Unfiltered

realme has been a true disruptor

And it’s messing with everyone’s expectations

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There’s been an influx of midrange smartphones around Southeast Asia over the past few weeks. Long-time players like Huawei, OPPO, vivo, and Xiaomi are in the race, but they seem to have trouble keeping pace with relative newcomer, realme.

realme calls itself a disruptor, and for the most part, it walks the talk. The company kicked-off this recent midrange smartphone barrage and I’m inclined to say they might still be in the lead.

However, they are messing with everyone’s expectations.

A high screen refresh rate isn’t the end all, be all

Too many times over the course of the phone launches, I would check the comments section on our Facebook page and would see a number of them saying a variation of “nO 90Hz sCReEn rEFreSh rATe, aUTo PaSS.”

It’s annoying.

That feature at this segment is a “nice to have” more than a “must have.” I don’t think enough people realize that.

That said, realme did a great job by bringing over that experience to a more affordable pricing segment. For context, here’s a quick specs comparison on some of the smartphones that launched recently.

realme 6 pro Huawei Nova 7 SE Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite vivo V19 Neo OPPO A92
Display 6.6” IPS LCD, 90Hz refresh rate 6.5” LTPS IPS LCD, HDR10 6.47” AMOLED 6.44” Super AMOLED 6.5” IPS LCD
Processor Snapdragon 720G Kirin 820 5G Snapdragon 730G Snapdragon 675 Snapdragon 665
Max ROM + RAM 8GB + 128GB 8GB + 256GB 8GB + 128GB 8GB + 256GB 8GB + 128GB
Rear cameras 64MP + 12MP  + 8MP + 2MP 64MP + 8MP  + 2MP + 2MP 64MP + 8MP  + 2MP + 5MP 48MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP 48MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP
Selfie camera/s 16MP + 8MP 16MP 16MP 32MP 16MP
Battery 4300mAh, Fast charging 30W, VOOC 4.0 4000mAh, Fast charging 40W, Reverse charging 5W 5260mAh, Fast Charting 30W 4500mAh, Fast charging 18W 5000mAh, Fast charging 18W
Price PhP 16,990 (US$ 339) PhP 19,990 (US$ 400) PhP 18,990 (US$ 380) 17,999 (US$ 358) PhP 15,990 (US$ 320).

realme is punching above its weight class

At first glance on paper, the realme 6 Pro is a runaway winner. After discussing for a little bit with the rest of the team, “runaway” might be a stretch, but they are still ahead. They simply offer the best overall value.

I also snarkily remarked to the team what vivo and OPPO are still doing here. It’s like they’re not even trying. But, as you know, they are putting more effort into releasing phones that can rival premium flagships. OPPO has the Find X2 Pro from earlier in the year, while vivo recently announced the X50 Pro+.

Our extraordinary team member also pointed out that these midrangers from the two companies may just be excess parts. They might have purchased an exorbitant amount of chips and lenses without projecting how much the landscape will change in such a short time.

One can argue that what OPPO and vivo have here are baseline specs for midrangers. Xiaomi is firmly in the middle having dominated this segment for a while. And then realme and Huawei offer features (90Hz screen refresh rate and 5G, respectively) that are typically reserved for phones over PhP 20,000 (US$ 400).

The knock on Huawei is the lack of Google Mobile Services, which they are trying to address. realme, on the other hand, has the full suite of Google’s offerings.

Offering something better than its price suggests

What realme has been doing is pretty clear. It’s taken some “flagship-level” features and put them in phones that are well within the midrange budget.

Late last year, they had the realme XT which featured a 64MP quad-camera setup. It was a time when the standard was still 48MP for the smartphone camera’s main sensor.

In 2020, they did it again on the realme 6 series. They brought over a 90Hz screen refresh rate which had only been seen on flagship smartphones until they decided to slap it on their midrangers.

This is something that realme continues to do at any segment — meet the specs expectation in that segment but add one extra feature that’s only available on more expensive smartphones.

It’s smart and helps them standout.

Is what they’re doing replicable? 

If realme can do it, so can other brands, right? Well, there are plenty of factors that come into play here, but mostly it has to do with the company’s strategy and direction.

As I mentioned earlier, the likes of OPPO and vivo are trying to get to the same atmosphere occupied by the likes of Apple and Samsung. It was a feat that Huawei achieved, but factors outside its control might be keeping it from staying afloat.

