Mobile Photography Hot Tips: How to Dump that DSLR for a Smartphone Camera?

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Smartphones. They are everywhere. And you can even shoot pictures for microstock agencies right from your mobile! The phenomenal technology that goes into smartphones has made it the go to device for all your pictures moments.

However, for DSLR and DCC camera users, the transition might be a little more disturbing to adapt to as the smartphone camera operates more like a neutered digital compact camera. Many have even heard of the virtues of Smarphone photography that mirrors the capability and even exceeds traditional compact cameras with the use of an app. Here are some tips to transition smoothly from DSLR to Smartphone shooting.

Why no buttons for manual controls?

Android smartphones actually do have manual controls but it comes via a mobile app, you can do this via a playstore app but don’t expect it to be at the same level as a DCC or DSLR. You might be able to choose a variable shutter speed for those action shots with it but much of what it does is still very hardware dependent. For example, shooting at the highest or lowest shutter speed depends on your smartphone camera’s capability. Some devices offer only 1/15 sec of exposure while others can do 1 second. It’s not perfect for low light but tell me, how often do you even shoot in low light unless you were born a vampire and love hanging out only at night?

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Next beef is….few, if any would be insane enough to shoot fast action sports with a mobile device but for slower exposures, it should be possible, except that the sensor can’t possibly hold up to that found on a DSLR. But in daylight, who gives a damn? Even in some low light situations, the HDR+ mode on some smarpthones such as the Nexus 6 uses computational algorithms to get better exposure so turning to manual controls is starting to sound pretty dated.

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Selfie Sticks can be used with Camera Remote

10341774-1Every wondered what to do with your Android Watch…besides telling time? Well you can use that with your Selfie sticked Android device for a better view. Yes, there is an App for Android wear that lets you pair your Android watch to your Andriod Smartphone for use on a selfie stick. Now, we all know that selfie sticks are made for selfies but do you know that you can also use it to aim from a higher angle? Trying doing that with you DSLR!

For this trick, you need to have Android wear paired as a controller and display screen for your mobile device. Once you get the angle you want which you can view on your watch, just hit the shutter button on your Android Watch app and you have your picture.

DNG files from your Android

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DNG support is available for devices running Android Lollipop however to use it, you need to have an app. One of the problems is that DNG support was included in an API which was not widely used by device manufacturers for fear that it would stuff up your SD card or internal storage for photos. Think about it. If you have a 16 megapixel camera, a DNG file could be as much as 16MB…so unless you want it, you have to get an app for it.

DNG is far more versatile for now. Google Photos allows you to upload directly to the Cloud as long as it is below 16MB in file size…for free.

No Aperture settings so there is No Bokeh?

This is true. The majority of smartphones do not have aperture controls. So if you suddenly went manual, to obtain Bokeh blurs, you’d be disappointed. But that’s not to say it is impossible. Devices running Android Lollipop 5.0 have access to Google’s Camera App that gives you Bokeh effects.

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Bokeh as rendered on Google Camera App

GPS lets you record metadata into Photos

Mid to high end DSLRs from Nikon, Sony and Canon have built in GPS capability for location tracking but for smartphones, this comes ready built and available with a flick of a switch. For Android devices, you only need to switch this on in your settings menu for GPS to track and embed the location meta data for all your images.

367659129_3e288b81f2There is no need to buy a third party device like the Sony thingy you see here. Geo location can also be enabled with the help of an app on your smartphone should you happen to use a dated DSLR—GPS metadata has to be paired with a desktop app to sync the data. Yes, there is an app for that but these days, why bother when you can shoot directly from your smart mobile device?

Digital Zooming =  Cropping your Photo

These days, who needs a bigger optical zoom when you have the ability to crop an image for composition sake? Imagine this for a moment. The new Galaxy Note 5 has a 16 megapixel sensor, which gives you TWICE the image of that from an iPhone 6 which has 8 megapixels, so even if you crop your Galaxy Note 5 image in half, you still have a 8 megapixel picture! Cropping your photo is like telephoto zooming except that the more you zoom in, the resulting image would be smaller.

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So if you have a Sony Xperia or Panasonic CM1 with a 20 megapixel sensor as your picture canvas, why bother with a telephoto lens? This image capture logic was put to good use with Nokia’s 1020 and 808 smartphones which has 40 megapixel cameras.

Sell what you Shoot instantly!

Say you have a great picture moment and what to sell it online as oppose to attracting Facebook envy when you put it up for all to see, well you can do it directly with apps such as EyeEm, 500ppx, Clashshot, etc, etc. Your device could earn you decent beer money if you are up and about as the Microstock business has all but decimated the stock image library business.

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People want to buy cheap photos, and not pay royalties and where possible, thereby putting professional photographers out of business. There is no business like the stock image business if you want to tip your toes into these waters so why keep those great photo moments when you can sell them with an app.

Postproduction work can be done on your Smartphone

With a DSLR, you have to lug around a computer to do any serious post production enhancements or for that matter, use a tablet computer. But all this don’t make cents when you are not shooting for money. Those casual photos can be easily edited on the fly with a free app like Snapseed on iOS or Android and posted online. When you travel, the extra space you save in baggage handling would be a God send without that Notebook computer!

