Features

Best smartphones of 2016

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OnePlus 3

This is it: our selection of this year’s best smartphones!

After dozens of reviews on our website and YouTube channel, coming up with this list was by no means easy.

We debated for hours on what we believe are the absolute best handsets released in 2016. Each of us have our GadgetMatch just like you, so all nominations were valid.

Let’s get down to it.

OnePlus 3

Must we say more? With a price that undercuts every other flagship out there and specs that continue to shine, we can affirm that this is truly OnePlus’ flagship killer.

And it’s not just the price and features that we fell in love with. The way it was designed — from the sleek metal build to the squeaky clean Android interface — instantly won us over.

Sure, the updated OnePlus 3T already came out, but we’ll stay loyal to the one that kept us company since last June.

Apple iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

We’re sort of cheating by giving two slots to the same brand, but Apple’s simultaneously launched flagships once again deserve a pair of spotlights.

Although the upgrades are incremental and all the talk is about next year’s super-duper tenth-anniversary iPhone, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are so powerful and so refined that they continue to make most Androids look like rocks in a sea of pearls.

And even if next year’s iPhones turn out to be drastic revolutions, there’s no shame in having what are currently the best Apple smartphones ever.

Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge

We feel bad adding these two to the list, because this spot should have belonged to the Galaxy Note 7. Had it not been discontinued, it would have been our unanimous best.

Still, Samsung hit two homeruns at once with the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. Released way back in February, these phones continue to overshadow most handsets launched since then.

Powerful processors built by Samsung, gorgeous AMOLED displays with equally beautiful glass and metal frames, plus the best cameras in the business — we love using our Galaxy S7 pair to this day.

Honorable mentions

There you have it; those were our top choices for smartphones of 2016. But with so many incredible gadgets this year, we just had to include a few honorable mentions. Let’s break them down into their respective awards.

Best software in a smartphone: Google Pixel

Google Pixel

Even though it didn’t make the cut, Google’s very own Pixel phone shines with its optimized take on stock Android, which effectively replaced the Nexus brand we all had to say good bye to. The software is so good, it makes every shot taken with the Pixel’s camera look that more alluring. And we can’t forget about Assistant; Google’s intelligent AI outperforms the likes of Siri and Cortana with lots of humor behind its mostly accurate answers.

Best premium compact smartphone: Apple iPhone SE

Apple iPhone SE

Now that Sony is no longer investing in premium compacts like the well-received Xperia Z5 Compact, the award for best phone that actually fits in your hand and pocket is the iPhone SE. It’s nearly identical to the iPhone 5s before it, but speedier components and new colors make it a significant upgrade for those wanting a phone well below five inches in screen size.

Best modular smartphone: Moto Z

Moto Z

Not much competition here. With the demise of Google’s Project Ara and the clunkiness of LG’s execution on its G5 flagship, the Moto Z is the clear winner for best phone with modularity. The simple magnetic strip at the back is your gateway to a host of varied Moto Mods that’ll grow in number next year. We’re excited!

Best smartphones below $300

How can we have the best smartphones of 2016 without mentioning some of the more budget-friendly products? Well, we covered five of them in a recent list which we also debated over for hours. The list still holds strong now, no matter how fascinating the phones above are.

[irp posts=”7615″ name=”Best of 2016: Budget phones under $300″]

Do you strongly believe we’re missing out on your favorite phone? Is there anything else we could have added? Please let us know by commenting below.

Features

5 features to look for before buying wireless earbuds for your workouts

The needs are different for your athletic activities

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True Wireless Flash X

Not all wireless earbuds are created equal. While there are plenty of options to choose from, most wireless earbuds serve a particular user.

For instance, there’s the everyday listener that requires the basic (or sometimes the best) wireless earbuds experience. Some are audiophiles who are specific about sound quality.

Also, there are fashionistas who care more about how a device looks and how it will fit their ensemble. Then, there are athletes and fitness enthusiasts, whose needs are a little bit different than the average consumer.

If you’re a casual or serious athlete, a sports and fitness enthusiast, or just someone who’s serious about a fitness journey, here are some of the features to look for before buying a pair of wireless earbuds.

IP Rating

IP rating, or ingress protection rating, determines the level of protection that any electrical device has against elements, like dust and water. It’s often overlooked by most consumers, working out with whatever wireless earbuds they have claiming it can handle their sweat.

