The first time a stranger on the train told me I had a nice smile, I didn’t believe her. Back then, I hadn’t yet had my crooked teeth fixed, and my self-esteem wasn’t anywhere as high as it is today. I was an ugly kid, and it took a shocking number of selfies to convince myself that I’m not an ugly adult. It may seem like a superficial pastime, but selfie-taking has real benefits.
I’m not alone in believing there are psychological advantages here. Studies have shown that seeing a good picture of yourself can boost your confidence, while taking a smiling selfie can make you feel happier. Over time, that can improve your self-esteem. But getting selfies to look the way you want requires a very particular set of skills, skills I’ve acquired over a very long career of testing gadgets that are often designed to help you take better photos. We’ll talk about those devices later — best if you nail your technique first.
First of all, practice, practice, practice. When you have free time at home, take as many selfies as you need to figure out what angle works for you. Whether it’s holding your phone up high, sticking your chin out at a particular angle or figuring out which of your smiles looks best, there are certain key elements that even the most advanced technology won’t address.
There isn’t a rule that applies to everyone, but in general, holding your camera slightly above your eyes will prevent the appearance of double chins. Tilting your head ever so slightly to the left or right will make your face look slimmer (if that’s something you’re going for), and it usually helps to stick out your chin slightly to elongate your neck. Ultimately, there are various flattering ways one can pose, and everyone’s good angles are different. Your best bet is to experiment and learn what works for your face.
Once you’ve figured out your best angles (make sure you have a few to avoid becoming a one-trick pony), you’ll need to find or create the best lighting. Any photographer will tell you that light is your best friend, and that’s equally true with selfies. This is something you won’t have much control over if you’re outside with ample natural light. But if you’re in an environment where light is coming from just one direction, try to face the light source without your hand casting a shadow on you. In fact, try to avoid any shadows on your face at all.
It also helps to understand the type of light you’re shooting in. The best condition is natural light, specifically during the hour before sunset. Daylight is ideal for bringing out colors and details — best for showing off a new outfit or hair color. But your pictures will look better on a slightly cloudy day than under harsh sunlight. Clouds provide a natural filter for a softer effect on your face and prevent the overexposure that can happen on a sunny day.
When you’re indoors, very often you’ll be stuck under overhead lights that have an orange or greenish cast. In these situations, try to find a neutral light source and face it. It’s also better if the bulb is covered with a translucent material like tracing/tissue paper or a light-color lampshade, since this filters the rays to avoid harshness.
Remote triggers to avoid blur
All the prep you do before taking a picture can be ruined by shaky hands. Sometimes, you have to hold your phone in a way that makes the trigger hard to reach. In those situations, using a voice or gesture trigger can be very helpful. Today, many phones from companies such as Samsung and LG offer voice commands to take photos when you say prompts like “Cheese” or “Smile.” You can even ask Siri or the Google Assistant to “take a selfie” (though Apple’s software is useless since you still have to press the shutter button yourself).
Activate these, as well as gesture triggers, to avoid introducing blur to your image when pressing down on a physical button. If your phone has none of these options, a good workaround is setting a short timer, pressing the shutter button, then framing your shot. You can also get a mini tripod for your phone, as well as a remote control, to take perfectly still selfies. I’d recommend a selfie stick, because they can be very useful in preventing blur, but they’ve been banned in so many places (I’ve had them confiscated at various security checks) that at this point they’re not worth the investment.
Accessories you can buy
If you’re serious enough about selfies to consider buying tools to improve them, the options run the gamut from lights to standalone cameras. Portrait photographers use a ring light to avoid their cameras casting a shadow on their subject’s faces while creating a sparkle in their eyes. The phone equivalent would be a selfie case, like the ones from LuMee or Allure/CaseMate. They add bulbs around the screen of your phone that you can turn on when you’re in a dark environment or if you just want a glamour boost.
Both the LuMee and Allure options have their strengths — the LuMee Duo’s lights are more flattering, while the Allure has a fold-out ring that makes for better grip and doubles as a kickstand. I prefer the LuMee Duo (and the Kardashians use it, too) but I wish it weren’t so hard to pry off your phone once you put it on. I haven’t tried other options like the Ty-Lite, unfortunately, so I can’t vouch for it.
You can also try a clip-on selfie light like the Chatlight or a plug-in flash like the iBlazr LED if you don’t want to swap out your existing phone case. I found both those options effective (if a tad blue) during my testing, but I don’t like carrying additional accessories on me, so I prefer the cases.
Of course, strong lights like that can cause oily faces to look shiny, so make sure you blot or powder your skin before snapping a shot. If you don’t carry blotters or powder on you, even dabbing your forehead and nose with a napkin or tissue will help.
Some accessories let you get some distance from the camera, so you can see more of yourself in the picture. A mini tripod is a good way to set up your phone far away, but a camera accessory that’s controlled by your phone has the added benefit of giving you a preview of your shot before you capture it. Try this webcam-like toy called a Snap Petz that you can set anywhere to take your picture. You may also consider the upcoming Amazon Echo Look, a voice-controlled camera that takes full-length pictures or short videos. The Echo Look also has built-in LED lights, and also senses depth to apply an artificial background blur so you (and your outfits) stand out. The Echo Look still isn’t available, though, and we’ve yet to test it.
If you have money to blow and are happy to be extremely extra, go ahead and take a drone selfie. These flying cameras can recognize your face and follow you as you wander around a picturesque field or mingle with guests at a wedding reception. There are plenty of options, and they typically cost hundreds of dollars. Drone cameras are excellent for aerial videography, capturing stunning landscapes that add drama to home movies and indie films alike.
We don’t recommend spending so much just to take an impressive selfie, but if you happen to get the chance to play with one, definitely make full use of it. Be careful to keep your eye on your drone, though. As our UK bureau chief Mat Smith learned, the possibility of accidentally decapitating other attendees or yourself is always looming.
Our favorite is the Hover Passport drone by startup Zero Zero, which Snap Inc is rumored to be buying. But at $550, the Passport is a pricey investment. There are plenty of decent alternatives for less money, including the Parrot Mambo FPV, the Yuneec Breeze 4K and the DJI Spark.
