All posts in “Mobile”

What is portrait mode? How tech helps smartphones capture a better you

oneplus 6 tips and tricks portrait mode

Smartphones may have smaller sensors and lenses than DSLRs, but what the cameras in our pockets lack in hardware, they can (sometimes) make up for with software and computing power — as well as tweaks to that tiny hardware. Portrait mode is now a common feature on most smartphones, but what exactly does it do? Is it just another catchphrase to get you to pay more money for a phone, or does portrait mode really capture better photos?

While the technology behind the camera feature differs between smartphones, portrait mode is a form of computational photography that helps smartphone snapshots look a bit more like they came from a high-end camera. Here’s how portrait mode works.

What is portrait mode?

Portrait mode is a feature in quite a few smartphones that helps you take better pictures of people by capturing a sharp face and a nicely blurred background. It’s specifically made to improve close-up photos of one person — hence the name portrait (though you can use it for objects). Portrait mode started as one of the scene modes you typically find on a digital camera, but now the feature has been adapted to smartphone photography. While both the portrait mode on a digital camera and the portrait mode on a smartphone may share the same name, they vary drastically in howthe image is taken.

Portrait mode is a form of computational photography that artificially applies blur to the background.

When first offered as a photo mode on digital cameras, portrait mode helped novice photographers take better portraits by adjusting the camera settings. The aperture, or the opening in the lens, widens to blur the background. A blurred background draws the eye to the subject and eliminates distractions in the background, so wide apertures are popular for professionally shot portraits. Over time, additional optimization was added in, such as improving the processing to make faces even clearer by eliminating red eye and adjusting the autofocus.

A smartphone camera, however, cannot adjust those settings to take a better portrait. For starters, the aperture on most smartphone cameras is fixed, so you can’t actually change it (the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus are notable exceptions). Even on the few models that allow for an adjustable aperture, however, the lens and sensor inside a smartphone camera are too small to create the blur that DSLRs or mirrorless cameras are capable of capturing.

Smartphone manufacturers can’t fit a giant DLSR sensor inside a smartphone and still have it fit in your pocket — but smartphones have more computing power than a DSLR. That difference is what powers a smartphone’s portrait mode. On a smartphone, portrait mode is a form of computational photography that artificially applies blur to the background to mimic the background blur of a DSLR. Smartphone portrait mode relies on a mix of software and hardware.

blackberry key2 camera pp
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Blurring the background of a photo is tougher than it sounds — for starters, the smartphone needs to be able to tell what’s the background and what’s not in order to keep the face sharp. Different manufacturers have found different ways to determine what to blur and what to leave sharp, which means that, brand by brand, smartphone portrait modes can look considerably different.

If you really want to learn how portrait mode works on modern smartphones, it’s important to understand the tricks phone manufacturers use to enable this feature.

How phones make portrait mode work

which phone has the best portrait mode camera comparison
TheUnlockr

Apple was widely recognized as fueling the portrait mode trend when it introduced the feature on the iPhone 7 Plus in 2017. It proved popular, and a number of other manufacturers began releasing phones that included their own portrait optimization. Let’s break down the different methods used to blur that background:

Apple PortraitTwo-lens depth mapping

The original smartphone portrait mode requires a dual-lens camera. Depth mapping uses both the telephoto lens and the wide angle lens on a smartphone to examine the same visual field and compare notes. These two different viewpoints can work together to create a “depth map,” or an estimation of how far away objects in the shot are. With the depth map, the smartphone can then determine what’s the background and what’s not.

Combined with face detection technology, the phone runs the image through a blurring algorithm that attempts to blur the background and highlight the face. This is the technique used by the latest Samsung Galaxy phones, and the latest iPhone devices, including the iPhone X.

Pixel splitting

Rather than requiring two lenses, pixel splitting requires a specific type of camera sensor and just one lens. Instead of creating a depth map using two different lenses, this technique creates a depth map from two different sides of the same pixel.  In smartphones with dual-pixel autofocus, like the Google Pixel 2, a single pixel actually has two photodiodes. Just like with a dual-lens camera, the software can compare the slightly different views from both sides of the pixel to create a depth map. The camera can then use the depth map without needing to consult an image from a separate lens and apply blur. Phones with this capability can take portrait mode photos from the front-facing camera as well, which may be better suited for your selfies.

