Features

Best of Mobile World Congress 2017

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Before the exhibition doors of Mobile World Congress open to the public, for most journalists, half the job is already done.

48 hours prior, my team and I had scuttled across the beautiful Mediterranean city hopping from one launch event to another.

We were at a total of eight during this year’s show; overall one of the best in recent years.

Credit Samsung, if you will. Them pushing back the Galaxy S8 launch to later in March, allowed other brands to collectively bask in the spotlight it once monopolized. Credit Nokia for its nostalgia-fueled comeback. Or credit every other smartphone brand that stepped it up and gave us, not only something to talk about, but also more wows than disappointment.

If MWC 2017 is any indication of what the rest of the year will look like in terms of smartphones. We’re pretty darn excited!

BlackBerry KEYOne

After a two-year absence, BlackBerry is back!

This time via a lifeline from Chinese tech company TCL (also known for its midrange TVs and Alcatel smartphones).

The KEYOne is only the second truly BlackBerry phone to run Android, and is perfect for those wanting both a 2017 smartphone experience and the familiarity of the full keypad BlackBerry is known for.

In the short time we spent with the KEYOne, it felt exactly like what you’d expect from a BlackBerry – metal frame, rubber back, and that keypad which it gets its name from. The new, old keypad doubles as a touchpad and comes with a fingerprint sensor built into its space bar.

LG G6

While LG has pulled the plug on its modular smartphone concept, the new G6 leaves plenty more to be excited about.

LG’s biggest talking point is big screen, small phone. And while size is relative, you’ve got to hand it to them; despite having 0.2 inches more screen real estate than the iPhone 7 Plus, the G6 is indeed a much smaller phone that fits in the hand better.

What I like most about the G6 is its design. The phone is solidly built, much more than last year’s model. It’s a difference you can see and feel. And I’m lusting over the ice platinum one as I write this piece.

LG’s made sure the G6 satisfies by all accounts. It’s got a beautiful display, water and dust resistance, and a great camera. LG also says it’s given the G6 a heat pipe to protect it from unexpected situations — their subtle way of saying it won’t explode, if you note what I’m saying.

Huawei P10

Following a very successful year, Huawei didn’t dramatically change much about the P10. Instead, it improved on the already good product.

The company is working together with color experts Pantone to release its new smartphone in two unique new shades, including 2017 Color of the Year, Greenery.

A Huawei executive told GagetMatch, the new color symbolizes new beginnings, and it hopes that these little touches contribute to how users feel about their phones and life in general.

Like its predecessor, the camera on the P10 is co-engineered with Leica. We had the pleasure of shooting with the phone around Barcelona, and have been blown away by its excellent camera.

Nokia 6 / Nokia 3310

Nokia is back, too! Like a phoenix from the ashes, the phone brand that many of us grew up with is given new life by Finnish startup HMD Global.

The new company hopes to leverage its pool of Nokia old-timers and new talent to deliver the core qualities that we expect from Nokia with a fresh flavor that makes it relevant to millennials who have never used a Nokia before.

The new Android-powered Nokia 6 flagship is just that. Carved from a solid block of aluminum and with a pure Android experience — just how all smartphones should be.

Nokia also announced the new 3310 — a revival retro phone that’s just as you remember it: Snake, Symbian OS, removable battery, one-month standby time, and the Nokia ringtone. And because it’s the question I’ve been asked most this week: The 3310 will retail for €49 when it goes on sale in the 2Q of 2017.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium 

Sony loyalists will love the new Xperia XZ Premium, a phone that’s way too beautiful to be used. Fingerprints will ruin the aesthetics of it, and so will need a much-needed protective case. But I guess that’s the point; the XZ Premium is meant to be a phone of excesses.

Take for example its 4K HDR display — simply put, the new phone has as good a display as a top-of-the-line TV. Sony is also working with Amazon Prime Video to guarantee a list of original content that will benefit such a smartphone when it launches later this year.

Film makers will also love the new super-slow-mo feature, 960 frames per second in total! This will let you freeze the exact moment a water drop drips from a kitchen faucet.

OPPO 5X

OPPO didn’t have a new smartphone to announce at MWC; just a promise of what future phones could be like.

