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Review: Audio-Technica’s ANC700BT headphones sound great, but are marred by odd controls

Audio-Technica’s QuietPoint ATH-ANC700BT tries to bridge the gap between performance and cost, and mostly succeeds except for awkward and unnecessary touch controls.

Audio-Technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC700BT

On the surface there’s nothing remarkable about the 700BT. There’s one color option, matte black, and nothing ostentatious about its design. It looks fine, just nothing to write home about. Bundled accessories are limited to a pouch, a micro USB charging cable, and a 3.5mm headphone jack if you want or need to skip Bluetooth.

As it turns out, you might have to if you’re a Mac or Windows user. Macs may not take kindly to this sort of Bluetooth headset, and out of curiosity, we tried pairing the headphones with a Windows 10 PC — for whatever reason, the computer would only register them as a mic input. Pairing with an iPhone 6s Plus, conversely, was quick and painless. These are obviously mobile-first.

Ergonomically the 700BT manages to be light and extremely comfortable, such that these are some of the few headphones we’ve ever been able to wear all day. They’d be great at the gym too if they were waterproof.

They sound amazing, which is probably to be expected from a company like Audio-Technica and a rated frequency response between 5 and 40,000 hertz. Audio from iTunes, Overcast, or Spotify’s high-quality feed was crisp and clear, with punchy bass lacking any sign of distortion or drowning out highs and mids. You can find better-sounding headphones, but only if you’re willing to spring for something substantially more expensive, at which point there are diminishing returns.

Noise cancellation seems to work well too. When activated in our testing, it effectively killed any sound from our office fan and AC, and even made it difficult to hear other people, much to their frustration. Normally cancellation only drowns out repetitive ambient sound, though of course the 700BT uses an over-the-ear design that further improves isolation.

There’s just one potential dealbreaker for the 700BT, and that’s its on-cup control scheme. Apart from an on/off/pairing switch, everything is controlled either in-app or via a touch-sensitive surface on the left earcup — turning on noise cancellation, for example, requires covering the whole surface with your palm. In our testing this never worked consistently.

Audio-Technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC700BT

We even found it hard to change tracks or volume on occasion, which shouldn’t be the case on any headphones, much less a pair from Audio-Technica. There’s no reason the company couldn’t have implemented dedicated buttons or an inline remote.

Conclusions

If you absolutely depend on headphone-mounted controls, you should skip the 700BT. There are comparable options which will better suit your needs.

If you depend more on Siri or app-based controls, there’s a little more flexibility. Vendors like Amazon are selling them for just $169, and even at full price, they’re $199. That’s a pretty good value if your priorities are comfort and sound quality.

These sound better than the vast majority of Apple/Beats headphones, so if you can pick them up at a discount, they may be worth a go.

Where to buy

Audio-Technica’s QuietPoint ATH-ANC700BT headphones retail for $199, but are currently on sale for $169 at B&H Photo.

B&H is also including free expedited shipping within the contiguous U.S. for fast delivery to your doorstep (typically within one to three business days). The Audio-Technica authorized dealer also will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside New York and New Jersey*.

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Hands-On: Ring’s iPhone-ready, self-running Spotlight Cam Solar

 

Hands-On

Amazon’s Ring is omnipresent in smarthome security, and the Spotlight Cam Solar is an attempt to further cement that position among picky iOS and Android users.

Ring Spotlight Cam Solar

As it turns out, the Solar is essentially Ring’s existing Spotlight Cam Battery, but bundled (at a discount) with a solar panel accessory that fixes the original’s main weakness: maintenance.

On its own the Battery needs to have its DSLR-style battery pack periodically recharged. This isn’t just an inconvenience — you may temporarily lose coverage unless you have a spare battery, and in any circumstance you’ll have to mount the camera in a reasonably accessible place, making it more vulnerable to tampering. Because the Solar recharges its battery pack independently, you can put it anywhere your initial installation allows, then forget about it.

