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The year in consumer tech: iPhone X, Nokia's return, Bitcoin's rise

  • Published in Tech

With the year coming to a close, we round up the biggest things that happened in the world of consumer techology. From smartphones to virtual assistants to virtual reality, innovations continue to come in the form of new physical designs such as we've seen with Apple's iPhone – arguably the most hyped phone of the year.

Along with this, we saw the continued push for new consumer-facing technologies such as augmented reality, cryptocurrencies, and AI-focused chips such as the ones found in new Huawei flagship phones. In no particular order, here's what we witnessed in 2017 from the world of consumer tech:


Year of the X

Apple’s 10th anniversary phone, the iPhone X, was clearly the most anticipated handset of the year. The media frenzy following the announcement in September was one for the books, which had top tech global websites jostling for a leak and paying top dollar for prior information, even betting on how it was going to be named.

Photo from Apple

Photo from Apple 

The hysteria was somewhat doused when it was finally revealed that the brand new iPhone would sell for way over a thousand dollars, the most expensive smartphone ever. In the Philippines, the iconic phone is selling for approximately P64,000 plus, with variations in installment and incentive pricing from Smart and Globe.

This is also not to forget that Apple has another advanced smartphone in the running, the iPhone 8, although most of the attention truly had been sopped up by the X. 

Samsung and Nokia's comeback

The silver lining in the iPhone X cloud is that it gave competitors a wide enough room to wiggle in and compete aggressively specs for specs and a share of consumer’s wallet. Samsung, which got toasted in 2016 with the global recall of its burning flagship phone, the Galaxy Note 7, rebounded this year with a brand new smartphone, the Galaxy Note 8.

Photo by Nappy Manegdeg/Rappler

Photo by Nappy Manegdeg/Rappler 

Earlier in the year, we also saw the Galaxy S8 and also the LG G6 which gave us exciting new edgeless designs sporting a thinner (18.5:9 and 18:9 respectively) profile. 

And depending on which side of the OS wars one is aligned with  Android or iOS Samsung got its game and grove back. 

But the quintessential comeback kid this year is Nokia, which heralded its return to the hardware market with an Android device called the Nokia 6 in January. 

The icing on the cake was the makeover of the Nokia 3310, which was finally unveiled in October with 3G capabilities. Nokia also launched the flagship Nokia 8 and a mid-tier phone, the Nokia 6.

Photo from Nokia

Photo from Nokia 

Once the king of handhelds, Nokia is, however, facing a very different tech landscape. Years after it bowed out of the mobile space, consumers are marching to the beat of a very different drummer. The name of the game today is "selfie" and people do not have to shell out loads of cash to get that perfect shot, pimples and wrinkles removed.

Breaking the Apple-Samsung duopoly

In the mid-range segment, the Chinese handset trio  Huawei, Oppo and Vivo – definitely have an edge with competitive pricing and a marketing strategy that sizzles even in the mall corridors. Asus, Lenovo, and other brands have their own competitive offerings. 

But it's Huawei that's sort of breaking the Apple-Samsung duopoly in the top tier with the launch of its flagship phone, the Huawei Mate 10 and its twin, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro. The Chinese giant snuck by Apple in the middle of the year, taking the second spot in terms of global sales, although Apple's iPhone X push thereafter may have shaken up the standings yet again.

MATE 10. Richard Yu, CEO of Chinese Huawei Consumer Business Group, presents the new Huawei Mate 10 high-end smartphone in Munich, southern Germany, on October 16, 2017. Photo by Christof Stache/AFP

MATE 10. Richard Yu, CEO of Chinese Huawei Consumer Business Group, presents the new Huawei Mate 10 high-end smartphone in Munich, southern Germany, on October 16, 2017. Photo by Christof Stache/AFP 

Huawei's marketing pitch with their Mate 10: artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, and a very palatable and competitive price tag in the flagship range. Other phones in its lineup this year such as the photography-oriented P10 and P10 Plus and the value-packed midranger Nova 2i round up what has been a great year for the Pia Wurtzbach-bannered brand. 

Google continues push in device market

And as if the competition is not fierce enough, the hardware space got even more crowded with Google announcing its new devices for the year.

In October, Google launched the smartphones Pixel 2 and Pixel 2XL, the Daydream View VR headset and the Google Pixel Buds. 

THE PIXEL 2 AND PIXEL 2 XL. Screen shot from Google Livestream.

THE PIXEL 2 AND PIXEL 2 XL. Screen shot from Google Livestream. 