I did this before with my Galaxy Buds, with an IPX2 rating, and it can only handle a little sweat. It started to malfunction a few months after use on heavy workouts, and I regret not taking care of it.

As a fitness enthusiast, I’m usually insanely drenched, heavily sweating over the course of an hour’s workout. If you’re in for intense, heavy workouts, look for wireless earbuds that have IPX7 ratings.

Wireless earbuds with this protection aren’t just water-resistant anymore — they’re waterproof. You can submerge them up to a meter for up to 30 minutes, or get drenched in sweat when you’re working out.

Some examples would be the Galaxy Buds Pro, Jabra’s Elite Active 75t, Jaybird Vista, and my trusty companion — the JBL Under Armour True Wireless Flash X, which I’ll be using as a point of comparison for the rest of the list.

Style, size, and fit

Physical activities require a lot of movements, so some of the things to consider are your wireless earbuds’ style, size, and fit. The style and size will depend on your preferences and how you feel about it.

Meanwhile, the fit needs to be secure and comfortable. Finding the right tip can help to ensure the earbuds won’t fall off your ears. That is if you like working out with in-ear earbuds like me.

True Wireless Flash X

My JBL UA True Wireless Flash X is quite bulky for an in-ear, but I enjoy having it plugged in so I don’t have to worry about touching it on some of my workouts. It also has a wingtip to keep it in place! On another note, my friend uses PowerBeats Pro for his workouts, since he feels safe when an earbud is hooked in his ear.

Gesture controls and navigation

What I love about wireless earbuds — whether they’re for everyday use or for my workouts — is the vibe it gives whenever I use its gesture controls. I feel like a secret agent from a sci-fi movie.

Anyhoo, accessibility is important when you’re working out to keep you focused and of course, to make your life easy. It’s an inconvenience if you have to pick up your phone every now and then just for music playback, right?

For every brand, the gesture controls are different. My everyday pair of wireless earbuds, the Galaxy Buds Live, is sensitive enough that even a light tap can pause the music, except I can’t touch it when I’m drenched in sweat.

Meanwhile, my JBL UA True Wireless Flash X requires pressing the button on the right earbud to play and pause my music. On the left earbud, it adjusts the isolation of background noise, which I’ll be talking about later.

Nonetheless, when looking for your pair of wireless earbuds, make sure you check its gesture controls and navigation, and how easy it is for you to adapt. Your lifestyle and behavior will also be a factor here!

Battery life and charging case

Another thing to consider is the wireless earbuds’ battery life and their charging cases. Can it last for a day? How many times can you charge your wireless earbuds in the charging case? And does it charge fast? These are the questions you need to ask when you’re out for a pair of wireless earbuds to accompany you in your workouts.

True Wireless Flash X

The JBL UA True Wireless Flash X lasts for nine hours — enough to last you one day at work if you use it for that purpose. But if you’re using it specifically for workouts. If you work out one hour every day, this can last for a week. Which happened in my case, since I have a different pair of wireless earbuds for my calls and listening sessions.

The case, on the other hand, lets you charge the earbuds up to four times. It doesn’t support fast charging though, so it will take at least two hours to fully charge the aluminum case.

Active noise cancellation

A pair of wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation (ANC), or at least the ability to isolate background noise like the JBL UA True Wireless Flash X, is extremely helpful during workouts.

It helps you keep your focus on what you’re doing. Sometimes, it feels like I’m lost in my own world — lifting weights while listening to Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries” or “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark”.

Some may argue that you don’t really need ANC, but I beg to differ. Some people can easily get distracted and lose their focus, and the amount of mental bandwidth needed to perform a workout requires intense concentration. ANC can help you focus on reaching your fitness goals.

Other things to consider, depending on your needs

Sound quality and connectivity aren’t the top-of-mind features people look for when buying a pair of wireless earbuds for their workouts. After all, most wireless earbuds nowadays focus on that — but don’t have the necessary features I mentioned above that are essential for physical activities.

True Wireless Flash X

If you’re a bit of an audiophile or you’re someone who’s connected 24/7, you might want to check several alternatives like the Jabra Elite 75t, Jaybird Vista, and the Powerbeats Pro.

True Wireless Flash X

The JBL Under Armour True Wireless Flash X retails for PhP 9,999. In the Philippines, it’s available for purchase at Onward PH.


For more great products and accessories like the JBL UA True Wireless Flash X, visit OnWardPH or follow them through their Facebook and Instagram accounts (@OnWardPH) for you to keep posted.

