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Microsoft scratches surface of the future

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For the hardcore geek, there are at least two milestones, that predate actual usage of a device.

First is the day when a product becomes real. When an enthusiastic CEO or product lead takes the stage and unveils their most exciting piece of tech. Fans schedule online viewing parties, tune into live streams, and collectively drool over the subject of their next gadget fantasy.

Then comes the day when a product becomes theirs. It’s all about the unboxing, an almost ceremonial unwrapping of each accompanying accessory and then the product itself. The most hard core of fans will document this ritual, but in its most basic form, there is focus and reverence, and appreciation of what’s being birthed.

As a tech journalist I do both for a living, except that unboxing videos are shot in our labs, and sometimes I’m get to be there to see things live.

But while being there in person sounds fun, leaks have killed the moment, they’ve caused the extinction of big surprises that have marked great events.

Windows 10 Event

#WINDOWS10DEVICES. Journalists and guests are in for a huge surprise at Microsoft’s Windows 10 devices briefing in New York. Photo by Michael Josh Villanueva

Just this week, from my second row seat at Microsoft’s Windows 10 Devices launch in New York, I listened as an infectious Panos Panay, Windows devices chief, paced all corners of the stage, rallying up excitement for two smartphones the crowd had already seen before.

Panos Panay

THE PITCH. New devices Chief Panos Panay sold the audience on Microsoft’s new vision for the future. Photo by Michael Josh Villanueva

Like most products launched this year, leaks about today’s device lineup were pretty comprehensive, covering notable features, the spec sheet, and even product photos. And there was no beating behind the bush about the elephant in the room, “I know you know about this, you’ve written about it already,” joked Panay. #Guilty.

But like a trooper he convincingly sold us on each expected product.

DSC09968

WINDOWS 10 ON A PHONE. The Lumia 950XL is Microsoft’s new flagship smartphone. Photo by Michael Josh Villanueva.

There were two new Lumia smartphones, the first to run Windows 10. The Lumia 950 and the 950 XL are powerful phones with amazing cameras, but more than that, testaments to the promise of Windows 10 – universality. When connected to a keyboard, mouse, and external monitor, universal apps on these new phones scale into desktop apps. Imagine, Powerpoint on mobile becomes PowerPoint for desktop, you’re building your deck like you would on a PC except that your phone is your CPU.

Surface Pro 4

TABLET HYBRID. The Surface Pro 4 is the tablet computer that other tech companies are trying to emulate. Photo by Michael Josh Villanueva

Then there was the Surface Pro 4, the latest in a device class that Microsoft pioneered, a tablet hybrid that comes with a keyboard cover and pen. In just the last two months we’ve seen both Apple and Google jump on the bandwagon with the iPad Pro and the Pixel C respectively. Last year, Panay had declared the Surface Pro 3, good enough to replace a laptop, this year it was about refining the experience further. A larger, more pixel dense display, better touch sensitivity, more power, and a full sized laptop keyboard cover with a glass trackpad unlike any other we’ve seen on a Windows device.

Do you want me to talk about another device? Panay said in between product announcements until there were no more to expect. Then he said it again, “Do you want me to talk about another device?”

The lights dimmed and a video played, and just like that, surprise, Microsoft was unveiling the first laptop it has ever built. The Surface Book is a 13-inch laptop designed to rival Apple’s MacBook Pro, its magnesium unibody design feels familiar, but at the same time it is one we’ve never seen before. From its “dynamic fulcrum hinge” to innovative liquid cooling system, Microsoft was calling this the ultimate laptop, “ounce per ounce, pound per pound, the most powerful 13-inch laptop in existence.”

By the end of Panay’s presentation, this geek had already been tickled fancy, Microsoft was reinventing the laptop, and somehow its managed to surprise us in the process.

One more surprise was yet to come.

As his presentation came to close, Panay asked his now captivated audience, to watch the same video back, but this time to look closer. My mind went berserk as the video replayed. To borrow the words from GadgetMatch producer Rodneil Quiteles, who was thousands of miles away, following the event via livestream. He writes in our Viber Public Chat, “Holy Xxxx! Surface Book screen just flew off the keyboard. It’s over. It’s friggin over.”

Microsoft isn’t just building another Windows laptop here, with the Surface Book it seems to have taken apart the best of tablet and notebook computing, forging a new device that is both and neither at the same time. Undocked you have a 13-inch tablet with all the bells and whistles of the Surface Pro, but connected you have even more battery life, a dedicated graphics card for intense gaming, visual rendering, and video editing. But maybe even more important, you have the stability of a laptop, allowing the freedom to, as the name implies, use the device on your lap.

But it’s not just the element of surprise here, not just the theatrics, its about a new kind of Microsoft, and a clear cut vision of a future that this tech giant is trying to build.

It was Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella who closed the event, borrowing a line from his own phrase book, he talked about the Microsoft he was trying to build, ““We wanna move from people needing Windows, to choosing Windows, to loving Windows.”

This year I’ve sat through way too many product launches. While it’s only fair to say that the usual suspects came out to play, it was at this event where I was really, truly, blown away. The event left me with a sense of desire I have never felt about a Microsoft device ever.

Perhaps I too can learn to love Windows.

Features

Sony’s PlayStation is back, Xiaomi outs new Mi 8 variants: Weekend Rewind

Ending the week with nostalgic feels

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Here are this week’s top stories on GadgetMatch.

1. The iconic PlayStation is back!

Let’s kick things off by taking a trip down memory lane. Almost 25 years after its debut, Sony is bringing back the iconic first-gen PlayStation and it will come as the PlayStation Classic.

