Say hello to Nadine, an unconventional robot with her own personality, mood and emotions. She is friendly, can greet you back and remember your name and your previous conversation with her.
Powered by intelligent software similar to Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana, Nadine is the latest social robot developed by scientists at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore.
Nadine can be a personal assistant in offices and homes in future. And she can be used as social companion for the young and the elderly, the researchers said.
“This is somewhat like a real companion that is always with you and conscious of what is happening. So in future, these socially intelligent robots could be like C-3PO, the iconic golden droid from Star Wars, with knowledge of language and etiquette,” said Nadine’s creator Nadia Thalmann, professor at NTU.
A humanoid like Nadine is just one of the interfaces where the technology that the NTU scientists developed can be applied. It can also be made virtual and appear on a TV or computer screen, and become a low-cost virtual social companion.
With further progress in robotics sparked by technological improvements in silicon chips, sensors and computation, physical social robots such as Nadine are poised to become more visible in offices and homes in future.
“As countries worldwide face challenges of an aging population, social robots can be one solution to address the shrinking workforce, become personal companions for children and the elderly at home, and even serve as a platform for healthcare services in future,” Thalmann said in an official statement.
The head of China Telecom, one of the country’s big three telecommunications firms, has formally resigned his posts, the company said Wednesday, three days after authorities announced he was under investigation.
Chang Xiaobing had resigned as chairman, chief executive officer and executive director, China Telecom said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange, where it is listed.
The ruling Communist Party’s internal watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said on Sunday that Chang was being investigated for “severe disciplinary violations”, which typically refers to corruption.
Business magazine Caixin reported that Chang has already been detained and his “problems” relate to his tenure at China Unicom, another of the country’s thee major telecom companies.
He rose to become Unicom’s chairman before leaving to join China Telecom in September.
“China Unicom executives accepted money and sex in return for influencing matters such as contract negotiations with suppliers and personnel promotions,” the magazine reported, but did not say whether Chang was personally involved.
China Telecom shares closed down more than one percent on Wednesday.
Since Xi Jinping took office as president nearly three years ago, China has launched an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign, which has brought down government officials and corporate executives.
The drive has targeted state-owned companies in the energy, auto and aviation sectors.
Microsoft has started rolling out firmware updates for its flagship Windows 10 Mobile devices, the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL. The firmware update with build number 01078.00027.15506.020xx is now available to download for Microsoft Lumia 950 and Microsoft Lumia 950 XL users in Ireland and the UK.
The company however adds that the availability of the firmware update may depend on the network service provider. The update brings various stability and performance improvements. It brings improvements for microSD card support as well as improvements for automatic display brightness settings.
The update for the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL also bring fix for a camera issue that caused images to show noise in low-light conditions for some users and also fixes a 4K video issue that caused stripes to show up while playing back recorded videos for some users. As of now, there is no word when the new firmware will be released for the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL users in India.
The company as of now has confirmed that there are no firmware updates available yet for theMicrosoft Lumia 550.
Late last month, Microsoft India launched its first Windows 10 Mobile handsets – the Lumia 950 Dual SIM and Lumia 950 XL Dual SIM – in India. The new Lumia flagships were priced at Rs. 43,699 and Rs. 49,399 respectively. The company also launched the Microsoft Display Dock at Rs. 5,999. Earlier this month, Microsoft launched the Lumia 550 in India priced at Rs. 9,399 in Glossy White and Matte Black variants.
Apple is being sued over “misleading” people by touting iOS 9 as being compatible with iPhone 4S. To recall, when Apple launched iOS 9 in September this year, it said the iPhone 4S was compatible with its latest operating.
The plaintiff claims that his and other people’s iPhone 4S had significantly slowed down and become “inoperable” after upgrading to the newest version of company’s mobile operating system.
Chaim Lerman on December 29 lodged a class action lawsuit with a New York district court in which he asserts that Apple has engaged in deceptive trade practices and false advertisement by peddling iOS 9 as compatible with older iPhone handsets. He added that iOS 9 has caused performance issues such as slow response and launch time and freeze on his smartphone, leaving him with no choice but to spend hundreds of dollars on a new iPhone. Lerman seeks more than $5 million (roughly Rs. 332,063,997) from Apple.
