What ASUS PH told us about the Zenfone 2

So earlier today, the ASUS Zenfone 2, which got a positive review from us, became official for the Southeast Asian market following a media event here in Jakarta, Indonesia.

And because we already got our hands on a unit prior to its unveiling, we spent most of the afternoon striking up conversations with company executives and Philippine-based retailers rather than taking photos and videos on the show floor. We’re glad we did, because we were able to dig up a few juicy tidbits about the Zenfone 2’s local pricing and release date after our little chat with ASUS Philippines country manager George Su.

For starters, the ASUS bigwig confirmed to us that the Zenfone 2 will have its own coming-out party in the Philippines on the week of May 15, where the price of the Android Lollipop smartphone will be revealed, as with last year’s Zenfones.

Also, four models have been confirmed for the Philippine market, which includes the top-shelf ZE551ML variant with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. And if you’re hoping to score a unit from official sources before the second week of May, don’t get your hopes up too high; ASUS Philippines wants the release of the Zenfone 2 to coincide with its launch event.

Oh, and the Zenfone 2 will definitely cost less in our country than in Indonesia (IDR 2,999,000 or roughly P10,250 for the ZE551ML with 2GB RAM and 16GB storage and IDR 3,999,000 or about P13,700 for the ZE551ML with 4GB RAM and 32GB storage), according to George Su.

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: Here’s the TL;DR version for those of you who find the (very) short article a chore to read: The local release of the Zenfone 2 is imminent, contrary to rumors that have been circulating lately. Otherwise, why would ASUS Philippines set a tentative date for revealing everything there is to know about the highly anticipated phone? And when it finally arrives on our shores, expect the Zenfone 2 to be cheaper locally than in other regions.

ALORA UY GUERRERO’S TAKE: …so wait for it.

Sony Xperia Z4 announced. So what’s new?

Image via The Verge

Sony revealed its new flagship smartphone, the Xperia Z4, in its native Japan amid reports that the company is strongly considering abandoning its mobile and TV businesses to concentrate on other products that are making it money. Apparently, the Japanese outfit wants to streamline its portfolio and come out with more PlayStation-centric goods and services rather than continue making phones, tablets, and other screens that consume media and social content.

But we digress. Back to the Sony Xperia Z4: It looks identical to its predecessor, runs the same version of Android that’s now available to download on the Xperia Z3, and houses a lot of the same specs found in the Xperia Z incumbent, though it should be faster in every metric, thanks to the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor. But you’re essentially looking at more of the same in this Sony sequel.

The biggest changes, if you may, are where they usually are: design. The updated Sony flagship retains the same high level of waterproofing as its predecessor (IP68), though benefits from the flap-less design of just about every other smartphone on the market. The corners of the Xperia Z4 are also made of plastic instead of metal for better shock resistance.

Sony didn’t announce the price of the Xperia Z4 or whether it will see an international release, but the phone is set to be released in Japan (surprised?) sometime this summer.

Specs of the Sony Xperia Z4:
* LTE
* IP68 waterproofing
* Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor
* Adreno 430 GPU
* 3GB RAM
* 32GB/64GB internal storage
* microSD expansion slot (up to 128GB)
* 5.2-inch IPS display with scratch-resistant glass (1,080 x 1,920 resolution)
* 20-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 2,930mAh non-removable battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: To say Sony has seen better days is a serious understatement. But right when it needed an upscale “WE’RE BACK, @#!$&!!!” phone, the company started the year with its least compelling effort yet. The Japanese couldn’t have done worse at the worst possible time.

Competition in the high-end segment is fiercer than ever, and Sony knows that full well. Well enough to at least make the company consider pivoting to another direction.

Samsung, in full revenge mode, came out with a frontrunner for Smartphone of the Year in the Galaxy S6. I have very little doubt Apple will do the same with its next iPhone. Then there are the Chinese phone makers and their affordable, high-performance releases that continue to disrupt the global market.

The Xperia Z4 should have included everything plus the kitchen sink to stand out and be noticed. Because at this point, it doesn’t even look like Sony is trying anymore.

It’s not entirely about the hardware, though the Xperia Z4 should have included everything plus the kitchen sink to stand out and be noticed. Because at this point, it doesn’t even look like Sony is trying anymore.

Camera shootout: Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6

One of our biggest regrets about our first encounter with the Samsung Galaxy S6 back in March is that we weren’t able to take a lot of pictures using the smartphone. But we remember seeing a solid imaging foundation that’s impressive enough to make us whip out our iPhone 6 for some preliminary camera tests. Now that we have the S6 in our hands, we finally have a camera comparison between the two devices.

This one’s a smartphone shootout, people. Check out our video and read on to find out which flagship comes out on top. (RL)

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qH70ERrkuTA” width=”560″ height=”315″]

ALORA UY GUERRERO’S TAKE: I never thought I’d say this: An Android has finally edged out the iPhone in the “Best Camera Phone” race — and by Apple’s fiercest competition at that. The difference in quality may not be as huge as some reviewers make it out to be; the iPhone still rocks indoor shots, after all. However, an overall win is an overall win is an overall win.

The Samsung Galaxy S6’s camera is now THE gold standard against which other handsets’ shooters will be judged. It is what Sony handsets’ cam, among all, should aspire to be; the Japanese company, for all its might in the imaging category, has failed to bring the awesomeness of its Cyber-shots and Alphas to its Xperias. It is what the Xiaomis, the HTCs, the Lenovos of the world should study closely.

The Samsung Galaxy S6’s camera is now THE gold standard against which other handsets’ shooters will be judged.

For a phone manufacturer that fell from grace last year, the Korean company sure is climbing to the top fast. Welcome back, Samsung.

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: The sample photos and videos speak for themselves. I think it’s fair to say that the Galaxy S6 beats the iPhone 6 on the imaging front, though Apple’s smartphone isn’t too far behind. And keep in mind: The American tech giant will release a new model later this year to replace its incumbent flagship, so Samsung’s victory, as sweet and surprising as it is, may be short-lived.

Regardless, I can’t say I’m not impressed with what Samsung has done with the new Galaxy S handset. You’re looking at one of the best camera phones in the business and the very best Android has to offer, bar none. Oh, and it takes really nice selfies as well.

People talk endlessly about how gorgeous and fast the Galaxy S6 is. Both observations are true, in case you’re wondering, but the biggest story here, or at least the one that needs to be told more often, revolves around the phone’s much-improved optics.

People talk endlessly about how gorgeous and fast the Samsung Galaxy S6 is. But the biggest story here revolves around the phone’s much-improved optics.

And while not enough has been said about picture quality so far, which is surprising considering how few Android devices are capable of taking great photos, when we look back at the Galaxy S6 next year, I think a lot of people will fondly remember a top-shelf effort that gave the iPhone a run for its money for best camera phone of 2015.

Specs of the Samsung Galaxy S6 (prices in the Philippines: P35,990 — 32GB) and S6 Edge (price in the Philippines: P41,990 — 32GB, P47,990 — 64GB):

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SAMSUNG GALAXY S6 EDGE VIDEO

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggL_yLCC2a0″ width=”560″ height=”315″]

16,000mAh Xiaomi Power Bank goes on sale April 24

Via AskMeBazaar

Xiaomi has been busy lately. Fresh off announcing two new devices for the Philippine market, the Chinese manufacturer is bringing its 16,000mAh Mi Power Bank to Lazada Philippines to be sold on the online retailer’s website at noon on April 24. And the price? Just P1,299, which is double the cost of the 10,400mAh Mi Power Bank, though it makes sense, as the convenience of carrying one battery pack instead of two is obviously going to come at a price. It will be available in one color only: silver with a brushed look.

Neither Xiaomi nor Lazada Philippines has revealed the exact time the high-capacity Mi Power Bank would go on sale, but it’s safe to assume you’d need to be on top of your online-shopping game at 11-ish, or risk missing out on one of the best-value tech products around.

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: I don’t own a 16,000mAh Mi Power Bank, but I do have Xiaomi’s 10,400mAh portable battery, which is more than enough for my needs.

16,000mAh should be plenty for all your mobile devices and should be enough to keep your phone or tablet going several days without the luxury of a wall socket.

