Editors' Choice

GadgetMatch Awards: Best Smartphones of 2018

Handpicked by the GadgetMatch team

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Like it or not, there’s no best smartphone this year — or any year for that matter. Rather, there are great smartphones for different users and different needs.

In this set of GadgetMatch Awards, we look at the best of the best by category, from the most practical to the somewhat shallow. We’re sure you have your own winners, so let us know in the comments what you think.

Here we go:

Best Battery Life — Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Rarely do we think: When will this phone finally die? In fact, we often ask for more juice out of our smartphones, something that the Mate 20 Pro effortlessly delivers for us. On top of its class-leading performance and stellar looks, this smartphone can easily last for two days on a single charge — wow!

Best Selfies — Vivo NEX S

This pop-up camera is no gimmick; it takes awesome selfies, as well! From the moment it appears to the time it snaps our HDR-licious selfies, taking self portraits with the NEX S is both a spectacle and a pleasure.

Best Special Edition — Porsche Edition Huawei Mate 20 RS

How do you make an already-premium phone even more special? By slapping on some leather and the logo of a luxury automaker! Yes, the Porsche Edition Huawei Mate 20 RS is by far the hottest-looking smartphone of the year.

Best Design — OPPO Find X

There were tons of jaw-dropping smartphone designs in 2018, but none have wowed us as much as the OPPO Find X’s. The automatic sliding action continues to impress us to this day, and we can’t get enough of the borderless look in front.

Best Charging Technology — SuperVOOC

In terms of new technology, 2018 became the year of faster charging. That said, OPPO’s SuperVOOC tech stands above all with its insane speed. We can’t wait to see it in more smartphones come 2019!

Best Portrait Shooter — Apple iPhone XR

Portrait photography has become a standard feature across all smartphones, but the iPhone XR does it best with a single rear camera. We love how it cuts out the subject and applies the perfect amount of bokeh to our photos.

Best Beauty Mode — OPPO R17 Pro

OPPO has done it once again with a beauty mode we’re proud to use. The advanced post-shot customization and application of artificial intelligence have been taken to another level, and we love ’em!

Best Special Feature — Xiaomi Mi Mix 3

Slide up, slide down — rinse and repeat. No smartphone feature got us more pumped than the Mi Mix 3’s manual sliding form factor, which combines the best of nostalgia and practical application.

Best Display — ASUS ROG Phone

A 6-inch notch-less AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate? We’re sold! The ROG Phone may be a gaming smartphone at its core, but it’s also a perfect multimedia companion thanks to its gorgeous screen.

Best Speakers — Razer Phone 2

Great speakers are such an underrated feature on smartphones these days. Fortunately, we have the Razer Phone 2 to remind us how it should be done. Two powerful speakers facing the user form the best combination we’ve seen all year.

Best Video Shooter — LG V40 ThinQ

LG has yet again brought professional-grade videography to the masses with the V40 ThinQ. While other manufacturers focus purely on photography, this little powerhouse offers a slew of video-recording features that we absolutely adore.

Best Productivity — BlackBerry KEY2

Let’s face it: As much as we’ve gotten used to touchscreen displays, nothing beats the no-look convenience a physical keyboard offers. BlackBerry executed this to perfection with the KEY2, and we’re so glad they did.

Editors' Choice

5 biggest tech controversies of 2019

Spying, banning, bending, and more

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Though short, 2019 felt like an action-packed year. Between the Brexit brouhaha in London, Duterte’s tirades in the Philippines, and Trump’s shenanigans in the US, newspapers had a very busy year. However, despite the focus on politics, 2019’s journalism marathon also affected the technology industry.

Here at GadgetMatch, we constantly had our hands full with new developments and juicy rumors. As the year finally winds down, let’s run down 2019’s greatest tech controversies that made our eyes pop:

5. Where is Apple’s 5G iPhone?

A leftover from last year’s news cycle, Apple’s 5G problem starts this year’s countdown. As 5G finally starts up all over the world, most smartphone companies — like Samsung and Huawei — have made 5G compatibility a prerequisite for all their future phones. Surprisingly, Apple has not unveiled a 5G-compatible iPhone yet.

Of course, Apple has always notoriously lagged far behind its competitor’s development cycle. However, Apple’s delay has been going on for quite a spell. 5G technology is already here. As the questions pile up, Apple has constantly searched for the perfect partner for 5G compatibility.

Apple started the year with their long-standing rivalry with Qualcomm, a persistent thorn on the former’s side. Besides continued harassing, Qualcomm’s fights might ultimately delay Apple’s 5G-compatible iPhone. Since then, both parties have buried the hatchet. However, we still don’t have any word on the much-awaited smartphone (much less a Qualcomm-sponsored one).

