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Category: TechNotes

Online shopping? There’s an app for that!

(Note: This story is also published on Cebu Daily News in its InfoTech section) With the holidays and the bonuses and extra pay that come with it just weeks away,…

(Note: This story is also published on Cebu Daily News in its InfoTech section)

With the holidays and the bonuses and extra pay that come with it just weeks away, people are bracing for and eagerly awaiting Christmas shopping. Malls are starting to get packed and traffic, especially around shopping centers, has turned for the worse.

Buying online isn’t only more convenient, it often is cheaper. With online retailers not needing to spend huge amounts of money to set up physical stores, they are able to offer items at prices way below what are available in brick-and-mortar shops. As an example, I got a genuine Sony Smartwatch 3 Android Wear watch for about P4,000 less than what it was selling for in the official shop here in Cebu.

There are shops like Lazada that allow you to pay on delivery. When this is available as an option, I’d choose this. But other sites and sellers, even those offering items in Lazada, do not allow COD and require payments upfront.

Convenient way to pay online

For these sites and vendors, you will need a credit or debit card. If you don’t have one, there’s a convenient way to pay online without applying for a card: install the PayMaya app. Even if you already have a card, PayMaya still offers a more convenient way to pay.

Opening an account is easy. You just download PayMaya from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store and set up your account, which is linked to your phone number. You will then have a virtual card that you can use to pay for purchases in all sites that accept Visa. You can also buy a physical PayMaya card for P150 that you can then use in stores.

PayMaya

PAYMENT CONVENIENCE. Whether shopping online or spending during travels, PayMaya offers a convenient solution.

Easy to load cash

Loading your card is just as convenient, you can do it in 7-11. To load cash, you just enter the phone number linked to your PayMaya account in the store’s Cliq machine, indicate the amount of money you want to load and then pay at the cashier. Other places where you can load up your PayMaya are Ministop via the Touchpay kiosk, Robinsons Department Store, BDO, Smart Money, and Smart Padala.

My wife and I have been using PayMaya for several months now and find it a more convenient way to pay for purchases and bills. Our arrangement is for her to use her PayMaya account for household expenses while I use mine for business-related spending like website hosting and other digital services.

Here’s why PayMaya works for us:

1) Easy loading of cash. With the ability to load in 7-11 stores, PayMaya makes it accessible and convenient for its users to add cash to their accounts. Except for a stretch of a few days some weeks back when 7-11 stores were often offline, our experience has been hassle-free.

2) Deals and promos. It’s cheaper to load phone credits on PayMaya. To load P500, for example, you only need to pay P477.50. It’s also easy to send the load to any account because the app is connected to your phonebook: you just choose an amount or package and then pick the phonebook contact and the load is sent to him or her.

PayMaya also offers exclusive promos like the one it is currently running with Uber: first-time Uber riders in Cebu will get P150 off in each of their first two rides if they use PayMaya and the promo code: PAYMAYACEBU.

3) App convenience. Since transactions are done on the app, it’s more convenient to manage and use. The PayMaya app, for example, provides a record of your purchases that is accessible at any time. This helps in verification and in guilt-tripping to cut down your spending.

4) Utility bills payment. Billers are starting to accept payment through PayMaya. In our case, for example, we now pay PLDT through the app and not have to line up either at its crowded office in Mactan or in an authorized payment center in any of the also-crowded malls in the metro. The company said it was looking to add more billers.

5) Travel convenience. You can save up ahead for your travel expense, load it on the card and then use it to pay when you are on your trip. When you pay using a debit card like PayMaya, you already settle the intricacies of currency conversion and know how much you will actually end up paying in Philippine pesos. (See related story: My PayMaya experience: Sticking to a budget in Hong Kong)

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Oppo introduces F1s “selfie expert” in Cebu

The Oppo F1s is a mid-level phone but with features of high-end devices, brand marketing manager Stephen Cheng said during a media preview Tuesday night in Cebu. Cheng said the…

The Oppo F1s is a mid-level phone but with features of high-end devices, brand marketing manager Stephen Cheng said during a media preview Tuesday night in Cebu.

