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Sony Xperia’s Reality

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It’s been a full month since the biggest tech coverage of my life to date. Having finished Legal Management in college, and then eventually making a career in Creatives, never did I think I’d be in Spain, as a journalist, covering one of the world’s biggest tech events.

But last month I made it, as part of GadgetMatch’s two-man team covering Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.

There was a lot to see at MWC, where almost all the biggest names in smartphones and mobile communications came out to play. Our small team didn’t have time to be at every launch event, so we instead visited as many booths as humanly possible, spending more time at those that offered more stories worth telling. Four days was not enough.

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Low-light selfie taken with the new Sony Xperia X, printed on Instax

One of the events we completely missed while in Barcelona was the launch of Sony’s Xperia X. We spent a significant amount of time at Sony’s booth checking out their new devices, so upon returning to Manila I knew it was one that I had to watch back online.

Sony’s keynote lacked the flashy things most brands would have to make their announcements an experience on its own and highlights that would leave a lasting impression. There were no grand stages. No dramatic lighting. No mind-blowing products or moments. No surprise appearances by tech celebrities. There weren’t even any leaks or teasers to hype it up prior to the event itself.

I don’t know how I would have felt had I been there in person – underwhelmed maybe – considering that the night before I came face to face with Mark Zuckerberg and my personal hero, Pranav Mistry, at Samsung Unpacked. (Still not over it, tbh.)

But while the likes of Samsung and LG battled it out in on stage, Sony’s no non-sense, no-frills event took a step back and reminded us of what makes smartphones and technology so great.

Sans any gaudiness, Sony’s keynote was just as insightful, its simplicity allowing me to appreciate and digest its vision more.

Sony President and CEO Kazuo Hirai was first to take the stage. Recognizing that Barcelona was home to one of the world’s best football teams, he likened Sony to football – it is all about excitement, the joy, the wonder, about providing that feeling of wow.

He then asked, “how often do you check your smartphone during the day?”

Apparently, in the United States alone, smartphones are checked 8 billion times a day. “That’s an awful lot of checking smartphones,” he remarked.

This, he says, is why smartphones and other communication devices are so important to Sony. Also maybe part of the reason the Japanese brand hasn’t stopped making smartphones despite losses year after year.

Sony’s Dream Destination

Next on stage was Sony Mobile Communications President & CEO Hiroki Totoki.

“To bring ideas to life, we’ve been continuing our journey. A journey has a destination, which is defined in our vision” Totoki said.

Sony’s destination? A world where people are looking up at the sky, not down on screens. A world where devices don’t just provide ease and convenience, but wonder and joy. A world where people and devices interact in a more meaningful way so that we can spend more time experiencing the world around us.

With the new Xperia X lineup, Sony hopes to achieve that world, but not without a bit of confusion first.

Sony’s new Xperia X line doesn’t aim for the top, but are interesting nonetheless

For years Sony’s top of the line smartphone has been the Xperia Z – a gold standard in premium design, top of the line smartphone cameras, and the industry leader in water resistant smartphones. At MWC, Sony was abandoning Z for X, introducing a new line of smartphones, that like their launch event, wasn’t as flashy.

The decision is one that Sony can justify, “Wouldn’t you rather be a part of the things happening around you and leave the worries and tasks to your Xperia?” challenged Totoki to an unresponsive crowd.

No one really expects a brand like Sony to come out with a smartphone that’s not better than its previous flagship, unless it’s a midrange phone. Sure on paper the X Performance actually bests the Z5 Premium, but there’s something about this release that feels like concessions have been made, and while bigger and better is a mantra of this tech industry, that may not be a bad thing.

Instead of adding new features to smartphones people don’t really use, Sony’s strategy was to improve things that matter most to us ordinary folk: battery life and camera. We have yet to find out how true the promises are as the phones will not be officially released until summer. But the promise of a not so high-end, top of the line smartphone appeals to me, and should to most users.

I don’t necessarily need a processor with screaming speeds, or an ultra high definition display with more pixels than my eyes can see. But I’d love a well-balanced, reasonably-priced smartphone, with a great camera and solid battery life.

I haven’t been around this industry long enough to say whether Sony’s decision to regroup, drop the Z, and launch an all-new Xperia X lineup, is a step in the right direction. Sony also has yet to make an official statement about the big change, but after time with the phones in Barcelona, I am more than hopeful.

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The Xperia Eye

At MWC, Sony also announced a bunch of concept devices, like the Xperia Eye, a life-blogging camera that has sensors smart enough to detect faces and moments so that it captures only those that truly matter. Sure you’re still capturing the moment, which we millennials have a predisposition for, but the technology is designed to take a step back so you can enjoy and experience moments instead of trying to capture them.

