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They say it's not the camera that makes a good photograph-it's the photographer. If you've got some skills when it comes to taking a photo, you'll be able to produce some truly amazing shots with any type of camera.


Even if you were to use the camera on your humble smartphone, you would still get good results.


Cameras on smartphones-particularly the Android smartphones-get better with every new model. Because of this, it really isn't all that difficult to produce some great photos. But while a smartphone camera's capabilities are sufficient enough for your photography needs, having a few extra tools and gadgets at your disposal certainly wouldn't hurt.


Here are a few apps and accessories for your Android smartphone that can help improve your photography:


1. Camera Zoom FX



If you want a camera and photo editing app that gives you a suite of professional features along with some awesome effects and filters for your next Instagram selfie, then this app is for you. A heavy favorite among Android users, this app gets you pretty close to having a smartphone that can work like a DSLR, thanks to powerful features such as full manual controls; RAW capture on supported devices; the option to adjust your ISO, exposure, shutter speed, and focus distance; powerful HD post-processing; and more.


2. Ztylus RV-1 Revolver Lens Attachment and Case



Image Source: Adorama

With DSLR cameras, it's important to use the right lens for your needs-the kit lens can only take you so far. Interchangeable lenses play a crucial role in achieving your desired shot, especially if you're trying to shoot close-ups with very fine detail (macro) or a panoramic landscape shot (wide-angle).


The same principle applies to your smartphone. If you want to achieve better results and get more variety out of your smartphone camera, using attachable lenses is the way to go. For Android phones, the Ztyler RV-1 revolver lens is a great, inexpensive option, as it gives you three lenses in one: a wide angle, a super macro, and an extreme fisheye. It also comes with a polarizer for when you're shooting outdoors in sunny weather.


3. Manual Camera



If you want a simple, no-frills app that offers impressive, full manual camera controls, this is the app for you. It has no cutesy effects, no artsy filters, and none of the other fun add-on features from other camera apps on the market. It simply allows you to take full advantage of Android Lollipop's Camera2 API.


With this app, you'll be able to manually adjust your shutter speed, ISO, white balance, focus distance, and exposure compensation. It also allows you to shoot in RAW format, which is preferred by photographers to make post-processing much easier.



Make sure to run the compatibility test first to see if it will work for you and your device.


4. Snap Camera HDR



Whether you are a professional photographer or a casual user, Snap Camera HD is an extremely useful app for creating great images and videos. In addition to the usual manual controls and the RAW support, it also offers 4K video recording, HDR mode, fast picture mode, and miscellaneous (but pretty useful) features such as the ability to use your phone's Torch mode while recording video in low-light situations.


5. FLY-X3 Plus 3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer




Image Source: Adorama


When you're shooting with a smartphone, you're not exactly going to be carrying a tripod everywhere you go. The better solution, therefore, is to use a handheld gimbal stabilizer. This simple, portable, and highly useful device uses a motorized 3-axis powered gimbal to eliminate camera shake and give you the smoothest, most stable video footage and images. This is perfect for action shots or for images that require slower shutter speeds.


6. DSLR Camera Pro



Just as the name suggests, the DSLR Camera Pro is an app that lets you turn your smartphone into a DSLR-or as close as it can get to a DSLR, anyway. Just like Manual Camera, this app keeps it fairly simple by doing away with fancy filters, frames, stickers, and other extra camera effects. It just sticks to manual camera settings. The features include a moveable viewfinder, live histogram, exposure compensation, light metering mode, ISO and white balance adjustment, and more.


7. Luxi Light Meter




Image Source: Extrasensory Devices


Luxi is a great addition to your photography tools and accessories because it turns your smartphone into a professional-quality light meter. Much like the integrated light meter in a DSLR camera, Luxi will help you determine the optimal manual settings to achieve the perfect exposure for your images.


With this device, you take most of the guesswork out of adjusting your smartphone camera's manual settings.


8. Pocket Spotlight



Image Source: Photojojo


When it comes to photography, lighting is key. But what happens when the lighting is virtually nonexistent?


Instead of using your phone's built-in flash to add some light to your images, use an external lighting device like Photojojo's Pocket Spotlight.


Compatible with both iPhone and Android smartphones, this portable device is a continuous light source that plugs into your phone's headphone jack. It produces beautifully even, soft light in three modes: full strength, half strength, and strobe-tastic.


Apart from these apps and accessories, there are many other ways to make the best out of your smartphone's camera. Give them a try and experiment with various apps and add-on accessories to see which ones work best for you and your phone when it comes to creating amazing, professional-quality images!



No-one buys physical music anymore; gone are the days of queuing up outside HMV to get your hands on that freshly released CD. Thankfully, music streaming services have completely changed the way we consume music, and they've changed it for the better. For access to millions of songs on demand, for the price of a single CD each month, there's no wonder it's where the future of music is heading.


