CES 2015 Video: Olloclip camera lens for iPhone 6

While smartphone cameras have been improving rapidly in recent years, even top-of-the-line devices can fall short of the visual effects we really need. One area that can disappoint is that of field of view – the area that the lens is able to ‘see’. At CES we were lucky enough to test out Olloclip’s new 4-in-1 lens for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The lens offers 4 options – Fisheye, Wide-Angle, 10x Macro and 15x Macro. The device will take the iPhone’s photography and video-making capabilities up a couple of notches, and comes with a free clip and Lanyard for easy carrying and switching when you’re on a selfie spree. Watch the video above to see the device in action.

The Olloclip 4-in-1 is available now for £59.99. Visit Olloclip to find out more.

 

 

 

What the critics think of the new Apple Watch

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Apple had two big announcements at its Cupertino event – the new iPhone, of course, and somewhat surprisingly, the Apple Watch. It’s been finished at last. Well, it hasn’t been finished – it’s not going to be available until early 2015 at the earliest, but it did have prototypes on show and successfully worked an audience from foaming anticipation through to raucous applause and tearful whooping with a rather cool video showcasing its smooth lines.

It’s the Apple Watch, not the iWatch, and in coming to market now (soon) with what could be the next big thing, Apple has done what Apple does – wait for someone else to create, market and sell a product, watch carefully from the sidelines and then come in with something bigger, better, sleeker (and more expensive). It’s a strategy that has worked well in the past but allows little room for error, as seen in the Smartphone market where it has been overtaken in both technical innovation and platform share.

While the job of the iPhone6 is to play a serious game of catch-up in this well-established arena, the new Apple Watch is well poised to take advantage of a (relatively) slowly building interest in wearable tech. Could it be the device to start smartwatch fever by perfecting that awkward blend of functionality and comfort?

TIME magazine seems to think so – its writer says that:“having gotten to wear and play with the device, one thing is for certain: The Apple Watch is a beautifully designed piece of technology with enormous potential”, and goes so far to say that “In fact, I’d say it’s the most exciting gadget since the iPad, from Apple or any other company.”  This seems to be a lot to do with the design, which feels solid yet lightweight and fits on the wrist naturally. It looks “more like a piece of jewellery” than a typical smartwatch due to the curved, bezel-less screen, which establishes a slightly feminine quality. Other platitudes include it not feeling showy or intrusive to the point where you could even forget you’re wearing it.

TechCrunch delves into the features. NFC and Apple’s new “Secure Element” for storing payment information will allow you to use Apple Pay (currently only available in the US) to make purchases. Other quirks include “the new paired communication mode that Apple demoed, which allows one user to connect directly to another for real-time sharing of hand-drawn messages, customized animated smileys, heartbeats and more”, and “Taptic” feedback, that makes it feel like someone is gently tapping your wrist – far subtler than “the jarring notification vibration of Android Wear smartwatches”. The range of bands available also get a mention, with the sports band appearing as though it’d be comfortable during exercise and the link bracelet offering quick adjustments for size.

When it comes to operation, Wired highlights the “digital crown”, a side-mounted dial used to control some of the functions. What’s interesting about this, it says, is the fact that “an analogue flourish blends a physical, and, in today’s Apple portfolio, unconventionally mechanical, interface into the otherwise high-tech digital proceedings.” Used to rotate through menus or options, or to return to the home screen at a push, it complements the touchscreen interface though early reports seem to indicate it offers little or no feedback response, spinning perhaps a little too freely. When it comes to the interface itself, it’s typically minimalist. For example, there are no words on-screen to help you recognise apps – “Logos for the applications each icon represents have had to be designed to communicate meaning without a helping hand from the alphabet.” The only potential issue with this, it suggests, is introducing a learning curve for techno-phobes. Other highlights here include the ability to use the screen as a viewfinder for an iPhone camera, an IR function for TV control and maps that vibrate left or right to tell you the way.