Lerman also claimed that Apple was aware through “internal testing” or other means that iOS 9 will impose negative impacts, but the company didn’t shy from making false claims. He added that the Cupertino giant didn’t warn iPhone 4S users that iOS update could potentially impose compatibility issues.
“Plaintiff and other owners of the iPhone 4S were harmed when their devices’ software was updated to the newest version, iOS 9,” the lawsuit reads (via AppleInsider). “The update significantly slowed down their iPhones and interfered with the normal usage of the device, leaving Plaintiff with a difficult choice: use a slow and buggy device that disrupts everyday life or spend hundreds of dollars to buy a new phone.”
A week after the launch of new iPhone models – iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus – Apple released iOS 9. The software version supports a range of devices going as back as iPhone 4S, which was launched in 2011. Due to hardware limitations – fewer RAM (512MB) and a dated processor – many users have pointed out that their iPhone 4S didn’t work as efficiently after the update.
Because of the nature of how software updates work on Apple’s ecosystem, a user who has upgraded to iOS 9 cannot go back to iOS 8. There are ways one could forcefully install an older version of iOS, but the technical expertise required to do it isn’t something most people will be comfortable with, and besides, it could also void their warranty.
This isn’t the first time Apple has been dragged to the court over performance issues on its iPhone models. In October, the company was sued over iOS 9’s Wi-Fi Assist feature that forced the iPhone to use cellular data over Wi-Fi. In the past, the company has also been sued for the amount of storage iOStakes on an iPhone, which makes it difficult for users with 8GB or 16GB of iPhone variant to upgrade to the new software version – or even the update files.
Former Housing.com CEO Rahul Yadav will be ending the year on a high note, with funding support from cricketer Yuvraj Singh, who will be backing his e-governance startup. Funding activity seems to have trickled down during the holiday season, centred around online grocery, car care, mobile wallets, and social networks.
Cricketer Yuvraj Singh has invested an undisclosed amount in former Housing.com CEO Rahul Yadav’s new e-governance startup Intelligent Interfaces. “Proud to back Rahul Yadav and Intelligent Interfaces (ii) in helping the Government govern 100x better with the help of technology. Get ready for the (r)evolution!” Singh wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday. Intelligent Interfaces had previously received the backing of Flipkart founders Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal a fortnight ago.
Gurgaon-based mobile wallet provider MobiKwik has reportedly raised an additional Rs. 44 crores in a mix of debt and equity from existing investors, Sequoia Capital and Tree Line Asia. The latest tranche is part of the company’s Series B round, following a $25 million (roughly Rs. 165 crores) investment in April this year.
Bengaluru-based Bumper, which provides car care services through its mobile app has reportedly raised $500,000 (roughly Rs. 1.9 crores) in seed funding in an investment round led by SAIF Partners. Founded in 2015 by Akhil Gupta, Rahul Bendre, Ashis Nayak, and Kshitij Saxena, Bumper’s app has an overall rating of 4.2 stars, with over 10,000 downloads on Google Play.
Bengaluru based online grocery startup Town Essentials, has reportedly raised $1 million (roughly Rs 6.7 crores) in a fresh round of angel funding. The company has reportedly launched a platform called Morning Drop that will deliver products like milk, bread, and eggs on a subscription basis.
Delhi based user-adaptive social network Hubhopper, which calls itself the happiest place on the Web, has reportedly raised an undisclosed amount of funding. Founded by Gautam Anand in 2015, Hubhopper’s feed curates music according to genres, and lets users dictate what activities and interests they want to see in their feed.
AllCast, from legendary developer Koushik Dutta, is one of the original and best Chromecast streaming apps. AllCast not only works with Chromecast, it can also be used to stream to your Amazon Fire TV, Xbox 360, Roku, Apple TV and more. Note that the free version has a five-minute viewing limit per session, so consider forking out the US$4.99 for the premium version.