Recent sales numbers suggest otherwise, but  — fair or not — their brand reputation is certainly taking a hit.

Look for Xiaomi to move aggressively. They have owned the “best value” market for a better part of the last half decade, and don’t think for a second that they will relinquish it without a fight.

Can realme keep it up?

What realme’s doing here is aggressive and that’s how you have to be if you’re the challenger. I write this as I test drive another realme phone that’s looking to shake-up another pricing segment. Based on my experience so far, it’s eXtremely promising.

Competition between brands is great. It forces them to be better. So for consumers’ sake, I sure hope realme keeps the pedal to the metal.

Apps

I’m missing the Olympics because I don’t have cable

And it sucks

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It’s 2021. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which was delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, is in full swing as of writing. However, as someone whose primary source of media entertainment all comes from streaming, there’s no easy and convenient way for me to watch the games. Major bummer.

I like to enjoy my media a certain way; I prefer to stream them on my TV. Which is why majority of the content I consume come from YouTube, Netflix, and the occasional Amazon Prime, HBO Go (Yep, not even HBO Max), and Apple TV.

I find it incredibly baffling that the stakeholders involved in bringing the games to the people failed to come to an agreement to make it easily accessible on the aforementioned platforms. It’s 2021. Why on earth am I not able to watch the greatest sporting event on the planet the way I want to?

Believe me, I hear the privilege in my words. Regardless, I still feel marginalized.

So how can you watch the Olympics right now?

I asked a friend who’s been covering the games. He watches through cable and had to pay a PhP 150 fee (around US$ 3/ SG$ 4) to avail of the Tokyo 2020 Premium from a particular cable provider.

Thing is, the whole Olympic coverage in the Philippines is locked to the MVP group of companies. You wanna follow the games, you’re gonna have to do it on one of their platforms.

Here’s an excerpt from their press release on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic coverage:

“Sports fans will have comprehensive access to the Olympic Games — from the Opening Ceremonies all the way to when the games conclude — on free to air via TV5 and One Sports. One Sports+ on Cignal TV will also dedicate a significant amount of their daily hours to broadcast the events, with Cignal also opening up two exclusive channels dedicated to broadcast the games 24/7. Cignal Play, in addition to live channels TV5, One Sports & One Sports+, will be offering exclusive channels broadcasting live updates to its subscribers, along with exclusive content not available on the TV broadcast. Cignal TV’s One News leads the group’s round-the-clock news coverage, featuring results, updates, and highlights.”

Comprehensive? Maybe. For platforms within the MVP group of companies. If you’re not subscribed to any of these, well, that’s just too bad. It’s good for business and I completely understand how the whole thing works. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

The coverage also missed to televise or showcase Hidilyn Diaz’s historic gold medal win in the Weightlifting competition. If you’ve been following sports news, the Philippines was expected to get a medal in this event. Sadly, the moment was only known following updates from reporters on the ground.

How I wish it was handled

I’m sure there’s a lot more that goes into it in terms of TV and broadcasting rights, but we’re literally at an age where plenty of folks have decided to cut the cord and rely on streaming for content.

On YouTube, you can buy and/or rent movies and shows. The platform and structure exists for pay-to-watch content. They could have even made tiers or packages like charge a certain amount to gain access to all the games, a different and lower amount if you just want to follow a certain sport and/or a certain event.

Maybe the potential earnings to do so didn’t justify the costs to implement it. Whatever the case, it’s still incredibly frustrating.

Sure, I can go through the hoopla of setting up a VPN and look for streaming sites. But that’s more even more cumbersome. I don’t mind paying a convenience fee if it means that after a long day of work I can kick back, relax, and watch some damn sports.

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Smartphones

Oops! I was wrong about foldable phones

They’re here to stay in the years to come

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Illustration by Migs Buera

When the first foldable phone came out, the words I blurted out of my mouth were “Who the F needs that?” At the time, no one really needed it. It was a showcase of what the future might hold; a glimpse of where we’re headed.

For someone whose work requires him to be appreciative of technology, I wasn’t particularly receptive to change. Inherently, I believe that necessity is the mother of the invention which is why I was hesitant about the whole foldable concept — and even called it a fad. Smartphones are doing fine, why change what’s not broken, right?