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Original JPG image from compact digital camera

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Captured on a Digital camera and later edited on AfterFocus Pro and Snapseed.

Why Casual Shooters are Dumping their DSLRs

Casual shooters, you belong to a different class of picture creators. You don’t shoot professionally as quitting your day job just to become a photographer is like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. So why not shoot on the side and sell what you have when there is a market for it? It’s like being a home gardener, when you have more than you need, why not sell those to earn some extra cash?

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First, thinking that you can earn a decent income just by doing what you enjoy doing is a dangerous sport. Those who do are the handful who have built a pool of savings to do what they please in the world so going out to just shoot beautiful pictures is more of a hobby.

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Captured and edited entirely on Android Smartphone

People like Tom Anderson formerly of Myspace and Trey Ratcliff of stuckincustoms.com are exceptions rather than the rule. To make money from photography, you’d need to built up your own fan base and in the process go on lectures and speaking engagements. Selling prints and licensing isn’t a big deal if your name isn’t out there for the world to notice. There rest of the professionals you see in this world who call themselves photographers are an old breed of craftsmen, they make or stage photos for commercial benefit.

Mobile photography frees ourselves from the traditional constraints of photography while allowing ourselves to indulge in our past time whenever and wherever we want.

However there is no curing the gear envy that people have from holding a large camera. If you want to shoot pictures with a hefty DSLR, it better be for professional reasons. Casual shooters who have far less demand on digital imaging would do no wrong to dump that DSLR in this day and age because carrying one can be a real bitch.

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Mobile Apps that help you make Money

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So you got yourself a rather expensive mobile toy and besides Facebook, you really are just wasting time on it playing games and taking photos. But do you know that you can make some beer money for yourself while at it? The technology is here and it’s up to you to get the ball rolling.

Here are some of the possibilities listed below.

Broadcast your gameplay on Twitch and YouTube

These are just two of the most popular channels to make money that has taken the world by storm. Gaming is a big market and there are so called pro gamers who spend all their time making videos online for their gameplay as a guide for newbies on YouTube. Think of PewDiePie, who started recording his gameplay and posting it to YouTube, he’s now elevated himself to the status of Internet Celebrity with his whimsical channel on cold hard Swedish humor. How could a country that gave us Abba in the 70s produce such talent is beyond me. maybe it has to do with their fermented herring, Surstromming? Which enjoys the status of being the most horrible tasting food next to Icelandic fermented shark meat. PewDiePie makes an average of US$4 million a year from this alone!

Twitch is a gaming only site where you can post your gameplay and commentary. It is the biggest ass kicker for online game voyeurism but the Twitch App for mobile does not allow you to stream your gameplay to the channel for this you need to get a little smarter by recording your gameplay and streaming it later on a PC.

samsunggamerplusSamsung’s GameRecorder+ is the only one that works best for game recording and unfortunately available only on their Galaxy App store. For iOS, you need to find a screen recorder….and there isn’t any. Apple thinks its wrong to let an app record what you are doing onscreen. Go figure. The only way to do a recording of your gameplay is to broadcast it via a third party hardware accessory needed for video output. Need I say more?

For Android, many of the available apps for screen recording require your device be jailbroken, but those running Lollipop will be spared this messy step. Samsung’s Galaxy GameRecorder+ is the only one that allows you to record this seamlessly while also recording your narrative live from the front facing camera. Neat!

Get Famous on YouNow

Not recommended for introverts, ISIL guerrilla recruiters or Dems and GOP candidates, YouNow is an entertainment channel that rivals that of Periscope and Meerkat on Twitter. It regularly pulls in US$1 million in revenue every month with top YouNow celebs earning US$10,000 a month.

YouNowThe YouNow mobile app allows  you to broadcast live from your mobile device so the only thing you need to fret about is the mobile data bandwidth. The mobile app is a self contained broadcast channel so you can’t include pre-recorded streams.

Aside from this one restriction, everything is live. Yep. Talk, play, do that juggling act or say stupid jokes. If an Arab working in a convenience store can be an online celebrity on YouNow, why can’t you?

Make that Photo Pay for itself

So you like photography? Great. Where do you start to make some beer money from what you do? The iPhone camera is great while the Galaxy S6 is even better. Pictures you take can be enhanced anyway you like and once you have a great photo, why not see if you can sell it or enter it in a photo challenge?

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Scoopshot is one that you can make some money out of your mobile photography pictures. Just submit a photo to their task challenges and get paid between US$10 to US$50 per photo.

How it works is simple. Photo Buyers with a budget will send out regional or global photo challenges with the winners getting their photos bought for the stated reward. Each is different and you can enter as many as you like as long as the photo is captured according to the buyer’s brief…that’s on how it should taken, and if faces of models can be seen or not seen.

