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.

FAQs: Smart’s ‘tingi-tingi’ video data bundles

In Business by Alora Uy GuerreroLeave a Comment

Roughly two weeks after announcing its partnership with Skype, Smart Communications has introduced new video data plans to make online video content more accessible to Pinoys. We say accessible because the bundles should appeal to the sachet or tingi-tingi nature of Filipinos. Imagine availing yourself of a plan as low as P5.

So what are the offers all about? How do you subscribe to them? We answer these questions and more in the guide below. Promise, this should be quick.

What are Smart’s new video data plans?

There are four bundles:

* YouTube5, where you pay P5 to get 65MB of data for 15 minutes of standard-definition video streaming on mobile phones. This is valid for a day;

* YouTube25, where you spend — yes, you got it right — P25 to enjoy 160MB of data for 35 minutes of standard-def video streaming on handsets. Again, it’s valid for one day;

* YouTube50, for 400MB of data for 90 minutes of standard-def video streaming, valid for three days. This is worth P50; and

* YouTube199, where your P199 gives you 1,200MB of data for 270 minutes of standard-def video streaming, valid for 30 days.

Do the bundles only cover videos watched on YouTube?

Nope. The plans may have the word “YouTube” in the keywords, but you can also avail yourself of any of the plans when you want to use Dailymotion, Vimeo, Viewstream, Skype Qik, and app-of-the-moment Dubsmash.

How does one subscribe to any one of the new video data bundles?

It’s simple. Just text YOUTUBE5, YOUTUBE25, YOUTUBE50, or YOUTUBE199 to 9999. You may also dial *121#, which is Smart’s access number for all of its promos.

Can you take advantage of them even if you are on an existing package?

Definitely. Your existing data subscription won’t be affected.

How about the payment process?

Smart has made it simple for its subscribers. Once you have successfully registered to a plan, you get an instant notification of your subscription. The amount will be charged against your prepaid load or billed on top of your monthly service fee.

How will you know that you have used up your subscription? What now?

There’s no bill shock to worry about, as the plans are covered by Load Protect, which should, well, protect you from unwanted data charges. You get a warning message when your subscription is nearing expiration. You will also be directed to a paywall when you have fully consumed your subscription.

Are the offers available to Sun Cellular and Talk ‘N Text subscribers as well?

Yes, they are.

MY TAKE: The tingi-tingi mindset prevalent in the Philippines, where Filipinos buy items in sachets instead of in whole packages, shows the financial capability of the people. The country’s poverty incidence is at 25.8 percent, so a lot of Pinoys live by the day. Going for the whole shebang just doesn’t cut it often here. You can see it in sari-sari stores, where items are micro-packaged to make them more affordable. You can see it in our palengke.

This culture has extended to the telecommunications sector as well. Can’t afford a P1,500 (sort of) unlimited data package? Subscribe to something that will cost you only few pesos — and only when you need it.

A lot of Pinoys live by the day, so just for this move to give more Filipinos access to online video content alone, I say, ‘You’re doing it right, Smart.’

So just for this move to give more Filipinos access to online video content alone, I say, “You’re doing it right, Smart.”

CloudFone unveils dual-OS, Android Lollipop tablets

In Tablets by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

Are two operating systems better than one? Local tech company CloudFone seems to think so, as it has just unveiled a pair of dual-OS tablets, alongside two other slates leveraging the Intel platform. The CloudPad Epic 7.1 and 8.9 can switch between Android KitKat 4.4 or Windows 8.1 pending a hardware reboot, while the CloudPad Epic 8.0 is a pure Windows tablet that comes with a Bluetooth keyboard. The CloudPad One 7.0, on the other hand, gets Android Lollipop 5.1 out of the box and timely over-the-air updates for the next two years, similar to devices under Google’s Android One initiative.

As the naming convention suggests, the One 7.0 and the Epic 7.1, 8.0, and 8.9 are equipped with 7-, 8-, and 8.9-inch IPS displays. Their specs vary a bit, though the most technically powerful of the bunch is also the largest, with CloudFone including 2GB of RAM in the Epic 8.9 to go with its 32GB of storage and 1080p screen. You can check out the specs for all devices below.

