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The Last of Us Part II: Everything You Need To Know

Joel and Ellie made it out alive, but did they really escape danger?


The original launch of The Last of Us was a refreshing departure for Naughty Dog. As much as we love Nathan Drake, seeing Uncharted’s level of polish, deep storytelling, and rich character development in an entirely different world is richly satisfying.

So naturally, we’re expecting big things out of the Last of Us sequel. The Last of Us II is on its way for the PlayStation 4, and if you haven’t kept up until now, then we’re here to get you up to speed.

What’s the story so far? Spoilers for part I ahead

As the name implies, this is a sequel to Naughty Dog’s 2013 PlayStation 3 exclusive. That game was eventually remastered for the PlayStation 4. The Last of Us is an adventure game that features stealth and shooting mechanics at the core of its gameplay.

There’s also a survival horror element to it, with much of the player’s path being blocked by ghastly looking things called Clickers. These beings are actually humans who have been infected with a deadly strain of the cordyceps viral strain, a virus which makes them cannibalistic and mutates their bodies.

Players control Joel (voiced by Troy Baker), whose life was turned upside down when military soldiers came and shot his daughter at the onset of the outbreak. Joel had to live decades with the pain until a girl named Ellie (Ashley Johnson) was thrust into his life by a survival group known as the Fireflies. They tasked Joel with helping to smuggle Ellie from within a quarantined zone to their hideout.

Reason being? Ellie is actually infected, but instead of turning in three days like most of the other folks, she has been symptom-free for three weeks. They believe the cure to the virus lies within her, and they want to perform lethal surgery on her to find it. Joel is unwilling to let Ellie die, however, as he has grown attached to her – perhaps because she helps fill the void left in his heart by his daughter’s death.

Long story short, they eventually escape, and that’s where The Last Of Us II will pick up. In actuality, about five years have passed between the events of the original game and the sequel.

What’s happening in Part II?

Not much is known about the events that will unfold in The Last of Us Part II at this time, though we do know that Ellie and Joel are returning, with players controlling the former this time around. It’s also said to have an overarching theme of hate in stark contrast to the first game’s emphasis on love. Hint: Ellie is pretty grown up (19 years old), and she’s the one who’s pissed off now.

We also know it’ll be a much darker game in tone, and that it’ll double down on the whole cannibalism angle. The two trailers we’ve gotten about the game so far have been unrevealing in regards to the story, but considering there are still hordes of infected threatening the unnamed characters we can at least assume that a cure was never found.

Joining Joel and Ellie are a bundle of new characters, too. Victoria Grace is playing Yara, Ian Alexander will play Lev, and there will be a guest appearance from Emily Swallow as Emily. Laura Bailey is also confirmed to have a significant role in the story with a yet-to-be-named character. And at least part of the game is taking place in Seattle, Naughty Dog confirmed.

Gameplay details


Naughty Dog hasn’t yet revealed much about The Last of Us Part II’s gameplay. We can at least expect similarities to the first title, which featured a third-person shooter base with stealth and survival elements. Players can shoot, of course, but there’s also a crafting system for making tools, weapons, and consumables that you’ll need throughout the game.

You can also expect cooperative mechanics that’ll require the teamwork of both Joel and Ellie, puzzles that’ll need to be solved before you can move through an area, and more. We’re also sure that a multiplayer component will be returning for the sequel.

When can you play it?

Unfortunately, a release date for The Last of Us Part II has yet to be set. Sony will likely reveal more information at E3 2018. It’s possible the game could launch later this year or in early 2019, with recent murmurings suggesting Naughty Dog was as far as 60% into its development in December 2017. Don’t get your hopes up, however, because mum is still the word.

We’ll be updating this page with new details about The Last of Us Part II as they come in. Be sure to check back often for the latest!

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Lenovo teases a truly bezel-free smartphone that’ll be announced on June 5

A launch event will be held in Beijing, China.

