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.
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.
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.
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Nissan pushes through with electrification of Asia and Oceania
One step at a time
It’s that time of the year again when Nissan gathers thought leaders, government officials, and media representatives from around the region to discuss how to improve and reshape the way people use transportation.
With the theme “Transform the way we drive and live,” this year’s Nissan Futures offers updated statistics and tackles the company’s plans and strategies to fully electrify Asia and Oceania.
Through a report, Nissan kicked off the event by showing us our current situation and where this could lead. They said that in about 30 years, the human population will hit 9.9 billion and two out of three people will be living in cities. This translates to more carbon footprint for each city and heavier air pollution for everyone if we simply continue going down this path.
“Asia Pacific is home to more than 2.1 billion urban residents, that is 60 percent of the world’s urban population. This brings increased pressure on the region’s cities and mobility systems. Events like Nissan Futures create the appropriate platform to discuss solutions for our region’s societies and mobility systems,” said Yutaka Sanada, Regional Senior Vice President for Asia and Oceania. “Driven by our Nissan Intelligent Mobility vision, we are committed to bringing safe, smart, and sustainable mobility to more people.”
We already talked about the benefits of electric vehicles (as well as myths that surround them) and how they will significantly reduce tailpipe emissions on the streets and eventually reduce air pollution. With that in mind, Nissan envisions a city with a more sustainable environment by jumping on the electric bandwagon. And right now, their Leaf electric vehicle is what embodies their plans for the future.
“The Leaf remains the icon of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, our strategy for moving more people to a better world,” said Daniele Schillaci, Nissan’s Global Head of Marketing, Sales, and Electric Vehicles.
Just earlier this month, the Leaf cemented itself as the most successful EV to date — surpassing the 400,000 sales mark. Although, we weren’t that surprised since we got to drive and experience the Leaf for the second time. I’d say the drive was more exciting this year since we drove it around the open streets of Hong Kong and witnessed how it fared in terms of its safety features, handling, power, and battery consumption.
We made a short video of the drive:
Yes, we’re still far away from cities being fully electric, but Nissan is relentlessly pushing through. It has already put its foot in and is paving the way for electrification that will soon extend beyond the confines of a vehicle.
Vivo V15 Pro hands-on: A mini NEX?
Did Vivo overdo it?
Remember the Vivo NEX? It blew us away last year with features that were once unheard of in smartphones. Fast forward to 2019, and we’re gradually seeing its tech trickle down to midrange phones.
The V15 Pro we have here is a perfect example of that. Not only does it inherit the pop-up camera of its older flagship sibling, it retains the large AMOLED display and under-display fingerprint scanner.
To sustain Vivo’s midrange pricing for the V-series, the V15 Pro comes with a slower Snapdragon 675 chipset (compared to the NEX’s high-end Snapdragon 845) and mostly plastic body.
However, Vivo added a few things, like an ultra-wide 8-megapixel camera on the rear and massive 32-megapixel sensor for the motorized selfie shooter.
So, how again is this midrange? That’s a good question. It certainly dips its virtual fingers into the upper-midrange segment, which we touch on in our unboxing and review video:
Since publishing this video, a few developments have happened. For one, a more affordable non-Pro V15 launched. In addition, Vivo’s closest rival, OPPO, released the F11 Pro with a similar design and feature set.
Truly, we have more questions than answers now, beginning with…
Does it have the most refined UD scanner and pop-up camera?
Well, yes and no. Despite Vivo having the most experience with both features, the V15 Pro doesn’t have the fastest under-display fingerprint in the business. Having used the Galaxy S10+ and OnePlus 6T recently, Vivo’s implementation feels a bit slow in comparison. Not to say it’s bad, but I’d rather use the front camera for logging in.
Like the OPPO Find X I used before, the V15 Pro’s pop-up-to-log-in time in unreal. The moment you wake the phone up, the camera will take one quick look at you and unlock the device. It’s so discreet and seamless that you eventually forget there’s any moving part. The same applies to selfies and video calls; once the app activates the mechanism, it’s like there’s nothing there.
Does its plastic body feel too cheap for the price?
