Features

Why Apple needs a smaller, cheaper iPhone SE

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Hours from now, Apple will very likely take the wraps off a new iPhone, a smaller iPhone that’s more affordable and more suited for those who think one-handed usage should be an option regardless of the task.

The iPhone SE, or whatever Apple decides to call it, is all but certain to replace the iPhone 5s as the cheapest iPhone available, though it begs the question: Does Apple really need this iPhone to grow its business? The short answer is yes. However, a far more important question is why Apple is releasing a watered-down version of a great phone.

We think there are three explanations for Apple’s second attempt at a mid-tier handset (rest in peace, iPhone 5c).

Two iPhone announcements in a year

The first is the most obvious: Coming out with another iPhone line allows Apple to rain on Samsung’s Galaxy S parade in February or March, while at the same time undercutting its chief competition with a cheaper but not necessarily more capable product, although it can be a springboard to introduce new features and design changes. In a way, it can be a preview of things to expect in September’s iPhone.

Apple can even bump up future announcement dates for its smaller and cheaper iPhone to hijack the hype of Android devices announced at the annual International CES [Consumer Electronics Show] and Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress.

It’s a win for Apple, but that’s assuming the handset is a big hit. Which is assuming quite a lot given Apple’s recent failure in the midrange. And by “failure,” we mean the iPhone 5c didn’t take off as expected, with 9to5 Mac reporting last year that the iPhone 5c accounted for only 8.5 percent of active iPhones at the time.

iPhone for emerging markets

Apple’s smartphone shipments are expected to fall short of projections for the first time since 2003, despite its retail efforts in China. Add to that the slowing smartphone adoption rates in countries where Apple is considered a top contender, and it’s not surprising to see the company setting its sights to India and other emerging economies. India, after all, has leapfrogged the U.S. into second place in terms of smartphone shipments last year.

But here’s the thing: Low-priced Android phones dominate low-income markets, and, price-wise, current iPhone models, with the exception of the iPhone 5s, aren’t competitive enough. But that may soon change with the arrival of the iPhone SE, even though we don’t expect it to be cheap.

A reasonable estimate would be around $US400 (Php19,000), which is still cheaper than paying full price for an off-contract iPhone 6s (starts at $US650). And let’s not forget that carrier subsidies could write off the upfront cost of the cheaper iPhone, putting it in the hands of more consumers.

A “new” iPhone 5s

Perhaps we don’t need to tell you this, but it’s time to retire the iPhone 5s. It has been on shelves for years now, which is too long in the fast-paced mobile industry; the hardware is already showing its age, as any iPhone 5s user on iOS 9.2.1 will tell you. Next to a 2016 Android phone in the midrange, the iPhone 5s right now is about as appealing as a pair of Crocs, or a minivan.

Most of the leaks surrounding the upcoming iPhone suggest a 4-inch phone that’s just as capable as the 4.7-inch iPhone 6s, and they’re probably not far off, if only because Apple can’t use the same components it used to build the iPhone 5s for reasons stated above.

If Apple wants the iPhone SE to succeed in the long term, it’s going to have to pack enough oomph to run the current iOS version, the next and the one after that without performance issues. We don’t see that happening with anything less than what the iPhone 6s offers.

Image credit: Nick Beeep

Automotive

Explainer: 4 electric car myths, debunked

What you should know about the car of the future

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Did you know that the first electric vehicle was invented by Scottish inventor Robert Anderson in 1832? Back then, electricity-powered cars were nothing but curiosities and novelties. Now, electric vehicles are readying themselves to take over the car industry in just a few decades.

As with all revolutionary technology, reception for electric cars is lukewarm at best. Most consumers are still wary with converting to full electric, citing an unstable and uncertain future for the industry.

With the car and fuel industry hanging in the balance, gas car companies have a lot to gain by downplaying the benefits of electric vehicles. Due to the lack of information available, unproven myths inevitably pop up. Myths, as always, need to be debunked especially when electric cars overtake gas car production.

Myth 1: Electric cars are more expensive than gas cars

The cost of an electric vehicle is the most hotly contested aspect of EVs. Admittedly, the world’s most famous electric car, the Tesla Model S, still falls under the luxury car category. The battery-powered car still hovers around the US$ 100,000 range.

Budget-friendlier alternatives are out now, but their price ranges are still a bit more than a conventional car. The Chevrolet Bolt and the Nissan Leaf both cost around US$ 40,000, for example.

Illustrations by Yanni Panesa

 

Additionally, installing a home charging station compounds that price by about US$ 600.

It’s no surprise that most consumers are turned off by the exorbitant costs of EVs. However, the one-time price tag fails to show how much cheaper it is in the long run.

Right now, the cost of one kilowatt-hour (the standard for EVs) is below the cost of one liter of gasoline. Roughly estimating, one kWh costs 20 cents, while one liter of gas costs US$ 1, according to today’s standards.

The Nissan Leaf carries a 40kWh battery. Charging it to full will cost 40kWh x US$ 0.20 = US$ 8. Meanwhile, a 40L gas car will cost 40L x US$ 1 = US$ 40. Added with a much steeper maintenance cost, gasoline vehicles will quickly overtake the cost of EVs in the long run. (Of course, actual costs will still vary on usage, real prices, and road conditions.)

