Explainers

Why it’s time to finally make the switch to LTE

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Local telcos are continuously improving their infrastructure to improve the country’s mobile internet speed. And as mobile technology progresses, so should your mobile device.

Do you still remember when 3G was made available in the Philippines in 2006? It was a game changer, because it introduced us to video calling before Skype was a thing and enabled us to browse desktop websites on our mobile phones. But that was 11 years ago, and technology has evolved.

What was fast before is already slow in comparison to what’s new today. If you’re still using a 3G phone, you’re depriving yourself of a better internet experience. It’s now time to upgrade to LTE (Long-Term Evolution), also known as 4G.

If you’re going to jump to LTE, you can check out Smart’s fastest LTE network in the Philippines. According to the latest survey from OpenSignal, Smart is ahead in terms of 4G LTE download speeds with an average of 10.55Mbps or over 3Mbps faster than the competition.

Not only that, Smart is currently re-equipping their cell sites to use low-frequency bands like 700MHz and 850MHz. The use of such bands allows signals to better penetrate walls of houses and office buildings. This means we get better indoor coverage than before. Also, cell towers equipped with lower bands have a wider reach, extending service even to the outskirts of a town, for example.

Smart continues to expand their LTE coverage nationwide — not just in major cities. The plan is to give more than 90 percent of the country’s population access to Smart’s LTE network by end of 2018. And hopefully by then, we’ll also transition to more widespread LTE-Advanced. It’s a promising future to expect, so you better upgrade today.

How to upgrade to LTE?

The first step is to get an LTE phone. Most of the flagship smartphones fully support LTE including the new low-frequency bands. Don’t worry, fast mobile internet doesn’t have to be expensive because there are affordable LTE phones that are available in the market for as low as PhP 2,488.

When choosing your next phone, it is important to invest in a device that will work best with your network’s frequencies. For the best possible mobile data experience, Smart recommends LTE phones that are compatible with the 700MHz band.

Some examples of 700MHz-compatible phones which are available in the market today are:

But having an LTE phone is not enough. An LTE phone should have an LTE-ready SIM card inside. If you’re still holding on to your old SIM card, it’s time to have it replaced with a new one. The upgrade is free and you can still retain your existing number, even if you’re on prepaid. We all know how important it is to stick to a single mobile phone number.

Not sure if your SIM is already LTE-capable? If you’re a Smart user, you can do a quick check by texting SIMCHECK to 5832. If you’re not yet on LTE, you can upgrade for free at any Smart Store.

If you have an LTE phone with a new LTE SIM card, you can enjoy the best possible mobile internet experience in areas covered by LTE. Make sure you adjust your phone’s network settings with LTE or 4G as the preferred network type.

SEE ALSO: LTE-A Explained


This feature was produced in collaboration between GadgetMatch and Smart Communications

Automotive

Explainer: 4 electric car myths, debunked

What you should know about the car of the future

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Did you know that the first electric vehicle was invented by Scottish inventor Robert Anderson in 1832? Back then, electricity-powered cars were nothing but curiosities and novelties. Now, electric vehicles are readying themselves to take over the car industry in just a few decades.

As with all revolutionary technology, reception for electric cars is lukewarm at best. Most consumers are still wary with converting to full electric, citing an unstable and uncertain future for the industry.

With the car and fuel industry hanging in the balance, gas car companies have a lot to gain by downplaying the benefits of electric vehicles. Due to the lack of information available, unproven myths inevitably pop up. Myths, as always, need to be debunked especially when electric cars overtake gas car production.

Myth 1: Electric cars are more expensive than gas cars

The cost of an electric vehicle is the most hotly contested aspect of EVs. Admittedly, the world’s most famous electric car, the Tesla Model S, still falls under the luxury car category. The battery-powered car still hovers around the US$ 100,000 range.

Budget-friendlier alternatives are out now, but their price ranges are still a bit more than a conventional car. The Chevrolet Bolt and the Nissan Leaf both cost around US$ 40,000, for example.

Illustrations by Yanni Panesa

 

Additionally, installing a home charging station compounds that price by about US$ 600.

It’s no surprise that most consumers are turned off by the exorbitant costs of EVs. However, the one-time price tag fails to show how much cheaper it is in the long run.

Right now, the cost of one kilowatt-hour (the standard for EVs) is below the cost of one liter of gasoline. Roughly estimating, one kWh costs 20 cents, while one liter of gas costs US$ 1, according to today’s standards.

