This week was one of many firsts. My first trip to India and my first formal introduction to smartphone brand Vivo, whose V3 and V3 Max smartphones marked their global debut here this week.
It’s by no mistake that these phones are unveiled in Mumbai, not New York, or London, or Beijing.
Packed with a pretty impressive feature set, specs to match, not-too-shabby looks, and sub-$300 and $400 price tags, respectively, the V3 and V3 Max are perfectly positioned for the price-sensitive but fiercely demanding Indian market. And for the rest of Southeast Asia where the phones are also slated to go on sale later this month.
The idea of a budget-friendly, premium smartphone isn’t necessarily a novel idea. Other manufacturers have built one before, but in the space, only a few have found success. To be fair, in a world where you get what you pay for, it isn’t easy to deliver a premium experience for less. But if that’s what these phones are intended to do, the Vivo V3 and V3 Max are solid efforts.
IN THIS CORNER
Like many high-end phones this year, both phones are fashioned from aluminum. The V3 Max is phablet-sized, 5.5 inches, and available in gold. Its little brother, the V3, is 5 inches, also available in gold. And because pink is the new black, rose gold also.
Apart from the size difference, everything else is aesthetically similar: white backside antenna bands; sides that are flat and angular; and a scratch-proof Gorilla Glass display that tapers off nicely on all corners. They’re not the best-looking phones we’ve seen this year, but they’re good enough to hold their own against the best of them.
The same can be said of their spec sheet. The V3 and V3 Max don’t come with the most high-end of specs, but you won’t feel like you’ve compromised either. The V3 Max, in particular, has the latest Snapdragon 652 processor and should have enough power to make even serious smartphone gamers happy. In the day I used it around Mumbai, it got the job done, and kept this demanding user satisfied.
Vivo claims its new phones are, “faster than faster.” And while someone should be fired over that silly slogan, the phones are indeed fast.
Camera startup time is under a second (0.7 seconds), and so is autofocus (0.2).
Battery charging times are fast, too. In our tests, it took just 80 minutes to get the V3 Max’s 3000mAh battery from 0 to 90 percent using the bundled charger.
But the most impressive speed stat is clocked by the fingerprint scanner, probably the fastest we’ve seen on a smartphone to date. You tap on the sensor on the back of the phone and the screen instantly lights up in an unlocked state.
Vivo differentiates both phones from each other by making the bigger model better. The V3 Max has a more powerful processor, more memory, a higher-resolution display, and a bigger battery. It’s a shame actually, because the 5-inch rose gold V3 Max is a beauty. But unless you have a distaste for phablets, I’d spend extra for the V3 Max.
Both phones come with only 32GB storage, but if that’s not enough, there’s also a hybrid card slot where you can pop in a microSD card for up to 128GB more storage. That storage slot also doubles as a nano SIM slot, so if you don’t need the extra memory, you can have a dual-SIM phone.
I like that the other SIM slot takes micro SIMs, that way when I’m traveling I have a little more flexibility when choosing a local prepaid SIM card.
Apart from giving the V3 and V3 Max snappy cameras, Vivo’s also made sure both phones have cameras that punch above their weight. I was pleasantly surprised with shots taken using the phone’s 13-megapixel main camera; HDR mode worked great, and if you want a little more control, there’s also full manual mode. Browse through our slideshow for sample photos.
The 8-megapixel selfie camera wasn’t overlooked either. Focal length is wide enough to fit up to 4 people in a shot, but not too wide to cause any distortion. There’s also a host of beautification modes, including a set of makeup filters. Yep! One tap blush and/or gloss.
Both phones run Android 5.1.1 Lollipop out of the box. A bit disappointing considering the latest version of Android called Marshmallow has been available for months now.
Vivo’s custom take on Android is called FunTouch OS, a highly customizable, but toned down version of Android. The interface is clean and elegant, and in may ways closer to iOS. There is no app drawer, and like on the iPhone, you summon the tools menu (on iOS its called Command Center) by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.
One tool of note is called S-Capture, that apart from screen recordings also allows you to capture extra long screenshots of web pages or chat transcripts. A similar feature is also available on the high-end Samsung Galaxy Note 5.
PRICING AND AVAILABILITY
Indian pricing for the Vivo V3 and V3 Max is Rs 17,980 (P12,500 or $270) and Rs 23,980 (P16,700 or $360), respectively.