Software-only portrait mode

Ideally, portrait mode uses a mix of hardware and software for the best results. But what if you can’t control the hardware? Apps designed to work on multiple devices use artificial intelligence and facial recognition to guess where the person is and where the background is. The result isn’t as accurate as methods that use both hardware and software because there’s no depth map, but this type of portrait mode is available from a wider range of smartphones. Instagram has a version of portrait mode inside the built-in camera that it calls Focus.

What’s the difference?

Because the software and algorithms used for these techniques can differ, you can still wind up with different results for any of these methods. How different? The Unlockr took a look for us, comparing the Galaxy Note 8, iPhone X, Huawei Mate 10 Pro, and Pixel 2 XL. Note the shading and background differences for these shots, and you can see that there are differences in how portrait mode performs on different models.

Along with getting different results, different devices will have distinct features. Becuase the Pixel 2 doesn’t need two lenses, the portrait mode works with both the rear-facing and front-facing cameras. The iPhone X can also use portrait mode on the front facing camera, but by using a 3D depth map from Face ID.

The bottom line on portrait mode

The best portrait modes are images from interchangeable lens cameras because of the aperture control and larger sensors — no other portraits will look as good. However, computational photography allows smartphones to come closer than ever before by artificially blurring the background. The Pixel 2 XL appears to take the best portrait photos, thanks to intelligent software and one of the best smartphone cameras around. The iPhone X also performs well, although it has a tendency, in our experience, to darken images a little.

While portrait mode differs between models, the biggest difference is between a phone with portrait mode, and one without. Without the hardware to create a depth map, portrait modes can’t quite reach the same level of realistic background blur. If you snap a lot of images of people, portrait mode makes for a dramatic improvement in photo quality, even coming from a smartphone. That difference is enough to warrant opting for a particular phone.

Editors’ Recommendations

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Laptop screen extenders and self-healing tents

At any given moment, there are approximately a zillion different crowdfunding campaigns happening on the web. Take a stroll through Kickstarter or Indiegogo and you’ll find no shortage of weird, useless, and downright stupid projects out there — alongside some real gems. We’ve cut through the fidget spinners and janky iPhone cases to round up the most unusual, ambitious, and exciting new crowdfunding projects out there this week. That said, keep in mind that any crowdfunding project — even those with the best intentions — can fail, so do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

July 8

GoSun Fusion

Solar energy is increasingly popular, and it’s no surprise why. Aside from the fact that it’s cleaner than traditional forms, the sun has been providing energy since long before humans existed, and will probably keep going for a few billion years more. GoSun has been making solar-powered ovens for a few years now, and the Fusion is the company’s latest, most efficient model, with enough volume to make five meals, whether you want to steam, bake, or even roast.

The Fusion is vacuum-insulated, so you never need to worry about burning yourself on it, and despite the large size, it’s easy to take with you anywhere. Of course, your plan to use solar energy falls apart if you end up cooking on a rainy day, but the Fusion can hook up to a lithium-ion power bank for cooking with or without sunlight (the power bank can charge via solar power, so you never need to worry about your environmental footprint).

Nano Cure self-healing tent

Tents are an essential part of camping, but they can also be a huge investment, and so it can be a real pain if they end up getting damaged, whether by catching on a particularly sharp branch or getting ripped open by a curious bear. The creators of the Nano Cure tent have a solution, however: A seemingly magical tent, made of fabric that heals after being punctured.

NCT (Nano Cure Technology), as Imperial Motion puts it, is a nylon “ripstop” fabric composed of durable fibers. When something pierces the NCT, it pushes the fibers apart, but they don’t break. By applying friction (even just the rub of a finger), users can massage the fibers back into their original state, closing the wound, so to speak. It might sound too wild to be true, but self-healing fabrics are a topic of much research now, with universities like Penn State working with such materials. The Nano Cure tent comes in four colors (Rust, Asphalt, Olive, and Soft Blue), and it’s water-resistant and can hold roughly four people, according to the campaign.

Mix AR glasses

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Virtual reality gets so much attention that it’s easy to forget the technology’s hard-working sibling: Augmented reality, in which virtual constructs are projected onto the real world. Yes, while AR won’t immerse you in an illusory world, it has a lot of potential for a variety of fields, including gaming, engineering, even medicine. There have been a few high-profile attempts at making AR glasses (such as Google Glass), but for the most part, the field remains in its infancy.

