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iPhone SE Unboxing and Hands-On

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The rose gold iPhone SE comes in a white box

Size matters, but it’s not everything.

Love it or hate it, the iPhone SE is arguably a class of its own. It may look old but it doesn’t perform like one. It’s something not even the Android world can offer – where small nowadays, most often than not, means sluggish, second-rate, and a 2-4 year-old OS built into a cheap plastic body.

The iPhone SE has a 4-inch Retina display, Touch ID, and a 1.2MP front-facing camera

Sure, Apple made some compromise here and there to cut down on price – and in 2016 it still starts at 16GB – but the iPhone SE is a worthy upgrade for those who stuck with the iPhone 4, 4s, 5, and 5s all these years.

Heck, there are even some iPhone 6s users who want to ‘downgrade’ and go back to a smaller display. Some people like 4 inches – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Apart from going small, the new iPhone raised a lot of eyebrows especially because it looks exactly like the iPhone 5s. It’s a new phone in an old body.

The iPhone SE has the SE branding at the lower back of the phone and it comes in rose goldEverything is found right where Apple left it three years ago: volume and silent buttons on the left side; SIM card tray on the right; power button on top; headphone jack, microphone, Lightning port, and speaker grille at the bottom.

Save for the SE branding at the back, the matte edges, and color-matched stainless steel Apple logo, nothing else has changed on the outside. The only “new design” is the rose gold variant.

Even packaging didn’t change. It’s the familiar minimalist box with the same contents as those of iPhones 5 and up: a pair of white EarPods, a Lightning to USB cable, wall charger, a SIM card removal tool, manuals, and Apple logo stickers.

But why judge the book by its cover?

Apple packed the best iPhone 6s features into the iPhone SE’s little body and made it work.

It ships with Apple’s powerful A9 chip and the latest version of iOS (9.3) out of the box. And it’s fast. It loads pages, opens and switches between apps smoothly and efficiently.

It comes with iOS 9.3’s new features like Night Shift, which changes the color of your iPhone’s display from cool to warm depending on the time of the day. Apple says this should help you sleep better at night.

Speaking of display, the iPhone SE sports a 4-inch Retina display at 326 ppi. This means images are rendered clear and sharp enough for the 4-inch screen. If we’re being specific though, it’s not a high resolution one – not even HD – only 640×1136 to be exact.

On the bright side, this means images and videos whose resolutions are a little lower than 720p will still look sharp on the iPhone SE. The bad: the phone is not ideal for watching a Full HD or HD movie. The contrast ratio is also lower than the iPhone 6s so the screen doesn’t look as bright.

While the lack of a Full HD or Quad HD display may be a deal-breaker for some people, a smaller, lower resolution display can mean better battery life as what drains the battery the most for a lot of smartphones is screen-on time.

The iPhone SE although smaller is thicker than the iPhone 6s so its camera doesn't protrude.

The integration of the top of the line processor and new iOS should improve battery performance as well, even if the iPhone SE ships with a smaller battery (reportedly 1642 mAh, compared to the 6s’ 1715 mAh). Apple promises 13 hours on LTE but this is something we will have to test on a later date.

This, we can say now: the iPhone SE has the best camera technology in a 4-inch phone in the market today. It gets the same 12-megapixel main shooter as that of the iPhone 6s but because it’s thicker, it doesn’t protrude like the one on its older, bigger brother.

It’s also worth noting that at its size, the iPhone SE can shoot 4K video. Although, if you’re getting the 16GB version you’ll want to back up those files so they don’t eat up into your precious space. A 3 minute 4K video clip takes up about 750MB of space.

If taking selfies is your thing, you might want to sit this one out as Apple put the 4-year-old 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera onto the SE that dates back to the iPhone 5. Well, at least it got the Retina Flash.

Here are some samples:

The main iPhone 6s feature missing on the SE is 3D Touch, but it probably won’t be sorely missed – new iPhone users won’t even notice. Apple did, however, keep Live Photos so you can still take those short moving images and view them with a long press.

Another thing not found on the SE is Apple’s newest Touch ID so the fingerprint scanner is not blazingly fast compared to the 6s but it’s a compromise that had to be made for a better price tag.

Just like its announcement in Cupertino, the iPhone SE doesn’t have the bells and whistles new phones usually get. True enough it’s nothing innovative, and to some it’s just plain disappointing especially coming from a company like Apple.

Although already the cheapest iPhone Apple has ever released, the iPhone SE is still not for people who are on a very tight budget. It’s also not a phone for people who have gotten used to a bigger display and love it for reasons like watching videos, gaming, and multi-tasking with split screens.

The rose gold iPhone 5s and rose gold iPhone 6s side by side

With its old but well-loved metal chassis, the SE feels premium for a mid-range price of $399 (16GB), which, in most cases can get you a good performing phone albeit with a plasticky build.

