Features

LG might lose its ‘Friends’

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LG V20 and LG G5 side by side

If the latest reports are to be trusted, LG isn’t going to push the modular design of the G5 on its flagship smartphone next year. That’s bad news for anyone invested in the system, and the company itself, of course. Actually, the whole plan may have failed as soon as it was drawn up.

The Electronic Times broke the news that the Korean company is cancelling its plans of a modularized design on its next flagship device, presumably called the LG G6, after a string of misfortunes following the release of the G5.


Let’s list down what we know: It met with disappointing sales just when LG badly needed an instant money maker; executives in charge of the G5’s development were removed a few months later; and users who bought into the idea of the phone’s modularity didn’t even bother to purchase any “Friends.”

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The third fact is the biggest hit on the G5. According to the report, LG didn’t see the expected results because add-on components weren’t really wanted. For users, there was never any compelling reason to add expensive accessories to a smartphone that already matched every other top-end handset spec-for-spec.

And that’s the thing about smartphones these days; consumers want a gadget that works to its full potential out of the box, with the latest operating system and without any added complications.

Modular ecosystems have always been a tricky affair. Doing too much flushes it down the drain before even launching, and executing a smart yet untested plan yields poor long-term gains, like in the case of the LG G5.

The irony with the G5’s Friends is that they aren’t exactly friendly to interact with. Popping the phone’s chin and snapping out a part involves turning the entire device off and wearing out the metal frame over time. We demonstrated the process in our unboxing video:

Modularity done right goes all the way back to 1998. It’s easy to forget, but the Nokia 5110 had a removable battery that acted as the rear cover, and could be exchanged for units that provided vibration functionality or additional energy capacity. The feature phone sold exceedingly well, which eventually led to the release of the even more successful Nokia 3210 and 3310.

Lenovo-owned Moto did its homework before launching the semi-modular Z series. The Moto Z, Z Force, and Z Play have a similar concept to the old Nokia, wherein the attachments could be inserted on the back without removing something first or powering the phone off.

While the modules are still quite expensive, they’re very user-friendly and work on up to three handsets at the moment, which is three times what LG is offering. In addition, Moto promises a long-term commitment to the platform, and that’s what early adopters want to hear.

LG V20 and LG G5 with removable batteries

LG V20 and LG G5 with their removable batteries

Despite the rumors, LG’s decision to ditch its ambitious plans isn’t much of a surprise, especially if you followed the progress of the V20.

As soon as the follow-up to last year’s surprise hit, the V10, was announced without any modularity to speak of, LG’s Friends were already assumed to be dead.

What’s strange is how the V20’s slogan mimics that of the G5’s marketing campaign: “Life’s good when you play more.” It makes a lot of sense when you think about the G5’s ability to play more with its Friends, but it’s strange to see the same line attached to the V20.

With only a removable battery to toy around with, it feels like someone forgot to update the marketing materials — or maybe, Friends compatibility was originally planned for the V20, before all the bad news came in.

We talked about how this development is a big blow for the tech giant’s image, and that backtracking on features has never ended well for smartphone brands. Commitment to a proven program resonates with consumers, even more than delivering next-level innovation, as shown by the incredible fortitude of Apple’s iPhone brand.

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It’s clear that LG is still worried about losing trust from both its fans and hardware partners. By giving up on a big-time strategy less than a year in, not only will the company sacrifice a lot of hype for its next major announcement, but also scrap lots of useless components designed for the G5’s system and its future iterations, leading to tons of electronic waste.

To LG’s fortunes, the V20’s primary rival is out of the running for phone of the year. So while Samsung’s smaller flagship is carrying the brand until early 2017, the larger and far newer LG phablet is a top pick for anyone looking for a smartphone beyond 5.5 inches in display size. It helps that fellow competitors HTC and Sony aren’t bringing their A-games this year.

Looking back, you have to applaud LG for trying something new for each of its flagship. From the high-powered Optimus G and series-defining G2, to the bendable G Flex and rugged V10, no other smartphone manufacturer has ever taken more risks than the Korean brand.

ET’s report ends with the possibility of the upcoming G6 coming with features “not seen before in previous LG smartphones.” Banking on recent history, we have no reason to doubt LG’s ability to materialize its imagination.

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Features

Huawei ban in full swing: Weekend Rewind

Pretty much everyone is steering clear of Huawei

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Here are the top stories on GadgetMatch this week.

1. Huawei Ban in full swing

This news had everyone buzzing this week: the US government bans Huawei’s dealings on American soil over potential security issues.


The first and biggest domino to fall following the ban is Google blacklisting Huawei from using its Android services. The ban isn’t immediate though as Huawei was granted a 90-day extension so it can work out a long-term solution.

