Blue’s Raspberry mic is small, but delivers stellar audio quality

It’s no secret that Blue’s line of USB microphones are a go-to choice for podcasters and anyone else who wants a simple, easy-to-use recording device. The company’s Snowball and Yeti mics may be the most popular, but its last few products have focused more on technology that helps you streamline the postproduction editing process. The same can be said for its latest device, the Blue Raspberry. The Raspberry’s compact stature and built-in audio tools make it ideal for on-the-go recording, even with the $ 200 asking price.

With the Raspberry, Blue threw in its usual retro design touches without overdoing it. The company has a knack for blending old and new aesthetics in a way that’s unique but not kitschy. The exterior here is mostly silver with a matching metal stand to anchor it. Tiny rubber feet on the bottom of the stand help insulate the mic from any vibrations on your desktop that could cause problems for your captured audio. The prominent Blue logo sits front and center on a panel of red leather that continues down to the bottom and around back — no doubt a nod to the gadget’s name. This thing is also really small. When it’s folded down and nestled in its attached stand, it stands about as tall as both of the phones I have lying around: the Moto X and iPhone 6s.

Above that red patch, the speaker grille extends from halfway down the front panel, around the top and to the middle of the back side. There’s also a status light on the front that glows green when you’re ready to record and flips to red when you’re muted. This red/green combo makes it much more obvious which mode you’re in, as opposed to the Yeti, whose light either glows or blinks in red. The change shows you at a glance when the mic is on, so now you don’t have to second-guess it.

Over on the right side of the front face lies the mic’s gain/level control. With that knob, you can adjust the gain between 0 and 40 decibels. Additionally, that rotating dial serves as the mute switch. Simply push it in to cut the signal if you need to cough or get a drink of water during your session. Push it once more to unmute. Like the mute function on previous Blue microphones, there’s also an audible click accompanying the changing light.

On the back panel, there’s a headphone jack and a micro-USB port. The 3.5mm headphone jack provides zero-latency monitoring while you record, and there’s a volume knob on the left side of the device. It perfectly matches the look of the gain control, lending the design a symmetrical feel. As far as the USB socket goes, it’s there where you’ll connect either the standard USB or lightning cable that comes in the box. There’s also a carrying pouch and a microphone-stand adapter should the need arise. Blue says the Raspberry will work with USB-C devices with an adapter. In fact, it has successfully tested the mic with the LG Nexus 5X and Huawei Nexus 6P and the device still performed as intended.

One thing I’ve always liked about Blue products is their ease of use. The company’s line of USB mics require almost no setup, thanks to their plug-and-play design. The same goes for the new Raspberry. To test the mic, I recorded an episode of my beer-focused podcast (it’s a side project, OK?). Before firing up a quick YouTube Live session through Hangouts on Air, all I did was plug the microphone into my MacBook Air. Once I got to the Hangouts on Air interface, the only thing I had to do was select the Blue Raspberry as the input and output device instead of my laptop’s built-in mic and speakers. I was ready to record in two or three minutes, and that included setting up the YouTube event.

What you hear in the episode above is the unedited audio from the Hangouts recording (I’m the host). This is just the audio pulled from the video YouTube logs, imported to Audacity and exported in a format that SoundCloud accepts for uploads. There was no editing, save for adding the intro clip. Inside the Raspberry, there’s a new Internal Acoustic Diffuser (IAD) design inspired by concert halls and recording studios. It’s built to diffuse noise and any reflections, thereby minimizing the sound of the room. The company says this allows the device to offer studio-quality 24-bit/48kHz audio wherever you’re recording.

When I compared the session I recorded with the Raspberry to clips captured with other USB mics, I noticed a big difference when it came to ambient noise. The captured audio through Hangouts was much cleaner with this new model. It didn’t capture sounds from my house like the hum of the air conditioner, washer/dryer and other environmental noises that tend to go unnoticed on a daily basis. I also record in my living room, which has tall vaulted ceilings, so I can plug directly into my router. Other mics also typically pick up on my voice bouncing around the space, but with the Raspberry I didn’t notice an echo.

