What we’re buying: Lightroom on a new iPhone, Google’s Pixel 2 cases

This month, we’re making the most of our devices, whether that’s by testing mobile photo-editing apps, trying out an iPad keyboard that matches its surroundings, or simply just laying down a little too much cash for a pretty-looking Pixel 2 phone case.


Timothy J. Seppala

Timothy J. Seppala
Associate Editor

I’ve been using Adobe’s Lightroom on my phone for a few years now. It’s never been the most user-friendly image-editing suite for iPhone (that’d be Google’s Snapseed), but it makes up for that shortcoming with sheer power. Adobe focused on adding incredibly useful features to the mobile app, like support for both editing and capturing uncompressed RAW files and high-dynamic-range (HDR) photos.

Since I upgraded to the iPhone 8 Plus, the app has gotten even more useful. This is mainly because of the extra processing power afforded by the A11 Bionic processor. While Apple crowed at launch about how much games and AR would benefit from the chip, what won me over was that now it takes only a few seconds to export an edited RAW file at max resolution. On my old iPhone 6s, that would take anywhere from 20 to 30 seconds. In that time, I can export and upload five or six photos to Instagram on Apple’s second-newest phone. What’s more, on my old phone, using the “professional” mode brought everything to a grinding halt. Setting exposure and ISO was a chore, and a handful of adjustments were grayed out because the hardware wasn’t capable enough. Dragging the white-balance selector around was a stuttery experience too.

That isn’t the case with the 8 Plus, but I’m usually getting better results shooting in auto or HDR mode; I shoot only full manual with my Nikon, but I’m fine letting the computer take over on my phone.

More than that, even with the 8 Plus, making adjustments to ISO and shutter speed sometimes brings the app to a crawl. It’s intermittent, though, and I rarely use the pro setting, so it’s not a huge deal. Given how buggy iOS 11 has been for me, I’m willing to blame the system software and not Lightroom.

This brings us to HDR. Apple has made huge strides with the iOS camera app’s HDR setting (it’s turned on by default out of the box) and, depending on the use case, it often produces better photos than Lightroom does — especially in low-light situations. That probably has a lot to do with the new hardware’s dedicated image signal processor. Snapping a photo at a concert using Lightroom results in an unusable image full of purple grain where the shadows are, and outdoor shots at dusk typically don’t fare a whole lot better.

For instance, a photo taken of the gaping hole in my parents’ garage roof blew out all the highlights and turned everything a sickly yellow, while the default camera app looked approximately like what I saw onscreen when I hit the shutter. Daylight HDR photos usually look overprocessed and unnatural, but every now and again the shadows and highlights aren’t blown out and I get better results than with the iOS camera.

As far as actual editing goes, Lightroom is as good as it ever was, if not a little better, thanks to the device I’m using it on. Aside from the speed improvements I mentioned earlier, editing on the 8 Plus’ bigger screen is a lot more enjoyable than on my 6s. It’s also easier to see fine details and how different adjustments like sharpening or clarity affect them. Holding my phone in landscape makes editing an even more comfortable experience. Editing tools tuck into the right rail and expand when I tap on them, and disappear just as quickly.

I keep mobile photos and shots taken with my Nikon camera siloed off from one another and typically don’t edit iPhone shots anywhere but on my phone. And for that, Lightroom CC is great. It doesn’t quite allow for the more stylized edits I favor for my DSLR stuff, but for throwing a set of pictures to Instagram after an impromptu photo walk through my neighborhood, it does the trick. And if I want to get really crazy once I get back to my laptop, I can always use the Lightroom camera to grab some RAW files. Will the app’s shortcomings, like wonky HDR, stop me from using it? No, because for me it’s still better than Snapseed’s mostly gimmicky editing tools and iOS’ bare-bones options for tweaking.