Regardless, I think the 16,000mAh unit is an excellent purchase considering how (relatively) cheap it is. Not to mention, you won’t find many products quite like it — 16,000mAh should be plenty for all your mobile devices and should be enough to keep your phone or tablet going several days without the luxury of a wall socket. It goes without saying that I highly recommend this particular power bank, especially if you’ve never purchased one before.

Huawei P8 now official, priced around P23,500

Via TrustedReviews

Earlier today, Huawei launched the P8 — notice the Ascend branding has been given the boot — an update to its top-billing P7 smartphone from last year. Also gone are the two layers of Gorilla Glass 3 held together by the previous model’s angular skeleton, replaced by an all-metal frame with a matte finish, chamfered edges, and rounded corners.

The result is a product that looks nothing like its predecessor, especially when you tilt it sideways to showcase its ultra-thin 6.4mm profile that’s a smidge thinner than Huawei’s older flagship. What it does look like is a cross between the Sony Xperia Z3 and Oppo R5 (or, to a lesser degree, the iPhone 6), which is to say, the P8 borrows heavily from other handsets we’ve seen before.

The device steps up to an almost-bezel-less, full-HD IPS display measuring 5.2 inches and a homegrown octa-core processor that Huawei claims is its fastest and most advanced yet. Yes, even faster than the octa-core chip found in the Mate 7.

You also get Android Lollipop 5.0 on top of the company’s custom user interface, 3GB of RAM, and at least 16GB of expandable storage to go along with the usual trove of wireless technologies, including WiFi, 3G and 4G/LTE, Bluetooth, and NFC. And though the 13- and 8-megapixel rear and front cameras didn’t get an upgrade this year, Huawei says they should perform better across the board compared to the sensors of the P7.

The Huawei P8 starts at $530 or around P23,500 when it arrives later this year in select markets.

Specs of the Huawei P8 (Price: $530 or around P23,500):
* Dual SIM (LTE)
* Octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 930/935 processor
* 3GB RAM
* 16GB/64GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 128GB)
* 5.2-inch IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (1,080 x 1,920 resolution)
* 13-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash
* 8-megapixel front camera
* 2,680mAh battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: Just about every manufacturer out there is taking notes from Apple (and HTC) on how to make premium-looking mobile devices that stand out from the crowd, because consumers now value aesthetics more than ever before, particularly when it comes to the higher-end segment.

It’s not enough to shoehorn bleeding-edge specs and intriguing software features into a plastic body anymore. People want their P30,000 phones to look and feel like the expensive pieces of hardware they are. Just ask Samsung. That said, we can’t say we’re surprised that Huawei gave its flagship model a facelift this year. Again. And we get that — the P7, despite being sandwiched between two slabs of Gorilla Glass, is hardly worth talking about.

At some point in the future, Huawei has to create its own design language — and stick to it. We’ll see if the P8 is the phone Huawei needed all along.

But here’s the thing: At some point in the future, Huawei has to create its own design language — it doesn’t have to be entirely original — and stick to it for at least a year or two. It needs a beloved design to build on, which is what Apple has with the iPhone. And iPad. And MacBook. We’ll see if the P8 is the phone Huawei needed all along.

Oh, and another thing: The P9 should include a fingerprint sensor that works just as well, if not better, than the Mate 7’s.

Xiaomi’s iPad mini challenger priced in PH

Via MyDrivers

(UPDATE, April 28: Mi fans, mark your calendars. Xiaomi Philippines just confirmed the first sale date of the Mi Pad on the company’s Facebook page. The tablet will be available starting May 4, 2015.)

It turns out the Redmi 2 isn’t the only Android KitKat device Xiaomi is planning to release in the Philippines soon. Last year’s Mi Pad, the company’s iPad mini challenger — which, coincidentally, also looks like a candy-coated Apple tablet — is on the cards for the local market, as hinted at by its official Philippine website.

The Mi Pad features a slab of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for scratch resistance on top of a 7.9-inch, 2,048 x 1,536 IPS display, which translates to a screen density of 326ppi, making it as pixel-dense as the iPad mini with Retina display and sharper than most smartphones these days. Unsurprisingly, it has also adopted the 4:3 aspect ratio of the iPad.

Under the hood, you’re looking at Nvidia’s built-for-gaming Tegra K1 processor, alongside 2GB of RAM and 16GB of expandable storage. All that for a reasonable sum of P10,999. Not bad at all, wouldn’t you say? There’s no word on a release date just yet, but we should hear something official soon.

Specs of the Xiaomi Mi Pad (Price in the Philippines: P10,999):
* 2.2GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra K1 processor
* 2GB RAM
* 16GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 128GB)
* 7.9-inch IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (2,048 x 1,536 resolution)
* 8-megapixel rear camera
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 6,700mAh battery
* Android KitKat

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: Like the Redmi 2, Xiaomi’s Mi Pad tablet looks great on paper. (In pictures? Not so much.) And like many Xiaomi devices before it, it seems capable of making good on its promise of uncompromising performance without burning a hole in your pocket.

What it may end up failing to deliver is the best Android experience, as Xiaomi has a reputation of lagging behind the competition in terms of integrating the latest Android build to its custom user interface. And it shows, even in Xiaomi’s current releases.

What the Mi Pad may end up failing to deliver is the best Android experience, as Xiaomi has a reputation of lagging behind the competition in terms of integrating the latest Android OS to its custom interface.

 

Both the Redmi 2 and Mi Pad are still running Android KitKat, in an age where Android Lollipop-based releases are becoming the rule rather than the exception. I’m hoping an upgrade to Lollipop will come sooner than expected, but I doubt that will be the case given Xiaomi’s track record with previous versions of the Android OS.

Xiaomi Redmi 2’s price, availability in PH revealed

(UPDATE 1, April 15: Talk about timing. Xiaomi has made the Redmi 2 official in the Philippines — while we were writing the article. The phone will retail for P5,999 when it arrives at a still-undisclosed date.)

(UPDATE 2, April 20: And we just got word that the Redmi 2 will officially go on sale on the 28th. That’s eight days from now.)

The Xiaomi Redmi 2 is on its way to the Philippines. That’s assuming the company’s latest posts on the Mi Philippines Facebook account are indeed about the budget smartphone sequel.

The three short video teasers weren’t exactly giveaways, mind you. But at least one of them pointed out something specific: a product weighing 133 grams, coincidentally also the official weight of the Redmi successor.

While that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re just a few weeks away from a Xiaomi launch event — it’s been a while since we last heard from the Chinese outfit — at least we now know what’s coming next for the local market.

As for the specs, the Redmi 2 sports a 4.7-inch IPS display with a screen density of 312ppi and a layer of scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 2. Inside, you’ll find a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor that supports 4G LTE connections; 1GB of RAM; and 8GB of expandable storage. The removable battery holds a respectable 2,200mAh of power, and the rear and selfie cameras are rated at 8 and 2 megapixels, respectively.

Somewhat disappointingly, the Redmi 2 runs Android KitKat out of the box, in an age where Android Lollipop is fast becoming the norm.

Nonetheless, Xiaomi’s latest entry-level offering should prove to be a worthwhile upgrade over the original — if only to enjoy faster connection speeds on 4G LTE networks. (RL)

Specs of the Xiaomi Redmi 2 (Price in the Philippines: P5,999):
* Dual-SIM (primary SIM slot offers 4G/LTE speeds)
* 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410
* Adreno 306 GPU
* 1GB RAM
* 8GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 32GB)
* 4.7-inch IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 2 (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 2-megapixel front camera
* 2,200mAh battery
* Android KitKat 4.4

ALORA UY GUERRERO’S TAKE: “You’ve been teasing the Xiaomi Redmi 2, but I don’t know if it’s just that or the phone is really arriving in the Philippines soon. My bet is on the latter. Am I right?”

It’s about time you introduce a new phone in the Philippines, Xiaomi.

Well, what do you know? That text to the PR of Xiaomi in the Philippines triggered a new post on its Facebook page. Guess I hit the bull’s-eye. It’s about time you introduce a new phone in the country, Xiaomi.

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: The Xiaomi Redmi 2 isn’t a significant upgrade over its predecessor, at least not on paper, but it’s just as important a smartphone — if not more so — as anything the company has produced so far. As far as the local market is concerned, I mean.

