Features

#TBT: Before the Samsung Galaxy Note, there was the Dell Streak 5

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 launched this week, and we were in New York City to witness all the hype and hoopla unfold. The critical consensus so far has been positive, and we think the new big-screen phone is the hat-trick score its makers had hoped for.

The Galaxy Note 7 has the right curves in all the right places; it isn’t afraid to get wet; it’s better at taking notes and making GIFs and translating; and it has a cavity to slot in a microSD card if you think 64GB of onboard storage isn’t enough. In a word: Brilliant.

So brilliant that it makes sense why Samsung is the only manufacturer that has found success where others could not. Armed with a stylus and a screen that acts like paper, Samsung scripted its own legacy in the tech world.

But the idea of expanding a phone’s screen to what some thought were comical proportions wasn’t Samsung’s to begin with.

It equally belonged to Nokia and HTC and a few others; but it belonged most of all to Dell.

In 2010, the same year the iPad was announced, the American tech company came out with the Dell Streak 5. The phone was meant to compete with both the Apple slate and smartphones that maxed out at around 4 inches by offering a 5-inch display, which was considered enormous at the time.

Dell-Streak-5 b

The Dell Streak 5

It was three inches tall and six inches wide and almost a third the thickness and weight of the iPad; it was pocketable only in the sense that it was possible to force it uncomfortably into regular-fit jeans. I thought the Streak was clunky as it was unwieldy.

But its biggest flaw had nothing to do with its obnoxious design, or the fact that critics and consumers couldn’t decide whether to call it a phone or a tablet. The Streak initially shipped with buggy, outgoing software that drew the ire of everyone.

Unable to recover from a rocky start, Dell discontinued the phone the following year. “Goodbye Streak 5. It’s been a great ride,” a post on the company’s official website read.

Dell-goodbye-streak

In 2011, Samsung made a huge bet on a phone bigger than the Streak 5 and hit the jackpot when it earned critical respect and public admiration.

The Verge gave the Galaxy Note a positive review and called it “one of the most potent Android devices to date.” It received a 7.6 out of 10 from Engadget, which described it as “one of those devices that you’ll either completely love or totally hate.” CNET gushed about its screen size. “The screen real estate is ideal for interacting with HD games and multimedia, and for reading websites and e-books,” the tech site said.

Two months after its launch, Samsung announced it had shipped over one million Note smartphones worldwide, excluding the U.S. The success of the Galaxy Note created massive interest and demand for devices of the same size.

So why the Note and not the Streak? I think it was because the Note was a more refined product that made the most of its size. Samsung didn’t just release another Streak with a bigger screen; it improved on it immensely.

When you look at today’s tech landscape, you’ll see a lot of firsts and superlatives and companies trying to be different for different’s sake. Which is fine and all. Failing is part of the process. But in the quest for the next Galaxy Note, or the next iPhone, the industry would do well to remember the lessons of the Streak.

Being first isn’t always what matters; but being the first to get things right usually does.

[irp posts=”9281″ name=”Dell Canvas is a 27-inch smart workspace for professionals”]

Apps

Ultrahuman: The essential app to get you through quarantine

Getting through isolation days through workout and meditation

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Taking care of our physical and mental health is very much important now more than ever. With everything that has been going on in the world, it’s not surprising that people are taking extra steps to advocate and practice self-care.

One way to do this is by adding good habits everyday and being disciplined to sustain these habits.

With self-care as one of their ultimate goals this year, Martynne and MJ decided to try Ultrahuman: an all-in-one fitness app that includes all the good habits they are currently incorporating in their lives — from workout to meditation.

For a few weeks, they put the app to a test and this is their verdict:

Meditation

Martynne: I am a huge advocate of meditation and it has been a life-changing practice for me, as someone who finds a hard time focusing and being in the present.

Ultrahuman has a wide range of course options that can match a specific mood or emotion. One of my personal favorites is the Managing Anger course, which helped me take a step back, consolidate my feelings and give compassion to myself throughout the process.

The Singles option with one-time meditation tracks helped me become more mindful and grounded whenever I feel overwhelmed in the middle of a workday. The productivity course, on the other hand, kept my eyes glued to my laptop screen until I finished what I needed to do.

The only thing I didn’t like about it, though, is the visuals seem basic to me, and the “dark” interface is much more fitting for the workout option.

Workout

MJ: When gyms are closed and home workouts aren’t fun anymore, how do you remain committed to your fitness goals? That’s what Ultrahuman did: Filling the gap by providing fun workouts and challenges that you can do in a span of weeks. It’s similar to how Nike Training Club presents their videos albeit more personalized.

The Ultrahuman app comes with guided videos from renowned trainers, and watching their instructions during your exercises felt like having a live session with a personal trainer. Unlike most fitness apps that offer video-on-demand workouts, Ultrahuman remembers that we are all beginners, offering a collection of videos through challenges that suit different levels.