The Mix AR glasses are one of the most exciting entrants into the AR space, offering a grand field of view in a svelte package. Although the glasses are relatively small (compared to VR headsets and the like), they offer an impressive 96-degree field of view, far larger than that of the Google Glass, for example. Even better, they’re compatible with SteamVR, so if you just want a lightweight headset for playing VR games, Mix has you covered.

FixIts moldable plastic

Some inventions are so complicated, you can only wonder how they work. Others are beautifully simple, like FixIts, which are small, plastic sticks that users can heat and mold into whatever shape they want. FixIt’s creators claim that if users immerse the sticks in hot water (around 140 degrees Fahrenheit), they become soft, pliable putty. You can mold the warmed-up FixIts into whatever shape you want, and when they cool down, they become hard and unyielding once again.

So what exactly are FixIts good for? As the name suggests, they’re intended to be a handy tool for fixing household problems. The Kickstarter page offers a few examples, such as wrapping a FixIt around a fraying cable, or fastening on to the bottom of a wobbly chair leg. As with the best tools, FixIt’s design is simple, its uses limitless. The creators also claim that FixIts are biodegradable (in accordance with European Bioplastics’ standards), so you needn’t worry about contributing to one of those garbage islands drifting in the world’s oceans.

Jellyfish lamps

Ah, the elegant jellyfish. Its beautiful appearance belies its cruel nature, its flowing tendrils lined with venomous, stinging cells. If you want to adorn your house with jellyfish, you could build a specialized tank for them, but if the upkeep (or chance of getting stung) don’t appeal, designer Max Jürgensen has a solution: Lamps that mimic the appearance and even movement of jellyfish.

From the outside, the lamp looks like a jellyfish. Housed within the lamp is a motor that tugs on strings, quietly moving the body. Jürgensen’s jellyfish lamps may not be revolutionary, but they feature a lovely design, one that would probably catch the eye of any visitors to your home.

The funniest questions to ask Siri

Siri has come a long way since it was first introduced on the iPhone 4S in 2011. The voice assistant can provide directions, set alarms and reminders, and even help control your smart home. Originally, Siri was only available on the iPhone, but it’s now on just about every Apple device from your Apple Watch to your Mac to your HomePod.

While Siri is best known as a productivity workhorse, it knows how to have a good time as well. Its funny side has become even more apparent in recent years, as more and more people have interacted with it and, inevitably, ended up asking ridiculous questions. We have been chatting with Siri for days in an effort to dig up some of the funnier responses. Bear in mind that some questions elicit different funny responses when you ask again and Apple is adding to Siri’s repertoire all the time. Here are more than 60 questions to ask Siri if you’re looking for a good laugh.

Ask Siri

Q: What does Siri mean?

Q: Are you a robot?

Q: Are you intelligent?

Q: Do you follow the three laws of robotics?

Q: What do you dream about?

Q: How old are you?

Q: Can you stop time?

Q: Why do you vibrate?

Q: What are you made of?

Q: What’s your favorite color?

Q: What is your favorite animal?

Dating

Q: What are you doing later?

Q: Will you go on a date with me?

Q: What is your best pick up line?

Q: Do you have a boyfriend?

Q: Who is your boyfriend?

Q: Talk dirty to me.

Q: Have you ever been in love?

Q: Can I kiss you?

funny questions to ask siri kiss

Q: What are you wearing?

Movies and TV

Q: What’s your favorite movie?

Q: Is Jon Snow Dead?

Q: Is Winter coming?

Q: Are you Her?

Q: What is ‘Inception‘ about?

Q: What is ‘The Matrix‘ (1999) about?

Q: Blue pill or the red pill?

Q: Do you like ‘Blade Runner‘?

Q: Hey Computer?

Q: Do you know HAL 9000?

Q: Open the pod bay doors.

Q: What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

funny questions to ask siri swallow

Q: Siri, I am your father.

funny questions to ask siri father

Q: Do you want to build a snowman?

funny questions to ask siri snowman

Q: Can I call you Jarvis?

Q: Who you gonna call?

funny questions to ask siri who call

Jokes and riddles

Q: Make me laugh.

Q: Do you know any good riddles?

Q: What came first: The chicken or the egg?

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?

Q: How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Q: Will pigs fly?

Q: How many Apple Store geniuses does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

funny questions to ask siri genius joke

Music

Q: What is your favorite song?

Q: Can you beatbox?

A: Just ask. We promise you won’t be disappointed.