For a smartphone that costs this much, you’d expect more glass than plastic here. For the V15 Pro, that’s not the case. Not that I’m against the use of plastic for the rear — in fact, it keeps the unit lighter for its big size — but I imagine the gorgeous color options looking better with the shimmer provided by glass.
Fortunately, the bundled case the V15 Pro comes with is one of the best I’ve seen in a retail box. The sides have extra resistance to them against bumps and drops, while the rest of the clear plastic doesn’t hide the radiant blue coating. This is one of the few instances wherein I wouldn’t replace the included case.
Can it handle games like a champ?
The phone’s Snapdragon 675 isn’t known to be a gaming-centric chip, but games these days aren’t demanding enough to require anything beyond a 600-series processor to enjoy smooth graphics. I’ve tried PUBG, Ragnarok M, and Asphalt 9 on the V15 Pro without a hitch. It helps that the unit I used has 6GB of memory and 128GB of storage, which are plenty by today’s standards.
It does get warm, however. Playing for 30 minutes straight made the phone warm near the camera area, but to be fair, this was while the bundled case was on and without cool air blowing by. I would definitely avoid charging with a powerbank while gaming.
How well do the cameras perform?
My teammates and I have always appreciated how Vivo could punch above its weight when it comes to camera performance. Even though Vivo rarely comes to mind when talking about mobile photography, its phones have a knack for producing impressive photos.
It helps that there’s an ultra-wide 8-megapixel camera to complement the 48-megapixel (woah!) main shooter and 5-megapixel depth sensor. As seen above, that extra coverage helps greatly with landscape shots. It noticeably lowers the image quality though, and I still prefer the downscaled 12MP output from the 48MP camera.
In general, both the rear and front cameras create straight-to-Instagram pictures in not-too-difficult lighting conditions. When it doubt, there’s a built-in night mode to improve exposure at night. The only complaint I’ve heard from those who’ve seen my V15 Pro photos is that the subject’s skin is too smooth even on the lowest setting, but that’s a Vivo thing that isn’t going away any time soon.
Can it last longer than a day?
A 3700mAh battery isn’t that hefty for a phone this size, providing a little less than six hours of screen-on time in a span of 1.5 days. Nothing fantastic, but when topped up with the included 18W fast charger, it takes only about two hours and 20 minutes to get to a hundred percent.
One way to conserve battery power is to turn the always-on info off while the phone’s on standby. I’m a fan of seeing the time and battery percentage at all times, so gaining an additional 20 minutes of screen-on time doesn’t justify the inconvenience for me.
What else is there to know?
Surprisingly, and I don’t understand why this is still happening, Vivo equipped the V15 Pro with a micro-USB port. Sure, the 3.5mm audio port is still there, but I’ve moved on to the far superior USB-C for every single one of my gadgets already. This is simply inconsiderate to consumers at this point.
I also find Vivo’s Funtouch OS (based on Android 9 Pie) becoming more cumbersome to use through time. It’s not getting worse in itself, but having come from the comforts of OnePlus’ OxygenOS and Samsung’s One UI, the confusing setting menus and gesture control feel like a step back.
With all this in mind, it’s important to remember that the V15 Pro is the most expensive V-series phone to date, retailing for INR 28,990 or roughly US$ 410 in India. That’s upper-midrange territory by most standards, edging closer to the likes of Xiaomi’s flagship Mi series and Honor’s assortment of high-performance handsets.
My recommendation is to consider the regular V15 before committing to the Pro variant. It offers the same pop-up camera goodness and an increased screen and battery size, but gives up a few features (the under-display sensor, AMOLED display, and Snapdragon 675 chip, to be specific) to lower the price to about US$ 345.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S10+ Comparison
Two of the best Android phones go head to head
We’ve always believed that there’s no single perfect smartphone. What’s perfect for one may not suit another’s lifestyle. That is why we set out to compare two of the best that the Android world has to offer: the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S10+.
In this comparison, we’re breaking it down into seven categories — that way you get choose which phone is best for you based on your needs.
Of course, the Huawei P30 Pro is expected to launch in the next few days and we’ll be working on comparing that versus the S10+ as well.
This feature was produced in collaboration between GadgetMatch and Huawei Singapore.
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