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.

[irp posts=”5009″ name=”Pixel and Pixel XL make you care about photography and Google’s new Assistant”]

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.

[irp posts=”4025″ name=”Nougat is Android’s best, but there’s still room for improvement”]

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.

[irp posts=”5034″ name=”Top 5 hits and misses from #MadeByGoogle event”]

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

5 reasons why you need a smart, home printer

In 2021? Absolutely!

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Every year, I would tell myself I need a printer — but end up not buying one. After all, do you really need it? At this age? Where you can sign documents on Adobe Acrobat or another third-party extension through your mail, and scan photos directly using your smartphone.

Regrettably, we all still need a home printer, bud. Regardless of their horrendous sizes and designs, there are still a lot of perks when you have a home printer. Especially when it’s a smart, inkjet printer.

Recently, Brother launched a new lineup of compact, space-saving inkjet printers. Using the latest (and most affordable of the bunch) DCP-T420W made me realize how a printer can make your life fun and easy, whether you’re always out or staying at home.

Hard and soft copies still go hand-in-hand

When life went on pause due to a global pandemic, businesses and other establishments (particularly printing services) closed and shut down. While most documents needed for work are being sent and signed via digital formats, there are days when I struggled not owning a printer when I badly needed it.

Back then, I needed to print copies of sheets and labels as I was shipping an expensive music box to Taiwan. The shipping company required these papers to be attached as part of their logistical process. Banks and government agencies also require physical copies of whatever is sent on their emails and/or websites. The world hasn’t fully gone digital, and there’s still a need for papers and printers.

Save time, save money

Using the Brother DCP-T420W — or having a home printer in general — helped save time and money. I don’t have to scramble to search for printing services, which requires driving around town. And yes, when you drive, you need to fill up the tank. Read: Price hike on fuel and gasoline.

But having your own [ink] tank to fill makes it easier for your wallet and convenience. Brother’s new lineup of printers lower cost per print, which approximately prints up to 7,500 pages in black and 5,000 pages in color. And they print fast. No more waiting on printing services asking you to come back later to get the files you needed.

So far, I haven’t fully consumed my inks even though I printed a bunch of high-quality photos. But if I ever ran out of supply, I know I can easily buy one seeing how they’re affordable and accessible.

Print, scan, and copy in the comfort of your own home

Having a printer means you can do everything in the comfort of your own home. Print some important documents, scan my passport for my visa applications, and copy waybills and signed agreements — I can do all of this even when I’m wearing pajamas.

More importantly, the DCP-T420W is so versatile that it lets my not-so-tech-savvy family use the printer without me assisting them. For the old-school, you can plug the USB cable into your laptop and print using Brother’s iPrint & Scan — which works on both Windows and macOS.

Meanwhile, the tech-savvier young’n can maximize the machine’s flexible connectivity options. There’s Built-in Wi-Fi where an entire group can effortlessly share one device, and you can print directly using your mobile devices. Isn’t that so convenient?

Get creative — and productive

There’s so much you can do when you have a printer. Back then I would always wonder, why would I need one?

Occasionally, you’ll realize the reasons why you’ll feel the need to have a printer at home. But for most people, it’s a fleeting moment — simply because they sometimes forget the endless possibilities in having this machine.

For the most part of the lockdown, I spent time with printables that helped me organize my habits, lifestyle, and my room. I started printing labels, charts to track my goals, and sheets to manage my finances. I have to say I’m halfway through my journey towards self-development, and I’m happy a simple machine like a printer helped me in this pursuit.

Print whatever you like without judgment

Above all, having a printer gives you the freedom to print whatever you feel like. I had a lot of fun printing photos, illustrations, and texts to help with my vision board and manifestation journals. To re-decorate my room, I bought photo papers and printed my favorite photos and moments to remind me how blissful my life is for having all these memories.

Yes, sometimes I get sentimental and with this at home, no printing person can judge me for asking to print weird group photos and travel photos in their shop.

Price and availability

The Brother DCP-T420W retails for PhP 7,650 (US$ 157). It’s available for purchase through Brother Philippines’ authorized dealers and is supported by the Brother Customer Service Center and Authorized Service Centers nationwide. Price is inclusive of prevailing taxes and includes a 2-year Extended Warranty.

There are other models available as well — DCP-T520W (PhP 8,950), DCP-T720DW (PhP11,950), DCP-T820DW (PhP 13,950), and MFC-T920DW (PhP 18,950). For more information, visit www.brother.com.ph.

SEE ALSO: Brother’s latest inkjet printers offer faster, more affordable prints | HP Ink Tank 415: Print more and then some

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OPPO Reno5: Ideal upper midranger

It’s a stellar overall package for its price

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Reno5

OPPO’s Reno line has slowly carved out an identity as somewhat of an affordable premium smartphone. Priced at around half of what flagships today cost but offering about two-thirds of the features, the OPPO Reno line has the makings of the ideal upper midranger, and the Reno5 fits that description to a T.

How it looks

The Reno5 (both the 4G and the 5G variants) come in either Galactic Silver or Starry Black. The Black has a more traditional glass finish, thereby being more magnetic to fingerprints and smudges, while the Galactic Silver has a frosted matte finish making it more palatable if you don’t like using a protective case.

Reno5

The Galactic Silver Reno5 is flashier. The color kind of shifts depending on how light hits it. If you’re into phone finishes that catches the eye, this is totally the way to go.

