Remember when every other smartphone had a notch and Vivo showed us a concept without one? That was exactly a year ago.
That device, the APEX 2018, did not become available in the market, but the all-display concept — with a pop-up camera and under-display fingerprint scanner — has since rolled out to Vivo smartphones you can buy today.
This year, they came up with a new concept phone — one without any buttons or holes. The APEX 2019 won’t be available for purchase as well, but as is the case with Vivo, we can expect some of these experimental features to trickle down to actual smartphones in the near future — first in the NEX line, and then to the V series.
The premise of Vivo’s concept phone this year is simple but also controversial: a singular piece of glass you can interact with; one without any buttons or ports.
They believe that the display should be the exclusive focal point of human interaction, eliminating other design obstructions by reimagining them using other technology.
Vivo calls this approach Super Unibody — a phone carved out of a single piece of glass.
Unlike any other smartphone, there is no metal frame to hold it together on the sides. There are no physical buttons either. Of course one could argue the display is a separate piece of glass altogether.
To further drive home the simplicity concept, there also aren’t any speaker grilles, USB-C port, headphone jack, SIM card tray, or a selfie camera.
Even the back cameras are flushed against the body. If you must take a selfie, the back is reflective enough to be used as a mirror.
We were shown this concept phone in three colors: Meteor Gray, Quartz White, and Titan Silver. The white one especially is a looker and is smudge-proof.
While the phone isn’t going on sale, the next-generation Vivo NEX will probably come in these three colors as well.
To say that it’s beautiful would be an understatement. It’s a pleasure to look at and hold.
The challenge for up and coming brands like Vivo to make their mark in this very saturated and fiercely competitive smartphone market is sometimes undervalued. We appreciate how they are doing their part to innovate, as well as paint a picture of what smartphones of the future could look like.
How will the phone work without buttons or ports?
Vivo believes good design respects user habits. So while they took away all the physical buttons, it doesn’t mean the functions aren’t there anymore.
Vivo moved a lot of said functions to the part you interact with the most: the screen.
Combining pressure-sensing technology and capacitive touch, Vivo was able to reimagine the power and volume buttons here on the side.
You can’t really press them anymore, but there is haptic feedback so it would still resemble the feeling of touching actual buttons.
Oh, and the speakers? Vivo is trying screen sound casting technology once again. When we tried it on last year’s APEX we found that it wasn’t really loud enough to replace real speakers.
This year, Vivo says the choice of materials and shape of the glass at the back of the APEX 2019 make all the difference. They weren’t kidding. The sound coming out of the display is actually loud and clear.
Full-display fingerprint scanning
It’s only been a year, but we can’t forget it was actually Vivo and its partner Synaptics that put under-display fingerprint scanners for smartphones on the map.
It’s still not as good nor as fast as physical fingerprint readers, but since most of its competitors have caught up, Vivo hopes to elevate the tech even further by making the entire display a fingerprint reader.
It employs what Vivo calls fingerprint light. As the name suggests, pixels light up as an additional light source to help scan your fingerprint. We tried it and it works as advertised.
How does one charge or transfer files without a single port?
While it’s technically not a port, Vivo put inductive charging pins called Magport on the back of the phone as a charging and data transfer solution.
The Magport-to-USB cable magnetically latches on and the phone starts charging immediately. It should work the same way when transfering files.
One thing we would have wanted to finally see Vivo implement, and it would have made a lot of sense for this concept device, is wireless charging.
A wireless charging solution is an easy thing to do for Vivo, but the company says it’s wireless data transfer that’s still not very reliable right now.
Coming up NEX
The APEX 2019 is also Vivo’s first 5G device powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855. It has 12GB of RAM, 512GB of internal storage, and runs on Android Pie — all of which are specs and features we can expect to see on an upcoming Vivo NEX smartphone.
Oh, and one last thing, because there’s no SIM card tray on the APEX, we’ll likely see a combination of a regular SIM card and eSIM once this concept trickles down to a retail product.
