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Here are the top stories on GadgetMatch this week.

1. US government doesn’t know how to un-ban Huawei

US President Donald Trump lifted the ban on Huawei during a G20 conference meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. However, no actual policy was announced since. This means, technically, the ban hasn’t exactly been lifted.

National Economic Council Larry Kudlow clarifies that the lifting only covers “general merchandise” and that Trump remains focused on cybersecurity concerns. The conflict, though, has definitely died down a little and Huawei can resume business as usual. But that still does not mean they’re allowed to sell in the US.

Google, for its part, has publicly opposed the ban saying it’s an even greater threat to overall cybersecurity. The company is still operating under the temporary window provided by the US government but that can change in a few weeks as talks progress between the US and China.

2. Facebook apps breakdown

All hell broke loose when the “Image could not be loaded” error message took over the Internet for a few hours this week following a slew of Facebook apps breaking down.

The news feed as well as Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp all had trouble loading images for an extended stretch.

Some people on Twitter were quick to poke fun on the breakdown with one of them even saying that Facebook CEO did this intentionally so that his products would trend on Twitter.

The company, though, was quick to address the issue saying it was just due to a “routine maintenance operation” which we all know is code for:  “We were trying something new and messed up but we can’t tell you that.”

Thankfully, all the apps are now back up and running as usual so we can continue looking at other people having the time of their lives and feel miserable about ourselves.

3. Xiaomi, Meitu unveil Mi CC9 series 

When Meitu was bought by Xiaomi in 2018, the hope was that it would help bring Meitu’s tech closer to more people. Fast forward to 2019 and the collaboration has finally given birth to the Mi CC9 Meitu Edition.

The phone is a solid midranger powered by a Snapdragon 710 chip along with 8GB RAM and 256GB of internal storage.

But as fans know, the Meitu magic lies all in the camera app. Instead of the usual camera app that comes with MIUI, this one’s equipped with the Meitu camera app and its entire suite of beautifications options. There’s even an AI low light portrait mode as well as video stabilization on the front-facing camera.

These are all done in the service of preserving the “Meitu spirit” which continues to “take on the journey to make girls happy.”

The other two phones in the lineup are the Mi CC9 and the Mi CC9e.

The Mi CC9 shares most of the features of the Meitu edition minus the Meitu camera and a lower configuration at 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

Meanwhile, the Mi CC9e is the smallest of the bunch and is also the least powered and lacks certain features like NFC, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and IR blaster.

4. Samsung showcases the Galaxy A80 BLACKPINK edition 

BLACKPINK is not just in your area, they’re practically everywhere these days. Including Samsung smartphones.

In April, Samsung introduced a special edition of their midranger Galaxy A70 featuring the popular K-Pop girl group. This week, the BLACKPINK edition reaches Samsung’s phone with a rotating camera — the Galaxy A80.

Getting this package will net you a charging stand, a special case that fully customizes the phone into all things BLACKPINK, as well signed photocards of the members.

Also announced are BLACKPINK edition Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Watch.

The BLACKPINK Edition Galaxy A80 was first launched in Thailand but we have received confirmation that it’s also coming to the Philippines as well as other Southeast Asian markets.

5. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 is coming

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 is coming our way in about a month.

Samsung posted a teaser online showing the S-Pen pointing down to what looks like a punch-hole camera. Zooming out, you’ll see that the image forms an exclamation point which probably hopes to get you excited about the upcoming Note.

The teaser also shows that the unpacked event will be on August 7 but there seems to be no other details at the moment. We should know more as we draw closer to the actual date.

Bonus!

We would love to invite you to support this new project — it’s a podcast called “She Said, He Said” with Nicole Scott of Mobile Geeks.

Each week, expect to hear unique perspectives, the news that matters, and a whole lot of strong opinions!

“She Said, He Said” is available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and everywhere else you get your podcasts. And since you’re here, might as well give it a listen now, yeah?


Weekend Rewind is our roundup of top news and features you might have missed for the week. We know the world of technology can be overwhelming and not everyone has the time to get up to speed with everything — and that includes us. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the rewind.

Features

Samsung The Serif: What’s it’s like to watch on an artistic TV?

