Smart light bulbs are here to stay with the likes of Philips Hue, LIFX, Koogeek, and more all vying for your dollars and attention. There’s more to them smart apps and the novelty of voice control. We’ve rounded up several things you should be using your smart bulbs for (but probably aren’t) to help you get the most from your bulbs.
Why worry about carrying around a wallet and a phone? If you have your phone on you 24/7—and we certainly do—you might as well combine the two. With the right case or accessory you can cut down on the clutter in your pocket.
Keen to use plenty of GIFs in your text conversations, social media interactions, or even your work? If you can’t find the the perfect one somewhere like Giphy, it’s pretty easy to make your own, providing you know how. We take a look at the best options out there for your smartphone.
When it comes to hardware phone makers are bored because there’s not much left to improve. However, when it comes to the camera in your phone, Apple and Google still have a lot they can do on the software side. On this front, both companies are absolutely killing it.
Portrait Mode Is the Best New Photography Feature Since Camera Phones
If Portrait Mode was the only new innovation Apple and Google added to their phones, I would still be impressed. For those who haven’t seen it, this mode creates a narrow depth of field, focusing on the subject’s face while adding a soft blur to the background. This isolates the subject and makes them stand out a lot more. It sounds like a simple, even boring thing until you see it in action. Once you try it, your selfies will never be the same.
Apple and Google have different approaches to this feature, but they have the same effect. Apple’s iPhones use a dual-lens camera to analyze at your pictures from two slightly differently angles and apply a faux blur. Google’s Pixel 2 only has a single lens, instead using image recognition software to detect the subject in a photo, then blur everything else. The downside to this method is that it occasionally gets it wrong, blurring part of an ear, or maybe the tip of your hat. Apple’s tech has a slight edge on this front, but both phones can immediately give your pictures a stunning look.
Live Photos Capture The Delightful Moments Before and After Your Pictures
Your photos aren’t just images. They’re moments. Freeze frames in time from a memory that was at least important enough to justify taking your camera out of your pocket and preserving it. Live Photos (or Motion Photos, as Google calls them) take a small video that spans the second or two before you take a picture to the second or two after it. You can view the picture on its own, or you can tap a button to see this small video.
It doesn’t sound all that interesting on its own until you see the little moments you miss. For example, the picture above was taken at a friends wedding. My girlfriend wanted to take a sweet picture as the evening slowly drifted into twilight. I wanted to touch her butt. Motion Photos let us split the difference. The full-sized photo is gorgeous, romantic, and picturesque, but seeing the few seconds around that single frame tells a much different story of that moment.
Slow Motion Video Is Finally Accessible For Everyone
You know those YouTube videos where they record ridiculous stuff with an insanely expensive slow-motion camera? Well, now you can do that same thing with your cat. Google and Apple’s phones are capable of shooting slow motion video of up to 240fps. Sometimes the picture quality drops a bit, since the phone has to capture twice or even four times the number of frames per second with the same hardware, but you can capture entirely new moments like your kids playing sports or the pets’ antics.
Now, this isn’t going to be quite the same quality as the professional videos you’re used to seeing online. Those cameras are capable of 1,000fps, or even 10,000fps for really fast things like a bullet. Comparatively, 240fps is not nearly as slow. So, if you record a hummingbird, you might not be able to see an individual wing flap, but you can still get a really good look at the bird as it flies past your feeder.
Oh Yeah, You Have a 4K Video Camera Now
This year it was finally starting to be a good time to buy a 4K TV. However, the phone you got two years ago might already be able to record video in 4K. Starting from the iPhone 6S/6S Plus/SE and the Nexus 5X/6P onward, Google and Apple’s phones contain 4K video-capable cameras. This is a big deal even if—arguably, especially if—you don’t have a 4K TV.
For starters, when you downscale 4K video to normal HD (or 1080p), the video usually looks better. All those extra pixels also give image stabilization features a lot more detail to work with, so you can stabilize your shaky phone footage. You can even grab single frames of a 4K video, which are roughly the equivalent of an 8 megapixel photo. That won’t make a huge photo by any stretch, and taking a photo properly will almost always be better. However, if you want to make a photo album from frames of your video, you have all the pixels you need to do it.
Phone cameras are getting so good that we don’t have to judge them by megapixel count or sensor quality as much anymore. Sure extra megapixels are great, but the real magic is found in all the little features Apple and Google keep adding—features that make it easier to take awesome photos and shoot fantastic video.
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For the longest time, Facebook has refused to create a Dislike button to counter its trademark Likes. And for good reason! While the company doesn’t want to turn its platform into a cesspool of mutual hate, it is still testing a downvote button. Facebook politely asks that you please don’t treat it like it means “dislike.”
You can use Google Assistant to play movies and TV shows from Netflix on your Chromecast. That’s neat if you’re the only one using your Netflix account, but as soon as you add multiple profiles it becomes a mess. Until now. A new Google Assistant update lets Google Home devices recognize your voice and match it to your Netflix profile.
The Nintendo Switch came out earlier this year and the hardware looked great, but a few questions still lingered in the air. Would it have enough games to be worth it? Are you really going to play Mario Kart on your picturesque rooftop? After more than six months we’re taking a look back to see how the Switch holds up.