After you’ve taken the picture, there’s more you can do to improve your selfie. Aside from using your built-in Photos app or Instagram to tweak highlights, shadows, warmth, saturation and more, you can also consider fixing your pictures with selfie apps.
These let you make fixes as subtle as smoothing your complexion or as dramatic as giving yourself a new look altogether. Discussions about misrepresenting yourself aside (a good practice when editing your selfies is to declare if you’ve done so), a virtual makeover can entertain your friends and followers. You can try out a different hair color, add thick eyelashes and see what your pals think.
My most popular selfies, as determined by number of Instagram likes, have been the ones where I’ve experimented with wild looks. I achieve most of these with CyberLink’s YouCam Makeup app, which not only lets me slim my face, apply digital makeup and smoothen my noticeable acne scars, but can also change the color of my eyes and hair for a dramatic result. YouCam is excellent at detecting my facial features to apply things like eyelashes, eyeliner or blush, but it struggles to recognize hair. You’ll have to manually paint an outline of your hair for the app to correctly identify it and change its color.
After I’m done with YouCam, I often use another app called Meitu Xiuxiu to add an overall glow to the picture. You might recall Meitu for its ethereal anime-esque selfie filters, but the app offers so much more. You can stretch yourself to appear taller, turn yourself into the cover star of a magazine or add stickers, doodles and text. I usually use Meitu for its beautifully rosy filters that make Instagram’s options look garish by comparison.
There are many other apps that let you edit your face, but I’ve stuck with the above two for years because they’re the most full-featured. For fun, I sometimes use an app called EditLab to add a double exposure effect that blends another picture on top of my selfie, which creates a romantic effect. I also like Snow for its fun Snapchat-like face filters, that superimpose my face onto a cartoon schoolkid or a steaming hot shower. It’s a good alternative for those who don’t have or want Snapchat but would still like to play with photo effects.
Remember, though, these apps are really more for fun than for achieving perfection; don’t go overboard trying to look like someone you’re not — your friends can tell when you don’t look like yourself.
Now that we’ve gone over the technical skills you can use to improve your selfies, remember to have fun and not try to perfect your pictures for others. Our digital world can get toxic sometimes, and even the best selfies will be subject to scrutiny and ridicule. Even Kim Kardashian gets sensitive about unflattering photos and the subsequent insults. Ultimately, these your pictures are for your own pleasure and entertainment. Experiment, strike a weird pose or share an “ugly selfie” with your friends — if it makes you happy, it’s a good selfie.
Many Twitch streamers dream of turning pro, but getting there is a fuzzy process. How do you know you’ve ‘made it’ and can apply to become an affiliate or partner? And how do you make a big deal out of staple events like channel raids and new viewers without using special tools? Twitch just answered both of those questions. It’s rolling out tools that not only track your progress toward getting paid, but streamline some of the tasks that previously required chat bots or outside streaming software.
To start, you now have achievements that tell you how close you are to hitting the goals you need to reach the affiliate or partner levels, such as the number of times you stream in a given period and your typical viewer count. Twitch will also give you a statistical summary after every stream, so you’ll know which achievements you’ve reached, where your traffic is coming from and other data that can help you grow your audience. If your viewership spikes every time you play Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, you won’t need to dig up that data the hard way.
Twitch is also making a much bigger deal of “rituals” — that is, those everyday occurrences in the life of a regular streamer. There’s now a formal “/raid” command that automatically hosts another channel and drives your viewers there, so it’s easy to show affection for a fellow streamer once your own stream is wrapping up for the day. There are even raid stats and moderation tools to help you identify where that flood of new viewers is coming from and thwart pranksters. If there’s a new user, they can let everyone know and get a special welcome. You can offer “premieres” where you host the viewing of a pre-recorded series (say, a “let’s play” for a new game). And in a not-so-subtle attempt to challenge Discord, there will be always-available chat rooms that let viewers discuss topics without cluttering the main feed.
And yes, there’s an improvement for viewers: you can finally gift subscriptions. If you have a friend who can’t afford to subscribe or you’re just feeling generous, you can give someone a month of access to any subscription-enabled channel at any tier level ($5, $10 or $25). This won’t auto-renew, but it can be helpful if you want someone to participate in a subscribers-only event or just help them use a favorite emote. Streamers can use this to hand out prizes, for that matter.
These features aren’t available right away. You’ll have to wait until November for achievements, summaries, raids and welcomes for new users. Premieres, rooms and gifting are due sometime in the fourth quarter of the year. All told, though, it’s clear that Twitch knows its success hinges around convincing people to stream regularly. The more likely you are to make money from your stream and reward viewership, the more likely you are to attract a big audience — and that, in turn, could help Twitch compete against livestreaming services like YouTube and Microsoft’s Mixer.
Source: Twitch (Medium)
Huawei might have recently replaced Apple as the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, but that doesn’t mean the Chinese brand has been resting on its laurels. The recent unveiling of the Mate 10 Pro has shown a phone that’s up-to-date with the latest tech trend of minimizing bezels and packed to the brim with incredible new features fresh from Huawei’s kitchen.