VideoStream is the VLC of Chromecast streaming: it plays everything. With no need for different codecs or plugins, VideoStream simply streams content from your laptop or PC direct to your Chromecast-equipped TV. That’s right, this is actually a Chrome extension for your computer, but once it’s installed, you just need to grab the VideoStream Remote app from the Play Store and you can control everything from your phone or tablet.
Pandora needs little introduction as a streaming radio app, but it is Pandora’s Chromecast support that earns it a spot on this list. The best thing is you probably already have Pandora on your phone, so there’s no need to install anything else: it works with Chromecast already. If you’re not already using Pandora, then give it a try and access up to 100 personalized radio stations for free.
What better way to unwind than watching the best gamers in the world playing through some of the toughest games on the planet? With more celebrities than Hollywood, Twitch is a gamer’s paradise, full of quirky characters, nail-biting gameplay and moves the likes of which most of us are simply incapable of. It works with Chromecast too.
Big Web Quiz
There are few games that feel as perfectly matched to the Chromecast as Big Web Quiz. Little wonder, considering it was developed by Google’s in-house Creative Lab. With this app, you and four friends compete against each other in answering trivia questions as quickly as possible. Each of you answers them on your own device, while the questions and overall scoreboard are displayed on the big screen.
Questions are drawn from the Google Knowledge Graph, so are always up-to-date and refer to the most recent events happening in the world, as well as historical events, and other (sometimes crazy) categories.
The Chromecast already does a great job at streaming most things you throw it at directly from different devices, but BubbleUPnP acts as a great bridge to let you stream things from different DLNA devices, media servers and cloud storage services.
BubbleUPNP has some nifty Chromecast-specific features too, such as transcoding various media formats that are incompatible with Chromecast by default so that they work with the dongle. Rounding off the great features is a playback queue, which lets you line up media from various different devices to play on your Chromecast.
CastPad for Chromecast
While development of this app seems to havebeen all but given up on, and its full potential may never be fully realized, CastPad is the best sketching app around for the Chromecast. You’re essentially given a blank screen to doodle, paint, draw, and spray-can to you heart’s content.
Considering all the great drawing-based family games out there – like Pictionary – the potential for fun here is vast. It works a little erratically at times, but show your support by downloading it and maybe – just maybe – it’ll receive another update at some point.
With thousands of radio stations to choose from, this easy-to-use app lets you tune in and start listening to your favorite music for free. The iHeartRadio app also features sophisticated algorithms to create custom stations for you based on your favorite music, and also lets you tune in to live radio and the occasional live music event. It’s designed to work with your ChromeCast, making it the best music-streaming app currently available for the dongle.
Pocket Casts is one of the highest-rated apps on Android, and one of its finest no-nonsense podcast managers. You can not only stream but download all your favorite podcasts, then set up a playlist to beam to your Chromecast. It supports both audio and video streams, and has a neat interface that’s in line with Lollipop’s Material Design.
Amusingly, when we got in touch with the devs to ask about Pocket Casts’ success story, they attributed it to a mixture of “blind luck” and “pure skill”. There you have it, the formula for a successful app…
It may not be the highest-brow film-streaming service out there, but Crackle has a great easy-watching selection available for free. You aren’t going to find the latest and greatest content, but with films like Men In Black, Bad Boys, and Snatch, it’s a great trip down memory lane for those of us who grew up in the nineties and noughties.
Hulu, like Netflix, is a great TV and movie-watching service, where you can watch unlimited amounts of either on your Android smartphone or tablet for US$7.99 per month. It’s received high acclaim for offering a great selection and the latest episodes of your favorite shows, such as Family Guy, Sons of Anarchy, and Gotham.
All of this, of course, can be beamed from your smartphone or tablet to your TV via the wonderful Chromecast.
Plex is a personal multimedia app that lets you stream your videos, music, photos and home movies to your Android phone from any computer which is running Plex Media Server. It enables media syncing from your phone, as well as from Google Drive, Dropbox and other cloud storage services.
And now it goes a step further with Chromecast support: you can enjoy the services Plex has to offer on your HDTV. The mobile app costs US$4.99 on the Play Store.