FOAP is for selling Brand related Photos

Available for both iOS and Android, FOAP operates in a similar manner to Scoopshot but the key difference is that its photo contest challenges are sponsored by brands. They pay more too of course and FOAP has been winning hearts of those who love to drink. There are tonnes of food and lifestyle contest that must feature the brand owners products in your photo shots and many of them involving having fun or just foodie with drinks shots. Rewards vary, some offering as little as US$100 or up to thousands if a car brand is involved.

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Snapwire is for anyone looking for crowd sourced Images

Snapwire is an app designed for just about anyone who is on the look out for unique photos to buy. These days, buying a royalty image can be a real pain as you have to spend countless hours doing it. So why not get someone to shoot it for you instead?

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Rewards vary but it can range from anything from US$50 to US$800. So if the US dollar is king in your country, you may find it very worthwhile to shoot images for these request. Some request are pretty mundane others are plain simple. The challenge is to submit an image that will sell.

There are clear guidelines on what is needed in the brief and you are also told if a model release is required. More often than not, these request are far less sticky compared to submitting to microstock image agencies so even if you are just practicing your photography with an iPhone, you can still submit your worst shots and see how that fares.

Are there any other Ways of Making Money with your Mobile?

It depends on you really because if you don’t mind mining for Bitcoin, there is an app for that too. But let’s be clear, Bitcoin mining isn’t made for mobile. It is getting harder and harder to keep the blockchain going and for your efforts, you are only earning a handful of bit cents. That to me makes no sense to me.

Other methods are all indirect, and doesn’t give you an end result. There are no mobile video only microstock agency as yet making them on a mobile app is still a long way off. Video editing tools are relatively hum drum on mobile devices and unless you get a hardware bump upwards, shooting them and editing them to acceptable quality on mobile is way off.

If you cite apps like Uber, HomeAway, Flipkey and Airbnb, those require you to have a home or a car and unless you have that, you can’t partake in the business.

Vayable is an app for Tourist guide wannabes. Available only on iOS, it looks for guides in cities or places which you have insider knowledge over. If you qualify as one, you may just get hired for the day. The problem with this sort of services is that you need to verify yourself as a local guide with video post and presentations using a desktop computer. The mobile app, like Airbnb, is only used to market your services.

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Demotix is a news portal that shouts out loud on citizen journalism but having your news featured and bought is a tough call for one simple reason, you have to capture pictures on your phone camera and file the whole story with it. Both iOS and Android apps are supported. Unless you live in a place that is far from traditional news centers, your chances of being featured will be better. Most of the news happening now is already being captured by paid journalist and unless it is in a war zone, where news agencies are loath to send their own paid interns, then you might have a shot at getting your news sold.

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Crowd sourcing is a big part of this equation these days. To be part of a Lyft or Airbnb experience, you need to have something to offer. So do your homework before you sign up.

Camera Phones or Lens Cameras?

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This is not a weapon. It’s a smartphone with a lens camera!

So photography is going mobile, and what’s your weapon of choice? We all know that the mobile phone’s camera is just too small to support quality imaging in low light, so what’s your plan? Since Christmas is round the corner would you want a DSLR, or would you consider something simpler, like maybe a lens camera? The Lens Camera, a camera system pioneered by Sony with its QX series didn’t quite shine as brightly as people thought. But the concept was a hit and there are so many pretenders from China emulating the lens camera that sells for as little as 100 bucks online. However if you want the real deal here are three to consider.

DxO One

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DXO One Taking a cue from the Olympus Air, the DxO One is the lens camera that is built especially for the iPhone as it uses a dedicated lightning connector to bridge its control and imaging capabilities. The cost of DxO One cost in the ballpark of US$600. Sensor size is as small as the Nikon System 1, probably smaller is good but not the sensor. With 20 megapixels at your disposal, the iPhone 6s won’t be a competitor. DxO captures both RAW and JPGs so it will be a useful fit. Unfortunately it does not support 4K video capture.

Aside from this, connectivity is only through the lighting port for iPhones only. Sounds like a dumb idea but hey, Android devices are already hitting the 16-20 megapixel output mark and the only brand that needs a camera upgrade comes from Apple.

Olympus Air Lens Camera

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Retailing in the ball park of about US$400 with a 14-42 kit lens, this baby is really a m4/3 camera that takes in any m4/3 lens. That means the sensor size of this baby is 16 megapixels but with a much larger sensor than that found on the DxO.

By now, you’d realize that there is a heck of a lot of great lenses on the Olympus Air since it shares the same mount as the ones used by its mirrorless cousins. You have a wide choice of lens, including pancake type fixed lenses so there is no mistaking the quality you’d be getting from it.

The m4/3 platform has a lot of supporters, including lens mounts to use Leica lenses. So if you have an M mount lense, just get an adaptor for the m4/3 and you’re ready to go.

The downside is that video capture is restricted to 1080p so it’s no big deal here. Works for both iOS and Android.

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Sony was the pioneer but sine the Q1, they have asserted that what you need is really an E-mount camera lens that will take in all of Sony’s NEX camera lenses. Sensor size is APS-C, so this is one big baby with 1080p video capture. The lenses are not as compact of small as m4/3 but big sensors need big lenses. Again, you can buy lens mount adaptors to fit Leica M lenses if you so desire so this won’t pose a huge problem should you want a jump in imaging quality. This QX1 cost in the ballpark of US$550.