Not everyone needs a microphone for podcasting, though. When it initially unveiled the Raspberry, Blue said the device would work with any audio software. The company specifically lists GarageBand, Opinion Podcasts, Spire Recorder and Movie Pro on the microphone’s product page. Since I’m a Mac owner, GarageBand is the most accessible option for me. It’s also free. The desktop setup is nearly identical to using the Raspberry for YouTube or Hangouts: Plug in the mic, select it as the input source in the app’s preferences menu and you’re ready to record.

If you’re wondering about using the device with an iPhone or iPad, the process is very similar. The only difference is GarageBand for iOS automatically detects when you have an “audio device” connected, so you have to confirm you want to turn on monitoring via headphones to avoid feedback. It’s slightly different, but the setup for an iOS handset or tablet is just as efficient.

Blue also says that you can use the Raspberry up close to your face or, if there’s more than one person speaking, position it at the center of a table. As with other USB mics, using the gear for a group is a workable option, but the audio quality suffers. I’d really recommend it only for things like conference calls instead of trying to track some high-quality audio. Even with the built-in tech, I still noticed some of that ambient noise coming through. This became more obvious as I placed the mic the farther away. Using the Raspberry alone at a close distance will provide the best results, unless you’re OK getting cozy with your colleagues.

At $ 200, the Raspberry is the same price as Blue’s Spark Digital, which came out in 2012. That microphone also touts USB and iOS connectivity with the same cardioid condenser capsule as the pro-grade Spark studio mic. What you forfeit with the Spark Digital is the IAD tech on the Raspberry that cuts down on the unwanted noise. The Spark Digital is also larger with a more substantial stand, so it’ll take up more space in your backpack.

If you’re after a microphone that adapts to what you’re tracking, and you don’t need to use it with your mobile device, you might want to look at Blue’s Nessie. The device will adapt to your vocals and instruments in real time to help you get solid audio without a lot of editing. The best part? Nixing iOS functionality will save you $ 100. Of course, if you just want a straightforward mic, the Blue Snowball is really affordable at $ 70. It’s been around for years, too — a testament to how beloved it is.

After my podcasting session with the Raspberry, the latest Blue mic is an attractive alternative to the Yeti I typically use. Built-in IAD technology provided cleaner audio than what I’m used to for my recording environment, living up to Blue’s promise of cutting out some of that extra noise. There’s also the much smaller form factor; the Raspberry takes up considerably less space than the Spark Digital or Yeti. This means it’s convenient if I need to pack it for a trip, but it doesn’t skimp on audio quality, either. When you tack on iOS connectivity, Blue seems to have a complete package here in a compact device — even if it does come with a $ 200 price tag.

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Here’s Apple’s workaround when your iPhone 7 home button fails

The iPhone 7’s non-moving home button may feel odd at first, but it has its perks… especially if it ever stops working. MacRumors forum goer iwayne has shown that the new iPhone will give you an on-screen home button (along with a warning that you may need repairs) if it thinks the physical key is broken. While that’s not much consolation if your phone needs to be fixed, it does mean that you can keep using your device in a relatively normal way while you’re waiting for your Genius Bar appointment.

The technology may be short-lived when there are reports of Apple possibly ditching physical home buttons entirely with the next iPhone. However, it’s not hard to see why Apple would push for a motionless button in the short term. It’s not just the customizable haptic feedback — the new design is theoretically less likely to break (since it doesn’t click down) and reduces the pressure to get an immediate fix. That helps Apple’s bottom line, of course, but it may also make you a happier owner in the long term.

The iPhone 7's home button failure warning

Image credit: iwayne, MacRumors Forums

Via: MacRumors

Source: MacRumors Forums

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Even Windows 10 tablets get an Instagram app before the iPad

Instagram brought its filter-driven social network to Windows 10 mobile back in the spring and now it’s doing the same for PCs and tablets running Microsoft’s OS. The photo and video app is now available for desktops and slates, meaning its now an option across all Windows 10 devices and a true universal app. Just like the versions for other operating systems, Direct, Explore and Stories are all tools here for viewing photos and videos alongside capture and editing features.