Cheng said the F1s “has high-end specs and high-end feel for a good price.”

What sets the Oppo F1s apart is the exceptional quality of its front camera for selfies – 16 megapixels with a large 1/3.1-inch sensor and f/2.0 aperture. It is because of the high-quality front camera that Oppo markets the F1s as the “selfie expert.”

Oppo F1s Cebu

Oppo regional director of sales Hardy Yan (left) and brand marketing manager Stephen Cheng show off the F1s during a media preview in Cebu.

Oppo F1s features, specs

Apart from the formidable camera, the Oppo F1s ships with a Beautify app, built-in photo filters, screen flash and palm shutter and voice shot. The Beautify app “uses facial data from millions of users to capture their very best looks. Blemish reduction has been refined to ensure beautiful, natural-looking shots that are eye-catching for all the right reasons.”

The phone also has the ability to take a selfie panorama just by rotating the device from side to side.

The phone’s rear camera is 13 megapixels with a 1/3.06-inch sensor “that allows the F1s to maximize light sensitivity, making for wonderful nighttime performance.”

Oppo said there was such a robust demand for the unit that two days after it was made available in August in Philippine stores, 19,000 units were sold all over the country. The phone retails for P12,990.

The F1s has an octa-core processor with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of built-in memory with an expansion slot for a memory card of up to 128GB. It is a dual-SIM phone with both slots having LTE capability. The F1s comes with a 3075 mAH non-removable battery to power the device for an entire day of use. The 5.5-inch phone comes with a Corning Glass display in a sleek design.

Oppo F1s Cebu

POWER SELFIE. With a 16-megapixel front camera that has a large 1/3.1-inch sensor and f/2.0 aperture, the F1s is a “selfie expert.”

Fingerprint scanner

The F1s runs ColorOS, which is based on Android.

A key feature of the phone is its fingerprint scanner, which is “snappy and accurate.” The sensor unlocks the device in 0.22 seconds, which the company said is the fastest in the market. You can also assign each of your 5 fingers to quickly launch different apps or contacts.

Cheng credits the quality of their devices like the F1s for making them the no. 2 smartphone brand in the Philippines just two years after they started selling in the country.

“Market research company GfK’s latest survey showed that OPPO increased its market share from 3.2 percent in July 2015 to 8.6 percent in July 2016, more than double its share from last year. The smartphone brand also rose from third spot in June 2016 at 8.5 percent, to second last July,” the company said in a statement.

Oppo F1s Cebu

POWERFUL DEVICE. The Oppo F1s has an octa-core processor with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of built-in memory with an expansion slot for a memory card of up to 128GB.

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With bots, chat is more than idle talk

“Hey, Jarvis,” I sent a message to the eponymous Facebook Messenger chat bot, “remind me to reply to Cass’ email in 30 minutes.” The reply came as quickly as the…

“Hey, Jarvis,” I sent a message to the eponymous Facebook Messenger chat bot, “remind me to reply to Cass’ email in 30 minutes.”

MaxBlog The reply came as quickly as the Facebook pop to notify you of an incoming chat message. “Okay, I’ll remind you to reply to Cass’s email at 10:24 PM on Monday, September 19.”

With robotic precision, the chat reminder came on the dot. And since it was via Facebook, it set up a klaxon of alerts and notifications in all my connected devices: phones, tablet, laptop, and watch.

Jarvis at hellojarvis.io, is an example of a chat bot, a conversational system built on chat, artificial intelligence, and data. What Jarvis does is remind you of things. Think of him as that butler (but who has a butler?), friend or sibling you always ask to call you up to either wake you up or remind you of something you needed to do. Only Jarvis never forgets and never gets too drunk to send that important reminder.

Hello Jarvis chatbot

CHAT BUTLER. Jarvis reminds you of things that you ask him to keep track of.

Messaging apps now bigger than social networks

Today, there are thousands of chat bots that do a variety of tasks, from keeping track of your expenses and income to being updated with the latest news. There’s even a chatbot for Selena Gomez that provides fans information about the actress and tells them “I love you” back.

