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Forget about Pixel and Nexus, where’s Android One?

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Broken MyPhone Uno - Android One

Last week saw Google proudly (yet not surprisingly) unleash its flagship, Nexus-killing Pixel phones. It’s so satisfying to see a pair of Androids that finally feel like worthy iPhone rivals, but they only cover the high-end spectrum. Wandering around blindly in Google’s basement is the series once destined to rule the entry-level smartphone market. Let’s take a moment to figure out what’s happening — or what happened — to Android One.

The Nexus effect


Before going any further, we have to define Android One’s intended purpose. Originally released in 2014 throughout Asia, the program’s smartphones were designed to be a gateway to Google’s mobile operating system. By delivering the latest software updates to bloatware-free phones costing around $100, the search specialist could capitalize on consumers who just wanted a handset that worked well, essentially labeling it as a role model for other entry-level Android devices.

If this sounds familiar to you, that’s because the Nexus series did the same for the premium and midrange market segments. Unlike the new Pixel lineup and its all-out specs and price approach, Google’s previous pride and joy simply maximized the hardware it collaborated on with third-party manufacturers.

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Smartphones such as 2013’s LG-produced Nexus 5 showcased how well Android could be optimized in a competitively priced package, while the two Nexus 7 tablets from ASUS did something similar by cutting down the products’ price without compromising performance.

Why, oh why, Android One

To better understand the root of Android One’s disappearance, you have to know what the internet giant offered hardware partners who were part of the program. It was basically a blueprint, laying out Google’s strict hardware and software requirements in creating a smartphone that fits its mold.

As a result, partners would be assisted in selling attractively priced smartphones; Google would spread the joy of its app suite and integrated search engine; and consumers would be able to buy into a pure Android experience at a fraction of the cost of any Nexus. That was the plan, at least.

By having a stranglehold on the requirements, Google gave third-party manufacturers no freedom in designing their own smartphones. This gave local brands a difficult time differentiating their handsets from everyone else’s.

“Google gave third-party manufacturers no freedom in designing their own smartphones.”

The situation got so bad, Google eventually relaxed its rules on features, components, and price late last year, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. Sadly, it came far too late, and local smartphone brands already lost interest in the system.

And that was just about hardware. Android One partners were also forced to apply a pure operating system on every handset, resulting in an interface free of any bloatware and unneeded features.

While that sounds great for consumers, local companies — especially the struggling ones — needed to make money out of pre-installed apps from sponsors. Those advertisement-loaded games and obscure messaging apps you’ve seen built into phones are vital in paying off a handset’s manufacturing and marketing costs.

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It’s all about branding

With a very small profit margin from $100 phones and Google’s dominant branding inside and out, there was very little incentive in producing for Android One. Now, you might be asking: Google had a similar blueprint for the Nexus series, so how did it manage to last six years? That’s a different case.

Besides receiving full support from Google and being able to sell at a higher price, Nexus partners got a lot more intangible rewards in return. For example: Like LG’s Nexus 5 and ASUS’ Nexus 7, the Huawei-made Nexus 6P became the Chinese company’s ticket to gaining more traction in the US market. It didn’t turn out as well as the two parties had hoped, but it revealed just how important branding was in the succeeding deal that didn’t push through.

“There was very little incentive in producing for Android One.”

The Nexus 6P is a fantastic phone and a great example of how stock Android should be handled, so naturally, Huawei was approached by Google to manufacture the Pixel phones. Problem: There was to be no third-party branding allowed on the new flagship devices, and Google would claim them as its own, one hundred percent.

According to insider reports, this development didn’t bode well for Huawei, who wanted as much global brand awareness as possible, and so the Pixel deal was subsequently handed over to HTC’s Taiwan-based plants instead. Why did HTC bite the bullet? Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d know that the former leader in refined Android design hasn’t been doing well financially in the past few years, and any sort of collaboration that involves huge sums of money is heaven-sent for the struggling company.

Dead on second arrival

With all the team shuffling Alphabet (Google’s parent company) has been experiencing, it really makes us wonder where Android One currently resides. Last we heard, the program folded into Google’s new unified hardware division under former Motorola president Rick Osterloh, and plans were set for India to see more handsets launched in the near future — both of which were reported last May by Android Authority and The Economic Times India, respectively.

