First Impressions: Xiaomi Mi3

So, I got the Xiaomi Mi3 yesterday and now that I’ve had some time to play around with it, it’s time for some first impressions.

First off, the packaging. The Mi3 came in a plastic sealed box, which frankly was a surprise – I’m used to getting my electronic devices opened by the store staff. Out of the thin plastic, the box is crisp and has sharp edges. It has a nice feel to it and the fit is so snug I had to admire the workmanship (OF A CARDBOARD BOX).

Admittedly, I was surprised with the Mi3’s size. My previous phone was a relatively small Galaxy Y and well, I wasn’t sure what to expect, really. Anyway, it’s sleek and light (again, a surprise for something big) and its rounded off edges make the Mi3 nice to hold.

What’s in the box? The Mi3, a data cable, the super small charger, and the Quick Start guide… plus a small thingamajig. After consulting the guide, I found that it’s used to push the SIM tray out. So yes, the first order of business was to stab my phone.

I fired it up and was promptly blown away by the screen. Just… wow. The MIUI is so smooth –did I mention the Philippine version shipped with Android 4.4.2 KitKat out of the box?

I played around with the themes a little bit, and I have to say that checking out the available themes can be an exercise in option paralysis. Most of them mix Chinese characters with English letters, so the fickle can get those out of the way at least. I like the one specially made for the Philippines, especially the clock with a jeepney logo.

The camera is awesome, with HDR, macro, ISO, and exposure options. It can burst up to a 100 shots, but we’ll get into that once I write a more in depth review.

Test shot

The only problems I’ve encountered so far is with the Messaging app which has crashed a lot. I can’t fault the phone for that though, as it seems that it was the theme launcher that was causing the problem.

Anyway, so far, the Mi3 is awesome. Color me, a reklamadora, impressed.

How I got the Xiaomi Mi 3

7AM. I woke up, which is impressive because I typically work at night and am therefore not awake before noon.

8AM. I was online, checking the Mi Philippines Facebook page and reading the comments. Sizing up the competition, so to speak.

10AM. I’m excited. I’m checking out the Mi website, Lazada, and Facebook for updates. There were reports of an exploit, allowing people to purchase the Mi 3 before the 12noon go time. I decide to stay put – knowing that they would be within their rights to cancel my order if I didn’t follow the rules.

11AM. I’m starting to get hungry – and worse still, my hands are sweating. I start counting down the minutes before 12noon.

12noon. I refresh the Mi Philippines website as instructed, click through to Lazada, and go on to purchase the phone. From my order sheet, I had a phone secured by 12:01.

1:35PM. I’m still waiting for a confirmation email.

1:45-ish. The Xiaomi Mi 3 is sold out. (I kept checking to see just how long it would take.)

3:00PM. I still haven’t received an email or text confirmation from Lazada so I called up their customer service hotline to ask whether or not my order came through. I was told that yes, it did and that Lazada Express was the courier used. I was also told to expect it around Saturday. They were extremely accommodating.

4:30PM. I received a call from (what I’m assuming as) Lazada’s fulfillment center. I was asked if I could receive the delivery today. I asked, “Today?” “Yes ma’am,” said the lady on the line. “Today.” I wondered whether it was a mistake, but she had said that a. it was for the Xiaomi Mi 3 I purchased this very afternoon.

6:30ish. I received the delivery, paid the courier, and was holding the phone – barely 7 hours after I ordered it online. I knew Lazada was probably eager to impress their new partner, but I didn’t expect it to be THAT fast.

I’ve been playing around with it since, and I am very impressed with the Mi 3. I’ll come up with a full review one of these days – in the meantime though, I’ll be somewhere else, playing with the new phone.

The Mid-Range Phone Dilemma

How is the Asus smartphone faring in the Philippine market? Not so well, primarily because, hey, they haven’t quite started yet.

