Her GadgetMatch

Samsung Galaxy S9: An honest review of AR Emoji and more

Find a phone that gives you both

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The Galaxy S9 is here and as the excitement over AR Emoji settles, I ask the questions: Is Samsung’s latest flagship worth it? What can AR Emoji do? Does camera performance justify this new release?

If you’re not so techie, like me, and you’re thinking of getting this new phone, read on. I try out all the key features and answer all those questions (and play with more emoji!) in this article.

Look and feel

The Samsung Galaxy S9 looks almost exactly like the S8 — from the curved Infinity Display to the sleek smooth body, this handset is a Samsung déjà vu.

This is, perhaps, the biggest criticism that the S9 has gotten. But I say: It’s what’s on the inside that counts (more on this later) — and if anything, new colors make up for it looking like its predecessor.

Yes, there’s a purple S9 that matches my hair and it’s looking gorgeous. I mean, we hold phones more than we hold hands — these things might as well be your best accessory.

Having the same look as the S8, it follows; I still love the feel of this phone, it fits my teeny hands well, and its curved display is still an enjoyable experience. It’s all glass, though, so it can be a little slippery.

There’s one noticeable change on the S9. Samsung moved the fingerprint reader below the camera. This should mean less accidental smudges on the shooter.

It must also be pointed out: At a time when most brands are shamelessly copying the notch (which isn’t really a look that’s all that, TBH), Samsung stands firmly behind their design. I believe that’s something they should be applauded for.

AR Emoji

Let’s get this out of the way first: My emoji looks nothing like me, even my mother won’t recognize that pink-haired emoji. It’s an absolute shame.

And although there are some emoji that look like the people they’re supposed to be, I’m not lucky enough to be one of them. Again, see:

The idea of having this tiny avatar on my phone excited me so much but trying it out was a different experience. For all its cuteness, tracking wasn’t really very good. A lot of times, the AR Emoji couldn’t even catch up with what I was doing. It doesn’t even track my tongue when I stick it out like this 😛 — the emoji just gives me a weird face.

What I did enjoy playing with were the preset AR Emoji GIFs. Creating your emoji produces a whole line of GIFs from that likeness — ones you can send out via different platforms! To make it easier, Samsung has also integrated the GIF sending on the Samsung keyboard. Oh, what fun! Above photo is an account of an actual conversation between me and Chay soon after we discovered this feature.

Selfie shooter

The S9’s front-facing shooter has a Selfie Focus mode which allows for the bokeh effect. It also has an adjustable beauty mode, which should really be on every phone, if you ask me. Airbrushing doesn’t look too overwhelming but I did wish they didn’t whiten my face as much.

From my tests (that means a lot of selfies), the bokeh cutout is more or less accurate, but it still isn’t perfect. Selfie shots also seem like they’re automatically brightened overall which is good because it makes you fresh; however, this sometimes makes for overexposed backgrounds.

But, what I totally love about the S9’s built-in camera app is a feature you can find on the separate Selfie mode: makeup filters. To test it out, I shot with literally no makeup and this was the effect. I look ready for a night out!

I didn’t even have powder on when I shot this

There are a number of preset looks, plus the option to toggle the intensity of each filter. You can even isolate each part of your face — eyebrows, eyelashes, lips, cheeks, contouring, blush, and more — then adjust accordingly.

This photo below, which showcases a more subtle makeup look, was taken five seconds after the photo above. Listen, boys, this is what #nomakeup is, but not what it looks like. 😂

Those virtual eyelashes, though!

The filters work well even with glasses, on boys, and in groups. Proof:

Joshua would make a cute girl

What’s sorely missing, however, is the bokeh effect on the Selfie mode. If you choose to virtually paint your face, this means no more blurred background as this is only doable through the Selfie Focus mode where makeup isn’t available.

And sure, you can download any beauty app and get similar results with filters or editing, but that’s not the point. Aside from the possibility of great, on fleek looks 24/7 without moving an actual makeup brush, I just honestly love that this feature was built into a flagship phone. Push comes to shove, premium devices will usually have the same level of phone specs. It’s the little features like this that become the tie-breaker for me.

Rear cameras

The Galaxy S9 (and S9+) rear cameras are said to be groundbreaking as they house the world’s first dual aperture smartphone cameras. But, I won’t deal with that because of too many technicalities. What you need to know is that this feature, which allows the tiny camera to adjust to allow more or less light come in, is automatically activated when you shoot on Auto.