Let me tell you why: The Redmi 2, when it finally arrives on Lazada Philippines (you know, because Xiaomi and Lazada have a thing going on), will set the pace for the company’s local operations for 2015. How aggressive or cautious Xiaomi will be in the Philippine market hinges on the success or failure of the Redmi 2. How well the public will respond to the device may even decide how quickly, if at all, the flagship Mi Note will arrive locally.

How aggressive or cautious Xiaomi will be in the Philippine market hinges on the success or failure of the Redmi 2.

Here’s to the success of the Redmi 2, then.

Review: ASUS Zenfone 2

(UPDATE, April 21: We spoke to ASUS Philippines country manager George Su on the sidelines of the Zenfone 2 launch in Jakarta, Indonesia, and here’s what he said about the handset.)

(UPDATE 2, May 16: The ASUS Zenfone 2 is now official in the Philippines. Even better, it’s available on Lazada Philippines’ mobile app. Pricing starts at P9,995 for the 2GB RAM variant, while the 5-inch model costs P7,995.)

Weeks ago, we wrote about scoring a retail unit of the ASUS Zenfone 2 (ZE550ML) well ahead of its official release in the Philippines, chiming in with our initial impressions and doing an unboxing video for YouTube. You know what comes after that: our review of what is likely the most important device from the Taiwan-based manufacturer after 2014’s wildly successful Zenfone 5.

Case in point: ASUS bumped up its 25 million sales outlook for the year, believing it can ship 30 million handsets globally — enough for a top-10 finish among smartphone makers — and everything hinges on how well the Zenfone 2 will be received by the public.

Right off the bat, we’ll say that the company has every reason to be optimistic about its fortunes in 2015. Because despite the all-too-likely possibility that the larger ASUS Zenfone 2 will cost more than its 5-inch predecessor (TW$5,990 or about P8,600 in its native Taiwan, more than a thousand pesos higher than the Zenfone 5’s suggested retail price of P6,995) when it finally lands in the Philippines, the follow-up to last year’s ASUS top-billing smartphone offers greater value for money.

And that speaks volumes not only about how far the Taiwanese outfit has come in a year, but also about how much of an upgrade the Zenfone 2 actually is, especially when you consider the genius of the Zenfone 5, as well as its impact on the Philippine market. (Our conversations with ASUS executives suggest that the company has leapfrogged to sixth place among local players, largely as a result of the overwhelming demand for the Zenfone 5.)

That said, this year’s release would have to be nothing short of a near-perfect effort to fill the role left by the original. And is it? Read on to find out, or watch our video below.

Specs of the ASUS Zenfone 2 (Price of the ZE550ML model, which is what we have: TW$5,990 or about P8,600):
* Dual-SIM (primary SIM slot offers 3G and 4G/LTE speeds; secondary SIM slot supports 2G only)
* 1.8GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3560 CPU
* PowerVR G6430 GPU
* 2GB RAM
* 16GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 64GB)
* 5.5-inch IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 13-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 3,000mAh battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RypWLWiz1P0″ width=”560″ height=”315″]

Watch our ASUS Zenfone 2 review

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: The Zenfone 2 follows the same design principles as the smartphones ASUS built last year, only this time the result is something more refined and less bulky (well, not in the strictest sense, as you’ll find out soon enough.)

Like so many other phone makers before it, the company has opted for evolution rather than revolution, building on an already solid foundation by way of a few, small cosmetic improvements, as opposed to cramming a hundred new ideas into one sequel. The bezels around the 5.5-inch display are slightly thinner this time around. The double chin below the screen doesn’t seem to stick out as much, too, though we wouldn’t mind ASUS dropping it in favor of a more compact form.

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But that’s not to say the Taiwanese firm has stopped listening to new ideas altogether. One thing we’re particularly fond of is the placement of the volume rocker around the back, close to where your index finger naturally rests, which makes for easier access and allows you to hold the phone any way you like without worrying about your fingers pressing any buttons.

ASUS has opted for evolution rather than revolution, building on an already solid foundation by way of a few, small cosmetic improvements.

Reaching the relocated power button perched on the top edge of the device requires some finger gymnastics to pull off, though. The design choice comes across as both surprising and unfortunate, especially considering how wide the phone is, and we couldn’t help but think that maybe ASUS should have stuck to what feels natural. LG has, and thus its current smartphone line features rear-mounted controls that are a joy to use.

Thankfully, you don’t need to press Zenfone 2’s power key to wake or lock the screen, as double-tapping the display performs the said function. There are other screen-off gestures you can execute under the ZenMotion feature, such as drawing a “W” to launch the stock browser or a “C” to trigger the camera app. Including double-tap to wake, there are seven gestures in total, six of which can be configured to launch a preferred app. It’s a neat, if familiar, trick. But more importantly, it works well.

ASUS has kept the capacitive keys of the original, making no changes whatsoever to how they are arranged and how they react when you press any of them. Which is to say the navigation buttons still lack backlighting, making it difficult to continue using the Zenfone 2 once the lights have been dimmed or turned off.

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Our unit’s curved back cover has a soft-matte finish in red — and in the same shade as previous Zenfones. If red isn’t your thing, there are other color options to choose from, including white, black, silver, and gold. The latter two, we understand, is exclusive to other, more expensive variants.

The rear panel feels natural in the hand and doesn’t pick up fingerprints easily. You do get a bit of flex when pressure is applied to it. Removing the plastic casing gives you access to two SIM card slots (the primary SIM slot offers 3G and 4G/LTE speeds, whereas the secondary SIM slot supports 2G) and microSD expansion for cards up to 64GB in capacity. The 3,000mAh battery is fixed, so you can’t slot in a replacement when it conks out all too soon.

One thing we’re particularly fond of is the placement of the volume rocker around the back, close to where your index finger naturally rests.

The Zenfone 2 offers a choice of 5- and 5.5-inch versions (up to 1080p), and ours is the latter. The extra real estate means a superior experience all around: quicker typing on a virtual keyboard, less squinting when reading emails, and immersive video-watching on a bigger screen.

And videos look great on this ASUS, even at 720p resolution. Sure, the pixel density (267ppi, to be exact) seems fairly low on paper — jagged lines and individual pixels are out there, if you look hard enough — but the quality of the IPS panel is much better than what we’re used to seeing in the segment. Not once did we find ourselves wishing for a higher pixel count.

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Contrast, color reproduction, and viewing angles are all impressive, with hardly any color shifting when viewing the screen at extreme angles. Black levels are about as deep as they get on LCDs. Another attraction is Corning Gorilla Glass 3, which dominates the front of the device and makes the cover glass less vulnerable to keys, change, and other hard objects in your pocket. The phone even comes with its own display-calibration app, which allows you to adjust color temperature, hue, and saturation to your liking.

Jagged lines and individual pixels are out there, if you look hard enough — but the quality of the IPS panel is much better than what we’re used to seeing in the segment.

Also on board are 13- and 5-megapixel rear and front cameras, along with an expanded camera suite ASUS built into the default camera app. Besides the usual options — HDR, panorama, beauty, night, and depth-of-field (read: bokeh) modes — there’s an excellent manual mode on tap for advanced photographers who want full control over the main shooter. Oh, and the front-facer takes selfie panoramas with a 140-degree field of view, which basically means you can fit a lot of people in one frame, photobombers be damned.

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Then there’s ASUS’ trademark low-light mode for shooting in, well, low light and churning out serviceable shots indoors or in borderline-pitch-black darkness sans flash. The tradeoff, unsurprisingly, is a lower megapixel count and more digital noise. Still, we found ourselves enjoying both cameras. But are they any good?

[minigallery id=”372″ prettyphoto=”true”]

Photos taken with the ASUS Zenfone 2. Click on and expand each picture for the high-res version.

Well, that depends on what time of day you’re using them. Images taken outdoors, under a bright sun, came out crisp and detailed, with realistic colors and skin tones. However, image quality drops just as soon as the light dims, despite the Zenfone 2’s low-light mode kicking in.

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Low-light photos taken with the Zenfone 2. Low-light mode on (left) and off (right)

It also bears noting that the cameras are capable of fast shutter speeds, though you may not be able to tell as much at first glance. That’s because the phone automatically retouches your photos immediately after the fact, except when you’re shooting with manual controls. Our advice: Turn off image optimization in the camera settings menu.

