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Here’s all you need to know about HDR

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The screen is the most important part of your smartphone, and serves as both display and interface. Over the past decade or so, we’ve been inundated with selling points like Retina Display, 720p, 1080p, 1440p, and even 4K. The latest buzzword for screens is high dynamic range or HDR, and the latest flagship phones tout it as a must-have spec.

But what is HDR in the first place?

More colors, more brightness

Put simply, HDR lets your display exhibit a far wider range of colors. How? First, whites are whiter, and blacks are blacker. The screen does this by being much brighter than what you’re normally used to, to the tune of 1,000 nits (a unit used for display brightness). By comparison, your old flagship phone probably topped out at around 500 nits. An HDR display can also illuminate or darken specific areas of the screen, whereas a non-HDR display commonly lights the entire screen evenly.

Second is wide color gamut, or WCG. This feature increases both the color palette (the number of colors available and the bit depth (or the number of shades of those colors). Your old phone could display nearly 17 million colors. By contrast, an HDR display can show over a billion, which is much closer to what you can see in real life. When working in tandem, these two processes enable the screen to show a range of colors that are more akin to real life. This is why people who have seen an HDR display liken it to looking out a window.

But there lies the problem. The most difficult issue with conveying what HDR is exactly is that if you don’t actually have access to an HDR-capable display, it’s impossible to show the difference. Conversely, if you have an HDR display and a non-HDR display side by side, the improvements are instantly evident. This technology represents a generational leap, much like the jump from black-and-white to color, or standard definition to high definition.

A feature by any other name

You’ve probably heard the abbreviation “HDR” before as a vaunted feature for smartphones even before it was used for displays. Another source of confusion is that HDR also applies to another selling point for phones: the HDR feature of a camera. In camera HDR, the camera takes many exposures of the same scene and combines them, thereby showing all of the subtle steps in highlights and shadows.

The principle between HDR displays and photography remains roughly the same, with the end result being an image that has higher contrast and more colors. Crushed blacks and blown-out whites are also eliminated as a result. This is where the phrase “high dynamic range” comes in, representing the difference between the darkest parts of an image with the lightest.

Which gadgets have HDR?

All of this year’s important flagship phones have HDR-enabled displays, including the LG G6 and the Sony Xperia XZ Premium. However, these phones appear to be using different standards for what constitutes HDR — the LG G6 uses both the open HDR10 standard and proprietary Dolby Vision, and Sony’s 4K phone appears to be using its own definition of HDR.

Hopefully, HDR specifications normalize in subsequent generations of phones. You wouldn’t want to get a phone with HDR to find out that your HDR content won’t even display properly on it. Thankfully, at this year’s Mobile World Congress, the Ultra HD Alliance announced Mobile HDR Premium, which is an HDR standard specifically developed for smartphones, tablets, and laptops. The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, two of the best phones of 2017, were the first pair to adhere to this certification.

Here are the specifics of Mobile HDR Premium for a wide variety of portable devices:

Device Resolution Dynamic Range Color Space Bit Depth
Smartphones (3- to 7-inch screens) 60 pixels/degree .0005-540 nits 90% of P3 Color gamut 10
Tablets (7- to 12.9-inch screens) 60 pixels/degree .0005-540 nits 90% of P3 Color gamut 10
Laptops (9.5- to 18-inch screens) 60 pixels/degree .0005-540 nits or 0.1-600 nits 90% of P3 Color gamut 10

Why do you need HDR?

If you’re after the top-end phones, you’ll find it increasingly difficult to avoid HDR. The benefits that a more accurate display brings is most useful if you’ll be doing image work on your phone, like quickly editing photos on VSCO before sharing it to the ether. But its advantages will also be immediately noticeable if you consume content on your phone (like most people do). More and more media providers are putting out HDR content —YouTube, for one, has had HDR support since last year, and both Netflix and Amazon Video have it as well.

And with diminishing returns in terms of resolution on a five- to six-inch screen (do you really need 4K on a screen as big as your palm?), HDR is one display buzzword that is instantly apparent. Plus, unlike a 4K screen that eats batteries for breakfast, HDR on your phone can actually extend your phone’s longevity; the dynamic and selective adjustment of brightness, depending on what’s shown, should increase your screen-on time by a significant amount.

SEE ALSO: What exactly is Fast Charging? And how does it work?

