Samsung Galaxy C5: In Shanghai store

[TECH IN CHINA] Shanghai always serve me interesting gadgets, this post is about Samsung Galaxy C5 and C7, China (soon India) only smartphones. Here are 3 things about these latest Samsung devices which I lay my hands on in Shanghai.

Samsung in China
China is of course probably the biggest consumer market that any manufacturer worth their salt cannot ignore. Samsung in particular is concerned that they have fallen out of the top 5 smartphone makers in market share for Q2 2016.

This is peculiar given Samsung is the current leader in global market share and its overwhelming success of Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge in 2016. Clearly, the Chinese has very different priorities and preferences for smartphones.

Which must have been a big question mark in Samsung's Chinese division. What exactly will sell in China if the Galaxy S7 doesn't? I think they created Samsung Galaxy C5 and C7 to answer their own question.

Not S7 but Mid-range smartphone
While C5 is not flagship class phones, they are still very good in their own rights.  Super AMOLED 5.2" 1080p display with 424ppi gives a competent display, nothing fancy but great nevertheless. Samsung C7 are very similar in specifications with the notable difference being the 5.7" screen.

Snapdragon 617 confirms it's non-flagship status. Android 6.0.1, microSD expansion slot, 32/64GB storage as well 4 GB ram ensures its relevance in the mid-range category. Rounding up the specifications are 16MP, f1.9 rear and 8 MP,f1.9 front shooter, home button with fingerprint sensor and a non-removable 2600mAh battery,

At RMB 2,199 for 32GB version. Samsung C5 represents the best the most value for money smartphones in Samsung's line-up today, along side the A series.

Galaxy C also has very similar market segment as Galaxy A series. Both metallic and both one step lower than the Flagship S series. One key differentiator is the compatibility of Samsung Pay in Galaxy C series though only NFC payments only.

iPhone look alike?
Really, the 2.5D glass and metallic unibody creates a solid and good-feel in hand. What's not so steady is the outlook of the phone that looks like a certain iPhone! A situation not limited to Samsung in mainland China where nearly every phone manufacturer you can think of are adopting very similar full metallic backs.

Samsung is probably adopting the if-you-can't-beat-them-join-them mentality with Galaxy C yet it is difficult to see how it would impact their market share in China. Even if Samsung have included their own iterations of localised apps such as WeChat Hongbao function as well as S-Helper for daily shopping and errands in the very well digitalise China.

Local manufacturers such as OPPO or Vivo just boast way higher specifications, features and even higher compatibility with Chinese apps at similar price points.

Link - Samsung C5 Specifications
Link - Samsung drops from list of top 5 smartphone-makers in China

[USER EXPERIENCE] Tablets has been boring for a long time now. Right now the tablet world is pretty much iPads, iPad Mini, Air, Pro... Excellent tablets all round. On the other hand, I am hard-pressed to pick an Android one. Samsung S2 is pretty solid but pricey given its plastic build.

Which makes my latest hoot in Shanghai more interesting. Introducing Nokia N1!

And here are three things to note from my user experience, 1 year after Nokia N1 is released.

Yes, you heard it right. It's a Nokia product, not to be confused with Microsoft's Nokia branded products. Nokia N1 is designed by Noka and manufactured by Foxconn. Launched in China, Taiwan, Russia and some parts of Europe in 2015,

Essentially, it is a Nokia one-off venture of consumer product thus it appears to be available only in limited markets. I think it is also unlikely that Nokia will by releasing a second iteration given that this Nokia N1 hasn't gotten Marshmallow yet.

A rare Nokia device with limited availability is a receipt for a collectors' item.

What's not working
Nokia delivered a really neat tablet in Nokia N1. Before we get to the good stuff, let's cover the problems. Starting with the most common complain on the net about Nokia N1 is how similar it is to iPad Mini. I cannot deny they look similar but so does many other tablets in the market today.

Then comes my personal complains during the 2 months I have with the Nokia N1. First of which is probably not a legit one as it stems from getting a China version. Essentially, the Chinese N1 does not come with Google Framework such as Google Playstore and Google Play Services thus making it impossible to have the likes of YouTube or Gmail working as normal.

The 2nd complain is a device hardware problem. After prolong usage, say 30 mins or running a high end game for say 10 mins, the bottom left hand of the tablet will be much warmer than a personal gadget should be. It's not a deal breaker especially with a cover on it though it is puzzling to say the least.

Value for money tablet
In a sentence, you can be assured Nokia N1, while is not your best-in-class device, is very competitive when placed in today's tablet market despite being a 1 year old device.