Ever since the LG G6 debuted last year, OEMs have been in a race to trim down bezels on smartphones as much as possible. Samsung’s got its Infinity Displays, Apple paved the way for the infamous notch with the iPhone X, and now Lenovo’s begun teasing its Z5 handset that hints at a phone that’s truly bezel-free with no notch in sight.


A press invite that recently went out invites the media to an event that’ll be held on June 5, 2018, in Beijing, China. This is where Lenovo will unveil the Z5 for the first time, and while specifics on the device are still up in the air, we do know that it boasts an impressive screen-to-body ratio of 95%.

We’re ecstatic to learn more about the Z5, but don’t get your hopes up about owning one if you reside in the Western part of the world. Lenovo-branded phones typically don’t come to the U.S., but considering that Lenovo owns the more widely available Moto phones, it could be possible that the Z5’s tech creeps over to them in the not-too-distant future.


Don’t forget, the Z5 isn’t the only phone of its kind that’ll be revealed next month. A week later, Vivo will announce the consumer version of its Apex phone that was debuted at MWC this past February. That phone also features a screen-to-body ratio of more than 90%, and also includes things like an in-screen fingerprint sensor and selfie camera that pops out of the top frame.

Although these first few all-screen phones will likely get limited releases, it’s still exciting to see them actually come to market.

Are you excited for phones like the Lenovo Z5?

Vivo’s Apex concept phone has tiny bezels, pop-up camera and in-display fingerprint sensor


The $213 Piper Minecraft Raspberry Pi kit will teach kids valuable skills


Amazon has the Piper Minecraft Raspberry Pi Computer Kit on sale for $213.03, which is the lowest this has been all year. It typically would run you almost $300.

With this kit, your child can solve puzzles in the Raspberry Pi edition of Minecraft by building their very own computer from start to finish. Once that’s done, they can keep building power-ups within the game by using physical controls, switches, buttons, and lights. It’s perfect for kids ages 7 to 13.

This kit rocks because it combines the technology and fun that children love with hands-on learning, which is not something that can often be said when it comes to hours of watching YouTube Kids or Spongebob. It introduces them to coding, programming, and building in a way that keeps their attention and focus. One reviewer said, “My son hates school and says he hates to learn. But he LOVES his PIPER and doesn’t realize how much he is learning.”

Remember when you used to tear the remote apart, and then put it back together, just to see how it worked? This kit is kind of like that, but your kids will be guided through the whole process with step-by-step instructions. It comes with a handcrafted wooden computer case with HD LCD display, a functioning computer running on a Raspberry Pi 3 project board, a ton of electronic gadgets like buzzers and lights, cables, a laminated blueprint with assembly instructions, a USB mouse, an 8GB SD card, and a custom Raspberry Pi Edition of Minecraft. It’s Wi-Fi enabled and has free automatic level updates as well.

See at Amazon


California Senate passes a vote to bring net neutrality laws to the state

There’s even a rule that’s stricter than what the FCC previously had in place.

Although the FCC’s repeal of Net Neutrality is set to go into effect on June 11, that hasn’t stopped other government officials from doing what they can to ensure the internet remains free and open for everyone.


Photo by Credo Action.

Most recently, the California Senate passed a bill that would bring back Net Neutrality laws across the entire state. The bill was passed in a vote of 23 to 12, with the 23 yeses being Democrats and the 12 nos going to Republicans.

Should this bill become law, it would ban ISPs from blocking websites, throttling data speeds, or participating in paid prioritization deals. The California bill even goes a step further by banning any paid data-cap exceptions.

With that said, there’s still some work to do before any of this becomes law. The bill must be approved by California’s State Assembly and Governor Jerry Brown, but considering Brown’s a Democrat and the State Assembly has a Democratic majority, that shouldn’t prove to be much of a challenge at all.