You just can’t help but fall in love with it

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I have always been in love with Samsung — smartphones, tablets, accessories, and their digital appliances. There’s just something suave about their designs that please my aesthetic, evidently amplified in their lineup of lifestyle TVs.

That je ne sais quoi had my eyes set on having The Frame and The Sero for its bespoke vibe that somehow fits the lifestyle I’ve been dreaming of. But in a twist of fate, I found myself completely hooked over Samsung’s The Serif. And it’s far different from the lifestyle TV’s I’ve always been eyeing on.

Coup de foudre (Love at first sight)

The Serif, designed by the Bouroullec brothers, carries the Bouroullec principle in its design — practical, sensuous, exquisite, and sophisticated. Wherever you place this artistic TV, it certainly embellishes any space.

It fills a room with grandeur beauty, thanks to the fusion of art and technology resulting in an avant-garde form factor that makes it a sight to behold.

At a glance, The Serif is unconventional. Somehow, my eyes fell in love the first time I saw it. Maybe because it’s dressed in white? Or maybe because I’m a designer and The Serif, in some manner, is reminiscent of serif typefaces I’m familiar with all too well. Times New Roman. Playfair Display. Baskerville.

If you squint your eyes a little, it forms the shape of the letter “I” in those serif typefaces — with its strokes on both ends giving an impression of an expanded I-beam.

Cool, right? Maybe that’s why I’ve fallen in love right away. It’s not my usual type, but from the get-go, I knew I’m captivated like a firework show.

An exalted home decor

What makes it appeasing to the eyes of many — urbane or gauche — is its ability to look graceful and charming, and even elevate one’s home. Its evocative, 360-degree style along with its practical setup and artistic technology helps it blend anywhere. Whether it’s in your living space, your bedroom, your dining area, or even your sanctuary-like bathroom.

It has an elegant cable management system hiding unsightly wires needed for display, power, and connectivity. Further, it comes with a detachable floor stand so you can place The Serif on top of a TV stand or a raised, marble floor.

Or you can also place it in the middle of the living room as if it’s a cultivated sculpture. In some ways, I’d think of The Serif as prized ornamentation: Portable, versatile for any home style, and suitable for a culturally-refined taste.

When you’ve successfully placed the TV to your liking, you can turn it up a notch and use Ambient Mode to install and exhibit art pieces that can act as wallpaper. Instead of having a big, black box, you get a power-saving feature that spruces up your home.

Can’t take my eyes off you

Yes, The Serif is easily explained through Frankie Valli’s 60’s pop-rock “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” It’s my anthem for every time I fall in love — which is quite rare — but it also applies in the way I experienced Samsung’s Parisian-looking piece.

Its picture quality is breathtaking. I was mesmerized, awestruck at the sight of its QLED panel parading vivacious colors and exceptional contrast. I thought to myself, “the devil is surely in the details” especially with how its 4K resolution and AI upscaling worked hand-in-hand to present dynamic shows, even if it’s content from the distant past.

Samsung’s Quantum Dot Technology also put in the work, bringing out the best of any content down to the tiniest detail through a 100% Color Volume.

Though I’m no stranger to how QLED works, I’m still enchanted reveling in a spectacular display for months. It made me want to skip work and lounge around. At some point, I pondered how I could spend a day staring, marveling at The Serif’s beauty.

But instead of being smitten for days, The Serif helped me embrace the art of slow living — dilly-dallying, mellowing out, falling in love with life, and becoming more intentional with my time.

Meaning, less work and more time for things that give me joy. That includes basking in films and series with European sensibilities or catching up on dashing animés to serve as my muse for my art and poetry. Because if you have a TV as remarkable as this, how could you not make the most out of it?

Smart and good-looking

I like my partner the way I like The Serif — serving looks, intelligent enough to carry a conversation, and smart enough to make things work with ease. It’s just convenient when everything seamlessly connects. Part of the reason why I got my claws on Samsung’s ecosystem. I’m not giving it up easily.

SmartThings, Samsung’s app to connect their smart devices, has been central to my connected lifestyle. It helped me link my devices, and sync my smartphones and tablets to The Serif. At times where I misplace the gorgeous, curved remote control, I turn to the SmartThings app to activate the TV and navigate the screen.

Sometimes, I adjust its settings such as sound and brightness. Sometimes, I play around with Ambient Mode where I collage my memories, which I directly send using my smartphones.