That being said; on Auto, the camera performs well.

It was already evening when this photo was taken!

Here are more low-light photo samples taken by Michael Josh (most of my low-light photo samples were taken in Amsterdam; my apologies for not being able to show them as they’re x-rated 😅).

The S9 only has one camera on the back, unlike the S9+. This means there is no Live Focus function on this thing. There is, however, a Selective Focus function which allows you to blur our either the background or the foreground of the photo which results in pictures like this.

Look at that creamy background blur!

There is also a Food Mode built-into the camera app, for all your food flat lay needs.

Chay’s homemade one pot pasta

Samsung shooters are already known to saturate photos. As you can see, this mode does that even more to make yummy food look even more enticing. There’s also a radial blur effect happening, reminiscent of Instagram’s blur option where you pick a certain point to focus on, and the rest of the photo is just blurred out.

As pretty as this mode can make the food look, it still doesn’t change the fact that it will all end up in my tummy.

Word of caution though; the saturation can sometimes be too much and there’s no intensity toggle for this mode. On the off chance that it is too much, I just switch to Auto which brings me back to normal shooting.

Slow-mo

This phone can shoot in slow-mo at 960 frames per second — which is all a bunch of numbers to me until I see what that means:

I have to be honest: Everything looks better in slow-mo. Even crappy birds look pretty cool.

Me making a mess look almost artsy:

And did you notice the background music? These samples were fresh off the S9, no need for editing as the device allows you to cut up video, and even edit music in.

Shooting slow-mo can be tricky, however — I had one too many failed attempts because I kept pressing the slow-mo button too early, or too late. But, once you get used to it and the proper timing, it gets waaaay more fun. Just make sure to do it in a well-lit area, and I mean full on studio lights well-lit or a bright, sunny day well-lit. Otherwise, video comes out grainy.

READ MORE: Samsung Galaxy S9 Review: Brilliant but underwhelming

Verdict

Considering that this is a flagship, I expected top-of-the-line specs on this device and the S9 delivered in that aspect. Just know that the technology on this handset is on par with most flagships out now and this phone will be able to handle your everyday smartphone needs — from social media, to AR Bitmoji Snaps, to everyday work productivity. But, that was to be expected from any Samsung headliner.

As for the camera, it’s definitely capable, with low-light photography as a big strength. If you’re looking for a phone with a great camera, this should be on your list of choices. But that’s the thing: There are still a number of other great camera phones out there and though the S9 performed, I can’t for sure say it’s the absolute best. At the end of the day, it all boils down to aesthetics and preference.

That being said, what I love about this device are the add-on features which gave this handset enough points for me to consider getting it. 

Although I was a little disappointed with AR Emoji, I find that the makeup beauty mode isn’t getting old — in fact, I’ve gone three days without real makeup but my online persona has managed to look on fleek. The slow-mo capabilities are impressive and the fact that it comes in stunning purple just makes me want to rock this phone daily.

With this device, Samsung seems to consider a demographic (*ehem ehem*) that most tech companies ignore when releasing flagships. On top of quality performance, these add-ons are a definite delight for users like me.

Find a phone that gives you both: Fun and functionality are two things that I look for in phones, and more often than not, I’ve had to compromise. If the release of the S9 is any indication, it seems that’s all about to change.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S9: Four fun new features

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ vs Google Pixel 2: Camera Shootout

Her GadgetMatch

Nokia E3500: Perfect pair or just fine?

Finding companionship on a pair of wireless earbuds

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Nokia E3500

My day wouldn’t go the way it is without listening to something. Be it from my Spotify playlist, a podcast, or even catching up with my co-streamers on a call. But untangling and twisting the crumpled, irritating earphone wire ruins the mood.

Thankfully, those days are over. Since smartphones with a 3.5mm headphone jack are getting rare, I took a leap out of my comfort zone to finally switch to a pair of wireless earbuds.

Scouring the market for a good pair that won’t make a dent out of my pocket can be daunting. What caught my eye was a familiar name I’ve known for years, and I discovered a pair — the Nokia E3500 — that begs to be given a chance.

Nokia E3500

Love at first touch

The first time I held the Nokia E3500, it felt premium and sleek despite having a charging case made out of plastic. What furthered its elegance were the featherweight material that makes it easy to carry, as well as its matte finish that makes you want to glide your fingers incessantly.

