Smartphones

ASUS is working on a ZenFone Mini

Small is the way to go

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For years, smartphones have grown larger and larger. Our pants pockets can’t even keep up. Perhaps fed up with the unbridled growth, some smartphone makers are deciding to turn it down a notch, releasing or planning smaller smartphones for the future. For example, Apple has recently launched two phones of a smaller form factor: the iPhone SE (2020) and the iPhone 12 mini. Also as a way to refurbish its smartphone business, ASUS is working on a ZenFone Mini, following the small smartphone trend.

According to DigiTimes, the company is working on the smaller form factor for a release this year, potentially going after the iPhone 12 mini’s market share. Last year, ASUS reportedly shipped less smartphone shipments than expected. Naturally, it’s figuring out a way to bounce back from the dip.

Unfortunately, the report did not spoil or hint at any of the potential phone’s specs. Regardless, creating a smaller ZenFone Mini is a good way to expand the company’s lineup. Currently, ASUS still has a flourishing flagship lineup. Most recently, the company passed an upcoming ROG Phone 5 through China’s certification agencies.

Speaking of the ROG Phone 5, the same report hints that the gaming phone will come between March and April. It will come with a bigger price tag compared to the previous ROG Phone 3.

SEE ALSO: ROG Phone 3, ROG Phone 3 Strix Edition price in the Philippines

Hands-On

OPPO A74 Hands-On: The 7 things I love about you

A budget smartphone that doesn’t feel like one

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The OPPO A74 was announced not too long ago. While the OPPO A94 is just around the corner, the A74 comes with a lesser price tag — but that doesn’t mean they scrapped a lot of features.

Frankly speaking, I’ve enjoyed using it for about a week now. For the record, this is actually my first time trying an OPPO phone. I’d say, it’s not a total slouch because (in Miley Cyrus’ voice), “there are 7 things I love about you”.

1. Premium-like design and feel

First thing’s first, the phone’s back is made entirely out of polycarbonate plastic. While it’s not prone to cracks and shatters, the phone simply scratches too easily — regardless if you safely put it on tables. Fortunate for clumsy users, there’s an included clear case inside the box.

That said, I still like its premium-like look. As I always say, I’m not the biggest fan of flashy, gradient smartphones but this Midnight Blue colorway looks elegant on its own. I’d pick it over the blander-looking Prism Black option (even if black is one of my favorite shades).

On hand, it feels slim and lightweight. I barely felt the heft when holding the phone with my one hand despite that large display. The curves flow well with your hands, too. Most smartphones these days have a slightly uncomfortable feeling due to sharper phone corners.

2. Crisp and vibrant display

As we’re already on the topic, the A74 packs a 6.43-inch AMOLED display — the same display found on the A94.

The display is vibrant enough even under the harsh sunlight. While it only has a Full HD+ resolution, it still looks crisp. The only downside of this one is the lack of faster refresh rate. I know what you’re thinking. Some affordable smartphones offer faster 90 to 144Hz displays. In return, you get a less bright and vibrant IPS-LCD display.

I’m not complaining with the A74’s conventional 60Hz refresh rate. For one, it saves battery power, and two is because I value a more color accurate display than the latter. But hey, take my opinion with a grain of salt as it’s just my preference in smartphone displays.

Another thing that makes it look “premium” is the inclusion of its punch-hole camera. That simply looks better versus a dewdrop notch.

There’s always an in-display fingerprint scanner which might not be the fastest, but it still gets the job done and is more reliable than a Face Unlock especially in this particular time.

3. Great for multimedia consumption

“Love resembles misty dream” – IU (2021)

This is already a given since it has an AMOLED display. But other than that, despite having just mono speakers, it’s surprisingly loud with a full sound that doesn’t sound tinny and distorted.

Watch Law School on Netflix if you want your mind to F(ail or function)

While it doesn’t feature any HDR10 capabilities, it’s still a viewing pleasure when watching YouTube videos (especially K-Pop music videos) and Netflix series and films.

OPPO was also able to put a 3.5mm audio jack in such a slim  form factor. There’s a set of earphones inside the box. This is great for users who already have an existing pair and also don’t want to spend fortune for another wireless earbuds.

4. Less-confusing Android User Interface

Out of the box, it already runs Android 11 with the ColorOS 11.1 skin. Over the years, I got used to Xiaomi’s MIUI and Samsung’s One UI but as I get to use their interface for long, the more it gets confusing.