As for Net Neutrality’s fate on the national level, the U.S. Senate recently passed its own bill in favor of restoring the regulations, too. The fight for net neutrality is far from over, and there are a lot of wheels in motion right now to ensure that fight keeps on going.

Net neutrality, consolidation, monopolies, and you


Android Central’s 2018 Father’s Day Guide!


Dads. They’re like you, only they think they’re really good at tech stuff but are perpetually 10 years behind the curve. That’s OK, because this gift guide can go a long way to making sure he’s at least partially caught up to 2018 … and beyond.


Google Pixel 2

The Pixel 2 is our favorite phone on the market, and a perfect present for the dad who wants a fast, reliable Android phone. Not only does it have an amazing camera, but it’s mercifully easy to set up and use. For a dad coming from an older Android, or even an iPhone, this is the best option.

$649 Buy now


Moto G6

Buying a phone shouldn’t be complicated, the Moto G6 just works. It’s compatible with all four major U.S. carriers, and at $249 or less, it’s super giftable. The beauty of Motorola’s Moto G line is that it imitates flagships so well that you’ll never get FOMO.

from $235 Buy Now


Spigen phone cases

Whatever phone your dad ends up using, Spigen has a case for it. From rugged and protective to transparent and super minimalist, we love Spigen products because they’re cheap and they just work.

from $10 Buy Now


Nintendo Switch

Gaming is no longer a young person’s pasttime, and with the Nintendo Switch’s incredbile lineup of games, including Zelda: Breath of the Wild and upcoming Super Smash Bros., it’s the perfect time to gift dad a console.

$299 Buy Now



If dad’s into the Great Outdoors, or just the Great Backyard, the UE MEGABLAST (yes, capitals are necessary) sounds incredible, with real bass and over 10 hours of battery. The best part is that it supports Alexa, which means dad can get his most pressing questions answered anywhere, anytime.

from $190 Buy Now


Sonos One

Is your dad looking for something a bit more permanent than Bluetooth? The Sonos One is incredible. Not only does it connect to Alexa (and soon, Google Home), it sounds so, so good. And if you end up buying two, they can be paired together for whole-home audio!

$199 Buy Now


Sony MH1000XM2 noise-canceling headphones

Sometimes dad needs a break from the world. Sony’s MH1000XM2 have amazing sound and even better noise cancellation. Seriously, these are probably the best bang for your buck in headphones right now.

$348 Buy now


OnePlus Bullets Wireless headphones

How much would you spend on really good wireless earbuds? Thankfully, OnePlus doesn’t force you to make that tough decision, as the $69 Bullets Wireless outclass most headphones twice the cost. Dad will love that they sound great and snap together using magnets to automatically shut off when not in use.

$69 Buy Now


Koss Porta Pro Wireless Bluetooth headphones

A classic re-imagined. Your dad may have worn the original Koss Porta Pros back in the 80’s, and now they’re here in a fantastic wireless version. They bend into a tiny portable pod and have 12-hour battery and in-line controls, all for $80.

$80 Buy Now


Spotify Premium

I bet your dad has a ton of CDs lying around that haven’t been used in a while. And while vinyl is back, the true future of music is streaming. Spotify is the biggest music streaming service in the world for a reason, and it’s available everywhere, from the phone to Google Home and Sonos.

from $10 Buy Now


Netflix subscription

Netflix is the best gift for dad because even if he doesn’t have a subscription, you know he wants to binge all the comedy, drama, and serialized Marvel action that Netflix offers. Amazon has $30 or $60 gift cards so you can buy him a few months at a time.

from $30 Buy Now


Aeropress coffee and espresso maker

Upgrade dad’s coffee game — get him an Aeropress — it’s the cheap and easy way to making better coffee at home in just 90 seconds. It sounds too good to be true, but this is all physics: the Aeropress combines the best ideas from espresso and French Press into a single, easy-to-clean contraption.

from $33 Buy now


Blue Bottle coffee subscription

Skip the grocery store beans and get the best from your new Aeropress with a monthly subscription to amazing coffee at Blue Bottle. You won’t believe the difference freshly-roasted beans make to a good cup, especially if you grind them at home right before you brew.

from $15/mo Buy now


Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine

Has dad been talking about finally getting that espresso machine he’s always wanted? The Breville Barista Express is an amazing entry-level espresso machine that grinds beans, froths milk, and pulls impressive shots in an extremely compact space.