But Apple isn’t going to take that lying down. The iPhone X release is on the horizon, and it cuts an intimidating figure. A 5.8-inch bezel-less design is underpinned with the latest and most powerful technology available. The landscape of the smartphone world is likely to change heavily come November, but where do the Mate 10 Pro and the iPhone X stand at the moment? We’ve put together a brief breakdown of what we know, divided into categories to find out which of the two phones we expect to be the stronger come their release.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro
154.2 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm (6.07 x 2.93 x 0.31 inches)
143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm (5.65 x 2.79 x 0.30 inches)
178 grams (6.28 ounces)
174 grams (6.14 ounces)
5.8-inch Super Retina AMOLED display
2160 x 1080 (402 ppi)
2436 x 1125 pixels (458 ppi)
Android 8.0 Oreo
MicroSD card slot
Yes (Apple Pay only)
Huawei Kirin 970
A11 Bionic with 64-bit architecture, M11 motion co-processor
LTE (Cat 18), GSM, CDMA, HSPA, EVDO, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
4G LTE, GSM, CDMA, HSPA+, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
Dual 20-megapixel monochrome and 12-megapixel RGB rear, 8-megapixel front
Dual 12 MP rear, 7MP FaceTime HD front
Up to 4K at 30 fps
Up to 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps
Yes, version 4.2
Yes, version 5.0
No, has Face ID instead
Accelerometer, barometer, gyro, geomagnetic, proximity
Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
Yes, IP67 rated
Yes, IP67 rated
21 hours of talk time, 13 hours of internet, 14 hours of video playback, and up to 60 hours of audio playback
Fast charging – 50 percent charge in 30 minutes, wireless charging (Qi standard)
Google Play Store
Apple App Store
Midnight Blue, Titanium Gray, Mocha Brown, Pink Gold
Space Gray, Silver
AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Apple
The Mate 10 Pro will ship with Huawei’s newest proprietary processor, the Kirin 970. We’ve seen good performance from Kirin chips in the past, especially the Kirin 955 in the Huawei P9, and we expect the 970 to perform well. What’s new this time is the addition of a Neural Processing Unit (NPU) that exists purely to drive Huawei’s new AI features. With this additional bit of brain power, the Mate 10 Pro will have extra capacity for apps and processes, and with 4GB of RAM (6GB on the 128GB model), you shouldn’t have any shortage of multitasking capability.
In the other corner, the iPhone X is packing Apple’s latest A11 Bionic processor. This nifty little piece of tech has been shown to dramatically outpace the Snapdragon 835 (the processor inside many of the latest Android flagship phones), and while we’ll have to wait for the benchmarks to come back before we can be totally certain, it’s highly likely that the A11 processor will leave the Kirin 970 in the dust. While the iPhone X is only rocking 3GB of RAM, the way that Android phones and iOS phones handle RAM is completely different, and it’s hard to gauge how this disparity will affect the phones in the real world. But based on past experience, we expect the iPhone to run as smoothly as ever, thanks to the close integration between Apple’s software and hardware.
While neither phone comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack, the iPhone X will be running the latest version of Bluetooth 5, with faster transfer speeds, a steadier connection, and longer range. The Mate 10 Pro has no such upgrade, and is stuck with Bluetooth 4.2 — an odd omission for a flagship smartphone dropping the headphone jack in 2017. Neither the iPhone X or the Mate 10 Pro support expandable storage. Both have 64GB of storage as the base level, but only the iPhone offers a 256GB model for those who love to fill their device with apps — Huawei owners are going to be stuck with 128GB at the most.
While the Huawei Mate 10 Pro is likely to be a powerful flagship with the addition of the new Kirin 970, the pure power of the A11 Bionic processor and the extra optional storage space on the iPhone X are not to be sniffed at, and so Apple takes home the prize.
Winner: iPhone X
Design and display
You’re not going to confuse these two phones, and personal preference is going to play a large part in your choice between the two designs. The Mate 10 Pro is a more balanced, symmetrical affair, with minimal bezels on the sides of the phone, and a slim forehead and chin at the top and bottom of the device. The rear of the device is glass over metal, with a slim reflective strip laid across the twin vertical camera lenses. The fingerprint sensor can also be found here, echoing the rear fingerprint scanner of earlier models. It’s a fairly minimalist design, but still a gorgeous piece of tech — especially the reflective strip.
Like the Mate 10 Pro, the iPhone X is also a blend of glass and metal, but the similarities end there. The front of the device is almost all screen, with a black border framing all sides, only broken up by the distinctive top notch housing the front-facing camera and sensor suite. The rear of the phone shares a vertically stacked camera configuration with the Mate 10 Pro, but lacks any sort of fingerprint sensor — Apple have gone all in on the facial recognition Face ID tech in this smartphone.
The screens are the most prominent and important parts of these phones, and it would be remiss of us not to focus on those now. The Huawei Mate 10 Pro brings a 6-inch AMOLED display with a 2160 x 1080 pixel resolution, resulting in 402 pixels-per-inch (ppi). While it’s not the sharpest display around, it’s still beautifully crisp, and capable of AMOLED’s signature incredible color depth. The iPhone X has a slightly smaller, 5.8-inch Super AMOLED display, but with a higher resolution of 2436 x 1125 pixels (458 ppi), making it the crisper of the two devices, and simply stunning to stare at.
In terms of size, the Mate 10 Pro towers over the relatively diminutive iPhone X, as well as being thicker and wider. Even with the thin bezels, the Mate 10 Pro is still a large phone (though not quite as large as the Note 8), and you’ll struggle to access all of the screen one-handed if you’re possessed of smaller hands. Thanks to the lack of bezels, the iPhone X is more of a standard-sized phone and easier to manage.
On the durability front you’re not likely to be taking either phone white-water rafting. Both come with an IP67 rating, so while you can expect them to handle splashes of water and even a brief dunk, they’re not going to be as water-resistant as the Galaxy Note 8 or the LG V30. As both phones incorporate a lot of glass in their design, we’d recommend a protective case regardless of your choice. We’ll be sure to put both of these phones through their paces when we get a good amount of time with them.
While the Mate 10 Pro is gorgeous and boasts a minimalist design that we love, the iPhone X’s design is nothing short of stunning. The Mate 10 Pro puts up a good fight, matching the iPhone blow-for-blow on many points, but it doesn’t quite manage to beat the iPhone. The iPhone X’s superior screen and pixel-per-inch ratio give it the edge in this category.
Winner: iPhone X
Regardless of which phone you pick, you’re going to have a vertically-stacked dual camera. Apple have packed two 12-megapixel lenses into the iPhone X — one wide-angle, the other telephoto. If you’re a close follower of Apple, you’ll notice that the X’s cameras have strong similarities to the two in the iPhone 8 Plus — and you’d be right to notice that. With the exception of the iPhone X replacing the f/2.8 aperture on the 8 Plus with a f/2.4 aperture, the cameras are virtually the same. But that’s no bad thing — the iPhone 8 Plus has one of the best smartphone cameras in the world, and the altered aperture should give the iPhone X an even stronger camera in low light conditions. On the other side, the Mate 10 Pro packs a 20-megapixel monochrome camera and a 12-megapixel RGB camera — both Leica-branded, and both with an exceptional f/1.6 aperture. It’s a world first to have both lenses with an aperture this size, and it should boost low light photography and deliver the quality of shot that Huawei’s phones are becoming famous for.
