Features

Smartphone photography 101: Foreground element

Add depth to your photos without portrait mode

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It’s been years since the first smartphone with portrait mode came out — you know, our smartphone camera’s ability to distinguish between the subject and background, and blur the latter. The feature, if done right, makes photos look like they were taken with a professional camera.

Singapore. Photo taken with the iPhone XS Max (Portrait Mode)

While die-hards would argue that Google’s Pixel phones have perfected this technology thanks to a combination of hardware, software, and AI magic, my experience says otherwise. No phone, no matter the number of lenses, price, brand, or specs, has been able to accurately cut my hair out against any background the way a real camera does.

So what’s a girl got to do to get great-looking photos even if she doesn’t have a DSLR? I’ll let you in on my secret: I add a foreground element.

Forget portrait mode

If you want to add depth to your photos, forget portrait mode. The trial and error you have to endure is really not worth it especially when you’re traveling and would rather just live in the moment. By simply bringing any object closer to your smartphone lens, you can add depth even to an otherwise flat or boring photo.

Marrakesh, Morocco. Photo taken with the Samsung Galaxy S10+

This also works really well when you have a background that’s too beautiful to be blurred out — you’re going to want to use a wide angle lens if your phone has one. When the background has so much character, it’s a shame not to show it off.

Frame your subject in between objects

New York, New York. Photo taken with the iPhone XS

The great thing about adding a foreground element is you don’t need an expensive lens to achieve the image and narrative you’re going for.

Even if your smartphone only has a single camera, you’ll only ever need another object to frame your shot — this can be a wall, a fence, a drinking glass, leaves, or flowers.

It works with food and other subjects

Barcelona, Spain. Photo taken with the iPhone 7 Plus

Portrait mode, most often than not, works only with human subjects. Even if it does work with your cute pupper, it’s still going to be a hit or miss. The beauty of a foreground element is it works consistently no matter your subject — a friend, a building, or even your lunch.

Add a narrative to your photo

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Photo taken with the iPhone XS

When you use an appropriate foreground, you get to add another layer to your photo’s story. Adding palm leaves to an indoor shot for example, adds a dramatic summer vibe to it.

Use it sparingly

Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Taken with the Vivo V7

As with anything, do this in moderation. Some photos are better off without a foreground element — the same way not all photos should be taken with portrait mode on.

Try this simple trick on your next trip and share with us your favorite shots with a foreground element by leaving a comment below.

Features

5 features to look for before buying wireless earbuds for your workouts

The needs are different for your athletic activities

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True Wireless Flash X

Not all wireless earbuds are created equal. While there are plenty of options to choose from, most wireless earbuds serve a particular user.

For instance, there’s the everyday listener that requires the basic (or sometimes the best) wireless earbuds experience. Some are audiophiles who are specific about sound quality.

Also, there are fashionistas who care more about how a device looks and how it will fit their ensemble. Then, there are athletes and fitness enthusiasts, whose needs are a little bit different than the average consumer.

If you’re a casual or serious athlete, a sports and fitness enthusiast, or just someone who’s serious about a fitness journey, here are some of the features to look for before buying a pair of wireless earbuds.

IP Rating

IP rating, or ingress protection rating, determines the level of protection that any electrical device has against elements, like dust and water. It’s often overlooked by most consumers, working out with whatever wireless earbuds they have claiming it can handle their sweat.

I did this before with my Galaxy Buds, with an IPX2 rating, and it can only handle a little sweat. It started to malfunction a few months after use on heavy workouts, and I regret not taking care of it.

As a fitness enthusiast, I’m usually insanely drenched, heavily sweating over the course of an hour’s workout. If you’re in for intense, heavy workouts, look for wireless earbuds that have IPX7 ratings.

Wireless earbuds with this protection aren’t just water-resistant anymore — they’re waterproof. You can submerge them up to a meter for up to 30 minutes, or get drenched in sweat when you’re working out.

Some examples would be the Galaxy Buds Pro, Jabra’s Elite Active 75t, Jaybird Vista, and my trusty companion — the JBL Under Armour True Wireless Flash X, which I’ll be using as a point of comparison for the rest of the list.