Image quality drops just as soon as the light dims, despite the Zenfone 2’s low-light mode kicking in. It also bears noting that the cameras are capable of fast shutter speeds

Now, for the elephant in the room: Is the ZE550ML model — the one this review is based on — running Android Lollipop 5.0 on a 64-bit, quad-core Intel processor and 2GB of RAM, powerful enough to challenge the usual suspects at the top of the Android hierarchy? The short answer is yes. Its peak performance is comparable — albeit a step slower — to our Qualcomm Snapdragon 801-based Sony Xperia Z3, which is to say it can handle just about anything you throw at it.

And while benchmark numbers don’t usually tell the whole story, our Zenfone 2 has put up impressive numbers on AnTuTu Benchmark (43,790 points) and Geekbench 3 (753 on single-core tests; 2,372 on multi-core tests), even beating scores posted by 2014 flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S5, the HTC One M8, the LG G3, and the Huawei Ascend Mate 7.

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ASUS Zenfone 2’s Geekbench 3 score (left) and AnTuTu Benchmark score (right)

We imagine the higher-end variant of the Zenfone 2 to be a more fearsome beast of a phone. Let’s hope the higher pixel density and double shot of RAM don’t come at the cost of battery life. Speaking of which, our unit typically gives us a day and a bit’s worth of moderate use on a single charge. Of course, battery life takes a significant hit if you’re connected to a 4G LTE network and browsing the Web at breakneck speeds, provided your carrier supports faster connections, or when you’re doing something processor-intensive, like playing Asphalt 8: Airborne on high settings.

All things considered, we think the ASUS Zenfone 2 belongs to a rare group of devices that make a strong case against ponying up top money for a top-shelf product, or at least its 5.5-inch variant does. It’s a genuinely compelling piece of hardware that ticks most boxes on our wish list.

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Though it’s not perfect package just yet, as there are a few nitpicks that prevent us from recommending it to anyone in the market for a new smartphone. For one, some might find using a 5.5-inch touchscreen to be discomforting. But handling aside, it comes as close as anything else to offering the kind of user experience that, until recently, you’d only find in the premium segment.

Even if you think the ASUS Zenfone 2 is not your next smartphone, we’re positive it will make at least a slight impact on the one you will eventually end up with.

Quite simply, ASUS’ latest effort represents unprecedented value for money, and it’s products like the Zenfone 2 that will lead the next generation of industry favorites and alter the landscape to meet our expectations. And change is coming fast. So even if you think the Zenfone 2 is not your next smartphone, we’re positive it will make at least a slight impact on the one you will eventually end up with. For that alone, it is worth a hypothetical standing ovation.

The Modern Workspace

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Alleged models, prices of ASUS Zenfone 2 in PH

(UPDATE 1: According to Abe Olandres, the ZE500CL will retail for P7,995, while the ZE551ML will have three sub-variants in the Philippines, starting at P9,995 (1.8GHz Intel Z3560 with 2GB RAM and 16GB storage). The most expensive model in the ZE551ML series (2.3GHz Intel Z358 with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage) will reportedly sell for P14,995, and the middle-of-the-pack unit will be priced at P12,995.)

(UPDATE 2: We’ve received word from ASUS Philippines about the prices of the Zenfone 2 variants, and we’re publishing it in full: “Prices that Abe posted are not yet final and are still subject to change. So, yes, Abe’s post is not true.”)

(UPDATE 3: Our source from ASUS Philippines says the company “will try its best to bring the 4GB RAM model of the Zenfone 2 by Q2 2015, as originally planned.” Our advice: Hold on to that Zenfone 2 money until the second week of May. By then we’ll know the release dates of all sub-variants, as well as their exact prices.)

If, like us, you’ve been waiting to hear official details about the ASUS Zenfone 2 for months now, today’s the day, people. The Taiwanese company finally dropped the word on which variants — there are a lot, actually — will land in the Philippines in May. Well, sort of. Two models have been listed on ASUS Philippines’ official website, namely the ZE500CL (aka the smaller, entry-level Zenfone 2 rocking a 5-inch display) and the ZE551ML (aka the one with a 5.5-inch 1080p display and a whopping 4GB of RAM).

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Screenshot of ASUS Philippines’ website

We’ve reached out to ASUS to confirm if another variant will arrive eventually, but it’s safe to assume we won’t be seeing a third option given the relatively negligible price difference between the various editions of the Zenfone 2. As you may have gathered, pricing for the hotly anticipated Android Lollipop smartphone remains up in the air at the moment. For now, we’ll keep our ears and eyes peeled for that elusive information.

Specs of the ASUS Zenfone 2 (ZE551ML):
* LTE
* Dual-SIM
* 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 CPU
* PowerVR G6430 GPU
* 4GB RAM
* 32/64GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 64GB)
* 5.5-inch IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (1,080 x 1,920 resolution)
* 13-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 3,000mAh battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

Specs of the ASUS Zenfone 2 (ZE500CL):
* LTE
* 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Atom Z2560 CPU
* PowerVR SGX544MP2 GPU
* 2GB RAM
* 16GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 64GB)
* 5-inch IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 8-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash
* 2-megapixel front camera
* 2,500mAh battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: ASUS made the smart move by limiting the Philippine-bound Zenfone 2 variants to just two because there are a million of them. (Okay, they’re not that many, but there are a lot.) Having more than two editions that are a couple of thousand pesos apart would be counterproductive for the company. It may also result in some units getting little to no attention from consumers, regardless of how reasonably priced they are. As appealing as the idea of bringing Zenfone 2s for every budget may sound, the folks at ASUS Philippines chose correctly by going with two models that will most likely appeal to fans of previous-generation Zenfones.

ASUS Philippines chose correctly by going with two models that will most likely appeal to fans of previous-generation Zenfones.

The ZE500CL is designed for Zenfone 5 (and Zenfone 4) owners who don’t want to step up to a 5.5-inch display and live with the compromises that come with the generous screen real estate. The higher-end Zenfone 2 is aimed at power users who see value in a massive touchscreen.

RELATED VIDEO

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xjtu7rLPO3w” width=”560″ height=”315″]

Our unboxing of the ASUS Zenfone 2 (article here)

(Thanks to this tweet, we were able to monitor ASUS Philippines’ website and social media accounts.)

What we know so far about the LG G4

The successor to the impressive LG G3, which, as we noted in our review on Yahoo, is “as delightful as smartphones get,” is set to debut on April 28, according to The Verge. And with the aptly named LG G4 due to launch a few weeks from now, we thought today would be a great time to post a cheat sheet based on what we know so far about the top-billing Android challenger from the Korean manufacturer.

Design

Case-maker Spigen has all but confirmed what the G4 looks like by showing off a bunch of cases designed for the handset and listing them on its digital store and on Amazon U.S.

Judging from the product shots, it seems the phone has more in common with the LG G Flex 2 — which we saw at the 2015 International CES in Las Vegas — than its predecessor, though the photos also suggest the return of the rear-mounted power button and volume rocker, laser-guided auto-focus, and brushed finish on the back. An earlier teaser also hints at a leather or faux-leather back cover, which may imply the mobile has more than one variant.

As is the case with previous LG smartphones, the G4 will most likely embrace software navigation buttons that make Android easier to navigate, as opposed to backlit capacitive keys.

Display

LG has announced that its new 5.5-inch Quad HD LCD panel will be used in a “forthcoming flagship smartphone to be unveiled at the end of the month,” which clearly indicates the company is talking about the G4.

The display size and resolution are the same for both the G4 and G3, but if we are to take LG’s marketing talk about the strides it has made on the display-technology front seriously, this year’s top-shelf G smartphone should deliver clearer, brighter, and more vivid images without blowing a huge hole in the phone’s battery life.

Don’t expect a smartphone with a flexible display, though; that won’t appeal to mainstream users, and LG knows that all too well.

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZdWPqpVbEk” width=”560″ height=”315″]

LG G4’s official teaser video

Camera

The LG G4 is said to have a 16-megapixel rear camera featuring f/1.8 aperture, barely edging out the f/1.9 lens of the Samsung Galaxy S6. The wide aperture should allow you to shoot in low light at a faster shutter speed, as well as blur the background with a shallow depth of field effect. The front camera has been supposedly bumped up to 8 megapixels because people clearly love taking selfies — and who wouldn’t want sharper mugs on Instagram?

