Her GadgetMatch

OPPO R11s review: Midrange selfie powerhouse

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Last month, I flew to China for the OPPO R11s launch and got to spend time with the near-borderless smartphone. In the last few weeks, I’ve been trying out the international R11s, and this is my verdict.

The R11s is a follow-up to the R11 released last June. In this review, I’ll talk about my experience with the device and answer tough questions like: Is this R11 update worth it? How does the phone perform? Are the cameras better? What’s the point of a “Starry Sky” screen?

I also tackle the R11’s AI beauty mode because I like taking selfies and the world needs more beauty mode reviews.

Painting the town red

Our OPPO R11s unit came in deep red. I like this color option as it perfectly matches this season’s festive theme. In fact, the red all-metal body matches a lot of things: Ruby Woo lipstick, Dorothy’s ruby slippers, my hair, my heart ❤️… the list goes on.

The R11s also comes in black or champagne for those of who like less daring options. However, unique to the red version is what OPPO calls the “Starry Sky” screen — that black to red gradient on the phone’s front which makes for a seamless transition from the bezel to the body.

This “Starry Sky” screen sans actual stars ⭐️ is one of my favorite near-borderless design features. The subtle gradient is a nice identifying detail in the present sea of bezel-less devices that, more or less, all look similar up front.

OPPO R11s and the beauty of the “Starry Sky” screen (top) vis a vis the normal near-borderless screen of the OPPO F5 (bottom)

Speaking of bezel-less devices, their onslaught has made bezelled phones look dated — the R11 included. The R11s fixes that.

OPPO R11s (left) and its slimmer bezels vis a vis the OPPO R11 (right)

 

This new screen has an 18:9 aspect ratio — which basically means the view is taller or wider, depending on which orientation you use the phone in. Other than that, the screen should be the same as the R11’s with the same color, brightness, and durability. All these things I can attest to, except for the durability, because I’m not dropping these phones on purpose just to check.

What’s on the inside

Of course, with great screens come great responsibility — and certain sacrifices in the form of the loss of capacitive buttons and the fingerprint scanner up front. Said scanner has been demoted and moved to the back.

Admittedly, I initially hated the idea of having the scanner on the phone’s rear. I had to flip my phone over or lift it up from the table (yeah, all that work, shocking!) to unlock, as opposed to just tapping with a finger like I used to do when the scanner was up front. But, I eventually got used to it and it helped that the fingerprint scanner on this thing was pretty quick and accurate.

The R11s also has facial unlock technology which works well when lighting is good, but is a bit unreliable in less than ideal lighting scenarios. The phone doesn’t recognize me half of the time when I’m wearing glasses which is a bit weird since the phone would unlock even when my eyes were closed. (Beware y’all with snoopy partners!)

Unlock times were good at less than a second, though I’ve seen other devices do better.

With a midrange Snapdragon 660 processor, this phone is pretty capable. For the benefit of those who don’t deal well with specs, all this means is that you can pretty much do gaming…

Me playing Pocket Mortys on the R11s (Help me, I’m stuck on this level!)

… or more importantly, use Snapchat AR on this device without any trouble.

My Bitmoji is better than your Bitmoji

The R11s runs on OPPO’s ColorOS 3.2 which is basically the Android version of Apple’s iOS — I say that because the interface looks very much like an iPhone’s.

Battery capacity is at 3200mAh which lasts me a whole day and frees me from the burden of lugging around a power bank. The bad news? It still uses a micro-USB port! Back to more good news: It has VOOC charging, OPPO’s version of fast charging, and it only takes around an hour and twenty minutes from zero to a full charge. All this power in my hands! ✨

Picture perfect

With dual cameras on the rear, the R11s’ main selling point is that both shooters (16  and 20 megapixels) have wide apertures of f/1.7 which will allow more light to get in and make for even better low-light performance.