Both cameras will be able to simulate bokeh-style selective focus thanks to the dual-lenses and software, but the iPhone’s Portrait Lighting mode is likely to give the Apple phone an edge when shooting single subjects. However, the extra oomph from the AI-focused Kirin 970 will be able to automatically shift camera settings based on what the camera is looking at — for instance, Huawei’s camera will add extra saturation to food, giving images that extra hint of deliciousness.
For front-facing selfie shots, you’re looking at a 7-megapixel shooter on the iPhone X and an 8-megapixel camera on the Mate 10 Pro — though the newly front-facing Portrait Mode on the iPhone X will likely give Apple the edge in selfies. Video-wise, the iPhone X can shoot 4K video at 60 frames per second — while the Mate 10 Pro can only do so at 30 fps. But how much that matters to you will depend on how much video you actually record.
There’s so much to choose from with these cameras, and both brands have a strong record with smartphone photography. While iPhones have recently had an exceptionally strong camera, we’re eager to see what the Mate 10 Pro can do with the extra legs given to it by the AI-processing granted by the Kirin 970 NPU. For that reason, we have to score this round a draw, at least until we test them both out a bit more extensively.
Battery life and charging
The iPhone X comes with a nonremovable 2,716mAh battery that we expect will last most users between a day and a day and a half. When its time to recharge, Apple’s fast charger should be able to charge up to 50 percent of battery life within 30 minutes — though it remains to be seen whether a fast charger comes with the handset. Thanks to the all-glass back on the X, Qi standard wireless charging is also available.
The Mate 10 Pro also comes with Huawei’s Supercharge technology, and Huawei claims it is capable of charging 50 percent in 30 minutes, equaling Apple’s boast. While the Mate 10 Pro doesn’t support wireless charging, it is hauling a massive 4,000mAh battery that Huawei claim will last two days on moderate usage. A battery of this size is exceptional — the Galaxy Note 8 has a much larger footprint, but is only packing a 3,300mAh battery. Despite the lack of wireless charging, the extra battery size awards Huawei the crown.
Winner: Mate 10 Pro
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
You’ll find Apple’s latest iOS 11 on the iPhone X, with an improved App Store, Notifications, and Control Center, as well as a whole host of other improvements. The Mate 10 Pro ships with Huawei’s latest version of Emotion UI, EMUI 8.0. A heavily altered version of Android, EMUI 8.0 is the latest in the EMUI lineup, replacing EMUI 5.0 and scoring up to 8 to match the latest version of Android, Android 8.0 Oreo.
Usually, your choice between Android and iOS would come down to which OS you’ve preferred over the years, but the inclusion of EMUI messes this up a little. While your accumulated Google Play Store apps will still work on the Mate 10 Pro, EMUI could come as a shock to the system. Still, EMUI has improved in leaps-and-bounds over the years, and EMUI 8.0 comes with some significantly cool upgrades, including the AI-focus that aims to make your life easier through prompts and automation, and a new floating home button.
We find it hard to come down firmly in either camp — we believe your choice between iOS and Android is always going to be largely based on personal experience. EMUI adds a lot to the rich Android experience, but iOS 11 is one of the smoothest experiences you’ll find on a handset. Go with your gut. This is tied for us.
Pricing and availability
Neither the Mate 10 Pro or the iPhone X are currently available until November. The iPhone X starts at a cool $999 for the 64GB model, and is available from a wide variety of carriers, including AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. No surprises there; everyone wants to get their hands on the latest iPhone. The Mate 10 Pro is likely to be similarly expensive, and while we don’t have a definite U.S. price yet, European sales of the handset are starting at 800 British pounds — so it’s likely that the base model of the Mate 10 Pro will be around $940. That’s one heck of a price tag, and at the moment we still don’t know whether any carriers will be picking the Mate 10 Pro up — though whispers point to AT&T offering the handset eventually.
Despite the high price point, the iPhone X is going to be available everywhere. It takes this final round.
Winner: iPhone X.
Overall winner: iPhone X
Apple’s iPhone X is just too strong. Everything about the iPhone X screams quality, from the materials used, to the crisp and beautiful AMOLED display. Apple is finally shaking up its iPhone design philosophy, and the iPhone X heralds a new era for the Cupertino giants.
With that said, the Mate 10 Pro certainly has its strong points. The camera is likely to be fantastic, the battery life phenomenal, and the extra processing power from the Kirin 970 will make using EMUI 8.0 a pleasure. It’s a great addition to Huawei’s roster, and you won’t be disappointed if you do end up with one. But for our money, the iPhone X is the superior smartphone.
- Huawei Mate 10 vs. Mate 10 Pro: Battle to be your new best mate
- Huawei Mate 10 Pro vs. Google Pixel 2 XL: Can Huawei top the Android powerhouse?
- iPhone X vs. Pixel 2 XL
- Apple iPhone X vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 8: The $1,000 question
- Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs. Huawei Mate 10 Pro: Which phablet reigns supreme?
Oreo has a useful but annoying feature where you will be notified of every app running in the background. This app fixes that.
One of Android’s long-time features is the ability for apps to run in the background to pull new information and deliver notifications. This comes with a cost for battery life, so in Android 8.0 Oreo the system notifies users when an application is running in the background. This is great on paper, but in reality, all this does is tell me that my music player is indeed playing music, and shame me for still using a Pebble Classic. Worse yet, there’s no way (at the time of writing) to hide this notification, so it just sits there, mocking me. Fortunately, there’s a way to fix that.
Developer iboalali released an application simply titled Hide “running in the background” Notification, and it does just that: the “apps running the background” notification is gone. The source code is available for anyone who (rightfully) wants to make sure they aren’t installing something shady onto their phone. The app itself is free, but there is an in-app donation option for those that want to thank the developer.
