Features

Nougat is Android’s best, but there’s still room for improvement

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It’s been nearly two months since Google officially named the seventh version of its Android operating system, and we’re now seeing Nexus devices receiving Android 7.0 Nougat through direct, over-the-air downloads. It’s a given that this is the most mature and jam-packed iteration of any Google-powered OS to date, but how far has it come along?

Having spent a substantial amount of time on both the beta phase and the stable build we have now, we must say that Nougat is, by far, the most efficient Android version to ever grace a handset. It’s obvious how Google took some inspiration from manufacturers. Software features that have been present on Samsung, HTC, and Sony smartphones, among others, have become part of Android’s most basic interface.

Everything is simply better

Android 7.0 Nougat - Features Overview

Multitasking, for one, is a headline feature of Nougat. Google took a page out of Samsung’s book and applied split-screen multitasking as a standard function. But unlike Samsung’s limited take on the feature, Nougat’s implementation is compatible with far more applications. By opening any app and holding the app overview button (the square to the right of the circular home button), you’re shown a list of recent apps to display on the lower half of the screen. And this isn’t some lame, laggy feature either; for instance, you can watch a full-length video while taking notes on your app of choice.

On the subject of efficiency, tapping the same overview button twice will allow you to switch to the last app you accessed. Think of it as a “Command + Tab” (on a Mac) or “Alt + Tab” (on Windows) shortcut for Android. We found this especially useful for going through multiple chat apps with less touches and swipes.

Another vital improvement is the smarter notifications and settings. In addition to the greater control you have over the notifications you receive, such as instantly sharing or replying from the alert itself, quick settings are available on the first swipe down from the top. Swipe once more, and you’ll see a longer list of settings, all of which can be rearranged or swapped for whatever you find more fitting. As for the main settings menu, you’re greeted with a preview for each option; you can see how much space you have without entering the “Storage” setting, and even preview your data and battery usage without entering the sub-menu.

And these are just some of our favorite new features of Nougat. Expect longer battery life, stronger security, an additional set of 72 emoji to play with, and greater control over the data usage of specific apps, to name a few, once Android 7.0 Nougat enters your gadget.

But all’s not well

Android 7.0 Nougat - Problems

Like any operating system fresh out of the lab, there are growing pains to deal with. Besides a couple of bugs we encountered on our updated Nexus 6P, such as the battery percentage meter constantly disappearing and Google Now sometimes crashing, not all design cues and features work the way they should.

The most glaring issue is app compatibility during split-screen multitasking. While it’s understandable that a large helping of third-party software aren’t ready for the cut-up interface, it’s inexcusable for the built-in apps Google produced themselves. A message that the “App may not work with split-screen” appears on apps like YouTube, and to make matters worse, you’ll see “App doesn’t support split-screen” for the basic Google Search app. Fortunately, time is the cure for this, since this function is now baked into the core of Android.

Interestingly, the “Clear All” button is now back in the app overview, despite Android developers claiming it’s unnecessary because of better memory management since 5.0 Lollipop. The bad news is that it’s found at the very top of the app list, meaning you have to scroll through every open app to reach the option. Nougat is already excellent at keeping programs in a low-power state when not in use, but for clean freaks, having instant access to the clear button would have been glorious.

Lastly – and this has been prevalent for a few Android generations now – you still can’t add widgets or apps to the left of the primary home screen. Everything simply goes to the right, so if you’re a fan of multiple widgets, you have only one direction to swipe for quick access.

Don’t hold your breath, unless you’re a Nexus user

What use is software if you can’t experience it? Unless you own a Nexus device, chances are you’re not receiving a Nougat update anytime soon. Google’s very own devices always get first dibs on major updates, while other users could wait as long as a year for just a hint of good news. Things could be changing, however, with news of the upcoming LG V20 being the first smartphone to come equipped with the latest Android version straight out of the box, and not a next-generation Google Nexus. With this, Google might finally be addressing its most recurring issue: fragmentation.

Android Marshmallow Fragmentation

Source: https://developer.android.com/about/dashboards/index.html

Android’s fragmentation, which refers to the overly diverse range of versions across all smartphones and tablets, is currently at its worst. Looking at the chart above, which hasn’t even been updated to reflect the latest Android version yet, shows how last year’s 6.0 Marshmallow continues to catch up with the wider distribution of older generations, despite Android 7.0 Nougat already being available.