Ring Spotlight Cam Solar

The installation process takes about an hour, but is relatively straightforward thanks to video-enhanced guidance provided on Ring’s YouTube channel and in an official iPhone and iPad app. The company supplies all of the necessary tools including bits and screwdrivers, though you might still want to bust out a power drill, especially if you’re working with anything tougher than wood.

The iOS app is, as it turns out, a highlight of the Ring package. It’s extremely well-organized, making it very easy to toggle settings and track alerts and power status. There’s even built-in access to Ring’s Neighbors platform, where individuals and police share footage of suspicious incidents. Some posts tend to be a little paranoid, but it’s at least good to be aware.

One thing we had to do right away was narrow the focus of the Solar’s motion zones. The camera has a wide field of view, and by default triggers push notifications for a good portion of that. Even with a narrower cone, detection seems sensitive — we would get notifications and scan footage only to discover that it had been set off by something like a distant bird.

Ring iPhone app

Saved footage (or the lack thereof) is one of several issues we’ll go into later, but right now we should note that the camera does not support Apple HomeKit. You’ll be relying primarily on first-party notifications, since there isn’t even a Web portal for viewing video.

The camera does of course support Amazon Alexa, meaning that if you have an Echo Show or Echo Spot, you can ask Alexa to show you a live feed at any time. Just be warned that the camera’s namesake spotlight comes on if you watch at night, which could be annoying to neighbors.

Keep following AppleInsider for a full review later this month.

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Apple supplier earnings suggest TrueDepth coming to three new iPhone models in 2018

 

Apple TrueDepth parts supplier Lumentum reported better than expected results for the June quarter, with anticipated order volume suggesting the depth-sensing camera system will arrive on three new iPhone models this year, according to analyst predictions.

TrueDepth

In an earnings report this week, Lumentum, which furnishes the lion’s share of vertical cavity surface emitting laser (VCSEL) modules used to power Apple’s TrueDepth camera array on iPhone X, noted an end-of-quarter ramp in 3D sensing component shipments to key customers.

According to analyst Gene Munster of Loup Ventures, the higher shipping volumes, paired with an expected acceleration of orders set to play out over the coming two quarters, bodes well for Apple’s product pipeline.

For the just ended quarter, Lumentum posted revenues of $301 million, beating Wall Street expectations of $287 million. Of the $301 million figure, 3D sensing revenues, a figure tied to VCSEL production, contributed between $60 million to 65 million. While “compressed” due to seasonality, 3D sensing numbers are anticipated to pick up significantly in the second half of 2018 as Apple refreshes its iPhone lineup.

Munster believes Lumentum’s earlier than expected ramp in VCSEL arrays hints at future iPhone model specifications. In particular, accelerated order volume suggests Apple plans to incorporate TrueDepth into three distinct products this year.

“Given the sooner than expected ramp in VCSEL arrays, we believe this fall, Apple will have 3 (including iPhone X) iPhone models with the VCSEL laser,” Munster said. “Furthermore, Lumentum results suggest current iPhone X demand is healthy.”

Apple is widely rumored to offer three handset formats for 2018. Alongside a refreshed 5.8-inch iPhone X, the company is anticipated to field a larger 6.5-inch OLED variant and a mid-tier model with 6.1-inch LCD screen. Each of the new smartphones are believed to include Face ID functionality, a biometric authentication feature powered by Apple’s TrueDepth camera array. The advanced depth-sensing technology also powers augmented reality features built on Apple’s ARKit framework.

In addition to iPhone, Munster believes Apple is looking to integrate TrueDepth into other product lines like iPad. Reports have suggested TrueDepth and Face ID will show up in the next-generation iPad Pro lineup, replacing the home button to free up valuable space for a thin bezel design and edge-to-edge display. A similar design was seemingly revealed in iconography found in Apple’s latest iOS 12 beta release.