Photography is Mobile

In the age of the budget airline, you are encouraged to travel light. Gone are the days where you pack a whole bag of lenses along with the DSLR with a tripod in tow. Having a modular lens camera is really the way forward as you only need a small bag to contain three lenses along with a Gorrilapod tripod for those low light moments.

Image quality is subjective as it really depends on you, the user. If you are happy with the quality after checking out those images posted up on Flickr, then you’d be quite satisfied with the money you are parting with.

Video capture is still stuck in the 1080p era but that’s not a bad thing is it? Those wanting 4K output would be better off shooting with the Galaxy S6 stock camera…instead of a lens camera.

The lens camera is centered around still photography and for those looking for something affordable without compromising their E mount, M mount or m4/3 mounted lenses, your choices are all here.

The Lens Camera habitually co-exist with your mobile device, without it, photography would be meaningless as you can’t perform image compositions. This is probably one gadget that will grow in years to come as people ditch their hefty DSLRs for something smaller to carry about.

Digital imaging and digital photography will in time get even cheaper and those with their foot in the door with a Lens Camera will be ahead of those without a similar product.

SnapSeed adds DNG RAW file support with Android Caveats

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Apple’s iPhone may have fallen off a cliff recently with their new iPhone 6S camera but to add insult to injury, it still hasn’t figured out if DNG file support is warranted even though Snapseed is already supporting it natively on Android.

Now let’s not blame Tim Cook for this oversight, after all, the iPhone isn’t a serious mobile camera to begin with as it is used for casual shooters and will continue to appeal to casual shooters. Neither is he to blame for the fall from grace from the DxO lab ratings for the iPhone 6S as doing so, would mean you’re accusing him of first degree murder for running over a cat.

The iPhone, like the cat, will spring up once again thanks to its many lives so don’t go pronouncing its doom as yet. Sure it’s got a measly 12 magepixels but hey, the once mighty Nikon D700 also had a 12 megapixel sensor so don’t knock it.

So I digress, let’s get back to Snapseed support for DNG files. Yes, it is finally here but no, it’s not as easy as you think.

Snapseed Caveats Explained

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Snapseed is awesome. When Nik Software first released it, Mac and iOS users paid good money to get its tools on the desktop as well as on mobile. Google then bought it out. Apple users around the world cursed Tim Cook on why he didn’t see that opportunity first, well you can’t blame him. He was focused on getting profits and not on making users happy. Can you blame him?

After it was acquired, Google made some changes, including releasing it for free as an app for mobile and killing the Mac desktop version.

When Google announced that it was going to support DNG file formats, everyone went WTF?

DNG files are massive. They can easily be 20mb a piece or more.

Now for casual photographers who shoot selfies and post to Instagram and Facebook, there is nothing to worry about since there is no need for DNG as part of your digital imaging workflow.

DNG was a file format invented by Adobe that has gone open to allow some form of portability of RAW format image files to exist indefinitely. One of the problems of native RAW files taken from cameras is that it is proprietary. Once support for that particular format goes defunct, there is no way to open that file in eternity. So Adobe figured that if you convert the native RAW format to a DNG Raw format, with all the data intact, you could allow that file to exist forever.

To date, very few mobile devices shoot with DNG in mind. Android has one paid app, Camera FV-5, which allows you to shoot and save in DNG format. The Leica M9 shoots in DNG too but not a whole lot of other cameras do. One reason is that converting native Raw files to DNG takes some heavy lifting on DSLRs and it is ill advised.

So getting back to the Mobile camera of choice, why would you want to shoot in DNG?

For one, DNG format these days are as good as having a second back up camera to your DSLR if you’re a pro. The merits of having a good RAW file should your DSLR suddenly found its way into a Craiglist advertisement as a stolen artifact is a good reason to have a backup camera as a sound investment.

Think about it, if you had a backup photo residing on your mobile device capture with a 16 megapixel sensor, it could save your day. Unfortunately, there are some caveats to using RAW editing on Snapseed which has yet to be sorted out.

DNG will not load from Gallery App

If you had DNG files stored on your phone, the only way to retrieve it is through a file manager. For Galaxy Note users, please do not rely on My Files app that comes with your mobile device won’t recognize DNG as well. What you need is a third party File Manager from the Playstore such as File Manager HD, which is free to use.

With the file manager, you go to your desired folder with the DNG files and get that to open in Snapseed.

You can also use this method to open files in the cloud to Snapseed. For example if you had a folder on Dropbox where you store all your DNG files, you can the mobile app for Dropbox to open the file in Snapseed.

DNG is still not a recognized format for External Cameras

Besides the Leica M9, and probably a few of the other Leica cameras that has since arrived in stores, you need to be able to convert those native RAW files from Olympus, Nikon and Canon all on your own and store them in a place where you can reach them. Cloud storage is probably the best way to do this but I hate to think what would happen to your mobile broadband bandwidth once you start pulling down 40mb files from the cloud to edit on your Android device.