Rob LeFebvre
Contributing Editor

There are plenty of reasons to use an external keyboard with an iPad, including better accuracy and comfort when typing for extended periods. I have my favorites, of course, like the Logitech K811, which can hold up to three different devices in its memory. However, being able to physically attach one onto an iPad is my own personal holy grail for iOS-capable input devices. The Brydge 10.5 iPad Pro keyboard is what I’ve been looking for — an input device that makes my iPad look like a laptop with a good-looking, protective form factor. It has backlit keys, doubles as a clamshell case for your 10.5-inch iPad Pro and comes in space gray, silver, gold or rose gold to match the finish on your precious iOS device, turning it into a MacBook mini of sorts. The keyboard has the same thickness and rounded design as the iPad Pro 10.5-inch, making it the perfect companion for my tablet of choice. It also works with any other device as a standard Bluetooth keyboard, of course.

The Brydge keyboard has nicely spaced keys, and, while they’re not full-size, they are easy to hit and use, even when touch typing. The keys are responsive, and the F and J keys both have a little raised bump on the lower half so you know where to place your fingers for touch typing — just like a MacBook.

At first, I had a little trouble hitting them with enough force to register a key press, but I was able to train my fingers to do so within just a few minutes. There are three brightness settings (low, medium and high) for the backlit keyboard so you can match the brightness of the keyboard to the ambient light from your iPad and the room. There’s even a small handrest below the keys themselves — not enough room to rest my admittedly large hands in their entirety, but roomy enough to rest part of them during long typing sessions.

Why not just get an Apple-made Smart Keyboard, though, which is thinner and adds less weight to your iPad? Well, aside from the extra $ 20 it costs and the lack of backlit keys, Apple’s own input device is pretty flimsy in comparison. Sure, it’s more spill-resistant than the Brydge, but the Smart Keyboard isn’t really my favorite way to type on an iPad when it’s in my lap; it feels flimsy. The Brydge, however, is made of the same metal construction as the iPad itself. The Brydge’s hinge keeps the iPad at the exact angle I want without flopping around at all. I’m able to use it on my lap when I sit with my legs extended to my coffee table in front of me (my usual posture), as well as in a cross-legged position while sitting on my bed or in a large chair. I can also see it being pretty fantastic for tiny lap trays in the coach section of an airliner, where a larger MacBook might have trouble fitting in (especially if you’re behind one of those travelers who insist on leaning their seat back during the flight).

The Brydge feels so much like typing on my MacBook Pro that I have to keep reminding myself to touch the screen and not search for a touchpad. It’s a solid, useful, stylish peripheral that has boosted my writing productivity on my iPad.

Mat Smith, Engadget


Mat Smith

Mat Smith
Bureau Chief, UK

I like to hop between Android and iOS phones, but one of the minor frustrations I’ve found with Google-powered smartphones is the relative lack of case options. If it’s not an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy slab, there’s often not much to choose from, or it’s a bunch of unremarkable plastic or rubbery sleeves. I wish I were brave enough to carry my phones around “nude,” without a case, but that’s not going to happen.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Google’s own Pixel 2 family launched with official case options that are actually attractive, eye-catching and well, desirable. When all phones are mostly all the same — slabs of metal and plastic in metallic hues — the case represents one last attempt to deliver some kind of self-expression. I have the completely black Pixel 2, which means that my case, the “midnight” color, is the only way I can get a splash of neon orange on my power button. (The “cement” number also tempted me with its minty blue button.)

The case is downright tactile: the outside is a knitted fabric slightly similar to the Google Home Mini speaker, a nylon-polyester material with a pixelated look (get it?) that stands out. It’s still a solid case, and that does mean it adds a bit of thickness to either the Pixel 2 or the Pixel 2 XL, but neither of these phones was particularly chunky to begin with — it’s not a major complaint, but if you wanted a slender case for your phone that only minutely affects its thickness, this isn’t the one for you. Cleverly, despite its rigidity, these cases are compatible with the squeeze-to-launch Google Assistant motion. I rarely use the function, but I was surprised that something so solid could still deliver my squeezing efforts. That “welded silicone” logo on the rear of the case doesn’t come cheap ($ 40 / £35), but the fabric case is now making my Pixel 2 a conversation point. And it’s a positive one.


“IRL” is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they’re buying, using, playing and streaming.

