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May 12, 2015
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Here’s a bit of advice we learned from hanging around with photogs and art directors and people who stare at pictures (nude or not) all day for a living: don't use filters on Instagram.

As FHM Queen Marian Rivera helpfully tells us in some of her commercials, natural beauty is the way to go. We all think filters may look cool, but they warp a photo’s texture and make a photo look too fake. Social media guru Dan Zarrella even found that unfiltered photos get more likes.

The best way to make a picture look good is to use effective framing and make the most of available lighting. Shoot in shitty lighting, or with your camera pointing all over the place, and you’ll get crappy pictures.

But even if skill will always beat equipment, a good camera is always helpful. Which is why, in our wacky, shoot-happy culture, Starmobile is betting that their Starmobile Up Snap will be a solid hit.

Does the brand have a winner here? We took the phone out to see if its photo-shooting prowess is indeed something to look forward to.

But first, we answer the all-important question: "How is it as a phone?"


OVERALL DESIGN

The Up Snap's design is functional rather than eye-catching, with a very brick-like design that makes it feel thicker than it actually is. The screen comes in at a good-sized 5 inches, and at the bottom of the display are three capacitive buttons for Recents, Home, and Back. All good so far—except pressing the Recents button actually turns on Settings. (P.S. To turn on Recents, you have to hold down the Home button.)

starmobile up snap review

At the back of the phone, the camera lens sticks out of the phone body while a small speaker peeks out from the bottom end. The slippery plastic shell can be removed to reveal two SIM card slots and an SD card holder. The battery is built into the phone and is not removable. That shouldn’t be an issue though; you'll know why in a bit.


SOFTWARE PERFORMANCE

The Up Snap's quad-core processor is more than capable, as we switched from three different games to Facebook to a couple of websites, all without a hint of slowdown. Where the phone lags is at the default homescreen—it stutters quite badly when you swipe the screen from left to right. Our solution? Replace the homescreen right away with the Google Now Launcher.

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starmobile up snap review

Software-wise, the phone ships with Android KitKat pre-installed. The built-in software is lean (but like we said, sometimes laggy), with not a lot of bloatware here. The default wallpaper is… Just change it right away, okay?


BATTERY TALK

First off: Battery life is top-notch. The Starmobile guys weren’t kidding about their "power efficient quad-core chipset." On its 2,900 mAh battery, this thing lasted us a good day and a half—and that was with 3G on during the workday, and some bouts of Marvel Contest of Champions at night. Powerbank? Nah, we good.

starmobile up snap review

It helps in the power department that there’s no LTE capability, and that the display is pretty basic. While the screen is bright enough to view under the summer sun, its resolution (480x854 pixels, with 196 pixels per inch) means less-than-crisp website reading.

So, in a nutshell, the Up Snap is a decent performer with stellar battery life, a functional design, and a basic display.

However, according to Starmobile, the device's main draw lies in its ability to take quality photos on-the-go. We decided to test its shooting prowess to see if the hype is more than just hearsay.


ULTRA PIXELS EXPLAINED

starmobile up snap review

The "Up" in Up Snap stands for "Ultra Pixel," the same technology that HTC packs in their high-end One series of phones. Theoretically, Ultra Pixel tech packs a larger pixel size into their sensors that soak in more light than conventional ones. In the megapixel department, the Up Snap is no slacker, either: the rear cam rocks a hefty 8-megapixel of max resolution, while the front-facing one clocks in at a more-than-capable 5-megapixels.


SHOOT-OUT!

We brought both the Up Snap and a flagship phone from a high-end, big-name brand on a Taal-Anilao road trip to take side-by-side shots. The Up Snap holds its own, as you can see below:

Note: Photos on the left side of the frame were taken with the Up Snap

starmobile up snap review

starmobile up snap review

starmobile up snap review

While the other phone managed to take larger, clear photos, the Up Snap's, uhm, snaps had a warmer, richer tone. The camera did an excellent job working with the sunlight, fighting off the washed-out quality of the comparison snaps. When pressing the photo button, we did notice a slight delay as the software did its thing, but if it results in photos that look this good, then we’re more than willing to grant it that half-a-second pause.

In low light, however, the Ultra Pixel claims were a bit overreaching:

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starmobile up snap review

In extremely poor light, the Up Snap tried. It really did, but it just can’t see so good in the dark. In indoor light, the warmth and expressiveness we saw in the Taal photos work against the camera, resulting in photos that are a bit too red. It's almost like we used a filterthe very thing we're trying to avoid.

starmobile up snap review

Video is also another problem. When recording in video mode, the default camera app crashed on us five times in a row! It couldn’t save any of our videos either. We're not sure if this is an isolated incident (read: we're just unlucky) or something that ails all Up Snap phones. If it's the latter, we’re hoping this gets fixed in a software patch.


THE VERDICT

starmobile up snap review

It’s neither a looker or a powerhouse, but the Starmobile Up Snap does have a capable camera and is a legit Energizer Bunnytwo things that are high on a smartphone buyer's "What-I'm-looking-for-in-a-phone" list. But if you're still iffy on whether or not it deserves consideration, we'll have you know that this bad boy only goes for P5,999.

Sure, it's not the flashiest nor fastest phone out there, but for less than P6,000 are you still going to complain? We're calling bargain!

Photography Lio Mangubat
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