For the price of the V3 Max, you could get the Xiaomi Mi 5, which offers top-of-the-line specs and superior design. But that phone is only officially available in India and China via limited online channels. Also in that price range is the slightly older One Plus 2, if you can somehow manage to secure the invite needed to be eligible to purchase the phone. Crazy, I know!
When both phones hit retail stores in India and China on April 15th, and Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines Thailand, and Vietnam before the end of the month, Vivo will have a leg up over its competitors because you’ll be able to walk into a store and buy one, when you want one. If only the company adjusted pricing by $100 US, they’d make an even stronger case as one of the best mid-range phones today.
[irp posts=”12138″ name=”How to take the perfect selfie”]
Make moments tangible with Instax Square Link
Time to print those core memories!
Life looks pretty in squares — that’s how Instagram shaped our favorite moments in the past decade.
With every core memory uploaded in our social media feed for the world to see, there’s still something poignant about keeping a hard copy of your favorite moments. It feels nostalgic to be reminded of the good things in your life.
That’s what the Instax Square Link delivers. The newest instant printer comes in square, as compared to its previous siblings in the instax link lineup.
The sweet spot
The previous instant printers come in the usual mini film prints, and a wide, rectangular one. Having a square format provides a sweet spot for instant prints since it’s neither too big nor small.
Even the design of the device itself looks almost square, albeit taller. It sports the usual big button in its center that powers up the device, while there’s a smaller circle on its top-left part for linking the device to your smartphone.
It’s still as straightforward as it gets, whether you’re already familiar with previous instax printers or not. You simply click the big button until it lights up, link it to your smartphone and confirm the serial number found on the bottom side of the device, and do all the magic inside the app — which you can download via App Store or Play Store.
New device, new features
The instax Square Link carries all the good things from the previous instax printers through its dedicated app.
You can still make personalized stickers, continuously print your best moments with just a press of a button, and collage and edit your photos in frames. They’re pretty much the same features you can find on the instax Link WIDE and instax mini Link 2.
However, instax introduced new features that make printing more exciting. Now, instax takes AR to a new level by allowing users to print with personalized AR effects, accessible using a QR code.
It also included a feature where you can chat with a friend or loved one and have the conversation printed as text bubbles to add a more personal touch for those who are in long-distance relationships.
Printing your favorite moments
While the new features are a much-welcome addition, I still stick to what Instax is good about. At its core, it’s still printing your favorite moments and of course, sharing them with the people you love.
Back then, I would print my photos and keep them to myself — inside photobooks and boxes that would never see the light of day unless I’m feeling nostalgic.
Being surrounded by new people encouraged me to be more giving, rather than just being selfish with my memories. And instead of constantly seeking validation and sharing my favorite moments with the world, I now love the idea of being intimate and sharing my core memories with only a handful of people.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
The Instax Square Link is still an instant printer like its siblings. If square formats are your thing, this is easily your GadgetMatch. For wide, rectangular prints, there’s the instax Link WIDE.
And if the original, mini-sized film prints are what you’re after, you can never go wrong with the instax mini Link 2. Whatever formats you want, there’s an instax for you.
The instax Square Link comes in Ash White and Midnight Green. It’s available in all authorized Fujifilm instax dealers nationwide and Fujifilm’s online flagship stores.
90 days with the Galaxy Z Fold4
A three-month affair with Samsung’s high-end foldable
The first time I laid eyes on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4, it felt like seeing a friend whom you know has gone through several character developments.
It’s not a love-at-first-sight scenario unlike what struck me when I saw the Galaxy Z Flip3. Despite having a marvelous time using the Fold’s predecessor, I still couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of having a long-time affair with this foldable smartphone.
So I gave it another try — 90 days, that is. Just like that hilarious reality series brimming with loathsome personalities.
On the first month of having the Galaxy Z Fold4, I treated it like a partner that I’m becoming acquainted with. I thought of it as an ex-lover who got better, trying to win my heart again.
The first thing I did was personalize it to my liking. I ordered a case from China that would make me happy while using the device while keeping it protected from scratches and dents — if it accidentally slips.
Using it bare, you can feel that the device is lighter than its predecessors. True to the company’s claim. It’s like a classic tale of shedding a few pounds and increasing your worth. The Fold is more attractive when it’s lightweight.
Yet somehow, it didn’t feel safe and secure in my grip. It’s slippery, too massive in my tiny hands, and still felt fragile despite proving its immense durability over the years.
A smartphone with an almost US$ 2000 price tag is certainly delicate, no matter how you look at it.
