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iPhone SE vs. Xperia Z5 Compact: pocket rocket showdown

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I’ve got 10 smartphones on my desk, but one stands out because of its size.

In a sea of phones that are 5 inches and larger, Apple’s 4-inch iPhone SE goes against trend. It’s a big-phone world out there, not just because larger screens are hip, but because a phone’s display is a window to a universe of productivity, entertainment, and possibility.

Still, there’s a certain charm to a smartphone that fits comfortably and securely in one’s hand. For Apple, it’s also about logic, or as one of their ads puts it, “A dazzling display of common sense.” 

For about half a decade since it was originally introduced, the iPhone sported a 3.5-inch display — tiny by today’s standards. Then in 2012, when Apple decided to bump up the iPhone 5’s screen to 4 inches, it justified the decision by saying 4 inches is as much as the human thumb could reach. 

Four years later, Apple is resurrecting the iPhone 5, giving it modern specs, and calling it the iPhone SE.

On the Android side of the fence, there’s the Xperia Z5 Compact from Sony. Many will praise Apple and its commitment to smaller phones, but it was actually Sony that first pushed for high-specced phones in smaller form factors.

When it first introduced the Z1 Compact in 2014, Sony said the phone was designed for those who want a “mini” phone that doesn’t compromise on flagship features. The Xperia Z5 Compact is everything the Z1 Compact was, only better.

About the same size as the iPhone SE but with a bit more heft and a larger display, the Xperia Z5 Compact is the most powerful small phone money can buy today. It’s rather pretty, too (for this story, we borrowed the pink variant to match our rose-gold iPhone SE, but it comes in other colors also).

If you’re unwilling to jump on the phablet bandwagon, both the iPhone SE and Xperia Z5 Compact are worthy upgrades. Here are a few reasons why.

SUPER PERFORMANCE

Who says small can’t be powerful? The performance of both of these phones is super. Neither slows down when you’re switching between tons of apps or playing a game that requires as much processing power as possible.

Don’t be fooled by their size, these phones are not the watered-down versions of their bigger brothers. In fact, they’re equally as powerful, and leaps and bounds ahead of anything else their size.

You also get high-end features like fingerprint scanners and 4K video recording. The Z5 Compact has 32GB of built-in storage; the iPhone SE starts at a measly 16GB, but you can always opt for the 64GB model. That’s what we’d recommend.

TOP-NOTCH CAMERAS

The iPhone SE has the same camera as the iPhone 6s, one of the most dependable cameras on the market now. iPhone cameras are known to capture accurate colors and balance light and shadows really well.

The SE is no exception, and if we’re comparing, it outperformed the Z5 Compact in our testing. Not that the Z5 Compact is a slouch by any stretch. It’s got almost twice the amount of megapixels as the iPhone; it focuses fast; and it takes pretty decent photos in different lighting.

Here are some photos taken with the iPhone SE’s rear camera.

Unlike the iPhone, it also offers manual mode for those wanting a bit more control over the way their photos look. The only thing I don’t like about the iPhone SE is that its front camera is stuck in the dark ages.

As a rule, I don’t count megapixels — and neither should you — but when an upper-midrange phone only has 1.2 megapixels for the selfie camera, you have every right to complain. Having said that, most of my selfies these days are sent via Snapchat, and my friends don’t seem to mind.

Below is a gallery of images taken using the Sony phone.

The Xperia Z5 Compact has a 5-megapixel front cam, which takes better, less grainy selfies, even in low light.

UNDERWATER GOODNESS

The Xperia Z5 Compact is water-resistant, not something that can be said of many smartphones of any size. Theoretically, you can submerge the phone in a pool for up to 30 minutes. We’ve done it many times before, though we don’t recommend you do it often.

Previously, Sony ran entire marketing campaigns on the fact that the phone makes for a great underwater camera, but these days, it’s left unsaid. It’s safer that way.

I recommend limiting water exposure to the occasional rinse when things get a bit sticky, which in this climate is often, or for when you’re caught in the rain without an umbrella.

The iPhone SE, unfortunately, while reportedly resilient to a light shower, isn’t rated for waterproofing. Expose it to the elements at your own risk.

OUTLASTING THE ENERGIZER BUNNY

Bigger smartphones have more space for larger batteries, but these smartphones are long-lasting anyway.

