Hands-On

Huawei P20 and P20 Pro Hands-on: A revolutionary step forward

Seeing more with three main cameras

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Tipping point: that pivotal moment in time where all the conditions are right, your status bar maxes out, and you level up from protégé to hero.

For some it comes by divine moment; others still by hitting critical mass.

For Huawei, this milestone is achieved with the launch of its P20 and P20 Pro. Unveiled today in Paris, these monumental smartphones will one day be remembered as the devices that ushered the company into ubiquity.

But first, as soon as they hit shelves early next month, they are meant to be enjoyed. Earlier this week we spent some hands-on time with the P20, and here’s what you can look forward to.

Designed to stand out

In person and in the hand, the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro look stunning and feel amazing. They are improved over last year’s models with rounded aluminum corners, a glass back that shimmers when hit by light, and just the right amount of curves to give it a softer feel.

But what’s most impressive is the phone’s range of color options. One color in particular stands out; it’s called Twilight, a gradient finish that fades from purple to blue and then green. While the Twilight P20 looks good in photos, nothing comes quite close to the moment when the sun’s rays hit the phone’s back and it explodes with color.

Earlier this year, I spoke with Huawei’s Chief Brand Officer Gloria Cheung about the importance of color and how a variety of finishes has always been important to the Huawei design story. While many folks gravitate to standards like black, silver, and gold, it’s nice to see options like Twilight, Midnight Blue, and the other gradient finish Pink Gold.

Huawei is clear about its intent to fuse both art and technology, and hopes that the P20 will attract a generation of users that care as much about technology as they do art, fashion, and pop culture. It’s evident too in its choice of its launch venue, The Grand Palais, also home to Chanel’s haute couture fashion shows.   

Both phones sport the new trend of taller but narrower displays, with near edge-to-edge screens and you guessed it, a notch. Having also used an iPhone X, the notch doesn’t bother me as much, but if it’s notch your thing, there’s an option to fill the space around it with black giving your P20 a more traditional look.

Unlike most phones that come with a notch, the phone still has a bit of chin, enough space for a fingerprint sensor which also acts as a home button with gestures for going back and multitasking. The saves you that tiny bit of screen real estate normally taken up by on-screen buttons. I like that the fingerprint sensor is up front, even if it ruins the all-screen illusion.

P20 vs P20 Pro

The phone comes in two sizes: the 5.8-inch P20 and the 6.1-inch P20 Pro.

Both phones are slightly different with the P20 Pro the obvious superior sibling. It has the better OLED display, more memory, water and dust resistance, and a bigger battery.

While we are unable to verify at this point, Huawei promises the P20 Pro should last as long as last year’s Mate 10 Pro, which lasts me about a day and a half on a single charge.  

Even with the switch to a glass back, neither phone gets wireless charging. Reps from Huawei tell us wireless charging speeds are not fast enough to justify the feature. With its bundled supercharger though, you can go from zero to 58 percent in 30 minutes.

There are some concessions that need to be pointed out. Neither model has a headphone jack and no room for expandable storage; instead, the phone comes bundled with a 3.5mm audio to USB-C adapter, and a generous 128GB of storage space as the standard.

The P20 is only splash resistant. I would have loved to see it come with the same water resistance as its big brother.

For a complete rundown of specs, check out our launch article.

The Best Cameras

If there’s one place where Huawei’s spent the most development, it’s on its cameras — which are, as of today, the highest rated by independent camera rating firm DxOMark.

It’s not hard to see why. There are tons of improvements to talk about: tweaks that make it easier to focus on subjects quicker, to new sensors that produce better colors, and super slow-mo 960fps video capture just so that its competition does not get a leg up.

Many will (secretly) appreciate the high-res 24-megapixel selfie camera, which is often left out of high-end phones.

The P20 Pro again gets the better end of the stick in terms of cameras. In fact, it has not just two like on the standard P20 (one monochrome and another with color), but three rear Leica cameras; one is a 3x zoom lens (more than the 2x we’re used to from the likes of Samsung and Apple), one black-and-white camera, and one incredibly ridiculous 40-megapixel main camera.      

While that’s a great conversation starter, one of its biggest camera achievements comes in the space of low-light photography. Without getting too technical, Huawei managed to squeeze in an image sensor that’s larger than those found on all of the best camera smartphones available today, and boosted its maximum ISO to 102400 which is in DSLR (not smartphone) territory.

They claim the P20’s low-light abilities are so good that it can shoot at one lux of light, which is basically close to pitch dark.     

Artificial Intelligence

Hardware improvements are only one half of Huawei’s camera story.