For me, I have a dedicated folder in the cloud where I processed these native RAW files into DNG format. This means that should a client suddenly need a file and want to pay for it, you could of course download it, process it the way they want and send the file to them.

DNG isn’t perfect, at least for now but it sure gets the work done. For the rest of you who are already shooting DNG on mobile, Snapseed is a god sent.

Which Messenger are you using?

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Do people still use IM or internet messaging? Apparently they do.

I know text messages (SMS) is dead but try telling that to Twitter. The original idea was that you could talk to just anyone like in a text message by mentioning the @person handle. But before all this, let’s not forget the Hotmail, Yahoo, ICQ and even Skype for that matter. Those were the pioneers. I remember using ICQ fondly, where you could search out names of people and see if they were involved in the same IM platform.

Then came the mobile revolution, which ICQ, Y messenger and Microsoft Live transitioned itself to as well, having a GPRS connection on your smartphone was all that you needed. Everything else was optional.

With 3G, suddenly video calls were possible. That sort of changed the landscape once and for all. So what’s your messaging choice if you wanna hop on.

Viber Versus Whatsapp

Two are similar, both are Jewish founded but one of them got bought out for billions while the other got bought out for a measly 900 million. The problem I have with my messaging train of thought is this, I don’t want to pay to use your app and if you don’t have a commercial model to sustain yourself. You are not going to last. Viber only has just over 200 million active users, while Whatsapp has 700 million.

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You download Whatsapp for free for the first year and have to ante up to pay to continue, at US$1 buck. Their motto is to stay free of advertising and promotions, and that is a huge problem because this business model isn’t going to earn your keep. When Facebook bought them out for a reported US$19 billion, versus US$900 million paid for Viber. You sort of knew that Facebook isn’t going to gain any further traction since they too have a messenger that rivals it. It was as if Facebook was called in to rescue Whatsapp before it went thermo nuclear. Both Viber and Whatsapp have similar functions (only the latter does not do commercial deals) so as long as Viber is commercialises enough to sustain its own operating expenses, it will continue. Whatsapp does not commercialise its own channels so that is a dead end as long as it sticks to its motto….”no ads, no games, no gimmicks’. Let’s see how long that holds out.

Facebook Messenger Versus Google Hangouts

This is actually the battle of the titans in the making. I remember that at one time, both apps were fighting to usurp your Text Messaging functions. Both wanted to dominate but in the end, it was up to Google Hangouts that won, allowing users to choose its app without intruding. Facebook Messenger gave up on fighting Google and came out with their own Unique Selling Point.

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Facebook Messenger was given a leash to capture non-FB users using a direct sign up with phone number method. This was introduced in North America and global release is gradual and subject to their fine tuning.

Google on the other hand has video conferencing or recorded video streams which you can broadcast and save to YouTube. It proved to be a hit for those wanting to connect live with an audience, something that both Periscope and Meerkat was hoping to jump on as well.

KakaoTalk Versus Line

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Twins that were separated by birth, Kakao and Line were Korean inventions which didn’t seem too different. Both sold you tonnes of stickers, both had chats and social profiles, and both are openly commercial about monetizing its services to brands.

Line is apparently more popular in Japan, while Kakao makes more money through games, adverts, and you guessed it, stickers.

In 2015, Line claims about 400 active users while Kakao has 145 million active users. So it really depends on where you stand because if you have more friends in Asia, then both Line and Kakao would seem like a good bet.

WeChat versus BBM

WeChat currently claims over 450 million active users while Blackberry’s Messenger has roughly 100 million but BBM has been around way longer than WeChat.

BBM was one of the reasons why people signed on with Blackberry. It was instant messaging done securely. That line has changed after Blackberry’s popularity fell from grace. And it’s not as secure as you think as recently in Brazil, a corruption scandal used BBM messages as evidence against those charged in court. This means crooks and terrorist aren’t safe from using this platform.

WeChat is very similar to both Line and Kakao Talk and in some ways even BBM. You have moments in WeChat that is social, just like what you find in both Line and Kakao talk, then you have groups/channels which is used by brands to reach out to customers. BBM on the other hand uses stickers and advertising to earn revenue. BBM also has voice calling over data with fellow users just like WeChat.

What sets them apart is that WeChat has more features, including the Walkie Talkie Push to talk which uses lower data bandwidth and a user discover tool based on location. This is called ‘People Nearby’ where you chat up strangers and ask them out for a date. It uses your location to probe the region for users of up to over 1km away. The other feature is the drift the bottle, where you can cast a voice message into the open waters of the Internet and see who reads it or responds to you.

The NEXT Wave is Here

For me, its always been the commercial viability of that particular platform. If it is going to be around for long, it better monetize itself as I surely will not foot the bill. Getting adverts on your app is just like getting SMS spam in the old days. I lived with it so no problem.

The second criteria is family and friends who are online. If they are on a handful of them, then use the common denominator. For me, it’s not about how many users the network has but more on the quality of that network.