But what’s more important is on the inside. The iPhone SE, however small, is a phone that is just as powerful as the iPhone 6s, and performs even better than a lot of those that come in bigger packages.

The iPhone SE is not the best smartphone there is and may not be the size you’re used to anymore, but it just works. And there is nothing else like it.

[irp posts=”11425″ name=”Tiny iPhone SE gets twice the storage”]

Hands-On

Cherry Mobile Flare S7 Plus hands-on: A step-up

The company’s greatest contender

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Cherry Mobile recently launched their new Flare S7 series, which is essentially their main smartphone lineup for the year. The greatest offering among the bunch is the Flare S7 Plus, a device with all the specifications and features you’d expect from a 2018 phone.

Since it’s from Cherry Mobile, you’d expect the phone to be cheap, right? Price-wise, it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s just another affordable phone.

Here’s what I got to say about the Flare S7 Plus.

Cherry Mobile has officially joined the notch wagon with a borderless 6.18-inch display. It’s a Full HD+ panel with a 19:9 aspect ratio, and it’s Cherry Mobile’s best display yet.

It’s vibrant and produces vivid colors, but the user interface kind of ruins the beauty of the display. It’s best to download your preferred third-party launcher and customize to your heart’s content.

Unlike with other midrange phones, the Flare S7 Plus’ notch is pretty wide and there’s a reason for it. The phone is equipped with more advanced facial recognition hardware including an IR camera. This ensures higher accuracy, faster unlocking, and even better face detection in low-light.

If you’re not a fan of face unlock, you can always resort to the fingerprint sensor placed on the back of the phone. Based on my usage, the fingerprint reader is faster most of the time than the face unlock. Good thing you have the best of both worlds.

Now that we’re on the back of the phone, let’s talk about another special feature of the Flare S7 Plus. Finally, Cherry Mobile embraces a more elegant design using a glass back and metal frame. I was told that they used Gorilla Glass 3 on both sides, so it won’t scratch easily in your pocket or on the table.

Since we we have a glass back, it’s possible to put in wireless charging and the company did just that. Simply place the phone on any Qi standard wireless charger, and let the magic happen.

It’s not exactly magic per se, but it’s amazing to have your phone charge by placing it on a table. This phone costs less than half of most flagships that don’t even support wireless charging.

Of course, you can always charge this phone’s 3050mAh battery through the reversible USB-C port, which also doubles as the audio port because, sadly, the Flare S7 Plus doesn’t have a 3.5 headphone jack. Cherry Mobile bundles a 3.5mm to USB-C adapter inside the box, so you can still use your legacy headphones as you please.

Powering the Flare S7 Plus is a MediaTek Helio P60 processor. We have already tried the capabilities of this chipset with the OPPO F9, and it definitely delivers great performance. If you’re into benchmarking, you’ll be glad to know the Helio P60 scores higher than its competitors.

The phone also comes with 4GB of memory and 64GB of expandable storage which is pretty standard nowadays. It boots Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, but there’s no word when Android 9 Pie is coming.

The gaming performance of the Flare S7 Plus is above average, which is what you can expect from the Helio P60. The Mali-G72 MP3 GPU works well with intensive games, but you must reduce the graphics quality a bit to get consistently high frame rates.

As for the cameras, the Flare S7 Plus has capable shooters that are probably the fruit of Cherry Mobile’s investment in improving their R&D when it comes to picture quality. The phone has dual rear shooters using a main 16-megapixel RGB sensor and a secondary 5-megapixel depth sensor. In the front, there’s another 16-megapixel selfie camera that’s paired with the IR sensor when needed. Check out the samples below:

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An additional feature of the front sensors is FlareMoji. Using the IR sensor and facial recognition, you can animate cutesy characters. Check this out:

It’s essentially like Apple’s Animoji, but the tracking is nowhere near as smooth as with the iPhone. Anyhow, it’s still enjoyable to use.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

For just PhP 11,999 (US$ 225), the Flare S7 Plus offers a lot. You get a great premium phone with midrange power, beautiful display, and a plethora of extra features like wireless charging and an IR face scanner. The software UI is quite a letdown, but you can always download a launcher from the Play Store.

If you’re wondering what the Flare S7 Plus is in other markets, it’s also called the BLU VIVO XI+ and they share similar specifications and design.

SEE ALSO: Cherry Mobile announces Flare S7 series with three new smartphones

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Huawei Mate 20 Pro Hands-on: Best phone of 2018?

Huawei outdoes itself again

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In an industry where incremental updates are the new norm, Huawei manages to wow us again — barely a year after the release of the P20 Pro. The Chinese company is back with the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro which might just be the best among the best this year.

In this video, we go over the phones’ new designs, updated cameras, and new memory card format. We also go through the differences between the Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro.

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Razer Phone 2 Hands-on

A pocketable gaming rig with flagship features

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Razer has improved last year’s model, and from the looks of it, we might just have a phone that not only gamers would want to use. This is our Razer Phone 2 hands-on.

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