Features

V20 both improves and harms LG’s image

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Earlier today, the world witnessed the unveiling of the LG V20. It’s the successor to the warmly received V10 from last year, and it’s the larger counterpart of this year’s LG G5. There’s a lot going for it, including a top-end processor, handy second screen, and unmatched audio chip. However, the real story is how the V20 is carrying LG’s image for the next few months. Let’s talk about its operating system and physique for a few minutes.

As you may have heard from several reports, the V20 is the first Android to come with Nougat out of the box. This is a bigger deal than most people think, because every time a new Android version got released in the past few years, Google’s Nexus series had first dibs on the latest operating system with its newest phone at the time. Things have changed this year, with the seventh generation of Android coming to older Nexus models through over-the-air updates, and then straight to LG’s current flagship.

LG V20 spread

Giving a third-party manufacturer such priority was unheard of just a few months ago. Reports stemming around Google ditching the Nexus program in exchange for a more streamlined Pixel series of smartphones and tablets probably explains the sudden change of method. By spending more time on the yet-to-be-released successors to the Nexus 6P and 5X, Google might be leaving the software distribution to reliable partners.

For LG to be the lucky winner of the Nougat draw can be seen in two ways. Firstly, it’s not surprising; LG was the maker of last year’s Nexus 5X, plus the Nexus 5 and 4 before that. Google has spent years dealing with several brands to work on its vision of the ideal Nexus, but for LG to be the constant go-to option for the smaller-sized products means a lot. On the other hand, it’s highly unusual for Nougat to be represented so prominently on a smartphone brand that heavily skins its operating system. If you compare the LG V20 and G5 to the lighter versions of Android from Sony and OnePlus, you’ll understand what we’re talking about.

Now, let’s move on to the V20’s construction. A highly controversial omission is the compatibility with add-on components called Friends, which were first made available on the LG G5. The Korean company promised strong commitment to the semi-modular platform when the G5 was originally released, and for the newly unveiled LG flagship to exclude it shows a lack of confidence in the system. Not only is this a blow to LG’s image, but to modular phones in general.

We argued last week that modular devices are the next evolutionary step for touchscreen smartphones. By allowing consumers to fiddle around with their handsets and choose exactly which components they want to keep and upgrade, purchase cycles would become a lot more dynamic, and in turn, lead to far less e-waste.

So far, only Lenovo has shown real dedication to the future of modularity. The manufacturer followed up on its stylish, semi-modular Moto Z and Moto Z Style flagships with the midrange Moto Z Play at IFA 2016. For a non-flagship device to carry on the modular compatibility of its predecessors is a step in the right direction, and proves how committed Lenovo has become towards its customizable platform.

We can only hope that the true successor to the G5 will somehow follow through on LG’s modular legacy next year. Backtracking on features has never ended well for smartphone brands, and only alienated users expecting some level of future-proofing.

LG-V20-press-images (4)

If you look at the V20 as it is, clear of any past history or legacies, there’s no denying it’s shaping up to be LG’s best smartphone ever. It’s a clear upgrade over the predecessor critics loved last year; the V20 just happens to be in an unfortunate spot, wherein the expectations are booming after the critical success of the V10, and the shadow of the G5 still lingers.

Only time and our full review will conclude this story. Watch out for that!

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.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

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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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