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Explainers

The industry’s next big thing: Cloud gaming explained

It’s gaming on the go, but for internet that’s not slow

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Everybody’s getting into gaming these days, and you can’t blame them. With the pandemic continuing its ravaging ways in the world, people turn to their consoles or PCs for some action. However, not everyone can afford all the expensive PCs and the next-gen consoles when they come out.

Instead, a new player comes into the fray with a pretty great idea. What would happen if you can just play your favorite games from any device? Also, what if we told you that this won’t take up space on your device at all? This is basically what cloud gaming offers to you: a way to play games from any device at any time!

So, how does that actually work? What do you need to ensure quality gameplay, and should you even consider it?

The basics of playing on a cloud

On paper, it’s pretty easy to understand how cloud gaming works. Basically, you have access to a library of games from a cloud storage service. When you subscribe to the service, you can virtually play your library from any device regardless of the specs. Also, you don’t have to worry about storage problems since these games are stored on a server.

It’s no joke when these companies tell you that you can play your games on any device. With their dedicated data servers, they make sure that the games run smoothly once you access them from the cloud. On your end, you will need a strong and consistent internet connection to play the games smoothly.

Several companies already have cloud gaming software available for people to subscribe to. Some examples include NVIDIA’s GeForce Now, Microsoft’s xCloud, and Google Stadia — all of which store PC games on a server. These companies even take the time to update their server hardware every so often to bring the best possible quality.

System requirements for cloud gaming

Much like your ordinary PC or gaming console, companies that run cloud gaming servers need certain equipment to run smoothly. First, these companies must set up active data centers and server farms that run the games. These data centers ensure that games are up and running, while reducing latency. In other words, these serve as the powerhouse of cloud gaming.

Next on the list is the network infrastructure necessary to send these to the users. To ensure that people don’t experience lags when they play their games, companies also invest in acquiring proper data connections. However, in most cases, this isn’t something these companies have control over; it’s mostly coming from their available internet service providers.

On the front-end, companies also provide dedicated hardware and software to house the cloud. For example, NVIDIA integrated GeForce Now into their own cloud streaming device, the NVIDIA Shield back in 2013. Meanwhile, Google Stadia relies heavily on using pre-existing Google software like Google Chrome and the Stadia App.

Something great to offer, for the most part

Cloud gaming services offer something unique in the industry. Essentially, it eliminates the user from investing so much into buying expensive PCs as it allows people to play from virtually any device. Whether it’s on a smartphone, laptop, or even a smart TV, people get access to games at high frame rates without an RTX 3080.

Furthermore, the game and save files are stored on the cloud, and don’t take up any storage on your devices. This is greatly beneficial for people who are already running on limited storage space, especially if they play Call of Duty: Warzone. With everything stored on the cloud, you don’t need most of the 512GB of SSD storage.

However, one of the biggest issues with cloud gaming revolves around the thing it’s based on: the internet. Specifically, it’s on the user’s internet connection as these services require the fastest internet to run smoothly on any device. Basically, you will need either an Ethernet or a 5G wireless connection to ensure the lowest latency possible.

That infrastructure isn’t readily available in most markets, which is a prominent issue among several third-world countries. Furthermore, even if there are companies that have 5G in their pipeline, these same providers also put data caps on it. Even if the user can play at an optimal frame rate, they’re doing so with a restriction in place.

Does this new player have any place?

With the world continuously opening its arms to the gaming industry, innovation becomes the forefront of success. Companies come up with a variety of gaming technologies that seek to cater to a wide variety of people. From individual hardware to pre-built systems, gaming often revolved around these things.

With cloud gaming, it gives people not just another option within the mix. Rather, it seeks to challenge the notion of availability and accessibility, and give it a viable solution. Essentially, it takes away the physical hardware limitations on the user’s end, and makes it available for everyone.

But like most gaming technologies, everything is still limited somehow. These systems still experience bottlenecks both on the manufacturer and the user’s end. In the end, it will depend on how much you’re willing to shell out for them, and how willing you are to accept the risks.

Illustrations by Raniedel Fajardo

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Your MagSafe Questions Answered

Do you really need it?

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If you’ve ever owned an old MacBook before, you’ll know that those chargers magnetically snap onto place. That particular technology is called the ‘MagSafe’.

After the MacBook Pro touch bar and USB-C overhaul last 2016, everyone thought MagSafe ended for good. Not until they announced the new MagSafe for the iPhone 12 series four years later.

The MagSafe technology might not be new but the implementation for the latest iPhones makes the technology even more usable. Other than the securely-placed phone for wireless charging, there are a plethora of case manufacturers who continuously work on future accessories that support MagSafe existing ecosystem.