$582 Buy Now


Chromecast Ultra

If you splurged on that 4K TV recently, the Chromecast Ultra is an amazing companion. Almost every media app supports it in some way, and it works with the Google Home or Home Mini to load those hilarious YouTube videos everyone loves watching.

$59 Buy Now


Amazon Fire TV 2017

Cozy up to Prime Video exclusives like Catastrophe, The Grand Tour, Sneaky Pete and more… in 4K! The Fire TV is an amazing gift for anyone who watches shows or movies.

$70 Buy Now


TCL 55R617 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD Roku Smart LED TV

4K HDR. Built-in Roku streaming box. 55-inch low-profile LED panel. One of the best-rated TVs on the market today. Check, check, check, check. TCL’s newest 55-inch TV offers incredible value, and dad will love it. He’ll even help you throw away the old clunker he’s been meaning to upgrade for years.

$650 Buy Now


Amazon Kindle

How do you fit thousands of books into your hand? With an eReader! Amazon’s Kindle has a glare-free touch display, Wi-Fi connectivity, and a battery that lasts for weeks at a time. If you’re shopping for a bookworm, there’s no better gift than a Kindle.

$80 Buy Now


Anker PowerLine+ USB-C to USB-A Cables (2-pack)

There’s nothing simpler than a good-quality charging cable, and nothing more frustrating than not having one nearby. Anker makes great products, and these PowerLine+ cables will charge your dad’s phone and, because they’re made of woven nylon, won’t get busted.

$10 Buy Now


Eero Home Mesh Routing System

How much do we love Eero? Let me count the ways. If your dad’s Skype calls keep cutting out, if he’s calling because his internet is always going down, or if there’s no signal in the bedroom, Eero’s mesh router solution is amazing. At $400 it’s expensive, but worth every penny — for your sanity.

$400 Buy Now


Google Home Mini

Google Home is big and powerful, but Google Home Mini is cheap and useful! If you already have a bunch of connected speakers, or just want Google Assistant everywhere, the Home Mini is the best gift you can give. And if your house is already full of Google products, Assistant is even better. A must-gift!

$49 Buy Now


Philips Hue Starter Kit

Smart lights can set the mood, especially when paired with a smart speaker powered by Google Assistant or Alexa. It’s simple to set the mood for a party, or for bed time, but either way, these lights will last for years.

$160 Buy Now


Amazon Echo Spot

Give your dad’s old alarm clock an upgrade with the Amazon Echo Spot, the latest — and cutest — Alexa-powered gadget. This one’s perfect for the bedroom but, thanks to its small screen, can double as a living room or kitchen tool.

$129 Buy Now


Fitbit Versa

The Versa is the best tracker and smartwatch Fitbit has ever made. It can track steps, exercise, sleep, and more and its battery lasts an incredibly long four days. Your dad will love its selection of colors and bands, and you’ll love spending less than an Apple Watch!

$199 Buy Now


DJI Spark

If your dad is the outdoorsy type, or just wants to make movies with footage from new vantage points, the DJI Spark is an outstanding gift. Portable and versatile, the drone gets over 15 minutes of flying time with its replaceable battery and goes anywhere you do.

$399 Buy Now


Anker PowerCore 10000 Battery

Give your dad the gift of a phone that doesn’t run out of batteries! This Anker PowerCore pack can charge most phones two or three times and is portable enough to bring anywhere.