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Alleged dummy models of 6.1- & 6.5-inch iPhones show former with single-lens camera

 

Though Apple may be making its next “budget” iPhone a 6.1-inch LCD model, one tradeoff will be the lack of a dual-lens camera, the latest leak suggests.

2018 iPhone dummies

The detail can be seen in a supposed “dummy” phone shared by well-known leak source Ben Geskin. The unit lacks any Apple logo, but mostly resembles current iPhone designs except for the placement of the flash below the lens instead of to the side, more akin to the dual-lens iPhone X than the iPhone 8.

A 6.5-inch iPhone dummy seen in the same leak is almost exactly the same as the 5.8-inch iPhone X except for its bigger size. Geskin refers to the device as the “iPhone X Plus,” a common nickname for the rumored product.

Apple uses dual-lens cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus, 8 Plus, and X to provide 2x optical zoom, as well as a “Portrait” mode which simulates the bokeh (blurred backgrounds) created by professional lenses. Assuming the 6.1-inch dummy is authentic, the company is likely sticking to a single lens to keep prices down.

Unseen in the leak is the expected direct successor to the iPhone X, which should keep the same dimensions but see upgraded internals like a faster processor.

The new 5.8- and 6.5-inch phones are anticipated to use OLED displays, and cost $800-900 and $999+, respectively. Mostly because of LCD, the 6.1-inch model is forecast to cost around $600-700.

The OLED hardware should ship in September or October, but the 6.1-inch iPhone has been rumored as arriving later.

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Qualcomm exec says Apple’s next iPhones will stick to Intel modems

 

Intel will be Apple’s exclusive cellular modem supplier for next-generation iPhones, the CFO of Qualcomm indicated on Wednesday.

Mockups of Apple's 2018 iPhones.

Mockups of Apple’s 2018 iPhones.

“We believe Apple intends to solely use our competitor’s modems rather than our modems in its next iPhone release,” said George Davis in a conference call. Apple’s only other modem supplier in recent years has been Intel, which came onboard in 2016, supplying components for GSM versions of the iPhone 7 and other recent iPhone models.

Losing Apple as a client, if even just temporarily, could deal a serious financial blow. The iPhone is of course one of the most popular smartphone brands in the world, often leading in key markets.

Multiple reports have hinted at Apple going Intel-only, thanks largely to the latter’s XMM7560 chip, which supports both GSM and CDMA carrier networks. The modem is now in mass production for 2018 iPhones, though until now it was uncertain if some phones would still use Qualcomm parts.

Apple has strong incentive to ditch Qualcomm, as the two companies are engaged in a global legal battle over patents and royalties. Apple began the war in January 2017 with a $1 billion lawsuit, claiming Qualcomm abuses its “monopoly power” to demand high royalties and force chip buyers to license patents. The chipmaker countered in April, and the pair have since lodged multiple complaints in domestic and international courts, roping in other Apple suppliers as well.

Until 2016 Apple was locked into an exclusive arrangement, but prior to the XMM7560, the technical superiority of Qualcomm’s modems was another factor keeping the company from switching to Intel. On top of broader network support, Qualcomm chips have been faster, to the point that Apple throttled them to prevent major gaps with Intel-based hardware.

This fall should see three new iPhone models: 5.8- and 6.5-inch OLED devices, and a 6.1-inch LCD unit. The LCD phone could potentially ship later than its counterparts.

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US lawmakers query Apple, Alphabet CEOs over smartphone personal data policies

U.S. lawmakers have sent a request to the chief executives of Apple and Alphabet about how the personal data of their customers is handled on iPhones and Android smartphones, seemingly in an expansion of the government’s privacy investigation following Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The letters, sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Larry Page, were written due to an increase in media reports about privacy issues, reports the Wall Street Journal. The reports, as well as other information provided to the lawmakers, have apparently raised questions about the privacy practices of both companies.

