Features

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.

Hands-On

Realme 5 Pro Hands-On: It’s all about the numbers

Finally a real competitor

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Realme has launched a wide array of phones this year and it doesn’t look like they’re stopping anytime soon. The brand is extremely aggressive about marketing and thanks to immense pressure from Xiaomi, Vivo, and Samsung, they’ve unveiled the Realme 5 Pro.

It has a faster processor, quad-camera setup on the rear, and flashier design. While the Realme X is built for a slightly more premium experience, the Realme 5 Pro is intended to be an affordable all-rounder that excels at everything.


A plastic design that looks flashier

We have the Blue variant and Realme calls this a holographic design due to the reflection and slight color gradient. We’ve previously seen this diamond cut design language in a lot of other phones and it offers a new choice to users instead of just relying on a plain metal back.

The phone feels sturdy enough and has slightly curved corners for an ergonomic user experience. Realme says the phone is splash resistant including the buttons as well as the charging port.

Holographic diamond cut back

The power button is located on the right

Volume buttons and SIM-tray are located on the left

Realme has finally endorsed USB-C and the headphone jack continues its legacy

A sharp and well saturated display

The Realme X has an AMOLED panel, but this one sports an LCD screen. This cost-cutting measure shouldn’t be a major drawback since the display is very sharp and bright enough. The colors are punchy, but tend to look too saturated sometimes. Thankfully, you can adjust or even schedule the screen’s warmth.

It’s 6.3-inch screen has Gorilla Glass protection and houses a small water-drop style notch on the top. The bezels are small and the chin is quite paltry as well.

A powerful processor that’s perfect for regular use

Powering the phone is an octa-core Snapdragon 712 processor that clocks at 2.3Ghz. A dedicated NPU looks after AI operations and the base option comes with 4GB of RAM. Storage is expandable via a microSD card.

Four cameras to help you get the best shot

It has a 48-megapixel primary sensor, an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens, 2-megapixel macro lens, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. Rest assured, you’re covered from all ends. Whether its a low-light shot or a huge group photo, this setup is perfect for the average Joe.

For selfies, the notch houses a 16-megapixel front-facing shooter. Realme has added a handful of modes like Chromaboost, Nightscape, and Portrait Mode in the camera app.

ColorsOS to get you through the day

The Realme 5 Pro ships with ColorOS 6.0 and a few minor changes include new icons, smoother transitions, and filtering.

A near-perfect battery

It has a 4,000mAh battery and it is sufficient to get you through a day of heavy usage. It supports VOOC 3.0 fast charging technology and can charge your phone completely in about an hour and a half.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Realme 5 Pro ticks all the boxes, and we’ll be doing an in-depth review soon. For now, it offers a robust camera setup, substantial performance, and a new design. Although, a few cost-cutting measures like plastic build and LCD display are clearly visible.

ColorOS can be a deciding factor since it still isn’t well refined. If you’re looking for a long-lasting phone that has consistent updates, a Nokia-branded phone or Xiaomi’s Mi A3 are the only alternatives in this price segment. And even though the Redmi Note 7 Pro was launched just a few months back, it may have lost its edge in this ever-changing world due to a better processor, versatile camera, and faster charging.

SEE ALSO: Realme 5 series pricing and availability in India

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Camera Shootouts

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ vs Huawei P30 Pro: Camera shootout

The current king and queen of flagship smartphones

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Samsung has launched the Galaxy Note 10 series, which currently holds the crown in DxOMark camera ratings. Previously sitting was Huawei’s flagship, the P30 Pro. Both smartphones currently pride themselves as leaders in smartphone photography, so it’s time to compare through a blind shootout!

With this shootout, you’ll get a chance to analyze each photo and pick which one is the better shooter for you. Photos are shot in auto mode with default settings. Of course, no post-processing was done except for resizing so you can easily view the images. The answer sheet can be found at the end of this comparison.


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Results

Galaxy Note 10+ — 1A, 2B, 3B, 4A, 5A, 6A, 7A, 8B, 9A, 10B, 11A, 12B, 13A, 14A

P30 Pro — 1B, 2A, 3A, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8A, 9B, 10A, 11B, 12A, 13B, 14B

Personally, both photos are astounding on their own. The Note 10+ and P30 Pro proves that they are indeed the king and queen of smartphone photography.

