Features

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”]

Features

Stay Cozy: 5 best places to visit during winter

Channel your inner Queen Elsa or Jack Frost!

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Photo by Jason Briscoe

Winter is here. From December to March, the Northern Hemisphere faces the coldest time of the year. For some people, winter is hellish. It’s brutally cold, bulky outfits make it hard to move; landscapes feel robbed of colors, and the sun barely shows itself.

However, some people enjoy the freezing season — especially those who live in tropical countries wanting to experience snow at least once in their lifetime. It’s also a time where people get closer and warmer. If you’re looking for a place to enjoy winter, here are the top places to go.

Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki is Finland’s capital. Many people visit the country to embark on a Nordic tour and see the northern lights. Little do they know, there’s a chance to see the famed northern lights in the country’s capital, especially in February and March from 9 PM until 1 AM.

Aside from spending long nights outdoors, Helsinki is a beautiful place to go sightseeing during winter. Make sure to visit Helsinki Cathedral, Helsinki Museum, Helsinki Central Library and walk around Sibelius Park and Esplanade Park. If you’re in for some coffee, visit Fazer Café and Café Regatta.

Don’t forget to visit a sauna — one of the top things to do in the city — to get a real feel of Helsinki. Drop by the Allas Sea Pool.

Where to stay: Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel

Radisson Blu Plaza is a historical hotel near Helsinki Central Station with a Finnish-designed interior making you feel like you’re in a set from an early 1900’s movie! Book here.


Quebec, Canada

People flock to Quebec to visit Old Quebec, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Who wouldn’t want to? Old Quebec is a remnant of history; a piece of life from centuries ago, immortalized through design and architecture. However, Quebec has its charms that make people explore more of its secrets and wonders.

When in town, make sure to walk along Terrasse Dufferin and bask in a spectacular view of Saint-Lawrence river. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also visit Plaines d’Abraham and do some skiing and skating. Don’t forget to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate from La Maison Smith.

Lastly, Quebec has events you shouldn’t miss if you’re in town for winter. There’s a German Christmas Market in December and Carnaval de Québec in February.

Where to stay: L’appartement GLOBETROTTER

L’appartement is a spacious and bright BnB with a private roof terrace, located in Saint-Roch district. Stay here.


Sapporo, Japan

Sapporo is popular as it is one of the snowiest cities in the world. It’s also a vibrant city — even in winter — as it presents a lot of activities for every tourist. Go ahead and embrace your inner child: play in the snow, adme ice sculptures, and ride snowmobiles, especially during the Sapporo Snow Festival.

If you love beer, you probably know Sapporo as a beer brand — another reason to visit the city. Sapporo has been brewing beers since the late 1800s and people come to the Sapporo Beer Museum for beer tasting. Beer fan or not, Sapporo in winter is a beautiful place to visit in groups. Who’s in for long nights drinking beer with your friends and/or with fellow travelers?

Don’t forget to book an onsen for a warm and relaxed trip!

Where to stay: Sapporo Station BnB

Sapporo Station BnB is a charming, tatami-styled, budget-friendly BnB located next to a subway station. Stay here.


Seoul, South Korea

Seoul is a wonderful destination during winter. There are a lot of things to do both indoors and outdoors that it’s impossible not to love this city even in cold.

For those willing to brave the cold, stroll around Gyeongbokgung Palace, ice skate at Seoul Plaza and Yeoui Ice Park, eat winter street food like tteokbokki (rice cakes with spicy red chili paste), hotteok (Korean pancakes with nuts and honey), and gyeran bbang (steamed bread with egg), and of course, experience snow everywhere!

For indoor dwellers, visit quirky and themed cafés or warm up with some hot cup of tea from teahouses in Insadong.

Where to stay: Hanok Guesthouse Mon Oncle a Seoul

A Hanok is a traditional Korean house popular among tourists. Hanok Guesthouse Mon Oncle a Seoul is well-loved by travelers due to its great location and remarkable sunset views. Book here.


New York City, United States of America

Popular all-year-round, New York unravels a different personality and charm during winter. It’s a winter wonderland for most people, hosting larger-than-life celebrations and making everything big and loud.

When you’re in the city for Christmas, make sure to rock on some coats and scarves while ice-skating with a date or someone special in Rockefeller Center or at Wollman Rink. Take a stroll along Hudson’s Warren Street and through Central Park.

Other than that, New York hosts a lot of tradition and events during winter like the New Year’s Eve ball drop, Lunar New Year parade, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, New York Fashion Week, and NYC Broadway Week.

Where to stay: Walker Hotels Tribeca

Walker Hotels Tribeca is an artistic and aesthetically-pleasing hotel situated at a great location that will help you get anywhere around New York. Book here.


Stay Cozy is a series on GadgetMatch.com where we feature travel destinations with guides on things to do, sights to see and a highlight on the places we can book in advance to show that technology makes planning your trips easier.

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Enterprise

Samsung: ‘We’re more secure than any other brand’

Your data is safe

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The digital age ushered an era where cybersecurity issues pose a threat to our personal safety and big risks in businesses and the economy. As if the world isn’t cruel, violent, and scary enough, we’re all forced to stay on our toes and double up our guard.