Yes, my thoughts are the same about the flip phones that resemble the phones of the distant past. An ex-lover and I were jokingly discussing how impractical these phones are, despite working in the electronics and technology industry.

But the same thing cannot be said to the most recent foldable phones anymore, especially in 2021. There’s a certain allure with the Galaxy Z Fold2 that you can only experience when you use it. And the same goes with the Huawei Mate X2 when Michael Josh decided to play around with it. And I couldn’t agree more.

Using the Galaxy Z Fold2 for quite a while now made me realize how it fills the gap in the smartphone industry, and how they can help keep the technology industry from pressing forward.

Not the usual smartphone, not yet a tablet

By now, you probably know this foldable’s form factor. So I don’t need to go into the technical details and let me speak from experience.

The first time I got my hands on the Galaxy Z Fold2, I was afraid. It felt like a delicate flower that evokes grandeur and beauty. When folded, it’s nearly the size of average smartphones that you’re familiar with. It’s just thicker to hold and quite slippery that you might want to strengthen your grip to be on the safe side.

Opening it requires a gentler approach, but this is where the magic begins. The Galaxy Z Fold2 offered a bigger screen that I can hold for a longer time, which a tablet can’t even provide. It gave me the ability to work elsewhere without carrying my laptop all the damn time.

Though you can’t do heavy work in it, I was able to keep my social platforms running and I was able to hop on a meeting, check my designers’ works, and coordinate with my team — even if I was outdoors eating at an al fresco restaurant.

It’s also a head-turning accessory, seeing how foldables are unique to the average consumer’s eyes. And honestly, I liked the attention I got from it.

Okay, enough with its allure. Let’s talk about what my issues were and how it’s relevant to the future of smartphones.

Pushing the boundaries of what a smartphone should be

One of the issues most tech reviewers had with the foldable phones is the creases that, frankly, make or break an experience. I can live with it, but not a lot of people can (probably). But my issue was how most apps aren’t optimized for a foldable phone, yet.

This is why depending on how it pans out, foldable phones can turn the wheels again and make the whole industry move forward. Smartphones are getting boring and obsolete.

When every smartphone manufacturer releases a smartphone every damn three months, we get bored seeing how all of them look similar or offer a minor reiteration of the common slab devices. Remove their brand and coating, and they all look the same.

Companies have nearly perfected the design and experience of flagship smartphones. Midrange and budget phones, on the other hand, need a little bit more refining.

Other companies like LG — whose mobile division already shut down — started working on different form factors like the LG Wing. And we love it. Even ASUS made the whole Zenfone 8 an engineering solution, packing heavy features in a compact smartphone by shrinking some of its components.

Although frankly, we can all agree and settle with foldable phones as the next form factor. It’s starting to make sense, at least when you get your hands on it. With Samsung and Huawei leading the race on foldables, it’s certainly a phone war we’d love to watch from beginning to end.

The next standard of premium phones… or the future of smartphones?

If more people adopt foldable phones, smartphone manufacturers will be forced to step up their game and go where the demand is. Except, foldable phones still aren’t made for general use.

It still is a phone for those who have the money to burn, who want to be on the cutting-edge of technology, and those who need a device that fills the gap between a smartphone and a tablet to augment their lifestyle.

But whatever the future has in store for us, I’m certain that foldable phones — if done right — can be the next standard of what makes a phone premium. That, or it could be the next generation of our smartphones. Nonetheless, my mind has changed thanks to the Galaxy Z Fold2. And now, I’m excited to step into the future.

SEE ALSO: I’ve grown attached to the Galaxy Z Fold2

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Entertainment

Netflix’s Trese: Beacon of hope for Filipino storytellers

According to a graphic novel writer

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Illustration by Migs Buera

The wide, deep, and varied world of comics or graphic novels was something that remained unexplored until I was forced to because of work. As an introductory lesson to comics and graphic novels, Trese was a part of my reading assignment. And since they did not have all the volumes of Trese, I went on a hunt for it.

The one I got is the Trese: Book of Murders which is in English. It was a quick read but I was more curious to read the Filipino version. Either way, I finished it within the same day I purchased it. And I loved it.

Though I did not delve deep into the fandom, I was curious enough to join the Facebook group and to check on updates every now and then which was why I cheered when I saw that there was going to be an animated series based on the comics.

“Sadly, there are things that had to be sacrificed if it meant getting things done.”

