When premium phones are out of financial reach and entry-level handsets just don’t make your cut, something in between is the next best thing. This is our updated list of the best midrange smartphones retailing from $300 to $600.
Formulating this category was tricky, since you can’t set an exact price and some of these devices are, in fact, the flagship phones of their respective brands. To simplify things, we chose a price range that simply sits between our two other lists for best budget and premium smartphones.
Here they are in no particular order:
ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom ($490)
The ZenFone 3 Zoom is best known for its dual-camera setup that lets you zoom in without quality loss, but less advertised is the massive battery and efficient processor it comes with. Combine both, and you get an ASUS gadget perfect for this selection.
OnePlus 3T ($439)
We previously had the OnePlus 3T in our premium smartphone category, but with its nearly year-old design and the ever-increasing prices of high-end phones, there’s no better fit than right here. Speedy performance, great build quality, and a seamless Android interface are still its primary highlights.
Huawei P10 ($580)
While it may seem odd placing Huawei’s latest and greatest smartphone in a midrange list, the P10’s price is surprisingly competitive, especially when compared to other flagships launched alongside it at Mobile World Congress 2017 (MWC). If you’re after something a little more beefed up, there’s always the more expensive P10 Plus.
OPPO F3 Plus ($480)
No other phone on this list does selfies better than OPPO’s F3 Plus. It continues the “selfie expert” hook with a dual-camera setup in front — one handles high-resolution shots while the other does super-wide-angle selfies. Its great for media consumption as well, with a 6-inch Full HD display, 4000mAh battery, and fast charging.
Samsung Galaxy A5 2017 ($400)
Samsung hit all the right notes with its newest Galaxy A5 variant, owning a design reminiscent of older Galaxy flagships, as well as specs fit for its price point. Best of all, it has both water and dust resistance, which no other phone on this list can boast.
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Realme X2 Pro Master Edition hands-on: Tough looks, solid performance
It’s made of a soft-frosted glass but feels like cement
The Realme X2 Pro has gotten fans really excited. Touted as the new flagship killer, it has quad cameras, Snapdragon 855+, and other flagship-level features at an affordable price tag.
While the regular Realme X2 Pro is already pretty awesome, what we got here is even more intense. We have the Reame X2 Pro Master Edition to check out, the Concrete edition to be exact.
The Master Edition of the Realme X2 Pro also comes in a Red Brick design. I’m not too big a fan of that look, so I got the Concrete version instead.
The Realme X2 Pro Master Edition is designed by famous Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa. It comes with a signature of the designer on the back panel.
The texture is pretty similar to the Sandstone feel of the older OnePlus devices — just less rough and more matte.
Realme says this is a soft-frosted glass although it’s hard to tell to be honest. The finish looks and feels like concrete cement even if it’s soft-to-touch.
Apart from the differences in design, it’s pretty much the same exact Realme X2 Pro inside. It packs 12GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage.
The Realme X2 Pro has a 6.5-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display with a waterdrop notch, and a high 90Hz refresh rate. It boasts a 91.7 percent screen-to-body ratio and an in-display fingerprint scanner that works really fast.
Making it an even better media device is a pair of stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
There’s also a vapor chamber liquid cooling, a superconducting carbon fiber multi-layer scheme, multi-layer graphite sheet and other heat-dissipating materials so the phone can definitely game without heating issues.
This is all backed up by a massive 4000 mAh battery with 50W SuperVOOC Flash Charging technology. It can fully charge the phone from zero, in just about 35 minutes.
This super fast charging is definitely something anyone would appreciate. Imagine waking up in the morning and charging your phone while you’re in the shower. It’ll be ready and full just before you head out.
The Realme X2 Pro has a quad-camera setup, with the Samsung GW1 64-MP sensor with a fast f/1.8 aperture as the main camera. There’s also a 13MP telephoto lens with support for up to 20x hybrid zoom, an 8MP ultra-wide with a 115-degree field-of-view, as well as a 2-megapixel depth sensor to help with portrait shots. Up front is a 16MP selfie camera.