Think of it this way: getting information by browsing a web page is like being handed a stack of folders that you have to riffle through to extract the data you need. Getting information via chat bots, on the other hand, is akin to asking a butler to do it for you. This butler goes through that stack of folders and provides you the answers you need, when you need it and, soon, where.

Messaging apps are now bigger than social networks, according to research by the Business Insider. People spend more time on the big four messaging apps than on the big four social networks.

Market dominance of messaging apps vary by country. In the Philippines, however, Facebook Messenger dominates with 94% share of chat users. An eMarketer report using SimilarWeb data placed the Philippines as top in Facebook Messenger use at 58.9% of active users with 17 minutes and 22 seconds in daily usage.

CONNECTED. Since bots operate on the Facebook Messenger platform, alerts and messages are ubiquitous, including in connected smart watches, which works well for reminders like this one.

CONNECTED. Since bots operate on the Facebook Messenger platform, alerts and messages are ubiquitous, including in connected smart watches, which works well for reminders like this one.

Adoption exponential

Adoption of the network is exponential. It was only in April that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg launched their platform saying, “We think you should message a business just the way you would message a friend.”

The idea is called “conversational commerce.” You get information about a product or service through Facebook chat and then pay for it in the service itself. Last week, Facebook announced they have started accepting payments through chat with select US partners. This will then be rolled out globally.

Chatbot CNN

GLOBAL NEWS. CNN sends a daily summary of top stories that allow you to get updated of global news. You can either read the summary in the chat or view the full article.

Already, technology giants Oracle and Google have announced their own platforms or the purchase of one – signal of a massive technology shift.

In Cebu, companies like TekWorx, which does ad optimizations for firms, rely on a bot system to streamline their workflow and alert on work progress. Theirs is built on Slack, a messaging system for work. Ever since using it, owner Bert Padilla said, it has become easier to manage projects.

Chatbot guide

LOCAL NEWS, GUIDE. Apart from delivering local news, you can also use chat bots as guide to places. Here, it answers a common question for Cebu visitors.

Early days for bots

Our digital media startup deployed two chatbots, one for a resort in Mactan and another for an Asian telco gathering in Lapu-Lapu City. The bots are so effective – handling more than a hundred messages a day and generating more than a thousand room signups since deployment – that majority of users think they are actually talking to a person.

For bots, these are just early days. More powerful systems and capabilities are being developed and will be deployed soon.

But for now, there’s Jarvis. On Monday night he reminded me to put the beef soup inside the refrigerator before I sleep so that it won’t spoil.

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Picture this: Disintermediation

Last week, members of iconic Pinoy band Eraserheads reunited, the first in a long time, for a concert. The occasion was the unveiling of the new logos of PLDT and…

Last week, members of iconic Pinoy band Eraserheads reunited, the first in a long time, for a concert. The occasion was the unveiling of the new logos of PLDT and Smart. Save for company employees, the event was all hush-hush. The press contact who invited me only said I was going to a “confidential” event.

MaxBlog After the new logos were unveiled, the stage went dark and the screen counted down 10 minutes. Technicians worked on instruments and wirings, building up buzz and excitement. When the Eraserheads members were finally introduced, people in the room went wild.

And then it happened, people started broadcasting the performance live to their friends and social media contacts.

Old media

In the media environment of old, people would know about the performance in the next day’s newscast through a one-minute or so news report with a clip of a few seconds that shows them performing their biggest hits, probably “Pare ko” or “Huling El Bimbo.” This assumes that the newsroom deems their reunion newsworthy in the context of that day’s events. Bad luck if Manny Pacquiao gets caught with a mistress on the same day.

On print, we’d learn about it 2 days after, at the earliest, in the newspapers’ lifestyle section.

Eraserheads concert

PEOPLE broadcast via Facebook Live the performance by the Eraserheads during the unveiling of the new PLDT and Smart logo.

Last week, however, people who had in their social circles persons who attended the launch were able to join the performance via Facebook Live. I saw about 10 people broadcasting the event live. I was one of them and several friends and online contacts were able to view the concert via my FB Live stream. One who was apparently an E-heads fanatic was profuse in his thanks for the livestream.

