If you like to manually adjust camera settings, you’ll love Manual, $2 for iOS. Instead of relying on a phone’s camera to guess the right settings, users can tinker with shutter speed, white balance, exposure bracketing and more.
The live-updating graphic at the bottom of the viewfinder image could even help create a final photo that’s more pleasing to the eye. The controls are a bit tricky — they’re small so they don’t get in the way on the screen — but there is still a lot to like here. If you need to take a photograph but your fancier camera is at home, Manual is a useful alternative.
Choosing settings on a traditional single lens reflex (S.L.R.) camera is an art mastered by professional photographers. The $2 iOS app Expositor can remove some of the guesswork for non-pros. The app calculates exposure settings based on information you provide about your surroundings: Are you in outside light or a brightly lighted studio? The app helps you know what that means for your shot.
You can also change the camera speed and exposure, and the app will show how your choices will affect the image. If you’re learning about photography, or you love to plan the fine details before picking up your camera, this gets the job done.
On Android, the free Photo Tools by Hcpl is a bit like Expositor but contains many other calculations that could help you plan a shot or choose the camera’s settings.
It includes features like a depth-of-field calculator and flash exposure calculator, and it has a section that lets you work out settings for taking time-lapse shots. The app’s interface is stark, but it is easy to navigate. Some reviewers complain the app’s information is too basic or a little inaccurate, so it may be best used as a training aid.
That little hand-held device that you may have seen a photographer use as an adjunct to a camera is a light meter. With LightMeter Free on Android or Pocket Light Meter on iOS (also free), your smartphone can replace a traditional light meter. LightMeter has an old-fashioned look, and Pocket Light Meter has a modern and minimalist design.
Though the apps feel different, they work in similar ways to suggest the right settings. Smartphone apps aren’t as precise as dedicated light meters, however.
If you’re shooting outdoors, the angle of the sun or moon can change the look and feel of photos. That’s when you can benefit from an app like the Photographer’s Ephemeris, which costs $9 on iOS. Based on location information, the app can calculate the angle of the sun at any time of day and date, and can even show you how shadows will fall at a given time.
This app is jammed with information, but its interface is slightly old-fashioned. Still, it could prove invaluable for things like planning a landscape photo shoot. On Android, Sun Surveyor Lite is a pretty good equivalent, and while it has fewer features, it is free.
How can we talk about professional photography without mentioning Photoshop? It’s criticized when used to distort images of models, but it’s also frequently used to smooth out mistakes. The more basic Photoshop Express software has been translated for both iOS and Android devices, and it’s free, with paid in-app upgrades. Photoshop Express is automated and ideal for quick improvements to photos taken with the phone.
For iPads and Android devices, there’s also Photoshop Touch for $10. It has more of the image editing tools of the “full” PC software. Of course, this means it’s also more complex. Sometimes its menus and icons can be bewildering, even for experts. But if you need to edit photos taken on the camera without a computer, this is the app to do it.
I prefer Afterlight, which is $1 on both iOS and Android. It has some sophisticated image editing tricks, and its interface is much more intuitive than Photoshop’s. For access to Afterlight’s full range of features, you need to make in-app purchases.
We may like our camera’s automated systems. But a few apps can help you add a human touch to your photography.
Fresh for Apple’s new iOS operating system, Roxie Keyboard replaces the stock text-entry system with one that predicts the kind of emoji you may like to add into the text as you write on your iPhone. It’s fun, possibly to addictive levels, and free.
Apple is trying to have another iPod experience.
The company was not the first to create a digital music player when it introduced the iPod 13 years ago. But the device, with its click wheel and slick integration with the iTunes software that ran on a computer, took digital music into the mainstream.
Nor will Apple be the first to introduce a so-called smartwatch when it unveils its much-anticipated wristband device on Tuesday, along with two iPhones. But if the company gets it right, it could be the first to make average people want to buy one of these devices.
Wearable computers — attached to a wrist, a belt, a lapel or even a head — have so far been the property of serious gadget enthusiasts and calorie-counting fitness buffs. While a lot of attention has been paid to Google Glass, for example, the computer-in-eyewear is as well-known for the privacy controversy it has caused as for its technical trailblazing.