The CloudPad Epic 7.1, 8.0, and 8.9 are priced at P4,999, P7,999, and P8,999, respectively. An attractive proposition by itself, in large part because of Android Lollipop and the promise of timely software updates, the CloudPad One 7.0 retails for P6,999. All four devices are already in stores nationwide.

Specs of the CloudFone CloudPad Epic 7.1 (Price: P4,999):
* Quad-core Intel Atom Z3537F processor
* 1GB RAM
* 32GB internal storage
* microSD card slot
* 7-inch IPS display (1,280 x 800 resolution)
* 5-megapixel rear camera
* 2-megapixel front camera
* Dual boot: Android KitKat 4.4 and Windows 8.1

Specs of the CloudFone CloudPad Epic 8.0 (Price: P7,999):
* 1.8GHz quad-core Intel Atom processor
* 1GB RAM
* 16GB internal storage
* microSD card slot
* 8-inch IPS display (1,280 x 800 resolution)
* 2-megapixel rear camera
* 2-megapixel front camera
* Windows 8.1

Specs of the CloudFone CloudPad Epic 8.9 (Price: P8,999):
* Quad-core Intel Atom Z3537F processor
* 2GB RAM
* 32GB internal storage
* microSD card slot
* 8.9-inch IPS display (1,920 x 1,080 resolution)
* 5-megapixel rear camera
* 2-megapixel front camera
* Dual boot: Android KitKat 4.4 and Windows 8.1

Specs of the CloudFone CloudPad One 7.0 (Price: P6,999):
* 1.3GHz quad-core Intel Atom processor
* 1GB RAM
* 8GB internal storage
* microSD card slot
* 7-inch IPS display (1,024 x 768 resolution)
* 5-megapixel rear camera
* 1.3-megapixel front camera
* Android Lollipop 5.1

MY TAKE: First, let’s get this out of the way: The CloudPad One 7.0 is worthy of consideration if you’re after a Nexus-like tablet experience but don’t have the cash for a new or used Nexus 9. Even if that means losing out on particularly brisk performance and certain features.

The Epic 7.1 and 8.9 offer a potent price-to-performance ratio and a choice between Android and full Windows, but they are not without their share of drawbacks. Judging from my experience, there are two that standout.

As for the Epic 7.1 and 8.9, they offer a potent price-to-performance ratio and a choice between Android and full Windows (not RT), something we haven’t seen in this part of the world. That’s great news for those who want the flexibility of running applications from completely different platforms, not to mention the convenience of a desktop environment.

However, CloudFone’s dual-OS devices are not without their share of drawbacks, and, judging from my experience, there are two that standout: changing operating systems requires a slow and mandatory restart and onboard storage is split between platforms. In the case of the Epic 8.9, only 16GB — out of the possible 32GB — is accessible to either Android or Windows.

How Globe-Disney team-up is different from Smart-Disney deal

In Business by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

Globe Telecom yesterday announced a multi-year partnership with The Walt Disney Company, which owns Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and multi-channel network Maker Studios, among many others, in an effort to bring more family-friendly content and experiences to a swelling user base of 44 million. Now, if you’re on Smart — and there’s a good chance you are given the carrier’s 56-million-strong subscribers — you may be thinking, “Haven’t I heard of this a few months ago?”

Um, not really. Because what Globe is serving is the full-course meal of the Disney experience that’s objectively superior to its rival’s appetizer plate of Disney-branded content. When the Smart-Disney collaboration was disclosed in January this year, consumers were given access to a plethora of Disney mobile games and ebooks that can be purchased using prepaid credit or by way of carrier billing. That’s it.

Globe, meanwhile, is offering video-on demand services — beloved Pixar franchises like Toy Story and Finding Nemo, Disney TV favorites, including Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Phineas & Ferb, and Disney Channel programming — in addition to the stuff Smart has listed. Everything can be accessed by prepaid, postpaid, and broadband customers on their smartphone or tablet, even when they’re away from home.

The story here is about Globe making Disney’s most enduring and memorable creations available to anyone who owns a phone or tablet.