Since last year’s Mate 10, artificial intelligence has played a role in how well its cameras perform. That phone could detect objects and adjust camera settings to best suit the conditions and the subject.

On the P20, we’re seeing AI take a more active role. Huawei is calling it AI-powered Master Photography. Think of it as the right photography skills for the right moment.

For example, if you’re taking a photo of your mom, the camera detects this and changes to portrait mode so you get that nice background blur. Slightly crooked composition? The camera will show a horizon line indicator so your photos are perfectly framed.

But where AI really steps in and impresses is image stabilization.

Huawei says its AIS is so good, that it’s basically solved an age old problem in photography: long exposure night shots without a tripod. The phone can shoot four-second handheld photos while artificial intelligence and machine learning can compensate to remove any or all motion blur. Not even my US$ 3,000 Sony A7S II, which is one of the best low-light cameras today, can manage that.

Software

The P20 and P20 Pro run on Android 8.1 with an EMUI 8.1 skin. Huawei promises it’s at least 50 percent smoother and more responsive than previous models, but it’s still not close to stock Android which would have been the cherry on top of the P20 pie. There are plenty of gems under the hood, though.

Huawei Share 2.0 makes it easier to share files to and from a PC or Mac as long as you are on the same wireless network. You can share files wirelessly without having to install any apps on your computer, photo albums are curated by AI, PC Mode still lets you connect to a monitor for a full desktop experience, and then there are partnerships with Amazon and Alibaba so you can point your phone at objects and buy them right then and there.

Is the Huawei P20 your GadgetMatch?

You’ll have to wait and see. For now, we cannot wait to put the phone through its paces and see how it performs in the real world.

But I’ll tell you this: Where the P20 and P20 are concerned, Huawei has pulled out all the stops, and has delivered on all fronts. Both phones are exciting to look at and packed with all the right features.

Hands-On

Motorola razr Hands-On

The popular RAZR is back!

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The new Motorola razr is a modern version of the popular RAZR V3. It still has a sleek design, but now has a 6.2-inch Flex Display with a perfectly executed zero-gap hinge.

It runs on Snapdragon 710 chipset, 6GB RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 2510 mAh battery with 15W TurboPower charger right out of the box.

But does all of that justify the $1499 price tag?

This is our Motorola razr hands-on.

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Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy Fold hands-on: An expensive sneak peek into the future

It’s not for everyone

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2019 is the year of the foldable phone. First in the ring was Samsung’s Galaxy Fold. Announced in February, it was supposed to launch as early as April. As we all have probably read or heard, its early release to reviewers was met with a lot of issues. Samsung had to delay its official launch.

Over the last few months they’ve been busy reworking the Fold; now it’s tougher than ever and ready for the real world.

A reintroduction

In some ways you can think of the Galaxy Fold as a 7.3-inch tablet that you can fold into a candybar phone with a 4.6-inch display.

When folded, all buttons are on the right hand side of the device: volume rocker, power button, fingerprint sensor, and its SIM tray.

On the bottom a USB-C port and speaker grilles.

What’s changed?

Samsung focused on addressing the main issues that plagued its first release. Some users previously peeled off what they thought was a screen protector that turned out to be a very important protective layer. That layer is now tucked under the bezels so you don’t even know it’s there.

There’s also a cap that is meant to prevent dust and dirt from getting underneath the protective layer.

The hinge, too, has been reinforced. The gap between the hinge and the display has also been reduced.

Having used the original Fold, I can say that opening and closing i feels more secure. Even if you feverishly snap it open and close. All these changes have been made to ensure the phone survives the rigors of the real world.

One UI has also been optimized for the Fold. Home, back and multitasking buttons for example can be flushed to either side of the display for one handed use.

To open more windows alongside the app that’s already open just swipe from the right side and use apps edge to launch new apps. Closing windows is one tap or swipe away.

When you’re on an app and a notification comes in, you can press and drag the notification to open it as a separate window, so you can respond to a WhatsApp message easily, for example.

Even if you have two displays you can seamlessly switch between both by enabling a setting called App Continuity. That way whether you’re adding a contact on the big screen, or using your map on your small screen, you can close or open the display and continue what you were doing seamlessly.

Imperfect innovation

While the changes are much improved, the Galaxy Fold is not perfect. The front display is very small and is very hard to type on. I’d use it for things like Instagram, maybe. Even then, I’d benefit from the larger display. Not all apps support the squarish form factor, either. YouTube videos of course will only fill to fit a portion of the display. Although there are games like Asphalt 9, that are optimized to fill the display.

The Galaxy Fold doesn’t use a glass display, so there will always be creases in the middle. That’s just a limitation of the technology.

