apps for a price. Instead of a strong-arm strategy, Google’s new strategy aims for the best of both worlds. Smartphone companies can opt out of the program. Historically, some companies have already opted out of Android’s app ecosystem. For example, Chinese smartphones often implement their own variants because of China’s prohibitions.

Additionally, Google will loosen its regulations against forked versions of its Android operating system. Some smartphone makers alter Android’s inner workings for their own uses. Most notoriously, Xiaomi uses its own MIUI software. Previously, the bundling scheme swayed the deal towards Google’s favor, despite any proprietary changes. With looser regulations, companies can fork all they want.

Now, companies can sell smartphones running forked Androids. That is, if they also sell a separate smartphone with Google’s untouched software.

Amid all these changes, Android remains as free software for smartphones. Android can maintain its status as the world’s most ubiquitous operating system. However, if this issue elicits any questions, it’s this: How will Google’s new schema affect the casual consumer? Right now, we’ll have to wait and see.

SEE ALSO: You might need to pay Google for Android soon

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Nokia X7 goes official in China with PureDisplay and Zeiss cameras

It could be the Nokia 7.1 Plus for the international market

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Image credit: HMD Global

HMD Global has announced a new smartphone for the Chinese market. It’s called the Nokia X7, which sounds similar to the old Symbian-powered Nokia phone from 2011, and has near-flagship specs with competitive pricing.

The phone has a 6.18-inch Full HD+ display with a notch. The face of the phone has a bit of a chin with the Nokia logo, but HMD Global claims the phone has an 85.6 percent screen-to-body ratio.

Image credit: HMD Global

The display is one of the strengths of the Nokia X7. It’s called the PureDisplay, a marketing term of Nokia for their HDR-enabled screens. The panel also has 500 nits of brightness, 1500:1 contrast, 96 percent NTSC coverage, and DCI-P3 support. Basically, it’s a high-end display similar to flagship phones’.

Another main feature of the Nokia X7 is its cameras. It’s got dual rear shooters: a main 12-megapixel Sony IMX363 sensor with f/1.8 aperture plus optical image stabilization and a secondary 13-megapixel sensor for depth sensing. The rear cameras feature AI recognition, Dual Pixel AF, and Zeiss-branded lenses.

For selfies, there’s a 20-megapixel front-facing camera hiding in the notch that can do pixel binning for better low-light selfies.

Image credit: HMD Global

Inside the phone is the new Snapdragon 710 processor that’s paired with up to 6GB of memory and up to 128GB of expandable storage. It runs Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, but the update to Android Pie is coming soon.

Sealed inside the Series 6000 aluminum and glass body of the phone is a respectable 3500mAh battery. The phone even comes with an 18W USB-C fast charger that’s claimed to fill half of the battery in just 30 minutes.

Other specs of the phone include a 3.5mm audio port, dual-SIM capabilities, microSD card support, and VoLTE.

The Nokia X7 is now available for pre-order in China. It comes in blue, red, silver, and black color options. Starting price is at CNY 1,700 (US$ 245) for the 4GB+64GB model, CNY 2,000 (US$ 290) for the mid-tier 6GB+64GB, while the most expensive version with a 6GB+128GB combo is priced at CNY 2,500 (US$ 360).

The phone is expected to be the upcoming Nokia 7.1 Plus for the international market.

SEE ALSO: Nokia touts an ‘asset-light’ approach to smartphone success

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Huawei Mate 20 X is company’s ultimate gaming smartphone

It’s absolutely huge!

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Out of nowhere, Huawei introduced yet another member to the Mate 20 family: the Mate 20 X.

It joins the regular Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, and Porsche Design Mate 20 Pro. While each of those have their own specialties, the Mate 20 X is simply Huawei’s ultimate gaming smartphone.

If you recall, this was the gaming phone Huawei teased earlier this year, alongside the foldable smartphone that everyone is so excited to see.

Even though it has the same Kirin 980 chipset and camera setup as its siblings, the Mate 20 X sets itself apart with a much larger 7.2-inch OLED display and massive 5000mAh battery.

And since this is a gamer-centric device, an optimized cooling system is in place to prevent overheating while pushing pixels at fast frame rates. However, what’s more interesting is the compatibility with Huawei’s new M-Pen, which is a direct answer to Samsung’s Galaxy Note series.

The Mate 20 X will retail for EUR 899 for the 6GB+128GB variant beginning on October 26. Midnight Blue and Phantom Silver are the two available colors.

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