These bits of news sound all well and good, but if you consider the amount of hardware Google recently introduced and how weak Android One sales have been, it’s not surprising to see the least profitable division take a step back.

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It’s a shame, really. There were signs of life when Japan launched its own Sharp 507SH, a waterproof Android One handset with a three-day battery life, three months ago. Last February, Google tried something different with the internationally available General Mobile GM5 Plus, which is the first and only midrange smartphone to come out of the One series, appropriately costing $300.

And it’s not like the older One handsets have been neglected, either. The latest version of Android has been rolling out to 2015’s second-generation lineup, and with some tinkering, owners of the first generation from 2014 can get Nougat on their devices, too.

Barely a billion

Back when I interviewed Caesar Sengupta, the VP for Product Management at Google and head of the Android One initiative at the time, when the program was slowly spreading throughout Southeast Asia, he emphasized their main goal: to deliver smartphones to the “next five billion.”

It seems like the Mountain View company’s greatest weakness is being overambitious. Remember Google Glass? Shattered to pieces. And how about Project Ara? We all know how that turned out.

This isn’t to say Android One is dead, but you can’t help but feel discouraged when you realize that releases from the likes of ASUS, HTC, and Lenovo never panned out, and likely never will. Imagine owning a high-quality HTC device equipped with the purest operating system in the market at a price below $300.

One can only dream at this point.

Features

A beginner’s guide to Harry Potter: Wizards Unite

Wizards, unite!

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Niantic, Inc. has just rolled out its brand new game to over 150 countries worldwide over the weekend. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is also a location-based game that uses augmented reality and builds on the current platform of the company’s games Pokémon Go and Ingress.

Quick disclosure: I’m far from being a Potterhead so I might not get the right terms related to the franchise in this article. Although, I’m a long-time and current player of Pokémon Go hence I checked out Wizards Unite.


Onto the game itself. If you’re like some players I know who would rather just get to the game right away and skip the numerous pages of introduction and dialogues, the main plot of the story is pretty simple. A mysterious event called Calamity has struck resulting in certain magical items and beings to scatter in the real world.

It is your job as part of the Statute of Secrecy Task Force to bring these items, people, and creatures back to the Wizarding World and complete your registry. This registry acts like your Pokédex and tells you what you have and things to look out for.

Throughout the game, you will come across different terms, items, and structures. Let’s take a quick look at the basic elements of the game:

Professions – Just like in the books and movies, you can choose from three types of professions once you reach level six. These are Auror, Magizoologist, and Professor.

Each has its own strengths and weaknesses and complements the other two during battles. It’s important to note that you can later on switch professions if you wish to but the upgrades already bought could no longer be reattributed.

Confoundables vs Foundables – In Wizards Unite, foundables are those you hunt down to bring back to their proper time and location. Meanwhile, you banish the confoundables that are responsible for getting the foundables stuck in our world.

Casting Spells – In order to banish confoundables, you need to cast spells by accurately tracing the pattern shown on your smartphones. There are about ten spells available as of the time of writing but the company says they will eventually be adding more. In addition to accuracy of tracing, speed also plays a big part to achieve a “Masterful” trace (there’s Fair, Good, Great, and Masterful).

Spell Energy –  You’ll need to have spell energy to cast spells. Initially, you’re allotted up to 75 energy points and you use them whenever you try to cast spells on the confoundables. When it reaches zero, it’s basically the equivalent of running out of Pokéballs and you could no longer “catch” foundables.

Structures – Structures like Inns and Greenhouses are your way of getting more spell energy and ingredients to make useful potions. Inns will give out energy by dining in them, while Greenhouses churn out ingredients to make different potions. So playing in areas densely populated with Inns and Greenhouses will ensure you have the resources for a more efficient grinding session.

There’s a third kind of structure and it’s the Fortress. A fortress is a place where up to four friends can join forces and battle together different sets of magical creatures to further upgrade their abilities and come across rarer entries for the registry. Every tier gets tougher and tougher so it encourages players to team up with new players and overcome stronger foes.