The announcement followed the news in September that Google is acquiring Taiwan smartphone maker HTC, which its spokesman explained as “an overall investment in its emerging hardware business.” Google clearly knows its inadequacy in the retail front: it has no physical stores or showrooms for selling its products.

How this will play out in 2018 and beyond would be interesting to watch, especially as many of these newly launched Google devices are not yet available in countries like the Philippines. When they do become available, would they move the needle in the local device war? Would the local geeks take to a wireless headphone that can translate?

Battle of the voice assistants

Filipinos have yet to experience fully interacting with Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby and other voice assistants in a big way as many of the devices powered with these conversational software are not yet available locally.

AMAZON ECHO. Photo from Amazon

AMAZON ECHO. Photo from Amazon 

But a new battle royale is already looming in the horizon in this space. Research firm Gartner predicts an acceleration of visual- and voice-search technologies in the next two years.

In 2018, would Filipino homes start to welcome gadgets that they can talk to and boss around to switch on the light, read the news, open and close their doors, or play their music of choice? It still sounds like science fiction and still in the domain of the early adopters, but the certified geeks here are already toying with these devices.

AR and VR, and other realities making progress 

A year after augmented reality (AR) entered the lexicon of the Filipino consumer, through the widely popular mobile game, Pokemon, the technology has moved on, along with its twin, virtual reality (VR).

PSVR. A player tries out PlayStation VR near the Farpoint area. Photo by Nadine Pacis

PSVR. A player tries out PlayStation VR near the Farpoint area. Photo by Nadine Pacis 

In May, the Philippines saw the launch of the first broadcast augmented reality (BAR) experience, a journey on “a winter playground of faux snow sculptures and stuffed polar bears and penguins.”

On the device front, devices such as the Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Sony PlayStation VR, Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream View, HTC Vive, have yet to gain mass appeal locally. But AR- and VR-capable smartphones are already out in the market such as the Asus Zenfone AR, which fully supports the Google platform. 

Filipinos still "social"

A report confirmed in June Filipinos’ continued enthusiasm with social, with 58% of the Philippines having a monthly active account on the top social network here. Even against the global backdrop of fake news, political propaganda and other ugly realities, the social space is alive and vibrant.

While the most tweeted moments in 2017 is still a hodgepodge of typical Pinoy interests: celebrities, basketball, and beauty pageants, on one hand, and more serious concerns such as class suspensions, storm warnings, the Marawi conflict, and the Asean Summit on the other. 

Practical tech and internet speed


The use of technology in this vast consumer haven is also seeing a seque to more practical things like the use of ride-sharing and transport apps to manage their daily drive or commute, shopping online and paying for online purchases through various fintech apps and services. The question now is internet speed catching up?

report released in May showed that the Philippines continues to lag behind internet connection speed averaging only 5.5 Mbps versus the global average of 7.2 Mbps. The Philippines also ranked 100th out of 122 for mobile broadband and 94th out of 133 for fixed broadband in the Speedtest Global Index. Whether this is good news or bad news can be hotly debated by the telcos and the consumers in a duel that will forever rage in this side of the world for as long as connection is not fast enough for everybody's satisfaction.

This isn't surprising as even some of the smartphones selling below the mid-range today have even better camera, connectivity and other capabilities than the iPhone of 10 years ago. As people want their devices to do more, they expect better connectivity.

As has been the case in previous years, the entrance of more data service providers would benefit the state of internet service packages in the Philippines, forcing market players to lower prices, ultimately for the consumers' benefit. Legislation such as the proposed Open Access Bill hopes to gain more traction in the following year to allow more players in the market. 

The buzziest buzzwords of 2017


Globally, a new buzzword has emerged in 2017: artificial intelligence or AI. With AI chips now embedded in the most advanced smartphones, it would be interesting to watch what this can do for consumers. But the surprise development in the tech scene this year is bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Are Filipinos ready to embrace this cryptocurrency, essentially digital money with a ledger verified by a network of computers instead of a central bank?

Cryptocurrency, as represented by Bitcoin and its staggering rise from $1000 to a bitcoin to highs of $18,000 to a bitcoin in December 2017, has at the very least, forced us to rethink the way we think about what currency is, and the potential form that future currencies could eventually take. Either that, or you've started trying to mine or trade for bitcoin – in spite of its volatility – and hope that its value rises even further, as a few analysts believe it could. (READ: Bitcoin breaks $10,000 barrier but analysts warn of bubble)

While the actual usage of bitcoin in commercial transactions is still developing (the number of companies that accept cryptocurrencies is still low), it has some traits that give it some appeal, namely the ability to bypass bank fees for remittances, and anonymous transactions. 