But is the Apple MagSafe more than just a gimmick? And do you really need it?

Watch our in-depth Apple MagSafe explainer here.

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Here’s how India is trying to be China in the smartphone game

The world’s second-largest smartphone market has more to offer

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China is practically the world’s production powerhouse. And India wants to follow the same path. India’s Central government has approved three schemes to enable large scale electronics manufacturing and attract fresh investments worth almost INR 50,000 crore (US$ 6.3 billion) in the sector.

The government aims to provide companies a production-linked incentive of 4 percent to 6 percent on incremental sales for locally made goods over a period of five years. This not only includes mobile phone manufacturing but also assembly, testing, marking and packaging.

The other policy offers a 25 percent financial incentive for capital expenditure that goes towards “the manufacturing of goods that constitute the supply chain of an electronic product”. With these incentives, the government is optimistic that companies will come to India, contribute to progressing infrastructure, and make export-quality goods.

Inauguration of Samsung’s Noida Factory in India

According to their estimates, domestic value addition for mobile phones is expected to witness 35 to 40 percent jump by 2025, from the current 20-25 percent.

So far, companies have focused on assembling equipment like smartphones in India. A huge chunk of the components are still imported. These policy changes could act as a stimulant to locally source electrical components, semiconductors, as well as develop production clusters.

Bangalore and Hyderabad are infamous for their IT Tech Parks that house thousands of employees from IT service firms like TCS, Infosys, Accenture, and many more. Similarly, the government wants to create production clusters that can develop an eco-system of their own. These clusters can create a seamless supply chain when paired with proper land, air, and shipment infrastructure.

The timing of the announcement is what matters the most. China is embroiled in a trade war with the US for quite some time and we’ve seen how a giant like Huawei got caught in the cross-fire. Companies are skeptical about depending too much on China for production and sourcing. Hence, countries like Vietnam have witnessed a huge inflow of foreign investment from the likes of Nintendo, Foxconn, and even Samsung.

India is very much like Vietnam. A developing economy that’s on the look-out for foreign investment and enhances local production capabilities. This not only helps the government increase its tax revenue via taxation, but also provides employment. Considering the current Coronavirus crisis, it’s obvious that these plans may not materialize soon. But, as soon as the storm is gone, companies would want to find an alternative to China.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi with Apple CEO, Time Cook

It’s reported that the alleged low-cost iPhone from Apple has been delayed due to the pandemic. Irrespective of the current health crisis, Apple has been trying to ramp up its local production in India and has done so, cautiously. India is the world’s second-largest smartphone market and every brand wants a piece of the cake. Realme and Xiaomi have been intensely fighting for supremacy, Samsung continues to lead via the offline market, and OPPO and Vivo have flooded all commercial banners with their products.

Xiaomi currently has seven plants in India, major ones being at Sri City and Sriperumbedur. It also makes its televisions in Tirupathi. Manu Kumar Jain, Vice President, Xiaomi, and Managing Director, Xiaomi India said that 95 percent of Xiaomi’s phones are made in India with 65 percent of a phone’s value being sourced locally. The government has been successful in compelling companies to make in India because it consistently kept on raising import duty on smartphones.

Samsung already has the world’s largest mobile phone factory in India that assembles top-tier variants, ready for export. We don’t know the volume it churns out right now, but their long-term investment is a precedent for other brands to take the market seriously. OnePlus has a research facility in Hyderabad where it makes software products intended for the Indian market.

Samsung’s factory in Noida, India

According to industry ICEA, the NOIDA region (a part of Delhi NCR) has close to 80 mobile manufacturing factories that provide employment to approximately 50,000 people. It’s normal today to see companies release press notes announcing new facilities across the country that’ll employ thousands of people.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi kickstarted the “Make in India” campaign five years ago to encourage foreign companies to invest and build in India. While its effects are debatable in a few industries, there’s no doubt that the mobile industry has picked up exponentially. State governments of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu have played a major role in establishing these clusters that symbolize progress.

Engineers are widely available in India, the country has developed multiple ports under the private-public model, and numerous airports are under construction. India is already the world’s second-largest smartphone maker, but the gap is huge. It’s about briding this. Obviously, the scale at which China produces is unmatchable. But that cannot undermine India’s efforts to be more relevant on the global stage. From a purely consumption-based economy, it’s slowly trying to turning into a production backed state.

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