SKK Mobile says ‘size matters,’ outs 5.5-inch Aura

In Phones by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

SKK Mobile is out to prove that size matters with its latest entry-level handset. The SKK Mobile Aura is an Android KitKat phone with a big, 5.5-inch IPS display and an even bigger appetite for pleasing design purists, no thanks in large part to a polycarbonate body that could easily be mistaken for a metal construction.

The Aura’s resolution maxes out at 540 x 960 pixels, which is no surprise given its price point. The phone runs on a quad-core processor clocked at 1.3GHz and armed with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage that can be bolstered up to an additional 32GB via microSD expansion. You also get 5- and 2-megapixel rear and front cameras, a 2,800mAh battery, plus your basic litany of connectivity options, including 3G, WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth.

The SKK Mobile Aura comes with an incredibly low price tag of P2,999, making it one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest, 5.5-inchers around. There’s no word on an exact release date just yet, but the device should arrive pretty soon.

Specs of the SKK Mobile Aura (Price: P2,999):
* 1.3GHz quad-core processor
* 512MB RAM
* 4GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 32GB)
* 5.5-inch IPS display (540 x 960 resolution)
* 5-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 2-megapixel front camera
* 2,800mAh battery
* Android KitKat 4.4.4

MY TAKE: Size does matter when it comes to handsets, especially if you treat your device as a portable movie player. But to me, what matters most is user experience — how quickly a smartphone can respond to touch and load apps, how smoothly it can navigate an operating system, and how well it can handle multiple apps in the background, among other things.

Size does matter when it comes to smartphones. But to me, what matters most is user experience.

Judging from the specs above, it’s probably safe to say that the SKK Mobile Aura won’t impress in the manner of affordable octa-core units like the Lenovo A7000 and Alcatel Flash Plus. Then again, how often do you come across a big-screen phone that’s cheaper than a pair of Nike signature shoes that run over P4,000?

Report: PH Internet speed is second-worst in Asia

In Business by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

U.S. broadband-diagnostics firm Ookla (aka speedtest.net) has ranked the Philippines 176 out of 202 countries worldwide and second-last among Asian nations in its latest household download index, which compares global download speeds over a period of 30 days (between April 18, 2015 and May 17, 2015). As if we needed further proof that we’re getting the short end of the stick, the Philippines’ connection speed is listed as 3.64Mbps — a far cry from the global average of 23.3Mbps. Only Afghanistan’s median download speed of 2.52Mbps fared worse than the Philippines in Asia.

To give you a better idea of how embarrassingly far behind the curve we are, here’s a brief look at how the top Asian countries stack up in Ookla’s rankings:

1. Singapore: 122.43 Mbps
2. Hong Kong: 102.96 Mbps
3. Japan: 82.12 Mbps
4. South Korea: 59.77 Mbps
5. Macau: 50.66 Mbps
6. Taiwan: 50.59 Mbps
7. Thailand: 19.82 Mbps
8. Mongolia: 17.92 Mbps
9. Vietnam: 17.70 Mbps
10. Bangladesh: 9.86 Mbps

We don’t need Ookla to tell us how lousy our broadband speeds are. Most of us only need to go to YouTube to realize that our home network can’t handle a standard-def clip without hiccups.

MY TAKE: We don’t need Ookla, or another company, or Bam Aquino, to tell us how lousy our broadband speeds are. Most of us only need to go to YouTube to realize that our home network can’t handle a standard-def clip without a few hiccups. This issue rests entirely on the shoulders of the government and the Internet-service providers it allows to operate freely — and without accountability, it seems — within the country.

If our political leaders are indeed serious about the telecommunications industry playing a key role in the Philippines’ economic future, the hammer needs to come down hard on broadband companies, and it needs to come down now.

MyPhone refreshes Infinity phone line for 2015

In Phones by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

Homegrown tech company MyPhone has refreshed its line of Infinity smartphones, dropping three new Android KitKat models with decent specs and affordable price tags. Leading the way is the MyPhone Infinity 2, a mid-ranger that bears premium design elements, such as a metal back that curves softly around the sides, to go with an octa-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz. At the lower end of the spectrum are the MyPhone Infinity 2 Lite and Infinity LTE, which take aim at bargain hunters who want some of the features of the higher-end Infinity but don’t want to pay its full price.