Personally, I’ve been following news about their Zenfone line since it was announced at the last CES. Then the unthinkable happened. Absolutely nothing. At least not until April, when they officially announced/released the phones in China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia — there was however no sign of it in the Philippine market despite being a Southeast Asian country, apart from a little teaser-ish survey about smartphones that has since been removed from their Facebook page. There is considerable interest, as there was a time when every other post on their wall involved the Zenfone. (They instead kept pushing their newly refreshed phablet, the Asus Fonepad 7.)

In May, PH tech sites reported that though there isn’t a set release date yet, we should expect the Zenfone line to debut in these parts in June. It is June, and no news yet.

I want the Zenfone 5. I’ve wanted it since its debut in China, and I’ve been tempted a couple of times to buy one (two, actually) online and have it shipped or to have an overseas-based friend to buy one for me.

But now I’m torn. I’ve been waiting for the Zenfone 5, but Xiaomi, a Chinese consumer electronics company, has just opened their PH website and their own PH Facebook page. While waiting for the Zenfone, I had stumbled upon the Xiaomi Mi3’s positive reviews. It’s often compared to the Zenfone 5 since they’re in the same size division and the same general price range, give or take a few thousand pesos.

The Xiaomi line (from Xiaomi’s Facebook page)

Compared to the Zenfone, the Mi3 has a higher screen 1080p resolution, a faster 2.3 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, more RAM, and a bigger 3050 mAh li-ion battery. Reviews say that the OS can be updated to Android 4.4 KitKat. The higher specced Zenfone 5 (A500CG), the one with a 2.0 GHz Intel Atom Z2580 CPU and 2 GB of RAM, is more comparable but it probably won’t land here any time soon, considering Asus’ seeming disinterest on this part of the Pacific.

Anyway, I’d forgive the Mi3’s lack of an SD card slot if they price it reasonably (it’s actually a flagship phone, but the lower spectrum model is arguably mid-range). According to Xiaomi, they’re going to release their products here one by one. So again, the question goes back to, “When?” I’ve been holding out getting a new (mid-range) phone since the start of this year.

No one seems to want my money.

The Outcasts of Jupiter!

Back in 2007, while working at the place where I met the most awesome people in the world, I met Shobo Coker (I called him Chris or Coker. He still insists on He-man). At the time, he was the managing editor and therefore my boss. Unlike most expats at the place though, he was friendly, if a bit shy. We became friends over coffee, talking about comic books, 90s cartoons, toys, and video games.

Over the years (Seven years? Can you believe that!), we talked about our various projects – Jonah Jupiter for him, and various work-in-progresses for me. We were both stuck – because you know, pursuing your dreams always coincides with the need to pay for rent (sing with me, BUT THE LEGEND OF THE RENT WAS WAY HARDCORE!) and the need to eat regularly.

Earlier this year though, Coker had launched a project in collaboration with his two equally awesome siblings, Shof and Funlola, called the Coker Coop. They were going to make a comic set in the Jonahverse, and I watched their progress unfold on their blog, www.CokerCoop.com, and on their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/cokercoop.

And – drum roll please – they’ve launched a KickStarter for the Outcasts of Jupiter!!!

Personally, I’m a little jealous (because my own projects are still up there in the ether mixing in with soul-sucking responsibilities and brain-withering technical papers), but I am mostly proud of Coker. And of course, I’d like to see the book in print (and a shirt too!) so I urge you and the other peeps stuck in a creative black hole to support this project because anything this mind-meltingly awesome needs to see print.

(Watch the video on the KickStarter to see Rita, the T-Rex.)

The Better-Late-Than-Never Obligatory Valentine’s Day Post

My idea of romance, and the mythical happily-ever-after, was admittedly gleaned from years of watching rom-coms and Disney movies. Just now (really, as in just now), as I was cooking dinner and an Angelu de Leon and Bobby Andrews flick was playing in the background, I realized that my idea of grand romantic gestures had changed. I’m not sure when this happened, but I’m glad it did.

