In order to sell smartphones every six months or so, our favorite smartphone brands resort to tricks — innovative or sometimes gimmicky features, meant to make phones fresh and exciting.
Over the last two years, these features have ranged from water resistance and near-borderless displays to dual cameras, hot-swappable modules, and perhaps not killing off the headphone jack. Okay, maybe not that last one.
But what if brands adopted a new approach to making phones, one that involves stripping away gimmicks and excess, and focusing instead on features essential to the average user?
That’s what Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, set out to achieve with his new US$ 700 Essential Phone (yep, that’s what it’s called) launching in the US and Canada on September 1.
What’s in a name?
But before we dive in, some definitions are necessary in order to set the pace of the rest of the review: What is essential?
The New Oxford Dictionary defines it as something that’s “absolutely necessary.” Similar to what the folks at Essential Products believe, that phones “should have only what we want and need.”
But aren’t wants and needs relative? Who is to say what I consider absolutely necessary on a smartphone? And are my preferences the same as everyone else’s?
Is its US$ 700 price tag, while fair for a phone of its caliber, not one a vast majority of smartphone users will be able to afford? Shouldn’t a phone built on these principles be more accessible to all?
Lastly, some will argue that Essential’s choice of features are misguided. Dual cameras may be the way forward in smartphone imaging, but are they necessary? And on the flip side, aren’t missing features like water resistance or a headphone jack must-haves on a phone?
I ask these questions because it’s hard not to overlook the promises the Essential Phone makes based on the name it’s chosen. But if you can see past the marketing spin, you’ll find a solid contender in the flagship space, with a top-of-the-line specs sheet, superior build quality, and a promise of being future-proof.
Look and feel
When I first picked up the Essential Phone PH-1 (its full name), I immediately knew it would be one that I would enjoy using, and I did. The phone is gorgeous from every angle and built well.
The phone is made of more premium yet unconventional materials; titanium which is more durable than aluminum, and ceramic which is more scratch-resistant than glass.
It’s also just the right size — not too small, not too big — and while it’s a bit heavy for its size, it’s one that exudes confidence the moment you pick it up.
The Essential design aesthetic is classy and subtle, with no logos on either side.
On its back, the dual cameras do not protrude, and its circular fingerprint sensor is easily reachable by the average index finger. The only seemingly out of place elements are two golden dots that allow for snap-on accessories.
Up front is where the phone is truly a standout. Its 5.7-inch front panel is more display than I’ve ever seen on a smartphone today. Unique to the Essential Phone is a cutout for the selfie camera that makes it seem like the screen wraps around it.
If I were to nitpick, I’d complain that the IPS-LCD screen doesn’t have the deep blacks or rich colors of a phone with an AMOLED panel, but only the most discerning of users will mind.
The software experience is equally good, as close to the original flavor of Android imaginable. Not that you should expect anything less from the creator of Android. All throughout my review process, I silently giggled at the thought that I was finally using Android the way it was intended to be experienced.
Because its display has a cutout for the selfie camera, you get an unconventional bit of space that won’t reach its full potential until developers quite literally design around it. Google apps know it’s there; apps like Maps, for example, take up the entire space, while others like YouTube fill up the space with color. If an app doesn’t support it, the space where you’d find signal bars and battery stats stays black like you’d find on any other Android device.
Because the phone is powerful and the user interface is light, navigating through the software feels snappy. Graphics-intensive games also load quickly, and run without stutters or hiccups.
The phone comes with 128GB as the only storage option; that’s double the default amount on most flagship phones in 2017. But it doesn’t have a microSD card slot, not that the average user will ever need more.
Its 3040mAh battery is a bit lower than the industry standard, but in our tests, we still got a good day’s use out of the phone, with about five hours of screen-on time. The phone supports quick charging, as well. I don’t know if it was just the warm New York summer, but we often found our phone getting warm while we were out taking photos.
Overall, camera performance is one area that needs improvement. The Essential phone’s dual-camera setup consists of a pair of color and black-and-white sensors. There’s no zoom or wide-angle lens. Like similar technology on the Huawei P10 and Nokia 8, the idea is to fuse the color and detail information from both cameras into a technically superior image.
Unfortunately, the results aren’t so great especially in low light. Our sample photos lacked the dynamic range you’d get on an iPhone, Galaxy S8, or Pixel, and photos shot in dimly lit places were very grainy and not the kind you’d want to share on social media.
Its camera app too (one of the few customizations Essential’s made to stock Android) feels like it needs a lot of work. Focusing is slow, and so is switching between color and black-and-white modes.
