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

Features

Find X slides in, IGTV comes out: Weekend Rewind

All-screen phones and a truly mobile video platform

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Here are this week’s top stories on GadgetMatch.

1. We found X!

All-screen phones are coming out one after another. Following the release of Vivo’s NEX last week, OPPO announced their official entry into the western market with the OPPO Find X. It boasts a 93.8 percent screen-to-body ratio and has specs that match today’s flagships. However, what’s most interesting about it is the sliding camera system. Tap the camera app and the top portion of the phone slides up to reveal both the front-facing camera that has 3D scanning functions like the iPhone X and the dual rear cameras with the flash situated in between the two.

OPPO’s push for innovation comes at a steep price of EUR 999 or about US$ 1,155 and that’s not even the most expensive variant of this phone. OPPO also announced a Lamborghini Edition which will retail for EUR 1,699 or around US$ 1,965. Yikes.

2. Is this the Galaxy S10?

Did we say all-screen phones are all the rage? Notable leaker IceUniverse posted a photo of an all-screen phone with the caption, “This may be a design beyond.” The curved sides — prominent on Galaxy S phones in recent years — lead many people to think this could be what the Galaxy S10 will look like. Details are obviously scarce but it’s always fun to speculate how the camera system will be implemented and if it will have an in-display fingerprint scanner or not.

3. Look Ma, no ports!

Apple just keeps taking things away. After removing the headphone jack a few years back, there are now reports saying they’re taking away the Lightning port. The news comes right before Apple launched AirPower, its first official wireless charging mat. The company will likely earn the ire of several users but that hasn’t stopped them before. This also means a port-less iPhone is coming sooner than we realize.

4. IGTV is here

Instagram is taking YouTube head-on but with its own mobile twist with IGTV. After implementing IG Stories and Live video, the app that started as a photo-sharing platform will now allow users to upload videos from 15 seconds to 10 minutes but in portrait orientation, embracing its mobile roots. On its blog, the company says, “It’s built for how you actually use your phone.” Instagram also hopes to add more features to IGTV like ads and monetization.

5. PS4 faves at a discount!

PS4 gamers rejoice! If you missed out on titles right around the time the console was launched, then let this news ease your worries away. Selected titles deemed as “PlayStation Hits” will retail for only US$ 20 starting June 28. That’s a third of their original price.

The complete PlayStation Hits lineup includes Battlefield 4Bloodborne (standard edition), DOOMDriveClubInfamous: Second SonKillzone: Shadow FallThe Last of Us RemasteredLittleBigPlanet 3Metal Gear Solid 5: The Definitive ExperienceProject CARSRatchet & ClankStreet Fighter 5Uncharted 4: A Thief’s EndYakuza 0, and Yakuza Kiwami.

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Features

How a smartphone became my travel buddy

To Taipei 101 and beyond!

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I’m the kind of traveler who turns a trip abroad into a process. I plan beforehand, execute every planned move, and adapt to situations along the way.

Normally, this approach requires me to bring a handy notebook, high-quality mirrorless camera, and printed maps in my backpack. For my trip to Taipei, Taiwan, I tried something a little different.

This time, I set out to do everything on my smartphone, going from an analog kid to grownup with an all-in-one gadget. Being the traditional type, it was a bit hard to do, but finding the perfect travel buddy certainly wasn’t.

I’ve been using the Huawei P20 Pro as my daily driver for a while now, and I’ve been having a tough time letting it go for another handset, so it was, without a doubt, the first choice to spring to my mind.

With the phone in hand (and no old-school items packed), I set out to explore Taipei using only my newfound travel buddy.

Or maybe I still need to visual my routes on a bigger layout before heading out. This was me being stubborn and giving conventional maps one last look before going full digital.

A journey through Taipei means lots of eating and drinking. While searching for routes and places to visit on Google Maps, I make it a point to find highly rated restaurants and juice bars along the way.