But when they’re being pitted against each other, the Galaxy Note 10+ shines when it comes to color reproduction. Its daylight photos have a better white balance complemented by high contrast which results in vibrant and saturated colors as seen in the blue skies and greenery. Even its night shots, the photos produced are more alive making every photos ready for uploading on social media. No more post-processing needed.

On the other hand, the P30 Pro produces brighter and warmer photos at daylight. Its colors are a little bit washed out due to added brightness and lesser contrast, however, mobile photography enthusiasts wouldn’t even bother since the photos produced can be altered depending on the user’s liking.

Additionally, the P30 Pro provides a raw feeling on its night shots. It may be a little bit less vibrant compared to the Galaxy Note 10+, but it allows users to experiment and apply their artistic style on their captured photos during post-processing.

Conclusion

It’s safe to say that both smartphones are winners at their own game, as it all comes down to a user’s preference. Thankfully, we’re now in an era where premium smartphones provide the best value their users deserve. All that’s left is for people to choose which phone they should buy.

So, how did you feel about the results? Did it help you decide which phone is really your GadgetMatch?

Share your thoughts about this shootout and connect with us on our social media channels. Don’t forget to join our growing community of fellow Matchketeers! If you have more suggestions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter.

 

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Automotive

What Mazda promises with the new Mazda 3

Still going for a great driving experience

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The new Mazda 3 has just been introduced to the local market by Bermaz Auto Philippines. We’ve caught a glimpse of it before and got a general concept of what to expect. Although now that we have the Philippine-spec units and prices to go along with it, what does the Japanese company promise with this new vehicle? Let’s take a look at some of its features.

Styling

Mazda still stays true to its KODO or “Soul of Motion” design that gives life to the exterior by playing with curves and how light uniquely bounces off its panels. In short, it offers fresh styling that stands out and begs to be noticed. It has that minimalist but artistic approach and it certainly works for the Mazda 3.


Step inside and the simplicity continues. There’s nothing too fancy to see here except for the driver-centric layout which exudes a premium feel thanks to the materials used.

Its cabin has also been designed with superior acoustics in mind. The company claims they were able to achieve a natural and rich-sounding cabin by strategically positioning its 12 speakers and cutting down on sound reflection. We haven’t experienced it first-hand, but that’s kind of a bold claim from the company if they couldn’t back it up.

These, coupled with the company’s “Jinba Ittai” concept of machine and man as one, ensure that the ergonomics inside serve its driver well to further enjoy the driving experience and create that bond between each other. This also brings us to our next point.

Comfort

In order for the car to feel like an extension of your body, the interior has to be comfortable.

With the previously mentioned concept, one of the ideas is for the car to support wherever your body leans. This simply means the vehicle’s structure and interior provide comfort, especially during long drives.

Additionally, the company made sure that they give ample attention to dampening vibrations and reducing noise seeping into the cabin. By using new sound-absorbing upholstery that supposedly traps sound, a quieter cabin and overall smoother drive is what the passengers experience with the new Mazda 3.

It also tends to spoil the modern driver with its lineup of creature comforts. Things like auto brake hold come into play during heavy traffic, power-folding side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, and auto-dimming rearview mirror are just some to mention.

Performance

The Philippine-specific Mazda 3 doesn’t come with the new Skyactiv-X engine that Europe has. Instead, the local market gets Skyactiv-G inline-4 engine options mated to a six-speed automatic. The naturally aspirated engine outputs up to 152hp and 200Nm which should be enough for everyday drives plus some room for its legs to stretch when the road ahead clears up.

It also comes with G-Vectoring Control Plus that should be able to refine steering and make the vehicle safer and more stable overall. By calculating data while driving on a curb, for example, the system applies input that complements the task at hand and helps the driver gain control while coming out of said turn.

As a quick recap, the new Mazda 3 aims to tick the boxes for a capable car in the city but promises a number of features and innovations to further enjoy the ride experience. It’s styled skilfully inside and out, aims to ensure comfort throughout drives, provides high-quality entertainment, packs a capable engine, and prioritizes safety.

It comes in five variants in the Philippines with the following price points:

  • Mazda 3 1.5-liter Sedan Elite  — PhP 1,295,000
  • Mazda 3 1.5-liter Sportback Elite — PhP 1,320,000
  • Mazda 3 2.0-liter Sedan Premium — PhP 1,495,000
  • Mazda 3 2.0-liter Sportback Premium — PhP 1,510,000
  • Mazda 3 2.0-liter Sportback Speed — PhP 1,590,000

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