Features

Phablet Wars Episode 1: Galaxy Note 5

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There’s a certain cadence to tech reporting, a routine if you will, milestones and destinations that are plotted on a calendar like red letter days. Like holidays more than special events, affairs that you know will take place, come hell or high water.

And sure enough, as it has come to pass every year since the original large screen smartphone was invented back 2011, a new Samsung Galaxy Note is unveiled.


I’m here on my third year running, and there’s a comforting familiarity about things, but something is not quite right, something is messing up the expected sense of déjà vu.

The date and place are different.

Normally this event takes places in September, in Berlin, right before the start of a technology trade show called IFA. Instead we’re at the Lincoln Center in the Big Apple, in the middle of August.

Almost ironically, you have Apple to blame for messing up this rhythm.

JK Shin Unpacked 2015

Back in 2011, Steve Jobs mocked the original Note predicting that no one would want to buy a phone with a large screen. But Samsung was laughing all the way to the bank, and so last year, behest their departed founder’s wishes, Apple released the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus.

That super sized iPhone goes head-to-head with the Note, and Apple being Apple, can afford to be 3 years late, and still make a competitive dent in this growing space of smartphones that are larger than your usual phone and smaller than your usual tablets.

Each move now, is a play in these “phablet” wars. And that’s why we are here early.

Samsung wants a head start, away from any noise that Apple can generate. The Korean tech giant needs to wow the world like its never done before, and it needs to get the Note 5 to stores before Apple can say iPhone 6S Plus.

GLORIOUS

Note 5 in NYC

Behold the Note 5 in all its glory. The demo phone I’m given to take around town is gold, and it glistens under the New York sun, more prestigious than any Note I’ve previously had the privilege of using.

Its front panel is unmistakably Samsung with rounded corners and a glass face, as always a large Samsung logo is plastered just below the ear piece, and on the bottom center of the device, the capsule shaped home button.

The screen on this phone is as glorious as ever, similar to last year’s model, the resolution is twice that of a high-def display, with more pixels than the eye can see. Colors have the usual saturation and vibrance Samsung Super AMOLED displays are known for, and so far, its been holding its own against North America’s over zealous sun.

The only thing noticeably different about this screen is its bezel. One this phone, that border in between the display and the phone’s aluminum trim is reduced slightly, so the phone is not just thinner, but also a tiny bit shorter and slimmer.

But it is the phone’s back side that’s left me infatuated. 

Earlier this year, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S6 Edge – one of the most, I wanna say, fashion forward phones of the year, but in technological terms. Its edge display is curved on both sides, tapering down to fractions of a millimeter on both sides. This stunning specimen of a smartphone feels like the future.

In New York, Samsung unveiled a phablet version of the S6 Edge calling it the S6 Edge+ and I know it sounds like i’ve digressed, but if you can imagine what the screen of the S6 Edge+ looks like (I’ll make it easy for you, I’ve got a photo) that’s exactly how the back of the Note 5 is.

Curves on Note 5 & S6 Edge+

Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but this curvature adds to the phones “grippability,” matching the normal arc of one’s palms. After two years of experimenting with materials, I’m happy to see things come to this.

There’s a level of coldness associated with glass construction, it doesn’t embrace you, feeling more like a Porsche than a high-end mini van, but the Note 5 is the Porsche of smartphones, and in this case it hits the mark.   

EVERYONE HAPPY

It’s about time. I’ve complained about Samsung’s plasticky build for many years now, they’ve finally delivered on premium looking phones this year. Of course premium construction has come at the cost of waterproof features, expandable storage and replaceable batteries.

The first two, Sony with its Xperia line, has managed to accomplish so I see no reason why this can’t be done.

But I expect the latter to piss off some loyalists. I know of many Note users who carry around a spare battery, and even with fast charging as an option, swapping a fresh battery for a depleted one sure beats having to use a power bank.

And while I don’t feel the urge to complain about this as much, it’s one area of innovation I wish Samsung would look into. How to maintain premium construction, while providing this flexibility some users demand. Maybe something to look into next year.