When I’m feeling sprightly, I use the NFC technology feature by placing my smartphone on the top bezel — another way to connect instantly. The screen automatically turns into Ambient Mode to cast music from my smartphone and display visual effects that move along with the beat.

Moreover, it’s easy to cast videos on TV or mirror your smartphone’s screen whether it’s through Smart View or Tap View. The Serif is full of unique tricks that’ll make your exquisite watching experience a bit modern and convenient.

Je t’aime, Serif

Props to Samsung for producing a sculpture-like piece that can instantly add pizzazz to an otherwise boring space. Lifestyle TVs don’t get a lot of appreciation because of their unconventional style and features that are seemingly unfamiliar for most people.

Little do they know, they have a picturesque display and crystal-clear sound quality, too, that makes up for a remarkable experience. It’s like watching your favorite shows while touring Musée D’Orsay. That chic, classic Parisian aesthetic is all over The Serif.

It’s probably The Serif’s pièce de résistance: the je ne sais quoi, the allure that you can only experience when you’re graced by this perennial beauty, the one-of-a-kind experience that makes you fall in love with it, with yourself, and with the life you’re living. I guess it’s safe to conclude: I’m in love. Au revoir.

Samsung’s The Serif comes in two sizes: 43-inch (PhP 55,999) and 55-inch (PhP 79,999). The lifestyle TV is available in authorized Samsung dealers nationwide.


This feature is a collaboration between GadgetMatch and Samsung Philippines.

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Reviews

vivo V23 5G Unboxing and Review: Color Changer!

With a revolutionary color-changing back!

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While the X-series is vivo’s line of flagship smartphones with the best in class rear cameras, the V-series is for those who want a great midranger option with star-studded selfie cameras.

Apart from the color-changing back due to Fluorite AG glass, the vivo V23 5G offers more than meets the eye. It’s packed with well-rounded hardware if you may ask.

But should you get the vivo V23 5G? Head over to our vivo V23 5G unboxing and review now to help yourself out.

 

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Apps

Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay 2.0: Cut through the queue

Make life less hectic!

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Starbucks Mobile

When you’re an adult, coffee isn’t just a power-up drink helping you get through the day. It becomes an avenue for conversation, an invitation to meet people, a kick you need to fuel your creativity and productivity.

While there are several ways to brew coffee and there are different local neighborhood cafés to explore, Starbucks has always been within reach. And it has ingrained itself as an important part of my working life. A staple of the modern workforce’s culture. A lifestyle — tradition to an extent — that seeped in through the interstices of friendships and family.

When the pandemic struck, I started learning how to brew my own coffee. Occasionally, I order my caffeine fix through Grab or Foodpanda. But the experience isn’t the same.

Keyword: Experience. That’s precisely what Starbucks offers. So when Starbucks Philippines sent me a holiday card to try the new Mobile Order & Pay, a feature they had for a while that was rehashed, I decided it’s time to go out and try again.

Exploring the app

The Mobile Order & Pay 2.0 is available through the Starbucks app. If you’re a Starbucks lover, you probably have an account registered to Starbucks Rewards. The app is easy to use, particularly because of its clean user interface (UI) design.

Through the Starbucks app, you can check your account’s transaction history, monitor the stars collected via the Rewards program, and make some changes to your personal profile and payment methods. The app also has a lot of promotional materials, parading their latest drinks and treats that you can avail yourself of in-store or online.

Starbucks Mobile

And more importantly, you can reload your account, register your cards, and of course, get ahead of your day and order your favorite beverages.

Cut through the line

Once I got my cards settled in, I ordered my go-to drink: Cold brew topped with four pumps of white mocha sauce. I placed my order through the Mobile Order & Pay 2.0 feature, which gave me four options to pick up my order. Although, the options vary depending on the closest branch near you.

There’s the usual In-store pickup where you head straight to the pickup counter for your order. Yes, you won’t get in line anymore. When I tried this pickup option, everyone gave me looks when I went past the queue and headed straight to ask the Barista about my order. I had the audacity to ask about my drink because the app notified me when the order was ready.

