Features

Google’s Pixel strategy is doing exceedingly well, at a cost

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When friends ask me for tips on buying techie products, one piece of advice constantly comes up: Don’t be an early adopter of first-generation gadgets. Why? Because bugs need to be ironed out first, and brands never show all their cards on the first attempt. This way of thinking is about to change, however, and it begins with Google and ends with Pixel.

Google’s pair of Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones haven’t reached the consumer market yet, but they’re already being showered with glowing reviews.

Well-respected tech journalist Walt Mossberg calls it the “best Android phone” he’s ever tested; Wired is “totally in love with the Pixel”; and Gizmodo says the Pixel makes a strong case if you must buy an Android, even though they’re calling it “dumb and ugly.”

Reviews have been so good, in fact, that Alphabet (Google’s parent company) has experienced its highest stock prices since 2004, according to a report by Bloomberg. The cherry on top: Both phones are currently out of stock because of the overwhelming demand.

[irp posts=”5053" name=”Google Pixel got the ‘little brother, big brother’ tandem right”]

Sentiments from other outlets have been largely the same, with the only complaints being the sky-high prices, lack of waterproofing, and bland physical design. Do the cons sound a little familiar? Those have been shots taken against Apple’s iPhones for the longest time (only the second con changed recently), making the Pixel a perfect rival in both strengths and weaknesses.

Still, as happy as we are for Google and consumers wanting more choices, the Pixel strategy is alienating Android’s most important supporters: third-party manufacturers.

By releasing a high-end pair of smartphones that’s truly its own, Google is now a direct competitor to the companies it has been working so closely with since Android’s conception, sending a harsh signal to hardware partners that there’s an even better way to handle its operating system, way beyond what Nexus has ever done.

The Pixel strategy is alienating Android’s most important supporters: third-party manufacturers.

Despite having the Pixels manufactured by HTC, the search giant has the software and hardware process under its control from start to finish. This is distinctly different from the way the Nexus series was handled, wherein the likes of Huawei and LG had their own say for the design, and were only required to lay out a fresh layer of Android inside.

Samsung is clearly the most affected brand. Now that the Galaxy Note 7 is out of commission, you’d have to look all the way back to February to find Samsung’s current, yet somewhat stale, Galaxy S7 flagship line. The development surely doesn’t bode well for the Korean company, who has been largely responsible for boosting Google’s mobile operating system to an 87 percent market share last quarter, thanks to a 22 percent smartphone market share of its own.

LG V20 Nougat

“Sorry about that” – Google to LG

LG has also been caught in the crossfire. Its phablet flagship, the yet-to-be-shipped V20, has been heavily marketed as being the first smartphone to have Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box, only for it to be outshone by the 7.1 version the Pixel smartphones will come with at around the same time. We wonder if Google knew about this in advance, or if they sent a really nice fruit basket to LG’s headquarters.

The only major player to benefit from Google’s new-found success is HTC. Even though its own self-branded smartphones continue to slump sales-wise, the Taiwan-based company actually saw a 41 percent revenue jump last month. Once the Pixels begin shipping, HTC’s fortunes will surely turn around, in spite of the lack of branding.

The only major player to benefit from Google’s new-found success is HTC.

As for how Chinese brands Huawei, OPPO, Vivo, Xiaomi, and the like feel about this, well, they’re too busy raking in mountains of cash from dominating the entry-level and midrange markets — two segments Apple and Google don’t really care about at the moment.

The situation is similar to the topic we touched on when we talked about Project Ara’s demise a month ago. Android partners already feared Google had shot them in the foot by buying Motorola to produce its own phones. When the Mountain View company changed its mind and sold the well-known handset manufacturer to Lenovo and began work on its modular phones, brands such as LG and Samsung looked into alternatives to the Android OS.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), Project Ara didn’t push through, so third-party brands had less competition to worry about — but then Pixel came in, and here we are. Oh, Google!

[i[irp posts=”4335" name=”Project Ara’s story is all about wasted potential”]p>

Entertainment

Joker, Jowable, Jojo Rabbit: Now Playing

Live, love, laugh!

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The GadgetMatch team just went through a rigorous back-to-back coverage starting from IFA 2019, iPhone 11, Vivo NEX 3, Huawei Mate 30 Pro, and many more. Like us, people are overwhelmed with smartphone launches one after another.

