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”]

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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