$27 Buy Now


Withings Co-Founder Buys Back Digital Health Company From Nokia, Relaunch Planned This Year

Back in 2016, Nokia acquired health startup Withings in a deal estimated at $192 million, hoping to re-establish its presence in the consumer electronics market. Nokia did this by rebranding Withings’ iOS compatible products under its own name, with devices like the Withings Steel Watch and Withings Go fitness trackers becoming the Nokia Steel and Nokia Go.

Unfortunately for the company, the acquisition has largely been seen as a failure, with the digital health division earning just $62.4 million in 2017, part of Nokia’s overall $27.9 billion in revenue for the year. Because of this, the company announced earlier in May that it would sell the division back to Withings co-founder, Eric Carreel, and today that deal has officially closed (via TechCrunch).

Financial terms were not given for the sale, but it is said to have included 200 employees rejoining Carreel under the Withings brand. Moving forward, Carreel said that the next steps for the renewed Withings brand will be a “relaunch” of its products focused on preventive health coming by the end of 2018.

“I am delighted to start working again with the brilliant teams that made the brand such a great success” said Carreel in a statement. “We have an exciting challenge ahead of us as we continue to push the boundaries of connected health.”

“We are still only just starting to discover what connected health can really bring to people,” said Carreel in a statement. “From now on we must concentrate our efforts on developing tools capable of advanced measurements and the associated services that can help prevent chronic health conditions. Today’s technologies allow us to imagine solutions that have the potential to benefit the lives of millions of people, and our ambition is to ensure that we, as Withings, lead the way with technological advances and intuitive designs.”

Withings offers connected products like scales, activity tracking smart watches, blood pressure monitors, smart thermometers, sleep trackers, and more, and according to TechCrunch it “sounds like it will keep all of these in place” after the relaunch. The news of the deal closing also brought confirmations of an executive shakeup in Nokia, with president Gregory Lee exiting Nokia and Maria Varsellona stepping up to the duty from a chief legal officer position.

In late 2016 Nokia and Apple entered a series of legal battles that began when Nokia sued Apple for patent infringement in the United States and Germany. As the dispute escalated, Apple decided to remove all Withings products from and most Apple retail locations around the world, since the connected health devices were at the time under the Nokia umbrella. Although many of the Nokia-branded products have since returned to, Withings should have a much easier time selling its smart scales and more when it returns to its original branding scheme later this year.

Tags: Withings, Nokia
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Netflix iOS App Gains Unobtrusive Volume Indicator and 10-Second Double Tap Controls for Some Users

Netflix appears to be testing — or slowly rolling out — a new user interface control scheme for its iOS app, which enables an unobtrusive volume indicator and lets users jump forwards or backwards in a video with a quick double-tap gesture.

As spotted by Redditor mm2nam, the update brings Netflix’s video controls closer to those of YouTube on iOS, which lets users double tap on the right edge of the screen to fast forward 10 seconds and on the left side to rewind 10 seconds. Netflix’s implementation includes the double tap gesture, as well as physical buttons on the screen that appear after you tap once on the video to bring up the playback controls.

Image via Redditor mm2nam
Quick time jump controls have become increasingly popular in a variety of apps and in certain products, with Apple itself using a similar feature on its Siri Remote for Apple TV. On fourth and fifth generation devices, users can swipe to the right and click to jump forward 10 seconds and the same to go back 10 seconds, as long as the app supports Apple’s native playback controls.

In regards to the volume indicator, Netflix currently has a bit of an unclear method for this piece of UI: some users lack an indicator completely, while others still see Apple’s large, semi-translucent square that blocks most of the video every time the volume is toggled. It appears that along with the new 10-second playback gestures, Netflix is also planning to release a unified and unobtrusive volume indicator, which sits at the top of the screen, similar to YouTube and Instagram.