What kept us sane was these forms of entertainment we watch and play in passing. Here’s what’s Now Playing in GadgetMatch:

Movies to see

 

Steven Universe: The Movie
Leez: If you’re a fan of Steven Universe and the last episode left you feeling unsettled by how it neatly tucked the whole series, then you’re in luck. The movie doesn’t fall short in tackling the heart-wrenching significance of struggles and obstacles to be better and be who you are. It’s a movie that dives deep into lost friends and lost memories. You definitely need to check this out.

 

Jowable
MJ: No other film in this century has captured how I’ve been feeling for years now, except Jowable. This film tackles the joys, pains, and misadventures of singlehood in a comical approach. But don’t think it’s all just for laughs, Jowable is totally unpredictable — full of plot twists to keep you entertained while preaching you some deep life lessons that Buddha can’t even.

 

Jojo Rabbit
Luigi: Provocative and funny. How else can you describe Taiki Waititi’s upcoming comedy? This World War II satire features a German boy trying to hide a Jewish girl while being aided by his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (played by Waititi himself).

 

Joker
Kevin:  Not your usual origin story of a villain. Joker tackles mental health, human nature, and the society that we’re living in now. Partner those with Joaquin Phoenix’s stellar acting and what you get is a cinematic piece that moves you and makes you think about what “being normal” really is.  It’s best to see it on the big screen so be sure to catch it while it’s still showing.

Shows to binge-watch

 

Player reacts to his Highlights | House of Highlights
Rodneil: I haven’t been able to commit to watching a series of late so for my dwindling downtime, I’ve resorted to watching these one-off series on YouTube. Plus I also miss NBA basketball, so this is a great way to scratch that itch.

 

Marianne
Luigi: People have proclaimed Marianne as the most frightening series of 2019. As a horror enthusiast, I don’t think it is. However, this French horror series is still an excellent addition to the Netflix playhouse of monsters. Plus, that French accent is oh-so-sexy.

 

Vagabond
Rodneil: Gotta admit, I only considered watching because it stars Suzy Bae. But the story is gripping and the cinematography is pretty darn good. It’s about a stuntman who loses his nephew in a plane crash that was made to look like an accident but there’s more to it than just that.

Albums/Songs/Podcasts to listen to

 

데자 부 (Deja Vu) by Dreamcatcher
Vincenz: Although the song doesn’t sound as intense as their other releases, the latest music video tells a deeper story. There is a line that struck me: “Now I’m holding this pain,” especially that it talks about betrayal and abandonment. The melodic musical arrangement accompanied by contrasting light and dark visuals blend so well together — which gives a surreal and melancholic feeling to listeners and viewers alike.

 

Go Up by SB19
Vincenz: SB19 has been garnering attention for weeks. They sound like a K-Pop boy group because they were trained by a Korean agency. Although I’m not totally a fan, I appreciate their music especially since it talks about aiming high and achieving your dreams. Despite the hard choreography, their live vocals sound great. P-Pop is finally improving!

 

Linkin Park Favorites
Rodneil: It’s been quite a stressful past couple of weeks for me. To combat the urge of setting myself on fire, I’ve been listening to a lot of my favorite Linkin Park songs. The collection is mostly from the Hybrid Theory and Meteora albums. Listen to the full playlist.

 

 

Feel Special by TWICE
Rodneil: TWICE’s gradual concept change is evident in their new song Feel Special. More than that, though, the song seems to hold a special place in the members’ hearts as it alludes to their struggles. Especially Mina who is struggling with anxiety and begged off from parts of their tour but still participated in the album with strong support from the other members.

Games to play

 

Madden NFL 20
Gab: I know how everyone is on some hype train towards the recently released NBA 2K20 video game, but there are other sports-related games out there. As someone who is starting to have a level of interest with the NFL, Madden NFL 20 introduced me to how American football actually works. If you need a quick change of pace from shooting the basketball, I suggest you try scoring touchdowns.

 

NBA 2K20
Rodneil: Echoing what Gab said on his NBA 2K20 review — this game essentially feels like a massive patch for NBA 2K19. That’s not entirely a bad thing. It’s still the superior NBA simulation game and for it to improve, EA needs to step up big time with NBA Live. Will still play it because it’s my number one way to destress.

 

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Luigi: As a child, I never played the original Link’s Awakening on the Gameboy. I joined the Zelda party way too late. Thankfully, this Switch remake plays like a traditional game on the Gameboy. The new Link’s Awakening brings a lot to the table for both new and old players. It’s a well-polished game that doesn’t rely too much on nostalgia.