Specs and software

If previous generations of the G lineup are any indication, LG’s G4 will likely ship with the latest and greatest Qualcomm Snapdragon chip for mobile devices. In this case, it’s the Snapdragon 810 processor, the same one inside the G Flex 2, but nothing has been confirmed yet. Storage and RAM configurations should go all the way up to 32GB and 3GB, respectively, similar to the second-gen G Flex and last year’s G3. As for the G4’s operating system, we’d bet our bottom peso it runs Android Lollipop out of the box. (RL)

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: Since the days of the Optimus G, LG has been treating us to impressive flagship phones year after year, and I’m positive the G4 will be just as memorable, if not more so, than its predecessors. The electronics giant is building on an already excellent device in the G3, after all.

I’m positive the LG G4 will be just as memorable, if not more so, than its predecessors.

With a ludicrous screen density, beefier specs, and a more souped-up camera that uses lasers (yes, lasers!), the LG G4 could provide serious competition in the mobile segment.

I’m hoping LG hasn’t reached its ‘Samsung Galaxy S4’ moment just yet.

ALORA UY GUERRERO’S TAKE: Has LG reached its “Samsung Galaxy S4 moment,” aka that time a phone-maker starts to bore you? Because HTC has with the M9. Or is LG still far from reaching the peak? I’m hoping for the latter. The more money-worthy handsets there are on the market, the merrier. The stiffer the competition, the better for consumers. Let’s all cross our fingers and toes, shall we?

 

Cheaper Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge now on Lazada PH

Lazada Philippines is now selling 32GB and 64GB editions of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge ahead of their official Philippine launch on April 18 — and at lower prices, mind you. About 10 percent lower than their suggested retail pricing.

The online retailer has listed the 32GB Galaxy S6 at P31,999 and the 32GB and 64GB variants of the Galaxy S6 Edge at P36,999 and P42,999, respectively. You may use your BDO credit card to purchase any of the phones on installment plans of up to 24 months, albeit with corresponding interest rates depending on the payment period.

Keep in mind, though: The units will be shipped from overseas (likely Hong Kong) by a parallel importer, so they won’t be covered by Samsung Electronics Philippines’ warranty policies. Never mind that the estimated delivery date is May 1, which is a couple of weeks after the handsets’ local debut. But if you’re willing to wait and roll the dice on Samsung’s failure rate, you can swing by this page and order the latest and greatest from the Korean electronics giant from the comfort of your couch. (RL)

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 A screenshot of Lazada Philippines’ website

Specs of the Samsung Galaxy S6 (Official prices in the Philippines: P35,990 [32GB] and P41,990 [64GB]:
* LTE
* Fingerprint sensor, heart-rate monitor
* Octa-core Exynos 7420 processor (2.1GHz quad-core Cortex-A57 and 1.5GHz quad-core Cortex-A53)
* Mali-T760MP8 graphics
* 3GB RAM
* 32GB/64GB internal storage
* 5.1-inch AMOLED display with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 (1,440 x 2,560 resolution)
* 16-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 2,550mAh non-removable battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

Specs of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge (Official prices in the Philippines: P41,990 [32GB] and P47,990 [64GB]:
* LTE
* Fingerprint sensor, heart-rate monitor
* Octa-core Exynos 7420 processor (2.1GHz quad-core Cortex-A57 and 1.5GHz quad-core Cortex-A53)
* Mali-T760MP8 graphics
* 3GB RAM
* 32GB/64GB internal storage
* 5.1-inch AMOLED curved display with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 (1,440 x 2,560 resolution)
* 16-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 2,600mAh non-removable battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

ALORA UY GUERRERO’S TAKE: I don’t see any other reason for you to take this offer other than you are short of cash or are naturally kuripot.

Getting a high-ticket item from the gray market approximately two weeks AFTER it officially goes on sale in the country is a no-no in my book. You don’t know if it’s really going to arrive on the published delivery date, and you will have problems when you need support because the local office won’t honor the warranty. Sucks, right?

You don’t know if it’s really going to arrive on the published delivery date, and you will have problems when you need support because the local office won’t honor the warranty.

Majority of those who are planning to get high-end gadgets like the Samsung Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge can probably afford to cough up a few more thousand pesos to get units from official sources. For the rest, you know you can always opt for installment. Even telcos Smart Communications and Globe Telecom offer up-to-24-month installment plans (go to this page for Smart’s S6 offer; this one for its S6 Edge plans; and this site for Globe’s), so take advantage of any of them.

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: Unless you absolutely need to get your hands on the Samsung Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge, I recommend waiting things out. Resellers tend to offer better prices at the expense of local warranty coverage, anyway, so Lazada won’t be alone in selling the handsets at a huge discount.

Two weeks is too long of a wait for a product that will likely see a full rollout by May 2015.

And let’s not downplay that long waiting time. Two weeks is too long of a wait for a product that will likely see a full rollout by May. Regardless, that should give you enough time to think about whether or not you want to purchase the latest Galaxy flagship from an importer, as opposed to getting it from an official source.

VIDEO YOU MAY WANT TO WATCH

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggL_yLCC2a0″ width=”560″ height=”315″]

We’re breaking the rules of online publishing…

Who are crazy enough to soft-launch a site that’s so bare?

My writing partner since my Mega Publishing days, Ramon Lopez, and I are.

We have disregarded the first, second, and third rules of online publishing: You do not launch a website unless it’s packed with articles, or as my former boss, Summit Media president Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng, would call it, puno.

Surprisingly, we’re okay with breaking “those rules.” First, we already bought two phones so we could write about and take videos of them. Second, we couldn’t bear to watch our clips just sitting on our computer for weeks. Sayang. Third, it’s our way of forcing ourselves to write stories every day.

What you’ll see here are bite-sized gadget reviews and commentaries on Philippine and international tech news. Each article comes with our opinion — what we think is working and what could probably be improved on. Our goal is to keep you informed of the latest in technology.

And we encourage you to chime in. Share your thoughts with us. Come on, come along for the ride.

On behalf of the Revu team,

Alora Uy Guerrero

Deal alert: Cherry Mobile Nova 2.0 ‘buy 1, take 1’ promo

Heads-up, bargain hunters. Cherry Mobile announced on Facebook yesterday that it will be having a “buy one, take one” promotion for the Nova 2.0 this Wednesday, April 8. The dual-SIM Android Jelly Bean smartphone is currently priced at P3,999, meaning each unit will essentially run you P2,000, which is a very low price — even for an older model. Granted, the Nova 2.0 may never get a taste of sweet Android KitKat, much less Lollipop.

Still, for the price of a pair of Nike sneakers, you’re looking at not one, but two well-specced handsets featuring a 4-inch IPS touchscreen and a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor backed by 1GB of RAM and 4GB of expandable storage. You also get 8-megapixel and VGA rear and selfie cameras, a 1,800mAh battery, and a bunch of connectivity options, including WiFi, Bluetooth, and 3G.

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Those interested will be happy to note that the one-day offer will be rolled out nationwide, across all Cherry Mobile concept stores and kiosks, to make sure that everyone gets a fair chance at it. Here’s hoping there will be a limit to the number of units each person may purchase. Happy hunting, everyone!

Specs of the Cherry Mobile Nova 2.0 (Price at launch: P3,999):
* Dual SIM
* 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor
* 1GB RAM
* 4GB internal storage
* microSD card expansion
* 4-inch IPS display (480 x 800 resolution)
* 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* VGA front camera
* Android Jelly Bean 4.3
* 1,500mAh battery

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: Though I won’t be waiting in line to get a pair of second-gen Cherry Mobile Novas this Wednesday, I still think you’re looking at a very good deal. P4,000 for two Android Jelly Bean smartphones powered by a quad-core Snapdragon processor and 1GB of RAM is as good as it gets right now. If your absolute ceiling is in that price range, that is. And being limited to dated software doesn’t bother you at all.

You’re looking at a very good deal. If your absolute ceiling is in that price range, that is. And being limited to dated software doesn’t bother you at all.

However, you should take note that as is usually the case with fire sales in the mobile segment, Cherry Mobile practically giving away the Nova 2.0 marks the phasing out of older models in its stable to make way for newer ones, the majority of which will likely run Android Lollipop out of the box. And who wouldn’t want to experience the latest Google has to offer, right?