There was a time Whatsapp was so bad in its quality, failing to deliver messages and not telling you, I gave up on it. BBM was an old favourite. The user experience is great even after the material design update but BBM is probably one of the most reliable so far. BBM pioneered the ‘delivered’ and ‘read’ status to each message. This is important as it tells you the person has read it.

Facebook Messenger and Hangouts are always there on my phone. I don’t use Facebook app as it is a storage space hog. WeChat is a huge success in Asia and so is Line, so those two are always there. The last IM for old time sake is Skype. Yes, Skype started with both voice and IM services before it was sold off from one owner to the next like some cheap furniture. Skype sort of lost its luster over the years but I find it useful for face to face video conference.

Apple’s Facetime has been a deplorable service since it started. It was created with the same mindset as BBM was in the 1990s. It never really improved and no one I know who uses an iPhone uses that anymore. iMessage is forced upon you by Apple but I clearly do not see it as a popular place to exchange greetings. So what is the next wave in social and instant messaging? Look no further than below:-

Telegram

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An app designed with Snapchat disappearing message capabilities, Telegram is a simple to use, no hassle and is rolled out to both desktop and mobile use. So far, its clean interface has won users over and it has an open API for developers to craft and graft features onto it.

Wire

Graphics, sounds and pictures are the highlight features of this app. Wire is visual and what’s more, you can write on the screen and doodle a message to send over to your contacts on Wire. This app is truly visual and even has a desktop version.

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MimeChat

UK startup Mimechat is one weird and fun messaging app where you use an Avatar to display your emotions to the people you are chatting. You can key in text messages and instead of using emoji, you get to use an Avatar which you can design from the ground up to represent you.

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These avatars can then animate themselves to display pleasure, displeasure, sadness or anything that is on your mind. The catch? Some of the animated sequences cost money to buy but once you buy them, you can use it forever.

Android Remix Mini PC can be yours for 50 bucks!

2d5d9c82e8e54453e35f2b654fef65dd_originalI have always loved the Mac Mini and though it has crossed my mind to buy that as a companion device to a HDTV, I never got round to it because it was expensive.

Having a connected device like the Mac Mini made sense, especially in the days when it came with a built in DVD player. These days, the new models are without that feature and thus less appealing.

Having a TV that is connected to the HDTV is probably the best option to save money on buying a separate computer if all you ever needed was to browse the Internet, send email and maybe some SOHO office apps. Chrome OS was suppose to be like that but over the years, I had my doubts over its ability to do the chores I want it to as any Android device would be able to surpass it.

Today, we hear that the Remix Mini PC has got funded on Kickstarter. So what’s this about?

How the Remix Mini is going to save you Money

First, there are two models, the first comes with a 1GB Ram while the other 2GB Ram. They have named it the 1G and 2G respectively and yes, it runs a custom hacked version of Android Lolipop called Remix OS.

The unit comes with built in WIFI, 2 USB ports, HDMI port and even a stereo jack for sound and music output. The extra Ethernet port lets you connect directly to the DSL router or modem without having to rely on WIFI. The included microSD slot helps you decide on how much additional storage to add to keep your stuff like movies or music which can be played back on TV. What’s more the Remix Mini PC supports 4K UHD, meaning you get the latest codec to process high quality movies. The only downside is that your media, or rather a UHD movie would take up to 16GB of storage if you ever decide to keep a copy on the SD storage.

Now playback for UHD is strictly BluRay player standards these days so if you ever had a 4K TV, you would have to pair that with a BluRay player. The Remix Mini will save you money on this if you happen to play UHD movies (illegally obtained or otherwise). UHD media unfortunately is not widespread as yet.

showbox-app-download-for-android-install-show-box-apk-on-androidThere are other exceptions. Hulu Plus via the Hola VPN will playback your subscriptions and yes, the movies uploaded onto VK.com will also playback via the app. For illegal APKs like Showbox, you can have that installed on the Remix without any problems. You can also stream movies to the Remix via Popcorn Time if you so wished.

spotify-android_660Music streaming, from Spotify to Deezer is also available for the price of a subscription and if I were you. Endless possibilities if you have an app on hand that can also be your local radio station or for that matter, any radio station in the world. Entertainment possibilities is a reality through your HDTV.

SOHO Workstation

Google Docs, Keep, Drive and even photo editing tools from Flickr can be accessed through your keyboard and mouse once you have the Remix Mini.

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Charts, graphics and everything else you wasted money on with a PC and accompanying software can be yours for free if you are online all the time. No need to ante up on Windows 10 either if you don’t want to spend the money. The idea of a home workstation, is a reality without the overhead cost as cloud computing will do all the heavy lifting without you having to fork out money on software purchases. I use to remember that every piece of software you wanted had to be purchased just 10 years ago. Now, I will sign up with Google to get these same functions on a computer all for free.

Remix is not for Heavy Lifting

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This is a problem which people tend to do themselves in when wanting a small PC footprint. It’s not for heavy workloads like vector graphic design, 3D modeling, music creation with Midi instruments and heavy duty video editing. Android apps which you can download from the Playstore has limited capabilities and can’t be compared to the PC/Mac versions that do way more.