The ban has trickled down to other companies with Intel, Broadcom, and Qualcomm reportedly staying away from Huawei. According to Bloomberg‘s sources, the US chipmakers will freeze their supply deals with Huawei for now. UK-based chip designer ARM is also following the ban since its designs hold “US origin technology.”

The ban inevitably has far reaching effects with some stores and brands in markets like Singapore and the Philippines dropping the brand altogether. This is happening despite involved companies downplaying the effects of the ban.

Huawei is continuing to work with Google for now but the company also announced earlier in the year that it is working on a non-Android operating system for its smartphones. There are no other updates on that front but you can bet development may need to be expedited.

If you’re an existing Huawei user, your device will function as is for the time being. Even if you think about trading your gadget, you may have limited options. GadgetMatch is following the story closely so keep it locked in for updates so you can make an informed choice.

2. Honor 20 launch proceeds despite Huawei ban

The Huawei ban didn’t stop its sister-brand Honor from releasing its latest flagship — the Honor 20 Series including the Honor 20 Pro, Honor 20, Honor 20 Lite, and Honor 20 Pro Moschino edition.

Best of the bunch is the Honor 20 Pro who’s main draw is its quad-camera set-up. It has a main 48-megapixel sensor with an f/1.4 lens aperture (the biggest opening we know on mobile phones), optical image stabilization, PDAF, and laser autofocus. It also has AI tricks like Ultra Clarity and Super Night modes.

Watch our unboxing and hands-on to find out more about the Honor 20 Pro.

3. Xperia exits several markets

Sony’s mobile business hasn’t been able to keep in step with the current players today and effects are showing. Xperia will pull out in other markets including the rest of Asia, Australia, Canada, South America, Africa, and the Middle East.

However, this doesn’t mean Sony Xperia is completely waving the white flag. The company, for now is focusing on just a few markets: Europe, Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Sony is taking two steps back but it has every intention to continue growing its mobile business.

4. MacBook Pro gets annual update

Apple‘s popular line of pro notebooks is getting more powerful with Intel’s new 8th- and 9th-gen Core chips.

The MacBook Pro refresh for mid-2019 greatly benefits the 15-inch model with Touch Bar. The base model now has a 6-core i7 processor and its high-end sibling has an 8-core i9 processor. It can be configured to an even more powerful 8-core i9 chip which can turbo boost up to 5.0GHz.

The 13-inch Touch Bar models also get a processor refresh with the base model now equipped with a faster 8th-gen quad-core i5. It can be upgraded to a quad-core i7 with a turbo boost of up to 4.7GHz.

5. Sony reveals more details about the PS5

Although exact details have been scarce, Sony hasn’t been shy about giving us PlayStation 5 crumbs.

Wall Street Journal tech reporter Takashi Mochizuki was present at Sony’s most recent gaming presentation and took a video of a comparison between the loading times of the PS5 and PS4 Pro. Predictably, the PS5’s was blazing fast.

We already know that the PS5, should it be named that, will support backwards compatibility ensuring that first owners of the console will still be able to play titles released for the PS4. Other than that, we’re still waiting for an official release date.

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Automotive

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo: A Stylish Speedster

It’s your everyday sports car

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One of the biggest factors when buying a new car, apart from function, is how it looks. The impact of that first glance. Something that would make you look twice. Some of us have that desire to break the norm and it seems like Hyundai took note of this demand — and made it fast.

The grille is flanked with LED headlamps partnered with Daytime Running Lights

The 2019 Hyundai Veloster is the second of its generation and now has a more assertive exterior than its predecessor. The most noticeable part? Its redesigned front grille. It now comes in this meshed pattern with sharper edges and, if you ask me, this alone gives the car a more aggressive presence.


Then we go to the rest of the exterior and we see those subtle lines that add to the sporty vibe of this vehicle. From the hood to the wheel arches — these accents make the Veloster look like it’s always moving.

At the back we also have this eye-catching pair of LED tail lamps plus a rear spoiler with the third brake light. Rounding up the whole sporty look is a rear bumper diffuser to improve the car’s aerodynamics.

Other notable details include side mirrors with signal repeaters and sexy 18-inch alloy wheels. If you’re already familiar with the first Veloster, then you’d know that it’s unconventional in a way that it only has one door for the driver’s side while the other has the usual two. Some call it weird. I’d like to call it style.

In terms of features, the 2019 Veloster has the bells-and-whistles for the tech-savvy. There’s keyless entry, a mechanical seat for the driver, telescopic steering wheel, voice commands, and support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Those are just some of the things the vehicle assists you with before you start your day. And of course, there’s more for the drive ahead!

Your main hub for music, navigation, calls, and more is an 8-inch floating display. For controls, the steering wheel has buttons for Bluetooth as well as audio and cruise control.