Style, size, and fit

Physical activities require a lot of movements, so some of the things to consider are your wireless earbuds’ style, size, and fit. The style and size will depend on your preferences and how you feel about it.

Meanwhile, the fit needs to be secure and comfortable. Finding the right tip can help to ensure the earbuds won’t fall off your ears. That is if you like working out with in-ear earbuds like me.

True Wireless Flash X

My JBL UA True Wireless Flash X is quite bulky for an in-ear, but I enjoy having it plugged in so I don’t have to worry about touching it on some of my workouts. It also has a wingtip to keep it in place! On another note, my friend uses PowerBeats Pro for his workouts, since he feels safe when an earbud is hooked in his ear.

Gesture controls and navigation

What I love about wireless earbuds — whether they’re for everyday use or for my workouts — is the vibe it gives whenever I use its gesture controls. I feel like a secret agent from a sci-fi movie.

Anyhoo, accessibility is important when you’re working out to keep you focused and of course, to make your life easy. It’s an inconvenience if you have to pick up your phone every now and then just for music playback, right?

For every brand, the gesture controls are different. My everyday pair of wireless earbuds, the Galaxy Buds Live, is sensitive enough that even a light tap can pause the music, except I can’t touch it when I’m drenched in sweat.

Meanwhile, my JBL UA True Wireless Flash X requires pressing the button on the right earbud to play and pause my music. On the left earbud, it adjusts the isolation of background noise, which I’ll be talking about later.

Nonetheless, when looking for your pair of wireless earbuds, make sure you check its gesture controls and navigation, and how easy it is for you to adapt. Your lifestyle and behavior will also be a factor here!

Battery life and charging case

Another thing to consider is the wireless earbuds’ battery life and their charging cases. Can it last for a day? How many times can you charge your wireless earbuds in the charging case? And does it charge fast? These are the questions you need to ask when you’re out for a pair of wireless earbuds to accompany you in your workouts.

True Wireless Flash X

The JBL UA True Wireless Flash X lasts for nine hours — enough to last you one day at work if you use it for that purpose. But if you’re using it specifically for workouts. If you work out one hour every day, this can last for a week. Which happened in my case, since I have a different pair of wireless earbuds for my calls and listening sessions.

The case, on the other hand, lets you charge the earbuds up to four times. It doesn’t support fast charging though, so it will take at least two hours to fully charge the aluminum case.

Active noise cancellation

A pair of wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation (ANC), or at least the ability to isolate background noise like the JBL UA True Wireless Flash X, is extremely helpful during workouts.

It helps you keep your focus on what you’re doing. Sometimes, it feels like I’m lost in my own world — lifting weights while listening to Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries” or “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark”.

Some may argue that you don’t really need ANC, but I beg to differ. Some people can easily get distracted and lose their focus, and the amount of mental bandwidth needed to perform a workout requires intense concentration. ANC can help you focus on reaching your fitness goals.

Other things to consider, depending on your needs

Sound quality and connectivity aren’t the top-of-mind features people look for when buying a pair of wireless earbuds for their workouts. After all, most wireless earbuds nowadays focus on that — but don’t have the necessary features I mentioned above that are essential for physical activities.

True Wireless Flash X

If you’re a bit of an audiophile or you’re someone who’s connected 24/7, you might want to check several alternatives like the Jabra Elite 75t, Jaybird Vista, and the Powerbeats Pro.

True Wireless Flash X

The JBL Under Armour True Wireless Flash X retails for PhP 9,999. In the Philippines, it’s available for purchase at Onward PH.


For more great products and accessories like the JBL UA True Wireless Flash X, visit OnWardPH or follow them through their Facebook and Instagram accounts (@OnWardPH) for you to keep posted.

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First Look

ASUS Zenfone 8 Flip Unboxing and First Impressions

It comes with a special case!

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Zenfone 8 Flip

“Oooh what’s in the box?” is what I imagine most of you say whenever a new device comes out. So, for the Zenfone 8 Flip, we’ll show you what you can expect should you decide to cop the latest from ASUS.