There is one caveat with the Windows 10 version of Instagram. You’ll need a PC or tablet with a touchscreen in order to upload your images or videos. Yes, it sounds strange, but at least Microsoft’s Surface line will give you full functionality. “Keep in mind that other devices running Windows 10 may not support certain features, like the ability to capture and upload photos and videos,” the app’s page in the Window’s Store explains.

While Windows 10 users are able to use the app across all of their devices, iPad owners are still dealing with the iPhone version for Instagram on Apple’s slates. Further proof we can’t always get what we want, I suppose.

Via: The Verge

Source: Windows Store, Instagram

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4Chan may have wiped Clinton campaign chief’s iPhone

Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief, John Podesta, might be having a particularly lousy week. In the wake of WikiLeaks dumps revealing Podesta’s email and the sensitive account details inside, intruders (apparently from 4Chan’s /pol board) claim to have hijacked his iCloud account and wiped his iOS devices. They may have been the ones who briefly compromised his Twitter account, too. Podesta’s social account is back in running order, but it’s not certain what happened to his iPhone and iPad.

As with earlier high-profile iCloud intrusions, this doesn’t appear to be a hack. Instead, the intruders took advantage of what knowledge WikiLeaks offered to reset passwords and take control. That suggests that Podesta wasn’t using two-factor authentication to protect his accounts — an odd oversight for someone long considered a high-profile target, especially when WikiLeaks data has circulated for days.

It’s difficult to know whether or not 4chan members are directly responsible, or did as much damage as they claimed they did. The screenshots are plausible, but it’s easy to imagine someone on the prank-prone site whipping up faked images to look like a champion to Clinton haters. We’ve reached out to the Clinton campaign to see if it can confirm any details and say what it’s doing next, although Podesta has already blamed the Russian government for the hack that led to the email breach. Whatever it says, it’s safe to presume that the campaign will be double-checking its security measures.

Via: Ars Technica, The Verge

Source: Pwn All The Things (Twitter 1), (2), (3)

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The foldable, fully-enclosed Passport drone is yours for $549

Foldability is all the hype in the drone world these days, as is the case with the GoPro Karma and the DJI Mavic. But before these two were announced, we already heard about Zero Zero Robotics’ Hover Camera 4K drone that is truly foldable and also fully enclosed — in the sense that you can grab hold it any way you want without getting cut by the propellers, plus you’re less likely to cause havoc in a room. That’s a rarity in today’s drone market. Today, we bring you the good news that this nifty little machine — under the new name “Passport” — is finally launching for $ 549.

For those who aren’t already familiar, the Passport is an ultra-lightweight and ultra-compact quadcopter powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Flight platform. It comes with a 13-megapixel still camera that can shoot 4K video, and there’s a foldable carbon-fiber enclosure for the propellers — the drone is about the size of a VHS cassette tape when folded, if you know what that is. Since the Passport only weighs 242 grams (it was originally aiming for 238 grams), it is not subject to the FAA’s Hobbyist Drone Registration.

There’s no controller; you’ll just be using your Android phone or iPhone to control it via WiFi — we’re told to expect a 20-meter range on a 5GHz connection, plus up to 10 minutes of hovering time per charge when there’s no wind. For the speed freaks, this machine can travel at up to 8 m/s or about 18 mph horizontally, but you’ll obviously want to keep a spare battery handy (the standard package comes with two batteries plus a dual-battery charger).

While $ 549 isn’t exactly cheap when compared to move conventional offerings, the Passport does come with some other handy features: It can automatically follow your face or body, orbit around a subject while filming it (similar to DJI’s Point Of Interest mode), and shoot a 360-degree panorama video. As before, the drone “takes off” by simply pressing the power button once while on standby, and then release it horizontally to let it hover right away; similarly, just grab it while it’s in mid-air and then point it downward to slow down the propellers, and then you can press the power button to stop it entirely. These are all made possible thanks to the Passport’s powerful processor, sonar, downward-facing camera plus other sensors.

For those who are willing to give the Passport a spin, you can place your order on the official website and take advantage of the $ 549 early-bird price; it’ll go up to $ 599 two weeks later. Meanwhile, stay tuned for our upcoming review.

