January 26, 2016

Are you that alternative girl who supports the underdog in every way possible, be it in the clothes you wear, the food you eat and the cafes you go to? If this pretty much sums up your lifestyle, then say no more! Another year has passed, which means another iteration of the iPhone has been released. But amidst all the attention that Apple seems to get everywhere (it’s literally, everywhere), the other smartphone brands are trying their best to share the limelight with the all-encompassing iPhone. We’ve gone through the pile and cut through the noise to bring you a list of some smartphones that are worthy of a once-over. By Adam Kerr. Illustrations by Joanne Cheah.





The ZenFone Selfie is actually the flagship version between the three additions to the series (there are only a handful of differences here and there to cater to different needs). This one is pretty self-explanatory, especially if you’re the sort that floods your photo gallery with countless photos of yourself (or with friends). Boasting dual 13-megapixel PixelMaster cameras, dual-colour, dual-LED real tone flash for both front and rear cameras, laser auto-focus (captures photos with perfect clarity under 0.3 seconds) and an intuitive rear key, taking selfies has become way easier. And don’t forget that real-time beautification mode, which instantly edits your photo every time. You can make full use of the 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080-pixel Full HD Corning® Gorilla display to fine-tune your photos (we’re talking about things like softening your facial features, slimming down bloated cheek or even brightening your skintone to add vibrancy). And if you’re on holiday, the ZenFone Selfie’s f/2.2-aperture front lens and 88-degree field of view lets you take panoramic selfies (up to 140 degrees) so you’ll never have to go through that awkward task of asking a stranger to help you take a photo of you against that picturesque backdrop again.

$399, available at ASUS brand stores, authorised retailers and Qoo10. 




Details, details, details – that’s what this phone is all about. Also, HTC is a smartphone pioneer in its own right. Did you know that they created the first Android smartphone, the first Windows smartphone, the first 4G smartphone and also, the first all-metal smartphone? Innovation is clearly at the heart of all HTC operations; it’s no wonder they’re still being supported by millions despite being in a ery tough market. Unlike some smartphones that limit the controls of certain aspects of your phone, the HTC One A9 puts you in the driver’s seat to give you the freedom to take full control of your smartphone experience, thanks to the combination of HTC Sense and the new features of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. On the design front, HTC draws visual cues from the natural beauty around us. An approach that HTC calls “metalmorphics”, HTC combines the super-thin metal frame with new curves, redefined edges and precision-cut ridges on the power button. The dual-toned finish is brushed with hairline detail and bead-blasted before the sides are polished. Aesthetics aside, the HTC One A9 can be a great alternative if you don’t want to lug around an extra camera. Its main 13-megapixel rear camera comes with Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) and an optional Pro mode that lets you take photos in RAW format. And yes, it comes with a built-in Photo Editor if you need to make quick edits before sharing it with the rest of the (cyber)world.

$798, available later this year.




We can’t deny it; this phone is actually pretty to look at (and screams, “Hold me!”). The elegance and sophistication of Huawei’s now flagship really puts them in a better light. They’ve also redefined the way you’d normally experience a smartphone, with the inclusion of new touch features. The Fingerprint Sense 2.0 is faster, more sensitive and has more accurate self-learning functions. Besides just unlocking the phone or securing online payments, you can now control notifications, scroll through photos, take selfies, answer phone calls and even dismiss an alarm (though this could turn out to be really bad for you in the morning). The Knuckle Sense 2.0, a technology that first made its debut with the P8, also comes with new features and functionalities with a simple tap of the knuckle. Instead of scrolling through your phone to multi-task, you can draw shortcut letters to the 5.5-inch AMOLED FHD screen to stretch to switch between apps. For example, drawing a “c” will activate the camera, an “m” to listen to music and an “e” to surf the net; all fully customisable of course. You can even crop and copy an image of double tap a video to screenshot stills. Who knew you could so much with just your knuckles?

$999 (64GB ROM in Luxurious Gold), available at Huawei’s Flagship STore (Plaza Singapura #03-78 and Experience Store (Sim Lim Square #04-66).