Also, complementing the Apple-Qualcomm dialogue, several other parties have joined the conversation. Earlier this year, Samsung and Huawei have expressed interest in becoming Apple’s supplier for 5G technology. Unfortunately, the rumors turned into nothing other than sweet words.

Eventually, Apple’s 5G problem capped off with a monumental purchase of Intel’s 5G modem business. Even then, Apple’s 5G iPhone is still nowhere to be found. Our earliest reported launch date is still in 2020.

4. Is Alexa listening to my moans?

Since the invention of smart technology, AI-assisted spying has always been a constant source of paranoia. Are our smart speakers listening in on us?

Unfortunately, 2019 is a disastrous year for conspiracy theorists. Throughout the year, the tech world’s biggest names have found themselves on the wrong end of privacy issues. In June, Apple’s Siri reportedly recorded unauthorized recordings of its users.

However, the initial controversy stems from technical issues, like a pants zipper mistakenly triggering Siri’s voice recognition. The real crux of the problem begins where the recording ends. To maintain quality control, Apple hires a separate team to evaluate Siri’s performance, listening to recordings for successful service. Potentially, these recordings include accidental triggers and sexual trysts.

The controversy doesn’t end there. Weeks later, Google was found guilty of the same crime. However, instead of just accidentally recording offhand conversations, Google’s quality team purposely leaked sensitive audio data from their Dutch offices, prompting a new conversation regarding human interference in AI systems.

If that wasn’t enough, Facebook also hired a similar team, as reported a few weeks later. In the social media giant’s case, Messenger chats are apparently getting transcribed by outsiders for Facebook’s servers.

The privacy issue brings up another pressing concern today: who owns our data? Unfortunately, Siri storing an audio version of your sex tape is only the tip of the iceberg. Digital privacy is a controversy that will surely carry on to the next few years.

3. Is China controlling the world?

For most of the world, China is in a potentially threatening position. The Asian powerhouse is currently on the rise, calling a lot of things into question. Are our everyday products completely reliant on Chinese suppliers? Are our favorite companies ingratiated to Chinese bosses?

Sadly, 2019’s headlines have some bad news for those suffering from Sinophobia. In the midst of heated Hong Kong protests, Western companies face a tough choice: to shut up or speak out against injustice. Of course, companies consist of humans, too. Human beings can have opinions contrary to their affiliated companies. That’s the story of late 2019.

Blizzard, one of the world’s biggest gaming developers, recently banned a respected professional gamer for voicing out his pro-HK opinions on a tournament victory speech. Despite causing outrage in the gaming community, the developer kept quiet, sticking by its controversial decision. They eventually lightened the sentence, but not without damaging their integrity.

Since then, other Western companies have made surprising decisions regarding the HK-China debate including the NBA and Apple. With the Hong Kong protests still raging, the China problem will still haunt us in 2020. We have to ask ourselves: which side are our favorite companies on?

2. The short rise and fall of foldable phones

In November, the world finally saw its first foldable smartphones, thanks to Samsung and Huawei. It’s been a storied wait. The revolutionary form factor first debuted at the start of the year. It almost took a year to get the devices out into the market. What happened?

Unfortunately, the foldable smartphone’s journey was rougher than what either Samsung or Huawei expected. After the initial announcement, the Galaxy Fold and the Mate X touted the next revolution of the smartphone world. As we know now, neither of the two foldable devices has changed the world yet.

Before its official launch, the Galaxy Fold carried a concerning flaw. The foldable hinge broke down too easily. It wasn’t foolproof. Fortunately, reviewers found the flaw before a wider global release. Regardless, a global recall was inevitable. Only a hair’s breadth away from the official release, Samsung pulled the plug on the world’s most anticipated smartphones of recent history. Naturally, Huawei followed suit, pulling the Mate X to avoid a similar mistake.

Months later, both smartphones practically disappeared, leaving the question of “when” unanswered. Around half a year later, the Galaxy Fold resurfaced with a final release date; the Mate X trailing nearby. Sadly, the resurrection didn’t go as planned either.

For one, the new Galaxy Fold has already failed both bend tests and real-world expectations. Samsung even agreed on the new device’s vulnerabilities. At the very least, the Mate X is doing well in China, its home territory.

Regardless, the form factor is on a decline right now. For one of the most anticipated devices in 2019, the foldable smartphone ended the year with a whimper. No one knows where the market will go from here. Only time will tell whether 2020’s foldable smartphones will end up in a similar state.

