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

In Business by Alora Uy Guerrero0 Comments

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 Lopez0 Comments

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 Lopez0 Comments

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 Lopez0 Comments

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 Lopez0 Comments

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 Lopez0 Comments

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 Lopez0 Comments

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.

[minigallery id=”598″ prettyphoto=”true”]

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 Lopez0 Comments

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.

LG takes the wraps off the G4

In Phones by Revu Team0 Comments

(UPDATE, May 28: The LG G4 is now official in PH. Price starts at P31,990; ships beginning June 3.)

After weeks of teasing and countless leaks leading to its launch, it’s finally official: The LG G4, the company’s new deluxe smartphone for 2015, has been announced today here in Singapore and in other parts of the world.

Earlier leaks have suggested a big-screen phone that has more in common with the G Flex 2 than the G3, but we didn’t expect to see a slightly curved display, which LG claims improves one-handed usage and screen durability. The rear-facing buttons, as well as the choice between plastic and leather back covers didn’t surprise us, either, though we couldn’t have predicted how much effort it takes to make the high-quality leather found on the G4’s reverse side. (In case you were wondering, a laborious, 12-week process is involved in manufacturing the leather cover.)

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TvoQRnpzu4″ width=”560″ height=”315″]

LG G4 preview (raw video), taken during the phone’s launch in Singapore

Just like its predecessor, one thing that really pops off of the screen — almost literally and figuratively — is the LG G4’s 5.5-inch Quad HD LCD panel, which has four times the resolution of 720p displays. The resulting pixel density is 534 dots per inch — more than the naked eye can handle. If you find that ludicrous, that’s because it is. Yet LG found ways to make the panel even more ludicrous this year, featuring the same quantum-dot tech found in its TVs for enhanced color reproduction and contrast without compromising on battery life.

In terms of processing power and multitasking capabilities, the G4 shouldn’t disappoint. It comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor paired with 3GB RAM and 32GB of expandable storage. And though it remains a mystery to us why the Korean electronics maker skipped the top-shelf Snapdragon 810 (throttling and thermal issues, we think) — the same chip inside the second G Flex — our gut tells us that the upcoming G flagship should be able to handle any processor-intensive application we throw at it.

Finally, let’s talk about the G4’s much-talked-about imaging prowess. The phone packs 16- and 8-megapixel main and secondary cameras, with wide apertures of f/1.8 and f/2.0, respectively. The former is stuffed with all the tech necessary for decent shots, such as optical image stabilization, laser autofocus, plus a color-spectrum sensor next to the flash module that adjusts white balance and flash, allowing for more accurate colors. The latter sees a major spec bump from last year’s 2.1-megapixel front-facer. The native camera app uses a new interface that includes manual controls and a RAW shooting mode.

There’s no exact release date to share at the moment, but LG says the G4 will be available globally beginning June. Sources say it may be in the Philippines after a little over a month as well. Prices start at $649 — but can go as high as $699 for the luxury edition with a leather back. (RL)

Specs of the LG G4 (Price: starts at $649 or roughly P29,000):
* LTE
* Hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 CPU
* Adreno 418 GPU
* 3GB RAM
* 32GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 128GB)
* 5.5-inch IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (1,440 x 2,560 resolution)
* 16-megapixel rear camera with laser autofocus, color-spectrum sensor, and F/1.8 aperture, LED flash
* 8-megapixel front camera
* 3,000mAh removable battery
* Android Lollipop 5.1

If the photos we took with LG G4 are any indication, Samsung may just have found the phone that can beat its Galaxy S6 in the imaging department.

ALORA UY GUERRERO’S TAKE: It looks elegant. Check. The screen’s superb. Check. It’s a fast performer. Check. But what really grabs us by our imaginary balls is the LG G4’s imaging prowess. If the photos we took with the Korean giant’s latest flagship are any indication, Samsung may just have found the phone that can beat its Galaxy S6 camera-wise. And that’s saying a lot, considering that we gave the latter high marks in this article.

Anyhow, stand by for a comparison of images taken with the LG G4, the Samsung Galaxy S6, and the Apple iPhone 6. We’d like to know if your opinion will be the same as ours. (Unfortunately, we accidentally deleted the sample pictures we took with the LG G4, but suffice to say, they were better than ones we took with the Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6.)

LG is looking to steal the thunder from a certain Korean neighbor, and the G4 may be the device to pull it off.

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: LG is looking to steal the thunder from a certain Korean neighbor, and the G4 may be the device to pull it off. The version wrapped in leather certainly looks premium enough. If it can outperform the Samsung Galaxy S6 (and S6 Edge) in the imaging department, even slightly, without falling short in other metrics, we might have to reconsider our pick for 2015’s best smartphone.