Important driver information and settings can be accessed through the digital dash

In the age of smartphones, charging on-the-go is of utmost importance and with the Veloster, you get more than one option. There are two USB ports up front plus a special wireless charger just below it. Of course, your phone has to support this feature for it to work, but if it does, it feels good knowing you don’t have to fumble over plugging the cable to your phone — while you’re in the car, at least.

And for when you want more light during the day or when it’s simply colder at night, you can open the moonroof and let the breeze roll in. Added comfort creatures like this make the Veloster a package for those who like having fun on the road.

One of the things I love about its interior is how the black and red color of the exterior continues here. Its bucket seats wrapped in leather offer a premium feel for the driver and passengers alike.

The company is obviously keen to details as one can see in the cabin of the vehicle. From the buttons and knobs that reflect its sporty DNA to the ergonomics and materials used to make each ride as comfortable as possible.

Being a Turbo variant, it’s powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. Power is then transferred to the front wheels through a seven-speed Dual-Clutch Transmission. Although unlike Schwarzenegger in Jingle All The Way, it’s not always “Turbo Time!” for the Veloster. It offers different driving modes depending on what the situation calls for.

There’s Normal, Sport, Eco, and Smart. Eco obviously goes for the most efficient fuel consumption, Smart mode adjusts to your driving habits, Normal is — well, normal. Sport is for Track Day or simply when you want to show off.

Of course, all that speed has to be kept in check with a couple of safety features. The vehicle comes with dual airbags for the front, plus side and curtain airbags. Adding to those are ABS (anti-lock braking system) and an immobilizer for anti-theft.

Having the Veloster as a daily driver made me realize a couple of things. One is that it’s actually fuel-efficient for a car with this oomph when it’s set to Eco or even Normal mode — averaging about 9km to 10km to a liter in the city and up to 16km/l outside the Metro. It may have slight delays when not in Sport mode but it had no shortage of power. And together with its stance and vibrant red color, the Veloster is a certified head-turner.

See more of it in this video:

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Features

Capturing Europe using only a smartphone

Three countries, one device

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When traveling to picturesque countries, it’s normally best to take a dedicated camera with you. After all, that’s what they’re for: Capturing scenes with utmost quality.

However, traveling light is another factor, and if possible, bringing as few devices as possible. I thought to myself, Why not use a single smartphone to document my entire trip? And so I did.


I brought the top-ranked camera phone with me to three European countries — namely France, Germany, and Austria — and let it take all my shots. Yes, I let the Huawei P30 Pro see what I saw, and it did not disappoint.

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The phone’s biggest strength for a traveler has to be its four rear cameras that offer different levels of zoom, from 0.6x all the way to 50x hybrid zoom if you’re feeling daring.

Its ultra-wide camera has to be the most handy, though, especially when trying to capture as much of a scene as possible. I used this everywhere I went, even for closeups and portraits needing more background.

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As you can see, the P30 Pro is fantastic at dynamic range thanks to AI optimization. All I have to do is turn on HDR+ and let the phone do all the computing. Needless to say, not once did I feel that there wasn’t enough color or brightness in my photos.

Another interesting feature is the RYYB color sensor, which draws in more light for sharper photos even in low-light environments. This allowed me to go full auto even during nighttime.

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Speaking of nighttime, Huawei’s signature night mode makes a return with even smarter illumination. It’s amazing how well the cameras can see at night, whether it’s using the regular or ultra-wide lens.

It takes only a few seconds for the app to stitch all the multiple exposure into one attractive image. Once finished, you have what looks like a long exposure shot on a tripod, but done using only your hands.

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When you need a little more control with your compositions, there’s a pro mode to help out. This gives you the chance to play around with lots of settings to achieve the perfect shot.

It might seem a little daunting at first to newbies, but the adjustments are made in real time, so you can see how each setting affects the final product. The manual focus scrolling is a personal favorite of mine.

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Of course, selfies matter too, and Huawei equipped the P30 Pro with a wide 32-megapixel selfie shooter to handle all your self portraits. This becomes especially important when there’s no one else to take your photos.

The P30 Pro’s camera app offers lots of beauty and background blurring options for selfies, so you still have control over how you look in the end. HDR comes in handy as well when the scene gets too bright.

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But what I loved most about bringing the P30 Pro as my sole camera around Europe was its auto mode. When time is of the essence and there’s no chance to make last-second adjustments, this mode does all the work for me.

I can’t count the number of times I double-pressed the volume down button to go straight to the camera app and snap a picture in front of me. It’s the feature I used most by far, making my travels that much easier.

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To be honest, going into this, I was a bit scared about relying on only one smartphone to do everything for me, from navigating places and researching about the top spots to visit, to documenting every step of the way.

Fortunately for me, the Huawei P30 Pro never faltered, and was, in fact, an incredibly reliable all-in-one camera. This is definitely going into my pocket again for my next trip.


This feature was produced in collaboration between GadgetMatch and Huawei.

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