From medium to platform

It’s a picture of disintermediation in an era where platforms like Facebook have largely supplanted traditional media in certain information needs. We now learn and keep track of breaking news on Twitter and Facebook. Yes, many of the stories are produced by mainstream media organizations but we read and watch the news not on their sites but on the social media platforms that we spend most of our time on every day.

Artificial intelligence, bots and internet of things will automate more of the traditional news gathering and writing processes. Already, platforms like Automated Insights produce near flawless bot reporting in areas like sports and business. Even more astounding, they turned it into a platform anyone can use or plug into. In the future, this will be used to write customized stories to help us make sense of data. Imagine a bot in the cloud compiling all your health data and test results and writing you a prognosis and a fitness plan, which are then reviewed by your doctor.

Will there be no room for traditional media as we know it then? Far from it. As the amount of information explodes, we need people to help us uncover the signal from the noise. We need people to provide context or background information. That is an important role organizations like mainstream media can perform. That is also a role that demands more skills and training for journalists.

Context, background info, analyses

In the Eraserheads reunion, for example, we needed to find context and background info elsewhere. They said they will be performing more gigs (how many more and where?). What has changed through the years? Why are they performing together again? This info you might be able to get from mainstream media, if anybody pursued it, or from the band itself, had they provided the information on a social media page.

Unfortunately for media organizations, however, is that advertising has also shifted to platforms like Facebook. It now makes more sense for companies to directly connect with potential customers on internet platforms like Facebook and Google rather than go through media, whether traditional or new. Facebook and Google offer companies a way to accurately target specific market demographics for marketing campaigns, measure the impact and, because they have global scale, offer such low prices compared to ad rates of traditional publications. In fact, advertisers are already “over-indexed” on legacy media like newspapers.

It’s a bleak picture for mainstream media companies. But for individual journalists, it couldn’t be better. Risks have escalated of journalists losing their jobs but there is good news elsewhere. There are now opportunities to launch smaller and niche media brands as well as journalism startups. Platforms like Facebook offer media tools like Instant Articles to any organization, from bloggers to small news sites to bigger media startups, allowing virtually anyone to improve the reading experience on mobile. Companies have also realized the need to produce their own content for digital marketing, making writers and editors much more in-demand in the marketplace.

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Ambient noise? Think ambient news!

UV radiation levels will be high, the smartwatch we have been testing warned at noon of Sinulog Sa Kabataan Sa Lalawigan last Saturday. The data was processed by AccuWeather and detected by the weather app integrated into my wife’s phone and from there, pushed into the smartwatch she was wearing.

MaxBlogUV radiation levels will be high, the smartwatch we have been testing warned at noon of Sinulog Sa Kabataan Sa Lalawigan last Saturday. The data was processed by AccuWeather and detected by the weather app integrated into my wife’s phone and from there, pushed into the smartwatch she was wearing.

That bit of information influenced how we went about going from one place to another in downtown Cebu City to cover the Sinulog: staying on the shade and I being amenable to carrying an umbrella. I made a mental note of bringing sunblock.

That piece of weather alert illustrates the mind-boggling processing capabilities we have in today’s world of cloud technology and increasing mobility.

In the cloud, on the go

The ultraviolet or UV index alerts people on the levels of solar radiation. AccuWeather, a global company that specializes in weather information, explains that “many factors go in to calculating the index for a particular area on a given day, including the elevation of the location, cloud coverage for that day, the amount of ozone in the atmosphere over that area and skin’s sensitivity to UV radiation.” The scale, the company said, runs from 0 to 10 with 0 denoting the lowest risk of exposure that happens at night.

The notification we got last Saturday was triggered by a phone setting in Asus ZenUI for weather alerts every time the UV index reaches level 8. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says in its website that a UV index reading of 8 to 10 “means very high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure.”

The EPA warns people to “take extra precautions because unprotected skin and eyes will be damaged and can burn quickly.” Among its recommendations are for people to minimize sun exposure, seek shade when outdoors and wear protective clothing, wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, apply SPF 30+ sunscreen every two hours, watch out for bright surfaces like sand and water, which reflect UV and increase exposure.