This is the box. Pretty standard, with the 8 on top.

Zenfone 8 Flip

The inside follows the same color and brushed-cement looking finish. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

I totally just made-up “brushed-cement” but it’s the only thing I can think of to describe the look.

First thing in the packaging is a packet with the SIM tray ejector tool.

Zenfone 8 Flip

Inside it are the user guide and the special case.

Zenfone 8 Flip

Underneath the packet is the Zenfone 8 Flip itself. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

We’re gonna dive straight into the phone. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

It has quite a glossy glass finish. That means smudges. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

That’s icky

The power button has a bright blue tint that stands out from the rest of the device. 

Zenfone 8 FlipSitting right on top of it are the volume rockers.

The bottom has the usual USB-C port and speaker grille.

Zenfone 8 Flip

While the left side has the SIM tray. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

Here’s a closer look at the Flip camera module. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

And here it is actually flipped. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

What’s cool is you control the angle of flipping.
Zenfone 8 Flip

Here it is with the case on. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

It has a stopper to keep the module from flipping.

Zenfone 8 Flip

And the phone knows when it’s on. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

It’ll give you this prompt if you switch to ‘selfie’ on the camera app with the stopper equipped. 

Zenfone 8 FlipPretty cool, yeah?

This is what the home screen looks like. That wallpaper is actually animated. 

Zenfone 8 Flip

You also have the a USB-C cable

And a power adapter.

That’s everything inside the box!

Zenfone 8 Flip

First Impressions 

The ASUS Zenfone Flip 8 has some heft to it. Perhaps that’s to be expected given the Flip camera module. Speaking of, that camera module has a way of making you want to use it. I’m not one for selfies but I took a few for a quick test run along with some other quick snaps.

Selfies

Main camera, HDR off

Ultra-wide, HDR off 

Ultra-wide, auto HDR

Main camera, auto HDR 

Ultra-wide, auto HDR 

Indoors, Main camera 

Indoors, Portrait 

Bright light indoors

Some observations: The post-processing after you take photos does A LOT of work whether or not you have HDR turned on or off. This results in high contrast and sharpened images. On the contrary, using the same camera but with portrait mode, the resulting image looks softer.

This isn’t a good look for the image processing and I can see people opting to use Google Camera instead of the stock one on the phone.

Performance-wise, we haven’t spent a significant amount of time with the device but the whole thing feels snappy and buttery-smooth. So, it’s par for the course for something flagship. The display does look sharp and pleasing to the eyes. It is, after all, Samsung AMOLED.

That’s all we have on the Zenfone 8 Flip for now. Stay tuned for the review.

Zenfone 8 Flip

Here’s a quick look at the specs of the Zenfone 8 and Zenfone 8 Flip side by side.

Zenfone 8 Zenfone Flip 8
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Display 5.9” Samsung AMOLED, 120Hz 6.67” Samsung AMOLED, 90Hz
OS Android 11, Zen UI 8 Android 11, Zen UI 8
Configuration 6GB + 128GB

8GB +128GB

8GB + 256GB

16GB + 256GB

*No storage expansion

8GB +256GB

*Up to 2TB storage expansion via MicroSD

Battery 4,000mAh 5,000mAh
Cameras 64MP Sony IMX686

12MP Ultra-wide

12MP front-facing

64MP Sony IMX686

12MP Ultra-wide

8MP telephoto

*Flip camera module

Pricing and availability details to follow.


Watch our Zenfone 8 review

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Reviews

ASUS Zenfone 8 Review: Tiny but Mighty

The compact flagship

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Zenfone 8

In a sea full of big smartphones, ASUS made a detour with the Zenfone 8 by making it smaller than its previous Zenfone 7 predecessor.

Packed with flagship specs such as Snapdragon 888, 16GB of RAM and a 120Hz display, it’s simply their best and most compact phone to date.

But how did ASUS managed to fit in all these powerful internals in such a compact body? Watch our full review video of the ASUS Zenfone 8 to know more.

SEE ALSO: Zenfone 8 Flip Unboxing and First Impressions

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