Be wary though; some are also saying that bitcoin is a bubble that could pop anytime. Consider it a very high risk investment that could either make you very rich in 2018 or set back your financial plans for the future. – Rappler.com

Eden Estopace is an IT journalist based in Manila. She writes for a Swiss-based media startup.


Google Has Fired The Employee Who Wrote An "Anti-Diversity Manifesto"

  • Published in U.S.

The engineer had written a lengthy memo titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber" that spread quickly among employees before being leaked to the press.

Google has fired James Damore, the software engineer who wrote a manifesto against the company's diversity policies that went viral within the company over the weekend.


Brian Snyder / Reuters


Damore was fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes," he told Bloomberg on Monday night. Damore later confirmed his dismissal to BuzzFeed News.

"Google has super flexible (illegal) policies that they can twist to fire anyone they want," he said.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

On Saturday, a lengthy memo titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber" written by Damore spread quickly among employees before being leaked to the press.

The document argued in favor of a biological basis for the difference in the number of men and women in the tech industry based on pseudoscientific statistics and assertions such as women suffering from "neuroticism" more than men. Damore's LinkedIn profile says he has received advanced degrees in biology.

Damore argued that the company should not offer programs for racial minorities or women and that "ideological diversity," — including more conservative viewpoints like Damore's — was more important than hiring more people of underrepresented racial minorities or women. Damore wrote that politically conservative Google employees faced discrimination.

"We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism," he wrote. "I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership."

Google executives said on Sunday that they do not "endorse, promote or encourage” the author's viewpoint. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that Damore had violated the company's code of conduct.

Damore's opinions garnered both support and disagreement on Twitter:

Susan Fowler, the former Uber engineer whose blog post ignited an investigation into sexual harassment and gender discrimination at the rideshare company, tweeted her disappointment with his supporters

Some of Google's own engineers tweeted their disgust with Damore's opinions

Silicon Valley, and Google in particular, has faced increasing scrutiny for its treatment of women. The search giant is currently under investigation by the US Department of Labor for gender discrimination in the workplace.

One department official testified in court that the federal agency has found "systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce." Google has denied the allegations.


Survey shows outdoor athletes love listening to music but hate their earbuds

  • Published in Tech
by Kraig Becker/ www.digitaltrends.com

Looking for a pair of earbuds for use in action sports? A survey has found that many athletes have trouble finding adequate earbuds.

Do you like to listen to music or podcasts while taking part in your favorite outdoor activities? Do you find that your earbuds aren’t especially well-suited for those outings? If you said yes to that last question, it turns out you’re not alone. A recent survey of more than 400 “weekend warriors” who enjoy action sports like mountain biking, trail running, and skiing shows that most of us aren’t very happy with our options when it comes to earbuds built for use outdoors.

The survey was conducted by a company called Earshot and reveals some interesting insights into how action sports athletes view their headphones. For instance, 72 percent of those surveyed indicated that they prefer to listen to music while participating in their sport of choice, although nearly 20 percent who chose not to listen to music said it was because earbuds aren’t built for use in their favorite activity. Another 16 percent claimed that their existing headphones aren’t very good or are just downright awful. And while 40 percent indicated that they had spent $100 or more on a set of earbuds, nearly half (49 percent) said the would spend even more if they could find a set better suited for their needs.

The biggest complaints that outdoor athletes had with their existing headphones were that the cords often get in the way (33 percent), they are uncomfortable to wear (23 percent), and they don’t fit properly (17 percent). The athletes involved in the survey also indicated that fit and functionality are the most important aspect they look for in their earbuds, with comfort and sound quality coming in second and third. Twenty-five percent said that they felt that most earphone manufacturers simply didn’t understand their specific needs.

In a press release revealing the results of the survey, James Bell-Booth, Earshot co-founder, said: “To me, the most important finding from our research is that 35 percent of action sport athletes said they’re at least somewhat likely to abandon their activity if their headphones don’t work properly. As a community, we need to take more seriously the headphone requirements of action sport athletes, and get to work making products that meet their needs better.”

Of course, Earshot had ulterior motives in conducting this survey. The company has designed a line of earbuds that it expects to launch on Kickstarter later this month. With a magnetic locking system to hold them in place, long battery life, and completely wireless operation, they apparently have been designed with action sports in mind. They are also waterproof and rugged enough for use in demanding environments like those favored by outdoor athletes.

The new earbuds are expected to sell for $136 when they become available, although anyone interested in grabbing a pair can register now for a 40 percent discount.

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