Are you excited about Vivo’s vision of the future? If you could imagine the smartphone of the future, how would it look and what would it do?
GameSir X2 Pro-Xbox: Unboxing and Hands-On
Cloud and mobile gaming companion
There’s this idea that the best camera is the one you have with you. Perhaps, the same can be said for gaming. With smartphones and mobile gaming advancing rapidly in the last five years, that’s never been more true than today.
While touch controls are the norm in this space, there’s still something about physical buttons that make gaming feel more tangible. That’s where GameSir comes in. And they’re taking things further by partnering with Xbox to give us the GameSir X2 Pro-Xbox edition of their controller.
Here’s what the box looks like.
Inside the box is what every GameSir package has — a carrying case to protect this precious gadget.
Open the case and you’ll be greeted by this packet and the device itself.
Inside you’ll find the user manual, replacement grips for the thumbsticks, and a GameSir sticker.
There’s also an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription code valid for one month.
This is one of the main draws of this gadget as it works seamlessly with Xbox Game Pass. All games in the service with controller support will work immediately with the GameSir X2 Pro-Xbox.
You also get a USB to USB-C cable.
And here’s the GameSir X2 Pro Xbox in black.
It’s also available in white but we opted for black to match the color of the Xbox Series X. The official colorway names are Midnight Black and Moonlight White.
The device expands once you slot in a phone. It supports most Android phones if they are 110-179mm long. The largest phone we’ve used this with is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. We also regularly used it with the HONOR Magic4 Pro and the OnePlus 10T.
Here’s a closer look at the right-hand side.
The face buttons matches that of the Xbox controller both in layout and in colors. The Xbox logo there is actually a button. It functions as a ‘Home’ button. Initially, we thought it would launch the Game Pass app, but that’s not the case.
The ABXY buttons are also customizable. You can use it as is or change is to the Switch layout. You just need to select the correct layout on the GameSir App to make sure the configuration is correct.
The USB-C connector is still flexible.
Not shown in the photo above, but the USB-C connector is flexible enough to bend a little bit to make connecting your smartphone easier.
The left hand side has the thumbstick, D-Pad, and a couple more buttons.
You also have the usual shoulder and trigger buttons.
And they’re about just as satisfying as any shoulder and trigger buttons we’ve used. There’s enough depth and feel here to satisfy most people’s controller needs.
Mappable buttons at the back.
Lastly, you get two mappable buttons at the back. One on each side of the controller.
The GameSir app is better than ever. The companion app immediately detects the your GameSir gadget once you’re connected to your phone. Upon firing it up, you’ll also be shown a list of the games you have installed. There’s even a shortcut to the Game Pass app from there.
It’s advisable to install the app right away as soon as you get whatever GameSir gadget you have. While the GameSir X2 Pro-Xbox will work immediately on Game Pass games and mobile games with controller support, you’ll need the app to map controls for popular games like Genshin Impact and Call of Duty: Mobile.
Game Pass gaming
But let’s just straight to what this whole thing is for — playing with games on Game Pass. There isn’t much to say except it really does feel like you’re playing AAA games while on the go.
With the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, you get access to a wide library of games ranging from AAA to indie ones. As long as they’re on Game Pass, you’ll be able to play them as you please.
Naturally, this comes with a caveat. Game Pass Ultimate isn’t exactly available in all territories. For markets without Game Pass Ultimate support, your next best option is to use a VPN. If you’re not sure which one to use, we recommend ExpressVPN.
Once you’re all setup, it’s just a matter of picking the games you like and playing to your heart’s content. If you’re used to actual console controllers like the ones that come with the Xbox Series X|S or the PlayStation 5/4, you’ll definitely need a little bit of adjustment.
It shouldn’t take longer than a couple of hours though. Any gamer who’s used any controller should be able to adapt to its size rather quickly thanks to its general layout.
Just because it has the Xbox branding doesn’t mean it only works with Game Pass. This is still very much a GameSir controller. And like most other GameSir controllers, it will work with other cloud gaming services.