Button placements are pretty standard. On the right hand side is the power button while the volume buttons are on the left. At the bottom you’ll find the speaker grille, USB-C port, and 3.5mm jack (nice).

Reno5

At around 180g and with these dimensions (159.1 x 73.4 x 7.9 mm) with a 6.4-inch display, the Reno5 sits very close to my personal sweet spot in terms of overall smartphone size. It’s a little too light to my liking but it never feels fragile.

The ‘Oxygenation’ of ColorsOS

There’s been some buzz about how OnePlus — a sister company of OPPO under the BBK electronics umbrella — is becoming more and more like OPPO. What’s getting lost in all that noise is how OPPO is turning into OnePlus just as much as the latter is being ‘OPPO-fied.’

This is most evident in ColorOS 7.2. From its cluttered and bloatfull past, the UI skin that OPPO layers over Android has gotten more breathing room letting more oxygen come through. The customizations available run deep — everything from light vs dark mode, the shape and size of the icons, to the accent color of the settings menu.

Also present are the gesture shortcuts that longtime OnePlus fans will be familiar with like drawing a V to open the flashlight, O to open the camera, and double tap screen to wake. These are all OxygenOS staples that have found their way to OPPO and sometimes other Android skins too.

Some purists or overly zealous brand supporters might dismiss this as blatant copying, but is it really that big an issue especially when these are all quality of life improvements no matter how subtle they may be?

All things considered, ColorOS is now overall more appealing thanks in large part to applying design decisions first applied on OnePlus’s OxygenOS.

OLED, 5G, and Snapdragon 765G

This section is probably the least contentious about this phone. Its display, performance, and promise of next gen mobile connectivity work exactly as advertised. The 6.4-inch OLED display has a 90Hz refresh rate. It’s nice and smooth with the deep blacks typically found on OLED displays. It could use a bit more brightness when under intense daylight, but it’s in no way unusable under such circumstances.

The 5G variant will cost you a little more and it’s not at all a bad deal considering most especially if you live or frequent areas with 5G coverage. We used the OPPO Reno5 as a hotspot hub for half a day and it did not feel at all like we were on mobile hotspot.

Shifting talk over to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765g SoC, this seems to be the best-performing midrange chip. It won’t leave you wanting in terms of general smartphone use. We didn’t use it a lot for gaming on this particular handset but previous experience dictates it’s pretty darn good for mobile gaming as well.

Battery life is also pretty straightforward. Standby time is great and the 4300mAh will last you a day on moderate usage. That goes down to around five hours when used primarily for gaming and with 5G connection.

Fun with the cameras

Reno5

The Reno5 sports a quad-camera system: 64MP main, 8MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro, 2MP depth. But all the fun really happens in the software sid of things.

It still features OPPO’s fun AI Color Portrait mode that isolates the subject from the background by draining the color out of the background and putting the subject front and center in full color.

Reno5

This same feature also works on the 32MP selfie camera.

Reno5

Even more exciting, this feature is now also available in video mode so there are more ways for you to have fun with it.

Another addition is the Night Flare Portrait that captures your subject in a nice stylized night shot filled with color and creamy bokeh.

Reno5

More than just portraits

Naturally, the cameras along with the AI engine behind its imaging works not only for these fun and funky portrait images and videos. As a standard shooter for documenting your daily life, it’s more than reliable. Check out these samples:

A nice meal for lunch

Naturally, save room for dessert

Ultra wide. Take stroll after downing some delicious food

 

Capture things in good detail

Snap a quick selfie

 

Or ask someone to take a quick portrait photo

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The easy answer is yes. The OPPO Reno5’s overall package is the ideal upper-midranger. There’s a lot of fun to be had with its camera features, it looks great, and performs just about as good as any phone in its price range.

Reno5

It also doesn’t hurt that in the Philippines, OPPO went out of its way to make sure it can be had in may different ways including through TelCos and via installment basis.

The OPPO Reno5 is by no means a perfect smartphone (no such thing exists anyway), but for what you’re getting in relation to its pricing, it’s a stellar option.

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How to remove filters in Zoom

Save yourself from a viral cat-astrophe

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If you haven’t seen the viral video of a lawyer nervously faffing about when he showed up in a Zoom call on national television as a cat, you need to see this.

And, if you’re nervously giggling to yourself while Googling how to remove filters in Zoom so you don’t embarrass yourself like this, here’s a step-by-step:

Removing Zoom filters before a meeting

Prevention is better than cure. To make sure you save yourself from turning into a cat, you should check on your Zoom setting right meow.

  1. On the Zoom desktop client, click your profile picture on the top right corner of the screen and select Settings.
  2. Click the Background & Filter settings.
  3. Check your video preview to see if you have any filters selected or if you have the appropriate virtual background set up for the call.
  4. If you have a video filter you want to turn off, click the Video Filters
  5. Select the box labelled None in the top left corner of the filter selections. You may need to scroll up to find it.

Removing Zoom filters in a meeting

This is for when someone is panicking over being in a Zoom meeting with a filter on and you’re trying to change them back to being human.

  1. In a Zoom meeting, click the up arrow next to your Stop Video icon and select Choose Video Filter to open the Settings window.
  2. Select the box labelled None in the top left corner of the filter selections.

Removing third-party filters in a meeting

  1. In a Zoom meeting, click the up arrow next to the Stop Video
  2. Select the right camera setting, or (if you’re already panicking) frantically select each camera listed until you show up as normal.
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