We unbox the ASUS Zenfone 2

(UPDATED) Yesterday, we bought a retail unit of the ASUS Zenfone 2, which, based on the positive buzz it has been generating since its introduction at the 2015 CES in Las Vegas, is one of the most anticipated smartphones this year. Naturally, we made an unboxing video of the spiritual successor to the Zenfone 5 (and Zenfone 6?), seeing that we’re still a month away from its Philippine debut.

Unfortunately, as much as we would have loved to bring home the higher-end Zenfone 2 with 4GB of RAM, we had to settle for the 2GB RAM model, because apparently, the former is hard to find even in its native Taiwan.

As usual, our first-hand impressions are below. Oh, and if you have questions about the device, please do chime in. (RL)

Specs of the ASUS Zenfone 2 (Price of the ZE550ML model, which is what we have: TW$5,990 or about P8,600):
* Dual-SIM (primary SIM slot offers 3G and 4G/LTE speeds; secondary SIM slot supports 2G only)
* 1.8GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3560 CPU
* PowerVR G6430 GPU
* 2GB RAM
* 16GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 64GB)
* 5.5-inch IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 13-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 3,000mAh battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xjtu7rLPO3w” width=”560″ height=”315″]

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: Before going further, let me be clear: I don’t recommend buying electronics from gray-market resellers if you’re not in the publishing industry. The risk is simply great, even more so for smartphones that have all sorts of built-in components. If you can wait for the Zenfone 2 to officially arrive in the Philippines in May, ASUS may make it worth your while. We heard that local pricing will be lower than in other regions, just like last year’s Zenfones.

Now for some quick thoughts on the phone. Our unit flaunts a matte-red battery cover. With the exception of the rear-mounted volume keys, the back bears a striking resemblance to the Zenfone 5’s. You probably can’t tell by looking at the pictures, but even the shade of red used on the Zenfone 2 (ZE550ML) is identical to its predecessor. That’s not a knock on the hardware itself — the paint job on the back stands out nicely — though it clearly lacks the brushed-metal treatment I had hoped for. That’s exclusive to the 4GB RAM model, I suppose.

In terms of dimensions, the 5.5-inch Zenfone 2 stands 152mm and measures 77mm wide, making it significantly larger than the Zenfone 5. It’s thicker, too, at almost 11mm. Needless to say, if you feel the Zenfone 5 — or any other phone with at least 5 inches of screen size, for that matter — is too unwieldy for everyday use, then this device is just not for you.

What we find so far points to a likely verdict: ASUS has another winner on its hands. Look out, everyone else.

Finally, if you’re wondering about benchmark results and real-world usage, we’re still in the process of arriving at a conclusion, though it’s looking very promising. Our unit posted impressive numbers in the latest versions of AnTuTu Benchmark (43,790 points) and Geekbench 3 (753 and 2,372 points in the single- and multi-core tests) — performance on equal footing as top-billing handsets from the previous year, such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8. What’s also notable thus far is its 3,000mAh battery, which gives us a day and a half of moderate to heavy use on a single charge. All these point to a likely verdict: ASUS has another winner on its hands. Look out, everyone else.

ALORA UY GUERRERO’S TAKE: You know I’m excited about a gadget when I search for it come hell or high water way before its official launch in the country. With the Zenfone 5 putting ASUS on the “phone brands to watch for in the Philippines” list, I’m predicting another hit in the Zenfone 2. Based on our initial handling of the handset, it processes tasks fast and won’t die on you in just a few hours, after all — and we’re talking “only” about the 2GB version here.

The ASUS Zenfone 2 processes tasks fast and won’t die on you in just a few hours — and we’re talking ‘only’ about the 2GB, not the 4GB, version here.

But the company should price it right. The right local SRP in this case should probably be around P10,000 for the ZE550ML (5.5 inches, 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage) model and not more than P15,000 for the ZE551ML (5.5 inches, 2GB/4GB RAM, 32GB/64GB built-in memory) variant.

We don’t know if ASUS Philippines is going to roll out the ZE500CL (5 inches, 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage) — the cheapest among the lot at TW$4,990 or approximately P7,100 — in the country, but I think the Taiwanese manufacturer should. It’s something for those with small hands, as one-handed use is out of the question with any of the 5.5-inchers. The best part? Its price is the same as the Zenfone 5’s at launch, but this time, you already have an LTE phone. If that doesn’t scream “take me, take me,” I don’t know what does.

What’s special about MyPhone’s Rio 2, Rio 2 Lite

In addition to showing off a new logo, Philippine tech company MyPhone just unveiled the Rio 2 and Rio 2 Lite, two budget smartphones running Android Lollipop — the first ones in the country outside of Google’s Android One efforts. Both devices offer similar specs and are built around MediaTek’s quad-core MT6582 chipset, though the Rio 2 has more screen real estate — protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3, mind you — to go along with a larger, 2,800mAh battery. The MyPhone Rio 2 also comes with software navigation buttons, just like the ones found in the company’s Uno, whereas the Rio 2 Lite has capacitive keys below the screen.

In typical Rio fashion, MyPhone’s latest devices offer a choice of several color options, including black, white, red, blue, and yellow. The Rio 2 and Rio 2 Lite are already available at select stores for P5,499 and P4,599, respectively.

Specs of the MyPhone Rio 2 (Price: P5,499):
* Dual SIM (3G)
* 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6582 chipset
* 1GB RAM
* 8GB internal storage
* microSD card expansion
* 5-inch IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 2,800mAh battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

Specs of the MyPhone Rio 2 Lite (Price: P4,599):
* Dual SIM (3G)
* 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6582 chipset
* 1GB RAM
* 8GB internal storage
* microSD card expansion
* 4.7-inch IPS display (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 2-megapixel front camera
* 2,120mAh battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpLTcg1v8oE” width=”560″ height=”315″]

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: Props to MyPhone for bringing two seemingly worthy alternatives to the Android One phones in the Philippines. Android Lollipop is, far and away, the best iteration of Google’s mobile OS and is as good a reason as any to upgrade to a new smartphone.

If I’d have to choose between the two, I would pick the MyPhone Rio 2 because of its on-screen keys, which are completely tailored for the Android UI.

If I’d have to choose between the two, I would pick the Rio 2, but not because of its bigger screen covered in scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3. You won’t be able to enjoy it, anyway, due to the screen space taken up by the phone’s navigation buttons. My choice reflects my preference for on-screen keys that are completely tailored for the Android UI. (The petty side of me abhors seeing a menu button on new Android models.)

The icing on the cake is that the MyPhone Rio 2 supports a number of screen-off gestures, foremost among them is the double-tap-to-wake function, which has seen a surge in popularity. I can’t stress this enough: The double-tap feature popularized by the LG G2 is a godsend for those of us who check our phones every few minutes.

[minigallery id=”216″ prettyphoto=”true”]

Click on and expand the photos to see more of MyPhone’s Rio 2 and Rio 2 Lite

But regardless of which second-gen Rio you end up with, you’ll be treated to swappable back covers with a sandstone finish similar to the OnePlus One’s, which I absolutely love. It looks and feels nothing like the backs of devices from local brands I’ve tested so far, and I mean that in the nicest way. But don’t just take my word for it. You can check out the handsets for yourself at select MyPhone outlets.

This is ASUS’ answer to Apple’s 2015 MacBook

(UPDATED) Sure, Apple’s all-new MacBook dropped the bomb on us with its stunning design and typing-focused engineering, but Mac users aren’t the only ones getting an ultra-portable notebook this year. Meet the ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi, one of the latest entries into the burgeoning category of convertible PCs that function as a laptop and tablet depending on how you use it.

It is set to launch in the Philippines on April 7, with a nationwide release planned after that. It doesn’t come cheap, though, as you’ll have to pony up between P40,000 and P50,000 for the 4GB RAM and 8GB RAM editions, respectively.