While there have been at least two software updates since review units were seeded earlier this month, and more expected to come, experience tells us that software updates can’t make a good camera great.
While I have yet to test its only available module, a snap-on 4K 360-degree video camera, I think the Essential Phone’s modular dreams are an important story to tell. The company believes that modules are what keep the phone future-proof.
Two magnetic connectors on the back of the phone will allow users to snap on accessories that expand the phone’s functionality.
While there is only one currently available — and another one, a wireless charging dock, promised — what makes me more confident in Essential’s implementation versus that of Motorola (the only other modular smartphone maker), is the tiny footprint the Essential’s magnetic connectors take up. Just two circular dots spaced about 1cm apart.
Theoretically, the company could completely overhaul the phone’s design and today’s mods would still fit. Here’s to hoping it can get third-party companies to design modules for their platform, something Motorola is still struggling to do.
Is the Essential Phone your GadgetMatch?
If you see the Essential Phone as a top-of-the-line flagship instead of one that delivers just the essentials, it makes sense.
Its pursuit of simplicity, non-compromising performance, and forward thinking, make it a solid step in the direction that manufacturers must take. But as a first-generation product, it’s not one without a few flaws. Had its camera been stellar, the Essential Phone would have made an easy sell, and a particularly strong contender against Google’s upcoming Pixel 2. But unfortunately, it isn’t.
If you’re looking for a phone that’s not going to be used by the average joe walking down the street, you’ll love the exclusivity the Essential brings. If you’re a sucker for simplicity in design, believer in the stock Android experience, and don’t mind a sub-par camera, the Essential is a great choice.
Otherwise, we say wait another year. Perhaps with more experience and more time to develop its product and build its mod ecosystem, Essential can inch closer to its dream of building a phone that all of us will want and need.
[irp posts=”18991″ name=”Essential Phone Hands-On Review”]
Xiaomi 12T Pro review: Potential flagship killer
With the variety of banger smartphones being released, it’s been somewhat difficult for brands to make a statement with just pure specs.
But when Xiaomi unveiled their prices during their 12T Series launch, the cheer and applause from the crowd just brought me back in time. The time when Xiaomi ruled the scene of bang-for-the-buck devices as they offered top class specs at very affordable prices.
Yes my friends, the Xiaomi 12T Pro could just be among those devices.
Let me explain why I think that might be the case.
Specs and performance
Let’s not beat around the bush — the specs of the Xiaomi 12T Pro is confidently top notch. This runs on the latest Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of internal Storage. Which means, there’s not much more you could ask for when it comes to its hardware specifications.
This is already packing one of the fastest chipsets that’s currently available in the market. And with our experience, it truly does bring about just as what we expect from it.
I’ve made a ton of video reels on this doing heavy video editing for social media. Not once did I feel that the phone slowed me down. It simply breezed through most of what I did like it was nothing.
And with specs like these, I’m sure there are already a lot of people who have their eyes set on this for gaming.
For that, I’d say this also doesn’t disappoint. Maxed graphics and FPS settings on Call of Duty: Mobile wasn’t a problem for the 12T Pro. In fact you can probably max most games on this and still get decently fast frame rates.
This did feel a bit warmer on the hands than I expected but nothing that I think would cause an issue unless you’re really pushing the phone to the limit.
200MP Main Camera
We’re still pretty new to seeing phones with over a hundred megapixels in camera resolution and here’s Xiaomi giving us double that number. 200MP for its main camera, 8MP for its ultrawide and a 2MP macro on its rear plus a 20MP camera on its front.
That’s looking really impressive if you are judging it on paper. But how does it actually hold up in real world use?
With the main camera, it’s easily recognizable that this is a decent performer. The new ISOCELL MP1 sensor on this was actually able to capture a night event where I was struggling to get decent lighting.
It’s able to get awesome results under challenging scenarios and even better in well lit environments.
But if you were to ask me if the huge amount of megapixels actually make a difference, my answer to that is yes but it’s not as significant as I hoped it would be.
This would probably win over others in terms of resolution but overall, if I were pixel peeping, I would still slightly prefer the quality of images coming from something like the Sony IMX sensor.
However, the margin does get bigger if we compare the zooming capabilities from a phone that has a dedicated telephoto camera. The digital zoom from the 12T Pro, despite looking respectable, still would not match images coming from a true telephoto camera.
Ultrawide shots from the 8MP sensor also do get decent photos but obviously, there is a sizable difference between this and the main camera.
The 20MP selfie camera does also perform okay but nothing really outstanding. Just like most phones, in poor lighting, shots also look grainy and won’t look very good.
Design and build quality
Interestingly, as most recent smartphone releases have been looking similar, Xiaomi still goes on in pursuing their own design.
