If you feel like Samsung and Apple have lacked innovation over the last few years, you’re not alone. Industry-watchers and fans alike have seen brands like Huawei takeover with impressive features not seen by other major players. But even the world number two Huawei’s playing it safe, and there are a few smartphone brands out there doing incredible work in laying the foundation for what smartphones will really be like in the future.
Xiaomi has had a small presence in South Africa with its affordable flagship-killers doing the rounds in prominent retail outlets over the last two years or so. Announced a few months ago, and recently made available in South Africa, is the Pocophone F1 – a device many are calling the “flagship-killer-killer” as it features an industry standard Snapdragon 845 processor, 6GB of RAM and a 4,000maH battery. How much is the device, you ask? No more than R6,000. The Pocophone lacks any sort of expensive glass or aluminium and opted for cheap yet sturdy materials. Makes you really consider why flagship devices are so expensive these days.
The Oppo Find X
Samsung recently announced it would be adopting the notch in future devices, caving in to a trend that just doesn’t seem to go away and has now been adopted by basically every smartphone brand from Apple to Huawei and OnePlus. Chinese brands, however, have been increasingly clever in finding ways to get smaller bezels without completely removing the selfie camera. Oppo’s solution? A mechanical slide-up camera that reveals itself when you activate selfie mode. It’s incredibly innovative, which allows the smartphone to have a massive screen and no notch. What remains to be seen is just how long the phone can last, keeping in mind it houses sensitive moving parts in the camera mechanism.
Smartphone gaming has come a long way. Premium titles like FIFA, Grand Theft Auto and Need for Speed have all found their way to our pockets. What we don’t realize is that smartphone gaming is intensive on your device’s system. While flagships like the Samsung S9 and iPhone XS can handle gaming really well, the experience still feels less than stellar. Enter the Asus ROG, which comes with a vapour-cooling chamber, a 90Hz refresh rate on the screen, improved processing power, and a slew of accessories that improve the experience including a handheld dock that adds a second screen as well as a powerbank attachment for added juice. All of this doesn’t come cheap though, with a new one costing in the region of $1099.
OnePlus has been at the forefront of the flagship-killer moniker – in fact, it even includes this mission statement on its packaging in some of its devices. And rightfully so. For around the R11,000-mark, you can get specs generally seen on higher-end flagships like the Samsung S9+ or the Huawei P20 Pro, and then some. In addition to a monster 8GB of RAM, an optic AMOLED display and the world’s fastest battery charge, the OnePlus 6T has also refined the in-display fingerprint scanner. Whereas most in-display scanners only make use of a 2D image sensor – essentially just seeing the patterns on your fingerprint – the 3D scanner in the OnePlus 6T features 3D scanning making it more secure than ever before.
Notches and sliding mechanisms bring smartphones closer to near-bezelessness (that’s a word now) but a Chinese brand called Nubia has found a way to achieve about a 94% screen to body ratio by adding a second screen to the rear of the device. So, yes – no selfie camera. To take a selfie, you rotate the phone and direct the rear camera to your face. This then activates the second OLED screen, which is – we don’t know how – insanely hidden in the rear glass. In addition to this, the device comes with a Snapdragon 845 processor, up to 8GB of RAM and two side-mounted fingerprint scanners.