We connected this with Steam Link and had no troubles whatsoever. We also fired up the PS Remote Play app although that’s a little trickier since it requires mapping.
We also played our fair share of mobile games using the GameSir X2 Pro-Xbox. We especially spent a significant time playing Tower of Fantasy which surprisingly had controller support. Although, you’re gonna have to feel your way through this to start because the buttons aren’t labeled.
Should you buy the GameSir X2 Pro-Xbox?
We skipped on doing an entirely full review because we already did that for this device. Just go check our GameSir X2 review for something more thorough. But to answer the question, it really depends on the type of games you play.
As mentioned in our review, it works best on sports and driving games. But as of writing, the mobile gaming as a whole is rapidly maturing. So much so that we’re seeing open world, action-RPG type games have more support for controllers. You also have remastered classics like Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX, available to play and with controller support too.
Like mobile gaming, cloud gaming is also starting to gain ground especially in territories with fast internet connection. This opens up your smartphone into a whole new world of gaming that wasn’t exactly easy to recommend three or so years ago. But as of right now, the GameSir X2 Pro-Xbox is a nice add-on device for any gamer.
It also doesn’t hurt that for its price (US$ 79.99), you get quite a few additions in the box not present in its pricier competitors. The carrying case and the Game Pass subscription are nice value-add items that GameSir offers.
You can BUY the GameSir X2 Pro-Xbox here, When you checkout, use the coupon code GadgetMatchX2P for an 8% discount. The code is valid until October 31, 2022.
The art of sharing your favorite moments
With the instax mini Link 2
We all want to freeze certain moments and live in it forever. Recollecting the echoes of shrieks, giggles, and peals of laughter that we want to relish perpetually.
That’s probably why I’m in love with photographs, even when I live in the age of video and moving pictures. It’s still enchanting. A slice of time captured, preserved. Holding stories that you can recall instantly, without having to finish watching from beginning to end.
Don’t just take, give
Throughout the years, Fujifilm has consistently delivered instant cameras and instant film printers with its instax line. I usually bring my instax Mini 9 to important occasions where I have the liberty to choose a moment for us to remember. But on the occasion that I don’t, I always have my smartphone to capture memories.
In 2019, Fujifilm unveiled the mini Link which prints your favorite photos from your phone. This year, the mini Link had a successor called the mini Link 2 — which I had for quite a while now. It’s still a smartphone printer, but there’s so much more.
I brought the mini Link 2 to my recent travels such as my birthday weekend in Calatagan and my trip to Bangkok. In between, I finally learned what it’s like to share my favorite moments.
The mini Link 2 looks fairly like its predecessor with only scanty changes. It still has that stripe pattern on its exterior, but instax’s logo — which serves as the power button — looks bigger and rounder.
The charging port is still inconspicuous, and the design of the film door hasn’t changed. FYI: If you’re new to instax cameras, once you insert your film pack, don’t open the film door again lest you waste your remaining films.
On another note, the most notable differences are the appearance of a button on the side of the printer’s mouth, and an LED panel for augmented reality (AR) function.
Other than that, the unit I have this year comes in Space Blue. I was gunning for the Clay White since I had the Ash White in 2019, but the navy colorway matches most of my accessories so I’m settling with it.
There’s fun in printing
The mini Link 2, like its predecessor, is reasonably easy to use. One press on its big power button, and the printer will turn on. It also connects seamlessly with my iPhone 13 and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4, so there’s no such thing as Android vs iPhone here.
To connect, you must link your smartphone and the printer via the dedicated app, which you can download on the App Store and Play Store. (That’s why it’s called instax mini Link.)
The interface is easy to understand. From the get-go, you have an overview of the device connection, how many films are left, and how much is the current battery capacity of the mini Link 2.
Through the app, you can find two modes: Print Mode and Fun Mode. You can switch modes by clicking your desired mode, or adjusting the position of the printer. If it’s standing up, it will go to fun mode. If it’s lying down, it will go to print mode.
