From The Straits Times    |

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The iPhone XR will soon be available for preorder here (Oct 19), but before you part with more than a thousand dollars on a set, consider this: Is the iPhone really the king of the pack and is it worthwhile forking out so much for a model that is touted as its lower-end release?

Economically priced phones are no longer a bad option, and with so many brands in the market stepping up their game, there is now a boggling array of choices for the mid-range phone. Just think, you can actually have more for less. Still, which phone is best for which purpose? We look at how the upcoming iPhone XR stacks up against the Samsung Galaxy A9, Huawei P20 Pro and the Oppo R17 Pro.


The best camera for Instagram

Photo: Samsung

The iPhone XR may boast a “breakthrough camera system” but we’re sorry, when it comes to numbers, Samsung has just laid claim to the title of the world’s first phone with four rear cameras with its Oct 11 release of the Galaxy A9. Compared to the XR’s 7MP front camera and a single 12MP rear camera with no optical zoom, the A9 has four cameras playing a staggering four different roles (from top to bottom: 8MP ultra-wide sensor with an f/2.4 aperture and a 120-degree field of view; a 10MP telephoto lens with the same aperture and 2x optical zoom; the main camera which is 24MP with a wide f/1.7 aperture; and the last camera a 5MP sensor with f/2.2 aperture).

Despite the pro features, the A9 is also simple to use as the A9’s artificial intelligence (AI) can recognize up to 19 different scenes and will also automatically detect problems such as when a subject blinks in the photo. The camera also works very well in low-light conditions. Most of the features from the Galaxy S9 series carry over as well – the always-on display, fast charging, fingerprint sensor, facial recognition and if you can’t live without it, the headphone jack. There’s 3,800mAh of juice which should give it superior standby times considering again the processor and display.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy A9, comes with 6GB RAM, 128GB storage (expandable), price to be announced


The best professional smartphone camera


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For the pros who want something more, look at the Huawei P20 Pro. Its camera features stand head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. It has a Leica-designed Vario-Summilux three-camera array — this means a 40MP f/1.8 RGB lens, a 20MP f/1.6 monochrome lens, and an 8MP f/2.4 telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom. The phone has earned rave reviews and gained a huge following due to its ability to produce outstanding photos even in low-light conditions, thanks to its Master AI.

The manual mode also offers an extensive number of options and capabilities. It also comes with a 4,000mAh battery which should last you a day and perhaps even more. However, there is no wireless charging and no headphone jack.

Winner: Huawei P20 Pro, comes with 6GB RAM, 128GB storage, priced at $1,148.


An affordable alternative to Apple’s XR


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Besides the iPhone XR, you can also consider the Oppo R17 Pro which is powered by a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 and is really attractively priced. It has three rear cameras as well, with the main 12MP camera sporting a variable aperture (f/1.5 to f/2.4), which allows for more lowlight shooting. The secondary camera sports a 20MP sensor with f/2.6 aperture, while the third is a time-of-flight, or TOF, camera that can be used to capture 3-D depth data for augmented reality applications.

If you shoot a lot in the night but don’t want to pay a bit more for the Huawei P20 Pro (or a lot more for the XR), this is it. The phone also looks very pretty with its kaleidoscopic gradient colours and a reinterpreted notch in the form of a waterdrop. A drawback: It has no expandable storage or headphone jack.

Winner: Oppo R17 Pro, comes with 8GB RAM, 128GB storage, priced at $999


The best processor

Photo: Apple

The iPhone XR has an edge over its competition in the form of its latest processor, the A12 Bionic, the same internals that the iPhone flagships XS and XS Max have. It is more advanced and faster, compared to the Samsung, Huawei and Oppo sets which only have mid-range Qualcomm processors.

Moreover, if you are already knee-deep in the Apple ecosystem and you want something simple and fuss-free without the complications of options or an awkward user interface like the Huawei P20 Pro, the iPhone XR is your best bet. The iPhone’s strength lies in the fact that Apple is in control of production from software to hardware, so everything works together seamlessly and smoothly. Unlike Android phones, iPhones provide a consistent experience throughout. Apple also closed the aesthetic gap by giving the iPhone XR six candy colours. It comes in white, black, coral, yellow, blue and red.

Winner: Apple iPhone XR, priced from $1,229 for 64GB storage