1. Huawei’s battles with the US

Was there ever any doubt? This year’s biggest controversy is, undoubtedly, the continued war between the American government and the Chinese smartphone maker, Huawei. Since last year, the company has found itself on the receiving end of America’s strong Sinophobia. For years, the American government has persistently pondered on an all-out ban against any Huawei and ZTE products. However, the rumored ban didn’t really go anywhere.

The battlefield soon changed when the US arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on accusations of fraud. Besides tarnishing Huawei’s global reputation, the government now had a de facto hostage in negotiations with Huawei and China.

The earlier part of the year consisted mainly of struggling with Meng’s arrest. However, the pressure finally exploded when the US finally banned the company back in May. Trump wanted more. Instead of settling with Meng’s capture, the American President needed another chip for his trade war with China.

The new ban affected both Huawei’s operations in the States and its business partners. In the months after the ban’s announcement, several American companies have started pulling out of business relations with the Chinese company. Key suppliers, like Google and Qualcomm, have put huge dents on Huawei’s plans for the year. For example, the newly launched Mate 30 series debuted without any of Google’s software out of the box.

On Huawei’s side, the company is currently subsisting on a series of temporary extensions to its operating license. Unless the US government settles the dispute once and for all (or gets fed up and doesn’t renew the license anymore), Huawei is in a state of limbo, unable to act on a more permanent game plan.

Fortunately, Huawei is working on a few tricks of their own. Rather than relying on a fickly foreign government, the company has successfully developed its own operating system called Harmony. They have also worked on improving the Kirin chipset to match international standards. Further, they are hunting for alternative suppliers. With a Google deal up in the air, Huawei is looking for more willing suppliers in other countries.

Unfortunately, Huawei’s troubles will continue well into next year. The current extension is until around February 2020. Chances are, we won’t get a definitive conclusion to the saga until then.

Spilling over to 2020

Without a doubt, 2019 was a busy year for us. However, with how inconclusive these five have “resolved,” it looks like an even busier 2020 for the headlines. Will we see a 5G iPhone? Will tech companies commit to better privacy? Will we finally get a conclusion to the long-standing Huawei saga? 2020, be good to us.

Illustrations by MJ Jucutan/GadgetMatch.

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Accessories

Best of 2019: Our favorite iPhone cases

Dare to make a statement

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iPhones are the easiest to spruce up with stylish cases. They don’t come with gorgeous gradient designs that make it hard for you to cover it up. There are a lot of gorgeous cases to choose from and sometimes, it’s easy for us to get overwhelmed. To make it easier for you, here are our top picks of the best iPhone cases this year.

Mujjo Leather Wallet Cases

One of my all-time favorites, Mujjo’s leather wallet cases are perfect for those who value convenience and efficiency. It has a cardholder that can carry up to three cards. Additionally, it comes in a stylish leather design producing gorgeous patina over time. Mujjo ensures that you have a beautiful phone case that can protect your iPhone, and grows with you throughout the years. Shop here.

Otterbox Symmetry Series

OtterBox’s Symmetry series is meant for the bold type and those who love making statements through their fashion choices. It’s made of polycarbonate and synthetic rubber designed precisely and gracefully to help you keep your phone safe without sacrificing style. Shop here.

Speck Presidio Grip

If you love a protective case that screams strength and future, look no more. Speck’s Presidio Grip cases are slim, durable, and provides a secure no-slip grip so you can text, game, and take selfies without worry. It has a polycarbonate outer shell and is designed to be pocket-friendly and thin enough for easy wireless charging. Shop here.

Pangram Pangram x Casetify

For those who have a serious relationship with wanderlust, Casetify’s collaboration with Pangram Pangram is the best iPhone case for you. It lets you customize your iPhone case by choosing an airport and adding your name. It’s just like a luggage scan tag with your name on it. Currently, there are more than 30 cities to choose from. Shop here.

Moshi Altra – Shadow Black, Sahara Beige

If you just don’t know how to let go of your phone (and your feelings), then Moshi’s Altra cases are perfect for you. It features a detachable wrist strap that will let you hang your phone anywhere you’d like: From your neck to your shoulders, your wrist, and even on the hope that you and your ex would get back together — just hang in there.

Kidding aside, this strapped case lets you move around conveniently without the risk of dropping your phone. It comes in a premium finish and a unique, elegant design that would make you want to show-off this case wherever you go. Shop here.

Spigen Slim Armor Essential S

Sometimes, all we need is a clear, protective case so we can see how beautiful the iPhone is. Spigen’s Slim Armor Essential S has a clear design with a rigid back and flexible bumper. It’s pocket-friendly and has a built-in kickstand. It’s also compatible with wireless charging. Shop here.

