New iPhones, fancy photography tricks, and a demo failure in front of millions — there was no shortage of things to talk about after Apple’s grand event. Less highlighted, however, was the company’s strong push for augmented reality (AR) games on mobile. There’s actually a good reason for that.
As cool as the demos were during the keynote, AR gaming isn’t a new concept. Unlike virtual reality (VR) which normally requires a headset strapped to your face and powerful hardware, AR simply adds graphics to the world around you using a device containing a camera and screen, like a smartphone or tablet.
Apple understands what they’re getting into, but like most of the features that come a little later to iPhones — refined virtual assistant and widget integration come to mind — the company is a master of simplifying a preexisting execution, marketing it like its the next big thing, and ensuring there are no compatibility issues with newer models.
A short refresher
To date, the most successful attempt at bringing AR games to the mainstream market has been Pokémon Go. Smaller now in user base but widely played nonetheless, the Pokémon-powered AR game is available for both iOS and Android, and can be enjoyed without spending a cent. That was the winning formula for developer Niantic, but their success has been difficult to replicate.
Although such games have been around for a while already (remember Ingress?), taking AR gaming to the next level is more difficult than it looks. Lenovo and ASUS have been the most prominent pushers of the platform using Google’s Tango AR system, which includes the software, hardware, and exclusive app store to make the advanced experience possible.
Lenovo introduced the first Tango-enabled smartphone with the Phab 2 Pro. Ring a bell? As you can imagine, the product didn’t fly. Being the pioneering Tango gadget wasn’t enough for consumers to ignore the relatively high price tag for an unproven platform. Sure, Tango was already fun to play with despite being in its infancy stage, but beyond that, it felt like a novelty item.
ASUS took the idea a step further with the ZenFone AR. Now with a more powerful smartphone to work with, Tango finally took off with more recognizable games and a more refined selection of utility apps. But again, the concept felt wasted on an overpriced phone with a minuscule number of owners.
Playing Apple’s game
So, how does Apple’s strategy differ from the rest while also being rather late to the game? Simple: by making AR games available to millions of existing iPhones through the latest version of iOS.
According to Apple, downloading iOS 11 on a recent iPhone (iPhone 6s and SE or later) or iPad (all of the Pro series and the 2017 model) gives you access to everything designed by ARKit, which is what app developers have been using to create AR games for iPhones. That’s right: You don’t need the US$ 1,000 iPhone X or marginally updated iPhone 8 to experience their platform.
This is a smart move by Apple. It’s a model similar to what Niantic has done with Ingress and Pokémon Go and it goes back to the formula I mentioned earlier — remove the strict hardware requirements, don’t scare away consumers with complicated terms like Tango-compatible triple-camera setup, and make it available for devices up to two years old.
The only shortcoming is incompatibility with the three-year-old iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, as well as any of the iPad mini models, all of which are still widely used around the world.
Looking to the future
Whether or not these AR games become successful in terms of number of downloads or critical response to the quality of games, Apple already won the AR war against Google. The sheer fact that there are six times as many iOS devices with advanced mobile AR and greater accessibility compared to that of Tango is a telling sign.
Of course, like 3D movies and recent attempts at VR gaming, AR could be another passing fad. At least it’s going to be a lot cheaper to enjoy from the get-go and require less of a financial and emotional investment.
[irp posts=”20241″ name=”Apple’s Animojis are the future of emojis”]
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Cherry Mobile Flare S7 Plus hands-on: A step-up
The company’s greatest contender
Cherry Mobile recently launched their new Flare S7 series, which is essentially their main smartphone lineup for the year. The greatest offering among the bunch is the Flare S7 Plus, a device with all the specifications and features you’d expect from a 2018 phone.
Since it’s from Cherry Mobile, you’d expect the phone to be cheap, right? Price-wise, it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s just another affordable phone.
Here’s what I got to say about the Flare S7 Plus.
Cherry Mobile has officially joined the notch wagon with a borderless 6.18-inch display. It’s a Full HD+ panel with a 19:9 aspect ratio, and it’s Cherry Mobile’s best display yet.
It’s vibrant and produces vivid colors, but the user interface kind of ruins the beauty of the display. It’s best to download your preferred third-party launcher and customize to your heart’s content.
Unlike with other midrange phones, the Flare S7 Plus’ notch is pretty wide and there’s a reason for it. The phone is equipped with more advanced facial recognition hardware including an IR camera. This ensures higher accuracy, faster unlocking, and even better face detection in low-light.
If you’re not a fan of face unlock, you can always resort to the fingerprint sensor placed on the back of the phone. Based on my usage, the fingerprint reader is faster most of the time than the face unlock. Good thing you have the best of both worlds.
Now that we’re on the back of the phone, let’s talk about another special feature of the Flare S7 Plus. Finally, Cherry Mobile embraces a more elegant design using a glass back and metal frame. I was told that they used Gorilla Glass 3 on both sides, so it won’t scratch easily in your pocket or on the table.
Since we we have a glass back, it’s possible to put in wireless charging and the company did just that. Simply place the phone on any Qi standard wireless charger, and let the magic happen.