Still, possibly poor market share shouldn’t put down Nougat’s accomplishments. Consider yourself lucky if you’re part of the new minority of Nougat users; it’s as solid as it gets for Android.

[irp posts=”10272″ name=”Six months in, Android Nougat distribution still sucks”]

First Look

Infinix Note 11s Unboxing and First Impressions

Professional-looking gaming phone!

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We’re approaching the end of the year soon, but it seems like Infinix just isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. They’ve just recently introduced their newest gaming-focused smartphone — the Infinix Note 11s.

Let’s take a look at what this bad boy has to offer.

Box that stands out 

My first experience with an Infinix device was with their Hot 10s and to be honest, I wasn’t really feeling their previous box design. Infinix had a revamp of their packaging with this more sophisticated and minimalist-looking neon-green color which just pops above the other smartphone boxes you’ll see in smartphone stores. 

Taking the top cover off the box, we’re immediately greeted by the phone, and right underneath it are the accessories.

A clear jelly case, a SIM ejector pin, a USB-C cable, and a 33W fast charger. Unfortunately, no earphones in sight.

Big but not bulky 

The phone itself is shockingly big, sporting a massive 6.95-inch, FHD+, 120Hz refresh rate with a 180Hz touch sampling rate IPS display. That’s just a little shy of a 7-inch device but manages to impressively maintain a relatively slim body despite also carrying a 5,000mAh battery.

You’re still obviously going to need two hands to operate this, but at least the back case is a textured plastic which feels good to grip.

It also has a rather professional-looking design that doesn’t give away the feel of a gaming phone.

In a recent news article I came across, more affordable phones might soon lose the audio jack. Thankfully, we’re still getting that here on the Note 11s, and it’s placed on the bottom of the device beside the USB-C charging port and the speaker grille.

Like its sibling, the Infinix Note 11, we’re also getting a side-mounted fingerprint scanner comfortably placed on the right side of its matte silver frame.

The camera

Just as you would expect from a more premium smartphone, the camera design on the Note 11s looks really good. It rocks a triple camera setup that has a 50MP f1.6 main shooter and a 2MP macro sensor with a 2MP depth sensor. 

And for the selfie camera, Infinix went with a 16MP shooter for this one, and it’s placed right in the middle of the display in a punch hole design.

Quick rundown of the specs

The Note 11s is packing some serious firepower under its hood. It has the new MediaTek Helio G96 chipset baked in it. The new chipset is the successor to the Helio G95 chip, a very popular chipset that has had quite a following because of its exceptionally good performance. A smartphone with the G95’s successor might prove worthy of its promises of performance.

Paired with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB UFS 2.2 internal storage, we’re looking at a phone which can do serious damage for gamers.

I won’t be diving into gaming tests right now, but I’ve already tried it with a few games like Genshin Impact. So far, the results have been very promising, so better watch out for our full review, if you’re interested in knowing more about that.

Price and availability

The Infinix Note 11s is priced at PhP 9,990 and is available in this Mithril Gray or Haze Green color variant.

Infinix is slashing off PhP 800 from its original SRP for its launch promo price of PhP 9,990 to only PhP 9,190 on November 30 and December 1.

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Features

Why I trust Samsung’s Knox security

A nod to the security platform that makes me feel safe and protected

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A smartphone is like a treasure trove in the age of the Internet. Filled with confidential information for personal and business use. A gold mine of data that can be used by big companies to improve technology. Or an opportunity for hackers and criminals to steal and sell as valuable resources.

I’m no stranger to discussions about cybersecurity and data privacy, even though my himbo veneer begs to differ. Two years ago, I attended a conference mounted to discuss the importance and value of data as a commodity in this era.  I learned what technology giants like Samsung and Huawei are doing to protect the new currency of the digital age.

Coming full circle, cyberattacks have increased in the past two years. Samsung knows this all too well, bringing Knox Platform to the front — end-to-end protection they have had for several years already.

The ultimate defense

In 2019, I was lucky to be given an audience with the South Korean giant executives to learn and discuss what Knox is. Samsung Philippines’ Product and Solutions Manager Anton Andres explained how Knox Platform works, and how it sets them apart from other brands when it comes to Android security.