The Xiaomi 12T Pro has a very smooth and curved back panel with a square cut out for the main camera and two round ones for the ultrawide and the macro. Some might think this looks kind of bland but I prefer calling it looking professional.
If you’re used to holding high-end phones, having this on your hands, you’ll right away notice that this doesn’t quite have the same feel. You’ll feel a mixture of glass and some parts of the frame that feels plastic. As a whole I think most people won’t really notice this as it still feels substantially solid.
I did immediately notice that it feels a bit thicker compared to the Xiaomi 12 Pro measuring 8.2mm thick while the 12T Pro being 8.6mm.
But this does have an IP53 dust and water resistance this time so that’s a big plus for added peace of mind.
Display and Speakers
Xiaomi went with a flat display panel on the 12T Pro which, to be honest, is something that I prefer more when it comes to usability.
It may not look as sophisticated as curved displays but at least it feels easier to navigate with less chances of input error.
Measuring 6.67 inches, it doesn’t require much effort to reach each side. Given that I don’t have very large hands, I think most people would find this screen size to be ideal.
This is an AMOLED panel with Dolby Vision and HDR10+ certifications plus a 120Hz refresh rate so this display also looks vibrant and feels really fluid to use.
Combine the display with its stereo speaker setup and we have ourselves a well rounded media consumption device.
This pair of speakers are tuned by Harman Kardon and they sound pretty great as well. They have enough thickness to make the dialogue from the movie you’re watching cut through the mixture of sound effects.
Battery and Charging Performance
Flagship phones often run on smaller batteries with fast charging capabilities. This is a bit different on the 12T Pro which ships out with a large 5000mAh battery and a fast 120W charger.
In my charging test, I was able to get the 12T Pro from 10 percent to full in about 42 minutes. This may not be the fastest charging speed around right now, but it’s still incredibly fast. We’re still able to get fully juiced up even if we’ve just plugged it in before heading out for the day.
And for a phone of this calibre, battery performance is observably good. The 12T Pro averaged me a day and a half on normal use on mostly cellular data connection. Quite different from the usual single day battery life of most flagships.
Is the Xiaomi 12T Pro your GadgetMatch?
With so many phones to choose from, the Xiaomi 12T Pro might not be the best in the market.
But for the relatively impressive set of hardware this packs combined with its price, this easily climbs to the top of the list when choosing a smartphone that truly resonates ‘bang for the buck’.
Offered at PhP 37,999, you’re already getting serious performance, an excellent display, highly capable cameras and hyperfast charging.
In my opinion, these are qualities it requires for people to consider this as another flagship killer.
You can get the Xiaomi 12T Pro in Silver, Blue and Black from Lazada, Shopee, official Xiaomi stories and authorized resellers.
Why you should upgrade to the Dyson V15
Smart and powerful
Are you someone who gets excited over vacuum cleaners? Why hello there and welcome to adulthood. Vacuuming is definitely one of the most satisfying chores at home. The results are instant and seeing all the gunk you were able to remove from your floors and furniture is always so rewarding. This is why I can be quite particular about my vacuums. I need one that makes the task easier and a lot more interesting — like the new Dyson V15 Detect Absolute.
Dyson’s latest release in the floor care department is arguably the most intelligent and powerful cordless vacuum in the market today. The suction has improved and is now at 240 Air Watts. Thanks to a Piezo Sensor, the V15’s screen will also tell you the kind of particles it’s picking up in your home grouped by size. This is something that people will allergies will definitely be thankful for. However, the numbers aren’t just there as a party trick or merely for information. There’s a practical use for it. As the V15 detects – pun intended – the particles, it also adjusts the suction accordingly. Detection is done up to 15,000 times per second. This allows for the adjustment of the suction power on Auto Mode to be quick and intuitive. Now that’s nifty.
The right accessories and attachments for your Dyson V15
The V15 Detect also comes with a whole slew of attachments and accessories. Admittedly, seeing the range of tools and thinking of all the things you can do with them are two of the things that really get me excited when getting a new vacuum. I love how you get multi-use pieces as well as task-specific ones.
The Digital Motorbar or the V15’s main cleaning head now comes with an anti-tangle comb that clears hair from the brush bar. This is something I longed for vacuums to have as detangling hair from brushes and rollers isn’t something to look forward to. It’s no gimmick either. My hair’s been getting longer and I shed almost as much as our corgi. We tested it here at home and it actually works.