Microsoft Lumia 640 XL now official in PH

In Phones by Ramon Lopez0 Comments

Microsoft today launched its latest smartphone for the Philippine market — the Lumia 640 XL — a real handful of a device that toes the line between phone and tablet, flaunting a 5.7-inch, 720p IPS screen fronted by Gorilla Glass 3. It’s the company’s most recent attempt at bringing a deluxe smartphone experience to the mid-range market, something we’ve been hearing a lot from phone makers these days.

To do that, the Lumia 640 XL relies on a quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor running at 1.2GHz, coupled with 1GB of RAM and 13- and 5-megapixel main and secondary cameras. The operating system of choice is Windows 8.1 — though Microsoft is quick to point out that an upgrade to Windows 10 will be available later this year. The phone supports two SIM cards as well, which should come in handy for those with more than one mobile number.

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Microsoft’s Lumia 640 XL lands in the Philippines next month for P11,990. Not as cheap as we’d like it to be, to be honest. An LTE version is set to arrive some time in June at a still-undisclosed price.

Specs of the Microsoft Lumia 640 XL (Price in the Philippines: P11,990):
* Dual SIM
* Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU
* Adreno 305 GPU
* 1GB RAM
* 8GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 128GB)
* 5.7-inch IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 3,000mAh removable battery
* Windows 8.1 Denim

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: Pricing aside, I like the Lumia 640 XL. It earns additional brownie points for including the Glance screen functionality and double-tap to wake.

For all the time and resources Microsoft has spent trying to build a worthy alternative to iOS and Android, Windows still feels like a product in its infancy — years away from true contention.

But I have a contrasting opinion about the software that defines it: For all the time and resources Microsoft has spent trying to build a worthy alternative to iOS and Android, Windows for mobile devices still feels like a product in its infancy, in 2015 — years away from true contention.

Majority of the apps I rely on daily are still MIA on Microsoft’s platform. The settings menu remains a collective mess of sorts. Microsoft’s Office suite isn’t compelling enough to make me want to opt out of using Google services altogether.

But that may all change once Microsoft begins rolling out Windows 10. The concept of “One Microsoft” — a universal software and app store for all Windows-based machines — sounds like the stuff of dreams. Here’s hoping Windows reveals its true potential sooner rather than later.

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Be Productive While Working on the Road

In News by Alora Uy Guerrero

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Tu vero, inquam, ducas licet, si sequetur; Verba tu fingas et ea dicas, quae non sentias?

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Primum in nostrane potestate est, quid meminerimus? Deinde disputat, quod cuiusque generis animantium statui deceat extremum. Non enim, si omnia non sequebatur, idcirco non erat ortus illinc.

Sed quid sentiat, non videtis. Satis est tibi in te, satis in legibus, satis in mediocribus amicitiis praesidii. Dici enim nihil potest verius. Non quam nostram quidem, inquit Pomponius iocans; Etenim semper illud extra est, quod arte comprehenditur. Facit igitur Lucius noster prudenter, qui audire de summo bono potissimum velit; Bonum patria: miserum exilium. Si qua in iis corrigere voluit, deteriora fecit. Nunc haec primum fortasse audientis servire debemus.

Globe offers free WhatsApp access to subscribers

In Business by Ramon Lopez0 Comments

(UPDATE: According to Globe Telecom, the duration of its WhatsApp promo, which doesn’t require a maintaining balance to use, is yet to be determined.)

Globe subscribers, take note: Starting April 30, those who are on its myLifestyle postpaid plans, as well as prepaid-SIM owners who subscribe to any text, call, or data package, are now entitled to free access to WhatsApp without taking a hit on their data allowance and incurring additional charges. GoSakto, GoUnli25, GoUnli20, and GoSurf are just a few examples of packages included in the promo.

For eligible Globe subscribers, that means free messages and voice calls between WhatsApp users over the Internet (WiFi and mobile data connections), in addition to being able to send photos and videos from within the application. Conspicuously missing from WhatsApp’s repertoire is video calling, though rumors suggest it may arrive next month.

Acquired by Facebook for $19 billion in 2014, the cross-platform (iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows, Symbian, PC/Mac) messaging app is growing at a tremendous pace and now has more than 800 million active users worldwide, more than enough to make it the undisputed champ among online messengers. By contrast, Viber and Line have around 209 and 170 million active users, respectively.