After living a sedentary lifestyle, I knew I have to ease up when working out again. The app did wonders in helping me stay active by gradually increasing the difficulty of my challenges, without straining my body or having myself complain about how difficult a certain workout routine is.

Sleep

Martynne: There was an instance that I had a bad case of insomnia and I needed something to put me to sleep.

I tried listening to Ultrahuman’s Bedtime Stories and it reminded me of the sleep podcasts I used to listen to on Spotify.

The voices are relaxing, and the stories come with meditation and sound effects, but I realized I can be impatient with slow stories. I resorted to the app’s soundscapes and brain music, and they helped a lot to relax my brain and finally shut my eyes off.

I don’t exactly know what’s the science behind brain music, but they really work sometimes.

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Accessories

Nokia E3100: Trying new buds for work to workouts

Yes, Nokia has earbuds now

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Nokia E3100

Nokia and I go way back. It was the mobile phone brand of my youth. Our history includes a series of phones that predate the existence of touchscreen ones we use now. Everyone had a Nokia device then. In recent years, it’s become a rarity. So imagine my surprise when I first heard that Nokia is now making earbuds. How did it fare against the audio giants of our time?

First impressions

I got a hold of the Nokia E3100 Essential True Wireless Earphones. Compared to my old set of earbuds (Anker Zolo Liberty+), this one’s battery case and earbuds are extremely light, almost the same weight as a tube of drugstore lipstick.

The buds can operate up to 2.5hrs with a single charge, and up to 10 hours with help of the rechargeable battery case. Super convenient to pack if we still had our old lifestyle of going out daily.

On the job

I used to be able to maximize my earbuds on my commute — listening to music or watching series whenever I’m in transit. Nowadays, I mainly connect my headset to my laptop for Zoom meetings and other virtual work calls.

The Nokia E3100 did not disappoint on the sound side. Audio from the people I’m in the call with was always clear and crisp. But, it can be a hit-or-miss as a mic. The earbuds have a built-in microphone on the right side, but my experience with it left me wanting. There was a point when I had to switch back to the laptop microphone in the middle of a call just so people can hear my voice clearly.

Nokia E3100

On the mat

I also tried the Nokia E3100 for a few home workout sessions. Since the earbuds fit my ears perfectly, there’s no fear of it falling out in the middle of jumping jacks.

Another nice surprise is how you can easily skip or repeat tracks via push button controls on the earbuds. Less distractions to your exercise momentum! The only time I have to reach for my phone is when I want to switch to a different playlist.

Nokia E3100

Is the Nokia E3100 your GadgetMatch?

It’s reliable as an earpiece for listening to music, working out, and watching series. But when it comes to the demands of working from home, the current built-in mic just won’t do.

Nokia has to work on the voice sensitivity and responsiveness of the earbuds’ mic in order to take on this new age of virtual calls and meetings.

The Nokia E3100 retails for PhP 1,999 (US$ 41)

Buy here

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Hands-On

OPPO A74 Hands-On: The 7 things I love about you

A budget smartphone that doesn’t feel like one

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The OPPO A74 was announced not too long ago. While the OPPO A94 is just around the corner, the A74 comes with a lesser price tag — but that doesn’t mean they scrapped a lot of features.

Frankly speaking, I’ve enjoyed using it for about a week now. For the record, this is actually my first time trying an OPPO phone. I’d say, it’s not a total slouch because (in Miley Cyrus’ voice), “there are 7 things I love about you”.

1. Premium-like design and feel

First thing’s first, the phone’s back is made entirely out of polycarbonate plastic. While it’s not prone to cracks and shatters, the phone simply scratches too easily — regardless if you safely put it on tables. Fortunate for clumsy users, there’s an included clear case inside the box.

That said, I still like its premium-like look. As I always say, I’m not the biggest fan of flashy, gradient smartphones but this Midnight Blue colorway looks elegant on its own. I’d pick it over the blander-looking Prism Black option (even if black is one of my favorite shades).

On hand, it feels slim and lightweight. I barely felt the heft when holding the phone with my one hand despite that large display. The curves flow well with your hands, too. Most smartphones these days have a slightly uncomfortable feeling due to sharper phone corners.

2. Crisp and vibrant display

As we’re already on the topic, the A74 packs a 6.43-inch AMOLED display — the same display found on the A94.

The display is vibrant enough even under the harsh sunlight. While it only has a Full HD+ resolution, it still looks crisp. The only downside of this one is the lack of faster refresh rate. I know what you’re thinking. Some affordable smartphones offer faster 90 to 144Hz displays. In return, you get a less bright and vibrant IPS-LCD display.

I’m not complaining with the A74’s conventional 60Hz refresh rate. For one, it saves battery power, and two is because I value a more color accurate display than the latter. But hey, take my opinion with a grain of salt as it’s just my preference in smartphone displays.