Source: Hover Camera

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Facebook is still trending fake news stories

It’s been six weeks after Facebook’s “trending topics” section was publicly called out for promoting a blatantly false story about Megyn Kelly and very little — if anything — has changed. According to a new audit from the Washington Post, that Megyn Kelly incident was far from an isolated case.

In fact, after logging every trending story spotted from four different Facebook accounts during peak workday hours in September, the Post discovered at lease five trending stories that “were indisputably fake” and three others that were “profoundly inaccurate.” One such blatant example popped up the day after Apple’s big iPhone event and claimed that the Tim Cook said the iPhone 8 would have “Siri physically coming out of the phone and doing all the household chores. (The site in question was literally called “Faking News.”)

What’s more: the Post audit found even more times when the trending topics section surfaced straightforward press releases, Medium posts and links to iTunes or other online stores — in other words: things that aren’t news. While the newspaper notes that their results shouldn’t be taken as conclusive because the trending section is personalized to each user, it is clear evidence that Facebook’s switch from human editors to a completely algorithm-driven system still needs some work.

Source: Washington Post

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Apple will build an R&D center in China’s Silicon Valley

Apple needs China a little more than China needs Apple, which is why the company is bending over backwards to show some love to the Middle Kingdom. VentureBeat is reporting that the iPhone maker will open a research and development center in Shenzen, the Silicon Valley of Hardware. The site quotes Apple spokesperson Josh Rosenstock saying that the facility will help Apple’s engineers work “even more closely and collaboratively with our manufacturing partners.” Given that Shenzen is home to Foxconn City, the site where several Apple products are assembled, it makes sense that Apple would push for an official presence in the region. The site quotes local news sources as saying that Tim Cook held a meeting with Shenzen officials while at a Chinese innovation event, and was joined by Foxconn chief Terry Gou. It’s not the first time that Apple has pledged to build facilities in the country this year, with Cook pledging cash for a research and development building in Beijing back in August. That project is designed to increase cooperation with a country that’s been increasingly wary of Apple’s presence.

China very quickly became a key driver of iPhone growth for Apple, but as the smartphone market has stalled, those figures have begun to droop. The firm wants to demonstrate that it’s in for the long haul, however, and is using its financial muscle to put down roots in the country to assuage twitchy regulators. As well as pledging to build two facilities, the company pumped $ 1 billion into Uber-rival Didi Chuxing (which subsequently merged with its frenemy). That sort of cash should go some way in easing the fears of officials who want to protect local companies, which is one of the reasons China banned the iTunes Movie and iBooks stores earlier this year.

Source: VentureBeat

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Dropbox for iOS lets you sign PDFs, adds iMessage app

Dropbox isn’t a company that makes flashy, high-profile changes to its products. Instead, they’re all about refinement, making small changes over time that end up making things faster and easier for customers. That’s happening today with the Dropbox iOS app: the company is rolling out five new features, with another important one, iPad split-screen multitasking, coming soon. None of the new features are groundbreaking on their own, but they take advantage of some new iOS 10 features and add up to a Dropbox experience that makes it easier for the company’s customers to Get Things Done.

First up is the ability to add your signature to PDFs stored in Dropbox — you can drop a text field anywhere in a document that you want to type in, and you can also open up a window to trace your signature on your device’s touchscreen. Much like the document scanning feature Dropbox added in June, this isn’t something you’ll use every day, but it could be a lifesaver when you need it. It’s certainly a lot easier than printing out, signing, scanning and then emailing a document like a lease or school permission slip. I’ve done that dance far too often lately and would be happy to try Dropbox’s workflow.

The next set of new features relies on iOS 10’s new capabilities. You can now share files through iMessage — the app shows up in the iMessage app area, and tapping it brings up a list of your most recent files. When you send them through iMessage, the recipient will get a little preview of the document. That’s an improvement on how things worked before; you could send files through iMessage by using the share panel inside the Dropbox app, but the recipient would only get an unwieldy link, with no info on what the file they were going to receive was.

Dropbox’s “today” screen widget is also more useful now. Instead of just showing a list of your recently edited files, there are three shortcuts that let you scan a document, upload a photo or create a new Microsoft Office file. The scanner shortcut seems particularly useful; a swipe and a tap will let you capture that receipt you need for expenses before you forget about it and lose it forever.

