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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.

CES 2018

Episode 001: Getting lost at the world’s largest tech show

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In this first epidose of GadgetMatch Podcast we talk about the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2018) which just wrapped up in Las Vegas. Michael Josh and Isa share behind the scenes challenges of covering the world’s largest tech show. And the team talks about the most attention grabbing tech from the show including an entire range of Artificial Intelligence and Google Assistant gadgets, Vivo’s new phone with an in-display fingerprint sensor, Sony’s new robot dog, and Razer’s Project Linda.

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Apps

How to hide from Instragram’s new Activity Status feature

It’s on by default!

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Instagram silently rolled out a new feature of its app. If you don’t like your friends to know that you’re online (and also protect your privacy), you might want to take action. Why? Because it’s automatically turned on.

If you have the latest app, you probably noticed something new inside the Direct Messages section. This new feature dubbed “Activity Status” lets your Instagram buddies know if you’re online. If you happen to be scrolling through your timeline moments ago, the status will show that you’ve been available earlier.

This is switched on by default but the data is only shared with users that you follow and those you message privately. There’s no need to panic if you think a stalker will know that you’re online — unless you follow them, too.

How to turn it off?

You can easily switch it off inside the app. Just go to your profile page and tap the top-right icon for Options.

Next, scroll down until you see “Show Activity Status” and switch the toggle button beside.

That’s it! Now that it’s off on your end, your status will not show up to your buddies. Although, you won’t be able to see the status of other accounts as well.

Since the new feature was smoothly included in the recent updates from the Play Store or App Store, it’s not clear when Instagram introduced the function. Some might not have it yet, which could mean it’s still an experimental approach with a limited number of users.

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Automotive

The Best Car Tech of CES 2018

Exciting times ahead!

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We recently wrapped up CES 2018 (see our top picks) and even though the trade show originally revolved around consumer electronics, a big chunk of what was introduced was directed towards connected cities with a focus on making driving a lot smarter.

The idea of self-driving cars surely isn’t new and has been around for quite some time now. It’s basically the concept of what the future is like in addition to flying cars. At this year’s CES, brands who participated made us realize that this “future” isn’t too far away.

Here are some of the most promising cars and car technology that we’re excited to see in the near future.

Assistance

Multiple brands showed off their new toys left and right. There’s the announcement of Amazon’s Alexa coming to cars for voice assistance and content consumption. Toyota will be the next to adapt voice assistance in addition to BMW, Ford, and Hyundai. Meanwhile, Waze has also been integrated into select infotainment systems.

Nissan, on the other hand, is taking the user-machine a step further by introducing the brain-to-vehicle (B2V) technology. It basically uses a system that could read your brain patterns and signals to better prepare for what you’re about to do next while driving.

Platforms

In terms of services, Ford is slightly stepping out of the shadow of car-making and plans to be the new platform for autonomous vehicles. It has partnered with Lyft, Domino’s Pizza, and Postmates to create an operating system which small to large businesses can use for their unique services.

Speaking of unique services, Toyota unveiled its e-Palette concept vehicle which has all the potential to go big in the future of mobility. It’s envisioned as a self-driving vehicle running on Toyota’s tech and platform that other brands can use for food deliveries, as a moving boutique, or even a mobile hotel that you can rent.

As far as ride-sharing goes, expect it to join the bandwagon as smart cities are developed. During the trade show, car tech company Aptiv was present and was hand-in-hand with Lyft as they demonstrated their self-driving cars to the participants of CES. The public could just hail a ride from the Las Vegas Convention Center using the app and enjoy the view of the Strip to their destination.

Additionally, NVIDIA has also added Uber and Volkswagen to their growing roster of brands that will run on the company’s self-driving computer platform.

Cars

Apart from the new platforms, there were cars — quite a lot, actually. From concept to actual models on display, we got a peek at these vehicles that probably want to take on Tesla.

Derived from Bytes on Wheels, BYTON wants to blur the line between digital and automotive with their electric intelligent SUV concept. The new-gen smart device communicates with users and pedestrians via lights and patterns on its grille and recognizes the driver and passengers by face.

Kia was also present with its very own Niro electric crossover. This concept is basically an electric version of the Niro Hybrid but gets a new grille design. Like BYTON, it is now an interactive panel with a built-in Active Pedestrian Warning System, but what makes this something to look forward to is its range. It can go as far 383km (238 miles) before needing to charge again — beating what the Tesla Model 3 can offer.

Car designer Henrik Fisker gave another shot at making vehicles; this time in the form of the EMotion luxury sedan. The vehicle is a level 4 autonomous car and is equipped with the world’s first Butterfly Doors. Fisker also wants to set standards for other EVs so they made the vehicle last up to 644km (400 miles) on the road.

Meanwhile, Hyundai is continuing its push to go green and introduced the NEXO fuel cell electric vehicle. It has a more efficient engine, is a lot quieter, and maintenance is kept to a minimum. Although the best thing about it is that it emits nothing but water vapor. Features-wise, it has autonomous driving, self-parking, self-retrieval — the whole shebang.

In-vehicle Networking

Software updates are an important aspect of vehicles relying on digital systems. Tesla has somehow established its system already but for other car brands, updating hundreds, even thousands of vehicles across a country, is still not an easy task.

Hyundai and Cisco addressed this and aims to overhaul the process of in-vehicle networking. With the use of Ethernet connectivity and the Automotive Linux platform, they promise to be able to roll out updates remotely and it’s as simple as pushing a button.

 

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