Q: Can you sing?

Q: I see a little silhouetto of a man.

A: We’re sure you can guess what Siri says to this.

Q: Who let the dogs out?

funny questions to ask siri dogs out

Q: How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?

funny questions to ask siri dylan

Q: Can you rap?

funny questions to ask siri rap

Other miscellaneous questions

Q: Do you like ‘Pokemon Go‘?

Q; Windows or Mac?

Q: What phone is the best?

Q: What is the best mobile operating system?

Q: OK, Google.

funny questions to ask siri ok google

Q: I’m going to trade you for an Android phone.

Q: What is zero divided by zero?

Q: When is the world going to end?

Q: How do I look?

Q: Do I look fat in this?

Q: Give me a hint.

Q: Is Santa real?

Q: What is the meaning of life?

Q: What is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything?

Editors’ Recommendations

The best iPhone 8 Plus cases and covers

best iphone 8 plus cases

Apple’s latest iPhone range includes the most desirable iPhones yet. The iPhone 8 Plus is the biggest of the bunch, with a beefed-up A11 processor, a dual-camera setup, and more power than you can shake a stick at. It’s no ugly nerd, either. Thanks to an all-new glass back, the new iPhone 8 Plus has looks to go along with its brains.

With those stylish new looks come new dangers. Smartphone glass has improved in leaps and bounds, but when you’re spending hundreds of dollars on an iPhone, do you really want to run the gauntlet with it? No one wants their iPhone to sport cracks, scratches, or worse — that’s why we’ve compiled this list of the best iPhone 8 Plus cases to keep your pride and joy safe and sound.

By the way, if you’re upgrading from an iPhone 7 Plus, then your existing case will work just fine. All the changes to the iPhone 8 Plus are internal, so our iPhone 7 Plus case picks will also serve you well. But there’s always an argument for getting a new case for your new phone — so check out our picks below!

Slickwraps Retro Apple Case ($37)

best iphone 8 plus cases slickwraps

Apple hasn’t always been the world-straddling behemoth it is now, and there was once a time when Apple was known for making kooky little Macintosh computers. While it’s unlikely any Apple fan would want a return to those days, some might miss the unforgettable style of those early machines. This case from Slickwraps emulates those original machines, complete with beige styling and a rainbow-colored Apple logo. It’s made from hard polycarbonate with a soft TPU bumper, and should resist damage well. It also has a raised bezel to stop the phone from resting on harmful surfaces, and the button covers are large, easy to find, and protective.

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Slickwraps

Tech21 Evo Mesh ($40)

best iphone 8 plus cases evo mesh

Tech21 specializes in light and stylish cases that deliver fantastic protection against drops, and the Evo Mesh case is no exception to that rule. It’s made from three layers of TPU and includes Tech21’s special FlexShock material, which makes the Evo Mesh case 30 percent slimmer and 60 percent lighter than other similar cases, while also providing drop protection that’s been tested up to 3 meters (10 feet). It comes with a sturdy bumper outside the case for additional grip, and the unique mesh pattern on the rear of the case lends a cool style, while also allowing the Apple logo to show through.

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Tech21

Otterbox Strada Shadow Leather Case ($60)

best iphone 8 plus cases otterbox

Otterbox is one of the most prominent names in protection, but it has a stylish side too. Otterbox’s Strada series of cases feature all the usual protective qualities that you’d expect from the case manufacturer — they are tested exhaustively to earn Otterbox’s Certified Drop+ Protection designation — but they also packing some serious style. Soft premium leather covers the case, adding grip to your phone and lending a classy air. As a folio wallet case, it also includes a cover that protects the screen when not in use, and has a handy card slot on the inside so you can take some spare cash or a payment card with you. It’s on the expensive side, but it’s strong and exceptionally good-looking.

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Otterbox Amazon

Zizo Ion Series ($17)

best iphone 8 plus cases zizo

A strong new name in device protection, Zizo offers some great cases at competitive prices. The Ion series for the iPhone 8 Plus uses three layers of protection to get the job done. The inner core is made from shock-absorbent and flexible TPU that is sandwiched between two hard polycarbonate plates to help keep your device protected from scratches and other hazards. It’s been drop tested to be compliant with military standard 810-G, while still managing to be lightweight. A raised lip around the edges of the case keeps your phone elevated, while a nonslip coating helps with grip, and dust covers keep small particles out of your device’s ports. It even comes with a glass screen protector for full protection.