In China the Realme X2 Pro is priced at CNY 3299 (US$ 469). In India, it will be going on sale around Christmas time for INR 34,999 (US$ 490).
What do you think about this version? Should phone companies make more special edition phones in a similar design? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
The Ford Ranger XLS and XLT are perfect for business owners
Capable, reliable, and tough
When you’re on the market looking to buy a new vehicle, going for the top-of-the-line variant benefits you with the latest features, a more powerful engine, and probably added accessories on its body.
The thing is, one doesn’t always need the best model. Sometimes, you just need something that’s capable, reliable, and tough. This is where Ford’s more affordable Ranger models come into play. The Ranger XLS and XLT variants are characterized by a utility-inspired design with features and capabilities reflecting its hard-working personality.
We took them on a road trip outside the metro to experience how they would fare when used as a utilitarian vehicle for a business owner’s needs.
Here’s a glance on what it offers:
- Powertrain – The Ranger XLS and XLT variants are powered by Ford’s 2.2-liter TDCI engine. Coupled with a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, it delivers 160PS and 385Nm of torque to suit performance demands.
- Water-wading – Since it targets customers with workhorse and utility needs, the Ranger XLT and XLS variants boast an 800mm water-wading capabilities.
- Towing and payload – The Ranger XLS 4×2 variant has a towing capacity of 2,500 kilograms, while the XLS 4×4 manual variant ups the ante to 3,500 kilograms. All variants of the Ranger XLT 4×2 have a towing capacity of 2,500 kilograms. Meanwhile, all Ranger XLS and XLT variants have a 1,200-kilogram payload capacity.
- Features – Both models are equipped with Ford’s Driver Assist Technologies that ensure a safe and comfortable drive whether on- and off-road. These include an adjustable speed limiter, ABS with EBD, childproof door locks, cruise control, front driver and passenger airbags, and front seatbelt pre-tensioners.
Putting the Ranger XLS and XLT to the test
Our first stop was at a hardware store for construction materials. We loaded one Ranger with almost one ton of dry cement and delivered it to a nearby site. The Ranger performed the task easily and without any hiccups, as expected.
Additionally, while at the site, an architect shared a short testimonial of how her very own Ford Ranger not only helped her transport materials in and out of the city, but it was also able to reliably haul her workers around when needed.
After a short break, we hopped back in the Ranger and drove off to our next destination. This time it was in a milling plant and we loaded the truck with a combination of rice and corn totaling to 800kgs.
I personally drove the loaded Ranger and was surprised at how well it handled the task. I knew it could take on all that load but I was expecting its engine to struggle a bit. But in reality, it was like I wasn’t lugging around almost 1,000kg of payload.
We brought the sacks of corn and rice to a nearby farm and its owner gave another short talk enumerating how the Ford Ranger contributed to the success of his family business. From all its features, what stands out to the successful business owner is the 800mm water-wading capabilities of the truck. Because of it, he’s never afraid of taking on floods which is common in some areas that he’s in.
While we were here, Ford wanted to show off more of what the Ranger can do. Next thing we know, the XLS variant was towing a tractor which was quite impressive to see in person.
Built Ford Tough
This activity further established the company’s promise that its vehicles are built tough. Though these were not the top of the line models, they proved to be as capable as their more expensive siblings and a reliable daily workhorse. Plus, with the base model priced below PhP 1 million, it’s a perfect choice for business owners who want to try out the advantages of owning a pickup truck.
Pricing for the Ranger 2.2L XLS 4×2 MT is at PhP943,000, while the Ranger 2.2L XLT 4×2 AT and MT variants now come with a cash discount of PhP 125,000.
Ford is currently offering this exclusive deal until December 31, 2019. For more information on the promo, you may visit Ford’s website.
5 biggest tech controversies of 2019
Spying, banning, bending, and more
Though short, 2019 felt like an action-packed year. Between the Brexit brouhaha in London, Duterte’s tirades in the Philippines, and Trump’s shenanigans in the US, newspapers had a very busy year. However, despite the focus on politics, 2019’s journalism marathon also affected the technology industry.