Pela eco-friendly cases

If you care about the environment and sustainability is one of your advocacies, Pela’s eco-friendly cases are your perfect match. They help protect not just your phone but the environment, too. They’re soft, flexible, smooth, and made from Flax shive and a plant-based biopolymer, making these cases 100% compostable. Additionally, Pela donates a percentage of its sales to Ocean Cleanup and Preservation Initiatives to help lessen plastic in the ocean. Shop here.

Uniq Lino Hue

Those who love to look sleek and elegant without spending too much, Uniq’s Lino Hue cases are to die for. This Singaporean designer brand produces a minimalist, liquid silicone case available in different colors. On the inside, it has a microfiber lining for a luxurious finish. The case was designed with function, style, and durability in mind. Shop here.

Native Union’s Clic Series

L-R: Clic Card, Clic Canvas, Clic Marquetry

A yearly favorite, Native Union’s iPhone cases are crafted with unique, durable, and striking materials. Clic Card is crafted with genuine Italian Nappa leather with a built-in cardholder; Clic Canvas is made of premium woven fabric and a strong, flexible frame; while Clic Marquetry pieces together three genuine Italian types of leather made for the bold type. All cases are compatible with wireless charging. Shop here.

Bonus: Nomad Rugged Tri-Folio

For those who want to be taken seriously, Nomad’s Rugged Tri-Folio case is the best case for your iPhone. It’s made of Horween leather and has two large pockets and four extra-deep card slots to make your life convenient. Additionally, you can charge wirelessly with this supple yet durable case. Shop here.

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Editors' Choice

Best of 2019: Our favorite laptops

These will last with you for a long time

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It’s easy to get lost in a sea of laptops. There are plenty of options in the market which fit different needs and personalities, making it difficult to pick one that’ll last with you for a long time. To help people find the right laptop, we’ve narrowed down the best laptops we tried this year. Here they are:

Best convertible: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (2019)

Of all the convertibles launched in 2019, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is easily the most beautiful and powerful. This convertible prides itself with a thinner body, better cooling system, and a bigger keyboard and trackpad while retaining the gorgeous 4K HDR panel, near borderless display, and slim design we loved. Surely, Dell refined every detail to provide the utmost experience.

Best multimedia laptop: MacBook Pro 2019

There are just some things that you can only do really well on a MacBook Pro. For video editors who refuse to leave Final Cut Pro and budding music producers who enjoy the convenience of Garage Band, the MacBook Pro will always be their default laptop. Plus, it’s an Apple and it’ll never go out of style.

Best creator’s laptop: ASUS ProArt StudioBook One

Engineers, industrial designers, video editors working for video production houses will have field day working on theA SUS ProArt StudioBook One. It’s perhaps the most powerful laptop in the world today.

Powered by the latest Intel Core i9 processor, and the new NVIDIA Quadro RTX 6000 graphics card it can literally handle anything you throw at it — rendering 8K videos, 3D graphics and animation, you name it, this beast of a machine can handle it.

Honorable mention: Acer ConceptD 7

Best business laptop: Lenovo Yoga S940

If you travel for work, you need a capable laptop that you can easily bring along on your flights and let you do work seamlessly wherever you are. Enter Lenovo Yoga S940 — a beautiful, borderless, business laptop crafted with elegance and top-of-the-line features like Smart assist and a 4K screen. With its premium look packed with high-end features, it’s guaranteed to deliver presentations perfectly that will surely impress your clients.

Best special edition: ASUS ZenBook Edition 30

ASUS succeeded in commemorating its 30th anniversary when they launched the ZenBook Edition 30. Of all special edition laptops, this beaut has gracefully captured everyone’s attention with its luxurious appeal; hand-crafted and hand-stitched Pearl White genuine Italian leather complemented by Rose Gold diamond-cut edges and trim bar adorned by an 18-karat rose-gold-plated 30th-anniversary logo.

Best productivity laptop: Huawei MateBook 13

Huawei surely didn’t compromise when it comes to the MateBook 13. Despite being smaller than the MateBook X Pro, it’s equally powerful and has the build quality, performance, and look which can be on par with the MacBook Pro. For such a compact package and affordable price, the MateBook 13 is definitely one of the best in its class.

Best in innovation: ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo

ASUS made some noise mid-year when it launched the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo, stunning the crowd with its dual 4K OLED screens in both its main and secondary display. However, it’s not just a stunner since it’s packed with beastly specs that will let any artist unleash their creativity while staying productive. ASUS successfully showcased a glimpse of the future and the ZenBook Pro Duo is indeed a “laptop of tomorrow.”

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