With heavy use, the iPhone SE can last a full day on a single charge, so you should have enough juice from when you wake up in the morning till right before you hit the sack.

The Xperia Z5 Compact lasts even longer — no kidding! You could get about 24 hours of heavy use on average, with possibly a little bit left over. And then there’s Ultra Stamina Mode, which extends battery life even further. With things like WiFi, data, and the screen turned off, the phone can last up to 2 days.

THE WAY FORWARD

I decided to write this piece knowing that Apple draws more attention than Sony. It had to be said that for a few years now, Sony was alone in advancing the cause of the small but powerful smartphone. But now, with Apple back in the mix, everyone is paying attention.

By betting on an older but much-loved form factor, Apple is laying the predicate not just for a small-phone revival, but for small phones that kick ass.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the industry responds soon. That would be a big win for lovers of small phones.

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Galaxy S10

Instagram photo challenge with the Samsung Galaxy S10

Hands-on with all three versions!

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Samsung’s newest Galaxy S devices have just been announced and we’re blessed with three versions: The Samsung Galaxy S10e (small), the Galaxy S10 (big), and the Galaxy S10+ (big big!).

Each phone is equipped with a number of cameras so you know what that means: IG photo test!

In our Her GadgetMatch video, we check out what’s so cool about the new Samsung phones and test what the cameras can do. Spoiler: They do a lot!

In case you’re having trouble viewing, watch HERE.

SEE ALSO: Samsung’s new LED light cover is the phone case we’ve always wanted

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Galaxy S10

Samsung Galaxy S10 Hands-On

Does it live up to the hype?

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Infinity-O Display, five cameras, in-display fingerprint reader, next-generation wireless charging: these four features define Samsung’s new Galaxy S10.

When you take its features apart like this, it makes it seem like what we have is yet another underwhelming phone with no new groundbreaking feature. But to look at the S10 that way does the phone an injustice. It’s one that needs to be taken as a whole, not a sum of its parts.

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Galaxy S10

Samsung Galaxy S10 Hands-on: A refinement of everything

A decade of Galaxy S phones

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Samsung‘s latest installment of flagship phones is now official. Instead of just two phones though, we were immediately given three choices. Interesting move, but can they keep Samsung on top of all the great Android phones in the market?

As mentioned, there are three Galaxy S10 phones: the regular Galaxy S10, the bigger and better Galaxy S10+, and the supposedly budget-friendly Galaxy S10E.

Without further ado, let’s dive into our hands-on the Galaxy S10 series.

Nothing new, just polished

The Galaxy S10 series is a testament to Samsung’s leadership in Android phones for almost a decade, despite the decline. How so? Everything there’s to want in a smartphone in 2019 is present here, with some reservations for the Galaxy S10E, of course.

The first thing you’ll appreciate about the Galaxy S10 phones is their displays. All three models come in different sizes. The display of the Galaxy S10E is the smallest at 5.8 inches followed by the regular version with a 6.1-inch screen. The Galaxy S10+, being the Plus variant, has the biggest at 6.4 inches.

All three phones still use vibrant and splendid Super AMOLED panels. Samsung likes to call them Infinity-O because they have O-shaped holes to house one or two front cameras. The displays are also slightly taller than before and have slimmer bezels all around.

Aside from the screen sizes, what are the differences between the three? The Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ share a lot in common. Both have curved displays, which is what you’d expect from top-of-the-line Samsung phones, but have squarish bodies like the Galaxy Note 9’s. They have a similar triple rear camera setup, but the Galaxy S10+ has an extra sensor in the front. The two also sport the fastest in-display fingerprint readers I have ever tested.

The Galaxy S10E, on the other hand, has to cut down some of the unimportant features to keep its price lower than its siblings. It doesn’t have a curved display and the ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. Instead, the fingerprint reader is built into the power button on the side. The smaller Galaxy S10E is also noticeably more rounded than its siblings.

What Samsung didn’t sacrifice on any of the Galaxy S10 phones is the quality craftsmanship. With a metal and glass body, no one will ever hold a Galaxy S10 (any of the three) and call it cheap.

