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

Sound on with Mikme: An easy way to record good audio

Even better if you’re on an iPhone

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I’ve always been a writer and my journey into content creation has been a curious one. These days, I’ve ventured into creating video — a new exacting but fun medium. One thing I’ve learned though: You may think you’re mostly dealing with visuals, but sound quality adds a whole lot to each video.

That being said, and me being the furthest from being an audiophile, I set out to find the easiest and simplest way I could record great audio without all the wires and gadgets and gizmos that I’ve seen other people work with.


Enter this godsend mic in a box which fits the palm of my hands and solves all my audio woes: The Mikme.

It’s simple enough to use, press the leftmost button that serves as a power button…

L-R: Power button, Bluetooth pairing button, Micro-USB port, audio port, volume buttons

… and hit record which is that big button up top. Literally, nothing could be easier.

And despite it being pretty straightforward, there are a lot of other things it can do, too. Tapping the record button twice in a row will play your last recording and pressing and holding will allow you to soundcheck — provided you plug in some earphones. Each Mikme has storage built in and you can choose between 16GB, 8GB, or 4GB options. All that means is you need not worry about SD cards or micro-SD cards ever again.

It’s not just the ease of use, though. The sound quality on this thing is very good, as it should be. Inside that black case, the Mikme is basically a condenser mic — the type usually used in studios for hardcore recordings (my way of saying it’s one serious mic). Even with my untrained ears, I hear the difference, especially because I don’t record in sound-proof rooms most of the time.

Honestly, I now use this tiny thing to record all my voice-overs. I’m not even going to attempt to explain or describe it, you just have to hear it yourself. You can do that by listening to the voice-overs here and here.

I have all good things to say about this tiny device and in so many ways, I consider it my audio lifesaver. But, there’s one caveat.

This mic also has Bluetooth capabilities which is a great thing in itself. It literally connects to a Mikme app that will allow you to shoot video with your phone with audio from the Mikme. Mindblowing stuff, really, except it only works for iPhones. 😢

As we hear the collective, agonized screams of Android users the world over with the collective sighs of what great sounding videos could be shot with a Mikme-iPhone partnership, I take it as a testament of how good this mic is. Even without the Bluetooth connectivity feature and despite sticking with my Android for now and the foreseeable future, I’ll probably still be rocking the Mikme. That says a lot.

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The Vivo x Benefit Cosmetics blossom pink V15 box set is here and I want it

Making blooming selfies possible

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Vivo has just announced a partnership that I am so here for and the resulting phone is oh so pretty!

 

The smartphone company unveiled a collaboration with Benefit Cosmetics, a makeup brand we all know and love, to release a phone/makeup box set that will definitely excite the ladies.


The highlight of the kit: Vivo’s blossom pink V15 — the phone color I’ve always wanted but rarely got!

Yes girls, this special kit does not only have this beautifully colored handset, it also includes Benefit box o’ powders in two shades: Dandelion Twinkle and the Gold Rush.

I am all for this partnership and the blooming selfies I will most definitely be able to shoot with this.

The Vivo x Benefit Kit will retail for PhP 17,999 starting May 25.

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Her GadgetMatch

Honor 20 Pro Moschino edition unveiled

There are Moschino cases, too!

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With Honor’s announcement of their Honor 20 series came a fashion collaboration that definitely excites me. The Honor 20 Pro Moschino edition was just announced and I love how extra it is.

The phone itself has the worlds “This is not a Moschino phone” stamped on the back in true Moschino fashion. Of course, there’s a matching wallpaper that says, what else: “This is not a Moschino wallpaper.”


There are also cases that follow that design lead…

My favorite, a case that features similar bold text for that Moschino flair and straps that you can even hook to your bag.

Though all designs are fresh, the partnership isn’t surprising. Moschino’s Jeremy Scott is known for collaboration; not to mention, Honor also teamed up with the Italian fashion brand for the Honor View 20’s design.

No details on pricing and availability for this particular version of the Honor 20 Pro is out yet but one thing’s for sure: I’m loving the fashion-tech partnership and I’m definitely hoping for more!

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