Spotify launched back in 2008; it was the first time that you could stream music as opposed to downloading it on this scale. With Spotify, you have access to (almost) any song or artist that your ears desire - including that obscure band you went to see in the back room of a pub last week. Spotify offers both free and paid for subscriptions (although most of the sought-after features are only available on the paid plan) and with 40 million paid subscribers and a further 55 million free subscribers, it is truly the market leader.


"Spotify HQ" (CC BY 2.0) by Sorosh


For seven years, Spotify ruled the roost. In 2015, however, our favourite tech brand wanted in on the action; Apple Music was born. Since its launch, Apple Music has gained 16 million paid subscribers. There's no free subscription available, just a three-month free trial for all users. You might think that this would mean that Spotify has the edge, but Apple Music has soared in its first year, proving to be a true competitor.


"Apple" (CC BY 2.0) by DeclanTM


With two top-notch music streaming services out there, how do you go about working out which one to go for?


How to Pay


You can pay for Spotify via credit or debit card with an online gift card, or add the payment to your monthly phone bill. Apple Music links to your iTunes account so you can pay the same way you do for apps: via credit, debit card, monthly phone bill, online gift cards, or store credit.


Both services offer a wide range of payment options, and if you fancy saving a bit of money, you can actually get your hands on discounted online gift cards for both Spotify and Apple Music. Who doesn't love a bargain?


(Un)available Music


Despite boasting over 30 million tracks, the major albums not available on Spotify are Taylor Swift's 1989, Kanye West's Life of Pablo, Adele's 25, Jay Z's The Blueprint, and even Prince's Purple Rain.


Don't expect to get Apple Music and be able to listen to The Beatles or Prince anytime soon (where can we actually listen to Prince?!). Apple Music does take the lead here though, as most of the music not available isn't on Spotify either.


On The Go Listening


We're always on the go and the last thing we want is to drain our precious data. Both Spotify and Apple Music have mobile apps that allow you to download playlists to listen to offline.


Both services do technically allow you to integrate your own library. Although Spotify's process is a tedious desktop based one whereas Apple Music should integrate with your iTunes library automatically. There are still a couple of known bugs with the integration, but it looks like Apple are in the process of ironing out the creases.

via GIPHY


There are pros and cons for each of the services. Spotify is still the market leader with the number of subscribers and the number of tracks available, but Apple Music is creeping its way up the ladder, getting the big artists on board and pushing the boundaries of online streaming.




"Taking a photo of Christmas tree" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Takashi(aes256)


We can all be guilty of getting into the Christmas spirit a little early. Festive marketing - which usually begins in November - can be a little bit infectious. But Selfridges in London took the cake for overexcitement this year, opening the doors of their Christmas shop on the first day of August - the peak of British summertime.


For regular folk, Christmas usually begins in mid-November, ahead of the last (or second-to-last) wage of the year. You know, the point when questions about trees, markets, presents, John Lewis adverts and Coca-Cola trucks become unavoidable. We're almost at that point once again, so here are a few mobile apps to get you in the mood for Santa's arrival.


NORAD Tracks Santa (iOS, Android)


NORAD, otherwise known as the North American Aerospace Defense Command, is arguably the last organisation on Earth you'd expect to run a regular Santa-tracking service over the festive period. However, the event has been a fixture of Christmas in the States since 1955, when a child tried to call Santa and ended up speaking to Colonel Harry Shoup instead.

'NORAD Tracks Santa' has made the leap from helpline service to a Google Maps-style website over the last few decades. But most modern users will experience Santa's journey on Android or iOS in 2016. The event is incredibly popular, with volunteers fielding 117,000 phone calls from children and nearly 20million people following Santa via the app or website in 2013.


The Elf Adventure Christmas Story (iOS, Android)


Many of the most popular Android and iOS games out there have Christmas themes, such as Doodle Jump Christmas Special or A Christmas Carol by Bitcasino, a slots-style game available here. However, some festive titles are just palette swaps of an original, sticking a woolly hat on a protagonist or swapping a palm tree for a fir tree.

One for the kids, the Elf Adventure Christmas Story is a 24-episode saga and digital advent calendar that revolves around a quest to awaken a sleepy frost giant before Christmas. It's nothing too taxing - each day requires the completion of a task like cleaning a window or putting biscuits in an oven - but it's a fun distraction before school for the little ones.


Secret Santa Tombola (iOS)


Whether it's a pair of socks or a sew-your-own plush cactus, Secret Santa has always been a celebration of the cheapest and weirdest presents on the market. With office-based versions of the game, the likelihood is that you won't know anything about the person you're buying a present for. So why not leave it up to fate?