Beauty matched with power

Enough about the looks; let’s now talk about specs. As always, newly released flagship phones get the best processor available. In the case of the Galaxy S10 family, it’s rocking either a Snapdragon 855 from Qualcomm or Samsung’s very own Exynos 9820, depending on the region.

The difference between the two chipsets are quite intriguing, but end users won’t feel the difference in daily use. The Snapdragon 855’s 7nm process has a slight edge over the Exynos 9820’s 8nm, but both are capable octa-core chips with dedicated AI brains.

With a minimum of 6GB memory, no member of the Galaxy S10 family is a slouch. If you want, you can have the limited edition Galaxy S10+ with an insane 12GB of memory and 1TB of storage. If you get that, you’ll have a phone that has more memory and storage space than most laptops today.

When it comes to battery, the Galaxy S10E has the lowest capacity at 3100mAh. In the middle is the Galaxy S10’s modest 3400mAh, and of course, the Galaxy S10+ is blessed with a huge 4100mAh battery. The phones support fast charging through wired and wireless means, but Samsung is also introducing Wireless PowerShare, which is essentially reverse wireless charging similar to what the Mate 20 Pro can do.

Samsung’s new One UI is pre-loaded out of the box. It’s already based on the latest Android 9 Pie version. This means you’ll get to experience Samsung’s newest take on Android with its own customization.

Three cameras are better than two?

Apart from having three Galaxy S10 models, Samsung also put in three rear cameras on the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+. Samsung calls this “True Vision Multi-Camera,” which is a mouthful but you don’t have to call them that. Basically, the triple camera setup has all the mobile shooters you’ll need.

The Galaxy S10 has a main camera sensor, an ultra wide shooter, and a 2x telephoto lens. The main sensor is a 12-megapixel Dual Pixel camera with optical image stabilization (OIS) and dual aperture mode (f/1.5 to f/2.4). The fun-to-use ultra wide-angle shooter uses a 16-megapixel sensor with a fixed-focus lens, while the telephoto camera has a 12-megapixel sensor and OIS as well.

Aside from the hardware, Samsung also bumped up the software side of things. Thanks to improved AI capabilities, the Galaxy S10 can now recognize up to 30 scenes and can even automatically help you compose the perfect shot.

Check out these samples using the phone’s main camera:

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Since the Galaxy S10 phones are equipped with multiple shooters, they’re fun to use. Each scenario calls for a different camera, so it’s nice to have both wide-angle and telephoto cameras. Here’s how each camera takes a photo from the same distance:

Keep in mind that the Galaxy S10E has just two rear cameras. It can only shoot a normal and ultra-wide photo, but the megapixel count and image quality remain the same as with its more expensive siblings.

As for selfies, the Galaxy S10+ has a slight advantage with its depth sensor for Live Focus, although all three phones can shoot portrait selfies anyway. Like with most phones, there’s a built-in beauty mode to liven up your selfies.

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Let’s not forget about the improved AR Emoji. It’s still subpar when compared to Apple’s Animoji for iPhones, but it can at least detect if your tongue is sticking out this time. There’s also the option to superimpose over your face like Memoji.

Which is your GadgetMatch?

Which of the three Galaxy S10 phones is your GadgetMatch? While I wanted to have more time with the phones to give an elaborate conclusion, I have a general idea on where each one fits.

The Galaxy S10E, which is the cheapest among the bunch, would be best for people who like to have the best specs but in a smaller package. Much like the compact versions of Sony Xperia phones, the Galaxy S10E offers just about everything its bigger siblings offer in a pocket-friendly size.

The regular Galaxy S10 is ideal for the general population with its perfect balance, while the Galaxy S10+ is for those who want (and need) all the features a modern smartphone can offer. Also, the Galaxy S10+ is similar to the Galaxy Note, but without the S Pen.

I wish Samsung had given the prices for each phone while I’m writing this to give a better perspective. After all, the pricing will be a big factor. To be honest, there’s nothing uber-special about the Galaxy S10 family. We already saw most, if not all, features on other devices. Samsung will be selling these phones because they are reliable and trustworthy — not because they are revolutionary.

Samsung wasn’t able to create “the next big thing” here, maybe because we have reached the limit of candy bar-style phones. It’s time to move on to foldable devices, which is something Samsung is also working on. That for sure will be revolutionary; for now, we’ll just stick to what we have.

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