Features

ASUS ROG Phone gets everyone hyped, Memoji is a thing: Weekend Rewind

ASUS wows, as Lenovo disappoints

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Here are this week’s top stories on GadgetMatch.

1. ROG Phone gets everyone buzzing

Even if you hid under a rock over the past week, you still might have heard all the noise that the ASUS ROG Phone made right before Computex 2018. This is a phone built with gamers in mind. The design is distinctly ROG with specs that match today’s top-of-the-line flagships. However, what sets it apart are the accessories available for purchase right when the device launches. These include a controller by GameVice, a desktop dock similar to what we’ve seen with Samsung DEX, and a TwinView dock that adds not only physical buttons but also another display.

2. Dual screen laptops are coming

Speaking of dual displays, ASUS wasn’t done making noise. They also also launched the ZenBook 15 Pro with the ScreenPad. Screen what now? Instead of the usual trackpad, ASUS put a display on its new ZenBook and it can do anything from being a second screen to enhancing the experience for certain apps.

It doesn’t end there. ASUS also showcased Project Precog — a laptop that completely takes away the physical keyboard and replaces it with another screen. Not to be outdone, Lenovo announced the Yoga Book Generation 2 which will also sport dual screens. Unfortunately, Lenovo’s next announcement was a dud.

3. Where’s the “all-screen” phone at, Lenovo?

People swooned as teasers of an “all-screen” Lenovo Z5 spread online but those swoons quickly turned into sighs as Lenovo revealed a Z5 that sports a notch. Lenovo took the “expectation versus reality” meme to heart. If you can get past the disappointment of not getting an all-screen phone, what you get with the Z5 is a midrange phone that promises AI-integration on its cameras.

4. Pixel 3 XL will look a lot like its predecessor

In yet another uninspiring smartphone design news, XDA Developers showed a leak of the Pixel 3 XL. The rear remains unchanged and you will be forgiven if you think this is the Pixel 2 XL. What’s different though is that it’s rumored to have two front-facing cameras that’s housed inside — can you guess? — yes, a notch.

5. Memoji, Dark Mode, and more awesome Apple-made OS things

Rounding up this week is a sort of encouraging news. While there was no hardware announcement at this year’s WWDC, we were peppered with a bunch of new features coming to iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS.

iOS 12 will now feature tongue tracking on Animojis and AR Emoji killer (if you think it was ever really alive) Memoji which is an Animoji version of yourself. The next macOS is called Mojave and it introduces a slew of new features including a Dark Mode, stacks for decluttering your desktop, and more. You can read about the 18 most notable WWDC updates here.


Weekend Rewind is our roundup of top news and features you might have missed for the week. We know the world of technology can be overwhelming and not everyone has the time to get up to speed with everything — and that includes us. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the rewind.

Explainers

All filters: Article 13 of the EUCD explained

Is this the end for memes everywhere?

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If you haven’t been on the web often lately, this may be something that has slipped past your radar. On September 12, 2018, the European Parliament voted to pass a directive that could change the way we approach the internet for years to come. But, consider first that it’s only the initial review, with a final vote happening next year.

What is this directive, and why is the internet involved? Why are people suddenly seeing #Article13 trend on Twitter a few hours after the decision was passed? What’s with this #SaveTheInternet nonsense?

Understanding the copyright directive

The directive at the forefront of this entire debacle is known as the European Union Copyright Directive, or EUCD. The EUCD hopes to streamline effective regulations towards the protection of intellectual property in the EU. It was first adopted in 2001, following the ruling during the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty. Earlier this year, another version of the directive was drafted with added articles and stipulations.

Basically, the EUCD seeks to create measures to protect one’s copyright on created content. The range of intellectual property that should be protected include music, videos, images, algorithms/codes, and even software. The directive calls for member countries to enact and implement laws that protect copyright owners. Eventually, such stipulations also reach big companies that operate within the EU.

You might be thinking why there is an outcry over it in the first place, especially when the directive’s purpose is clear. Well, there’s one particular part of the EUCD that a lot of people disagree on: Article 13.

The unlucky Article 13

Article 13 of the EUCD isn’t a lengthy piece of reading. The whole article contains three provisions for the implementation of copyright protection on websites that host user-generated content. The directive makes a note that these websites store large amounts of user-generated content, with the main purpose, if not one of its main purposes, of earning profit. Basically, any website that allows you to upload your own content and allows you to earn money from it is affected by the directive.