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Texas authorities serve Apple a warrant for mass shooter’s iPhone

Authorities are persisting in their efforts to get access to the Texas mass shooter’s iPhone despite having missed an early opportunity. The San Antonio Express-News has learned that Texas Rangers served Apple warrants for data on both the perpetrator’s iPhone SE and a basic LG cellphone. In the case of the iPhone, the state law enforcement unit wants access to both local and iCloud info (such as calls, messages and photos) produced since January 1st, 2016.

It’s not known whether officials have obtained information since the warrants were obtained on November 9th. The company declined to comment to the Express-News citing a policy against speaking about law enforcement matters. In a previous statement, though, Apple said it had offered assistance to the FBI “immediately” after a November 7th press conference on the mass shooting, and vowed to “expedite” its response. The FBI didn’t reach out for help.

The Rangers’ warrant puts Apple in a difficult position. Although at least some iCloud data is accessible with a warrant, the iPhone itself is another issue. Police missed their opportunity to use the shooter’s fingerprint to unlock the phone without a passcode, and the nature of iOS’ encryption makes it very difficult for Apple and anyone else to access locked-down data. In the case of the San Bernardino attack, the FBI paid security experts at Cellebrite to get to a shooter’s files. Apple may once again be faced with a situation where it can’t fully comply with data requests.

Via: AppleInsider, TechCrunch

Source: My San Antonio

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Apple pushes iOS fix for unresponsive iPhone X screens in cold weather

Last week, reports trickled in that the brand-new iPhone X’s screen was unresponsive in cold weather. Apple has rushed out a new iOS update (version 11.1.2) to quick-fix the issue, which is available now to download.

The new update also fixes an issue that distorts Live Photos and videos shot with the iPhone X. It’s the second time in as many weeks that Apple has pumped out an iOS patch to fix an annoying flaw in the mobile operating system. Last week, it was the autocorrect flaw that switched the letter ‘i’ for gibberish.

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Apple’s 2019 iPhone could have a rear-facing 3D sensor

Apple has made no secret of its interest in augmented reality (AR) — in interviews CEO Tim Cook gives it as much attention as sales growth. Now, it’s rumoured that the company’s 2019 iPhone release will come with a rear-facing 3D sensor, potentially turning the model into a leading AR device.

People familiar with the plan have revealed that the sensor would complement, not replace, the existing TrueDepth sensor on the front of the iPhone X, Bloomberg reports. The current technology, which supports Apple’s Face ID, works by projecting a pattern of 30,000 laser dots onto the user’s face, measuring distortion to generate a 3D image for authentication. The proposed sensor would use a “time-of-flight” method instead, calculating the time it takes for a laser to hit surrounding objects, creating a 3D image from that.

Apple released ARKit this year, a software tool that helps developers make AR-based apps for iPhone. It’s proven successful with basic AR tasks, but struggles with more complex visuals and lacks depth perception. It’s thought a rear-facing 3D sensor would help mitigate these issues. However, sources say that the tech is still in its infancy, and might not be used in the final version of the phone. But there’s certainly no shortage of companies manufacturing time-of-flight sensors, so if it doesn’t make it into the 2019 model, it’s likely that it — or some kind of incarnation of the technology — will follow soon after.

Source: Bloomberg

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Some iPhone X units suffer from crackling speakers at high volume

The iPhone X appears to have multiple teething troubles, albeit ones that aren’t necessarily common. Some users on Reddit, MacRumors and Twitter report that the new handset’s top speaker is crackling at higher volume levels. The severity varies, but it happens regardless of what you’re playing and persists with replacement units. It doesn’t appear to affect most units, but it’s common enough that it’s not necessarily an isolated issue.

We’ve asked Apple for comment and will keep you updated. Apple support reps are already collecting diagnostic info, so they’re at least investigating the reports.

It’s difficult to pin down a cause at this stage. Although the differing levels of the problem suggest the crackling could be a hardware issue, this comes mere weeks after Apple fixed a software flaw that produced crackles on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. If it’s a related issue, the company could theoretically push out a patch that addresses the problem without replacements. Either way, this and other problems are a reminder that cutting-edge phones can have their share of early glitches — it can take time before manufacturers iron out the kinks.