The Nissan Leaf carries a 40kWh battery. Charging it to full will cost 40kWh x US$ 0.20 = US$ 8. Meanwhile, a 40L gas car will cost 40L x US$ 1 = US$ 40. Added with a much steeper maintenance cost, gasoline vehicles will quickly overtake the cost of EVs in the long run. (Of course, actual costs will still vary on usage, real prices, and road conditions.)

Myth 2: EVs don’t perform as well as gas cars

Don’t be fooled. Even if EVs are remarkably silent on the road, they are hiding powerful engines that are quickly catching up to the standards of speed today.

At their core, gasoline vehicles are inherently faulty. Their emissions aren’t only a hit on air pollution; they also mean that a car wastes a huge portion of their energy through heat, smoke, and other harmful pollutants.

On the other hand, EVs convert up to 62 percent of their stored energy for movement. For comparison, gas cars only use up 21 percent of their energy.

In terms of mileage, EVs can travel up to 193 kilometers on a full charge, adequate for a day’s worth of traveling. However, gas cars still rule the road by hundreds of kilometers more. It’s only a matter of time before EVs catch up, though. The industry-leading Tesla Model S 100D already tops out at 530+ kilometers.

Finally, when it comes to speed, EVs can do well to catch up with you in traffic. For example, both the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Bolt reach speeds of up to 150km/h. While the more widely available EVs can still be woefully left in the dirt on a straightaway, the Tesla Model X blazes through with a top speed of 250km/h.

Amid all of this, EVs do their jobs quietly. If you’re not paying attention, an EV can sneak up on you from behind. Besides air pollution, EVs avoid noise pollution, too.

Myth 3: Maintaining an EV is more trouble than it’s worth

Both an EV and a gas car take you from one place to the other. EVs just do it with far fewer components. Unlike conventional cars, EVs aren’t frequent visitors to the mechanics. Fewer parts mean fewer components to maintain.

That doesn’t mean that everything is breezy, though. Replacing the battery is a nightmare for your budgeting. For example, a Nissan Leaf replacement battery costs US$ 5,499.

Thankfully, batteries are a lot more durable than you would expect. The Nissan Leaf guarantees a battery life of eight years or 100,000 miles (or approximately 161,000 kilometers). Most electric car brands already offer warranties (including replacements) before their batteries expire. Moreover, electric car batteries are completely recyclable. You might even get a trade-in return for your old battery.

Currently, the only hurdle impeding an electric car’s maintenance is the lack of able mechanics who specialize in EVs. On the bright side, by the time that you’ll need a thorough repair on your EV, the employment industry will have evolved to accommodate your needs.

Myth 4: Electric vehicles are the saviors of the environment

There is no doubt that EVs eliminate the carbon emissions that gas cars will always emit. Even from their construction, EVs carry a design trait that puts them beyond gas cars: They don’t have a tailpipe.

Currently, 75 percent of air pollution comes from motor vehicles. With their energy-efficient design, EVs eliminate the pollution caused by carbon emission. Converting to an EV is one of the greenest decisions you can make to save the environment.

However, it has its own fair share of gray areas. Critics often share the myth that EVs only displace the emissions from the tailpipe to a coal plant’s smoke stack.

Which is partly true.

 

On their own, the world’s main methods of producing power are terribly unprepared for a sudden surge in demand. Despite recent developments in renewable energy, coal power is still the world’s leading generator of electricity.

Hypothetically, if everyone in the world adopted EVs right now, coal plants would have to exponentially increase their output, creating more smokestack emissions as a result.

Luckily, the world isn’t ready to go full EV yet. Early predictions still date the takeover to 2040. We still have a lot of time to adjust our energy consumption for more energy-efficient means, like solar, hydro, and nuclear.

In reality, EVs can’t save the world by themselves. The myth that they just displace damage is only half-true. However, the environment can’t survive with 50 percent solutions. It has to rely on us changing our perspectives on energy.

Electric vehicles are the future. But with unchecked energy consumption rates, that future can look quite grim.

SEE ALSO: The Best Car Tech of CES 2018

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Battle of the reversibles: USB-C vs Lightning connector

Which port is best for your device?

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Gone are the days of the peculiar dance of the ports thanks to reversible connectors. We’re talking about the USB-C standard and the Lightning connector from Apple. Both are amazing and helpful for consumers, but the two are quite different. And no, it’s not a matter of Android versus iPhone.

