Smartphones

ASUS ZenFone 3 unboxing

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As many of you know, we’re only a few short weeks away from seeing ASUS’ signature smartphone series hit the streets in many parts of the world.

As of this month, it’s reportedly already available in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. Next up are Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines in August. A ZenFone 3 launch event is expected to take place in India sometime in September. Shipments could be headed to Europe, Japan, and the United States later in the year.

The standard ASUS ZenFone 3 comes in two variants: one, a 5.2-inch model with 3GB of RAM and a 2,650mAh battery; the other, a 5.5-incher with 4GB of RAM and a 3,000mAh battery.  Each variant is identifiable by a unique model number. But regardless of specifications, the outward appearance has been completely redesigned from the ground up — in lieu of a removable plastic back, there’s curved-edge glass on the front and back and a metal frame that holds the assembly in place.

The ZenFone 3 is far less cumbersome and prettier now, arguably more attractive than the bigger and higher-specced and more expensive ZenFone 3 Ultra and Deluxe models. Its design is proof that ASUS, like Xiaomi and OnePlus and so many other Chinese startups, is also capable of building a premium-feeling phone for less.

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More importantly, the ZenFone 3 is a more capable phone than before, housing a new octa-core processor from Qualcomm, as opposed to an Intel chip, which has historically been synonymous with poor heat dissipation and inefficient battery use. We quickly noticed the difference and thanked the heavens ASUS went with a different chip maker this year.

Our immediate takeway from the ASUS ZenFone 3 event was that the Taiwanese manufacturer is well aware of the huge expectations from the public that saw a deluge of quality but affordable smartphones over the past year and a half, hence the guns-blazing approach in 2016. After playing around with the ZenFone 3, we’re convinced ASUS has surpassed its previous feats.

But ASUS doesn’t operate in a vacuum; and more so than ever, the market is seeing brands of all sizes making headlines in the affordable phone segment.

The ASUS ZenFone 3 starts at $249. Check out our unboxing video to see a retail unit in action.

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News

LG G7 ThinQ will have a dedicated button for Google Assistant

No ThinQ for you

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Raise your hands if you enjoyed Samsung’s Bixby button. Now, put those non-existent hands back down. However, if you were one of the scant few who did use it, you might enjoy the upcoming LG G7 ThinQ.

As you might have noticed from leaked renders, LG’s new flagship sports an extra button that curiously looks like a dedicated ThinQ button. Now, we have reports that our hunches have a little bit of truth to them.

According to CNET, the G7’s inconspicuous little button links directly to Google Assistant, rather than LG’s ThinQ AI. The button will occupy the phone’s left edge, opposite the power button on the right.

Even without the button, users can pull up the Google Assistant by long-pressing the home button or through voice commands. A dedicated button will eliminate the need for a long press or for shouting “Okay, Google” in public.

Like LG’s other phones, the G7 will have voice commands exclusive to LG. Previously, these mainly include the various functions available to their camera technology. With the G7, we can hope for a more generalized slew of commands tailored for other phone functions.

With the G7 ThinQ, LG will be the first smartphone maker to ship with a dedicated button for Google. Before, dedicated AI buttons linked only to their brand’s exclusive assistant. Most popularly, Samsung’s Bixby button opened the phone’s assistant of the same name.

Sadly, like Bixby, LG won’t allow G7 users to rebind the button for other apps. This exclusivity is the same pain point that the Bixby button suffered from.

Of course, the LG G7 ThinQ will still launch officially on May 2 in New York. Anything can happen before then. If the reports are true, its Google Assistant button will enjoy more staying power if LG allows us to rebind it for other purposes.

SEE ALSO: LG G7 ThinkQ appears in a promo teaser showing a new angle

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India

Vivo launches V9 Youth with FullView display and dual rear cameras

It is a toned-down version of the V9

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Nearly a month after the launch of its V9 smartphone, Vivo has expanded the series with the V9 Youth.

The new Vivo V9 Youth was launched in India for INR 18,990 (US$ 287) and will be available on both online and offline channels. While the offline availability of the device starts today, the online platforms such as Flipkart, Paytm Mall, Amazon, and Vivo E-store will begin selling the phone from April 24.

The smartphone, as Vivo claims, is designed keeping in mind the young and dynamic consumer base and hence is packed with a host of new features like dual cameras on the rear, Android 8.1 Oreo, face unlock, and there’s also something called a Game Mode to deliver an uninterrupted gaming experience.

The V9 Youth focuses on its camera capabilities. The highlight of the smartphone is its dual rear cameras with 16- and 2-megapixel sensors. Selfie lovers get a 16-megapixel camera at the front alongside the AI Face Beauty feature. The device comes with a triple-card slot for adding two nano-SIM cards and one microSD card. On the rear, it also has a fingerprint sensor.

It comes with a metal unibody design and will be available in black and gold color options. On the front, the Vivo V9 Youth sports a 6.3-inch Full HD+ display with a 19:9 aspect ratio. Under the hood is a Snapdragon 450 SoC coupled with 4GB of RAM. It comes with 32GB of internal storage that can be expanded up to 256GB using a microSD card.

It’s backed by a 3260mAh non-removable battery and lacks fast charging support. The device runs Android 8.1 Oreo with the company’s own FunTouch OS 4.0 running on top of it.

“With the launch of ‘Vivo V9 Youth,’ we are bringing the best features of our flagship V9 in a new avatar for our young and modern consumers,” said Kenny Zeng, CMO, Vivo India.

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Smartphones

Sony Xperia XZ2 Unboxing

The new design is here to stay

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In this video, we unbox Sony’s new flagship, the Xperia XZ2!

Launched at Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, Sony’s new flagship features a curvier design and smaller top and bottom bezels to the dismay of die-hard Sony fans.

Sony finally gave up on their signature OmniBalance philosophy which made Xperia smartphones stand out from a sea of similarly designed Android smartphones in recent years.

With the more recent unveiling of the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium, it’s looking like the new Ambient Flow design is here to stay.

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