Otherwise, make no mistake — its a top of the line device. It’s got high end specs, and the same cameras as Samsung’s current flagship smartphones: three rear cameras and two selfie shooters up front.

Wireless charging and reverse wireless charging are also available, along with a few other bells and whistles.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

I am excited about the Galaxy Fold, and am thrilled that it’s full steam ahead. It’s an early device and it can get only better with time. What needs to happen now is app developers and Android need to optimize for this new, niche form factor.

With a price tag of US$ 1,980 in the US, SG$ 3,088 in Singapore, and PhP 109,990 in the Philippines, the Galaxy Fold is not for everyone — not even for people who can buy it outright. It’s for early adapters who want to get their hands on new technology ahead of everyone.

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Hands-On

Motorola razr hands-on: Futuristic phone in the body of nostalgia

The price we have to pay to move forward

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The iconic Motorola razr flip phone is back — bringing what we love from the past, into the future.

Like many of you, I love a good old nostalgic release, which is why I’m incredibly excited that this phone made its comeback. Of all the phones that ruled the late 90s and early 2000s, there’s nothing more iconic than the Motorola razr V3. It was a sleek, edgy, and fashion forward flip phone. From its launch in 2004, about 130 million razr V3’s were sold — making it the best selling clamshell of all time.

Like the original, the new Motorola razr is a flip phone, so you can answer and end calls like a boss.

Just like the hottest phones of this year, the new razr, too, is a foldable phone; or to be more precise, a phone with a foldable display. The main difference is instead of unfolding horizontally into a square tablet, it folds out vertically.

Inside there is no physical keyboard where there once was. Instead it’s all display — 6.2 inches of Flex View pOLED of it. Surprisingly there’s no noticeable crease on the screen. Motorola says the hinge is designed to flex into the shape of a water drop to avoid this. We’ll have to see over time if this indeed solves the challenge of the folding display technology.

When opened up, the new Motorola Razr feels just like any other smartphone. It’s just as tall and as wide but much thinner; except for the lip at the bottom which houses most of the phone’s components as well as its fingerprint sensor, which is fast and accurate.

When you turn the phone on you’re greeted by Android OS. That means all your favorite apps are right here. There’s a small notch on top of the display to make room for the earpiece and a 5MP selfie camera.

When you fold the phone close, you’ll find that it’s wider than the original razr V3. Motorola says bringing back the clamshell form factor using foldable display tech is meant to solve a customer pain point — portablity.

On the outside, there’s a secondary 2.7″ gOLED Quick View display. It’s not as high resolution  as the main display, but i’ts good enough for showing the time and notifications.

You can also tap to view a notification. There’s also Google Assistant Voice Detection, whichyou can use to dictate a text messages reply.

The Quick View display can also be used for taking selfies using the 16MP rear camera. You can just flick the phone twice to activate the camera. Smiling or flashing your palm will trigger the shutter.

The rear camera features an opening of f/1.7, electronic image stabilization, dual pixel and laser autofocus, dual LED flash. It also serves as the main camera when the phone is flipped open.

Just like the original Moto Razr — the new 2019 model is sleek and stylish. With an aluminum chassis and sharp edges. The back side has a carbon fiber-like textured finish that feels like plastic — the only sore spot in its otherwise ultra premium feel. At launch it will only be available in black, but fingers crossed we get other color options too. Motorola says its employed a special zero gap mechanism that gives this foldable display a level of toughness that will survive the rigors of the real world.

In the hands, the phone feels super sturdy. Even if it’s got a foldable screen it doesn’t feel fragile at all. In fact I think I wouldn’t mind just snapping it open and close without a worry.

Button and port placements are like this: volume and power on the right hand side. A USB-C port on the bottom chin as well as speaker. The phone has no headphone jack but ships with a pair of USB-C headphones and a USB-C to headphone jack adapter. There’s also no SIM card slot instead as it only supports e-SIMs. It’s also water and dust and resistant.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

From the star studded guest list at tonight’s launch event, it’s pretty clear that Motorola is targeting the hip, fashion forward market, and not the pro techie crowd. If you look at its spec sheet, this is meant to be a midrange smartphone — with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 710 processor, 6GB of RAM, and a measly a 2510mAh battery, albeit with a bundled 15W Turbo Charger. But specs isn’t really what the new razr is about.

In the US the Motorola razr will be available exclusively on Verizon, and pre-orders start December 26th. It will hit stores beginning January 9, 2020. It will also be available in select markets across Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Australia.

The pricetag? US$ 1,499 USD. Is that too much to pay for a futuristic phone in the body of nostalgia? Let us know in the comments below.

Watch our hands-on:

SEE ALSO: The Motorola razr is now a foldable smartphone

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