Myth 2: EVs don’t perform as well as gas cars

Don’t be fooled. Even if EVs are remarkably silent on the road, they are hiding powerful engines that are quickly catching up to the standards of speed today.

At their core, gasoline vehicles are inherently faulty. Their emissions aren’t only a hit on air pollution; they also mean that a car wastes a huge portion of their energy through heat, smoke, and other harmful pollutants.

On the other hand, EVs convert up to 62 percent of their stored energy for movement. For comparison, gas cars only use up 21 percent of their energy.

In terms of mileage, EVs can travel up to 193 kilometers on a full charge, adequate for a day’s worth of traveling. However, gas cars still rule the road by hundreds of kilometers more. It’s only a matter of time before EVs catch up, though. The industry-leading Tesla Model S 100D already tops out at 530+ kilometers.

Finally, when it comes to speed, EVs can do well to catch up with you in traffic. For example, both the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Bolt reach speeds of up to 150km/h. While the more widely available EVs can still be woefully left in the dirt on a straightaway, the Tesla Model X blazes through with a top speed of 250km/h.

Amid all of this, EVs do their jobs quietly. If you’re not paying attention, an EV can sneak up on you from behind. Besides air pollution, EVs avoid noise pollution, too.

Myth 3: Maintaining an EV is more trouble than it’s worth

Both an EV and a gas car take you from one place to the other. EVs just do it with far fewer components. Unlike conventional cars, EVs aren’t frequent visitors to the mechanics. Fewer parts mean fewer components to maintain.

That doesn’t mean that everything is breezy, though. Replacing the battery is a nightmare for your budgeting. For example, a Nissan Leaf replacement battery costs US$ 5,499.

Thankfully, batteries are a lot more durable than you would expect. The Nissan Leaf guarantees a battery life of eight years or 100,000 miles (or approximately 161,000 kilometers). Most electric car brands already offer warranties (including replacements) before their batteries expire. Moreover, electric car batteries are completely recyclable. You might even get a trade-in return for your old battery.

Currently, the only hurdle impeding an electric car’s maintenance is the lack of able mechanics who specialize in EVs. On the bright side, by the time that you’ll need a thorough repair on your EV, the employment industry will have evolved to accommodate your needs.

Myth 4: Electric vehicles are the saviors of the environment

There is no doubt that EVs eliminate the carbon emissions that gas cars will always emit. Even from their construction, EVs carry a design trait that puts them beyond gas cars: They don’t have a tailpipe.

Currently, 75 percent of air pollution comes from motor vehicles. With their energy-efficient design, EVs eliminate the pollution caused by carbon emission. Converting to an EV is one of the greenest decisions you can make to save the environment.

However, it has its own fair share of gray areas. Critics often share the myth that EVs only displace the emissions from the tailpipe to a coal plant’s smoke stack.

Which is partly true.

 

On their own, the world’s main methods of producing power are terribly unprepared for a sudden surge in demand. Despite recent developments in renewable energy, coal power is still the world’s leading generator of electricity.

Hypothetically, if everyone in the world adopted EVs right now, coal plants would have to exponentially increase their output, creating more smokestack emissions as a result.

Luckily, the world isn’t ready to go full EV yet. Early predictions still date the takeover to 2040. We still have a lot of time to adjust our energy consumption for more energy-efficient means, like solar, hydro, and nuclear.

In reality, EVs can’t save the world by themselves. The myth that they just displace damage is only half-true. However, the environment can’t survive with 50 percent solutions. It has to rely on us changing our perspectives on energy.

Electric vehicles are the future. But with unchecked energy consumption rates, that future can look quite grim.

SEE ALSO: The Best Car Tech of CES 2018

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All that we can expect from Nokia at MWC 2018

We’re looking forward to all of them!

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Nokia 6 (2017)

Under the helm of HMD Global, Nokia rose back as one of the popular mobile phone brands that fully embraces Android. While the journey back to the top is still a long way to go, Nokia continues to pique our interest in their new and upcoming releases.

With Mobile World Congress 2018 just a couple of days away, let’s have a quick recap of what we can expect from Nokia’s announcement in Barcelona.

Nokia 1

Google already confirmed that we’re seeing the first batch of Android Go-powered phones at MWC 2018, and one them could be the long-rumored Nokia 1. There’s not much to expect from the device, because it’s a low-end smartphone. It’s rumored to have a pocketable HD display with 1GB of memory and 8GB of storage, which is enough to run Android Go.

For those unoriented, Android Go is a lightweight version of Android specially developed for entry-level phones, but it’s not the same as Android One.

Nokia 7 Plus

Speaking of Android One, Nokia is also expected to unwrap their Android One smartphone, the Nokia 7 Plus. If the Nokia 1 with Android Go is targeted for those who are on a tight budget, the Nokia 7 Plus will be a midrange phone.

According to previous rumors, it’ll have a 6-inch Full HD+ display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. A Snapdragon 660 processor will power the phone along with an ample 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage.