One of the concerns is how location data could be collected and misused by firms, which could potentially be used to track users without their consent. The letter to Page includes references to reports claiming Android collects user location data and sends it back to Alphabet’s Google, even if users disabled the device’s location services beforehand.

The letter to Cook reportedly raises fewer issues, but still queried if iPhones collect and transmit “extensive location data.” Cook’s previous statements and Apple’s actions also “raise questions about how Apple device users’ data is protected and when it is shared and compiled.”

Aside from location data, the letters also want to know about collecting audio data from user conversations, and sharing that data with third parties.

The letters were signed by Chairman Greg Walden (R, OR) and subcommittee chairmen Gregg Harper (R, MS,) Marsha Blackburn (R., TN,) and Robert Latta (R., OH.)

Cook and Apple’s stance on privacy is that it is not “in the data business,” in that it doesn’t collect data on its customers to provide to other firms, such as advertisers. In March, Cook insisted Apple doesn’t monetize its customers, unlike firms that offer free services, and that the use of consumer data should be dialed back.

The request follows in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica affair, where a now-defunct political consulting firm created approximately 71 million U.S. voter profiles based on data it had harvested from Facebook without user consent in 2015. Facebook accused Analytica of violating policies, while researchers who created the quiz app behind the affair claimed that, not only did they do nothing wrong, but they were not the only party to collect data in that way.

It is believed the data was used to provide advice to political campaigns for manipulating voter opinion, potentially affecting the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

A U.S. federal probe is underway, with the FBI, the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission thought to be taking part in the investigation.

In June, it was claimed by Facebook that it had data-sharing partnerships with a number of firms, including Apple, which granted third-party access to user data before the social network made apps available for mobile devices. In response, Cook told an audience at WWDC that Apple neither requested nor received users’ personal data from Facebook.

Lawmakers have questioned Apple’s policies regarding privacy in the past, asking in 2017 about Apple’s dealings with China over concerns it was complicit in assisting China’s censorship-based regime. Answers from the company noted it adheres to laws in countries it does business within, and in relation to promoting freedom of expression and privacy rights, Apple’s presence throughout the world is “the most effective way it can make a difference” in such countries.

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Many iPhone thefts, the girlfriend of a mob boss, and an Apple Store: The latest from the Apple crime blotter

In this latest Apple crime roundup, iPhones get stolen in a variety of ways, the girlfriend of a mob boss asks for her phone back from the police, and an Apple Store gets hit for a pile of accessories.

The latest in an occasional AppleInsider feature: A worldwide look at the Apple-related crime:

Two plead guilty in iPhone delivery scam

Two of three defendants arrested for their parts in an iPhone delivery-and-theft scheme have agreed to plead guilty. According to the Nashua Telegraph, the scam entailed stealing identities, opening accounts with Sprint, having iPhones and iPads delivered to the homes of the victims, and stealing the packages.

The conspirators were caught after one of the victims caught them taking a package from her home. The scam, police said, stole 200 identities and gained them $60,000 worth of electronics; a third defendant has not plead guilty and will go to trial.

Police chief’s iPhone stolen

In another iPhone-stolen-from-the-mail story, the victim was a local police chief. According to Philly Voice Michael Chitwood, the police superintendent in Upper Darby, PA., recently ordered a new iPhone 7 to be delivered to police headquarters. Somewhere along the way, the box was tampered with, the phone itself taken and replaced by bubble wrap, and a note left that stated “Boss, your new phone came today.”

Chitwood, a familiar figure in the Philadelphia-area media who is known for his law-and-order style, took it in stride. “It’s a theft. It happens,” he told the website. “But it’s kind of funny.”

iPad stolen from sleeping man

A Brooklyn man was woken up this week by a thief who entered his room through a broken window. According to the Brooklyn Paper, the thief grabbed the man’s cell phone and iPad, and then fled.

iPhone stolen from roller rink

In a story that straddles two different eras, an iPhone was reported stolen from a roller rink in Michigan. According to the Oakland Press, the suspect grabbed the phone as it charged on a table, and then left with it.