Smartwatches have not fared much better. Samsung, Apple’s biggest rival, introduced the first of its six smartwatches last year with a commercial that recounted watches that have appeared in science fiction entertainment, from “The Jetsons” to “Star Trek.” A long list of other tech companies like Motorola and LG have also introduced smartwatches, but none of them have been anywhere near as popular as the movies and television shows featured in the Samsung ad.
Smartwatches by Samsung and other companies have not had the popularity their makers have hoped for.CreditFabrizio Bensch/ReutersHas that left an opening for Apple with the product that the media has labeled the iWatch? Perhaps, analysts say, if the company can court partners in other industries like health care — health monitoring is believed to be a major feature — as cleverly as it courted the music industry.
Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., spent years negotiating with the music industry to get music sold legally on iTunes, which happened two years after the iPod went on sale. “I believe they’ve been doing that with the health market,” said Tim Bajarin, an analyst for the firm Creative Strategies.
Not everyone thinks everyday consumers will embrace smartwatches just because Apple is making one. Jan Dawson, an independent technology analyst for Jackdaw Research, conducted surveys with thousands of consumers and found that interest in some of the features in smartwatches, like fitness tracking and mobile payments, was low.
“Smartwatches, as they currently stand, are trying to meet needs which most people simply don’t have,” Mr. Dawson said.
Little is publicly known about what exactly the Apple watch will do other than track some fitness statistics, make wireless payments and handle some mobile computing tasks like maps.
“I’m hoping it’s something more akin to at least one of the high-end fashion watches, something you wouldn’t be ashamed to go to the Oscars with,” said Carl Howe, an analyst for the research firm the Yankee Group.
The people who created the watch have been described by Apple employees as an “all-star team.” Apple’s top designers and engineers who worked on its iPhone, iPad and Macs are all part of it, several Apple employees said.
And important Apple executives have been closely supervising the product, employees say. Among them are Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of operations, and Jonathan Ive, Apple’s head of design. Other key players include Kevin Lynch, formerly chief technology officer of Adobe, who has been supervising the watch’s software; Jay Blahnik, a fitness consultant who worked on Nike’s FuelBand device; and Michael O’Reilly, a former chief medical officer of the Masimo Corporation, a company based in Irvine, Calif., that makes devices for monitoring patients.
Apple designs both the hardware and software of its products, which gives it deeper control than its rivals over things like chip design, battery life and smarter sensors for monitoring the wearer, said Daniel Matte, an analyst for the research firm Canalys.
But making the product is just the first step. Apple needs the support of partners, like app developers, health care companies and medical technology companies, that will help create the functions that give people a reason to want to wear a computer around their wrist all the time in the first place, said Mark A. McAndrew, a partner with the law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister, which works with health and science clients.
Lining up deals with music labels and persuading them to agree to a charge of 99 cents a song on iTunes was one of the reasons the iPod became popular, say analysts. While the device itself was easy to use, it became a gateway to a music catalog that at the time none of Apple’s competitors could offer.
But patient privacy, which is closely guarded by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, could be a tricky issue for Apple, Mr. McAndrew said. Apple will have to carefully police any health-related apps to ensure that sensitive patient information is not accessible in any way to hackers, he said.
“That’s where the privacy issue comes into play, because health care providers are scared to death of data breaches and privacy issues,” he said. “They’ve got to figure out a way to get them comfortable.”
Apple has taken some steps to keep health data private. Last week, it updated its guidelines for app developers, which state that apps working with HealthKit, Apple’s new set of tools for tracking fitness and health statistics, were not allowed to store data on iCloud, among other rules.
Mr. Bajarin of Creative Strategies believes Apple has been quietly working with many partners in the health industry to prepare for its health-monitoring watch. This year, when Apple introduced its new health-tracking tool kit, the company said it had been working closely with the Mayo Clinic and Epic Systems, a health care software company.
Improving health monitoring could be something of a personal mission for Apple. In the Walter Isaacson biography of Steven P. Jobs, an anecdote about the late Apple chief recounted his hatred for the design of some of the health-monitoring devices being used on him in the hospital where he was being treated for cancer, like masks and the oxygen monitor on his finger.
“Steve in his last years had an amazingly difficult relationship with the health care industry,” Mr. Bajarin said. “This is probably one of Steve’s last big things that he personally drove.”
Samsung is doubling down on big phones and clever design, announcing on Wednesday two new versions of its popular Note 4, one of which includes a unique curved design and features two separate touch screens.