It’s not exactly magic per se, but it’s amazing to have your phone charge by placing it on a table. This phone costs less than half of most flagships that don’t even support wireless charging.
Of course, you can always charge this phone’s 3050mAh battery through the reversible USB-C port, which also doubles as the audio port because, sadly, the Flare S7 Plus doesn’t have a 3.5 headphone jack. Cherry Mobile bundles a 3.5mm to USB-C adapter inside the box, so you can still use your legacy headphones as you please.
Powering the Flare S7 Plus is a MediaTek Helio P60 processor. We have already tried the capabilities of this chipset with the OPPO F9, and it definitely delivers great performance. If you’re into benchmarking, you’ll be glad to know the Helio P60 scores higher than its competitors.
The phone also comes with 4GB of memory and 64GB of expandable storage which is pretty standard nowadays. It boots Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, but there’s no word when Android 9 Pie is coming.
The gaming performance of the Flare S7 Plus is above average, which is what you can expect from the Helio P60. The Mali-G72 MP3 GPU works well with intensive games, but you must reduce the graphics quality a bit to get consistently high frame rates.
As for the cameras, the Flare S7 Plus has capable shooters that are probably the fruit of Cherry Mobile’s investment in improving their R&D when it comes to picture quality. The phone has dual rear shooters using a main 16-megapixel RGB sensor and a secondary 5-megapixel depth sensor. In the front, there’s another 16-megapixel selfie camera that’s paired with the IR sensor when needed. Check out the samples below:
An additional feature of the front sensors is FlareMoji. Using the IR sensor and facial recognition, you can animate cutesy characters. Check this out:
It’s essentially like Apple’s Animoji, but the tracking is nowhere near as smooth as with the iPhone. Anyhow, it’s still enjoyable to use.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
For just PhP 11,999 (US$ 225), the Flare S7 Plus offers a lot. You get a great premium phone with midrange power, beautiful display, and a plethora of extra features like wireless charging and an IR face scanner. The software UI is quite a letdown, but you can always download a launcher from the Play Store.
If you’re wondering what the Flare S7 Plus is in other markets, it’s also called the BLU VIVO XI+ and they share similar specifications and design.
What does the GPU Turbo do to your phone?
Is it more than just a marketing gimmick?
It’s been two months since Huawei rolled out the GPU Turbo update to its smartphones. Promised with a 60 percent increase in performance and reducing 30 percent on power consumption, a lot of fans and users were excited after the announcement.
Back then, everyone (including me) was hyped about lag-free games and longer battery life while playing. However, upon receiving the update, I began to wonder: Has GPU Turbo delivered what it promised?
What’s inside the update?
The Game Suite app, which comes with the update, offers an uninterrupted gaming feature, hiding all notifications when enabled (except for calls, alarms, and low-battery alerts).
Mistouch prevention is another feature to avert users from clicking the back and home button while playing — perfect for when you want to focus on your game.
To some older smartphones like the Huawei Mate 10, the Game Suite App offers three performance modes: Gaming mode, which improves game performance but increases power consumption; Smart mode, which balances performance and power consumption; and Power saving mode, which saves power but reduces game performance.
For the newer Huawei P20 Pro (which I’ve been using) and Honor Play, it only has a gaming acceleration mode to toggle on or off.
Thoughts on the reduced power consumption
Because I used the Mate 10 before and recently transitioned to the P20 Pro, I’ve experienced the GPU Turbo update in both phones and I can guarantee that they’ve delivered on lowered power consumption.
With Game Suite, I can put my phone on power saving mode to further save battery. For instance, I was only able to drain the Mate 10 down to 15 percent during a 12-hour road trip despite switching between the games I play and other apps, such as Messenger, Netflix, Spotify, and taking photos and videos every once in a while. The same goes for the P20 Pro.
As a power user, I already get a lot of things done with these highly efficient smartphones and GPU Turbo; these allowed me to do more on a single charge. However, it’s a different case for gaming.
Improved gaming experience, but there’s a catch…
When I started playing games on gaming mode (or game acceleration mode on the P20 Pro), I could run Mobile Legends: Bang Bang on a high frame rate with the highest graphics setting available. Compared to how the game stuttered and lagged during 5v5 clashes, with GPU Turbo, it now runs smoothly, as if I have a smartphone made for gaming.
As shown above, most mobile games will notify their users about the possible repercussions of higher frame rates and using the best settings available. To prove that a smartphone with GPU Turbo can handle this, I sought out to confirm my suspicions.
After asking fellow Huawei users, I found out that after installing GPU Turbo, energy consumption is a lot faster than before. Their smartphones also heat up more easily, especially when playing games with the game acceleration mode on. This isn’t part of what was promised, and it’s pretty disappointing.
It’s not yet perfect
In my experience, GPU Turbo tries to boost performance above a smartphone’s limit hoping that users can experience better gameplay.
GPU Turbo can’t choose when to perform its best. It’s an update that is constantly running in our smartphones without any way to switch it off. We can only hope that Huawei will address these issues for the next batch of updates.
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