74-year-old accused of stealing iPhone at casino with his cane

A senior citizen has been charged after he was caught on security video using his walking stick to steal an iPhone 8 Plus from the floor of a casino in Pennsylvania. According to the Times Leader newspaper, the phone fell of its owner’s pocket to the ground as he played at a slot machine; the 74-year-old man was seen on security video using the stick to slide the phone over to himself.

When questioned, the 74-year-old’s wife said she had found the phone in a women’s bathroom and returned it to lost-and-found.

iPhone thief caught in sting

A man in Massachusetts who had stolen a woman’s iPhone from a McDonalds reached out to the victim and agreed to return it for $100- but when he showed up for the exchange, police were there to arrest him. According to Wareham Week, the phone was recovered, and the man was charged with receiving stolen property over $250.

Mob boss’ partner wants iPhones back from Irish government

The former girlfriend of a notorious mob boss in Ireland has asked a court to return to her several seized luxury items, including a pair of iPhones. According to The Independent, the haul includes money, watches, and two iPhones, one of which contains photographs of her child as a young baby. The items were seized during a drug investigation, the newspaper said.

Apple Store theft nets power adapters,USB cables, keyboard

Robberies of Apple Stores usually involve the theft of iPhones, iPads and computers. But a recent theft at an Apple Store location in Connecticut was much more unorthodox. According to the Greenwich Free Press, the June theft by a 37-year-old woman at an Apple Store in Greenwich netted “power adapters,USB cables, and magic keyboard with a total value of a few hundred dollars.” The woman was arrested and charged with Larceny 6.

Have an Apple-related crime story for us? Email AppleInsider and tell us about it!.

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Review: LIFX Beam with Apple HomeKit is a cool remote-controlled lighting feature

The Beam may be a luxury, and has a few rough edges, but proves to be a cool way of making smart lighting a focus of your home instead of just another fixture.

Within the niche world of LED smart lighting, there seems to be a burgeoning demand for lights as decorations. Companies like Philips and LIFX have lightstrips, LIFX specifically has the Tile, and Nanoleaf has its Light Panels. After all, why stick to bulbs when you’re not bound by the limitations of incandescents or fluorescents?

The LIFX Beam seems like an obvious addition in some respects, but oddly enough, the concept doesn’t seem to have been done before. Think of it has a rigid lightstrip, only one that’s meant to be conspicuously placed rather than line a desk or entertainment center. You can still do that, naturally.

Despite the singular in its name, the Beam kit actually includes six beams, as well as a corner piece, power adapter, and controller unit. The beams and corner join together magnetically, and can be arranged in different patterns — typically in L-shapes or a straight line, since LIFX only includes one corner.

Installation may be the trickiest part of the whole endeavor. Beam ends can only join opposite magnetic poles, and each segment sticks to the wall with special 3M adhesive, meaning you’ll have to press against them to make sure they stick firm and flat. You can pull them off and reapply, if need be — and you probably will at one point, whether to pick another pattern, level the lights, or make sure that the power adapter (which is also magnetic) can connect to the beam closest to your wall socket.

It’s also vital to make sure the connectors on each beam are in full contact. As we discovered, if one of them is even slightly loose, it can prevent others from lighting up. In the case of HomeKit, it can cause a “no response” error in the iOS Home app. This probably could’ve been solved if LIFX had used a snap-together design instead of magnets.

Assuming all goes well though, the LIFX app does a good job of onboarding, guiding users through adding the Beam to the LIFX cloud as well as HomeKit. If you want to go a step further you can add it to Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and even Microsoft Cortana, as well as platforms like IFTTT and Nest.

We were able to test the product with HomeKit/Siri and Alexa. Both share largely the same set of voice commands, allowing you to change color and brightness, and turn the light on and off. The accessory can also be integrated into scenes and automations, for example automatically turning on at night.