What is USB-C?

USB-C, technically known as USB Type-C, is the latest and most versatile USB connector to date. If you happen to have a premium phone, you already have a USB-C port for charging and wired connectivity. If you have the latest MacBook or MacBook Pro, it’s the sole type of port on your laptop for wired video and data output, as well as charging. You will find USB-C on most mobile devices nowadays, even laptops, because it’s a standard that anyone can use. But not all USB-C ports and connectors are created equal.

A technical explanation as to why they’re not all equal is that USB-C is actually just the style of connector and port; the real power comes from the USB 3.1 technology it uses, which can deliver 100 watts of power and is capable of a 10Gbps data transfer rate. It also supports Thunderbolt 3 technology for an even faster 40Gbps transfer. But not all USB-C types have USB 3.1 or Thunderbolt 3 speeds, especially for mobile phones.

While the older USB we’re familiar with are mainly used for storing and transferring files, the new USB-C standard is not limited to that. It can relay images for displays with support for full DisplayPort A/V performance up to an 8K resolution. It’s also backward-compatible with VGA, DVI, and the trusty HDMI as long as you have the right adapters.

Since all USB-C ports and connectors look alike, it’s now harder to distinguish what the port or cable is for. Could it be a power source or for charging? Maybe for high-resolution video? Or high-speed data transfer? You’ll have to know the specifications to be sure.

What is Lightning?

Apple already had their proprietary connector with the early iPhones, but it was only since the introduction of the Lightning connector along with the iPhone 5 in 2012 that made their own design popular.

From a cumbersome 30-pin dock connector, Apple had a smaller and reversible one which was ahead of its time. Even the common micro-USB port can’t compete with the convenience of the Lightning connector. Since it’s proprietary, only Apple can use it and third-party accessory manufacturers have to pay a licensing fee to apply it to their products.

The technical specification of Lightning is pretty limited, but when it first came out, tests showed that its speeds were up to 480Mbps — the same with the old USB 2.0 standards. In 2015, the iPad Pro showed a faster speed of 5Gbps, but that’s still only half of USB 3.1 speeds.

What are the significant differences between the two?

It’s easy to differentiate the two based on their appearances. If you’ve ever used or seen an iPhone, you’re already familiar with how the Lightning connector looks with its pins exposed. USB-C looks cleaner and simpler with its symmetrical connector.

Lightning connector (left) and USB-C (right)

Again, USB-C refers to the style of the port and connector rather than the technology it has. It is convenient because it’s reversible and universal. The whole point was to have a single style of connector and port that could run pretty much everything.

The Lightning connector is solely used to connect Apple mobile devices like iPhones, iPads, and iPods to host computers, external monitors, cameras, battery chargers, and other peripherals. You won’t find it on any other device, even MacBooks.

Why is Apple not using the Lightning connector on MacBooks and will USB-C replace Lightning on iPhones?

Will we ever see a Lightning connector on a MacBook? Highly unlikely. But there’s a possibility that Apple will use USB-C soon on iPhones. Last year’s rumors pointed to the iPhone X having USB-C, but it didn’t.

With the new MacBooks relying purely on USB-C, an iPhone with USB-C is not far from reality. That’s unless Apple wants to keep the revenue from Lightning connector licensing.

Which is better?

When paired with USB 3.1 or Thunderbolt 3 technology, USB-C is faster, more powerful, and provides greater versatility than Lightning. It’s also now widely adopted for consumer technologies may it be on phones, laptops, or other mobile gadgets.

USB-C is the future. Apple already accepted it on their premium notebooks which kind of triggered professionals who are using MacBooks, but that’s the future we’re heading towards. It will come to a point where we’ll just plug in a cable and it’ll simply work. For now, we still need to understand the differences and live with dongles.

SEE ALSO: Why is USB Type-C so important?

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Inside the house of tomorrow: Smart home explained

Take me to 2020!

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Ten years ago, smart homes belonged to the realm of science fiction. Back then, you would only see connected smart devices in TV shows like Black Mirror, rather than in cons and tradeshows.

Today, a connected household isn’t just a working theory; it’s already a reality pushed by the world’s leading tech brands. Common, everyday tasks can now be automated by artificial intelligence or simplified through voice commands.

We are living in a world where every device has a voice, whether it’s Alexa, Siri, Cortana, or the Google Assistant. While some anticipate the curiosities that the future will bring, some fear the rapid changes that a house from the future beckons.

