Reviews

iPhone SE review: A huge step forward

2020’s flagship killer?

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What happens when you take an old iPhone and give it new parts? You get the most affordable iPhone ever.

Is Apple going backwards by releasing an “old” phone in 2020? Did Apple make a flagship killer? We have just as many questions about the new iPhone SE, and we’ll answer all of them in this review.

Design

Just like how the original iPhone SE took the tried and tested design of the iPhone 5S, the new iPhone SE reuses the chassis of the iPhone 8 including its frosted aluminum frame and glass back. It comes in 3 colors: black, white and Product (RED).

This same design means the phone is water and dust resistant and support wireless charging. It also features stereo speakers — a combination of bottom firing grills and an earpiece that doubles as a speaker also.

Subtle design changes were made, too. The Apple logo on the back of the phone is now centered and the face on the white iPhone SE is black. The gold and silver iPhone 8’s were white up front.

This familiar face is something we’ve seen since the iPhone 6 from 2015 — thick forehead and chin making enough space for that iconic circular home button.

The phone looks old, but when you buy an iPhone SE you don’t buy it for its revolutionary new design; you buy it for its price. It costs US$ 300 less than the iPhone 11, and at least US$ 400 off any Android flagship for that matter.

Its size is another point of contention. My buddy The Mr. Mobile says he wishes Apple would have kept the original SE’s form factor — that 4-inch display.

It’s probably a cult favorite by now. And from a nostalgic point of view I think that would really have been a hit in 2020.

I wonder though, if its LCD HD display would be too small for the things we do on phones these days. One question I got asked a lot was if Apple was also planning on selling a larger model — the same size as the iPhone 8 Plus.

Since the iPhone 11 Pro Max is my daily driver, the new iPhone SE feels really small. I have to remind myself it’s almost the same size as the iPhone 11 Pro.

Its large forehead and chin notwithstanding, I didn’t feel like I am using any less of an iPhone — just a smaller one.

A13 Bionic

I think an important jump off point following our discussion on design is addressing the perception that this is an old iPhone, which is why I wanna talk about the A13 Bionic Chip next.

This processor that’s on the iPhone SE is the same one that powers the flagship iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. So while it is appropriate to see the iPhone SE as Apple’s budget or midrange offering, unlike any budget or midrange Android phone, the chip that powers the new SE is powerful and top of the line.

So whether you’re playing graphics rich games like Sky: Children of Light, learning about the Corona Virus in AR on JigSpace, making the most out of quarantine by studying a new language using my favorite language app Memrise, or editing that 4K footage you just shot, both the CPU and GPU that’s on the A13 Bionic Chip have enough raw power to handle these tasks.

Cameras

The third component of this system-on-a-chip is the neural engine — 8 cores on the A13 Bionic vs 2 cores on the A11. It’s what the new iPhone SE uses to get a camera performance boost despite having the same hardware as the iPhone 8 and iPhone XR.

All 3 phones have the same single 12MP wide angle camera with an f/1.8 lens on their rear, and a 7MP camera with an f/2.2 lens up front.

On the iPhone 8 – a single camera system meant no portrait mode. On the iPhone XR, Apple used technology called Focus Pixels to create a depth map to enable portrait mode. On the new iPhone SE Apple says it harnesses the neural engine for real time machine learning — a process called monocular depth estimation.

So the new iPhone SE has six portrait lighting features: natural light, studio light, contour light, stage light, stage light mono, and high key mono. Apple has come a long way since it introduced the Beta Version of Portrait Lighting on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.

I found that during the day even during sunset through to blue hour, the iPhone SE held its own vs the newer iPhone 11 and 11 Pro Max.

Take this shot for example. All 3 phones have Smart HDR, so they preserved highlights and shadows on the face keeping it natural looking, while also preserving details in the background.

In all of these other examples the results are very similar.

If I were to nitpick, the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro just produce more vibrant colors and in some cases are sharper with more detail.

Other times it was almost impossible to tell the difference.

While the phone did a good job at cutouts, blur on the higher end models looked more like they were taken with a DSLR. Take a look at my arm too; on the iPhone SE’s photo that part is a bit blurry as well.

Some camera features that don’t make their way to the new iPhone SE are deep fusion and night mode. So in low light scenarios where night mode will automatically kick in on iPhone 11 and 11 Pro Max, on the iPhone SE it doesn’t.

I took a photo of these colored pencils in a dimly lit room. The iPhone 11 and 11 Pro engaged a 1 second exposure so the shots came out brighter with less noise and very accurate colors. The iPhone SE produced a decent photo. But the subject was softer and there was definitely more noise.

When the lights go out, that’s where the results are most obvious. While night mode relies on the power of the A13 Bionic Chip, it also relies on the larger image sensor on the iPhone 11. A bigger image sensor lets in more light and night mode uses multiple shots to create better results.

This is just my speculation but without that larger and better image sensor, I don’t think the results would have been the same so Apple probably made the decision to exclude the feature.