You truly can’t get the most out of it though without its proprietary app. Siri, Alexa, and the iOS Home app can only set one uniform color, whereas the LIFX app can take advantage of the 10 separate lighting zones on each beam. With six beams and an illuminated corner, you could theoretically have up to 61 different colors on your wall.

The app includes 18 preset themes, which can be applied to the Beam specifically or to a group of LIFX lights. You can further choose whether to make color transitions solid or blended. If none of these fit your mood, you can choose to “paint” your own theme. This generally works well, but you can’t save your creations, and since the app can’t tell what shape you’ve made with the Beam it’s hard to gauge where colors will appear.

Neat but of mixed quality are 9 separate “effects,” which (usually) override any theme you have enabled. We found “Color Cycle,” “Animate Theme,” and “Move” visually appealing — the rest are disposable, such as “Music Visualizer,” which depends on your device’s microphone and didn’t match the songs we were playing all that well.

All that being said, how well does the Beam actually light a room? Reasonably. It’s surprisingly bright at full intensity, but unless you’re right next to it or in a small office, you’ll probably want an extra lamp or two if you intend to read anything.

Conclusions

By now, you’ve probably already decided on whether you want a Beam based purely on photos. Rest assured that yes, in person, the product does make a room look like something out of “Blade Runner” or other ’80s cyberpunk fantasies. It’s ideal for movie and gaming spaces for that reason.

If you’re going to get one, just be aware that it’s not meant to be a practical product. It can only ever illuminate a small space, making it a decoration first and foremost. If you enjoy its looks and have the budget needed to get one, otherwise, none of its quirks should be enough to stop you.

Score: 4 out of 5

Where to buy

The LIFX Beam retails for $199.99 and is available at Amazon.com with free shipping.

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Review: Olloclip for iPhone X — the best budget lens system

Olloclip released an updated version of their popular mobile lenses, tailor-made for the iPhone X. Included is a wide angle lens, a fisheye lens, and a macro lens —and we’ve been testing it out for a few weeks.

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Olloclip’s lenses have really come a long way since they originally launched, now coming in a neatly integrated package that seems to have considered every use case.

While it took a bit longer than many hoped before coming to the iPhone X, the result is an impressively useful toolset of glass, metal, and plastic.

Overview

Olloclip iPhone X Lens

Eager iPhone X owners will receive a total of three lenses with the Olloclip box set, including a super-wide angle lens, a 15x macro lens, and an all-encompassing fisheye. The macro lens actually resides behind the fisheye lens, which needs to be unscrewed before use.

Each of the two primary lenses – the wide angle and fisheye – are attached to a removable plate that fits into the mounting clip. This clip is used to go over the top-right corner of the iPhone X, covering the camera module along the back, as well as the True Depth camera system up front.

Each individual lens can be used in one of three ways. It can be used on the rear wide-angle lens, on the rear telelens, and on the front-facing selfie camera. Between three different lenses and three different orientations, it can be quite difficult to keep straight.

Olloclip iPhone X Lens

After using the Olloclip lenses on our iPhone X for a while, we noticed a few issues with the design. For starters, the shape of the mounting clip can be a bit confusing to align correctly. There is, in fact, a “front” and a “back” though they can be nearly indistinguishable when trying to quickly put into place. Additionally, a few times we thought it was in place, though it actually wasn’t. We tried to grab the lens and it slipped off. Considering the Olloclip lenses don’t work with a case, it is scary that we nearly dropped our device doing this. Clearly it is good practice to not grab the lens at all, but even more so if it isn’t locked in place.

Olloclip Face ID on iPhone X

A bigger issue though is when attached, Face ID is unable to function. As we mentioned, when in place, the mounting clip will cover the True Depth camera system in near totality. It is necessary when actually using the lens on the front facing camera, but when trying to unlock your phone, it is impossible. It got quite frustrating in our use not being able to get into our phones with the ease we’ve been accustomed to.