With the phone case I bought, the Fold felt heavier but it gave me assurance that it was protected from anything that might break it.
Arm and eye candy
I’ve brought the Galaxy Z Fold4 to meetings, events, and conferences. Every time I whip it out of my bag, I pique the crowd’s curiosity.
The Fold4 isn’t a shiny new toy anymore. But it bedazzles anyone who sees it for a multitude of reasons. Expensive, a unique form factor, and surely, an innovation to most eyes.
It’s like having a partner that’s both an arm and eye candy. I enjoy the attention I get from the crowd, mesmerizing them as I showcase the Fold’s camera features.
I can take a group selfie like a regular smartphone, or prop it open and use its under-display camera. Furthermore, I used the rear camera to take a selfie, by exhibiting how the secondary screen can act as a mirror when taking photos.
The same trick can be used when taking portraits of friends and acquaintances, so they can strike a pose while giving them a glimpse of how they’d look.
Here are some photos I took using the Galaxy Z Fold4 in different modes:
The Galaxy Z Fold4 has a versatile arsenal of cameras at its disposal, breaking the notion that all features of a flagship smartphone should be used to maximize its worth.
After all, people have different preferences and usage regarding the devices they own. With a unique form factor, the Fold sets itself as an everyday device that can adapt to different situations. At least, that’s what I thought of after having the device for a month.
Days with the Galaxy Z Fold 4 got a little bit stale after the first month, seeing how I got swamped with various projects at work.
The honeymoon phase fizzled already, getting used to having the Fold with me at all times.
I’ve recognized its ability to help me catch up with work while on the go. It lets me check designs, communicate through emails and chats while power walking through fifth and ninth avenue in Bonifacio Global City. With it, I can also monitor my platforms through its big screen.
Occasionally, I use it to play SimCity — a game I play to train my decision-making skills by becoming a mayor of a made-up town. The device offered plenty of screen real estate to give me an overview of the game. However, I couldn’t say the same for other titles.
Some would enjoy having the bigger screen on a portable, versatile device as they play graphics-intensive and action-packed titles. I saw some tech creators do it. Not me, though.
It allows me to have a tighter and firmer grip on my device as I smash my thumbs against the display. The Fold4 required me to spread my fingers apart to support the device when playing games.
Entertainment on the go
While I have qualms regarding playing games on the Fold4, the same cannot be said when watching films and TV shows. With its lightweight form factor, it’s easier to hold with one hand when watching videos on the go.
But if I get exhausted, I can prop it up and fold it halfway so it stands on its own. It’s a much smaller screen real estate, but it’s manageable to watch on, especially when you don’t have any phone stand that can support the Fold4’s size.
Lasts for quite a while
For what it’s worth, I’m elated with how the Fold lasted me throughout the day. It didn’t give up on me on days when I’m stuck running around the Fort, traveling between cities, and being out and about.
Most reviewers picked on the device’s battery and “slow” fast-charging, but seeing how I’m the peak, multi-tasking average user — it’s still enough. It could’ve been better, that’s for sure. Especially for days when I leave in the morning and back home at almost midnight. Halfway, I would need to recharge my device.
But truth be told, nowadays, people bring power banks and carry their cables and adapters in case they find sockets to charge their devices on. Besides, the Fold is barely a device you bring along for long days of work outside — it really just isn’t it.
After spending two months with the Fold4, I found it difficult to keep using the foldable smartphone as my lifestyle changed.
I can only keep up with using it when I’m handling commitments to my work and my sports team. I’ve been using the device as a work notebook in most cases. From tracking down my meetings, hopping on zoom calls at the nearest Starbucks cafe, and catching up with important messages.
As I put more focus on being an athlete, it was challenging to bring the Fold to my training. It doesn’t fit my armband, and it’s heavy for my belt bag and hydration vest. I felt it will impede me from reaching new personal records.
My last race, which was held in Timberland Heights, didn’t give me the opportunity to use the Fold4’s impressive set of cameras.
I had wished it was there with me. To capture my favorite moments of triumph and victory over a grueling race course. But I didn’t since the device wasn’t meant for rugged activities.
As I ended my 90-day stint with the Galaxy Z Fold4, I’ve had epiphanies regarding the device and of course, myself.
It wasn’t meant to be
The Galaxy Z Fold4 wasn’t meant for me and the person I’m becoming, no matter how much I enjoy its features and unique form factor.