The MyPhone Infinity 2 and Infinity LTE are slated to go on sale next week for P12,799 and P8,299. The Infinity 2 Lite starts at P7,399 and is already available in stores nationwide.

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From left to right: The MyPhone Infinity 2, Infinity 2 Lite, and Infinity LTE

Specs of the MyPhone Infinity 2 (Price: P12,799):
* Dual SIM
* LTE
* 1.5GHz octa-core 6752m processor
* 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)
* 13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 2,450mAh battery
* Android KitKat 4.4.4

Specs of the MyPhone Infinity 2 Lite (Price: P7,399 for 1GB RAM + 8GB ROM; P8,399 for 2GB RAM + 16GB ROM):
* Dual SIM
* 1.4GHz octa-core 6592m processor
* 1GB/2GB RAM
* 8GB/16GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 64GB)
* 5-inch IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 2,400mAh battery
* Android KitKat 4.4.2

Specs of the MyPhone Infinity LTE (Price: P8,299):
* Dual SIM
* LTE
* 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor
* 1GB RAM
* 8GB 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 LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 2,820mAh battery
* Android KitKat 4.4.4

Where the MyPhone Infinity series falls short, though, is where many low-cost smartphones like the ASUS Zenfone 2, Alcatel Flash Plus, and Lenovo A7000 are making their mark: substance.

MY TAKE: MyPhone’s Infinity series has always been about style, and I think the company has done enough in the beauty department to distinguish its offerings from the rest of the pack. Where it falls short, though, is where many low-cost smartphones like the ASUS Zenfone 2, Alcatel Flash Plus, and Lenovo A7000 are making their mark: substance.

Unfortunately for MyPhone, the local market has a history of going for substance over style, especially if it saves them a lot of money. Perhaps if MyPhone knocked a couple of thousand pesos off the prices of its latest smartphones, that might get people talking about them.

Faceoff: ASUS Zenfone 2, Alcatel Flash Plus, Lenovo A7000, Meizu M1 Note, Honor 4x

In Phones by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

Now that ASUS has at last revealed the local pricing for the Zenfone 2, it’s time to step back and take a deliberate look at the top phones in the value-for-money rankings. And what better way to do that than to lay out all the details around the Zenfone 2 and its competition in chart format. Here’s how the devices stack up against one another.

(A quick side note: The phones listed here have all been announced in the Philippines and are either already available in stores or on track for release this month.)

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MY TAKE: I’ve played with these devices for extended periods of time. And, as you may know, I’ve already reviewed the ASUS Zenfone 2 and Lenovo A7000. My thoughts on the Honor 4X will be posted in the coming days.

I’m leaning more towards the Lenovo A7000. It’s the second-cheapest of the bunch, doesn’t make compromises on internal hardware, and it already runs Android Lollipop.

But before I tell you which phone I think offers greater value for money, I must say: You can’t go wrong with any of these options. We’re now seeing a golden age in which manufacturers are producing better and cheaper smartphones that suit all pockets, and there’s no better time to upgrade from a feature phone to a smartphone than now.

But back to the matter at hand: It’s a toss up between the Meizu M1 Note and Lenovo A7000, but I’m leaning more towards the latter. It’s the second-cheapest of the bunch, doesn’t make compromises on internal hardware, and it already runs Android Lollipop out of the box.

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Review: Lenovo A7000

In Phones by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

The mobile business is a ruthless one, known for leaving giants on their knees, desperate and willing to bend their principles to avoid the possibility of extinction. Just ask Nokia, BlackBerry, Sony, and HTC. And it has only grown more cutthroat with time. It’s no surprise, then, that more and more phone makers are thinking outside the box on how to market their products, often turning to e-commerce platforms to increase their profit margins and lower operating costs.

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Lenovo A7000 to go on sale on Lazada PH May 21

In Phones by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

Hands up if you’ve heard of the ASUS Zenfone 2, a strong candidate for smartphone of the year if value for money is of utmost importance? Yes, well, it’s about to face some serious challenge from a most likely source in the Far East.

Meet the Lenovo A7000, a low-cost challenger in the mold of the Zenfone sequel, with its large HD display and rather beefy specifications, which includes LTE and a rear-mounted speaker that makes use of Dolby Atmos audio settings. The latter is a world first, according to Lenovo. Not that those settings make much of a difference in sound quality, as we found in our testing.

