Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
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The Wrap – Keeping Costs Down

The week of tech in five, we’ll look at how to keep technology cost effective, checking out economical phones, new earphones, and Apple’s $799 iPhone SE reviewed. All in five.

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Near the end of April 2020, you’re listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup, and what a time it is right now. If you’re staying home and self isolating, doing the whole self distancing thing to contribute to flattening the curve, great work. It’s a priority for many of us, much like saving money, especially now more than ever.

While the medical impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus is certainly having an impact, there is, of course, an economical one as well. Hopefully you haven’t been hit too hard, but like many, you’re probably looking at your finances and wondering how to save on technology.

And there are definitely ways to do that, starting with the obvious one: don’t buy anything new unless you have to.

Not buying new tech is one of the best ways to reduce spending, as is culling the services you don’t really need. If you have Spotify and you want to save a few months, consider going back to the ad-supported version. If you’re paying for a few Spotify accounts at home, bring them together under one Spotify family account and save some cash.

That’s just one way to save on the technology spend, as is backing up and restoring your computer.

If you’re running into issues and your computer makes it feel like you need a new one, it might be time restore, to back up the critical files to a hard drive and the cloud and then restore your computer back to the beginning.

It might seem crazy, but resetting your computer back to where it started is a great way of getting it to perform like it once did. Make sure to back up before you do it, because those files won’t come back. However starting with a clean slate is a great way to get an old computer like new again, and you only need to install the apps you really need, and then restore the files you backed up.

It’s a similar situation when your phone gets slow, because if you back up what you need and restore it to factory settings, it’s like turning back time.

There are times when you may have to buy something new, and that’s where cost-effective tech comes into things.

You can find it in several categories, because lots of things can be cost effective. Portable sound can be inexpensive and undercut the competition, such as what we saw from Realme and JBL this week, with AirPods competitors coming in under the $200 mark.

A new computer can last several years if taken care of properly, while a good wireless networking device should be good for just as long, if not longer.

But the one area that seems to show value most is phones. There’s a lot of variable pricing in phones, be it as low as one hundred for budget phones or as much as $2500 for high-end phones. But the real value is in what’s called the mid-range.

The mid-range has changed over the years, and used to be around $500, back when phones cost a maximum of a grand. A lot has changed, and so the mid-range is now between $450 and $900, with anything higher on in the high-end, but there’s a lot of competition there.

Google’s Pixel 3a reigned supreme last year, and the next model, the Pixel 4a, should be announced in the coming weeks. Before it gets here, though, there are other phones that may grab attention.

TCL has a couple of models on the way in the TCL 10 range for between $499 and $900, Oppo has its recent A91 $499 mid-range, and this week, Realme added a phone with four cameras, mobile payments, and 90Hz smooth screen in the $469 Realme 6.

Mid-range phones are where the action is, and there’s little surprise as to why: as the technology trickles down from high-end phones to a more economical mid-range, people are more likely to spend on cost-effective phones that do just about as good, if not better than their high-end counterparts.

It’s not always perfect, but they sometimes nail it. The $649 Pixel 3a was last year’s mid-range to beat, and while Samsung’s A series puts up a fight alongside the Oppo Reno Z, Google delivered the best you could find.

This year, there’s more competition, and it’s from an unlikely mid-range contender: Apple.

You’ll find it in Apple’s economical phone of the year, the iPhone SE, which sees release this week. Essentially, it’s the body of a 4.7 inch iPhone 8 with the guts of an iPhone 11 and the camera of the iPhone XR.

We said that last week, and testing it this week, we can confirm that’s pretty much what it is. At $799, the iPhone SE offers the performance from one of Apple’s more expensive phones, and a decent camera, even if it doesn’t perform at quite the same level of Apple’s best.

The battery is the real kicker here, because you’ll need to charge it nightly, and possibly a little more. We found the iPhone SE is a work-day phone, lasting from 7 AM to roughly when you get home, but that’s it.

However at $800, the 2020 iPhone SE is more like the phone for people who preferred Apple’s old way of making phones — with a smaller more normal size and a fingerprint button — just upgraded for today. It’s a very capable and cost effective phone, it just doesn’t have the best battery.

But for people who want an iPhone under a thousand bucks, it’s hard to go past this contender for mid-range mobile of the year.

For now, you’ve been listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup. A new episode goes online every Friday at Podcast One, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts, but until then, have a great week. We’ll see you next time on The Wrap. Stay safe and take care.

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