Potions – As mentioned earlier, you can concoct your own potions by getting ingredients from Greenhouses. As per usual, these potions vary with different effects and can be used in battles either to heal yourself, make the spell more effective, or prevent the foundable from departing away and missing the chance to add it to your registry.

Portkeys – To get you moving while playing the game, you’ll be able to collect Portkeys that only open after walking certain distances in the real world. Right now there are 2KM/5KM/10KM variations of Portkeys and once it’s opened, it has the power to bring you to different locations so you can collect items and even XP.

Now that most of the basics have been covered, here are some tips to keep in mind while playing based on me and my wife’s experiences.

  • Download all assets as soon as you can. This will make loading times faster while performance will be more stable.
  • Turn on Trace Auto-Align to make encounters with AR slightly faster
  • An Inn with a green color serves up to 10 energy points, purple and blue give up to seven, brown up to six, and a pink one only dishes out a maximum of three energy points.
  • Master Notes are secret patterns that reduce brewing time of potions. Figure it out by checking the available patterns at the Potions Info page.
  • As the stages you battle in Fortresses level up, magical creatures grow stronger. Having a friend to fight alongside you will be needed even more so in the higher tiers of Fortress matches.
  • If you see a floating icon with a beam of light above it, it means it’s a high risk foundable with high rewards. Be sure to get it!

  • Use Dark Detectors for rarer foundables to appear, Exstimulo potions against higher risk foundables, and Baruffio’s Brain Elixir before claiming rewards like Portkeys to get double XP.
  • Flags and smoke from Greenhouses and Inns, respectively, signify they’re still on cooldown.
  • Be sure to have enough energy before battling at Fortresses. Quitting during an unfinished session will render the Runestone useless.
  • Turning off AR during encounters is easier for the phone and will save precious battery life.
  • Just keep on playing. Niantic’s games reward players who just keep on exploring new things (or simply staying) in the game.

If there’s anything we missed or if you want to add to these tips, be sure to leave a comment!

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What to expect at MWC Shanghai 2019

5G. 5G everywhere

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Mobile World Congress 2019 in Shanghai is happening this week and GadgetMatch will be on the ground to bring you the latest updates straight from China.

5G. 5G everywhere

Perhaps the largest talking point during the entire conference is 5G with several of the programs dedicated to discussing the next generation of broadband access.


Huawei, who is currently in the middle of perhaps its biggest challenge, will continue to push for its 5G technology. Especially since the event is happening in their home turf, there should be little to nothing holding back the brand from making a big splash at MWC 2019 in Shanghai.

Just recently, the company has inked a 5G developmental contract with Russia’s biggest telco, MTS. So it would come as no surprise if Huawei will announce something big in relation to 5G tech.

SEE ALSO: Explaining 5G internet

Under-display cameras

OPPO already gave us a sneak peek of their prototype smartphone that features an under-display camera. Various posts online suggests they could be ready to showcase the prototype to the public and MWC is the perfect stage to do so.

Vivo will also be present at the conference. We’re holding out hope that maybe the company is also ready to unveil an under-display camera prototype. However, murmurs online suggests otherwise.

The primary innovators of the pop-up camera might be turning their attention to fast charging. And we say fast, we mean really fast.

 

Details are scarce on how it actually works but everything we’ve gathered online so far suggests that this new fast charging tech from Vivo can fill up a 4,000mAh battery in just 13 minutes.

There’s also a chance that Vivo might announce a device that supports 5G. Whatever it is they have in store, we’re excited to get our hands on it and share it with all of you!

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Watching TWICELIGHTS on a 75″ Samsung 4K QLED TV

Almost as good as attending the concert

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K-Pop girl group TWICE is currently on their first world tour called TWICELIGHTS and due to schedule conflicts as well as an inability to camp out for tickets, I missed all possible chances to see this nine-member group live.

I was devastated after being told that the tickets had already been sold out. This, despite me waking up much, much earlier than I usually do on a weekend and lining up for hours.


So I did the next best thing — watch fancams on the 75” Q90R Flagship QLED 4K HDR 2000 Smart TV.