With VEVO, you’ll be the first to know when a new video relating to your favorite music artists is out, at which point you can stream it from your device to your TV to enjoy it in all its full HD glory. It’s not only official music videos that you can enjoy here, but also exclusive shows and live performances – all for free.
You can curate your own music video channels to share with others, or listen to video playlists created by other people with similar (or differing) tastes.
For our UK audience, the BBC iPlayer app is one of the best you can use if you have bought yourself a Chromecast dongle. It lets you watch live TV, and stream the latest programs from one of the best broadcasters of television in the world. Expect plenty of nature documentaries narrated by honey-voiced David Attenborough, incisive documentaries, panel shows, and plenty of classy, understated mini-series.
You can now add your own pictures to the Chromecast homescreen background, but if you’re looking for something with a little bit more functionality, check out MyCastScreen. The app itself costs US$0.99 and lets your cast cards with the time and date, local weather and traffic information, as well as news headlines. While it is still pretty new, the developer promises that more options and customizations are on the way.
Want to turn your television into a giant slideshow while entertaining? With Dayframe, you can cycle through your favorite social media photos and have them displayed on your television. The app connects to a bunch of different social media services, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, among others. Not only can you search your own photos, but you can also have it choose a bunch of random topics for you.
The app itself is free, but shows a small logo at the top of the screen. In order to get rid of it, you’ll need to upgrade to the Prime version for US$0.99.
For US$1.99, GamingCast brings some classic games to your television while using Chromecast and your mobile device. Choose from Snake, Pong, Xonix or Tetris and try it out for yourself on your giant screen. While the selection is rather limited now, the developer has promised to bring more classic titles to the app in the near future.
Is our list not enough for you? Make sure to check out the Cast Store, which collates all Chromecast-compatible apps together in easy-to-find categories, so that you don’t have to search high and low in the Google Play Store.
It was only in 2015 that Spotify support was added for Chromecast, but we’re glad it was. Now we can enjoy our favorite music streaming service on our TV, with more than 30 million songs to choose from in an intuitive user interface, this is a must-have Chromecast app.
Have we missed your favorite Chromecast apps? Let us know what we’re missing in the comments and maybe we’ll include it next time round!
US$9.99 per month / US$14.99 for family membership (up to six people)
$US99 per year
US$9.99 per month
US$9.99 per month US$14.99 for family membership (up to six people)
NUMBER OF SONGS
More than 30 million
More than one million
At least 20 million
More than 35 million
OFFLINE MODE FOR ANDROID
Amazon Prime Music
Google Play Music
Apple Music is a recent competitor in the music streaming sphere, released on June 30, 2015. But Apple already had a great pedigree with regards to music services, with the iTunes store having been successful for more than a decade. Though the iTunes store offers in excess of 43 million songs (everything but The Beatles, apparently), its streaming service offers a little less, at around 30 million.
Apple Music isn’t just for Apple users, with a Play Store App currently in beta. It allows Android users to stream its immense catalog and comes with some unique extras such as Connect, a blogging feature that seeks to bring artists closer to their fans, allowing them to share music, videos and photos with followers. Apple Music also includes the Beats 1 internet radio station, which plays continuously in more than 100 countries.
It might be too early to tell if Apple Music will be a big hit, but with a huge catalog, three-month trial period and all of the major features nailed, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t be.
Amazon Prime Music
Amazon’s Prime Music streaming service provides ad-free listening for more than a million songs, including hundreds of playlists and a number of radio stations. Amazon Prime Music’s catalog is smaller than most of its competitors’, but then Prime Music is only a small part of the overall Amazon Prime service, which the US$99 yearly subscription also covers.
This means that you also get access to more than 800,000 eBooks, free two-day shipping, thousands of movies and TV shows, and early access to its lightning deals. Amazon Prime Music songs can also be downloaded for offline listening and it has a dedicated Android app, which can be found at the link below.