It also supports 4k video at 24, 30 and 60 fps.

Selfie camera

Apple uses the same tech to deliver portrait mode using the selfie camera. As this is a slower lens with less megapixels, the results are different but good enough.

Here are some selfie portraits taken across various shooting conditions.

Speaking of that selfie camera, another question I got was with regards to Memoji. The iPhone SE does not have the true depth system used for Face ID, so face tracking isn’t possible, but you still get access to Memoji and Animoji stickers.

SEE ALSO: 9 new Memoji stickers and what they mean in the time of coronavirus

Touch ID

Having used Face ID for around 3 years now, Touch ID took some getting used to, but it’s as fast and accurate as I remember.

At times like these where I often have to wear a mask, it’s good to have an option to easily unlock my phone or pay for things at the store.

Battery

Apple promises about the same amount of battery life as the iPhone 8. In my week with the phone I found that to be true. The iPhone SE’s battery lasted a day on a single charge with average use.

The phone ships with a 5W charge, similar to that on the iPhone 11. A 30-minute charge will get you to 25%, 60 minutes to 47%, and 90 minutes to 69%. A full charge takes over two hours.

Is the iPhone SE your GadgetMatch?

If you’re an iPhone user who have been holding on to your iPhone 6, 7, or even 8, and haven’t upgraded for many different reasons — maybe that’s how long you hold on to a phone, or you just didn’t want to let go of Touch ID, or you’re not willing to spend more than US$ 600 for a new iPhone — the new iPhone SE is your GadgetMatch.

If you’re a parent and already an iPhone user who’s looking to purchase an inexpensive iPhone for your child — so you can FaceTime and iMessage, track them with Find My, and share a Family account for apps and services like Apple Arcade and TV Plus — the iPhone SE is perfect for you, too.

If you already own an iPhone X or 11 Series, you’ll want to wait till the end of the year for Apple’s next flagship.

If you want to buy an iPhone today, but want more than one camera, shoot a lot of night photos, and prefer a more current looking device with an edge-to-edge screen and features like FaceID, my recommendation is the iPhone 11. If you really wanna go all out, get the iPhone 11 Pro or Pro Max.

Should you get the iPhone XR in 2020? Priced at US$ 200 more, I can see why anyone would consider this, especially since the iPhone SE and iPhone XR share the same camera system.

Let me start with pros for the XR. It’s a larger phone with a bigger display. It’s got a larger battery that will last longer. It has FaceID for quick and secure unlocking of your phone.

The iPhone SE has an updated processor which gives its camera an edge — things like next generation smart HDR and better depth sensing. This also gives it software improvements like six portrait lighting effects instead of four, as well as quick take using both the front and rear cameras.

If you ask me, I wouldn’t buy the iPhone XR in 2020. My suggestion is to get either the iPhone SE or spend more for the iPhone 11.

There’s also no point in getting the iPhone 8 over the SE. Apple already stopped selling it. Before the new iPhone SE went on sale, the iPhone 8 retailed for US$ 449. The iPhone SE costs US$ 50 less, but with updated hardware and will get you at least 5 years worth of iOS updates. So even if you could still buy the iPhone 8 from 3rd party resellers, I’d pick the new iPhone SE — no brainer.

I don’t usually compare iPhones and Androids; they’re just two completely different ecosystems with their own pros and cons. But because I get questions about the OnePlus 8 versus the iPhone SE a lot, I’ll answer it. The OnePlus 8 starts at US$ 699 that’s a full $300 difference. If that’s how much you’re willing to spend on the phone — I’d get the iPhone 11 over the non-pro OnePlus 8 any day.

Having said that if you’re an Android user who’s been thinking about switching but didn’t wanna break the bank on an iPhone, now is the time to take the plunge. In the Android world only Google’s Pixel 3a comes close — and while they are a good match when it comes to photos — the iPhone SE is made of premium materials and comes with top of the line specs. The Pixel 3a is made of plastic and comes with a mid-range processor.

At a time where more and more Android phones are hitting that thousand dollar mark, who would have thought that Apple would be the one to create a flagship killer? Okay, maybe that’s hyperbole.

It’s probably not a flagship killer, but it is the best value iPhone Apple has ever sold — an easy recipient of the GadgetMatch seal of approval.

Its sub-400-dollar price tag means Apple is going to sell even more iPhones. Sure, they’ve sold an iPhone for US$ 399 before — the original iPhone SE — but that was in 2016 when phone prices were very different.

If you take into account how much phones cost in 2020, it’s easy to justify calling the new iPhone SE the most affordable iPhone of all time.

And I say this over and over again — there’s more to owning an iPhone than just hardware. It also means you can enjoy the entire Apple ecosystem — a wealth of apps and services, and seamless integration with many other different Apple product.

The cheapest iPhone ever sold means that more people can take part in this experience. And if you ask me, Apple is not going backwards with the iPhone SE, but making a huge step forward.