It’s unsure at this point whether this camera will actually hit the shelves or just remain a concept but it reiterates Sony’s destination, where technology doesn’t distract us from the world we live in.

Reality vs Virtual Reality

While companies like Samsung try to make virtual reality more attainable to the masses, Sony chose to get in touch with a different reality – the one we live and breathe.

“We want our Xperias to help you interact and connect in a closer, more natural, more meaningful way – to understand your preferences, activities, and behaviour, and to recognize the environment around you. To predict and understand what you want to do making it hassle-free so you can enjoy and experience more of the good things in life,” said Totoki.

There’s a little bit from my humanities-heavy education that helps me appreciate where Sony is going. Earlier I talked about Pranav Mistry, whose TED Talk was a requirement in my Philosophy of the Human Person class. It’s a video that stuck with me all these years, and the technology he demonstrated then continues to amaze me to this day, despite everything I’ve seen so far.

Like Sony, I dream of a world where technology allows us to do two things: a) extend our capabilities so that we can do things that weren’t humanly possible before, and b) do things with so much ease and convenience that it allows us to be more human.

It’s always been a hit or miss for Sony at events like this, and Sony Mobile’s numbers would tell you it’s been a miss for quite some time. And it’s ironic that Sony is trying to sell me more devices, as if everything I already have is not enough, just to achieve a world where interactions are more meaningful.

But if there’s one thing I know Sony got right this time, it’s this: there’s a world in front of us that’s so much bigger and I’d happily look up and be inspired by that. Now I don’t know about you, but more than the specs of a shiny new phone, that’s what I’m more excited about.

[irp posts=”8989″ name=”7 reasons why the Sony Xperia XZ succeeds”]

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5 things we like about the realme Watch

A fitness band you won’t mind wearing in non-workout scenarios

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realme has been on a roll in expanding their product portfolio. They started with smartphones, added some earphones and powerbanks, and this year they have two wearables so far – the realme smartband and the realme Watch.

Today we’re listing some of the things we really liked about the realme Watch. Oh and quick note – most of this video was shot using the realme X3 SuperZoom.

Battery Life

Okay so, number one is battery life.

At the time that this was written, the Watch was at 52 percent and it has been seven days since the last time it was fully charged. If I use it more or less the same way I have in the past seven days, then it’ll be another week before it completely runs out of juice.

It’s definitely a plus when you don’t have to think about charging your watch too often.

Variety of workouts

At launch it can track 14 different workouts with good variety.

You have stuff like Running, Walking, Strength Training, Yoga and even sports like Football, Table Tennis, and Badminton.

The only “workout” I really got to try is walking, since I absolutely dread running — or any other form of exercise for that matter. But the fitness tracking was fairly accurate for the most part.

I was dying to try basketball since that’s the only workout I truly enjoy. Unfortunately the courts are still closed because in case you forgot, the Coronavirus is still very much out there taking lives and we are totally not winning that battle.

Casual fit

If it’s just your regular trip to the grocery store, then this watch will suit you just fine.

Perhaps, you can also wear this on regular work days if you’re required to report onsite. Point is, since it doesn’t look like a fitness band. You can probably get away with wearing it in most casual situations.

Remote camera

This one was particularly useful for when I was making this video.

The remote camera camera works for both photo and video. And for photos, it can be set to either take the snap right away or with a timer.

Very convenient if, like me, you’re forever alone, and need or want photos of yourself.

Water reminder

For you thirsty folks out there, it also has a water reminder option that you can turn on using the realme link app.

You can set a time period when you should be reminded, as well as the frequency of the reminder. I didn’t exactly follow this all the time since I sorely lack discipline, but it’s nice to have that constant reminder.

Is the realme Watch worth buying?

To properly set your expectations, you’ll need to think of the realme Watch as more of an enlarged fitness band versus an actual Smart Watch, since most of its features are geared towards health and fitness.

And if you look at it, it’s… okay. Not really something you’d want to show off.

Underneath the display there’s this subtle realme branding that could’ve been smaller or they could’ve totally done away with. That might have helped with the overall look a little bit.

The watch faces are also limited at launch, but realme emphasized that a wide variety of choices is coming soon.

For PhP 3990 (US$ 81), you get a fitness band that you wouldn’t mind wearing in non-workout scenarios. I think that’s the primary benefit that you get, for paying around twice the price of a regular fitness band.

SEE ALSO: realme X3 SuperZoom, realme Watch price in the Philippines

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How to maximize your Redmi 9

Smart tips for your budget smartphone

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Having a smartphone these days is akin to a necessity. However, times are especially hard and you may not have the means to splurge on the best ones. Here are tips on maximizing budget smartphones — specifically, the Xiaomi Redmi 9.