Of course, I tested that premise. I busted out the R11 whose dual shooters also feature 16- and 20-megapixel cameras, but with apertures of f/1.7 and f/2.6 (f/2.6 means smaller aperture which equates to less light). There was definite improvement. See for yourself:

The rear cameras are also equipped with a beauty mode built into the portrait mode. Perfect for shots like this…

… or this…

… and even group shots like this where everyone looks all cute and fresh, you don’t even realize someone is doing the cheers with jam. *cough* Chay *cough*

The front-facing shooter is a 20-megapixel camera. This camera’s beauty mode has integrated artificial intelligence. What does that mean? Simply that it uses machine learning to enhance your features and remove blemishes without looking too artificial — a qualm I’ve always had with OPPO’s beauty mode. With AI beauty mode, the phone gives you great selfies without blurring out actual facial features. Think along the lines of getting that fresh #NoMakeUp look (you girls know what I’m talking about! ?) every time, all the time, without actual makeup. See below:

Here are a few more photos (and a sneak peek of my life) from the R11s.

Is the OPPO R11s your GadgetMatch?

Although there’s still space for improvement when it comes to facial unlock technology, OS interface, and the micro-USB port, I still enjoyed this phone. Admittedly, there are faster, snappier, and more responsive phones I’ve tried out, but all my needs — funny games, Snapchat, VSCO and Adobe Lightroom photo editing — were met by the R11s. If you prioritize smartphone photography, selfies, and your Instagram feed, this may be the phone for you. I had way too much fun shooting selfies on this.

With these slight but impactful improvements, the R11s is definitely a better phone over the R11. Especially because it retails for the same price as the R11 when it was released: CNY 2,999 (around US$ 450) for black and champagne versions. The special red handset retails at CNY 3,199 (around US$ 480).

It seems these selfie experts are well on their way to becoming more than just that. In the meantime, I enjoy their efforts, my near flawless selfies, and all the pretty portraits I can shoot.

SEE ALSO: OPPO R11s hands-on and photo comparisons

SEE ALSO: OPPO R11 hands-on and photo comparisons

Apps

What I learned about myself using Android Pie’s Digital Wellbeing Dashboard

Am I on my phone too much?

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When Android Pie was unveiled and released last week, I pretty much craved pie because everyone was talking about the delectable dessert. But, I was also very excited about one particular feature: The Digital Wellbeing Dashboard.

Image of me actually eating pie the day after the Android Pie unveiling

Announced earlier, this dashboard was supposed to be a ticket to a healthier lifestyle — well, at least in theory. In an effort to curb unhealthy phone user habits, a dashboard that tracks app usage is built in to Android’s newest operating system. Although not available to everyone as of writing, Pixel users (like yours truly) are able to try out the beta version of the dash. Since I’m a sucker for self-actualization and information that may potentially heal (and hurt) me, I tried it out for the last week or so and here’s what I learned.

I’m on my phone — a lot

No sh*t, Sherlock.

I know I’m always looking at these tiny screens but I didn’t realize I was literally living my life in front of it. A record day saw me looking at the screen for — get this — 11 hours and 55 minutes. That’s half a day! Legitimately, that’s the whole time I’m not sleeping. And take note, I review phones so this isn’t the only screen I look at in a day.

Given these numbers, I’m honestly unsure how I get anything else done in my life.

I get a ton of notifications

I mean sure, technology connects people, but I didn’t realize just how connected we are.

According to my data, I get around a minimum of 250 notifications per day and this number varies. At some point, there was a whopping 620 notifications. Let’s think about that for a minute; that means around 51 messages per hour in a 12-hour day. There are only 60 minutes per hour so that means almost a message for each freaking minute.

On average, Facebook Messenger tops the list for these notifications followed by Gmail and Telegram.

I check Instagram more than I should

Now, this is funny because as you just saw, Instagram isn’t on that list of top app notifiers. But, this might also be because I turned off IG notifications because they were distracting me (yay for being self-aware?). This health dashboard tells me that I unlocked my Instagram app most, with as many as 153 times in one day. This was, on average, followed by Facebook and Twitter.

The top three apps I spent time on are Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, which just tells me that I’m ‘gram crazy and I’m on social media too much (which isn’t really news to anyone).