We all know Lenovo as that Chinese multinational computer technology company that sells computers and tablets (remember ThinkPad?), but smartphones? Well, they’ve been having a good run with their PC business so it only made sense for them to expand, which they did four years ago. The latest addition to their VIBE family banks on selfies. According to Lenovo, over a million selfies are taken a day and 48% of that gets shared on Facebook. They’ve taken the Lenovo VIBE and tweaked it to satisfy selfie enthusiasts like you by incorporating dual selfie cameras that work in a way where the 8-megapixel primary front camera captures the sharpest photos while the 2-megapixel secondary front camera analyses depth of field information to emulate human vision. The “Blur” feature in the built-in photo editing tools lets you add a bokeh effect to your selfie. You can even make use of the “Cut Out” functionality to place yourself onto another image, or to get rid of pesky photo bombers. You’ll also be able to take selfies with your friends while you’re out and about at Zouk, thanks to the front camera BSI sensor that improves the clarity and quality of after-dark selfies. Just remember not to flood your followers on Instagram with 10 selfies at one go, no matter how nice you think they are…

$429, available at Lenovo authorised retailers.


LG V10


You’ve seen the new Star Wars film, and being a big fan yourself, you’re happy that J.J. Abrams didn’t totally wreck it for you and the rest of the world. Now your aspirations to be an amazing director has resurfaced but you don’t have the means to pick up a sophisticated camera to work with, nor do you want to. Well, the LG V10 might just be what you’re looking for. It offers the ultimate in video capturing, editing and sharing, just as the LG G4 did with photography. Yes, you can actually manually adjust shutter speed, frame rate, ISO, white balance and focus while you’re recording in either HD, FHD or UHD (either in 16:9 standard or 21:9 cinematic aspect ratios) on the 16-megapixel rear camera with f/1.8 lens or 5-megapixel dual lens (80-degree standard angle/120-degree wide angle) front camera. LG has also thrown in a bunch of other features to further enhance your videos and overall recording experience, like “steady record”, which makes use of the electronic image stabilisation to reduce shake and capture sharper video footage as you move around, “snap video” to create a video montage of sorts, multi-view recording, and more. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, LG carries over their tradition of alternative storage options with a microSD card slot that is compatible with cards of up to 2TB so you can shoot as much 4K video as you like. You might need to purchase a second or third replacement battery even though the V10 comes equipped with a 3,000mAh removable battery if you’re planning on going all-out on creating short films.

$1,088, available from 16 January at M1, StarHub, SingTel and other authorised LG mobile retailers.




It’s the hipster phone to end all hipster phones. OnePlus is still considered to be a very young company, having been founded in December 2013 by Oppo’s former vice president Pete Lau, and Carl Pei. The first iteration of the phone became a cult favourite amongst global tech enthusiasts because of its exclusivity. The brand is out to impress with their specs, as the OnePlus 2 features an aluminium-magnesium alloy frame with jewellery-grade stainless steel accents that encase a full HD 5-5-inch IPS LCD In-Cell display and 3300mAh lithium-polymer battery. This smartphone is powered by the fastest processor in the market, the 64-bit Qualcomm® SnapdragonTM 810 SoC and 4GB of RAM, and gives you 64GB worth of storage, on top of an eMMC 5.0 flash expandable memory. But one of the biggest takeaways from this phone is the fact that it’s equipped with a USB Type-C charging port to help pave the way for the adoption of this technology (and to stay current, of course). OnePlus has also taken it further by using patented technology to make the Type-A side of its charging cable reversible as well. Talk about being ahead of the pack. Oh, and if you’re thinking of getting one, you might want to check out their social media channels for announcements on when they’ll be giving out the next batch of invites to purchase.

$598, available online for purchase (only with invite).




You wanna be on top? Well, Oppo certainly does. They’ve received international success, especially after partnering with one of the most exciting fashion-themed reality television series of all time, America’s Next Top Model. Although we all had to bid adieu to the show last year, Cycle 22 ended with a bang. This third co-ed season saw a bunch of challenges that required the hopeful models to use an OPPO phone. The R7s looks to be a great companion if you’re in need of a stylish-looking phone while you’re out and about for meetings. It sports an exquisite aircraft-grade metallic body that has undergone 48 polishing processes, encasing an equally chic 5.5-inch AMOLED screen that comes with a 2.5D arc-edge. And just like Tyra Banks, the R7s is beautiful on the outside and equally powerful on the inside. The faster performance and smooth multi-tasking you’ll be experiencing is all credited to the 4GB RAM and 8-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor. This smartphone boasts 13-megapixel rear-facing and 8-megapixel front-facing cameras so you can do like Tyra and work that smize for a “#FierceAGram” shot.