Do you plan on using the app to hide the persistent notification? Let us know down below!
Download Hide “running in the background” Notification (free)
- Android Oreo review!
- Everything new in Android Oreo
- How to get Android Oreo on your Pixel or Nexus
- Oreo will make you love notifications again
- Will my phone get Android Oreo?
- Join the Discussion
Take a second glance at your Portrait Mode photos on the Pixel 2.
Of the many things that truly impress me about the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, the camera stands out as the most incredible step forward from last year. This camera is incredible, and my favorite feature by far is Portrait Mode. This isn’t a new feature in smartphone cameras by any means, but Google is managing to do with a single camera and some clever AI what many other manufacturers need two sensors to pull off. This is especially awesome now that you can use Portrait Mode on the front facing camera, something no other phone maker is doing right now.
As exciting as it is when these photos are enhanced by Portrait Mode, like every other phone with this tech it’s not without flaws. Here’s a quick look at some of the stumbles we’ve seen so far.
Kiss the Blur
Portrait Mode does a really good job with multiple people in a shot, unless they are touching in specific ways. Unfortunately, kissing is one of those ways this software really struggles with.
In my testing, it seems like the software picks the thing that looks most like a face and blurs out the rest. It doesn’t happen every time from every angle, but it’s really funny when the software fails like this.
The background to this photo is at an angle, which means the camera software only chooses to blur out parts of it. Look at the far right of this photo next to the side of R2-Q5 compared to the far left side of R2-D2. Also notice the space in between the droids that isn’t blurred at all.
This is a challenging shot even for an actual DSLR to create an effective balanced shallow depth of
field, so it’s not surprising the software struggled here. The lighting is also a little crazy, so it’s not clear how much can be done in software to make this kind of photo really pop.
Look Ma, no hands!
Placement of your extremities is important for Portrait Mode, apparently. Jen’s hand is clearly visible on her shoulder, but completely blurred out by the software.
It’s the kind of thing you only notice after a double-take, and likely something Google’s software will get better at noticing over time, but hilarious all the same.
Missing a bit there
This is a really good Portrait Mode shot, right until you get to the stem of the pumpkin. It’s angled back on my head, pointed away from the rest of me, so Google’s depth logic didn’t see it as part of the foreground.
This is still a perfectly sharable photo, but a funny little mistake to see after you’ve taken the photo.
What happened to my glasses?
An otherwise stunning photo of two lovely people turns into a laugh by looking at the left side of Dan’s glasses. They’re completely gone, erased by Google’s software like it was a stray hair or something. This happens a lot with people wearing glasses, especially if their head is at an angle. Google can see the shape of the head, and decide that extra stuff on the edge shouldn’t be there.
This is no doubt something Portrait Mode will stop doing in the not-so-distant future, but for now the only real way to avoid this is making sure your face is square with the camera.
How do you like Portrait Mode?
Outside of these small bugs, Portrait Mode has been treating mode of us well. How about you? Have you grabbed that flawless Portrait Mode shot yet, or have you found flaws more egregious than the ones we’ve laid out here? Sound off in the comments!
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL
- Pixel 2 FAQ: Everything you need to know!
- Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL review: The new standard
- Google Pixel 2 specs
- Google Pixel 2 vs. Pixel 2 XL: What’s the difference?
- Join our Pixel 2 forums
Getting a good Android tablet doesn’t have to mean spending a huge sum of money.
You’ll always have the high-end, the high asking prices, and the people who are willing to pay for them. But for many, just getting good hardware, a great experience, and not emptying your wallet is the most important set of factors in buying a tablet.
The Android tablet space has exploded in recent years and there are now some great choices to be made around the $200 price point and below. Here we’ve rounded up some of the best choices you can make.
- Amazon Fire HD 8
- ASUS Zenpad S 8.0
- Lenovo Yoga Tablet 3 8-inch
- Lenovo Tab 4
Amazon Fire HD 8
The Amazon Fire HD 8 has impressive specs and, starting at $89.99, a very attractive price point. It also features 12 hours of battery life, and a processor that’s twice as fast as the previous generation. The 1280×800 pixel LCD display won’t win any awards, but the 8-inch screen looks great at any angle — awesome for sharing the tablet with family.
And all models of Amazon’s Fire tablet now have support for the company’s AI assistant, Alexa, allowing you to control your tablet, and your smarthome, with your voice.
And as with Amazon’s other tablets, you can offline Prime Video to an SD card, which is a frequent traveller’s dream. If you’d like something cheaper, there’s the $49 7-inch version of the Fire tablet, while larger screen fans can get the latest 10-inch model for $150.
See at Amazon
ASUS Zenpad S 8.0
In our sub-$200 category you’re only getting the lower spec, 32GB storage and 2GB RAM option of the Zenpad S 8.0 from ASUS, but that’s not necessarily a deal breaker. You’re also getting a gorgeous 2048 x 1536 resolution display inside a light, well built Android tablet.
The Zenpad S 8.0 is perfect for one of the big uses of tablets: media consumption. Besides the top-notch display it also packs some powerful, quality sounding speakers that make watching videos or listening to music on the go a pleasurable experience.
There are a few areas to be aware of, notably the software which may not suit all tastes. Zen UI is fairly heavy and bloated, but performance of the tablet is thankfully very good. Overall it leaves you questioning why you might spend a good amount more on some other Android tablets.
Read our ASUS Zenpad S 8.0 review
See at Amazon
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 3 8-inch
Now in its third generation, Lenovo’s Yoga tablet remains one of the most distinctive offerings around. The design is unusual but it also makes it one of the best tablets money can buy for consuming media since you don’t need to invest in a case with a kickstand.
You also get some great sounding front-facing speakers with excellent volume, so you can just pop it down, kick back and watch a movie wherever you are.
The software experience won’t suit everyone, but it’s mostly inoffensive, and Lenovo adds a few useful apps and features instead of cramming it with bloat. But while the design is excellent in some regards, it does make it awkward to hold in landscape.