AplWatch42-Sstl-RbrWht-PF_iPhone6-Svr-PF-PRINT-resized

Perhaps the biggest issue the Apple Watch will have to overcome is well described here – how “smart” is it really? The author suggests that for the high price of purchase:

I don’t want another screen to just see notifications on, or to pause a song, or to see whether the sun has got his hat on. I want it to be intelligent, decide certain things for me, disturb me only when it knows I’m likely to find a disturbance both convenient and necessary.

Alongside questions over battery life, an area that was deliberately side-stepped during the initial presentation, the fact that there’s no headphones port despite the ability to store media and no built-in WiFi (you’ll need to use a paired iPhone) it’s clear that this isn’t a feature-packed all-in-one, it is an accessory, and we’ve seen those already. Will comfort and looks be enough to convince people that a smartwatch is now a must-have? Sadly we’ll have to wait until next year to find out.

The iPhone 6 rumour round up!

iphone6-mockup2

With Apple’s iPhone 6 still some months away, we thought we’d trawl the deepest, darkest parts of the Internet to round up all the rumours regarding Apple’s next iPhone.

As with anything rumour-related you should take everything with a pinch of salt – but if even half of them come true the next iPhone should be something quite special.

Having increased the screen size of the last iPhone, Apple might be tempted to go even bigger. According to Business Insider there are “several” iPhone 6 prototypes doing the rounds at Cupertino, with one of them reportedly sporting a 4.8-inch screen. Apparently the new screen tech comes from Sharp and could see the screen resolution topping out at 1080p.

And to add even more fuel to the fire Got To Be Mobile reckon Apple might consider splitting the iPhone 6, like they did with the iPhone 5c and 5s, and satisfy consumers who want a large Phablet-style iPhone and those of us who still want a stunningly svelte iPhone.

iphone6-mockup3

Alongside a decent bump in screen size, rumours have also suggested that the new iPhone 6 could be substantially thinner and lighter. It’s thought Apple might be reworking the LED backlight spec and opting for a 0.45t side-view type LED instead of the current 0.6t side-vide type LED – meaning a thinner, lighter iPhone. This all comes from LED Inside who have apparently sounded out sources close to Apple’s supply chain.

Elsewhere Apple could be planning to hide the external facing components using a new-fangled screen called polymer-dispersed liquid crystal, which has been unearthed by Patent Scope.

Basically: an electric current is used to change the opacity of the window – so while your iPhone 6 rests on the side not in use it will look like a wafer thin slice of uninterrupted beauty.

Potentially in the future, Apple could feasibly use the technology to hide various features – such a cameras, solar panels, fingerprint or Iris scanners – within the phone behind a changing PDCL window.

iphone6-mockup

The amount of screen protectors and cases on the market for mobile phones is truly staggering, which leads us nicely onto the next rumour: scratch proof screens.

It looks like a scratch-proof future could be upon us according to the clever bods over at 9 To 5 Mac, who reckon Apple has struck a deal to open and operate a manufacturing facility in Mesa, Arizona related to sapphire crystal components – could this mean better screen protection on the iPhone 6? We sure hope so.

Less likely but a whole lot more interesting is something called ‘A lens actuator module’ which has been uncovered in one of Apple’s many recent patent claims. In plain English, the new iPhone 6 could have a camera lens that can actually move independently of the camera – which would dramatically improve image stabilisation meaning blurry photos could be a thing of the past.

Another Apple patent uncovered at the time of the iPhone 5s rumour mill was for a wireless power utilisation. Again, in English, this means wireless charging and would be a big improvement over the current technology, which requires users to put their handsets on a pad in order to charge them, which if you ask us is just cheating really.

The new technique being developed by Apple could charge a larger amount of devices at the same time as it uses something called Near Field Magnetic Resonance (NFMR).

“The wireless powered local computing environment includes at least a near field magnetic resonance (NFMR) power supply arranged to wirelessly provide power to any of a number of suitably configured devices,” reads the patent application.

Obviously it didn’t make it for the iPhone 5s – but just maybe it could happen the iPhone 6? Only time will tell.