The article also cites that such websites should create measures such as “effective content recognition technologies,” complaint management systems, and tracking solutions. These measures should be readily available the moment users upload content on the website itself. With such measures taken into account, it allows content creators and service providers to properly engage in discussions should there be a dispute. It’s basically what YouTube Creators is all about.

Websites like YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as streaming apps such as Spotify, Apple Music, and IGTV (when monetization is available) are most likely the article’s main targets. The directive also explicitly states that non-profit service providers and online marketplaces will not be affected. So, Wikipedia and Shopee aren’t affected, don’t worry.

The ongoing debate towards copyright protection

For some people, the EUCD is inherently good for intellectual property protection. They argue that the primary goal of the directive is to protect users from piracy and copyright infringement. Through the EUCD, there will be systems in place that protect music labels, content creators, and publishers from any illegal use of their content online. For these people, users should be held liable for infringement of any kind (memes, remixes, and parodies are a few examples).

Furthermore, the directive not only affects users but also the companies that run these websites. It basically mandates companies to create better content recognition systems, or change their already existing system for stricter copyright protection. If they don’t make adjustments, they will be held liable for any infringement-related issues. What Article 13 does, for those who are for the EUCD, is simply a suggested improvement.

However, there are others who believe that the directive is a little too extreme and could potentially do more harm than good. Leading institutions and companies in the tech industry think that the provisions are too vague, leaving it open for interpretation. This has the potential for companies to abuse copyright claims without effective ways of intervention. Furthermore, any significant changes to already-existing systems would require heavy costs to implement.

The bigger picture here is how the directive affects the internet as a whole. Big names in the tech industry argue that it’s an attack on the creative freedom of users. Instead of allowing the internet to be an open space for the right way of creativity, it simply adds more filters and restrictions in the process. Basically, you can’t put up an Avengers meme without having the approval of Disney and Marvel Studios first.

So, what happens now?

The EUCD was put in place to protect copyright — a simple and basic goal. There is recognition that there are measures that must be in place to uphold copyright. There is no denying that big companies have to abide by intellectual property rules, or suffer severe consequences for infringement. However, a lot of people are clamoring that these measures are both vague and sound extreme. Not only does the directive infringe one’s creative freedom in providing quality content, but it also makes the whole process costly and rigid.

At the end of the day, everybody wants to protect copyright. The argument for or against the EUCD is already past the debate on whether protecting copyright is right or wrong. The debate now is whether or not a open source like the internet should be kept that way or be strictly protected at all costs.

All of these will come into play in January 2019, when the European Parliament casts its vote for or against the directive. If you have the time to read the EUCD, you can access the full document here.

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How Chinese vendors have taken over the Indian market

Market share has been grabbed but can they sustain it?

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A few years back, the most prominent smartphone companies in India included Micromax, Karbonn, Sony, HTC, and obviously, Samsung. It was a healthy mix of a few homegrown companies along with a blend of various manufacturers from diverse backgrounds. Each had its unique selling point and the market was at a nascent stage.

Fast forward to 2018, the dynamics have completely changed. Except for Samsung, all other companies listed above are almost non-existent and the complete business has been taken over by Chinese makers. According to Counterpoint Research’s Q2 2018 report, Xiaomi, Vivo, OPPO, and Honor (Huawei’s sub-brand) have a combined market share of 53 percent.

Domestic companies like Micromax have a very unstable presence in the region now, and all other vendors like Karbonn, Intex, and Spice have packed up. The only brand that has been able to survive this long is Samsung. But, considering the recent two quarters, even Samsung has lost a substantial share to the Chinese.

How did the newcomers manage to take over the market so rapidly, and successfully?

The base strategy is pretty similar to that of Samsung. Back in 2010, when Nokia and BlackBerry had their superiority, Samsung Mobile was a fledgling in the country. Samsung came in and filled the market with next-generation trendy products at a nominal rate. When Nokia and BlackBerry were busy competing with their QWERTY phones, Samsung was selling touchscreen phones like the Corby and Champ.

These phones appealed to the younger audience, and while Apple was busy knocking down everyone in design, Samsung was busy scaling their production. Soon, we saw their brief stint with Windows OS via the Omnia series, followed by entry into the Android ecosystem. Even with Android, Samsung continued releasing phones in every price segment: The Galaxy Star was a top-selling budget phone, the S-series had just taken off, and new devices were being launched almost every month.

In short, they filled the market with options and every type of user was targeted. The gamble paid off massively. Within a few years, the old behemoths were gone and Samsung had established a brand with trust among users. The company focused on grabbing market share via the budget and midrange segment and simultaneously managing the top-tier S and Note series for higher margins.