Specs of the ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi (Prices in the Philippines: P39,995 for the 4GB model with Intel Core M 5Y10 and P46,995 for the 8GB variant with Intel Core M 5Y71):
* Intel Core M 5Y10/5Y71 CPU
* Intel HD Graphics 5300
* 4GB/8GB RAM
* 128GB SSD (tablet)
* 12.5-inch IPS touch display (1,920 x 1,080 resolution)
* 720p web camera
* 1x microHDMI, 2x microUSB, SD card reader
* Windows 8.1

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPs1g0TLWAU” width=”560″ height=”315″]

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: The kicker here is the T300 Chi’s trimmed-down frame, which, according to ASUS Philippines, makes it one of the thinnest notebooks ever made at 16mm when folded flat. And while it’s not as slim as the 2015 MacBook, you can’t really complain when you’re talking about a Windows 8.1 machine that’s just slightly thicker than your average feature phone, not to mention it’s only 7-mm-thick without the magnetic keyboard dock.

Then there’s the design: The tablet itself has an all-aluminum body, featuring a unibody construction and diamond-cut edges that give it a premium look and feel in the hand. The considerable heft resulting from ASUS’ design choices and the lack of a full-size USB port to connect accessories may be a sticking point for some, though.

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The 12.5-inch, 16:9 touch display maxes out at 1,920 x 1,080. (Don’t expect the quad-HD variant anytime soon; ASUS Philippines won’t be bringing it to local shores.)  The resolution is nothing special compared to what the competition offers, but it should get the job done.

Under the hood, you’re looking at Intel’s new Core M processor, which, we’re told, performs on a par with first-gen Intel Core i5 mobile chips, alongside either 4GB or 8GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage on tap. There’s also room for 2 batteries (one is inside the tablet, and the other is housed in the keyboard dock) for up to 8 hours of use on a single charge.

Think of the ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi as an anti-MacBook for PC loyalists, with the added benefit of a detachable touch display for a tablet experience.

In a nutshell, think of this machine as an anti-MacBook for PC loyalists, with the added benefit of a detachable touch display for a tablet experience. Being more portable than any laptop Apple has built so far is its biggest advantage, and time will tell whether that’s enough to put pressure on the MacBook’s market share. Don’t hold your breath, though; this isn’t the first time the MacBook is poised to face stiff competition, after all.

And PH’s top smartphone brands in 2014 are…

We’re well aware of how popular Cherry Mobile is in the Philippines, but we couldn’t quite put it into numbers, given how secretive consumer-electronics companies usually are when it comes to sales and profits. That is, until now.

Research firm IDC today released its Asia-Pacific Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, ranking Cherry Mobile as the top mobile vendor in the country in 2014, with a staggering 21.9 percent market share of the total smartphones shipped last year. Samsung came in a far second with 13.3 percent, while MyPhone, Lenovo, and Torque placed third, fourth, and fifth with 11.2 percent, 6.5 percent, and 4.8 percent market share, respectively.

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Chart culled from IDC

The report also revealed that a total of 26.8 million handsets were shipped last year, and out of that incredible number, smartphones accounted for 47 percent of the tally, up from 24 percent in 2013. IDC has attributed the continued rise in mobile ownership to cheaper prices and manufacturers focusing more on their smartphone efforts.

The third quarter of 2014 marked the first time smartphone shipments surpassed those of feature phones. And the gap will only widen. According to IDC, the Philippine smartphone market will see a 20 percent year-over-year growth in 2015 as feature-phone sales continue to decline sharply. (RL)

ALORA UY GUERRERO’S TAKE: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Pinoy brands will rule the Philippine smartphone market for quite some time. Offering decent-looking devices with mid-end specs at low prices is a recipe for market-share dominance in a country where 24.9 percent of the population is below the poverty line. So I’m not really surprised by the result.

I’m not surprised by the result. What I’m more interested in is the list that reveals the brands that are slugging it out in the profits department.

What I’m more interested in is the list that reveals the brands that are slugging it out in the profits department. Take note that the IDC report only refers to the number of smartphones shipped. Are the top-ranking companies in the study making boatloads of cash, or are they just a little over breaking even?

Can the king of profits in the Philippines please stand up?

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: At this point, I don’t think there’s any denying that Cherry Mobile is the country’s top smartphone brand, at least as far as total units shipped is concerned. I mean, just look at how many Cherry Mobile kiosks have popped up in Metro Manila alone. Even more telling than Cherry Mobile’s nationwide distribution network is how busy the stores usually are. And things only get wilder whenever the company, which has been in the trenches of the mobile-price war for so long, releases a new budget device that threatens to keep industry execs awake at night.

Price remains a major motivator for the local market, and when it comes to selling low-priced handsets and tablets, Cherry Mobile owns the formula for success.

Unfortunately for the competition, I haven’t seen anything to indicate change is in the air. Price remains a major motivator for the local market, and when it comes to selling low-priced handsets and tablets, Cherry Mobile owns the formula for success. Whether relying on scale to compensate for thin margins will remain a profitable strategy moving forward is a question for another day.

Cherry Mobile One vs. MyPhone Uno: Which one’s right for you?

By now, you’ve probably read about the 2 Android One phones that have been recently released in the Philippines. And for those of you who are looking forward to a Nexus-like experience for cheap without digging through the bargain bin of second-hand models, the big question is: Should you get the Cherry Mobile One or the MyPhone Uno?

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With MacBook, Apple to redefine gold standard for notebooks?

Via Forbes

(UPDATED) We didn’t think that the MacBook would steal the Apple Watch‘s limelight at the Cupertino-based company’s March 10 (March 9 in the U.S.) Spring Forward event. But it did.

It’s the first to get gold and space-gray variants. It’s the first to have a 12-inch display — and a Retina one at that. It’s the first after 4 years to chuck “Air” and “Pro” and simply go by the name “MacBook” again. It’s the first to go fanless. And it’s the lightest and thinnest Apple laptop yet, weighing a mere 2lbs and measuring only 13.1mm at its thickest point.

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hajnEpCq5SE” width=”560″ height=”315″]

To get the svelte frame the notebook is sporting, though, Apple had to change a few things. For the new MacBook’s Force Touch trackpad, for example, the company eschewed the diving-board mechanism, which provides space underneath for a click’s downward motion. Apple made the whole thing a button instead. Click anywhere on the surface instead of just near the bottom, and the trackpad should be able to tell what you want to do based on the pressure you apply.

For the MacBook’s full-size keyboard, Apple used a butterfly mechanism. Because there’s not much room underneath, typing will feel as though you’re working on a touchscreen. Sounds familiar, Microsoft Surface users?

To make the notebook slim, you also get a new, small logic board that’s powered by a fifth-generation Intel Core M “Broadwell” processor; a logo that doesn’t glow; and just 1 port: a USB-C input. The space saved is now reserved for batteries, which should give you up to 9 hours of Web browsing or 10 hours of iTunes movie playback, according to Apple.

If you’re bent on getting the new MacBook, mark April 10 on your calendar. And be prepared to cough up P64,900 for the basic model or P79,990 for the higher-end version. (AG)

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Specs of the 2 Apple MacBook variants

ALORA UY GUERRERO’S TAKE: It’s déjà vu. The collective anger directed at the new MacBook from some of the people on Twitter reminds me of the time the original MacBook Air was launched in 2008. The first Air, more than its successors, was also a story of compromises. But then it went on to help Apple become the manufacturer that’s currently bucking the negative trend of the overall PC market. The 2008 computer turned out to be a showcase for what was to come.

The same can be said about the 2015 MacBook. I think it is Apple’s way of displaying what the future in computing will be like for people who are increasingly becoming more mobile, hence the P64,990 price tag for the basic model. Expect the SRP to drop in the next iteration, just as the original entry-level Air’s price fell from $1,799 (about P80,000) to $1,499 (roughly P67,000) after a year.

‘MacBook not for you? Great! Get an Air or Pro. Gold not for you? Great! Get aluminum or steel. Angry they exist? Yikes! Get a grip!’

The new MacBook may not be for you now, but it will be for the future you. So get a grip of yourself. Stop whining. iMore editor Rene Ritchie said it best: “MacBook not for you? Great! Get an Air or Pro. Gold not for you? Great! Get aluminum or steel. Angry they exist? Yikes! Get a grip!”

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: There’s no question that Apple has had the Midas touch for years now, but the tech giant literally proved it Tuesday by showing off a redesigned MacBook in gold. And silver and (space) gray. Suddenly, it feels as though #MacBookLust is an actual thing, as opposed to a hashtag from Phil Schiller.