Knox was just a security platform that automatically encrypts and decrypts information every time you boot up the device.

It’s embedded on a Galaxy smartphone or any smart device marketed with Knox’s security during a secure supply chain, offering real-time protection to actively safeguard devices against data attacks or malware.

Any unauthorized attempts to access your phone’s core are blocked in real-time. Even a device as old as a Samsung Galaxy S8 was compromised and reset, Knox automatically blows the fuse to wipe your corporate or personal info. Therefore, preventing any data leakage and security risks.

Knox also lock-up apps containing sensitive data such as Samsung Pay, Samsung Pass, Secure Folder, or Samsung Health — especially when the smartphone was booted in an unapproved state.

Samsung Galaxy Watch4 | Samsung Health

Apart from the platform security, the South Korean company delivers solutions like Knox Manage and Knox Configure — services that let enterprises customize Galaxy smartphones and tablets, as well as control the device and user interactions for safety and security.

Keeping your network safe

Aside from my interview with Andres, I was also able to speak with David Kim, Samsung Mobile B2B Asia’s Corporate VP and Chief Revenue Officer.

Kim stated how important your network is, and how you can only control the hardware, software, and who access the phones. The executive added, “There are also Wi-Fi and networks. If someone can sneak in your network, they can sneak in your email.”

Public Wi-Fis are one example of an unsafe network that might compromise your security. Free Wi-Fi sounds nice. You’re not going to spend a single dime. But it’s also a pot of gold for hackers trying to steal data — personal information such as your credit card purchases.

I haven’t connected to public Wi-Fi for more than three years due to the awareness of the risks it poses to my security. And because I’m privileged enough to buy large data allocation for my Internet use and have consistent network signal.

But not everyone is in the same position like I am. Luckily, Samsung gives you the capability to encrypt outgoing internet traffic and disable tracking apps and websites.

With a Galaxy smartphone, you can activate Secure Wi-Fi so you can browse the internet safely on public wireless connections without fear of security breaches.

Handling your sensitive data

Some people have poor privacy habits: Using the same passwords across different platforms. Admittedly, I was once like that. But using Samsung Pass throughout the years helped me easily access my credentials. Without needing to remember countless usernames and passwords.

Samsung’s use of innovative biometric authentication technology helps average users and techies alike to keep themselves protected — whether it’s Samsung Pass or an Ultrasonic Fingerprint.

If you’re still wary, I’d understand. But your biometrics data — no matter how many — are safely stored in Knox Vault. It’s a processor operating independently from the main CPU to securely isolate your information.

What you need to be cautious about are phishers waiting to attack. These are cybercriminals who might trick you into handing over sensitive information. Oftentimes, they attack by installing malware disguised as links, attachments, or even legitimate apps, on your devices.

The possibilities are endless on what these criminals can do if they have access to your sensitive information. They can use it to demand a ransom, steal your personal information and apply for loans without your knowledge, and even make purchases with your credit card information.

Though Samsung continuously scans your device for malware or suspicious activity via McAfee protection, we need to do our part as well in keeping ourselves safe.

White House approved

All these multi-layers of security are one of the reasons why Samsung believes they’re more secure than any other brand. The Samsung Mobile B2B Asia Vice President confidently claimed to GadgetMatch, “We don’t have a perfect security rating, but we are well received. That’s why the White House is comfortable with us.”

After all, Samsung designs, creates, and validates every computer chip, piece of wiring, and hardware component before lodging them into smart devices manufactured. This approach gave Samsung control over design, manufacturing, and assembly which ensures a secure supply chain.

Further, it prevents unauthorized backdoor access in each device that hackers won’t easily bypass. As a rule, don’t download unofficial or unauthorized apps lest you open up yourself to vulnerability.

Be careful of what you download

At the end of the day, it’s about you and your relationship with your smartphone and the Internet. Samsung’s Product and Solutions Manager Anton Andres warned about downloading third-party apps, especially keyboards. Yes, it can make your keyboard look pretty, but it also compromises your security.

“If you access your mobile banking credentials on a third-party keyboard, they can phish your information,” Andres said. “With Samsung Knox, we identify specific applications and URLs. Once identified, Knox automatically hides your information to prevent potential threats.”

Samsung is constantly updating the Knox Platform and its security solutions. If you haven’t had the time to keep yourselves extra secure, this is your sign to do it now.