Another thing that makes it look “premium” is the inclusion of its punch-hole camera. That simply looks better versus a dewdrop notch.

There’s always an in-display fingerprint scanner which might not be the fastest, but it still gets the job done and is more reliable than a Face Unlock especially in this particular time.

3. Great for multimedia consumption

“Love resembles misty dream” – IU (2021)

This is already a given since it has an AMOLED display. But other than that, despite having just mono speakers, it’s surprisingly loud with a full sound that doesn’t sound tinny and distorted.

Watch Law School on Netflix if you want your mind to F(ail or function)

While it doesn’t feature any HDR10 capabilities, it’s still a viewing pleasure when watching YouTube videos (especially K-Pop music videos) and Netflix series and films.

OPPO was also able to put a 3.5mm audio jack in such a slim  form factor. There’s a set of earphones inside the box. This is great for users who already have an existing pair and also don’t want to spend fortune for another wireless earbuds.

4. Less-confusing Android User Interface

Out of the box, it already runs Android 11 with the ColorOS 11.1 skin. Over the years, I got used to Xiaomi’s MIUI and Samsung’s One UI but as I get to use their interface for long, the more it gets confusing.

To my surprise, the ColorOS looks clean and tidy. It’s not bombarded with unwanted UI elements and at the same time, I love the overall look and feel of the icons and the interface. I also commend how organized the settings are that aren’t as cluttered as other Android skins.

5. Optimum performance

On paper, the A74 is packed with a Snapdragon 662 chipset, 6GB of memory, and 128GB of onboard storage with an option to expand with a microSD slot through its Hybrid SIM tray. Opening basic apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more are quick. Even switching between apps is snappy fast as long as you don’t get too hard on it.

While it may not sound like a lot, it still is a smartphone capable of running popular titles such as PUBG, Mobile Legends, Genshin Impact, and Asphalt 9.

It also has this handy Game Focus Mode which basically is a game sidebar tool when playing games that turns off unwanted notifications and boosts performance so you can enjoy the game you’re playing.

When I played Call of Duty: Mobile, I was able to play with no stutters or lags. While the graphics setting isn’t maxed out to high, medium seems fine already especially that you can see game artifacts and farther enemies in this setting anyway.

6. Large battery capacity and fast charging support

To makes this a lot better, it packs a bountiful 5,000mAh battery — which is very surprising for me considering it has a slim and lightweight form factor.

If your phone already ran out of juice, there’s a bundled 33W fast charger out of the box. OPPO is true to its words as it’s capable of filling it up for around 54 minutes — same as advertised. And for everyone’s convenience, it’s equipped with a USB-C port.

7. Decent main camera

The OPPO A74 packs a trio set of cameras: a 48-megapixel f/1.7 wide (main) camera, and two 2-megapixel f/2.4 depth and macro sensors. I would’ve wished for an ultra-wide camera instead but they decided to put one on the A94.

While video recording is limited to just 1080p Full HD, its HDR and AI work wonders when shooting photos indoors.

Samples look better when they’re shot outside in broad daylight. If you’re always into posting your photos in social media, the A74 won’t disappoint.

Zooming in on the subject with 2x zoom is still doable but sometimes, it has a hard time focusing. This is already given because it doesn’t have a dedicated telephoto lens. Nevertheless, images still look great even if it’s an accidental bokeh shot.

Just don’t use the 5x digital zoom as it’s not helpful at all. It’s either grainy or blurred with a too healthy helping of HDR processing.

Wide | 5x zoom

Wide | 5x zoom

For night mode, don’t get your hopes up as it’s barely usable in low-light conditions. At first, I thought it was just the blurry camera lens, but after taking two more night shots at around three seconds in wide (1x) mode, nothing has changed.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re a long-time OPPO user and you just want to upgrade your OPPO experience without sacrificing too much on money, the A74 is simply a great smartphone to get. With a price tag of PhP 11,990, it’s simply isn’t the cheapest budget smartphone you can buy right now.

Get the OPPO A94 if you can shell out an additional PhP 2,000 — only if you want a Mediatek chipset, an additional 2GB of memory, and the inclusion of an ultra-wide camera. But if we’re talking about better features, you can’t go wrong with the A74 simply because it has a competitive Snapdragon chipset, bigger battery with faster charging, and most of all, a cheaper price tag.

If you’re keen on trying another smartphone brand, there’s the Redmi Note 10 that has a cheaper retail price of just PhP 9,990 (6GB/128GB variant) with an upgraded Snapdragon 76 minus the ColorOS experience.

If you don’t care about design and just want a smartphone of the same kind, there’s the POCO M3 with identical hardware, but with an IPS-LCD display, a slightly larger battery capacity minus the fast charging — all for a pocket-friendly price of PhP 7,990.

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