Secret Santa Tombola is an app with the uncreative and just plain lazy in mind. All you have to do is specify whether the recipient is male or female, set a budget, and choose the type of gift you'd like to see as a suggestion (cute, funny, or cheeky). It's the mobile equivalent of closing your eyes and choosing something at random from the Argos catalogue.


So, there you go; three apps to make Christmas a little easier and a lot more exciting. A good month before Santa pulls on his boots.




To be honest, there are plenty of app tools in the Google Play Store that are extremely useful, but if we had to choose just three for our smartphone, these would be them.


Google Translate (Free)



Google Translate is one of the best things to ever happen to the internet as it almost closes the communication gap completely in between people from different regions of the world. It has support for 103 languages at present, with many more about to be added. The app even supports offline translations for up to 52 languages and includes a conversation mode, so that you can translate while communicating with a person who is speaking in another language! There's also Optical Character Recognition embedded in the app now.


Smart Tools ($2.99)



Smart Tools is a handy little application which includes multiple rulers, a compass, torchlight, measurement tools, unit converter, vibrometer and a mirror. It's almost everything you may need for daily tasks, tucked into one app for easy access.


ParcelTrack ($2.99)



Being an online shopper myself, I really appreciate how easy it is to keep track of all my shipments via this one app. Put in the tracking number and the courier service's name to keep yourself informed about the whereabouts of all your shipments, complete with alerts and timely updates. If you are a seller who ships merchandise to your customers on a regular basis, you will appreciate ParcelTrack even more.




Android-powered mobile devices are more popular than ever with an estimated 1.5 billion active devices currently operating across the globe. Each device can hold hundreds of apps but in a market that is so over-crowded, which apps are the most essential? Here are the top 5 must-have apps available on the Android platform.


WhatsApp Messenger



We currently live in a world where instant communication has never been more important. People want access to their loved ones and friends at all times and sometimes it can be tricky to get hold of those people when relying simply on phone calls and text messages if the signal is poor.


This is where WhatsApp Messenger comes in. Released back in January, 2010, WhatsApp allows users to not only send a text-based message, images, and even sound recordings to others through the app provided there is a 3G or 4G connection or wireless connection present but it also will not cost a penny for users to do so. Users can also set up group chats so they can message multiple people simultaneously and it just allows an extra potential method of convenient communication. It has a user base in excess of 1 billion active users making it the largest messaging app available. Its takeover by Facebook has also allowed it to maximise its potential over recent months.


Snapchat



It's hard to think that Snapchat first hit the app stores back in September, 2011 and it has just grown in popularity ever since. It is so popular in fact that some major companies have altered their logos on social media in order to link in with the Snapchat app. You might recognise that ghost-style image. It was originally created by Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown when they were student studying at Stanford University.


The app can be used for photo sharing, instant messaging, multimedia, and video chat. It is available in over 20 languages which shows how it has transcended cultures across the world. The app has proved to be such a hit with mobile device users that it had reached 10 billion daily video views in 2016. Even though the app initially hit the main stream for its image sharing capabilities, a recent survey suggested that 71% of users now actually used it for its instant chat functions.


Instagram



One thing that really riles professional photographers is when those that are not active in the industry claim they could do it. Unfortunately, for photographers, that claim has now been given more of a voice due to the rise of the image and video-sharing app Instagram that allows users to manipulate and edit their photographs to give it a more professional edge.


Instagram was initially released back in October, 2010 by its creators Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and six years later it continues to be one of the most used apps on Android devices. It is listed up there with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr as being one of the main social network apps on the market. Latest figures suggest that the app has over 500 million active users every month which is a 100 million increase on 2015. It is used by celebrities and sports stars to communicate with fans and has even become a source of income for those in the fashion and food industries who blog their experiences for audiences.


Slots Huuuge Casino



Mobile casino gaming is an industry that is growing with every passing day. Online casino operators realise that analysts predict mobile casino revenue will hit the $99.6 billion mark this year and it is a market that is becoming potentially very lucrative as online products transfer onto the mobile platform.


There are an endless number of mobile casino offerings on the market but one of the most underrated ones is the Huuuge Inc-developed Slots Huuuge Casino. Players can get involved in a wide selection of classic casino games on their mobile devices such as slots, poker, blackjack, roulette, and baccarat plus many more. The likes of Big Fish Casino and DoubleDown Casino are still the bigger names but this app is one of a new up and coming generation that will evolve the market and take things to the next level.


Advanced Task Killer



It is a common complaint for users of mobile devices. An app that is sucking the life out of your mobile device battery has been left open in the background and within a matter of hours your device has run out of juice and you're left with a powerless mobile device without a charger within touching distance.


Advanced Task Killer is a tool that can help to solve that issue. It lists all the apps that are running both in the foreground and background of your mobile device. It will then give you the option to kill those devices to stop them from draining your battery. Developed by ReChild, it has been on the market for a number of years now but remains one of the most underrated apps available for download.

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