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Zizo Wireless Amazon

LifeProof Nüüd Case ($100)

best iphone 8 plus cases lifeproof

If you’re headed out into the wilderness, you’re probably right to worry about the state of your phone. The iPhone 8 Plus is sturdy, but pit it against the multiple hazards present in the great outdoors and the result may not be pretty. That’s where LifeProof comes in. The Nüüd case is able to stay submerged up to 20 meters for an hour, and is fully sealed to guard against snow, dirt, debris, and pretty much anything that can harm your phone. Even better, it’s drop tested up to a height of 2 meters, and shields all the vulnerable areas of your phone. It’s clear, so you can still show off your phone. It’s expensive, but an awful lot less expensive than buying a replacement phone.

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LifeProof Amazon

Peel Super Thin Case ($25)

peel best iphone 8 plus cases

One of the worst things about cases can be the feeling that there’s something between you and your phone. Apple has spent millions of hours ensuring that the iPhone 8 Plus is as thin as possible, so why ruin that with a bulky protective case? Peel’s superthin case is designed to make you forget it’s even there. At only 0.35mm thick, it’s minimalist to the extreme — even forgoing a Peel logo — and it’s thin enough for the Apple logo to show right through it. Despite its thinness, it still provides decent protection against hazards, thanks to impact-absorbing material. A very slight protrusion on the rear camera helps to keep those lenses elevated from surfaces, and it doesn’t interfere with wireless charging. With a range of colors to choose from, you can select a color that matches your iPhone, ensuring it all but disappears once it’s on there.

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Peel

Incipio Stashback Case ($40)

incipio best iphone 8 plus cases

Tired of carrying around your wallet as well as your phone? If you’re not one for wallet cases, you could try out this stylish case from Incipio. The Stashback comes with a shock-absorbing exterior design that still manages to be slim. The case’s name comes from the back panel that opens to reveal a space handy for keeping credit cards, travel passes, or a bit of spare cash. It’s built to Incipio’s usual high standards, with button covers around the sides of the case and a raised lip to protect your phone when placed facedown on surfaces. It’s definitely on the pricier side, but we’ve always been impressed by Incipio’s offerings, and this is no different.

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Amazon Incipio

Moment Photo Case ($30)

moment best iphone 8 plus cases

The iPhone 8 Plus has one of the best phone cameras in the business — good enough to top our list of the best smartphone cameras. So if you’re serious about your photography, why not get a case that complements it? Moment is dedicated to upping your photography game, and this case is the first step. Made from a hard thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), the case has a textured back panel that helps you maintain a good grip. Button covers on the side ensure complete protection, and an optional lanyard attachment means you won’t be dropping your phone on the floor while taking those tricky shots. The real stars here are the additional lenses that attach to the case, adding functionality for macro shots, wide-angle, or fish eye effects. Easy to use and attach, Moment’s photography package is great for anyone who wants to up their game.

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Moment Amazon

Noreve Leather Wallet Case (from $50)

noreve best iphone 8 plus cases

No gimmicks here — just some of the best leather wallet cases you can buy. Noreve’s quality is second to none, with a design based on Saint-Tropezt. Noreve offers the largest amount of choice of any case on this list. Do you want durable and easy-to-maintain PU leather or extravagant saffiano leather? In a natural tan or a deep blue ocean color? Finally, with or without a belt clip? The breadth of choice is astounding, and although you’ll be paying a premium for the most luxurious options, it’s worth it if you want to make sure you’re wrapping your iPhone 8 Plus in a leather case that’s 100 percent your style.

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Noreve

Nomad Clear Case ($40)

Nomad has always impressed with its designs, but the company has outdone itself with the Clear Case for the iPhone 8 Plus. A clear polycarbonate rear shell provides great protection and shows off your phone’s gorgeous design. Softer TPU sides aid grip, and a wonderfully tactile and classy Horween leather panel gets better-looking with time. Inside is a soft microfiber lining. The fit is excellent on our iPhone 8 Plus, and the 6-foot drop protection puts our minds at rest. A version is also available for the iPhone 8. We love it, find it very comfortable to hold, and it hasn’t left our iPhone yet.