The Lenovo A7000 will be exclusively available on online retailer Lazada Philippines’ Web and mobile platforms starting May 21 at 12 noon. It will retail for P7,390, making it one of the highest-specced smartphones in its price bracket. So, yeah, ASUS and the rest of the mobile industry should be worried.

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Specs of the Lenovo A7000 (Price in the Philippines: P7,390):
* Dual SIM
* LTE
* 1.5GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6752m processor
* 2GB RAM
* 8GB internal storage
* microSD card expansion (up to 32GB)
* 5.5-inch IPS display (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 8-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 2,900mAh removable battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

I find the Lenovo A7000 to be a delightful phone that ticks many of the same boxes as the ASUS Zenfone 2. It’ll likely cost less, too.

MY TAKE: I’m currently using the Lenovo A7000 as my daily Android driver, and I find it to be a delightful phone that ticks many of the same boxes as the ASUS Zenfone 2. It’ll likely cost less than the 5.5-inch variant of ASUS’ signature handset, too, which begs the question: Should you pick up the A7000 instead? Well, that really depends on what you’re looking for in a smartphone. But if a big screen, a buttery-fluid user experience, and speedy mobile data rank high on your priorities, Lenovo has you covered.

Honor 6+, 4X, 4C now official in PH

In Phones by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

Honor 6+

Perhaps inspired by Xiaomi’s success in some parts of the world, Huawei has turned its attention to online selling and has formed a sub-brand to tap into the e-commerce boom. And so here we are, talking about the Honor sub-brand, which debuted in the Philippines yesterday alongside a trio of Android smartphones aimed at the cash-strapped crowd. The Honor 4C, 4X, and 6+ all feature above-average specifications for their price points, echoing a trend we’ve seen across the mobile industry.

The Honor 4C and 4X list mostly the same specs and functions, though the latter offers a bigger (but not necessarily better) display, a higher-capacity battery, and LTE connectivity for faster mobile-data speeds.

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Honor 4C

The Honor 6+, meanwhile, is powered by an octa-core Kirin 925 processor and 3GB of RAM — the same combination found in last year’s Huawei Mate 7. Its 78 percent screen-to-body ratio and high-contrast 1080p IPS panel are just as impressive.

But the kicker here is the dual-camera setup around the back for improved depth perception and reduced noise when shooting in low light. In fact, Huawei is so confident of the phone’s low-light chops, the company calls the Honor 6+ the “king of night photography.”

The Honor 4C, 4X, and 6+ are already available on Lazada Philippines for P6,390, P8,290, and P17,490, respectively.

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Honor 4X

Specs of the Honor 4C (Price in the Philippines: P6,390):
* Dual SIM
* 1.2GHz octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 620 processor
* 2GB RAM
* 8GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 32GB)
* 5-inch IPS display (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 2,550mAh battery
* Android KitKat 4.4

Specs of the Honor 4X (Price in the Philippines: P8,290):
* Dual SIM
* LTE
* 1.2GHz octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 620 processor
* 2GB RAM
* 8GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 32GB)
* 5.5-inch IPS display (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 3,000mAh battery
* Android KitKat 4.4

Specs of the Honor 6+ (Price in the Philippines: P17,490):
* Dual SIM
* LTE
* Octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 925 processor
* 3GB RAM
* 32GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 128GB)
* 5.5-inch IPS display (1,080 x 1,920 resolution)
* 13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 8-megapixel dual-rear camera
* 8-megapixel front camera
* 3,000mAh battery
* Android KitKat 4.4

Oppo PH outs 3 new phones, hints at R7, R7 Plus

In Phones by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

Chinese manufacturer Oppo is, understandably, taking aim at the low- to mid-end segments and has launched three new smartphones in the Philippines, bannered by the R1x, which has a distinctive design under a sapphire-glass rear panel. The 4.5-inch Neo 5 is a low-cost Android phone backed by a quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM, while the 4-inch Joy Plus offers milder specs for less money.

But back to the Oppo R1x: As we’ve mentioned in a previous post, it fits a lot of power into a thin-and-light package, running Android KitKat 4.4 on an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor paired with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of expandable storage. It’s also one of the thinnest and lightest devices in the category, measuring just 6.9mm thick and weighing in at 130 grams. The pattern on the back is a real eye-catcher in royal blue, too, not to mention sapphire glass is one of the most scratch-resistant materials around.