Via Print Mode, you can do a “Simple Print” where you pick a photo from your gallery, and print it using the mini Link 2. This is the easiest way to share your memories.
Of course, there are candid moments that we want to freeze but are instead captured by video. Fret not, the app has “Video Print” where you can select the video you want and choose the frame you’d love to print.
For those who are always ready to take unplanned captures, the instax Camera feature allows you to use your device’s camera to take a photo right away, so you can print it immediately. Personally, this is the feature I used the least. I mean, why should I?
The second iteration of the instax mini Link puts more focus on Fun Mode. Now, it has “Frame Print” that lets you select various frames you can work with for your photos. Think: your aunties and uncles with their framed profile photos on Facebook.
For those who want to fit so much with the little space an instax film has, there’s a “Collage Print“. You can have fun splitting images, if you’re up for it. Not me, though. It’s a waste of film.
“Match Test“, which was previously a feature to see your compatibility with someone through your photo, has just got an upgrade. It still has the same “Match Test” and “Quick Diagnosis” from before, but with an extra addition called “Go With Your Instinct“.
The feature uses a different quiz that determines if you’re compatible with your friend. The effect will show a gradient frame which can indicate if you’re compatible or not.
Make more personalized prints!
Now, the mini Link 2 offers two features that basically let you draw.
Let’s start with “Sketch, Edit, and Print“. First, you draw your design on paper, scan it with your phone, and it will extract the sketch or text — whatever you put on the paper.
You can adjust the color and size, and you can apply it anywhere in the photo. You can take a new photo so it matches your sketch, or you can find a photo that already works. Then, you print it!
Draw in the air
What’s really new is the instaxAIR option, which basically lets you print around in the air which you can put onto your image. You can use your finger to draw directly on your smartphone, or you can use the instax’s LED light to draw in the air.
There are paintbrushes for you to consider, so select wisely. Personally, I love using Neon as compared to Spray paint.
You can also take a video of your drawing, which can be accessed through a QR code. When you print it and someone scans the QR code, they can have a playback of the video recording on their smartphone.
On learning how to share
As I have mentioned, I was having back-to-back trips to Calatagan and Bangkok during my birthday month. What I’ve learned in my trips is how memories are worth reminiscing if it’s shared.
With the instax mini Link 2, I can re-print all the photos I just printed so my loved ones can have a copy, too. I can simply rotate the device and press the big button, or I can go back to the print history to check which photos are worth re-printing.
In a way, the film prints became a souvenir. It’s perfect for making your favorite moments tangible. Something you want to hold onto in the years to come. After all, photographs have a knack for making us feel differently.
A single snap; a frozen still and slice in time. Who knows what stories and emotions can be unearthed with just a single photograph?
I think that’s the beauty of these film prints. Memories may be fleeting. Life may be ephemeral. But these photographs can preserve a memory that will be with us throughout the years. It’s magical.
Is the instax mini Link 2 your GadgetMatch?
There are plenty of use cases for the instax mini Link 2. But for those who are sentimental and want to turn their memories into something tangible, the instax mini Link 2 can easily be a GadgetMatch.
It’s ideal for every occasion you want to cherish. With a compact design and easy-to-use functionalities, it’s no doubt it can be your travel companion, too.
The instax mini Link 2 is available in three colorways: Soft Pink, Clay White, and Space Blue. It retails for PhP 7,299, and will be available for purchase in authorized Fujifilm instax dealers nationwide, as well as official online flagship stores in Lazada and Shopee.
Saints Row 2022 Hands-On: Back and better than ever?
Slowly returning to form after a long absence from the scene
Saints Row, as a video game franchise, was a hit for a lot of people during its peak. Volition Studios sought to create an action-packed open world experience, fully customizable and accessible to everyone. However, it put itself in that situation of just being a clone of another franchise with a similar premise — Grand Theft Auto. In order to be unique, everything about the games became over-the-top, especially the storylines and, later on, gameplay mechanics.