The company also announced a virtual reality headset accessory for the Note 4 that offers wireless, immersive game and video consumption.
The Galaxy Note was a surprise hit for Samsung that arguably started the trend toward so-called phablets – phones that are almost as big as tablets. Indeed, Samsung says the Note outsells its better-known Galaxy S phones in some markets and that Note users are among its most passionate. And with Apple possibly poised to announce a new, larger-format iPhone next week, Samsung took the chance to remind smartphone fans that it was there first.
The updated Note 4 does not get any larger – it’s still a 5.7-inch display. But the display itself bumps up in resolution and quality. Samsung has also made some changes to the phone’s camera. The 16-megapixel rear camera now features optical image stabilization, which helps reduce shake and, therefore, blur. Improvements were noticeable in a quick demonstration. Samsung also promises longer exposures for better lowlight images.
The front-facing camera is now 3.7 megapixels for better-quality selfies, and it includes a wider shooting angle and a sort of panoramic mode for taking photos of big groups. In a demonstration, Samsung used its now-famous Oscar selfie, taken by Ellen DeGeneres, and pointed out that the new angle would have allowed the photo to include Jared Leto and Angelina Jolie, who were cut off in the published photo – major omissions, indeed.
Samsung also noted software improvements and showed off an interface that made the phone seem more like a PC than a tablet. You can actually resize the windows of native apps like the browser, email and phone dialer, position multiple windows on the screen, and use the phone’s stylus to click, highlight and even drag text between windows.
But the company, known for its “try everything” approach, also introduced an entirely new version of the Note called the Galaxy Note Edge. This phone is reminiscent of an infinity edge pool: the edge on the right side of the phone curves sharply and wraps down to the back.
On this curved edge sits a second, totally separate touch screen that functions as a sort of dock for favorite apps, a notification bar, an information ticker and even an alarm clock. You can customize which apps you put in the secondary screen and scroll through notifications on the side screen while another app like a video or email takes up the primary display.
Samsung did not give prices for either Note 4 device but said the Note Edge would cost more and was intended to be a “premium” device for, presumably, design-minded buyers who don’t mind paying extra to have something completely different.
The Edge is interesting, to be sure, but since developers will have to make any extra apps – like information tickers – specifically for that small, vertical display, it is unlikely to get a lot more features. Right now, its information ticker is limited to Yahoo news. But there is an alarm clock mode that offers a low-power, dimmed display of time and date – great for sitting on a table next to a hotel bed.
Samsung introduced its Gear virtual reality headset as an accessory to the Note 4 device. The phone snaps into the headset, which then displays virtual reality video like concerts, movies or travel tours.
Samsung is also dipping a toe into virtual reality, with a headset similar to the Oculus Rift device that is powered solely by a Note 4 phone (not the Note Edge). The phone snaps into the Gear VR headset, which itself contains speakers and a few electronics for displaying on-screen video in a wraparound experience.
The Rift headset, by contrast, plugs into a desktop or laptop, whereas the Samsung headset is wireless and mobile. But the two clearly have a prior relationship: a device teardown of the Oculus Rift showed a Note 3 display inside, and Samsung is now saying it has a “deep partnership” with Oculus in developing its headset.
The company showed off a 360-degree Coldplay concert, and I was able to look up, down, side to side and behind me as though I was really in the room. There was a game, developed in partnership with Oculus, and some fun (if kind of silly) content based on the Marvel Avengers movie.
Samsung did not reveal pricing for the Gear VR, but said it would be available “this year.” Its market is obviously limited, since it only works with the Note 4 and will have little content at first. Also, it is heavy, slightly uncomfortable and makes its wearer feel extremely self-conscious – not to mention slightly motion sick, at least during a 360-degree flyover of New York City. But it’s probably an attempt to kick-start content for future virtual reality devices.
Samsung has struggled to continue to sell smartphones at the rapid clip it enjoyed in the last couple of years, as it becomes harder and harder to impress buyers with new features. But the company has the resources and design chops to try new things that sometimes feel either odd or distracting.
The original Note was one of those experiments, and it worked out pretty well. Will every phone have a curved second screen two years from now? You never know.
Authored by Molly Wood via nytimes.com.
Correction: September 3, 2014
An earlier version of this article misstated where Ellen DeGeneres took a famous selfie. It was at the Oscars, not the Emmy Awards.