Regardless of how you might feel about the future of futuristic abodes, living in one can still be a mystery, especially for the everyday homeowner. There are layers of tech to wade through. As with every house hunt, it’s time to take a tour of the house of tomorrow before you inevitably live in one.

Garage: letting the right one in

As you pull up into the driveway with your electric car, the garage door automatically opens to the sound of your voice. The lights go on to help you park. You climb out of the car and hook it up to the charging station on the wall.

As you head to the front door, the garage door closes behind you. The smart camera above the door detects who you are and notifies your family that you’ve arrived. The locks disengage, and you enter.

The most common elements of a smart home are those seen from the outside. If you live within a gated community, you’ve seen automatic gates open and close by themselves. You might’ve also seen electric vehicles roaming the streets already. They may be outside the house, but these machines have become essential to the smart home ecosystem. They’ve become extensions of your smart house that you can take with you wherever.

Even as you exit your garage, other smart devices are being fitted around your house. The Nest Cam IQ, for example, is a smart security camera that adds an extra oomph in security. It can record in HD, listen in on conversations, and detect familiar faces.

Having an integrated smart security system allows you to enter and exit your home without fussing with keychains and padlocks.

Living room: command center

Entering your house, you kiss your spouse hello, kick off your shoes, and watch a bit of TV before dinner. Just as you plop down onto your couch, you remember that your house security is still disabled. You ask Alexa to turn it on. You rest easy while watching the latest House of Cards episode.

The evolution of the smart home began in earnest with the living room. As it was the central hub of the entire house, the living room also became the center for the Internet of Things. The new smart home ecosystem coordinated everything from the lights to the TV to the security system — right from the comforts of your sofa.

Who hasn’t heard of a smart TV? The industry’s newest TVs integrate the internet to build a more comprehensive entertainment experience. From a device that connects to mere broadcast stations, the TV evolved to access a vast catalog of online entertainment. You could watch Netflix while searching for your favorite recipes on Google. The smart TV became the desktop of your living room.

As people spent more time interacting with their TVs, smart devices started installing themselves around the luxuries of the living room. While you’re watching a movie, you can change everything from the temperature to the lights without standing up or pausing the programming.

The Philips Hue, for example, takes control of your house’s lighting system. That’s not all. The smart bulb automates your lights’ operation for both when you’re in and out of the house. It can even change a room’s hue to set the mood.

Another example is the Ecobee 3 smart thermostat. The automated system optimizes the temperature based on your activity inside and on the temperature outside. Further, it also makes your energy usage more efficient.

Kitchen: robots get hungry, too

As you open your fridge, a voice lists down the food you have in stock. Knowing how much pasta and olive oil you have left, the voice assistant suggests pesto for dinner. You agree. Alexa, then, preheats the oven for the pasta and preps your dishwasher for the oily dishes later.

Despite the oodles of devices inside a kitchen, tech makers are only starting to optimize the room for the smart home. LG, for example, launched a series of devices that assist you even before you start preparing the dish.

Their smart refrigerator catalogs the supplies you have left. It alerts you when you’re short of ingredients and recommends recipes based on what’s inside. Plus, it even has its own entertainment system to get your groove on while you cook.

After you gather all the ingredients, the system passes the recipe down to the appliances you’ll need. A smart oven preheats to fit the temperature you need; a smart dishwasher customizes its spin cycles to wash dishes optimally.

Bedroom: the last frontier

The day is over. Before you drift off to sleep, you remember to charge your devices — iPhone X, Apple Watch — on the wireless charging stand. You set Google Home to wake you up at 7am by playing a Rihanna song.

The bedroom is the last frontier of the home of tomorrow. The bed is the last sanctuary from a life taken over by tech. That, however, won’t last. As early as now, the Internet of Things follows you even to the bedroom.

Wireless charging stations, smart thermostat panels, and security panels pervade our bedrooms, allowing us easy access to how our house works before we call it a night. A smart bed is still forthcoming, but technology is already reaching out before it inevitably comes.

With Google Home and Amazon Echo, voice assistants now lull us to sleep and wake us up in the morning. Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and Cortana will become the first and last voices we hear every day. The eerily human voice assistants have already lent their voices to every device in our home.

It’s only a matter of time before our house becomes a machine itself. Whether you embrace the future or shun it, technology will always find a way to make our lives easier. But don’t worry when it comes. All you’ll hear is the soothing voice of Alexa, asking how you want your meat cooked.

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