Features

Of disruptors, flagships, and price points

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What makes a smartphone a flagship phone?

Just the other day, during a weekly chat over drinks, the GadgetMatch team found ourselves in a conundrum.

While a few years back the answer was simple, these days, the imaginary lines that separate phone classes are getting murkier. That’s especially true in 2016, a year where up-and-coming brands are disrupting price points by introducing the same kinds of phones for less.

Companies like ASUS and OnePlus both offer smartphones that can compete with the best of 2016 at almost half the price. No buts, no ifs, no compromises.

The only thing separating the cream of the crop are features that are great to have but otherwise completely unnecessary: a 4K display, like most high-end televisions; water resistance; and modularity. But when it comes to high-end essentials, the disruptors have it all.

Next week, I’ll be off to New York to cover the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, the latest in a trio of high-end phones by the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer. If its little brother, the Galaxy S7, is any indicator, expect the Galaxy Note 7 to be one of the best smartphones 2016 will see.

The Note 7 has everything that makes the S7 great: a gorgeous design, weatherproofing, expandable storage, a top notch camera, a built-in stylus, and, possibly, an iris scanner for security.

I haven’t settled on my favorite phone this year yet, one that’ll I’ll keep and use everyday for a year. But in my quest for the best smartphone technology has to offer, the Galaxy Note 7 is sounding like the perfect candidate.

My current daily driver, for all of two weeks, is the OnePlus 3. One of those disruptors I’ve been talking about. The OnePlus 3 is a gorgeous $400 smartphone: all metal, with rounded edges and an ultra-slim frame.

It’s just the right size; runs one of the best Android skins I’ve used; and comes with almost all the bells and whistles I look for in a phone: fast charging; fast fingerprint scanning; and a great camera. The only high-end features this phone doesn’t have are water resistance, a 2K display, and a rich ecosystem of compatible apps, accessories, and companion devices.

But I’m okay with that. In fact, the more time I spend with the OnePlus 3, the more I tell myself, this is actually a phone I don’t mind using daily. Scratch that—this is a phone I actually enjoy using. All of a sudden, my world is turned upside down. Maybe I don’t need a $700 phone? My current $400 phone costs significantly less, but it makes me happy.

Late last week, in Vietnam, another disruptor, Taiwanese tech brand ASUS announced two new smartphones, the ZenFone 3 Laser and ZenFone 3 Max. While ASUS has a phone that competes directly with the OnePlus 3, the equally impressive ZenFone 3 Deluxe, the two just-announced phones compete at another, much lower price point. But they too are disruptive.

Also last week, we were given an opportunity to take these yet-to-be released devices for a dry run. Our verdict? Both of them are significantly better than their predecessors. Our only dilemma, how to classify them. Are they midrange phones or budget phones? Between their specs and price tags, it’s hard to tell.

Which brings us back to the question, what makes a smartphone a flagship phone? Or, for that matter, what makes a budget phone? A midrange phone?

When everything was much simpler, the answer had to do with design, choice of materials, and specs. But now, even those at lower price points, some smartphones are designed well, made from premium materials, and come with impressive specs and features. Now that the playing field is somewhat equal, it all boils down to price.

For disruptors OnePlus and ASUS, it’s a question they both currently face, weeks before for their upcoming launches in the Philippines. I expect both their flagship offerings to come in at around P20,000 ($420). With both phones equally matched in terms of specs, whichever is more affordable is likely to win.

But it’s not just about these two phones. What about the flagships whose popularity they intend on disrupting?

At around the same time both the OnePlus 3 and ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe are supposed to go on sale, so should the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 for about P40,000 ($850). The Galaxy S7 is slightly cheaper, about P35,000 ($740).

Bleeding-edge tech comes at a premium, but I wonder, if for the casual consumer, it is worth it. Will there come a time where users, spoiled by the promise of a premium smartphone experience for less, reject the idea of any expensive phone?

Maybe we’ve hit the nail on the head. Maybe a flagship phone is about a premium experience.

I own another phone, a second daily driver, the iPhone 6S—a smartphone so great, that on paper has never competed head-to-head with all the other greats in terms of specs, but nevertheless continues to impress.

Case in point: the budget ASUS ZenFone 3 Laser has 4GB of RAM, twice that of the premium iPhone 6S. What Apple does, however, to justify its higher price points, is that it controls all the moving parts so that the internals can take a step back and users can focus on the usage experience instead.

The challengers to Apple and Samsung seem to have caught on that principle. When you unbox the OnePlus 3, enclosed is a letter from OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei. His message is simple: “Never settle.”

The thinking at ASUS isn’t very different. ASUS CEO Jerry Shen tells me the ZenFone is about “empowering luxury.” It’s about perfecting the smartphone experience and making it possible for everyone to afford this experience.

In a world where the common belief is you get what you pay for, it is intriguing to find that premium doesn’t have to cost so much. And while I appreciate how tech companies innovate with curved displays, super-fast charging, and the like, perhaps the biggest smartphone innovation of 2016 is something less tangible.

Perhaps it’s about premium experiences we can all afford.

[irp posts=”8433″ name=”Best smartphones of 2016″]

Explainers

The secrets behind iPhone 13’s Cinematic Mode

Together with Apple’s VP for iPhone Product Marketing as well as their Human Interface Designer

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For the first time ever, we had a three-way interview with Apple’s VP for iPhone Product Marketing, Kaiann Drance as well as one of their leading Human Interface Designers, Johnnie Manzari. If you’re not starstruck enough, both of them appeared in Apple’s September 2021 Keynote event!