Keeping in with the trend, it’ll have two rear cameras with Zeiss-branded lenses. The fingerprint reader is positioned at the back since the front is occupied by the near-borderless display.

Nokia 9

Nokia’s next flagship is quite confusing to determine. There have been many rumors about it but none as concrete as the Nokia 1 or 7 Plus. When it comes to its name, the premium Nokia phone might be called the Nokia 9 which is one number higher than the previous flagship.

Being a 2018 flagship, the Nokia 9 is expected to sport the latest specs and design including an edge-to-edge display with curved sides ala Samsung Galaxy S8 and dual rear cameras with Zeiss optics. It’s also rumored to sport the latest Snapdragon 845 processor (as it should) and unique colors like the Nokia 8’s.

Nokia 8 Sirocco

Lastly, there are also rumors about the return of Nokia’s prestige Sirocco branding. If you guys can still remember the golden years of Nokia, Sirocco-branded phones have the most premium craftsmanship among Nokia’s lineup. Interestingly, HMD Global has trademarked the Nokia 8 Sirocco name.

Nokia 8800 Sirocco

The Nokia 8 Sirocco is likely to feature an OLED display, dual-selfie cameras, and added storage, but the rest of the specs like the Snapdragon 835 processor and memory are expected to carry over from the original Nokia 8. Even the design might be similar, but with more premium craftsmanship.

Nothing’s official, so take everything with a grain of salt. We’ll be covering Nokia’s event at MWC 2018 live, so stay tuned here on GadgetMatch!

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Features

Mobile World Congress will be different in 2018

Setting the stage for the biggest smartphone show on earth! And how Samsung’s upcoming S9 will disrupt the whole show.

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This year’s Mobile World Congress is shaping up to be quite different. And I have a feeling it’s in large part because of the Samsung Galaxy S9 launch, happening just one day before the show’s actual start.

Last year, the Korean tech giant chose a later time and place for its flagship launch, giving other brands the chance to share the MWC spotlight.

MWC 2017 was a particularly exciting show to cover; Huawei launched the P10, LG the G6, Sony the Xperia XZ Premium, and Nokia an entire lineup of handsets.

Last year, I remember being quietly thankful for Samsung’s almost absence from MWC (they unveiled tablets instead. The show then became a place where other brands could all take part in the conversation, and smaller brands were allowed a chance to be part of the narrative.

Perhaps strategically then, and completely within its own rights, Samsung is choosing to exert its dominance at MWC 2018, using it as the platform to launch its most anticipated flagship sequel.

With the Galaxy S9 expected to dominate the headlines, Samsung’s closest rivals will have to go big or go home.

We hope to be pleasantly surprised by HMD Global, whose nostalgia-fueled Nokia 3310 reboot was the unprecedented star of last year’s show.

Their launch event is also set for the 25th, the same day as Samsung’s. Expected are at least two phones: the Nokia 1 meant for developing markets, and a new midranger the Nokia 7+. Although the actual news-maker — if patent filings are to be believed, the Nokia 10 with five rear cameras — is being saved for a later date. But wouldn’t it be great if we saw another retro phone make a comeback?

Also on the 25th, Sony is expected to unveil its new flagship, the Xperia XZ2, but that’s all we know so far. It’s almost uncharacteristic of the smartphone industry to go without any leaks. We’ve got our fingers crossed that the surprises will be great.

Then on the 27th, ASUS will launch the ZenFone 5. A newcomer to MWC, reps from ASUS tell GadgetMatch their presence at the event will elevate the company’s stature in the smartphone space. The original ZenFone 5 from 2014 disrupted the smartphone industry, and their #BackTo5 campaign hints at a similar thrust.

Others have prudently decided to take a back seat and create moments of their own at a later date.

Unlike previous years, LG and Huawei will not be launching their 2018 flagships in Barcelona. Both brands will be at MWC with smaller announcements instead.

LG will instead be showing off its new Artificial Intelligence features called Vision AI that will power its upcoming flagships. As well as its midrange K8 and K10 smartphones.

By not going with its usual launch schedule, LG will have the time to further refine the upcoming G7 (name not yet confirmed), secure the right parts, and prep to hit retail stores closer to the phone’s launch date. Factors that could have done last year’s phone some good. If last year’s V30 was any indication, and with LG’s new ThinQ AI announcements at CES coming into play, the G7 has the potential to be a runaway success.

Huawei’s is also pushing back its P11 (or P20) launch event to March. I have high hopes for Huawei, whose forward-thinking AI approach to smartphone computing set them apart last year. A later launch date for their next flagship launch will allow them to chart their own path and stand out as the smartphone leader they are quickly becoming.

At MWC, Huawei will be launching a line of new tablets. But we really look forward to sitting down with CEO Richard Yu to speak about the current roadblocks that stand in the way of their entry into the North American market.

Whatever the case, if this is how the cards fall, then 2018 looks to be a great year for smartphone enthusiasts, and for us journalists who cover them live. It all happens in Spain at MWC 2018. We hope you’ve got your seat belts fastened, because its going to be a thrilling ride.   

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