Apple doesn’t get the same amount of flack, even when iPhones have never been water proof, have never offered expandable storage options, and have never let users replace batteries. Perhaps it comes with the territory, Android users demand more options, even though we don’t always end up using them

I for one have used a Note for many years, and don’t remember if I really needed more storage. I sure didn’t ever have an extra battery, even if that would have been a great idea.

NOTE TAKING

samsung-galaxy-note-5-stylus

I also din’t use my S-Pen much. Which is an aweful admission, considering this bundled stylus is how the Note gets its name.

This year, many will speak about how the S-Pen got a face lift, and how its new spring loading mechanism ensures that the pen stays inside the phone when not in use. But it’s really the innovations built around S-Pen software that are huge for the Note.

Being able to scribble and draw on your phone is the value proposition of the Note. And in a sea of smartphones above 5.5 inches, it’s the first, and one of a handful, that actually bundle a digital pen — getting this right is justifying the phone’s existence.

Let me give you some concrete examples. Since the last two iterations, when you pull out the S-Pen it brings up a menu called Air Command. Do you want to scribble down a note, make a clipping from the current screen? All these options are a tap away from this pop-up menu.

But say you’ve moved on to other things, pen still in hand, summoning Air Command for another task isn’t as easy. It’s a meticulous process that entails pointing at the screen, close enough but without touching, and then a press of a button on the S-Pen.

Samsung’s fixed that on the Note 5. Air Command is now a small bubble that floats on your screen,  you can position it anywhere you want, so it won’t get in the way of business. Retracting the pen still enables it, but it stays there, awaiting your next command. It took just a few minutes with the device, before I got that aha moment, it makes perfect sense. Just with that small adjustment, I have a feeling I’ll be using my S-Pen more now.

Samsung has also made the note taking experience more seamless. Even if the phone is off, you can pull out the pen, scribble a note and save it for later. The whole time the screen remains dark,  giving you the impression that its still off. You can also save notes as minimized stickies that resemble app icons on your home screen.

I also think I’ll be using a feature called Scroll Capture. It saves you from having to take multiple screen shots of a webpage, or a lengthy chat conversation. When enabled, all you have to do is tap and it will scroll up one page. You can tap and scroll up to 22 times, on any app, and when you’re done it will save the screen grabs as one long image.

PHOTOGRAPHER’S BEST FRIEND

With all that the Note 5 has going for it, the camera feels like an aside, but traditionally all Notes have had some of the best smartphone cameras each year, and this one is no different. Although unlike previous years, this one doesn’t get an upgrade from last February’s Galaxy S6. It’s the exact same camera, and that really isn’t a bad thing – 8 months into the year, its still one of the best cameras we’ve seen on a smartphone this 2015.

Like the S6 you can double press on the home button to launch the camera, from any window, even with the display turned off. If you don’t have an S6, I promise you this will change your life, or at least give you the ability to capture even the most fleeting of moments.

So that the camera feels fresh, the Note 5 gets some nice-to-have features, but nothing really ground breaking. There’s an expanded “Beauty Face” mode for selfie-holics, a video collage mode that’ll elevate your Instagram or Vine posts, and for content creators the ability to livestream on YouTube from within the camera app.   

Here are a few sample photos taken with the Note 5.

Time Square by Note 5

New York Streets by Note 5

20150111_111044

PHABLET WARS

In a few hours I’ve got a plane to catch back to Manila, for the first time since I started covering these events I have a phone to take back with me and use for a couple of weeks, which should be enough time to let the hype die down, and see how the phone performs in the real world. My feelings may or may not change then. By that time also, Apple will be ready with its own iPhone announcements, at which point we shall continue this Phablet War, and maybe even, declare a winner.

[irp posts=”913" name=”Galaxy Note 5: BenCab Edition Unboxing”]

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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Features

Comparison: Is the Huawei P30 Lite the best midrange phone today?