Its awesomeness begins when you see and hold, the build quality is extremely pleasing. 6.9mm in thickness the N1 is actually a little slimmer than an iPad mini 3 and an one-body aluminium stain finished housing really gives Nokia N1 a premium outlook.

Nokia N1 also has a brilliant display; 7.9 inch 4:3 aspect ratio IPS panel coupled with 2048x1536 resolution, its sharpness will rival most of the competition in 2016.

On the inside it where Nokia N1 probably is not as impressive. A 64-bit 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 paired with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage are decent for tablet. The 8-megapixel rear and 5-megapixel front cameras are performs less than average.

N1 even possess some cool features; the reversible USB Type-C port as well its Z-Launcher, Nokia developed, is a launcher that cuts away the regular way of using Android.

All of these above for just RMB 1099 or SGD 220. Comparatively a better deal against iPad Mini 2 at SGD 398. It's a matter of preference as it always is. If you need high end specs and functions, look else where!

Edited 22 August 2016: OnePlus has announced its closure of their Beijing and Shanghai stores effective 22 August 2016. Link - GizmoChina

[USER EXPERIENCE] I happen to be in Shanghai for a business trip right after the launch of the OnePlus 3 on 14 June 2016. And I also happen to have a Brother-in-law that wanted OnePlus 3. So that's it, I get to enjoy the excitement of purchasing the OP3! And here are the 3 things from my OP3 buying experience! 

It’s all calm and peaceful! 
The OnePlus 3 is officially unveiled on Wednesday, 15 June 2016. I made my trip to their Shanghai Flagship store, the only brick-and-mortar OnePlus store in China, on Friday night but I was told the last piece sold out 5 minutes ago! In case you are virtualizing iPhone-released like queue at the store, read on. 

The photo of the shop at the top of this post is taken right at that time. Yes, it’s just a regular crowd. Further proof that OP3 is not mainstream; I got out earlier to get it the next day. There is no queue at the cashier but again, a steady stream of customers at the store. 

iPhone in OnePlus Store?
I can't say for the rest of China but Shanghai is truly an Apple city according to statistics generated by number of iPhones I saw during my time there.

A more damning evidence is the OnePlus store assistant attending to me uses an iPhone instead of OP3! Not the best image to present!

Another unofficial statistics from the brain of mine, there are Apple Stores, not the fake ones, opened in major locations around Shanghai than the stores of Huawei, Samsung, Oppo and the rest combined.

Simple Choice
Since OP3 doesn't not offer colours or specs options, all I can say to place my order was "one unit please". I find this to be refreshing experience when purchasing a smartphone in today context. 

OP3 even comes with a film clear type screen protector applied. I also bought the tempered glass protector from the store but the store assistant advised I used the film protector until it wears out before replacing it. I suspect she didn't want to paste the glass protector for me...

Of course that didn't temper my mood of going back with one of the most value-for-money tech in the world today!   

[REVIEW] Having increasing my driving hours tremendously this year, too often I need Google Maps to guide me to my destination. So the search for a mobile phone car mount begins.

That's when GripGo Universal Car Mount caught my eye. Marketed by JML, I have seen GripGo on sale in sold in Sheng Siong and Cheers at approximately S$14.95. GripGo comes in short arm and long arm version.

I went for GripGo because most of the car mount didn't look stylo. Most of those are of clip design which hold mobile phone in position with a clip. Surely they looked sturdy. Somehow I managed to go the other way with GripGo.

I got it online from someone whom got it shipped from overseas hence it's not the JML version and also does not cost S$14.95.

GripGo also comes with a adhesive-backed disc for dashboard mounting.

On to the product itself. For the record, I stick on the Nexus 5, iPhone 5s and an iPad 2 and both stick on with strong grip. In fact to remove the devices itself required some strength and if anything, is one of the biggest problem with GripGo.

For instance in the case of my Nexus 5, not an unibody phone, it is important to get a firm grip on the phone before peeling it off the GripGo. Otherwise, while the back of phone is sticked firmly on and you are merely taking the phone apart. It is that sticky.

For me the best way to remove the phone from this car mount is to squeeze the handles by the side of the pad. This is also the recommendation on the instruction sheet.

What is not so sticky is the suction cap. In my weeks of experience with GripGo, it came off several times my windscreen.

In short, GripGo has its shortcomings. One, it works if you are using a uni-body with a flat back phone. Two, suction cap is just bad. It may look pretty cool initially to have your phone stick on so easily but actual experience is just not as good as it looks. Traditional clip-on car mount would be a better option.