As for the actual offers, Globe has yet to finalize the Disney bundles it will be adding and whether or not a Toy Story marathon will count towards your monthly data allowance (we’re crossing our fingers it won’t). Regardless, it should be clear which carrier is bringing the true Disney experience to its ecosystem.

Globe’s latest effort sounds rushed, if not incomplete, sure, but the last time I checked, Disney didn’t become the entertainment behemoth it is today by telling stories through games and ebooks.

MY TAKE: Globe following in its rival’s footsteps and aligning with the Disney empire isn’t the story here. The story is instead about Globe making Disney’s most enduring and memorable creations available to anyone in the Philippines who owns a phone or tablet. And that, I believe, should be the function of any collaboration involving the company responsible for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Frozen, to name a few.

The way I see it, one company has a Porsche-designed BlackBerry, the other owns the car itself. And we all know which one is more desirable.

Low-cost LG Leon, Magna now available in stores

In Phones by Ramon Lopez1 Comment

LG has quietly released two new low-cost smartphones in the Philippines that ship with an up-to-date version of Android (in this case, Lollipop) out of the box. Announced back in March, the LG Leon and Magna retail for P5,990 and P10,990, respectively, and represent the South Korean company’s latest attempt at winning the (price) war against domestic brands and Chinese tech startups.

Both devices are powered by a quad-core MediaTek processor backed by 1GB of RAM, though the cheaper Leon has fewer attractions, not to mention a smaller, 4.5-inch touch display with fewer pixels. By contrast, the Magna offers 5 inches of bended screen real estate at 720p resolution. And though the arch is not as pronounced as the LG G4’s, the screen is bent in a way that you’d notice. Viewed from the front, the Magna looks exactly as LG intended: a discount G4. (As it turns out, a curved phone doesn’t need to be expensive.)

As always with current LG smartphones, all physical buttons are located around the back, below the camera module, and screen-off gestures like double-tap to wake are baked into the custom user interface.

Specs of the LG Leon (Price in the Philippines: P5,990):
* 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6582
* 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
* VGA front camera
* 1,900mAh battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

Specs of the LG Magna (Price in the Philippines: P10,990):
* Dual SIM
* 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6582
* 1GB RAM
* 8GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 32GB)
* 5-inch IPS display (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 2,540mAh battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

There aren’t many handsets from big-name manufacturers that can touch the Leon and Magna in their respective price brackets. That may be their biggest selling point.

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: It’s hard not to like what LG has done with the Leon and especially the Magna. Both offer decent specs at reasonable prices, something I wish the Koreans did with more consistency last year. But that’s water under the bridge now. It seems that LG, like other industry veterans, is trying as hard as it can to bring the best Android experience to the masses. There aren’t many handsets from big-name manufacturers that can touch the Leon and Magna in their respective price brackets, and that may be their biggest selling point.

ASUS Zenfone 2 to debut May 16th in PH

In Phones by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

Here’s a small dose of good news in the aftermath of the #PacquiaoMayweather non-fight: ASUS Philippines has revealed on its Facebook page the launch date of the widely anticipated Zenfone 2 in the Philippines. The date to remember is May 16, just a week and a half from today. And as we previously reported, the Zenfone sequel’s local debut will coincide with its pricing announcement and release, meaning you can buy it off the shelf on the said date, or a day after.

At this point, all that remains in question is how much money you’d have to fork out to own a particular variant of the Zenfone 2. We’re told consumers in the Philippines should expect lower prices. We’ll know for sure on May 16.

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: You can almost hear the clock ticking. For gray-market sellers, the honeymoon of profiteering is at an end. But before you decide on whether or not the Zenfone 2 is worthy of your hard-earned cash, read our review, if you haven’t already. Read up on other people’s experiences with ASUS’ newest signature smartphone as well. Make sure you know what you’re getting, and you’re absolutely sure about it.