The V15 — both models — come with the Laser Slim Fluffy Cleaner Head which is perfect for seeing microdust and things you may just miss on hard floors. The Hair Screw Tool is the upgrade of the Mini Motorized Tool. It has the power of its predecessor and the anti-tangle technology of the Digital Motorbar. It’s perfect for cleaning upholstery, mattresses, and even in your car.
You also get attachments that were available in previous models like the Crevice Tool for those narrow, hard to reach places, Combination Tool, Mini Soft Dusting Brush, and the Stubborn Dirt Brush. The vacuum still comes with a wall mount where your charger can go through, ensuring tidier storage.
The HEPA model comes with a built-in dusting and crevice tool that hides inside the wand when not in use. It seems like a minor addition but makes it much easier to switch from full vacuum to handheld. Extra attachments like the Low-Reach Adaptor makes cleaning under beds and sofas a breeze and the Fabric and Mattress tool for your in-home cleaning. This frees up your Hair Screw Tool for your car.
But what I’m really looking forward to is the launch of the Dyson Pet Groom tool here in the Philippines. Set to arrive in early 2023, this piece is a game changer for pet owners. Living with a corgi means having to deal with shedding all year round. We also have to hoover every single day or else we’ll be dealing with fur tumbleweeds throughout our flat which gather more dust and allergens. The new Pet Groom Tool is a brush that you can attach to the main body of your V15. With 364 bristles angled at 35°, you’re able to remove loose fur and dander from your pet. Without hurting them, of course.
Filtering microdust with the Dyson V15
Dyson vacuums have always been pretty idiot-proof. It’s a piece of technology that marries form and substance — looking great while packing a lot of power for a cordless vacuum. I’ve always loved how Dyson vacuums don’t use bags. Clearing the bin is easy — hold it over the bin and pull the side handle down. Less waste makes it kinder to the environment.
The V15 also comes with 5-stages of advanced filtration, capturing 99.99% of particles as small as 0.3 microns. You’re not only cleaning your home but the air around you as well. There’s no need to keep buying filters and produce more waste because all you have to do is regularly take off the filter, place it under running water to clean, let it dry overnight and put it back. This works for both the regular and HEPA filters.
Sure, the V15 is a tad heavier if you compare it to the Omniglide and the V12 slim. However, it’s is a more powerful machine and runs longer. At 60 minutes, I’m able to deep clean most of our two-bedroom home. I’ve owned the V11 Absolute Extra Pro (a bigger V11 released in Germany) since 2019 and I’d say there’s not much difference in weight. I’ve enjoyed the power I got from V11 and always regarded it as my favorite vacuum, thinking that it’s hard to top its suction power as far as cordless vacuums go without making it too heavy. I was actually surprised that the V15 was able to achieve just that.
What’s left to improve?
While I’m absolutely smitten by the V15, here’s what I would love to see in the next upgrades. A laser on the Digital Motorbar would be great so that we can also see microdust and hair that tends to blend with the color of our carpets.
Some people online have complained about the lack of a trigger lock. This means you have to keep your finger on the trigger to keep the vacuum running. I think this is more of a question of preference. I don’t mind having a trigger lock as an option but I rarely used it in my older vacuums. For those who really think it can be an issue for them, the V12 does come with a start and stop button instead of a trigger.
The V15 Detect Absolute comes in two variants — V15 Detect Absolute and V15 Detect Absolute HEPA. The main difference is the filter and the colors. The former is in sprayed yellow and nickel and the latter is in a combination of sprayed gold and iron with the HEPA filter coming in a lovely shade of aqua.
The V15 Detect Absolute HEPA variant retails for PhP54,900 and comes with two extra tools (Fabric and Mattress tool and Low-Reach Adaptor) as well as its hidden dusting and crevice tool inside the wand.
The V15 Detect Absolute, meanwhile, is slightly cheaper at PhP50,900. Both models are now available at Dyson stores in the Philippines as well as their official online stores on Lazada and Shopee.
realme 10 review: It’s a 10!
For what it’s aiming to be
The realme number series has been a fantastic sales performer for good reason. The company has remained consistent in offering an entry-to-mid level smartphone that meets the needs of most people. The realme 10 is no different.
Let’s get a few things out of the way.
