The 2018 edition of the IFA consumer electronics trade show has a few new smartphone launches that you need to know about. LG has a cool new phone based on Android One, called the LG G7 One, and BlackBerry is finally deeming its gadgets worthy of mass consumption by releasing a phone that won’t make you break the piggy bank open.
ASUS ROG Phone
ASUS launched its Republic of Gamers (ROG) line-up to the European audience at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany last month. We went to see their gaming smartphone at IFA.
The ROG phone is a gaming smartphone. Developed from a gamer’s perspective, the visual and physical features, as well as the thoughtful accessories, will have both leisurely and hardcore smartphone gamers excited. The rest of us will get more utility out of a regular phone.
On the inside, the ROG phone is powered by a Qualcomm SDM 845 processor and 8GB memory. Its 6″ AMOLED display has a refresh rate of 90Hz and a response time of 1ms. Most notably, the ROG phone sports a vapor-chamber cooling system.
On the outside, you’ll notice multiple USB connectors, one at the bottom and one on the side. These serve as connectors for the phone’s extensive line of accessories, including the AeroActive Cooler cooling pack, which also adds an additional USB charging and audio jack.
You’ll need these additional side ports once you attach the game controllers. This is where the additional audio jack is a nice touch. Unfortunately, ASUS told us that the band connecting the two controllers doesn’t quite stretch across the cooling pack. Moreover, it blocks the fans, meaning we currently can’t recommend this accessory combination. They’re working on fixing this issue.
The phone also supports customizable squeeze gestures, which, for example, let you turn on the phone’s turbo boost mode. Moreover, two virtual AirTrigger buttons on the side permit input from physical buttons via the TwinView Dock, which also comes with a second screen for game controls or live streaming.
The ROG phone has many thoughtful features for gamers. Though I wonder whether a true gamer would rather invest in mobile or desktop gaming. For casual gamers and digital nomads, however, this is the mobile gaming solution that will fully meet your gaming needs.
Axon 9 Pro
The Axon 9 Pro is ZTE’s new flagship phone, but it’s not an eyebrow raiser. ZTE went with the notch compromise, in favor of increased screen real estate. The screen measures 6.21″. The phone runs on a Snapdragon 845 processor and comes with 6GB RAM and 128GB internal storage.
Nubia Red Magic
The Nubia Red Magic is ZTE’s first gaming smartphone. After successfully completing its crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo (240% funded) earlier this year, Nubia announced an EU and UK release date for the Red Magic: September 7. A global release date is not available at this point. Nubia presented the phone at IFA this year and we had a quick look.
The Red Magic carries an outdated Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 8GB memory, up to 128GB storage, and a 6″ screen. What stands out is the LED panel at the back. A feature that gamers will appreciate is the GameBooster mode button. Similar to the ASUS ROG phone, it overclocks the processor, clears the memory, and shuts down any non-essential background applications.
A great phone for gamers, though the accessories and more up-to-date Snapdragon 845 processor might sway you towards the ROG phone.
BlackBerry Key 2 LE
Oh BlackBerry. Yes, it’s still around. The once-dominant business phone’s new owner, TCL, is as obstinate as the shopkeeper in the Monty Python sketch. TCL believes BlackBerry isn’t dead, and so must we.
At IFA, BlackBerry debuted the new Key 2 LE. It seems like LE stands for Light Edition because it’s essentially the Key 2 with inferior hardware. The phone has a Snapdragon 636 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 3,000 mAh battery, all of which are a step down from the Key 2. The dual camera is a combination of a 13-megapixel shooter and a 5-megapixel shooter, instead of the Key 2’s dual 12-megapixel shooters.
On the bright side, the price comes down as well to a much more affordable $399 for 32GB, or $449 for 64GB. That’s not cheap, but if you want a phone with a physical keyboard, then the BlackBerry Key 2 LE is the only real mid-range phone you should consider.
The rest of the things are what you know and love about BlackBerry. It’s the same keyboard as the Key 2, with its angled keys and the custom one-command shortcut key. You also get the famed BlackBerry security. Basically, if you’re a BlackBerry fan, you won’t miss any software.
LG G7 One
The LG G7 One is the latest in Google’s Android One program. What started as a simple initiative to give a stock version of Android on low-cost phones has now expanded to bring other features, notably augmented reality, to even mid-range and high-end phones. The G7 One is probably going to be mid-range, although LG hasn’t released the price details yet.
The lack of bloatware is welcome since LG has a habit of adding a ton of customizations that makes Android unrecognizable. It also inserts you deep into its ecosystem of products, so unless you’re buying every product from LG, these extra apps are bloatware.
In contrast, the G7 One feels slim and sleek both in software and in hardware. That said, the phone does make some compromises, especially in the camera department. In an age of dual cameras, it packs only a single 16-megapixel shooter. Still, the rest of the hardware is all right, with a quality Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, a 6.1 inch screen (3120×1440 pixels), and a 3000 mAh battery.
But the point of the G7 One really is all about the software. This phone is a good example of how Google Lens works, where you can take a photo of anything you see to see an explanation. For instance, let’s say you’re walking down the road and see someone wearing a bag you really like. Double-tap the dedicated Google Lens button on the phone to fire up the app, and point it at the bag. In a few seconds, Google Lens will tell you everything you want to know about the bag, and give you options to buy it online. It works really well, and it’s almost magical to see it live.
LG did not give any details about the price of the device or its availability. If you want to venture a guess, know that it is slightly stripped down version of the LG G7 Thinq, and the Thinq costs $750.
Huawei Kirin 980 and Honor Play
Huawei didn’t launch a new flagship phone at IFA. Instead, it launched a missile at mobile processor manufacturer Qualcomm, by unveiling the new HiSilicon Kirin 980 processor. This is the world’s first processor based on a 7nm chip. By comparison, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 is based on a 10nm chip.
The quad-core processor includes four Cortex A76 cores for high-performance tasks, and four Cortex A55 cores for low-power tasks. Graphics are handled by a Mali G76 GPU, which should let you play any game out there. The Kirin 980 is also optimized for the new trend of dual rear cameras, and claims to understand and assimilate data from two cameras up to 46% faster than its predecessors.
Huawei concluded its keynote address by adding that they will launch the Huawei Mate 20, the first phone based on the Kirin 980, in October.
Meanwhile, it announced a new phone called the Honor Play, a smartphone aimed at gamers. What makes it a “phone for gamers”, you ask? Honor Play has a “Turbo Mode” that overclocks the GPU by 60%, without consuming that much extra battery. It’s a bit gimmicky, honestly, and not something to get overly excited about. What is worth noting is the price, as Huawei says the Honor Play will cost 329 euros. That’s an impressive phone for the price.
More At IFA
IFA 2018 will go on till September 5, and MakeUseOf will be at the trade show to cover it. There are more keynote addresses and press conferences scheduled, as well as exhibitors from all around the world showing off their wares. Keep watching this space for updates from IFA 2018.