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Sunday, 18 November 2018 14:19

How a mid-range smartphone rescued me from Apple Featured


As a father, I care deeply about the future of the younger generation so I don’t want them to be imprisoned by an expensive cult known as the Apple ecosystem. I learned the dangers of this first-hand eight years ago when I was captured by an iPhone and I have only just succeeded in buying my freedom. Viva la vivo!

Yes, that’s right – I am now the proud owner of a brand spanking new vivo v11 smartphone and she is a beauty. I was on the verge of buying an OPPO F9, another darling little temptress, but then the homely but supercharged Xiaomi Pocophone F1 caught my eye, then Huawei Nova 3i, Honor Play – it was all too much.

I was swimming in a sea of big, bold beautiful affordable dual-SIM, microSD expandable, 6-inch plus, thin bezel, high definition screen Android smartphones. It was an embarrassment of riches – affordable riches.

For weeks I was playing with phones, testing their features, reading spec sheets, reviews, unboxing videos. I even occasionally visited the iPhone section of phone stores to try to discern what the XR was offering for two to three times the price of these beautiful mid-range smartphones. Perhaps I was missing something?

Not really. The latest figures from smartphone market researchers tell the story.

The iPhone XR is a dud reminiscent of the 5C fiasco and it is not selling well. Assembler Foxconn has cut back the number of production lines by 25%, Pegatron is on hold, while Wistron will not be producing any at all this year.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook will no longer be quoting unit sales in company reports to the market.

Meanwhile, the likes of vivo, OPPO, Xiaomi and Huawei are killing it in a tough market where overall unit sales have dropped in four successive quarters, with absolutely superb mid-range products in the A$400-A$500 range that come with many of the features on offer by the flagship products.

All of the above phones offer beautiful displays with thin bezels, dual SIM slots, expandable 256GB microSD storage, excellent front and rear camera systems, fingerprint ID, excellent battery life, and Android 8.1 with their own respective skins.

As far as shortcomings are concerned, all had powerful engines under the hood and were very fast, but of course none could match Apple’s A12 CPU in its latest iPhone trio. Likewise, none could rival the new iPhone models for shooting quality videos – built-in image stabilisation is something yet to make its way into the mid-range and there are limited options for shooting formats and speeds.

Then again, for the vast majority of users the features that the latest Chinese mid-range phones do offer are much more than adequate.

Uncharacteristically for Apple, the iPhone XR is not even a pretty looking device. The low-res LCD display has forced Apple to make the phone thicker and line the perimeter of the screen with thick unattractive bezels. In contrast the mid-range phones, with the exception perhaps of the Poco F1, are exceptionally attractive.

In the end I chose the vivo v11 after going through an exhaustive process of comparisons.

The v11 had a number of features that made it stand out from the rest, including a beautiful bright 6.41 inch Super AMOLED 2340x1080 402ppi display, standard 6GB RAM, 128GB storage expandable to 384GB, on-screen fingerprint reader, excellent facial recognition, ability to shoot 4K video.

The vivo v11 phone has a small tear drop-shaped notch at the top and very thin bezels which together make for an exceptionally high 91.27% screen to body ratio. This enables the phone to fit comfortably in an average sized hand and pocket.

As far as the other Chinese mid-range contenders were concerned, they were all very good and all had their own pros.  All were a bit cheaper than the v11 but after weighing everything up, I felt the extra spend was well worth it.

I was able to walk out of the store spending less than A$550, about A$750 less than Apple’s current “budget” iPhone offering. Over the past few weeks, I have done extensive investigation into transferring from the Apple ecosystem into Android. I have never been a big iCloud or iTunes user so it’s really no big deal to move my most important data over.

As far as my MacBook Air is concerned, I have no plans to move back to Windows for now. However, I will say that I have another story coming about my experience with defective keyboards and how I believe Apple tricked me into needlessly buying a new machine – so stay tuned.


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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.



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