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: Good guy Globe. Always looking out for its subscribers. Expect a similar offer from Smart Communications in 3… 2…

P4,999 Cherry Mobile S3 Octa now available, but…

In Phones by Ramon Lopez0 Comments

(UPDATE: We just received a text from Cherry Mobile indicating the correct price of the Flare S3 Octa. It should retail for P4,499, as originally intended. The company has since taken down its erroneous Facebook post.)

Cherry Mobile today announced on its Facebook page that its latest octa-core device, the imaginatively named Flare S3 Octa, is already available nationwide for P4,999 P4,499. What the local tech company failed to communicate to us is that the 5-inch Android KitKat phone has already been listed on Lazada Philippines for P500 less than its suggested retail price — with free shipping to boot.

As for the hardware itself, the Cherry Mobile Flare S3 Octa attempts to up the ante in the bargain-basement segment, sporting a gold trim and a fake-leather back cover, with stitching around the edges (think Samsung Galaxy Note 3).

That’s likely a good thing for potential Cherry Mobile owners, as this model looks decidedly better than what we’ve come to expect from local brands. Inside, you’ll find a MediaTek MT6592m processor clocked at 1.4GHz and paired with Mali-450 graphics and 1GB of RAM.

Specs of the Cherry Mobile Flare S3 Octa (Price in the Philippines: P4,999 P4,499):
* Dual SIM
* 1.4GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6592m processor
* Mali-450 GPU
* 1GB RAM
* 8GB internal storage
* microSD card slot
* 5-inch IPS display (540 x 960 resolution)
* 13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 1,800mAh removable battery
* Android KitKat

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: A case of miscommunication, perhaps? While online retailers typically sell their goods at lower prices, in large part because they don’t incur costs from operating physical stores (there’s a lot to consider when running a retail outlet besides wages, believe me), I don’t think Cherry Mobile is deliberately trying to mislead or deceive anyone. Certainly not its offline customers. Certainly not while majority of its distribution network is comprised of offline resellers that have yet to get their feet wet on the e-commerce market.

If you’ve decided on this particular Cherry Mobile, getting it from Lazada Philippines nets you a decent discount plus free shipping and one year of warranty coverage.

However, online shopping does have its perks, and scoring goods at cheaper-than-retail prices is one of them. My advice: If you’ve decided on this particular Cherry Mobile, getting it from Lazada Philippines nets you a decent discount plus free shipping and one year of warranty coverage — a rarity among Lazada-sold consumer electronics, unfortunately.

Firefly Mobile has a Zenfone 2 challenger for less

In Phones by Ramon Lopez0 Comments

There’s a new low-cost, high-performance smartphone in town. Not that the Philippines is short of compelling choices in the sub-P10,000 price point. Meet the Firefly Mobile Intense 64 LTE (Ulefone Be Pro in other regions), a 5.5-inch Android KitKat phone built around MediaTek’s new MT6732 processor that supports 64-bit applications and 4G LTE connections, if your carrier allows it. A self-explanatory name if we ever saw one. (We get it, Firefly Mobile.)

The quad-core device is priced at P7,999, squaring it against the ASUS Zenfone 2 and Meizu M1 Note, though the two should easily come out on top in terms of raw power and synthetic benchmarks as a result of having a more capable CPU. However, what the Intense 64 LTE lacks in performance, it makes up for with a ton of freebies: one smart cover, two back covers, two screen protectors, plus a feature phone valued at P449.

According to Firefly Mobile’s Facebook page, the Intense 64 LTE is now available in stores nationwide.

Specs of the Firefly Mobile Intense 64 LTE (Price in the Philippines: P7,999):
* LTE
* Dual SIM
* 1.5GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6732 processor
* Mali-T760 GPU
* 2GB RAM
* 16GB internal storage
* microSD card slot
* 5.5-inch IPS display with Asahi Dragontrail glass (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 8-megapixel front camera
* 2,800mAh removable battery
* Android KitKat 4.4.4 (upgradable to Lollipop)

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: There’s never been a better time to upgrade (or downgrade) to a mid-ranger than now. The current mobile landscape is dotted with devices that offer high-end specs but cost less than half of their deluxe counterparts. And the positive buzz is no longer confined to the ASUS Zenfone 2 — and its gazillion variants.

There’s never been a better time to upgrade (or downgrade) to a mid-ranger than now.

Which is why I don’t expect ASUS to pull the rug out from under its rivals this year. The new Zenfone, capitalizing on the success of the original, will be a top-of-mind choice for many, sure, but it’s poised to face stiff competition from Cherry Mobile, Lenovo, Xiaomi, Meizu, and heavy underdogs like Firefly Mobile.

Regardless of what happens in the coming months, one thing’s for certain: Consumers win as manufacturers continue to duke it out, churning out even better phones at better prices.