This is the same strategy that the new Chinese vendors are applying. First, fill the market with trendy phones that are reasonably priced, and then expand their portfolio. A notch and glass backing are the current trends, and everyone quickly jumped on the bandwagon.

From gradients to patterns, there are multiple options available. Want a performance-centric phone? Huawei and Xiaomi brought in high-end processors for just INR 20,000 (US$ 276). Like iPhone’s Face ID? Almost every phone comes with face unlock.

Vivo brought in the in-display fingerprint scanner before everyone else and it’s exactly the kind of innovation the end user wants. While these companies are busy expanding their portfolio, they are also careful to consider long-term goals. Huawei’s Mate and P series have been mind-boggling, and with the P20 Pro, it has managed to establish itself as a premium player.

OPPO, Vivo, and OnePlus belong to the same holding company — BBK Mobile. OnePlus leads the premium segment while OPPO and Vivo act as test beds for new concepts, like the sliding camera. Ultimately, anything earned by either of them goes to the same pocket. Xiaomi has avoided the top-tier segment until now, but with the POCO F1, it still remains unclear how they intend to establish a premium brand.

Apples and oranges

I haven’t considered Apple in this equation because the company has completely different expectations from the market. It doesn’t care about market share as long as it grabs the top one percent audience. Every week we see new launches happening in the country with each new product trying to take on the competitors offerings.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that the Chinese domination in the country will be short-lived but the statistics suggest a different story. Each of them has also confidently invested in growing their presence; this includes the operation of service centers and exclusive stores. In fact, all of them have joined the Make in India initiative to avoid import duty.

We haven’t seen Samsung get aggressive to the competition yet; they are still trying to make it through at their own pace. It will also be interesting to see how HMD Global is able to make a mark with their Nokia branded offerings in the country.

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Features

Sony’s PlayStation is back, Xiaomi outs new Mi 8 variants: Weekend Rewind

Ending the week with nostalgic feels

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Here are this week’s top stories on GadgetMatch.

1. The iconic PlayStation is back!

Let’s kick things off by taking a trip down memory lane. Almost 25 years after its debut, Sony is bringing back the iconic first-gen PlayStation and it will come as the PlayStation Classic.

It’s basically a miniaturized version complete with a pair of original controller replicas. What’s even more exciting is that fans of the original PlayStation will be able to relive 20 legendary titles including Final Fantasy VII and Tekken 3!

2. Razer Phone 2 gets a launch date

Razer officially confirms the arrival of its second gaming smartphone — the Razer Phone 2. It succeeds the Razer Phone that was launched last November and based on earlier leaks, it’ll be a familiar-looking product.

The phone should sport the same body as its predecessor including the display with a buttery-smooth 120Hz refresh rate. Of course, the internals will have beefier specs as well. We’ll know more real soon during its special event at California this October 10.

3. Apple has the lead!

While it may be true that Apple didn’t sell the most number of smartphones, they still earned more than their competitors. According to the latest data from Counterpoint Research, Apple had the biggest share of industry profits during the second quarter of 2018.

For comparison, Apple earned 62 percent of the second-quarter smartphone profits. Samsung, which is the top-selling smartphone vendor, is responsible for just 17 percent of smartphone profits in the quarter. Huawei takes the third spot with eight percent of the profits.

4. A complete but affordable smartwatch

Huami, Xiaomi’s sub-brand in China, has a smartwatch that offers tremendous bang for your buck. The company just unveiled the Amazfit Verge and it’s got everything you could ask for in a wearable without the high price tag.

The Amazfit Verge has a GPS, heart-rate sensor, and full-circle AMOLED display. It’s also equipped with a microphone and loudspeaker that allow voice calls through the smartwatch.

5. Xiaomi outs Mi 8 Pro and Mi 8 Lite

On a related note, Xiaomi also held a quick event to announce a few things including two new Mi 8 variants — the Mi 8 Pro and Mi 8 Lite.

In a nutshell, these are additions to the flagship Mi 8 family. The Mi 8 Pro is similar to the Mi 8 with the same specs like its Snapdragon 845 processor, up to 8GB of memory, and 128GB of expandable storage. Although, this model comes with an in-display fingerprint sensor.

As the name suggests, the Mi 8 Lite is a toned-down Mi 8 and comes with a midrange Snapdragon 660 chipset, dual rear cameras, and a 24-megapixel front camera. Both phones are initially available in China, and international availability is yet to be announced.


Weekend Rewind is our roundup of top news and features you might have missed for the week. We know the world of technology can be overwhelming and not everyone has the time to get up to speed with everything — and that includes us. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the rewind.

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