With no further information available regarding the update, it’s unclear how widely available it is and if it will be launching for all users soon. Many users on the original Reddit thread commented about not having the update, and no one at MacRumors has yet seen either the double tap gestures or new volume indicator. We’ve reached out to Netflix for comment and will update the post if we hear back.

Tag: Netflix
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Apple Has Reportedly Opened New Engineering Hub in Greater Portland

Apple appears to have opened a new engineering hub in Oregon, expanding the company’s presence in the Pacific Northwest tech sector.

Apple Store at Pioneer Place in Portland
The Oregonian via Patently Apple reports that the offices are located in Washington County, near the border between Beaverton and Hillsboro, in the western suburbs of Portland. The building’s exact location has not been disclosed.

Apple has already hired close to two-dozen employees to work at the hub, including a number of people who previously held senior research or engineering roles at chipmaker Intel, according to the report. The information was gathered from job postings, social media profiles, and a person familiar with the matter.

While the Intel poaching has fueled speculation about Apple’s rumored plans to release its first ARM-based MacBook as early as 2020, it’s of course common for major technology companies to recruit talent from each other.

MacRumors performed a basic job search on Apple’s website and came across listings for hardware engineers with expertise in design verification and validation of Apple’s system-on-a-chip designs, like the A11 Fusion chip in the latest iPhones. All of the openings have a listed location of Portland, Oregon.

Apple has existing operations in the region, including a software development team in Vancouver, a data center site in Prineville, and an advanced computation group in southeast Portland, according to the report.

Apple’s presence in the Pacific Northwest extends to Seattle, where it has an artificial intelligence and machine learning hub. The company also continues to lease additional office space near its headquarters in Cupertino, California, while exploring areas for a new campus focused on technical support.
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The Xiaomi Mi8 does the one thing Apple could never figure out

With smartphone bezels shrinking, there’s less room for a fingerprint sensor on the front. Android smartphone sensors are often placed on the back of the phone; the iPhone X ditched one altogether, opting for Face ID instead. On Thursday, May 31, Synaptics revealed that new flagship Xiaomi Mi8 would one-up them all.

The Synaptics Clear ID Fs9500 is a sensor designed for smartphones that have bezel-free, button-free infinity displays. Clear ID is an ultra-thin optical sensor that captures your fingerprint with light produced from the OLED panel on the smartphone. It works under OLED displays and uses an electric current to capture the imprint of your finger.

But how does it work? The sensor detects the finger, the OLED display then lights up the finger, the sensor scans the fingerprint, and the “matcher” then verifies the image. Once it’s confirmed the imprint is yours, you will be granted access. The sensor can also be placed anywhere on the screen the manufacturer wants.

The Clear ID sensor should not only be able to work on flexible or rigid displays, but can also work if the phone has a screen protector or if the screen is wet. It’s also said to be twice as fast as 3D facial recognition and has a 99-percent spoof-attack rejection rate.

Now that Clear ID has made its way into Xiaomi’s Mi8 transparent Adventure smartphones, Synaptics’ claims will finally be put to the test. While the Chinese smartphone manufacturer isn’t a well-known brand in the United States, it is popular in other markets — especially as the highest selling brand in India. It’s also the fourth-highest selling smartphone brand globally.

The company is mainly known for manufacturing phones that look similar to Apple’s smartphones. But Xiaomi offers them at a much cheaper price, and its devices run Android rather than iOS of course. While we have yet to get our hands on the Mi8, we have given the budget Xiaomi Mi A1 and Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 pleasant reviews.

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Your phone’s flash has nothing on the powerful, pocketable Lume Cube

Hillary Grigonis/Digital Trends

Modern smartphones put high quality cameras in your pocket, but finding equally portable lighting can be a challenge. The base Lume Cube is a photo and video light that’s built to be as portable as a phone, built around a tiny but bright LED source that is suitable for a number of different subjects. While the Lume Cube can be used as a continuous light with any camera, from DSLRs to GoPros, it also functions as a flash when paired with an iPhone. The Lume Cube Creative Lighting Kit for iPhone (tested) adds a handful of light modifiers and a clamp for mounting the light to the phone.