It’s like a lesson of learning how to cherish the people we come across. We might be able to delight in the experience of having them with us for a moment in time, but our paths only cross for a short while.
It wasn’t even a “right device, wrong time” situation. It’s simply a case of not being my GadgetMatch. Think of the relationships you’ve had in the past. The connections you’ve outgrown. The people you left behind because you weren’t aligned anymore.
That is my case for the Galaxy Z Fold4. It’s a fleeting affair. A companionship that harmoniously blended into my life for three months. That is until I decided to leave my comfort zone and pursued what really makes my soul jump.
I don’t intend to bring it into the new chapter of my life. But if my path moved once more and we crossed paths, maybe I can take it for another time. Maybe, third time’s the charm. Or maybe, it’s an experience that I will fondly recall in the months to come.
Who knows? The future is uncertain and that’s what makes life exciting. C’est la vie.
One Piece Odyssey Hands-On: Open world, tactical battles
Designed like a true JRPG, felt like it too
It dawned upon us that BANDAI NAMCO is known for having a string of One Piece video games out there. Across multiple systems, the franchise mostly hosted a ton of role-playing games and some fighting games here and there. This time around, the company is looking for some way to merge the two themes into the next generation.
One Piece Odyssey is the fruit of their labor, and is initially designed to be a “fully-fleshed out JPRG” by their standards. Their new, next-gen optimized title brings together all the role playing mixed with turn-based combat. All in an ideally open world setting. Of course, the stars of the show include your favorite characters from the popular anime itself!
We got a chance to try this game out for ourselves at the Thailand Game Show 2022. Here’s what we think about this upcoming JRPG:
The Straw Hat Pirates journey into the unknown
In One Piece Odyssey, you join the Straw Hat Pirates in an adventure to a mysterious island called Waford. Legend has it that it’s a place where no journeyman has ever come back, as a wild storm covers the island and all nearby areas. During the Thailand Game Show preview, we even got a preview of one of the areas you can visit, Alabasta.
No One Piece game is complete without the full force of the Straw Hat Pirates as some of your favorite characters are here. From Monkey D. Luffy to Chopper, everyone has a role to play especially in a more open world setting. Of course, it wouldn’t be an adventure without some back and forth banter within the crew, especially with the members you take with you. I only wished that the banter didn’t take up 60% of the time you spend playing the game.
Much like any open world game, you also get your fair share of main and side quests with the rest of the crew. With these, you get to explore some of the areas in a whole new way and even discover some secrets to help clear the storm. Visually, everything looked detailed enough and designed well against the One Piece art style.
Turn-based combat with some rock-paper-scissors
As a Japanese RPG, there’s no better way to express it than through turn-based, command-focused combat. For One Piece Odyssey, this comes in the form of enemy Encounters throughout both main and side quests that are usually done with groups of enemies. Much like all other JRPGs, each character comes with their own set of attacks designed for either combat or support.
In a rather unique twist, Encounters come with enemies in which you are either strong or weak against. Think of it like playing Pokémon but with One Piece characters and enemies, which I honestly found pretty cool. Instead of going into every battle and just keep attacking, there’s an added layer of strategy added to it. At the end of each Encounter, your crew members earn XP and even level up to gain some strength and attribute boosts.
Also, as an additional combat mechanic, you can even initiate attacks that deal damage within an area-of-effect and can heal other members, given the open world setting. This is honestly good when dealing with hordes of enemies during specific Encounters. Although, this is only available for a specific set of characters, so choose wisely.
Need more plot details
The thing though is, well, the short demo we played during the Thailand Game Show 2022 didn’t really provide much details on the full story. Somehow, the gang found themselves already within the island areas, fighting a storm that clouds the whole area. Also, there are a bunch of new characters you will meet along the way.
As revealed during the TGS 2022 festivities, One Piece Odyssey comes with the arrival of Lim and Adeo, two mysterious characters with their own sets of abilities. Although, it’s quite unclear as to what their intentions are for the Straw Hat Crew. Hopefully, more details will be revealed soon.
Overall, One Piece Odyssey serves up a promising title for JRPG fans and even One Piece fans alike. I honestly enjoyed the short time experiencing this game, from the exploration to the combat mechanics. If anything, I can give the amount of dialogue in between loading and cutscenes a pass despite how much of your time is consumed by it.
You might have to wait a while for the full game as One Piece Odyssey will be available January 2023 for both modern and next-gen consoles plus the PC.
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