Via: MacRumors

Source: Reddit

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Security firm claims to thwart iPhone X’s Face ID with a mask

When Apple introduced Face ID security alongside the iPhone X, it boasted that even Hollywood-quality masks couldn’t fool the system. It might not be a question of movie-like authenticity, however — security researchers at Bkav claim to have thwarted Face ID by using a specially-built mask. Rather than strive for absolute realism, the team built its mask with the aim of tricking the depth-mapping technology. The creation uses hand-crafted “skin” made specifically to exploit Face ID, while 3D printing produced the face model. Other parts, such as the eyes, are 2D images. The proof of concept appears to work, as you can see in the clip below. The question is: do iPhone X owners actually have to worry about it?

The researchers maintain that they didn’t have to ‘cheat’ to make this work. The iPhone X was trained from a real person’s face, and it only required roughly $ 150 in supplies (not including the off-the-shelf 3D printer). The demo shows Face ID working in one try, too, although it’s not clear how many false starts Bkav had before producing a mask that worked smoothly. The company says it started working on the mask on November 5th, so the completed project took about 5 days.

When asked for comment, Apple pointed us to its security white paper outlining how Face ID detects faces and authenticates users.

Is this a practical security concern for most people? Not necessarily. Bkav is quick to acknowledge that the effort involved makes it difficult to compromise “normal users.” As with fake fingers, this approach is more of a concern for politicians, celebrities and law enforcement agents whose value is so high that they’re worth days of effort. If someone is so determined to get into your phone that they build a custom mask and have the opportunity to use it, you have much larger security concerns than whether or not Face ID is working.

More than anything, the seeming achievement emphasizes that biometric sign-ins are usually about convenience, not completely foolproof security. They make reasonable security painless enough that you’re more likely to use it instead of leaving your device unprotected. If someone is really, truly determined to get into your phone, there’s a real chance they will — this is more to deter thieves and nosy acquaintances who are likely to give up if they don’t get in after a few attempts.

Source: Bkav

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Some iPhone X displays have a nasty green line

The iPhone X’s design revolves around its all-encompassing OLED display, so you can imagine the heartbreak when that display is glitchy… and unfortunately, it looks like a handful of owners are going through that pain. People on Apple’s forums, Reddit and elsewhere are reporting a glitch where a green line runs down the left or right edge of the display, regardless of what’s happening on-screen. This doesn’t appear to affect the functionality, but it’s clearly annoying.

We’ve asked Apple for comment on the issue. It doesn’t appear that restarts or other common software solutions fix it, though, and this might be strictly a hardware problem. It’s not necessarily an overscan line like you might see on a TV, either. No matter what, it’s safe to say that you can get a replacement if the usual troubleshooting proves fruitless.

It’s unclear how many people are affected by the green line, although it doesn’t appear to be a widespread issue. Between this and the (software-fixable) cold weather responsiveness issue, though, it appears that the iPhone X has some teething troubles. That’s not entirely surprising. It’s Apple’s first phone to use an OLED screen, and it’s using a custom (Samsung-manufactured) panel at that — there may be a learning curve involved as the companies master their production techniques. As it is, Samsung has had problems with its own OLED phones. Provided the iPhone X flaw is a hardware issue, it illustrates the broader issues with manufacturing cutting edge OLED screens.

Via: 9to5Mac

Source: Apple Communities, Reddit, Lejia Peng (Twitter)

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Soderbergh’s experimental ‘Mosaic’ HBO series hits iPhone and Apple TV

Director Steven Soderbergh has made a name for himself by pushing cinematic boundaries, so it’s no surprise that his upcoming series for HBO, Mosaic, isn’t your usual TV fare. Today, he’s launching the Mosaic app on iPhone and Apple TV (with Android and web versions to follow soon), which will let you decide how you watch the show. It’s not quite “choose your own adventure,” since you’re not making any decisions on the show’s outcome. Instead, the app, which was developed by PodOp, lets you determine how Mosaic’s narrative flows.

