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.

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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!

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Hands-On

Snapdragon 865 Hands-on: Top 5 Features

5G for all, 200MP, 8K, and more.

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As we lean towards the second decade of the millennium, Qualcomm is ready to ship out their next flagship chipset.

Snapdragon has been running most devices people use today. Snapdragon 865 (together with the midrange 765) are two of Qualcomm’s chipset offerings for 2020. They offer more than incremental performance boosts.

Watch more to know the top 5 promising features of the new chipset.

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24 Hours Series

24 hours in Mövenpick with the Honor 9X

I didn’t want to leave

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I know you must feel strange to be hearing back from me writing another travel article when last time I tried, I preemptively said that I was horrible at writing about my adventures. Well, you guys might have to deal with reading my silly little travel psychobabble again because I went to Cebu for a weekend and I brought the Honor 9X with me.

Feeling beachy

Okay, this is technically not fair since Cebu is like home to me at this point. I luckily grew up visiting Cebu a lot. My older siblings were born there, so that’s not much of a surprise. On this trip though, my parents opted out of staying in a hotel in the middle of the bustling city. We decided to stay by the beach at Mövenpick. We have never been to Mövenpick before. So, it was going to be pretty interesting to explore the place.

The view was stunning. I didn’t even know what to capture first. It was that gorgeous. When we arrived, the staff were lovely enough to let us roam the area despite not having checked in yet. Mövenpick is pretty. The moment you get dropped off at the lobby, the place instantly assaults your senses with everything beach. It smells, sounds, and feels like you’re at the beach. 

That’s obviously because a few steps farther, you’re already at the beach. The place is well designed to have the ocean breeze flow from the bayfront to the resort lobby. It’s open-spaced.

No such thing as fasting at breakfast

This is the only photo of food I managed to snag before inhaling it. I’m not going to apologize for being a little hangry considering I hadn’t had a meal for hours and I stayed up all night. This is Mövenpick’s poached egg breakfast. Was it good? Yes. I mean, look at it. How could it not be?

I think off the bat, that how the food tasted may have shifted a little considering I was zoning out because of the view. It’s really pretty and honestly, it testing my writing skills (if I have any) to try and find more synonyms to great, pretty, and lovely. 

Dinner at the Ibiza

No, I didn’t take a pill in Ibiza. And yes I know, nobody asked. Mövenpick has this by-the-bay restaurant and bar called the Ibiza. They have live music and good food so if you’ve booked a room, this is the place to be at night. There’s food, an amazing view, and live music. Is there anything more I could have asked for? No. It was perfect.

The Ibiza is open in the morning too. If you want to have your breakfast there, you can soak in the early morning ocean breeze while eating.

Here come excuses

Alright, I didn’t take many photos while in Cebu, at least, not as many as I would like to. I wanted to savor every stunning moment there. I haven’t been back in ages and I’ve barely spent time at the beach. Not to mention, I rarely get to see my little nephew. 

I guess as much as this article is about bringing the Honor 9X with me to show off how the phone is capable of capturing every lovely moment of your travels, it’s good to sometimes be in the moment. It isn’t on the Honor 9X for uncaptured moments. It’s totally on me for leaving it in my bag. Having said that, I think it was good to have eased off bringing the phone along every single second of the trip. I’m more than happy to have lived those quiet undocumented moments.

I’m not saying you should drop taking pictures altogether. It’s nice to have documented moments of a trip especially when it’s somewhere stunning. It’s nice to have something to look back on and to remind us of good times. I suppose it’s just nice to sometimes wean off of being so obsessive with what you can capture and instead, be in the moment.

All photos are taken with the Honor 9X

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Hands-On

Realme X2 Pro Master Edition hands-on: Tough looks, solid performance

It’s made of a soft-frosted glass but feels like cement

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The Realme X2 Pro has gotten fans really excited. Touted as the new flagship killer, it has quad cameras, Snapdragon 855+, and other flagship-level features at an affordable price tag.

While the regular Realme X2 Pro is already pretty awesome, what we got here is even more intense. We have the Reame X2 Pro Master Edition to check out, the Concrete edition to be exact.

Tough looks

The Master Edition of the Realme X2 Pro also comes in a Red Brick design. I’m not too big a fan of that look, so I got the Concrete version instead.

The Realme X2 Pro Master Edition is designed by famous Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa. It comes with a signature of the designer on the back panel.

The texture is pretty similar to the Sandstone feel of the older OnePlus devices — just less rough and more matte.

Realme says this is a soft-frosted glass although it’s hard to tell to be honest. The finish looks and feels like concrete cement even if it’s soft-to-touch.

Solid performance

Apart from the differences in design, it’s pretty much the same exact Realme X2 Pro inside. It packs 12GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage.

The Realme X2 Pro has a 6.5-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display with a waterdrop notch, and a high 90Hz refresh rate. It boasts a 91.7 percent screen-to-body ratio and an in-display fingerprint scanner that works really fast.

Making it an even better media device is a pair of stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

There’s also a vapor chamber liquid cooling, a superconducting carbon fiber multi-layer scheme, multi-layer graphite sheet and other heat-dissipating materials so the phone can definitely game without heating issues.

This is all backed up by a massive 4000 mAh battery with 50W SuperVOOC Flash Charging technology. It can fully charge the phone from zero, in just about 35 minutes.

This super fast charging is definitely something anyone would appreciate. Imagine waking up in the morning and charging your phone while you’re in the shower. It’ll be ready and full just before you head out.

Capable cameras

The Realme X2 Pro has a quad-camera setup, with the Samsung GW1 64-MP sensor with a fast f/1.8 aperture as the main camera. There’s also a 13MP telephoto lens with support for up to 20x hybrid zoom, an 8MP ultra-wide with a 115-degree field-of-view, as well as a 2-megapixel depth sensor to help with portrait shots. Up front is a 16MP selfie camera.

In China the Realme X2 Pro is priced at CNY 3299 (US$ 469). In India, it will be going on sale around Christmas time for INR 34,999 (US$ 490).

What do you think about this version? Should phone companies make more special edition phones in a similar design? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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