Starbucks Mobile

When I got my drink, I walked out of the store feeling ravished. It felt like I was in a slow-mo montage of a coming-of-age film where the protagonist suddenly did something extraordinary. Frankly, this is my favorite pickup option. It makes so much sense to just get your orders if you can walk inside. And that gives you extra steps for your smartwatch to count. Get moving, people!

But if you don’t like the hassle of scanning your QR codes and getting your temperature checked, or the usual mumbo-jumbo you encounter inside a store, there are other pickup options outside.

Just wait outside

My other favorite option was the Outdoor pickup, which I chose when I was passing by Starbucks The Grove — my favorite branch in Pasig. I was dead-tired from a weekend night-out with my friends at Okada Manila, and the all-night casino adventure bled through a Monday morning.

I was on my way home, ready for work. Then, I realized I badly need the good ol’ Barista Drink. Nothing can beat an americano topped with white mocha sauce splashed with sub-breve (and no water!). Especially when it comes to waking you and your senses up. More importantly, you can have it served iced or hot depending on your preferences.

Starbucks Mobile

I placed my order when I was already in Arcovia City, a kilometer away from The Grove by Rockwell. Apparently, you can’t order ahead for an Outdoor pickup if you’re 3 kilometers away, which I tried to do when I was still in Taguig. So you have to be close to the branch if you want to place your order.

I tried to do the math in my head, calculating if I can pull over for a minute while I wait for my order. But I’m bad at numbers so I went ahead. The app said the order will be ready in five to six minutes anyway.

I pulled over when I arrived at the branch, and I didn’t wait long enough for one of my favorite baristas to come out to my chosen pickup point and hand me my order.

Stay in your car

I hate parking. Or wasting the time spent trying to park properly in between enormous SUVs. Or finding a spot to park your vehicle. This is why I don’t understand the Curbside pickup option, where the barista locates your designated parking slot and gives your order while practicing social and safe distancing.

I tried the pickup option in Starbucks Sierra Valley — a humongous, stand-alone branch with a massive parking space and drive-thru option found east of Metro Manila.

Starbucks Mobile

If you’re in a time crunch, this option really doesn’t make sense. But if you have a few moments to spare and you don’t want to get out of your vehicle for safety measures against the COVID-19 (and its variants), then the Curbside pickup is the way to go.

Frankly speaking, it doesn’t work for me. I know having your order brought to you is part of the experience, but I value my time. And it was against my morals to just sit inside my car and wait for the barista to come out and bring my order. In my head, they could be doing more valuable things than going outside the store, when I can pick up my order at their counter.

The In-store pickup is the fastest option in my experience, and I feel good doing the task instead of sitting and waiting around. I guess it’s my can-do attitude speaking, but that’s how I’m really built.

Drive through it

Now, there’s another option to get your order: Drive-thru pickup. You just have to line up in a queue of cars and wait for your turn. Like the Curbside pickup option, I didn’t like the Drive-thru pickup for one reason: It takes too long to get through the drive-thru window.

People are afraid to get out of their vehicles because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that’s valid. That’s why there are plenty of cars lining up to get their caffeine fix. I spent roughly 30 minutes waiting for my turn, which annoyed me since it would’ve been faster if I chose the In-store or Outdoor pickup.

Making life less hectic

Regardless of my rants and experience, the Mobile Order & Pay 2.0 lets you get your favorite treats and beverages conveniently. In the way you like it.

While I’ve loved the In-store and Outdoor pick-up because they work well with my personality and lifestyle, I know some people (read: friends) would enjoy the Curbside and Drive-thru pickup. Especially since they’re cautious about the pandemic.

Not that I’m not wary of the virus being out there, I just value my time because every second counts. If I wanted to waste my time waiting, I would’ve lined up inside.

Nevertheless, the rehashed feature is worth giving a try. Through the Starbucks app, you can customize your orders. Just like your baristas, the app can modify the size, the number of espresso shots, dairy selection, and various options for your order. All done with just a single tap on your smartphone.

Frankly speaking, the Mobile Pay & Order 2.0 made my life easier especially when I’m in a hurry to get a caffeine fix. Not all days can be spent brewing your coffee, living in a slowed-down lifestyle. Some days, we just need to get through it, and Starbucks knows how to accompany me through those days.

The Starbucks PH app is available on The App Store and Google’s Play Store.

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