In the meantime, let our response be: In Knox we trust. 🙏

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24 Hours Series

24 Hours in Nasugbu

A dreamy sea-scapade through the lenses of the Xiaomi 11T Pro

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As they usually say, “unplanned trips are the best.” Like the Quezon beach trip that was decided in a spur-of-the-moment, going to Nasugbu was also ever-spontaneous.

We would’ve gone to Boracay, as we snagged a cheap PhP 5,000 worth of round-trip airfare. But with all the inconsistencies of the government in announcing lockdown restrictions, we decided to let it go and hop on a road trip down south.

Unconventional yet thrilling

Going to Pansol, Laguna, or an overlooking resort in Tanay, Rizal was one of the options to consider. However, we found ourselves driving further extemporaneously.

After two to three hours, we reached Nasugbu, Batangas. Along the way, we discovered a cool, overlooking view of Batangas at night, right before you pass through Tagaytay.

Unpack things, not feelings

At exactly 8:32 PM, we reached our destination. The first thing I did was unpack my stuff. Feelings? You can unpack it later after a late yet sumptuous dinner.

That camera cutout looks more acceptable vs Mi 10T Pro’s hump

I tested Xiaomi 11T Pro’s photo prowess by taking a photo of that figurine inside the room with just that artificial light around.

Surprisingly, it looked good despite not fully embracing its overall camera performance. I also took a quick mandatory FFTB mirror selfie.

I like how that Depth of Field (DoF) separated me from my surroundings. Maybe the macro camera has its perks after all.

Night | Ultra-Wide vs Wide

I went outside to get some breezy night air while I let my hair dry. Unfortunately, beaches are closed past 9 in the evening.

Night | Ultra-Wide vs Wide

While sitting at a chaise lounge, I also captured photos of meat-grilling sessions. The Xiaomi 11T Pro’s Night Mode did a good job, especially with the appearance of fire and smoke. Very unlikely with how most night photos turned out in my review.

Portrait ON | Portrait OFF

I also used it to capture these selfies sans beauty mode — which look good for my liking.

We all need that ✨ Vitamin Sea ✨

We decided to spend the rest of the night with some booze — until my friends got knocked out. I was able to stay awake and witness how the dark sky transitioned into a picturesque, beach view.

There was no sunrise view since Nasugbu is situated on the western side. The saving grace is that sunsets look magical in this town.

Ultra-Wide vs Wide

The resort looks antiquated; brimming with history among its guests over the years. Thanks to that ultra-wide lens, it was able to capture the place clearly. And without the obstruction of crowds.

It’s probably the best part of this quick getaway: only a few people in sight.

There’s a stainless steel gate with a stone arch paving the way towards the sandy beach of Nasugbu. Xiaomi 11T Pro’s Auto White Balance (AWB) might actually lean more into the warmer side. But notice how overly-warm my sandal-fie was?

Ultra-wide vs Wide vs 2x digital zoom

Going further, there’s also a wooden gate near the beach. It’s suppose to deter unwanted visitors coming from other resorts. I had a small talk with the resort owner and he shared how low tides are more apparent this season. Sea waves in high tides would reach as far as the stainless, steel gate we crossed earlier.

Just like in my review, the inconsistency of the ultra-wide and wide lens can be seen especially with that less bright shot. Zooming in past 1x means relying on digital cropping via its main sensor. Little did I know that doing so loses that warm White Balance.

Unpredictable like the ocean waves

The Xiaomi 11T Pro’s camera performance is pretty much unpredictable.

Night UWA | Xiaomi 11T Pro vs Mi 10T Pro

While the 11T Pro’s shot looked better because it’s brighter and sharper, that’s actually the camera software’s over-processing. The night shot taken with the Mi 10T Pro was closer to what I saw in person.

Wide | Xiaomi 11T Pro vs Mi 10T Pro

Fast forward to the next day, this was how it looked like as early as six in the morning. Astonishingly, the beach shot of the 11T Pro was too cool. Not “too cool” though in terms of quality. The Mi 10T Pro delivered a better shot.

UWA | Xiaomi 11T Pro vs Mi 10T Pro

But when you switch to that even wider Ultra-Wide Angle (UWA) lens, the Xiaomi 11T Pro was once again inconsistent AF.