Android Wear Google Now

TIME TO GO. Google Now takes into account your appointments for the day, traffic data on roads you are likely to pass and then sends contextual and timely notifications like this one on connected devices such as Android Wear smartwatches.

 

Weather, traffic, news

AccuWeather crunches the complex data points that come with weather forecasting and then unleashes a torrent of publicly-available data that are rendered into bite-size, actionable and easy to understand alerts on mobile devices like the one we received. The system knew where we were and served that timely and contextual reminder.

And that’s just the weather. Such complex and mobile systems already exist for traffic with Waze and for our daily lives, Google Now. Waze takes crowd-sourcing into the mix, getting data from phones running it to calculate traffic speed, improve map layouts and learn about road and turn directions.

Google Now, for me, is indispensable. Throughout the day, it sends alerts on what the system deems are things I should know like when to leave for an appointment, taking into account where I am and the traffic conditions of the roads leading to that place. It also serves weather and news information.

Automated writing

And systems like these will get even more powerful, fueled by the steadfast march to faster and cheaper processing determined by Moore’s Law.

I recently got access into Wordsmith, the platform that writes earnings stories for the Associated Press (AP) and sports recaps for Yahoo!. The system is surprisingly accessible to configure. With the service, you’re setting up your own digital wordsmith, a robot-writing system that devours such data as sports scores, sales reports and earnings figures and turns out AP-quality news reports in the time it takes you to say “rewrite.” And all these without having to invest millions in a data center and a team to configure algorithms.

These systems already tackle health issues, with automated heart rate monitoring and physical activities tracking. Google Fit, for examples, tracks how many steps you take in a day and whether it is by walking or running.

Bargains alert, ambient news

It is starting to cover commerce. We’ll be intelligently alerted of bargains, taking into account where we are and the things we are considering buying. It will definitely cover tourism and history, our startup has projects that tackle this and we have a nascent system for information delivery.

Platforms now include news but this will be much more encompassing in the next few years. News platforms will take into account not just our personal data but will be embedded into our daily lives as a constant stream of information we get in our multiple devices throughout the day as we go about working or traveling. It’s like having a newsroom producing content just for you, a Bloomberg terminal in your watch.

It will be a redefined “news,” with a new set of Ws and H, who you are is determined by data accessible via social media accounts, where you are is determined by GPS, what is grabbed by publicly accessible data feeds, when are data nuggets from online and mobile calendars and why and how are connections of historical data stitched into a narrative through meta information.

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Asus Zenfone 5 Lite: big-screen smartphone for the budget-conscious

BUILDING on the success of Zenfone 5, Asus recently released a cheaper version of the handset in time for end-of-the-year upgrading – the Asus Zenfone 5 Lite.

MaxBlogBUILDING on the success of Zenfone 5, Asus recently released a cheaper version of the handset in time for end-of-the-year upgrading – the Asus Zenfone 5 Lite.

The Zenfone 5 Lite has a dual core Intel Atom 1.2 Ghz processor with 1GB RAM and an 8GB internal memory that is expandable via microSD up to 64GB. The phone comes with a 5-inch qHD display of 960×540. It has an eight-megapixel rear camera with auto focus and LED flash. It comes with a .3-megapixel selfie or front camera.

The phone has with a non-removable 2,500 mAh Li-Polymer battery that should, in regular use, take you through a working day. The Zenfone 5 Lite is dual SIM and has HSPA+ connectivity.

The Zenfone 5 Lite comes with Android 4.4 or Kitkat with Asus ZenUI, the company’s custom Android skin.

Asus Zenfone 5 Lite

BUDGET SMARTPHONE. The Asus Zenfone 5 Lite is a good option for those wanting to upgrade to a smartphone on a budget.

Budget smartphone

I used the phone for a couple of weeks in December as test and found it a good enough device for those looking to upgrade to a smartphone but are on a budget.

The test unit was the white version and it looked good, even in comparison to other higher end devices. The phone is designed well and looks to have excellent finish. It also feels well-built and tough.