So just how much can an LED light not much larger than a golf ball impact your photos? Well, don’t expect it to overpower the sun, but it is as versatile as it is small. From lighting up a vlog to making snapshots pop, the little Lume Cube makes a big impact on phone photography.

Small, but tough

Even inside the optional housing, the Lume Cube measures less than two inches on each side without any modifiers attached, but it’s surprisingly strong. The company says it can survive underwater up to 100 feet deep — a limit we didn’t attempt to test — and it easily survived shallower dunks. From the metal housing to the hard plastic window protecting the LED, this light feels like it can handle a fair amount of abuse. The only downfall of all this durability is the screw-off cap that hides access to the micro USB port. This makes for a minor annoyance whenever you need to charge the light, but one that’s probably worth the waterproofing.

You can control the Lume Cube via the mobile app over Bluetooth, but thankfully that’s not the only option. Two buttons on the top of the light let cycle through the varying brightness levels and switch between flash and video modes. The buttons can he held to trigger secondary functions to activate the optical sensor mode or turn the unit off.

While the Lume Cube is available — and useful — without any accessories, the iPhone kit includes a housing, modifying gels and diffusers, and a smartphone mount. A standard 1/4-inch tripod thread can be found on the bottom of the light, too. The metal housing is required to attach the modifiers to the front of the light, but otherwise isn’t necessary.

The modifiers are held in place by magnets, making it easy to swap them or stack multiple together to mix or intensify the effects. The iPhone kit includes three flat diffusers, a dome diffuser, and two warming gels.

By using diffusers, you can get natural-looking images where the use of flash isn’t obvious.

The diffusers soften the light compared to the often unflattering look of a bare flash, while the orange gels alter the color balance to match the warmer tones of golden hour sunlight or indoor incandescent lamps. Thanks to the magnetic mount, the gels can be used with the diffusers, but keep in mind that maximum light output is reduced with each modifier that is used.

The included mounting clamp makes it easy to attach the Lume Cube straight to your phone for one-handed operation. It is made with equally durable metal construction and stretches to accommodate different phone sizes and cases, including Plus-series iPhones. The ability to use the light off-camera is one of the Lume Cube’s perks, but when you just need a simple, direct light, the clamp comes in handy.

The Lume Cube app

Setting up the app is simple and painless thanks to Bluetooth. Once connected, the app has a handful of different settings. Tapping the Lume Cube logo opens a quick menu where you can swap between flash, constant light, or two different strobe modes. Brightness, in ten increments of 150 lumens, and red-eye reduction can also be set in this menu.

Hillary Grigonis/Digital Trends

While you can use any camera app with the continuous light, only the camera inside the Lume Cube app works with the flash mode. As a nice touch, switching to video mode within the app automatically sets the light to continuous. Using the Lume Cube camera is similar to the iPhone’s native app: Tap to focus and slide up and down to adjust exposure.

A second menu contains similar controls, but adds an underwater mode and an optical trigger mode. In the optical trigger mode, the Lume Cube works as a slave flash. It looks for changes in the lighting and triggers the light when a change is detected. For example, it can fire when it sees the built-in flash on the iPhone fire. Additional settings are offered for using the light with a GoPro.

The little light that could

Photographers with experience working with light know that big sources create softer light, while small sources create harder light. That means smaller light sources will have darker, more obvious shadows with a harder edge, rather than a gradual transition from highlights to shadows. One type of light isn’t necessarily better than the other — they each have their respective uses — but soft light is often a desirable effect, whereas harsh light can be a telltale sign of a cheap, bare flash. The Lume Cube is certainly very small, so as you can imagine, it’s not easy to avoid it casting a harsh light.

Put it inside a wine glass, vase, mason jar — anything with a two-inch opening — to achieve some dramatic effects.