 

iPhone 6 mock-up images courtesy of Martin Hajek and Steve Hemmerstoffer 

Logitech launch PowerShell Controller for iPhone

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As the old adage goes, the best camera is the one you have on you and the same apparently applies for handheld gaming. Whilst the negatives to be said for iPhone gaming are many and frequently stated, this doesn’t detract from the simple fact that iOS gaming is huge. 87% of iPhone and iPod touch users play games on their device. People really do want to play games on the device that the will almost always have on them. So you could write a whining forum post about sheeple who don’t know what’s best for them. Or you could try to make the iGaming experience the best possible.

Unsurprisingly Logitech have gone with the latter approach and have released the PowerShell Controller – bringing tactile gaming controls to the iPhone 5S and iPod touch (but weirdly not the 5C). This follows a similar release from PowerA – the Moga Ace Power. iOS7 was far from just a lick of fresh paint and on of Apple’s powerful under-the-hood tweaks was the addition of standardised game controller support. So expect to see a lot more of these – maybe even one from Apple, although they mostly leave peripherals to the legions of experts these days. It also means it’s a plug and play system with no drivers, apps or installation procedures.

Check out this official video of the PowerShell

The Powershell wraps around your iPhone and instantly converts the device into a familiar D-pad, shoulder trigger and face button configuration that will feel at home to button bashers across the globe (although lacking in the dual analogue controllers that are the staple of many modern classics). However, all of the buttons are pressure sensitive, which opens up a realm of possibility for more nuanced gaming. And as some who is terrified of opening WhatsApp for fear of what it will do to my battery, it’s great that the PowerShell packs at 1500 mAh battery to keep your phone usable after a bout of Double Dragon. Speaking of games, at the controller support is baked in to iOS7 the list of supported titles grows daily and feature popular hits such as Bastion , Fast & Furious 6: The Game, MetalStorm Aces, Galaxy On Fire 2 HD and Nitro.

The Logitech PowerShell Controller + Battery is available online today for pre-order on Logitech.com for £89.99.

Griffin’s Harris Tweed cases for your new iPhone

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The Harris Tweed Case and Wallet are made from hand-spun tweed materials.

With Apple’s newest handsets now out in the wild, we’re beginning to see cases launched to fit them, ready to keep your shiny toy safe from scuffs and damage. These new tweed cases from Griffin add a touch of class and a feel of the Scottish Highlands to your handset.

There are two options to pick from. The Harris Tweed Wallet is the more comprehensive and expensive choice: it opens like a notebook and includes both tweed outer layers and a soft leather interior that can hold your cash and your cards as well as your iPhone. The Tweed Wallet will set you back £39.99 when it hits shelves in November.

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Both the Case and the Wallet are available in brown (above) or black (shown here).

The cheaper option is the Harris Tweed Case, a more conventional outer shell for your iPhone that provides plenty of protection without noticeably adding to the bulk or design of the handset. If you want to pick up the Tweed Case, it’s available now for £29.99.

Both Wallet and Case feature authentic Harris Tweed, the famous luxury woolen fabric worn by royals and celebrity alike. Spun only from wool from the Outer Hebrides and available in either black or brown herringbone, it offers a more distinguished alternative to the colourful plastic options found elsewhere (including Apple’s own official cases). If you’re going grouse shooting or sailing across a loch any time in the near future, then it’s the ideal choice.

“We’re excited about teaming up with Harris Tweed for this special collection,” Griffin Product Line Manager Keavy Murphree said as the cases were announced. “Harris Tweed remains truly of its time, rising above fad and fashion to give those who seek a luxury case longevity, value, style and timelessness. It’s been exciting to watch a traditional material applied to high tech products with beautiful results.”

Both the Harris Tweed Wallet and the Harris Tweed Case are compatible with the older iPhone 5 and the brand-new iPhone 5s. You can pick up both products from Griffin’s official store: the Case is on sale now and the Wallet will be available this month.

Apple unveil the new iPhone 5s and 5c

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Apple has unveiled its next generation iPhone line up, and as expected there are two successors to the iPhone 5 rather than just one. The cheaper, plastic-backed iPhone 5C combines the innards of the iPhone 5 with a choice of bright colours in a new case; the higher-end iPhone 5S, meanwhile, brings with it a major bump in power and camera capabilities, as well as a fingerprint sensor dubbed Touch ID. Apple is calling it “the most forward-thinking smartphone in the world”.