Nokia E3500

In a nutshell, the Nokia E3500 displayed a blend of practicality and sophisticated design.

The “getting to know” part

I found comfort in using the Nokia E3500. Out of the box, it comes with three pairs to help you find your perfect pair. And when you do, it won’t fall off your ear.

I even brought the E3500 on a beach trip to Liwliwa, Zambales — which was kinda risky since it only has an IPX5 resistance. Luckily, it was secure enough to fit in my ear even if I kept running and jumping.

Pairing the Nokia E3500 is easy. Once out of the case, you can press the touch buttons for two seconds to enter pairing mode. The inclusion of Ambient Mode helps me immerse in the content, especially when situated in a noisy environment. I found that keeping volume to about 60 percent seemed like the right choice to enjoy its audio performance.

Sound isolation is great, too. Imagine sitting by the beach, listening to music while also hearing the sound of splashing waves. Happy and dreamy, isn’t it?

Quarrels

Everything has its rough side, including this seemingly perfect pair of wireless earbuds. Using the Nokia E3500 during my Zoom calls isn’t as smooth and seamless as it should be when listening.

There are few delays with the microphone reception, making it a little annoying when I’m in the middle of a virtual presentation. Hopefully, the next iteration will improve the inconsistent microphone.

Nokia E3500

Is this my perfect pair?

For a mediocre audiophile like me, I would say yes to Nokia E3500. The charging case itself has a 360mAh battery which helps extend its battery life. Who wouldn’t want an uninterrupted sound trip especially during a long drive?

My experience isn’t as perfect as I thought it would be. But it’s decent and fine. The Nokia E3500 looks gorgeous, equipped with long battery life, great audio quality, and water resistance for peace of mind.

There are cheaper options available in the market, but for what it’s worth — I’d call it a steal, especially for all the features you can enjoy for its price tag.

The Nokia E3500 retails for PhP 3,499.

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Fitbit Luxe: Finally, a fitness band that’s actually pretty

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Fitbit Luxe

One of my major frustrations with fitness bands has always been the way they look. Why is it so hard to make them look pretty enough to wear outside a workout? There’s no rule that they should be unattractive and clunky, right? Enter Fitbit’s answer to said problem: The Fitbit Luxe. It’s sleek and stylish while packing all the necessary features, proving that you don’t have to sacrifice style for substance.

The Luxe is not my first Fitbit having owned my now ancient Charge 2 then an Alta HR sequestered from my husband who wore it for a month then got tired of it because it didn’t go well with his suits. 

I wore both fitness bands with pride and as a way for me to send a message that I was now taking my health a little seriously. However, they often looked out of place with most of my outfits. Wearing them to events that had a bit of a more formal dress code always looked awkward. I even thought of wearing a classy watch on my left arm and the Fitbit on the right just to make it work at some point. However, even the smaller Alta HR made me look like I was coming straight from a run.

Form & substance

A common complaint about the Luxe is how small the screen is. Personally, I don’t see it as an issue. I enjoy the size which makes it inconspicuously stylish. Sure, it has a function for you to quickly take a peek at your texts, even read them in full. But who still sends novel-length texts these days? Mine’s usually from delivery services just telling me to pick up my orders. Though I won’t mind getting more notifications from other messaging apps that I have on my phone.

The size also makes it look like a truly elegant timepiece as soon as you slap on a metal strap. I originally wanted the lunar white and soft gold combination but ended up with the orchid (pink) and platinum stainless steel. At first, I was a bit wary of the pink, thinking it might look rather juvenile on me. But it worked out in the end. It’s a lovely shade that I don’t mind wearing with most of my activewear. 

I actually bought myself a gold milanese strap online, similar to the ones I used with my older Fitbit models. They’re pretty inexpensive and are available on sites like Amazon and Shopee. The silver hardware on my Luxe also gave me more freedom to mix my metals within my outfit, instead of getting tied down to a gold-on-gold combo. Fitbit also has their own gold, metal strap. You pay a little more for it but it can be a justifiable investment if it will make sure you don’t have to take off the Luxe whenever you need to dress a little more formally.

Fitbit Luxe

The Luxe tracks your workouts, your steps, and even your oxygen levels as you sleep. It even has multiple watch faces to match your outfits. My personal choice is the ‘Vogue’ which shows the time in pastel pink and green. Très chic.