Here at GadgetMatch, we constantly had our hands full with new developments and juicy rumors. As the year finally winds down, let’s run down 2019’s greatest tech controversies that made our eyes pop:
5. Where is Apple’s 5G iPhone?
A leftover from last year’s news cycle, Apple’s 5G problem starts this year’s countdown. As 5G finally starts up all over the world, most smartphone companies — like Samsung and Huawei — have made 5G compatibility a prerequisite for all their future phones. Surprisingly, Apple has not unveiled a 5G-compatible iPhone yet.
Of course, Apple has always notoriously lagged far behind its competitor’s development cycle. However, Apple’s delay has been going on for quite a spell. 5G technology is already here. As the questions pile up, Apple has constantly searched for the perfect partner for 5G compatibility.
Apple started the year with their long-standing rivalry with Qualcomm, a persistent thorn on the former’s side. Besides continued harassing, Qualcomm’s fights might ultimately delay Apple’s 5G-compatible iPhone. Since then, both parties have buried the hatchet. However, we still don’t have any word on the much-awaited smartphone (much less a Qualcomm-sponsored one).
Also, complementing the Apple-Qualcomm dialogue, several other parties have joined the conversation. Earlier this year, Samsung and Huawei have expressed interest in becoming Apple’s supplier for 5G technology. Unfortunately, the rumors turned into nothing other than sweet words.
Eventually, Apple’s 5G problem capped off with a monumental purchase of Intel’s 5G modem business. Even then, Apple’s 5G iPhone is still nowhere to be found. Our earliest reported launch date is still in 2020.
4. Is Alexa listening to my moans?
Since the invention of smart technology, AI-assisted spying has always been a constant source of paranoia. Are our smart speakers listening in on us?
Unfortunately, 2019 is a disastrous year for conspiracy theorists. Throughout the year, the tech world’s biggest names have found themselves on the wrong end of privacy issues. In June, Apple’s Siri reportedly recorded unauthorized recordings of its users.
However, the initial controversy stems from technical issues, like a pants zipper mistakenly triggering Siri’s voice recognition. The real crux of the problem begins where the recording ends. To maintain quality control, Apple hires a separate team to evaluate Siri’s performance, listening to recordings for successful service. Potentially, these recordings include accidental triggers and sexual trysts.
The controversy doesn’t end there. Weeks later, Google was found guilty of the same crime. However, instead of just accidentally recording offhand conversations, Google’s quality team purposely leaked sensitive audio data from their Dutch offices, prompting a new conversation regarding human interference in AI systems.
If that wasn’t enough, Facebook also hired a similar team, as reported a few weeks later. In the social media giant’s case, Messenger chats are apparently getting transcribed by outsiders for Facebook’s servers.
The privacy issue brings up another pressing concern today: who owns our data? Unfortunately, Siri storing an audio version of your sex tape is only the tip of the iceberg. Digital privacy is a controversy that will surely carry on to the next few years.
3. Is China controlling the world?
For most of the world, China is in a potentially threatening position. The Asian powerhouse is currently on the rise, calling a lot of things into question. Are our everyday products completely reliant on Chinese suppliers? Are our favorite companies ingratiated to Chinese bosses?
Sadly, 2019’s headlines have some bad news for those suffering from Sinophobia. In the midst of heated Hong Kong protests, Western companies face a tough choice: to shut up or speak out against injustice. Of course, companies consist of humans, too. Human beings can have opinions contrary to their affiliated companies. That’s the story of late 2019.
Blizzard, one of the world’s biggest gaming developers, recently banned a respected professional gamer for voicing out his pro-HK opinions on a tournament victory speech. Despite causing outrage in the gaming community, the developer kept quiet, sticking by its controversial decision. They eventually lightened the sentence, but not without damaging their integrity.