You have to think of a Remix Mini PC as a computer from 10 years ago. Multitasking is possible and with limited RAM, there isn’t a lot you can do. It’s like buying a ticket to a cheap buffet, you won’t be getting a gourmet treat with it.

For me, I think the Remix Mini is an excellent tool for students and kids. For others, who are just in the market for more entertainment, the Remix won’t disappoint.

So remember that a 50 buck (for the 2G) computer has its limitations and if you are fine with that, it makes sense to order one.

Terminator Voice packs are Free on Waze App for Android and iOS.

landscape-1428935780-terminator-genisys-arnold-smile Google owned Waze is probably one of those navigation apps that people often try to avoid using since it is an online app without offline access. But Waze begs to differ by having Arnie as a voice talent in the backseat guiding you in Waze. That’s right folks the Guvanator is back and he’s got a load for you.

To have him on Waze, all you have to do is download and run Waze, go to Settings>Sounds > hit the ‘ English US or UK’ and you’d be taken to a selection of voices you can download. Within the list you will find Terminator Genisys and that’s what you want.

This movie tie in is one of a kind as Arnie narrates his way to your destination and even says “Hasta la vista, Baby” once you arrive at your intended destination.

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During the movie debut, Terminator logos will be popping up in your Waze map to indicate cinemas and multiplexes, though I am not sure if that would include cinemas ‘not showing’ the movie when it launches.

This latest installment of the Terminator franchise will only make its debut in the US in July while the rest of the world will catch it before then.

LG Pocket Printer Review: A cheaper Alternative to Instax Mini?

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I rarely print my photos these days as everything is shared digitally but there will come a time when having a printed pictures will matter. So what’s the option if you are on the road traveling? Should you go to one of those print kiosk found in shopping malls or carry a portable printer?

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Canon makes a slew of portable printers capable of 4R or postcard size prints. But these are still pretty expensive and bulky to carry around. Your best bet if you want to go fully digital is the LG Zink inspired pocket printer….or if you want to go analogue, the Fujifilm SP-1.

Price wise, there is some difference. The SP-1 retails for US$145 while the LG PD239 goes for a little less at US$120. The real difference is in the cost of operation, with the Fuji instax mini film costing US$83 for a 100 sheets while the LG Pocket Printer’s Zink paper weighing in at US$57 for 120 sheets.

in terms of paper size both are just a tad smaller than the average business card aspect ratio, the Fuji Instax mini is larger but the printed area is really much smaller thanks largely to the format’s border. So with the LG, you not only get a larger printed area but a full bleed right to the edge as well.

Needless to say the winner is clearly the LG Zink formatted print.

Quality of Print

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Here is the trick. For some reason, the LG printer has a tendency to print images which are about one EV lower in brightness than what you see on your digital device. To get a brighter picture, you need to print the photo with a adjusted setting via the iOS or Android app. This is not a huge problem but it pays to know as every print wasted is going to cost you.

16444173791_df90ea1273_bThe LG Pocket Printer is a pretty simple in design and operation. There are no confusing buttons to play with as everything is Bluetooth enabled. If you have an NFC enabled device, it will work too.

The operation from editing to firmware updates are carried out via the mobile app.

Real World Appeal

This is where I have problems with the print size. It’s really doesn’t quite justify the appeal even if your photos look great. The business card sized print is probably a good way to share a business contact or print out pictures for your scrap book. Beyond that, I can really find a good enough reason to buy or use one.

16419934556_6611b3754f_bI think Zink has done a pretty good job with the printer and the quality of the print. The colors, clarity and sharpness is good for any physical sharing of photos but the practicality of the whole exercise remains to be seen.

You could of course create lots of small prints for decorative use on any wall or door. And if you want something better than that, I can’t think of anything.

The LG Pocket Printer has its own battery good enough for about an hour of use and you can charge it via any microUSB cable with a battery pack.

If you travel far, it is probably a good way to share your photos with the people around you who are not on the Internet or have no access to such technologies. To me, this doesn’t happen often enough to warrant having one.

Zink has partnered with the likes of Polaroid to come out with Android related camera+printer but the same problem will arise when you start using it. Because of its relatively small size, images of wide open vistas, architecture or anything taken with a wide angle view cannot be appreciated. The print size works best with subjects either close up of at medium distance. So if you do have an immediate use for such small prints, it makes good sense to get one but for everyone else, it will sit on the corner table gathering dust until someone digs it up again.

To Print or not to Print?

Nice to have but I can’t think of a reason to carry one with me all the time. How you wish to use this is really up to you. The personal printer with a format this small is ideal for scrapbook making. No problem with you sticking the print outs onto your Moleskine pads with double sided tape.

Beyond this, you could give away those prints to strangers who do selfies with you.

In the digital age, printing something just doesn’t make much sense. You can send a virtual postcard instead of snail mailing them like in the past and post your images to Facebook for sharing with the people in your network.