Build quality

We’ve used many Olloclip lenses over the years, and the build quality here is consistent with what we’ve come to expect from the brand. It fits squarely in the middle between the more premium offers and the dirt-cheap junk found in bulk on Amazon.

The lenses themselves are made out of a lightweight metal and glass, though they get affixed to a plastic mount. This plastic mounting clip is the weakest-feeling portion of the whole kit, and the way it expands to clip onto the keychain or the phone feels a bit sloppy. We do worry about this holding up over time, but luckily this would be the easiest (and cheapest) to replace if need be.

Photo quality

Any mobile lens needs to be able to shoot some pretty stellar photos to warrant their inclusion in our pocket. After shooting dozens and dozens of photos, we were solidly happy with two out of the three lenses.

Olloclip iPhone X Selfie Camera

Of the three, the macro was the one we used least, but it yielded some really impressive photos. We shot quite a few images that really stood out to us and were crystal clear. Olloclip’s macro lens is also 15x which is a bit more magnification than we typically see.

Most people will get spend the majority of time shooting on the super-wide angle lens. It is by far the most practical lens of the three, fitting into most situations. It can make the wide-angle lens even wider, or it can help the 2x tele lens fit more into frame. Not only does the wide angle let you get more coverage, it does so with very little distortion.

When we come to the fisheye lens, it certainly had the instantly recognizable curvature you’d expect. However, it adds some crazy clipping/vignetting on each of the corners. To use one of these images, it would need to be cropped quite substantially or used with blacked out areas.

Premium options

Olloclip is hands-down preferred over the bulk of mobile lenses out there. It is portable, fits exactly over the camera housing, and has many options between the multiple lenses and orientations.

Moment Macro Lens

It isn’t, however, the most premium lens system in town. Our two favorites hail from Moment and Sandmarc. Both of these manufacturers produce high quality, premium lenses that cost significantly more than Olloclip.

Fortunately, Olloclip has other benefits instead of just price. The integrated and portable package is much easier to carrier around, and no extra case is required to use. Moment and Sandmarc require a specially made case to attach the lenses the phone.

Without a doubt Moment and Sandmarc put out superior glass, but most people won’t have the need for such high-end lenses. With lenses, you can often get 90 percent of the way there for a fraction of the price. But to go from where Olloclip is, to the last 10 percent, takes a lot more time, effort, and money to do correctly.

To get 90 percent of the way for 1/3 the price, seems like a fair trade-offf.

Get shooting

Olloclip Lens

Olloclip is a decent package for any photographer, experienced or novice, who wants to shoot better photos on their phone. Compared to others, there is a lot to take in. A portable keychain, multiple lenses, several orientations.

Photo quality was more than sufficient, letting us get a lot of great shots without much fuss. Adding a wide-angle lens to your mobile arsenal is a great move whether shooting landscapes, indoors, or taking selfies with a group.

There are certainly downsides such as Face ID being blocked, the questionable long-term integrity of the clip, and awkward mount design, but that can all be largely overlooked in the short term for the practicality and usefulness of these lenses.

If Face ID’s occlusion isn’t a deal-breaker for you, then the Olloclip for iPhone X gets a

Rating 3.5 out of 5

Where to buy

Those interested can pick up each individual lens by themselves, or as a whole set. Both the fisheye/macro lens and the super-wide angle can be had for $59.99 each, or the whole box set can be found for $99.99 either on Amazon, or direct from Olloclip.

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Review: Elgato’s Eve Aqua water controller is for HomeKit diehards

As the British might say, the Eve Aqua “does what it says on the tin,” even if it could stand refinements in some areas.

When Apple launched iOS 11 last year, one of the key additions it made to HomeKit was support for sprinklers and faucets. People have been automating these products for years, especially in hydroponics, so it’s only natural that Apple would join in.