Oppo R1x now official in PH, costs P15,990

In Phones by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

Image via Gizmo China

Oppo has announced a new mid-range smartphone for the Philippine market, featuring a metal frame and a striking diamond-style pattern on the rear panel underneath a sheet of glass. The Oppo R1x, which retails for P15,990 locally, also crams many high-performance specs in a thin-and-light package. In many ways, it’s similar to the more expensive R5, formerly the thinnest smartphone money can buy, except it’s got more thickness (6.9mm) but less heft (130 grams).

Powering the R1x is, coincidentally, the same chip inside the R5: a 64-bit, LTE-ready Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor backed by 2GB of RAM and Adreno 405 graphics. Its 5-inch IPS display is slightly smaller compared to the R5’s and packs fewer pixels at 720p. The extra thickness means room for a bigger cell, and Oppo makes good use of whatever space is available for the built-in battery, which is rated at 2,420mAh.

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

Don’t sleep on the Oppo R1x; it has the looks and smarts to pull off an upset against the best the category has to offer.

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: The Oppo R1x is, by all appearances, a nice alternative to the R5; it’s not as thin as the latter, though it should be just as capable given their many similarities under the hood. It’s quite a looker, too.

More importantly, the R1x costs P6,000 less than R5 and doesn’t come with all the minuses of a ridiculously thin phone: It doesn’t have a protruding main camera that makes the R5 wobble when placed face down on a flat surface; it has a higher-capacity battery that’s likely to yield longer runtimes; and heat dissipation is less of a concern. Don’t sleep on this phone; it has the looks and smarts to pull off an upset against the best the category has to offer.

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45hQpWvr3vQ” width=”560″ height=”315″]

OPPO Mirror 5 preview from our YouTube channel

Starmobile has an Android Lollipop phone for cheap

In Phones by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

Android Lollipop is making its way to more phones and tablets, becoming the operating system of choice among 2015 releases. And right on cue, enter the Starmobile Jump Neo. The affordable, 5-inch smartphone is powered by a quad-core MediaTek processor and has the latest version of Android on tap, plus on-screen navigation keys that’s commonplace for Lollipop-based devices.

Also on deck are dual-SIM slots (dual 3G), 5- and 2-megapixel rear and selfie cameras, and a removable battery rated at 2,400mAh. The handset is priced at P4,490, making it cheaper than the MyPhone Rio 2 and Rio 2 Lite. It’s available in three colors: black, blue, and white.

Specs of the Starmobile Jump Neo (Price: P4,490):
* Dual SIM (3G)
* 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6582m chipset
* 1GB RAM
* 8GB internal storage
* microSD card expansion
* 5-inch IPS display
* 5-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 2-megapixel front camera
* 2,400mAh battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

Perhaps this is a sign that Starmobile, which has a reputation for selling devices at higher prices than its peers, is now willing to go guns blazing in a price-driven marketplace.

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: Android Lollipop aside, what really jumps (pun unintended) off the screen here is the price. At P4,490, the Jump Neo is the most affordable 5-incher on the local market that ships with Google’s fastest and most advanced software yet. It’s almost as if this isn’t a Starmobile offering at all, given its market-beating retail value.

Perhaps this is a sign that the local tech company, which has a reputation for selling smart devices at higher prices than its peers, is now more willing to go guns blazing in a price-driven marketplace than ever before. If that’s indeed the case, watch out everyone else.

Review: Xiaomi Redmi 2

In Phones by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

A year after the sale of the Redmi 1S, Chinese hardware and software company Xiaomi has released another supposed value-for-money smartphone in the Redmi 2 exclusively through Lazada Philippines. Right now, you can still get it for a mere P5,999 unlocked.

In our review of the Redmi 1S on Yahoo, we noted that it’s among the fastest and most capable budget handsets around, though we wouldn’t happily recommend it over discount octa-core Androids that cost the same. It didn’t help that the Redmi incumbent suffered from software-related problems that left us stumped and concerned. And while it has received generally positive reviews in the Philippines, the phone wasn’t the local smash hit Xiaomi hoped it would be.

But that’s behind us now. Fast-forward to 2015, and we’re looking at Xiaomi’s second attempt at wrestling some market share from homegrown brands and gaining traction in the low-end segment. Boasting a smaller and thinner design, improved internals that can take advantage of faster mobile-data speeds (albeit with a huge asterisk, which we’ll discuss shortly), and an updated user interface based on Android KitKat, the Redmi 2 improves on the original in every way imaginable.