Here are the specs:
|Display||Screen Type: Super AMOLED
Screen-to-Body Ratio: 90.80%
Refresh Rate: 90Hz
Touch Sampling Rate: 180Hz
Brightness: 600 nits
Glass Protection: Corning Gorilla Glass 5
Audio Ports: 3.5mm Headset Jack
Audio Certification: N/A
|System||Operating System: realme UI 3.0, Android 12
Voice Assistant: Google AssistantProcessor: MediaTek Helio G99 Processor
|Cameras||Rear: 50MP Color AI + 2MP Black & White Lens
|Connectivity||WiFi: 2.4GHz, 5GHz
Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5.3
Frequency Bands: 2G / 3G / 4G
|Dimensions||Dimensions (LxWxH): 159.9 mm x 73.3 mm x 7.95 mm
|Power Supply||Charging Wattage: 33W SUPERVOOC Charge|
|RAM Memory GB||8GB+128GB / 8GB+256GB|
And here’s everything inside the box:
That’ll be the realme 10, a 33W SUPERVOOC Adapter, Type A to Type C USB Cable, Warranty Card, Quick Guide. SIM Ejector Pin, and a Jelly Case.
We understand the urge to use the Jelly Case to protect your precious purchase. But we mostly rocked the realme 10 bare and never felt like it was in any form of danger. Plus it just looks better. The accompanying case completely ruins the effect of the Clash White back panel that we have right here. The phone, by the way, is also available in Rush Black.
Design, ports, buttons, and feel on the hand
Perhaps the most striking thing about the realme 10 is its back panel. Especially the Clash White version, hence our insistence on not using a case with it. If you’re the flashy type, you’ll have a ball taking mirror selfies with this one.
It sparkles and reflects in quite a gorgeous manner. It almost makes you think that it has a different coat of paint depending on which angle you’re looking at it from. The realme 10 is pretty to look at and that’s a “feature” that smartphones in this price segment are starting to really understand.
On the left, you’ll find the SIM tray which houses three slots: two nano SIM cards and one microSD card slot up to 1TB to really expand your storage.
Going down to the bottom, you’ll see a 3.5mm headphone jack, the USB-C port, and the single downward firing speaker. The company’s marketing materials amusingly calls the latter “200% UltraBoom Speaker” which isn’t doing it any favors. It’s not bad. In fact, it’s pretty good for a single down firing speaker, but the marketing was really pushing it here.
Now that we’re on the subject, might as well talk about taking in entertainment on this phone.
Display and media consumption
You can take a quick glance at the specs above for the numbers, but know that in practice, the display is pretty much as advertised. Nothing too crazy here. The colors look good and watching videos are pretty satisfactory.
Curiously, when watching fancams by LE SSERAFIM Kazuha on YouTube, we could only get a maximum of 720p for the resolution. This wasn’t the case when viewing the same fancam on a much more premium phone. It looks fine, especially for a display of this size, but it’s something worth mentioning.
Also, don’t mind the accompanying photo. We had crappy internet while taking it.
Video viewing is enjoyable to the eyes as the colors still pop when you expect them too. The speakers, while serviceable, aren’t the most ideal way of watching. If you have headphones you can use, suggest you do that versus relying on the single speaker.
Performance and gaming
The realme 10 performs just about as expected especially when accessing the usual social and work apps. Jumping from TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, and what-have-you was seamless with no hiccups whatsoever. And sure, you can pretty much say that with most phones these days but to have a really smooth performance at an entry-to-mid level price point is still fascinating.
We typically don’t do any heavy work things on our phone. The occasional emails, checking presentations, drafts, and opening a few PDF files here and there all ran smoothly.
Gaming is boosted by both the extended RAM capability as well as the realme’s Game Mode that lets you throttle performance to push all resources to gaming. It also filters out notifications so you can focus on winning.
Overall, it works as expected. Which is a great thing.
There’s also been plenty of smartphones in this price segment equipped with a 50MP main shooter. And we can say performance is consistent all throughout.
We took these samples during a gloomy, cloudy day. What your eyes see is literally what you get when taking landscape shots.
It also does a good job even when there are things in motion.
On the default camera app, you can easily get to 2X zoom which is a good way to “get closer” to your subject.
The 50MP shines the brightest when taking up close photos in well-lit spaces. Spot the coffee cup photo above. This was just the default camera and not portrait mode. But there’s a significant separation between the subject and background. The lights on the trees in the background also made for some really nice bokeh.
The same is true for shots taken at a similar distance. You can create a nice separation by putting more attention to your subject.
We took a photo of the bread at a different angle and you can see that it also is able to capture it in good detail.
But like most phones, when the light setting is poor, food shots aren’t as appetizing.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
The realme 10 is solid. It’s certainly a 10 given the price to performance ratio. Oh, right. The price. The phone comes in two variants with the following pricing:
- 8GB+128GB – PhP 12,999
- 8GB+256GB – PhP 14,999
So, given all of that, you’re getting a package that may not be stacked, but is undeniably solid. The realme 10 is a head turner, a good performer, and a decent moment capturer. It’ll take care of your needs with no problems whatsoever.
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