Now Playing is the GadgetMatch team’s favorite games, movies, TV shows, and more each month. If you’re curious to know what we’re into at the moment, this is what you should check out. So grab your popcorn, get some drinks, and enjoy what’s now playing!

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Best Smartphones

Best Budget Smartphones below $200

October 2019 Edition

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Welcome to GadgetMatch’s list of the best smartphones priced below US$ 200! Each month, we update our selection with the budget-friendly phones we believe are most deserving of your hard-earned savings.

Even though the spotlight has been on high-end smartphones this entire year, there have been a few surprisingly good entry-level handsets coming out lately, as well. So good, in fact, that we had to reassess our entire list.

Here they are in no particular order:

ASUS ZenFone Max M2 ($175)

We were disappointed to find out that the ZenFone Max Pro M2 went above the US$ 200 mark, but we still have the non-Pro Max M2 to buy at this price point. Fortunately, the fast Snapdragon 632 processor, large 4000mAh battery, and dual rear cameras remain.

REVIEW: ASUS ZenFone Max M2

Redmi Note 7 ($150)

Xiaomi blew everyone away when it announced the Redmi Note 7 with its class-leading specs and design. It’s been selling like hotcakes for a good reason: In terms of pure performance, nothing rivals this in the sub-US$ 200 category.

READ MORE: Redmi Note 7

 

OPPO A5s ($117)

The OPPO A5s perhaps is best looked at as a transition device more than anything else. It does what you expect out of budget smartphones. It’s good to have “for now” but you might look elsewhere for a more reliable daily driver.

REVIEW: OPPO A5s

Realme 5 (US$ 154)

Realme is giving Xiaomi a run for its money on our top-of-mind easy phones to recommend. The Realme 5 is a real treat for people looking for a budget smartphone that provides more than what they need.

HANDS-ON: Realme 5

Samsung Galaxy A20 ($190)

Samsung’s revived Galaxy A-series proves that the company cares about every price segment. The Galaxy A20, in particular, is the most well-rounded below US$ 200 thanks to its ultra-wide camera, AMOLED display, and hefty battery.

REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy A20


Update as of October 2019:

  • The Realme 5 replaced the Realme C2 on this list

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Best Smartphones

Best Midrange Smartphones from $200 to $400

October 2019 Edition

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When premium phones are out of financial reach and entry-level handsets just don’t make your cut, something in between is the next best thing. This is our updated list of the best midrange smartphones retailing from US$ 200 to US$ 400.

Formulating this category was tricky, since you can’t set an exact price and some of these devices are, in fact, the flagship phones of their respective brands. To simplify things, we chose a price range that simply sits between our other lists for best budget, upper-midrange, and premium smartphones.

Here they are in no particular order:

Xiaomi Mi 9 SE ($300)

Xiaomi has always been a part of the list and the Mi 9 SE truly deserves its spot. It’s a flagship-grade phone from its design to its specs. It’s dubbed as a “compact flagship” thanks to its smaller-than-usual form factor. If you’re looking for a phone that won’t hurt your pockets both in size and price, check out the Mi 9 SE.

REVIEW: Xiaomi Mi 9 SE

Realme 5 Pro (US$ 232)

A quadruple-camera setup at this price point seems unlikely but Realme made it happen. And it’s not just the setup, the lenses actually take photos with good image quality. That would have been enough to recommend this but it also has a Snapdragon 712 AIE chip with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. If you’re looking for a great deal, this is it.

HANDS-ON: Realme 5 Pro

ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2 ($245)

While not as affordable as its predecessor, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 still does several things most phones can’t even dream of at this price point. We get an upper-midrange chip, large 5000mAh battery, versatile cameras, and a pure take on Android.

REVIEW: ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2

Huawei Nova 5T (US$ 367)

Huawei managed to put a flagship-level chip with a glass back and with triple cameras on a midrange phone. These are things you expect from brands like Xiaomi but Huawei was able to pull it off as well.

READ: Huawei Nova 5T

Samsung Galaxy A50s ($345)

Samsung’s pivot to the A series has been fantastic and the Galaxy A50s is another proof of that. It’s a refinement of everything that was good with the Galaxy A50. If you’re a die-hard Samsung fan looking for a midrange phone, the Galaxy A50s is a solid option.

READ: Samsung Galaxy A50s


Update as of October 2019:

  • Huawei Nova 5T replaced the Pocophone F1
  • Realme 5 Pro replaced the Realme 3 Pro 
  • Samsung Galaxy A50s replaced the Samsung Galaxy A50 

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