But has it improved enough to appeal to a more critical local audience that is seeing an unprecedented surge in low-cost, high-value offerings? Find out in our review of the Xiaomi Redmi 2.

Specs of the Xiaomi Redmi 2 (Price in the Philippines: P5,999):
* Dual SIM
* LTE
* 1.2GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 CPU
* 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 4.4.4

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: The Redmi 2 takes a lot of inspiration from its predecessor, as is usually the case with smartphone sequels. But there are slight improvements to the all-plastic body that make it easier to handle and hold. The bezels surrounding the screen have been reduced, and the left and right sides of the phone are thinner and feel more tapered toward the front panel. Speaking of the front, it’s less angular than it used to be, giving the phone just enough of a modern slant without taking a new approach to design.

Buttons still lack backlighting. The omission is particularly jarring because there are cheaper handsets out there that come standard with backlit keys.

The button placement remains ideal, with the volume rocker and power button located in easy-to-reach places on the right-hand side. Xiaomi’s familiar trifecta of navigation keys in red can be found below the display, except this time, the Chinese tech startup has swapped out the menu shortcut for the multitask button by default, which we very much appreciate (no more long-pressing the menu button to switch between apps!).

Alas, the keys still lack backlighting, making them difficult to use in the dark. The omission is particularly jarring because there are cheaper handsets out there that come standard with backlit keys. On a more positive note, the Redmi 2 has a multi-color LED notification light beneath the home button that lets you know when you’ve missed a call, text message, or email. It can light up in different colors depending on the type of notification it wants you to see.

At 4.7 inches, the IPS panel narrowly misses our sweet spot in terms of display size. Sure, it’s neither too big to operate single-handedly nor too small for typing accurately, but there isn’t enough screen real estate here for enjoying lengthy YouTube videos and games with onscreen controls. Then again, we probably shouldn’t be surprised; for all its merits, the Redmi 2 is an entry-level product, after all.

Screen resolution maxes out at 720p, resulting in a decent pixel density of 312 dots per inch. The display is every bit as crisp and vibrant as the ones on competing models. Its brightness levels and viewing angles are par for the course for the category. It’s also as durable on paper, thanks to a protective layer of second-gen Corning Gorilla Glass.

The screen puts on a good show, but it’s nothing special in the smartphone landscape where more is usually, well, more.

Overall, the screen on the Redmi 2 puts on a good show, but it’s nothing special in the smartphone landscape where more is usually, well, more more real estate translates to quicker, more precise typing and more pixels mean less squinting when watching movies or reading emails. And despite our lack of enthusiasm about it, display quality is a marked improvement over what preceded it.

Now, let’s talk about the Redmi 2’s 2-megapixel front-facing camera and the slightly protruding 8-megapixel rear-facer around the back of the device: Both sensors do a better job of taking pictures than their megapixel count suggests. And to get the most out of them, Xiaomi has included several effects and shooting options such as HDR, manual, and panorama modes in the stock camera app. The company even goes the extra mile, offering a beauty mode that uses facial-recognition algorithms to detect your gender and age before “beautifying” your mug using predetermined settings.

The Redmi 2, with its wide aperture of f/2.2, gets the job done — even as the light is fading.

It’s hard enough to find a phone in the bargain basement that can deliver quality shots outdoors and in good lighting conditions, let alone a decent shooter when lighting isn’t the best. But the Redmi 2, with its wide aperture of f/2.2, gets the job done — even as the light is fading. It also automatically scans QR codes on the viewfinder and shoots serviceable videos of up to 1080p.

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

Powering the phone is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor that runs Android KitKat 4.4.4 as fluidly as any budget device on the market. It comes with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, expandable up to an additional 32GB via a microSD card. LTE connectivity is also part of the package, though in the Philippines, the Redmi 2 only works on Globe Telecom’s 4G network, leaving out the better part of the country’s smartphone-owning public that are Smart subscribers. It’s unfortunate that Xiaomi didn’t include more bands on such a mass-market product.