It’s basically a miniaturized version complete with a pair of original controller replicas. What’s even more exciting is that fans of the original PlayStation will be able to relive 20 legendary titles including Final Fantasy VII and Tekken 3!

2. Razer Phone 2 gets a launch date

Razer officially confirms the arrival of its second gaming smartphone — the Razer Phone 2. It succeeds the Razer Phone that was launched last November and based on earlier leaks, it’ll be a familiar-looking product.

The phone should sport the same body as its predecessor including the display with buttery-smooth 120Hz refresh rate. Of course, the internals will have beefier specs as well. We’ll know the low down real soon during its special event at California this October 10.

3. Apple is on the lead!

While it may be true that Apple didn’t sell the most number of smartphones, they still earned more than their competitors. According to the latest data from Counterpoint Research, Apple had the biggest share of industry profits during the second quarter of 2018.

For comparison, Apple earned 62 percent of the second-quarter smartphone profits. Samsung, which is the top-selling smartphone vendor, is responsible for just 17 percent of smartphone profits in the quarter. Huawei takes the third spot with eight percent of the profits.

4. A complete but affordable smartwatch

Huami, Xiaomi’s sub-brand in China, has a smartwatch that offers tremendous bang for your buck. The company just unveiled the Amazfit Verge and it’s got everything you could ask for in a wearable without the high price tag.

The Amazfit Verge has a GPS, heart-rate sensor, and a full-circle AMOLED display. It’s also equipped with a microphone and loudspeaker that allow voice calls through the smartwatch.

5. Xiaomi outs Mi 8 Pro and Mi 8 Lite

On a related note, Xiaomi also held a quick event to announce a few things including two new Mi 8 variants — the Mi 8 Pro and Mi 8 Lite.

In a nutshell, these are additions to the flagship Mi 8 family. The Mi 8 Pro is similar to the Mi 8 with the same specs like its Snapdragon 845 processor, up to 8GB of memory, and 128GB of expandable storage. Although, this model comes with an in-display fingerprint sensor.

As the name suggests, the Mi 8 Lite is a toned-down Mi 8 and comes with a midrange Snapdragon 660 chipset, dual rear cameras, and a 24-megapixel front camera. Both phones are initially available in China, but international availability is yet to be announced.


Weekend Rewind is our roundup of top news and features you might have missed for the week. We know the world of technology can be overwhelming and not everyone has the time to get up to speed with everything — and that includes us. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the rewind.

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Singapore’s first iPhone XS buyer goes all out

He went for the 512GB storage!

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Whenever new iPhones launch, a familiar scene is people lining up in front of Apple Stores long before launch date. The same is true in Singapore where the iPhone XS and XS Max officially became available on Friday, September 21.

We visited the Apple Store in Orchard Road and caught up with the first person to cop the new iPhones. His name is Daniel and he went all out getting two units of gold iPhone XS Max with 512GB of storage. Watch our interview with him.

The same situation is true elsewhere in the world. In countries like the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, and more, lines formed as those who pre-ordered got ready to claim the new iPhones.

This is the first time that the two sizes of iPhones feature the same specs. In years past, there was always a plus model that had more features other than just having a bigger form factor. In 2018, the only difference is the screen size — 5.8 inches for the iPhone XS and 6.5 inches for the iPhone XS Max. Both phones are equipped with the new A12 Bionic processor. Apple says it’s their smallest and most powerful chip to date. Both also sport dual cameras.

The Apple Watch Series 4 also launched today. It’s a significant update to Apple’s primary wearable featuring medical advantages other than the usual improvements. As always, it still is a lifestyle gadget and comes with an array of available looks.

SEE ALSO: Apple iPhone XS unboxing: Beautiful gold color!

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Apple iPhone XS unboxing: Beautiful gold color!

We have them early!

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It’s now mid-September and if you’ve been following technology news, you’d know that means one thing: new iPhones from Apple. And if you’ve been following GadgetMatch closely the last few years, you’d expect us to be brewing content by now.

This year, we got them early. What we are unboxing the 5.8-inch model, dubbed the iPhone XS and the bigger variant, the iPhone XS Max. There’s also a more affordable 6.1-inch iPhone XR coming later in October.

The box has not changed much — it’s still the same minimalist white box with the image of the phone you’re getting. Inside are a packet with manuals and stickers, USB-A charging brick, Lightning cable, and a pair of Lightning EarPods (not AirPods, they just look alike).

It’s worth noting that the bundled charger is the regular adapter and cable from yesteryears, even if the new iPhones already support fast charging. To get fast charging on the iPhone XS and XS Max, you need to spend an additional US$ 75 for a Lightning to USB-C Cable and a 29W USB-C adapter.

Since omitting the 3.5mm headphone jack, these new iPhones are also the first ones to not include a headphone jack to Lightning dongle — an extra US$ 9 purchase if you ever need one.

Unlike previous years where you need to get the bigger model to have the best features iPhones have to offer, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are essentially the same phones — the latter just has a bigger display and battery capacity.

The iPhone XS and XS Max also come in a new beautiful gold color, something similar to our favorite iPhone 8 and 8 Plus color from last year — a subtle, non-tacky shade of gold. A slightly darker gold but shiny stainless steel band also highlights the edges of the phones. Button and port placements have not changed, and the notch housing Apple’s TrueDepth Camera technology lives on.

We have more iPhone content coming in the next few days so make sure to stay tuned for that. Our unboxing video is also coming where we unboxed a new case color as well. Subscribe to our YouTube channel if you haven’t yet.

SEE ALSO: Apple iPhone XS cruises to top of AnTuTu benchmark ranking

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