4K in all its glory

My advice in watching 4K fancams is to select the ones that focus on a certain member. This will give you a better and closer look and really feel that 4K goodness.

That said, the 4K footage will vary depending on the device it was shot at. Some 4K footage don’t do well in concert lighting conditions and when zoomed in which is the case for most fancams.

Despite this, the Samsung Q90R more than delivered. It didn’t matter if I was sitting on the couch directly in front of the TV or over to the side at our dining area. I was getting the same quality no matter the viewing angle.

TWICELIGHTS on the 75” Samsung 4K QLED TV is an absolute joy to watch. Instead of being stuck with a single view, you get to experience the concert from a multitude of perspectives thanks to the various fansites that cover TWICE.

I put together a playlist on YouTube which you can find towards the end of this article. If you see an abundance of Momo and Chaeyoung fancams, this is because those two are my biases.

After watching (and *ehem rewatching) the concert, I had to test what else this TV can do.

4K upscaling

The girls already look good in HD, and they look even better when upscaled to 4K. You see, this is what the TV is capable of. Much like its 8K counterpart, the Q90R is equipped with a chip that upscales footage to 4K.

The music videos, which are mostly just in 1080p, look stunning on the 75-inch 4K QLED display. This is especially true for K-Pop videos that are known to be colorful.

Something we quickly noticed though is that some of the upscaled videos appear a little more saturated than usual. Personally, this didn’t really bother me but it might be important to note for those considering to purchase this TV.

Gaming and watching movies

The saturation doesn’t stop at upscaling. When you switch to game mode, the colors tend to switch to colors that some people might find too aggressive.

We played NBA 2K19 on the monitor and some courts almost hurt your eye because of how strong they appear. This wasn’t the case for other games though.

Try playing God of War or even Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice on this thing and you’ll be exposed to some of the best video game visuals your eyes will ever lay your eyes on.

The same is true when watching movies built for 4K machines. It’s a perfect blend of “damn this looks like I’m actually seeing them in real life” while maintaining that cinematic feel. Words aren’t enough, you truly need to see this in person.

With Netflix, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime Video pre-installed, you won’t run out of 4K content to go through. My only gripe is that the TV doesn’t support the NBA App. Basketball is one of the few things I actually try to watch live but that’s not possible unless I have a cable subscription which I have no plans of getting any time soon.

At first I thought this was just a glitch on the particular unit we were lent but Samsung confirmed that they currently do not support the NBA app. However, they added that they are “looking to find ways to improve customer experience by expanding our content services and apps available in our smart TVs.”

Casting issues

There weren’t a lot but I did experience some casting issues on the Q90R. YouTube worked perfectly but other apps like VLive struggled to connect right away unlike when I’m just using a chromecast.

There’s also this little hiccup when you want to watch Facebook videos. The TV will force you to use the Facebook Watch app and have to connect a single user’s account to the TV versus anyone just being able to cast a video as long as they are connected to the same wifi network.

It’s a minor inconvenience although it could be an issue if you have to have more than one person connect their Facebook account to the TV just so they have easy access to the Facebook videos they prefer watching. That said, I don’t imagine a lot of people need to use Facebook Watch to begin with.

Truly a Smart TV

One of the things I truly appreciate about the Q90R is how seamless you interact with it. The remote and the TV’s interface is well thought-out.

The Q90R foregoes the usual remote in favor of what looks like a circular directional pad which works perfectly on the TV’s interface. The other buttons can also be easily located by feeling your way on the remote. Adjusting the volume is as simple as pushing up or down on a button.

You can, of course, use the mic and ask Bixby to do things on the TV for you but personally that’s not my thing. I don’t want to have to speak when interacting with my TV but I find that this can be a useful way for other people.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The 75” Q90R Flagship QLED 4K HDR 2000 Smart TV is an entertainment powerhouse. It’s perfect for family gatherings and inviting a large group of friends for some Netflix and chilling. It’ll set you back at PhP 359,999 (roughly around US$ 7010).

However, if you have an extra PhP 240,000 lying around, you might want to opt for the 8K version which retails for PhP 599,999 (roughly around US$ 11,700) which puts you in better position to be ready for the future. If not, the 4K isn’t shabby at all.

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