The company debuted new camera technology that utilizes a dual-camera setup to zoom in on subjects up to 5X. Previously to achieve such a feat, you’d need bigger lenses that protrude from the phone.

OPPO’s been able to shrink that technology into a lens element that’s only a few millimeters thin. My iPhone 7 Plus can zoom up to two times without relying on digital zoom; five times would be such a game-changer when you’re trying to steal a shot of that attractive person two tables away.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 / Galaxy Book

There weren’t a lot of new tablets announced at MWC, but Samsung, in lieu of its S8 announcement, had two to show off.

The most important thing about both the Galaxy Tab S3 and Galaxy Book is that they come bundled with an S Pen, unlike Apple’s iPad Pro that requires you to buy it separately. There’s even a special edition Staedtler that looks like an actual pencil.

 [irp posts=”11072″ name=”Samsung responds to protest incident at MWC”]

Smartphones

Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro Unboxing

What’s inside the box?

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You already know how impressed we were during the hands-on, so now it’s time to see what comes in the package of Huawei’s newest flagships. This is our Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro unboxing.

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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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Features

What does the GPU Turbo do to your phone?

Is it more than just a marketing gimmick?

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It’s been two months since Huawei rolled out the GPU Turbo update to its smartphones. Promised with a 60 percent increase in performance and reducing 30 percent on power consumption, a lot of fans and users were excited after the announcement.

Back then, everyone (including me) was hyped about lag-free games and longer battery life while playing. However, upon receiving the update, I began to wonder: Has GPU Turbo delivered what it promised?

What’s inside the update?

GPU Turbo was originally marketed as an improved gameplay experience, available only to PUBG and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.

The Game Suite app, which comes with the update, offers an uninterrupted gaming feature, hiding all notifications when enabled (except for calls, alarms, and low-battery alerts).

Mistouch prevention is another feature to avert users from clicking the back and home button while playing — perfect for when you want to focus on your game.

Screenshots by Miguel Pineda, Huawei Mate 10 user

To some older smartphones like the Huawei Mate 10, the Game Suite App offers three performance modes: Gaming mode, which improves game performance but increases power consumption; Smart mode, which balances performance and power consumption; and Power saving mode, which saves power but reduces game performance.

For the newer Huawei P20 Pro (which I’ve been using) and Honor Play, it only has a gaming acceleration mode to toggle on or off.

Thoughts on the reduced power consumption

Because I used the Mate 10 before and recently transitioned to the P20 Pro, I’ve experienced the GPU Turbo update in both phones and I can guarantee that they’ve delivered on lowered power consumption.

With Game Suite, I can put my phone on power saving mode to further save battery. For instance, I was only able to drain the Mate 10 down to 15 percent during a 12-hour road trip despite switching between the games I play and other apps, such as Messenger, Netflix, Spotify, and taking photos and videos every once in a while. The same goes for the P20 Pro.

As a power user, I already get a lot of things done with these highly efficient smartphones and GPU Turbo; these allowed me to do more on a single charge. However, it’s a different case for gaming.

Improved gaming experience, but there’s a catch…

When I started playing games on gaming mode (or game acceleration mode on the P20 Pro), I could run Mobile Legends: Bang Bang on a high frame rate with the highest graphics setting available. Compared to how the game stuttered and lagged during 5v5 clashes, with GPU Turbo, it now runs smoothly, as if I have a smartphone made for gaming.

System notice when enabling the high frame rate on Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and the effects it may have on your gameplay

As shown above, most mobile games will notify their users about the possible repercussions of higher frame rates and using the best settings available. To prove that a smartphone with GPU Turbo can handle this, I sought out to confirm my suspicions.

After asking fellow Huawei users, I found out that after installing GPU Turbo, energy consumption is a lot faster than before. Their smartphones also heat up more easily, especially when playing games with the game acceleration mode on. This isn’t part of what was promised, and it’s pretty disappointing.

It’s not yet perfect

In my experience, GPU Turbo tries to boost performance above a smartphone’s limit hoping that users can experience better gameplay.

GPU Turbo can’t choose when to perform its best. It’s an update that is constantly running in our smartphones without any way to switch it off. We can only hope that Huawei will address these issues for the next batch of updates.

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