Features

Will the iPhone finally make AR games more mainstream?

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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.

AR games on the iPhone X’s borderless screen look incredible!

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.

SEE ALSO: Apple’s Animojis are the future of emojis

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Hands-On

Xiaomi Mi 9 Hands-On: 2019 Flagship Killer?

BEAST!

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Top of the line specs, amazing cameras, and high-speed wireless charging. MWC hasn’t even officially started yet, so it might be premature to say this, but has Xiaomi just unveiled the 2019 flagship killer?

We recently got to spend time with Xiaomi’s latest flagship and this is our hands-on video.

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Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy M20 hands-on: Give the users what they want

Awakening of the sleeping giant

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Samsung has been the smartphone market leader for half a decade now, and its flagship phones continue to be an inspiration for everyone. However, while the brand is dominating in developed markets, it has taken a massive beating in the developing ones.

Thanks to players like Xiaomi, the South Korean brand has consistently lost market share in countries like India. Samsung slowly prepared itself to change strategy by the end of last year and intends to go hard in 2019. It announced the new Galaxy M-series lineup of phones in the budget segment and the M10 and M20 are the first ones to roll off the shelf.

The M20 has been launched in India for INR 10,990 (US$ 154) and comes with 3GB RAM and 32GB internal storage. The option with 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage costs INR 12,990 (US$ 182). The phone goes up against the Redmi 6 Pro, Realme U1, and even the Mi A2.

To start with, Samsung has opted to go with a basic design, consisting of a plastic body that is curved at the edges and is pretty glossy. The phone is extremely comfortable to hold, and the build quality is top-notch. Even the buttons are very tactile and bezels are smaller.

On the front is a 6.3-inch TFT display with a Full HD resolution and small water-drop style notch on the top. This is the first Samsung phone to feature a notch, and the display quality is surprisingly good. The color production is vivid and satisfying, while the viewing angles are perfect. It is easily visible even under direct sunlight.

For authentication, a fingerprint scanner is located on the rear and it is fast enough. You also have the option of face unlock and it works quickly in well-lit conditions. It has dual-SIM support and there’s a separate slot for microSD card, as well.

Powering the phone is an octa-core Exynos 7904 processor, which is considered to be on par with the Snapdragon 636. It is a very power-efficient processor with more emphasis on the cameras. Day-to-day tasks are handled smoothly and games like PUBG are playable with low graphics.

It has a dual-camera setup on the rear, consisting of a 13-megapixel primary shooter and a 5-megapixel wide-angle sensor. The pictures clicked during daytime are decently saturated but lack sharpness. Even focus tends to get slow in low-light conditions. The wide-angle lens works best in bright surroundings only and is a very handy tool. For selfies, it has an 8-megapixel shooter with built-in beauty enhancements.

It ships with Samsung Experience 9.5 out of the box and is actually well optimized. There is barely any lag and the UI offers a plethora of customizations and features. The company announced that the Android Pie update will be landing soon. Lastly, it has a massive 5000mAh battery that’ll get you through two days of usage.

Xiaomi has been successful because it offers users a balanced product that suits everyone’s needs. With the M20, Samsung goes down the same road. While the recently announced A-series phones were for photography enthusiasts, the M20 is good enough for everything.

The M20 is no disruptor, but an indication that Samsung is gearing up. And as a generation-one product, it’s performing fairly well.

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Cameras

Fujifilm Instax SQ20 hands-on: How good is it?

Trying out the new Motion Mode on doggies!

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Fujifilm’s sequel to their first ever digital/analog hybrid is here and it’s looking better than ever. The Instax SQ20 is one classy-looking instant camera but what can it do? With a set of built-in filters and new features like the Motion Mode, it looks like a promising device.

I finally try it out, with help from some doggies, on our hands-on video.

The SQ20 retails for US$ 199 in the US, PhP 12,999 in the Philippines, and SG$ 299 in Singapore.

In case you’re having trouble viewing, watch HERE.

READ ALSO: Fujifilm Instax SQ10 review

READ ALSO: Prynt Pocket unboxing and review: A printer that prints videos?

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