Doing so in Taiwan is a cinch. Mobile internet here is incredibly fast for any standards, and quick searches on both Maps and Chrome take only a few seconds.

Taipei is the kind of city that requires a lot of walking and commuting to get around. For the longer train rides, I whip out my phone to play a game of Asphalt 9: Legends or Dragon Ball Legends — two games that require a lot of power to run.

Fortunately, the P20 Pro can handle both with ease. Not only is it powerful enough to max out the in-game graphics, its battery is long-lasting enough to get through the day even though I play hours’ worth of games, and that’s with mobile data always on.

Don’t let the low number of steps above fool you; even though it was already close to sunset, my day was just starting. Taipei wakes up at night with its numerous markets filled with fantastic food and affordable clothing.

To get from one point to another, there’s lots of walking involved. It’s great to have a smartphone that can readily show you how many steps you’ve taken at a glance so you know you’re burning all the food you ate.

Just to prove it, here’s me actually walking in the city. Aside from bringing the right travel companion with you, it’s also vital to dress up properly for the weather.

My annual trips to Taipei normally happen around June, which is when Computex goes on. During this season, it can get quite humid when the sun’s out, and a little chilly at night. It’s best to be prepared for both.

I must say, Taipei is a beautiful city — easily one of my favorites in the whole world. There’s no shortage of landmarks to see, but if there’s one you must visit, it’s Taipei 101. Once the tallest building in the world, the skyscraper is still a sight to behold no matter what angle you view it from.

For this shot, I chose to shoot it from below, and the P20 Pro handled the challenging lighting with ease. Every detail was captured, and there’s the option of zooming in for another take on the iconic view.

What’s great about having a phone with artificial intelligence built in is that it can detect scenes and subjects for you. This came in handy when I went around Taipei Zoo.

Although I was obviously going to take photos of animals at every turn, I liked how my phone could adjust settings on the fly and tweak images for me automatically.

At the end of the day, it’s nice to relax and scroll through all the photos I’ve taken while sipping from a cup of Taipei’s signature milk tea — even better when it’s on phone as attractive as the P20 Pro both inside and out.

There’s so much more you can do with the P20 Pro on a trip, but no travel piece can cover every single feature. For more, you can watch our hands-on video below.


This feature was produced in collaboration between GadgetMatch and Huawei.

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Hands-On

Vivo X21 hands-on: All screen, all the time

The screen is the fingerprint scanner!

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Notice anything different with this Vivo release?

Look closely at the notched front. It has a 6.28-inch FHD screen.

That smooth sleek glass back looks good but I know what you’re asking: Where’s the fingerprint scanner?

It’s there, only you don’t see it.

Let’s see that again from another angle:

Yes folks, this is the Vivo X21 and is one of the first phones in the market to have the famed in-display scanner — that means the fingerprint scanner is under the screen itself!

This leaves more space for you to do more, like take photos with the phone’s 12- and 5-megapixel dual shooters on the rear. These cameras also have AI-scene recognition built in, so the camera automatically adjusts to give you the best-possible shots.

Or, take those fun selfies with the X21’s 12-megapixel front-facing camera. There are cute stickers, too! 🐰

Oh, did I mention that it also has facial unlock? Yep.

This device runs on Funtouch OS 4.0 based on Android 8.1 Oreo which more or less still feels like iOS. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 660 processor with 6GB of memory and 128GB of storage and an option to expand via microSD.

All that means is that this is a premium midrange phone which will have no problem with everyday social media use and normal mobile gaming, and it will have space for all your photos and selfies.

As future-forward as the X21 is, it’s still rocking a micro-USB port. That also means there’s still an audio jack on this thing — and speaking of audio, the phone is also equipped with an audio chipset for better sound quality. It has 3200mAh of battery capacity for all day err-day use.


Of course, we’ll have to give it a good whirl before we can talk about actual performance, but until then, the X21 is proving to be a pretty promising phone.

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