To my surprise, the ColorOS looks clean and tidy. It’s not bombarded with unwanted UI elements and at the same time, I love the overall look and feel of the icons and the interface. I also commend how organized the settings are that aren’t as cluttered as other Android skins.

5. Optimum performance

On paper, the A74 is packed with a Snapdragon 662 chipset, 6GB of memory, and 128GB of onboard storage with an option to expand with a microSD slot through its Hybrid SIM tray. Opening basic apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more are quick. Even switching between apps is snappy fast as long as you don’t get too hard on it.

While it may not sound like a lot, it still is a smartphone capable of running popular titles such as PUBG, Mobile Legends, Genshin Impact, and Asphalt 9.

It also has this handy Game Focus Mode which basically is a game sidebar tool when playing games that turns off unwanted notifications and boosts performance so you can enjoy the game you’re playing.

When I played Call of Duty: Mobile, I was able to play with no stutters or lags. While the graphics setting isn’t maxed out to high, medium seems fine already especially that you can see game artifacts and farther enemies in this setting anyway.

6. Large battery capacity and fast charging support

To makes this a lot better, it packs a bountiful 5,000mAh battery — which is very surprising for me considering it has a slim and lightweight form factor.

If your phone already ran out of juice, there’s a bundled 33W fast charger out of the box. OPPO is true to its words as it’s capable of filling it up for around 54 minutes — same as advertised. And for everyone’s convenience, it’s equipped with a USB-C port.

7. Decent main camera

The OPPO A74 packs a trio set of cameras: a 48-megapixel f/1.7 wide (main) camera, and two 2-megapixel f/2.4 depth and macro sensors. I would’ve wished for an ultra-wide camera instead but they decided to put one on the A94.

While video recording is limited to just 1080p Full HD, its HDR and AI work wonders when shooting photos indoors.

Samples look better when they’re shot outside in broad daylight. If you’re always into posting your photos in social media, the A74 won’t disappoint.

Zooming in on the subject with 2x zoom is still doable but sometimes, it has a hard time focusing. This is already given because it doesn’t have a dedicated telephoto lens. Nevertheless, images still look great even if it’s an accidental bokeh shot.

Just don’t use the 5x digital zoom as it’s not helpful at all. It’s either grainy or blurred with a too healthy helping of HDR processing.

Wide | 5x zoom

Wide | 5x zoom

For night mode, don’t get your hopes up as it’s barely usable in low-light conditions. At first, I thought it was just the blurry camera lens, but after taking two more night shots at around three seconds in wide (1x) mode, nothing has changed.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re a long-time OPPO user and you just want to upgrade your OPPO experience without sacrificing too much on money, the A74 is simply a great smartphone to get. With a price tag of PhP 11,990, it’s simply isn’t the cheapest budget smartphone you can buy right now.

Get the OPPO A94 if you can shell out an additional PhP 2,000 — only if you want a Mediatek chipset, an additional 2GB of memory, and the inclusion of an ultra-wide camera. But if we’re talking about better features, you can’t go wrong with the A74 simply because it has a competitive Snapdragon chipset, bigger battery with faster charging, and most of all, a cheaper price tag.

If you’re keen on trying another smartphone brand, there’s the Redmi Note 10 that has a cheaper retail price of just PhP 9,990 (6GB/128GB variant) with an upgraded Snapdragon 76 minus the ColorOS experience.

If you don’t care about design and just want a smartphone of the same kind, there’s the POCO M3 with identical hardware, but with an IPS-LCD display, a slightly larger battery capacity minus the fast charging — all for a pocket-friendly price of PhP 7,990.

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Philippines

Unboxing Xiaomi’s Mi Fan Fest Mi-stery box

What’s in the box?!

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Happy Mi Fan Festival!

Celebrating the annual event, Xiaomi Philippines sent over a special Mystery Box. What could be inside it?

Let’s unbox it!

The package I received came in a whimsical box.

Wearing my loose chángpáo (長袍) for the Mi Fan Festival

Pattern is the same: Lots of numbers. Is Xiaomi hinting at something?

Pulling out the box so we can take a look inside…

… And voila! We’ve got a foam covering the insides. (And it’s Mi-branded!)

Remove the protective foam, and you’ll find three silver foil-like packages.

Here’s the first one up!

And it’s a pouch!