Xiaomi Mi 4i now official, will retail for P9,000

In Phones by Ramon Lopez0 Comments

Image via Android Authority

Xiaomi just unveiled the Mi 4i — a discount Mi 4, if you will — in New Delhi, India, where the Chinese tech juggernaut has recently made its products available to leading electronics retailers in an effort to reach more consumers and drive sales. And what better way to announce to the rest of the world that it has embraced the traditional (read: offline) retail model than to launch a new phone to coincide with its backpedaling.

A cheaper and watered-down version of the Mi 4, the Mi 4i will retail for 12,999 INR or about P9,000 when it goes on sale, making it the middle child of Xiaomi’s growing family of handsets. Yes, you read correctly. The company now has a mid-ranger, which is quite unexpected given its track record of taking aim at both extremes of the market. The Redmi Note, for all its appeal, is a fringe interest for consumers at large, after all.

So how did Xiaomi bring the Mi 4i’s price down to a reasonable sum?

Compromises on both its hardware and specifications. The Mi 4i doesn’t bear the premium elements that made the Mi 4 far easier on the eyes than many of its pricier rivals. Instead of metal and glass, you get a generous serving of plastic on the front, back, and sides. The processor has been downgraded from a mighty Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 silicon to a Snapdragon 615 CPU paired with an Adreno 405 GPU and 2GB of RAM.

However, the phone should still pack a solid punch if it performs anywhere near the level of the Oppo R5, to which it shares many things under the hood.

The rest of the specs are pretty much in line with other devices in the category: 5-inch, 1080p IPS display; 13- and 5-megapixel rear and front cameras; 3,120mAh battery; and Android Lollipop 5.0. The device also accepts two SIM cards, with both slots capable of connecting to 4G LTE networks. Its limited storage capacity, which is only made worse by the lack of microSD expansion, is perhaps the biggest sticking point here.

Arriving first in India later this month, the Xiaomi Mi 4i will ship to select countries, including the Philippines.

Specs of the Xiaomi Mi 4i (Price in India: 12,999 INR or about P9,000):
* LTE
* Dual SIM
* Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor
* Adreno 405 GPU
* 2GB RAM
* 16GB internal storage
* 5-inch IPS display (1,080 x 1,920 resolution)
* 13-megapixel rear camera with dual-tone LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 3,120mAh battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: While it’s great to see Xiaomi throwing its hat in the ring to compete with the likes of Samsung, LG, and HTC, I’m skeptical about the chances of the Mi 4i ever seeing the light of day in the Philippines sometime over the next few months. Xiaomi doesn’t even sell the Mi 4 locally — and it’s been almost a year since the outgoing flagship hit stores in its native China.

I’m skeptical about the chances of the Mi 4i ever seeing the light of day in the Philippines sometime over the next few months. Xiaomi doesn’t even sell the Mi 4 locally.

Quite simply, I don’t think the Philippines is a priority for the Chinese start-up, at least not anymore after the embarrassingly slow sales of the Mi 3 in the country. Let’s face it: Filipinos in general aren’t ready to buy stuff online yet. We’re getting there, but a lot of us are still reluctant to give up the retail-store experience and jump aboard e-commerce platforms even if the opportunity presents itself all too often.

Perhaps there’s hope yet, as Xiaomi proved by pursuing all kinds of retail opportunities in India. But it doesn’t follow that it will be as receptive to offline selling here. Adding a middle man (in this case, other cogs in the retail distribution channel) eats up profit margins that would otherwise go to the company. Which is exactly what Xiaomi wants to avoid, hence its “online only” strategy.

I hope Xiaomi proves me wrong.

VIDEOS YOU MAY WANT TO WATCH

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKLFdW6WwS4″ width=”560″ height=”315″]

Xiaomi Mi 4i intro

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

How tough is the Xiaomi Mi 4i?

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

Xiaomi Mi 4i’s Sunlight Display feature

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

Anti-grease coating on the Xiaomi Mi 4i

What ASUS PH told us about the Zenfone 2

In Phones by Revu Team0 Comments

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?

In Phones by Ramon Lopez0 Comments

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

In Phones by Revu Team2 Comments

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):

[frame src=”https://www.revu.com.ph/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Samsung-Galaxy-S6-and-S6-Edge-specs.png” target=”_self” width=”620″ height=”412″ alt=”Premium WordPress Themes” align=”center” prettyphoto=”false”]

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

In Phones, Tablets by Ramon Lopez0 Comments

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

In Phones by Ramon Lopez0 Comments

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

In Tablets by Ramon Lopez0 Comments

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

In Phones by Revu Team0 Comments

(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

In Phones by Ramon Lopez0 Comments

(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.