The affordable Huawei P30 phone with great specs

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Flagship devices are indeed the best you can get. Yet, midrange offerings are more attractive to consumers because of their budget-friendlier price tags. You don’t always have to spend a lot of cash for a good smartphone. That’s why we’re going to take a look at two of the hottest phones in the market today: the Huawei P30 Lite and the Samsung Galaxy A50.

Both phones aren’t your average midrangers. They offer more features than before, including ultra-wide camera lenses, crazy-fast processors, and plenty of memory to spare.


Let’s get right into the comparison.

Specs and Features

Let’s start by listing the key specifications of each phone to see which one is better on paper. Here’s a quick rundown of their notable features:

Huawei P30 Lite
Samsung Galaxy A50
Display 6.15-inch Full HD+ IPS LCD 6.4-inch Full HD+ Super AMOLED
Processor Kirin 710 Exynos 9610
Graphics Mali-G51 MP4 Adreno 512
Memory 6GB 6GB
Storage 128GB 128GB
Rear cameras 20MP f/1.8
8MP ultra-wide
2MP depth sensor
25MP f/1.7
8MP ultra-wide
5MP depth sensor
Front camera 32MP f/2.0 25MP f/2.0
Battery 3340mAh 4000mAh
Other features Rear fingerprint scanner, Face unlock In-display fingerprint scanner, Face unlock
OS Android 9 Pie w/ EMUI 9 Android 9 Pie w/ One UI

Since both are specifically made for the midrange segment, the two phones are quite on par with each other. Of course, each has its own strength. Let’s talk about that next.

Design-wise, the two phones sport a tiny notch on their displays. When you flip the phone over, both also have a glossy finish. The P30 Lite has a 3D glass back for easy grip and one-handed use. Meanwhile, the Galaxy A50 uses an inferior plastic panel. If you hold both, you’ll notice the P30 Lite feels more solid and premium. The P30 Lite’s back won’t scratch easily as well.

In the display department, the Galaxy A50 has the advantage with its Super AMOLED display. It produces really punchy colors and deep blacks. It’s also supposedly more efficient, giving the battery life a boost. For outdoor visibility, the P30 Lite’s LCD panel appears to be brighter. If you use your phone a lot under the sun, the P30 Lite’s luminance will benefit you more.

People love to talk about the specs, so let’s dive into that already. The P30 Lite is powered by Huawei’s own Kirin 710 processor paired with 6GB of memory and 128GB of storage. On the other hand, the Galaxy A50 is powered by Samsung’s Exynos 9610 processor with 6GB of memory and 128GB of storage as well.

The only difference here is their chipsets; but, their overall performance is pretty much the same. Also, both run Android 9 Pie out of the box with customizations on top. Being a Huawei phone, the P30 Lite has EMUI 9; meanwhile, the Galaxy A50 has One UI. Whichever you prefer, the two skins offer added features like GPU Turbo on EMUI for a smoother gaming experience.

It’s already 2019; we’re happy to share that these two midrange phones have a reversible USB-C connector for charging. Likewise, both support quick charging and fast chargers are included in the box.

Speaking of which, the Galaxy A50 has a bigger 4000mAh battery compared to the P30 Lite’s 3340mAh cell. However, when it comes to real-world performance, the difference between the two won’t be noticeable. Huawei phones have always had good battery life.

Lastly, their security features are quite similar, but differently executed. Both have fingerprint scanners as standard. However, the Galaxy A50 has its scanner built into the display, which can be a bit slow at times. Meanwhile, the P30 Lite has a tried-and-tested rear-mounted reader, which is faster and more reliable.

Cameras

Moving on to the cameras, there are three rear shooters on each phone. The P30 Lite carries a main 24-megapixel sensor with an f/1.8 aperture. Meanwhile, the Galaxy A50 has a 25-megapixel sensor with an f/1.7 aperture. On the software side, AI scene detection is available on both devices which should help in taking the best-possible photo.

Here are a few samples taken using the main cameras:

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What set these two apart from other midrange phones in the market are their secondary cameras. The P30 Lite and Galaxy A50 both have 8-megapixel sensors with ultra wide-angle lenses that could easily fit in a lot of subjects in just one shot.