The Eve Aqua is one of the first products made with this support in mind. Elgato describes it as a “smart water controller,” and that’s as good a description as any. It sits between an outdoor faucet and a self-supplied hose, turning water on and off on command.

Installation is simple overall, but tricky in its first step: inserting two bundled AA batteries, of all things. You wouldn’t think that would be trouble, but the Aqua’s design requires you to press on a panel that slides up not just the battery compartment but the entire front panel of the accessory. It puts up a lot of resistance, such that we had to fight for a few minutes to make it work.

With that overcome, the next step is to open the Eve app on an iPhone or iPad, and use it to add the accessory to both that software and HomeKit. You can then connect the Aqua to a hose and faucet, lastly making sure the faucet is left on.

We connected our hose to a rotating sprinkler, but conceivably you can hook one up to anything or nothing depending on your needs.

If you really want to, you can abandon the Eve app entirely at this point. Siri or the iOS Home app will turn the Aqua on and off, and going into the Home app’s Details panel will let you set a shutoff delay. Oddly enough, you can’t add the Aqua to any HomeKit scenes or automations. This seems to be Apple’s fault, not Elgato’s, but may be something worth considering for potential buyers.

iOS Home app

This is why you probably will end up using the Eve app, since it’s necessary to configure schedules. You can assign an Aqua to run for 10 minutes at 6:15 a.m. and 10 minutes at 7 p.m on Wednesday and Saturdays, for example. This is particularly useful in regions with severe watering restrictions like Texas.

Elgato’s app also lets you check battery levels, activity history, and estimated consumption. Some people might be shocked to learn how much water a sprinkler can put out, in which case the Aqua would be handy for lowering utility bills and helping the environment.

Elgato Eve app

In our testing the device proved semi-reliable with Siri or app-based requests, but fully dependable with locally-saved schedules. We wish it were a little more responsive, especially since water is involved, but we don’t have any major complaints. In a pinch a physical button can be used to toggle water manually.

This ties into a recurring problem with the Eve line, which is Elgato’s insistence on using Bluetooth instead of Wi-Fi. To change the programming on the Aqua you have to bring your iPhone or iPad within close range, which may mean having to go outside depending on where your faucet is. It’s not a huge hassle, but does feel a little silly given that you can get water controllers that don’t depend on phones, tablets, or the internet.

For even basic control outside of Bluetooth range you’ll need an Apple TV, iPad, or HomePod that is within range, operating as a Home hub. That may be a tall order for some people — even if you’re rocking multiple hubs, you may not have one near your yard. We were lucky to have an Apple TV 4K near the backyard of our test house.

Admittedly, Wi-Fi may not be best option for an outdoor product either. It does tend to have better range though, and it wouldn’t require you to be deeply invested in the Apple ecosystem.

Elgato’s strict focus on HomeKit is beginning to feel myopic. The Aqua lacks integration with platforms like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or even Android. In 2018 many of us mix and match devices rather than stick to a single manufacturer, and can’t afford to change things up for one or two accessories.

Conclusions

If you’re certain you’ll have an iPhone, iPad, and/or a Home hub for years, the Eve Aqua will get the job done. Yes, you may potentially have to stand outside in the hot sun to change your watering schedule, but chances are you’ll set it once and forget about it until it’s time to change batteries or bring things inside for the winter.

The greater concern, as we’ve suggested, is how the product fits into your lifestyle. If Alexa or Google Home devices are as integral to your smarthome setup as HomeKit, you may want to think twice. Likewise if remote access is essential and you can’t see situating a Home hub where it’s needed. IFTTT integration would be fantastic, letting you prevent a sprinkler from going off when frost or snow is forecast.

Elgato is generally on the right track with its smarthome gear, but if it’s not going to switch to built-in Wi-Fi, it should at least follow Belkin’s lead and put out a bridge.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

Where to buy

Retailing for $99.95, the Aqua can be purchased directly from Eve. Or if you’re willing to wait, Amazon.com is also accepting backorders for the smart water controller.