On keeping the art and story

It had been around three years since I last read the entire thing and I needed a refresher. I finished it just an hour before the series was available for streaming.

I watched the entire series in one sitting. Starting from the surface, the art is gorgeous and very pleasing to the eyes, but maybe a tad too Western than what I would have wanted.

Trese

I am not saying that they should have copied the exact art style from the comics but maybe it could have been a bit more Filipino-looking. As much as I adore how Alexandra Trese looked, she looks almost American-Japanese. But, nevertheless beautiful.

Story-wise, it did not change a lot but it surely compressed it a bit. Maybe a bit too much that they had to rely on voiceovers and flashbacks in order to touch on important parts and deliver the story without leaving too many loopholes.

It was understandable but some parts felt dragging just because it was compressed. But that could also be due to other factors. And sadly, there are things that had to be sacrificed if it meant getting things done.

“I can’t think of anyone who can be the voice of Alexandra Trese other than Liza.”

The never-ending discourse about the dub

Now onto the part that everyone has been talking about even before it started to stream―the dub. There’s Filipino, English, Japanese, and Spanish the last time I checked.

I tried it all and I have mixed emotions. I originally went for the Filipino dub mainly because I wanted to get the full Filipino experience. Out of curiosity, I rewatched one episode and tried the other languages.

The Spanish one was almost natural but maybe that’s because of the familiar words that we have adapted. The Japanese one was interesting, giving that anime feel that was kind of cool and maybe had the most emotion among the dubs.

Trese

The English dub was also nice but some Filipino terms and names tend to sound kind of slang. With the Filipino one, it was the most natural one… vibe-wise.

But what I did not like about the Filipino dub was the lack of emotions in some parts and mainly from Alexandra Trese. Though it was established that Alexandra was not that emotionally expressive, she sounded so monotonous throughout the entire series.

Maybe, just maybe, Liza Soberano was focusing on her enunciation that she was not able to deliver enough emotions in her lines. But other than that, I can’t think of anyone who can be the voice of Alexandra Trese other than Liza. Just a bit more voice acting workshop, I guess, and she’s good to go.

TRESE (L to R) CARLOS ALAZRAQUI as SANTELMO and SHAY MITCHELL as ALEXANDRA TRESE in episode 101 of TRESE Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

Setting up the stage for other storytellers

It may not be perfect and polished as others may have hoped for but I do hope that Trese can pave the way for other Filipino comics, and other local stories to make their way to a more global or international scene.

Philippine mythology is filled with deities and creatures, which are varied depending on every region of the country. The most common deity mentioned and used is Bathala, the Supreme Being in the Tagalog region, while the most common creature used is the aswang.

Even in the American fantasy TV series “Grimm”, they featured the aswang, but I personally think we have other creatures that are far more horrifying. There is the sigbin which looks like a dog but it walks backwards with its head lowered and it sucks its victim’s blood but during Holy Week, it hunts children for their hearts. That’s just one of the many.

A lot of Filipino creators have shared their vision and interpretation of our mythology and folklore such as Tabi Po by Mervin Malonzo, Mythology Class by Arnold Arre, Ella Arcangel by Julius Villanueva, Janus Silang by Edgar Samar, and more. From popular titles to independent creations that you would see at a smaller comic convention, more artists and writers are showing appreciation for what is ours.

Plenty of mythology to explore

At first, I was not aware of just how vast our own mythological world is and I only knew very little folklore. But when I started to work in Epik Studios Inc., I had to read and learn more. What made me delve deeper was during the time that I was tasked to write the modern take on Bernardo Carpio. Instead of sticking to the popular creatures for the villain, I researched creatures that are barely used. Not only did I find a fitting villain for Bernardo Carpio, but I also found inspiration for new stories that I want to write in the future.

We have a rich folklore and mythology that has yet to be fully showcased but we have a lot of storytellers who wish to show it to the world. It’s about time that we do.

Watch Trese on Netflix.


This opinion piece was written by Patch Aviado, a creative producer and a writer who worked on graphic novels such as Bernardo Carpio, Pedro Penduko: The Legend Begins, Maria Makiling, and Osyana. Together with Viva Books, she published Garden of Sunflowers. Currently, she’s working on an online novel entitled Blue Hearts, Purple Roses. When she’s not writing, she’s busy fangirling.

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