Unfortunately, this “over-the-top” approach didn’t sit well in the game’s last mainline release, Saints Row IV. In a rather bizarre twist, that game went a bit too crazy with the gameplay mechanics that an entire plot of taking over cities from rival gangs played second fiddle. No wonder this franchise hasn’t seen another game since Saints Row IV’s release in 2015.
Now, the franchise is back, totally rebooting the entire series in its return with Saints Row (2022). I don’t know why they decided to keep the name as is and not add anything to differentiate it, but maybe the idea was that it would sell itself. This time, the developers returned to their roots and are veering away from any wacky antics, supposedly.
Action-packed right out of the gate
After getting through a short opening sequence, Saints Row throws you into the meniacal and action-packed gameplay. Basically, you play as a character simply referred to as “The Boss,” working as an average member of society under Marshall Defense Industries. During this segment, you will get a grasp of some of the basic gameplay mechanics such as movement and combat — pretty standard stuff.
Shortly after that mission, you’re off to explore the land of Santo Ileso in the southwest regions of America. Of course, you don’t get full access to everything the overworld has to offer since it is your first day. However, at the very least, you’ll also get a good feel of the game’s improved driving mechanics. Honestly, they feel a bit closer to real-life driving, except for this one mechanic that lets you immediately go 90 degrees at each turn.
For the most part, everything feels nice to control and no wacky gimmicks get in the way. I honestly enjoyed clicking heads in the earlier parts of the game as part of Marshall without relying on aim assist too much. Plus, nothing seems too over-the-top when it comes to combat and driving mechanics; gameplay flows smoothly this time around and it takes a fair amount of time to get used to everything. Although, I think the game’s target locking system needs a bit of work, especially when you’re on a controller.
Brimming with customization
The thing that made Saints Row stand out against that other game is the plethora of customization options you have at your disposal. The 2022 reboot clearly did not lack in such, and actually gave you more options this time around. From the very beginning, you get to design your character however you want. From the clothes to the body features, the games offers a wide variety of options to help you get creative.
Now, the customization doesn’t stop there as you will also have access to custom designs for your vehicles and weapons, as well. Think of it like you’re giving your own personal spin on the things you will most likely use throughout the game. From increased power to unique perks, these massively support the kind of explosive action this franchise brings. I’ll definitely explore all the other upgrades you can mess around with later on in the story.
A story from the ground up this time
Unlike every other Saints Row game, before the 2022 reboot goes for the “started from the bottom” approach with its storyline. Previous games had already placed you under the wing or radar of the 3rd Street Saints, an already established yet smaller gang in the grand perspective of gang warfare. This time around, you and three of your in-game friends will build a new gang to takeover Santo Ileso — you know, the whole “make a name for yourself” type of thing.
I quite like this approach to the story, especially for a franchise rebooting a game that needed some changes. Honestly, this whole idea of starting your own gang adds a bit more depth to everything you’ll set out to do within the game. Also, as with every Saints Row game, the developers are not afraid to make it a bit more personal. I’m not going to spoil too much of what happens to your character during the story, but let’s just say you’ll find your purpose later on.
Of course, with this kind of storytelling, I do have this expectation of it leading to something fruitful in the end. Early in the game, it shows you a glimpse of what life as “The Boss” would shape up to be, with the Saints as the top dog. However, getting to that point will be all on you, and I’d like to see how the game complements your journey.
Should you give it a chance?
The Saints Row 2022 reboot is a promising return for a franchise absolving itself of its wackier past. From the first couple of hours that I played, it gives me hope that the franchise had learned from its mistakes while maintaining its identity. Sure, you still have slightly improved gameplay and movement and all. This time around, the callback to a more refined, serious yet fun storyline interests me.
If you’re a fan of the earlier games in the franchise, this feels like a must try for the nostalgia in the gameplay. For anybody who swore off this franchise after Saints Row IV, this game could honestly bring you back if you give it a chance. So far, I’m enjoying the reboot and I’m genuinely optimistic about how this game will play out.
I’m just hoping there won’t be any surprise crazy gimmicks that I have to deal with.
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