Edited 22 August 2016: OnePlus has announced its closure of their Beijing and Shanghai stores effective 22 August 2016. Link - GizmoChina

[USER EXPERIENCE] In my last post, I shared my thought process of getting a China version of OnePlus 3 (OP3). In this one, I will share my experience of flashing Oxygen OS onto the China version of OnePlus 3 which originally comes with Hydrogen OS which is built for Chinese users without Google apps.

Flashing a ROM is basically like changing its "Operating System" of the phone. While Android is an Operating System, there are different flavours of Androids, with Oxygen OS and Hydrogen OS being two examples.

The process of flashing a ROM is perfectly legit even in the eyes of OnePlus 3. OnePlus in China offers warranty coverage flashing ROM. 

While flashing of ROM in this situation is quite safe,  as I have done it myself via some help from googling. But as it always is, do it at your own risk!

Step 1: Download ROM
As of 8 July 2016, OnePlus has officially put up Oxygen OS 3.1.2 for OP3 up on their web for download. No worries about 3.1.2 not being the latest version as you will get the updates after flashing 3.1.2.

You can also download later version such as 3.1.3 available on third-party websites. Here I would stick with the ROM i could download directly from OnePlus. Download the ROM on your desktop/laptop so you do step 2 easily.

Step 2: Copy the ROM onto OP3
Copy the downloaded ROM onto OP3 via USB connection to your desktop/laptop. Remember to choose MTP mode when prompted on your OP3. You can place the ROM on the first level on MTP mode.

Step 3: Local Installation
Go to "Settings"-"About Your Phone"-System Update"-"Local Install". You will asked to select the file for installation. Choose the file you downloaded.

Step 4: Recovery mode
After the installation, you will be brought back to the Google setup page. At this point, boot OP3 into recovery mode by holding volume down and power button together.

Step 5: Clear Cache
In the recovery mode, use your volume button to toggle around and look to options to clear cache including dalvik cache and user settings and data.

Step 6: Reboot!
And you are done! Still in the recovery mode, reboot the phone and you have completed the flashing process. After reboot, you will be brought back to the Google setup page and may continue according to instructions from there which is pretty what you get from a OP3 Europe/Asia or North America version.
OnePlus 3: In Black Apricot Case
Edited 22 August 2016: OnePlus has announced its closure of their Beijing and Shanghai stores effective 22 August 2016. Link - GizmoChina

[User Experience] I eagerly bought the OnePlus 3 in Shanghai 2 days after the launch on 15 June having completely no idea that OnePlus 3 is officially making its way to Singapore shores in 2016!

Not sure if this is officially reported in the local media but on OnePlus Singapore Facebook and a query email sent to Challenger Singapore, it appears that OnePlus 3 may be officially on sale in Singapore.

In any case, I have gotten myself a Chinese version of OP3. The question is how much of a deal did I get?

LTE Band
Hardware difference is probably the most import when it comes to getting an export phone set. In this case I bring your attention to OnePlus International Official website. Combing through the page, I could almost find one difference, connectivity.

Under the connectivity tab, it shows that OnePlus comes with 3 versions; North America, Europe/Asia and last but no least, China. In Singapore, FDD-LTE is what we should be concerned with and below shows the bands used.

4G LTE Frequency Bands Covered by Mobile Operators:
• M1: 1,800MHz (band 3) & 2,600MHz (band 7)
• SingTel: 1,800MHz (band 3) & 2,600MHz (band 7)
• StarHub: 1,800MHz (band 3)

And there you have it, the China version perfectly compatible with FDD-LTE Band 3 and 7 used in Singapore. While the North America and Europe/Asia set may have support for more LTE  bands, we are not going to need them in Singapore. Of course unless you are a frequent traveler to America, then you probably have to avoid the China version.

Singapore LTE Band Information -

Operating System (OS)
The Chinese OP3 comes with Hydrogen OS and the other version comes with Oxygen OS. The difference boils down to a single word, Google. That's right.

While the two OS have a lot of differences in aesthetics and features, Google apps are perhaps core reason why you would choose over the other. Oxygen OS, made for Google experience, is installed for the all version of OP3 except the China one, which uses Hydrogen OS. Hydrogen OS comes without any Google apps including Goolge Playstore, Google Play Services.and the Google apps suite such as Gmail and YouTube which requires Google Play Services to run.

Having said these, OnePlus has good community support for ROM installation, meaning it is possible to install Oxygen OS on a China version of OP3. And that's exactly what I did and I would post my experience in my next post.

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