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.

Hands-On

Honor 10 Unboxing and Hands-on

Huawei P20 with a cheaper price tag

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Huawei’s sub-brand is making a name for itself with the launch of its flagship phone to the world, the Honor 10.

The phone sports the same features as the pricier Huawei P20: Kirin 970 with neural processing chip enabled, the latest EMUI 8.1 software based on Android 8.1 Oreo, a fingerprint sensor in front, and dual cameras. Two of the biggest differences are the lack of Leica branding and inclusion of a headphone jack — all in a cheaper price tag.

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Features

Vivo unwraps X21 World Cup Edition

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It’s less than a month until the 2018 World Cup in Russia and FIFA’s official smartphone sponsor is pulling out all the stops before kickoff. After announcing the much-awaited launch of the retail model of the Vivo APEX concept phone, Vivo is treating fans to what the company dubs the Extraordinaire Edition of the X21. And as expected, it has World Cup extravaganza written all over it.

Based on the box alone you can already tell that this edition of the X21 is not just any other smartphone from Vivo. Unlike the less appealing white boxes we’ve encountered recently, this one is adorned with the 2018 World Cup pattern and an embossed silhouette of the X21 with the World Cup and Vivo logos front and center. There’s also a hint of the in-display fingerprint sensor, a feature pioneered by Vivo that hasn’t rolled out to any other smartphone but the X21.

The special edition X21 comes in two variants — painted with Russia’s colors, either blue or red. The World Cup pattern is a little bit more pronounced in these glass backs and it’s making me sing “Waka Waka” in my head. Wrong song, I know. 😂

Does it not make you go zamina mina éh éh? As far as specs go, it’s the same X21 that launched earlier this year: 6.28-inch AMOLED display, Snapdragon 660, 3,200 mAh battery, 6GB of memory, and 128GB of internal storage, a pair of 12MP and 5MP main shooters, and a 12MP camera up front for selfies.

Flipping the phone around, you get a Russia 2018 wallpaper and a custom Dusha typeface throughout the entire interface. Notice that the phone has a smaller chin bezel thanks to the futuristic under-display fingerprint sensor.

What’s a special edition smartphone without a custom icon pack? I love how the settings icon in this theme looks like a football! It’s subtle design choices like this that makes special edition phones more premium; it’s well thought out and is not just a gimmick.

Speaking of design choices, boy am I ready to see these squads on the pitch! Vivo is also offering custom shells and I’m definitely copping that Argentina case (the blue one) to match my kit. The designs are based on popular teams’ colors, clockwise from bottom left: Brazil, Argentina, Portugal, and what looks like Egypt but is supposed to be Germany — we’ll save the discussion for why it should have had a gold trim instead of white for another time.

The most important question that needs an answer is, did Vivo just predict the Top 4? We’ll find out soon enough. There are also custom themes based on the four teams so it matches your case and your team spirit. They will be available for download on the Vivo theme store.

The best part: Unlike Samsung’s Olympic edition phones, both variants of the X21 will not be exclusive to athletes and officials only. The X21 Extraordinaire Edition will retail for CNY 3,698 (US$ 579), and the blue variant will be on sale starting May 26, and red on June 1.

SEE ALSO: Vivo to launch all-display phone on June 12

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Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy A6 Hands-on: Repackaging the older series

A combination of the Galaxy J7 Pro and Galaxy A8

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The latest midrange phones of Samsung are finally hitting the stores, but they got us a little confused. Since the introduction of the Galaxy A series, it has always been the family of upper-midrange Samsung phones with a premium design. In 2018 though, Samsung is blending the Galaxy A and Galaxy J’s designs; the result is the new Galaxy A6 phones. There’s a regular and a better plus variant, but let’s check out the former first.

This is the Galaxy A6: A phone with a 5.6-inch Super AMOLED display and an 18.5:9 aspect ratio or Infinity Display, as Samsung calls it. The resolution of the display is underwhelming at just 1480 x 720 pixels or 294ppi, but it’s still pretty sharp. The Infinity Display of the Galaxy A6 doesn’t curve to the sides unlike with the Galaxy S9 flagship, yet the bezels are minimal.

The vibrant Super AMOLED display is a common Samsung trait

We have the usual sight in the front including the 16-megapixel f/1.9 selfie camera paired with its own LED flash, earpiece, and sensors. There’s no branding on the face of the phone so when the display is turned off, it looks sleek and clean on the table.

Too bad it doesn’t have the Always On Display feature, even though it has an AMOLED screen.

It’s an Infinity Display but not edge-to-edge

Having the loudspeaker at the side has now been a staple among Samsung midrange phones. It’s a much better placement than on the bottom since you don’t cover or muffle it when viewing in landscape orientation. This is ideal for watching videos or playing mobile games.

Both the loudspeaker and power button are on the right side of the phone

The volume buttons are on the right

Those who dislike making a choice between a microSD card or secondary SIM card will be glad to see the triple card slots of the Galaxy A6. There are two card trays inside the phone: one for the main nano-SIM card and another for the second nano-SIM and the microSD card.

You have to take out two trays to get all your cards inside

The body of the phone is mainly made up of aluminum with U-shaped antennas similar to the Galaxy J7 Pro’s frame. To be honest, the Galaxy A6 can easily be mistaken for the Galaxy J7 Pro if not for the rear camera. Speaking of, the Galaxy A6 has a 16-megapixel f/1.7 rear sensor inside an area shared with the fingerprint sensor. Thankfully, it’s identical to the Galaxy A8’s and Galaxy S9’s placement.

There should be fewer smudges on the camera lens

Going further into the internals of the Galaxy A6, it’s powered by an Exynos 7870 processor — the same silicon the popular Galaxy J7 Prime had back in 2016. The processor is getting old, so we’re hoping Samsung will use a newer one in their next release.

Good thing the bigger Galaxy A6+ has the latest Snapdragon 450, or else it’ll be just an under-powered midrange phone.

The variant we have here has 3GB of memory and 32GB of storage, but there’s also a 4GB/64GB combo available in select markets.

The Samsung Galaxy A6 with the 3GB/32GB configuration retails for PhP 16,490 in the Philippines while in India, it goes from INR 21,990 up to INR 22,990 depending on the variant.

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