Spotify offers a free, ad-supported streaming service in addition to its paid subscription. A great aspect of this is that you (currently) get access to the same content whether you pay a subscription fee or not. The main downside to the free service in comparison to the paid is the audio quality, the ads, and the ability to use it offline.
The Spotify Android app is perfect for mobile because it allows you to download any song in the catalog for offline listening on your device. There is also a web-player and desktop app, and all your content and playlists are synced between them.
Spotify for Android update news
Spotify for Android problems and solutions
Google Play Music
What began as a simple music player app is now a full, commercial streaming package with more than 35 million songs available.
Unlimited access to Google Music costs the same as a monthly Spotify subscription, but the key benefit is that it also includes access to YouTube Red, so you also get access to Google’s YouTube video content ad-free, as well as offline and background playback, and original films and TV series.
How to set up the Google Play Music app
Apple Music vs Google Play Music vs Spotify comparison
So which music streaming service is best? Let’s quickly wrap them up. Amazon is possibly the worst as a pure music streaming service because its catalog is limited, but it arguably has the best extras: no other service offers access to movies, books and free shipping from an online store.
Google Play Music also offers valuable extras. Everybody makes use of YouTube, and the opportunity to get even greater access to it, in addition to a 35 million-song library, is mighty tempting.
Apple Music is all about the music. You won’t get any TV or video streaming benefits here, but you will get one of the biggest music databases and an intuitive interface to discover new music.
Then there’s Spotify. Spotify just works. It provides high-quality audio playback, it seamlessly syncs between devices, and it’s perfect for parties and sharing, because everybody knows how it works.
It is increasingly common to see almost exact copies, at least in terms design, of flagship models from almost all smartphone manufacturers. While it is true that the vast majority of mobile devices stem from across Asia, these imitations largely originate from China.
The main advantage of this plagiarism is, of course, the price – the leading manufacturers usually place their best smartphones at a considerably higher price point. This buys you the design, technology and specifications that go into the device, as well as, of course, the brand name.
For those who do not care much about the brand, Chinese devices that mimic the design and even the technical specifications of their pricier inspiration can seem like a good alternative. It’s wise to be prudent, however. Chinese copies bring some problems that shouldn’t be overlooked, and while you may be winning on the price point of the devices, you may also be paying for it 10-fold in reduced quality and performance.
Problems with Chinese copies
It’s believed that many of the Chinese knockoffs do not incorporate an authentic Android OS, but rather a fully functioning ‘disguised’ Google system. As such, incompatibility with popular apps, such as Gmail and WhatsApp, can be a problem.
The cameras are usually much worse than the official devices, with the megapixel count often being lower than claimed. Furthermore, their processors are habitually overclocked or as slow as 50 percent of the advertised speed.
With that in mind, here are some of the most notable Chinese clones of popular smartphones.
Galaxy S3 vs FeiTeng GT-i9300
Even after the release of several successors, the Galaxy S3 remains one of the most-copied devices out there. One of the more prominent copies is the FeiTeng GT-i9300.
The primary differences here are the rather pathetic internal memory in the knockoff, its lack of removable storage, and the significantly lower screen resolution.
480 x 854 (WVGA)
1,280 x 720 pixels
Media Tek MTK6575 1 GHz
Exynos 4412 1.2 GHz
16 / 32 / 64 GB
8 MP rear and 0.3 MP front
8 MP rear and 2 MP front
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs FeiTeng H9504
Chinese replicas of the Samsung Galaxy S4 can also be found online. The specifications of the Feiteng H9504 are virtually identical to the S4’s, save for some obvious and important differences – the S4 has a stronger processor, higher resolution screen and more internal storage space.
1,280 x 720 pixels
1,920 x 768 pixels
Cortex A7 dual-core at 1.2 GHz
Exynos 5 at 1.6 GHz and a Qualcomm Snapdragon at 1.9 GHz
16 / 32 / 64 GB
8 MP Rear and 5 MP Front
13 MP Rear and 2 MP Front
Dual SIM, microSD
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Landvo S6
One of the most recent Samsung flagships, the Galaxy S6, was cloned only a few months after release. The Landvo S6 appears extremely similar to the Galaxy S6, but there are clear differences between them. The Landvo device’s supposedly 16 MP actually has an 8 MP sensor and the RAM inside it is not enough to run the faux TouchWiz smoothly.