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Amazon Nomad

Ghostek Cloak 3 Clear Protective Case ($20)

ghostek cloak 3 best iphone 8 plus cases

Stylish and slim protection is one of Ghostek’s primary mission statements, and although the fledgling case maker is better known for its larger, waterproof cases, its slimmer offerings are not to be missed. The latest in their Cloak range, the Cloak 3, is one of those smaller offerings. Styled to match the contours of your device, the Cloak 3 also comes with a clear back — if you’ve got it, flaunt it. The hard polycarbonate bumper protects the phone’s edges from scratches and physical hazards, while the soft TPU inner case absorbs impacts and offers shock protection that exceeds the military standard for drop testing. Even better, the Cloak 3 has raised edges that protect the 5.5-inch Super Retina screen on the front and the raised camera bump on the rear.

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Ghostek Amazon

VRS Design SimpliMod Leather-Style Case ($25)

vrs designs simplimod best iphone 8 plus cases

Searching for a different style? VRS Design might have the case you’ve been looking for. Featuring a blend of protective polycarbonate and luxurious-feeling PU leather, VRS’ SimpliMod case combines two state-of-the-art materials into one case for a unique look. A slim-fitting shell holds your phone snugly, while the sleek lines of the case add barely any bulk. The polycarbonate keeps your phone safe against scrapes and scratches, and the PU leather adds extra grip to a slippery phone. Raised edges keep your screen and camera from contacting flat surfaces, and spacious cutouts allow for full use of your phone at all times.

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VRS Design Mobile Fun

LuMee Duo Case ($70)

lumee duo best iphone 8 plus cases

A “lit” choice for the selfie-conscious out there. LuMee’s iconic range of light-up cases shot into the spotlight after Selfie Queen Kim Kardashian posted a picture of her iPhone with a LuMee case (and partnered with them). Since then, LuMee’s range of cases, with included soft lighting, have been the go-to for any wannabe Instagram star — or anyone who cares about keeping their selfie game on point. The LuMee Duo doubles the effective uses of the case by adding forward-facing light, so you’ll never be without the perfect, studio-level lighting for your snaps. But it’s not all about the lighting. LuMee has added an extra layer of protection to the Duo in the form of cushioned corners, as well as improved drop resistance, which is extra useful when your phone is pulling double duty as your camera. The Duo is available in black, rose, gold, and white matte, so you can get the perfect color to match your style.

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LuMee Amazon

Vaja Wallet Agenda Leather Case ($129)

vaja agenda wallet best iphone 8 plus cases

Your iPhone 8 Plus is one of the finest smartphones in the world — and it deserves the best in protection. Vaja crafts cases by hand from the finest Bridge leather, ensuring that each case has a 100 percent unique leather grain. As the case ages, so does the leather, becoming more beautiful over time.  The Agenda Wallet series also comes with several card and money slots, along with a cover that folds around the screen when it’s not in use to protect it from harm. The black matte camera frame also helps to enhance the camera flash, assisting low-light photography (check out our iPhone camera tips for more). It’s an expensive option, but if you can afford to part with the cash, then you’re unlikely to find a more luxurious case.

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Vaja

Spigen Liquid Air Armor Case ($11)

spigen liquid air armor best iphone 8 plus cases

What sort of case roundup would this be without the current king of the hill? Spigen is well-known for its range of uber-protective cases that add functionality as well as protection. But bigger doesn’t always mean better, and that’s why we’ve moved away from Spigen’s usual range to show you one of the case titan’s slimmer offerings. Spigen’s Air Cushion technology provides protection against outside hazards, bumps, and drops, while only adding 0.3cm of thickness to your slim iPhone 8 Plus. The distinct (and stylish pattern) on the back of the case isn’t just for looks — it provides a solid grip on what can be a slippery phone, helping stop drops before they happen. The Liquid Air Armor is a solid pick if you’re after a slim but effective case.

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Amazon Spigen

Olixar Makamae Case ($17)

makamae best iphone 8 plus cases

Hawaiian for “precious,” Olixar’s Makamae case lives up to its name. A great choice for anyone who wants a look that breaks away from the crowd but won’t break their budget, Olixar’s Makamae has style to spare. It has brawn to match, with a construction of polycarbonate and a durable synthetic leather. A raised edge around the screen keeps that precious area from scratching on surfaces, and precise cutouts allow access to all the ports and functions of your iPhone 8 Plus.