Other than new camera sensors, newer camera features are also found on the new iPhone 13 Series. One of those is the new Cinematic Mode.

If you’ve watched some of our latest iPhone videos including the Sierra Blue iPhone 12 Pro Max unboxing, we’ve let you take a sneak peek on that new video mode.

We’re not gonna lie, it’s one amazing camera feature Apple has managed to deliver.

But what are the secrets behind it? And are you curious how technicalities work?

Watch our 16-minute interview with the Apple executives explaining why Cinematic Mode is the next big thing in mobile videography.

 

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Hands-On

Apple iPhone 13 and 13 mini Unboxing and Hands-on

Which iPhone 13 is your GadgetMatch?

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After we unboxed the Sierra Blue iPhone 13 Pro Max and gold iPhone 13 Pro, it’s time to do the same to these iPhone 13 babies.

Changes with the new iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini aren’t just about the “odd” camera placement. Other than the new wide camera sensor, there’s a more powerful A15 Bionic Chip, smaller notch, and more.

Watch our iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini Unboxing and Hands-on video now to find out more!

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Hands-On

Huawei nova 8i: Huawei’s awesome SUPER midranger

An awesome midrange comeback

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Midrange smartphones have been the middle ground for people who want the premium of a higher end smartphone but don’t want to burn their pockets. Huawei gives in to this demand and claims the title of midrange king as they dethrone all other midrangers with their new nova 8 series — the nova 8 and nova 8i.

Here, we’ll put the spotlight on the Huawei nova 8i.

Build and design

Inheriting the Huawei P Series’ signature stylish aesthetic, the Huawei nova 8i has a fancy and premium design. It is slim, sleek, and has exquisite curved edges, which makes it really easy to grip.

Checking out its back, you’ll definitely notice the quad camera setup that’s surprisingly not bulky at all. It also has a noticeable resemblance with the Huawei Mate 30. But we’ll talk more about the cameras later on.

What also caught our attention is the gradient finish of this Moonlight Silver variant that we have which is absolutely stunning.

Fantastic display

The Huawei nova 8i has an edgeless 6.67-inch display with ultra-narrow bezels around it. This results in an immersive viewing experience for browsing your social media pages or watching your favorite music videos.

The Huawei nova 8i also sports full HD+ resolution and DCI-P3 color gamut, giving us that rich and vibrant color reproduction. Once again, Huawei taps on Tuv Rheinland for certification on low blue light emittance to ensure eye comfort for long hours of work and play. It also has a natural tone feature which automatically adjusts the colors on the display depending on your surroundings.

Gaming

Just as you would expect from a midrange phone, gaming is also something you can do with the nova 8i. With its 180Hz touch sampling rate, your favorite mobile games feel very responsive, making the gaming experience really enjoyable.

When you’re deep into gaming, the last thing you want is to be interrupted by a call or message. Well, you don’t have to worry about that since the Huawei nova 8i has a gaming assistant. You can enable settings so you won’t be disrupted and you can indulge yourself fully to the game.

But the experience is not the only thing that’s fast with the nova 8i. The 66W Huawei SuperCharge can juice up this phone up to 68 percent in just 20 minutes and can fully charge it in just 38 minutes. You can literally stare at your phone as your battery indicator rises.

Cameras

Here’s where the fun part starts. Cameras: 64MP f/1.9 main, 8MP f/2.4 ultra-wide, 2MP f/2.4 macro, 2MP f/2.4 depth, 16MP f/2.0 selfie.

The nova 8i has a quad camera setup with a 64MP main camera which uses a big 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor. It means its camera sensor has the ability to let in more light. This results to a cleaner image and better low light performance.

And we’re telling you, this sensor is not messing around.

It lets you capture the highest resolution images you could probably ever need. Different from the usual software upscaled images typically seen on an ordinary smartphone. This gives you the capability to zoom in and crop your captured image yet still maintain a tremendous amount of details.

With the powerful cameras that the nova 8i has, you can definitely maximize its features to create your content whether just for leisure, a passion project, or social media content for your business.

EMUI and multitasking

As for its software, the Huawei nova 8i runs on EMUI 11 bringing in a bunch of convenient features that boosts your efficiency. For one, if you’re someone who loves multitasking, the multi-window feature is perfect as it lets you operate multiple apps on your screen.

Speaking of apps, Huawei’s app gallery is loaded with great ones from top shopping apps like Shopee and Lazada, to the most trending ones like TikTok.

And if in case you’re having trouble finding the app for you, Petal Search has got you covered. Just type in the app or whatever it is you’re looking for and Petal Search looks it up for you on different sources making sure you get the absolute best results.

Taking screenshots has never been this easy. You can do so by just swiping down using three fingers.

And for security, a new safe sharing feature has been included on the nova 8i. We now get the option to delete information of your phone and other details before sharing your photos or screenshots.

nova 8i — easy to recommend

Jam packed with features, the nova 8i just enables you to do so much. From capturing great photos and videos to having a seamless gaming and online experience, the nova 8i is an easy phone to recommend. At its price point, it is truly worthy of its crown.

The Huawei nova 8i retails for PhP 13,999. It’s available via online Huawei Store, Lazada, Shopee and Huawei experience stores.


This feature is a collaboration between GadgetMatch and Huawei Philippines.

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