First of, let’s find out what we’re working with. Here’s a quick rundown of the device’s specs:

Redmi 9

Display 6.53” FHD+ Dot Drop Display, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Processor MediaTek Helio G80 Processor
RAM + ROM 3GB+32GB and 4GB+64GB
Battery Capacity 5020mAh, support for 18W charging
Front Camera 8MP
Rear Cameras 13MP main wide-angle camera

8MP ultra-wide angle camera

5MP macro camera

2MP depth sensor

There’s not a lot you’re working with here. But that’s to be expected from a phone that starts at PhP 6,990 (US$ 141) for the 3GB+32GB variant which is what we have with us currently.

Quick note: That specific variant is currently on sale today on Xiaomi’s official flagship store on Lazada. On July 7, 2020 only, it’s up for grabs for PhP 500 less or at exactly PhP 6,490 (US$ 131).

If you want to snap this up, here’s what you’re getting.

It doesn’t look like a budget phone

Some budget smartphones tend to look very bland. That’s not the case with the Redmi 9.

The Ocean Green variant has this subtle radial pattern on its back. It’s very nice to hold and marginally adds to the grip. That’s a thoughtful choice considering how most budget smartphones come in plain backs in a slippery plastic build.

Another thoughtful design decision is the alignment of the power button and volume keys. For a phone with this big a display, having them all on the right side is an underrated design decision.

Unfortunately, that design decision is countered by the placement of the fingerprint sensor. It’s curiously connected to the camera module. During your first few days of use, you’ll be prone to smudging the lens that sits right above it.

That said, that camera module also doesn’t look like it’s a budget smartphone. The vertical camera array is situated on the top middle part and is separated by a circle that looks like the source of the radial pattern.

Learn basic mobile photography skills

While we’re talking about the cameras, the versatility of the ones equipped on the Redmi 9 is pretty impressive.

On most occasions, you should be able to take a good enough photo for your social media feeds. But you can even take it a step further by learning some basic mobile photography skills.

Here are some tips and how tos from our archives that you might find useful:

  1. How to take slice of life photos
  2. Capturing festivities
  3. Using foreground element

Use the built-in photo editor

You don’t have plenty of space for apps, so it’s prudent to learn the in and outs of the built-in photo editor. Just go into the gallery and edit one of your photos, and you’ll be treated to plenty of options.

Take for instance this wide angle photo. It looks fine, but a little unbalanced.

On the photo editor, you can fix that by aligning the horizon to the grid and making the colors pop more.

If you’re feeling adventurous, there are also plenty of filters you can play with. Here’s a sample of how that same photo was turned into this very stylized one that looks almost like a scene from Attack on Titan. 

Google is your best friend 

One of my favorite Google Apps is Google Photos. It gives you unlimited storage of your photos at zero cost.

It’s most likely already installed on the Redmi 9 out of the box. Just make sure you turn syncing on so every time you take a photo, it’s automatically uploaded and backed up.

Google also has lite versions for most of their apps so that should help ease up the load on your limited RAM and storage.

Use lite versions of apps

Lite apps aren’t limited to Google though. More commonly used apps like Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, and even Spotify have lite versions.

These versions eat up less space and less memory when used. Of course, you’ll be missing some features, but that’s the trade-off.

What you can do is identify which app you use the most and need all of the features available, so you can get the full version of that app, while keeping everything else lite.

Be resourceful about it

One of the hallmarks of Xiaomi and Redmi is offering good value for less. That means making the most of what you have.

For the Redmi 9, this means knowing for sure what it can do, and allocating its existing resources based on your smartphone needs.

Remember, your smartphone is only as good as how you use it.

A quick reminder that the Redmi 9 (3GB+32GB) is currently on sale today on Xiaomi’s official flagship store on Lazada. On July 7, 2020 only, it’s up for grabs for PhP 500 less or at exactly PhP 6,490 (US$ 131).

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Samsung Galaxy Note 20 rumor roundup: Snapdragon 865+, 120Hz, new S Pen

Can’t wait for August!

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In around a month, Samsung is launching the hugely anticipated Galaxy Note 20 series. As always, the premium smartphone series will round out Samsung’s traditional slate of flagships for the year.

By itself, this fact isn’t a big surprise. Unless plans change drastically, the company always releases the next Galaxy Note series in August. However, as the launch date draws near, what can we expect from the series this year?

Fortunately, several leaks and rumors have already revealed almost everything about the upcoming series. From its hardware inside to what it looks like, we have a good idea of what the Galaxy Note 20 will launch with. Let’s take a look at what we know about the series so far.

Three devices or two?

Earlier this year, Samsung launched three variants of the Galaxy S20 series: the usual one-two punch and an ultra-premium Galaxy S20 Ultra. Naturally, everyone asked whether the next launch will also have three variants.