Designed for portability, it’s just not possible to get the quality of light from the Lume Cube that you can get from a powerful studio strobe with a large soft box. But the quality of light certainly isn’t horrible and, at 1,500 lumens, is decently bright.  By adjusting the intensity and using diffusers, you can still get natural-looking images where the use of flash isn’t obvious to the untrained eye.

It should also work well in conjunction with an add-on macro lens for close-ups, as here you can put the light right up close to your subject where its relative size — and therefore, softness — will increase.

In non-macro situations, the Lume Cube’s small size will make the light harsher, but it’s also possible to create fun lighting effects by using it off-camera, tucking it into places where a larger light simply wouldn’t fit. Put it inside a wine glass, vase, mason jar — anything with at least a two-inch opening — to achieve some dramatic effects.

Lighting is one of the trickiest aspects of photography to learn, but the Lume Cube makes for a relatively simple introduction to it. Continuous lights are also good for beginners because you can see how the light affects the shot before you take it, unlike with a flash.

Sample shots with and without the Lume Cube Hillary Grigonis/Digital Trends

A flash certainly has some benefits, such as freezing motion, but with the Lume Cube, we preferred to stick to constant light mode. As the app has to communicate with the flash via Bluetooth before actually taking the picture, it adds a significant amount of shutter lag between when you press the button and when the image is actually taken.

This problem isn’t exclusive to the Lume Cube; it’s the nature of Bluetooth, which just isn’t as quick as a physical connection or the wireless radio connections used in professional off-camera flashes. The phone add-on cameras like the Sony QX1 had the same problem. While the delay would be a fatal flaw if the Lume Cube was flash-only, switching to continuous mode is an easy solution when a delay would mean missing the moment. Using the continuous light on full power for extended periods can make the light run hot and will drain the battery faster. Battery life is rated for just 30 minutes at full power, but jumps to 2 hours at half power.

A creative tool for enthusiasts

Overall, the Lume Cube performs well for such a small light. It can’t overpower the sun like a professional flash, but it is bright enough to help balance outdoor lighting and fill in otherwise harsh shadows. The primary selling point, however, is its ability to add some creative depth at night, indoors, or even underwater by using it off-camera. Rather than automatically making your pictures better, it’s a light that encourages creative experimentation. As such, it may not be right for everyone, but many mobile photographers will love it.

Enthusiast phone photographers and action cam users will find plenty to love in the Lume Cube.

Beyond being one of the smallest photo/video lights on the market, the Lume Cube is the first synchronized off-camera flash for phone photographers. Thanks to its portability and versatility, it also opens up a variety of creative lighting options for DSLR and mirrorless camera users, too.

As an iPhone flash, the slow response time of Bluetooth means it won’t always be usable (although, using the optical slave mode may offer a suitable alternative for some users here), but the Lume Cube is otherwise an excellent creative tool for many photographers who don’t want the bulk of traditional lighting gear.

Few lights pack in the same number of features in such a small profile and smartphone-friendly format. The LitraTorch is similar in size and price, but doesn’t have Bluetooth or Wi-Fi for wireless control and is only rated to 30 feet underwater. While you can find cheaper but larger smartphone video lights, they aren’t waterproof or app-enabled and often aren’t as bright.

Hillary Grigonis/Digital Trends

The Lume Cube, without any of the accessories, sells for $80. The company offers mounts for GoPros and drones to expand the light’s versatility. The iPhone lighting kit is an Apple Store exclusive and retails for $150, including the light, housing, smartphone mount, and adapters. This is perhaps a tad pricey for the average person, but enthusiast phone photographers and action cam users will find plenty to love.

Like add-on lenses, the Lume Cube gives users the chance to experiment creatively with their phone’s camera, to push boundaries and produce unique content in a simple and fun way without the expense and bulk of larger, dedicated cameras and lighting gear.

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