Although, it isn’t your regular pouch. The creases clearly show the material isn’t made of the usual fabric. It’s quite reminiscent of Freitag’s recycled laptop bags.

Next one up, it’s a larger package folded in half.

Voila! It’s a black shirt!

The shirt is merchandise for the 2021 Mi Fan Festival. To be very honest, I’m liking the space theme for this year’s celebration.

Next one up, it’s a silver, reflective box. Frankly, this took a while for me to figure out what’s inside; Xiaomi used srong adhesives to seal it.

After struggling to remove the seal, I was greeted by this kawaii astronaut figurine. It seems like a toy collectible, but could very well work as a phone holder in case you’re feeling bold and daring.

Last but not the least, there was a Redmi Note 10 Pro hiding underneath.

It came in its usual retail box.

The phone is majestic, as usual.

Taking it out, you can see the usual accessories inside: a charging cable, adapter, instruction manuals, a SIM ejector tool, and a clear phone case.

The Redmi Note 10 Pro is quite hefty, just like its predecessor.

If you want to know more about this phone, read our review.

The 2021 Mi Fan Festival

Xiaomi is giving a discount to a few of its smartphones, as part of the annual Mi Fan Festival running from April 6 to May 9.

  • Redmi Note 9 Pro (4GB/64GB) — PhP 10,990 (SRP: PhP 11,990)
    Redmi Note 9S (4GB/64GB) — PhP 9,490 (SRP: PhP 11,990)
    Redmi Note 9 Pro (6GB/128GB) — PhP 9,990 (SRP: PhP 10,990)
    Redmi Note 9S (6GB/128GB) — PhP 10,490 (SRP: PhP 12,990)

The purchase of the aforementioned devices will also score buyers two tickets to the Melody with Mi digital concert. The digital concert premieres on May 23, 8 pm.

For more tickets, buyers may avail of any variant of the Redmi Note 10 Pro and get three tickets for the concert. Meanwhile, purchases above PhP 25,000 will not only include tickets but also access to the exclusive Meet & Greet and After Party.

Non-discounted devices with included two tickets are also available on every purchase of the following: Redmi Note 10 (4GB/64GB), Redmi Note 10 (6GB/128GB), Redmi 9T (4GB/64GB), Redmi 9T (6GB/128GB), and Redmi 9A (2GB/32GB).
More discounts on Xiaomi’s Lazada and Shopee stores.

Redmi Note 10 Pro Mi Fan Festival Special Edition

Xiaomi will also be selling a special version of the Redmi Note 10 Pro. The Mi Fan Festival Special Edition will come in a package with a cosmic-inspired design, containing postcards and stickers as a special treat for Mi fans out there. Meanwhile, the device comes in a Gradient Bronze variant which has a natural metallic luster.

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Deals

Samsung offers 14-day trial program for the Galaxy S21 5G series

Full refund if you don’t like the phone

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Galaxy S21

Samsung is feeling mighty confident about their latest flagship smartphones as they are offering a 14-day trial program for all members of the Galaxy S21 5G series.

How does it work? You’re gonna have to pony up and pay for the device in full. Pricing are as follows:

Galaxy S21 5G

  • 128GB — PhP 44,990
  • 256GB — PhP 47,990

Galaxy S21+ 5G

  • 128GB — PhP 54,990
  • 256GB — PhP 57,990

Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G

  • 128GB — PhP 66,990
  • 256GB — PhP 69,990

If after the 14 days you find yourself attached to the whatever Galaxy you come in contact with, then hurray, it’s yours to enjoy. However, if you come away unimpressed, you’re free to return the device given that it’s still in very good condition. You break it, it’s considered sold.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G series

The Galaxy S21 series features a slightly altered look, improved cameras from a software standpoint, and a host of new features for video-taking. Something entirely new to the S series is the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s S Pen support — a feature previously reserved only for the Galaxy Note series.

The series will also remove charging bricks from the box — a move that Apple did and Samsung previously mocked.

The entire Galaxy S21 series also has UWB or Ultra Wide Band. It lets users point their phone at another Galaxy phone to send files. The feature set has been expanded to include unlocking your car with your phone.

Samsung is also launching an accessory called Smart Tags. These are trackers you can attach to your keys or your backpack. You can then use these to locate your items using the SmartThings Find App.


Read our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review

Watch our Samsung Galaxy S21 Review

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