Game of Thrones

As giantslayers like OnePlus and Xiaomi go strong, the two biggies of the smartphone world, Apple and Samsung launch their latest flagship devices. Winter is truly coming!

iPhone XS

iPhone XS

Not everyone predicted Apple’s final line-up for 2018. It’s the first time we’ve seen three distinct offerings from Apple – the XR, this month, the XS and the super-size XS Max, the successors to last year’s iPhone X. In the past, Apple’s ‘Plus’ size phones didn’t just get extra screen real estate, but better cams and a discernible difference in battery life. This year’s XS Max is powered by the same internals, features the same camera set-up, but offers two differentiators – a larger screen (6.5 inches vs 5.8 inches on the XS) and an hour and a half of extra battery life over last year’s iPhone X.

If you’re big on video consumption and don’t mind the extra heft (it weighs around the same as the iPhone 8 Plus), this might be the iPhone for you. We put the XS under the scanner and asked the question that’s on most people’s minds – is it worth the upgrade at its stiff price tag?

In terms of sheer aesthetics, the iPhone XS is in a league of its own. It’s identical to its predecessor with the same all-glass exterior separated by a surgical grade stainless steel band. It’s the same vibrant 5.8-inch OLED display (1125 x 2436 pixels). The only change is the new gold colour that joins last year’s silver and space grey options. Apple has reserved most of the upgrades for the internals of the phone. There’s a 512GB version (aside from 64 and 256GB) that power users will dig. If you’re a compulsive camera user, you will notice the improvements in lowlight and in portrait images. We’ve been big fans of portrait images snapped on the iPhone, and the XS (with the same dual 12MP rear cams) refines this further. The new A12 bionic processor that is at the heart of the XS, enhances the image processing. Gamers will notice the improved performance, something we noticed with App loading times vis-à-vis the iPhone X. The other noticeable change is the output from the stereo speakers – louder and crisper. Apple claims a half hour increase in battery life over the X, we found the XS delivers a similar battery life as the X.

If you already own the iPhone X, you can hold off your upgrade until next year or switch to the XS Max if you prefer a larger display. Don’t forget this is an ‘S’ year in Apple’s release calendar, where the upgrades are subtle. Something we saw with its major rival– Samsung, a year when the S9 and Note 9 didn’t alter the form factor significantly. If you are stepping up from any of the other iPhones, the XS is a no-brainer. It takes the iPhone experience to a whole new level with the robust A12 bionic chip and a camera that produces stunning images and videos.

The iPhone XS starts at  Rs 99,900 (for the 64GB version) while the XS Max begins at Rs 1 lakh plus approx

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Not long ago Samsung’s Note series would conjure images larger than life. That was when the iPhone was 4 inches or under and most Android displays hadn’t breached the 5-inch threshold. It’s a different story in 2018 where massive displays are the norm and smartphones are on the verge of making 7-inch tabs redundant. The Note’s other USP – the S-Pen is probably what distinguishes it from the pack, but is that enough for Samsung to sell its most expensive smartphone to date? It’s why Samsung has positioned the Note 9 as the most formidable of them all.

Let’s get the form factor out of the way first. It’s gorgeous; we love the massive display (sans the notch) and the premium build quality. The Note 9 stays in the same zone as the design template that Samsung totally nailed with the Galaxy S8 from early 2017. If you’re looking for a radical overhaul from the Note 8, you’re likely to be disappointed. The Note 9’s changes are all subtle. The fingerprint sensor moves to a convenient location below the dual camera while the vibrant Super AMOLED screen (1440 x 2960 pixels / 515 PPI) gets a 0.1-inch expansion (it’s now 6.4-inches) This one’s totally ready for your Netflix marathons; the all-new AKG stereo speakers adds to the entertainment quotient.

Then there’s the rear camera (12MP + 12MP, probably our favourite for lowlight photography along with the Pixel 2 and the S9+. It’s almost identical to the S9+ with the dual aperture (f/2.4 and f/1.5) rear cam and an 8MP selfie shooter. The only tweak is the new AI engine that adds some useful functionality – it will prod you to shoot another picture in case someone blinked. The Note series is now Samsung’s showpiece device and the top-of-the-line specs should therefore come as no surprise. It’s powered by the same Exynos 9810 processor that propels the S9+ and comes with two hardware variants - 6GB RAM / 128GB ROM or the heavy duty 8GB RAM / 512GB ROM. Add support for expandable storage and you could have 1TB of storage in your device. No kidding. The Note 9 comes with a massive 4000 mAh battery that should help you sail comfortably through a full day. It’s not a big change over the Note 8 though.

The Note 9 is a brilliant all-round device and then there’s the S-Pen. This year’s version is even more responsive, more fun to doodle with and also comes with Bluetooth functionality – you can seamlessly shoot images with it. And it comes in a showstopper yellow (only in the Ocean blue colour variant). The Note 9 fires on all cylinders and is the Android device of 2018.

The Samsung Galaxy Note9 costs Rs 67,900 (6 GB/128GB) and Rs 84,900 (8GB/512GB)

Nokia 6.1 Plus

Nokia 6.1 Plus

Nokia might have finally found the winning formula for the highly competitive mid-market segment with the 6.1 Plus. This all-glass slab features clean lines and feels light in your hands despite its 5.8-inch FHD+ display. It’s kitted with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor and 4GB of RAM with 64GB of ROM and expandable memory (up to 400 GB). The dual rear cam (13MP + 5MP) shoots pleasing images in ambient light while the 16MP selfie cam won’t let you down. The 3360 mAh battery should work for most users while the Android One badge ensures you are always first in line for Android OS updates and security patches (Rs 15,999)

OPPO F9 Pro

OPPO F9 Pro

OPPO’s newest device pushes the screen: body ratio past 90 per cent. This one’s all-screen and the notch adopts a unique water drop shape to maximise screen real estate. That’s not the only stand-out feature. The F9 Pro comes in three striking colours that feature varied colour gradients – the twilight blue for instance features a petal-like pattern of diamonds. It’s not short on fire power. The device features a 2GHz octa-core processor and 6GB of RAM. The 3500 mAh battery comes with flash charging – five minutes of charging guarantees you two hours of talk time (Rs 23,990).

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