You do get superb battery life though. That bulge is full of battery, which means you get more life from a Yoga than a lot of other Android tablets. And all for $160.
See at Amazon
Lenovo Tab 4
Lenovo’s second entry in our roundup, the Tab 4 is a regular slab-style tablet next to the unusual form factor of the Yoga Tablet 3. But while it’s less to look at it, it has plenty of its own charm.
It has an 8-inch 1280 x 800 resolution display, quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and Android 7.1 Nougat with Lenovo’s newer, closer to stock user interface.
Lenovo claims up to 20 hours of battery life during media consumption, and with Dolby Atmos support you’re getting another stellar audio experience from a low-cost Lenovo tablet. At only $130 it’s perfect for you or the kids, and Lenovo has an optional kids pack which includes a roughty toughty case to protect from the expected falls to the floor.
See at Amazon
Updated October 20, 2017: We’ve removed the NVIDIA Shield K1 as it’s no longer officially on sale as well as adding a new pick, the Lenovo Tab 4.
Windows Ink isn’t Microsoft’s first stab at bringing stylus support to PCs — that would be Windows XP Tablet Edition — but it is the company’s most successful. It made stylus support a core part of Windows 10, and it’s a big reason you’re seeing so many computer makers shipping digital pens of their own. While the company’s renewed push into the space with its hybrid Surface tablets seemed baffling at first, it’s ended up looking like a prescient move. It even convinced Apple to compete with the iPad Pro’s Pencil.
With the Surface Pen and Windows Ink, Microsoft found a way to let PC users do something completely new: It gave them a way to break free from the constraints of the keyboard and mouse.
“I think it’s [Windows Ink] the first time that technology has embraced ‘the messy,’” Aaron Woodman, general manager of Windows Marketing, told Engadget. “For me, seeing Pen come to life in a way where you don’t have to go from top to bottom, from left to right, you can create in a way before your thought is really complete. I don’t think there’s a ton of technology that’s really embraced that fluidity.”
He’s got a point. The way we interact with computers hasn’t changed much over the years. If you learned how to use a PC with a keyboard and mouse, you’d have no trouble using a modern machine. The advent of smartphones and tablets, with their capacitive touchscreens, was the biggest change over the past few decades. But what if you want to draw a detailed picture, jot down notes in your own handwriting or write out mathematical equations? You’d turn to one of our earliest writing tools: the stylus.
“We’re embracing that, yes, [stylus support features with Windows Ink] are hardware-driven; yes, they require a platform that has to be broad in reach; and yes, for part of that, you need ecosystem partners,” Woodman said. “That really starts to get people to understand it and see themselves using it in applications like Office. To see that come through in a way that customers don’t feel like they’re jumping over walls, I think it’s really satisfying personally.”
In particular, Woodman credits Microsoft’s close partnership with Wacom, a company best known for its stylus tablets and displays, for the progress with Windows Ink so far. That allowed the two companies to build a sensor that “essentially allows you to go between pen protocols.” For computer makers, that’s helpful since it lets them choose between different pen protocols. Basically, it let Microsoft open up the market for styluses, just like Windows did for PCs decades ago.
Now, Woodman says retailers are selling twice as many pen-capable machines, compared to those that don’t have them. 43 percent of consumers with stylus machines are also using their pens monthly, according to Microsoft’s stats. Given just how well they’re taking off, though, it’s surprising that Microsoft chose to make the Surface Pen an additional $100 purchase for the Surface Laptop, Pro and upcoming Book 2.
Windows Ink’s integration with Microsoft Office is a clear example of how stylus support can breathe new life into programs we’ve used for years. In Word and PowerPoint, you can use a stylus to edit documents as if you were marking up paper. And, as you can imagine, having a more natural input mechanism is a big help for OneNote. It’s not only useful for jotting down your thoughts, but you can also use it for recording complex math equations — the sort of thing that would be tough to type out on a keyboard. OneNote can also convert your handwritten equation into something formatted for a computer, and you can then have it evaluate an equation, factor it and graph it.
It was a long road getting here, though. The first “Tablet PCs” powered by Windows XP (like the Compaq on the right) were woefully underpowered, heavy and generally just hard to use. It was difficult enough to get them to do basic Windows tasks, so there wasn’t much chance consumers would spend time with their styluses. There were also some early digital pens available for Windows 8. Really, though, it took the launch of the Surface 2 and Pro 2 for us to really see what a stylus could do in Windows. The Surface Pen was light, responsive and simply felt good to use. Microsoft steadily refined it with future Surface models, giving us better tips and more pressure sensitivity.
Even after the launch of Windows 10, it took over a year for Microsoft to make stylus support truly meaningful with last year’s Anniversary Update. That introduced Windows Ink and its accompanying software, including built-in sticky notes and a sketchpad. More importantly, it also gave Microsoft’s partners more of a reason to bundle styluses with their computers. Apple entered the fray with the iPad Pro’s Pencil in 2015, which is a decent stylus, but is only useful in a few creative apps. And you can forget about seeing it in MacOS anytime soon — Apple is focusing its touchscreen efforts entirely on iOS.
Embracing a new type of computing creativity seems a bit out of character for Microsoft — at least, the pre-Satya Nadella Microsoft. But the timing for the company’s change of heart makes sense. Thanks to faster and more efficient computing hardware, it’s finally turning its stylus ambitions into a reality. And more importantly, consumers and computer makers are finally paying attention.
“On some level, we have a responsibility to solve the challenges customers are facing,” Woodman said. “Now, watching 3D objects in Powerpoint [via the Fall Creator’s Update] is mind boggling. Not because you see it in 3D, but because it saves you infinite steps. I think Pen has the same type of promise. It’s more about just feeling like you have that permission to go beyond the boundaries of how people have defined the products so far.”
Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.
Welcome to the weekend. We’ll recap this week’s news highlights, plus big stories from Friday like Project Loon-distributed internet going live in Puerto Rico.