1,280 x 720 pixels
1,440 x 2,560 pixels
MediaTek MT6582 quad-core 1.3 GHz
Exynos 7420 quad-core 1.5 GHz
32 / 64 / 128 GB
16 MP rear and 5 MP front
16 MP rear and 5 MP front
Heartbeat test, eye recognition, dual SIM
Heartbeat sensor, eye recognition
HTC One M8 vs HDC One M8
Taiwan’s HTC has also seen its stellar flagship plagiarised. The imitation in question is the HDC One M8 and it is one of the more blatant ripoffs, barely even changing the name of the device in question. Aesthetically, it’s a carbon copy of admirable accuracy, and the specs do a reasonable job of measuring up too.
HDC One M8
HTC One M8
1,280 × 720 pixels
1,920 x 1,080 pixels
MediaTek 6582 quadcore at 1.3 GHz
Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
8 MP rear and 2 MP front
4 MP rear (Ultrapixel) and 5 MP Front
Dual SIM, microSD
iPhone 6 vs Dakele 3
The Dakele 3 is the rare clone that betters the original, at least in one area: it features sapphire glass protection, which the iPhone 6 was supposed to have but didn’t end up with. The specs and the build quality are actually high-end as well, making this a clone of unparalleled quality. It runs on Android.
Lapse It is now up to version 4.7 and is one of the best time-lapse apps on the Android platform. It comes with manual controls and a background mode that lets you access other apps while you’re recording your footage. You can import existing videos as well as capturing new footage from scratch.
With a plethora of options — from photo interval times to white balance settings — you can get your videos looking exactly as you want them to. Sign up for a Pro account and you can capture video at a higher definition, resume captures and add sound and special effects to your clips.
For good quality time-lapses with minimum fuss, the aptly named TimeLapse is worth a look. You simply set the photo interval and the image resolution, and you’re good to go — the capture screen has just three buttons for start, pause and stop, and shows a small status bar too.
After the capture part of the process has been completed, you’re taken to an equally sparse encoding page where you can choose the frame rate and get your finished video out the other end. If you prefer simplicity to an abundance of features, you’ll feel right at home with TimeLapse.
For a free(mium) app, Framelapse has a lot going for it — you can set all of the key parameters for your time-lapse video before you get started, and there are some nice additional features such as a self-timer, white balance and exposure adjustments (although some of these are in-app purchases).
The capture screen is the main app screen, and all of the various settings and modes appear as extensions from there. If you like the feel of the app, then the upgrade to the Pro version is probably worth it considering for the extra features you get (such as a sleep timer function).
Overlapse promises “time-lapse made easy”, although the idea never seemed all that complicated to begin with. Overlapse works slightly differently to the other apps on this list, in that you take one photo at a time manually — it’s designed more for recording objects or buildings over many months or years.
To that end, there’s a helpful overlay feature that helps you frame up your shots accurately when you come back to the spot you were standing in before. Pictures are neatly arranged into sets, and the app might work well for you if you have a specific long-term scenario in mind.
Microsoft Hyperlapse Mobile
Microsoft has its own powerful time-lapse software in the form of Hyperlapse Mobile. The app is fun and straightforward to use and allows you to import existing video as well as shooting new.
Other useful features include ‘selfie lapses’ (for when you want to show your reactions to a skydive or zipline run) and the ability to share time-lapse videos to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter quickly and easily.
Every smartphone camera is different, but they all have the same things in common. They all have a lens, which enables them to see things; they all have a sensor, which takes what the lens sees and turns it into digital data; and they all have software, which analyzes the data and turns it into an image file that you can do something with.
It’s the combination of those things that decides how good (or bad!) your image will be, and the following terms are used to give you an idea of what the camera can do.
Megapixels, or MP for short, are the measurements of how many pixels a camera’s image will contain. One megapixel is one million pixels – 1,000 x 1,000 – so a 20 MP image will have 20 million pixels.