Our review sample can handle graphically-intensive games like Real Racing 3 and Shadow Fight 2 without any issues. Regrettably, the same can’t be said of more demanding titles like Mortal Kombat X, which it struggles to run at a decent frame rate.

There are rare times when going back to the homescreen takes longer than usual, which probably has something to do with the heavily skinned MIUI interface Xiaomi built on top of Android.

Our real-world testing mirrors benchmark numbers, and on the latest version of AnTuTu Benchmark and Geekbench 3, the Redmi 2 managed respectable scores of 19,995 and 1,424 (multi-core test), respectively. The 2,200mAh removable battery inside our unit typically lasts a day and a half on a single charge with reasonably constant use that includes texting and Web browsing on Globe’s LTE network. In our anecdotal battery test, which entails putting an HD video on loop while WiFi is switched on and brightness is set to 50 percent, the Redmi 2 held on for 8 hours and 5 minutes.

What we’ve found unusual so far is there are rare times when going back to the homescreen takes longer than usual, which probably has something to do with the heavily skinned MIUI (pronounced “mee-you-eye”) interface Xiaomi built on top of Android. But hey, at least MIUI on the Redmi 2 is nowhere near as buggy as on its predecessor.

Is the Redmi successor enough of an improvement to succeed where many others have failed? Sure, though support for more LTE bands would have made it an easier sell.

All told, the Redmi 2 is a great handset at a great price. For P5,999, you’re looking at a solid hardware designed for one-handed use and a pair of cameras that perform above the industry average. This is exactly the sort of device Xiaomi needs to impress a budget-conscious crowd. This is exactly what we hoped the Redmi 1S would be.

So back to our original question: Is the Redmi successor enough of an improvement to succeed where many others have failed? Sure. However, our opinions may not reflect the fickle whims of bargain hunters in the Philippines. Support for more LTE bands would have made the phone an easier sell. It’s also worth noting that there are other slightly more expensive options out there that come with larger displays and beefier specs. The Meizu M1 Note and Firefly Mobile Intense 64 LTE sell for a couple of thousand pesos more and offer a better smartphone experience.

Ludicrous Apple Watch prices spotted in Hong Kong

In Wearables by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

The Apple Watch, the introductory product from the company’s first new hardware category since Steve Jobs passed away, sold out almost immediately after the pre-orders went online on April 10. Apple Stores around the world won’t be stocking the timepiece until June, so if you want to get your hands (or wrist) on one, your best bet is to hit the streets. The streets of Hong Kong, that is.

On a recent trip to Asia’s world city, we saw several hawkers outside of Sin Tat Plaza (aka Sincere Podium) in Mong Kok selling the 38cm Apple Watch Sport edition for as much as HK$5,500 (roughly P32,000), inflating the price to twice of its retail value. “Kinder” merchants inside the building offered it at a huge discount: as low as HK$4,500 (P26,000) for the white variant. The middle-of-the-pack, stainless-steel Apple Watch with a black sport band was priced between HK$5,700 and HK$5,900 (P33,000 and P34,000). Slightly more palatable yet still ludicrous, we know. So much for being sincere, Sincere Podium.

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You can buy the Apple Watch on the streets of Hong Kong, but it will cost you at least P26,000. 

It goes without saying that it’s probably in your best interest to wait until Apple ramps up production for its smartwatch. Unless, of course, money is no object to you, and you don’t mind digging deep in your pockets for something in very, very short supply.

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: Do I want an Apple Watch? Yes! Do I want to pony up the equivalent of two Apple Watches for one watch with a rubber strap in dirt-magnet white? Um, no.

People taking advantage of Apple’s supply-chain problems is a given. We’ve seen it before, and we’ll see it again later this year when Apple releases the next iPhone.

But seriously, I don’t think I need to elaborate further. People taking advantage of Apple’s supply-chain problems is pretty much a given. We’ve seen it before, and we’ll see it again later this year when Apple releases the next iPhone. But hey, at least now you have a good a reason as any to skip the Apple Watch at launch.