Reviews

Apple Watch Series 6 Review

Is it worth every penny?

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The Apple Watch Series 6 offers more than just being a “luxurious timepiece”. Over the years, they’ve pioneered in what a true smartwatch can offer. From the ability to track your runs, cycles, and swims, as far as reading heart rate and even ECG. This year, the Watch Series 6 has a new SpO2 sensor that can read blood oxygen levels within the reach of your wrists.

But does all of that make up for a fancy price tag? Why is the Apple Watch a worthy investment for your health?

You can head on to our Apple Watch Series 6 review by clicking the link here.

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Reviews

Huawei Mate 40 Pro Unboxing and Review: Last of its Kind

Hopefully not

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Every year, Huawei’s Mate series dominate the smartphone world with hosts of new features.

This October, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro finally made its way out of the limousine. As usual, it’s packed with the latest and greatest internals minus the full Android experience. Albeit, you still get support for AppGallery and other existing Huawei services.

With all that mind, is it still worthy to invest your money just to buy this smartphone?

You can watch our Huawei Mate 40 Pro review by clicking this link.

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Infinix Note 7: Best underrated budget phone?

Does size matter?

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The underrated brand, Infinix, is coming in with a perfect phone for when you’re strapped for cash. Infinix has consistently released great phones that deliver every bang for your buck and their recent release is no exception. What’s the latest addition to their great line-up? The Infinix Note 7

Show us what its got

The Infinix Note 7 is a dual-sim budget smartphone with a 6.95-inch HD+ and Corning Gorilla Glass display. It’s decked out in three different colors: Forest Green, Aether Black, and Bolivia Blue. Despite being encased in plastic, the Infinix Note 7 looks and feels premium. Just be more forgiving when the phone looks heavily smeared with your fingerprints — most phones tend to do so.

The phone features and specifications aren’t necessarily what people would view as technologically new or revolutionary. But, with phones on the same price range, this one delivers on all fronts of functionality, affordability, and durability. The phone has loud dual speakers, a great battery life, and reliable performance that makes it a stand-out in with its price tag.

Bang for your buck

The Infinix Note 7 is powered by a Helio G70 Processor paired with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. If you’re worried about storage, the phone has a dedicated microSD card slot. But, note that the phone has more than enough space to run apps on the Google Play Store without much of a hitch.

The Infinix Note 7 doesn’t falter on features when tested. The phone didn’t stutter or struggle when putting it through the stress test of scrolling, unlocking, and opening and closing multiple apps. On top of that, the Infinix Note7 has a 5000mAh battery that makes your daily grind of work and play look easy.

For gaming, the phone didn’t seem at all bothered with Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Genshin Impact, and Among Us. And, with the amount of storage the phone had, I’d downloaded all the games I wanted with reckless abandon. The phone held up to its dependable battery life too, despite a full day of work and play.

Does size really matter?

The Infinix Note 7 is big for a phone. Facts. If anything, it’s a love child of a phone and a tablet. With its 6.95-inch HD+ display and dual speakers, the phone makes watching Netflix or playing games an overall immersive experience. Despite Infinix sticking to HD+ on a bigger display, it doesn’t really impose on all the great features the phone has.

Remember: the Infinix Note 7 has a good price tag of PhP 7,990. If you’re asking it to feature 2k or 4k resolution, that good price tag isn’t even remotely ideal on top of the other features the phone comes with.

Is the cake a lie?

No, just misunderstood. Hear me out here: The Infinix Note 7 features a quad-camera set-up with a 48MP primary shooter, a 2MP macro lens, 2MP depth lens, and a 2MP dedicated video camera. On the front, the phone has a 16MP selfie camera. These specs can sometimes come misunderstood since Infinix does say the phone features a quad rear camera set-up. The phone technically features three with the fourth as its dedicated video recording camera.

Sunset view

Boop the snoot

The Inifinix Note 7 performed really well even with little lighting. I tried to photograph a dim sunset and most phones would often scrap some details in photos to compensate with the lack of lighting. That wasn’t the case for this phone. With a phone at its price point, it greatly outperforms phones in the same category quite easily. The phone delivers on detailed selfies with it 16MP in-display front camera and doesn’t struggle to focus using either rear or front cameras.

Strawberry and granola on yoghurt

it me

The phone doesn’t seem at all bothered with taking detailed photos. Sometimes the contrast can be a bit much but again, seeing a budget phone like the Infinix Note 7 perform well under tough circumstances that can just be from being nit-picky.

Is this your BudgetMatch?

If you need a phone to get you good shots and get you through a long day of non-stop work and play while delivering good photos overall, this is the phone for you. There’s nothing to complain about with this phone besides Infinix being utterly underrated for the quality of phones they put out. The Infinix Note 7 is a great phone for your daily grind if you’re looking for a phone that delivers on functionality, efficiency, and durability. It even delivers on good quality shots!

The Infinix Note 7 costs PhP 7,990 (US$ 165).

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