Since then, other Western companies have made surprising decisions regarding the HK-China debate including the NBA and Apple. With the Hong Kong protests still raging, the China problem will still haunt us in 2020. We have to ask ourselves: which side are our favorite companies on?
2. The short rise and fall of foldable phones
In November, the world finally saw its first foldable smartphones, thanks to Samsung and Huawei. It’s been a storied wait. The revolutionary form factor first debuted at the start of the year. It almost took a year to get the devices out into the market. What happened?
Unfortunately, the foldable smartphone’s journey was rougher than what either Samsung or Huawei expected. After the initial announcement, the Galaxy Fold and the Mate X touted the next revolution of the smartphone world. As we know now, neither of the two foldable devices has changed the world yet.
Before its official launch, the Galaxy Fold carried a concerning flaw. The foldable hinge broke down too easily. It wasn’t foolproof. Fortunately, reviewers found the flaw before a wider global release. Regardless, a global recall was inevitable. Only a hair’s breadth away from the official release, Samsung pulled the plug on the world’s most anticipated smartphones of recent history. Naturally, Huawei followed suit, pulling the Mate X to avoid a similar mistake.
Months later, both smartphones practically disappeared, leaving the question of “when” unanswered. Around half a year later, the Galaxy Fold resurfaced with a final release date; the Mate X trailing nearby. Sadly, the resurrection didn’t go as planned either.
For one, the new Galaxy Fold has already failed both bend tests and real-world expectations. Samsung even agreed on the new device’s vulnerabilities. At the very least, the Mate X is doing well in China, its home territory.
Regardless, the form factor is on a decline right now. For one of the most anticipated devices in 2019, the foldable smartphone ended the year with a whimper. No one knows where the market will go from here. Only time will tell whether 2020’s foldable smartphones will end up in a similar state.
1. Huawei’s battles with the US
Was there ever any doubt? This year’s biggest controversy is, undoubtedly, the continued war between the American government and the Chinese smartphone maker, Huawei. Since last year, the company has found itself on the receiving end of America’s strong Sinophobia. For years, the American government has persistently pondered on an all-out ban against any Huawei and ZTE products. However, the rumored ban didn’t really go anywhere.
The battlefield soon changed when the US arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on accusations of fraud. Besides tarnishing Huawei’s global reputation, the government now had a de facto hostage in negotiations with Huawei and China.
The earlier part of the year consisted mainly of struggling with Meng’s arrest. However, the pressure finally exploded when the US finally banned the company back in May. Trump wanted more. Instead of settling with Meng’s capture, the American President needed another chip for his trade war with China.
The new ban affected both Huawei’s operations in the States and its business partners. In the months after the ban’s announcement, several American companies have started pulling out of business relations with the Chinese company. Key suppliers, like Google and Qualcomm, have put huge dents on Huawei’s plans for the year. For example, the newly launched Mate 30 series debuted without any of Google’s software out of the box.
On Huawei’s side, the company is currently subsisting on a series of temporary extensions to its operating license. Unless the US government settles the dispute once and for all (or gets fed up and doesn’t renew the license anymore), Huawei is in a state of limbo, unable to act on a more permanent game plan.
Fortunately, Huawei is working on a few tricks of their own. Rather than relying on a fickly foreign government, the company has successfully developed its own operating system called Harmony. They have also worked on improving the Kirin chipset to match international standards. Further, they are hunting for alternative suppliers. With a Google deal up in the air, Huawei is looking for more willing suppliers in other countries.
Unfortunately, Huawei’s troubles will continue well into next year. The current extension is until around February 2020. Chances are, we won’t get a definitive conclusion to the saga until then.
Spilling over to 2020
Without a doubt, 2019 was a busy year for us. However, with how inconclusive these five have “resolved,” it looks like an even busier 2020 for the headlines. Will we see a 5G iPhone? Will tech companies commit to better privacy? Will we finally get a conclusion to the long-standing Huawei saga? 2020, be good to us.
Illustrations by MJ Jucutan/GadgetMatch.
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