The phone was responsive enough to use although it doesn’t stand out compared with other units within and below its price range that I tested at about the same time. Starmobile’s UP Mini and UP Lite, both of which are cheaper, are more responsive and smoother. The Starmobile phones have quad-core processors although Intel, in its previous presentations on their processors, take pains to insist it’s not just about the number of cores but also about their quality.

Asus Zenfone 5 Lite

POWERED BY INTEL. The Asus Zenfone 5 Lite is powered by an Intel Atom dual-core processor.

Sleek Asus ZenUI interface

I used the Zenfone 5 Lite as main work phone for more than a week and found the experience okay. My go-to apps — Mailbox, Google Keep, Evernote, Trello and Slack – worked well enough as to go through a regular workday. Save for one incident of the keyboard freezing, I did not encounter any major hiccup while I was using the device.

Asus ZenUI is also a sleek interface that’s easy on the eyes. My current favorite Android launcher is CM Launcher but ZenUI isn’t too shabby either. It’s actually quite good. My favorite feature is the “What’s Next” component, which helps you keep track of and reminds you of your schedules. I also liked the way it presents the caller screen, with its sleek design.

The phone’s camera is also good enough for its price range. Eight megapixels is pretty standard for most mid-level phone cameras nowadays.

Asus Zenfone 5 Lite promo

The Zenfone 5 Lite retails for P5,595. If you buy it from any of the Thinking Tools branches in Cebu – On Junquera Extension, in Ayala Center Cebu and in the Cyberzone in SM City Cebu – you will get a free 8GB microSD card and OTG cable for free. (NOTE: Please check with the store ahead because this promo information was given in December)

For its price and build quality, the Asus Zenfone 5 Lite is a good budget option for those seeking to upgrade to a smartphone with a big enough screen, a good finish, sleek design and the brand backing of a major global company.

AsusZenfone 5 Lite unboxing

UNBOXING. The Asus Zenfone 5 Lite out of the box.

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REVIEW: Huawei Mate7 is a good, powerful big phone

WHEN you first hold the Huawei Mate7 in your hand, what is immediately apparent is how sleek its design is. At 7.9 mm thin, the Mate7 is a well-built device with top-of-the-line specifications worthy of a flagship device.

MaxBlogWHEN you first hold the Huawei Mate7 in your hand, what is immediately apparent is how sleek its design is. At 7.9 mm thin, the Mate7 is a well-built device with top-of-the-line specifications worthy of a flagship device.

I tested the phone for a few days this week and found the device a great option for those who prefer their phones with larger screens.

The Mate7’s 6-inch screen is bright and sharp. While it’s not quad HD, the difference isn’t by much, at least as far as I can see. I use an LG G3, which is a quad HD phone, and I didn’t see any glaring difference with the Mate 7’s display.

The phone packs a powerful octa-core CPU that’s more than up to the task of running any app or game. In my few days of using the device, I found it very responsive and quite zippy. I loved using it for work – managing emails with Mailbox, taking down and organizing notes using Google Keep and Evernote, working with interns in our startup via Slack, writing and editing using Google Docs, reading articles and keeping up with news updates via apps Flipboard, Pocket and Zite.

Huawei Mate7

PHABLET. The Mate7 has a 6-inch display, about the right size to use your phone as your main portable computer. (Photo by Max Limpag)

Powerful octa-core processor

I also used the phone to watch a couple of episodes of my favorite TV series The Newsroom, Person of Interest, Forever and The Flash and found the experience even better than watching these shows on the G3, primarily because of the larger screen and the more responsive performance of the Mate 7.

And what a processor it is. According to the company website, “boasting octa-core architecture, Mate7 has an intelligent Huawei Kirin 925 processor made up of four large A15 1.8 GHz and four small A7 1.3 GHz chipsets which are activated in different configurations depending on the power needs of a specific app or function so the smartphone can be smarter with power management.”

The phone saves up to 50 percent of battery life by using smaller A7 cores to run standard apps, which the company said consumers use “at least 80% of the time.” The phone uses the bigger A15 processors for high-demand use such as in gaming.

That explains why the phone was such a joy to use when I tried out a few games in it.