Generally speaking, the more pixels you have the better. You can zoom in or crop the image without worrying it’ll get all blocky. However, there’s more to the quality of the photos than mere numbers, and it’s perfectly possible to get a better photo from a 12 MP phone camera than from a 20 MP one.
The bigger the sensor, the more it can see and the better the photos it should take. The size of a typical smartphone sensor is around one-third of an inch, but, in some phones, the sensor can be as big as an inch.
The bigger the sensor the bigger the pixels, so in theory at least if you have two phones with the same megapixel count but one has a bigger sensor, that one will produce the better shots.
CCD and CMOS
Smartphone sensors usually come in one of two forms: CCD (Charge Coupled Device) and CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor). Early smartphones used CCD sensors, but most modern phones use the more complex, and until recently more expensive, CMOS sensors.
There are differences between the sensors in different devices, however, so it’s important to read reviews and check out device comparisons to discover how well each firm’s sensors perform.
Aperture is how much light a lens lets in, and it’s expressed in f-stops: f/2.0, f/2.8 and so on. The smaller the number the bigger the aperture and the more light gets in, so if you want really great low-light performance without a flash, for example, you want the lowest aperture you can.
Smaller aperture numbers also indicate that you’ll get interesting depth of field effects, where the foreground is clear but the background is blurry.
ISO and shutter speed
Aperture is part of a trio that affect your photos, and the other two parts are ISO and shutter speed. Shutter speed is how long the camera keeps the lens open to take a picture, and ISO is how sensitive your camera is to the available light. Many camera apps allow you to adjust both of these things.
The bigger the ISO number the more sensitive your camera is to light, so for example, if you’re shooting at ISO 100 the camera needs one second to capture the image, while at ISO 800 it only needs 0.125 seconds. That extra sensitivity comes at a cost, though, and that’s noise: if you’re shooting at really high ISOs you’ll see a lot of noise, which manifests itself as a grainy effect. Different cameras handle noise in different ways, but as a rule of thumb, if you’re using big numbers noise is inevitable, so you really want to use the lowest ISO possible.
The other thing you can often change is the shutter speed. The longer your shutter is open the more light it’ll capture, but it’ll also make your camera more vulnerable to shakes and blurred movement. For action shots you want fast shutter speeds; for shooting in low light or trying to take pictures of lightning or fireworks, a long shutter will produce the best results.
There are two kinds of image stabilization: digital image stabilization, which uses software to compensate for slight shakes and to keep the image stable, and optical image stabilization, which uses mechanical means to keep the lens still.
Optical is usually better than digital stabilization, especially in low light. Unless the software is really, really good – and it often isn’t – it can’t compete with the shake-free footage you get from a lens that moves when the camera does
HD and 4K
HD and 4K are measurements of resolution, just like megapixels, but they’re used to describe video. HD means high definition, which is 1,920 pixels x 1,080 lines, and 4K or UltraHD is double that: 3,840 x 2,160 lines. Eventually, we’ll get 8K, which is twice the resolution of 4K.
The main advantage of 4K is that you can zoom in dramatically and still be left with an HD recording, which keeps your creative options open. The downside is that 4K recording takes up twice the space of HD, so it’s not great for smartphones with limited storage.
Most smartphone images are saved as JPEG image formats, but some high-end devices can also record in RAW. RAW is better for professional photographers because it records nothing other than what the camera sensor saw; JPEG images are optimized and compressed to save space. RAW also understands more levels of brightness, and it’s easier to correct a RAW image than a JPEG.
Software and apps
The lens is great, the image is stabilized and the sensor is enormous, but bad software can snatch digital defeat from the jaws of victory. Poor JPEG optimization, bad image processing algorithms and overzealous color correction can make a huge horse’s arse of your carefully considered photos.
The good news is that you can try an alternative camera app – we quite like Google Camera, and there are stacks of really good third-party camera apps in the Play Store too. But prevention is better than cure, so we’d definitely recommend checking out the camera sections of our in-depth smartphone reviews to help you avoid the duffers.