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First Look

ASUS Zenfone 8 Flip Unboxing and First Impressions

It comes with a special case!

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Zenfone 8 Flip

“Oooh what’s in the box?” is what I imagine most of you say whenever a new device comes out. So, for the Zenfone 8 Flip, we’ll show you what you can expect should you decide to cop the latest from ASUS.

This is the box. Pretty standard, with the 8 on top.

Zenfone 8 Flip

The inside follows the same color and brushed-cement looking finish. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

I totally just made-up “brushed-cement” but it’s the only thing I can think of to describe the look.

First thing in the packaging is a packet with the SIM tray ejector tool.

Zenfone 8 Flip

Inside it are the user guide and the special case.

Zenfone 8 Flip

Underneath the packet is the Zenfone 8 Flip itself. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

We’re gonna dive straight into the phone. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

It has quite a glossy glass finish. That means smudges. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

That’s icky

The power button has a bright blue tint that stands out from the rest of the device. 

Zenfone 8 FlipSitting right on top of it are the volume rockers.

The bottom has the usual USB-C port and speaker grille.

Zenfone 8 Flip

While the left side has the SIM tray. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

Here’s a closer look at the Flip camera module. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

And here it is actually flipped. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

What’s cool is you control the angle of flipping.
Zenfone 8 Flip

Here it is with the case on. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

It has a stopper to keep the module from flipping.

Zenfone 8 Flip

And the phone knows when it’s on. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

It’ll give you this prompt if you switch to ‘selfie’ on the camera app with the stopper equipped. 

Zenfone 8 FlipPretty cool, yeah?

This is what the home screen looks like. That wallpaper is actually animated. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

You also have the a USB-C cable

And a power adapter.

That’s everything inside the box!

Zenfone 8 Flip

First Impressions 

The ASUS Zenfone Flip 8 has some heft to it. Perhaps that’s to be expected given the Flip camera module. Speaking of, that camera module has a way of making you want to use it. I’m not one for selfies but I took a few for a quick test run along with some other quick snaps.

Selfies

Main camera, HDR off

Ultra-wide, HDR off 

Ultra-wide, auto HDR

Main camera, auto HDR 

Ultra-wide, auto HDR 

Indoors, Main camera 

Indoors, Portrait 

Bright light indoors

Some observations: The post-processing after you take photos does A LOT of work whether or not you have HDR turned on or off. This results in high contrast and sharpened images. On the contrary, using the same camera but with portrait mode, the resulting image looks softer.

This isn’t a good look for the image processing and I can see people opting to use Google Camera instead of the stock one on the phone.

Performance-wise, we haven’t spent a significant amount of time with the device but the whole thing feels snappy and buttery-smooth. So, it’s par for the course for something flagship. The display does look sharp and pleasing to the eyes. It is, after all, Samsung AMOLED.

That’s all we have on the Zenfone 8 Flip for now. Stay tuned for the review.

Zenfone 8 Flip

Here’s a quick look at the specs of the Zenfone 8 and Zenfone 8 Flip side by side.

Zenfone 8 Zenfone Flip 8
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Display 5.9” Samsung AMOLED, 120Hz 6.67” Samsung AMOLED, 90Hz
OS Android 11, Zen UI 8 Android 11, Zen UI 8
Configuration 6GB + 128GB

8GB +128GB

8GB + 256GB

16GB + 256GB

*No storage expansion

8GB +256GB

*Up to 2TB storage expansion via MicroSD

Battery 4,000mAh 5,000mAh
Cameras 64MP Sony IMX686

12MP Ultra-wide

12MP front-facing

64MP Sony IMX686

12MP Ultra-wide

8MP telephoto

*Flip camera module

Pricing and availability details to follow.


Watch our Zenfone 8 review

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Reviews

ASUS Zenfone 8 Review: Tiny but Mighty

The compact flagship

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Zenfone 8

In a sea full of big smartphones, ASUS made a detour with the Zenfone 8 by making it smaller than its previous Zenfone 7 predecessor.

Packed with flagship specs such as Snapdragon 888, 16GB of RAM and a 120Hz display, it’s simply their best and most compact phone to date.

But how did ASUS managed to fit in all these powerful internals in such a compact body? Watch our full review video of the ASUS Zenfone 8 to know more.

SEE ALSO: Zenfone 8 Flip Unboxing and First Impressions

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