In one of the first leaks regarding the Galaxy Note 20 series, Ross Young revealed only two variants: the Note 20 and the Note 20+. The series will not have a third Ultra variant. Further, Ice Universe approved the leaks, adding some legitimacy to the claim.

However, despite the affirmation, Ice Universe continues to refer to the second device as the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, especially in subsequent leaks. Are there actually three phones coming? If there are just two, what will they call the second phone — the Note 20+ or the Note 20 Ultra?

The return of 120Hz

As we mentioned, Young’s leaks are the first ones we know about the series. Besides revealing the number of variants, he also mentions the continuation of the 120Hz LTPO screen and a slight bump in size for both variants. The Note 20 will have a 6.42-inch 2345 x 1084 resolution, 404ppi screen. The Note 20+ will have a 6.87-inch, 3096 x 1444 resolution, 497ppi screen

The leaked detail holds a lot of promise for the two devices’ picture quality and energy optimization. With lower power needed, the series can look brilliant even in an always-on mode.

Samsung cat tells all

Naturally, as time went on, the weight of the leaks got even more substantial. Just a few weeks ago, Ice Universe leaked the most comprehensive rundown of the series’ hardware so far.

For one, the leaker confirmed the Note 20 Ultra’s larger screen. However, it’s not just the size. Samsung is also reducing the bezels by a fair bit. All four sides have narrowed down by a fraction of a millimeter. Further, the punch-hole camera’s diameter is reducing by a full millimeter. Given how thin bezels are today, the reduction will be clearly noticeable on the upcoming device.

Concurrently, the account also reveals more about the hardware inside. According to two tweets, the Note 20 Ultra will sport the unreleased Snapdragon 865 Plus processor. Based on a separate rumor, Qualcomm will reportedly launch the upgraded chipset later this month, making it in time for the Note 20’s launch in August. That said, the upcoming chip will also grace the remaining devices in Samsung’s flagship lineup this year.

Additional speculations

Rounding out this list, Ice Universe also hints at a new camera feature and a new S Pen. We don’t know much about the Note 20’s cameras yet. According to a few leaked designs (which we’ll get to later), the rear will likely have three cameras. However, the performance remains a mystery.

If anything, Samsung was working on impressive 150-megapixel and 250-megapixel cameras earlier this year. The source claims that the former is already set for a launch this year, potentially for the Note 20 series. Since the Galaxy S20 series tops out at a 108-megapixel camera, it’s not far-fetched to assume a 150-megapixel shooter on the Note 20 series.

On the other hand, we haven’t heard a lot about the upcoming S Pen functionalities. Ice Universe leaks that the stylus will have a considerably reduced latency at 9 milliseconds, making it extra responsive to a user’s writing. Of course, latency is different from functionality. What can the Note 20’s S Pen do?

Perhaps the most obscure speculation about the stylus comes from a leaked patent early last year. Samsung filed an enigmatic patent for an S Pen built with a camera inside. The rumored spy pen got nowhere fast especially last year. However, patents are finicky. You’ll never know when they’ll pop up. Is this the S Pen’s unknown feature this year? We doubt it, but who knows?

What does it look like?

The leaks surrounding the series’ design are contentious. Some got nowhere, while some were simply wrong.

The first design leak comes from the tandem of OnLeaks and Pigtou (who previously leaked a pop-up camera from Samsung earlier this year). The duo created renders of what they thought the series will look like, based on rumors. Though substantial, the renders were simply just third-party renders. The world still wanted more controversial leaks from supposedly insider sources.

They got what they wanted with Ice Universe’s leak at first. The aforementioned hardware leaks came with a depicted phone which were assumed to be the Note 20 Ultra. Unfortunately, a lot of people were wrong (including us, admittedly). In a follow-up tweet, the leaker revealed that they were actually just photos of the Note 10+ used for representation.

Dispelling all of this confusion, Samsung accidentally leaked the device’s design themselves. In a rare hiccup, the company’s Russian website mistakenly displayed the Note 20 Ultra in the pinkish Mystic Bronze color. In one go, Samsung destroyed all rumors and revealed so much about the upcoming device already, including the triple rear cameras and the sleek S Pen.

When is it coming?

To cap everything off, we turn to the very first time the Note 20 was ever mentioned. In an earnings report released earlier than Ross Young’s leaks, Samsung confirmed that the Note 20 series will still come as scheduled — that is, in August.

Further, a recent report confirms an impending launch window between August and October for three unreleased devices. As expected, August will host the Note 20 series. Meanwhile, September and October will debut the Galaxy Fold 2 and the Galaxy S20 Lite.

It won’t be long now before the Note 20 series launch. Though we know a lot about the series already, Samsung can still surprise us with a few tricks up its sleeve.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10+ Review

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