Huawei Ascend Mate7

UNBOXING THE ASCEND MATE7. The Huawei Ascend Mate7 is a great phablet with long battery life

Great battery life

The Mate7 has a 4100 mAh non-user removable lithium polymer battery – a beast considering its svelte frame. I got the device about half-way charged on a Monday and it still had power even by Wednesday night, after more than a day of heavy use taking photos – often trying its rapid-fire multiple shots capability by pressing continuously on the shutter button – watching TV shows, listening to music and podcasts and trying out a few games.

I gave it a full charge Wednesday night and used the phone for reading, checking emails and keeping up with news on Thursday and then doing a factory reset on Friday before returning the device and it still had more than 85 percent battery charge. Like I said, a beast.

The phone comes with an ultra power saving feature that the company said “is designed to intelligently shut down the most battery draining features as your phone starts to lose power, meaning that you get extra life with the last 10 percent of your battery.”

Emotion UI

The phone comes with Huawei’s EMUI or Emotion UI and it looks good. I’ve long used Nova Launcher and when I tried EMUI for the first time with the Mate 7, I found it visually refreshing and actually liked the experience of using that interface with the phone. I tried out a few of its themes and the selection was good.

The phone comes with Android 4.4 or Kitkat, the penultimate version as of this year.

Fingerprint scanner

The Mate7 comes with a fingerprint scanner located just below its camera lens. The company said the phone is “possibly the market’s first six-inch smartphone with instant single-touch fingerprint access to put an end to password fatigue.”

“It enables users to unlock the phone at least 80 percent faster than devices that use a slower sweeping recognition option,” Huawei said in its website.

I tried it on the test unit and it does live up to the company’s promise. The phone took only one touch to unlock the device using my fingerprint – a pretty nifty feature that saves you a lot of time (multiply the time it takes to enter your PIN by the number of times you check your phone in a day and you’d get a peek into how much time the system saves for you – time you can then on the latest viral mobile game).

Huawei Mate7

THIN FRAME. The Mate7 is just 7.9mm thin and looks very sleek.

Camera

The Mate7 comes with a 13-megapixel camera with autofocus and LED flash. It’s front camera is 5 megapixels. I used it to take a few test photos and liked the results, especially those taken in low light condition. It’s at par with my favorite cameraphone, the LG G3. The phone can do 1080p video recording and playback.

Storage

The phone comes with 16GB built-in memory that is expandable through a microSD card up to 128GB.

Connectivity

The company says the Ascend Mate7 uses a “dual antenna optimized to provide fewer dropped calls and smooth 4G LTE navigation.” It said the the device is compatible “with a wide range of network spectrums worldwide . . . and uses smart antenna switching to intelligently detect the strongest signal, choosing the ideal source for emission or reception of data.” The company said the device uses Cat6 4G LTE technology with a download rate of up to 300 Mbps within a compatible network.

The test unit I used was the amber gold model and it looked really good.

The package comes with a good quality folio case.

The Huawei Mate7 retails for P27,890 in regular phone stores and in retailers like Thinking Tools, which lent the unit used for this review.

For its price, the Huawei Ascend Mate7 is a great phablet that should be on top of your list if you’re planning to upgrade your phone this year.

Huawei Mate7 Test Photo

TEST PHOTO. A test photo taken with the Huawei Mate7 of the wooden robot on top of my computer in the Sun.Star Cebu central newsroom. Click on the photo to view the full size. I did not edit the photo and merely compressed it to save on file size using the TinyJPG service.

Huwaei Mate 7 specs

RAM: 3 GB
ROM: 16 GB
Display: 6 inches FHD Screen,1080p (1920 x 1080), 368PPI, 16M colors
CPU: Hisilicon Kirin 925 4×1.8GHz + 4×1.3GHz + 1x230MHz
OS: Android 4.4/Huawei Emotion UI 3.0
Camera: Rear: 13 megapixels, 4128 x 3096 pixels, autofocus with LED flash, 1080p at 30fps; Front: 5 megapixels, 720p
Battery: 4100mAh
Height: 157.0mm
Width: 81.0mm
Thickness: 7.9mm
Weight: 185g (including the battery)

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