There’s also a new version control feature for mobile: if you’re in a shared file, you’ll receive a little notification if someone else has made changes to the document. You can then just tap to refresh and see what’s changed. Given that staying in sync across shared documents remains one of the trickiest things to do, this is a most welcome change — although we don’t imagine that most people do so much work on their phones that they’ll need to be alerted of changes in real time. It’s still helpful for those doing a lot of work on their mobile devices, though.

The last few updates are for the iPad. If you’re watching a video stored in your Dropbox, you can now view it in the picture-in-picture mode Apple added to iOS 9 last year. The other, more useful update is “coming soon” — that’s full split-screen support. That’s one of the most important things a good iPad app can offer at this point, and it’s a little surprising that it took Dropbox a year to get there. But if you have documents stored in Dropbox that you want to keep an eye on while writing or browsing the web or doing anything else, this feature will finally make that possible.

Matt Pan from Dropbox told me that these features were the latest efforts to both bring the full desktop functionality of the program to mobile as well as continue the company’s mission to offer its tools to users inside software they’re already using. That latter case is what Dropbox is doing with iMessage and what it has already done with Microsoft Office. Not everyone will automatically find a use for each new tool — but if you use Dropbox, probably at least one of these new features will be handy, and it’s entirely possible you’ll find a few others come in handy down the line. The update rolls out for iPhone and iPad today, and split-screen view on the iPad will arrive “in the coming weeks.”

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Our fingerprints, eyes and faces will replace passwords

Passwords are a pain in the ass. They’re either easy to crack or hard to remember, and when breaches occur you have to come up with a whole new one. So people are trying to do away with passwords altogether, and so far, fingerprint scanners are doing the job nicely.

Still, fingerprints alone are not enough. Online security has become increasingly important, forcing service providers to come up with better measures such as two-factor authentication to defend user information. Companies are turning to other parts of our bodies to find biometric complements that are up to the task, and our faces and eyes are at the top of the list. Although facial and eye-based recognition appear gimmicky for now (the Galaxy Note 7’s iris scanner, anyone?), they may soon become as prevalent and popular as fingerprint scanners. That pairing could eradicate passwords and clunky text-message two-factor verification altogether, making it a completely biometric process.

Before you brush the notion aside, think about the history of fingerprint scanners on smartphones. After Apple first put Touch ID on the iPhone 5s in 2013, people pointed out that it didn’t work very well and that it wasn’t secure. But Apple soldiered on, improving the hardware and implementing more useful features. Since then, many other tech giants have followed suit. Today, they’re basically a given feature on flagship Samsung, Nexus (or Pixel), LG and HTC phones, and are even spreading to more affordable handsets such as the $ 99 ZMax Pro, the $ 200 Huawei Honor 5X, the $ 400 OnePlus 3 and the $ 400 ZTE Axon 7. We can expect to see them everywhere soon, said Sayeed Choudhury, Qualcomm’s senior director of product management.

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Despite the proliferation of fingerprint sensors, companies continue to chase convenience and novelty by introducing new biometric methods of logging in. We started seeing facial recognition as a method of identification when Google first revealed Face Unlock on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Years later, eye-print authentication started popping up on phones such as the ZTE Grand S3 and the Alcatel Idol 3. The latter two used a retinal scan to match the user by looking at the full eye and veins.

The good thing about this method, said Choudhury, was that it didn’t require additional hardware — you could just use the selfie camera. The challenge in retinal scanning is in its computation and algorithms, which Choudhury said is “very heavyweight” and “almost always uses the GPU in addition to the CPU.” This means it takes longer to detect and recognize your prints. Indeed, in my experience reviewing the Eyeverify system on ZTE and Eye-D on the Alcatel Idol 3, snapping a pic of my eyes to unlock the phones was always excruciatingly slow.