In movies, romance is when you stand at your girlfriend’s circular driveway, boombox in hand, with In Your Eyes blasting at full volume. Romance is coming back to the castle despite the angry mob armed with farm implements. Romance is when you make a deal with the evil sea witch – nevermind that it could spell trouble for your daddy’s under-the-sea kingdom. Romance is agreeing to meet again in six months at a train station, and leave posters with your contact numbers when she doesn’t show up in said train station six months later… Then writing an entire book about that one night, in the hopes of finding her again.

The exception, I think is Up‘s first few, tear-soaked minutes. There are no sweeping declarations of love – just an unspoken promise of an adventure together. It took me so long to realize that that was what I wanted, an adventure with my best friend, but I guess like this post, it’s something that’s better late than never.

You know, romance is when you go out on an early Sunday evening to drop off the laundry and do groceries. Romance is lying down on equal sections of couch, spending an afternoon lazing around, watching TV. Romance is having dinner at home, talking about anything, everything, and nothing.1 I guess that’s what other people would call boring – there are probably tens of thousands of Cosmo articles about ‘spicing things up’ and there’s nothing wrong with that. At the end of the day though, that’s what I want – that comfortable silence while sitting in traffic, holding hands and playing a game with plate numbers. That Friday night spent at home, sitting on the couch completely exhausted from the work week, watching Master Showman and howling in laughter at the complete absurdity of it all.2

That promise that all dragons – real and imaginary – will be slain together, and that promise that whatever happens, we will work things out.


1. Love is having a bad bout of gastritis, your partner going to the store to get you bottles of Gatorade, and telling you that you’re pretty despite the fact that your bowels have gone into the future, trying to shit food you haven’t eaten yet, and you therefore have to go to the bathroom every 5 minutes.


2. There was a Korean boy band who was lipsyncing so badly, I wasn’t sure they really knew the lyrics to their song. This spectacle was closely followed by a scantily-clad girl band with a name straight out of the kabaret. Then there was a boy band-ish group of gay dudes (gay boy band? That seems little redundant, I don’t know why) who sung about Blind Items. If there is such a thing as “mindless entertainment” this was it. I could feel the brain cells shriveling up and dying.

Oplan Balik Yaman 2014

So I’ve finally managed to open a real savings account. /cue flashback

A few months back, Mabie and I discussed the shabby state of our finances. Really, the best word to describe the state it’s in is “in tatters”. I’ve been working for more than a third of my life and I didn’t have any money in case I trip and break my leg. And so to cure both our money-related ails, I proposed a challenge that shall henceforth be known as Oplan Balik Yaman 2014. We set our goals, a deadline, and a consequence in case one or both of us fail to meet our goals on the deadline.

I set a goal of 10,000 pesos in a Savings or Checking Account, Mabie set a deadline of February 28. The consequence is a 2,000 peso fine that will go to a communal pizza lamown kamown fund.

I therefore needed to open a Savings or a Checking account.

According to Remi, the ideal set up is to have a savings account for contingencies, a savings account for actual savings, and a checking account for bills and such.

I had two savings accounts. One I used for Paypal, like a money funnel that brings the money in and then takes the money to various bill vortices. The other one I had intended to be my contingencies account, but it has since been misappropriated into another money funnel from me to my Nanay to rent.

I scanned the banks nearby for initial deposits, interest rates, and requirements. I had an account with BPI, and I thought it was a logical choice to just open another account with a bank that I already have an account with. So then I applied for another one. To which BPIDirect replied:

Per checking, we have noticed that said application is your second
application and we have already opened a savings account for you last
02/21/2013
May we suggest to use your existing account instead.

I took that to mean, “We don’t understand why you want another one, your other account’s balance is 0 pesos.” That’s true of course, and anyway, I’ve been using the account in a way that it was never intended.