Here are the samples using the normal camera versus the ultra wide-angle shooter:

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Let’s not forget about selfies. Using the P30 Lite’s 32-megapixel front camera and the Galaxy A50’s 25-megapixel front shooter, you can take detailed and bright selfies, especially with plenty of light around you.

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Beauty mode is always available when you need it. A little touch-up wouldn’t hurt, right?

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Conclusion

Is the P30 Lite the best midrange phone today? With the essentials in check and the extra features Huawei has put in, the P30 is indeed a great phone in its segment. Additionally, it’s got a premium build which gives it an edge over the competition.

Those looking to buy one can get the P30 Lite for PhP 16,990 in the Philippines — which is PhP 1,000 cheaper than Samsung’s. The P30 Lite is available in three colors: Midnight Black, Pearl White, and Peacock Blue.


This feature was produced in collaboration between GadgetMatch and Huawei Philippines.

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Features

Huawei P30 Pro vs Apple iPhone XS: Which flagship phone takes better photos?

The P30 Pro takes on the iPhone XS

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Huawei‘s new P30 series has hit the market. The best in the series is the P30 Pro with its new quad cameras, curved OLED display, and powerful chipset. A flagship phone like the P30 Pro needs the best set of features available and be worthy of people’s hard-earned money.

Usually, people ask how it fares against an iPhone. To answer curious buyers, let’s compare the P30 Pro and the iPhone XS from Apple.


Specs and Features

Let’s start by checking the key specifications of the two devices. Here’s a quick rundown of their notable features:

Huawei P30 Pro
Apple iPhone XS
Display 6.47-inch OLED
DCI-P3 HDR
5.8-inch OLED
Dolby Vision / HDR10
Processor Kirin 980 A12 Bionic
Memory 8GB 4GB
Storage 256GB 64GB/256GB/512GB
Rear cameras 40MP f/1.8 RYYB
20MP ultra-wide
8MP 5x optical zoom
ToF sensor
12MP f/1.8
12MP 2x optical zoom
Front camera 32MP f/2.0 7MP f/2.2
IR sensor
Battery 4200mAh 2658mAh
Security features In-screen fingerprint scanner, Face recognition Face ID
OS Android 9 Pie w/ EMUI 9.1 iOS 12

Both are premium phones from their respective manufacturers. They have the best displays in their class. The P30 Pro and the iPhone XS both sport an OLED panel with vibrant colors and deep blacks. To maximize the screen’s real estate, Huawei and Apple both resort to a notch. However, the P30 Pro’s notch is a lot smaller than the iPhone’s; it doesn’t take much of the interface.

Apple iPhone XS and Huawei P30 Pro | GadgetMatch

Inside, the phones have two different processors. The P30 Pro is powered by a Kirin 980, while the iPhone XS has the A12 Bionic. Both homebaked silicons are powerful and unstoppable. Built using the same latest 7nm process, they are extremely efficient compared to other processors.

The P30 Pro has twice the memory capacity of the iPhone XS, which allows better multitasking. For storage, the P30 Pro comes with 256GB as standard. If that’s not enough, it has expandable storage as well using Huawei’s Nano-Memory cards. Meanwhile, the iPhone’s base configuration starts at 64GB; upgrading to 256GB will cost you more.

Apple iPhone XS and Huawei P30 Pro | GadgetMatch

Huawei phones usually last more than a day with heavy use; the P30 Pro will be no different. It has a long-lasting 4200mAh battery compatible with 40W SuperCharge using its bundled USB-C charger. It can also top up wirelessly and share its juice via reverse wireless charging. Meanwhile, the iPhone XS has an inferior 2658mAh cell inside; it also charges slower.

Security-wise, the P30 Pro and iPhone XS differ in approach. The P30 Pro can be unlocked in two ways: using the in-screen fingerprint scanner or AI facial recognition. The iPhone XS lacks a fingerprint reader, limiting users to Face ID.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the P30 Pro and iPhone XS is their software. Obviously, the iPhone XS runs on iOS while the P30 Pro has EMUI 9.1 based on the latest Android Pie. The Android operating system allows users to take control of their device. Meanwhile, Huawei’s custom skin makes it more productive by adding useful features and optimizations.