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Olixar Mobile Fun

Supcase Unicorn Beetle Style Clear Case ($13)

supcase best iphone 8 plus cases

Supcase has made a splash in the past few years with a range of budget cases that offer great protection for reasonable prices. And it’s back with a slightly updates design for the iPhone 8 Plus. The clear back of the Unicorn Beetle Style shows off the color choice of your iPhone, offering protection with a scratch-resistant clear back plate and military-standard drop resistance. A raised edge around the screen and rear camera protect those vulnerable areas from damage, and the high-grade TPU and polycarbonate materials ensure that this is protection that will last. Don’t let misgivings about the low price put you off — the Unicorn Beetle Style is definitely worth a look.

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Amazon Supcase

Ringke Air Prism Glitter Combo Case ($7)

ringke best iphone 8 plus cases

As strange as it seems, the image above shows the same case — the Ringke Air Prism comes with a holographic insert that can be slipped between the phone and case to create the amazing rainbow effect above. Take it out, and the clear back shows off your phone’s peerless design, overlaid with the attractive triangular pattern. It’s the perfect phone case for someone who likes to change up their style and isn’t afraid of making a statement. The case is also superslim at only 1.4mm thick, adding barely any bulk to your iPhone 8 Plus.

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Amazon

UAG Trooper Series Card Case ($40)

uag best iphone 8 plus cases

Another big name in cell phone protection, UAG has updated the Trooper range to extend to the iPhone 8 Plus. Superdurable, the Trooper adheres to military drop test standards, and is sure to keep your phone secure and safe through most daily hazards. A hidden backpack on the rear of the case contains enough room for up to four credit cards, and super-tactile button covers on the sides keep your buttons pristine and responsive. A network of hollow honeycomb shells keep the weight of the case down, while still providing the strength needed to keep your phone safe, thanks to the combination of a hard outer shell and shock-absorbent inner core.

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Amazon UAG

Moshi SenseCover ($50)

moshi best iphone 8 plus cases

Available in a wide variety of colors, the Moshi SenseCover has long been one of the most sought-after cases for the iPhone, and it’s easy to see why. The SenseCover not only keeps your phone fully protected but doesn’t need to be opened to use the phone. Thanks to Moshi’s technology, you can answer your phone (after seeing the caller ID in the window) and chat away, without ever having to open your phone and expose it to the elements. A soft microfiber lining inside the case keeps your phone snug and safe, and it also doubles as a stand for media viewing. It is fully compatible with wireless charging, military drop-tested, and lightweight. The Moshi SenseCover is a strong contender to be the case of choice for your iPhone 8 Plus.

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From Apple’s charging mat to Google’s modular phone, these gadgets went MIA

There have been loads of tech products announced over the years, generating various levels of excitement. A few succeed, most fail, and some never even make it across the starting line. We’ve crafted a list of exciting tech products that caught the public imagination with a flurry of press releases, prototypes, or teaser reveals — only to evaporate in the heat of their own hype.

Apple’s AirPower wireless charger

apple airpower charger
AFP Contributor/Getty Images

In September last year, Apple unveiled the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus making a big deal out of their ability to charge wirelessly. We also caught a brief glimpse of a new Apple wireless charging mat called AirPower, which was touted for an early 2018 release. The mat was shown charging an iPhone X, an Apple Watch, and a set of AirPods simultaneously, but it seems Apple may have bitten off more than it can chew.

Here we are more than halfway through 2018 and the AirPower mat is nowhere to be seen. WWDC 2018 came and went and Apple has remained silent on the subject. But we’re not ready to count this one out just yet. There’s still a chance it will reappear alongside this year’s iPhones in September, but if that event comes and goes without any AirPower news, the charging mat could slip into the realm of the quietly forgotten like the rest of our list.

Sega VR headset

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Back in 1991, when Sega was on top of the world riding the wave of the Genesis’ (Mega Drive) success, it rashly announced a virtual reality headset. The product wasn’t shown off until a couple of years later when it was revealed that Sega VR would sell for $200, work with the Genesis, and come with four games on release. It was pushed back and then canceled after prototypes induced motion sickness and severe headaches in testers.

Despite Sega VR being dead and buried, Nintendo pushed forward with the Virtual Boy, which was released in 1995 and flopped spectacularly, burying the idea of virtual reality for almost 20 years until its recent resurrection. The best VR headset today (the HTC Vive) boasts twin OLED displays with a resolution of 2,160 x 1,200 pixels. Sega VR had color LCDs with a 320 x 200-pixel resolution.