Reconnect.Project Loon’s LTE balloons are floating over Puerto Rico
Former Google X Lab (and now Alphabet X innovation lab) resident Project Loon is getting its first use in the US, as it’s partnering with AT&T to provide service in Puerto Rico. As part of the restoration efforts, the high-flying balloons are launching from Nevada and floating over the island, all in hopes of beaming LTE to areas still without service a month after Hurricane Maria.
The first Cortana speaker sounds amazing.Harman Kardon Invoke review
The good news about this $199 smart speaker is that it sounds great, and Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant is a natural addition. The bad news is that as a latecomer to the game, it has fewer music service integrations, and right now, Cortana isn’t as capable as competitors like Amazon’s Alexa.
You say replicant, we say repli-can.Bad Password: Apps and gadgets for the ‘Blade Runner’ future we didn’t ask for
This week, Violet Blue explains how technology can help make the best of our dystopian present — at least until Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling show up to fix things.
Watch the movie first.Designing the technology of ‘Blade Runner 2049’
Of course, if you prefer the distraction of a fictional Blade Runner universe, we have a few treats for you too. Take a walk with Territory Studios to find out how it established “the UI of a broken future” in Blade Runner 2049 — but mind the spoilers.
So long, wobbly fulcrum hinge. Hello, 15-inch beauty.Surface Book 2 hands-on
The Surface Book 2 sounds like it may fix all of the issues we had with the original model (as well as last year’s refresh). It has a stronger hinge, so no more screen-wobble as you’re typing, and it’s (predictably) more powerful than before. Microsoft also added a 15-inch model, making the Surface Book 2 even more of a competitor to Apple’s MacBook Pro line.
Define “partisan.”Does social media threaten the illusion of news neutrality?
As reporters become Twitter celebrities, newsrooms begin to adapt.
But wait, there’s more…
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- Spotify’s RISE program will try to find future music superstars
- Severe ‘KRACK’ WiFi security flaw puts millions of devices at risk
- Sonos One review
- Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket engine completes first hot-fire test
The Morning After is a new daily newsletter from Engadget designed to help you fight off FOMO. Who knows what you’ll miss if you don’t subscribe.
Dear Diary … or should I say, Dear Self? Or Dear Me? After all this time I still don’t know how to address myself here. Maybe I should do as Mark did in his Facebook memoir — “I, the Zuck” was such a stupid title — and just call myself by the first letter of my name. Let’s try that:
Remember when everyone thought the reason for augmented reality was furniture apps and rulers? How quaint. I’m not sure what exactly had me reminiscing all day, since AR is such a central part of our lives these days, but somehow I am – and stepping back, it’s hard to remember what life was like just 10 years ago. We thought the iPhone was a game changer. I don’t think a decade ago, we would have predicted modern life. Consider my day:
I bought new cables for the holographic TV last week, and I’ll be damned if I could figure out which port to put ‘em in. And why do we still need wires anyway? Is this 2027 or 1927? So first thing this morning, I put on the Vivo-set and dialed up tech support. A remote tech popped up in front of me, asked for permission to see my apartment, and took a quick look with me at the ports. She highlighted the correct one in yellow – I swear I’d tried it earlier – and walked through the settings menu for a sec as well, just to be safe. Remember when you had to call them on the phone? Remember talking on the phone? Sheesh.
I dressed, put on my newest Google Glasses – Armani somehow makes the best ones? Whoda thunk it? – and headed out the door for the office. Turning around to survey the house, I made a quick scan for any red lights on the window and door locks, and made sure everything was in away mode before heading to the subway. It was handy when the oven started warning the smoke alarm that the chicken was overdone, but merging all that stuff into an augmented reality environment is even better. I hated checking all those apps – just looking at stuff and getting status updates is an enormous time saver. That said, the UI guys never get this stuff right, do they? The temples of my glasses used to vibrate when alerts came in. Jesus, who thought that would be anything but maddening?
Remember ten years ago when the NYC subway seemed on the verge of collapse? Remember the hundreds of millions the city and state were spending to fix the signaling problems, before someone realized that installing physical signs to notify riders about oncoming trains was … short sighted? Well here in the modern day and age, the AR alert system is a godsend. As I walked to the train this morning, I tapped my glasses to bring up my agenda, and noted that the next train was just 2 minutes off. Perfect timing. I stepped onto the platform just as the train pulled in, each car emitting a faint glow to indicate how full it was. They all looked angry red – some things just can’t be fixed, I guess.
I stepped onto the platform just as the train pulled in, each car emitting a faint glow to indicate how full it was.
Later at work, I was daydreaming again. It’s that adult education class I’ve been taking on Mars – it’s both about the planet and set on the planet, thanks to all of those images NASA’s Musk Rover has been beaming back in 16K 3D. People used to sit at a desk and watch videos or slideshows – now we have fully immersive worlds to visit. It’s one thing to see a video of those sand storms we discovered, and another thing entirely to walk through one.
The same thing happened to grade schools, of course. I don’t know what got me thinking about 2017, when those folks at Case Western first started talking about AR in classrooms, but those guys were pioneers. Remember when Google Chromebooks first took over the classroom? The shift to AR systems was even more abrupt – and frankly, a lot more transformative.
I stopped by the library on the way home, bypassing the books and heading straight for the AR section. Whoever AR’d the encyclopedia deserves a medal – I swear, I could get lost for hours in any of those volumes. I spent half an hour finishing the section on Sumeria earlier in the week, for whatever reason. It must have been that holo-doc I watched on Hulu that got me craving knowledge, I suspect. So I grabbed one of their free Oculus 2.0 units to dig further in, flashing back on the first version – man it took those guys years to get that stuff out of beta, huh? What is this, Gmail or something? LOL, as we used to say.
You can only spend so long doing that, of course, so I headed home, dialing back the noise from the stores I passed. You used to bitch about website ads, remember? AR ads are just the worst. YOU HAVE NO IDEA.
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Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is powerful photography desktop software that has become one of the most widely used programs by professional photographers. The simplicity of being able to manage, process, and post to social media from a single program is a big part of why professional photographers love it, and it’s also a big reason why you should be using it, too — even if you have no plans of making a career out of photography.