The quality of the Zink print is pretty good, but I have no idea if they would last a life time as the colors could fade. Only time will tell if this is going to be worth your investment.

Google Photos to offer infinite storage for your photos and video

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That’s right. Flickr is so screwed when Google announced that the new feature coming to Google Photos is going to give you an unlimited back up of all your photos. Even Star Trek fans got stumped with their ‘space; the final frontier’ motto on this one and for good reason.

For years, Facebook detractors have been saying that Google+ was doomed to die. They weren’t very far off from this but somehow this has changed as the shake up at G+ gave life to a digital corpse. The old hats running G+ were fucking idiots. They didn’t have a plan or strategy to out run the cross hairs of Facebook.

True. G+ is not FB and FB isn’t G+.

Technically speaking, both use the same model to make money off you. By getting you to use their service, you become a candidate for targeted advertising.

Google Photos came automatically installed on your Android device with G+ app. This was inherently stupid of course but Google Photos had some nice functionality to it. The auto back up feature and auto-awesome gif images were nice additional features but come on, G+ like FB app were storage hogs on both iOS and Android devices. Picture wise, Google had to outgun the old FB and this they have done in style.

Facebook and G+ apps are big on storage. Don’t believe me, go do the maths on your storage requirement an you’ll notice that they are not only fat and bloated but offer little else in return for your digital needs. Google’s new Photos app is only moveable to internal storage of your Android device so that precious RAM can be saved for G+.

Facebook does none of these and even scales down your high resolution images so they never get stored in their original form.

Google Photos and DNG File Format

While iOS is still stuck in the stone age of JPG, Google has advanced its computational photography capabilities to include DNG files on its future camera app. Google is thinking in the line that if a picture can be processed better, then it can be a better picture for anything from Bokeh to Photo Spheres. Google Drive already supports TIFF files, a fact not known to many. When uploading your DNG files from your web browser, you can choose where it goes….to the infinite cloud space or the limited one as in Google Drive.

slide8b_framedSaving pictures in DNG is going to take a lot of space. Ask any Trekkie and they will tell you what all this amounts to. When Google said that it would give you photo back up….infinitely….you can technically put your Android device to upload all those pictures you have taken in the day through WIFI to Google cloud storage. You can also access Google Photos on the web.

And when you wake up from your deep slumber in the morning, those photos on your Android device and be erased as a copy already exist in the cloud.

Google’s cloud is impressive to say the least and is far cheaper than the image cloud service provided by Apple. Thankfully, you still have Google Photos for iOS so Apple users aren’t at a loss.

Google Stories

This is another advantage which few talk about. Google Stories is a scrap booking feature for you to create a flipbook slideshow of your images right within the Google Photos app. And that’s not all, like Flickr, your chosen photos can also be shared with a long list of other social networks.

Photos-Share-v4Google Photos is a new app for Android and you can download it here.

Hugo Barra Debunks Microsoft Partnership with Xiaomi

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In a G+ post, Hugo Barra has come up to clear the air regarding Xiaomi’s apparent defection to Microsoft Mobile that has been aired all over the Internet.

In a strongly worded post, Hugo had this to say.

– This is an experimental program led by Microsoft, working directly with the Mi fan community in China.

– Microsoft is working on a build of Windows 10 specifically for Mi 4 devices. This Windows 10 build will not be running on top of Android nor be available as a dual-boot option. A small number of Mi 4 power users from the Xiaomi Forum in China who choose to take part in this experimental program will have to manually re-flash their Mi 4 devices with this Windows 10 ROM, in the same way they would re-flash other Android ROMs.

– At Xiaomi, we are very supportive of users trying new things and we encourage them to do so all the time! That’s why all of our devices ship with unlocked bootloader, for example. That’s also why Xiaomi welcomes Microsoft team members to interact directly with members of the Xiaomi Forum in China. More details will be announced by Microsoft in the coming months. This program will only be available in China.

This shows that Xiaomi has no official relationship with Microsoft as portrayed by the Tech Press and isn’t planning on releasing any Xioami phones running Microsoft for the global market. As is, Microsoft has teamed up with the Chinese user group to test their Windows Mobile 10 on Mi phones. It’s not going global even if it can run Windows Mobile as there are patent issues that has to be resolved in specific countries.

Xiaomi has introduced its brand into the US and has not officially open a channel to sell their smartphones because of patent issues. In India, Xiaomi is faced a nasty lawsuit from Ericsson AB. So far it has not encountered similar problems during its release in Singapore and Malaysia but it remains to be seen if Xiaomi has the clout to withstand challenges from the likes of Apple, Google or Microsoft should it ever attempt to go global.

Xiaomi phones can run stock android from Google should it be released in the global market. However it still has to pay a minor licensing fee should it adopt Google services and apps running within its Mi launcher. Xiaomi runs a forked version of Android as Google’s services do not work in China. This forked Android operation system however does not include the patent protection it needs to sell hardware outside of the Chinese market.

– Xiaomi continues to fully embrace the Android ecosystem through our MIUI software platform and we’re moving ahead full steam building many exciting new Android-based features and services.