$599, available in Golden and Rose Gold from OPPO Concept Stores (Suntec City Tower 3, #01-627 and 333 Geylang Road) and M1, SingTel and StarHub stores.




If you want a phone that has a competitive edge over Apple, then this is probably it. We can’t deny that these companies are akin to squabbling siblings (they’ve had more than 40 patent lawsuits against each other), earning them the “Most Dramatic Smartphone Feud” Award, if there were ever such a thing. But there’s one thing that Samsung has done that’s aesthetically different from others. Last year, we were struggling to figure out how relevant the curved edge screen would be to the market, and what benefits it can potentially bring to the table. But Samsung has gone on to the next level by providing a dual-edge display this time round. Just like its predecessor, the S6 Edge+ 4G+ is definitely sleek and elegant, though a little awkward to hold at first. But as with everything else, you’ll eventually get used to it. You’ll be able to use the features like the “Apps Edge” for easy access to your favourite apps and the “Enhanced People Edge”, which lets you communicate with your favourite contacts with ease. Apart from the obvious unique selling point of this phone, the S6 Edge+ 4G+ also provides you with a 5.7-inch Quad HD SUPER AMOLED display for a deeper screen contrast, true-to-life colours and in-depth details. You’ll even be able to shoot in RAW with the f/1.9 16-megapixel rear and 5-megapixel front cameras (you can even adjust the shutter speed).

$1,188 (32GB), available at Samsung Experience Stores, M1, SingTel, StarHub and other selected retailers.


SONY XPERIA Z5 PREMIUM (corrected from print version)


At the rate we’re going with technology, point-and-shoot cameras will probably become obsolete within our lifetime, just as personal digital assistants (it came and left too soon), walkmans and discmans did. I mean, look, we can now do all the things that those devices can do, on one smartphone. Taking photos on a gadget like this must’ve taken a visionary to come up with, but we’re here, and we’re moving faster than we can imagine. Sony’s Xperia Z5 Premium is the world’s first smartphone with 4K UHD display and upscaling technology, and has the brand’s latest innovations in camera, design and display to make sure that it becomes the best possible lifestyle and entertainment platform. This smartphone features their brand new large 1/2.3 Exmor RSTM for mobile 23-megapixel sensor and f/2.0 G Lens, which makes it the first phone with a completely different camera module since the Xperia Z1. The combination of this large sensor and advanced processing software means you can zoom up to 5x without compromising on quality. It’s also capable of an ultra-fast autofocus (a whooping 0.037 seconds, which is even faster than the blink of an eye) so you can capture split-second moments easily. What’s next, holographic video calls? Who knows, but we’re sure as hell that we’ll be alive to see it come to fruition.

$1,098, available at Sony Centres and stores, M1, SingTel and StarHub retailers.




Look at these phones… they’re so colourful and cute and slim and begging for your attention. Just because they’re pegged with a lower price doesn’t mean they’re any less good. Also, we need to put the whole “Made in China” stigma behind us because like everything else, Xiaomi deserves to be considered. The company was founded back in 2010 by Lei Jun, a serial entrepreneur who doesn’t believe that high-quality technology should come at a hefty price. Take a look at the Redmi Note 2. It’s powered by a 2.0GHz MediaTek Helio X10 octo-core chipset, which was originally designed for high-end flagship phones, and works together with a 2GB dual-channel LPDDR3 RAM to deliver exceptional performance when running demanding apps and complex games on the 5.5-inch full HD display. In the photography aspect of things, the Redmi Note 2 is equipped with 13-megapixel rear and 5-megapixel front- facing cameras (with f/2.0 aperture no less). The brand’s industry-leading HDR mode, paired with the Phase Detection Autofocus, lets you focus and capture amazing photos in under 0.1 seconds. Go ahead. Give it a try at least. You did say you support the underdogs, right?

$229, available online and at M1, SingTel and StarHub retailers.