2x | Xiaomi 11T Pro vs Mi 10T Pro

After some time, fishing boats started to appear on the shoreline. I then tried tapping the 2x option for that zoomed shot. The photo turned out way too blue.

Wide | Xiaomi 11T Pro vs Mi 10T Pro

Looking around, there’s a fancier resort right next to where we stayed. I took a shot and the warmer White Balance and better Dynamic Range saved the Xiaomi 11T Pro this time.

HDR UWA | Xiaomi 11T Pro vs Mi 10T Pro

Xiaomi 11T Pro is pretty consistent in having inconsistent wins and losses. The Xiaomi 11T Pro wins this one due to the preservation of image details and better High Dynamic Range.

HDR Wide | Xiaomi 11T Pro vs Mi 10T Pro

Ending this with the last photo before we went home. Not much of a difference but the bluish tint in the sky is evident on the 11T Pro versus the Mi 10T Pro’s less-vibrant sky.

SEE ALSO: Xiaomi 11T Pro vs Mi 10T Pro: Camera shootout

Spicing up this sea-scapade getaway

As GadgetMatch’s Associate Creative Producer, post-processing (or color grading) shots is also part of my job. While we barely post color-graded photo samples on this website unless clearly stated, this section is clearly dedicated to some photos taken with the Xiaomi 11T Pro that were modified through a photo-grading app.

Shots by @vincenzlee | Post-processed in VSCO

Like what you saw earlier, the RAW versions of these photos looked so bluish to the point that I was like in Avatar. Luckily, post-processing apps were made and I was able to improve it by applying a preset and adjusting all the necessary camera settings such as temperature/White Balance, highlights, shadows, contrast, among others.

Post-processed in VSCO

I can’t miss another beach photo this time. I asked my friend to take photos of me in this weird all-black get-up.

Post-processed in VSCO

Then, I just tried to write letters on the sand and made it a candid-looking shot. My friend followed after me (which kinda looked like she was mocking me lol).

Shots by @vincenzlee | Post-processed in VSCO

I then took over the Xiaomi 11T Pro and took more photos of her.

Shots by @vincenzlee | Post-processed in VSCO

This is a testament that bragging #NoFilter shots are senseless. Color-grading shots adds more life and story to your photos.

Shots by @vincenzlee | Post-processed in VSCO

I always tell people that camera angles play a huge part in photography. Just look at how my friend nailed the first shot compared to a regular photo shot from a distance.

Shots by @vincenzlee | Post-processed in VSCO

The blown out highlights and exposure of the original photos made it look less appealing. Lucky enough, I was able to salvage these photos through the power of color grading.

Shots by @vincenzlee | Post-processed in VSCO

Candid photos are simply the best for memory preservation. It makes you remember the moments more than the poses you’ve made in front of the camera.

Shots by @vincenzlee | Post-processed in VSCO

One thing I liked about the beach in Nasugbu is the firmer sand crystals despite having a mud-like color. Those in Unisan, Quezon had white sand but are actually rougher especially when you’re barefooted.

Shots by @vincenzlee | Post-processed in VSCO

But I do like the clearer blue water in Quezon. The one here in Nasugbu is far more brown just like the beach’s color. And as I remember my regrets of not being able to visit Boracay, it also reminded me how I badly miss the white sand plus the crystal clear and less salty water of the island.

Not sure if I’m the father or the big child of this circle 🤔

It might seem unfortunate, not to be able to visit Boracay during this pandemic. Being surrounded by two pairs of sweet honey bees doesn’t help either.

But, in all honesty, I enjoyed the company more instead of being awkward. Especially with the bond that we already formed. And yeah, I’m used to being single and alone (and no, this ain’t a sadb0i sentiment).

Certainly, unplanned trips are indeed the best.

All shots were taken using the Xiaomi 11T Pro with a mix of RAW and post-processed photos edited through VSCO.

Quick note

We made sure all of us were safe and COVID-19 free prior to going to the travel location. All of us are already fully vaccinated but still submitted the requirements needed for in-country travel. Face masks were still worn during the trip and were only removed for the sake of the photoshoot. Social distancing protocols were followed as well.


24 Hours is a series on GadgetMatch.com where we showcase our travels through a smartphone camera’s perspective. It’s also a documented guide on things to see and do in a city in case you happen to plan a trip there.

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