Apple may have introduced the ideal machine for couch browsing, watching movies, and basic productivity tasks.

Between Tim Cook enumerating Apple’s triumphs in the Far East, Tim Cook insisting that talking to a watch was something he had wanted to do since turning 5, and Tim Cook sharing the stage with Christy Turlington Burns — who got first dibs on the Apple Watch, to the chagrin of every tech journalist on the planet — the Cupertino-based company may have introduced the ideal machine for couch browsing, watching movies, and basic productivity tasks. An everyman’s MacBook that no combination of iPad and Bluetooth keyboard can hope to beat. And I’m all for it, never mind the added costs of cables and adapters and question marks over Intel’s new Core M processor. I suspect I’m not alone in thinking this.

It’s the Apple Watch’s time to shine. Or is it?

It’s time, according to Apple. It may be a bit late to the party, but the American tech giant has nonetheless given the green light to its first attempt at a smartwatch.

The Apple Watch has a premium design to go with its premium price, with the base model starting at $349 (roughly P15,500) and the 18-karat edition selling for as high as $17,000 (approximately P750,000), or the price of a brand-new compact sedan. For comparison’s sake, most smartwatches — at least those that are getting a lot of media attention — are priced between $200 and $250 (around P9,000 to P11,000).

And just like Apple’s iPhone and iPad, the Watch can run apps to check your email, track your movement, tell you to stand up, keep up with WeChat conversations, call an Uber driver, like Instagram posts, and pay for groceries. It can also let you answer calls and view and reply to text messages when paired with an iPhone.

Bored? The wearable device comes with a variety of watch faces to choose from, including a few animated ones.

As for battery life, Apple claims up to 18 hours of use on a single charge, provided you only spend 45 minutes a day on apps. Thankfully, charging the Watch is as easy as connecting the back of the device to a magnetic charger.

To summarize, what you’re paying for here — besides a luxurious timepiece, obviously — is the convenience of doing smartphone stuff without whipping out your handset every so often. Whether that’s worth at least $349 is completely up to you.

The Apple Watch gets shipped to select countries beginning April 24. Pre-orders start April 10th. More info here. (RL)

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ql0Z8Il73s” width=”560″ height=”315″]

ALORA UY GUERRERO’S TAKE: Some people would probably say I worship at the altar of Steve Jobs — my main handset is an iPhone; my tablet, an iPad; and my laptop, a Mac. So why am I not excited about the Apple Watch?

Yes, if there were a beauty contest for smartwatches, Apple’s wearable would likely take the crown. Yes, if I were to buy a smartwatch now, I’d likely go for an Apple. Yes, I am confident that many of you will lap up the Apple Watch. Some of you would probably forgo buying a car to get the ridiculously priced 18-karat edition. We all have our priorities, and I won’t judge yours.

But until the smartwatch can stop being the phone’s sidekick, consider me uninterested. The category is currently just a mere extension of all things handset. Take calls? Track all the ways you move? Those sound familiar. The smartwatch should offer something that the smartphone can’t. Otherwise, it will be relegated to the sidelines; you have it, but after some time, it becomes just that — an accessory. What that “something” is, I don’t know. Companies should figure it out.

Apple, my apologies if I’m not excited about the Watch. It’s not you; it’s the category.

So Apple, my apologies if I’m not excited about the Watch. It’s not you; it’s the category.

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: First, a little history: I’ve tried several smartwatches running Android Wear over the past few months, and I’ve had the opportunity to strap a number of watch-slash-phones from China to my wrist before that. I think I’d be fine skipping the Apple Watch, or at least its first iteration.

What Apple showed off during its recent keynote in San Francisco doesn’t change the reality of modern high-tech watches; they’re still largely extensions of smartphones, which isn’t something I’d happily purchase. And let’s not forget about that 18-hour battery life. Apple’s estimated runtime is obviously a best-case scenario. But, hey, at least your iPhone will have some company near your wall socket.

That is not to say, though, that the Apple Watch won’t be a sales success. It will. I believe that it will sell in the millions, thanks in large part to the growing number of iPhone owners. I also believe that, to a certain extent, it can help you lead a healthier and more productive life.

My ideal smartwatch has a round face and delivers at least 2 days of mixed usage between charges.

My smartwatch should have a round face and deliver at least 2 days of mixed usage between charges, in addition to a metal body that allows wireless charging. The Moto 360 and LG G Watch R don’t fit the bill (I’ve tried them both), so I’m hoping the recently unveiled Huawei Watch does when it becomes available in the Philippines.

Ladies and gents, the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge

Samsung has finally taken the wraps off the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, successors to its flagship Galaxy S line, at the ongoing 2015 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. And as expected, the two smartphones pack headline-grabbing specs and features that raise the stakes for everyone in the cutthroat mobile industry. Bleeding-edge silicon is what makes Samsung’s top-tier Galaxy handsets so attractive — life savings be damned.

Here, take a look at them:

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggL_yLCC2a0&list=UUMeavCblAE1-lP5CWpcZHMA” width=”560″ height=”315″]

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge preview

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3NvdHYPZC0&list=UUMeavCblAE1-lP5CWpcZHMA” width=”560″ height=”315″]

Samsung Galaxy S6 preview

Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge specs

Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge specs

ALORA UY GUERRERO’S TAKE: Unlike in previous years, Samsung is putting an emphasis on design in 2015, hence the somewhat unfamiliar slabs of metal and glass you see on your monitor, phone, or tablet. This year, it has done the unthinkable yet inevitable: take bolder steps to come out with something different, something better-looking, and, for the Korean company’s sake (note that the Galaxy S5 failed to meet sales expectations), something genuinely compelling.

Samsung has done the unthinkable yet inevitable: take bolder steps to come out with something better-looking and, for the Korean company’s sake, something genuinely compelling.

To Samsung’s credit, the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge do seem to fit the bill. From what we’ve seen so far, they’re no-brainers for loyalists due for an upgrade — and that’s not something we can say about just any flagship successor. Owners of previous-gen iPhones, meanwhile, probably need more convincing than any other flagship-phone shopper, because they’re used to designs that incorporate premium materials.

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Samsung’s new phones feature an all-metal frame and front and rear glass panels 

Samsung is well aware of this; thus, key elements of the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge’s design include an all-metal frame and front and rear glass panels that are said to be 1.5 times more durable than Gorilla Glass 3.

There are a lot of words we can use to describe the company’s latest efforts, but “cheap-looking” or anything along that line isn’t one of them. The fact that the devices are lighter and slimmer than the Galaxy S5, which measures 8.1-mm-thick and weighs 145 grams, is likewise an impressive feat. Wireless charging comes standard as well, although you’ll have to spring for a special charger sold separately.

For the second year running, Samsung has fitted its premium offerings with built-in heart-rate and fingerprint sensors, except this time around, the latter has been integrated into the home button, as opposed to last year’s design, which can be tricky to use. While we wouldn’t say we prefer it to Apple’s Touch ID, we have to admit that it’s a vast improvement on what came before.

And how could we forget the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge’s curved screen? Forget ultra high-definition — though, to be clear, both handsets are capable of 1,440 x 2,560 resolution — curved displays, regardless of which way they bend, are as ambitious as it gets for smartphones today.

The similarities don’t end there. Both devices run a custom version of Android Lollipop on an octa-core Exynos processor with LTE Advanced support, 3GB of RAM, and from 32 to 128GB of internal storage. Also onboard are 16- and 5-megapixel rear and selfie cameras with optical image stabilization and f/1.9 aperture for improved performance in dim situations.

Finally, the 2,600mAh non-removable battery inside the Galaxy S6 has a marginal advantage over its sibling’s 2,500mAh cell. Not that it matters a whole lot given their quick-charging capabilities. We’re told it only takes 3 hours to recharge the batteries from zero capacity.

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S6 Edge (left) and S6 (right). The version of the latter that will go on sale in the Philippines will be dual SIM

Samsung Electronics Philippines is yet to reveal the local pricing of the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. We’ll probably know the phones’ respective SRPs a week or two before their mid-April launch in the country. What we do know is that the S6 version that will go on sale here will be dual SIM. If you want to pre-order now, just email iwantit@samsung.com.

Note: This article appeared first on the following sites: Gist and Yahoo.