Swimming

My favorite thing about the Luxe has to be the fact that it can now be used to track your swimming as well. It’s something both the older models I owned didn’t have. Sadly, the pandemic has rendered most pools closed, even in our building. I did get to dip my unit in water to check its water lock mode which stops the water from accidentally controlling your screen. It worked really well and my unit survived the quick dip.

We’ll let you know how it fares in the pool or the beach once the IATF relaxes its guidelines. So far, however, this wearable is looking pretty good on that front too.

Fitbit Premium

The Luxe also comes with six months of Fitbit Premium. The personalized subscription service on the Fitbit App opens up a whole new world for one’s fitness goals. It gives you advanced analytics on your sleep data, recipe inspirations, as well as video workouts.

As someone who has the Peloton app, I have to admit that it’s still my go-to for my home workouts, even on exercises that go beyond cycling. Though their guided programs that help you in your other goals like kicking your sugar habit, learning how to do a push-up, and even getting more sleep, are such great additions to your self-improvement plans.

Fitbit Luxe

Though I must admit that my favorite among the premium features is how it can give you a comprehensive wellness report upon request. The only requirement is that you have to be using your Luxe for about a month. The report shows you your average heart rate, average steps and sedentary moments, sleep, and menstrual cycles, as well as your heart rate zones.

Great battery life

The Luxe promises about 5 days of battery life but mine usually goes a little over than that. There are times when I go up to a week without charging and I’m someone who tries to workout every other day for about 30-45 minutes and I walk an average of six thousand steps. I know, I could use some more. I also wear the Fitbit to sleep as I enjoy seeing my sleep metrics. 

Fitbit Luxe

Speaking of sleep, its size really makes it easier to wear the Luxe to bed. From a more practical point of view, the Luxet doesn’t dig into the skin – it’s the most comfortable tracker I’ve ever worn. 

Is the Fitbit Luxe your GadgetMatch?

Fitbit Luxe

Personally, I think I’ve found the one when it comes to fitness trackers. Ever since I received the Luxe, the only times it left my wrist was for a charge. It does the job without being too invasive when it comes to my daily life – outfits included.

The Fitbit Luxe retails for PhP 8,490 while the gorjana-designed Special Edition will cost PhP 12,990.

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5 ways to practice sustainable lifestyle

According to these Filipinas

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Living a sustainable lifestyle is something we’re trying to achieve. As much as possible, we make conscious decisions to go green and reduce our carbon footprint in our purchases and lifestyle.

We already started with practicing sustainable fashion. And we hope to practice sustainability when it comes to our beauty products, too.

If you’re still on the fence about making a switch to a sustainable lifestyle, let these Filipinas share with you a tip on how you can do it.

The power of small yet consistent changes

“Look for changes you can make that are easy and convenient for you. If you can easily swap out an unsustainable product for a sustainable one, take that win! Making changes easy for yourself and your lifestyle ensure a greater chance of long-term success,” says actress and vlogger Coraleen Waddell.

Find and help advocacies that promote sustainability

 

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A post shared by Patch Magtanong 🇵🇭 (@patchmag)

“Be vocal, influence your peers, and take action,” says Patch Magtanong, lawyer, beauty queen, and fashion model who was crowned Binibining Pilipinas — International 2019.

Always remember the three R’s

 

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A post shared by Leila (@leilalcasid)

“Avoid waste by recycling, and consider throwing something out an absolute last resort. Almost everything can be repurposed or recycled,” says singer-songwriter Leila Alcasid.

Be conscious of your decisions

 

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A post shared by Janina Manipol 🎞 (@janinamanipol)

“Change personal behavior on what you eat, what you purchase, and how you conserve energy and water,” says Janina Manipol.

Choose a product that’s kind to your skin and the planet

Above all, taking care of yourself shouldn’t affect the planet — directly and indirectly. Recently, Nivea is making the jump on sustainable skincare, bringing the WonderBAR to address different skin concerns. Also, it’s good for the planet, thanks to its natural origin, vegan formula, and plastic-free and fully recyclable packaging.

Currently, the Nivea WonderBAR comes in four variants:

  • Anti-Pimple Scrub for effectively treating pimples.
  • Hydrating for those who have dry skin.
  • Radiance for those who want to have radiant and glowing skin.
  • Blackhead-Clearing Scrub with activated charcoal for those who want clearer, smoother skin.

NIVEA WonderBAR is available in select Watson’s stores nationwide and online, as well as in Lazada and Shopee.

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