A mini-segue: Do you know how hard it is for freelancers to open bank accounts? It’s very hard to explain where the money comes from. Every time I say, “I’m a freelance writer who works from home. My clients are overseas,” bank people seem to hear, “I am a unicorn, I pluck my money from the blinking ether!” They’d ask for company and government issued IDs and ask questions about my employment. I patiently explain that I am effectively self-employed, but I don’t have a business. I get work, money for the work done (if I’m lucky), and that’s how I get to eat three times a day. Some get it, others stare at me, mystified. I could almost hear what they’re thinking, “Is that even a real job?”

Anyway, so I scanned the other banks in the vicinity. After the hell that was ChinaBank, I swore never to enter their bank premises so that left me with Security Bank, Bank of Commerce, and Banco de Oro (BDO). Today I dressed up, intending to ask around the said banks. First stop was Security Bank. I asked about their deposit products, having read up on their Build-Up Savings and e-Secure Savings accounts. I was informed that I needed a regular savings account to get the e-Secure account. I asked what the requirements were for the Build-Up Savings account and was informed that I only needed an ID.

Oh, joy of joys!

Yay!

I stood outside the branch, holding a passbook and an ATM. I lit a cigarette and looked at my watch. I had spent a grand total of 30 minutes inside the bank. The entire process didn’t take me a lifetime! I signed a deposit slip, a signature card, a passbook receipt, a form saying that everything in the application was accurate info, and a photocopy of my driver’s license. I filled out a short application form. That was that.*

*Caveat: Ease of banking transactions and overall awesomeness of customer service depends heavily on any bank’s branch.

Dear Asthma,

So I came home from the ophthalmologist today and I just wanted you to know: Fuck you. Or, as we around these parts would say, “Pakyu. Pakyu dobol.
Let me start from the beginning. Back in October, when the heavens had deemed it necessary to fall upon us biblical amounts of rain, I bought a tube of sealant and applied it on the ceiling – because drippy gutter led to leaky ceiling which further deteriorated into damp bed. Anyway, I got an itch on my right hand, and I ignored it. About a month later, the itch turned into a reddish, scaly, dry patch of annoying skin. By December, I felt like Typhoid fucking Mary. After going to a dermatologist who looked suspiciously like my friend Jex, I was given a prescription for mild soap, moisturizer, Betamycin (steroid), and petroleum jelly.
Around that time, something weird was going on in my eyes. I am not even going to tell you what. All you need to know is that I was scared to death. (Hey, don’t judge. Overactive imagination + scalpel + eye = AAAAIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEE!!!)

So back to the nice ophthalmologist from Medical City, Dr. Ranier Covar. After checking out both eyes, the good doctor asked me a few probing questions, “Do you have asthma?” Check. “Do you have allergies?” Check. “Do you have eczema? Skin asthma?” Check and check (see above). He then told me that the shit going on in my eyes is a. quite common because of the cold weather, b. I’m the third person today to consult him about the same thing, and c. I basically have an allergy in my eyes. I wasn’t even aware that that kind of shit could happen.
AND the eczema and the eye shit both come from one thing… (drum roll please) you, Asthma. I was also told that my kind of asthma is the type that brought along a whole spectrum of side allergies – including but not limited to allergic rhinitis, eczema, and the eye allergies. Wunderbar. Prescription this time? Allergy pills (steroids) and two eye drops (one of which contains steroids). Steroids are friends, though like some friends, they’re only good when taken in moderate amounts.
So my dear Asthma, I fucking hate you. You are a bitch. What are you doing, making up for lost time? I’ve only had you since 2004, did you want to make up for the other 21 years? Demmet.
To wrap up. Asthma. Pakyu dobol, I hate you.

[Also, that weird rash you have? You may want to get that checked. If you’re a freelancer like me and you have no health card, don’t be scared of getting a consultation. I only paid 300 for the dermatologist and 500 for the ophthalmologist. The thing that will cost an arm and a leg are the drugs. Next stop, checking out the HMOs. Stay tuned.]