Google’s Project Ara smartphone

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The idea of a modular smartphone generated a lot of excitement when Motorola announced it back in 2013. Why upgrade your phone every year to get a better camera or a bigger battery when you can just buy an individual component upgrade and slot it into your existing phone? Google had just acquired the phonemaker back then and looked ready to throw its weight behind the project, which was first shown off at Google I/O in 2014.

Although slotting together your dream phone like a collection of Lego bricks appealed to some people, it proved difficult to realize. Different concepts and hints at the involvement of big manufacturers came to nothing and Google shelved the project in 2016. A watered-down version of the idea eventually appeared in the shape of Moto Mods. Ethical smartphone maker Fairphone has also pursued the idea with its modular Fairphone 2, and LG made an attempt with the LG G5, but we’ve yet to see a big modular smartphone success.

Phantom game console

phantom gaming console

The video game industry is good at generating enormous levels of hype and excitement and then delivering massive disappointment, but few have scaled the heights of the Phantom game console. Infinium Labs announced the Phantom in 2003, promising a console that would outperform the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. The marketing babble was suspiciously devoid of details, but the central idea hinged around a good-looking console with PC innards capable of offering games on-demand, downloadable from the internet for subscribers.

It was originally supposed to be released in 2003 for $400 with a $10 per month subscription for games, but it was pushed back again and again until the company removed any mention of it from its website in 2006. Valve eventually realized something close to the idea with Steam Machines, announced in 2013 and released in 2015, but even with the might of Steam behind it the platform floundered and has now all but disappeared.

Saygus V2 smartphone

Saygus V2 3
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

This Android superphone was set to deliver a laundry list of features for Android fans seeking something a bit more powerful than the average release. We actually managed to get a hands-on with the Saygus V squared back at MWC in 2015. It was set to have a 21-megapixel camera, a fingerprint sensor, two MicroSD card slots, a 5-inch display, a 3,100mAh battery, and to be IPx7 water resistant, all of which sounded more impressive a few years ago.

We were suspicious about some of the features that didn’t work in the prototype we tried, but like many people who put more than $500 down to pre-order, we believed it was a real phone close to being released. The release date was pushed back further and further, and Saygus couldn’t deliver, even though it continued to take people’s money. Somehow the company still exists, but a two-year delay for a phone makes it hopelessly out-of-date even if it does belatedly arrive. We aren’t holding our breath, and anyone who pre-ordered should ask for their money back while they still can.

Microsoft Courier tablet

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With a string of prototypes and a team of more than 130 people working on it, Microsoft’s ill-fated Courier tablet could have been an iPad competitor of sorts. First reported on back in 2008, the Courier was a folio-style tablet with two 7-inch touchscreens and stylus support. It was designed to be for productivity first and foremost, it ran Windows — so it supported Microsoft’s full suite of Office software — and it was going to be capable of syncing with web services. It also had a camera built-in and support for wireless charging.

After some internal disagreement at Microsoft, the Courier was canned in 2010 and Ballmer led the company towards the touch-friendly Windows 8 platform, almost completely missing the tablet boat. Microsoft eventually tackled the tablet market directly with the Surface line in 2012. The company has continued to iterate, most recently with the $400 Surface Go.

Dishonorable mentions

There are simply too many broken tech dreams to list them all here, but here’s a quick mention of some other hotly anticipated products that never made it.

Nokia Moonraker This wonderfully-named smartwatch was going to launch alongside the Lumia 930 in 2014, but it got pushed aside in favor of the Microsoft Band when Nokia was acquired.

Microsoft Surface Mini – Gearing up to launch in 2014 alongside the Surface Pro 3, the Mini was set to have an 8-inch display, a Snapdragon 800, and 32GB of storage, but it was canceled just a few weeks before the launch event.

Mattel Aristotle – A $300 voice-controlled hub designed for babies and toddlers, the Mattel Aristotle was set to launch in 2017 but it was canned after an outcry from privacy advocates and child-development experts.

Palm Foleo Announced in 2007, the Foleo was designed to be a companion for smartphones offering a full keyboard and larger 10-inch screen, while connecting to the internet through your phone. It was canceled three months after being announced.

DigiScents iSmell This bizarre 2001 product answered a question no one posed: What does the internet smell like? It connected to your computer via USB and could be triggered to create different odors by files embedded in websites, emails, or programs. The inventors miraculously raised $20 million and produced a working prototype before realizing there was zero demand.

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