The iPhone 5c

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Let’s start, as Apple did, with the 5c model. Like the iPhone 5 it is designed to replace, it features an A6 processor and an 8-megapixel iSight camera, though the front-facing camera has received a slight upgrade. The sides and back of the phone are crafted out of a single hard-coated polycarbonate shell; this shell holds a steel frame that doubles as the 5c’s multi-band antenna.

iPhone 5c cases
iPhone 5c cases

You can opt to buy a soft matte case to complement the 5c’s glossy exterior, giving you even more colour combinations to work with. The mobile itself is available in blue, green, white, yellow and pink, and the cases are available in white, pink, yellow, blue, green and black. At 124.4mm x 59.2mm x 8.97mm it’s slighter higher, wider and thinner than the iPhone 5 (123.8mm x 58.6mm x 7.6mm). It’s also a touch heavier — 132g rather than 112g.

Choice of 5c colours
Choice of 5c colours

You can think of the 5c as an iPhone 5 with a number of minor tweaks, and while early speculation suggested the “c” in the new iPhone’s name stood for “cheap”, this hasn’t proved to be the case: the 16GB will set you back £469 SIM-free while the 32GB model costs £549 SIM-free. The official cases shown off at the Apple event are available for £25 apiece. Of course, mobile operators will set their own price levels when the phones are bundled with contracts.

The iPhone 5s

On then to the real star of Apple’s press conference, the iPhone 5s. Apple’s Phil Schiller emphasised three main points during his presentation: the phone’s powerful internal components, its upgraded camera and the fingerprint sensor named Touch ID.

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The 5s is powered by an all-new 64-bit A7 processor — the first 64-bit CPU to be seen in a consumer phone — and Apple is promising twice the speed and graphics performance of the iPhone 5. There’s also something completely new: the M7 motion coprocessor that gathers data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass built into the phone. Among other tricks, the M7 chip can tell when you’re walking, running or driving a car, and you can expect to see this functionality used by a wealth of health and fitness apps in the coming months and years. In terms of size and weight, the 5s matches the 5 exactly, and it looks almost identical too.

iPhone 5s cases
iPhone 5s cases

Much is being made of the new and improved camera built into the 5s. Like its predecessor it produces 8-megapixel snaps, but Apple has improved the lens and internal components for better sensitivity and improved low-light performance. There’s a larger aperture, a larger sensor and a two-tone LED flash capable of 1,000 varying combinations, so turning on your phone’s flash won’t distort the colours in the scene you’re shooting. There’s also an integrated burst mode that can take a series of photos and present you with the best one almost instantaneously. Video capabilities have been improved too, with the 5s capable of shooting HD 720p video at a slow-motion rate of 120 frames-per-second.

iPhone 5 Colours
iPhone 5s Colours

Finally, Apple introduced Touch ID, the fingerprint sensor technology built into the iPhone 5s’s Home button. You can use your unique fingerprint to unlock the phone and buy apps from iTunes — the company is promising this data will be encrypted and remain on your handset. It can recognise fingerprints from any angle and can distinguish between you trying to scan your finger and pressing the button as normal.

The 16GB iPhone 5s costs the same as the 32GB iPhone 5c — £549. You can get the 32GB model for £629 and the 64GB model for £709 (all SIM-free). Three colours are available — grey, gold and silver — and again there is an official line of cases on offer for £35 each — beige, black, blue, brown, yellow and red are the choices here. Apple claimed a battery life that’s slightly better than the iPhone 5 for both the 5c and 5s, so it would seem you might still be running out of juice after a full day of normal usage.

And The Rest

The iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s will come with iOS7 already installed, and the operating system was shown off again at the iPhone launch event. If you’re not familiar with its new features, they include improved search, better notifications, a more comprehensive Siri app, enhanced multi-tasking as well as a radical new look and much more besides. The software will be pushed out to consumers on the 18th of September. What’s more, anyone buying a new iOS7 device will get the iWork suite of apps (that’s Pages, Numbers and Keynote) as well as iPhoto and iMovie free of charge.

