Recent Features

10 tips to take better photos with your 2021 phone's cameras

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Please excuse the click-bait title, but the article's content is very real. I've tried to condense down my advice to friends and family in readable form. When I try and educate these people verbally I get loads of eye rolling and mockery, but deep down I know that their photos could and should be better. So, in case it proves useful to you - or to your contacts - here are my top 10 tips for improving your smartphone camera results.

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2009 to 2021: Did 'Smartphone Essentials' verdicts stack up?

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Chancing upon a very old smartphone industry magazine from 2009 while having an office clearout, I thought it would be interesting to pluck out half a dozen data points, especially in terms of review coverage. A lot has changed in 12 years, but there's still enough here that's recognisable. And, although I used to write for Smartphone Essentials myself from time to time, I'm not quoting any of my own material here - I'm checking to see how right or wrong the opinions of other writers of the time proved(!) Highlights? Verdicts on the Nokia N97 and N96, loads of Windows Mobile 6(!), an iPhone, and the earliest Android handsets.

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June 2021: 'Your Phone' major updates demonstrated and reviewed

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Microsoft and Samsung's collaboration with 'Link to Windows' is reaching new heights of sophistication with the latest update in the last week, so here we go over the major features now available, in June 2021. The Your Phone system is available on other Android handsets, but not to quite the same degree - but it's getting there across the board. It's not DeX or Continuum, but it's arguably now as useful, driven by the PC more than the phone. The top new feature is running multiple Android apps at the same time on your Windows computer, but there's plenty more to impress. See below.

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A guide for unlocking the bootloader in WP8.1 Lumia devices

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Guest writer Nico again brings us tales of advanced smartphoning on older Lumias, here detailing the hacking needed to be able to side load applications without needing a working on-device Store. Yes, the procedures are incredibly geeky, but then if you're persevering with a Lumia from 2012 in 2021 then you're used to a little sweat and frustration, surely?

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The big four way mobile flight sim round-up

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I've been casually interested in flight sims for years, but always struggled to find time to do anything serious in this direction in terms of equipment or time. But the sweet spot here is probably 'mobile', with the power of modern phone processors and graphics, with the convenience of always being 'with you'. So I've picked (arguably) the four best mobile flight sims (Aerofly FS 2021, Infinite Flight, Rortos RFS, X-Plane 11) and pitched them head to head, for your interest and entertainment!

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Anatomy of a smartphone photo #20: working round DoF limits

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In the latest in our occasional series on smartphone photography, I may have moved on from a Lumia as a day to day phone, but the ideas and ambitions are still there. In this example, I deliberately spurn the main camera in my phone in favour of a depth-of-field trick, to deliver striking detail at all depths in the frame.

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Guest feature: WP8.1 vs WP10 in 2021

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Guest writer and regular Nico explains all the reasons why you should keep your older Lumia on Windows Phone 8.1. I'm hoping there's a follow-up hacking and side-loading guide, mind you, since I tried the bootloader unlocking for real on my Lumia 920 and got horribly stuck! Your mileage may vary, but Nico's sentiments do resonate.

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2006-2007: my most exciting personal 12 months in smartphone history

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I know what you're thinking. I'm about to parrot other journos by declaring that the smartphone world started in 2007 with the launch of the Apple iPhone. Err... no. Not even close. Although the iPhone gets a small footnote below, smartphones were a 'thing' several years before, culminating in the period from July 2006 to August 2007 when three devices came along in quick succession that knocked me for six. They all ran Symbian OS in the guise of 'S60 3rd Edition', but they had very different characters and USPs. In each case, I was left breathless with excitement in even touching them. Hyperbole? Maybe, but let me expand...

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Of dark modes, night shift, and tired eyes...

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Almost all mobile operating system implementations have some form of 'night shift' baked in these days - an optional 'yellowing' (actually less blue, but you get the idea) of the interface to help reduce eye strain in the evening in dimmer light. I'm a big fan, though there's an extra question which an American study has tried to answer - does the use of 'night shift' visual effects help you sleep once you put the phone down? See below for some quotes plus comments - the studied question didn't really pan out, but everyone agrees that there are still significant benefits.

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Life after Lumias: Top 5 smartphone options in May 2021

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A full six months on from my previous article on this subject, I have several new picks. And there's plenty more to come later in 2021, of course. These are my top picks for smartphones to replace a Windows-powered device, now that Windows 10 Mobile is now long unsupported and as services gradually start to wind down. I've tested just about everything on the market and here's my updated verdict in terms of functionality, future viability, and value for money. It's also hopefully a good guide for anyone looking for a new smartphone generally and wondering where on earth to start.

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