Several data breaches and news about tech companies spying on us has been alarming to say the least. “Is our data still safe?” is the common question among concerned individuals.

Recently, the CxO Innovation Summit 2019 — a data and security conference held by VST-ECS Philippines — was mounted in Boracay. GadgetMatch had an exclusive interview with executives from Samsung Global and Samsung Philippines.

Samsung’s series of unfortunate events

In a press conference, Samsung discussed its attempts to protect its consumers’ data. Samsung recently faced a series of unfortunate mishaps concerning security and privacy, causing concerns among its loyal customers.

Samsung Mobile B2B Asia’s Corporate VP and Chief Revenue Officer David Kim stated how Samsung isn’t the only one that suffered from malicious attacks. He reiterated how the company uses Knox as a security measure along with its authentication factor. Kim explained, “You can only control the hardware, software, and who access the phones.”

The executive added, “There are also Wi-Fi and networks. If someone can sneak in your network, they can sneak in your email.”

Samsung believes they’re more secure than any other brand. Kim confidently claimed to GadgetMatch, “We don’t have a perfect security rating, but we are well received. That’s why the White House is comfortable with us.”

Amidst the issues surrounding the company, Samsung also took pride in how they’re one of the few companies that organically make their hardware components and develop their software.

Knox makes the difference

Samsung’s Product Manager Anton Andres supported the claims, stating how Samsung’s Knox sets them apart. “The main difference is the Knox platform. It has two components: Platform security and the solutions we offer in the market like Knox Manage and Knox Configure.”

The young executive demonstrated, “Knox Platform is embedded on a smartphone. At first, it was just a security platform that automatically encrypts and decrypts information every time you boot up the device.”

Andres further explained how the Knox Platform has multi-layers of security. “First is the hardware chip. If a device — like a Samsung Galaxy S8 — was compromised and reset, Knox automatically blows the fuse.”

“If you have corporate or personal info, your data is automatically wiped, preventing any data leakage and security risks.”

Be careful of what you download

Similar to Huawei’s warnings, Andres warned about downloading third-party apps and keyboards. Though it may customize your keyboard to your liking, it can compromise your security. Andres believes the challenge is the keyboard loggers, which sends your credentials to third-party servers every time you put your credentials.

“If you access your mobile banking credentials on a third-party keyboard, they can phish your information,” Andres said. “With Samsung Knox, we identify specific applications and URLs. Once identified, Knox automatically hides your information to prevent potential threats.”

Currently, Samsung is constantly updating the Knox Platform and its security solutions. Recently, the Samsung Galaxy A50s highlighted Knox. The Korean company is also looking for more ways to make Knox easily understandable for everyday consumers. Presently, the Knox Platform is limited to Samsung devices while Knox Solutions are compatible with Android, Windows, and iOS.

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Enterprise

Huawei: ‘We do not touch data’

The Chinese company denies espionage allegations

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Security and privacy have been a major issue in this era. Following the tech controversies relating to espionage, banning, and data breaches, people can’t help but wonder if their data is still safe.

In a conference held by VST-ECS Philippines in Boracay Island, CxO Innovation Summit 2019 was mounted to tackle data and security. GadgetMatch had an exclusive interview with Huawei, discussing how the Chinese company handles their consumers’ data and what they are doing to protect it.

The Government should protect your data

GadgetMatch first met with Patrick Low, Principal Architect for CTO Office of Huawei Enterprise Business Group. Low discussed how consumers’ data are being acquired everywhere. For instance, a surveillance camera in a public or private space can provide facial recognition — another form of identifiable data.

Low stated how our data do not belong to us, not even him — an executive from the Chinese company. Expounding, he says the moment we sign up on websites and different platforms, we trade our data in exchange for using their services. Low also demonstrated how Blockchain gives the user their data back, however, it isn’t adapted widely in the Philippines yet.

The Huawei executive further explained that despite the acquisition of our data, sensitive information is protected through policies formed by the government. Even so, the Principal Architect further pressed “Having a policy or rules is just a start, at the end of the day we need to enforce it.” Low cited how Singapore and Australia’s Data Protection Acts allow authorities to enforce through informing — which must be followed by developing countries.

“We do not touch data”

When asked regarding the spying accusations thrown at the company, Low simply stated “We do not touch data. That’s a policy from top-down.”

“Huawei has not been caught or found out in any way to be violating personal rights. Because of the media and diplomatic situations, Huawei is always guilty. It’s difficult for Huawei to handle.” Low added.

The executive then demonstrated Huawei’s strategy to protect data, such as creating servers and encrypting it. Low added that only applications have the requirement to hold user data. According to Low, any application — WhatsApp for instance — analyzes and sends your data back to where the app’s server is located. In this case, it’s being sent in the United States.

“We do not touch data. That’s a policy from top-down.”

Low then warned about the applications you are downloading through APKs and even in Google Play Store. Low advised to always check your sources, the app’s server location, and read the terms and conditions we skip regularly.

Moving forward, Huawei takes cybersecurity very seriously. Low stated, “If we are caught doing anything wrong without the user’s consent, we’re going to face a lot of problems. If something wrong happens, the company will suffer deeply.”

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