The first episode introduces you to Olivia Lake, an author played by Sharon Stone. After viewing that, the narrative path branches into two episodes. You could just watch them in parallel, or you could follow the path down all the way to the end, then go back and catch up on what you’ve missed. You can also unlock additional clips, documents and recordings to flesh out the story. HBO is making all 7.5 hours of the series available in the app, but it’s also going to air a six-hour version of the series edited by Soderbergh (naturally) on January 22nd.

“While branching narratives have been around forever, technology now allows, I hope, for a more elegant form of engagement than used to be possible,” Soderbergh said in a statement. “At no point were we reverse-engineering the story to fit an existing piece of technology; the story was being created in lockstep with the technical team. The fluidity of that relationship made me feel comfortable because I wanted it to be a simple, intuitive experience.”

Conceptually, Mosaic sounds similar to what Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz attempted with the fourth season of that show on Netflix. He originally said you’d be able to watch those episodes in any order, but then later backtracked on that suggestion. Francis Ford Coppola also tried something similar with Twixt in 2011, a film that he could “remix” narratively with an iPad. He wanted to tour with the movie and edit it live, but eventually settled for a traditional release.

HBO

For Soderbergh, Mosaic is just the latest in a string of TV experiments. His Cinemax series, The Knick, tackled the early days of medical surgery with an anachronistic synth-heavy score. Soderbergh’s film The Girlfriend Experience is now a TV show, as well, and its second season is also dabbling with branching narratives. Soderbergh says he’s working on two more series using the Mosaic platform. Eventually, he hopes to open it up to other directors.

I’ve only seen part of Mosaic’s first episode, but I’ll definitely be devouring the entire series as soon as I can. It’s unclear if the app will appeal to anyone beyond Soderbergh fans and cinephiles, though. In the age of bingewatching, it seems like more viewers simply want to sit back and consume hours of content without lifting a finger.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Mosaic (iTunes Store), HBO

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Samsung trolls every generation of the iPhone in one video

If you want to start your week with a little bit of tech shade, check out Samsung’s new Galaxy commercial. The ad follows a young man through the years as he meets and falls for a young woman. However, the focus of each touching moment in their blossoming relationship is how his iPhone is inferior to her Samsung Galaxy and Samsung makes sure to put every single downside of owning an iPhone on blast. That includes waiting in lines for the new model, inadequate photo storage space, lack of water resistance and, of course, the headphone dongle. There’s even a not-so-subtle swipe at the iPhone X’s notch. And if all of that wasn’t enough, there’s the ad’s title — “Samsung Galaxy: Growing Up.”

You can watch the ad below and if you want to compare the latest iPhone and Samsung Galaxy models yourself, you can check out our reviews of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, the iPhone X, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

Source: Samsung

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Apple reminds iPhone X owners they’re using an OLED display

Apple’s bezel-less “X” is the first iPhone with an OLED screen — a technology known for its greater contrast and saturation, but also for its tendency to get burn-in. To make sure customers understand that their $ 1,000 phone might suffer from image persistence in the future, the tech titan has updated the iPhone X’s display support page to explain how an OLED screen works.

The company explains that the “slight shifts in color and hue” when viewing the screen off-angle (read: not straight on) are perfectly normal. It also says OLEDs exhibit slight visual changes with long-term use, such as showing remnants of a high-contrast image displayed on the screen for extended periods of time even when it’s already showing another image.

Those two are also the most common issues Pixel 2 XL owners have with their Android Oreo devices. By pre-empting potential complaints, Apple is most likely trying to avoid facing a similar debacle. In Google’s case, though, some customers’ complaints might be warranted, since they reportedly got burn-in as soon as a week after their purchase.

Despite the warning, Apple assures customers that their pricey new phones aren’t going to have less-than-perfect displays anytime soon. The company says it “engineered the Super Retina display to be the best in the industry in reducing the effects of OLED “burn-in.” And, as AppleInsider notes, iPhone X uses OLED made by Samsung. The Korean conglomerate also manufactures OLED screens for Pixel 2, which doesn’t suffer from the same issues as its bigger sibling.

Via: Apple Insider

Source: Apple Support

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