In contrast, iris scanning, which was one of the highlights of the Galaxy Note 7 when it launched (and before all that exploding hoopla), uses more compact algorithms, said Choudhury. That means faster detection and a shorter wait time. Plus, iris scanning has been around for a long time. People have been using it to get into secure labs, buildings and even through airport security (Global Entry), so the technology is pretty mature. It’s also more secure than fingerprints. According to Choudhury, “Iris-recognition technologies found in devices today identify three to five times more ‘feature markers’ to classify a specific iris versus what today’s fingerprint technologies can do.” The bad news with iris scanning, though, is it requires an infrared (IR) camera, which isn’t on many phones. But Samsung isn’t alone in looking to implement it — other brands will likely follow suit.

One of the biggest forces pushing the move toward eye-based authentication is the payments industry, said Choudhury. “What we’re seeing, driven by the mobile payments industry, is that both iris and retina biometrics are going to be incorporated in many more devices,” he said. Mobile payments are a “killer-use case,” according to him, and it certainly has a history of forcing even the most stubborn companies to adopt new technologies. The most obvious example of this would be Apple finally incorporating NFC into the iPhone 6 to enable its payment system, after years of resisting the tech that’s proliferated in Android phones.

Payments giant Mastercard is one of the proponents of the biometric security bandwagon, which encompasses fingerprints, eyes and faces. “We want to remove passwords,” said Ajay Bhalla, president of global enterprise risk and security at Mastercard. “Passwords are a big problem for people — they keep forgetting it or they use passwords which are very simple and dumb,” said Bhalla.

The company has been researching biometric-authentication methods using facial recognition, eye-based tech, fingerprints, heartbeats and voice, because these are unique to the user and don’t require memorizing or guesswork. It found fingerprints and face detection to be the most easily scalable. “We feel it’s reached a stage where it can become mainstream — it’s on devices, and consumers understand it,” said Bhalla.

Mastercard recently launched its “selfie pay” authentication method in Europe via its Identity Check Mobile app. The feature lets you authorize transactions by taking a portrait of yourself and blinking to prove it’s you and not a picture some wannabe hacker printed.

While it may sound cheesy to hold up your phone and pose for a picture each time you want to buy something, the company claims it is well-received. According to research from its 2015 trials, 90 percent of respondents found the Identity Check app more convenient than what they had been using. Seventy-one percent rated facial recognition as “highly convenient,” while 93 percent rated fingerprint recognition the same.

The popularity, prevalence and convenience of fingerprint scanning means it is here to stay, and by no means are face- and eye-recognition meant to replace it. Both Choudhury and Bhalla see the newer method as a complement to fingerprints, providing a more convenient second-factor authentication as opposed to entering a text code sent to your phone. While the tech we have right now may not be fast or secure enough to be truly convenient and helpful, we’re getting close. Using the adoption of fingerprint scanners as a model, Choudhury estimated that we are five years away from iris scanners and face detection becoming just as widespread. Until then, we’ll have to deal with changing our crappy passwords every so often and hope we don’t forget them.

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Olloclip’s new lenses attach quickly to your iPhone 7

Now that there are new iPhones with revised cameras, many smartphone photographers are going to want new Olloclip lenses. Thankfully, they’ve arrived… and Olloclip didn’t just tweak the connectors and call it a day. Its new Core, Active and Macro Pro lens sets not only have improved optics (“premium multi-element coated glass,” Olloclip says), but an improved interchangeable lens system. Called Connect, it separates the frame on your phone from the lens housings. This lets them quickly attach to and align with your iPhone’s camera, even if you have a screen protector. You should spend less time swapping lenses and more time shooting, in other words.

The lenses themselves aren’t a revolution, but they’ll cover most of your photographic needs. The $ 100 Core Lens kit includes fisheye, 120-degree wide-angle and 15X macro lenses that prioritize flexibility above all else. You can get it with a protective case for $ 120. The $ 80 Macro Pro set includes 7X, 15X and 21X lenses for extreme close-ups, while the $ 120 Active Lens bundle includes both a 2X telephoto lens and a 155-degree ultra-wide lens to capture those outdoor adventures.

You can pre-order all of the lens kits today ahead of the planned early November launch. You may want to choose your lenses carefully if you have an iPhone 7 Plus, however. There’s no mention of taking advantage of the Plus’ longer-range secondary camera — you’re not going to combine that extra zoom with Olloclip’s other optical tricks.

Via: Mashable

Source: Olloclip (PR Newswire)

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