Don’t worry if you’re new to photo editing and don’t know how to use Lightroom yet; our guide will walk you through the basics, and reveal how a program like Lightroom can make your workflow easier, not more complex.
Not Just for the Pros
Why non-professional users would want to spend money (either by purchasing it outright or by signing up for an Adobe CC subscription) on Lightroom has to do with one big issue that people face: keeping track of all the images that we take nowadays. While our phones and computers offer built-in ways to do this, they typically lack the flexibility and power of Lightroom — not to mention the powerful editing tools.
But before we get to those, let’s take a look at perhaps the most important piece to the Lightroom puzzle: photo management capabilities.
Lightroom is based on a catalog system and can automatically create and manage folders across multiple locations, even on different hard drives, without losing track of your images. Essentially, you import your photos and Lightroom makes it easy to find them again. One of the ways it does this is through a powerful search function and the use of keywords that you can add to your images when you import them into the software.
But its ability goes beyond just text-based searches. Thanks to facial recognition, Lightroom can help you find images of specific people, which allows you to tag faces and attach a name to them. After you have tagged a certain person multiple times the software will begin to suggest facial tags on faces it thinks matches a face you have already tagged on your computer.
So when you are needing to find a good picture of your son or daughter, or that pest of a nephew, you can simply open up Lightroom and search for them by name — assuming you did the initial leg work and tagged their faces. The software will then pull up all of the images on your system that have that face.
Lightroom is broken up into several modules which separate the steps in your workflow. The Library module is where you can import photos, add keywords, create folders, and otherwise manage your catalog. The Develop module is where you will do the bulk of your image editing (adding filters, fixing red-eye, increasing sharpness, removing blemishes, and much more). This is followed my the Map module, which you may not use much, but this is where you can search your image library based on GPS data for photos that include that information (such as those taken on your phone).
The Develop module is where you will do most editing (adding filters, fixes, removing blemishes, and much more)
Next up is the Book module, where you can design photo albums that you can print yourself or through online vendors like Blurb. After that you have the Slideshow module, which — you guessed it — helps you set up a slideshow. Finally, you have the Print and Web modules, which are mostly for pros, but the Print module helps you print your images on your home printer and the Web helps you make gallery that you can upload to a website.
To navigate between the various modules in Lightroom, simply click the different tabs located in the upper right portion of the Lightroom window.
Importing your images into Lightroom in 6 easy steps
The most important step in using Lightroom is giving it some photos to work with. You may have thousands of pictures somewhere on your computer already, and Lightroom can work with those in addition to any new ones you take. The steps below outline the process for importing new photos from a camera or memory card, but Lightroom’s Import window makes it easy to navigate to any other folder to import photos that are already on your computer, too.
- Insert your memory card into your card reader, or connect your camera via the USB cable.
- Open Lightroom.
- Click the Import button (Lightroom should detect the memory card and automatically open the import window).
- Select the Images you want to Import, or ‘check all’ to import them all.
- Add keywords to help you search for these images later, for example ‘Family Reunion 2016.’
- Import the images. (You can also tell it where on your computer to import the images, but it defaults to your images folder, so most of you will want to just leave it alone.)
- That’s it!
In the case of importing photos from another location on your computer, Lightroom gives you three choices for how it manages those files. You can choose to simply “add” the photos, which leaves the physical files where they are; “copy” them, which duplicates the files and puts a copy in your designated Lightroom folder; or “move” them, which puts the files in your Lightroom folder and removes them from their original location.
Using Lightroom’s Editing Tools to Take Your Images to the Next Level
As noted above, the ability to edit your photos within Lightroom is as convenient as it is powerful. You can do everything from applying one-click presets with VSCO or Instagram-style ease of use, to spending more time and changing individual settings one at a time for a more polished, professional look. Lightroom does it all — well, mostly. Professional photographers still rely on Photoshop for advanced features and techniques, but for most people, Lightroom is more than enough.
Editing your images
In the Develop module, you are able to process and edit your images with more control than whatever photo management program came bundled with your computer. On top of that, when combined with Lightroom Mobile , Adobe’s free Lightroom extension app, you can even process and edit your images from your phone or tablet, and all of your adjustments will be synchronized back to your computer.
Anything you do to an image (short of deleting it entirely) will be reversible.
Lightroom works best when processing RAW images, which offer the most latitude for making adjustments, but you can also process and edit JPEGs. Either way, every adjustment you make within Lightroom is non-destructive, so anything you do to an image (short of deleting it entirely) will be reversible.
The develop module is broken up into several tabs, on the left side of the window you have your presets. These are fast, one-click edits that you can do to quickly get your images to a specific look, and then fine tune with the controls on the right half of the screen. Adjust the crop, increase exposure (brightness), convert a photo to black-and-white, boost the saturation, and more.
The presets are one of Lightroom’s most powerful tools, and is one of the reasons why it is so popular among photographers. You aren’t limited to certain preinstalled options, either; you can buy additional presets created by other photographers, or you can make your own. They allow you to quickly and easily get your image to the desired look, or at least close to it, without having to spend a ton of time playing with the more advanced and detail oriented sliders.
One click presets make processing images a breeze
Think of the presets sort of like Instagram filters, but with way more control and much better results. For example, VSCO’s film presets mimic the quality of various films to lend a classic look to your modern digital photographs.
Saving and Sharing Your Images
Lightroom has built-in support for Facebook and Flickr, and you can easily get other plugins for most of the other social networks. In other words, you can easily process and share images from one program, across most of your social networks. So even as Lightroom is more advanced and complex than the photos app on your phone, it doesn’t sacrifice the easy sharing abilities that we all depend on.
Advanced users can also export images to a variety of file formats, change quality and image size, and even add a watermark to help guard against image theft.
And So Much More…
Lightroom can be as basic or as involved as you’d like it to be, and the program can grow with you as your skills evolve. These are just some of the reasons that an average person may like to get their hands on Adobe Lightroom. Covering all of its capabilities and functionality in one article isn’t really possible, but hopefully this was enough to get you started.
If you are interested in learning more about Lightroom’s advanced functionality, Adobe has plenty of walkthroughs and tutorials covering every aspect of the program.
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