Cameras

In the camera department, the P30 Pro outnumbers the iPhone XS with its new Leica Quad Camera system.

Apple’s top-of-the-line phone comes with a pair of 12-megapixel sensors. The iPhone’s primary shooter has an f/1.8 aperture. The secondary camera features 2x optical zoom.

On the other hand, the P30 Pro has one of the most complex mobile camera systems. It has a main 40-megapixel RYYB f/1.6 camera, a 20-megapixel ultra wide-angle shooter, an 8-megapixel periscope-style 5x optical zoom, and a special ToF sensor.

Let’s see how the two phones perform in different scenarios starting in broad daylight. With plenty of light available, both phones are able to capture a bright image with lots of details.

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The bright sunlight can get harsh at times. This is where HDR (high dynamic range) mode comes in handy. Both phones have Auto HDR. Whenever you shoot against the light, it automatically kicks in.

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Artificial bokeh is a thing for both the P30 Pro and iPhone XS. Capturing a closeup of a flower with a smooth background blur is just an easy task for the two.

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When you need to get really close, the P30 Pro’s camera can do macro without any extra accessory needed. You can clearly see the details of this tealight candle holder.

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Most of the images uploaded on social media are about food. With the P30 Pro’s AI scene recognition, you can take tasty images of your lunch and upload to Instagram right away.

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One of the P30 Pro’s periscope-style lens module is unique. The phone can zoom in 5x optically or go up to 10x using software tricks. The iPhone XS can do only up to 2x optical zoom. Maxing it out 10x is too much for the phone to handle.

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If 10x isn’t enough, did you know the P30 Pro has a maximum digital zoom of 50x? Well, the quality is not as great compared to the 10x zoom. It just barely gets the job done.

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The P30 Pro can get really close; it can also get ultra wide. With a dedicated super wide-angle shooter, the P30 Pro can fit in a whole building complex in one frame. That’s something iPhones can’t do — at least for now.

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Huawei is proud of the P30 Pro’s capability to shoot nice portrait stills even if the lighting condition isn’t ideal. The HDR feature in Portrait Mode works like charm.

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When shooting in Portrait Mode, the iPhone XS uses its secondary camera with 2x zoom. You’ll have to step back to fit your subject.

That’s not the case with the P30 Pro. The ToF sensor helps the main 40-megapixel camera identify the subject and apply the effects without cropping.

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The main camera’s wide aperture lens is perfect when shooting in Portrait Mode in dimly lit environments. The P30 Pro can shoot brighter images with more pleasing bokeh.

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Since we’re already in the dark, it’s time to put the Night Mode to the test. The iPhone doesn’t have a proper Night Mode; the P30 Pro has. The difference is more apparent in the samples below.

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Night Mode is not just for taking photos in the dark, though. It can also help take a sharper and more detailed image whenever you want to.

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Additionally, the amazingly flexible Night Mode also works with the P30 Pro’s ultra wide-angle shooter.

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For selfies, the P30 Pro has a 32-megapixel front camera. Meanwhile, the iPhone’s front has a 7-megapixel sensor accompanied by the Face ID’s IR sensor. As you can see from the samples below, the P30 Pro’s front camera has a wider FOV than the iPhone XS.

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Conclusion

With a new set of hardware and software features, the P30 Pro has its advantages over last year’s iPhone XS. In the camera department alone, the P30 Pro’s new Leica Quad Camera can deliver the best photos using a mobile phone. Zooming in or going ultra wide is not an issue for the P30 Pro. However, the iPhone XS clearly lacks the hardware for it.

Get the Huawei P30 Pro while it’s hot for PhP 50,990. It’s available in three color options: Breathing Crystal, Aurora, and Black.


This feature was produced in collaboration between GadgetMatch and Huawei Philippines.

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