Grayscale is annoying and I hate it

Part of the dashboard is a feature aimed at curbing being on your phone before bed (which I do a lot 🙄). Wind Down allows you to set such times and then gives you an option to turn on Do Not Disturb and a Grayscale that makes browsing less desirable for people who should be sleeping and not looking at their phones.

The mess of an app IG becomes on grayscale

Reading tweets on grayscale is weird and browsing through Instagram is just plain wrong. I guess, in that way, this function is effective in getting me to stop being on my phone — until I turned it off the next day and never turned it on again.

I refuse to turn on the app timer as I justify social media use as work

Say what you want because it’s true. 😅

See, there’s a timer option on the dash that allows you to limit app usage time. Thing is, I’ve never turned it on. Why? Because I work on the internet and turning it on may amount to catastrophic consequences.

I will keep using this to justify my action of disallowing app time limits, so what’s your excuse?

It must be noted that, as mentioned earlier, I use more than one phone on a daily basis and am on social media on my laptop a lot, too. That being said, it’s worth pointing out that this still isn’t a complete picture of my daily phone and internet habits. Even though this data only shows a fraction of the grand picture, it already says a lot.

As with everything in life, the choice is in your hands (er, on your phone). Though I am ultimately left to decide what to do about my phone habits, knowing is always the first step.

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Her GadgetMatch

Alphapot is a biodegradable self-watering planter

Saving the world one pot at a time

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Do you garden? Do you care for the environment?

If you do, you’re going to love this. This is the Alphapot planter.

It’s a great indoor planter that can house indoor plants or even your herbs.

At first glance, the curious-looking thing doesn’t seem like it’s anything special.

But, consider this: The planter is made completely from repurposed food waste. That means that every pot you use makes the world a greener place.

What’s cool is that they’re also self-watering. There’s a tiny area where you can put water and a wick delivers the moisture to the plant.

Aside from being completely sustainable, these pots are also modular.

Meaning you can connect them together — the more the merrier!

They’re also completely biodegradable so if you want to transfer your plant to the garden, it’s so much easier. In six to twelve months, the pot will break down into soil. In fact, that grooved design at the bottom of the pot is there to help it break down.

These amazing pots will ship this December. Let’s get gardening!

Check them out on Kickstarter here.

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Apps

US FDA approves first contraceptive app

Can an app stop you from getting pregnant?

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I now truly believe that there’s an app for everything. 😱

Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the very first app to be marketed as a method of contraception. Yes, ladies, you read that right. Not a period tracker, but an actual birth contraception method.

Natural Cycles is a phone application from a European startup. For EUR 65 per year, it works by using the fertility awareness method via basal body temperatures and menstrual cycle information to tell whether a woman is fertile or not. It then advises which days you should “abstain” or “use protection.”

According to the US FDA, “consumers are increasingly using digital health technologies to inform their everyday health decisions, and this new app can provide an effective method of contraception if it’s used carefully and correctly.” They report that clinical studies have shown that the app has a “perfect use” failure rate of 1.8 percent (meaning 1.8 in 100 ladies get pregnant in spite of using the app correctly) and a “typical use” failure rate of 6.5 percent (which accounts for wrong app usage, etc).


To put in context, the US CDC pegs the typical use failure rate of birth control pills at nine percent and condoms at 18 percent. Interesting enough, this same information gives fertility awareness-based methods, the same method being used by Natural Cycles according to the FDA statement (though, in this case, unassisted by apps or algorithms), a typical use failure rate of 24 percent.

The FDA warns that “no form of contraception works perfectly, so an unplanned pregnancy could still result from correct usage of this device.”

The contraceptive app is not one without their share of controversies. Early last year, they were certified as the very first contraceptive app by the Europen Union. It has since been reported, however, that out of the 668 women who sought abortions from September to December 2017 at one of Stockholm’s biggest hospitals, 37 were relying on Natural Cycles as a contraceptive method.

Natural Cycles claims that they are “responding to each reported case,” and that “as [their] user base increases, so will the number of unplanned pregnancies coming from Natural Cycles users. This is an arithmetic truth applicable to all contraceptive methods.”

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