There was also mention of the iTunes Festival, now in its seventh year. Featuring the likes of Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, the event will cover 30 nights of live music in London and will again be live-streamed to more than 100 countries.

Both iPhones can be pre-ordered on the 13th of September and officially go on sale in the UK a week later on the 20th. It will be some time before we know how well Apple’s latest hardware performs against the likes of Samsung, Nokia and the rest of the industry. Are you planning to get in line for a 5c or a 5s? Or does the latest iPhone leave you cold? Let us know in the comments.

Belkin launches Orla Kiely cases for iPhone and iPad

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iPhone and iPad owners are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing cases for their Apple devices — from Lego to leather, there are a wealth of options to choose from, with new ones appearing with each passing week. The latest to arrive are several Belkin cases put together in collaboration with fashion designer Orla Kiely. The snugly fitting cases are marked with a selection of Kiely’s signature designs and covered in either a high-gloss or soft-touch finish.

The distinctive, strong stylings of Irish-born Orla Kiely have appeared on hats, handbags, kitchenware and clothing before coming to Belkin’s new range. “This collection of fashion-inspired cases from internationally renowned designer Orla Kiely is a testament that function can be paired with an artful vision,” commented Belkin Product Manager Albert Farag. “Each case is designed first and foremost to keep your devices safe and secure, and is incredibly minimalist, giving you maximum protection without adding bulk.”

As you would expect, the cases are closely molded to fit your iDevice of choice, and the iPad editions can double up as stands with multiple viewing angles. Two different designs are available, Multi Stem and Optic Stem, with pricing ranging from £24.99 for the lightweight iPhone casing to £54.99 for the full-sized iPad. The iPad mini cases retail for £44.99, while the more durable pocketbook-style iPhone covers cost £29.99.

The iPad cases are compatible with the iPad 2 and newer models (including the iPad mini). The wallet cases, which include inner pockets and a secure snap closure tab, are for the iPhone 5 only, though the more lightweight back cases fit the iPhone 4, 4S and 5. The full range can be viewed and purchased from the Belkin website. According to Belkin, Orla herself uses an Optic Stem case for her own iPhone.

Olloclip’s Telephoto iPhone Lens: Get Closer to the Action

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The cameras embedded in our mobile phones may have troubled the lower end of the digital camera market, but they’re still some way short of the quality found in high-end compacts and DSLRs. Add-ons such as the new Telephoto Lens from Olloclip can help add a touch of professionalism and style to your mobile snaps — the £99.99 gadget halves the distance between you and your subject thanks to its 2x optical lens and comes with other focus and colour reproduction enhancements too.

In addition to the telephoto zoom lens, this Olloclip package also includes a  circular polarising lens (CPL) — in layman’s terms, that means your snaps come out with more realistic colours and fewer distracting reflections. The CPL blocks out light at certain angles based on user settings and helps raise your photos further above the default iPhone standard. You can use the CPL on top of the telephoto zoom lens, on its own, or on the original 3-in-1 Olloclip (reviewed in our Best iPhone Photo and Video Accessories).

Another trick you can do with the Olloclip Telephoto Lens is to take advantage of the extra optical zoom to adjust the subject focus — use the depth of field to bring the object of your attention into sharp focus and leave the background blurred (or indeed vice versa). Without changing anything on the iPhone itself, you suddenly have a number of additional professional tools at your fingertips. “Whether you’re on location or on vacation, the Olloclip Telephoto Lens adds better quality close ups and more flexibility to the convenience and mobility of the iPhone and iPod touch,” commented Patrick O’Neill, Olloclip’s CEO and founder.

The Olloclip Telephoto Lens works with the iPhone 5 and 4S as well as the fourth and fifth generation iPod touches. Put together from a multi-element coated, precision-ground lens and high-grade aluminium body, the gadget can be picked up now from the Olloclip website and from the Apple UK Store in the near future. If this particular add-on lens doesn’t quite take your fancy, there are plenty of alternatives, including the Optrix iPhone XD5 we’ve previously covered.