The Oppo R1x, Neo 5, and Joy Plus are now available locally for P15,990, P7,990, and P4,990, respectively.

On a somewhat separate note, Oppo Philippines’ operations manager Garrick Hung revealed on the sidelines of the Oppo launch event that the upcoming R7 and R7 Plus are headed to local shores sometime in June or July, and that the still-unnamed follow-up to the flagship Find 7 phone is also coming to the Philippines later this year. Exciting times ahead, people.

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From left to right: The Oppo Joy Plus, Neo 5, and R1x

Specs of the Oppo Joy Plus (Price in the Philippines: P4,990):
* Dual SIM
* 1.3GHz dual-core MediaTek MT6572 processor
* 1GB RAM
* 4GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 32GB)
* 4-inch IPS display (480 x 800 resolution)
* 3-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* VGA front camera
* 1,700mAh battery
* Android KitKat 4.4

Specs of the Oppo Neo 5 (Price in the Philippines: P7,990):
* Dual SIM
* 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6582 processor
* 1GB RAM
* 8GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 32GB)
* 4.5-inch IPS display (480 x 854 resolution)
* 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 2-megapixel front camera
* 2,000mAh battery
* Android KitKat 4.4

Specs of the Oppo R1x (Price in the Philippines: P15,990):
* LTE
* Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 chipset
* 2GB RAM
* 16GB internal storage
* microSD card expansion (up to 128GB)
* 5-inch IPS display (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 2,420mAh non-removable battery
* Android KitKat 4.4

The Oppo R1x looks gorgeous in person, and it has the brains to match its beauty.

MY TAKE: The Oppo Joy Plus and Neo 5 face an uphill battle against bargain blowers from industry veterans like Cherry Mobile and MyPhone, but the R1x has more than a fighting chance to shine on the mid-range stage. The 5-incher looks gorgeous in person, and it has the brains to match its beauty. It’s a shame none of the devices run Android Lollipop at launch, which would have given them a major advantage over the competition.

PH is first country to make Uber legal

In Business, Cars by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

In a statement released Monday, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) will later this week introduce a new category to the public-transport sector to include ride-sharing services, thereby legalizing Uber in the Philippines after more than a year of unregulated operations.

It marks the first time the likes of Uber have been given the green light to operate on a national scale without any issues whatsoever. The announcement comes in the heels of months of collaboration between the department, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), and ride-sharing companies.

Under the DOTC’s revised classification of public vehicles, Uber will be grouped into the Transportation Network Vehicle Service (TNVS) category, which is limited to sedans, vans, AUVs, SUVs, and similar vehicles that are no older than 7 years. In addition, Uber operators will be held to the same standards as their traditional counterparts. For Uber drivers, that means screening and registration with the LTFRB is mandatory.

Speaking on the revision, DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya said, “We view technological innovation as a driver for progress, especially in transportation where it can provide safer and more convenient commuting options to the public. App-based transport services help address the increasing demand for mobility spurred by rapid urbanization.”

The DOTC also plans to adopt a new standard, this time for cab-hailing services like GrabTaxi and Easy Taxi, allowing upscale taxis equipped with GPS and payment systems for cashless transactions to legally ply the streets of Metro Manila and beyond.

MY TAKE: Finally. As a frequent Uber user myself, I couldn’t be happier, though it’s fair to suggest that the ride-sharing app has already received a warm welcome from the public even before the Philippine government came into the picture.

I find that it’s easier and faster to hail an Uber now than it was a year ago, even if the chances of winding up seated behind someone who has zero knowledge of the streets of Metro Manila — and would be quick to admit to such — happens with increasing frequency.

And don’t get me started with drivers who cancel bookings at the last minute, those who run traffic signs, those who drive like it’s their first time behind the wheel, or those who drive like it’s their last. For Uber riders at least, the inexorable rise of owners and drivers has proven to be a double-edged sword.

And I’m fine with that, because the alternative is infinitely worse. Getting a decent cab ride in Metro Manila, let alone a decent cab that isn’t a decade removed from its best days, is a rarity now. Here’s hoping Uber actually delivers on the promise of better transport options outside of the service itself. We all know this country needs them badly.